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Why Do Google Maps's City Labels Seem So Readable? 41latitude.com
676 points by ugh 4 days ago   104 comments top 26
43 points by zmmmmm 4 days ago replies      
It's really interesting that Google seems to be at times able to pull off wonderful UI design bordering on genius (Chrome, Google Maps) and at other times just barely able to be at par (most of Android with select exceptions). I guess this just reflects different teams within Google, but it's a shame they can't apply their best UI talent across all their products (and particularly, the products that most need it, like Android).
57 points by lionhearted 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm amazed that a post about such a potentially dry subject - UI/typeface on maps - is the most fascinating thing I've read today. Extraordinary well done by the author.
14 points by blahedo 4 days ago 0 replies      
When I saw this I could have sworn I had read it before, but in fact what I was remembering were earlier posts by the same guy (also comparing Google, Bing, and Yahoo maps); if you liked this post you might like them too:


38 points by adambyrtek 4 days ago 1 reply      
The author had to put a considerable effort into preparing the post, and got to some interesting conclusions. I can wholeheartedly upvote such a well researched article. The animated images really show the difference and his alternative variants of Yahoo and Bing demonstrate the point.
37 points by curtis 4 days ago 2 replies      
The blank space around major cities is the most surprising idea to me.
33 points by bryanlarsen 4 days ago 4 replies      
A common complaint is that Google is engineer-driven rather than design driven. Some very impressive counter-evidence in the article -- lots of nice design hacks.
4 points by cmurphycode 4 days ago 0 replies      
This article made me realize that Google's engineering/metrics based approach is more suited to some tasks than others. There are far too many possible views of the map to "design" by hand, but the algorithmic tricks that Google is so good at can handle it no problem. Even if a traditional usability expert could design a map of a given location at a given zoom level better (e.g., http://www.kickmap.com/), they couldn't pull it off at Google Maps scale.

Very good article, and the visual aides helped a lot.

6 points by mike463 4 days ago 0 replies      
Google has better thought out color contrast too. The other ones are either too monochromatic, or the map details overwhelm the labels (think 90's web page color contrast)
7 points by jcampbell1 4 days ago 0 replies      
The author forgot to mention that Google renders the text, then places it on the image. Bing and Yahoo positions then renders, which leads to bad font aliasing.

Better to explain with a picture:

Notice how the google's 'i' is perfect. No grey hinting.

1 point by buro9 4 days ago 0 replies      
What surprises me most about this is that this is a solved problem.

Labels on maps, proximity to their data point, shades to represents importance, placing of labels to ensure clarity... all of this has long been solved in the area of automated report generation, and specifically things like bubble charts.

All that I see when I look at a Google Maps is all of the solutions to the problem of producing legible and clear reports applied to a map.

All that I see when I look at Bing and Yahoo mapping are solutions that have only looked at the domain of mapping and haven't considered whether other domains have solved these problems.

I don't see "tricks" by Google, I just see a set of solutions from one area being applied to the same essential problems in another area.

5 points by peter_l_downs 4 days ago 3 replies      
Am I the only one who thought the Bing maps were more "readable" than the Google maps? I do agree that the Yahoo maps were by far the worst, but to me the Bing maps were better designed (other than the color scheme) than the Google maps. Maybe it's just me?
2 points by kadavy 4 days ago 0 replies      
This brings me back to the days of working at a planning & architecture firm where I edited Illustrator maps with 500,000 objects in them.

The thick white outlines do a good job of ensuring that the letterforms aren't impeded by other design elements.

The cleared-away areas around cities are a good use of "white space" to increase the hierarchical dominance of major metropolitan areas.

There are some nice detailed observations here. Bookmarked.

1 point by roryokane 3 days ago 0 replies      
I found the animated GIFs annoying in that they changed too fast. It was hard to look at the important points of the map shown quickly enough before the image automatically changed to the other version. For instance, I wanted to try viewing Bing's map on its own and test how long it took to for me find a certain label on it, but the map always switched to Google's version too quickly. I would prefer that the different versions of maps would be different images that I could open in tabs and switch between at my leisure.
1 point by jasonfried 3 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone know the actual people involved in these map design decisions at Google?
1 point by terra_t 4 days ago 0 replies      
Halos around your text are quite important if you're trying to draw titles on television, particularly the old NTSC television. You see them all the time in video games too.
1 point by davidcann 4 days ago 0 replies      
I agree that Goole Maps look the best, but I think this more so highlights the ineptitude of the other mapping sites. Using contrasting text borders over complex patterns and decent spacing are common design principles that the other sites should adopt.
1 point by cma 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think the shading effect is really intentional; it is just an artifact of all labels being anti-aliased. A small font will be lighter than a large font in order to indicate/approximate a smaller stroke-width.
1 point by mkramlich 3 days ago 0 replies      
great article.

several of the qualities he pointed out were already obvious to me. but while not officially a "designer" i've been creating software/graphical/print interfaces for almost 30 years in one form or another. i do notice tricks with fonts and entity positioning.

1 point by adg 3 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone else wonder how the author made the white outlines on the Yahoo Maps text? Seems super tedious to do this by hand.
1 point by w1ntermute 4 days ago 0 replies      
Any chance of a screenshot (guessing copypasta won't work because there are images)? The site is down.
1 point by pragetruif 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's interesting that Bing actually brought in an outside team (Stamen Design) to design (version 2 of?) their maps: http://content.stamen.com/i_like_bing_maps_and_I_cannot_lie
1 point by newyorker 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've gotten so addicted to Google Maps, its very hard for me to use a Garmin or Nuvi GPS. I appreciate the clean UI of Google Maps, hope they make standalone GPS device (will save battery drain from your phone).
1 point by Garbage 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yesterday I heard someone saying "Google is not a designer's company. Its just engineer's company".
0 points by drivebyacct2 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is it wrong of me to scoff? It's pretty obvious from the screenshots that the text density and outlines are the most important and easily noticed factors.
1 point by kondro 4 days ago 0 replies      
Probably the most highly used piece of software to come out of Australia. Just in front of Samba and Rsync :-)
0 points by stuaxo 4 days ago 0 replies      
Arg, that term "pop"
Ben the Bodyguard: Gorgeous HTML5 Website benthebodyguard.com
577 points by bjonathan 5 days ago   97 comments top 33
52 points by jasonkester 5 days ago 6 replies      
Might want to start it scrolling automatically, or otherwise do a better job of communicating that there's anything to see on the page.

I got all the way back here thinking it was just a pretty splash screen, after trying for 30 seconds to click on things above the fold with no success.

Only after reading comments did I go back to see if there was anything I had missed. I suspect a lot of people clicking through will simply hit the back button and remember nothing but having seen a slow-loading picture of a face.

59 points by sgentle 5 days ago 1 reply      
In case anyone's not familiar with Javascript/HTML/CSS and is curious how this works, it's actually pretty simple and elegant.

Ben is just an image positioned in the centre of the screen using a CSS property called "position: fixed", which means he doesn't move even when the content scrolls.

The walking animations are created using a technique called CSS sprites, where instead of having multiple images, you just create one and move it within the frame so that only one image is visible at a time - sort of like a film strip. The CSS property to do that is called "background-position" - and you can see an original image here: http://benthebodyguard.com/images/bensprite.png

The whole thing is driven by a function called "scrollEventHandler", which is registered with the javascript "onscroll" event, so it's triggered every time you scroll. It updates the animations for Ben, the thief, train, textboxes etc based on how far you've scrolled in the document. Source here: http://benthebodyguard.com/js/speechBubbles.js

The other animations (flickering lights and such) are all animated gifs, and the background is just a really long image: http://benthebodyguard.com/images/city-background.jpg

103 points by mathias 5 days ago 5 replies      
Calling it an “HTML5 website” is a bit of an overreaction IMHO.

Other than the DOCTYPE, there's not much “HTML5” to it. It's just good old HTML, JavaScript and CSS, wrapped together in a document that happens to use the HTML5 DOCTYPE.

35 points by gregschlom 5 days ago 2 replies      
This is awesome.

They could have put the same message in two paragraphs of text and a bullet-point list, and I would have quickly glanced over it and forget it the same minute. Instead, I had a lot of fun reading each point, several times.

It's amazing how user experience IS the key.

16 points by jacquesm 5 days ago 1 reply      
If this is the future of the web count me out.
11 points by trotsky 5 days ago 0 replies      
Very neat design, no question. Kind of the antithesis of the functional web, though. It's like a flash only website without the flash.
6 points by trezor 5 days ago 0 replies      
I see html5boilerplate.com is getting reused properly :)
4 points by buro9 5 days ago 1 reply      

I want it.

But what is it and where do I get it?

1 point by tlrobinson 4 days ago 0 replies      
Neat site, but I'm mostly curious how they implemented any sort of security software for iOS. I didn't think iOS provided APIs for doing anything interesting in that respect.

"Protecting your passwords, photos, contacts
and other sensitive stuff on your iPhone® or iPod touch®"

1 point by Vivtek 4 days ago 0 replies      
It took a long time to load and gave no indication that it was doing so, so when I realized I could scroll down, Ben wasn't actually there yet. I wondered why that guy was standing there talking on the phone.

Perplexed, I scrolled up a little and ... Ben was standing there, waiting for me. At which point the page became extremely cool. But I almost missed it.

5 points by JoachimSchipper 5 days ago 0 replies      
It looks very nice. A bit heavy on the FUD, though.
3 points by jscore 5 days ago 2 replies      
Any idea how they did the graphics? Is it straight photoshop + illustrator or something else?
1 point by sjs 4 days ago 1 reply      
There are HTML comments in the JavaScript at the bottom of the source, sandwiched in between the GA tracking code and some Google optimizer stuff. I didn't get any JS errors, so is that legal? Are the comments stripped before the text content of the script element is processed? If so that's pretty wild! Never knew that was possible.
3 points by nhangen 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think it rocks. Scrolling through was a great user discovery process and the story/art combo had me hooked.

I really don't have a need for the service (maybe I do, not sure), but I do like watching the way people market their services. This is something unique...well done.

3 points by kingkawn 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ben is a decent fall-back when Leon is still under copyright.
3 points by DamonOehlman 5 days ago 1 reply      
I have to admit I was hoping Ben would fall in a open manhole cover towards the bottom of the screen, but alas he did not.

Just shows you can always make improvements, even on something as clever as this ;)

2 points by whiskers 4 days ago 0 replies      
I love the idea - the style, the artwork, the way the story progresses...

However I think that clicking on the "scroll" popup should either:

- Cause a slow continuous scroll all the way to the bottom of the page

- or (even better) take you between each speech bubble and reappear so it can be clicked again.

A really unique approach. It was nice to see something genuinely fresh and captivating instead of the usual "Web 2.0" style sign up pages.

1 point by GiraffeNecktie 5 days ago 2 replies      
So the fact that people are using HTML5 to do what people were doing with Flash ten years ago is somehow interesting?
3 points by mrinterweb 4 days ago 1 reply      
How many Frenchmen do you know named Ben?
3 points by evo_9 4 days ago 0 replies      
I suddenly have the urge to watch The Professional.
1 point by mark_l_watson 5 days ago 0 replies      
Nice site! I have been using Dojo, but I read Mark Pilgrim's HTML5 book. My hope is that Dojo will eventually wrap HTML5, providing a smooth migration for me since I am not a Javascript/UI expert.
2 points by bound008 5 days ago 1 reply      
subscription email:

Thank you for connecting with Ben the Bodyguard. In order to receive updates on Ben and his app for iPhone and iPod touch, please confirm your security clearance...

(followed by NON-HTTPS link) ... LOL

3 points by uast23 5 days ago 0 replies      
Hm. Not a lot of sites tell a story. This one does with a suited dark theme.
4 points by Jackel 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think he did a great Job! Go Ben!
1 point by shareme 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have a question why did the website creator only use pngs?

I mean you could have used svgs and a js library like raphael to use svg instead to decrease the load times, etc..

1 point by markkat 5 days ago 1 reply      
I wouldn't want to visit that site regularly. It looks nice, but it isn't easy to navigate.
1 point by alextebbs 3 days ago 0 replies      
Beautiful site, but did anyone else think the image of a naked person tied to a bed being whipped was a little overkill (its about halfway down the page)? Not sure why the devs needed to include that one.
1 point by ses 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really like this, I'm not usually one to go for flashy looking websites but it communicates the idea very effectively in what is clearly a unique manner.
1 point by lurchpop 4 days ago 0 replies      
The only reason i knew there was more than meets the eye was the title was "gorgeous html5 site". without knowing that i probably would've bounced.
1 point by Andrewski 3 days ago 0 replies      
Mystery meat is never gorgeous.
1 point by tonycore 4 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent concept. Great execution.
1 point by mangool 4 days ago 0 replies      
Love the interactive design, nicely done.
-1 point by chopsueyar 5 days ago 0 replies      
Haskell Researchers Announce Discovery of Industry Programmer Who Gives a Shit steve-yegge.blogspot.com
409 points by pchristensen 5 days ago   109 comments top 19
36 points by jmillikin 5 days ago replies      
140 points? Really?

I know it's fashionable in these parts to make fun of Haskell, but it's just not funny unless the writer knows something about the language. Would you upvote these articles?

* Why C++ is More Object-Oriented Than Smalltalk

* Stupid Ivory-Tower Academics Claim "Perl Is Too Slow for Weather Simulation"

* LISP: It Would Be a Lot More Useful Without All the Parentheses

It's especially galling considering pg's various articles on language expressiveness; remember this quote, folks?

"""As long as our hypothetical Blub programmer is looking down the power continuum, he knows he's looking down. Languages less powerful than Blub are obviously less powerful, because they're missing some feature he's used to. But when our hypothetical Blub programmer looks in the other direction, up the power continuum, he doesn't realize he's looking up. What he sees are merely weird languages. He probably considers them about equivalent in power to Blub, but with all this other hairy stuff thrown in as well. Blub is good enough for him, because he thinks in Blub."""

When somebody tosses around phrases like how to subvert Haskell's type system to accomplish basic shit you can do in other languages, it's a big red flag that they've never used Haskell, and possibly have never even seen Haskell code.

23 points by mixmax 5 days ago 1 reply      
If Douglas Adams were to write about programming this is how he would do it.

That's a compliment.

22 points by davidmathers 5 days ago 0 replies      
"Avoid success at all costs."

I mentioned this at a talk I gave about Haskell a few years back and it's become quite widely quoted. When a language becomes too well known, or too widely used and too successful suddenly you can't change anything anymore. You get caught and spend ages talking about things that have nothing to do with the research side of things. Success is great, but it comes at a price. -- Simon Peyton Jones

30 points by j_baker 5 days ago 2 replies      
"We crafted a fake satirical post lampooning Haskell as an unusable, overly complex turd -- a writing task that was emotionally difficult but conceptually trivial." - This is pure gold.
21 points by angusgr 5 days ago 2 replies      
I chuckled, and I'm happy Steve Yegge might blog some more, but this feels a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.
8 points by tumult 5 days ago 0 replies      
GHC Haskell actually supports mutually recursive generic container types, but you must enable type class system extensions which make type checking undecidable.
15 points by JonnieCache 5 days ago 0 replies      
If you don't find this funny, then you really need to examine your sense of humour, because this is not about making fun of haskell. It's barely about haskell at all. It is fantastically well constructed exercise in comic writing.

Stop thinking about the programming language wars for one minute and reread the text again, and look at the multileveled semantic games the author is playing. I thought most here were good at that?

Doug Hofstadter would be proud.

6 points by yters 5 days ago 0 replies      
She explained the trap they set for Briars: "We crafted a fake satirical post lampooning Haskell as an unusable, overly complex turd -- a writing task that was emotionally difficult but conceptually trivial. Then we laced the post with deeper social subtext decrying the endemic superficiality and laziness of global industry programming culture, to make ourselves feel better. Finally, each of us upvoted the post, which was unexpectedly contentious because nobody could agree on what the [HN] voting arrows actually mean."

Apparently their approach was more successful than they thought.

7 points by presidentender 5 days ago 1 reply      
Will there every be a satirical Steve Yegge post on HN that spawns any discussion other than quotes from the article itself?
14 points by nickik 5 days ago 1 reply      
"I believe the root cause of the popularity problem is Haskell's lack of reasonable support for mutually recursive generic container types."
-- Super funny!
0 points by edw519 5 days ago 1 reply      
This was actually a personally test disguised as a blog post. See how you scored:

If you didn't understand it: You're not a hacker and never will be; go get your MBA.

If it upset you: You are a hacker without a sense of humor. You belong in a room without other people. Fed Ex will deliver your circuit boards tomorrow.

If you laughed once: You are an aspiring junior programmer. Keep on working hard and best wishes to you.

If you laughed more than once: You are a seasoned hacker. Nice to see you here.

If you sprayed Mountain Dew on your keyboard: You have that rare combination of understanding both bits and people. You must do great work.

If you are cutting and pasting these gems for your bulletin board: You and I must be kindred spirits. Email me. Let's do a start-up together.

6 points by brian6 5 days ago 1 reply      
This successfully trolled me, because I think Haskell is really good stuff made by really smart and cool people. Surely there was a better target for satire.

I'm an industry programmer (in C). I also have a bunch of packages on Hackage.

4 points by csantini 5 days ago 1 reply      
"Finding a person who gives a shit about Haskell is an inherently NP-complete computer science problem. It's similar in scope and complexity to the problem of trying to find a tenured academic who didn't have the bulk of his or her work done by uncredited graduate students."
2 points by natmaster 5 days ago 0 replies      
Facebook uses haskell.

https://www.facebook.com/careers/puzzles.php They only accept answers in languages they actually use.)

1 point by rapind 5 days ago 3 replies      
Loved the article, but someone please explain "faster than a teabagger with a grade-school arithmetic book". I'm pretty sure I got all the others.
1 point by mkramlich 5 days ago 0 replies      
my new favorite Yegge post. very funny. and so true. :
1 point by stylejam 4 days ago 0 replies      
Honestly I think this is my personal funniest post of 2010. And no, it's not making fun of Haskell.
-4 points by alphaoverlord 5 days ago 0 replies      
Sniff sniff. Whats that smell? O right, Onion worthy.
-4 points by codexon 5 days ago 1 reply      
<Insert Dons and the usual angry Haskell fanboy diatribes here> </satire>
Tablets paulgraham.com
378 points by timf 5 days ago   249 comments top 49
43 points by edw519 5 days ago replies      
Developers have used the accelerometer in ways Apple could never have imagined.

That sentence is one instance of this sentence:

Developers have used <platformFunction> in ways <inventor> could never have imagined.

What better argument for open standards, APIs, and community cooperation?

37 points by replicatorblog 5 days ago 5 replies      
This is absolutely right. My company been working on a medical device accessory for the iPhone and the possibilities the "tablet" form factor are amazing.

Lower Cost Structure - In our industry (diabetes) you give away hardware to get ongoing disposable revenue. This hardware is expensive to produce and develop. Plus you spend a lot of effort on areas that don't add much value e.g. reinventing the wheel re: display drivers. This completely changes the economics of the industry.

Higher Product Quality - By taking advantage of the core Tablet attributes like color touch screen display and processor you can do things feature wise that would be prohibitive with custom hardware. The amount of "ooohs" we get showing off our iPhone UI vs the current LCD one is staggering.

New Revenue Opportunities - Again our business has thrived on a single revenue stream, the disposable test strips. With connections to the web all manner of "virtual good", subscription services, and other digital business models get opened up.

Overall it is a huge win for both user and entrepreneur and is going to fundamentally change a bunch of hardware businesses.

If you want to see our product, here is a nice review (http://www.fastcodesign.com/1662351/blood-glucose-monitor-fo...)

33 points by Chris_Newton 5 days ago 2 replies      
> Many if not most of the special-purpose objects around us are going to be replaced by apps running on tablets.

I respectfully disagree.

The trend for specialised vs. generalised devices seems to go in cycles over a period of a few years, in a similar way to the classic thick vs. thin client cycle. Consider games consoles vs. gaming on PCs, the iPod vs. mobile phones with media storage, etc. Neither extreme is ever going to take over entirely, and the bias moves as technology evolves.

I think this is mostly driven by trying to balance convenience and power. When new tools come along that are generic enough to make a certain broad class of jobs easier, we tend to jump on them. Many jobs get moved to those devices, and specialist devices that used to perform those jobs become obsolete. On the other hand, if you get too generic, you start to introduce waste and therefore inefficiency, which pushes things back the other way. Also, if your generic device is OK at doing lots of things but not particularly good at any of them, there is still a market for specialised devices that do a particular job better because their priorities are more appropriate.

We used to write software that ran on desktop PCs, but it turned out that a lot of practically useful software is essentially a simple user interface to a simple database. Native applications had common pain points in this field that could be overcome by hosting the code and data centrally, in areas like installation/updating/backup. Thus Web apps were born.

However, today, we're seeing major players in the industry trying to turn just about everything into such an application, and they are failing. It turns out that while Web apps are great for presenting relatively simple database UIs, they are relatively weak at performing most other tasks. Cloud computing is a pretty direct extension of the same argument.

I suspect things will go the same way with phones/tablets/mobile devices. A generic mobile device with a bunch of common built-in peripherals and sensors will solve a wide variety of real world problems, and thus various kinds of mobile app have been born. No doubt many more variations will follow over the next few years, as these devices support new functionality that was not previously available and ideas will spring up to take advantage of that functionality. The devices will be good enough for these purposes and will be widely adopted as a result.

On the other hand, Swiss army phones could easily start to suffer from both overspecification in breadth of features and underspecification in performance of individual features. For example, the suggestion in the article to replace reading glasses with a smart phone seems unrealistic and oversimplified to me: it sounds great initially, given that we have cameras and screens on these devices, but then you consider the vast range of different reasons that people are prescribed glasses, the consequent individuality of each prescription, and the fact that glasses do not generally require holding in your hand to use them.

In short, I'm afraid I don't buy pg's argument here at all. A certain class of applications, some of which already exist and some of which will be developed, will probably move to handheld multipurpose devices. However, specialised tools aren't going away any time soon, because any generic device is always going to be either a poor replacement for a good tool or too highly specified to be efficient for a broad market, even if the technology exists to combine high-quality implementations of all the required features within the required space and cost constraints in the first place.

23 points by pg 5 days ago 3 replies      
Incidentally, I know the Wikipedia article has been deleted, but I'm assuming someone will fix that.

(Is this the current world record for deletionism, or have there been more egregious examples?)

22 points by DanielBMarkham 5 days ago 4 replies      
Worth noting here that most analysts feel that the reason the original iPod was successful was that it only did one thing in an extremely friendly format.

I think the key question here is whether or not the app-universe grows in size until consumers desire separation of widgets again.

I know from my own experience that I found I maximize productivity by having separate devices responsible for separate things. For instance, when I pick up my blue iPod it's for education -- I keep books and lectures on there. But when I pick up my black iTouch it's for fun -- I keep only tunes there. My phone -- although it has all kinds of neat wizardry in it -- I use solely for talking to other people.

Perhaps both trends are true. Perhaps we end up individually separating our apps into physical devices based on preference instead of tradition. Neat stuff.

18 points by Vivtek 5 days ago 2 replies      
What blows my mind is that I might have been able to see this coming in the 80's - but Buckminster Fuller saw it coming in 19 fricking 38. That man was incredible.
19 points by drcode 5 days ago 4 replies      
> I wouldn't be surprised if by playing some clever tricks with the accelerometer you could even replace the bathroom scale.

Galileo might take issue with that: http://www.jimloy.com/physics/galileo.htm

19 points by pkulak 5 days ago 1 reply      
"I wouldn't be surprised if by playing some clever tricks with the accelerometer you could even replace the bathroom scale."

I'd be surprised. Very, very, very surprised.

12 points by ziadbc 5 days ago 0 replies      
The naming convention for these goes back to some research at Xerox PARC http://www.ubiq.com/weiser/testbeddevices.htm

Ubiquitious Computing is upon us, and much like the PC revolution, it will have been invented at Xerox and perfected at Apple.

11 points by sanjayparekh 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just tweeted pg this but thought I'd say it here too. This is exactly what iRobot did when they saw the Roomba platform being taken apart and used for projects. They gave hackers the tools to use their platform and now sell quite a few Roomba based development kits instead of just plain old robot vacuums.
6 points by seldo 5 days ago 0 replies      
I look forward to the day when fat people everywhere will pulverize their iPads using them as bathroom scales.
3 points by RyanMcGreal 5 days ago 1 reply      
Last summer, I rather surprised myself by using my android phone as a level while working on a backyard building project.

Also in the summer, I was camping when my flashlight died en route to the washroom. On the side of the path, I downloaded and installed a flashlight app, and then used it to find my way.

I volunteer in an after-school guitar class at my son's school, and use my phone to tune the kids' guitars before class starts.

A few weeks ago, a website I maintain went nonresponsive and I used my phone to ssh into the server and restart apache.

Just for fun, I installed an app that measures my heart rate using the camera.

Just five years ago, if you had suggested these uses for a phone, I would have thought you were nuts.

7 points by duck 5 days ago 5 replies      
The fact that you can change font sizes easily means the iPad effectively replaces reading glasses.

Really? I mean it might help someone not need reading glasses for the tasks they do on the iPad... but they still have to have them to read the dinner menu, instructions on the box of food, and so on. If you can't replace it fully how good is it? The iPhone replaced regular cell phones because of the fact you no longer need two devices.

Or... I read too much into that.

4 points by luigi 5 days ago 1 reply      
I think they're still just computers, and will be thought of as such. Sure, they're computers you hold in your hand, not the kind that sit on your desk. Gaming consoles and set top boxes are morphing into general purpose computers too. Those are computers that sit on a table near the TV. But they're all computers the same.


7 points by tomjen3 5 days ago 1 reply      
Replacing keys sounds like an interesting idea, but on one hand you have the problem that the tech needs to be rock-solid (if github is down I get mildly annoyed. If I can't get my door to open, I freeze to death) and you are competing against an already established technology that works really well (rfid tags) and isn't very expensive.

That said, I would love to hear more about your idea, if possible.

4 points by ulf 5 days ago 2 replies      
I think a really disrupting and interesting field will be tablets as replacement for textbooks in education. The possibilities to create amazing educational material are endless.

On the other side, you have textbook publishers, who generally learn a lot of money with ever slightly changing editions and will do a lot to not see that income stream dying...

3 points by acgourley 5 days ago 0 replies      
This raises a question of how Apple will deal with "Made For iPod" interfaces that get increasingly generic. Right now they have a good framework for evaluating apps and hardware produced by one company to work together. They don't have a good way to understand hardware from company A working with software from company B.

What happens when someone wants to release a NES inspired D-Pad controller for iOS but wants to allow existing game makers to create apps that support it? Right now that is sort-of possible but it's very high friction.

Apple is a company who likes to build the whole stack from hardware to software; they feel like is necessary to create beautiful experiences. Will they compromise on this to facilitate a world where you can connect your iphone to any device in the house?

If they don't, progress may stagnate, hacks (like communication over wifi) will persist, and potentially they are giving up market share. Obviously they need to maintain the integrity and stability of the iOS devices but in my opinion they error too far on the side of caution.

3 points by patrickk 5 days ago 4 replies      
Other stuff being replaced by smart devices: watches, alarm clocks, portable radios, cheap digital cameras, spirit levels, dictionaries and perhaps soon your wallet and physical mass-produced books. Looking at some of the creative stuff people do with mounting their iPad in vehicles, perhaps iPad-like devices will replace traditional dials in cars in the near future.

The only reason we even consider calling them "mobile devices" is that the iPhone preceded the iPad. If the iPad had come first, we wouldn't think of the iPhone as a phone; we'd think of it as a tablet small enough to hold up to your ear. Hence the joke calling the iPad a giant iPhone. That was a pretty good description. If the future of telephony is VoIP, then that is pretty much bang on.

5 points by roadnottaken 5 days ago 10 replies      
Tablets are obviously great, but does anyone think they'll really replace cameras or GPSes? It seems to me that tablets will cut the bottom out of these markets (those with casual interest in photography or GPS or computing won't need to buy a dedicated device) but they'll never approach the quality of an SLR or a dedicated GPS. Or am I just being short-sighted?
2 points by timdellinger 5 days ago 1 reply      
In general, the tablet enables all the ideas that people have had over the years that were perfect "except you'd have to carry around a computer to run the thing". I'd love to see communications protocols and hardware (next gen bluetooth?) developed to allow devices that need a computer to wirelessly use the one in my pocket.

I'd also like to see more innovation in the space where users hold tablets while they're facing a television set. The tablet-as-remote-control where the program listings are on the tablet. The tablet-as-gaming-controller where you and your opponent both have tablets (draw a path on a map to move a character instead of guiding the character turn-by-turn).

10 points by devindotcom 5 days ago 1 reply      
Haven't we been calling them tablets for ages? People have been designing around the idea of tablets for decades. They had the ideas for the applications of tablets fifty years ago. I'm not sure I understand what this article says that is in any way original.
4 points by lian 5 days ago 0 replies      
This isn't that surprising or revolutionary, it's all just part of the inevitable movement towards ubiquitous computing. It's obvious that we won't always be reliant upon one device's built-in sensors to constantly gather and supply relevant data in real-time, and inevitably we'll have an incredibly integrated network of real-time, physically collocated devices.

For now, tablets are great. And Apple is great at supplying them. But by no means does this mean anyone will be enslaved to Apple in the long term " someone else has the opportunity to create an open platform that enables any and all technologies to communicate with each other. Someone else will have to sell this platform to businesses, governments and, most importantly, consumers. And someone else will have to create the other, new interfaces by which we access and derive meaning from this data collection. And the challenge of preventing this from being too closed, too proprietary, is what will distinguish the best approach from the most profitable approach, and where we as users can choose to avoid a "client monoculture."

The tablet approach is just a step in an ongoing direction. It's way bigger than this.

6 points by pedalpete 5 days ago 1 reply      
Doesn't the etherealization of hardware mean that we won't be referring to tablets, mobile devices, or laptops at all?

Isn't the only difference between an iPad and iPhone the screen size. So really, we're starting to refer to these devices based on size rather than power/memory/speed.

6 points by rdl 5 days ago 3 replies      
What's the YC funded startup which is a replacement for keys? As in "We funded one startup that's replacing keys."
4 points by pinko 5 days ago 1 reply      
Am I the only person who thinks the iOS usability is declining as its feature set and resulting complexity grows? It's still simple for me, but while my mother could handle the original iPhone, I think she'd get a little confused by the current one. (Double and triple clicks on the home button, cut and paste UI popping up unexpectedly, etc.)
2 points by walkon 5 days ago 0 replies      
The fact that you can change font sizes easily means the iPad effectively replaces reading glasses.

I disagree. Reading glasses are close to the eye and magnify without sacrificing the amount of text to viewable surface area. People who need to significantly increase the font size (i.e. the same people who would use reading glasses) are going be constantly interacting with the iPad to tell it to pan/scroll the viewable (magnified) surface around so that they can see everything. Pagination is only a partial workaround (still have to interact, just deal with the large increase in page turns) and only makes sense with text-type data (e.g. pictures lend themselves to panning, not paging).

1 point by blahedo 5 days ago 2 replies      
Here's the thing: people who aren't geeks often like and even prefer single-purpose devices. There is, as has been noted (see http://g4tv.com/videos/44277/DICE-2010-Design-Outside-the-Bo...), a "pocket exception", but for larger devices, people who aren't us are often intimidated or confused by devices that do many things.

And of course there are dangers in making a machine more general-purpose than it needs to be. Machines that are too general-purpose becomes more susceptible and sometimes tempting targets for hacking. (As usual, ground well-trod by xkcd: http://xkcd.com/463/, http://xkcd.com/801/)

5 points by ludwigvan 5 days ago 2 replies      
"For historical reasons, the device in your pocket or purse - the one that you use to browse the Internet and send email, is called a "phone." We need a new name for that thing." Scott Adams. He suggests calling them "head". http://www.dilbert.com/blog/entry/phone/

On a side note, I really need an innovation for keys, they scratch my iPhone! So, go, that new yc company, go!

2 points by kenjackson 5 days ago 1 reply      
Tablet is the wrong term. In fact I fear the use of it becoming the term to use as I think it immediately prunes potential avenues of exploration. I think mobile or personal device is a better term as its really about the intent of the device, which is to be with you always. Tablet really seems to describe the form factor. I'm not convinced that the form factor is all that important.
1 point by someone_here 5 days ago 4 replies      
The real thing that makes these "tablets" interesting is the number of features they have packed into them. The "ease of use" that people are talking about when referencing Apple's products is just a part of Apple's marketing for their devices. Android (and Maemo and MeeGo and etc) devices are much more capable and much more hackable. Why the praise for such a bland device such as the i-OSes when there's an awesome OS and device market sitting right next to it?
3 points by chr15 5 days ago 1 reply      
In 2001, Bill Gates said that by 2006 tablets would be the most popular form factor for PCs. They obviously weren't back then. It's funny how Apple changes ecosystems.


2 points by prakash 5 days ago 0 replies      
Here's another good example of etherealization: With Skype one can get a US (and a few other countries) number that gets routed to my skype id.
1 point by quickpost 5 days ago 0 replies      
The other question is for Apple - what other sorts of addressable hardware could be added to the iPad to make it even more versatile (temperature sensor, various transducers, etc.).
1 point by rbarooah 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think it's clear that Steve Jobs is fully aware of this. It's why he changed the name of the company to Apple Inc, just before announcing the iPhone - he wasn't indicating that he was going to start building hundreds of different consumer electronics products - he was telling the world that a the iPhone and it's variants would replace most of them.
1 point by bfung 5 days ago 0 replies      
seems like there's still a lot of work todo, and a lot of room for growth. A survey of how people use their ipads, coincidentally from today: http://www.businessinsider.com/ipad-survey
1 point by faramarz 5 days ago 0 replies      
As much as the software is the window to opportunity for these devices, the hardware is just as important. Apple's form factor is exceptional! Their Industrial Design sense and abilities is one of the most important recipes to their success, I think.

Google unfortunately discounts this, or rather, is late to understand how important UX is in the tangible world as much as the intangible. When you pickup a phone, tablet rather, your first impressions are based on the physical device. The intrinsic value during this interaction is irreplaceable by any software, no matter how good.

2 points by albemuth 5 days ago 0 replies      
One thing that now seems ridiculous is the bank authenticator tokens, the blizzard authentication apps are a great example
2 points by aditya 5 days ago 1 reply      
Typo in the last line: "and inch" should be "an inch"
2 points by replicatorblog 5 days ago 1 reply      
FYI, the link to RFS 8 is broken.
1 point by xenophanes 5 days ago 3 replies      
Another possible recipe for a startup (not saying this would be easy) is to find an important way that Apple is handicapping their devices and overcome it on Apple's own platform in a way that Apple will allow. If you can do that, users will love it and buy your product.
4 points by AN447 5 days ago 0 replies      
I always thought of these devices as 'casual computing'
2 points by moontear 4 days ago 0 replies      
Was Paul trying to coin the word "tablet" for these kind of devices? I don't know how this is anything new, I have read of the iPad "tablet" or "tablet computer" many times.
1 point by charlesju 5 days ago 0 replies      
I just can't wait for the Kinect sensors to be an open standard with a commododized component in every electronics we have.
1 point by extension 5 days ago 1 reply      




2 points by buss 5 days ago 0 replies      
I fancy the term "communicator," personally.
1 point by anthonycerra 5 days ago 0 replies      
Apple's tablets are just one aspect of this etherealization. The real hero here is software. From the ability to create a physical three dimensional object to the manipulation of DNA - software makes it possible.

What's reassuring is that Apple doesn't have control over all the hardware interfaces that make (and will make) this possible.

1 point by bergie 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a bit surprised that there was no mention of Jef Raskin's information appliance concept


1 point by gasull 5 days ago 0 replies      
In Spanish the word "tabletas" is already used for this.
1 point by orionlogic 5 days ago 1 reply      
i wish there is direct rss feed for the essays other than some intermediary channel.
Nexus S google.com
358 points by tomerico 1 day ago   256 comments top 40
88 points by tc 23 hours ago replies      
Since I know that many Googlers follow HN, I just want to say:

Thank you. Thank you for ensuring that a clean, root-able, modern phone is available for developers and all those who like to fully own the devices they purchase.

38 points by sjs 23 hours ago 3 replies      
For those who have No Fucking Clue what NFC is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_Field_Communication
17 points by theBobMcCormick 21 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm disappointed nobody seems to be discussing the curved display. Are there any other touchscreen devices with curved screens? If so, have any of you had any experience using one? I'm quite curious to find out out if that's a useful feature or not.
12 points by ukdm 23 hours ago 1 reply      
8 points by eli 21 hours ago 0 replies      
According to this http://www.tmonews.com/2010/12/nexus-s-product-page-goes-liv...

US pricing is $529 unlocked and $199 with two years on T-Mobile

6 points by drivebyacct2 21 hours ago 2 replies      
I apologize, this is barely tangentially related... but I'm excited to endorse Google and T-Mobile...

I'm currently paying Verizon $40/month for an extra line on a family plan, and unlimited data with no tethering (though I do for free via CM6.1). I could have my own account with T-Mobile and get unlimited data for $50/month with no voice minutes.

I can use Google Voice and the Gizmo SIP Provider to be accessible via Voice Calls. I want the Nexus S. I am tired of Verizon, Motorola and HTC's nonsense with the locked NAND and the locked Bootloader. No new VZW phones have custom roms, in fact, hardly any since the Droid 1.

Go Google. Go T-Mobile. Thanks for not being (as) evil (as everyone else).

4 points by mortenjorck 23 hours ago 7 replies      
As this is a product page and not a comparison matrix, why does it specifically call out the omission of some features like infrared and physical keyboard? Not that I don't appreciate Google being forthcoming about what they chose to leave out (though who expects IR anyway?), but it seems an odd marketing choice.
13 points by qeorge 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Nice! I have an N1, love it, and was apprehensive about my options going forward.
13 points by trotsky 23 hours ago 3 replies      
"Near Field Communications (NFC)"

So the ability to both emulate a contactless smartcard and interrogate passive rfid devices. Pretty damn cool - the ability to open doors/start cars/unlock computers/pay for stuff just with your phone without resorting to bluetooth/wifi hacks or addon hardware. Also opens you up to lots of potential applications for extra information in the real world on things that otherwise don't have barcodes.

4 points by maqr 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I wish they would announce this sort of things months ahead of time. It's so hard to plan around contract renewals. I just bought a G2, but would much rather have had this.
6 points by andreyf 23 hours ago 2 replies      
The product release landing page is here: http://www.google.com/nexus/

Quite a simple/beautiful HTML5 design, IMO.

7 points by spaghetti 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Has anyone here cancelled their att iPhone service? i.e. gotten out of the 2 year contract early? I know this sounds ridiculous but I'd like to make the switch to T-Mobile and Android.
2 points by jsz0 17 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm pleasantly surprised people aren't having a privacy freak-out over NFC yet. My concern is more practical: too many eggs in one basket. I feel like if NFC were to really live up to its hype I would need to keep a secondary device with me at all times as a backup in the same way I carry multiple credit cards and have a spare set of keys for my car. I suppose when it becomes a more mature technology that would be an ideal use for an older generation phone with NFC.
9 points by mrbill 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Other than NFC, more internal storage, and Gingerbread pre-installed, this pretty much has the same specs as my Nexus One, which I've been very happy with (no touch screen bugs here).
3 points by mgcross 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Under features, portable wi-fi hotspot is touted with no additional carrier fees. This currently works on T-Mobile with my Nexus one, but I assumed I was "getting away" with something. T-Mobile charges $15 for tethering/hotspot on other devices.
2 points by r4ps 8 hours ago 1 reply      
No offline maps?! The Google boys need to go out more and see how the real world uses their phones.
Very often, I found myself needing maps the most in areas with poor network reception (e.g., the Swiss Alps) and in places where data connectivity was not an option (e.g., London underground). I was very excited to hear about HTC implementing such a feature in their latest Sense builds and I hope Google will catch up and make it a native feature.

Edit: Okay, it seems they know about the problem and apparently the new version of Google Maps for Mobile will have some sort of offline caching capabilities. Hurray!

3 points by ars 18 hours ago 2 replies      
When it says "Three-axis gyroscope" does it actually mean "Three-axis accelerometer"? Or can I really use my phone to stabilize myself in space?
4 points by JulianMorrison 22 hours ago 0 replies      
That thing is a desktop PC. It happens to be phone shaped, but geez.
1 point by zmmmmm 16 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm mildly disappointed that it's only released on T-Mobile. I had figured that one reason to go with a Samsung device was that they already shipped a single core hardware set to every carrier, so there would be a low barrier to getting this thing on every carrier (or at least more than one). I guess this is not under Google's control, but still, I had hopes ...
1 point by GeneralMaximus 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Shiny and plasticky is the signature Samsung look. Great hardware, great screen, but the handset itself ends up looking cheap. This is one reason I returned my Galaxy S, and now Samsung have done it again.

Edit: okay, the actual images don't look that bad.

2 points by eapen 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Seems really similar to the Samsung Galaxy S (Vibrant) and I am disappointed to see it doesn't have the
1. roller ball
2. physical buttons (that you can feel) for home/back/menu/search
3. LED (for notifications)

Now, if only Samsung would upgrade the GalaxyS owners to 2.2 (as promised) or 2.3 (wishful thinking).

2 points by crocowhile 22 hours ago 2 replies      
mmmh. I was not impress with the iphone 4 and I am not impressed with this either. I have a nexus one and the only thing that make me jealous with the S is the NFC.
Are we reaching a plateau in mobile phone development?
2 points by compay 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Now, if only it could do HSPA on band 1900 so I could get 3G with it in Buenos Aires. :(
3 points by riffraff 18 hours ago 1 reply      
am I the only want noticing the speech recognition feature "go to reddit" ?
1 point by jcl 20 hours ago 1 reply      
It sounds like since the Nexus S runs stock Android it may not include the Swype text input system common on other Android phones -- practically a killer app for touchscreen text entry. Does anyone know if it will be available on the Nexus S (either preinstalled or as an add-on)?
1 point by mitjak 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Why is this an exciting phone? Genuinely curious. The specs seem the same as (CPU) or lower than (display resolution) than N1.

EDIT: My bad. Looks like the screen resolution is identical.

2 points by nemik 19 hours ago 0 replies      
It's a shame the NFC support isn't complete. Supposedly can only read tags for now, not emulate them (though the NXP PN544 chip is perfectly capable of that).

http://developer.android.com/reference/android/nfc/package-s... is looking VERY sparse. Hopefully it gets completed soon.

2 points by oomkiller 23 hours ago 1 reply      
VoIP and NFC certainly look interesting. Will the VoIP/SIP support allow me to interface with my PBX for mobile extension calling? I sure hope so!
1 point by Raphael 8 hours ago 0 replies      
>16GB of memory

Not the clearest phrasing. 16GB solid state, 512MB RAM.

3 points by bkorte 23 hours ago 3 replies      
Ugh, Can't use it in my area of Canada. Need AT&T compatibility. Damn you, TMobile.
2 points by danramteke 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Hmmm. I wonder about much web surfing battery it has. There is quite a jump between talk time and standby time. I assume browsing uses up more battery than talking.

"Talk time 6 hours
Standby time (max) 428 hours"

1 point by tocomment 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Can anyone provide us with a step by step instructions on how to get this phone?

I'm really confused about buying a phone plan after I buy the phone.

1 point by klbarry 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Man, looking at that landing page, you cannot have a doubt in your mind that google has absolutely no style. Emotion is an important part of decision making too, Google!
3 points by ninifat 23 hours ago 5 replies      
Is there a price anywhere?
1 point by jared314 23 hours ago 2 replies      
Still no FM Radio. I don't understand why it is so hard to get that feature.
1 point by eitland 14 hours ago 0 replies      
When will we see an international version?
-3 points by andre 22 hours ago 0 replies      
no freakin' keyboard
10 points by p_h 23 hours ago 0 replies      
It says there's a 3.5mm headphone jack
-4 points by xorglorb 23 hours ago 6 replies      
1GHz CPU, 512MB RAM...

Kind of sounds like the iPhone 4 (from July) with NFC support and a built-in VOIP client.

-4 points by camiller 22 hours ago 0 replies      
<sarcasm> at least it is still on the United States largest super regional carrier available in all 49 of the states I am not living in. </sarcasm> sigh.
Thanks HN: Goodbye, Golden Handcuffs
336 points by jriley 5 days ago   115 comments top 37
75 points by patio11 5 days ago 1 reply      
Congratulations on making the most important decision of your life and, secondarily, on opening the business. Words cannot express how much better self-employment is than what I used to do for a living.
106 points by suhail 5 days ago 2 replies      
jriley: Email me suhail@mixpanel.com -- You just got free Mixpanel, good luck when you launch we're here to help.
50 points by staunch 5 days ago 0 replies      
> Thought you should be the first to know.

Good and good luck. Now please tell your fiancée!

11 points by toast76 5 days ago 1 reply      
If I have two pieces of advice I can share,

1. Pick up some contract work - you can easily turn 6 mths into 12 mths, and then 2 years, then 3...no matter how many projects fail to get off the ground, if you have a bit of side income, it'll help in the long run.

2. Don't ever forget why you quit - if that is to "pursue your dreams, not an income". Write it on a wall above your monitors and don't ever forget it.

EDIT: Oh, and good luck! :)

11 points by jey 5 days ago 2 replies      
Relevant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwG_qR6XmDQ

Rumor is that the "boss" was actually David E. Shaw himself.

5 points by jeromec 5 days ago 3 replies      
Let the [work] begin.

FTFY I hope you're prepared to work at least five times harder than you did at your safe job, and for little to no guaranteed reward. Actually, if you're only giving yourself six months, make that ten times harder. I would say good luck, but considering around 90% of startups fail, work hard, be persistent and expect difficulty, seems more helpful to say. The success stories appearing on HN can give a skewed impression on how hard it is to succeed. Congratulations, though, for bucking a potential path of regrets.

Edit: A bit more advice is release early, and often. The trick is finding the balance between minimum viability and having enough value for traction. Iterating on an idea is almost always necessary, so be on the lookout for how that can help and possibly even save your endeavor. A six month deadline to succeed means you're really going to be up against it.

12 points by dstein 5 days ago 2 replies      

  Once you have mastered time, you will understand how
true it is that most people overestimate what they can
accomplish in a year - and underestimate what they can
achieve in a decade.

-Tony Robbins

10 points by sreitshamer 5 days ago 2 replies      
You might need a lot more than 6 months. But, like my wife always tells me, you don't fail as an entrepreneur until you quit. And the ride is sure worth it. Life is short.
2 points by efsavage 5 days ago 0 replies      
"the best example you can set for your kids ... is to pursue your dreams, not an income"

My father did this, in several ways, and failed massively at all of them, and yet for reasons I can't really articulate I 100% agree with this.

9 points by kaffeinecoma 5 days ago 1 reply      
What are you planning to work on?
4 points by PStamatiou 5 days ago 0 replies      
jriley: Email me paul@notifo.com Would love to intro you to someone you should meet in Austin.
3 points by seejay 5 days ago 0 replies      
Dear fellow HNer,

This is to help you when you visit this page again in a difficult time...

Shit happens... thats completely normal. Awesome things will definitely come your way. You only gotta do one simple thing...

Keep swinging!.. Don't ever give up!

Tattoo this on the back of your hand if you want... it's totally worth the trouble.

With the very best of luck,


PS: And thank me on that day when you read this post again with joy...
Oh just for the record, No! I don't have it tattooed on the back of my hand... I make sure I have it on my mind instead. ;-)

8 points by arianb 5 days ago 0 replies      
It'll be a tough and long road, but if you're really set on it, you'll be happier than ever. Good luck, man.
3 points by kj12345 5 days ago 0 replies      
Good luck! One odd piece of advice I have is to recommend limiting the amount of startup advice you read online. It's too generic now that you've committed. Focus on what you're creating, not on making your venture look like the internet's current concept of "startup". Look, for example, at the popular phrase "Minimum Viable Product". You'll find a lot of excitement around the "minimum" part, but the "viable" part matters also and is fully dependent on what you're doing. There are many things that are unique about individual businesses, but generic online advice by necessity exaggerates the shared aspects.
1 point by marcamillion 5 days ago 0 replies      
Firstly...let me say...Congrats.

Secondly, brilliant that you made sure to lock in the girlfriend at the beginning of the journey, not after you started when she realizes what a crazy person you are - and how crappy the emotional roller coaster will be.

Thirdly, I wish you all the best. I would recommend that you quickly setup a landing page to ride the support you are getting from the community - collecting emails from people interested in what you are doing. You have to take advantage of all of these opportunities right now, because you officially have a clock strapped to your back (i.e. before you run out of money). So leverage every opportunity to the most you can. On the landing page, put something about the project that people can figure out if they would be interested or not.

Fourthly, definitely keep us posted - even those that might not be interested in your product, will be inspired by your story.

4 points by dorkitude 5 days ago 2 replies      
Congrats :)

If you're in SF, let me know

We have a sweet co-working space for hackers with all of the three C's: coffee, camaraderie, and a fast connection

1 point by csomar 5 days ago 0 replies      
I still a student but I'm building my small Internet Empire, so that I don't need to apply for a job when I finish studies (or better, don't think about it). I completed around 35% of my studies and yet, this month, made (around $400) what an Engineer would make in my area.

I'm enthusiastic about the future, especially the next month, when I'll release my Wordpress Premium plugin (and estimate $1K in sales in one month).

Even if you have a nice job, make sure you always have an alternative, in case of... you don't get sucked, by anyone.

1 point by eande 4 days ago 0 replies      
When I kicked off my startup in Jan 2010 I thought in 6 months the bootstrap period will come to an end. Now 12 months into it and still some more time needed. My advice check on the six month bootstrap timing you plan, might be a little short.
5 points by skbach 5 days ago 4 replies      
6 mos ain't enough, but otherwise, great idea.
1 point by noelchurchill 5 days ago 1 reply      
Your account is less than an hour old. Did you create a new one since applying to YC in 08?
2 points by gshannon 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is the best thing you will ever do.

You will look back at this moment and realize it is the defining moment in your life.

5 points by danielson 5 days ago 0 replies      
0 points by keeptrying 5 days ago 0 replies      
Congrats! Reread pg's essays on how to startup etc ... As u read them this time around, the words will prtain to your immediate situation and will help unwhen things look bleak.

Best of luck.

2 points by checoivan 5 days ago 0 replies      
Glad to hear this kind of stuff. Your words encourage me to do the exact same thing.
1 point by ncarroll 5 days ago 0 replies      
Congratulations, jriley on not one, but two monumental decisions. The ring for your girlfriend should turn out to be a contribution to your success equal to your decision to leave your job. Good luck to you both!
1 point by whiletruefork 5 days ago 0 replies      
I just did the same thing, albeit - I only gave myself 6 weeks to make acceptable progress on something (anything) before I start working full time again. It's my mental safeguard against procrastination.
1 point by raghava 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wonderful! Wish you a ton of good luck!

  >>underwhelmed by my safe, boring corporate gig
I know how it feels! :( And am yet to break those handcuffs.

2 points by nerd_in_rage 5 days ago 1 reply      
how much cash do you have in savings? i'm thinking of doing the same thing.
1 point by middlegeek 5 days ago 0 replies      
Good deal, I am happy for you! Get some stuff done.
2 points by rrrhys 5 days ago 1 reply      
Best of luck, very envious over here!

Do you have a blog?

1 point by narsimham 5 days ago 0 replies      
this is a great way to go.

i left my job with no savings and intending to do the same thing, because i was just not happy with my position at my new employer.

within three months i was completely broke, but with a github account with hundreds of commits.. and then my old boss from my second-to-last job called, and offered me job back, at a huge raise, and allowing me to work remotely, and pursue my own codebase/startup dream on the side.

quitting for the right reasons can have wonderful side benefits. :)

1 point by tomrod 5 days ago 0 replies      
Best of luck! If things look grim, don't give in.
1 point by gawker 5 days ago 0 replies      
Good luck and do let us know how it goes!!
1 point by d8niel 4 days ago 0 replies      
You only live once!
1 point by donaq 5 days ago 0 replies      
Good luck!
1 point by Semiapies 5 days ago 0 replies      
Good luck!
-3 points by doublez 5 days ago 1 reply      
Everest is littered with dead, exposed bodies godheadv.blogspot.com
330 points by ck2 8 hours ago   112 comments top 18
92 points by wooster 7 hours ago replies      
I recently got back (almost exactly a month ago) from a month long climbing trip in Nepal with some friends.

We had three guides, all three of whom have climbed Everest multiple times. One of our guides, who has summited 5 times, described Everest as his "bad habit".

As a relative newbie to high altitude mountaineering (the highest I got was ~19,850 feet), climbing in Nepal was really, really hard. You are never warm, the food sucks, camping for long periods at high altitude sucks rather a lot, you are never clean, altitude sickness sucks, pooping in an 8" hole in the ground sucks, not eating much protein sucks, but… the views are spectacular, the people you meet are amazing, the place itself is awe-inspiring, the wildlife is interesting and diverse, the peace of the place is fantastic, and the mountains… well, the mountains are something special.

I can see why some people spend their lives chasing summits, and I can also see why some people, having seen their first summit, turn away from the mountains forever and never come back. While we were in Nepal, within two days of our summit push, our head guide had two friends die. One died on Cho Oyu in an avalanche while traversing a glacier. The other died on a relatively unknown mountain in Tibet. Both were world-class mountaineers. These were people who no mountaineer in the world would accuse of being irresponsible, inexperienced, unprofessional, or, even, unsafe. They were serious mountaineers with long resumes and respected records.

That said, exploration is always a serious business, and when you're out at the sharp end, sometimes you get cut. Without these people, however, and the part of humanity which they represent, we would never expand our experience of what it is to be human and our knowledge of the space around us.

Even with Mount Everest, where the experience has been honed to the point where there are professionals whose entire job it is to make sure clients make it to the top… it's friggin' hard. Having been to nearly 20k feet, I have nothing but respect for people who can make it to 29,029 feet. Climbing that far is hard, no matter how you do it. I can only imagine the feeling of being on top of the world, and quite frankly I'm not sure I'm up to the challenge, personally, of tackling Mt. Everest. I will certainly never make fun of anyone who has climbed that mountain.

Given the difference in oxygen between where I got to and the top of Everest, I don't think I can comment on the impairment of cognitive facilities climbing Mount Everest imparts. However: there's a good reason most responsible climbs leave a controller in radio contact from base camp or Camp 1 in charge of final decisions. Oxygen deprivation is a serious impediment to rational decision making.

So, yeah, go ahead and don't climb where you don't feel comfortable. Just don't go judging those who do without having done a high climb yourself.

1 point by yan 0 minutes ago 0 replies      
For those interested in mountaineering, I highly, highly recommend listening to Chris Warner's talk on summitting K2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zkC9IMQmYA

A very very gripping talk by someone who's climbed Everest (and K2, a more dangerous ascent) multiple times. I saw this in person (Chris is the founder of the chain of climbing gyms I used to frequent) and it's even more gripping in person.

1 point by CWuestefeld 4 minutes ago 0 replies      
According to wikipedia, Everest is no where near the most dangerous. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-thousander

Of 14 8km+ summits, it appears that Everest's death rate is only 5.7%, while Annapurna leads at 42.85% (!)

This weighs against the commercialization of Everest trend theory, I think.

15 points by araneae 1 hour ago 0 replies      
The article quotes a 1/50 chance of dying.

For perspective, only 1/20 suicide attempts are successful. That means that climbing Mt. Everest is only half as deadly as trying to actively kill yourself.

18 points by rdl 8 hours ago 3 replies      
Deep wreck and cave diving is similarly dangerous (and was much more so before the adoption of Trimix by the technical diving community). There have been numerous fatalities among rescuers trying to recover corpses of other dead divers, too.

I decided after reading a fair bit about this that even if I can afford to dive like this ($20k+ for equipment, $10-20k+ for training, and $500+ per dive for helium-based gas fills), it's just not worth the risk. I'm going to build a ROV or AUV to do all my deep/wreck diving for me, and stick to much safer diving profiles.

The other problem with deep SCUBA is that it's all been done, and better, by commercial divers using surface supplied or saturation diving techniques. It's like cryptanalysis in the open world; the NSA clearly has vastly better capabilities, so at best you're discovering things they already know. Except with surface supplied/saturation, you can see exactly how they did it, and if you had the money, could just do it that way yourself. (I'd be really interested in semi-professional surface supplied or saturation diving as a new super-technical hobby diver thing)

10 points by jasonkester 7 hours ago 1 reply      
My relatives sometimes ask whether I'm 'still doing that mountain climbing thing?'. I'm pretty sure they think that this is what I'm up to.

I'm sure I'd fall in love with high altitude mountaineering (all other aspects of climbing are so addictive that it follows) but I've always made a point of staying away. The statistics are all there to see. I'll stick with the rocks, thank you.

My personal rule is that if it's cold enough that I'm tempted to put a shirt on, it's too close to mountaineering and it's time to move south.

19 points by makeramen 8 hours ago 6 replies      
I'm not the only one noticing the connection to startups right?

Though not as morbid, I would imagine "stepping over dead bodies" and "leaving teammates behind" is a rather common experience in startups as well, though potentially frowned upon (but even then, it would depend on the situation).

EDIT: I think I need to clarify, I'm thinking more that startup COMPANIES are like everest climbers, trying to reach profitability/success. And then we can similarly say "[The internet] is littered with dead, exposed bodies [of startups]"

17 points by joe_the_user 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I had a friend describe his experience when climbing one of the highest peaks in South America.

He said it was the most specular view he had seen in his life - he could literally see both the Atlantic and the Pacific simultaneously. But despite this, he was so physically miserable that he derived no joy from the experience at the time.

Of course, that's still much lower the Everest.

25 points by varjag 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Media 2.0 at its best: a bunch of photos lifted without attribution. I recognize at least one to be from a Nat. Geo. story.
4 points by BRadmin 8 hours ago 0 replies      
The mini-documentary season Everest: Beyond the Limit (streaming on Netflix) is a pretty interesting watch, and chronicles an expedition to the top - including a climber who actually encountered David Sharp on the mountain, while he was still alive, and the thought-process / decision of having to leave him behind.

Also, even though Everest is the highest mountain the world...

Annapurna has the highest fatality to summit ratio of all mountains @ ~40%.

And K2, with the second highest fatality rate (and 2nd highest elevation), is generally regarded as the most physically difficult and technically challenging.

14 points by mks 7 hours ago 4 replies      
Articles like this are very suggestive - of course while in the warm, in front of the computer everyone would try to rescue the poor climbers. However add difficult terrain, height, snow, fatigue and race with the clock and you have wholly different story. Consider how much effort is needed to transport someone by Mountain Rescue teams in lower mountains (<4000m) - teams of 2-5, lot of ropes, pullies and special transport stretchers.

Even seasoned climbers admit that you are pretty much solo on the high mountain. The strongest ones with highest morals have even tried helping some other party at these altitude but with very little effect. The moral choice is hard - would you put your life at very high risk just to attempt rescue with very little probability?

1 point by mark_h 2 hours ago 0 replies      
There's a few videos I've seen recently -- I've also just been trekking in the Everest region and watched and read a lot before going -- that do an amazing job of conveying that summit-fever attitude.

The one that most sticks in my mind is this talk on K2:
It's an hour long, but I highly recommend it.

There was an incredible documentary, which you can probably find online, called "Doctors in the Death Zone" which followed a team of doctors studying the effects of altitude on themselves as they attempted Everest. There's some pretty horrific footage of a team they encounter along the way watching their companion, in obvious distress, drunkenly attempt to reach their position, while they just wait.

Lastly, this talk from TEDMed is by the only doctor on Everest during the 1996 disaster, and it's both a great depiction of the main route, and a frightening reminder of just how dangerous it still is up there despite the number of summits and knowledge of the route these days:

4 points by kmfrk 8 hours ago 0 replies      
There is a great mountain-climbing article here that I recommend reading: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/11/prep-scho....
5 points by ck2 8 hours ago 5 replies      
Is it ego or the "human spirit" that makes people try the summit anyway?

Some things I'll never understand in this world.

How about just running a marathon instead?

2 points by rfreytag 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I keep hearing how startup founders are often "scratching an itch." I think the climber's itch is different in primarily beginning and ending in personal gratification.

If you are looking for a challenge climbing Everest might be only a little cheaper that doing a startup (about $65K it appears: http://outside-blog.away.com/blog/2009/12/how-much-does-it-c...).

4 points by morbidkk 7 hours ago 0 replies      
If you liked the article you must also read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_Thin_Air by Jon Krakauer
2 points by ra 7 hours ago 3 replies      
For a gripping first hand account of the danger and sheer lunacy of today's Mount Everest, I highly recommend "Into Thin Air", by Jon Krakauer


1 point by wazoox 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Read this absolutely fantastic article: Into thin air by John Krakauer.
Medical researcher discovers integration, gets 75 citations fliptomato.wordpress.com
314 points by robertk 4 days ago   120 comments top 22
50 points by dmlorenzetti 4 days ago replies      
The author calls out med students for approaching physics through rote memorization. It reminds me of an experience my older brother and I had with a doctor friend.

Our friend, an OB/GYN, mentioned how hard her work is, because "the average baby is born at 3am."

We laughed, but then my brother asked, "What does 'average' mean when you have a 24-hour clock? It must mean the modal time or something like that."

I contributed that this is an issue in defining average wind directions, as well. The basic problem is that if you record times on a 0-24 hour scale, or wind directions on a 0-360 degree scale, and then naively average the numbers, you get meaningless results (for example, 180 degrees if the wind steadily rotates through every point of the compass).

A quick glance at our doctor friend showed she had checked out of the conversation entirely. Possibly she just felt slighted that we were not bowing down in awe at the terrible hours she keeps. But my main impression was that she lives in a world where one receives a piece of information, notes it, and stores it away. And when repeating that received information, one's listeners duly note and store it away.

Chasing down the source of the information, calling it into question, relating it to other things in the world-- these just weren't things she seemed to find pleasurable.

57 points by noonespecial 4 days ago 6 replies      
I'd laugh a lot harder when people struggle for days and then reach a half-assed piece of some algorithm that's completely well know if I hadn't been there a dozen times myself.

Programmers are especially vulnerable to this. Who hasn't made a 4 page case statement when 3 lines of recursion would have done it, especially when starting out? Then again, I've never named my case statements after myself.

No matter how brilliant one is, its ridiculously hard to know what you don't know. In fact, sometimes being very advanced in one field makes it doubly hard to think of in one you're poor in.

46 points by niels_olson 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a doctor who majored in physics, and I agree with this post. Watching these folks come up with formulas in physiology was excruciating. People get their names on things that physicists wouldn't even bother noticing as something other than a single step in a derivation. Hacker News and Python have been come my group therapy and secret addiction, respectively.
35 points by kenjackson 4 days ago 2 replies      
Here's another paper:

"Tal's Formula is the Trapezoidal Rule"

A rebuttal doesn't get much blunter than that.

32 points by carbocation 4 days ago 3 replies      
For my next New England Journal paper, I'm going to use a random number generator to simulate whether conditional, probabilistic health outcomes occurred or not.

I'll cycle through this thousands of times to obtain stable estimates, and then call this the Monte Carbocation method.

12 points by jasonkester 4 days ago 0 replies      
Or, as your Engineering professors used to say:

"A week in the lab will save you an hour in the library every time."

17 points by alphaoverlord 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just to be clear, and this might be tangential, but she is not a physician - I think she is a dietitian. I think its a fallacy to assume that only physicians publish in medical journals and there is a negligible link between over-the-top premeds and this article.

Mary M. Tai



I can't access the article, so I can't make any comment on the actual methods, but I think it seems a little presumptuous to flippantly make broad strokes about a paper from a different field solely by looking at the abstract.

He does make a good point about overeager premeds (and for good reason), but this post seems to be more airing out grievences and stereotypes than an argument about education or differences between diciplines.

31 points by philelly 4 days ago 0 replies      
looking up the paper on pubmed reveals a flurry of letters to the editor published in the subsequent issue that call out the 'tai method' for what it is. i would actually bet a good number of the 70 citations that so worry 'flip tomato' are actually criticisms or commentary papers like this, as opposed to earnest citations.
11 points by silverlake 4 days ago 1 reply      
My brother is a medical researcher. Much of his work involves statistics, but he's never taken a statistics course nor read an intro book. So a lot of his results are just basic high school stats and pretty graphs, nothing deeper. It would be funny if it weren't medicine.
24 points by mbm 4 days ago 1 reply      
According to Google Scholar, it's actually been cited 137 times. Another paper published in '98, cited 499 times, reads:

The integrated area under the curve (AUC) analysis for glucose and insulin was determined according to the formula of Tai et al.


7 points by brianlash 4 days ago 3 replies      
I think Michael Williams (third comment) has the right idea when he says "I'm sure you can find plenty of physicists saying spectacularly naive things about medicine...". Of course OP's discovery is amusing - even alarming - but approaching it with an air of condescension won't do much to advance either field.
10 points by rue 4 days ago 1 reply      
Come on now, many of you proudly tout how you were taught integration in secondary education. Big deal. This person discovered it for themselves, and that is an achievement to be celebrated.
20 points by abhikshah 4 days ago 0 replies      
Peer-review failed here. It might be forgivable that a medical researcher doesn't know Calculus (maybe..), but if an article is making a mathematical claim, the journal should find appropriate reviewers. And this is not even remotely advanced math.
11 points by sciboy 4 days ago 0 replies      
I often help (good) researchers with experimental design and statistical analysis of quasi-experimental data, and it's shocking how little they understand. It pains me to think how much waste there is in science at the moment because the researchers do not have the statistical or numerical background to even know what questions are possible.
6 points by praptak 4 days ago 0 replies      
Tai's model? Naming things after oneself is +20 points in The Crackpot Index.
21 points by manicbovine 4 days ago 1 reply      
As a mathematician, I see this as a sign that my field needs an evangelist.
2 points by roel_v 4 days ago 0 replies      
Slightly off topic, but the other day someone asked how to do well in academia. Well, interdisciplinary work like this is a great way to get many well-cited papers - be well-versed in two or three fields (a lot of work, but not very hard) and apply things from one to the other(s). Don't call it '<your name>'s Method' but just present it as something groundbreaking (which it even may be, in that new field).

You can generate a paper mill out of this after 10 or 15 years of studying the various fields (including undergrad and grad school) - it doesn't require much hard thinking, just a lot of work.

3 points by pge 4 days ago 0 replies      
The lack of interdisciplinary collaboration is one of the major flaws of the US university system (I can't speak to other countries). The grad students I knew each had a specific toolkit that they had learned in their field but there was little or no sharing of those toolkits from domain to domain. That is unfortunate. Of particular importance in today's world are a toolkit of mathematical techniques (calculus, statistics, differential equations are probably the top three categories) and a category of basic programming skills (the ability to automate routine number crunching in particular, maybe "scripting" is a more appropriate word than "programming" - even recording and writing macros in Excel VB would go a long way).
3 points by finton 4 days ago 1 reply      
My outsider's opinion is that I think that a lot of cited articles are not always thoroughly examined, or of they are examined they are used to confirm the biases of a particular researcher.

I recently became interested in the idea of possible anesthetic neurotoxicity in infants and looked at a number of papers. The basic research seems solid, but the conclusions drawn are strangely inconsistent.

Neonatal rat, mouse and pregnant guinea pig models are used, and recent studies have been done on monkeys. It appears that there is a high incidence of cell death after exposure to anesthesia, but there is a relatively narrow window of vulnerability, which apparently peaks at 7 days postnatal in rats and rapidly diminishes. 5 day old monkeys were affected by prolonged exposure to ketamine, and 35 day old monkeys were not. Similar results were seen in guinea pigs.

What strikes me, is that this window of vulnerability is differently equated to human development by researchers, despite years of research into ethanol neurotoxicity (anesthetic studies seem to be more recent). Estimates for 7 to 14 day old rat-human equivalents range from pre-term infants to full-term newborns, to mid-gestation human fetuses and to children up to 3 years old. Two monkey papers, one using ketamine, and another using isoflurane also came up with different vulnerability periods based on similar data by using different sources of information on neurodevelopment, one published in the 1970's and one more recent.

I cannot understand how so many studies could have statements about possible windows of human neurotoxicity, without any certainty about what phase in neurodevelopment they were dealing with. And, oddly enough, the paper describing the model that is used to claim a mid-gestation vulnerability (based on a "bioinformatics approach") clearly states that it cannot be used to predict the "coordinated surge in synaptogenesis just prior to birth in primates", which is hypothesized to be the peak period of vulnerability to anesthetic-induced cell death. So why is it used as a source?

4 points by nickolai 4 days ago 0 replies      
To be fair, this letter followed soon afterwards :


Tai's formula is the trapezoidal rule.

Monaco JH, Anderson RL.

Comment on:

    * Diabetes Care. 1994 Feb;17(2):152-4.

3 points by Shorel 4 days ago 0 replies      
Given that this is Obesity research, I'm just a little more inclined to believe all the claims of the NIH syndrome and biased analysis as described in Good Calories, Bad Calories.
1 point by SeanDav 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, I just dicovered gravity :) In all seriousness though this does highlight a problem with modern research - the sheer volume of information out there.
MathJax, beautiful math in all browsers mathjax.org
294 points by scw 1 day ago   36 comments top 19
22 points by apl 1 day ago 1 reply      
Sometimes, when the ol' fever comes back and nobody's there to remind me that we have come to accept HTML/CSS, I dream of a world wide web built on TeX and TeX alone. It's a place of wonder, and happiness, and river-less paragraphs. Then I wake up, sweating, screaming, to a world without proper hyphenation. XeTeX is my XaNaX. Makes the web-pain go away.

[MathJax, on the other hand, looks glorious. Many thanks to the people in charge of the project!]

13 points by pierrefar 1 day ago 3 replies      
I use MathJax on one site I'm developing. It has two problems related to speed:

1. It is so modular that you cannot really optimize it using something like Google Closure (http://code.google.com/closure/ ). If you do, it breaks it.

2. The modularity means that you're likely to need a few roundtrips to the server to get everything. Invariably these block the loading of the page and you get a hang, sometimes for a few seconds. This is not good for user experience.

Of course MathJax solves a very important problem, but it's a problem browsers have introduced. None of the support MathML in a sane way: Firefox requires content served as fully valid XHTML (good luck with that if you're using a CMS) and Webkit only got MathML support recently in the nightly releases. If browsers actually implement MathML in a way developers can use without losing hair, then MathJax is no longer needed. Till then, I love MathJax despite its warts.

3 points by mhartl 9 hours ago 0 replies      
MathJax is the secret sauce behind the pretty math typesetting at The Tau Manifesto (http://tauday.com/). For what it's worth, Davide Cervone, the lead developer of MathJax, is incredibly helpful and friendly. In the process of writing The Tau Manifesto, I was running into some weird problems; Davide realized that there was a subtle MathJax bug when used with HTML5, and pushed a fix within hours of finding the problem.
9 points by mojombo 1 day ago 0 replies      
We use MathJax for inline display of equations in the GitHub wikis and it's really nice. I spent a long time looking for a LaTeX style math solution for the web, and MathJax was a great fit.
13 points by perlgeek 1 day ago 1 reply      
Very nice, I'm looking forward to usinig it. So I thought I'd check the license to see if it's compatible with what I envision.

The documentation page just says "Open Source", the FAQ and download pages nothing at all.

The release announcement at http://www.mathjax.org/2010/01/12/news/mathjax-beta-released... finally says "Apache 2.0 open source license".

Note to other developers: don't hide your license -- it's a piece of information others might actually be interested in, particularly if it's not an application, but more of a library.

2 points by danparsonson 1 day ago 2 replies      
Looks nice! Minor issue with spacing in my browser: http://img202.imageshack.us/img202/6766/spacingissue.png

Source of the top equation is: J_\alpha(x) = \sum_{m=0}^\infty \frac{(-1)^m}{m! \, \Gamma(m + \alpha + 1)}{\left({\frac{x}{2}}\right)}^{2 m + \alpha}

Source of the bottom equation is:

<math display="block">


Browser is Chrome 8.0.552.215 on Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit

3 points by splat 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can't wait for this to be incorporated on the arXiv.
1 point by prodigal_erik 1 day ago 0 replies      
Right now this works for some people and not others, because they aren't doing progressive enhancement over a server-side fallback rendering. The TeX samples just show raw \macros and the HTML-CSS renderings of the MathML samples are incorrect (x='b±b2'4ac2a is not the quadratic formula).

Looks nice on the machine I use as a js sandbox, though.

1 point by Jach 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been using jsMath for a while, I'm glad these sorts of libraries exist. It chips at my heart a little every time I see ascii sigmas and the like.
1 point by gradschool 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I'd like to port a large LaTeX document to a web browsable format but it makes heavy use of pstricks and picture environments. Can anyone comment on how well this would cope with that or what alternatives might help?
1 point by sammyo 1 day ago 1 reply      
In all recent browsers. For silly corporate reasons one box I work on is stuck at firefox 1.5 and this displays nothing.
1 point by xtacy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wikipedia has LaTeX code in the ALT attribute for all images on their website. Would it make sense for them to migrate?
1 point by jules 1 day ago 0 replies      
Looks ugly here. The letters are overlapping.


Chrome 7.0.517.44

1 point by xtacy 1 day ago 0 replies      
It would be awesome if someone could make an extension for browsers to enable this on browser chats/emails. :-)
2 points by hsmyers 1 day ago 0 replies      
Worthy of an 'atta-boy' from Knuth himself...
2 points by Muzza 1 day ago 0 replies      
All well and good except for the fact that it locks up my entire computer for several seconds.
1 point by zootm 1 day ago 0 replies      
Firefox 4 on Linux gives a message at the bottom saying something like "WebFonts not supported, falling back to image fonts", meaning that the scaling examples look horrible and most examples are very fuzzy. Shame, looks neat otherwise :)
1 point by ChristianMarks 19 hours ago 0 replies      
This could use an extension for xypic. It would trounce the alternatives if this were added.
-2 points by jarsj 1 day ago 1 reply      
Doesn't work as i expect in my browser.
Founder Control paulgraham.com
284 points by peter123 21 hours ago   55 comments top 22
40 points by grellas 20 hours ago 3 replies      
A few observations:

1. I would say that, even as of 5 years ago, it was rare for a startup to go through a Series A VC round without the VCs taking at least shared control.

2. Founders of reasonably strong startups can usually do angel rounds, also denominated Series A, without giving up board control and have been able to do so for some years now. These rounds used to be for smaller dollar amounts, often capped at $500K or so, but this has changed today in an era where founders can often turn to angels and superangels for larger fundings. VCs want to stay competitive with the angels at this early stage because, if they lose out at that level, they find themselves sitting on the sidelines as their deal-flow shrinks and they lose out on potentially strong investments made at an optimum stage in promising ventures. To stay competitive, therefore, the VCs must perforce bend a little on their traditional terms, including their former obsession with gaining board control right out the gate.

3. Founders themselves are far more savvy today, on average, than was the case a decade ago. In the bygone days, only a relatively few serial entrepreneurs had the sophistication to sit on a reputable board and still add value to it as founders. Today, the average founder is far better versed on what it takes to drive a company than was the case before. Thus, it is easier for VCs (and other investors) to accept the idea of a "founder-driven company" than it used to be. (Over the years, I have seen all too many "control-freak" founders and other variations that could only be labeled an embarrassment to sound management; based on this, I can understand the historic VC attitude, though of course this all must be counter-balanced by the many ills that the VCs themselves brought to the process when they would sometimes abuse the founders in whose startups they invested.)

4. Founders today have far more control over timing on when to do their Series A rounds. The cost of launching is far reduced today and the options for deferring larger rounds are greater, as for example by taking bridge funding from angels or F&F to allow the company to build value and minimize dilution before it goes for larger forms of funding.

When all these factors are combined, it seems clear from the trenches that a profound change is occurring by which founders have more control than ever before over their ventures. Of course, having this validated by someone such as PG, who is at the heart of this activity in Silicon Valley, goes a long way to letting the VCs themselves see it as respectable to accept as a fait accompli as they move forward.

13 points by uuilly 20 hours ago 2 replies      
On the flip side, I've seen founders cling too tightly to control. Sometimes the guy that is really good at getting a version 1 out of the garage is not the same guy that is good at calling the shots once it's a 60 person company. Taking the stance that "I want to retain control," is obstinate and egotistical. The proper stance is, "I want to retain control until someone better comes along." That may be never. But it's the right attitude to have. In the end, it's not about who controls what, it's about who's more likely to make all the time and money that's gone into the company worth more.
14 points by tptacek 20 hours ago 0 replies      
10 years ago, we had a "2 VC, 2 founders, tiebreaker CEO" board structure that I think was probably more common than simply "conceding the board to the VC". (I'm aware of the pitfalls in that structure, too).

My sense of it --- and someone with more recent experience please correct me if I'm wrong --- is that the shareholders agreements matter as much as the board structure does. Point being, you wouldn't want to see "founder control" becoming cosmetic, a fig leaf around the real power the VCs wield.

14 points by GavinB 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Is this happening because start-ups are getting series A financing later in the life of the company? It used to be that you needed VC just to build and launch a business, but these days the business can be much more real and the founders more proven by the time they're ready for VC.

Startups are getting further and further on seed and angel funding due to advancing technology.

9 points by faramarz 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I wish PG would go into the details of structuring a board control. Perhaps that's an essay for a another day.

Some context:
Founder of Magna International, Frank Stronach, who started his business some 30 years ago made a lot headlines this past summer due to the sale of his "special" founder-class shares. I found it remarkable that even though the company is public, he still had majority interest over the board due to his share structure. EDIT: Every 1 of his B shares converted to 100 Common Stock (and he had over 700 Class B shares, before he decided to give up control and convert)

Wikipidia explains:

  Stronach, who is currently the non-executive chairman of
Magna International, holds multiple-voting shares of the
company, which gives him majority voting power over
issues brought to shareholder vote. Although he controls
the voting power among Magna's shareholders, Stronach
owns only 4% of Magna's equity.

9 points by snewe 21 hours ago 4 replies      
Perhaps the ycfounders list is a selected sample: it produces or selects above-average quality founders that are more likely to get a good Series A price (in terms of both control and pre$). I suspect that YCombinator's focus on founders for investment decisions also results in start-ups with assets closely tied to the individuals who run things (rather than say a patent). This leaves future VCs with less bargaining power when forming boards.
17 points by yurylifshits 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Zynga Founder Mark Pincus - Control Your Board http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0lUNFHD-iM

(from Startup School 2009)

11 points by lkozma 17 hours ago 3 replies      
I wish PG would write more about painting and hacking and education and lisp and history and psychology and philosophy and literature and politics and a bit less about investments. Seriously, quite a dry topic..
5 points by fleaflicker 20 hours ago 1 reply      
In a dozen companies we've funded, the founders still had a majority of the board seats after the series A round.

Out of how many series As total?

4 points by chrisduesing 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Can someone explain the power dynamics of a board, vs that of the shareholders? I always assumed that retaining a majority of shares between the founders would keep them in control of the company, but is it the case that the board has more actual power.

For instance; 2 founders hold 60% of the shares of their company collectively after a Series A. The investors hold 40% (lets ignore option pools etc). Now if each side had 2 board seats (plus a 5th seat held by a brought in CEO), does that mean the founders can in fact be outvoted?

4 points by matt1 19 hours ago 1 reply      
As I'm reading this article and nodding my head, I realized that I don't understand what controlling a board actually means.

It sounds like its written in the term sheet somewhere--what does that look like? Joe Startup will maintain control of the board...? Would it be correct for a founder to say "I have control of the board so..." or is it more of a perceived power as a result of other negotiated terms?

5 points by gms 20 hours ago 1 reply      
This essay makes VC's seem like a necessary evil that founders have to tolerate through gritted teeth, as opposed to something more benevolent like, say, YC.

Do I have the wrong impression?

2 points by iamwil 20 hours ago 1 reply      
"VCs will still be able to convince; they just won't be able to compel. And the startups where they have to resort of compulsion are not the ones that matter anyway. "

I excepted some sort of footnote for this one. It's not immediately obvious to me this is true.

Hypothetically, the founders are the ones that know their business the best, and hence tend to have a longer term vision. Given that the founder executes on the long term vision, those are the companies that matter. Is that the line of thinking?

8 points by kapitti 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Isn't a dozen a small percentage of total YC companies?
6 points by gcheong 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Minor typo: resort of compulsion --> resort to compulsion
3 points by jaekwon 19 hours ago 1 reply      
2 Questions:

Are there cases where a non-CEO founder controls the board?

What are the mechanics whereby the minority stake founder(s) control the board? Some sort of skewed voting system? If so, what sort of legal entities allow this structure?

2 points by Scott_MacGregor 19 hours ago 0 replies      
With an equal number of founder elected Directors and VC elected Directors, if your outside tiebreaker director is brought in by the VC's you will be in danger of losing control because you cannot control the situation.

Especially if the tie breaker is planning on doing some additional business with the VC in the future, you may not have a truly neutral person casting the vote.

So, how is founder control typically structured?

For instance, do founder Stockholders get 2 votes per share to elect Directors with, and VC's get 1 vote per share with a guaranteed VC director seat on the board? Or are Directors elected by founders getting 2 votes on a particular decision item A and 1 vote on decision item B, and VC Directors get 1 vote on A and B?

Does anyone know what is currently going on with this?

1 point by samd 20 hours ago 0 replies      
The switch to the new norm may be surprisingly fast, because the startups that can retain control tend to be the best ones. They're the ones that set the trends, both for other startups and for VCs.

Are they the best ones because they can retain control or can they retain control because they are the best ones?

1 point by EGreg 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I definitely would like to control my own company.

That said, my philosophy is simple: Your first company should SUCCEED. You should be prepare to give up control, equity, etc. as long as it succeeds.

That gives you a track record AND money. Think about it. If you had $10 million dollars 2 years from now, and a 5% stake in your first venture, contacts lots of happy people and a reputation for succeeding with your first venture, don't you think you could own the shit out of your next company? Like 100% ownership in pretty much anything you want, with $5 million of your own money in it. You could try 30 different ideas or set up a nice lab.

Wanting to own your first venture is kind of like saying this will be your only idea, ever.

It might sound unproductive, but my advice to fellow entrepreneurs would be: listen to what investors want, and then give it to them. Put together a great team. Find VC firms who like to invest in your kind of thing. Develop just enough to get them interested. Set up appointments. Get funded. Exit with $10m or more in the bank. Do your own thing. Your first business can be all about the $$ exit.

It seems I myself am going a different route, though.

2 points by nlavezzo 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I think one of the main factors pushing the trend in the direction of more founders retaining control is the increased availability of angel money.

If it came down to my cofounders and I having to give up control to raise a Series A (or any series for that matter) I'm sure we'd turn to Angel List to raise a similar amount from well connected and useful investors, without having to give up control - if that were a viable option.

Increasingly it seems like raising a large angel round is an option, which is great for entrepreneurs.

1 point by pama 18 hours ago 0 replies      
"Founders retaining control after a series A is clearly heard-of. And barring financial catastrophe, I think in the coming year it will become the norm."

Would a financial catastrophe simply stop new series A rounds, or would it rather change their terms? Are there any examples of changes related to the adventures in 2007--2008?

1 point by JVerstry 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Good insight information, thanks !
I just need a programmer uni.edu
280 points by bgray 5 days ago   100 comments top 31
54 points by raganwald 5 days ago 2 replies      
The trouble with thinking "I have magic beans, I just need water!" is that you don't understand water. You don't know good water from bad. You don't really know how much water to use and when. You can't watch the beans grow and adjust your watering schedule because you think it's all about the beans. You don't get water.

That's my problem with "I just need a programmer" entrepreneurs. I can work out how to get paid, but I can't work out how to make them understand software well enough to make good business decisions about a software company.

(The same thing is true of "I just need a salesperson," of course.)

68 points by Kilimanjaro 4 days ago 4 replies      
So, you are looking for a programmer? Well, I am one. A goddamn good one. I can make a computer cry twisting its inner wires with just my thought. And I happen to be looking for a partner too.

Are you a solid-brass-balls entrepreneur not afraid of rasing money? Can you knock down every tabloid's door to get our story told? Can you set up appointments across the globe with people richer than god? Can you bring a thousand customers just the first month and two thousands more the next?

I can code the whole fucking app in one month and get version two ready the next month if that is what you need. See? That's execution, my friend. I can code apps blindfolded and with my hands tied. Can you do business like that? I don't want dreamers, I want doers.

Now, stop wasting my time with an idea, I have had plenty every day of my life since I started programming and I have spent twenty years perfectioning my skills. I know what I can do.

So, I ask you again, what are your business skills? Besides having an idea?

21 points by geebee 5 days ago 3 replies      
This is a good post. I'd take it one step farther. To say the idea is nothing without the execution still (kind of) suggests that they are different things. I think that where it comes to software, the execution is the idea.

I wouldn't quite claim that ideas aren't worth much. I know a few academics, and they are rightly careful about sharing their ideas before they get far enough with the implementation (lab work, publications) to ensure that they will be credited. If I'm going to agree that "idea stealing" is a problem, then I'm committed to agreeing that raw ideas do have some value.

Software can be like this, but in general, I think most software "ideas" are more similar to an idea for a novel, painting, or screenplay than a blockbuster pharmaceutical drug. Give two programmers the same "idea", and you'll end up with two different products - maybe almost as different as two different novels. Hell, give two writers or programmers the same detailed outline, and you'll probably end up with two different outcomes.

When I was in college, "business types" walked through shopping malls and appended "dot com" to what they saw, and thought they had a valuable idea. Now, people tend to prepend "social networking for" or "wireless". "Social networking - for surfers! for moms!"

Now one warning - however much I may feel this way, the law isn't necessarily on my side. IANAL and everything, but some IP lawyers came to talk to a startup I worked at once to tell us about how important it is to shut the fuck up, and evidently simply being "the programmer" doesn't mean you have to be included on a patent. So to that extent, the law does recognize a separation between idea and implementation.

14 points by angrycoder 4 days ago 3 replies      
As someone who has spent most of his career at a consultancy, people like this put food on my table.

The ones who end up being successful understand that they need to learn just as much about the process of software development and usability as we need to learn about their vertical. They understand that a good product is a result of give and take with your developers and analysts.

The ones who fail are the type A alpha dogs who just want you to do whatever they say because they are paying you a crap load of money per hour. They generally have the right mindset for an entrepreneur, they are trying to solve a problem they have. A couple of common problems are:

1) Everyone in their vertical may have this problem, but they assume everyone does business the same way that they do and follows the same process. They weigh down their system with too many requirements and business rules. As a result, they bury the one or two useful nuggets and end up with a product that is only suited to them.

2) They want to make some monolithic end to end solution right out the gate. They want to jump straight to being a WalMart sized franchise when they need to start as a mom and pop corner store (aka a MVP).

5 points by _delirium 4 days ago 1 reply      
I somewhat but not entirely agree with this. I definitely agree in the case he discusses: there are way too many people with vague ideas who "just need a programmer". I don't think the root problem is that implementation is the source of all value, though. In their case, they don't understand how to develop computational ideas in a useful way at all. It's not the lack of C++ knowledge or Ruby knowledge, but the lack of a general understanding of computational thinking.

A computationally-literate idea that's well developed, on the other hand, can be very valuable, and can account for probably 90% of the interestingness of idea+implementation. Not always: sometimes you find really major things in the implementation that cause you to rethink the idea. But there are many times that I've implemented a theoretical idea myself and not really learned anything in doing so. You read a paper, or even a blog post, which explains an idea in detail, motivates why the author developed it, gives a broad sketch of how you'd implement it, etc., etc., but the author hasn't actually implemented it. Then I implement it myself. Have I provided the majority of the value, because I'm the first person with working code? Not really; in many cases the implementation was a pretty straightforward translation of the idea into code.

A computationally literate and well-developed idea is arguably something close to "execution", but not quite the nuts-and-bolts variety. To use a physics analogy, my ideas on space travel are not very well developed or valuable, but Freeman Dyson's are valuable, even though he's implemented his ideas to the same extent I have: neither one of us has ever attempted to build spaceships. He's a pure idea-person, but his ideas are developed quite fully, so readers can understand what he proposed and why, what its pros and cons might be, what possible pitfalls await, what the broad outlines of possible fixes for those pitfalls might be (even if they depend on materials or other things not currently available), etc.

I'd say the same of people even further into idea-land, like Isaac Asimov, who provided valuable ideas with nothing close to an implementation. The trick imo is that most ideas either just aren't novel enough to be interesting, or aren't sufficiently well developed and explained to provide value to a reader.

51 points by porter 5 days ago 1 reply      
It seems funny to me that so many people want to be software entrepreneurs, but refuse to learn about software.

Six months ago I quit my banking job of five years to learn how to program. I am taking discrete math, data structures & algorithms, and computer organization courses as a non-degree student. I am also up to speed with python/django/HTML/CSS/JS, or at least I know them well enough to hack a prototype together.

Programming is overwhelming at first, but seriously, it's not that hard to learn enough to test out your ideas.

17 points by CoachRufus87 5 days ago 2 replies      
that was me 2 years ago. I considered elance (couldn't afford it), recruited 1 cs buddy I went to high school with (he was busy doing his own things), so I figured I had no choice but to learn to program. I found HN, which introduced me to Michael Hartl's Ruby on Rails Tutorial, and I just launched my first app: http://www.fanscription.com
Oh, and I'm an Econ/Business Major.

"Just Do It" -Nike

13 points by sgentle 4 days ago 2 replies      
I see a lot of "just learn to program" around here, and I think it's all a bit glib and far from reality.

Firstly, programming is hard. It's not the sort of thing you pick up in a few weeks. Hell, there are people who manage to make it through a CS degree and several years in industry without actually knowing what they're doing. What makes you think it's a valuable use of your time to do something mediocre that other people have spent much of their lives learning to do well?

Secondly, good programming doesn't make a good business. It's as important (I would even say more important) to have a solid revenue model. Who are your customers? Why are they buying? How can you get more? These are questions many programmers wouldn't want to touch with a barge pole. Don't waste that symbiosis.

To me, the real message is that ideas aren't worth shit. Implementation is king. It seems like a lot of people (angry ex-startup programmers?) confuse real business people (who can contribute a lot to a team in sales & biz dev) with useless "ideas guys". If you're one of those then, y'know, stop it. You should go learn an actual skill (programming or otherwise) that will allow you to contribute to the idea's realisation.

(I should clarify, though, that I think anyone working in software should learn about programming. But encouraging business guys to write their own code is like encouraging programmers to draw their own art.)

8 points by yesno 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a very unfortunate situation in our industry.

BizDev guy says he needs one of them "programmers" who can code and don't talk back to him. BizDev guy knew almost nothing about software development or the "properties of a system software". Business didn't work out because the software is flacky. BizDev guy blames them "programmers" when changes are hard, software is super buggy.

BizDev thinks he's awesome cause he has 3 things: Money, Network and Idea. Everybody should bow down to Money.

Programmers became hateful against the BizDev guy. They say "I can do this by myself, screw you guys". Then programmers try to re-create their ideal world: solving cool problems, working with cool gadgets, in a cool office environment. Some said programmers have to work in a close office, alone GASP. Of course these silos came up with a chunk of code that probably hard to be integrated. Them programmers try to hire BizDev guy cause now the VCs are on their butt asking how money could be made. Of course it'll be hard for them programmers to hire BizDev since they have a very strong bias. They probably ended up hiring Sales Engineer instead of bright BizDev.

Programmers think they're awesome cause they have 3 things: Knowledge, Skill and Idea. Knowledge is everything they say.

This... is why 9 out of 10 startups failed. That 1 startup that succeed? the BizDev guy has an MBA and BS in CS or EE. The Programmers? they took minor in economics/commerce or accounting.

5 points by fbnt 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the majority of developers/startup founders have no problems sharing their idea or plan before launch date. They talk about it to attract new prospective clients, collaborators, create interest and so on. Very few operates in stealth mode nowadays.

So when you freely share your idea before launching the product you already consider the value of the idea alone basically zero, while you think the value resides all in your execution.

That's why I believe that if you have an idea you'd better be an exacutor or a sales person, otherwise there no or little value in your contribution. There's no shortage of ideas.

3 points by wccrawford 5 days ago 1 reply      
Wait, so they're surprised that they can't find students willing to work hard in return for some vague hope of money in the future?

Wow. Color me shocked. /sarcasm

And the advice that they could just learn programming themselves? I don't think anyone ever says 'I need X, but don't know anything about it myself. I'll just learn it.' (At least, nobody that thinks logically.) It doesn't work that way. (Okay, granted, some small number of people might think that and actually succeed at it. But at the cost of things they could have been doing efficiently, instead.)

7 points by nhangen 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'm one of these guys.

Why didn't I learn to program? I had maybe an hour/day in between my job and my side hustle, and I just didn't have enough time to get through the problems in order to be a good programmer.

Since then, I've found that watching projects come to life, while learning on the side, has made it much easier to pick up Objective C, Javascript, Ruby, etc. Of course, I didn't expect programmers to work for free...that would be ridiculous.

That being said, it's kind of like learning HTML or CSS, unless you're doing it actively, full-time, for months or even years, it's going to take some time to feel like you know what you're doing.

Lastly, there are so many languages. There's Ruby, Python, PHP, C and its variants, etc. Do you learn web languages or something like Objective C?

Those are some of the things that went through my mind when I started.

6 points by vog 5 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, I'm really impressed how quickly this page loads!

Or, maybe I'm just too used to the masses of those annoyingly slowly loading blogs.

13 points by scrrr 5 days ago 3 replies      
Funny, I have the opposite problem. I need a biz-guy!
3 points by zavulon 4 days ago 0 replies      
There's another option, without having to learn how to program.

Be good and make money at what you do so you can afford to pay good programmers what their time is worth, so they can make your idea happen without too much hassle.

(Disclaimer - I run a company that does just that)

4 points by RoyG 4 days ago 0 replies      
This isn't just a programming issue; it reminded me of my younger days as a freelance designer, where I would meet with many prospective entrepreneurs who would tell me something like 'I'm very good at design, I just need somebody to work the software.'

Invariably, there is more to both programming and design than meets the eye. While learning can help obviate this problem it's not a cure-all; it is also important to learn how to a.) prioritize and simplify when your reach exceeds your grasp and b.) have realistic expectations for outcomes vs. budget.

It's a good idea to learn both, but again, the execution is more problematic.

4 points by rcavezza 5 days ago 0 replies      
I used to be one of those people before I learned how to program. Best investment I've made in the last 10 years.
3 points by Ataraxy 5 days ago 1 reply      
I am a marketer. I am also fairly technical and think that I have a firm understanding of how things work but lack the capabilities/aptitude to properly code them. I managed to cobble together a functional prototype of some analytics software we needed. It was fine until it became quickly apparent that my coding skills suck despite a more or less understanding of it all. We had to hire a coder to write it all from scratch to be able to handle hundreds of thousands clicks per day. It has been bumpy but it was still the right decision in order to allow our business to grow.

My point is, even if you want something bad enough that you will sit there for a couple of weeks straight to cobble your vision together, nothing beats having it done by a professional that understands what they are doing.

I wish still we had a full time developer and ui designer available to us to make my much grander/awesome/profitable vision a reality. In time we will...

3 points by ssskai 4 days ago 2 replies      
Question: If I were a "BizDev" guy and wanted to create a website that has similar functionalities as, say, Groupon or PayPal (I understand they're different), what languages would be best to learn?

I would suspect some front-end GUI paired with a back-end database system would be needed, but what languages specifically would be best?

As an entrepreneur with a degree in Mech. Eng. and Entrp., and I have done programming in MATLAB, some VBA, and some HTML. So I understand the logic behind programs, but don't necessarily know all the languages.

Any and all suggestions are most welcomed!

3 points by joe_the_user 4 days ago 0 replies      
I believe that the punch-line is also "but I don't intend to pay hourly industry rates".
3 points by anthonycerra 5 days ago 0 replies      
What it really boils down to is the drive of the individual. If you're not willing to do whatever it takes to make the dream a reality then you're not an entrepreneur.

That might mean growing your network to find a co-founder or it might mean buckling down and learning to program yourself.

There's so much free information out there today that ignorance is no excuse.

1 point by commieneko 4 days ago 0 replies      
That post was much better than I expected.

Ideas are important (although the usually mutate in the process of implementation.) The ability to implement is important (although the tendency to go after low hanging fruit rather than what is actually needed is strong.)

The last ingredient, though, is the ability to communicate the idea and the implementation to customers/investors/users/etc. Marketing, UI/Human Factors, and Sales are often as important.

1 point by rwhitman 4 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I'd say is that I don't believe programmers are the only profession afflicted with this scenario.

Who knows how many times I've had a 'brilliant' idea for something outside my domain where I've said to myself "this is a great idea, now all I need is a ____". I am just thankful that I'm smart enough not to start asking successful people to buy into my stupid idea until I've done some research first...

1 point by dools 4 days ago 1 reply      
I have quite a few people I know who are on the "business side" of the entrepreneurial merry go round that quite often call me with their latest idea.

The remarkable thing is that no matter how many times I get back to them with a time estimate of 6 months - or a cost investment of $50k - $100k to get it live etc. the first sentence they always speak is "it's just a simple site that ... "

In fact it's not really limited to these guys. Everyone who calls me to get something done starts off by telling me how simple it is. "It's just this simple thing that ... " as if that's somehow going to make me realise that it IS simple and I can actually do in a weekend what I had thought would take months!!

If it's that simple, DO IT YOURSELF!

2 points by TotlolRon 4 days ago 1 reply      

If you have an idea and you learn how to implement it you might find yourself a single founder/creator.

You know what they say about those, right?

"What's wrong with having one founder? To start with, it's a vote of no confidence. It probably means the founder couldn't talk any of his friends into starting the company with him. That's pretty alarming, because his friends are the ones who know him best." -- Paul Graham, 18 mistakes, 2006.

1 point by andyidsinga 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really liked this post.
Jumping into execution/implementation, especially when we're naive about all of complexities is a valuable learning experience. It seems we're also likely to meet folks and make new friends who do understand the complexities ..and from that group we'll find our project partners.

He also makes a good point about discouraging people ...it seems we need to do more of pointing people down the path of learning, implementation and discovery.

Yoh ho ho.

2 points by disgruntled 4 days ago 0 replies      
The problem with offering equity is that it's often just a dangling carrot that never materializes. I've worked for several startups offering stock options over the years and observed an alarming pattern: programmers are treated as commodities to develop the idea, then laid off before the product launch. The C-levels reap all the gains and the product builders go collect unemployment.
1 point by kaiwen1 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great quote:Learning to program used to be an inevitable consequence of using computers. Sadly, that's no longer true. The inevitable consequence of using computers these days seems to be interacting with people we may or may not know well and watching videos.
1 point by megaframe 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm with this guy, if I have Ideas I learn to implement them myself, if nothing else even if I got other people to do the work I know what they're going through to do it so I can plan for it, and as issues arise I can help not just sit around trying to motivate.
1 point by naithemilkman 4 days ago 1 reply      
I am currently one of these guys in transition. Using Gladwell's 10,000 hour as a proxy for mastery. I estimate getting between 100 - 250 hours of programming time is good enough to get a working MVP out.

Does anyone think this is overly optimistic or unrealistic?

2 points by JMWes 4 days ago 0 replies      
Too many business people think programming is a commodity that can be easily outsourced. Too many programmers think business people all have vague ideas. They are both wrong.
Google responds to NY Times article by improving its algorithms googleblog.blogspot.com
259 points by Matt_Cutts 5 days ago   79 comments top 25
41 points by CWuestefeld 5 days ago 3 replies      
Before making a non-trivial purchase online, I typically do a search for "$vendorname sucks" and/or "$productname sucks", and this has saved me headaches on more than one occasion.

I hope that Google's solution won't interfere with finding bad reviews in this case.

14 points by _delirium 5 days ago 5 replies      
While I can understand not giving out details, to avoid gaming, this post as a result doesn't have much content! As far as I can tell, this is the entirety of the description of the change:

we developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide a extremely poor user experience

The explanations of what Google didn't do and why are informative, though.

13 points by patrickaljord 5 days ago 0 replies      
"But if we demoted web pages that have negative comments against them, you might not be able to find information about many elected officials,"

Good one Google.

6 points by JangoSteve 5 days ago 0 replies      
How cool would it be if the guy behind this site did a writeup now to show what happens to search traffic and income when you shit on customers, then get your very own article in the NYTimes, and then Google tweaks their search algorithm specifically to hurt you?
17 points by arman0 5 days ago 2 replies      
This post is a great rebuttal to those who think that Google is becoming a lumbering giant. I wonder how long it would have taken Microsoft to respond to a similar situation.
4 points by martincmartin 5 days ago 1 reply      
When the NY Times article first appeared, the merchant still showed in Google's and Bing's results, but interestingly not in Duck Duck Go's.
3 points by daten 5 days ago 5 replies      
But if we demoted web pages that have negative comments against them, you might not be able to find information about many elected officials, not to mention a lot of important but controversial concepts. So far we have not found an effective way to significantly improve search using sentiment analysis. Of course, we will continue trying.

Google admits, and I agree, that this is a bad idea. But then why are they continuing to attempt it? Wouldn't neutral search results be better than those that favored a subjectively positive or negative business?

3 points by kenjackson 5 days ago 1 reply      
Why not just put sentiment analysis directly in the search results?

Search for: Designer Discount Glasses
and maybe this page still is on the first page, but have a frowny face by the link, to indicate that sentiment analysis is largely negative.

Don't hide anything, but make how the site is relevant more apparent.

2 points by adammichaelc 5 days ago 1 reply      
Seems to have worked (not like I was expecting it not to). This search term used to show DecorMyEyes on the 1st page, but no longer does:


4 points by econner 5 days ago 1 reply      
I couldn't help but fix on these two sentences:

"We know that people will keep trying: attempts to game Google's ranking, like the ones mentioned in the article, go on 24 hours a day, every single day. That's why we cannot reveal the details of our solution"the underlying signals, data sources, and how we combined them to improve our rankings"beyond what we've already said."

Doesn't this sound like the exact things security people used to say before realizing that they needed to make their mechanisms public in order to ensure their security.

1 point by mixmax 5 days ago 0 replies      
derefr actually proposed using sentiment analysis in the discussion on the original NY Times article. Not a bad call.


3 points by dcdan 5 days ago 2 replies      
This feels like mostly a PR piece to me. And reports seem conflicting.

Google doesn't seem to say what they did beyond that they "developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience."

Danny Sullivan claims they are "Using Online Merchant Reviews As Ranking Signal" (http://searchengineland.com/google-now-using-online-merchant...).

Techcrunch claims Google "compiled a list of hundreds of merchants (including DecorMyEyes) that provided “bad user experience” and algorithmically forced them lower" (http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/01/googl/).

edit: typo

2 points by pzxc 5 days ago 0 replies      
Now if they could only get rid of BigResource.com pages. They come a lot on my searches, especially coding specific ones, and that site has no content of its own. It just aggregates forum threads from other forums (not its own), and what's worse it's usually in such a broken way as to not let you read the thread on the page you're given OR find the original forum thread it was scraped from.

Yeah, I know, there are a lot of questionable sites cropping up more and more as everyone is going all DemandMedia on monetizing SERPs without providing much real value. That's kind of my point, and why I don't bother reporting BigResource even if I thought it would accomplish something (which it wouldn't) -- because it is by far not alone.

Google used to be so good at identifying scraped sites or made-for-adsense and it seems more and more are not only slipping through the cracks but in fact dominating the search results. To me this is a much more important issue than that of people getting a ton of backlinks from negative stories/comments which anyone with half a brain would be wary of giving money to if they actually checked (by searching for the company itself directly and discovering all the bad press instead of just searching for "$mycity $productname" and then giving their credit card info). Yes, I know that's too much to expect of most people. But really, I think google should try to help people who can effectively use their engine and try hard to do so but get poor-quality results before people who can't or won't bother to use it effectively.

5 points by ry0ohki 5 days ago 2 replies      
So can I essentially destroy my competitors search rankings by getting enough people to disparage them on the Internet now?
3 points by tomger 5 days ago 1 reply      
I don't understand why people think the internet works any different than real life.

You don't just buy products in a dodgy shop, even if it's the first shop you see.

Google is as responsible for this as a phonebook company would be for giving you a bad phone number.

1 point by subbu 5 days ago 0 replies      
And thanks to Google Earth, he can faux-stalk his customers without leaving his house

Add google streetview and their latest Google Earth 6 (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/introducing-google-ea...), it makes it even more easier to stalk people without leaving your chair.

2 points by ankimal 5 days ago 0 replies      
Rule number one in online retail is looking up the vendor before you buy anything, no matter how much money you are saving. I dont see why any one should blame Google for this. Next thing you know, people are gonna want directions on google maps which others recommend as opposed to other metrics. If I got car jacked on a certain route, blame Google, it gave me directions.
3 points by TotlolRon 5 days ago 0 replies      
"A wise old owl sat in a Valley,

The more he saw, the less he believed,

The less he believed, the more he saw,

We never ask: what is the last straw?"

-- @taylorbuley in TC comments regarding something else, 2010

1 point by skm 5 days ago 0 replies      
Would anyone else like sentiment controls in google's search tools sidebar? Three settings I'd use would be:
• Show more results about which people talk positively
• Show more results about which people talk negatively
• Show results which generate strong opinions, both positive and negative

Alternatively, a "show sentiment for this search" which added a small indicator next to the search results might do the trick. (Just to be clear, I'm not proposing adjusting the ranking of pages based on the sentiment on the page itself, interesting though that might be, but rather based on the sentiment in the text surrounding links to that page.)

From Google's blog:
As it turns out, Google has a world-class sentiment analysis system (Large-Scale Sentiment Analysis for News and Blogs). But if we demoted web pages that have negative comments against them, you might not be able to find information about many elected officials, not to mention a lot of important but controversial concepts. So far we have not found an effective way to significantly improve search using sentiment analysis. Of course, we will continue trying.

1 point by shasta 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if they're going to apply this filtering technology to their sponsored links. There are paying scammers, too.
2 points by jeffreyrusso 5 days ago 0 replies      
This was an artful response. Google took what was essentially a piece of negative press from the New York Times and used it as an argument against the call for transparency in the algorithm that so many major media sources are pushing for lately.
1 point by jalpino 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if Google took into consideration their own customer service into the equation? Non-existent support is just as bad as being a douche.
-3 points by aristidb 5 days ago 2 replies      
"Improving algorithms" now involves writing a blacklist? Blacklists are fine, but please don't call them algorithms.
-3 points by Google_franke 5 days ago 0 replies      
Now mute google conversations the smarter way. The unmute feature added to More Actions on Emails. http://bit.ly/gX0roM
-3 points by mcritz 5 days ago 0 replies      
Google's headline is “Being bad to your customers is bad for business”.

I always thought “being bad” was analogous to “evil”.

Grooveshark's new Javascript/HTML interface grooveshark.com
244 points by codejoust 3 days ago   128 comments top 30
41 points by invisible 3 days ago 4 replies      
This is an amazing rewrite from the Flash version - well worth the time they put into this one. They have some really dedicated staff members and some great talent on the team.
9 points by zhyder 3 days ago 2 replies      
How come the RIAA is okay with Grooveshark streaming any music at any time? Pandora has many more restrictions in their free version to qualify for "internet radio" licensing rates.
18 points by pogos 3 days ago 1 reply      
Great work! Linux users now officially love you :-)
10 points by asnyder 3 days ago 5 replies      
Apparently the latest version of Opera isn't modern enough. I'm really sick of projects blatantly not supporting Opera. There's nothing wrong with it.

Update: Come on there's no reason to downvote this. At least explain why you're downvoting this, for example, Opera killed your puppy.

4 points by Locke1689 3 days ago 0 replies      
Fantastic -- I'm a Grooveshark VIP member and have been since shortly after launch. I still think it was one of the best investments I've made in the past couple years -- it's completely changed how I listen to music (especially with the mobile versions).

I wish you guys the best of luck and thank you sincerely for continuing to innovate.

4 points by kuldeep_kap 3 days ago 1 reply      
This an awesome step for Grooveshark. Now let the greasemonkey or chrome extension customization scripts begin. Would love to see, what users come up with. I already coded new ad remover for my self. Couple ideas I have are as follows,

1. Last.fm scrobbler
2. Lyrics plugin (same as winamp has)
3. put 'now playing' list at the right sidebar
3. make 'now playing' list thinner.

4 points by HaloZero 3 days ago 1 reply      
Question for the developers.

How was JVMC? Was it very useful using the MVC format in your JS, did you end up using it mainly for classes or did you do the whole MVC format?

Why JMVC over something like Backbone?

A write up on this in a blog would be awesome.

Was Javascript templating useful? It seems to be me that it would be very slow (though faster than doing async request to servers I suppose).

4 points by pvsnp 3 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I noticed is now the ad blocker (on Chrome) catches the ads and doesn't show them. Since I don't have a VIP account with them and the ads aren't as intrusive as Pandora/Last.fm services, I decided to whitelist listen.grooveshark.com to show ads.
It works beautifully though, Flash on Linux was such a pain.
3 points by ralphc 3 days ago 0 replies      
Doesn't work on the Galaxy Tab. Tried Browser, Dolphin, Skyfire & Fennec. Best I get is the spinning pinwheel after I pick a search.
3 points by VMG 3 days ago 1 reply      
So what is the plan for Grooveshark Desktop?
2 points by keyle 3 days ago 0 replies      
Wow they've done an awesome job. Another massive blow for Adobe, losing the battle once again (and I'm a flash developer)
2 points by decadentcactus 3 days ago 0 replies      
I visited Grooveshark just yesterday, and I just thought it was a flash rewrite. I did like the theme a lot, but the only sad part was my playlist was gone >:( (didn't have an account, it was just saved as cookie or whatever)
1 point by lg 2 days ago 0 replies      
Never used GrooveShark before but this is pretty cool. Wonder why they don't have playlist ratings though (as far as I can tell)? When I do a search for playlists I'd like to see what other people thought of them before I click through each one.
5 points by codejoust 3 days ago 0 replies      
It looks like they're utilizing js templates and localization along with a lot of jQuery and JMVC.
2 points by n-named 3 days ago 0 replies      
You guys are my number one favorite. I hope you don't get shut down. <3
4 points by tech_and_beyond 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am a big big fan of grooveshark. I work in a user interface team for a large blue chip company. The amount of work, time, dedication, motivation that goes into developing an intuitive user interface is huge. This guys just make it look as if it was a breeze.... If you could do a blog post as you have done on the architecture part, it will be great :).
1 point by meese_ 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Defacer Safari & Chrome extensions (http://babelstudios.se/defacer/, https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/ikfbfahhinbemoji...) seem to break this (just shows up a blank page)... any way to fix this?
1 point by simonista 2 days ago 0 replies      
Really weird scrolling on Safari 5.0.3 on snow leopard. The background flickers through the search results. Otherwise really cool.
3 points by mynameisraj 3 days ago 1 reply      
Does anybody know what this is written in/on, specifically? JavaScript/HTML seems a bit vague to me.
1 point by jdbeast00 3 days ago 2 replies      
Is there any way to make a grooveshark desktop version that uses this same html5 interface? I love how the next/prev buttons on my mac work with that interface (using gs desktop helper)
1 point by nik61 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a totally opaque interface that hardly works at all as far as I can see. Completely uninformative, dumb, not functional in any real way. What is going on? Why do all these other think it is great? It is not.
1 point by quizbiz 3 days ago 1 reply      
How do they hide the source code if it's all Javascript/HTML?
4 points by MykalM 3 days ago 1 reply      
you have just became my favorite website :)
2 points by enanoretozon 3 days ago 0 replies      
I love it! I can finally use middle-click to open stuff on another tab.
1 point by ubojan 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've spent a couple of minutes searching for 'My Music' and 'Favorites' lists. Just click on your username and they are in menu bar left to the search field. Beside that, great interface and fast loading.
1 point by sgt 3 days ago 1 reply      
Apologies for my ignorance, but I've been listening to a couple of songs now, and I can't figure out how to purchase them?
1 point by neuromancer2600 3 days ago 0 replies      
Congrats on the design! Got me going intuitively. And there's even some rare songs up. Nice work!!
1 point by CopyrightTroll 3 days ago 0 replies      
I switched back to http://retro.grooveshark.com It's more refined, runs fine on Windows, and it has more features. The Javascript version is too chunky for my taste. I can't see the song titles, overlays don't work, I'm not getting tips, etc.
1 point by flexterra 3 days ago 0 replies      
awesome job
-4 points by bbulkow 3 days ago 3 replies      
Whatever you think of the user interface, please don't use Grooveshark. Their business model is either illegal or immoral. You will get mail from copyright owners telling you cease and desist from accounts that you've closed in the past - Grooveshark will claim that you're sharing the music, and you have legal responsibility, not them. Mails to close accounts go unanswered.

And if you work there - shame on you.

The only script in your head headjs.com
244 points by timf 6 days ago   33 comments top 10
33 points by dinedal 6 days ago 7 replies      
I wish it was just the script loading and the other stuff was in a separate library. For a script that purposes to make less loading times I find it ironic that it would also throw in the kitchen sink.
16 points by CWIZO 6 days ago 1 reply      
The idea seems nice, I'd have to test it out to actually see if it really delivers. One thing that bugs me tho is the tone of the text. It's all "this is the best thing since sliced bread" and "authors surly must be at least demi-gods". This comment in the page's source says it all really:

"headjs :: possibly the most important script after jQuery"

I'm all for cocky and confident attitude, I just think it has no place in a presentational web page/docs

8 points by Sephr 6 days ago 1 reply      
I don't understand the whole dynamic class selectors for "Screen size detection". If it's trying to add support for standards, it should support media queries instead.
3 points by kqueue 6 days ago 1 reply      
IMHO, websites should include a single js file. In development you can have 100 js files, but in production these should be combined into a single file.

The downside is that you might include things you don't need in all pages, but that's not an issue because the file is transferred once, and cached. This will also minimize future conditional GET requests that check wether the cached file has changed or not.

4 points by Griever 6 days ago 1 reply      
I've been reading up alot on javascript loaders lately to see which one I should use in the webapp I'm currently building.

So far I'm checking out LABjs, RequireJS and now apparently headjs. Unfortunately I am not so sure which will suit me best. Has anybody had any luck with any of the aforementioned three?

4 points by forgotAgain 6 days ago 1 reply      
If most of your javascript is made up of libraries like jQuery wouldn't it be simpler to use a free CDN like Google or Microsoft so that the library is most likely already on the user's machine? That would appear to be have a better payback than adding another library to load.
2 points by tjarratt 6 days ago 0 replies      
I've wanted something exactly like this for a while now. Looking forward to trying this in a few projects over this next week.
1 point by tonyskn 6 days ago 0 replies      
RequireJS does this and includes a module system for managing dependencies. It is also available as a JQuery plugin.
1 point by adamstac 5 days ago 0 replies      
1 point by aaront 6 days ago 0 replies      
Very interesting. Will have to try this for some of my projects.
Appointment Reminder Launches appointmentreminder.org
233 points by patio11 1 day ago   104 comments top 38
58 points by patio11 1 day ago 6 replies      
Thanks in advance guys. I mean this sincerely: I probably couldn't have done it without you.

I don't generally ask for things on HN, but just this once: y'all know that links my website gets gives me more ability to rank for search terms of importance to me. If I've said something which helped you or you otherwise want to go give me a Christmas present, please take a few minutes out of your day, go to your blog, and write up a few sentences with a link to the front page. I'd really, really appreciate it.

21 points by balsamiq 1 day ago 1 reply      
Congrats Patrick!

A small piece of feedback. On this page: https://www.appointmentreminder.org/a/calendar - I am wary of testing it because I'm not sure who'll see my phone number if I do. In other words, it's not clear if this demo is just for me or if this is a "demo sandbox" for anyone to use.

BTW, love the outrageous enterprise pricing that makes the small business plan look better, as well as the blatantly fake "HOT" tag - you shipped today! it gets hot fast in Japan! ;)

Not so sure about this "All questions are answered by our lead engineer. (Your business is too important to trust to a call center..)" - smells a little bit fake. I like Garrett's style better: http://sifterapp.com/support scroll down to the green box).

Just my quick first impressions. Congrats on a new beginning!

29 points by MarkMc 1 day ago 1 reply      
Patrick - you may find this useful:

"One restaurant owner greatly reduced the percentage of no-shows (people who booked a table but didn't honour the reservation and didn't call to cancel it) by having his receptionist change what she said when taking a reservation from 'Please call if you have to cancel' to 'Will you call if you have to cancel?' Of course, nearly all customers committed themselves to calling by saying 'yes' to that question. More importantly, they then felt the need to abide by their commitment: the no-show rate dropped from 30 per cent to 10 per cent."
(quoted from 'Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion' by Goldstein, Martin and Cialdini)

One other suggestion: Give your would-be customers a FREE split test. Half of the appointments get a reminder, half don't. Get the user to place a 'value' on the outcome of each appointment, then tell them the result of the split test. The user will be BEGGING to give you money.

19 points by Hates_ 1 day ago 2 replies      
I found the audio on the video really hard to hear. A good quality mic and a little mixing makes a huge difference.
10 points by sgdesign 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't know if you're looking for any design critiques, but since that's what I know here goes:

- The logo is not very readable. The letters are squashed together and the gradients are a little too strong. Subtle is always better.

- The pure white background behind the tagline is very harsh. I suggest using a light shade of beige instead.

- Your content needs some rythm. People hate reading big blocks of text, so you should add in some headings and lists.

- Maybe you're planning to add more slides to the carousel later, but right now you really don't need it. You could take out "who is it for" and put it in the sidebar instead.

- The two call to action buttons get lost inside the illustration. I suggest putting them in the brown bar instead.

- The tagline could really use some typographical love. There's a ton of gorgeous free fonts on FontSquirrel.com, just pick one from the top 10 most popular.

- The sign in link should probably not be placed inside the nav, most people expect it to the top right of the site.

That's just the things that jump out at me from looking at the homepage for 5 minutes. Hit me up on Twitter (@SachaGreif) if you have any questions or you'd like some more advice.

PS: I almost forgot to say, congratulations on launching what looks like a truly useful product!

PPS: I often go to Kyoto, not that far from you!

6 points by mrduncan 1 day ago 1 reply      
The signup links are redirecting to the coming soon page.

Example: https://www.appointmentreminder.org/coming-soon?plan=small-b...

5 points by scottyallen 19 hours ago 1 reply      
This looks great. Nice work, Patrick, and congrats on the launch. I just sent my mom an email about it, and suggested she try your demo. Hopefully she'll sign up. She's a private tutor, and very frustrated by having students not show up to appointments. This definitely solves a significant problem for her.

Any plans on integrating more tightly with Google Calendar? That's where she currently keeps her appointments, and being able to suck appointment info out of there would be really useful for her. That being said, I have no idea how structured her data in there is (probably not very), so it may not be a super easy problem in the general case.

6 points by michael_dorfman 1 day ago 1 reply      
First of all: congratulations! That was an effective November....

I assume that you are going to be aggressively A/B testing this site.

Are you planning to share the results with us? I know I, for one, would find it very informative.

4 points by singer 18 hours ago 0 replies      
<meta name="description" content="Quickly and easily send phone appointment reminders, SMS appointment reminders, and email appointment reminders to your clients. No software, no hardware, no contacts. Start your free 30 day trial today" />

I think you meant "no contracts".

4 points by pwim 1 day ago 1 reply      
In the video, from the time you answered the call, until the voice started, it took 5 seconds. If that's normal for the system, I'd be worried my clients would hang up before hearing appointment reminder.
1 point by dgallagher 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Love the idea. Great job. :) This is how I'd summarized things (I didn't watch the video):


- Automatic appointment reminders for your clients (phone, text message, email).

- No more meetings where nobody shows up!

- Get notified automatically if someone is going to be late!

- Client needs to cancel or reschedule? We'll let you know!

- Record phone reminders yourself, or save time and have our professional voice actors do it for you!

- Always on the go? Use it on your laptop or iPad. (iPhone coming soon!)

Never show up to an empty meeting ever again. How much time and money are you going to save?

:insert pricing chart here:

Questions or comments? email@email.com 888-555-1234

3 points by kmfrk 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Your tagline "You didn't go into business to spend the day on the phone. Let us handle that." uses a prime, ', instead of a proper, curly apostrophe, '.

It's also amazing to see a site free of any social network buttons. You don't get to see that often.

2 points by vaporstun 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Congrats! It looks great!

A couple nitpick things I noticed which may be helpful:

1. When you go to the pricing page (https://www.appointmentreminder.org/pricing) the top navigation disappears.

2. You probably want the email address in the top right corner to be a clickable link.

Best of luck!

11 points by MarkMc 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nice work patrick - this has big potential! When possible, get a quote on the front page like:

"I save $320 per month with Appointment Reminder!" - Mrs Smith

7 points by RKlophaus 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats! Just emailed my dentist to tell them about it. Keep up the good work. :
2 points by jeromec 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Congrats Patrick! Successful entrepreneurs ship, and it looks great. In the thread where you introduced the concept of appointment reminders there was concern voiced that computer calls went in the direction of undervaluing customers by cutting down on human interaction. However, seeing the experience demo'd out I think it actually adds professionalism. If I received such a call I would be impressed, and actually view it favorably because getting a reminder is in my interest, too. Keep going!
1 point by davidblair 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Caller ID is really important for me. Unless I know who is calling I will probably ignore my phone. Spoofing the phone number of the actual business would be really handy and greatly increase the chance that I take the call.

I can't tell from the site whether one can do this without signing up for an account but if it's not a feature yet I would seriously consider it.

3 points by HeyLaughingBoy 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Congratulations Patrick!!! I hope the results blow your expectations out of the water.

Also, because of your blog, I discovered Twilio and it's exactly what I've needed for some ideas I've been thinking about over the last year.

3 points by user24 1 day ago 0 replies      
Well done! So now you've gone from building a successful startup in your spare time, to building another one in the spare time left over from the first one! Very impressive work, inspirational :)
1 point by aik 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Looks great. Though, the demo seems so locked down it's hard to actually get a feel for how it'd be to use.
2 points by marcamillion 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Congrats Patrick. The link anchor text I used is:

>easily setup automated appointment reminders for your customers

Hope this helps. You can see my post here: http://marcgayle.com/appointment-reminder-launches-congrats-...

2 points by marilyn 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Congratulations Patrick!

I'm wondering, how did you put together the image with the cartoon characters? Did you have it designed? Do it yourself?

4 points by novon 23 hours ago 3 replies      
Welcome to the club! ;)


1 point by saikat 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Congrats on the launch. One bit of feedback - I might link the Coming Soon! text under "Enterprise" in the pricing page to some kind of e-mail collection form so you can let users know when it arrives.
2 points by scrrr 1 day ago 0 replies      
Hehe. I was considering implementing exactly the same thing, but currently I am working on other projects. Anyway, I wish you luck and I'm curious to see how it works out.
2 points by sahillavingia 14 hours ago 0 replies      
The favicon's blue, while the website green. Sorry, minor nitpick!
1 point by yters 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Nice. I like how you can eat your own dog food by using it yourself to remind and keep customers.
1 point by freshfey 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Congrats on launching! But please consider either a. a better microphone or b. a professional speaker service. It's not that your voice is bad or so, it just sounds more professional when representing your company.
1 point by cdr 1 day ago 1 reply      
Small question - why is the blog directly on the root rather than under something like /blog/? And don't you think it'd look better to post under something other than "ADMIN"?
1 point by theklub 22 hours ago 0 replies      
This looks really cool. I'm not sure what you know about Televox but that's what we use and I have to manage our account. Let me tell you they are very nice people but the service leaves a lot to be desired.
1 point by PStamatiou 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Curious - why did you opt to launch on a Monday? Everything I've read says Monday is a bad day to launch products.
1 point by dminor 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I like the white label idea - I think that's going to be pretty successful.
3 points by jeffiel 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Congrats Patrick, looking great!
1 point by speleding 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Congrats on going live. It looks like http://www.supersaas.com provides much of the same functionality at a lower price though (free for small users).
1 point by mkramlich 7 hours ago 0 replies      
congrats and looks great!
1 point by maxer 21 hours ago 1 reply      
love it, had an idea for the exact same service over here in ireland, would you be open to franchising it outside the US?
1 point by dennyferra 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Congrats on going live and good luck!
2 points by teejae 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats Patrick!
Plea HN: Any work?
229 points by throwaway911 2 days ago   48 comments top 25
38 points by neilk 2 days ago 2 replies      
Hey, I know you must be on an emotional rollercoaster right now, but just one question: why use a throwaway account?

You're just looking for work. There's no shame in being in this position, at least in this economy. And if you're going to refer to your reputation, why conceal your identity (which is probably already pseudonymous anyway)?

18 points by randfish 2 days ago 1 reply      
I love that this post got 50+ votes and that so many people here are stepping up. Despite some occasional negativity in the comments, HN is something special.

And throwaway - if you're not deluged with other offers, drop me a line (rand at seomoz dot org). We're a Ruby shop, but might have some opportunities.

52 points by tptacek 2 days ago 0 replies      
Mail me? Thanks!
3 points by lwhi 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can't help with work, but I can suggest some steps you can take now:

1) Ensure you communicate with your creditors. Keep them in the loop - burying your head in the sand is the absolute worst thing you can do.

2) Create a budget describing your monthly income and expenditure.

3) Work out what you can lose. If you can cancel contracts for luxuries, downgrade phone contracts etc. - do so. Reduce your monthly expenditure as much as (reasonably) possible.

3) When you realise that your income doesn't meet your reduced expenditure; prioritise your debts. Priority debts are generally the debts where defaulting will lead to homelessness or prison. Ensure you pay these first.

4) Contact the remaining creditors and start negotiating over reduced payments. You'll be surprised how many will be happy to help. Don't accept no for an answer. If your financial situation gets far worse, your creditors ultimately stand to receive nothing - remind them of this fact.

5) Consider contacting a credit counselling service, there's a lot of (free) advice that's worth investigating.

6. Realise that this is temporary - there are a lot of people who are working through similarly unfortunate circumstances. You will recover.

4 points by tibbon 2 days ago 0 replies      
Mail me. While I'm not in a position to hire, I have a good friend that often is able to hire for python-based consulting work in Django, Plone and Zope. He might be able to help, although I can't make any promises of course. Please attach your resume or github link to your email so I have something solid to send him.
9 points by jdavid 2 days ago 1 reply      
I was just asked about a python job. Where do you live?

What does your wife do? How can we help her?

7 points by iuguy 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have a Django project that might be worth discussing. Please contact me through the mail account on my profile.
5 points by asanwal 2 days ago 0 replies      
My lord - this is why I love HN and why it's unlike any other place on the web.

Just emailed you. Given the outpouring of offers, you may have found something (congrats if you have). If not, look forward to hearing from you.

3 points by eggoa 2 days ago 1 reply      
If the title of this post is intended to be analogous to "Ask HN", "Tell HN", and "Thank HN", then it should be "Plead HN". Plea is technically a noun.
(Sorry for such a nit-picky comment -- I hope you find something soon.)
8 points by alexsolo 2 days ago 3 replies      
It would be helpful if you mentioned where you are located.
14 points by cmbaus 2 days ago 1 reply      
We're looking to hire a python developer. Email me.
4 points by kmfrk 2 days ago 0 replies      
Check authenticjobs.com in your area just for good measure.
2 points by buro9 2 days ago 0 replies      
Are you in London, UK? If so, email me and we could have you in for a quick interview this week. Email me, the address is on my profile.
4 points by jollari 2 days ago 1 reply      
This may not be the most glamorous option, but my company is looking for a contract QA person. Someone we can hire on a project by project basis and QA our apps. The work might work for the 'nights' half of your schedule and offer a good amount of flexibility. Feel free to email me.
2 points by phamilton 1 day ago 0 replies      
I personally don't have anything, but I might be able to put you in contact with someone who does.

He needs a facebook app. Not exactly sure what, but a game or something that will provide some marketing.

Email is in my profile.

6 points by ssutch 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ever check out http://djangogigs.com/ ?
2 points by idlewords 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have contract work that needs doing. Email me your CV and rate.
2 points by zackattack 2 days ago 0 replies      

I need someone to add a login/user registration process to CompassionPit.com (build on pylons + cogen) as well as add a wordpress blog (i have no idea how you're going to accomplish this since the web server is "paste") but if this is something you can do, shoot me an email with an estimate

1 point by inovica 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hi there. I hope that things can be resolved quickly for you and I'm sure that there will be someone on here who has enough work to help you out, even short term. I also hope that your wife can find another job soon, to enable you to work on your startup. I've just dropped you an email also.
2 points by mashingkeys 1 day ago 0 replies      
wow.. so many people stepping up to help this couple out. it's really almost tear-worthy for me to read.

best of luck to you and your wife! it seems like HN's got you covered

1 point by wazoox 2 days ago 0 replies      
Actually why not looking for a job for your wife? What is she up to? It looks like she has more available time than you at the moment.
3 points by maxer 2 days ago 1 reply      
i need a flash designer/developer whos reliable for freelance work chris@justni.com
1 point by pconf 2 days ago 0 replies      
Your best bet IME, other than word of mouth, is to query Indeed(.com)'s job search engine using your favorite RSS reader.
2 points by known 2 days ago 0 replies      
Have you tried odesk?
-1 point by bennyk 2 days ago 1 reply      
Sorry I don't know all that lingo but I do need help fro my web site I need built. Good luck
Bitly News bitlynews.com
226 points by razin 4 days ago   53 comments top 28
36 points by shrikant 4 days ago 1 reply      
For those wondering wtf (like I did for a couple of minutes after clicking through), from http://bitlynews.com/about.html:

It works by automatically discovering bit.ly links on Twitter in real-time, then posting stories with high click activity on bit.ly. Each story's score is periodically updated with recent stats from bit.ly, so the most clicked-on stories bubble to the top.

35 points by jeffmiller 4 days ago 8 replies      
I'm the developer of Bitly News.

One thing I'd like to add to the site is automatic categorization of links, like on Google News. If anyone has suggestions on how to accomplish that, please comment.

I'm also struggling with intermittent 502 proxy errors on the server where Apache has problems proxying to news.arc on localhost.

17 points by zachbeane 4 days ago 0 replies      
Uses a version of news.arc vulnerable to the identity stealing problem described in http://xach.livejournal.com/228481.html

That's still the latest version of news.arc publicly available, though.

19 points by jgv 4 days ago 0 replies      
This just won the bit.ly api contest. Congrats to the developer(s), it looks great!
11 points by hammock 4 days ago 3 replies      
It would be REALLY awesome if it also scraped the text of each tweet (sans link) and converted it into comments on each thread. Identical tweets would translated into 'upvotes' on the comments.

This is great.

4 points by bretthoerner 4 days ago 0 replies      
I would like this for just my "network", maybe people I follow and people they follow.
2 points by jgv 4 days ago 0 replies      
Just got picked up by tech crunch: http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/02/bitly-news/
3 points by davidu 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is very cool. I will be bookmarking.
7 points by dchs 4 days ago 0 replies      
Looks familiar!
2 points by mike-cardwell 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nice. It would be even nicer if it could intelligently handle deduplication. At the moment there are 6 World Cup news stories on the front page.
2 points by lanstein 4 days ago 0 replies      
Forgot I had clicked the link, was wondering how the technical level of content plummeted so quickly. I need more coffee.
1 point by icey 4 days ago 1 reply      
Heh, whoever put this together didn't remove the user account stuff. I just created an account there and was able to comment & submit stories.

Although, I guess that might have been intended functionality.

1 point by wallflower 4 days ago 0 replies      
See also http://pulsememe.com top 10 story list generated from Pulse news app usage
2 points by bigmac 4 days ago 0 replies      
This thing has real potential. Props to whoever put it together.
4 points by nj 4 days ago 1 reply      
Sorry for being off topic, but where can you get the news.arc code?
1 point by markkat 4 days ago 0 replies      
Not sure why, but I feel reticent to comment on an aggregated link. I think this might be an issue. Not sure why, but I want to know that someone had a stake in the submission.
1 point by subbu 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why is there a login button and register form if all stories/links are picked from bit.ly automatically. I mean, there is not much registered/logged in users can do.
2 points by Rygu 4 days ago 1 reply      
502 Proxy Error

Proxy Error

The proxy server received an invalid response from an upstream server.
The proxy server could not handle the request GET /.

Reason: Error reading from remote server


Dead already? edit: it's up again!

1 point by hkuo 4 days ago 1 reply      
Love it. I finally have a one-stop resource for breaking news for popular culture and other things outside of the web/tech/digital news that I spend the vast majority of my time reading.
1 point by yosho 4 days ago 0 replies      
heh if this takes off, I can imagine almost every aggregator site having a HN clone of some sort.
2 points by cagenut 4 days ago 1 reply      
Very very cool in concept. In practice... the content is borderline unreadable. Though I guess thats a me thing.
1 point by pepijndevos 4 days ago 0 replies      
1 point by jorkos 4 days ago 0 replies      
categories are needed as you don't have a unified community submitting content
1 point by initself 4 days ago 0 replies      
I love the "welcome" feature.
1 point by kevinburke 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised so many of the links are in English.
1 point by royrod 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great site, fun summary of popular links.
1 point by tonycore 4 days ago 0 replies      
Simple. Effective.
The Full Stack, Part I facebook.com
227 points by dimm 4 days ago   22 comments top 8
20 points by nerfhammer 4 days ago 1 reply      
> Well, if the table is in InnoDB format it will result in one disk-seek, because the data is stored next to the primary key and can be deleted in one operation. If the table is MyISAM it will result in at least two seeks, because indexes and data are stored in different files. A hard drive can only do one seek at a time, so this detail can make the difference between 1X or 2X transactions per second.


Innodb has clustered primary keys, which means that the row data is attached to the leaf nodes of the primary key index as the author correctly states. However, the leaf nodes and the non-leaf index nodes are actually stored in different segments of the table space! While in the same (giant) file, it is unlikely that they would ever be in contiguous space on disk enough to be read in a single random IO operation.

But it's more complicated than that: if any of the index pages or data pages have been read recently they will probably still be in the buffer pool, which means that they will require no disk operations.

But that's just the seek operation to find the row. The write operation is a different story yet.

What innodb will do is modify the row by marking it with the transaction id in which it was deleted. It will keep the row in place so readers with an older transaction id will still see it until all those transactions are complete. The change in the row and the row page will be written to the copies of the affected pages in memory only. Eventually the data pages and any affected index pages will be flushed to disk, potentially grouped with other changes to the same pages. IO operations occur on the level of reading and overwriting whole pages only, if not more.

Concurrently it will record in the log buffer every change it makes to the pages in memory. This won't get written to disk right away either, it will flush the log buffer to disk once per second in the default configuration.

So there are many more potential disk operations required of innodb than myisam. Generally innodb is preferably because it is vastly more reliable, and because it can handle concurrent read/writes to the same data -- MyISAM basically can't. MyISAM will in fact generally be FASTER for any single operation than InnoDB, because it simply does less.

10 points by tom_b 4 days ago 2 replies      
I started as a performance software person, from memory and cache conscious algorithm design in grad school, to network stack testing, to web server/db server/client-side performance testing and optimization. It is an excellent way to develop that feel for the big picture of how things are working. In enterprise software, there used to be a lot of low hanging fruit and it was fun to get "heroic" results with simple SQL tuning.

The flipside of that experience and mindset is that now, as I try to shift my way towards more functional and declarative programming styles is that I sometimes get sucked into the premature optimization black hole - I overthink rather than just doing some simple exploratory programming.

I keep telling myself I'm going to implement some fairly large project using nothing but lists and a Lisp to break it down.

4 points by tedunangst 4 days ago 3 replies      
I don't think I agree with the conclusion that performance will "depend almost completely on the random seek time." You can store the entire 10TB library on 5 2TB spinning drives. 5 drives can easily serve up 500mbps (that's only 60MB/s, one drive territory). So, on to seeking.

2000 streams, 5 drives, that's 400 per disk. Let's say we have the world's worst disks, that can only do 10 seeks per second. 400 / 10 means we have to buffer 40 seconds of data per stream (per seek) and we have to read it in 0.1 seconds before moving to the next stream. 300kbps * 40s / 8 = 1500K of data. 1.5M / 60MB/s disk transfer takes 0.025 seconds, well under 0.1.

I guess that's alluded to by "non standard prefetching", but I don't think it's that advanced. Especially since in a streaming video application, the client software is already going to be doing buffering for you. The bottleneck is bandwidth.

Check my math please? :)

4 points by aw3c2 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is very interesting and well written so someone "dumb" like me can learn a lot about planning and optimisation from this. Riht in the third paragraph I just realised why some SQL query I wrote is so slow, embarassing but true, heh!
6 points by brown9-2 4 days ago 3 replies      
Reading this makes me really curious how Netflix's Instant Watching service is architected. Anyone have any details?
1 point by efsavage 4 days ago 0 replies      
A company well-stocked with full-stack engineers who can communicate makes the execution of good ideas so frictionless and the death of bad ones so quick and painless that it cannot help but to succeed.

If this is the caliber of engineering talent that Facebook values, there should be no surprise they are taking over the world.

5 points by gcb 4 days ago 0 replies      
From the ex-yahoo who got 'famous' by using a microwave near his wifi laptop to simulate dropped packages.
2 points by ajays 3 days ago 1 reply      
A much more readable, FB-free version of this is at his blog, http://carlos.bueno.org/
It's not an arsenic-based life form scienceblogs.com
221 points by tokenadult 4 days ago   33 comments top 6
26 points by hartror 4 days ago 3 replies      
This whole thing is yet another symptom of the science reporting ecosystem. Continual attempts at big bang news stories by institutions and their PR companies as well as a science media that goes for attention grabbing headlines.

Is this interesting and significant news? Absolutely, but the way it has been reported devalues the actual science done and misrepresents the science (and science as a whole) to the wider public.

Science is rarely about big bang eureka moments, it is long hard years in a lab building on someone else's work with a team of brilliant coworkers.

19 points by yosho 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is the best article I've read on the subject so far, short of the actual scientific publication.

I like how the author dives deep enough to give a you a good understanding of what actually took place while not making it sound like a scientific journal.

5 points by amichail 4 days ago 3 replies      
Anyone think that the self-promotion done by Felisa Wolfe-Simon is a little strange?



1 point by seanalltogether 4 days ago 4 replies      
So I'm curious if these cells can survive if reintroduced back in to the wild?

"Next, what they did was culture the bacteria in the lab, and artificially jacked up the arsenic concentration, replacing all the phosphate (PO43-) with arsenate (AsO43-). The cells weren't happy, growing at a much slower rate on arsenate than phosphate, but they still lived and they still grew. These are tough critters."

That seems to indicate that they wouldn't be able to compete with their cousins outside of a controlled environment.

1 point by wccrawford 4 days ago 2 replies      
Where in that article does it say that it's not an arsenic-based life form?

In fact, it says exactly the opposite. It goes into detail about why it shouldn't be the much of a surprise. (Not that I agree with him.)

1 point by athom 4 days ago 0 replies      
Favorite line: biochemistry is all about CHNOPS.

Pronounce the "CH" like "SH".

Close the Washington Monument schneier.com
210 points by psadauskas 4 days ago   54 comments top 12
22 points by jameskilton 4 days ago 2 replies      
Don't forget the most recent success of our information agencies, the printer bomb that was intercepted and defused. That was a big success to our current security systems.

What does the TSA do though? Ban printer cartridges on planes. WTF?! I thought this was a success? Now it's being treated like a failure?

I'm waiting for the first congressman to openly call out the TSA as a terrorist organization. He or she will get my vote for the rest of my life.

Great article Mr Schneier, couldn't have said it any better.

36 points by jdp23 4 days ago 2 replies      
beautifully written ... brings tears to my eyes.

"We can reopen the Washington Monument when we've defeated our fears, when we've come to accept that placing safety above all other virtues cedes too much power to government and that liberty is worth the risks, and that the price of freedom is accepting the possibility of crime."

11 points by stretchwithme 4 days ago 2 replies      
Someone might do something bad so no one should be allowed to do anything.

If the people that founded this country lived by this, they never would have left Europe.

4 points by zacharycohn 4 days ago 6 replies      
"The day after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to blow up a Northwest jet with a bomb hidden in his underwear, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said "The system worked." I agreed. Plane lands safely, terrorist in custody, nobody injured except the terrorist. Seems like a working system to me."

If he got on the plane with the bomb in the first place, doesn't that imply the system doesn't work?

13 points by cschmidt 4 days ago 2 replies      
Wouldn't it be great if Bruce Schneier was in charge of the TSA? (not that he'd probably want/enjoy the job). Then, I'd feel a lot better about things.
2 points by TheSOB88 4 days ago 0 replies      
Totally in agreement in theory. But sadly, people in general are knee-jerk reactors who aren't really interested in abstract thought of this level. Or am I being too cynical?
1 point by jodrellblank 4 days ago 0 replies      
I want him to write more about interesting security and less about America's reaction to 9/11. We non-politicians and non-Americans get it already; the response is disproportionate, knee-jerk and terrified (terror-ified?). But that's been the case for a long time now.
1 point by BenoitEssiambre 4 days ago 0 replies      
Someone should really start an "Americans Are not Chickens, Wimps and Wusses" campaign. Proclaiming loudly that Americans are not going to be manipulated into losing their freedom by politicians and fear of terror.
1 point by NoSalt 4 days ago 0 replies      
1 point by davidst 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sometimes our fears can get the best of us. This is one of those times.
-2 points by chrischen 4 days ago 0 replies      
Could it be that sone people sacrifice a little of their liberty for the safety of... others?
-3 points by TomOfTTB 4 days ago 2 replies      
I don't find this kind of thing helpful.

The question on things like the TSA policies is one of degree and not absolutes. So his claim that we should “conquer our fears because they are the real problem” doesn't hold a lot of weight with me. Fearing a terrorist attack is perfectly rational the question is how much liberty we're willing to give up to prevent such attacks.

So painting this as a “living in fear” vs “not living in fear” question doesn't really address the problem.

Beyond that there's the issue of disagreeing respectfully. Though he couches his point in flowery language the purpose of this type of article is to demonize the people who disagree with him. “They are the fear mongers and I am the rational one” is the point he's making. He's just making it in a way that sounds nice. That type of statement doesn't lead to productive discussion and it certainly doesn't do anything to convince people who disagree with him (people who I assume are the intended audience here)

Ask HN: Best book you read in 2010 and briefly why
210 points by sscheper 1 day ago   188 comments top 103
28 points by edw519 1 day ago 2 replies      
_Do More Faster_ by Techstars founders Brad Feld and David Cohen

(Apologies to OP's request for brevity; there's just a lot of good stuff that I'd like to share.)

A must read for anyone here who is serious about their startup.

I read it on the flight to Startup School to "get in the mood". I couldn't put it down.

It's easy to read for 2 reasons: every chapter is a short essay by a different person (including many Techstars alumni) and it's very well written, almost like pg essays but by lots of different people. It covers lots of ground, much of which has been covered here at hn many times, but then again, some of this stuff can't be covered too often. Also, sometimes someone says the same thing a little differently, and that's the one that actually reaches you.

My 300 page copy has 50 or 60 dog-earred pages and hundreds of red marks; it's that full of gems. (For that reason, I highly suggest buying a hard copy and keeping it on your bookshelf for future reference.)

I think that yc should come out with a similar book. I'd love to read essays from yc alumni, their advisors, and of course the yc principals themselves about what they thought was important. I realize much of this is on-line already, but there's nothing like a great hard copy too.

A few of my favorite quotes from _Do More Faster_:

"I realized that I had two options. I could quit buying comics or I could quit my job and build the iTunes of comics." - Kevin Mann

"Getting feedback and new ideas is the lifeblood of any startup. There is no point in living in fear of someone stealing your idea." - Nate Abbott and Natty Zola

"That means every moment you're working on something without it being in the public arena, it's actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world." - Matt Mullenweb

"Focus on the smallest possible problem you could solve that would potentially be useful" - David Cohen

"You know you're on to something when the community starts donating money to make sure it stays alive." - Darren Crystal

"In companies that rely on having a large user base as ours does, it is very unlikely that you will offend enough people quickly enough to dampen your future growth." - Sean Corbett

"We learned that very few people care how you accomplish something. Instead, these people care more about whether you create value for your end user." - Colin Angle

"We knew that the high-level concept of our first site still really inspired us." - Alex White

"They stepped back from what they had created and thought about what they could do better than anyone else in the world." - editors

"During the first few days of every TechStars cycle, we tell the 10 bright-eyed new teams that one of them will not be together at the end of the program. Unfortunately, we have not been wrong yet." - editors

"If you can't quit no matter how hard you try, then you have a chance to succeed." - Laura Fitton

"When you ask CEOs of major companies what they're most worried about, one common answer is 'a couple of guys in a garage somewhere.'" - David Cohen

"Companies that work just always seem to move at lightning pace." - David Cohen

"It turns out that giving up your one obvious competitive advantage often proves to be deadly. If a startup can't do more faster, it usually just gets dead faster." - David Cohen

"There is an enormous difference between exciting technology and an exciting business." - Howard Diamond

"Changes come daily, weekly, and monthly - not once a quarter or once a year." - Ari Newman

"While it was only a detour of a week, that's a lot in TechStars time." - Bill Warner

"Only hope instead is to listen to their head and their heart and follow a path that they believe in, keeping some of the feedback and discarding other thoughts and ideas." - Bill Warner

"...when presented with exponential growth, remember that people tend to drastically overestimate what will happen in the short term, but will profoundly underestimate what happens over longer time spans." - Ryan McIntyre

"...consider life as a founder of a startup to be one big intelligence test." - Ryan McIntyre

"Remember that human nature has a tendency to admire complexity, but to reward simplicity." - Ben Huh

"If you are innovating, you actually don't know what your product needs to be. Furthermore, your customers don't either. No one does." - Ajay Kulkarni and Andy Cheung

"Nearly every startup must find ways to differentiate itself from competitors." - Raj Aggarwai

"What is the thing that matters most to making progress right now?" - Dick Costolo

"...you cannot create the need." - Michael Zeissner

"Opportunity cost can kill a startup." - Michael Zeissner

"It's easy to feel trapped by these handcuffs but if you change your perspective just a little, you might find that you hands are bound by nothing more than air, and the future is yours to create." - Eric Marcoullier

"There is one thing that the hundred of founders I meet each year have in common, and that is that their plan is wrong. Sometimes it's the big things, sometimes it's the little things, but the plan is always wrong." - Rob Hayes

"...we have to strike while the iron is hot! My experience is that this is rarely true." - David Brown

"Take the time to get it right and you'll find that those competitors might not be as close as you think." - David Brown

"Seeking the perfect combo: 'a smart-ass team with a kick-ass product in a big-ass market.'" - Jeff Clavier

"The moral of the story is easy: When you follow your heart, good things usually happen. We have a very short stay on this spinning orb and I believe life is way too short to be stuck in a career that doesn't fulfill you." - Mark Solon

13 points by aresant 1 day ago 3 replies      
The Alchemist

Heard about it for years, always wrote off as too esoteric but as an entrepreneur it seriously resonated and somehow made it all seem a little more manageable.


17 points by DanielBMarkham 1 day ago 0 replies      
"A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy" http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195374614?ie=UTF8&tag=...

It taught me (reminded me mostly) what kinds of attitudes I have when I am happiest and kicking ass with my projects. Over time I had somehow lost myself. This book helped me get back to the person I liked the most. I think it's also helping me do a lot better on my current startup, so it's not just a touch-feely book, it is having a lot of real, immediate, positive impact, at least to me.

14 points by portman 1 day ago 2 replies      
"Where Good Ideas Come From" by Steven Johnson

I'm fairly stubborn, so it takes a lot for me to change my ways. This book has changed my daily work routine. Johnson outlines 7 environments that have historically produced the most innovative ideas. It's easy to apply the lessons to your typical working day. Best book I've read in probably 5 years.

4-minute Teaser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU

TED Talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0af00UcTO-c

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1594487715

1 point by arvinjoar 30 minutes ago 0 replies      
Not one book, but two graphic novels.
"Watchmen" and "V for Vendetta", Alan Moore's perspective is such a great perspective. Alan Moore tackles important philosophical questions in a really accessible medium. Alan Moore is a realist with very dramatic inclinations and all hackers will appreciate the references in his works. He combines the pretentious with the subtle in a way that will blow your mind. It's not very time-consuming to read through a graphic novel, but after reading them you will spend a lot of time processing the content in your mind, until you reread the graphic novels by Alan Moore.
8 points by elptacek 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath. Website here: http://heathbrothers.com/switch/. I don't tend to go out of my way for self-help type books, which this may or may not be. The authors leverage a lot of research and rhetoric that was already familiar, plus some that was not. It was pleasing to learn some new vocabulary, such as "Fundamental Attribution Error" and "Ego Depletion." Since my kids were born, it has been very apparent that the better a human is at manipulating others, the more likely that human is to survive. But we tend to think of manipulating behavior as having negative connotations. "Switch" is full of stories about effecting change by manipulating behavior. Positive stories. As a parent, I found the reminder to look for positive ways to reinforce desired behavior invaluable. And, personally, I found the notion that behavior is highly attributable to environmental forces something of a relief.
12 points by daeken 1 day ago 2 replies      
"A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin: http://www.amazon.com/Game-Thrones-Song-Fire-Book/dp/0553381...

GRRM manages to create an alternate world that feels real, where characters have flaws, nothing is black and white, and the good guys don't always (or even frequently) win. By far the best book (and series) I've ever read.

11 points by fogus 1 day ago 2 replies      
Breakfast of Champions by Vonnegut. I've read a ton of books in my life, but for some reason never took the plunge into Vonnegut. I was utterly awe struck by this book. I think every person has a small list of things that they wish that they had created (well, the ability to create them that is). Breakfast of Champions immediately found its way onto my list. The only problem is that such a book makes me embarrassed to have the audacity to ever put pen to paper (or fingers to M-x as it were). I'll keep trying though.
17 points by gchucky 1 day ago 4 replies      
Neal Stephenson's "Anathem". Seriously one of the best novels I've ever read. He's an excellent writer, and after about the first fifty pages I couldn't put it down.
8 points by bradly 1 day ago 3 replies      
Into Thin Air. http://www.amazon.com/Into-Thin-Air-Personal-Disaster/dp/038...

Amazing story, super inspirational, and lots of great history. My wife and I both loved this book and could not set it down.

6 points by adriand 1 day ago 1 reply      
"The Player of Games" by Iain M. Banks. I love serious literature, I love non-fiction, and I love business & tech books, but I decided to give sci-fi a shot again and a friend leant me this book: wow. Fascinating, rip-roaring, mind-bending read! If you want to read something but don't want to fall asleep, I highly recommend this book.
13 points by aaronblohowiak 1 day ago 2 replies      
The Foundation trilogy, because it rekindled my interests in the relationship between determinism, humanity, choice and the succession of time.
8 points by bmcleod 1 day ago 1 reply      
Non-fiction: Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman! - I'm not sure how I'd managed to avoid reading it this long given that I already really liked Feynman and had read and watched a lot of his stuff already. It's a great book and I proceeded to inflict it on quite a few other people.

Fiction: Of Mice and Men - A tiny little book that fits in masses of content and atmosphere.

4 points by makmanalp 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's a tie between Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan and Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

Naked Economics was a brilliant overview of economics in that it explains all the concepts behind economics without being utterly boring (like all the other texts I've attempted to read) and has real life examples for each and every thing. Lots of revelations of how incentives work together and / or clash at times to create important results.

Predictably Irrational was a mind-changing book in that it questioned the notion that rational self interest is embedded in everyone. All the statements are backed up with either previous research or at least ad lib experiments, and I love that. None of that handwaving bullshit that I usually see in popular science (and especially psych) books.

5 points by mrduncan 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Failure is Not an Option" by Gene Kranz

An awesome look back at the space program in the 1960s.


6 points by petercooper 1 day ago 0 replies      
Seneca's On The Shortness of Life. It's extremely short and to the point on how best to spend one's life and how we have enough time to do whatever we please - I summarized/heavily quoted it at http://peterc.org/pedia/seneca-shortness-of-life/
9 points by brown9-2 1 day ago 4 replies      
"Shogun" by James Clavell.

Really great historical fiction about 16th century Japan. Quickest 1100 pages I've ever read.

7 points by johnwatson11218 1 day ago 0 replies      
I just re-read "Microserfs" and "Generation X" by Douglas Coupland. I actually read both of these years ago when they first came out. I am amazed at how prescient they were. So many themes and ideas that I had buried away were right there on the printed page. Looking back over the past decade of my own life I can see that even though I wasn't aware of it, these books had a profound influence on my dreams/ideas/aspirations.
10 points by boyter 1 day ago 1 reply      


Informative, in a space I am interested in, and im already applying the techniques. Probably something everyone on this site should read.

4 points by ojbyrne 1 day ago 0 replies      
Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health

Not really the audience here (it has a very anti-libertarian message), but I found this book to be eye-opening. Basically it's about how companies create uncertainty, delay, litigate, whatever it takes to keep extremely harmful products from being made illegal (most of the methods were pioneered by the tobacco industry). I found it eye-opening.

4 points by iuguy 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's a toss up for me between Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Ender's Game is one of those books I never got round to reading and I thought it was incredible what they put that boy through. I got the main twist a bit earlier than I should've done but it was such a good story that it didn't affect me too much. I loved the manipulation of political debate by the other children, it reminded me of Fox news for some reason.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is the tale of two Afghan women, one in Kabul and one from outside. It's incredible, harrowing and keeps you in a vice-like grip from start to finish. I loved it so much I bought a copy for my Mother in Law as I kept raving about it. If you liked the Kite Runner then you'll love this (it's by the same author).

4 points by evgen 1 day ago 0 replies      
Currently a chapter away from finishing Bill Bryson's new one, At Home. It is basically the same style and formula of A Short History of Nearly Everything but applied to a walk around his home in England. I am a sucker for a good history of science and technology and Bryson is really, really good at it.
6 points by macco 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Innovation & Entrepreneurship" by Peter F. Drucker.

A book from 1985 that makes many books discussed here on Hacker News seem obsolete ("Four steps to the epiphany", etc.).

Drucker discusses 7 sources for finding the right idea, entrepreneurial management and startup strategies.

I was really suprised how good this book was: Very insightful and fun to read.

Price was 1,93 an Amazon Germany.

Bottom line: the best book an entrepreneurship I ever read.

2 points by tptacek 1 day ago 0 replies      
It hasn't been a great year for books for me. Lots of things I found entertaining enough, nothing really stands out. Pinned down, I'd say _Game Change_, which I expected to hate (the story is getting very stale) but turned out to read like a West Wing season put to paper.

I'm trying to read more fiction and am cruising this thread for ideas. Downthread, someone suggested _Into Thin Air_ as being startup-relevant (in an entrepreneurial, building something amazing up from nothing sense), and I added _Kitchen Confidential_ to that pile. Both are nonfiction. What are some good fiction titles that resonate the same way?

5 points by aik 1 day ago 0 replies      
Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin.

Fascinating book about the mental activity/game at peak performance, and transferring skills from old disciplines to new ones. This book helped me realize the value of interdisciplinary studies in my own personal studies and work.

7 points by Mark_B 1 day ago 0 replies      
"The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage" by Clifford Stoll was a great read.

The title gives away the premise of the book, but to think - it was all put into motion because of a $0.75 accounting discrepancy.

9 points by dmoney 1 day ago 1 reply      
The Baroque Cycle trilogy by Neal Stephenson was good. It took me about a year (off and on) to finish though. It's historical fiction through the eyes of a computer geek and sci-fi writer.
1 point by wlievens 1 hour ago 0 replies      
The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton.
3 points by Estragon 1 day ago 0 replies      
Gandhi & Churchill: the epic rivalry that destroyed an empire and forged our age


From a HN perspective, this book is inspiring because it documents the tenacity of both of these men in the face of grinding failure.


From a personal perspective, it was eye-opening, because I have always lionized Gandhi and despised Churchill, and the rather clinical look this book takes at their lives shows both their warts and blemishes.

7 points by nikcub 1 day ago 1 reply      
A toss between 'The Big Short' by Michael Lewis and 'Too Big To Fail' by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Both books are about the financial crisis on Wall Street. They provide excellent insight into how smart people made very bad decisions that had repercussions around the entire world. The last time I remember getting such an insight into this important industry was Lewis' own 'Liars Poker'.

I think it is important for people to understand what went wrong with the most recent financial crisis, and these two books do an excellent job of informing us from an insiders perspective.

3 points by Jach 1 day ago 0 replies      
Oh jeeze, I have to choose?

Nonfiction: QED, by Feynman. It made a large portion of quantum physics "click" for me intuitively and dispelled a bunch of popular notions about quantum physics that are just wrong.

Fiction: Probably the celebrated Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, for reasons others have stated over and again, or else Ass Goblins of Auschwitz for letting me explore an author's deliciously disturbing mind.

2 points by wyclif 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Fabulous Showman: The Life and Times of P.T. Barnum by Irving Wallace http://www.amazon.com/Fabulous-Showman-Life-Times-Barnum/dp/...

Barnum was masterful at using the media of his day to promote his various business enterprises:

"I am indebted to the press of the United States for almost every dollar which I possess and for every success as an amusement manager which I have ever achieved. The very great popularity which I have attained both at home and abroad I ascribe almost entirely to the liberal and persistent use of the public journals of this country."

A great read for startup people, even though it's a biography of a 19th-century personality. Chock full of timeless advice and quotes, to whit:

"Without promotion something terrible happens... Nothing!"

"Every crowd has a silver lining."

"Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant."

"Those who really desire to attain an independence, have only set their minds upon it, and adopt the proper means, as they do in regard to any other object which they wish to accomplish, and the thing is easily done."

"If I shoot at the sun I may hit a star."

7 points by joe6pack 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Daemon" and "Freedom" by Daniel Saurez. Very enjoyable reads, and chock full of not-too-distant futurism. They display an enormous amount of thinking about how social networks and the massively increased availability of data about our lives are changing the ways we interact with each other. Sprinkle in mysteries that play out in both reality and MMORPGs, lots of interesting devices, and a terrifying peek at what a technology-driven global economic meltdown could look like, and you have the basis for these books.
3 points by Alex3917 1 day ago 0 replies      
Anatomy of an Epidemic: http://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Epidemic-Bullets-Psychiatric-A...

About how there has been an enormous rise in the rates of mental illness over the last 50 years. And despite the fact that the APA says it's because we've gotten better at diagnosing mental illness, the bulk of the evidence points to the fact that psychiatric drugs are causing diseases that used to mostly get better with time to become both more severe and long lasting.

3 points by etherael 1 day ago 0 replies      
Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes On the Cosmos by Seth Lloyd.

It made me think about reality in a very novel way, and the nature of what a tautology really is, and it was extremely readable considering how cerebral it is.

3 points by sayemm 1 day ago 0 replies      
"The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life", by Alice Schroeder - http://www.amazon.com/Snowball-Warren-Buffett-Business-Life/...

This is by far the best biography on the man. Alice Schroeder did an amazing job. His life story is incredibly instructive whether you're an entrepreneur or an investor. When you study Buffett's life you get a deep appreciation for the intangible qualities that define extraordinary entrepreneurs.

Best business book I've ever read, and probably will ever read. I don't say that lightly. My copy is thoroughly dog-eared, highlighted, and I turn to it over and over again.

Will teach you far more business than any MBA will -- but only if you're serious about learning, and reading through 832 pages.

10 points by flapjack 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Land of Lisp" http://landoflisp.com/

I'm not even finished with it, but it has still introduced me to Lisp, functional programming, artificial life, and web servers as well completely changed the way I program.

5 points by Dananjaya 1 day ago 0 replies      
"A Little History Of The World" by E.H Gombrich

From a long time I wanted to dig deeper in to the subject of human history starting from the undocumented prehistoric era. But the plethora of information available in the internet often bewilders me and I find my self thinking where to start. This book--mind you first printed in 1936--describes the story of humans from the stone age to atomic age in 40 concise chapters. It's like a reading a fiction (a good one..). This is the most comprehensive span of the human history and the most colorful and vivid account of it.. (at least comparing the history books I've read..)

3 points by dcaldwell 23 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a random one
R.G. LeTourneau: Mover of Men and Mountains

It's an autobiography of the businessman and inventor who basically created the industry of large scale earth moving equipment before, during, and after the Great Depression. "What does this have to do with tech stuff?" you may ask. I read this book right after re-reading Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham. LeTourneau utilizes many of the business principles that Paul Graham espouses in his book. Additionally, LeTourneau was a true hacker before computer hackers were around - he just hacked tractors. I highly recommend this book. One thing that many may not like is that his machines destroyed rainforests. Being from a different generation, he saw this as taking unproductive jungle and making it productive. Not a view many of us would take in this day in time as we've seen the consequences. LeTourneau was a Christian and he does talk about his faith a good bit in the book. Even if that's not your thing, I still think you'll enjoy the book and be surprised at the similarities between his makeup and the makeup of a modern hacker

7 points by dawie 1 day ago 1 reply      
Delivering Happiness

It made me think of what makes me happy and how I can help make the people around me happy, while still being entrepreneurial (which makes me happy).

3 points by baddspellar 1 day ago 0 replies      
Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory - by Peter Hessler

A fascinating book about everyday life in today's China. It's actually 3 books in one:
- Book 1 is an account of his driving trip along the route of the great wall from near Beijing to the Western deserts and steppes, the people he meets, and the towns he visits.
- Book 2 is an account of his experiences in the village of Sancha where he bought a house and came to know a family with dreams of setting up an inn and restaurant. Eventually the village becomes a suburb of Beijing and the family gets wealthier and wealthier, at a price.
- Book 3 is an account of his experiences in the town of Lishui, a small city on the way to becoming a major manufacturing center. The focus is on a couple of entrepreneurs who set up a factory that makes bra rings.

Besides the excellent writing style, what I liked about this book is that it focused on ordinary people and their hopes and dreams. It was impossible to avoid mentioning corruption of small time party leaders, but it didn't dwell on them. It was the first book about China I've read that didn't make the country seem like a dark menace or an unstoppable economic dynamo.

8 points by trptcolin 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Joy of Clojure - Michael Fogus and Chris Houser (http://www.manning.com/fogus/) Riveting look at the language and functional programming - covers edge cases, gives lots of idiomatic examples, and goes deep into the really interesting parts.
2 points by rdl 1 day ago 0 replies      
SSI Open Water Diver. Not because the book is particularly (or at all) well written, but because it was my entry into an amazing hobby -- SCUBA diving. It's an enjoyable activity on its own, and the training model for SCUBA is actually a good way to teach a lot of things to consumers (a VC friend who just picked up diving too believes this as well).

For actual book as book, probably "First In; How Seven CIA Officers Opened the War on Terror in Afghanistan" by Gary Schroen. They basically went in with $30mm or so and an old helicopter, 2 SF ODAs, and accomplished most of the good accomplished to date in Afghanistan within 2 months.

For fiction, I'd love to say Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, but it's just too fucking long. He needs an editor; I'm on book 3. For unexpectedly awesome, Suarez's Daemon and Freedom.

2 points by shin_lao 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Never had a chance to read it and now I think it's one of the most brilliant book I ever red.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Metamorphosis major spoilers)

4 points by mindcrime 1 day ago 1 reply      
"The Four Steps To The Epiphany" - Steve Blank.

Because it opened my eyes to a whole new world in terms of understanding customer development and the "market definition" side of things. And, coming from a background as a hacker, not a sales/biz-dev guy, that's exactly what I needed.

1 point by Luc 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Energy, the Subtle Concept", a great overview of the history and physics of energy that doesn't avoid equations: http://www.amazon.com/Energy-Subtle-Concept-discovery-Feynma...

"The Four Steps to the Epiphany" needs no introduction. The first couple of chapters really drove home some mistakes I have made in past projects.

5 points by justinmares 1 day ago 0 replies      
Linchpin by Seth Godin.

What Made this so valuable to me was that it introduced for the first time the concept of what Seth calls the "Resistance", the part of the brain that prevents you from taking risks and putting yourself on the line. I also love it for introducing me to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

Since reading those books I have been much better at doing important work that actually matters without putting it off or making excuses.

4 points by llimllib 1 day ago 1 reply      
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nobokov.

Superb meta-literature.

2 points by DeusExMachina 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Against Love: a polemic", by Laura Kipnis.

The title is a little misleading, since the book is not against love per se, but speaks about coupledom. It does not want to give answers, but only ask questions and it's a good book to think about our love affairs.

5 points by panarky 1 day ago 1 reply      
_Shantaram_ by Greg Roberts

Violent criminal escapes from prison in Australia, travels to Mumbai on a forged passport, learns Hindi and Marathi, lives for years in a slum, fights with the mujahideen in Afghanistan, becomes a gangster, learns about life, love and honor in the process.

Not only is it a great story, but it's about a self-made man surviving by hacking languages, cultures and business. I read it as an allegory of entrepreneurship.

1 point by gsk 4 hours ago 0 replies      
The Art of Travel by Francis Galton (1872) http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14681

Captures human ingenuity brilliantly. A timeless book that makes me look at _everything_ with an eye to make it better. A must read for any hacker of any persuasion.

3 points by middlegeek 1 day ago 0 replies      
Reworked by the 37Signals guys.

It fit with what I needed at the time. It gave me some great new ideas and confirmed others I had already been both coming up with on my own and brewing from others around me. I will probably re-read it again soon.

2 points by dschobel 1 day ago 0 replies      
Atlas Shrugged

Mediocre novel, tremendous ideas. The prose is a slog but worth it.


4 points by GlennFarrant 1 day ago 0 replies      
"The Four Steps to the Epiphany" by Steve Blank
For me it made the prospect of running a startup much more real. It gave a good grounding in the various phases you'll go through and the challenges and priorites in each. It gives clear actionable advice at every step.
For someone from a technical background or for those up at bat for the first time (both attributes describe me), I reckon it's indispensible. I carry my copy in my bag wherever I go.
3 points by bootload 1 day ago 0 replies      
"White Fang", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_London

Klondike "like" experience, forges determination.

1 point by zzzmarcus 1 day ago 0 replies      
The book that caused the most external change in my life was Crash Proof 2.0 by Peter Schiff. I've been concerned about the economy and what its direction means for me, my family and my assets, but uncertain of what to do about it. Crash Proof is a practical and pragmatic approach to understanding and preparing for what Schiff predicts to be a virtual meltdown of the US Dollar.

The books that caused me the most mental change were the three volumes of the Gulag Archipelago. It's a harrowing real-life, incredibly human, insightful story of Solzhenitsyn's experience in the Soviet prison camps during and after Stalin in Russia. A real life page turner.

3 points by wmeddie 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices" By Peter Drucker

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0887306152

In Japan the book “What if the Female Manager of a High-School Baseball Team read Drucker's ‘Management'" (By Iwasaki Natsumi) is incredibly popular. So I decided to read the original Drucker book and see for myself. Drucker's historical perspective by itself is interesting enough to warrant checking this book out. Although the advice is more focused on management in large companies, I think it lays a good foundation for those of us lacking MBAs.

6 points by gordonc 1 day ago 1 reply      
The Black Swan (unrelated to the Natalie Portman movie)

A great look behind some of the pseudo-science and psychological principles behind decision-making, rationality, and markets.

4 points by jayzee 1 day ago 0 replies      
Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure by Jerry Kaplan

Jerry started "GO," the company that was the first to bring to market "pen computing." His company raised over 75M and spent it all on a product that the market did not want. It is a great read. A time before the concept of "product/market" fit had entered main-stream vocabulary

3 points by roustem 1 day ago 0 replies      
Delivering Happiness is great. I loved it too.

The best book of 2010 for me
"Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" by Christopher McDougall:

There are so many great things about this book. It has an amazing story and also delivers a message why humans were born to run.

3 points by mmaro 1 day ago 0 replies      
Gokhale's 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, via http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1739607 thanks, HN). It's not the best presentation or the best science, but it has ended my back pain and given me awareness of my body. Anyone who sits with a curved back or occasionally lifts heavy objects should read it.


1 point by loumf 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Different" by Youngme Moon. This book was given out at the Business of Software 2010 conference, and she also spoke there. It's basically a call to arms for meaningful differentiation with organized business case studies of companies that have achieved it.


2 points by ThomPete 1 day ago 0 replies      
I must say The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell


If you think this talk http://g4tv.com/videos/44277/DICE-2010-Design-Outside-the-Bo...

is good you should really read the book. Great stuff.

1 point by ANH 1 day ago 1 reply      
The eight books of the House of Niccolo series by Dorothy Dunnett. Swashbuckling 15th-century entrepreneurship. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_House_of_Niccol%C3%B2

And once you've finished that, there's a sequel series (actually written before the House of Niccolo): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymond_Chronicles

2 points by joshfinnie 1 day ago 1 reply      
My choice: Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace

I was actually very surprised on how insightful this book was. It is a great look into the inner mind of a prolific writer and the anguish he felt by in genius.

1 point by pmichaud 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Finite and Infinite Games" - James Carse



3 points by sgallant 1 day ago 1 reply      
Pillars of the Earth. It's a historical fiction novel by Ken Follett about the building of a cathedral in 12th century England. Brilliant book.


2 points by giardini 1 day ago 0 replies      
"The Big Book of Concepts" by Gregory Murphy.

Killed off completely any remaining hope I had that artificial intelligence would be achieved via formal logical methods.

This was probably a good thing: can't say I didn't have some idea that it was coming but I didn't see the headlights until I read the book!8-)

2 points by danielford 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Why Don't Students Like School?" by Daniel Willingham. It's primarily aimed at educators; if that's not your career path you'll find it less useful. So much of education consists of untested fads that it was a relief to see a social scientist go through the evidence of what works and what doesn't. Among other things, Willingham completely demolishes learning styles.

It's easily the best book on teaching I've ever read, and it will have a strong influence on how I structure my classes in the coming semester.

3 points by spacemanaki 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think you mean Tony Hsieh?

I haven't finished it, but the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs was by far my favorite book that I've been reading this year. It really opened my eyes to a lot of new ideas, as it apparently has for so many other people.

1 point by thecoffman 22 hours ago 0 replies      
"Masters of Doom" by David Kushner

It'd been on my list for quite awhile but I just got around to it a few months ago. It was fascinating to read about all the games I'd played growing up. For those who haven't read it - it covers pretty much the birth of the gaming industry as we know it today not just Doom. It goes all the way back to when Romero was writing games and sending them in to magazines to be included on disks. Carmack has always been an icon for me so it was interesting to read about him on a more personal level.

In addition to the interest factor - it was also quite inspiring to me. It certainly increased my drive to get stuff done. If the early history of PC gaming interests you at all; or you just want to read a page turner of a book about people not that dissimilar from you I'd highly recommend it.

3 points by mike_esspe 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Programming in Scala" by Martin Odersky, Lex Spoon, Bill Venners.

Very easy read, explains a lot of functional programming concepts. This book made me a fan of Scala and functional programming.

2 points by SupremumLimit 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. It's full of ideas about meaning of life, happiness and spirituality and it's one of a few books that made me think differently about life.
1 point by whatrocks 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Little, Big" by John Crowley, a fantasy novel about several generations of a family connected to a hidden world of magic within our world. Could not be less like Harry Potter (even though I'm also a fan of that series). People who appreciate the sentiment that "cellar-door" might be the most beautiful word in the English language would enjoy the experience of reading this book - the only way I can describe it is that I literally wanted to eat the text I was reading. For example, character names include 'Daily Alice' Drinkwater, Grandfather Trout, and Smoky Barnable. People obsessed with typography or copy would probably enjoy this book because Crowley seems to always pick the 'perfect' word or phrase. Outside validation - "Little, Big" appears in Harold Bloom's well-regarded Western Canon.
1 point by danparsonson 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am a strange loop by Douglas Hofstadter - fascinating exercise in 'thinking about thinking' that radically changed my perspective on the concept of 'self'. Lots of mathsy and techy overtones, great stuff.
1 point by medianama 1 day ago 0 replies      
4 points by kore 1 day ago 2 replies      
I'm getting great value out of this list.

Can anybody recommend a book that has helped them become a more productive and efficient developer?

2 points by yewweitan 1 day ago 0 replies      
'The Master Switch' by Tim Wu, because it gave me an added perspective on how History shapes present Information Empires
1 point by pwpwp 1 day ago 0 replies      
In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, because he shows that there's writing after Dostoyevsky, and because he probably was a hacker.
1 point by 3ds 1 day ago 0 replies      
Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer

Exceptional book about the environmental, social and individual costs of industrial animal farming. Also somewhat philosophical about consuming animals and cruelty against them.


2 points by anigbrowl 1 day ago 0 replies      
How Judges Think by (judge) Richard Posner. Could also have been titled 'How things work.'
3 points by cscheid 1 day ago 1 reply      
Andrew Hodges's biography of Turing, "Enigma", easily. Although "Profiles of the Future" by Arthur Clarke was also surprisingly good.
1 point by rmanocha 1 day ago 0 replies      
I just got done reading "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis. Well written, does a good job explaining what bond traders were doing before 2008 and why this downturn started. Well worth the read, IMO (I was recommended the book by a hedge fund manager when I met him at my school).
1 point by mikecarlucci 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Ridiculous Race
Steve Hely & Vali Chandrasekaran

Two friends challenge each other to an old fashioned race around the world with one caveat: no airplanes. Starting from the first page hilarity ensues as the two try to outdo, outthink and out race while experiencing as much as they can at the same time.

2 points by ramkalari 1 day ago 0 replies      
Work Hard Be Nice. It helped me understand how tough it is to bring about change at the grassroots level and why one needs to make a lifelong commitment to such causes.
2 points by pramit 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Success Manual http://thesuccessmanual.bighow.com - Contains concise summaries of 200+ most useful business and self-help books of all time.
1 point by jorkos 15 hours ago 0 replies      
"Reluctant Genuis" (biography of Alexander Graham Bell) - a must read to better understand the context in which the phone was invented, and the tremendous impact it had as a technology; the story of an amazing inventor, period.
1 point by adamc 1 day ago 0 replies      
Book: Straight Man, by Richard Russo
Why? It was funny. Might appeal more to those of us who have experienced academia.
4 points by pathik 1 day ago 0 replies      
Founders at Work

The Big Short

1 point by lancewiggs 1 day ago 0 replies      
Where wizards stayed up late - Matthew Lyon, Katie Hafner: The beginning of the internet. Plenty of history and lessons

The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins. Young adult fiction that reads fast but makes you think.

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough - Lori Gottlieb: Amusing book, easy read and aimed at women, but has some good insights on why we fail to get married before it's too late.

I love that I was able to scroll through pages on Amazon to check (most of) the books I read this year.

1 point by visakhcr 1 day ago 0 replies      
The best book I read was a work of fiction.
"The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, Day" by Elie Wiesel.

Elie Wiesel is a Nobel peace prize winner and he is a survivor of The Holocaust. The short novel Night, talks about his experiences in the concentration camp. The Dawn and Day are fictional works by him .


1 point by cafard 1 day ago 0 replies      
Dunno. Maybe _The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet_, by Thomas Mitchell, a novel set in the Dutch trading post at Nagasaki, ca. 1800. Maybe de Tocquivelle's _Souvenirs_ (of the revolution of 1848)--but that I am re-reading. Maybe the NYRB edition of Thoreau's journals, but was that this year?
2 points by Geoooorge 1 day ago 0 replies      
"The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Take time to walk slowly and think deeply. Walk slow enough to forget that you're actually walking.

1 point by mg74 1 day ago 0 replies      
Cosmos by John North.

This book is just threatening to be a masterpiece. An overview of mans scientific ideas about the stars and the planets and the cosmos in general from before Ptolemy to Einstein and modern times. Absolutely epic in scope. This book is to the history of astronomy like "The Prize" is to the history of oil, only bigger.

1 point by dheerosaur 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger because of the Holden Caulfield in me who couldn't tolerate all the phoniness around.

Also enjoyed The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel. After reading about Hardy in this book, I have read "A Mathematician's Apology" which was excellent too.

1 point by pacomerh 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Wealthy Freelancer

It's full of realistic ideas you can apply to your freelancer career, and no BS about becoming a trillioner in an x amount of time. Its actually stuff that can put to work now as you read it, so it worked as a manual for me.

1 point by dm3 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Financier" by T.Dreiser and "Martin Eden" by J.London.
Some of the best books you'll ever read about character development. Definitely read the latter one if you're in your early 20-ies.
1 point by rblion 1 day ago 0 replies      
Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas

This book is a new cosmology for a new age of civilization. Couldn't stop reading and it expanded my cosmic view.

2 points by syamkris 1 day ago 0 replies      
I liked Delivering Happiness too - a great book.

For me "How We Decide" has been the best book of the year as it gave me quite some insights into human brain works and how to deal with different situations.

1 point by snow_mac 1 day ago 0 replies      
What is God really like by Craig Groeshell or Alien Encounters by Chuck Missler
1 point by pmorrisonfl 23 hours ago 0 replies      
These are old, but I got a lot this year out of 'Dynamics of Software Development', McCarthy and 'Working Effectively with Legacy Software', Feathers.
0 points by Void_ 1 day ago 0 replies      

Some things are exaggerated. That's what I like about it.

1 point by sydd 1 day ago 0 replies      
from Cortázar Blow-up and Other Stories.
Microbes use arsenic in their DNA: Proves phosphorus is not required for life (scribd.com
205 points by roadnottaken 4 days ago   127 comments top 19
15 points by cstross 4 days ago 5 replies      
As Mono Lake is of volcanic origin and formed around 760,000 years ago (per Wikipedia) I'd be astonished if the arsenophile(?) evolved there in that short a time span. Which leaves open the question of where it came from, and whether arsenic tolerance is present but dormant in other extremophiles.

Other points of note: never mind the cellular DNA integrating arsenate, the whole respiration cycle seems to be affected, presumably running on ATA rather than ATP. Which implies huge amounts of molecular booty in the shape of enzymes that are powered by a different reduction gradient (ATA-AMA rather than ATP-AMP).

Possible down to earth applications? Lest we forget, Pakistan has a monstrous problem with arsenic-contaminated wells ( http://www.irc.nl/page/16331 ) and a bacterial culture that thrives on arsenic could offer new approaches to arsenic sequestration. And that's just off the top of my head. (My biochemistry is, alas, too rusty to go much further without a refresher course. Hmm ...)

11 points by TheSOB88 4 days ago 5 replies      
Why people constantly stick to the idea that all possible organisms must have similar biochemistry to us is beyond me.

Think about it: Out of the humongous search space of chemicals, the ones we use happened to work for us. A combination of randomness and building on what worked before got us to where we are. Why should life not be able to use chemistry in completely different ways in order to replicate itself? Why are we so arrogant as to think that our design is the only design?

Edit: My point is that our ratio of "shit we know" to "shit we don't know we don't know" is infinitesimally small in the field of possible lifeforms' biochemistry. That is, we only know stuff very close to us on a cosmic scale; we effectively have blinders to all other possibilities. And there's already a lot of biochemical variation on Earth: To give some small examples, viruses don't even have DNA, and plants use less amino acids than animals.

The self-similarity of what we have so far can be explained, I think, by evolution. We all started out from the same point, so there's very little incentive to "reinvent the wheel" as it were. Only under extreme conditions like we have here, or the geothermal vents underwater, do we observe marked differences.

12 points by drcode 4 days ago 2 replies      
OK, this news is very interesting, but it does not prove much about extraterrestrial life.

We know that organisms can adapt to their environment. Incorporating some fraction of arsenic into a cell's dna is an example of such adaptation.

The question that really matters is "has life originated more than once in the universe?" This experiment has no bearing on that: They took a standard terrestrial cell, with a carbon-based history, and simply subjected it to some new conditions. This is NOT a new life form that originated from a novel environment and using a different chemistry. However, NASA is getting awfully close to selling it as such in their press conference, which is misleading.

4 points by stavrianos 4 days ago 1 reply      
bicycle discovered constructed entirely from wood: proves metal not required for transportation


5 points by civilian 4 days ago 3 replies      
Huh! Biochemistry major here... So I guess that the bacteria just rarely uses Sulphur-Sulphur (thiol) bonds in it's proteins, since Arsenic has a high affinity for it (and that's what causes arsenic toxicity in everything else).

"suggesting the possibility of a biochemistry very different from the one we know"
Seems like a bit of an exaggeration, but news will be news. Thiols are important for the structure & enzymatic activity, but this bacteria is proof that there are ways around it. Besides that difference, I'm guessing they're the same.

3 points by dnautics 4 days ago 0 replies      
high resolution Mass spec is such a shitty technique and is completely non-quantitative. How do you know that arsenic isn't associated with, say, a protein that makes the DNA resistant to being taken apart chemically. I will believe this result when they stain the DNA and run samples of the DNA down a density gradient ultracentrifugation and show that arsenic content in the media correlates with increased density of DNA, as you would expect if the arsenic is replacing phosphorus. If you don't know what i'm talking about, it's this classical experiment:


Here is my personal scientific experience speaking: If you see it everywhere, then it's likely to be an artefact. Clean up your technique, clean your instruments, and go back to an old school technique. Remember how the physicists who discovered CMB cleaned out the pigeon scat from their microwave horn telescope before they started to believe what they saw.

3 points by sorbus 4 days ago 0 replies      
"The researchers isolated the organism and found that when cultured in arsenate solution it grew 60% as fast as it did in phosphate solution " not as well, but still robustly. The culture did not grow at all when deprived of both arsenate and phosphate."
0 points by frisco 4 days ago 5 replies      
This seems silly. Phosphorous not being required for life seems obvious to me: ok, maybe it's believed to be used in all Earth-originated, carbon-based life, but why would we believe a priori that it's an absolutely necessary component of any biological life anywhere (which seems to be what's implied by NASA and the relation of this to exobiology)? If we develop silicon-based artificial intelligence (how do you define life, anyway? That matters when you're talking about astrobiology), would we run a headline, "Researchers prove carbon not required for life"?

I've always thought the scientific community stated that alien life may use a totally different biochemistry from us?

Edit: so, in some senses this is like P!=NP being proven, except less important, since it's only one component (phosphorus). It's scientifically a big deal but doesn't change the world because it's largely what we've always expected (the metaphor breaks down that this doesn't have the major secondary consequences like N=NP would).

1 point by gort 4 days ago 0 replies      
If you have access (i.e. from university or whatnot) the actual paper is now online at:


2 points by roadnottaken 4 days ago 0 replies      
4 points by jaysonelliot 4 days ago 1 reply      
Felisa Wolfe-Simon's name is going to end up in the history books along with Leeuwenhoek and Darwin.

Talk about a life-changing discovery!

1 point by olalonde 4 days ago 1 reply      
Most theories[1] agree to say that replicating life predates DNA. Wouldn't that mean that we could still have a common ancestor with this life form?

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis#Other_models

1 point by dnautics 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know. You would think, but you can autoclave a solution of "deionized ultrafiltered water" which should have "no" carbon in it at all, and bacteria will find a way to grow in it if you get it contaminated, they will concentrate the trace trace trace amounts of carbon.

How carefully did they prep their DNA? These days nobody is careful and they use these crap kits which are good enough, convenient enough to get molecular biology done. The other day in lab I suggested someone isolate DNA using caesium chloride gradient ultracentifugation and the only people who knew what I was talking about were the two old (70+) year old senior scientists but they agreed that it was the way to go.

1 point by bld 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's the press conference in three ~10 minute parts:
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hu5dXnCUs7I
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LsihAsX4z8
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu0VvxuicLw

The lead author gives a talk at 2:26 in Part 1 that I thought was an excellent example of how to communicate science (or other technical subject) and implications to a general audience.

2 points by akharris 4 days ago 2 replies      
Two weeks ago: antimatter contained long enough to be studied.

This week: life without phosphorous.

Next week: flying skateboards?

1 point by joelburget 4 days ago 1 reply      
Perhaps NASA should be more cautious about holding a press on astrobiology, and with a Science embargo. Clearly everyone will immediately think of aliens, and for good reason. It's NASA, it's about astrobiology, and it's something big enough to embargo Science. They're just asking for all the alien stories. And let's be clear, these are not aliens.
1 point by vibragiel 4 days ago 0 replies      
1 point by bradfordw 4 days ago 1 reply      
It has its own twitter account!
-1 point by EGreg 4 days ago 7 replies      
Don't mean to get all religious on ya, but I wanted to ask here...

Is there any evidence of macro-evolution having ever taken place in recorded history? I'm asking this with no agenda, but curious. As far as I know, no new species have ever been produced, despite natural or unnatural selection.

So what makes us say that there is no other force or process that causes speciation? How are scientists so convinced that mutation and natural selection is all that is required, despite never having observed a single instance of speciation?

To be scientific, a theory has to make some potentially falsifiable, non-obvious predictions. Then we can test those predictions, and if our experiments confirm them then the theory survives. I totally agree that the hypothesis "natural selection occurs" has been proven in ample ways (ok, maybe the white->dark->white butterflies was a bad one, but bacteria and their resistance to antibiotics is proof enough). But to form a completely new species...

Species is defined as "as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring" according to Wikipedia. Two animals are of different species if none of their offspring have ever been observed to be fertile. At least, that's a good working definition.

It bothers me that scientists have been interbreeding literally thousands of generations of fruit flies and despite all selection pressures, artificial or not, were never able to produce a single new species. Sure, it's hard to try and mate every fruit fly with every other fruit fly, so maybe there were divergent species, but after a few generations, this should have revealed itself. If this is really the case, then how come we take it for granted that humans, homo erectus, neanderthals etc. were all divergent species that had a common ancestor something like 50,000 years ago? Am I way off? If you take the fruit fly lifetimes and human lifetimes, in those 50,000 years we had about as many generations as the fruit fly generations. And we got all this speciation supposedly, using nothing more than mutation and natural selection. But where is the proof?

I'm not necessary arguing that one of the religions is right and there is another force. But are scientists being biased here when they simply assume there isn't any other force? It's as if I was looking at cars from the 1920s all the way up until now, and I saw gradual change, and based on this I decided that there was no designer of these cars. I don't think that follows at all.

Just curious if someone knows links that can resolve this for me :)

Introducing Apache Wave googlewavedev.blogspot.com
198 points by andre3k1 15 hours ago   19 comments top 8
26 points by Andrenid 13 hours ago 3 replies      
As someone who used Wave intensely (all day, nearly every day) from the day I got my invite, until the day they announced it was going to die, I couldn't be happier about this.

Wave was invaluable to my daily business processes, working with people on projects that move way too fast to set up up a more structured/"proper" collaboration environment. It had pretty much completely replaced email for me at one point between me, my associates and my friends.

Can't wait to see it get a second life, and hopefully i'll be using it a lot more in the future now too. I still stand by this having potential to really change how we communicate with people.

29 points by PedroCandeias 14 hours ago 1 reply      
This is great news. Wave has loads of potential, it just needs someone to take it by the hand and show it some UX love.
7 points by xtacy 13 hours ago 1 reply      
I am not able to find it; Google announced that they would have an exporter for the data that's presently locked-into Wave. Has there been any news about it?
7 points by huherto 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Are they opening just the protocol software? Or also the UI?
8 points by dtwwtd 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm pleased that Wave will be in such able hands. It really shows that Google does care about open source when they take this much trouble to follow through on their promises.
3 points by acgourley 12 hours ago 1 reply      
So who is starting a wave hosting business?
1 point by scrrr 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I currently have a use case for wave and would like to use it. Would you recommend against it? What's the current status. When will it go offline?
1 point by hootx 13 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm really quite curious why Google is still investing time into wave. It seems to me that either it is a worthy endeavor (which I think it is), or it isn't (ie, it should be scraped). But I don't understand scraping it and then revitalizing it soon after. Couldn't they have done the work the Apache Foundation will do faster in-house?
AeroFS - Unlimited P2P File Sync aerofs.com
193 points by makeramen 21 hours ago   54 comments top 15
24 points by yurisagalov 21 hours ago 7 replies      
well this is an unexpected but pleasant surprise :)

I suppose this is a good opportunity to let you guys know that the project IS very much alive and kicking still, and we've just released a new set of invites today (which I suppose is why we got posted to HN today, thanks!)

We've been very busy with coding and work, which is why we haven't really been updating the blog, but if you have any questions I'll be happy to continue answering them here

edit: FYI, the original discussion is at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1538731

8 points by nuclear_eclipse 20 hours ago 1 reply      
This is still in invite-only phase, and while I do have an account, I'm not actively using it yet for my primary files because there are still some features it lacks over Dropbox, namely:

* can't choose where local files are cached, it assumes where you want them

* no way to back up more than 1G to their "cloud", ie, no paid plans yet, which I would really like to have at least for my most unreplaceable files

* no way to share individual directories with other users, you must share entire "libraries" as they call them, which are basically top-level folders on your aerofs drive

* no way to make files publicly available for download

Other than those points, I think the service is a fantastic idea, and I do eagerly look forward to being able to switch from Dropbox for my photos, documents, etc. However, the above limitations mean that I can really only use it for a few extra things that I don't have room for on my Dropbox account, eg, music.

4 points by mgunes 13 hours ago 0 replies      
How will you be licensing and pricing it once it reaches 1.0? Any plans for making it available under a free software license, dual or otherwise? I know quite a few people who'd be inclined to pay for and contribute to a solution of the kind you provide and Dropbox and Ubuntu One don't (very decentralized, secure, fast, works local-only) with the condition that it's free-as-in-freedom.
3 points by davidu 12 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been waiting for someone to create this.

Since libTorrent was released, I figured someone would do something like this. No idea if Aero is using libTorrent, but the idea was a natural evolution.

This looks well executed, thanks. Can't wait to see the next steps.

1 point by alnayyir 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Is there a way I can use this to replace Unison, which I lean heavily on but am unhappy with?


5 points by evo_9 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Interesting/cool product.

One thing that threw me off - the term 'Aero' (for me) implied Windows only... No real easy solution there as I don't expect (or even think you need) to change the name, but maybe adding something like 'cross-platforming file sync without servers'.

Awesome none-the-less though!

3 points by Ixiaus 20 hours ago 2 replies      
SSH and rsync? Or even better, use hg/bzr/git to maintain a version history of the files and then just sync across devices (it's uber easy with Mercurial, not sure about the other two). I personally use the latter (Mercurial).
4 points by ch 21 hours ago 1 reply      
According to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_size#Asymmetric_algorithm_k..., their choice in using 1024 bit keys might be a bit short-sighted.
3 points by trotsky 18 hours ago 1 reply      
even behind your pesky office firewall

Curious - can you sync between two such locations (nat/default deny/no udp)? i.e. will you bounce connections through your host or does one side have to open an inbound port?

2 points by palewery 12 hours ago 0 replies      
I hate to say it but I would use this if my peers were just my Facebook friends. not that I don't trust 1024 bit encryption, I just don't like my info on strangers boxes even thought it is encrypted
3 points by phlux 18 hours ago 1 reply      
What will your TOS be - what if something like a Wikileaks mirror is done across your system?
3 points by Sephr 18 hours ago 1 reply      
How is this different from Wuala?
1 point by rb2k_ 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I remember talking to one of the devs some months ago when first signing up. Fun guy, great product.

It's a shame that I never got an invite, can't wait to get my hands on this :)

3 points by grok2 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Is my disk space on used to store data for others in the p2p network?
1 point by TheAmazingIdiot 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I love the top image. Check out the file "How to earn HN karma"

I think you found out :)

The dark side of open source conferences [about women being harassed] lwn.net
194 points by rythie 4 days ago   214 comments top 22
53 points by acangiano 4 days ago replies      
A few thoughts:

* This is one of the most factual, well written articles that I've encountered on the subject.

* It's just sad to see socially awkward people manifest their sexual frustration in this manner. And it's even sadder to see that the few women we have in our profession feel threatened at conferences. The overwhelming majority of good people need to intervene to interrupt any form of harassment towards anyone and above all report them to whoever appropriate.

* It's important to remember that sexual harassment is not simple unwanted attention from someone you find unattractive. magamiako deleted his comment, but he was right on the money when he said that certain actions will be interpreted as innocuous flirting if the person perpetuating it is attractive, and as harassment if their are not. It may not be PC to say this, but it's important to distinguish unpleasant, but fundamentally innocuos flirting from awkward people, from bona fide sexual harassment like groping or inappropriate touching. The latter must be eliminated from tech conferences.

* Sexism and unprofessionalism can be avoided without being prudish about the content of your presentation. This is a slide I used in one of my Italian presentations. The title reads "Eye candy is important": http://grab.by/grabs/bd8b294c0aa850b4b577012a258979a3.png (Actual slides here: http://www.slideshare.net/antonio.cangiano/tu-vu-fa-lamerica...). This was just after the "CouchDB performs like a porn star" scandal, and several women at the conference complimented me for pulling it off without objectifying anyone.

59 points by btilly 4 days ago replies      
Ah, yes.

I remember once casually joking at a get together, Someone needs to tell ESR that he's not God's gift to women. When everyone was done laughing, it turned out that both women present at the table had actually been propositioned by ESR. (And had turned him down.)

A small minority of men cause the vast majority of the problem. Unfortunately it doesn't take many to create a real problem.

24 points by gyardley 4 days ago 3 replies      
The gender imbalance at open source conferences means that the small proportion of men throughout society that harass women have a much smaller pool of targets to choose from.

The result - while open-source conferences might have the same amount of harassment per male attendee as any other conference, the percentage of female attendees affected by it is much higher.

This creates dramatically different perceptions. As a male, I haven't seen any more sexual harassment at tech conferences than I have at academic conferences on Russian history, so it doesn't feel like there's much of a problem. But from the female perspective, the situation looks like an epidemic.

I have no solution to this unfortunate situation. Perhaps open source conferences should ban alcohol, so everyone can stay properly inhibited. This hardly seems fair to those of us who enjoy having a beer and can do it without molesting others, but a minor inconvenience to the majority is usually acceptable when it prevents a devastating experience for a minority.

29 points by seanc 4 days ago 2 replies      
I couldn't get over how powerful the message was when presented in clear technical language. By articulating the problem in a simple factual manner and offering specific concrete solutions, some of which are already under way, she makes it impossible to dismiss her concerns.

The medium is the message I suppose.

I wonder if this style, applied to this issue, is powerful only for technical people, or it it would be equally compelling to other groups.

18 points by rb2k_ 4 days ago replies      
What annoys me is that the article talks about a "problem of a sexualized environment", but the [post](http://blog.nerdchic.net/archives/418/) that is being refered to describes things like this:

> I lay across the bed, sat on laps, generally tried to squish in to any available space and get time to talk to all the fabulous people thronging the place. [...] I had a few drinks. I was wearing a skirt of such a length that I had cycling shorts on under it to make me feel more comfortable getting up on stage and dancing. I had been flirting with a couple of other boys at the party.

Way to be professional...

19 points by JonnieCache 4 days ago 2 replies      
The thing that shocks me is that people seem to describe so many of these incidents, yet they just seem to have passed by with little fallout. At least none was described in the article.

In most circles of independent minded, proactive people (like those in the OSS scene) that I have moved in, such blatant acts of sexual assault would lead to a massive commotion, probably violence. How can you walk up behind a stranger in a public place full of your peers, grab them on the ass and proposition them for sex without getting something broken over your head, or at the very least being shouted and screamed at?

Sounds like people need to be more willing to stand up for themselves and their friends, to more clearly establish group norms of what is and isnt acceptable.

Articles like this are very depressing to me as a young idealistic developer who sees the open source world as a progressive and egalitarian model for how to live our lives.

9 points by masterponomo 4 days ago 3 replies      
I'm sure this will sound sexist as well, but the chivalrous guys far outnumber the jerks. If someone crosses the line, by all means call the cops but also consider making an immediate and loud protest, and you might get help from an ad hoc group of temporary big (or little) brothers. A black eye and split lip might be the quickest way to teach some of these guys the right way to act.
8 points by alexh 3 days ago 0 replies      
This happens in a lot of organizations.

One that I think is most relevant is CUSID( Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate )

It was very much an organization which had a problem with women feeling pushed out, harassed, and uncomfortable. The result of that was that very few women were getting involved or staying involved.

In 2001 they decided to do something about it. They had a long discussion, and implemented a very strict policy about offensive conduct. You can see it here http://www.cusid.ca/documents/official-documents/cusid-code-...

The TL;DR; of it, is that every tournament is obligated to have an approachable "Equity Officer" as well as an anonymous way of submitting "Equity" complaints. These are comments on things that made someone uncomfortable, feel offended, or feel harassed. The equity officer then takes action, at their discretion, usually informing the offender that what they did was not cool, with no tangible punishment. Sometimes ignoring the complaint. Or in rare cases, taking drastic action against an individual.

Having been at the receiving end of two complaints, they take this policy very seriously. There is a very vocal group that believes that the policy is harmful, because it is too restrictive. There is another group that feels it is necessary and should get stronger. It is a political debate, and the two groups keep each other in check, at the current level.

The IMPORTANT result. In 2001, very few women were involved, particularly in upper levels of the community. This year, female involvement has risen to the point that fully half of the 32 finalists in the BP Nationals held two weeks ago, were female.

There are still issues, and a new discussion is being had on refinements to the policy. The point is that confronting the problem head on, did a lot of good. Particularly the point of having a formal way to complain and have the offensive parties made aware of the inappropriateness of their actions, and hold them accountable.

6 points by Yaggo 4 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, I'm truly shocked. I mean, it's 2010. Apparently there are minority of people how can't behave and ruin the reputation of the whole community.

> Later someone was caught taking up-skirt photos of my friend's partner.

Would be interesting to know if he was kicked out of the conference, and whether the harassment cases were reported to authorities / organizers.

11 points by follower 4 days ago 5 replies      
While I'm pleased to see this article on HN, is it appropriate to use a "subscriber link" in a public forum like HN?
2 points by viraptor 3 days ago 0 replies      
There is an interesting part to some of those stories... kind of captured in some of those paragraphs. For example "If I go to CES in Vegas I go with the understanding that porn is part of the business of that conference". Many gamers' expos would have naked girls with game logos painted over them if they could get away with that.

Also, have you lately been to a students' club? In some places (and not even of the lowest quality) kissing and proposing sex to people you barely know is pretty much a normal behaviour. (this happens from both genders)

Now you have lots of people coming out of that environment and expect them to figure out by themselves that this is a different environment? Of course there will be someone who doesn't quite get it.

It also doesn't help when in some environments women are ok with as much attention as they can get. I've seen a couple of IRC channels of open-source projects where there's a regular female user appearing there. Strictly no-offtopic channels suddenly switch to 2h "what's new in your life in any details you want" discussions between her and 10 random guys that includes innuendos every once in a while. Again - do you expect those people to figure out themselves that it's not the same environment?

I really don't think this is a problem "of open source conferences". It might be something that manifests there more often than in other places.

5 points by geedee77 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think this is a good article and a great reminder to us all about the underside to the world. I do want to say, though, that the 'men' (and they are only described as such due to their gender) in this story are a very small minority that you would find in any group of people.

I'm not so naive to say that sexism doesn't exist in our industry, because it clearly does, but I would say that the vast majority of people would neither encourage or stand for any sort of sexism, whether overt or not.

I think it is tempting to create a link between the stereotypical 'geek' - who is a guy that lives in his mom's basement and never meets women - and the sort of overt sexism and abuse as described in this article, but that is dangerous. That stereotype no longer exists, if it ever did, and there will always be men, from whatever industry or walk of life, who view women as objects and not equals. We need to work on this attitude in every walk of life, not just in the tech world.

7 points by theophani 4 days ago 2 replies      
I've [only] been to three tech conferences. The only "sexism" I observed was excessive delight: "Oh wow, a woman!" which I hardly consider harassing. No one meant disrespect; rather the opposite. Possibly offensive is the notion that it would be a surprise to find me there at all. I might say something similar to a man at a needlepoint conference.

Yes, I got sexual attention, but only in a social context, and nothing inappropriate. I've also gotten "Let's be friends!" attention from people, including other women. In other words, we are there to meet people who share our interests, on a social as well as professional level.

2 points by binspace 3 days ago 0 replies      
My personal experience is that tech conferences tend to encourage cliquish and hierarchal (based on popularity and tech-sphere influence) behavior which feels dehumanizing.

I think there is a common thread with my observation to sexual harassment at conferences. When people relate to each other on a human (rather than hierarchal level), people tend to respect each other more.


Women also bring greater social cohesion to groups.


The fact that women are sexually harassed could be solved by having more women at conferences.

7 points by StudyAnimal 4 days ago 3 replies      
That reminds me, what happened with the Florian Leibert scandal? Any word from him since the event?
1 point by STHayden 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've always been saddened by some of the vitriol that has come up on hacker news when talking about women. But this seems like a pleasant conversation.
2 points by robryan 4 days ago 2 replies      
An interesting question would be if those men which did the wrong thing were regulars to these conferences or new to the scene? From similar things I have been to I just couldn't imagine a community in which the core regulars would have anyone doing these kinds of things.
1 point by timelinex 4 days ago 2 replies      
As a general rule: Don't shit where you eat. Some of the incident she describe are legit sexual harassment and others are a male trying to pick up a lady. Don't do that ever where you work or have important business to attend[your technique maybe lacking].

I Genuinely think this is not really a Geek problem. There is statistically large number of people with sexual deviation. For instance, it is estimated that between 3-9% of the population are Pedophiles[1]. At a conference with about 100 people there maybe 3 persons there with a sexual deviation. But it only takes one of those guys to approach all the women in the conference and spoil the whole thing for all of us.

My suggestion is if ever you were to encounter a situation of sexual assault report it immediately to the police[not the conference organizer]. I don't want that guy who hits ladies on the bum to be walking around freely in society. He would not be operating at Conferences alone.

As a side note to how important it's to report these things:"nonincestuous pedophiles who molest boys had committed an average of 282 offenses against 150 victims"[1]. As I said previously, just one deviant can crash the party for a whole lot of people.


1 point by pbhjpbhj 4 days ago 0 replies      
>Cat says, "If I think an event organizer turns a blind eye to questionable behavior I'll pass on the event."

I'm surprised that conference organisers would ignore sexual assault particularly with the bad press it must bring - assuming that these women are reporting the sexual assaults (someone fondling your genitals against your express will is pretty clearly sexual assault IMO).

But then if the women assaulted choose not to report such things to the police (I think the onus lies with them as opposed to any witnesses) how can the conference organisers act? They can't assume an uncharged person is guilty, can they?

-2 points by lhnn 4 days ago 6 replies      
I get tired of women complaining about sexism in the startup/tech field.

Yes, ladies, you will be hit on a lot at a conference filled with mostly guys. You are an attractive minority. Now, to the point:

There is no excuse for physical assault. I can even almost excuse a guy going in for a peck, but grab-ass and worse are not cool. If you're going to proposition a girl, do it with your wits and your words, not a firm, open palmed slap on the behind.

On behalf of all young, healthy, mate-seeking males, I apologize for the few who make us all out to be classless jerks.

Of course, it can be argued that you shouldn't be looking to hook up at a FOSS conference, but really... when ISN'T a single guy looking for a woman with similar interests (inside and outside the bedroom)? This isn't a 'geek' problem, it's a 'human' problem.

-2 points by calebgilbert 3 days ago 1 reply      
I guess the 180-degree alternative to "women being harrassed" is the the Drupal community, in which a small, but very vocal, women run around and use 'women being harrassed' as a sledgehammer to intimidate and enforce their own standards of values/behavior on anyone and everyone.

No one seems to mourn that kind of harassment. Until they do, I remain suspect when I read titles like this. Based on experience I believe that as often as not someone just needs to call the wahmbulance and/or quit using their gender as a weapon of control.

I will add as a side note, and I have no idea if it pertains to this particular article or not, but many (even most) of the women I have seen complaining about 'being harassed' in the Drupal community are openly lesbian. I could care less about someone's personal sexual choices in the bedroom, but it does raise more questions about what is going on with many of these 'harassment' complaints, at least in my mind. There is something dishonest to me about those who have sworn their life to not-include men, also simultaneously want to tell all the men exactly how they are allowed to act/speak/think.

UPDATE: For the record I do acknowledge the very real possibly/problem of actual harassment. I do not wish my comments to diminish the seriousness of those cases. Just sharing my experience of seeing 'harassment' complaints being weaponized, and calling for some balance/sanity.

-4 points by rmc 4 days ago 1 reply      
A lot of complaints about sexism in FLOSS conference mainly refer to sexual references, or (semi-)pornography. If you want to have a professional conference, then yes you should have a 'no sex' policy.

However, are women really that anti-sex?

Captain Crunch needs your help savingcaptaincrunch.com
191 points by andrew_k 1 day ago   73 comments top 11
29 points by ericlavigne 1 day ago replies      
There's no mention of this on John Draper's personal website or MySpace page. How do we know this message is from John Draper?



(Found webcrunchers via Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Draper and found MySpace via webcrunchers.)

30 points by weeksie 1 day ago 1 reply      
The US healthcare system never fails to shock and horrify me. I am so thankful for my dual citizenship every time I hear a story like this. Pathetic and sad.
8 points by sandofsky 1 day ago 2 replies      
There are barely visible links at the bottom of the page for "Shop the Best Verizon Wireless Deals" and "Thanks to Top CD Rates, Bank Rates and Bad Credit".

Nobody can verify the affiliation with John Draper.

I suspect this is a both a scam and black hat SEO.

7 points by frou_dh 1 day ago 3 replies      
The last few times he came up on HN I'm sure there were several accounts of him being accomplished but not a particularly nice person. I have no idea. Can that be balanced out?
7 points by sgt 1 day ago 2 replies      
USD 6000 + 2000? I don't want to seem insensitive, but a guy with Crunch's talent should easily be able to make the payments. He could take it across several years if he wanted to.

(Or he should have just gotten medical insurance in the first place, although I've heard some nasty things about private health insurance in America.)

6 points by eps 1 day ago 0 replies      
FWIW the 10K number is about right. The average cost of removing spinal hernia in Mayo clinic is 11K as of a year ago, and I expect his case to be similar. That's covering the whole stay, and excluding any follow-up physio.

However the site does look fishy... or if CC in fact can't afford a 10k expense, then things are just plain sad :|

15 points by thebooktocome 1 day ago 3 replies      
Hugged into submission by an overzealous fan?



4 points by jdcrunchman 1 day ago 1 reply      
I have been inundated with an amazing response, I know I need to update "webcrunchers.com", My "wiki", and my Facebook page. But due to my lack of being able to type at normal speed, I'm forced to use Mac Speech Dictate, which breaks when I get a skype call, or type with my thumbs. I can use a few more volunteers...
7 points by ayb 1 day ago 1 reply      
Could they have added any more self promotional links at the bottom?
4 points by aroon 1 day ago 2 replies      
Being such a skilled programmer, one would think he could get a loan for a measly 10k and be able to easily pay it back with the kind of salaries we're paid these days...
0 points by bluesnowmonkey 1 day ago 0 replies      
Who are the engineers that built the systems he broke into? How is their health these days?
Amazon Route 53 - A New DNS Service from AWS amazon.com
188 points by base 1 day ago   169 comments top 36
15 points by TomOfTTB 1 day ago 1 reply      
As someone who uses Nettica for Dynamaic DNS (which this seems to be targeting) I think it's great that Amazon is creating some competition in this area. Not enough web developers consider Dynamic, programmable DNS and that's a shame because I think it's a must. I monitor every site I have from an external location and if there's ever a host outage I have the DNS re-routed to a backup host within 10 minutes (it doesn't always propagate as quickly as I like but there's little that can be done about that)

I'm happy with Nettica but Amazon's offering will draw attention to this important point. Plus competition leads to more features, better service and so on.

48 points by jacquesm 1 day ago replies      
Amazon got a lot less interesting in the last couple of weeks, I hear they will take down your site without so much as a warrant.
64 points by there 1 day ago 1 reply      
if anyone is wondering about the name, 53 is the port that dns operates over.
13 points by tomstuart 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here's hoping that this is the first step towards making ELB actually usable -- i.e. dropping the requirement that you must point a CNAME at the ELB hostname, which prevents you from using a zone's root record (you can balance www.foo.com but not foo.com). To wit:

In the future, we plan to add additional integration features such as the ability to automatically tie your Amazon Elastic Load Balancer instances to a DNS name

As demonstrated by https://forums.aws.amazon.com/thread.jspa?threadID=32044, lots of people want this.

20 points by RyanGWU82 1 day ago 3 replies      
Very interesting. We currently use DNS Made Easy but I see two huge advantages to Route 53:

1. It's API-driven, so we can modify our DNS entries programmatically. You can't do that with DNS Made Easy. (They've been "planning to implement an API in the future" for a long time now.)

2. At our scale, it's exactly 1/4th the cost of DNS Made Easy. That'll be a nice chunk of change. Plus, like other AWS services, you only pay for the number of queries that you actually use.

12 points by mgkimsal 1 day ago 1 reply      
There's no mention of IPv6 support. Given the situation that IPv4 addresses will be running out shortly, it'd be nice to see some acknowledgment of forward-thinking IPv6 plans.

edit: sorry to be so out of step - I guess I should have tied wikileaks to ipv6 to fit in with the rest of the comments.

6 points by kmfrk 1 day ago 2 replies      
Say what you want about the whole Wikileaks affair, but regardless of where you stand, Amazon's sense of timing seems really bad. Couldn't they at least have waited a week after they declined to host Wikileaks?

People will undoubtedly tie the two things together, and Wikileaks supporters will make a big effort to point out Amazon's recent misstep.

I would probably have waited just a couple of days or weeks before this recent event was out of most people's minds.

5 points by gfodor 1 day ago 1 reply      
A big reason this is important is that it's a stepping stone to location based DNS routing. That'd be the very last showstopper for some deployments being exclusively AWS.
15 points by rosejn 1 day ago 0 replies      
Routing traffic to wikileaks would have been a perfect demonstration of this new system. Instead they decided to show how much they respect freedom of speech.

And tptacek, yes we should speak about wikileaks when discussing Amazon, from now on. This isn't a fanboy site, this is a place to discuss the real ramifications of a company's actions.

14 points by 619Cloud 1 day ago 4 replies      
Does anybody else think $1/Mo a zone/domain is high? Sure its nice that a million queries is only going to run you $0.50, but I suspect most people have a lot of domains, but little queries. Makes sense if you have a single domain, that gets a boat load of DNS requests, but if you have a lot of domains, with very little requests, its not cost effective.
6 points by rmoriz 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you like AWS or not: It's not a good idea to have everything in one account.

It's a single point of failiure anway and you want to distribute your core infrastructure between different parties. It's cool to run a DNS by AWS but not cool if you don't have mirrors/secondary nameservers, too.

3 points by j_baker 1 day ago 1 reply      
"It is designed to give developers and businesses a reliable and cost effective way to route end users to Internet applications by translating human readable names like www.example.com into the numeric IP addresses like that computers use to connect to each other."

Maybe this isn't a big deal, but wouldn't someone who needs a DNS service either already know this or have a developer or IT guy who has explained to them why they need a DNS service?

4 points by WALoeIII 1 day ago 0 replies      
This combined with the recently rolled out SSL termination in the Elastic Load Balancer product (http://aws.typepad.com/aws/2010/10/elastic-load-balancer-sup...) makes supporting custom domains a cinch.
4 points by shykes 1 day ago 1 reply      
We're very happy Zerigo DNS customers. Great API, great infrastructure, great support.
5 points by nphase 1 day ago 1 reply      
I take it Wikileaks won't be using this as their DNS provider.
6 points by sramov 1 day ago 1 reply      

  DJ Bernstein TinyDNS 1.05

Anycast djbdns, nice :)

6 points by snissn 1 day ago 1 reply      
Amazon should add a feature for geographic load balancing that could compliment their aws locations
9 points by chrismiller 1 day ago 0 replies      
I hope they eventually build in the ability to do location based DNS load balancing. For me that would be a killer feature.
3 points by wwortiz 1 day ago 1 reply      
Can anyone explain what this hosted zone part is, I must be too sleepy or am just missing what it is.
6 points by nikcub 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great, so now they can also switch off your DNS if they don't like what you are hosting.
2 points by charlesju 1 day ago 1 reply      
It seems to me that GoDaddy does this for free? I've also used Slicehost for free.

Is there a difference between their free DNS offering and Amazon's paid version?

3 points by philfreo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Did anyone else see "Amazon 53" and think "Amazon S3"?
2 points by jpcx01 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm currently using Zerigo. They've been awesome so probably wont switch anytime soon. Tough competition going up against AMZN for this though.
3 points by trotsky 1 day ago 2 replies      
needs more RRSIG - I don't understand why you'd launch a new DNS product at this point without DNSSEC support.
1 point by mrinterweb 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm excited about the API available for AWS 53, but I just love the old crusty looking Zone Edit. http://legacy.zoneedit.com

If you're dealing with low volume DNS for a couple domains, Zone Edit is hard to beat.

1 point by elliottcarlson 1 day ago 1 reply      
One thing I couldn't find is if it supports wildcard DNS (granted I only did a quick in page search both here and the service description page). Anyone have any insight?
2 points by oomkiller 1 day ago 0 replies      
What's the big deal here? Linode provides me all of the DNS I need.
1 point by lhnz 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is awful timing on their part, re: wikileaks, and talks of decentralised DNS safe from politics.
1 point by PonyGumbo 1 day ago 0 replies      
It would be nice if they supported vanity nameservers.
1 point by plusbryan 1 day ago 0 replies      
Would love to see some reliability and speed metrics in the coming weeks as adoption increases!
1 point by benologist 1 day ago 2 replies      
$0.50 per million queries " first 1 Billion queries / month

$0.25 per million queries " over 1 Billion queries / month


1 point by JeffL 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is there any performance reason to use this as DNS as opposed to the DNS servers on register.com for just a regular web site?
1 point by nextparadigms 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yeah, as if anyone wants to leave the DNS info in your hands too, Amazon, after pulling Wikileaks at a senator's call.

Amazon should offer domain names next, so it's just one stop for politicians who want to completely eliminate a website from the web when they feel like it.

1 point by MrRumblefish 1 day ago 1 reply      
The pricing is $1/zone and 1 billion (!!) queries per month.

Which seems quite good for a globally hosted DNS service.

Only potential limitations are that its listed as "beta" and that as far as I can tell you have to use the scripts in the Route 53 developer tools (or write your own) to manipulate the zone and do the initial set up.

1 point by javan 22 hours ago 0 replies      
It would be nice if they added this service to their management console; I'm lazy.
1 point by BenjieGillam 1 day ago 0 replies      
Finally! I've been wanting this for AGES!
BankSimple Launches Preview Site banksimple.com
188 points by ssclafani 6 days ago   110 comments top 27
26 points by jakarta 6 days ago 5 replies      
I'm still trying to nail the business model here.

"BankSimple account plus BankSimple debit card replaces your existing personal bank account. Make deposits, withdraw cash, pay bills, earn interest, and more.

However, BankSimple is not a "bank." We partner with chartered banks who provide FDIC-insured products, leaving us free to concentrate on designing the complete consumer banking experience, via the web and your smartphone."

From the looks of it, it appears as if Bank Simple is going to be gathering deposits for the actual banks they partner with. In exchange, those deposits will be fenced in and administered by Bank Simple via the online and mobile presence.

The mention of debit cards at first made me think that maybe they would be able to split fees, so Bank Simple would get a cut of the interchange fees that occur whenever a debit card is used... but those fees will go away because of the Durbin Amendment (this is putting the squeeze on every major bank in the US and will result in an increase in fees for customers -- see Jamie Dimon's comments at the recent Barclays Conference).

Maybe the partner banks will split some of the interest they make off of the deposits? Presumably, Bank Simple's value proposition to them would be that they are providing something that is slightly more than zero cost funding but less than a CD rate. So they could earn a little bit in that area.

The only thing that is left then, that I could think of, is that Bank Simple will mainly try to make money by cross-selling products. Bank Simple Brokerage Accounts. Bank Simple Mutual Funds. Bank Simple Pre-Paid Debit Cards. That sort of thing, where they'd be able to gain market share. This would work out pretty well I think.

For reference, the average American uses 16 different financial products, with about 2 products per bank. A good bank like Wells Fargo boasts a ratio of 5.5-6 products per customer. Your typical bank earns its money on an 80/20 split, where 80% comes from the interest spread (borrow at 3%, lend at 6%, net 3%) and 20% comes from fees (overdraft, interchange, fees for other products). But a trust bank will have a 60/40 split, where they earn extra fees by offering wealth management services to the majority of their wealthy customers.

25 points by Lewisham 6 days ago 3 replies      
I'd pay for Mint + Bank in a single package. It looks great. However, it's hard not to be a little disconcerted when the "meet the team" bit doesn't have a single person who has any sort of financial title like "accounts manager" or anything. It's just a group of devs. That doesn't scream "we know finances" it screams "we know how to make web apps, hope you trust us with money too... it can't be that hard, right?"

Mint got away with this by simply being a front-end, and never touching your money. BankSimple should try a little harder to prove that it's not just a company that can identify why banks suck (not all that hard, really), but a company that can actually be relied upon to safely handle your money.

* I know that BankSimple are putting all your money into an FDIC bank, but as the intermediary and the company you are doing business with, the buck stops with them (pun somewhat intended)

8 points by spolsky 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm wondering how they got around the state banking laws requiring them to be a chartered bank if they want to use the word "Bank" in their name (for example, in New York, Banking Law Section 132). All the confusion in this forum as to whether they are actually a "bank" makes me think they may not yet have heard of these laws...
18 points by rms 6 days ago 5 replies      
In the meanwhile, I've been very happy with Charles Schwab's checking account. Free as in beer, you're allowed to overdraft with no overdraft fees, free ATM fees at all ATMs (including international!
7 points by Qz 6 days ago 3 replies      
The signup form doesn't work if you use autocomplete to enter your name and email address. Had to delete random letters and retype them to get the button to light up.
8 points by nathanwdavis 6 days ago 1 reply      
It's unclear what Bank Simple actually is. Hopefully (for their sake) it will be clear when they launch.
3 points by yummyfajitas 6 days ago 2 replies      
I'm just curious - what exactly is banksimple selling? Just regular banking + better UI?
2 points by simonista 6 days ago 2 replies      
Good work guys. A few text/spelling errors you might want to fix. On the careers page after clicking for more detail in the "smart and talented?" section, there are about 5 places where two words are getting smushed together. Maybe a line break problem or something. And then in the thank you email after signing up, the first line, "thank you requesting ..." should be "thank you for requesting ..."
5 points by callmeed 6 days ago 1 reply      
My email has a . before the @ and was deemed invalid ...
2 points by joshuacc 6 days ago 0 replies      
Love the reference to Joseph Schumpeter in the debit card image. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Schumpeter
3 points by corin_ 6 days ago 0 replies      
Has been said before but: if it was available in the UK, I'd sign up in an instant.
1 point by marcamillion 6 days ago 0 replies      
I guess it is a testament to how messed up the banking industry is, that I actually dream (quite literally in my case) about the launch of this bank/site.

The most annoying thing is that I don't live in the US any more, so even when this launches I won't be able to partake - but I have been longing for tech entrepreneurs to take a stab at some 'traditional' foundational businesses.

Banking is one of those things that really needs some TLC. Plus, there doesn't have to be branches.

We need a bank for tech entrepreneurs. Not just based in the US dammit.

2 points by arithmetic 6 days ago 0 replies      
I love the UI for signing up for an account (the bank check-like interface). That's a nice touch.
1 point by irons 6 days ago 0 replies      
The first time I connected, Safari 5.0.3 threw an invalid-issuer SSL warning. Can't seem to reproduce it, though.
2 points by csomar 6 days ago 1 reply      
Is this going to support third-world countries? Will I be able to sign up and get the card and bank account running?
1 point by vamsee 6 days ago 0 replies      
Ok, probably this might be a bit beside the point, but I really liked the red-tinted logo. The new blue one looks boring. I'm guessing "blue signifies stability" or some reasoning for that, but still, the old logo looked much more distinctive.
1 point by jond2062 6 days ago 0 replies      
This bank "overlay" concept appears to be very similar to what SmartyPig (http://www.smartypig.com) has been doing for a couple years. The revenue model is slightly different (SmartyPig partners with retailers to offer cash back bonuses to customers if they convert their savings goal into a retailer gift card or load it on to the SmartyPig Cash Rewards Card), but the general model of leveraging existing banks for client deposits is the same. I will be interested to see how competitive BankSimple's interest rates are and if they can differentiate themselves in a meaningful way from the many great online banks that already exist (INGDirect, Ally, etc.).
2 points by Andrenid 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm very excited to see how this pans out. Even though i'm not a country they're going to support, if they do well it will set a good precedent and maybe we can finally see banking stirred up a bit. Banks are my most hated companies as a whole.
3 points by clofresh 6 days ago 1 reply      
SSL. Respect.
1 point by jamn 6 days ago 1 reply      
I got a message from BankSimple telling me that I was going to get an invite soon and asking me for feedback. I got really excited and responded with an e-mail, but never heard back from them. I'm not sure if I misinterpreted the original e-mail, but this was a huge letdown.

Did this happen to anyone else? In any case, best of luck to BankSimple. I can't wait to actually get to try the service. :)

2 points by julius 6 days ago 2 replies      
The site has an easter egg.
Keyboard navigation:
Try j,k,Esc,1-7

(its explained at the bottom of the page)

1 point by rkwz 6 days ago 0 replies      
Alex talks about BankSimple and more in this podcast.
2 points by benmccann 6 days ago 2 replies      
I like new design. Very cool. Good luck guys.
1 point by haribilalic 6 days ago 0 replies      
I understand it's not the only thing behind BankSimple, but I'd love to see that UI on top of my current Internet banking.
3 points by jaywalker 6 days ago 0 replies      
Only for the US
1 point by muffinman2010 6 days ago 0 replies      
Looks great, but scrolling is choppy on my computer
1 point by x0ner 6 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone else having issues signing up for the beta?
       cached 7 December 2010 16:04:01 GMT