hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    23 Feb 2011 Best
home   ask   best   8 years ago   
Money Won't Buy You Health Insurance nytimes.com
530 points by epall 1 day ago   393 comments top 43
184 points by acabal 1 day ago replies      
This really highlights how utterly insane our system is. I'm living off of my own business, which means that I don't have an employer to cover me under group insurance. But I really only make enough to live frugally and save a tiny amount each month--to me, an affordable health insurance plan would be between $50-$100 a month.

Fat chance of that happening. And if it did, the deductible would be so high as to make the plan worthless for anything short of a car-crash-emergency-type-situation.

But not only would it not happen at that price, but as the article says, it wouldn't happen period--even though I'm a healthy, nonsmoking, active 26-year-old male, I've had cubital tunnel problems in the past (typing) and surgery on my wrist (badly broken in an accident). If I applied, I would surely be denied--and again, as the article states, if you're denied once, your chances of being accepted in the future just dropped by a big percentage.

It literally makes more financial sense for me to pay minor expenses out of pocket and declare bankruptcy in the chance of crippling bills than to be insured.

Healthcare in America is utterly, utterly broken; it's damaging poor, middle-class, and rich people alike, and stifling innovation. I have the ability to innovate with my company because I'm young, single, and healthy; but many smart people have existing medical problems, families, or other factors that make them indentured servants to the company that pays their healthcare. As a nation we're under the thumb of the insurance companies, and instead of doing anything serious about it, we've done almost the worst possible option: require every one of us to be a customer of these monstrous companies, with little regulation on cost or other government oversight. I'm the first person to back health insurance reform, but we've reformed it in the name of shoveling more money into the pockets of industry instead of for regular people needing real care.

It's crap like this that's compelling me to make my current expat lifestyle permanent. America might still get the tax dollars my business generates (the only country to still tax you if you live abroad) but it won't get my brain or my talent within its borders.

83 points by SandB0x 1 day ago replies      
I would have died at the age of 19 if it weren't for the help of the UK's National Health Service. My parents and I didn't have to worry about hospital bills, future insurance issues, being tied to a job, any of that crap. Just get some rest, get better, go out there and be productive again. The American system looks like a horrible joke from over here. I just can't understand any of it.
81 points by krschultz 1 day ago replies      
The subtle but crazy part about this is at the bottom when it details the author: "Donna Dubinsky, a co-founder of Palm Computer and Handspring, is the chief executive of a computer software company."

I'm going to go out on a limb and say money is not an issue for Donna, yet she still can't even buy insurance if she wants to. I've always thought healthcare access was a bigger hurdle for entrepreneurs than tax rates. If I make a lot of money with my startup, great, I really could care less if I pay 15% or 40% of that to the gov't, because it will be a whole lot more than I make now. But not having health care insurance (or worse, having crappy insurance that denies you all the time like most individual plans do) is so damn risky it makes me afraid to step out on my own.

14 points by mrshoe 1 day ago 5 replies      
Can someone please explain to me why five thousand self employed people can't form a corporation together and get group insurance? Do shell corporations like that already exist?
13 points by ryanwaggoner 1 day ago 2 replies      
I'm no expert, but isn't this one of the major issues that the health care reform bill of 2010 is going to fix? Granted, it doesn't go into effect (for adults) until Jan 1, 2014, but I thought that insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage or charging higher rates based on pre-existing medical conditions. Am I mistaken?


6 points by SoftwareMaven 1 day ago 1 reply      
Health insurance is broken because the people who pay the bills (the insurance companies) are not the people receiving the services (patients).

If patients were actually paying the bills, they would be much more price-conscious and you would see price competition on that stupid-expensive MRI (for evidence, look at how much cheaper LASIK surgery has become and how much better it has become, yet insurance does not cover it).

Doctors, on the other hand, are far more concerned about making sure the people paying the bills are taken care of. The proof that you aren't the customer is the 90 minute wait that is expected when you see a doctor. What other industry would force their customer to wait that long after making an appointment? But, since you are not the customer, that's OK, isn't it.

Having had a gastric bypass, I will never be able to get insurance outside of a group plan. My wife can't get coverage for other reasons. One of my four kids can't get coverage, either. I'm 9 months into my COBRA for the start-up I'm working on. If we don't have a group plan in the next 6 months, I will have to bail on the company.

And our government can't even bother to have a real dialog on the subject. Pisses me off.

8 points by ajays 1 day ago 1 reply      
The irony is: the same Congresscritters who vote against universal health insurance get top-notch health insurance paid for by taxpayers: http://www.suite101.com/content/health-care-for-the-us-congr...

After 5 years of service, they get lifetime health insurance, the same as all federal employees and retirees:http://www.opm.gov/insure/retirees/index.asp?MainQuestionId=...

9 points by georgieporgie 1 day ago 5 replies      
I'm 35, single, and paying something like $120 per month for Blue Cross coverage that I found on ehealthinsurance. I've used them each time I've not been actively employed, and I've always found an acceptable deal.

Mind you, I took the high deductible route since I'm only concerned with catastrophic illness at right now. Also, the moment anything serious comes up, they can cleverly drop me, since they have ludicrous things on their forms like, "have you EVER received ANY medical treatment not listed on this form." It would be essentially impossible to answer that question unless writing about a newborn.

By the way, Blue Cross tried to ratchet up my rates last year. I went back to ehealthinsurance and found a plan for about 25% less than the exact same plan directly through Blue Cross. There is no loyalty incentive whatsoever.

17 points by nhangen 1 day ago 1 reply      
I left the Army where I had free healthcare for me and my family - I got spoiled. I really can't afford it now that I'm out and not with a big company. I've thought of going into the Reserves just to have the option to buy it again.

Healthcare really does suck.

6 points by _delirium 1 day ago 1 reply      
Does anyone have any experience with small-business health-care pools as an alternative to buying individual insurance? They've been talked about for a long time, and some states supposedly have programs for them, but I haven't heard much about how or if they work. Can you join one and get insurance at any sort of vaguely group-negotiated price with fewer of these kinds of problems?
5 points by tapp 1 day ago 0 replies      
> "If members of Congress feel so strongly about undoing this important legislation, perhaps we should stop providing them with health insurance. Let's credit their pay for the amount that has been paid by the taxpayers, and let them try to buy health insurance in the individual market...Health insurance reform might suddenly not seem to them like such a bad idea."

Hell yes. While we're at it, lawmakers should be required to do their own taxes at least once every few years as well.

In terms of systemic change, I think requiring our legislators to eat their own dogfood would do much more for our country than all of our disjointed attempts at campaign finance reform and the like.

5 points by tom_b 1 day ago 0 replies      
In the past three years, I have made significant career decisions based on the insurance costs and coverage of the employer.

In one case, I turned down what was clearly a great hacking gig with a hacker whose work I really respected. The root issue there was that not only was the position a lot less in salary than I was previously making (this was fine and known when I started looking into the job), but the huge cost of obtaining a private policy for myself and my family blew me away. I was quite naive and assume I would be paying a small multiple more (2x or 3x) but the numbers looked to be at least double that.

So, the cost of health insurance prevented me from taking a pay cut to do more interesting work. Of course, the employer was pretty strapped, if they had higher money to offer, I would have been all over it. The private health policy costs just took me by surprise.

9 points by gersh 1 day ago 0 replies      
The US government spends $793B on medicare & medicaid, and give $215B in tax deductions for health insurance. This total $1.008 trillion/yr on healthcare costs, which totals $3272/per capita/yr.

Japan spends $2249/per capita on healthcare. The UK spends $2317/per capita on healthcare. Sweden spends $2745/per capita/yr on healtchare. You get the idea.

You are already paying the government for healthcare. You pay higher taxes to offset the loses for the health insurance deduction. The IRS collects medicare along with the Social Security.

However, you don't get the healthcare you pay for. Instead, you have to pay again to actually get healthcare. In some countries, they call this a bribe. However, America has institutionalized it.

3 points by GFischer 1 day ago 1 reply      
So, people in the U.S. are billed an astronomical sum for a MRI, even with insurance?

The most expensive MRI bill for someone in the "mutualism" system here in Uruguay is U$ 100.

I tried to explain the Uruguayan "mutualist" socialist health system here:


"Mutual organisations do not have external shareholders - they are controlled by their members. Members may be users of the mutual, employees, other stakeholders or a combination of these Mutual organisations are either owned by and run in the interests of existing members, as is the case in building societies, cooperatives and friendly societies, or, as in many public services, owned on behalf of the wider community and run in the interests of the wider community"

A HN member compared them to credit unions, I think it's a valid analogy.

The mutualist system is always near bankruptcy and is perfectible (and the government is always meddling), but it doesn't bankrupt it's users and it kind of works (life expectancy here in Uruguay is the same as in the U.S.).

Edit - funnily, it seems it's very similar to the Japanese case (and MRI's cost U$ 98 there too):


3 points by mrkurt 1 day ago 1 reply      
> The difference is significant: my recent M.R.I. cost $1,300 at the “retail” rate, while the rate negotiated by the insurance company was $700.

The shocking thing is, if you get an MRI at a cash only diagnostics facility it can cost as little as $300.

11 points by Dramatize 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm glad we don't have these issues in Australia. The American healthcare system would be one of the only reasons not to move there to start a business.
9 points by coffeedrinker 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have my family on a $10,000 deductible per person ($30,000 for family). That still costs over $500/month.

Unless you have cancer, heart surgery, or some other major thing, and are in good health you'll save far more over buying a lower deductible plan.

We used to have reasonable insurance, but the annual increases have been enormous, without any claims.

More people will drop insurance, leaving the companies with only the sick, if they keep pushing younger, healthier people out of the system.

4 points by hnl2sea2nrt 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've had some luck with hacking my family's healthcare expenses in the last couple of years. I am a healthy 26 y/o with a wife and son. We were living in Seattle and healthcare was the most expensive when I was employed full-time and my wife was pregnant.

Luckily, the company nearly tanked and let me go along with my entire department. I've been a self-employed consultant since then (almost 3 years) and went without insurance for about a year just so I could afford to pay for my wife and kid.

Then I figured out some hacks. I found a startup health practice called Qliance in Seattle which Michael Dell, Jeff Bezos and Drew Carey have funded (nice article about it here: http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2010/04/jeff_bezos_michael_...).

For about $50/month each for my wife and I and $40 for my kid (total of ~$140) were able to see a doctor any time we wanted for non-emergencies without co-pays.

I can't tell you how much weight this was off my back. Staff was friendly, service was great, modern offices, experienced doctors. Couldn't have asked for more. We got a high deductible family plan along with it which added about $200 to the costs. If you are in the Seattle area and are self-employed, this is probably your best option.

The second hack was that we moved to Japan about a year ago. As others have mentioned, they have a very consumer-friendly system over here. I had a big health scare when we first moved which required lots of medication and several doctor visits, but it didn't set us back more than a couple hundred bucks.

I'm really worried about moving back to the US now. I hope things get better before we move back in a couple of years.

2 points by hartror 1 day ago 2 replies      
I might be living in a socialist paradise (Australia) or some thing but my last visit to the doctor (broken toe) was free.

I am truly horrified by the state of the US health system, sure Australia's might be a bit messed up at times but it is so much better than what Americans have to deal with.

Move your startup to Australia! Seriously, cheap/free heathcare for minor->medium problems (the bad stuff is still going to throw up some major bills but not bankruptcy worthy). As a plus we have a superior economy right now, better living standards and hot women.

Not sure the state of the laws regarding Americans access to our healthcare but worth a look.

5 points by health-anon 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm an entrepreneur with a wife and son. I'm 23. We pay $360/mo for individual insurance and it is pretty crappy. The deductible is high and there are several "up-front" visits, which means the first X times we go to the doctor the insurance pays nothing and deducts one of our up-front visits. Each of us have X of these, so the first X times wife goes in, and then the same for me, they are not taken from the same pool. This accumulates to several hundred dollars of visits before insurance pays for anything, and then we still have the deductible to churn through, and they've applied regular visits to that as well.

We're struggling to make ends meet here; our clients are good and we're trying to build a steadier base, but the pay is irregular and sometimes we have trouble meeting monthly obligations.

They make it such a hassle to do anything and they rip us off so hard (providers and insurers alike) that we usually just don't pay our medical bills except what we have to pay up-front. It's too much crap to deal with, the insurance always makes up a reason not to cover things, and it's absurdly expensive. Every time we have tried to pay the people have come back saying we'd owe literally 10x more than they we were originally told we would owe. It's just not worth the headache or the hassle, much easier to silence unrecognized numbers from bill collectors and let their corrupt and evil system rot in on itself.

We don't really have the option of not getting health care and dying, we don't go to the doctor for fun, we only go when we have to.

2 points by harold 1 day ago 1 reply      
My wife and I are healthy. But we've seen our rates more than double in the last year. I've heard many stories like the one referenced in the article where healthy people are having hard time even finding insurance.

A friend (a plumber) told me the other day that he was really struggling to afford insurance for his family because his premiums had more than doubled as well. He said he had incurred 3 rate increases in 3 months.

I'm just curious how many people have seen any benefit yet from health care reform? I know most of it doesn't go into effect until 2014. But something is seriously out of whack here.

2 points by zmmmmm 1 day ago 0 replies      
The cost of healthcare and college basically scared me away from migrating to the US. It's a definite trade off but here in Australia, having paid off my house, I can live almost free of overheads. It is incredibly liberating to get up in the morning and know I can go to work on my own business without worrying that some freak accident or illness will destroy me financially.

On the other hand, I do think that the lack of these other costs is one reason that we have some of the highest house prices in the world. When you take away these other costs people just devote their disposable income elsewhere. Even so, I think it's better used that way than paying executives in health insurance companies.

2 points by sportsTAKES 1 day ago 2 replies      
I find it absolutely impossible to believe that her coverage was denied for the reasons she described - I have been approved for and paid for my own insurance for years (including my family's insurance) with medical issues far more serious than those.

I concede that the system is totally messed up and the new health care bill makes it even worse.

Employers shouldn't be required to provide health benefits - eliminate the necessity of group plans.

Open up the state lines, allow insurance companies to compete for your business and watch prices drop dramatically. I'm certainly in favor of some basic oversight but not the egregiously burdensome regulation of the current system.

Anecdotally speaking, I have several friends, colleagues and family from various backgrounds that are doctors and nurses in different states and I have yet to find one of them that agrees the new health care bill is a good idea. They all think it dramatically complicate how they treat patients and ultimately marginalize the overall quality of care they will be able to provide. (Again, this is anecdotal but has definitely influenced my opinion. I have been shocked to find out that not one of these people I know actually support the new bill. Having said that, I know there are those that agree with the new bill.)

4 points by herf 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Group of 2" in California can be husband and wife. (We did this, because the plans are better, the rates are better, and they can't limit you based on pre-existing conditions.) Just make a partnership and pay the state taxes annually (ugh).
2 points by ck2 1 day ago 0 replies      
I just wish her report include some mention of WHAT the new legislation will in reality do for her?

Because I suspect it will do little for serious health problems. IF they can pay for it, all it will do is prevent the insurance companies dropping her when she gets sick someday or stop paying out when they hit a limit like on cancer.

I say that's not a lot because they ARE allowed to raise the premiums so high that the patient has to drop the insurance on their own because there's no way to for it.

So the legislation is useless for the serious stuff.

6 points by andrewpbrett1 1 day ago 0 replies      
Shameless plug: I'm working on a startup that, while it won't be able to directly fix people being denied coverage, will hopefully help people to understand their coverage a bit better. http://cakehealth.com. Not yet open to all but you can sign up if that sounds interesting to you. We <3 beta users.

And on a related note, I have noprocrast enabled so apologies for the n00b-looking account, real uid = andrewpbrett. Someone alerted me that this was being discussed.

2 points by thinkingeric 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Something to add to the discussion: She says "my recent M.R.I. cost $1,300 at the “retail” rate, while the rate negotiated by the insurance company was $700."

I have insurance and the insurance company (BCBS) will only pay what it thinks is appropriate for a service, not some negotiated rate. That is, if the doctor, hospital, or lab says that it costs $1,300, but the insurance company wants to pay $700, I'm stuck for the other $600. The result is that in order to meet the high deductible (at which point I no longer have to pay out of pocket like this), I pay way beyond the amount of the deductible since only the approved rates are applied. In practice, I end up paying out 175% or more of the deductible amount.

I suspect that our experience will soon become the norm, if its not already.

4 points by jjcc 1 day ago 0 replies      
I used to be a long-time believer of free market. But for health care and Education system things are quite different. All the participants taking care of their own interest doesn't mean the interest of the whole society will be maximized. Some poor countries might be better than the States. Believe or not, check the healthcare of Cuba!
1 point by imechura 9 hours ago 0 replies      
the problem in this country is that not enough people are paying for their own health care or insurance.

Some people are getting medicare others are getting medicaid, others have benefits from the VA or a government job. Others get it from unions or employers. Only the people who are responsible for paying their own bills truly understand the state of our health care industry.

Because of that it is always someone else's problem and no one really minds paying 48k for 2 nights of saline drip in the hospital when the only cost to them is the 500.00 deductible. The hospital collecting the 48k certainly does not want that to change neither do any of the other predators in that food chain.

Put a high tax on employer sponsored insurance plans so that all employers stop offering it as a benefit. Then we will see real reform.

1 point by ChristianMarks 1 day ago 0 replies      
I couldn't get surgery approved on my employer's health insurance. I eventually decided not to let that stop me from changing jobs and doing what I wanted to do, despite not being able to afford surgery out of pocket and despite an inferior choice of health insurance plans. I suppose I could emigrate to England if all else fails. I can do this as my mother was a British citizen otherwise than by descent, though it is an involved process.

The present system is designed to impose a huge negative externality on would-be entrepreneurs and others who might have left their jobs to pursue other opportunities. And you are subsidizing the profits of the industries that benefit from the relative immobility of labor. That negative externality you pay is someone else's subsidy. If it were up to me, I'd rather pay into a universal health care system than pay the negative externality to stay tied to an employer on account of health care coverage.

Another negative externality is the administrative burden imposed on companies to handle employee health care.

2 points by quattrofan 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I went down this path myself, the company I was with in California went under and I had ended up consulting, COBRA runs out after 6 mos so I decided to buy some health insurance and I got denied. The reason being that years previously I had "asked" a consultant about a procedure that I never actually went ahead with and that was in my records which they dug up.

I moved back to the UK and now enjoy the wonders of the NHS and this was one of the biggest reasons I left since I really didn't want to lose my house to pay medical bills if I got seriously ill.

2 points by ashbrahma 1 day ago 1 reply      
Countries like India, Malaysia are starting to see a boom in Medical Tourism. It costs approximately $4500 for a open heart surgery at the best hospitals compared to $15-$20K in the US.


2 points by sabat 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm an example -- I have private health insurance out of necessity. It was an arduous process, and I'm lucky to have managed to get it -- even though I'm healthy. If I had so much as one serious problem, I'm convinced I would have been turned down.

It is broken. Seriously broken.

1 point by Uhhrrr 1 day ago 1 reply      
The article does not mention that money _can_ buy you health _care_. Given this, there should be market opportunity for a company which courts the supposed legions of people denied for picayune reasons.
1 point by ylem 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was in France not too long ago and had to go to the emergency room for stitches. The wait was not much longer than in the US--we started talking about payment (I didn't have my insurance card on me...doh!. Finally, I asked them what the bill was--around 20 Euro. I paid cash...I talked to a doctor on the bus ride back and part of it is a combination of low malpractice suits (I think a minor part) , taxes, and the fact that doctor salaries are much lower than they are here in the US...

I agree that the system is broke here.

1 point by rms 23 hours ago 0 replies      
When I am back in the USA next month, I am planning on cancelling my virtually worthless health insurance ($90/month) and signing up for cryonics ($30/month).
1 point by danbmil99 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Can anyone shed some light on the oft-repeated "let them compete across state lines" conservative argument? Is there any chance that less regulation could actually foster some healthy competition?
2 points by jasongullickson 1 day ago 1 reply      
Sounds like an industry ripe with opportunity for the right hacker.
1 point by yaix 22 hours ago 0 replies      
It is broken ...and expensive.

My health insurance (not from US) has worldwide 100% coverage, except for the US. To get a US coverage, I would have to double what I am paying now.

The US health system is twice as expensive as any other health system in the world.

1 point by scottshapiro 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's simple. The US needs to stop subsidizing the bad calories (i.e. sweetners and hydrogenated oils) and enabling the treatments (i.e. dialysis, statins) that treat resulting diseases of civilization (i.e. diabetes, heart disease).
1 point by theoj 1 day ago 1 reply      
Link without registration: <removed>

Edit: Apparently you need to go through Google for this to work. See comment below.

-1 point by jacoblyles 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Ug, this kind of article brings out the worst in Hacker News. Less like this, please. I can get this on reddit.
24 points by jacobolus 1 day ago 3 replies      
> That makes it a political article.

Expressing political opinions has been the entire point of the New York Times's op-ed page for 40 years. What did you expect?

An Open Letter to Apple on the Readability App rejection readability.com
468 points by bensummers 1 day ago   198 comments top 35
148 points by Niten 1 day ago replies      
> To be clear, we believe you have every right to push forward such a policy. In our view, it's your hardware and your channel and you can put forth any policy you like.

It isn't Apple's hardware; let us not forget the hardware belongs to the people buying the iPhones and iPads out there. Apple's enforcement of what can and can not run on these devices is not some fundamental property right, but an artificial construct.

16 points by mjfern 1 day ago 4 replies      
I posted this to my blog a few days ago, but I think it's worth repeating here because it applies directly to this open letter:

While apps and content are just break even businesses for Apple, they are instrumental to the company's financial success. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad are each technology platforms that bring together consumers, apps, and content. The value of each platform (iPod, iPhone, and iPad) to consumers hinges on the availability of apps and content; and the value of each platform to app developers and content publishers hinges on the number of consumers that have adopted the platform.

In short, there is a virtuous circle in effect; hardware sales to consumers attract more app developers and content publishers, and more apps and content drive more hardware sales to consumers.

Apple's new subscription model might strain or even break this virtuous circle. First, since Apple is only requesting 30% of revenues if content is subscribed to through iTunes it will likely cause content publishers to encourage consumers to bypass iTunes and purchase content directly. Over time this may reduce the relevance and significance of iTunes. Second, this 30% cut will compel app developers and content publishers to find alternative, less-expensive distribution channels. Google is the natural alternative given Android and the Android Market, and the company has already launched the “One Pass” payment system, which charges a lower fee (10%).

If this new subscription model is potentially damaging to Apple's financial success, then what's motivating Apple to launch such a model?

It's possible, though very unlikely, that Apple failed to consider the implications of the model and the strain it would place on app developers and content publishers. A second, more likely scenario is that this subscription model reflects efforts by Apple to generate greater revenues and profits from its apps and content business. A third likely scenario is that Apple is trying to create barriers to entry for competing distribution platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon, which will find it cost prohibitive to offer their service through iTunes given the 30% in fees. These barriers may give Apple time to further develop its own content distribution business. The immediate risk that content publishers will turn en masse to Android is low given the delay of Android-based tablets and other connected devices (e.g., connected TVs).

This subscription model may boost iTunes revenues and profits, and it may create a barrier to entry for competing distribution platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon. That said, I believe this move is a strategic mistake. There may be some short-term benefits to Apple, but overall it will strain the company's relationship with app developers and content publishers. Over time this will reduce the selection of apps and content available via iTunes, reducing the value of Apple products to consumers, thus putting downward pressure on hardware sales. In the meantime, partners and resources will migrate away from Apple, towards Android. Over time this will add further energy to Android adoption for app developers, content publishers, consumers, and hardware producers. Android is already emerging as a force in smartphones. With the launch of Motorola's Xoom and other tablets, Android will soon gain significant share in the tablet market as well.

27 points by nika 1 day ago 2 replies      
I think it is worth noting, because everyone seems to have forgotten, that this has always been the rule. I remember it from the very first reading of the terms and conditions (back when they were under NDA).

It has always been against AppStore rules to monetize apps outside of the AppStore. Apple has been lax in enforcing it, primarily because Apple didn't offer a subscription mechanism.

Now they offer a mechanism, and so now people can comply with the rule, and so now they are enforcing it.

28 points by statictype 1 day ago 1 reply      
Perhaps this will be the one that gets enough publicity to make Apple come to their senses and see the collateral damage being caused by their War on Amazon.
21 points by OpieCunningham 1 day ago replies      
If I understand Readability's issue, it breaks down like this:

What they want:
For a $1 subscription fee, Readability keeps $0.30 and the publisher/writer of the articles viewed through that $1 sub get $0.70

What Apple requires:
For a $1 subscription fee, Apple keeps $0.30, Readability then has the option of keeping $0.30 (30% of $1) or $0.21 (30% of the remainder after Apple's cut) and then the publisher/writer gets either $0.40 or $0.49, respectively.

Why does Readability feel they deserve $0.30 but Apple doesn't? If Apple doesn't deserve $0.30, shouldn't the publisher/writer get the full $1? Without the articles, Readability is worthless. Without Apple, Readability for iOS is worthless.

6 points by toast76 1 day ago 0 replies      
I picked up an iPhone 3GS when they came out with intent of developing iOS apps. Even at that time it was clear that playing in someone else's yard meant playing by their rules, and that it was highly likely that I wasn't going to like their rules. I decided to not make an app. Simple decision really.

A lot of developers are now complaining that they're getting burned by what is a reasonably obvious profit motive from Apple. They're not offering an app store because they're good guys. They're offering an app store to make money.

They take 30% of purchases. It only makes sense to take 30% of in-app purchases and related subscription services as well. Did anyone honestly believe that apple would fall for the ebay $0.90 purchase with $90 shipping fee-dodging trick? Letting subs through just opens the door for people to ship free apps with subscription "unlocks", thus cutting out Apple.

The simple fact is that Apple owns the mountain, and if you want to mine their gold you can expect to pay their taxes.

Of course the simple solution is to just build a web app (as these guys have done). Why restrict yourself to Apple's yard and Apple's rules when you can target every device without rules, without restrictions and without a 30% tax? The sooner ever developer realizes this the better off we'll all be.

12 points by jrockway 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wish these open letters said, "we are ebaying our iPhones, removing our other apps from the App Store, and switching to Android and Windows Mobile" instead of "we are going to change our business model just because the default icons you guys pick are so great".

Apple does not care about whiney letters. They might care if there are no more apps for or users of iOS.

14 points by kmfrk 1 day ago 3 replies      
I like to think of Apple's side of all the negative stories, but this time, I can't come up with a cogent excuse for what they are doing - save inept App Store policies/reviewers.

By this logic, flattr will never get a native iOS app. And when are Apple going to shut the Instapaper app down, when Marco decides to let his one-dollar monthly subscribers[1] receive premium benefits?

Apple really hates newspapers and magazines.

[1]: http://www.instapaper.com/subscription

16 points by petercooper 1 day ago 2 replies      
My satellite TV provider has an app I can only use if signed up to them. Do they now need to offer TV subscription through their app? What about the 37signals Campfire clients? Do they now need to offer Campfire subs via inapp purchase too?
17 points by jammur 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm fairly quick to defend Apple, because a lot of the flack they take is BS, but in this case I'm really struggling to find the upside.

Richard says that their 30% would account for a tiny sliver of Apple's overall revenue, but lots of tiny slivers start to add up eventually. The problem though, is that if the cost of those slivers is to drive the developers away from the App Store, then those slivers disappear. Considering that third party apps are possibly the most important feature of the platform, it doesn't seem like a smart idea.

The 30% cut on App sales is understandable, because software generally has high margins, but it doesn't sound like the same is true for content subscriptions. Maybe it's a case of trying to keep their policy too uniform (i.e 30% on everything)?

Does anyone know where the subscription content comes from? From my understanding, the subscription content will usually come from a third party, rather than Apple's CDN, so there's no marginal cost to Apple.

17 points by russnewcomer 1 day ago 2 replies      
I really don't understand Apple's moves here. They have a terrific platform, and much of the value of their platform comes from third-party apps. If app devs start leaving for WebOS or Android in droves, much of their traction is going to be lost. I think if they would have gone for 10% or 15% they wouldn't have gotten this kind of response.

I predict either reversals or abandonment of their platform. I still maintain that HP or RIM have a great opportunity here to announce that they are going to build app stores that are low fee for subscription apps. I think you'd definitely see a move there from numerous devs.

And I too worry that my beloved Instapaper may be going to face trouble soon as well.

4 points by ajays 1 day ago 1 reply      
I believe what Apple is trying to do is to head off the possibility of being scammed: app writers can give away their apps for free, but unlock the full potential only when you "buy" a (lifetime) subscription. This way the writer can keep 100% of the price of the app, instead of just 70%.

Do I agree with Apple? No. But I think this is where they're coming from.

16 points by maguay 1 day ago 1 reply      
If the subscriptions policy isn't the absolutely craziest move Apple's ever made, I don't know what is. iOS has converted me into an Apple fan, but not if stuff like this continues.
4 points by guelo 1 day ago 1 reply      
As a developer I made the decision a few years ago to move away from Apple's platforms because of their capriciousness, their extreme secrecy, and their lack of respect for their developers.

I don't know how people invest in their platforms, I'd be constantly scared that Apple would turn around and screw me over.

2 points by thought_alarm 1 day ago 0 replies      
The App Store does have the potential to drive a massive amount new business for an app like Readability. Apple believes they should be paid for that publishing and marketing service and it's hard to argue about that, particularly when comparing to the relative poor performance of other "app stores."

If the App Store fails to bring these developers new business then it doesn't cost the developers anything. If the App Store does bring them new business then it's up to the developers to weigh the cost of the App Store vs. the new business it brings.

Is 30% the right price? Ultimately the market will decide that, because if there's one thing this industry doesn't lack, it's competition.

4 points by nnutter 1 day ago 0 replies      
Apple, I bought an iPad because I could watch movies in Netflix and read bookmarks in Instapaper, news in Reeder, and books in Kindle. Please send each $37.50 (30% of the iPad sale shared four ways) to each developer for bringing you a customer.

Or, optionally, stop acting like you, as a middle man, provides more added value than the developers that make your platform so damn profitable.

P.S. WebOS still looks pretty damn nice.

4 points by damoncali 1 day ago 1 reply      
The reason this doesn't work is because Apple had to pick a number - 30%. For some businesses, that makes perfect sense. for others 1% or maybe 70% might make sense. But rigidly adhering to 30% (no doubt because of the massive complexity of the alternative) is going to cut lots of business out just because it doesn't make sense. Apple needs to rethink this - it's clumsy.
6 points by MartinCron 1 day ago 1 reply      
I haven't heard anything about this subscription model and Netflix. Will Netflix be able to continue to provide their iOS apps without giving a cut to apple? Seems crazy that they would have to.
2 points by joe_the_user 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm not impressed with anyone here...

Readability was trusting enough to release their code with a license which allowed Apple to put the code in their product and then freeze readability's product out of Apple's store.

And now the readability folks don't seem inclined to admit their trust was a might miss-placed.

But perhaps that's because the readability model is aiming for a kinder, gentler version of Apple's monopoly. They distributed a "product" that reworking website in a manner that steals the original site's advertising revenue. And then they "offer" to give the authors a different revenue source (along with "offering" a lack of choice concerning how their product is presented).

Edit: And problem with readability isn't in it just distributing a web-site-rewriter in itself but it doing that AND then asking revenues from content providers...

4 points by talbina 1 day ago 1 reply      
Why do these types of letters have to start with the headline "An Open Letter to...". If you're publishing it, it's obviously open.
5 points by kenjackson 1 day ago 0 replies      
DHH, if you're reading, is this what you were talking about?
2 points by T-hawk 1 day ago 0 replies      
We don't like it, but Apple's got every allowance and reason to do this. Either Readability will cave to Apple's pricing model, or somebody else will come in with the same technology and do so. Apple believes that the competitive position they have attained allows them to dictate pricing terms. The market will decide whether they are correct.

The only argument against Apple that holds water is abuse of monopolistic power, but I don't think that will fly given that the whole market of Android and Windows and other phones also exists.

6 points by EnderMB 1 day ago 6 replies      
This may be a stupid comment to make, but one I feel should be added to the conversation. Why are people so willing to develop for Apple when Android is now the larger platform, and has a far easier barrier to entry?
2 points by nhangen 1 day ago 0 replies      
I tend to agree with Apple's right to do this, but I can't tell if it's a genius move or a stupid move.

I think this move could further empower Apple, in as much as to put people like Rhapsody out of business. On the other hand, it makes sense to create a hospitable ecosystem, and right now it feels like they are carpet bombing what was once a nice place to hang out.

More of my thoughts here (podcast) http://bluerize.com/free-market-anarchy-020-apple-subscripti...

4 points by joebananas 1 day ago 1 reply      
So basically: "We totally think your policies are right and groovy, but please make an exception for us"?
2 points by lwhi 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think Apple may have decided to enforce an untenable rule, simply so it can be used as a reasonably large concession when the antitrust machinery slides into gear.

If you are going to be required to give up ground - you might as well grab all the ground you can prior to any punitive action.

2 points by tel 1 day ago 0 replies      
P.S. We'd we be glad to deliver Readability for iOS " with in-app purchasing " if you'd carve out 70% from your 30% fee and share it with writers and publishers, just as we do.

This will never happen, but if it did I'd be ecstatic. It could be a great PR move and really help Readability's goals to fund independent content producers online.

1 point by devin 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Avoiding a lot of the discussion here to make a quick but important observation: I suggested in a comment I believe I posted here months ago that Apple would add its "Reader" to the iOS platform.

This is a calculated move on Apple's part to make sure that when they deploys Safari Reader for the iPhone it is /their/ idea and not the folks at Readability.

Shame, shame, shame. I know you're name.

3 points by ascendant 1 day ago 0 replies      
Through all of this I wonder if they knew there'd be so much angst and now they will "concede" to something like 15% with that being their plan all along. When you make a policy that's really really really bad to then scale it back to just being really bad, people think they're getting a deal.
3 points by joshmanders 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't understand why Apple is putting themselves in this situation.. Bad for business. Apple HAD the market, then Google came along with Android, now they're being snobs and just forcing their own users to switch to Android powered phones just because of this exact thing. Shame really.
4 points by iPhone1 1 day ago 2 replies      
What a slap to the face. Apple uses their technology then tells them they can't use it themselves without offering in app purchases?!?!
1 point by sacrilicious 1 day ago 2 replies      
Believe you me, I want these guys to succeed as much as anyone else, but... wouldn't keeping the payment processing for subscriptions OUTSIDE of the iOS app solve the issue? I must be missing something critical to the functionality of the app?

There are no non-profit or even strictly business-related terms under the umbrella of the App Store as far as I know. There are no corporate/business iTunes purchasing accounts, no escalation to root-level privileges allowed for apps in the MacAppStore(postponing backup and other more powerful apps). This seems like another oversight on Apples part due to treating it as a lower priority.

And although they have every right to be proud of their achievements, it seems a bit like "you owe me" to remind Apple that they used the Apache-licensed Readability tech for Reader. Their proposed app could stand on its on.

1 point by trout 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't understand the legal ownership fuss of their decision. If they had decided to take 5% instead of 30% there would be no discussion here. The only difference between 5% and 30% appears to be whether or not it's a good business decision. It does alienate a number of applications that have less than 30% margin, but that appears to be Apple's motivation. I would not go so far to say this should be expected, but it's a risk you take when you play with a company that likes to own such a large portion of the experience.
0 points by jpwagner 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think they might have a point, but their ineffective communication style and adversarial tone will surely guarantee they are ignored this time around.
I'm a designer who learned Django and launched her first webapp in 6 weeks limedaring.com
471 points by limedaring 6 days ago   120 comments top 33
24 points by patio11 6 days ago 1 reply      
Congratulations on launching. It is always nice to see startups targeting that tiny niche market "the other half of the world."

Friendly advice from your neighborhood SEO: owning two sites in one vertical gives you cross promotion opportunities, particularly if one is more linkable than the other (gallery is more linkable than commercial offering). That said, I would give a lot of thought to consolidating your offerings into one site with two facets if you can do it without confusing customers.

35 points by kenjackson 6 days ago 7 replies      
The following really surprised me coming from a designer:
Build the web app first, then design it.It was tempting to build the entire interface first but I deliberately ignored the design until I had things 90% working. This got me to constantly work on the code before working on the "fun stuff", plus encouraged me to launch quickly since as soon as the code was finished, all I had to do was quickly "skin" it before getting it live with the assumption that I would be iterating on the design after it launches. Also, if I needed to abandon the project due to some insurmountable code problem, the time wasted wouldn't include the time spent on design.

I'm impressed that the site looks so good, with design being skinned on afterwards. Was it literally just divs, spans, and lists, and then you did the CSS in one fell swoop (well one fell-iterative swoop)?

15 points by sfphotoarts 6 days ago 2 replies      
"Nothing kills a new idea better than taking too much time on it."

I feel like this might be true of very simplistic ideas, I don't think it holds in any generally applicable form. Some ideas take time to fully germinate and flourish. Imagine if the original pyramid builder had put down the first level and 'launched'.

I think what is clear and of general applicability is that its important to launch at the right time. Some ideas are timely and need to be synchronized with what else is going on in the internet space. Some ideas are just ahead of their time and premature launch is a waste. Some ideas come too late. Like bringing out a faster fax machine now vs 10 years ago.

The idea that startups should be a frenzy of quickly thrown together systems only holds because they are built using tools that are solid and robust.

That said, your site looks fabulous, it has all the charm and modern design of tumblr and the right colors, the right voice and just a great looking site.

22 points by geuis 6 days ago 1 reply      
Tracy is one of the best designers I've ever met and incredibly driven. When we were working on WeddingType (I was her cofounder) and trying to get into YC, she jumped head-first into learning to use Django and Python. I'm very happy to see her latest project, it looks wonderful!
6 points by jeromec 6 days ago 1 reply      
Fascinating to read from the opposite view! It's my belief that the better someone is at designing the worse they are at programming, and vice versa; I think your designing is fantastic, so I can imagine how hard getting technical must have been. Great job! I also notice some popular themes from HN, such as pivoting and getting MVPs out the door fast in your strategy, so nicely done again!

I think you're thoughts on monetizing are right. However, I'd add a couple suggestions. You fit 9 huge designer samples on the front page. I'd shrink those a bit and add a "Featured Designers" section over the standard designers area on the front page which you can charge a premium for. Next, if the picture samples are small enough like here (http://www.weddinginvitelove.com/profiles/little-green-chair...) you have great ad space on the right side of the page. You can geo target visitors location by IP address and charge a premium to local florists, halls, and other wedding related services. Good luck!

6 points by kingkilr 6 days ago 0 replies      
Things like this make me inordinately proud to contribute to open source (in this case Django). Whenever someone launches something I hope that some small part of what I've done made their job of building something cool easier, be it a designer building her first web app, a startup launching their product, or a journalist building a Pulitzer prize winning site.
14 points by limedaring 6 days ago 4 replies      
I would love feedback about the product and any interesting ideas about growing/monetizing. Thanks HN! :)
11 points by bdclimber14 6 days ago 2 replies      
You hardly hear of things going the other way. "I'm a developer who learned how to make sexy designs and launched something that looks good in 6 weeks." Good job.
4 points by dablya 6 days ago 1 reply      
"If you're learning a new language, don't do tutorials verbatim " take what they're teaching, apply it to a different product, and you will learn a lot faster."

By the time you're done researching how to apply the concept to a slightly different problem, you've learned much more than the tutorial is covering.

What about going the other way? I'm a developer that is intimidated by any kind of ui design... What do I do?

13 points by tudorizer 6 days ago 2 replies      
It's a pretty good thing you did there: improving your weakness in coding and leaving your strong points for later (design). Thumbs up for you. And your a girl, which makes your story even more awesome!
4 points by sheena 6 days ago 1 reply      
Congratulations from another fairly new programmer. :)

One UI suggestion: I find it clunky when a site forces me to choose from price ranges that don't overlap (e.g. $5 to 10, $10 to $15, etc.). Generally people making purchasing decisions aren't thinking in terms of those kinds of ranges; they simply have a maximum budget in mind. I think it's better to allow users to specify "under $5", "under $10", etc. so that each successive group includes the previous groups. I realize there may be a case for trying to get customers to purchase the most expensive item they're willing to purchase, but more often than not having to click each range separately just annoys me and I leave the page.

3 points by autalpha 6 days ago 1 reply      
Congratulations on your success. The site demonstrates a lot of your characters and it's all looking good :)

My (sincere) question is regarding the help you had. I noticed you credited extensively to a few folks and your boyfriend. Other than Django/Python, there's also server setup (BitCould?)--did you do that yourself as well? Did you work on this full time for 6 weeks or was this an after 9-5 hours project?

I don't mean to pry; just simply want other folks out there who are also self-taught and are working on their own projects to understand the extend of your hard work with great assistance from experts in achieving this great result. In other words, could you explain the "magic" a bit so we can have a deeper understanding of your process?

A lot of time, people gloss over the hard work parts and in some way that perpetuates a misunderstanding which says: "it's easy to create something good." I don't that is the case. Even in The Social Network, Zuck seems to somehow create Facemash or even Facebook in matters of hours while drinking beer. But I digress.

Thank you for sharing.

1 point by rokhayakebe 6 days ago 2 replies      
I have a product in the works very similar to your original idea with a focus on businesses.

The directory is good, but it limits your potential unless you expand beyond wedding and include more events (Birthdays, Graduations, etc...). By sending visitors to other websites, you are also letting go of some of your revenue.

I decided to try offering templates (the whole set: business card, LH, ENV, etc..) instead and I think LD can do a great job here for Events. You can differentiate yourself by providing great artwork users can edit on their computer (pdf, ai, psd), or they can also pay you to edit documents properly.

Templates are scalable. Write once, distribute many times. You can also change the price as you please and sell them on your site, the designers' site, inkd.com, graphicriver.net and even through other design-related websites.

I would like to see a site that offers templates with a focus on events. They would have me covered from wedding, to baby shower, to birthday celebration, to girls night out. Basically all things fun. I think this is one area where LimeDaring could do very well. Show me where I can get great document design done for my events, but even better actually be the place where I can actually get them.

2 points by bambax 5 days ago 1 reply      
Paris (France) is listed in the available cities, but there are no results...? (Why list it then?)
1 point by kmfrk 6 days ago 1 reply      
If you're single, you should totally go on a date with this guy: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1891187.

Great job on the site. I prefer to delude myself into believing that you accomplished this so fast because you already had a viable MVP, but a part of me still thinks that you're superhuman.

1 point by bemmu 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'd like to learn the design side more. How did you come up with the nice color scheme for the site, just gut feeling?

I've heard recommendations of sites like http://colorschemedesigner.com/ but if I plug in your maroon flush color from behind "Inky Livie's Workshop", I can't get color scheme designer to recommend any of your other colors no matter which setting I choose.

2 points by philfreo 6 days ago 1 reply      
Minor, but you should rename the big button on your apps homepage from "Submit" to "Search"
1 point by docgnome 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. Thanks for posting this! Besides being interesting, it has inspired me to go pick up a personal project I've sort of abandoned! I'm really hoping to get it working enough to do a Show HN post for some feedback. Thanks! :-)
2 points by joh6nn 6 days ago 1 reply      
how much programming experience did you have before you started?
1 point by jefe78 6 days ago 1 reply      
My company has two people learning Django right now(including myself). Do you have any recommendations for learning resources? One person is used to working with frameworks, I'm not.

What was your take on the learning curve?

1 point by NxguiGui 6 days ago 0 replies      
Great. Is always good for designers to look under the hood of apps then apply function over form.
But i am concerned deeply that startup mania is looking for the mantra "Do it first than think how to monetize".
It must be opposite. Think about business idea or how to make value for someone than make something.
On the other side.
I have similar experience with my developers they were so proud of them selves and start to think that i am stupid because i am designer and don't know nothing about programming. After a year dedication what a surprise 
- now they don't mess around::)) 
Programming is not for every designer, but if one can put an effort and be persistent it pays big in t he end.
1 point by tsycho 5 days ago 1 reply      
Minor.....but in your About page, the "Get listed..." and "Search for...." buttons would look better if they were vertically aligned.
I am using Chrome on Windows.
2 points by jasonlynes 5 days ago 1 reply      
any insight as to your YC interview? anything you'd do differently? was your lack of hacking experience part of why you were turned down? advice for those who get an interview on how to survive it?
2 points by expertio 6 days ago 0 replies      
It's just so inspiring to read this kind of stories.
We are kind of doing the same thing, bootstrap from nothing.
I wish there is more help out there for people like us.
1 point by eurohacker 5 days ago 1 reply      
hey, you learned the Django so fast,

did you know any other programming language before learning Django - like PHP,

did you know CSS/html before learning Django

isnt PHP easier to learn ?

2 points by joecasper 6 days ago 0 replies      
Beautiful site. Congrats on the launch and getting up to speed so quickly with Django and Python. All of the resources you mentioned are excellent for anyone trying to learn Django/Python.
1 point by will_lam 6 days ago 0 replies      
That's awesome - definitely helps if you've got the help of @shazow lol. Definitely inspired me to stop being such a whiney bitch and just LEARN. Thanks for sharing!
2 points by eaxitect 6 days ago 0 replies      
wow!...amazing works, I agree the key is to launch fast...
1 point by cavilling_elite 6 days ago 0 replies      
The site looks amazing. I sent it to my gf who is just finishing up restoring a Kelsey Excelsior letterpress for this exact purpose.
1 point by sushumna 6 days ago 0 replies      
Good Job !! Very nice design. All the best.
1 point by _corbett 5 days ago 0 replies      
nice work!
1 point by nithyad 5 days ago 0 replies      
Congratulations girl!
2 points by jsmo 6 days ago 0 replies      
way to go!
Don't waste your time by cd-ing in the terminal huyng.com
438 points by siim 4 days ago   118 comments top 34
31 points by alanh 4 days ago 3 replies      
I like this workflow better:

1. Go to the directory in question

2. Type "save nm" where "nm" is any short name for the directory, like "blog" or "blg"

3. From now on, type "cd nm" whenever you want to go there.

No session restart required, even.

I copied the code that enables this workflow from http://dotfiles.org/~jacqui/.bashrc
(or was it https://gist.github.com/117528)

The idea is discussed here: http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=2002071600512379...

58 points by mtrn 4 days ago 5 replies      
Don't waste your time bookmarking directories, jump right to them ;) https://github.com/rupa/z

`z` tracks your most used directories. After a short learning phase, it will take you to the directory, based on its usage frequency and a hint you give it on the command line. Say I am often cd'ing into /var/www - then after a while I can just type `z ww`.

15 points by julian37 4 days ago 2 replies      
Yet another time saver: if you need to execute only a single command in another directory, use:

  (cd /path; command)

This will cd to /path, run command, but return you to your original working directory. This works because the parens create a sub-process, and the cd command only affects that sub-process.

38 points by huyegn 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hey Guys,

This is my blog.

FWIW, I've actually switched away from using the script mentioned in the link posted by OP and have moved towards using an improved version below.


This new version has 3 commands:

    - "s" for save current directory as a bookmark
- "g" for jump to bookmark's directory
- "l" for list all bookmarks.

11 points by cldwalker 3 days ago 1 reply      
Why is a home-rolled cd script interesting when there are many more mature, feature-rich cd-tools out there?

* http://www.skamphausen.de/cgi-bin/ska/CDargs

* http://micans.org/apparix/

* http://github.com/joelthelion/autojump

* http://github.com/rupa/z

* http://github.com/flavio/jump

Also, the title is misleading. I thought it was actually a commandline tool that removed the need to cd most of the time, like lightning: http://tagaholic.me/2010/04/08/lightning-speed-for-your-shel...

10 points by bretthopper 4 days ago 4 replies      
No mention of ZSH directory stacks yet? http://www.acm.uiuc.edu/workshops/zsh/dir_stack.html

Some helpful aliases to manage them:

alias 1='cd -1'

alias 2='cd -2'

alias 3='cd -3'

alias 4='cd -4'

alias 5='cd -5'

alias 6='cd -6'

alias 7='cd -7'

alias d='dirs -v'

alias h='history'

alias j='jobs'

Just one of the many reasons to use ZSH.

17 points by substack 4 days ago 1 reply      
There's also the pushd and popd commands which are part of bash already.

And there's a wikipedia entry for this even: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pushd_and_popd

12 points by philikon 4 days ago 4 replies      
I first was excited by title "Don't waste your time by cd-ing in the terminal", but then it just turned out to be a blog post about making cd'ing quicker. If you want to boost your productivity, my advice is to stop cd'ing altogether.

I see a lot of people -- particularly vi users -- cd'ing back and forth through a large directory tree. I usually tell them to get a terminal emulator that lets you easily manage many terminals open. Open one per directory you want to operate in, for instance. Learn how to switch back and forth between the different shells.

But most importantly, don't quit the program to switch back and forth between directories and files. Learn to use your editor of choice properly: how to view directory listings, how to switch back and forth, etc. Vim can do this just fine btw. The choice of tool here doesn't matter so much. Just pick one and learn it. This applies to your choice of terminal emulator, shell, editor, etc.

5 points by aheilbut 4 days ago 6 replies      
I've also wondered to myself why there isn't a terminal program with a directory tree by the side so you could just click on the directory that you want to be in, instead of ls -cd-tab-blah-^H-tab-^M. It would also a have a list of favorite and most-recently-used directories.

A weekend project, perhaps...

4 points by telemachos 4 days ago 1 reply      
Another built-in worth knowing about is CDPATH.[1] I find that setting a sane CDPATH and bash-completion makes cd-ing anywhere I go regularly pretty trivial - just a few letters and a few TABs and I'm good to go.

[1] http://caliban.org/bash/#bashtips

12 points by kevinburke 4 days ago 4 replies      
7 points by xd 4 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe not as quick .. but `ctrl+r cd` gets me there quick enough and I don't have to remember what numeric shortcut is assigned to which directory.

Will give it a shot however, good effort.

6 points by gnubardt 4 days ago 1 reply      
Another time saver is to have a function that calls ls after cd'ing:

  c(){ cd "$@" && ls;}

This has probably saved me days over the years, as I almost always want to list a directory after I change into.

4 points by nevinera 4 days ago 0 replies      

    alias ba='vim ~/.bash_aliases; source ~/.bash_aliases'

Just make aliases for all the directories you go to a lot. I have twenty-something different aliases that start with 'cd'.

A bookmarking system seems like overkill to solve this problem.

3 points by noibl 4 days ago 0 replies      
I was just at the point of making a bunch of aliases for some long paths, to save my tab key from daily abuse. This is way more elegant. Thanks.
1 point by oemera 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for this awesome little script.
However I found out that bashmarks doesn't work with folders which have whitespaces in the name.

For example:

  cd /Users/username/Library/Application\ Support
s app_support

works great but if you do this it won't work:

  g app_support

I opened an issue on GitHub and after that I tried to fix it on my own. I never wrote a bash script and I'm really proud to have fixed this problem on my own.

Here are changes I made:

  # save current directory to bookmarks
touch ~/.sdirs
function s {
cat ~/.sdirs | grep -v "export DIR_$1=" > ~/.sdirs1
mv ~/.sdirs1 ~/.sdirs

escaped_path=${PWD/ /\\ }
echo "export DIR_$1=$escaped_path" >> ~/.sdirs

# jump to bookmark
function g {
source ~/.sdirs
path=$(eval $(echo echo $(echo \$DIR_$1)))

# replace whitespaces with "\ " for escaping
escaped_path=${path/ /\\ }
cd_eval="cd $escaped_path"

eval $cd_eval

Hope this helps you guys like it helped me.
And if there is a way to do this in an more elegant way, please let me know. This would help me to improve my none existing bash skills :D

Edit: I opened up a fork and commited all my changes to this repo. I also opened a pull request and I hope my fix will get accepted.

GitHub fork:



5 points by coenhyde 4 days ago 1 reply      
I use this function in my bash profile to navigate to my projects from anywhere on the file system.

  function to {
cd ~/Sites/$1/

eg. cd ~/Sites/coenhyde.com

$ to coenhyde.com

2 points by Groxx 4 days ago 0 replies      
A nice idea... I may end up using it, though a lot of my folders are the same name and I do like deterministic behavior.

In the meantime, this kicks the pants off separate Finder + Terminal action: http://decimus.net/DTerm/

1 point by rlpb 4 days ago 0 replies      
I use "m1=`pwd`" and then "cd $m1" for example. No setup required, although admittedly slightly more typing and the need to quote directories with spaces in them (rare for Unix sysadmin tasks for which I'm using a shell in the first place).
2 points by wanderr 3 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe it's just because I run a lot of the same commands and don't do a lot of development from the terminal, but I avoid cding at all usually and just type the full path. It svaes time over multiple sessions thanks to ctrl+r, and the commands in my history work no matter what dir I'm in.
1 point by sayemm 4 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting reading this because this is exactly why I love emacs, especially when I came across this tip a while ago: "Emacs: TRAMP + bookmarks = awesome", http://marc-abramowitz.com/archives/2006/03/12/emacs-tramp-b...

I'm always plugged in to my server with tramp and I've got multiple projects all bookmarked. It makes hopping around real easy, makes it feel like a browser more than an editor.

1 point by bluishgreen 4 days ago 0 replies      
Back in 2009 I described another version of this here: http://www.commandlinefu.com/commands/view/117/fast-access-t...
1 point by bherms 3 days ago 0 replies      
I use textexpander to keep from cd'ing everywhere... Just stick in a text expander snippet for directories I use a lot...

hwst - cd /usr/Brad/Desktop/Dropbox/Brad/howas.it/repos/howasit_alpha/

1 point by Jach 4 days ago 0 replies      
1 point by netghost 4 days ago 0 replies      
If you're a programmer, you may find Qwandry useful: github.com/adamsanderson/qwandry

Instead of trying to remember where all your libraries are located, it will just open them up for you. Great for trying to debug misbehaving code.

1 point by slowpoison 2 days ago 0 replies      
The suggestion about putting "mdump" in .bash_logout, to automatically save all your bookmarks on exiting shell, is really useful.
1 point by sever 3 days ago 0 replies      
I use the following scripts, both by Petar Marinov, they've saved me an enormous amount of keystrokes. One replaces CTRL-R history search, the other makes a much friendlier replacement for pushd and popd.



highly recommended.

1 point by clu3 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have usually a few dirs that i go back and forth frequently when coding, and I simply set them to my env. I add the following line to ~/.bashrc
export lib='/path/to/my/lib'
And 'cd $lib' will take me there. Very simple, and caters for most of my cd needs. Don't over-complicate things
1 point by philc 3 days ago 0 replies      
Additionally, try typing fewer characters when you cd in the general case:

I've been using this for a few years and it's been a joy.

2 points by charlieroot 3 days ago 2 replies      
1. How about we just learning to type fast(-er) and use file name completion

2. Use real shell like ksh, where history search actually works

3. cd $OLDPWD is occasionally helpful. Occasionally.


2 points by adsr 4 days ago 0 replies      
I manage with a combination of pushd/popd, cd - and terminal tabs most of the time.
1 point by pentarim 3 days ago 0 replies      
I cant remember my bookmarks so CTRL + R, then searching in history most of a time
1 point by jesstaa 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why not just use symlinks for your bookmarks?
pushd and popd are also useful.
-1 point by bretthellman 3 days ago 0 replies      
i wont
Why nothing can go faster than the speed of light reddit.com
418 points by danteembermage 2 days ago   221 comments top 29
119 points by chime 1 day ago replies      
For those not familiar with RobotRollCall (the author of the linked comment) check out his profile and other answers. He is one of the best contributors to AskScience and can explain almost any theoretical physics topic in understandable terms. People joke that he is actually Neil deGrasse Tyson and that he should really get this own column / talk show.
42 points by jazzychad 1 day ago 8 replies      
I found that the author gave a great setup for an explanation, and then balked at giving the actual answer.

> For right now, if you just believe that four-velocities can never stretch or shrink because that's just the way it is

In other words, nothing can go faster than the speed of light because that's the way it is? The author needs to explain why the magnitude of this four-velocity vector is the speed of light! I was hooked after the first few paragraphs, but then felt like it dead-ended in a circular argument.

8 points by jerf 1 day ago 0 replies      
Another way to look at it that is arguably simpler (and with greater loss, of course): Imagine the XY plane with every point described by integers in both X and Y marked. That is, (0, 0), (1, 4), (-2, -5), etc. Connect each of them to their four neighbors with a line segment. Now suppose you are at (3, 4) and you want to move to (4, 5), and you may only use the lines given to you. You move to the right, you move up, you're there. And you can move the other way, too, all the line segments are bi-directional.

That works in space; that does not work in time. You can't stop moving or change direction in time. You can put X and Y on that grid and have something meaningful, but you can't say it's X and T; that would imply the ability to freely move back in time or forward at your discretion, which is not true.

A simplified explanation of space and time's actual shape is that when you are at (3, 4) and you are moving through time (in the first coordinate, let's say), you've got lines that lead to (4, 4.1) and (4, 3.9) and so on, but the lines only go to a certain angle, which for simplicity's sake I'll say is the obvious 45 degree angle, which means you've got lines that go to (4, 3) and (4, 5), but nothing else below 3 or above 5. You can only move along those lines, and as there is no line to (4, -2) from your start position, there is no way to get there. The bound of those lines is the speed of light. The pictures of the "light cone" you may have seen are in some sense not merely a helpful picture but actually a true picture of the universe.

You can not move faster than the speed of light because you can only move between connected points in the universe, and to move faster than the speed of light is to bypass that restriction. The universe is literally not shaped that way. The shape of the universe forbids faster-than-light. You don't have any choices other than those lines and none of the lines go faster than light.

This is a grotesque simplification, but I think the core point is accurate. Exceeding the speed of light is impossible for reasons above and beyond the mere "exceeding the speed of sound" or other things were. To travel faster than the speed of light requires changing the shape of the universe. (And to the extent that certain theories permit it under some circumstances, such as the Alcubierre drive theory[1], I suspect that we'd find that even if we could implement one of these things the universe would still find a way not covered in those theories to shut it down, cosmic-censorship-style[2], or like [3]. I would also note that all "practical" FTL drives proposed to date have inevitably required the existence of at least one impossibility, such as stable negative mass, and it means little to prove that if I have one impossibility like stable negative mass I can have another like FTL.)

Also, because this is a grotesque simplification, please note that picking apart holes in my picture is not even remotely the same as picking apart holes in the theory of relativity, let alone picking apart holes in the Universe. In particular don't get caught up with things that may appear to be going backward; that's an illusion of this attempt to embed an explanation into Euclidean space, not a real problem with the physics.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcubierre_drive

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_censorship

[3]: http://books.google.com/books?id=_mo4AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA132&#... reading pages 132 and 133)

13 points by coderdude 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's a shame that about 30% of the comments in this thread are about how the author of the Reddit comment is female. I have a feeling the discussion on Reddit actually trumps the discussion on HN for this one. What's worse is that you have to wade through this irrelevance to get to the "good" comments on here.
12 points by ck2 1 day ago 1 reply      
Once you understand that, then read about (what I think is super-cool) : frame dragging.


It causes satellites around earth to move a few feet each year.

5 points by Stormbringer 1 day ago 1 reply      
People keep asking this, and similar things like "if you were travelling in a vehicle at the speed of light and you turned on the headlights, what would happen?"

For me the easiest answer is to understand that from the point of view of the person travelling near the speed of light the beam of light moves away from them at the speed of light. So after ~1 second they are 300,000Km apart.

On the other hand, from the point of view of a 'stationary' observer, the light and the spaceship emitting it are moving at almost exactly the same speed. So after ~1 second they are maybe 1 meter apart.

How can this be? Our minds naturally want to reject this as nonsense. But the thing the gripping hand is holding that makes this true is that to the stationary observer and the person travelling near the speed of light time is moving at different rates.

The person who is moving ~1m slower than the speed of light is experiencing time enormously much slower than the person 'standing still'. The time difference is 300,000,000 times (sic).

Our brains reject this, because we think of time as an absolute rock solid constant, when in fact even with our primitive understanding and slow speeds we can demonstrate experimentally that time is in fact flexible, and it does slow down the faster you get.

3 points by aufreak3 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here is what seems like a reasonable "explanation" to me -

We figured out a few things about electric and magnetic fields. In particular, a changing electric field creates a magnetic field and a changing magnetic field creates an electric field. So if you setup a changing electric field in a specific way, you can setup a cycle between the two field types. Now, these fields hold energy and by virtue of this cycle, become capable of carrying away this energy - what we call "light" - just as waves on water carry energy away from the starting point at a certain speed. The strange thing about E and B though is that this "speed" is a constant that is independent of the reference frame you choose to monitor it. In other words, this wave would move at the same speed relative to you no matter how you happened to be moving and you can therefore never "catch up" with it. Therefore no "thing" (matter) can move faster than light.

In physics, recursive "why"s always lead to "that's the way it is" tautologies. For instance, if atoms are mostly empty space, why don't we fall through the floor? Pauli figured out that no two fermions with same spin state can occupy the same space. Why can't fermions do that? They are spin-1/2 particles and their wave function amplitudes cancel out if you account for the fact that fundamental particles of the same type are indistinguishable. Why does the combined wave function cancel out? .. 'cos that's what seems to agree with experiment - i.e. because you don't see people falling through floors.

Progress seems to be about trying to extend this "explanation chain" by one step more. So string theory can step in and add "because vibrating strings, which is what we're made of, behave like this" .. and then it stops at some point again.

2 points by hammock 9 hours ago 0 replies      
The top answer on Reddit was not helpful to me, and seemed tautological even in the face of its length.

WHY can't the arrow stretch? That is the crucial question; that is the original question. The original question was not "is there/why is there a tradeoff between space and time." The question was "Why can't the arrow stretch, why can't we go faster than light allows?"

3 points by Jun8 1 day ago 0 replies      
No answer can be given to this question, it is one of the axioms of relativity theory. The explanation is trying to explain the axiom in terms of the theory built on it.

I found these answers to be more informative: http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/2230/why-and-how-...

2 points by statictype 1 day ago 0 replies      
She's got a lot of good stuff in her comment history.

I really wish Instapaper worked with reddit comments. Lots of good reading there.

2 points by rdtsc 1 day ago replies      
What helped me with a better understanding of time dilation is short paragraph from RobotRollCall:


If you're moving through space, then you're not moving through time as fast as you would be if you were sitting still. Your clock will tick slower than the clock of a person who isn't moving.


1 point by ScottBurson 1 day ago 1 reply      
I would just explain that a photon has zero mass, but nonzero energy and momentum and finite velocity. Intuitively (meaning: in a Newtonian universe), one would think that a particle with zero mass would have to have infinite velocity to have nonzero energy and momentum, right? And yet, its velocity is finite. That demonstrates that the universe is not Newtonian. It also sets up an intuitive connection (which is what we're looking for here, right?) between the speed of light and one's intuitive sense of an infinite velocity.

Again, of course, this brings us to the question of why the universe is this way: why it is Einsteinian rather than Newtonian. But that question really belongs to the realm of metaphysics, not that of physics.

2 points by nazgulnarsil 1 day ago 1 reply      
Awesome explanation. But what I've never understood is what the universe looks like to photons. What does it mean for a photon to travel between two points from the frame of reference of the photon?
1 point by boh 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I remember reading an article a while back:

"Scientists Make Radio Waves Travel Faster Than Light"



the paper it's based on:


Anyone with a Physics background care to comment on the validity of this study?

2 points by Steuard 1 day ago 1 reply      
Two comments. First, as she alludes to in her edit, the "rotated arrow" picture that RobotRollCall uses here is subtly backward. It does suggest the right things and I used to think of it that way, but it eventually gets you in trouble. (In actuality, as you start to move through space, your motion through time speeds up... but this still leaves your arrow the same length because the geometry of space-time is hyperbolic: the Pythagorean theorem reads "x^2 - t^2 = c^2" instead of "x^2 + t^2 = c^2". This ends up avoiding LOTS of issues, some of which were stumbling blocks for people in the comments to her post. But it's certainly harder to visualize!)

Second, several people have complained that RRC avoided the underlying question by saying "the arrow is always the same length". I think they may not be giving that answer the credit it deserves. Her claim isn't that the speed of light is the longest possible arrow (which I agree wouldn't help at all), but rather that every object's arrow has exactly this same length. That shifts the speed of light from being an arbitrary constraint to being simply a label for this universal fact. The question "Why is every arrow the same length?" is still valid, but there's much less reason to worry about it: no known process can change that length, just as no known process can change the rest mass of an electron.

1 point by sambeau 1 day ago 2 replies      
Stephen Hawking predicted that things can travel faster than the speed of light through quantum uncertainty. This is how information can escape from a black hole.


Put simply it works like this: light travels at a constant speed, but due to quantum uncertainty nothing is in one exact place, it 'teleports' around an average point. Thus, if it 'teleports' in the direction that the light was travelling it has moved faster than the speed of light.

2 points by thret 1 day ago 2 replies      
I found her lengthy explanation patronising and unhelpful.

"you change your direction of motion through spacetime, but not your speed of motion through spacetime."

This is article a long-winded way of restating the question, and leaves the reader thinking they know the answer when they simply have a different understanding of the same problem.

2 points by sliverstorm 1 day ago 1 reply      
eh, it's more fun to imagine we will one day surpass the speed of light. It hasn't been disproved so conclusively that I know about said proof, so as of yet I can continue imagining the barrier will be broken.
1 point by tastybites 1 day ago 2 replies      
Does it work in the other direction, or can you only take away time velocity to give to space velocity?

i.e., can you make your time slow down by coming to a full and complete "stop" in space, since I assume nothing in the universe is truly at rest?

1 point by joelmichael 1 day ago 2 replies      
If you were moving in a "completely horizontal" direction, wouldn't you not be moving through time at all, but only through space? That means you could move infinitely fast, not with a strict limit.
2 points by olalonde 1 day ago 2 replies      
This explains why there's a limit to speed but not why this limit is light's speed.
1 point by vlisivka 1 day ago 2 replies      
Wave cannot travel faster than speed of wave in medium.

Matter is form of electromagnetic wave, thus matter cannot travel faster that speed of electromagnetic wave in medium ("vacuum").

Everything that is not a form of electromagnetic wave, OR disconnected from electromagnetic medium, will be not bound to speed of light.

Imagine water and water waves. Water waves will never travel faster than speed of wave in water.

BUT, you can freeze water and push it faster than water wave just because it is not a part of water anymore.

I hope, super-cold vacuum (below 0K) or matter in cocoon of super-cold vacuum will be able to travel faster than speed of light.


Of course, I cannot even imagine, how we can freeze vacuum, because we cannot even interact with it.

2 points by retube 1 day ago 0 replies      
What I want to know is what happens if the arrow is rotated more than 90 degrees?
1 point by rbanffy 1 day ago 2 replies      
It's a good explanation, really, but do we need to have only one? Can't we keep Reddit things in Reddit and HN things in HN?

If I am in a Reddit mood, I will go to Reddit. If I'm more in a HN mood, I will come here.

1 point by sabat 1 day ago 2 replies      
Good explanation of space/time -- in short, you're always moving in space and time, and the more you move in space, the less you move in time. Vice-versa.

Brian Greene does a pretty good job of explaining all this in the Elegant Universe. If you're into this kind of thing, check it out.

0 points by cgart 1 day ago 1 reply      
Oh, finally we got here cool discussion. Here is how I explain that one "could" travel faster then the speed of light! HOWEVER, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, this depends on your definition of the speed. So imagine following experiment:

There are two space ships which are built like these russian matroshkas. One smaller space ship is in the hangar of a bigger one. The bigger one starts from the earth and accelerates to the speed of light (or just until 0.999c). Now, the smaller ship starts and can again accelerate from the bigger ship point of view until 0.999c. So, if there is just a simple velocity measure instrument, which is measuring acceleration by F = m*a, and we know the relative space ship mass "m" as it was relative to the earth, then knowing how much force our engine produces we can compute the acceleration. And hence our velocity measurement device will add small "a" to the current velocity by every thrust of the engine.

So given that type of measurement, our smaller space ship can accelerate to the speed of 2c relative to the earth. HOWEVER, due to the relativistic effects the people living on the earth would never ever realize that this ship was moving with 2c, since they are measuring speed by looking how far the ship went in the certain amount of time. And due to the time dilation they will never realize that this ship was actually much farther away then it looks like.

So, regarding to this experiment, we can travel faster then the light. However, this is only due to the definition of the speed.

A counter argument would be that the mass "m" is also changing. However, one could argue that the mass is represented by the amount of particles per volume unit and hence remain constant if volume remain constant. Ok, another guy could argue again that the size of the volume shrinks, but I could then argue that if size of the volume shrinks, then the density of the particles per volume unit from the earth point of view would increase and could end up in a singularity or just black hole, so big bang ?:confused:

This kind of experiment fits well into my experience of the world, where I just cannot accept some of the constraints we get from the nature :) Yes, you cannot travel faster then the speed of light, BUT this is only because I stay at the earth and measure your speed by looking how fast you come back. But this pure guy who is traveling could measure the speed as I've proposed and would then realize that, in deed he was faster then the "earth's speed of light" :)

1 point by adobriyan 1 day ago 1 reply      
My gut feeling is that article is dragged :-) into somewhat irrelevant things like Poincare group et al.

Why maximum limit exist at all?
How Universe without this limit will look like?
How Universe with limit which is not equal to speed of light will look like?

Antropic principle inevitably pops up.

1 point by zrgiu 1 day ago 1 reply      
what I don't understand is why the light is the point of reference. Just because it's the fastest "thing" we know ? Or is there some other reason ?
-2 points by csomar 1 day ago 0 replies      
The motion I'm referring to is motion in the futureward direction.

May be you should consider the fact, that while you are not moving- let's assume that your are in space and way far from earth or any other thing-, your brain, heart and blood do. If they don't, you wouldn't exist. It's in my believe that we are living in a single dimension world, and it's not quite different than a dream; actually it's the same thing. Just think about it ;)

Brilliant use of CSS drop shadows nicolasgallagher.com
419 points by Seldaek 5 days ago   59 comments top 12
26 points by flog 5 days ago replies      
I use these with caution on animated pages or large elements; I don't have links to hand, but have lots of anecdotal stories of performance degradation with CSS drop shadows.

Just a friendly word of (unbacked) warning to frontend devs :)

4 points by mrchess 5 days ago 0 replies      
This post reminds me of how I "creatively" used CSS3 shadows for a job interview. One of my tasks for this interview was to mimic an overlaying drop-shadow effect from a PSD file. I couldn't figure out how to do it smoothly using transparent images, so CSS3 box shadows to the rescue!

Here is the result. The images would slide left to right as a slideshow, and the box shadows are on the borders to create the "layered" effect. The images however do indeed use real image shadows. http://i.imgur.com/0D7WQ.png

6 points by weego 5 days ago 1 reply      
Chrome on my MBP really chugs trying to scroll down the page, I'm surprised it's being pushed that hard looking at the code.
2 points by ck2 5 days ago 2 replies      
Almost works in IE9, that's amazing in itself. But dead in IE8/7 of course.

(via browserling) http://img29.imageshack.us/img29/4448/ie9corners.png

Hmm, webpagetest shows it works completely in IE9


maybe a later release

2 points by ollysb 5 days ago 0 replies      
Very nice. I was a little disappointed to discover how much code was required to achieve the effects though. Having to resort to using content:"" always feels like a workaround. Not having to use images is great though, I'll definitely be using this as a reference.
7 points by thetylerhayes 5 days ago 1 reply      
Aesthetics: :D

Performance: o_O

2 points by Timmy_C 5 days ago 0 replies      
I like how he uses CSS transforms on the :before and :after pseudo element to give it that "lifted" effect. That's something I never thought to try before.
3 points by pilom 5 days ago 3 replies      
A little tear in my heart.
I must use IE7 at work.
2 points by mike-cardwell 5 days ago 4 replies      
Nice. Which browsers does it work in? Firefox 3.6 works, IE7 doesn't. Not tested other versions of IE.
2 points by zakovyrya 5 days ago 0 replies      
Until they fix performance problems I'm pre-rendering stuff like that. Thank you very much.
1 point by ajaykam 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome on chrome, but I'm having some trouble on my iphone4. It worked fine on the 3gs though, so I'm not sure whats up.
1 point by hazelnut 5 days ago 0 replies      
well done, wonderful css3 presentation!
The Boy Who Stole Half-Life 2 eurogamer.net
390 points by twidlit 1 day ago   119 comments top 20
39 points by chaosmachine 1 day ago 3 replies      
I was in a similar position once, many years ago, in the early days of the web. I had managed to get parts of the source code to a popular online game (no real hacking here, they left a tarball in an open directory I stumbled upon), and being a foolish young kid, I decided to brag about my insider knowledge of unfinished features on a website. A few weeks later, the company contacted me with a job offer... they just needed my name and address to start sending me checks. Fortunately, I wasn't that dumb.
79 points by jcw 1 day ago 5 replies      
I'm happy to see that, while he did something wrong, because he was honest and openly remorseful throughout, he ended up not going to prison. The cops even seemed cordial, they let him get breakfast and a smoke.

I wonder how differently things would have played out if he lived in the US.

37 points by ztan 1 day ago 4 replies      
I found the story to be quite tragic. This kid really saw the people at Valve as his heroes. Valve knew this and totally abused of that fact. They tricked him and was planning to hand him to the FBI, despite the fact he was (still is) their biggest fan and that the leak was accidental. I would have really hired him if I was in Gabe's position. He had both passion and skills. I think he would make an awesome YC applicant if he directed those to creating a web startup.
13 points by bluesnowmonkey 1 day ago replies      
Am I the only one who thinks what he did was not only criminal but morally wrong, and that he deserved to go to prison for a long time?

I realize that everybody likes to call themselves a "hacker" because they can program a computer, but this is an actual black-hat hacker. There are bad guys in the world and he's one of them. He wrote malware. He stole source code and gave it to the world. And this wasn't some evil corporation he was trying to bring to justice for its crimes. This was Valve. All they do is make cool games for the world. It's incredibly difficult work and they do a fantastic job. What kind of asshole do you have to be to shit all over them like this kid did?

16 points by jasonjei 1 day ago 1 reply      
Considering that he's been sentenced and assuming he has served the term of probation, if he were to set foot on the US, could he be tried and sentenced again, or does Double Jeopardy protect him even if he already had proceeded through the German court system?
4 points by jarin 1 day ago 2 replies      
Glad to see it had a relatively happy ending.

At the risk of repeating a tired Internet cliche, I think the leak may have helped Half-Life 2.

If the project was already months behind schedule and had a year before a GM build would be ready, having the source code leaked may have given hardcore gamers reassurance that the game was actually coming along and would be finished at some point.

Of course, there's also the newsworthiness and buzz coming from the leak itself.

15 points by tkahn6 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm impressed by the shear amount of knowledge the kid had. Especially at the age that he did it.
3 points by mukyu 18 hours ago 0 replies      
In the reddit thread ( http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/fpkav/the_boy_who_st... ) he* has answered some questions.

* I'm not actually sure it is him, but he is plausible enough.

2 points by linuxhansl 1 day ago 0 replies      
Unless it is a small project and works without a dataceter the sourcecode itself is useless.
Yet, so many people believe that there is actually any (usable) value in the source code alone.

I flunked (thank god) an interview with a company once that ended up going belly up.
The capital came from angel investors (mostly lawyers). When they ran out of money they locked everybody out of the premises (even though all their stuff was still in the building) for the fear somebody would take the source. This was 6 or 7 years ago.. To this date these lawyers still sit on their precious source code.

28 points by temptemptemp13 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'd really like to hear Gabe's side to this story.
6 points by Scaevolus 1 day ago 0 replies      
I liked this quote:

"For some reason they thought there was a connection between me and Sasser, which I denied. Sasser was big news back then and its author, Sven Jaschan, was raided the same day as me in a co-ordinated operation, because they thought I could warn him.

"My bot used the same vulnerability in the LSASS service that his did, except it didn't crash the host system, so I guess they thought I gave him the exploit code. Of course I denied this and told them that I never write such shoddy code."

2 points by jrockway 1 day ago 1 reply      
Automatic weapons were pointing at his head and the words "Get out of bed. Do not touch the keyboard" were ringing in his ears.

Would they really have shot him in the head if he touched the keyboard? My guess is no.

2 points by oemera 20 hours ago 0 replies      
What I learned from this is: Never trust any of your friends or family when you have such important things in your hands.

You know in everyone of us is this little devil and if you have something which is important you can earn something with it (money or even credit in the community) there is a good chance that people will go the devil way.

I even would consider saying I even DON'T trust myself on such important and valued things!

1 point by Tichy 1 day ago 1 reply      
What I don't get is why the police had to wake them up with a gun pointed to his head. Is this standard procedure for hackers, or criminals in general? Is it because some time ago it was decided that hackers are terrorists?

Suppose I cheated on my taxes (which I would of course never do, but I think many people consider that fair game), would the police also wake me with a gun pointed at my head?

3 points by joelhaasnoot 1 day ago 1 reply      
Story reminds me of the book "Cuckoo's egg" by Clifford Stoll
1 point by sathyabhat 1 day ago 0 replies      
1 point by l0nwlf 1 day ago 2 replies      
I wonder why Valve didn't offered him a job. He was naive but talented and passionate about gaming.
1 point by eordano 1 day ago 0 replies      
Oh! So it was real? I remember downloading a file called "HL2 Source Code.rar", long time ago, from eDonkey network. Never payed enough attention to it, thinking it was a fake!
1 point by JacobIrwin 19 hours ago 0 replies      
End of page two: "The cat was out of the bag," says Gembe. "You cannot stop the internet."
1 point by incently 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great attitude, almost civil-disobediencesque.
Nissan Leaf nissanusa.com
346 points by dools 4 days ago   184 comments top 55
22 points by danenania 4 days ago 1 reply      
Having used both (flash extensively, js less so), I agree that flash's closed plugin status completely sucks, and this is major.

That said, for nearly every other aspect of developing thick client RIAs and complex visual experiences, flash/flex/as3 wins by a mile. From IDEs to the display api to as3 apis in general to the true object oriented architecture to lack of browser inconsistencies to client side storage to sockets and networking options to modular applications.

Say what you want about flash. It certainly has its problems and it has certainly been abused, but let's not ignore all the areas where js is still playing catch up and will be for a long time (even it's just IE). Flash has been a lead innovator in web-based interfaces for many years. Even if it's true that it's in decline, completely discounting such an important technology only shows ignorance.

35 points by JulianMorrison 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm a little worried about losing what is to me one of the main advantages of Flash: that it can be blocked. So your all singing, all dancing website shuts the hell up and behaves like a sedate page full of text and static images.

I mean, I can block JS, but it's irritating to have to. That's generally used for useful things like navigation. Flash marks something up as useless pizazz.

41 points by citricsquid 4 days ago replies      
I don't understand how we've gone from "Flash is crap for entire websites" (edit: which is almost always true) to "Flash is the devil in every situation". It has its place, Javascript will never and shouldn't try and "kill" Flash, they're different.
43 points by fleitz 4 days ago 11 replies      
One should note that if you pull the site up in IE it still uses flash, which means we still need flash. Unless you're willing to say goodbye to 40% of your customers.
37 points by jtchang 4 days ago 1 reply      
There is a desc tag:

<desc>Created with Raphaël</desc>


Awesome stuff.

9 points by nika 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm glad to see this. I for one am looking forward to the day when javascript is at the point where it offers a level of programing ease for animations, etc, that you get with flash. (It may have happened already, last time I did lingo programming it was called lingo, and I am not conversant with the state of the art in javascript.)

Or it seems that CSS is supporting animations and maybe that is a better choice over javascript? (because the browser, I presume, can optimize CSS a lot easier than javascript which can have arbitrary functionality.)

17 points by moe 4 days ago 1 reply      
Only on HN you submit an electric car website without further comment - and instead of discussing the car everyone starts arguing over the implementation of the website. ;-
9 points by gcb 4 days ago 4 replies      
it probably took the team 10x the time to do that this way instead of flash.

it will not work on 100% of the devices. but at least they got some clicks from us that they wouldn't otherway.

Continuing with this rationale: if done in flash, it would have take the team 10x the time to that instead of plain html. or 200x the time if done in a simpler html format, like a wikipedia article.

it would work on 100% of the devices... you would be able to use back/forward buttons, you would be able to translate on google translator and still see the site... wouldn't use all the cpu... it would load instantly for the user (well, it would be loading the rest bellow the fold while the user was reading/looking at the top part)... it would hopefully play well with screenreaders... i would still be able to use the left menu even after increasing font size... but you wouldn't have buttons that jump around.

7 points by mixmax 4 days ago 3 replies      
Well it appears that at least the linked site does need flash. If you click on features and specifications the embedded video is flash (firefox 3.6)

So not quite true.

20 points by soljin2000 4 days ago 1 reply      
Unless ... You want to record video or audio from a user. Or run more than 5 fps in IE7 (about 25% of our users). Everyone says flash is a piece of crap but you can see from stuff like boxcar2d.com that can run for days without crashing or leaking. It's about how it's coded. There are tons of poorly programmed flashes out there but that doesn't make Flash bad. Flash has been abused but it's not the devil. far from it.
6 points by enobrev 4 days ago 1 reply      
A lot of grandiose claims in hopes of the death of Flash around here. As though Flash has never done anything good for anyone.

I agree that it's nice that the browsers are now supporting new features that allow so much well needed functionality across the board - but they're really just now catching up to what Flash has offered us for years.

Forget all-flash websites. Seriously, forget them. I like the OP's site about as much as I liked flash intros from 2001 before they started adding "Skip This" buttons. I'm referring to media players, socket clients, file uploading tools worth using, vector animation, a decent programming experience that worked across the board (AS3 is actually a fun language if you give it a real shot).

Where would the web be without Youtube? Where would Youtube be without Flash? How about last.fm? or Pandora? Do you remember what the web was like before flash? Real Player, anyone? Java applets? I'll take a flash game over a Java applet any day. Regardless if you use these media-centric sites personally, they changed the internet as we know it - making it accessible to normal human beings. To disregard Flash's place in that history doesn't make any sense.

And it's far from over. The browsers STILL haven't gotten media playback right across the board. Everything's a big fat beta right now and IE is dragging us behind as usual. It would be nice if everyone could at least agree on a codec or two, but no. Meanwhile, flash-based media players still work just about everywhere.

I'm happy that the browsers are catching up with Flash - truly. I loved developing in Actionscript, and I'll love replacing it. But these claims that Flash is somehow the bane of the internet is to deny some of the very foundations of how successful the internet has become.

4 points by lyime 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nice site. We don't need Flash anymore you say?

Keep me posted when RTMP media, video/webcam/audio capture, audio analysis, content protection is supported cross browser in HTML and JS.

3 points by antirez 4 days ago 1 reply      
What's seriously needed is an HTML5 authoring program that can be used with a GUI and zero programming skills. Otherwise Flash will be very needed in the future.
2 points by noibl 4 days ago 0 replies      
If by 'we' you mean Nissan, well... great.

Counterexample: http://blog.phono.com/2011/02/17/how-to-build-a-voip-based-b... (browser-based VOIP, Flash under the hood)

Bizarrely, Chrome has support for speech input on text-based forms which translates microphone input to text on their servers, but it doesn't expose direct access to the audio. Argh!

3 points by radley 4 days ago 0 replies      
There a huge irony to this post. Look who made the site: http://criticalmass.com

It's talent that matters, not the platform.

2 points by WesleyJohnson 4 days ago 1 reply      
I was going to post this as a reply, but several people made the comment that them duplicating what Flash could do, even if done in HTML and JS, wasn't the right path? I can understand the hatred of Flash itself, but why the dislike for these types of sites in general? Not everything needs to be plain text, easily scanable, SEO compatible, clean, simple, etc.

This site is as much about marketing and generating appeal as it is about information. I don't see anything wrong with how it was done. Someone enlighten me please.

Edit: And somewhat off-topic - is it a requirement that production electrics cars have to hideous? Tesla and Chevy (Volt) seem to be the only ones that have made them actually nice to look at.

3 points by shawndrost 4 days ago 3 replies      
Why would a manager at Nissan allow this to be built? They now have to maintain two parallel versions of their complex site. What is the non-ideological payoff?
3 points by wmwong 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. I was expecting to see HTML5 and was surprised when it wasn't. The doctype is strict and a lot of the interface uses JavaScript. The center navigations use svg and Raphael[1]. Either way, this is pretty sweet. And so is the car.

[1] http://raphaeljs.com/

8 points by Johngibb 4 days ago 3 replies      
Very cool, but I'm not sure creating a site that looks JUST like a flash site is really the right direction... ;)
3 points by daniel02216 4 days ago 0 replies      
Their feedback form doesn't work in Safari. The site feels like a Flash site, but doesn't use flash, which is nice!

It also works on my iPad. The 360 is a bit slow but it's there.

2 points by delackner 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised no one has suggested the obvious reason why making a site like this is not necessarily "wasted extra effort" for Nissan. When Apple's iAd platform was unveiled, they demoed... a Nissan Leaf ad. That ad content had to be written in javascript, so it probably wasn't a huge leap to say hey let's push that content out to the web as well.
2 points by 51Cards 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Say hello" to a REALLY slow running website and my hardware ain't that shabby. Running FF 3.6 It's very cool but a little too much too soon for general consumption IMO.
3 points by juddlyon 4 days ago 1 reply      
Impressive, to be sure. But terms like "anything" and "ever" are hyperbolic. Flash isn't going anywhere for years.
2 points by ck2 4 days ago 2 replies      
Hmm flashblock is triggered for some reason but works anyway.

Those menus are rather distracting and complicated for an average consumer site.

ps. OT but the "Leaf" is not available in green ???

2 points by buro9 4 days ago 0 replies      
There is some flash on there (a video, under Specs > Features & Specs), but this is still a very impressive demonstration of how little it is actually required to achieve these kinds of effect.
2 points by Skroob 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nice and all, but the scroll bars don't work on the iPad, nor is there a way to scroll the tag list on the left. A step in the right direction though.
3 points by ziadbc 4 days ago 2 replies      
Anybody have an idea on how this was done?

Javascript by hand?

1 point by treblig 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's kind of funny that they built their (very similar-looking) iAd with HTML5, and then went ahead with a Flash marketing site. Seems like there could have been some shared resources there.
2 points by roryokane 4 days ago 0 replies      
Unless there's a vector-based action game running at a decent frame rate hidden somewhere on that site, I don't think you've adequately proven your statement.
1 point by drivebyacct2 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not exaggerating when I say that the 360 view was very confusing because it wasn't really 3d. I was dragging my mouse in so many directions, only to find, only the horizontal component affected the presented image. :(
1 point by marknutter 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't get why this is better than standard, non-animated text. I just want information about the freaking leaf. By all means, make the typography and design look pretty, but stop with the damn animation. I don't want to have to re-learn a new interface every I want to learn about a new product.
4 points by elboru 4 days ago 2 replies      
We'll need flash until we have a GOOD IDE for those technologies...
1 point by TamDenholm 4 days ago 0 replies      
Its still just as annoying even though its not done in flash...
1 point by tsycho 4 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone know how they created the scrollbar in the popup dialog boxes? It works in IE6 as well, though doesn't look as pretty as in Chrome/FF.
1 point by yarone 4 days ago 0 replies      
On this site, the browser "back" button doesn't always behave as expected. Ex: Go there. Click Back. Doesn't go back. Chrome 9.
1 point by doki_pen 4 days ago 0 replies      
Chromium-9.0.597.84(0) and I see tons of flash on that page. I know because I'm using flash blocker.
1 point by tocomment 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why are all the comments about flash? The Nissan Leaf is a car.
1 point by jasonlbaptiste 4 days ago 0 replies      
The world's best flash car site... done in HTML5.
1 point by redthrowaway 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ambitious, but it runs very, very poorly on my mbp (chrome).
3 points by ch0wn 4 days ago 0 replies      
I used my back button and it ... worked. Wow.
1 point by paulocal 4 days ago 0 replies      
The intro video uses the video tag to play this video: http://www.nissanusa.com/ev/media/video/nissan-leaf-intro.mp...

No flash there. It will fall back to flash in Internet Explorer.

2 points by tomelders 4 days ago 0 replies      
Stop.... Hoooldup.

Replicating what Flash does in HTML, CSS, SVG & JS is not the way forward.

1 point by sjs382 4 days ago 0 replies      
HTML5 still can't interact with a webcam...
1 point by webuiarchitect 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow! I like that!! Much faster.. and not need of any plugin that crashes every now and then.

Plus you don't lose on search engines and history management can be left to the browser.

1 point by damoncali 4 days ago 0 replies      
Cool car. Oh, nevermind.
1 point by hazelnut 4 days ago 0 replies      
but hey, you can build ugly banners with html5 / canvas too ... and the performance will be the same. should be banish html5 too?
1 point by SolarUpNote 4 days ago 0 replies      
Aside from the whole Flash accessibility debate, this site is REALLY cool. I'm lovin it.
0 points by ThomPete 4 days ago 3 replies      
Until it's possible to do audiotool.com you are not even close to be able to replace flash
1 point by pacoverdi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Doh! Need a facebook account to "watch the electric revolution begin".

Never mind.

1 point by mcmc 4 days ago 0 replies      
No one tell those "punch the monkey" ad authors... at least not before html5block is out.
1 point by NHQ 4 days ago 0 replies      
Slick website. Ugly Car.
1 point by ryanisinallofus 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great. A whole new and cool way to make really unusable and shitty websites.
1 point by dbabalik 4 days ago 0 replies      
We still do until the <device> tag arrives in town.
1 point by jijoy 4 days ago 0 replies      
Not bad but not cool . Not upto Flash
1 point by pero 4 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone know which agency did this?
Geohot seeking donations for legal defense against Sony. geohot.com
331 points by elliottcarlson 3 days ago   82 comments top 32
31 points by cookiecaper 2 days ago 3 replies      
He mentions that the EFF isn't taking on the full load of the case, but maybe he'd get more donations if EFF acted as an intermediary and managed the donations for him. He mentions several times questions like "Why should I trust you?", and his answer, "I'm very ethical", is not that reliable in and of itself. If the EFF sets up a fund, we wouldn't have to worry about suspicions about the use of the money and Geohot wouldn't have to worry about whether certain things qualify as "legal expenses" or outright temptations to misuse the fund.

He may also be able to circumvent PayPal fees, ultimately giving him more money, and he won't have to worry about transferring the remainder to the EFF at the end of it all.

I think that if the EFF won't assume such an important case completely, they could at least help out with some payment processing.

47 points by elliottcarlson 3 days ago replies      
I'm donating - what Sony is doing is illegal. I understand that his work has lead to the option of piracy, and I fully support Sony's decision to ban consoles that have been modified from their online network - however the legal battle against geohot and team fail overflow is wrong.

Bottom line; this is a worthy fight to wager and my money will help support it.

22 points by d_r 2 days ago 1 reply      
A side question. If we donate, what stops PayPal from randomly "freezing" his account and holding the money hostage, as they have on a number of other occasions for people having a "Donate" link?
25 points by cheald 2 days ago 0 replies      
Donated, and I don't even have a PS3. However, I vehemently believe in the user's right to do whatever he wants to his own hardware.
9 points by archangel_one 2 days ago 1 reply      
Just donated. I wish there was someone better than Paypal for this; I can't see any good reason why it should take several tries for me to guess my own phone number. "Please enter a valid telephone number" is NOT a helpful error message!
14 points by steve19 2 days ago 0 replies      
I just donated. I don't own a single Sony device but this fight is far bigger than just Sony PS3s.
16 points by kirubakaran 2 days ago 0 replies      
Donated. I am saying so here because I donated seeing the comments of other people.
5 points by antirez 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just donated, this is not just a matter related to gethot but also a matter of freedom. Soon or later we should try to win the battle and have an international law stating that once you get some hardware you can put any kind of software inside that hardware, exactly like you can cut everything you like when you purchase scissors.
5 points by fleitz 2 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like anon is in on the action as well.

I've donated.

8 points by felixge 2 days ago 0 replies      
Donated as well. I don't own or care about the PS3, but Sony must not win this.
5 points by eitland 2 days ago 1 reply      
This can easily turn into the

    SCEA vs The Internet 


11 points by jefe78 3 days ago 3 replies      
Is there a way we contribute without our wallets?
17 points by Klonoar 2 days ago 0 replies      
Fuck it, donated; why not?
15 points by rymngh 3 days ago 1 reply      
im also donating, this fight will determine the future of console systems
3 points by pluies 2 days ago 0 replies      
Donating. I don't have a PS3 either, but jailbreak should be legal and I hope this can set a good precedent.
4 points by daniel_reetz 2 days ago 0 replies      

Look at it this way. Sony has repeatedly fucked me as a consumer. Rootkits, copy protection schemes, fucking memory stick. I put thousands of dollars into Minidisc before I gave up.

Now, geohot. Well, this guy gives me free code and insight into the Kinect sensor. Helps a bunch of people openly enjoy the capabilities of the hardware they own. This isn't even about trust- this is about a big contributor being harassed by bullies. I know what side I'm backing. Cash to EFF, cash to geohot.

6 points by rfugger 2 days ago 0 replies      
I hope he gets enough donations to countersue.
6 points by MattBearman 2 days ago 0 replies      
I donated, I don't own any Sony hardware anyway, but this is cause I really care about. If Sony were to win it could open a shit storm of similar activity from other manufacturers.
4 points by kamidev 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just donated. I don't own a PS3 but consider this case important.

I stopped buying any kind of Sony hardware years ago, the first word that comes up in my mind when I hear Sony is "lock-in". Obviously, they don't care that their brand is already tainted in the eyes of many technical people. But losing this kind of lawsuit would be harder to ignore.

5 points by shiven 2 days ago 0 replies      
Donated. My way of voting against DMCA in general and SCEA in particular. The disenfranchised can only vote with their dollars, and if they can, they should.
13 points by _prototype_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just donated. Let the battle begin.
5 points by dark_c 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a poor college student with no PS3, yet I donated. It's up to the court to decide this war but the armies should be equal.
4 points by rheide 2 days ago 0 replies      
While I'm morally completely against Sony's point of view, I'm not sure if there's much that can be done legally. Besides that, I'm a bit unsure about donating to a guy who does not seem to realize what kind of mess he's in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iUvuaChDEg
3 points by kirubakaran 2 days ago 0 replies      
You don't need a Paypal account to donate. Click on the 'continue' link under 'Don't have a PayPal account?' section.
13 points by drstrangevibes 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm donating
2 points by nhooey 2 days ago 0 replies      

I've never donated to anything like this, but Sony's actions are fundamentally corrupt and if unchallenged, will set a terrible precedent for all of us, and severely hurt this individual.

3 points by mashingkeys 2 days ago 0 replies      

this hack opened a world of possibilities for my PS3 that Sony had closed with the removal of Linux.

4 points by lyime 2 days ago 0 replies      
3 points by johng 2 days ago 0 replies      
Donated a $50 spot.
1 point by DisposaBoy 2 days ago 1 reply      
So the only options if I want to donate are:

* Use Paypal

* Initiate communication (via email)

No thanks.

1 point by drstrangevibes 2 days ago 0 replies      
in law i believe people can join themselves to an action if the outcome will directly effect them, perhaps this is what the internet community should do..... completely open source the case
2 points by steipete 2 days ago 1 reply      
donated. next: hack my ps3.
The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All (Sockpuppet Management Software) dailykos.com
321 points by ph0rque 5 days ago   119 comments top 23
66 points by DanielBMarkham 5 days ago replies      
I've found that in the last couple of years, I keep expecting the internet to be one way and it keeps being another.

So for instance, they say if you want people to read your work, concentrate on quality. But that's bullshit, what you need to concentrate on is popularity. On any given day, boards all over the place are full of high-ranking articles that are crap that people vote on simply because the author is popular.

Then they say that the wisdom of the crowds will help pick clear winners. But the wisdom part begins to look like mob rule and crowds can be easily gamed, as this article shows.

I could go on, but I think I'm not alone in realizing that the cool interconnected internet that I wanted and the one we're actually getting are two completely different things.

So on one hand I congratulate this author -- we critically need to get this information out and emphasize it. But on the other hand, it's just another in a long series of "So, you thought it worked this way? Boy were you wrong." kind of things.

So I'm left wondering: do we all just sit around and whine about how things aren't turning out the right way? Go out and "fight the system" Adapt? Make the most of it? What? While you can fight the system if it's the local town government putting up a stoplight, fighting the system effectively and honorably where the system is billions of people of hundreds of cultures all interacting randomly is a bit too much to fit in my head.

Apologies for the rant. Just seemed like a pattern I've noticed of late.

52 points by bugsy 5 days ago replies      
The Chinese government has the "50 cent army" which is a 300,000 strong persona ops set. Many are Chinese students in the US who are required to post pro-China posts while in school and pretend to be a random western sympathizer. This is the largest and most organized, but there are tons of these and you see them on all the major boards. Can identify them when there is something really indefensible and they are in defending it with statements like "Well, as far as I know, none of the Wall Street companies broke any laws. So if you are concerned, maybe you should blame the government for deregulating." Their accounts are full of certain themes that enable you to identify them.

At first I typed up here techniques on how to recognize them but on second thought I don't want to give them ideas on how to correct.

Of interest to me right now is whether this propaganda war can be widely unveiled. It's hard since there are likely thousands of different PR ops posting stuff so there's no single pattern, and it's subtle to distinguish between this and zealous and sincere advocates of things. It would also be pretty easy to dismiss zealous advocates as PR ops as an attack strategy against advocates. Maybe that will eventually mean sincere advocates will end up having to blog more with their real name and photo to be taken seriously.

9 points by alexophile 5 days ago 0 replies      
Social/crowdsourced companies do this all the time, they just don't have such sophisticated software. But that's hardly an inconceivable jump - I would certainly not be surprised to see a number of in-house versions of this at work all over the internet.

I worked with an early stage company that relied on user-generated content that essentially did this but didn't tell the new CMs, so we spent the first couple weeks trying to get increased activity out of the clones.

Bonus example, there was an interview with the founder of thathigh.com on here not too long ago where he talked about doing exactly this.

The game isn't new, only the players - and you can always spot a newb, even if he has really nice equipment.

[Edit, appending part of my reddit comment on the sme article]: Here in Chicago, elections are (or at least were for a long time) considered to be basically a running joke. It's a city of horriffic corruption, and everyone's pretty much gotten used to it. This should be far more unsettling than gov contractors manufacturing an echo chamber. At least when they're sneaky about it you know they're scared.

20 points by jcromartie 5 days ago 1 reply      
What's more amazing is the USAF solicitation for bids on this kind of software. They say it's for use in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Florida.
25 points by anguslong 5 days ago 1 reply      
tl;dr Contractor develops psyops backend for the cloud. Creates fake persona pool. Uses anonymizer/chameleon for IP obfuscation, vmware/virtualbox instances for each persona, enables deploying to vps around the world. Uses system to age personas via social/email accounts and salt with rss, social & checkin data.

RFP: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id...

4 points by narrator 5 days ago 1 reply      
I used to see sock puppets on yahoo finance message boards for small energy companies. The sock puppet would repeat the same five or six canned messages several times a day under multiple aliases. They would never reply to criticism or anyone responding to their posts. I would come back weeks later and the same sock puppets would still be there with the same repetitive slightly varying messages posted in enormous quantities.

my suspicion is that this was some bigger energy companies paying some black PR to pay people (probably in a business process outsourcing sweat shop somewhere in a developing country) to repetitively post these things, or write scripts to do so, in order to drive down the price of these small energy companies so they could be acquired.

The hallmark of a sockpuppet is not responding with anything but a canned ad-hominem response, and posting the same set of talking points in enormous volume.

13 points by jarin 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, kind of makes you wonder what really sparked off the revolutions in the Arab world, doesn't it?
4 points by jsm386 5 days ago 0 replies      
I am not going to take a position one way or the other as I know nothing about them, but I've seen this group come up as an issue on Reddit every so often: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Internet_Defense_Force

see: http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Areddit.com+jidf

5 points by jleader 5 days ago 0 replies      
I can't believe no one's mentioned http://xkcd.com/810/ about training sock puppet bots to make relevant contributions to the conversation.
3 points by bediger 5 days ago 2 replies      
Ha ha! The leak that blows the sockpuppets/trolls wide open! We knew this day would arrive, and it finally did.

But the bigger question: why didn't dailykos.com link to the Aaron Barr email in question? I ask for two reasons. First, it seems kind of Mainstream Media of them to not link to it. Trying to keep us on your site, Kos, or is this one of those "sensitive" things that must be kept out of the common man's hands, a gatekeeper function that newspapers used to exercize? Second, I want to find out more about the Persona Management Software. It seems like an opportunity for an open source project.

1 point by jrwoodruff 5 days ago 0 replies      
It surprises me that this hasn't been done already. In fact, I would be willing to bet that somewhere, this type of software exists in some form. I'm fairly sure (although cannot prove, of course) that I watched this happen to a blog critical of a large publishing company here in the U.S.:


Probably didn't use fancy software, but there certainly appeared to be a concerted attack effort against the blogger for an extended and sustained period of time.

9 points by scrollbar 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've always assumed this kind of psyops has been used by, if not govt agencies, PACs or private entities. Digg commenters in particular.
2 points by motters 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is the first time that I've heard about "Persona Management Software", and I think it raises some serious questions. Taken to its logical conclusion systems like this could be used to influence the outcomes of elections and other kinds of collective decision making, so there's a debate to be had over whether use of this kind of software should be legal or to what extent it should be regulated if it's used by companies or government agencies.
3 points by wybo 5 days ago 0 replies      
Faking dozens of personas online gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'we are legion'.

Scary indeed.

1 point by ChuckMcM 4 days ago 0 replies      
"On the internet, nobody knows you are a stick drive."

The concept isn't particularly astonishing, Here is the TV show from 71 that used this for entertainment http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067551/

Of course with the Internet everything can be bigger/badder/etc. Looking at is from the perspective of algorithmic search (my current interest) its fascinating to see software which creates an entire "fake community" using things like markov-chain spam on hastily concocted php forum sites to simulate an organic community of interest.

Literally, there is no way to know. Maybe we'll know that AI is here when it devlops sentience and then posts something witty on our facebook wall. New trust models, not 'friending' anyone you haven't met in person, alternative communities for verbal interaction.

It just reminds me of the adage that demand creates products to fill that demand as soon as the economics favor creation.

1 point by Natsu 5 days ago 0 replies      
During the 2008 elections, it was hard to miss the fact that one guy managed to get the first comment on almost every single news site with comments.

Maybe he had no life, but I strongly suspected that that was his job. Also, he vanished immediately after the elections were over.

1 point by Vivtek 5 days ago 1 reply      
If they're worried about this level of sockpuppetry, wait until the sockpuppets get automated. It's this kind of lapping-up-against-the-Singularity stuff that will make H. sapiens obsolete in the end.
1 point by Anon84 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if any of the ones we found with Truthy ( http://truthy.indiana.edu/ ) were generated in this way
1 point by b_emery 5 days ago 1 reply      
I think this illustrates a need for an HN-like internet-global karma system. That is, unless some of you have sockpuppet armies upvoting your comments.

Say it isn't so!

1 point by NHQ 5 days ago 0 replies      
Would creating fake personas be considered government propaganda?
1 point by ttt567 4 days ago 0 replies      
In Internet quantity is quality.
-1 point by philthy 5 days ago 0 replies      
Nigerians, scammers, fraudsters, and all other sorts of Internet criminals already do this kind of stuff and have for years. Plus this happens in the real world, it's just called identity fraud. This once again further proves the technological ineptitude of the US Government and it's contractors, this isn't in any way an advanced concept. HB Gary got rooted by a 16 year old girl, what is everyone so worried about?
-4 points by unsigner 5 days ago 3 replies      
Somehow the left considers the Internet their backyard, and are extremely surprised and offended when opponents dare to play with "their" toys.
Host Your Static Website on Amazon S3 aws.typepad.com
309 points by soamv 5 days ago   91 comments top 25
25 points by petercooper 5 days ago 4 replies      
Couple this with tools like Jekyll or nanoc (with JavaScript-powered comments, perhaps) and you can easily roll out powerful static sites that are dynamic locally. I can see this getting a lot of use because it makes it so easy to rig up new sites right from the shell. It was already pretty easy but the ability to create a new "site" by merely creating a bucket on S3 reduces the friction even more.

(Perhaps too easy, even.. Rig up a domain registration API, content generator, and an S3 uploader and you could have a script pumping out auto-generated "content" sites all day without any hassles right from your terminal window.)

14 points by nika 5 days ago 3 replies      
I gotta give Amazon props for extending their products along the lines that their customers clearly want. The only problem is, given the wikileaks affair, I don't trust them.

Maybe this is silly. It is certainly not like they're likely to pull down any of my stuff. And I do have some largish files hosted there for convenience, but I'm wary about becoming dependent on them in any way.

(Wikileaks was hosting their webpage on amazon, not the leaked cables themselves. Amazon pulled their account without having gotten a court order or giving them any warning, and they weren't hosting anything illegal there anyway.)

10 points by bigiain 5 days ago 1 reply      
You've been able to do this for a while now with CloudFront serving your S3 buckets - I'd suggest the few extra cents per month for the CloudFront CDN service is probably a better way of managing static Amazon hosted sites...

(curiously, the domain name I experimented with this on late last year is strangely appropriate here: http://www.damhik.com/ )

17 points by juddlyon 5 days ago 2 replies      
That sound you hear is the collective groan from every oversold cheapo shared hosting company owner.

Unlimited hosting for 5 bucks? How's world class with a CDN for 45 cents?

8 points by michaelbuckbee 5 days ago 1 reply      
I think is this bigger news than it seems as this enables many other new services to now be built on top of S3.
3 points by mleonhard 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's still impossible to host the root domain of your website on S3/CloudFront or serve it through an EC2 Elastic Load Balancer.

www.mycompany.com - OK
mycompany.com - needs an EC2 instance and Elastic IP

This is because the only way to point your domain at Amazon is with a CNAME record and DNS does not support default CNAME records. It can only work if you add your CNAME record to the 'com.' top-level domain, which is impossible. See https://forums.aws.amazon.com/thread.jspa?threadID=32044

3 points by StavrosK 4 days ago 0 replies      
Or use App Engine and get pretty URLs, stats, etc as well:


10 points by petervandijck 5 days ago 2 replies      
May I say "awesome" and "finally"? That's awesome. Finally.
5 points by bobf 5 days ago 0 replies      
So, who is going to be the first person to create a new static hosting provider built on top of S3?
4 points by jonstjohn 4 days ago 1 reply      
Are cheap static sites really that big of a break-through? Whether a site is 50 cents a month through Amazon or $20/month for dozens through Linode (with the option of non-static), doesn't seem to matter that much to me when most people spend well over $20/week for coffee. The lowest-paid programmer in the US can make $20 in an hour. Anyways, love all the services that Amazon puts out and this is definitely a nice option, but I don't see it as exciting news on an individual basis. Anybody agree?
1 point by sudonim 4 days ago 0 replies      
I ported my site to jekyll last night and moved to S3 for hosting. Then I realized that my .htaccess file wouldn't work so I couldn't redirect some links I wanted to keep.

I'm mostly a product guy, and the entire experience of setting up jekyll was exhilarating.

S3 was pretty easy to set up for hosting.


But, I moved the site back to linode for htaccess to work.

5 points by lazyjeff 5 days ago 2 replies      
Do they also give you the server logs? e.g. access.log
3 points by todd3834 5 days ago 0 replies      
So now you could build a pretty serious web application with frameworks like Backbone.js and host it for pennies, very cool.
1 point by delackner 4 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe this is a good place to ask about an idea I've been toying with, but I'm not sure about the security implications of.

I have an app that generates user content, little chunks of audio. I don't want to get into running some server infrastructure just to let users share their content on facebook/twitter/... so what about letting the app upload an html file to an s3 bucket, with the data embedded in the file and a bit of javascript for an audio player UI? Practical?

2 points by nfriedly 5 days ago 0 replies      
http://sociablelabs.com has been doing this for a little while now and I've been pretty happy with the performance,
1 point by corin_ 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is awesome, but there is one thing I wish could be changed.

I currently host my (Jekyll-powered) site with S3/CloudFront. The error pages is awesome, but it only works if accessed through S3, not CloudFront.

2 points by nivertech 5 days ago 1 reply      
How's www.mydomain.com vs. mydomain.com handled?

Do I need to create two S3 buckets with duplicated content?

2 points by laktek 5 days ago 0 replies      
It would be great if someone could build a routing service (ala .htaccess on the cloud), so that we can make use of S3 without breaking the URLs.
1 point by davidcann 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is perfect for auto-scaled hosting a Cappuccino app, so the server cluster can be focused only on the backend.
1 point by cvk 4 days ago 0 replies      
This could be useful if your site has an extended outage one day. Create a bucket called "mysite.com" and another called "www.mysite.com" and put your failwhale page in it (set to be the root page). If your site goes down and you know it will be down for an extended period (ouch), you can change your domain's DNS entries to point to s3.amazonaws.com. Then at least your customers will have an explanation.
1 point by expertio 5 days ago 1 reply      

Sometimes I just want to create some static pages, but I was forced to use either CMS or things like wordpress.

Now I guess there is a solution which is also super reliable.

AWS is just amazing.

1 point by amysue 4 days ago 0 replies      
-3 points by anemitz 5 days ago 0 replies      
s3 is the new geocities:P
-3 points by wickedchicken 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is nuts. It's nice to see the internet being increasingly commoditized -- hell, Amazon has commoditized people.
-1 point by scalyweb 5 days ago 2 replies      
As entrepreneurs at what point do you decide that Amazon is "too big" and do you decide to stick with smaller service providers? Is your use of Amazon strictly a commodity provider?
Show HN: HackerBooks.com hackerbooks.com
307 points by thibaut_barrere 18 hours ago   138 comments top 36
9 points by DanielBMarkham 13 hours ago 3 replies      
I like it!

Just last week I had two people email me with similar site ideas to hn-books.com, and when I launched hn-books 2 completely other people emailed me that they were working on similar sites.

Must be something about hacker books that's in the water. Lots of sites with lots of features and such means better resources for all hackers, plus lots of folks getting experiences doing stuff like this. Most excellent!

Since I've done this, I guess I should say something pithy or insightful. I think the trick is the navigation piece. I see you have categories -- that's probably a good place to start. I started with questions, you can go to my main page, click on the hacker-related question you have, and be presented with a sorted list of answers based on your experience. (see http://hn-books.com/ )

I'm not sure if questions are the way to go either, though, as there are a zillion questions hackers might ask. I'd still like to see somebody come up with some new ideas in this area.

I also ran into the "just what are hacker books, anyway?" question that we get over here all of the time. I finally said screw it, I'll just put things that I believe are hacker-related. But I don't think there's any easy answer to that one, either.

Outstanding site, though! I hope some of these other guys that have spoken to me will post what they've done as well.

10 points by swombat 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Interesting resource. Another related site would be DanielBMarkham's http://www.hn-books.com/ ...
18 points by thibaut_barrere 18 hours ago 4 replies      
My wife and I made this site to make it easier to find tech-related books.

It's fairly simple so far and more features are planned.

I'm submitting early on to get some wider feedback. Thanks to all the HNers that reviewed this before today already!

4 points by benwerd 18 hours ago 2 replies      
Useful, and also a neat way to make some side-cash via your affiliate link. I suspect I'll be checking this regularly.

One thing that would be really handy - or at least interesting - is a "most recently mentioned" list. For example, when people were talking a lot about Program or be Programmed a while back, it would have been fun to see that rise to the top.

4 points by dansingerman 17 hours ago 1 reply      
This is a great idea. Simple, yet effective, and well executed.

I wish I'd thought of it.

2 points by TheSOB88 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Site looks great - really great - on a macro level, but when you get down to it, it doesn't really have the content I'm looking for.

There's extreme misuse of the space on the page. When I was looking at Code Complete (a book I've been trying to get my hands on for a while), there is very little content about the book. The synopsis is cut off (!) and there are no reviews. But if you were trying to save space, why on the hells are there over 9000 books following in "quoted discussions"? You need to switch what you're truncating here. Also, I would suggest at least copying Amazon's ratings for some measure of book quality.

For reference: http://www.hackerbooks.com/book/code-complete-a-practical-ha...

3 points by tejaswiy 12 hours ago 0 replies      
On a slightly unrelated note, are there any UX/UI books that are targetted for programmers? I'm a complete noob with photoshopping and can't create a button to save my life. Working on side projects, this is really annoying.
7 points by KishoreKumar 16 hours ago 1 reply      
"Which is the most quoted book"? or "What are the top 10 among most quoted books"? these were the questions going in my mind, while I'm browsing.
2 points by codeslush 14 hours ago 1 reply      
This is really nice looking. I am working on a concept that encapsulates part of what you've done here and I would love to have a discussion with you. I'm not ready to launch yet, but will be in a couple weeks. I gotta get moving quickly and you provide good motivation!


5 points by instakill 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Awesome site. Is there any way you can add a filter for "free" for ebooks?
2 points by adrianwaj 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I'd track the comments page. http://news.ycombinator.com/newcomments

In this respect you'll see new Amazon links every so often in: http://twitter.com/hackerlinks the tweet will begin with Amazon) http://hackerbra.in/links

This site is really a good idea. The Amazon links can get quite popular (I know from looking at my Amazon stats on @hackerlinks when I had the affiliate code inserted.)

3 points by marijn 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Needs more Eloquent JavaScript.
2 points by rhizome 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I like it! You might add links to the questions so people can see from the references what ground the book covers.
1 point by marknutter 16 hours ago 1 reply      
I wonder sometimes if it'd be worth creating a site that aggregates all the most useful and interesting information from social news sites like Reddit, HN, etc. like this site does for books on HN. I spent a long time finding all the best "life hacks" on Reddit the other day and really found some gems.
1 point by nathanlrivera 13 hours ago 1 reply      
For books published by the Pragmatic Bookshelf, you should link directly to the publisher, in my opinion. PragProg.com sells DRM-free ebooks (in pdf, mobi, and epub) for cheaper than Amazon. They are a great value and I bet the PragProg folks keep more money this way, which is a good thing.

For example http://www.hackerbooks.com/book/rails-for-net-developers-fac...

Should link to http://pragprog.com/titles/cerailn/rails-for-net-developers instead of Amazon.com.

1 point by tomrod 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I am probably echoing many when I say: Great job! How can we rate individual books?
1 point by tallanvor 17 hours ago 1 reply      
You need to adjust your tokenization settings. --Searching for C, C++, and C# all return the same results right now.
1 point by d0m 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Wow, good idea. I've browsed it this morning and it's an excellent website. Some things I might add is a link to the context of where the book was cited and also better categorization. (i.e. effective C++ in compiler book). But otherwise, amazing. Thank you
1 point by Jem 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Is it possible to sort in different ways? Am guessing it's sorted by latest recommendation at the minute?

I searched PHP and would like to see by # of recommendations...

2 points by davidjhall 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Minor bug report: I did a search on xbox (hoping to see Hacking the Xbox) and the Kinect system came up -- you are probably scrubbing against Amazon and it came up.
2 points by chintan100 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Awesome site! Verrrry useful for SOers and HNers.

I dont know if there is an API for it or not but if you can get the Amazon rating of a book and display it on the book description page, it will be great. :)

1 point by Sakes 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I knew exactly what your site offered and how to use it in the first 5 seconds. Awesome job, nice info layout.
1 point by iconfinder 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Have you been inspired by the design/structure of Iconfinder.com?
2 points by soapdog 16 hours ago 1 reply      
I really liked the site, congratulations. Just because I am a stack freak, can you tell us more about your technology stack and how fun (or not) was to develop this?
3 points by HackrNwsDesignr 17 hours ago 1 reply      
What language/tools did you use to build it?
1 point by lefstathiou 13 hours ago 1 reply      
i would appreciate a link to google books so i can preview the site.
2 points by techarch 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Love it! Nice clean and simple without the clutter of non-hacker type books!
1 point by thurn 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd really love a feature where people could submit exercise solutions for books that don't include them. I find exercises a lot more useful if I have a solution to compare against.
1 point by dmarinoc 18 hours ago 1 reply      
just curious... how do you parse (and find the titles) from SO and HN? Only checking from publishers/distributors links?

Keep the good work. I love it :)

My only suggestion is to offer a ranking and order the results by # of quotes

1 point by mcn 12 hours ago 1 reply      
I like it. I would love to see the comments without having to click through to hacker news or stack overflow.
1 point by krat0sprakhar 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Thanks for this amazing initiative. Looking forward to more features.
1 point by gauravgupta 18 hours ago 1 reply      
You should sort the books by the number of times they have been quoted.
2 points by blparker 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Love it. Thank you.
1 point by savramescu 17 hours ago 1 reply      
I can't see any book details / list now. I haz error 500.
1 point by jwomers 18 hours ago 1 reply      
This is a great idea, and executed well! Awesome!
1 point by mikecaron 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Wicked cool!
How to become Batman quora.com
275 points by rpsubhub 4 days ago   77 comments top 19
40 points by ErrantX 4 days ago replies      
Pfft, no vision!

However, this thesis seems mostly sensible. I think the crucial answer is that the "Skillz" of Batman are attainable, and there is a reasonable proportion of people in the world with potential to attain them, BUT the problem of being Batman is not in the technology.

The problem, as highlighted, is that there is no role for Batman in our current society. Vigilantism is frowned on, and, practically speaking, having a secret alter ego that lasts only happens in the movies.

But the real problem is that Batman exists to solve a problem; Gotham has a massive crime problem, way beyond what we see in any major city in the world. And it is a city where number of crime bosses, criminal geniuses and psychopaths exist, and where they can act fairly freely.

Given a real life city with that setup, yes, Batman would stand a better chance.

23 points by sambeau 4 days ago 2 replies      
The original question has a link to a Scientific American that explores the same idea:


I like this quote:

  How many of us do you think could become a Batman?

If you found the percentage of billionaires and multiply
that by the percentage of people who become Olympic
decathletes, you could probably get a close estimate.

22 points by stcredzero 4 days ago 2 replies      
Wasn't there a woman on This American Life who tried to become as close to a real life superhero as possible?

EDIT: Found it. She calls herself Zora. (Which is the name of a character in Powers.)

17 points by noblethrasher 4 days ago 2 replies      

"Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad."

" Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash)

16 points by DanI-S 4 days ago 0 replies      
The real question is why you would want to be Batman when Iron Man has so much more fun...
5 points by Tichy 4 days ago 0 replies      
I suppose it would be possible to learn faster than by just going the official route. Does Batman need a detective license? I think not.

I wonder if there are cases of people leading batman style lives. Or even maybe Dexter style lives (going about dishing out illegal justice in their spare time).

One thing that comes to mind is from a movie I saw (maybe smoke signals?), where the native american tribe (living in modern times) had a traditional role of some people disguising and teaching other people a lesson.

As for the signalling problem, maybe something could be built with modern technologie (SMS, mobile internet, social networks).

In fact today I had this thought, fueled by paranoia: what if your child was abducted, but could send one last distress call. I suppose police wouldn't be able to block the roads in time to catch the abductor, but what if by a snowballing flash mob effect, all people would take to the street and blocked all roads until police would arrive? It would be a kind of distributed batman effect...

5 points by JanezStupar 4 days ago 0 replies      
Umm there is something else - most of the crooks in Batman seem to be burning some midnight oil studying and practicing - right down to the ordinary mobster level.

So a real Batman in real world, where criminals are not all competent in many fields (except crime OFC - at least when Batman is around) could get by with lots lower skills.

Also a lot of skills overlap... Take this guy for instance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnClWxkcS4g) I guess that he has quite some of necessary skills to be a batman. Come to think of it - MOSSAD operatives probably are quite a representation of actual "batmen" - with tech and all :).

5 points by cturner 4 days ago 1 reply      
My biggest niggle about Batman is how he'd get to and from the scene, particularly roads near his house. Locals would see the batmobile on the same road repeatedly. Lovers in the bushes would see/be squashed by the car pulling into the tunnel. Word would soon get around.
18 points by siddhant 4 days ago 2 replies      
This man just shattered all our dreams.
4 points by Eliezer 4 days ago 0 replies      
Boy, I'd hate to ask them how to become Harry Potter.
6 points by jeffthebear 4 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder if the money that Batman spends to fight crime could be used more effectively in other ways. Batman is essentially a guy who uses his millions of dollars to fund his private war against criminals of Gotham city. If he used the same money and time to educate kids, invest in rehab programs or create community programs he might be able to get more done than what one man can do in the night. But it probably doesn't have the same kick you get out of beating up criminals.
5 points by varjag 4 days ago 0 replies      
One could still become a Kick Ass though.
5 points by JCB_K 4 days ago 1 reply      
Very entertaining and funny, but could people please stop saying "Quora is different because of the crowd and it's serious and bla bla bla"?
1 point by sb 4 days ago 0 replies      
Damn it, if I had known when I was 18!

OTOH, I guess since the common opinion is that most bad guys are boring drug dealers, it's fair to say that if there are people inquiring about how to be Batman, there probably are ones interested in becoming one of his arch-enemies (which is probably less difficult, too :)

3 points by iampims 4 days ago 0 replies      
Batman for Wallstreet criminals?
0 points by ck2 4 days ago 0 replies      
Um, you really think you could be anonymous in today's day and age? In the United States? That's a big false premise in Batman, how no-one can seem to figure out who it is.

Law enforcement would hate being made into fools, they'd seize your assets and put you in Gitmo as an example (I wonder how many more presidencies that will be kept open).

2 points by YoungNeem 4 days ago 0 replies      
Quite simply, it's Alfred's station that makes Batman's efforts appear seamless. Alfred offers Batman wisdom, advice, an ear for consultation, and most importantly, he picks up Batman in the Bentley, when he's hurt, so he doesn't end up in ICU.

Moreover, in this scenario, our real-life Batman fails to become buddy-buddy with the police chief. That's a critical step.

-1 point by blazer 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why not Bruce Wayne?
-2 points by joelrunyon 4 days ago 0 replies      
Woah...talk about a buzzkill
Jeopardy Champion Ken Jennings Q&A about IBM Watson washingtonpost.com
273 points by acangiano 6 days ago   83 comments top 17
70 points by thecoffman 6 days ago 7 replies      
I was actually surprised at how funny he is - many times I find the personality type that supports being so good at that type of thing tends to be lacking in social skills (broad generalization of course) but he comes off as humble, personable and funny. His answer to the Now do you know how people felt when they were competing against you? question was especially interesting to me.
34 points by acangiano 6 days ago 2 replies      
I love how he handles the, almost guaranteed, defeat with great grace and humor. For comparison, Kasparov was in tears. Not the same scenario of course, but I truly admire Kennings' attitude and acknowledgment of IBM's (and humanity's) accomplishments exemplified by Watson.
23 points by SoftwareMaven 6 days ago 1 reply      
"""I AM PLAYING A PRIME-TIME GAME SHOW AGAINST A SUPER-ADVANCED ROBOT! This is the coolest thing I will every do in my life by a factor of a million. The future is here."""

My kids think I'm a little weird because I think this battle is so cool (I think the more you understand about the implementation, the cooler this is), but this statement pretty much sums it up.

14 points by portman 6 days ago 1 reply      
Ken Jennings is FUNNY.

    IBM: "There's a lot of you in Watson"
Ken: "If it goes amuck and kills humanity and stuff so sorry lolz my bad!"

Chat participant: "I read your first in practically a day, I loved it."
Ken: "I'd like to thank my mom for taking part in the chat!"

14 points by ck2 6 days ago 3 replies      
Did you know it took 4 hours to film the episodes because Watson kept crashing? Seriously.


7 points by BoppreH 6 days ago 1 reply      

  Three Words
Industrial Strength Magnets.


The guy's pretty intelligent (duh) and funny. Fortunately, he seems to be accepting the challenge quite well.

Last thing we need after such an AI breakthrough is someone complaining about the fairness of the game.

6 points by stcredzero 6 days ago 2 replies      
Q: I have already read plenty of doomsday reports for the blue-collar workforce that this technology could replace customer service representatives, in-patient counseling, bank tellers, cashiers, etc. Do you think Watson could replace Alex Trebek?

I'm starting to wonder what Watson could do with the database of Stack Overflow.

6 points by postfuturist 6 days ago 1 reply      
It's unfair that Watson is allowed to basically use it's robotic reaction to time ring in instantly when the light turns on, but all audio and video daily doubles are avoided because IBM didn't bother to add audio and video inputs.

If the show is catering to Watson's shortcomings, why couldn't they cater to human reaction time shortcomings?

Edit: punctuation

3 points by toddh 6 days ago 3 replies      
"But I wouldn't call this unfair...precise timing just happens to be one thing computers are better at than we humans. It's not like I think Watson should try buzzing in more erratically just to give homo sapiens a chance."

Wouldn't it be better to build a distribution of champion level response times and have Watson draw randomly from that distribution? That would seem more fair.

12 points by icecommander 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm more interested in a Q&A with Watson about Ken Jennings
1 point by jeremymims 6 days ago 0 replies      
A lot of this advantage is from correctly hitting the buzzer in time. When my college roommate was on the show, he said very often the trick was not buzzing in early and getting locked out. It was apparent that most contestants knew the correct answer for most questions. I imagine Watson would not have buzzer jitters.
2 points by matthiaswh 6 days ago 1 reply      
Interestingly, Ken Jennings says about Watson what most people say about ordinary players:

   Watson sometimes takes some time to get acclimated to a category, so starting at the bottom gives me a chance to rack up some money before it gets confident.  In theory!

Supposedly that was Mr. Jennings' reasoning for jumping around during his streak, that the other players didn't have quite as long a time as him to consider the category.

Not sure how tongue in cheek that remark was, though.

2 points by alanh 6 days ago 0 replies      
Great stuff. “An away game for humanity.” Worth the read!
1 point by maeon3 6 days ago 0 replies      
To provide a better challenge for both the humans and the machine, you should be able to buzz in as soon as the question is visible. Watson no doubt is doing most of the work in the time it takes the humans to load up the question into their mind.
1 point by entangld 6 days ago 0 replies      
Slightly off-topic: Is there anyway Watson could be used to fix Google's search results? /s
1 point by joejohnson 6 days ago 0 replies      
Ken Jennings is cool. He's a pretty funny guy, too.
-4 points by korussian 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wait a second, did anyone else catch this?:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


My understanding is that the shows are taped and you obviously know the outcome. You made the recent comment on MSNBC that in order to win you had to play and bet recklessly. Do humans have an advantage in terms of betting (game theory) Your comment seems to be a tell that a human won, any guidance appreciated.
" February 15, 2011 10:59 AM Permalink

I would say that Watson has the wagering edge--like you say, it's all game theory and math, and even a cheap PC is pretty good at doing math at high speeds. That said, a human player might be more willing to take risks that Watson is too smart to try. In the practice games I saw, betting big on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy seemed like the only way to cancel out Watson's big buzzer advantage.

* * * *

HE DIDN'T ANSWER THE QUESTION! Is this confirmation that Ken Jennings wins?

Last.fm co-founder: Apple just fucked over online music subs for the iPhone switched.com
269 points by Uncle_Sam 5 days ago   206 comments top 24
62 points by cletus 5 days ago replies      
30% is simply an unsustainable cut of many things, of which music subscriptions are just one example.

I've said before--and I stand by the statement--that Apple doesn't have a lot of wiggle-room here without disrupting their retail channel for iTunes cards, which (IMHO) is a really important competitive advantage they have over, say, Android.

Having the retail credit channel is the equivalent of the importance of having prepay options for cell phones vs postpay. Many people don't want to put CC info in iTunes or they simply want to give gift cards to kids.

What Apple should do is make such a service optional. If it's compelling, people will use it. I also believe that for some people this will be compelling because they then don't have to deal with billing and all the infrastructure (payment gateways, receipts, accounts departments and so forth) that that entails.

Forcing it down people's throats is another matter entirely.

It's still unclear how this will relate to the Kindle, which is really what interests me, as it is a mix of subscriptions and single-purchase publications, all of which are purchased outside of the App Store.

Part of the problem is that there is an internal inconsistency in play. You can subscribe to the Wall Street Journal Web edition and use that on Safari on your iPad just fine. Why should the WSJ app that gives you access to that same content be any different?

You could sell an app on the App Store for $10 and Apple would get their $3 cut. Give a free version away and offer a $10 in-app upgrade and Apple still gets their $3 cut. From Apple's perspective, why are subscriptions any different?

I guess Apple are seeing this as people making money off their platform so they should get a cut. That position has superficial attractions but quickly breaks down if you go deeper.

To me it's a lot like the ISPs who want to charge Netflix or Google for all the bandwidth they use, which is nothing more than double-dipping. The customer pays for the bandwidth. What they use that bandwidth for should be immaterial to the ISP.

Personally I think Apple makes enough money from selling the devices, the App Store and iTunes that just nickel-and-diming people who produce material users subscribe to to the point of excluding such content from the device is really not in their interest or the user's interest.

Not having Grooveshark on my iPhone/iPad is a problem (that predates this). Losing other music services will be a problem. Losing the Kindle will be a HUGE problem.

32 points by eftpotrm 5 days ago replies      
I suspect Apple may have to back down over this...

So much of the value they paint of the iOS ecosystem is in the apps - 'There's an app for that' was a large campaign last year. Yet they're now threatening to make a number of their more popular apps economically unviable according to their creators.

In-app payment will mean a new app, no? Which won't get approved if it contains a rant against Apple on that screen explaining the price hike they need to make it viable. Yet the current versions contain links to web-based payment, which would be relatively easy to update to include a page saying 'Apple are thieves' and explain why.

I'm well aware that many / most customers would see such a message, give a stereotyically teenage whatever reaction and move to a competitor, but a good percentage won't and we've seen how fast bad news travels now. Enough providers that customers value enough are now angry enough with Apple to try their luck at this, particularly with a competing platform available and growing without the same restriction, and I wouldn't like to bet on Apple winning this.

71 points by metabrew 5 days ago 2 replies      
I'm the one quoted there (RJ). It's worth pointing out that I've not worked at Last.fm for a couple of years, and the chat log (which I posted) doesn't mention Last.fm at all.

That said, I still think my analysis is bang on.

What Apple have done will really cripple anyone reselling/licensing content (Spotify, Last.fm, Netflix etc).

9 points by halostatue 5 days ago 4 replies      
I strongly suspect most people who are commenting on this haven't read the iOS developer terms or the updated guidelines. I think these updated terms are crappy and unfair, but they're not at all what some of the more lurid claims are making"including, IMO, the one made in the accompanying article.

These rules are all about iOS In App Purchases (IAP). If your app is not eligible for IAP, these rules don't apply. Period. End of story. If your app is eligible, these rules probably apply.

So, what's not eligible?

* Goods or services for use outside of the app. This means that Linode, TheLadders.com, Chargify, WeightWatchers, etc., are all in the clear because they can't even offer their services through IAP.

* Currency of any form. Even if Facebook's mobile app offered FB Credit purchases, it wouldn't be allowed to do so through IAP.

* Rentals. Pre-determined-time-limited content access is disallowed for IAP.

If one were to look at all of the materials that Apple has published on this, this primarily seems focussed around downloadable content, not around streamed or "rented" content, and certainly not around non-app goods or services.

Yes, Last.fm, Pandora, Netflix, Hulu and the like are in a bit of a grey area right now, but I strongly suspect that they will come out in the clear on this because they essentially "rent" the content to you; you can't download it and keep it"they're probably not eligible for IAP in the first place. On "The true cost of publishing on the Amazon Kindle"[1], I have a comment that outlines the exact sections[2] with paraphrases of the text involved.

I also have a comment[3] on "Why are you people defending Apple?"[4] that talks a bit more about who this hurts, namely reseller-distributors. Content owners are (for the most part) going to be ecstatic about this if they offer the content for sale directly.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2228839
[2] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2229495
[3] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2229353
[4] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2228419

12 points by gokhan 5 days ago 0 replies      
Apple tries to tax after sales usage of the device as if it's a leased device. They don't want to give up the upfront sales revenue of the device, and still want to get their cut for the usage.

This both can't happen. Give the device free and tax the usage, or sell it and live with the fact that the device is now belongs to the customer.

And iXYZ owners want to believe that they own the device. They can't hack it, they can't open it, they can't put software on it on their own. They can't even freely access the storage inside. And this kind of actions from Apple reminds them that they just don't own the device.

When it came to the question of who own the device, Apple customers always gave up their right to own the device in return of ahead of the time features, polish, being cool etc.

9 points by lotusleaf1987 5 days ago 2 replies      
Zach said it best yesterday: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2224469

Of course Rhapsody [insert Last.fm] can't sell their stuff for a 30% margin. It's not their own stuff!

They're trying to be the last link in a chain of 90/10 (or more) splits. They repackage record labels' repackaging of artists' content. Do you think the artists would find 30% economically untenable?

The App Store is 70/30 because Apple can take things straight from content producer to customer. When the Apple takes the place of publishing, distribution, inventory, sales, payments and shipping, there's real value for that 30%.

When all someone wants out of Apple is merely to process the payment and send things down the pipe, gee, who do they think they are? But that's not what Apple is actually holding themselves out as. Apple doesn't want to be in that kind of commodity market anyway. Seems reasonable to me.

19 points by asknemo 5 days ago 0 replies      
It is a bit emotional, but understandable. I believe the situation would have been totally different if Apple has these 30% rules and things long before iOS becomes the leading platform, when developers has the choice what and what not offer, and they can decide whether they invest or not. But the situation we have here now is that many of them has invested substantially in the iOS platform. They have invested talents, and have definitely helped co-promote the iOS in one way or the other and created a solid user base. This bomb is understandably very very unpleasant to them. Honestly if a developer/company give in and accept the 30% now, what stops Apple from charging 35%, 40%, 50% in the long run? How are they going to report to their investors and convince them that their business models is not controlled by some giant company's policy that they have absolutely no say in?
11 points by iuguy 5 days ago 0 replies      
The Internet will route around all obstructions. I wonder if any of these content providers would get in trouble for providing jailbroken apps with music subscriptions from their websites? They could then encourage people to jailbreak their phones to get 'the full experience'. I think that would be a nice way of flipping the bird to Apple.
10 points by Supermighty 5 days ago 1 reply      
I can understand Apple wanting to increase revenues. And even getting a bit of the subscription pie. But this whole thing seem wrong. It feels like Apple didn't really look at the whole ecosystem to see the ramification. Or that they did, but are overly confidant in their platform and reach to be able to force subscribers into this model.

I don't see this ending well.

9 points by djtumolo 5 days ago 0 replies      
Selling subscriptions is too broad. There's been a lot of talk about music and magazine app requirements, but what about other business services? Chargify, a subscription billing service, offers an iphone app for its customers. Do they need to offer sign up in the app, and pay apple? What about TheLadders.com, or WeightWatchers?

A huge number of companies with an app and a subscription business model just got hosed.

7 points by ig1 5 days ago 5 replies      
Are companies prohibited from charging iPhone users an extra 30% ?
6 points by slouch 5 days ago 0 replies      
The best part of this article is, "High Lord Jobs."
4 points by forgotAgain 5 days ago 1 reply      
It does seem like they over reached on this one.
3 points by tjansen 5 days ago 0 replies      
I guess in the long run, most multi-platform content providers will simply have to offer two products: one with iOS support and a 30% surcharge, and a cheaper one that only supports open systems like the web and (plain) Android.

No one can afford not to support iOS. But on the other hand, no one will be able to charge 30% more than the competition on other platforms.

1 point by protomyth 5 days ago 0 replies      
I am fine with Apple hosted content being at 30%, but when I have to do all the work for hosting and delivery, 30% is beyond reasonable.

I would even be fine if the rule said that an app developer can provide no link / no in app purchase unless it is through Apple. People using Amazon, B&N, Netflix, last.fm, etc. wouldn't of had a problem because they know to go to the website to buy stuff. The "must also" crap is the problem.

2 points by bradshaw1965 5 days ago 1 reply      
As an aside, what is the fist graphic in the posted article? I probably just don't understand the mark, but I interpret that kind of logo with revolutionary, "fight the power" kind of stuff and this is just corporate positioning, not revolution.
2 points by dalton 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wish I had the balls to have mentioned this particular risk in my startup school talk re:music a few months ago. People probably would have thought I was being paranoid/delusional.

The subscription model is already pretty f---ed even without a Deus Ex Machina from Apple.

3 points by p90x 5 days ago 1 reply      
Apple is the forbidden fruit. Tempting, seductive and ill get you kicked out of paradise.
1 point by marze 5 days ago 3 replies      
Can't last.fm or anyone else not accept new subscribers from within an app, and be fine?
1 point by cynoclast 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why are people still blaming Apple in this?

It's the recording industry that is the root of the problem.

Apple is very, very late to the game in terms of trying to own ideas and sell über-cheap copies of information like physical products.

1 point by scdc 5 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe it will cause last.FM to shut down, or maybe if last.FM pulls out of the iTunes store, it will fuel iOS competition with Android. Or maybe it will fuel mobile browser app development. I like how the market will decide how this all plays out.
2 points by colinplamondon 5 days ago 0 replies      
Use a browser.
1 point by thewileyone 4 days ago 0 replies      
I respect Steve Jobs as much as his fans love him, but I think that if this was announced after he has departed, no one would buy into it.
1 point by oceanician 4 days ago 0 replies      
Which IRC channel was that on then?
Why I stopped travelling to the US and largely stopped doing business in the US reddit.com
263 points by asmosoinio 4 days ago   186 comments top 20
46 points by ErrantX 4 days ago 4 replies      
I have to admit, as difficult as it is, he makes a good point here.

I'm nowhere near as well travelled, but we do a lot of work in the middle east (some of the nastier parts too), which is a place you would imagine a white westerner would count seriously against you.

But, frankly, I've never felt safer or more welcomed in my life (apart from the odd dicey moment).

OK, the US is not terrible, unsafe or specifically unfriendly. But there are little things; some cities I just didn't feel overly welcome because I wasn't American. I'm in my mid twenties and ordering a beer with a meal got me some highly suspicious looks! Numerous times I have been questioned by police; for being sat at a bus depot with a rucksack (they made me miss a bus and were utterly unapologetic, grr), for being stood on a street waiting for my pickup (for about 20 minutes.. I think someone had actually called them) etc.

Don't get me wrong; I've met loads of really awesome, friendly and welcoming Americans. And mostly it is fine. But more than any other place I have been to you get treated with suspicion.

34 points by edw519 4 days ago replies      
everyone is utterly paranoid


I have bit my tongue for a long time about this great community's slipping quality, but honestly, how does shit like this make it to the top of Hacker News. Flagged.

Any suggestions for how to get back to having hacker news on Hacker News? (And please spare us the lame "situational logic" response of how <anyShit> is hacker news.)

44 points by paraschopra 4 days ago 5 replies      
I will tell another personal experience. I am based out of India and have been invited to speak at a conference in San Francisco. I applied for a business visa and was denied that visa because apparently I am young (23) and they have not heard about my startup (it is of course not an IT service giant like Infosys, TCS or Wipro) or conference (it's about A/B testing). Mind you: my startup is doing quite well financially and we pay regular taxes (had all relevant documents to prove it). Getting a simple business visa for US is so hard that from multiple sources I heard that founders of a lot of VC funded startups (with more than million $ in bank) in India many times don't get a US visa if they need to setup a sales team there or be there for some business purpose. Is doing business in US for foreign startups really this hard or I am an outlier?

It's, of course, frustrating and I don't know what to do about it.

20 points by wisty 4 days ago 1 reply      
Insurance is for things that could destroy you if you didn't have it. Otherwise, by the law of averages, it's a waste of money.

Unfortunately, in the US, lots of things can destroy you: Lawsuits from car accidents, medical issues, not having a car, et cetera.

Nice comment.

16 points by iwwr 4 days ago 1 reply      
It's not merely inconvenience at the border, but travel has become cost ineffective to him.

An expensive piece of kit lost that meant that I basically didn't make any money that month.


After 9/11 everyone is utterly paranoid and everyone from security guards to police, and even random passers-by, have hassled me. Claiming that I am breaking the law (I am not) or demanding I explain why I am taking pictures.

14 points by gritzko 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am a Russian citizen living in EU. I generally avoid trips to US.
BTW, me and some of my colleagues, postdocs or PhD students, had to go through the infamous TAL (technology alert list) checks. What it practically means:
1) you are a citizen of some US "enemy" country, like xUSSR, China, Brazil or, God forbid, Iran
2) you have a PhD in any engineering discipline (true for architects, computer scientists, chemists, physicists, etc) or you work towards your PhD
3) you are going to a conference in US
Then they will do a mock background check for long enough to grant you a visa one day after the conference ends.
8 points by rue 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm a permanent resident of the U.S., but even with the green card the hassles at the border are just nasty regardless of where I've been or for how long. The attitude is atrocious and I usually feel more like a criminal they've reluctantly had to let back in rather than welcomed back home. Green card holders also get fingerprinted and in some cases retina-scanned at re-entry. The nudie scans have only managed to create a small additional inconvenience for me…
24 points by danssig 4 days ago replies      
I wonder how much longer it will take before americans get enough to take a stand about this. I suppose it would never reach critical mass with flying because not enough americans are flying to care, which is why I can't wait for TSA to follow through with their plan to set up their nonsense at bus stops and subways.
3 points by ugh 4 days ago 0 replies      
On several occasions I've had expensive gear disappear from my carry-on during security checks and last year a TSA agent dropped my Canon 1D Mk3, smashing both the lens and the camera body. No apology, but more importantly: I was never compensated.

That can't be, can it? Property damage is property damage. Shouldn't the TSA have insurance anyway? Is he stretching the truth?

6 points by ilitirit 4 days ago 1 reply      
I refuse to travel to the US because of how much hassle is involved. I don't starting my trips off on a sour note. The UK is headed this way as well, mind you.
5 points by sambeau 4 days ago 1 reply      
As a British person I find it sad (and slightly scary) that the best advice given to him is to start carrying a gun.
5 points by Maro 4 days ago 2 replies      
It must be great to be able to afford to stop doing business in the US.
6 points by I_get_stopped 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am Indian and not muslim but "unfortunate" to have been born in the middle east. Everytime I visit the US, I have an intensive check, basically running all my finger prints through an extensive check. I have to swear what I saw is true (which I find awkward, raising my palm and repeating what they say). The officers take my wallet, go through all my credit cards, docs, etc. I have to wait for about 2 hours. I once missed my connection flight because of the long wait.

And what is crazier is that the same procedure repeats when I leave the US.

1 point by felipe 4 days ago 8 replies      
> I've been to Russia before the cold war ended. I've been all over the middle east. I've been to China. I've travelled all over Europe. I've been to Cuba and I've been to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Nicaragua. What all of these places have in common is that going there was a far more pleasant experience than going to the US.

Oh, c'mon, this sounds very over-the-top. My experience is that TSA and USCIS (formerly INS) are very professional and follow a strict protocol. The protocol may be unfair or not, but that's the protocol, not the professional's fault. In places like Brazil your entire trip is at the hands of chance: Most times you get a nice officer, but sometimes not.

For example: After an incident involving an American in Brazil [1], all Americans were out of a sudden required by the Brazilian authorities to get pictures taken at the Brazilian customs. The situation got so ridiculous, that at some point the airports ended up with 3 lines: "Brazilian Citizens", "Foreigners", and "Americans". In other words, Americans were singled-out from the rest of the world. Would the OP describe that as a "pleasant experience"???

I have had somewhat bad experiences in the US too, but that's not even close to the kind of stuff I (or close family members and friends) went through in Brazil, or as a Brazilian in Europe. In the US I never had any trouble, and officers always acted professionally.

And I highly doubt this person would get compensated in any one of these countries.

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/americas/01/14/finger.gesture....

Disclaimer: I am a Brazilian naturalized American.

3 points by sp_ 4 days ago 0 replies      
I always resented traveling to the US too because of border controls. Recently I moved to the US and felt relieved that I do not have to go through immigration there anymore. Seconds after that thought I had the epiphany that I now have to go through immigration whenever I am going anywhere else in the world.

The funny thing is that I have never had a bad experience with US immigration. The only time I had a non-smooth experience was in Canada, before a flight from Montreal to Atlanta. An officer waved me out of line saying "I'm sorry sir but you were selected for a random security check. You can thank Mr George W. Bush for that."

The two funniest experiences I had was when entering Dubai and Sao Paulo, In Sao Paulo the immigration officer did not speak a single word of English. I do not speak any Portuguese. We quickly realized this frustrating situation and I was waved through. In Dubai I was the first person in line at the customs and not knowing what to do I just kept walking. The customs people just stood there and looked at me. I was already quite far behind the customs people, nearly out of the airport, when I realized that I just walked past the customs officers without having my bags or anything checked. So I went the whole way back just to go through customs properly.

5 points by die_sekte 4 days ago 10 replies      
Anybody willing to share how Schengen/EU borders are for foreigners?
5 points by jranck 4 days ago 0 replies      
"He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither."

Unfortunately I don't see this changing any time soon with the TSA unionizing.

2 points by frevd 4 days ago 0 replies      
There is also a really interesting (scarifying-wise) discussion about apathy, existentialism and generally missing purpose in America's daily life, in the later comments to check out (scroll down 1/3, i.e. a mile).
3 points by Jakku 4 days ago 0 replies      
I travel alot around the world. America is the only country where I am treated like shit when I go through the airport.

This time they took everything out of my bag. Spent ten minutes reading my diary! I mean what the fuck! Were aggressive, rude.

The system is an utter disgrace to foreigners. I wont be coming back.

0 points by known 4 days ago 0 replies      
Don't come to America.
USA debt is $200 trillion.
Goodbye to academic research devicerandom.org
266 points by rsaarelm 4 days ago   92 comments top 22
78 points by chime 4 days ago replies      
Reading this article makes me realize I certainly picked the road not taken. Last year I quit my job as the Director of IT at a small pharma, dropped out of a company-paid MBA program, drastically reduced my expenses, and started doing independent research. A lot of people around me thought I was crazy especially since I wasn't going the PhD or startup route either. In my mind though, it seems pretty logical - I want to do real computer science research without all the BS that goes on with academia or corporate research lab.

I'm more productive when working solo than in teams. And I already have a specific research project in mind. All I needed was to plan my life so I'd have 50-60hr/week free after my bills were paid. For the past two months, I've been working on my research project diligently and without any external delays. I know I won't get a degree out of this and I doubt I can get published but since that's not my end-goal, it doesn't matter. I am looking for a hardware hacker if anyone is interested - it is a very fun/rewarding project: http://ktype.net

62 points by RiderOfGiraffes 4 days ago 6 replies      
You're only getting one side of this, and before you find yourself in complete agreement ask yourself this: Are you agreeing because it confirms your bias and opinion of the academic system?

I got a PhD from Cambridge. Everyone I worked with was helpful to a fault. Everyone shared credit when it was due, and declined offers of credit when they felt they hadn't contributed enough.

I got my PhD, got a 3 year post-doc, changed fields into another 3 year post-doc, then got head-hunted into industry.

My experience of academia couldn't be more different from the one described here.

There's a story told of an elderly gentleman sitting sunning himself outside the city gates when a traveller came by. "What are people like here?" asked the traveller. "What were they like where you came from?" asked the elderly gentleman. Then no matter what the answer, he'd always say: "You'll find people here pretty much the same."

I'm not saying that this individual didn't have bad experiences, I'm not saying he deserved them, I'm not saying academia is all roses, and I'm not saying manipulative sociopaths don't exist. They do.

But my personal experience is different.

18 points by jtbigwoo 4 days ago 4 replies      
This is how many, many professions work. Musicians, writers, inventors, athletes, research scientists, pilots, and even small business owners all have the same career path. A few really driven, really lucky ones win the lottery and get to be household names. A small minority (maybe 1 - 5%) make an upper middle class living. The other 99% work for poor wages until they give up or get used up. It sucks, but it's hardly unique to science. If you're in a profession with a massive oversupply of labor, you can pretty much be guaranteed to see this kind of structure.

I also spent half the article thinking that the author's struggles with vocabulary and grammar might explain his/her struggles to get ahead. Perhaps he/she is a non-native speaker and that's adding to the trouble?

16 points by amh 4 days ago 0 replies      
Having spent some time in the academia sausage factory, I think this guy is fairly close to the mark. A lot of time and effort is consumed simply writing grants and genuflecting for government money. A perpetual stream of cheap labor (postdocs) is necessary to keep the cash spigot flowing, even though many of them have zero chance for a real career in their chosen field. I've seen incredibly petty behavior over attribution and credit on papers.

I think most scientific progress happens in spite of the academic system, and not because of it. In some ways the old system of patronage was superior -- you had a direct connection between a king or wealthy merchant who had an interest in something, and the scientists who needed funding to investigate it, instead of a vast bureaucracy that probably consumes more than the total amount it exists to allocate.

9 points by arjunnarayan 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm going to have to disagree with the article for many reasons: First, I'm a Ph.D student and thus obviously biased. But second, while Ph.Ds can be unwise life decisions for many, it really depends on your field, and the most relevant field to this demographic is computer science. It really doesn't work that way in CS because such a high volume of computer scientists leave academia post-Ph.D into industry. CS industry (and the finance industry) has an insatiable thirst for deeply knowledgeable qualified Ph.Ds. I don't know what the cost benefit is (of spending 4 years in academia vs getting paid high industry salaries) and I'm sure you could make more money going straight into a tech job; but I'm going to assume here that we are maximizing more than just $\sum_{life} income$ here.

PG has a Ph.D; he did fine (yay anecdote). In my various internships around tech companies, there were plenty of senior coders who had Ph.Ds. And if you have a Ph.D in a relevant niche, you're probably going to be headhunted and well sought after. Where else does Wall Street or Google hire top machine learning specialists?

Now a Ph.D in sociology on the other hand... where do you go from there?

13 points by narkee 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've observed that success in an academic environment requires more than simply scientific acumen. It also requires relentless self-promotion, networking and a passion not only for science, but for winning the academic game.

There are a lot of good science minded people, and there are a lot of good, driven self-promoters. Most successful scientists you encounter (apart from the odd genius) belong in the intersection between groups.

12 points by duncanj 4 days ago 1 reply      
My current theory for success in academia (and I'm not an academic so take it with a grain of salt) is a sort of synthesis of Dick Hamming's thoughts and other things I've read.

1. The purpose of a Ph.D. is to become a pre-eminent expert in a field. It's not to get a piece of paper. If you're not working on a career that will make you an expert, you'll be disappointed with your options after you have achieved your doctorate.

2. Find the interesting problems that people are afraid to work on and work on them very hard.

3. Use lots of techniques and approach your problems from many sides. Often something cool will shake out of the mix, and it won't have been in your research proposal.

4. If you aren't self-motivated, it's not right for you. If you don't enjoy the work, take your masters and go do something you enjoy.

5. Prepare your life for long hours and low pay with lots of frustration. Research doesn't proceed easily from point to point and it's all about being around when you accidentally make a breakthrough.

I'm sure I'm about 90% wrong, but perhaps less wrong than the naive, "Ph.D. is a way to stay in school and not have to face the real world" point of view.

4 points by ylem 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am a researcher who's fortunate enough to have found a permanent position at a place that I love doing work that I enjoy. I've served on program committees of conferences, organized workshops, etc. However, I must admit that some of the OPs thoughts are correct.

There is definitely a problem with an oversupply of PhDs relative to the job market for physics (and likely biology). For a position at say Berkeley for a biology faculty position there used to be approx. 600 applicants per position. For physics at first tier or second tier institutions the number may drop to 200. Even if we are cruel and suggest that half of those are unqualified, that still leaves a large pool of extraordinarily qualified people competing for a rather small pool of jobs. I see this regularly when there are young postdocs with good publication records (Nature, PRL, etc.) who are having trouble finding permanent positions after their postdocs. Part of this may be related to decreased state funding and hiring freezes (in several states, there have been furloughs). Even for postdocs who have decided that they would prefer to work at an undergraduate institution and teach, the competition is fierce. Oddly, even for those that want to teach at a public high school, it's hard because of the education requirements (you can run a facility, teach freshmen at an elite college--but teaching high school seniors....). Things are so fierce that it's rather hard to have much selectivity about geography. This can wreak havoc with relationships and in physics is known as the two body problem--where a couple in science has difficulty finding positions in the same zipcode. As one colleague told me, she'd be happy to just have the same timezone....

For my subfield, industrial research positions have been gradually drying up (at least for doing physics rather than engineering). A number of companies in the past were able to use monopoly profits to drive research (think of AT&T Bell Labs which is now but a shadow of it's former self--when I was there as an intern, it was amazing....). However, many have scaled back. Thus, I have seen a number of people pursuing various exit strategies.

During the internet boom (where I had decided to drop computer engineering as a major because physics was more fun), a number of people who could code dropped out an joined startups. Later, people from Ivy institutions joined consulting firms such as McKinsey (with a "mini-MBA"). Later, a number joined in the gold rush of financial engineering. While that continues, many go through a brief masters first to get their foot in the door. A few turn to more engineering related work. So, while the unemployment rate for physics PhDs is low--not so many are actually still doing physics research.

For myself, I'll take on undergraduate and high school interns. No graduate students. I really respect String Theorists who for years intentionally limited the number of students they would accept due to the paucity of permanent positions. For years, I'd been reluctant to take on a postdoc due to the current situation. Now, I've taken on my first postdoc and will do my best by him--but I have to be honest about the job market and I'm having him learn some programming as a plan B. Plan C is that I'm very confident that he'll be able to get a position in his home country afterwards.

I've seen some people who are bitter (think of the opportunity costs!) when they leave. But, I've seen some who are mellow--"At least I got to work with something beautiful for awhile....".Part of the difficulty is that for scientists, you don't go into it for the money (at least I hope you don't!), you go into it for love. So, doing science becomes not just a job, but rather a calling and a way of life. So, someone's sense of self may often become tied to being a scientist--and that's hard to leave behind...

So to summarize, while all fields of science are not cutthroat, given the level of competition, it is very hard to find a job. Also, given the level, then people have to work extremely hard and it takes a toll on people's personal lives (it's hard to have one when average work weeks extend to 60-80 hrs for a number of experimentalists--my solution has been to sleep less, but I'm told that's unhealthy...).

17 points by argv_empty 4 days ago 0 replies      
I keep getting 503 on the site. Here's a coral cache:
4 points by snippyhollow 4 days ago 1 reply      
It is a matter of finding balance: finding the right advisor, keeping some time for your other life (your girlfriend, your friends) even if you will have deadline rushes and think about your problem under the shower. This is a common problem to all passionate people more than only "scientists". It just seems that you find a lot of passionate scientist in academia.

This writing seems about right (except that I didn't experience that much bad collaboration/competition though, even if I know it exists) to me, a second year Ph.D student in AI applied to RTS games. I don't really like that you have to work 24/7 to not be left behind, and I don't work that much indeed. Life is too short to have yours dictated by the actions of others. If you want to stop at 50hours/week while doing research, just try and make it so (focus your topic and focus on your advantages). But I'm happy pursuing a Ph.D. I don't have a fixed mindset/idea of what I would like to do next though: a startup? Working at a big firm? Seeking tenure? All options will be considered, but right now: I enjoy being paid (not much, particularly compared to my Masters prom comrades) to work on interesting topics and sometimes teach guys at the University about one of my passions (CS), with a great advisor (I picked him socially great and scientifically sharp, the mid-low h-index and the beard are byproducts), and so much intelligent people all around.

7 points by achompas 4 days ago 3 replies      
There is a second option, which is bare survival.

What about the third option: get your PhD and work in industry? I keep coming across statistics and CS PhDs who now work for Twitter, the New York Times, and industry research labs (AT&T, Microsoft). Why isn't an industry job a viable option?

8 points by retube 4 days ago 1 reply      
WELCOME TO LIFE. I've worked in academia, industry and finance. It's all a pyramid. Play the game or you'll be passed over.
3 points by pbiggar 4 days ago 0 replies      
While I sympathize with the author, I don't think we can generalize from his experience all that much. For a balancing anecdote, here's my life progression to date:

  Bachelors: 22
Start PhD: 24
Meet girl: 25
Get engaged: 27
Submit thesis: 27
s/girlfriend/wife/: 28
Get 6 figure salary working for Mozilla: 28
Am now: 29

Yes, everything turned out better than expected (though I omitted the bit where I started and folded a company in there), and it could have gone horribly wrong. But you just can't generalize about doing a PhD, or anything really, from his anecdote, or from mine.

8 points by beetmik 4 days ago 2 replies      
Just to put it in perspective, I'm sure it's a real curse to have to spend the rest of your life doing something you purportedly absolutely love to do in a hell-hole like Pisa, Italy. That said, my heart absolutely goes out to this person who is apparently really depressed. Hope he can find his happiness in life.
2 points by ryanjmo 4 days ago 0 replies      
So, I often have to justify the time I spent getting a PhD in computer science (Cryptography), because I have a start-up that programs Facebook Apps now a days.

The only reason I can, is because I really didn't spend that much time actually working during the whole period and spent a lot of time learning to surf and play tennis well.

I really feel like I learned a lot of valuable lessons from learning to play tennis and to surf. I'm really glad my PhD afforded me time and money to make that possible.

3 points by PaulHoule 4 days ago 0 replies      
I had a similar painful revelation, as do 95% of people who get science PhD's. Fortunately it happened when I was a postdoc, so at least I got my honorable discharge.
2 points by rubidium 4 days ago 2 replies      
Thankfully this guy figured it out when he was only 30. He's still got lots of time to figure out new ways to use and market the skills he has acquired.

New thought: academia isn't broken, there are just too many people who want to be academics. What do people think?

3 points by marknutter 4 days ago 1 reply      
When I graduated with my degree in physics, I was introduced to something called Ruby on Rails, and instead of go on to grad school I pivoted into the life of a web developer. Best thing that ever happened to me.
1 point by josgraha 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a link to that article on The Economist that states there are too many people doing too much of _everything_ and life is hard in general. Oh wait, that doesn't exist yet perhaps because that's reality. It sounds like he has spent so much time doing everything but what he _should_ be doing which is looking for something he actually _enjoys_ doing. Not that the article wasn't insightful or lucid or anything but this article struck me in he clearly enjoys complaining about his work life than doing it so there's a problem. I don't love my job but I enjoy doing it most of the time and I have great hobbies, a great partner in life and am happier and fitter than I have ever been. Perhaps he should try doing different things and see how that works out as when you are doing something you don't have any expectations. Why would you say "I love science, I just don't love doing it?". I love Formula One cars but don't know anything about driving them but I love riding motorcycles, and riding bikes. He needs to find the action verb that defines his work life and not impose any expectations from a noun he associates with "love."
2 points by mdink 4 days ago 1 reply      
Isn't the real problem here that we rely on "academia" to be the "experts"? I know a number of very accomplished and intelligent folks that did not pursue PhD and have done phenomenally well in their own research. But sadly many, for credibility's sake, had to advertise themselves as think tanks. Why can't we just put the damn degrees down and listen to the person to judge their competency??
5 points by apl 4 days ago 1 reply      

  > but how credible is he as a source if he can't even pass his quals?

Where did he say that?

-4 points by tjmaxal 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is a good outline of a problem, with absolutely no insights into any possible solutions. As far as I'm concerned this is a half finished post. It's not enough to simply complain/outline the problem. You have to use that personal experience to offer up some kind of personal redemption or possible global solution to really keep the conversation moving.
Show HN: Breakup Notifier breakupnotifier.com
256 points by theli0nheart 2 days ago   114 comments top 37
82 points by theli0nheart 2 days ago 4 replies      
A few days ago, my fiancee and her mom were talking about setting up a nice guy with my fiancee's sister. Unfortunately, said guy is in a relationship. My mother-in-law to be suggested it would be nice to know when the relationship was over (jokingly). I blurted out that I could make something that could do that in a couple of hours. By then, I knew I had to do it.

The application was built on Google Appengine, Django, and the Facebook Graph API. I'm checking for status changes every 24 hours, and am using the Appengine mail service to send emails whenever I notice that a relationship status has changed.

Seriously, this is mostly a joke. But enjoy, if you do choose to use it for real.

98 points by fookyong 2 days ago 2 replies      
Free Version Notification Email:

X is now single.

Paid Version Notification Email (with semantic analysis!):

X is now single.

She broke up with her boyfriend because he didn't pay enough attention to her.

Lately she has been listening to Arcade Fire and eating cupcakes.

Click to phone X now - suggest getting a cupcake together.

129 points by jarin 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is the most pointless, trivial, absurd, creepy app I've seen in a while.

Signed up.

I think it will be massively successful!

20 points by rudiger 2 days ago 4 replies      
A while back, I heard that Facebook can predict when two people in a relationship are about to break up, based on statistical patterns in account activity prior to break-ups.

I'm not familiar with the Facebook APIs or what sort of account activity is statistically significant, but that would be a cool app that's very similar to this. Log in with Facebook, and show which of your in-a-relationship friends has the highest probability of breaking up. Obviously harder than a notification after the break-up, but prediction would be cool and useful.

22 points by sudonim 2 days ago 3 replies      
Kudos for releasing the app!

IMHO, Unless you're married, don't put your relationship status on FB. Set it as hidden, or say nothing. When things change, and in life they do... the people from whom you don't want to hear are the first to notice and / or comment on it.

9 points by msluyter 1 day ago 0 replies      
Next up, an app to see who's monitoring you on Breakup Notifier... "Three people are waiting for you to break up! Click here to find out more!"
18 points by kmfrk 2 days ago 1 reply      
The fact that this domain wasn't taken restores some semblance of my faith in humanity.
37 points by meursault 2 days ago 1 reply      
great idea. this is actually how my wife and i met. no joke. i had just ended a long relationship and changed my status on facebook. she noticed and started messaging me.
21 points by jschuur 2 days ago 1 reply      
This app is useless until Felicia Day, Scarlett Johansson or Jenna Fischer accept my friend requests.
4 points by dotBen 2 days ago 2 replies      
You could take the code base you have written and probably adjust just a few lines of code to turn it into an app that tells you when a friend dumps you on Facebook.

This is actually what I thought you had built, and for me would be even more useful + interesting.

(Or, open source the code and let someone else do it)

10 points by OoTheNigerian 1 day ago 1 reply      
One little suggestion: If two people select themselves, why wait until they breakup?
6 points by CWIZO 1 day ago 0 replies      
Awesome idea!

Do this please: look at my "Interested in" info and only show me people of that gender.

6 points by jmm 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is hilarious. And fits nicely with the expression, "girls are like parking spots; the good ones are always taken."
7 points by kersny 2 days ago 1 reply      
I literally laughed out loud when I saw this... great project. I'd start checking the Twilio blog (http://blog.twilio.com/) for contests and implement their API to do SMS and Call notifications, you might win something.
8 points by paulschreiber 2 days ago 1 reply      
David Weekly did this for MySpace a while back. It was called SingeStat.us:
8 points by younata 2 days ago 0 replies      
you might want to turn off the django debug stuff.
2 points by bkhl 1 day ago 0 replies      
As a lot of people said already, this is very creepy. Yet, there will be tons of users who would use this...

By the way, can you get notifications on multiple people? (now, that's really creepy)

3 points by zitterbewegung 2 days ago 2 replies      
One of the problems with this from a social perspective is that people lie about their relationship status on facebook.
11 points by kenmck 2 days ago 2 replies      
Didn't Facebook kill something like this a few years ago?
3 points by mikeknoop 2 days ago 0 replies      
It looks the the auth breaks if your profile doesn't have certain expected fields accessible (gender?).
1 point by ses 1 day ago 0 replies      
If I'm honest (and I'm hoping you're welcoming of honest feedback be it positive or negative), I think this is a ludicrous idea.
The problem with something this polarising is, I fail to see how it could grow into a product everyone might use, even if it is used begrudgingly. Unless there's something spectacularly clever that I've missed you're not going to ever win over people that are in the camp that I'm in and hate the very idea of it. I didn't like facebook when it came along, but I didn't hate it either. Hence why I eventually signed up for an account.
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you are actually quite a decent developer, and that if this is indeed the case, please divert your efforts to something more beneficial to yourself and/or society. There are so many talented developers working on 'quirky' web and mobile apps who could provide solutions to problems that enhance people's lives and also stimulate the economy.
I'm not saying your efforts aren't impressive in themselves (if you're going by the andy warhol rubric of measuring your feedback in inches you've been quite successful already), just that they show that there's so much more you could do.
1 point by realitygrill 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I am absolutely amazed to have read this yesterday, then heard about it again this morning on a local radio station (I'm from the Midwest). Wow. How's it holding up?
6 points by jmslsr 1 day ago 1 reply      
This just came across the news ticker on CNN. Congrats?
5 points by ilteris 1 day ago 2 replies      
I was thinking of building a similar app. it auto posts to your friends wall on their birthdays. New level in automated relationships.
3 points by adrianwaj 2 days ago 1 reply      
Good way to jump the queue.

Would work well with facial recognition on beauty.

Another idea: an unfriend notifier. (like with a twitter unfollow notifier)

2 points by TeMPOraL 1 day ago 0 replies      
At the moment of writing this comment, this app has 88 likes and 446 tweets. I wonder if people don't click "Like" in order not to reveal that they're interested in using the application ;).
1 point by zaidf 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm thinking the app would have to store the present status on its server in order to know of a status change. But isn't storing profile data server-side a violation of FB TOS?
1 point by jshort 1 day ago 0 replies      
I read the title completely wrong. I recently had an idea for facebook that breakup notifications. So for instance when its your birthday or someone decides to upload a photo album and tag you in 10 pictures it is sort of annoying to receive email/phone notifications one after an other, this app would simply allow you to set up the ability to put a delay on when you receive them and it pools them together. So if you get one notification it would wait x minutes and then it pools all the notifications you get until no more notifications arrive within x minutes. Then you just get one pretty notification with all the annoying notifications you would have received one after another.
2 points by Cafesolo 2 days ago 0 replies      
The first thing that comes to my mind when I see an opportunity to integrate a Facebook login button with a website is how to attract traffic from Facebook.

One of the most effective ways is publishing updates to the user's wall. However in this case it's tricky. You don't want everyone to know that you'll be notified when Pamela is single.

1 point by heffay 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Just wanted to add a note and say that my local rock radio station (in Phoenix) mentioned breakupnotifier.com today on the morning show. =
2 points by vchien 2 days ago 0 replies      
Brilliant - FB: college students nationwide began to capitalize on the ability to catalogue pictures of themselves doing keg stands, and to find out the relationship status of people they are interested in...
2 points by thomasdavis 1 day ago 1 reply      


1 point by slig 1 day ago 1 reply      
Who else remembers the singlestat.us? IIRC, facebook killed the service.
1 point by fezzl 1 day ago 1 reply      
If I secretly admire a person, I would've been stalking her profile very regularly already. This app is not too useful to me personally.
1 point by audyyy 1 day ago 0 replies      
You could monetize this by charging to see if your SO has used the site
1 point by freddealmeida 1 day ago 0 replies      
A fun app but really is this the "kind" of choice we want to make? I'm worried about these forward-focused apps mean to privacy in the long term.
-4 points by AndyKelley 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's cool to support gay people and all, but if I'm straight I shouldn't have to look at all the dudes when I'm clicking who I'm interested in.
Real Life Model of M.C. Escher's “Waterfall” laughingsquid.com
250 points by mikecane 5 days ago   49 comments top 18
44 points by ars 5 days ago 2 replies      
Despite how it looks the yellow paddle wheel is not actually at the start of the track. The rectangular box at the start is not connected to the actual start of the track. It's far away from it, and it holds the yellow wheel and a bucket to catch water.

Next, ignore the beams, and focus only on the water track. Despite looking like it's climbing up, it's actually totally flat (i.e. you could make it from one sheet of wood). But tilted slightly so water flows from the start to the end.

Additionally the entire structure is not actually sitting on the garage floor, but rather is high up in the air, and the camera angle obscures this.

Hidden under the structure is a pump and an outlet at the true start of the track.

He pours water into the catch basin at the end of the track, and that same moment someone else starts the pump. If you watch closely you can see how it looks like the water he pours is being "swallowed", and does not actually flow down the track.

The water from the pump flows down the track, and out the spigot over the wheel and into the bucket.

Next you place beams carefully cut at angles to make them look like they are holding the track - but actually they are open on top.

But this is a pretty amazing piece of work.

18 points by mrb 4 days ago 2 replies      
I can't believe no one noticed it.

The texture of the upper parts of the wood contraption feels unrealistic; there is almost no grain. The contraption itself is too bright compared to the ambient level of light; the white buckets are darker. There are 2 main sources of light: one on the right casting a shadow of the structure on the ground toward the left, and one light on the left that should cast a shadow on the ground toward the right... but it is missing (contrary to shadows on parts of the structure itself)!

This is obviously CGI. You would be surprised what a person with a few days of work can accomplish with off-the-shelf CGI software.

The poster's background suggests this. He writes "ImD-student" in his profile which may refer to the Interactive Media Division at the USC's School of Cinematic Arts. He also subscribed to the "indymogul" youtube channel which is an online video network and community dedicated to DIY filmmaking.

11 points by jbri 5 days ago 2 replies      
From what I can figure, it's the usual perspective trickery (flat water track, vertical tower, perspective makes it look like they line up), and then there's a nozzle pouring out water from the tower top.

Note that the water doesn't appear to flow in front of the wooden knob at the ledge it's supposedly falling off.

EDIT: Looking again at the HD version it seems I'm mistaken. ars' comment appears to have it correct, though.

7 points by nettdata 5 days ago 1 reply      
While this is pretty impressive, in the same vein I have to give Dyson (as in the vacuum cleaner guy and inventor of other things) huge respect for re-creating an Escher uphill waterfall as a garden piece, one that I would gladly display.


Better hi-res pic here: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/08/james-dysons-uphill...

19 points by evo 4 days ago 1 reply      
I gave it my best shot in SketchUp, and in the process discovered why I am not a 3d artist:


I think if you look closely you can see the barest edge of a bucket behind the central part of the structure, where they'd drain the actual initial liquid. (You can see that the fluid seems to arrest before that transition in the video, as well.)

3 points by alanfalcon 5 days ago 0 replies      
If anyone's having trouble picturing what this will look like from another camera angle, there was a relevant link on HN recently: http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/01/19/133017843/your-...

HN comments: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2137152

3 points by nika 5 days ago 0 replies      
No fair. Gotta move the camera to the left at the end a little bit so it is clear how he built it.

Maybe the structure is actually fairly flat, only a few inches off the floor at the highest point, but laid out, with shadows painted on the floor to make it look like it is vertical.

4 points by ars 5 days ago 0 replies      
Better link (high quality version): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v2xnl6LwJE
7 points by dmcg 4 days ago 0 replies      
All so cynical. Take it at face-value, pay the guy to set up huge versions, and cancel fusion research.
1 point by olalonde 4 days ago 0 replies      
4 points by sev 5 days ago 1 reply      
This clip is false.
1 point by jarin 4 days ago 0 replies      
The most amazing thing about this (and other similar illusions) is that even if you know it's fake and know how it's constructed, YOUR BRAIN WILL NOT LET YOU SEE IT.
1 point by AdamTReineke 5 days ago 2 replies      
I can't figure it out. And I'm sure this is not how he's doing it, but could you potentially use water mixed with very fine metal particles and then use a bunch of small electromagnets turned on and off quickly to pull the water/metal mixture along the path?
1 point by FernandoEscher 4 days ago 0 replies      
If you watch the platform near the wheel, you'll see that the water is actually going down since forward it the platform is in a lower level. I'm not an expert but, I haven't ever seen a pump making water flow that way, so maybe the water is always going down and the illusion is made by the camera position over a near flat object. Maybe you could tell the track position by watching how the water flows through corners... a pretty weird way if you watch closer...
7 points by Sniffnoy 5 days ago 0 replies      
OK, I'm stumped.
2 points by obilgic 4 days ago 1 reply      
Guys I know how it is made, but my english is not enough to explain it.
1 point by maeon3 5 days ago 0 replies      
The shadow cast on the yellow water wheel is not from the pillar you think it came from.
1 point by OwlHuntr 5 days ago 0 replies      
so confused.
Homeowner forecloses on Wells Fargo office, becomes folk hero agentgenius.com
244 points by gregory80 1 day ago   122 comments top 13
89 points by zdw 1 day ago replies      
Anyone else think that nearly the entire financial industry is ready to be replaced with a lot of very short shell scripts?

It seems to me that their value add is negligible compared to how they're rewarded.

25 points by nhangen 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm actually more impressed that the courts, even locally, didn't try to stop him from pressing buttons and ruffling feathers. Bravo to the entire town.
12 points by hippich 1 day ago 1 reply      
Wait.. I am new to all this US legal stuff. So because bank did not response to his letter, sheriff put bank building on sale? or I misunderstood article?
4 points by mryall 1 day ago 1 reply      
What does "forecloses on [an] office" actually mean? The article didn't explain that to me.

From what I read, it sounds like the guy just won a court claim in local court against WF, and got the Sheriff's office to concur that the company was somehow in the wrong. I thought foreclosure was repossession of a house when the borrower is in default?

4 points by winternett 1 day ago 0 replies      
If your house is being foreclosed upon, look into filing a Lis Pends, foreclosurefish.com has brilliant information on the process, Filing that prevents most buyers from making bids on the house while you sort out your case. Always save all of the paperwork you get from your mortgage company, Hire a lawyer, don't file for Bankruptcy, Bankruptcy lawyers will tell you that's your only option because they want your business, but that will put you in financial jail for years! A lawyer can work wonders if they know what they're doing, and they can also get your legal fees back. Its rough to get laid off, but if you take hold of the situation, work on being marketable for a job, and educate yourself about foreclosure, you'll recover.
4 points by edkennedy 1 day ago 1 reply      
There's a bit more info, including more photos and a scan of the poster over at the consumerist: http://consumerist.com/2011/02/how-this-philly-homeowner-for...
2 points by Evgeny 1 day ago 2 replies      
I think I don't quite get how the mortgage system works in the USA. In Australia it is fairly easy to go to a competing bank or other financial institution if you're unhappy with you current lender, discuss the terms and maybe get a better deal, get a loan from the new lender and pay out the outstanding loan with the previous lender. You may have to pay some fee for paying out your mortgage too early, but it's usually not that huge.

Is this not possible in the USA?

3 points by gregory80 1 day ago 1 reply      
RESPA ftw?

He learned about RESPA which allows a Qualified Written Request (QWR), a letter that a loan holder can send to their mortgage servicer who is legally obligated to acknowledge within 20 days and take action within 60

3 points by joseacta 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a matter of statistics for Wells Fargo. Of all their clients, maybe 1% do protest. The other 99% just go to the bank and pay the fees.

Maybe the other 99% doesn't even read the statements and just go and pay.

For them, it's all profits. Even paying this man and their attorneys to get to a settlement doesn't make a dent to the revenue they're receiving of the other 99%.

3 points by tjmaxal 1 day ago 1 reply      
So what can we do to help the situation?
-2 points by megaframe 1 day ago 0 replies      
ok thats hilarious, well done sir
-3 points by RK 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think the moral of the story is: don't get an adjustable rate mortgage.
-2 points by kolektiv 1 day ago 4 replies      
I can't resist it. I know pedantry is to be discouraged here, and I apologise in advance. But...
"a century old 6 bedroom 3 bath Tudor home"
grates against the part of my mammalian hind-brain responsible for breathing, basic motor control and throttling estate agents. Downvotes will be sadly accepted.
The Cognitive Style of Unix vivekhaldar.com
235 points by gandalfgeek 6 days ago   68 comments top 18
23 points by noibl 5 days ago 1 reply      
A big problem for people self-learning complex/powerful interfaces is that they often have no way to gauge how long it will take to reach a useful level of proficiency. For busy people or for urgent tasks that means allocating time to learn the thing is a risk. The deadline may have passed by the time you figure it out, or you may be interrupted by other tasks and end up cognitively back at square one.
20 points by redthrowaway 5 days ago 5 replies      
This is nerd crack: enjoyable and reinforcing, but not necessarily deep. Its recommendations seem, prima facie, to be limited to a small subset of the population. Is "giving up in frustration" measured? What about "fuck it, I have better things to do"? I'll agree that experts are better off with a command line, but I don't think the conclusions can be extended to the population at large.
12 points by chalst 5 days ago 0 replies      
Nimwegen's PhD thesis, The paradox of the guided user: assistance is later that the cited publications, and can be
, is from later than the cited articles (2008) and is available online: http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/dissertations/2008-0401-...

The experiment in the Ph.D. research did not tackle CLI vs. GUI, but rather gave two GUIs, one based on internal (i.e., figure out for yourself what you can do) vs. external (give accessible information on what you can do) GUIs. There is a little bit of discussion in chapters 1&2 of the interface styles of CLI vs. GUI.

13 points by microarchitect 5 days ago 1 reply      
The paper (unfortunately behind the ACM paywall) makes for very interesting reading.

There are a couple of points in the paper that aren't mentioned in the article.

The first one is the the difference between low and high NFC (need for cognition) individuals. The paper defines NFC as follows: A person with a high NFC loves to seek, reflect on and reason about information, whereas someone on the other end of the continuum only thinks as hard as (s)he has to and is inclined to rely on others. Their results show that low NFC folks actually took longer to complete the internalized version of the task while the high NFC folks took longer to do the externalized version. This reaffirms Haldar's point, but with a caveat - his conclusions are applicable only to "power users".

The other interesting thing was that both low and high NFC individuals got started on the task much faster (the paper calls it time to first move) with the externalized version. Presumably, all the individuals were told they _had_ to complete the task while in the "real world" many might have just given up. If you're designing an application, this is a useful lesson, getting started should be easy (i.e., an externalized interface). I guess this is also traditional wisdom, but it's nice to see this confirmed by peer-reviewed research.

5 points by d4nt 5 days ago 3 replies      
Based on this, what might be interesting is a user interface that gives you very restricted options to begin with and then gradually removed those restrictions the more you used it.

Having just written that, I realised that games have been doing this for years. Imagine having a DVCS inform you that you've levelled up and can now do cloning.

7 points by doorhammer 5 days ago 0 replies      
In 'Influence: Science and Practice', Cialdini delves into the research surrounding hazing and more abstractly, how the value we place on things is often correlated to the degree of difficulty or suffering endured to get them.

Basically, I like linux and vim because I had to suffer so much learning them ;)

but seriously, I think that notion applies heavily with coding. the languages and tools are often difficult and time-consuming to learn, and once you've invested the time to learn them well, you're psychologically predisposed to like them more. if time is valuable and one spends a lot of time learning a tool, only to find out later that it might be sub-par, it causes cognitive dissonance. at that point dissonance is most quickly reduced by looking for information confirming you've made the right choice, or simply assuming you have, and getting back to work

not directly parallel or orthogonal to the OP, but just a thought that crossed my mind while I was reading this

(I'm getting delirious because I popped some sleeping-pills, so I'm not to be held responsible to how coherent it was, orthogonality aside.)

4 points by dman 5 days ago 1 reply      
I dont think the internalization principle holds up in todays life when the number of devices / tools / software we use is exploding. In a slower moving world with few tools there was an incentive to mastering the tools and then exploiting your skill. I personally find it useful to partition tools into two categories - the ones that I want to think about and the rest that I want to use without much thought.
3 points by nicpottier 5 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting linking style used in this article, especially considering the topic.

Isn't it a bit of a step backwards to start using footnotes on the web? I'd rather see the links to the past papers worked into a sentence, with links for each per topic for instance. That's what is so great about the web, I can hop instantly off to check on something that catches my eye.

I suppose it could be argued that using footnotes will keep the users from getting distracted, but I consider cleverly working in links to be one of the joys of both reading and writing on the web.

4 points by fendrak 5 days ago 1 reply      
The reason we become experts as something (interacting with a computer here) is that we spend time thinking about it. By making user interactions harder, we're actually training people to think in a way that will allow them to extrapolate simple solutions to larger problems in the future.

Knights-in-training learned with heavier swords than they'd use in battle, so that when battle came they'd be able to wield their swords effortlessly.

1 point by 6ren 5 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting. Put the theory in the head, where it's easier to work with. You can reason with it, make predictions, maybe even develop an intuition, integrating it with existing knowledge, find metaphors. You can't do that if it's in the interface; you have to manually try each one. Even though you could extract the rules, you don't need to.

It also makes your product stickier (harder to change products; a switching cost), if users have internalized the rules.

It also may make the product harder to adopt, initially. A nice combination would be to make it trivially easy to do some common tasks (adoptable), but require internalization to do tricky things (a rewarding path to mastery; proficiency with your product becomes a markable skill; people look up to you; you become one with the tool; the power enables you can get things done).

There are other aspects of ease-of-use that aren't related to {internal,/external}ization, such as consistency of interface. e.g. ls -r means reverse, not recurse. Even though having to learn arbitrary differences will make it stickier.

2 points by dennisgorelik 4 days ago 0 replies      
The author forgets that by making UI more complex, application filters out less experienced users.
End result: remaining users are more experienced and productive on average.
But it's not because users are getting better, but because weaker users are filtered out!
2 points by mcantor 5 days ago 1 reply      
I feel like Edward Tufte would have a seizure at the way this article juxtaposes two wildly unrelated charts.
1 point by zaphar 5 days ago 0 replies      
You could take the same research and apply it to IDE's. Perhaps this explains why I prefer Emacs to Eclipse or IntelliJ.
1 point by DavidSJ 5 days ago 2 replies      
So: make interaction harder and costlier, and users will spend more time thinking about how to do what they want and less time doing it.

Can someone explain how this is a good thing?

1 point by nwmcsween 5 days ago 1 reply      
The whole idea of making interaction harder via command line irregularities w.r.t usage is incredibly stupid. Windows powershell has somewhat of a good idea by using object pipes formating is eliminated; a better idea would be to extend this system wide and 'pipe' even UI's to different formats such as javascript + markup or terminal output, this would require something completely different from unix, linux or windows.
1 point by ippisl 5 days ago 1 reply      
The problem in the article is that he talks about the two extremes of interface design, the gui vs the linux command line.

There are better interfaces for complex tasks.just try a good python Shell , with auto-complete and context sensitive help(like wing ide). the learning curve is much shorter. and you don't lost power along the way.

1 point by giladvdn 5 days ago 2 replies      
The fact that you don't know how to make your tools easy to use doesn't justify making them complex nightmares.

UNIX (and open source software in general, with a few notable exceptions) is difficult because it's built by thousands of hackers with no user experience goals in sight. The goal is solving a problem for that particular person, as fast as possible. It's rarely getting more people to use the product.

1 point by wopsky 5 days ago 0 replies      
I believe this comes down to interfaces. It's fair to assume that programmers will have greater ease in a UNIX command line environment after overcoming the learning curve. On the other hand, standard user would be better off interfacing with a GUI as it is superior to command line for tasks that are different than a developers. Data creation vs. Data consumption.
Why are you people defending Apple? techcrunch.com
229 points by Andrex 6 days ago   209 comments top 31
73 points by neutronicus 6 days ago replies      
"And finally, there's the related notion that anyone who doesn't like Apple's rules can pick up and move to another platform, like Android. Which is ridiculous."

What? Ridiculous how? This claim is ridiculous.

Suck it up and use Android. You'll live. I did.

45 points by lotusleaf1987 6 days ago replies      
Zach said it best yesterday: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2224469

Of course Rhapsody can't sell their stuff for a 30% margin. It's not their own stuff!

They're trying to be the last link in a chain of 90/10 (or more) splits. They repackage record labels' repackaging of artists' content. Do you think the artists would find 30% economically untenable?

The App Store is 70/30 because Apple can take things straight from content producer to customer. When the Apple takes the place of publishing, distribution, inventory, sales, payments and shipping, there's real value for that 30%.

When all someone wants out of Apple is merely to process the payment and send things down the pipe, gee, who do they think they are? But that's not what Apple is actually holding themselves out as. Apple doesn't want to be in that kind of commodity market anyway. Seems reasonable to me.

46 points by Bossman 6 days ago replies      
And people wonder why I hate the walled approach Apple takes.

The article makes another great point about people not being able to leave iOS devices for a competitor because all their music, movies, apps, etc are in Apple's DRM format and won't transfer to other devices.

Apple deserves to have control over their own platform, but this is getting a little crazy. The extra fee wouldn't be so bad if developers could increase fees through apps to offset it, but Apple is forcing them into a horrible position. They can't say the reason for higher prices is Apple charging them. They have to eat that cost for the customer and aren't even allowed to post links to their site in the app anymore.

32 points by GHFigs 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm sure this post will invite a throng of Apple advocates to poke holes in my logic

...as if that were not transparently the intent of an article entitled "Why are you people defending Apple?"

13 points by statictype 6 days ago 0 replies      

More than the actual policy, what disturbs me is the number of people blindly defending it saying it's in the best interest of the users.

It is not.

This new subscription mechanism will effectively boot all newspaper/book/music subscription services off the App Store.
This is great only if you're one of those people that believes every piece of technology you ever use should only be made by Apple.

The only entity that benefits from this scheme is AAPL

21 points by jokermatt999 6 days ago 0 replies      
This articulated a lot of my issues with Apple better than I could. I tend to steer clear of TC, but I think this is the best article I've seen on this issue of the 30% cut.
8 points by radley 6 days ago 0 replies      
Apple's new subscription model will cost more for end-users on all platforms. The new terms mean ~50% subscription price hikes across the board. Services can't reduce costs, and they aren't going to give away their profit.

Ironically, it also creates incentives for competing platforms because the profit will be 2-5x greater than on iOS.

15 points by jon_hendry 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm waiting for Apple to apply a per-MB charge for all data you access on iOS via WiFi or 3G that doesn't come from Apple.
3 points by EGreg 6 days ago 0 replies      
I see this as a steady development towards a new era, away from copyright and patents and towards distribution-driven innovation.

Look at Netflix, Apple and Google. They are discovering this model but just like the internet, I think the future will reveal itself over the next few years. People will pay for easy distribution and one-click purchasing. Some distribution networks will have a monthly fee for unlimited downloads. Others will have pay-per-download.

Here's the good news: rather than relying on a government-enforced monopoly (copyright, patents, etc.) to make sure that the publishers and innovators get paid, we will rely on direct-to-consumer distribution networks, which compete with one another for publishers and users on things like ease of use and selection.

In a way this is the Cable TV model. Eventually, I think everyone will move to a monthly subscription model for nearly unlimited downloads, like Netflix. That's because when torrent clients (or usenet or whatever else decentralized distribution network there will be) become as easy to use as the centralized ones (and decentralized always wins in the end), it will be just as easy and convenient to get a pirated movie as it is to get it on iTunes. But movies are expensive to make. That's why in the future, I think people will pay monthly fees instead of paying per item.

At the end of the day, there will be a huge number of people subscribed to Netflix-like distribution networks just like there are people subscribed to the internet, and generating "positive externalities" for the cheapskates that get free content through decentralized means. But the system will work. Content creators will flourish!

4 points by davidu 6 days ago replies      
Comments all removed.

The parent asked why I defend apple and I laid out my argument. Clearly people cared enough to respond and react. And yet I'm being downvoted for sharing my perspective just because it might be contrarian?

Maybe that's /not/ why I'm being downvoted, but that's what it feels like to me. So no thanks. I'm content to keep my opinions to myself.

1 point by rauljara 6 days ago 3 replies      
If the basic argument is that apple's margin are too high, I agree completely. They are a massively profitable company; they don't need to be charging what they're charging.

If the argument is that there is something immoral about them charging people for use of their subscription service, I call bullshit. Until incredibly recently, they had no subscription service. Now they are offering the _option_ to use a subscription service. If you find the fees are too high, you are not obliged to take part in it. I think the real reason this upsets so many is that it clearly is worth it for many developers to take part in it, just like it clearly is worth it to let apple take their 30% cut for everything else sold on the app store. People are riled because they don't want to have to pay apple this fee, but hard cold business logic demands that they should, because it is profitable to do so (or less unprofitable than not doing so). It wouldn't be threatening at all if you felt like you could afford to just walk away from the ecosystem apple's built.

Which seems to indicate they are adding value.

Now, as to whether the value added == 30%, I direct you to the first paragraph. But what's the motivation to create such a wonderfully easy to use ecosystem if you can't derive a profit off it?

4 points by olalonde 5 days ago 0 replies      
[...] my colleague MG Siegler did a thorough piece talking about why this makes sense for Apple and users [...]

How surprising...

6 points by coffeedrinker 6 days ago 3 replies      
They are trying to force content producers to work exclusively with Apple.

I can up the cost to the end user _as long as I stay only with Apple_. Once I move my product to a second competing device, then it really hurts profit because the price has to stay the same.

Once they become the exclusive provider, then they continue to dominate the market, regardless of what other tablets and operating systems come along.

2 points by bane 6 days ago 0 replies      
I suspect that, like most outrageous things Apple does

1) that we'll all have a big fight

2) Apple will continue with what they're doing for a while while we all get enraged and a bunch of us and the consumers jump platforms.

3) After months of fighting, Apple will relent and put a saner policy in place.

4) All will be right in the world

5) Wash, rinse, repeat.

More likely than not, Apple is probably doing what they do best which is to feel out the upper ceiling of the market, do a credible job of defeating their competition, find out where a comfortable profit can be made, then screw up any path to bigger market share because the margins (and the ability to control the ecosystem) aren't there.

2 points by epo 5 days ago 0 replies      
More anti-Apple whining and double standards. Funny how when people commit theft by avoiding paying for recorded content like music and films the claim is that the world has changed and the studios and record companies should adapt their business models.

Apple's marketplace, Apple's T&Cs. If you can't do business using Apple's marketplace change your business model or change your marketplace. If enough people do the latter then Apple will have fewer quality suppliers.

4 points by cfontes 6 days ago 1 reply      
Apple is just like a religion or sport team to some ppl... no matter what happens they stay on their side, I hate ppl that take things as a religion.


I don't disagree with apple in this one though, they own the infra and without them there would be no place to sell the stuff so you should pay.

1 point by speleding 5 days ago 1 reply      
30% is not as much as people think it is. I've been involved in billing systems that do recurring billing and it is actually surprisingly hard, a lot harder than one-off payments. Just a few examples:

* Credit cards on file get stolen or expire all the time.

* People forget to cancel in time and do charge backs which you then have to resolve in some other way.

* People e-mail customer support a lot more than for regular payments ("I want cancel, and please refund last x month too"). Support is expensive

* Apple operates in a lot of countries where credit card penetration is very low and other payment methods are required.

... and then they handle the entire operation of the app store, and they need to make a profit somewhere. When the iPhone just came out Apple claimed they were not making any money on the app store and I think that's entirely believable. Margins will have gone up as scale increased but now that they have added recurring billing those margins will be lower again.

1 point by api 5 days ago 0 replies      
Apple can do this because they have a monopoly on good design. Almost nobody outside Cupertino understands that design, user interface, and user experience matter.
2 points by ThomPete 6 days ago 0 replies      
Google is the one who undercuts entire industries by making products in the field free and Apple gets the blame for charging people to get access to paying customers.

What a funny ass backwards world we live in.

3 points by aj700 6 days ago 0 replies      
Uhh, it's an ingrained reflex from my teens.

Because they're not Microsoft.

It's just the leftover bitterness of Amiga Persecution Complex. Billg killed the Amiga

...or so it is widely believed, especially in Europe.

1 point by juddlyon 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know or care about all the particulars. This feels like pure greed, not some cool strategic play.

In other news: this is the first decent thing I've read on TC in six months!

1 point by marze 6 days ago 1 reply      
I imagine the decision at Apple went something like this:

We can always go from 30% to 10% later, and all publicity is good publicity, so go for it.

7 points by 46Bit 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm looking forward to Antitrust.
1 point by Spyckie 5 days ago 0 replies      
Won't this just make consumers hurt at the end? The most reasonable option as a developer is just to mark up the prices by 30% and then say if you want it the normal price, too bad - Apple needs its cut.
1 point by hughw 6 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting to contrast Google Apps Marketplace: It charges 20% of "the total amount your customer ends up paying you for your application and related add-ons", specifically including recurring revenue but also excluding sales of items like books (unsure how they would classify e-books for this purpose).


20% off the top line for all revenue from a customer they acquire for you. Seems like a bargain for a one-time sale; seems costly in the out years when it's you, not Google, putting all the work into retaining the customer.

Not complaining. Just contributing a data point from a similar effort in a slightly different space.

1 point by reedF211 6 days ago 2 replies      
I'm completely disgusted by Apple's behaviour on this topic. Apple should be ashamed of itself for gouging developers. This is like if someone has a bakery in Des Moines, IA and then wants to expand to New York, and the city of New York insists that the price of cake the bakery charges be the same or lower than the price in Des Moines where the rent and operation costs are a fraction of what they are in NYC. This kind of monopolistic behavior by Apple is worse than Microsoft at its worst in the 90s and the early 2000s.
1 point by Cadsby 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not saying I agree with Apple's new policies, but I don't remember seeing any outrage when Amazon was taking a whopping 70% of ebook sales, while simaltenously instituting a most favored nation clause which made it impossible for publishers to sell their books cheaper via any other distribution channel.

Unfortunately Apple brings out the fanboy in some, while also bringing out the rabid anti-Apple sentiment in others. I wish the hyper emotion would get toned down on both sides.

1 point by nevinera 5 days ago 0 replies      
Shame on you people for having opinions that don't match mine.
1 point by nevster 6 days ago 0 replies      
The biggest complainers in all this will be companies like rhapsody who are middlemen.
0 points by azar1 5 days ago 0 replies      
YOU PEOPLE!? What's that supposed to mean?
-3 points by 1010011010 6 days ago 1 reply      
Apple is still better than Microsoft.
"It'll never work": a collection of failed predictions lhup.edu
220 points by egor83 3 days ago   82 comments top 28
69 points by wisty 3 days ago 2 replies      
Space travel is utter bilge.
- Dr. Richard van der Reit Wooley, Astronomer Royal, space advisor to the British government, 1956. (Sputnik orbited the earth the following year.)

IIRC, this is a misquote. The original was something like "All this talk of space travel is utter bilge. It would cost as much as a major war to put a man on the Moon." Which was more or less correct.

20 points by stcredzero 3 days ago 1 reply      
One "rock to look under" is the misapplication of scientific theory or a common misunderstanding of basic principles.

(See: http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html)

One famous example is Professor Joseph Le Conte's mistaken engineering analysis demonstrating the impossibility of flight. (See below.)

Another common example is the use of the Halting Problem to rule out the entire notion of tools for detecting bugs in software. (Yes, I've had professors tell me this flat-out.) The Halting Problem doesn't rule out such programs, it only demonstrates that they can't be perfect. To date, there are lots of tools that do an imperfect but still valuable job, to the point where people can even charge for them.


A major area where basic principles are misunderstood is in security. It's a truism that no security is perfect. However, it doesn't follow that no one is able to do online banking without instantly being hacked and robbed. Yet many who find the previous idea ridiculous also think that all "DRM doesn't work." That's simply not true. While it's true that all DRM can eventually be broken, it's not true that all of it instantly evaporates on contact with the internet. Breaking DRM involves a certain cost. If enough people are "willing to pay" the cost, then it will be broken. This is almost always true for big-budget hollywood movies. It's certainly not true for all digital content.

---- Professor Joseph Le Conte's mistaken engineering analysis

Put these three indisputable facts together:

One: There is a low limit of weight, certainly not much beyond 50 pounds, beyond which it is impossible for an animal to fly. Nature has reached this limit, and with her utmost effort has failed to pass it.

Two: The animal machine is far more effective than any we can hope to make.; therefore the limit of the weight of a successful flying machine can not be more than fifty pounds.

Three: The weight of any machine constructed for flying, including fuel and engineer, cannot be less than three or four hundred pounds.
Is it not demonstrated that a true flying machine, self-raising, self-sustaining, self-propelling, is physically impossible?

" Joseph Le Conte, Professor of Natural History at the University of California, Popular Science Monthly, November 1888

32 points by j_baker 3 days ago 4 replies      
Clarke's first law:

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; when he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.

11 points by api 3 days ago 1 reply      
This just shows how difficult prediction is. For every one of these, there is an equally wrong wildly positive prediction.

A few of those are included, like von Neumann's "nuclear power will make energy free!" prediction.

The future will surprise. It will surprise us by what is possible, and by what isn't.

16 points by brownleej 3 days ago 1 reply      
My favorite quote like this is from Ed Colligan, who was at the time the CEO of Palm. When asked in late 2006 about the prospect of Apple entering the mobile phone market: "We've learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in."
7 points by kingkawn 3 days ago 2 replies      
"In my own time there have been inventions of this sort, transparent windows, tubes for diffusing warmth equally through all parts of a building, short-hand which has been carried to such a pitch of perfection that a writer can keep pace with the most rapid speaker. But the inventing of such things is drudgery for the lowest slaves; philosophy lies deeper...
- Roman poet Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C.E.-65 C.E.)"

This quote is in a way a direct refutation of the work done by many here in programming, and this perspective has its merits and flaws. But I don't see exactly how its a prediction of anything.

2 points by neilk 3 days ago 1 reply      
A common theme of failed predictions is the "X are interesting toys, but not suitable for Y" statement. Let's unpack that statement.

A toy is something which fascinates the mind in some way. An "interesting toy" suggests something that has a scope of operation within some small realm. I'll posit that Legos are an "interesting toy" whereas a toy car is "just a toy".

Substituted, this is now "X are things which have great possibilities within a smaller realm of operation, but are not suitable for Y".

The problem should now be obvious. The next question is to ask what it would take to scale the X's realm up. If it's economically feasible, it will happen.

The use of "toy" is the rhetorical trick here, because it implies the thing in question has permanently limited scope, and it might not be. (There's also the implied put-down, that those who find them worthwhile are childish.)

So what things today are "interesting toys" but not suitable for "real work"? Mobile devices? Social networks?

3 points by zeteo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Many of these are not even predictions, and most are badly sourced and out of context. E.g. the guy who foresaw no further progress for engines of war in 84 CE was definitely right for the next few hundred years.

But one quotation that I'm really taking issue with is the one about Sir Walter Scott dismissing public gas lighting. Far from that, Scott was actually a dedicated promoter of gas lighting in its early years, as evidenced by his tenure as the First Chairman of the Edinburgh Gas Street Lighting Company:


But when was a little bit of historical research an obstacle in the way of feeling good at the expense of people who lived hundreds of years ago?

6 points by cj 3 days ago 1 reply      
These three arguments against the use of gas street lights in 1878 demonstrate why change is so difficult, even today:

1) Theological: It is an intervention in God's order, which makes nights dark...

2) Medical: It will be easier for people to be in the streets at night, afflicting them with colds...

3) Philosophical-moral: Morality deteriorates through street lighting. Artificial lighting drives out fear of the dark, which keeps the weak from sinning...

2 points by dkarl 3 days ago 3 replies      
Animals, which move, have limbs and muscles. The earth does not have limbs and muscles; therefore it does not move.

I wonder if this sounded as dumb back then as it does now? What about things that do not move under their own power, yet move nonetheless, such as waves and wind? What about flowers that close every night and open in every morning? What about the fact that they knew almost nothing about the earth deeper than the tiniest scratch on its surface -- perhaps there are muscles of a sort under there?

What about the "fact," as they would have seen it, that God can make anything move however he wants, and that he might have a special mechanism that makes planets and stars move but does not apply the same way to things on Earth? And did he really believe that the moon and stars have limbs and muscles?

I think this illustrates how people can get away with any possible idiocy as long as they are on the right side of an issue. This is why scientists care about the timing of publication: they look a lot more competent if they publish their results at a time when everyone will tend to believe they are correct, instead of at a time when everyone will pick their paper apart looking for flaws (or simply assume the flaws are there.)

5 points by davidmathers 3 days ago 0 replies      
This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but the sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth.

Whenever I see that quote I picture Martin Luther as the "Get A BRAIN! MORANS" guy.

5 points by kingofspain 3 days ago 3 replies      
Computers in the future may...perhaps only weigh 1.5 tons.

That's hardly a howler is it?! I see nothing suggesting that 1.5 tons is the endpoint or that we'll be using heavy computers in The Year 2000.

Will those people suggesting we'd one day have a supercomputer in our pockets be laughed at when we have microscopic omniputers floating around our then-useless brains?

3 points by tlb 3 days ago 0 replies      
The most interesting predictions at least got right what would be the hard parts of the problem. Simon Newcombe's full article points to landing as the most difficult part of flying, which turned out to be the case. Landing technique depends on ground effect and stall, which wasn't well understood.

I'm still amazed that people spend so much time staring at plywood boxes.

3 points by 6ren 3 days ago 0 replies      
Two years later we ourselves made flights. This demonstration of my impotence as a prophet gave me such a shock that ever since I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions. Wilbur Wright

Isn't the below an over-optimistic failed prediction?

a few decades hence, energy may be free"just like the unmetered air.... John von Neumann

6 points by sorbus 3 days ago 0 replies      
The first quotation, from Lucius Annaeus Seneca, contains no prediction.
2 points by jayzee 3 days ago 2 replies      
Sometimes you are glad that they were wrong and sometimes you are sad that they were not right.

Automobiles will start to decline almost as soon as the last shot is fired in World War II. The name of Igor Sikorsky will be as well known as Henry Ford's, for his helicopter will all but replace the horseless carriage as the new means of popular transportation. Instead of a car in every garage, there will be a helicopter.... These 'copters' will be so safe and will cost so little to produce that small models will be made for teenage youngsters. These tiny 'copters, when school lets out, will fill the sky as the bicycles of our youth filled the prewar roads.

14 points by hyko 3 days ago 5 replies      
"Mathematics is inadequate to describe the universe"

The jury is still out on that one.

4 points by Devilboy 3 days ago 0 replies      
Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
- Lord Kelvin

I wonder how he explained birds?

6 points by aseemk 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've lurked Hacker News for a long time, but never posted or commented until now. This is one of the most inspirational things I've ever read. Thank you for posting.
2 points by olalonde 3 days ago 0 replies      
(self-promotion) I wrote a somewhat related post a few days ago (Twitter predictions in the early days): http://syskall.com/twttr-and-the-benefit-of-hindsight
3 points by bonch 3 days ago 0 replies      
My favorite has always been the one by Wilbur Wright:

"I confess that in 1901 I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years. Two years later we ourselves made flights. This demonstration of my impotence as a prophet gave me such a shock that ever since I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions."

1 point by arvinjoar 2 days ago 0 replies      
One of the automobile quotes is false[1]

[1] http://www.snopes.com/history/document/horseless.asp

2 points by maxer 3 days ago 0 replies      
a friend who is MD/owner of a cloud storage service for corporate told me that his career teacher at school told him not to do computers as a subject as they would never take over.. this was in the early 90s
2 points by noinput 3 days ago 1 reply      
If I threw together a quick Android/iPhone app that allowed for user contributed geek/hacker/internets quotes that we could all contribute to, would anyone care? There are a couple out there but I'd prefer one community based which had entires that didn't suck. Free of course.
1 point by beagle3 3 days ago 0 replies      
Prediction is hard.
Even more so if it is about the future.
1 point by philsalesses 3 days ago 0 replies      
"When an experienced scientist says something is impossible, they are almost always wrong. When an experienced scientist says something is possible, they are almost always right" - my memory, but almost certainly somebody else first
1 point by Tyrant505 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great collection! And the Lock Haven url made me smile.
1 point by cwbrandsma 3 days ago 0 replies      
My problem isn't in people wanting things that are impossible (at first glance), the problem is they want them done in so short an amount of time that they are impossible.
Poll: Tech Bubble?
216 points by stevenj 5 days ago   198 comments top 70
123 points by pg 5 days ago replies      
I was here in the Valley for the original Bubble, and the situation
now is nothing like that was. Back then people were saying there
was a "new economy" driven by the Internet, and that productivity
was going to go up like a step function, which justified higher p/e
ratios for any company that could claim to be a participant. If
you had money to invest you felt like you had to have most of it
in the stock market, because money parked in bonds would miss out
on all this growth that was coming.

Back in the 90s I was sure there was a bubble happening, and was
notorious for telling everyone to sell. And yet I remember that
even I thought it was dangerous to have money sitting in bonds. I
don't think that now, and I don't think anyone else does either.

What's happening now is a lot more localized. A few professional
investors are paying higher valuations for startups than they were
a few years ago. But the number of participants and the amounts
of money moving around are both very small compared to the 90s.
Plus the companies are better. In the 90s, it was the dumb leading
the dumb: smooth-talking MBAs were raising money from hapless LPs
and investing it in startups run by other smooth-talking MBAs. Now
it's Yuri Milner investing in a company run by Mark Zuckerberg.

44 points by mjfern 5 days ago 6 replies      
As you're completing this poll, consider the following (a post to my blog about a potential bubble, Jan 21):

There has been discussion lately about whether recent valuations of emerging Internet companies reflect a second Internet bubble. A recent investment by Goldman Sachs valued Facebook at $50b. In the secondary markets, Facebook's valuation has since increased to $70b. The sky high valuations are not exclusive to Facebook. Analysts suggest that Groupon is planning a $17b IPO. Meanwhile, Zynga has an implied valuation of $5.8b, based on trading of its shares on the website SharePost. The list goes on. The question is, do these valuations indicate a second industry-wide Internet bubble, much like the bubble and subsequent crash in 2000? Or is something else going on?

A look at the progression of other infrastructural technologies is useful. Consider the history of electricity. Paul David, an economic historian at Stanford, noted that it took many decades for business and society to reap tangible benefits from electricity. While important technologies were introduced throughout the 1800s (e.g., electric motors, light bulbs, generation stations), David suggests that an observer in 1900 would have found scant evidence that electricity was having an impact on business efficiency. To take advantage of electricity required not only the introduction of new technologies, but also a deepening of our understanding and in turn a transformation of business and social processes. For instance, manufacturing facilities, which were originally designed for steam power, needed to be significantly reconfigured.

Although David's discussion was focused on the lag in productivity improvements resulting from electricity, it provides some useful insights about the state of the Internet and its commercialization. While the first computers emerged in the 1940s, and the Internet was born in the 1960s, it wasn't until much later that computing and the Internet were widely adopted by business and consumers. For instance, it wasn't until the early 1990s that the Internet transitioned from a government/ academic project to a commercially available system, and the Internet wasn't broadly available to consumers until the mid-1990s.

In a mere five years from the commercial emergence of the Internet, we faced the first Internet bubble and bust in 2000. Looking back at history, it's no surprise that the first wave of applications generally performed disappointingly, both technically and commercially. Broadband connectivity, the Internet backbone, and critical software and hardware standards were still in the early stages of development. Along with an emerging infrastructure, there was a limited understanding of the potential of the Internet among entrepreneurs, established companies, and broader society.

Now that we've had 10 more years to develop core infrastructure and to deepen our understanding of the Internet (and computing) from a technical and commercial standpoint, we are witnessing the emergence of a new crop of high-growth companies. Distinct from many of the Internet companies that arose in the late 1990s, a greater percentage of today's companies receiving venture funding are both technically and commercially viable. Many deliver real customer value and have a tenable revenue model. In addition, to companies such as Facebook, Groupon, and Zynga, there are a myriad of smaller successful ventures, such as Pandora, Dropbox, and Airbnb.

To conclude, the 2000 bubble arose just a few years after the commercialization of the Internet. There was excitement about the potential of the Internet, but the supporting infrastructure and our knowledge was in its relative infancy. A decade later, we have made significant progress on both fronts. The latest new ventures incorporate technologies and business models that reflect significant infrastructure improvements and our maturing knowledge-base. Are select companies, such as Facebook or Groupon, overvalued? It's certainly possible. Does this overvaluation reflect an industry-wide bubble? I don't think so. In fact, I think we are at the early stages of a multi-decade transformation, catalyzed by computing and the Internet, and we will continue to see significant opportunity and new venture growth in this space. We are moving toward ubiquitous computing and connectivity, where technology pervades our business and personal lives. Personally, I look forward to participating in this exciting and dynamic future!

30 points by chailatte 5 days ago 4 replies      
So many optimists on this board, talking about 'the pop won't be as devastating this time'.

This time:

- 30% of mortgages are underwater http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/09/real_estate/underwater_mortg...

- U6 rate for Jan 2011 is 16.10 percenthttp://www.congress.org/soapbox/alert/25908506

- labor force participation rate at 64.2%

- 43 Million Americans on food stamps http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/02/02/some-43-million-am...

In 2001:

- 66% labor force participation http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/im...

- 8% for U6 unemployment http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-chart...

- 17 Million on food stamps http://www.dailyjobsupdate.com/wp-content/uploads/Food-Stamp...

Oh, and income stayed relatively the same, http://www.davemanuel.com/median-household-income.php while food prices doubled or tripled http://www.mongabay.com/images/commodities/charts/wheat.html http://www.mongabay.com/images/commodities/charts/chart-suga....

Pretty sure that once this pension/money printing funded tech bubble bursts, it will hurt even more this time.

10 points by damoncali 5 days ago 2 replies      
I'm curious to see how many people who think we're in a bubble were around for The Bubble in '97-99. From where I'm sitting, this is not even close. Consider:

There were IPO's like every other day. Often, these companies were less than a year old.

People were driving up the wrong company's stock by 10% in a day because they mixed up the ticker symbols.

Stock swings, usually positive, of 30-50% in a single day were not uncommon.

Companies with no business at all were raising hundreds of millions of dollars in VC.

The number of VC firms was exploding.

AMZN, SUNW, DELL, and the like would go up 3-5% pretty much every day

Day traders with no experience were plowing tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars into the market. There were companies who did nothing but cater to these people. (Not many of either are left).

Kids fresh out of college were being paid $125,000 to write plain HTML and getting pissed off if they didn't get huge raises.

Webvan - look it up.

So, I guess I' not seeing a bubble. Just a few wacky valuations here and there.

7 points by sethg 5 days ago 0 replies      
My short answer: yes.

My long answer: the economic growth of the 1990s went mainly to the upper classes (median wages hardly grew at all, especially when you take rising health-insurance costs into account). Instead of consuming their profits, the people in the top brackets keep looking for things to invest in. People who want to invest conservatively are pouring money into T-bills (thus, in spite of the massive deficit, Treasury rates are still quite low). People who want to be aggressive once invested in dot-coms, then stampeded to real estate and too-clever-by-half financial instruments, and now are pouring money into social media. Capital will continue to flit from one bubble-opportunity to another until the people at the bottom of the pyramid have more actual money to spend.

10 points by mkr-hn 5 days ago 1 reply      
The difference this time around is that:

1: People started worrying about profitability years ago and are actually trying to make it happen

2: There are quite a few tech giants and hundreds of smaller tech companies with stable income sources

Remember that in '99 Microsoft hadn't launched XP, Google was years away from an IPO, and cell phones were still a luxury.

I think there are little bubbles here and there, but the pop won't be as devastating.

8 points by steveplace 5 days ago 1 reply      
Probably not. Here's some questions:

1. Exactly what asset class are we referring to? It's probably not a credit bubble that had issues back in 2008, probably not housing, maybe commodities, maybe equities... but most likely HN discussions revolve around the eye-popping valuations in Groupon, twitter, facebook, zynga, and so on. So it's probably not the bubble, but a bubble.

2. How can you tell the difference between a moderate capital mis-allocation and a straight up bubble?

3. Have you actually compared what was going on now compared to any other bubbles that popped?

4. How much widespread adoption have we had with respect to capital allocations in these "overvalued" names? They aren't public, and there's not widespread participation by the "unwashed masses" in this asset. Compare that back in 1999 when non-revenue companies went IPO and everyone piled in.

5. Speaking of IPOs, how are they doing? How many names go IPO right now and see their stock triple in 90 days?

6. What's the size of the total bucket of money in this "bubble" relative to the total capital market?

7. What kind of deviation from historical valuations are we seeing in VC-land? Is it a total market deviation or limited to a few outliers that everyone loves to hate on?

8. Are bubbles really this obvious?

9. Even if we are in a bubble, are we early stage or late stage? Are we hearing about the million-dollar florist from twitter in Time magazine yet?

2 points by cletus 5 days ago 0 replies      
It really depends on what you mean by a bubble.

The classic example of a bubble is the Tulip-mania of the 17th century [1].

The dot-com bubble was ultimately caused by a system awash with dumb money where even the most ludicrous ideas were getting funded. It was a house of cards that eventually came down. It earns its bubble label because two things happened:

1. Funding dried up to the point that legitimate businesses couldn't get funded or failed; and

2. The ramifications of the bubble extended far beyond dot-com companies.

Do we have something like that now? IMHO no. But I think we do have a valuation bubble of sorts. The system is awash with money (particularly Russian money) but what you have to remember is that we're still talking about far less money than in 2000.

In 2000 there were no angel rounds (per se) and companies weren't bootstrapped or funded on $250k or less. It was pretty much straight to a $5m+ Series A due to the (then) high costs of servers, software licenses and bandwidth.

Now you can build a prototype of something for as little as $10-50K. Infrastructure costs are almost zero (for a prototype). The only major cost left really is developer time and $250k will pay for 2-3 developers for a year (at a mix of salary+equity). That same venture would've required an order of magnitude more money in 2000.

So I think what you'll see is that a lot of angels will lose their shirts in the next few years or simply get poor returns. The same applies to the lower end of seed funds. But I don't think funding will dry up to the same extent simply because the market has many more participants, we're talking about far less money (both in total and per investment) and the barrier to entry is so much lower than it used to.

Now, this may translate into a problem where angel-funded companies can't get Series A/B funding and thus fail but with many companies reaching profitability with very small amounts of money the only real impact will be (IMHO) consolidation (today we have some significant players--Google, Facebook and Apple for example--swimming in cash and ready to write big checks even for talent acquisition) and the adoption of more lean-and-mean approaches, which can hardly be a bad thing.

Where ordinary investors could really lose out is on companies like Facebook. The early investors will (and have) made out like bandits but honestly I can see that bubble bursting at some point in the future.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

4 points by anigbrowl 5 days ago 0 replies      
Tech is multiplying faster than the rest of the economy can deploy it. With so many options, committing to a particular framework infrastructure means opportunity costs appear to rise unusually sharply. It reminds me a bit of the MSX & Commodore computer period in the 80s, not long before the PC moved down from the business market to the consumer one.

Remember that post a month or so back about how there were too many different Android phones, and iPhone was so much nicer - there's a new one every June or July, so you don't have to worry about your shiny new Android phone feeling old hat after only 3 weeks. I don't feel that way, but I could see where he was coming from. Same thing with Facebook; the secret of its popularity is that it's fairly simple and consistent, which was also one of AOL's key selling points. Most people don't want to reconstruct their internet/computer experience on a regular basis, as demonstrated by the histrionics when many popular sites decide it's time to clean up their layout or switch to a new logo. Google's approach to this is to just be in permanent beta which I like very much, but sometimes I get frustrated at the way things seem to evolve (or slow down) on 20 different schedules.

I have felt for a year that we are approaching one of the periodic phase transitions that result in a whole new wave of growth, and that the leadup to such periods is characterized by great energy and inventiveness, but also a lack of focus and rising overhead. My gut says what's needed to progress will leverage semantic web technology, but that we're another year away from achieving the required information density which would allow it to be useful. Also, it's going to be quite C/GPU intensive, and take advantage of the fact that many modern processors are underused.

9 points by pclark 5 days ago 0 replies      
We're in a bubble of people asking this question, for sure.
3 points by bdr 5 days ago 0 replies      
I take this to mean "Are software companies overvalued relative to the rest of the economy?" No. I can't prove my side -- like in the stock market, no one can -- but it's hard to put a cap on how well the software sector will do.

Every activity in the world is involving more and more software. Code builds on itself, and technology has only very recently crossed some fundamental thresholds, like ubiquitous powerful arbitrary computation and global communication at close to c. Together, these imply that the opportunities for value creation will continue to be enormous, and in the big economic picture money will redistribute from other industries to software.

That was true in 1999, but people had a lot less information with which to estimate the size of these kinds of opportunities. Given this uncertainty, the amount of money invested may have been rational, at least at first, even though the bet turned out to be wrong. Now people have enough information to estimate well.

4 points by antirez 5 days ago 0 replies      
If it's a bubble for sure it's not as big as the latest one. At least now acquisitions are happening either as an alternative way to hire good talents, or about services that may not be profitable but are surely really popular among users, and most of the time there is somewhat a business model that makes sense.

That is in general, but I think we saw a few very strange things in the latest couple of months.

4 points by kemiller 5 days ago 1 reply      
My rule: if people are worrying that there's a bubble, there's a bubble. It's almost the definition. It's clearly not as bad as the last one in that the overvalued companies actually have some value to begin with, and it's only us techies fretting right now, not everyone and their cab driver.

The trick is figuring out what to do with that information.

2 points by vessenes 5 days ago 1 reply      
There's a sort of valuation = real dollars group-think problem I'm noticing in the conversation here.

Consider: what are the economic consequences of a $1 investment in 3x preferred stock for Facebook at a One Trillion Dollar valuation?

How about a One Hundred Trillion Dollar Valuation (cue Doctor Evil Music). OMG! HUGE TECH BUBBLE!

Answer: the same; the investor will make 3 bucks. Or, if FB goes totally under, she will lose $1.

During the dotcom bubble, companies like Zefer had $100 Million SERIES A rounds. <<--- No revenues. This is not happening right now, in any way, shape or form.

Are valuations off for early stage companies? Hard to say. Right now, with the YC class returns, they are certainly not off, if you believe a VC firm should earn on average no more than 25% return a year. Of course, that's short term.

Long-term, of course, I don't know. But, there are a number of factors that say this is very different than the late 1990s: 4-10x lower cost (time, cash) to deploy technologies, far more tech savvy investors, and a more investor-friendly "this cash is going to let you upgrade from ramen to peanut butter" vibe for early funding rounds. These are significantly different dynamics for the tech world.

Finally, if there is currently a 'valuation' bubble, it is most certainly not an 'economic' bubble. The total dollars floating around for these transactions is quite small compared to what happened during the dotcom crash. However much we like doing our startups, almost none of us are materially impacting the US economy. In fact, because the startups are so job-efficient, we are impacting far less per-startup than the last group, ex all of the public IPOs which took grandmother's money.

4 points by mkr-hn 5 days ago 0 replies      
Another thing to consider: A bad investment needs a lot less cash to do what it did back then with all the cheap space, bandwidth, and CDNs running around. You could fund 20 risky startups for what might have been a first round for a single risky .com in '99.
3 points by tomkarlo 5 days ago 0 replies      
There are really two potential "bubble" worth talking about at the moment - the broad equity markets (up almost 100% in the last two years) - and the early-stage Internet market (not Facebook, but Groupon and the early-stage investments.)

I'd argue they're maybe related but they're not linked, given the lack of a big tech IPO market. In the 99 bubble it was the vision of a big IPO driving the private tech bubble. These days I'm not sure that's true.

There's a third bubble worth noting - real estate. I don't think it's nearly done deflating, and if rates start to rise back to normal levels without incomes starting to pick up (which would require a major drop in unemployment) we're going to see another down leg there as millions of baby boomers try to get liquid on their home equity to fund retirement.

3 points by btipling 5 days ago 1 reply      
Since I started paying attention, it's been like this:

1999: People asked "Are we in a bubble?"
2000: People asked "Are we in a bubble?"
2001-2003 Recession
2004 People asked "Are we in a bubble?"
2005 People asked "Are we in a bubble?"
2006 People asked "Are we in a bubble?"
2007 People asked "Are we in a bubble?"
2008-2009 Recession
2010 People asked "Are we in a bubble?"
2011 People asked "Are we in a bubble?"
Are we in a bubble?
Are we in a bubble?
Are we in a bubble?
Yes, apparently unless contraction is obvious, we're always in a bubble and everything in life is only ever getting worse and we'll all die horrible miserable deaths and then the zombie apocalypse comes. PANIC! OH NO! Run for the hills!

Or just work hard and try to do the best you can and stop worrying about things beyond your control.

7 points by sdizdar 5 days ago 1 reply      
We are not in bubble - this is refection of our monetary policy. Look at commodity prices. Look at stock market.

I think the real bubble is bond market - which is causing froth all over the market.

3 points by d4nt 5 days ago 1 reply      
I doubt it, the P/E ratios of most tech companies is no way near 1999 levels. But there are some isolated examples of irrationality. I don't know anyone who seriously thinks Facebook is worth $70bn (i.e. more than Sony).

I suspect the low interest rates are pushing a lot of private capital into higher risk but 'cool' areas.

2 points by TomOfTTB 5 days ago 0 replies      
I personally think we are at the beginning of a bubble but I'd just like to throw one thought out there. A bubble is only a problem if the businesses spend like the bubble will never end. If companies use their money judiciously than they stay in business and their investors eventually get a pay off (think of companies that survived the first bubble and how rich their investors are now)

So if you're a startup you should act like any other business and get profitable as quickly as possible. If you're an investor you should only invest in companies that use their money wisely. If you do that the bubble shouldn't have any impact on you.

2 points by pclark 5 days ago 0 replies      
Even if there was a bubble, you are talking about early stage investment that probably means there is $250M instead of $100M - previously the bubble was in the late stage where there was $15Bn instead of $1.5Bn. Huge difference.
1 point by mkramlich 5 days ago 0 replies      
Not a bubble. A small subset of tech companies are over-valued, yes. Most notorious are Facebook, Groupon, possibly Twitter, Zynga, etc. But most are not. And a greater proportion of startups are 100% bootstrapped and then kept as lifestyle cash cows or flipped early in small private exits. Many companies have high caps but probably valued about right and they have real products and revenue streams, like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Oracle, Cisco, etc.

I think that a couple factors are contributing. One, returns on safe investments like bank savings accounts are basically zero. Two, there's a lot of great free info on the web now for people to self-educate especially regarding entrepreneurship and angel investment, as well as more tools like AngelList and more social event series like Meetups and code jams and contests that help facilitate bring people together and leading to new enterprises and deals. Third, the top 10% wealth-wise have even more discretionary money now than they did in the 90's, and that combined with an increasing sense that the US salaryman has no guaranteed future anymore, so we we have to increasingly look to making FU/retirement from entrepreneurship and investments rather than doing the 9-to-5-til-yer-60 thing.

5 points by borism 5 days ago 0 replies      
word of caution: usually by the time something is referred to as a bubble, it is already too late to get in or out :)

so let's brace ourselves for an impact!

4 points by mrj 5 days ago 0 replies      
I used to count the limos passing by in downtown SF (there were many). It's nothing like that anymore and hasn't been for some time.
4 points by kenjackson 5 days ago 2 replies      
Is it common to have an industry bubble (an industry as large as tech) in the middle of coming out of a huge recession?
2 points by m3mnoch 5 days ago 0 replies      
no. there is no bubble.

that means there's nothing to pop. the first time around there was no plan for making money and there were hordes and hordes of companies throwing ridiculously expensive spaghetti at the wall to see if it stuck. everyone and their dog was filing for an ipo.

this time around?

there are relatively few companies with ridiculous valuations... and guess what? they're all making money. and tons of it. for god's sake, even twitter started turning a profit in '09. groupon? $800 million and more in annual revenue is a just fine pe ratio for their valuation. their financials make sense. people are paying for their services. and all those companies not making money yet are bootstrapping on next-to-nothing rather than taking on tons of investment.

it's different this time because it's not about the squishy-touchy-feely "we know better." you can't count on people knowing better. no, it's different because there's real revenue and real business models involved.

bubbles happen when there's no income to back wild speculation.

companies are offering percieved-as-valuable services and are getting paid for it.

they're primarily taking investment for expansion, not runway extension.

most of the money is from private investors instead of zillions of get-rich-hungry public speculators from an ipo.

i mean, it's only natural for information-based companies (instead of say... webvan) to go from 0-60 faster than we've ever seen in an environment where information is enabled to go from 0-60 faster than ever in recorded history.

things are fine, folks. back away from the stupid "bubble" panic button.


1 point by russell 5 days ago 0 replies      
No it's not a bubble. Sure some companies are trading at absurd valuations: Facebook, Groupon but there is not this froth of worthless companies like there was in the .com boom. Airmailing dog food across the the country, indeed. One difference is that it is much more difficult to do an IPO these days (for better or worse). Another is that entrepreneurial experiments these days cost far less than 10 years ago, YC now, vs VC's then. The bubble this time around was financial with another due in 10-15 years.
1 point by silverlake 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a pessimist and spotted every recent bubble. What is a bubble? It's when value becomes detached from "objective" financial models. This may be the case for a few high-flying businesses right now (Twitter?), but not widely. The recent funds from Goldman and JP may push valuations for Facebook & Twitter beyond reason because they are chasing a few shares in private markets. But throwing a million $s at a few stupid startups isn't a bubble. That's the VC industry buying lottery tickets. I don't think there's a bubble. There's just a little excitement in social media and mobile apps.
1 point by kunley 4 days ago 0 replies      
I will not refer to an economy bubble but to a general trend, so this won't be a direct answer to your question.

More & more startups are build around shuffling data between few existing big players in the social media market. The question is: are these "base" players really offering its customers something which would improve the quality of their lives? Other than a warm fuzzy feeling of being "connected"? Personally I doubt it.

The example:
Flightcaster: a concrete quality given to its users. This is, as PG reminded few times, called: wealth. Congrats here.

Some startup X which does something with your Twitter or Facebook data: well it may be cool according to the current fashion, but its real value is very volatile, unmeasurable and virtual.

So if you're in the first group, you're safe.

If you're in the second group and base your value on a virtual value of other services who in turn are based on some premise or belief, my guess is you're doomed.

4 points by chalst 5 days ago 1 reply      
Bubble means what? Tech IPOs? Commodity prices?
1 point by GrandMasterBirt 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think were in a "bubble"

Nobody is investing vast amounts of money into people with absolutely no business plan. Its not the "were gonna need 100 servers" only to realize there are 4 users... total. Services like AWS keep costs down allowing scalability on demand vs up front prep for doomsday.

I see groupon as a bubble in itself. But that is one business.

2 points by jsmcgd 5 days ago 1 reply      
Not a bubble. Relatively few high valuation investments do not make a bubble.

I think there is an inverse correlation between the likelyhood of a bubble versus the amount of people talking about a potential bubble. Perhaps almost by definition.

1 point by jswinghammer 5 days ago 0 replies      
OK well there is obviously a lot of investment in tech right now. The key question is how is it being funded?

If it's being funded by savings then fine when you lose your savings but that's all.

If it's being funded by debt then that's really bad as banks start taking a hit and they're already basically insolvent.

I'm not terribly concerned about it but it's possible some investors will get burnt out again on the sector but they'll come back when new opportunities arise.

2 points by Kilimanjaro 5 days ago 0 replies      
When people invest $10M in the next social tag-me-too mobile app, then yes, we are in a bubble that will pop after some get-rich-quick IPOs in the next couple of years.
4 points by abello 5 days ago 1 reply      
If bubble means too much money invested in shitty companies, YES.
If bubble means all those investors will retract and stocks will go to hell (like 2000), NO.
1 point by hammock 4 days ago 0 replies      
Facebook is not the black box many people think it is. Maybe $60B valuation isn't all that crazy, when you compare it to Google. Facebook has a huge share of internet (7%), about the same as Google. And even though Facebook ads are a colossal failure, most people believe there is revenue there somewhere and we can look to Google for an indication of revenue potential from commanding that many eyeballs.

Google had revenue of $29B in 2010 and market cap $201B.

1 point by chrislomax 5 days ago 0 replies      
I for one am sick of seeing, day in, day out, a new start up that has raised 20 million in funding from doing nothing. Also, crazy valuations put on companies that don't turn a profit. Generally in business, a company is worth its annual turnover if a sale was going to happen. How are companies that are turning over 0 worth 15 billion?

I think everyone has forgotten about the .com crash 10 years ago and thats where all this crazy investment is coming from. Google offering 6 billion for Groupon, then Groupon turning it down??

I think the only thing that would not describe this as a bubble, is the exeprience of the last bubble and what it has taught us. We have learned now what the "internet" is. We have learned its boundaries (as such) and therefore we can make a reasonable evaluation on what the next "big thing" is and whether it will all come crashing down.

I for one, slag Facebook off to death. I think Mark Zuckerburg is a robbing bastard that stole someones idea and ran with it himself. The thing is, it's the ideas that he didn't steal that make him and the site brilliant. Facebook too did not have a business model and even after creating the advertisting it did not do much. Now, when Facebook started doing targeted advertising and to a greater extent, the new location based advertising, that's when it became brilliant in my eyes. These non-profit start ups that eventually find a business model that works are where the real treats are and its the fact that these startups are finding a business model that makes this a new era, rather than a bubble.

To coin a phrase, its the face of things to come. "The future internet defined"

Now all I need to do is find a stupidly easy idea and make money from it so I can stop being jealous already.

1 point by sabat 5 days ago 0 replies      
Leave it to pg to keep a cool head:

There are some concerns about a new budding tech bubble as some startups have reached titanic valuations " Twitter, for example, was recently reported to be worth around $10 billion " without having a business model nailed down. But those cases are few and far between, and there are fewer investors in those types of companies than there were in the late 90s, Graham said. The amount of money companies are raising today " relatively speaking and adjusted for inflation, naturally " is less than what companies were raising during the last tech bubble, he said.

3 points by kirpekar 5 days ago 1 reply      
To remind everyone:

An economic bubble is "trade in high volumes at prices that are considerably at variance with intrinsic values"

1 point by jdp23 5 days ago 0 replies      
No two bubbles are the same and I agree with a lot of the things people are saying about the differences between now and the dot com bubble. But I think there's plenty of evidence of angels and various successful startups mafias pumping up valuations in the Silicon Valley web startup world. The good news is that the damage is likely to be a lot more localized this time.
2 points by ebaysucks 5 days ago 0 replies      
The bubble is rebuilding in Tech as the QE money finds its way into the market through VC funds, while banks are hesitant to lend their freshly printed reserves for house mortgages.
2 points by michaelpinto 5 days ago 0 replies      
Two Words: Demand Media

You have an entire company that is based on gaming google that ready to be publicly traded. And next you have AOL buying the Huffington Post which is designed to cheat actual newspapers out of pageviews " something that Google could change in a minute. I was around for the original dot.com bomb and this smells exactly the same.

The winners will be the companies who survive: My bet is on Facebook. But I'm not sure that I'd bet on Groupon or Twitter. By the way what makes Facebook special isn't the technology but the team.

5 points by clojurerocks 5 days ago 0 replies      
Its absolutely a bubble.
1 point by dstein 5 days ago 1 reply      
Selective bubble market. Zynga and GroupOn making tons of real physical money and being valued at something like 25X earnings isn't a bubble. But absurd valuations based purely on audience size with little revenue (Twitter and Facebook) sure as heck is a bubble.
1 point by henryw 5 days ago 0 replies      
although i think we are in a bubble, you never know where the top is. we are only 1/2 way up on the nasdaq from the 2000 high disregarding inflation.


this s&p also has room to go


2 points by joshhepworth 5 days ago 0 replies      
It's hard to say what exactly is happening right now, but I don't think there's much of a reason to expect an industry wide "pop" soon. As mkr-hn said, the companies are certainly more responsible now than a decade ago, and despite the seemingly outrageous valuations of companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Zynga, there are equally as many reasonable valuations for smaller, still successful, tech companies.
1 point by budu3 5 days ago 0 replies      
Something negative is definitely happening. I don't think it'll look like the classic bubbles that we've seen (as a matter of fact all bubbles are different). But at the very least a predict a backlash.
1 point by motters 5 days ago 0 replies      
From where I'm standing I don't see any evidence that a technology bubble is taking place (actually the reverse). Perhaps there will be a bubble emerging in the next few years, but that's always hard to forecast.
1 point by awt 5 days ago 0 replies      
If it is a bubble, then what ( as a software developer ) should I do? I don't work for any of the overvalued companies, so changing jobs isn't a good option. I don't own any stock in them, so I can't sell it.
1 point by siavosh 5 days ago 0 replies      
Even if some of these name brand companies deserve these high valuations, there is enough stupid/speculative/me-too money that will follow and create a bubble.
5 points by mmurph211 5 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps tech is the strongest future financial bet in business.
1 point by netmau5 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just for arguments sake, let's say we are in a bubble. Isn't that a great thing for entrepreneurs wanting to startup or get additional funding? Does that mean we should put the pedal to the metal now instead of waiting for a potentially bad funding environment post-burst?
1 point by alikamp 5 days ago 0 replies      
Every year new and old businesses go bust. Bubble or no bubble. Good economy or bad economy. Take the average joe, pit him against Lebron James in a half court shoot out, first one who makes a basket wins, the smart money would be on Lebron but its not a stretch to think that Joe would sink it first. In the past bubble bust we didnt know Lebron from the Joes, now we know. We know the skillful people in the space, yes Joe will occasionally sink the basket first, but over time Lebron will deliver. This net growth is not a bubble, yes companies will bust but the Lebrons will still be ballin.
1 point by phiggis 1 day ago 0 replies      
Bubble for major funded consumer websites only?

I think the social websites that have made no money, and haven't thought about monetizing are the ones that have suffered.

Think the difference between now and 2000 is you may need to prove you can make some money now, not just get uber traffic.


1 point by mtviewdave 5 days ago 0 replies      
Silicon Valley has always had boom/bust cycles. What's happening now is part of the same pattern that has been going on in the Valley since the '50s.

Yes, we're in a boom.

But because the last boom created a stock market bubble, it's temping to assume that boom==bubble. I don't think that's true in this case, as bubbles have a significant psychological component that I don't see in the current boom:


1 point by rue 5 days ago 1 reply      
The entire financial sector and large parts of the economy are a bubble but it doesn't matter unless people panic over it.
1 point by mdink 5 days ago 0 replies      
"Something's going on and it's likely going to have pretty significant (negative) consequences" -- I feel like this is the best answer b/c much of the problem has happened behind closed doors. The real estate boondoggle and the dot-com bust required a tremendous amount of public participation to grow to the scale that each did. I hope investors (both professional and hobbyist) are very careful with each of these soon-to-be public companies. If not... then def "Yes we're in another bubble".
1 point by adrianwaj 5 days ago 0 replies      
I watched a video today of someone saying we are heading toward an unavoidable train wreck. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r1XeE-MQV0 he loses his cool, be warned
1 point by duopixel 5 days ago 0 replies      
Scroll to the very button of this screen, hover over the "Green certified website" badge. It's pulsating, what is this? 1997? Click and you'll delighted with the worst pile of steaming bullshit ever, along with some incomprehensible infographics that don't even look good. This is a Y Combinator backed venture.

Yes, we're in a bubble.

1 point by frobozz 4 days ago 0 replies      
We're (almost) always in a bubble. The important question is "when will this bubble pop and the next one start".
1 point by pnathan 5 days ago 0 replies      
It's not a bubble yet. We still have dead tulips hanging around.
1 point by natural219 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure there's a bubble, but if everyone on HN just pretends there is one and we say the word "bubble" a lot in major publications, then maybe we can despeculate technology investments and invest in them ourselves...
1 point by drpancake 5 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think there's a bubble. But I'm getting seriously bored of social analytics, location-based advertising and glorified todo list startups.

There's so many more interesting problems to solve!

1 point by BluePoints 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think the world will see it's first Trillion dollar company within 10 years. I also don't think that company has been created yet.
2 points by darbor 5 days ago 0 replies      
It's all cylical, always has been, always will be.
Where else are you going to put your cash.....the bank so you can 1.5%? Or how about some realestate?
1 point by panto2 5 days ago 0 replies      
The embedded and device software are always a year or two out of step with the rest of the economy so the rescission does not matter.

New 3D-TV's, faster broadband, IPTV, tablets, smart phones , home networks for all and cheap always on computing are changing tech and no-one knows how this is going to work out or settle down.

Lot's of people going to make money, more are going to guess wrong and get hurt.

1 point by jhulten 5 days ago 0 replies      
Malinvestments wreck the economy... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0nERTFo-Sk
1 point by webmat 5 days ago 0 replies      
This time is different!
1 point by migrantgeek 5 days ago 1 reply      
Yes, bubble. Apple worth $100 billion more than MS or Google? That's a bubble.
1 point by stesteau 5 days ago 0 replies      
Big time bubble
Is Scheme Faster than C? indiana.edu
212 points by fogus 4 days ago   62 comments top 16
46 points by dkarl 4 days ago 1 reply      
This makes me so nostalgic. Ah, to be back in school when the hardest thing I had to do was math, and I didn't have to worry about anyone wanting to modify my code or coming to me saying, "Hey, dkarl, we just signed a huge contract, and part of what we promised is that a 2 in the hundreds place of the left operand will be treated as a 3 when we do multiplication for this customer. What base? I don't know, rebel base alpha. I'm just the project manager. The product manager answers those kinds of questions. And make sure it's configurable, because the customer has been going back and forth a bit about the specifics, and we don't think we'll be able to nail them down before we deploy."
13 points by srean 4 days ago 1 reply      
Wish the code was available to take a peek at. Talking about optimizing transformations, the Stalin scheme compiler is quite freakily good at that.It would have been interesting to run this code through Stalin and see what happens.

From the author Je rey Mark Siskind's research statement:

  It uses the results of flow analysis to perform life-time analysis, 
escape analysis, points-to analysis, and must-alias analysis. ...
It also uses the above analysis to support flow-directed region-based
storage management, where run-time garbage collection is replaced
with static allocation and deallocation on a per-abstract-value
and per-program-point basis. It also performs flow-directed
lightweight CPS conversion,.. to support extremely efficient first-class continuations.

It is quite remarkable that even without any type annotations Stalin can hold its own against a hand written C and often beat it as well.


(Has escaped chrismonsantoization)

21 points by scott_s 4 days ago 0 replies      
Neat story - he was systematically applying optimizations that compilers could do if they had full knowledge of the semantics of the program. By transforming the program into continuation-passing style, he performed a very similar step that modern compilers do when they transform a program into static single assignment, then optimize the program. For a full treatment of what I mean, see A Correspondence between Continuation Passing Style and Static Single Assignment: http://www.cs.purdue.edu/homes/suresh/502-Fall2008/papers/ke...
16 points by stcredzero 4 days ago 1 reply      
Out of a class of about 15 students, only one
person beat me (and only barely), and he wrote significant portions of
his program directly in Assembly Language. The next fastest after me
took nearly twice as long to do the same work.

...A runtime profile of my program revealed
that the majority of time was spent in the C routines "malloc" and

For all of the beginning programmers and most of the student programmers out there: Yes often a fast JIT VM might actually beat your C or get pretty close! If you ever become a good programmer, then you can do much better than the JIT in key situations.

EDIT: There's a self evaluation method here for aspiring C programmers. Start benchmarking your code against the same thing in LuaJIT. You're not "good" until you know how to routinely beat it by a factor approaching 2. And that's necessary, but not sufficient.

16 points by silentbicycle 4 days ago 2 replies      
Really, what he's saying is that it saves a lot of time to prototype code in a convenient language, and then translate parts to optimized code in a fast language (where necessary), once good algorithms have been worked out. Many fast languages get their speed by trading away flexibility.

This is not specific to Scheme, though - while it's a good prototyping language, so are Lua (my favorite, and LuaJIT reduces the need for C), awk, Python, etc.

Knowing how to implement the prototyping languages' constructs efficiently in the "fast" language is important, though.

Of course, "fast" and "convenient" can also be the same language, such as prototyping in Common Lisp and then adding declarations. OCaml is also quite good.

33 points by copper 4 days ago 2 replies      
The conclusion is the most inspiring part of this:

> Real efficiency comes from elegant solutions, not optimized programs. Optimization is always just a few correctness-preserving transformations away

24 points by jfm3 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is Scheme Hand-Compiled Into A Single Main Routine in C Faster than C?

Fixed that title for you.

9 points by iwwr 4 days ago 1 reply      
Scheme employs tail-recursion optimizations. An unoptimized recursive algorithm would indeed run faster in Scheme.

But I'd be interested in how the port to C actually happened. That is, if he translated the functional aspects of the algorithm, or if he just copied intermediary C code that a Scheme compiler can generate.

6 points by sambeau 4 days ago 2 replies      
Every language should be faster* than C in some way otherwise no-one would use it.

Scripting languages are faster to code in.

Fortran is faster at complex matrix maths.

Lisp is faster to code in and faster to run for a large set of computing problems.

C wins the trade-of of speed-to-create vs speed-of-execution for most system programming tasks but usually when compared to bare assembly code. But there are a large number of problems that it is horribly unsuited for. Hence we end up with c-programs with accidentally embedded lisp implementations.

* - where faster can also mean faster to code to a secure standard.

5 points by dfj225 4 days ago 0 replies      
FYI, this approach, in general and completely automated, is taken by the Spiral Project DSP generator: http://spiral.net/index.html

DSP transformations are represented in a Scheme-like language. The optimizer performs operations on this language then compiles to C code.

I worked on the Spiral project on things tangental to the DSP generator, but wrote my own optimizing DSP compiler based on Spiral technology for class in university.

3 points by malkia 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think this is rather useless and pointless.

My daily work for the last few weeks has been optimizing speedwise our pipeline.

Usually what we do is OpenMP (openmp.org) the code where it's possible (we deal with lots of DXT compression, mipmaps, normal map calucations, etc.)

Then where possible decrease the floating point accuracy to point where it's acceptable, and use SSE2 through some veclib.

It's all in C (C++) and the difference can be 1:10 and even more.

All I'm saying is this - you sit down, find your bottleneck and do something about it. But simply saying this is faster than this is pointless.

That to be said the language shootout is how it should be done - you have people using (trying at least) to use the same algorithms in different languages by allowing certain language (implementation) optimizations, or available libs.

Yes, I've seen LuaJIT, and LispWorks (which I love dearly) producing better code than C++, especially when comes to std::string put in stdext::hash_map<> simply because it's just harder to intern stuff in C++ (unless you do it manually). In Lua every string is interned, and in LispWorks (and in Common Lisp in general) as long as it's symbol it can be interned.

8 points by abrenzel 4 days ago 1 reply      
I thought this was going to be another one of those benchmarking articles, but it was really a great exercise in how lateral thinking can produce clean solutions.

The more I hear about the Lisp family of languages, the more I want to give them a try sometime...

1 point by chalst 3 days ago 0 replies      
The kind of hand transformation from a Lisp-like language into C/asm is described very well in Dan Friedman (2001)'s talk, The Role of the Study of Programming Languages in the Education of a Programmer http://www.cs.indiana.edu/hyplan/dfried/mex.ps

Friedman is at Indiana, so the similarity in the transformation is no surprise. I'm surprised the arty doesn't mention Friedman.

3 points by asarazan 4 days ago 1 reply      
I was in this program at IU, and later worked with Jonathan at Cisco-- and I actually remember this exact story being told by one of my AI's in class.

Guess it's become part of IU lore :-)

1 point by 16s 4 days ago 3 replies      
The use of gotos rather than function calls is interesting... man that's gutsy programming! I'd never thought to do that when considering optimizations.
1 point by morphir 3 days ago 1 reply      
"This is where Scheme
really won. Because of its extremely algorithmic---almost
mathematical---nature, Scheme can be easily manipulated in a sort of
algebraic style. One can follow a series of rewrite rules (just about
blindly) to transform a program into another form with some desirable
property. This was exactly what I needed."

Can anyone explain this with an example? I have been pondering what he meant with this for a long time.

Solving The Hacker News Problem al3x.net
212 points by tianyicui 5 hours ago   182 comments top 54
13 points by edw519 42 minutes ago 0 replies      

                 Quality of HN Comments Over Time
| . .
| . .
q| . . . .
u| . . . . . .
a| . . . . .
l| . . . . .
i| . . . . .
t| . . . you are here -->. .
y| (that's all)
'09 '10 '11

(It must be that time of year again...)



61 points by pg 4 hours ago replies      
I think if we could see random frontpages from days a few years ago, we'd find that the top stories weren't that different, and that there was the same "jack of all trades master of none" aspect to the site that Alex complains about. It may be that a site whose design spec is to satisfy hackers' intellectual curiosity would necessarily feel that way.

Maybe I'll write something to regenerate past front pages, so we can check if things are different now. That should be possible, because news.arc has always logged vote times.

45 points by jacques_chester 4 hours ago replies      
Ah yes, the cycle of website life.

* Hot new community forms at Site X.

* Site X residents refer to themselves as the New Wave of whatever. Much better than older Site W because of features/members/dynamic/demographics 1, 2 and 3!

* Site X's reputation spreads to former hot new sites T, U, V and W. Site X begins to attract more and more new users.

* Site X denizens begin linking articles at T, U, V, W and vice versa.

* Site X begins to exhaust natural topics of conversation. Denizens of more than 3 months standing become sick of 100th
"What does Site X think about AlphaGamma?" post and begin to slap down newbies.

* Someone reminisces out loud about the Golden Days of Site X.

* Discussions on Site X become more and more about Site X. Extremely intelligent individuals begin to earnestly argue that their proposed feature will save Site X from itself.

* Someone proposes or launches Site Y. A how new community begins to form there ...

I've been watching this same story play itself out since Slashdot circa 1998.

43 points by tptacek 5 hours ago 6 replies      
For what it's worth: I feel safe saying that most high-karma users of HN have a variety of severe concerns with it. My experience asking this question over email has generally been one of getting gigantic essay-length responses.

In my official capacity as "representative of people dorky enough to have karma this high", we do officially declare: stuff's broken. Needs unbreaking.

10 points by johnrob 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Another reason HN may be boring: we've beaten a lot of the common topics to death. It only takes a handful of articles about "how to pitch a VC" to soak up most of the relevant advice on the subject. While posts often present a unique combination of previously mentioned ideas, it's becoming increasingly rare to actually find something new if you are a regular here.
9 points by dschobel 4 hours ago 5 replies      
How to solve the signal/noise problem? Amplify the signal.

Call it undemocratic, but insight and perspicacity is not uniformly distributed so it's absurd that pg/$whoever_you_respect's upvote on an article counts as much as anyone else.

As a simple experiment, it would be interesting to see a view of the frontpage based only on the upvotes of people who are above a certain avg-comment karma threshold (since the site is predicated on karma as a quality indicator) and the idea that people who write insightful comments won't upvote crap stories.

9 points by redthrowaway 4 hours ago 1 reply      
All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. HN is succumbing to the problem pg tried to address: dilution. Thing is, reddit already came out with an excellent solution with their subreddit system. This simply wouldn't be an issue if there were different sections for tech, hacking, programming, startups, science, finance, and general interest. Keep all of the deeply technical stuff in one place, the cruft in another. Let's face it, the people who are complaining about lack fo deep tech are also likely to read and enjoy one of Spolsky's blog posts. There's no need to ban the latter to protect the former, just keep them in separate sections.

Now, HN isn't trying to grow, so there's no need to have user-created subreddits (sections, I suppose). Just make 8 or so that people care about, and add another if there's sufficient demand.

I really shouldn't be crediting reddit with this, as the solution existed long before them. All HN needs to do is follow the forum model and have different sections. It's too big to only have the front page.

10 points by sachinag 5 hours ago 2 replies      
As a longtime MeFite and a longtime member of this community, I believe that most of the issues could be dealt with by having obvious and active moderation.

As MetaFilter, not only do we know who the mods are, we know which mods are on call at what times. (And there's 24/7 coverage.) HN relies very heavily on a flagging system, but it's just not as responsive to stuff that is broken as is a human who's responsible for what's on the front page and what's in the comments. Having a handful of humans who are responsible for curating the front page (and possibly also pinning really good stories from new onto the front page) would solve most of these problems. Is this less democratic? Sure it is. Would the unfairness be worth it? In my opinion, yes.

This problem just isn't solvable with code; it takes benevolent dictators.

7 points by malandrew 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Forking of sites has the same problems as forking open-source projects. It exacerbates conflict, forces people to choose sides, and ultimately both forks typically end up poorer because of members lost.

Instead, the best solution is to evolve Hacker News as a product.

My personal opinion is that we should put Hacker news in the hands of the YCombinator alumni. Founders and first employees (CEO, CTO, lead designer, first engineer hire and first design hire) of YC startups would probably make the best moderators and admins.

In fact, I would say that it's probably time that PG spin off YC as a full-time startup, assigning control of the design and codebase to one talented UI designer, one talented developer and one talented product manager.

For the site to keep growing in a way that maintains quality, it needs more functionality that it has. The two features that lack the most are filtering and combinatorial game mechanics.

Filtering is necessary so it is easy for the the hardcore tech articles to be easily found by high-karma members, so they can vote those articles up. If it's not findable, it's not voteable. Filtering is also necessary for people to extract the most value out of hacker news. Most users don't want 100 front-page articles everyday. They probably want 10-20 of the highest value articles. Less is more.

Combinatorial game mechanics like those on StackOverflow would help as well. Upvoting/downvoting is limited in that it will always fall victim to the masses. Giving special voting/tagging/burying rights to distinguished members (very high-karma users and YC founders and employees) would go a long way to helping eliminate the crap.

I think I speak for most members here, when I say that I don't want Hacker News to be a democracy. I want it to be a technocracy. I want the smart and accomplished people to control what is good and should be visible to all. I've got only 260 karma points, and personally I don't think that should be enough karma points to allow me to upvote a submission. 500+ karma points should be the threshold to be able to vote an article to the frontpage.

1 point by mkramlich 59 minutes ago 0 replies      
My suggestions for tweaks to improve the site:

1. hard ban on purely political news ("Egyptian leader stepped down! OMG!")

2. hard ban on gender-specific things ("i'm female, went to bar during hacker conference, got groped, OMG!" -- yes it was hacker conference, but gosh subtract the 'during hacker conference' and you have real life, it's independent of tech, not specific to it or due to it, just a life thing with guys and gals)

3. particularly if hard bans (enforced by a set of trusted admins) on the above topics are not added, then allow submitters and admins to add/edit content tags for each post; then allow logged-in users to submit content filters so that when they see, eg., the front page, it can suppress all posts with certain tags (eg., pure-politics, gender, sports, religion, etc.)

4. optional for-small-periodic-fee premium accounts, which allow those users to exercise extra features like smarter content tagging/filtering, sorting, user following, user submission/comment filtering (so you can blacklist blowhards and pedants from what you see, even if they are not banned from the site overall)... I'd personally love to blacklist anybody that ever does a comment reply to me that is (a) rude, or (b) idiotic, or (c) overly pedantic (some is fine, we're nerds, goes with territory, and some precision is valuable, sometimes). Blacklists could be flat files, one user per line. We could share them among each other privately. I've bookmarked a few "ahole-or-idiot" users but I'd love it if I could have them automatically stripped from anything I see on HN in the future. Actually, I'd love to have this feature on all social/forum/news sites I visit.

5. fix the "type comment, hit submit, get error page saying something doesn't exist, so you have to go back, copy your text, hit Refresh, paste the text back in, hit Submit again" bug/feature. that drives me nuts. feels like impl side-effect rather than intentional UX

6. don't have the up/down arrows so close together when viewed on iPhone

7. don't allow just anyone to downvote any comment. or at least, they can't downvote it beyond 1 point, below which is penalty land. right now, any dumbass can downvote a comment of mine from 1 to 0, which then reduces my overall lifelong site karma by 1. Just because they disagreed with me. Or they're an asshole. Or they accidentally hit the downvote button (see 6). Instead, have a minimum karma requirement to issue downvotes, and/or only admins.

HN is great, despite it's imperfections. But I'd gladly pay up for premium features. HN Gold? HNGold.com (YC-W11)?

EDIT: added a few items

2 points by icey 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I would very much like to have http://startups.ycombinator.com/startups/ and have a more narrow focus on startup related news and entrepreneurship.

The constant stream of front-paged political arguments and noticeable increase in mean-spirited commentary in the threads has caused me to spend most of my time on HN logged out. It used to be that I'd read the comments before I'd even read the story to see if the story was worth reading. I wonder if it's possible that pg doesn't notice the degradation in comment quality as much because the trolls have been here baiting him since the very early days.

I don't think HN is irrevocably broken; I'm glad that pg is helming the ship and I think he's doing an admirable job of it so far (I think the ranking algorithm in use for the front-page stories is one of the best anywhere). But HN used to be great, and now it's merely good.

I think that a lot of people who have been here for a long time have thought about what's changed here, and how it could be fixed. I know I've littered more than a few mailboxes with lengthy emails about what I think is wrong, and what I think the solution is. Reading this thread kind of tells the story - a point has come where the community is large enough to have factions that value different things. "Anything that good hackers might find interesting" works when you have a small group of people engaged in conversation. It's less useful when you have mobs of people who have come with different ideas of what they want to get out of this site.

In the early days, HN felt like it was a problem solving tool; a way to find out what cool things people were working on, and occasionally to ask for advice. The community was humble, competent, and full of people who actually made things. Those people are still here, but there's a self-aggrandizing element here as well. The group of people who seem to think that someone else's success somehow reflects poorly on themselves, the bloviators and blowhards who believe that a volume of arguments somehow makes up for the measurable factuality of arguments. I don't really know what the solution is to this. I thought if there was a way to ignore people it might make a difference, but after some experimentation I think that that's a dead end - there is too much chance of missing something truly interesting from doing that.

All this being said, HN has had an immeasurable positive impact on my life - The people that I've met through HN (both in person and virtually) are some of the smartest, most amazing people I've known. I'll get to use the things I've learned from HN (and more importantly from the people in it) for the rest of my life. I can't think of another site on the net that has come even close to making such a huge impact.

I can't imagine missing out on all of this if HN had been invite-only when it launched. I didn't know anyone when I first came here. I didn't even know who Paul Graham was.

Instead of complaining about it, I think those of us that have been here for awhile owe it to pg to actively try to improve the community. It's become too large for him to handle on his own. Yes, there are moderators, but they're an invisible hand that only act as a corrective force.

We're a creative lot. I'm sure we can figure out some way to improve this community from the inside.

8 points by Mz 4 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm probably one of those darned newbies who isn't a real hacker and is screwing the place up. (Sorry.) So I wasn't around in 2008 (or whenever the Glory Days were). I don't feel like this article or other discussions about the issue have really given me a good idea of what HN supposedly once was that it isn't anymore. I wish I could get such info. I think that kind of information would hold out some hope of figuring out a real solution -- a means to raise the bar or deepen the discussion or whatever it is that people are wanting.

I know there are other large forums on the internet but this is the largest one I have personally participated in. I think such large forums are breaking new ground, socially, in ways that do not compare to sites like Facebook. Where else can I actually speak with my 80K closest friends? If I am in a room of 500 at work (and not on the stage, because I am not one of the big wigs), only a handful of people around me can hear anything I say. We all can listen to the presentation, but we cannot converse. Here, any and all of us can converse. It is unlike anything you can do "IRL". I suspect that is part of the issue: No one really has a model for how you manage that kind of social interaction. And the models we do have break in that setting.

Just thinking out loud.

4 points by doron 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Gated communities are effective means of preserving the identity of communities, they all employ some bar of entry whether racial, religious, ageist, or economical.There are many social maladies that are also unique to the gated community, the insularity often breeds all sorts of creepiness. Preservation all to often morphs to Stagnation.

Artists are often the shock troops of a neighborhood gentrification, after the studio loft, comes the artisan coffee, some renegade youths, a young lawyer or two, and before you know it, the neighborhood just ain't what it used to be.

I would Posit that a website calling itself "Hacker News" immediately opened itself to all kinds of interpretations. The term "Hacker" seems to be as hotly debated as "Artist" and justifiably so.

The Hackers, introduced others who identify with the Label, and still others who probably do not, but nevertheless find it of value to their venture.

When the neighborhood changes, you are free, within your means, to move to another place. Sometimes you yourself change and require a change of scenery.

When a startup grows to a full company, many times you lose something while gaining another, and vice versa. Many in this forum have made those choices on their own, so it should be familiar ground.

It is almost heretical to mention it here, but perhaps there is no algorithmic solution (if there is a problem) to the complexity of human relation, expression, and motivation.

More people, more heat, Entropy.

2 points by krschultz 1 hour ago 0 replies      
In theory, centrally planned things make a lot of sense.

In practice, democracy usually comes to a better solution, even if it is not perfect.

HN is driven by votes, the community is getting what the majority wants right now. The only way to really improve HN is to change or limit the community. You can tweak the rules only to limit certain actions to high-kharma users, but if there is pent up demand for some kind of story it will make its way to the front page.

4 points by petercooper 4 hours ago 1 reply      
It's definitely not what Alex is semi-proposing but I've been running RubyFlow - http://rubyflow.com/ - for a few years now and it totally stole the MetaFilter model, just for Ruby-only stuff. No "votes" and points scoring - just interesting posts from people in the Ruby community coupled with me editing posts for format and deleting anything that's blatantly spam or offtopic. Seems to work though I have been tempted to go in the voting/Reddit/HN direction with it.. maybe I shouldn't!
1 point by T_S_ 42 minutes ago 0 replies      
Put some teeth into karma. Make more karma mean bigger upvotes and downvotes, say 1 extra point for every 500 points of karma. It doesn't have to be linked to when a person joined. It's elitist like a journal or university, but at least anyone can read HN, and good posters will rise. Problem solved?

EDIT: Oh yeah. 1 week comment lockout for negative karma, with a grace period for newbies to learn how to comment.

15 points by jmm57 5 hours ago 2 replies      
As a low-karma, long-time lurker, I'm not sure I've ever really seen the kind of submissions he is looking for. Can someone provide examples of submitted content that would meet his criteria of deeply technical discussion worthy news?
2 points by doorhammer 1 hour ago 0 replies      
If the crowd has cycled so much, I wonder if maybe this isn't the best solution for the desired outcome.

Granted, I haven't been visiting tech-specific boards for more than a few years, but I'd generally agree that the more technical articles are what I'm interested in.

I think I'd be interested in a board that was geared toward programmers/hackers, but didn't use a typical karma/point system. I'd like to see one that perhaps utilized karma, but under a collaborative filtering system. So, in a simple for-instance, if a small subgroup of people tend to upvote articles that I do, those articles would be given more weight, and similarly those who downvote articles I upvote would be, from my perspective, given less downvote weight, while at the same time there might be a different subgroup that was weighted to value their downvote more. Perhaps give people the ability to tweak the tolerances of their collaboration. Give them the ability to say "if this guy has X karma and ignores someone's articles and votes, then I want to ignore them too"

Of course, this might be
1. a completely naive idea,
2. an idea that's already been tried and failed
3. an idea that's already being used
4. something to time-consuming for people with real work to do or
5. an idea that's unworkable and that I'm only having because I just started reading books on, and experimenting with, machine-learning ;)

Though even if it existed, I probably wouldn't use it. I already waste half my day reading the few articles that interest me on hacker-news, heh

it sucks that when you design any system or any set of rules, and humans are going to interact with it, you have to think "how are these shady bastards going to subvert my beautiful creation?"

1 point by nhangen 48 minutes ago 0 replies      
I just want to speak up as a relative newcomer that feels I've learned enough about this place to speak my mind without being afraid of retribution and can do so with a basic understanding of what works/doesn't work here.

I really like it here, and it's my 1st stop after Gmail every day, and often more than once per day. Nothing is perfect, but as far as I'm concerned, this is as good as it gets.

3 points by vidar 5 hours ago 2 replies      
Perhaps pg is too busy these days to really tend to HN? God knows I would be if I were carrying his load.
2 points by peterbraden 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I think that if you stay at any online community long enough, you begin to perceive a drop in quality - even if that drop does not exist.

IMHO opinion, there is plenty of signal in the stream. What has happened is that the interests of the community have diverged. I'd be far more interested in ways to focus on things that I was interested in, within the stream, than narrowing the flow of information.

On my wishlist is a way to pipe the HN stream through a Bayesian filter based on articles I've enjoyed, and make an RSS feed of articles I'd be interested in.

2 points by danenania 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm fairly new, but I think HN is great. The level of discussion is way, way higher than other similar communities I've seen, and I think the general focus on tech issues with splashes of other topics is perfect. Seems like a successful self-regulating community if I've ever seen one. People just like to complain.
1 point by georgieporgie 1 hour ago 0 replies      
If sites want to claim some sort of community and continuity, they're going to have to place newbies into virtual reeducation camps. Want to see the newest links? You have to read through 10 comments from an '07 post first. Posted a link to an internet meme? Back to the virtual reeducation camp with you.
1 point by JoshCole 1 hour ago 0 replies      
One thing worth noting is that reversion to the mean doesn't have to be a bad thing. For example todays mean level of education compared to the mean level of education a few hundred years ago is very different. A good question to ask might be, would submitting this increase the mean level of discourse on Hacker News? It is the same sort of thing as what is in the guidelines, but reworded for greater relevance.
2 points by hammock 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Everyone here has seen this same lifecycle play out at just about every online community there ever was. Doesn't matter whether it was open or closed. It's a fact of life.

The solutions offered are top-down culture modification and just plain don't work. Adapt, and wait for the next HN to come along. You can't stop the train.

2 points by rubashov 4 hours ago 0 replies      
The basic complaint is that social sites grow into mobs. The solution is rather obviously: halt growth. You have to limit the number of active users to some vaguely Dunbar-ish number or you inevitably wind up with a lowest common denominator mob.

Metafilter did this, right? For a couple years they said "No new accounts."

I think scaling a social site to a very large number of members without deteriorating badly is impossible. It's a matter of human nature and mobs.

1 point by mcav 4 hours ago 1 reply      
HN would be better if it were invite-only like Dribbble. I'm not a member of Dribbble, but it's a good example of why restricting community growth is beneficial.

We're too late for that here. I don't think PG has enough bandwidth or interest to truly solve the problem. New users will continue to join, adding noise to the signal, unless HN changes course. It's going to become more generic and more biased the longer the site stays open.

I hesitate to suggest more moderation as some posters suggest. I'm already uncomfortable with the murmurs of unfair moderation in the system here.

1 point by bootload 3 hours ago 0 replies      
"... I think HN does a crappy job with general tech news and a so-so job with content that's specifically relevant to startup founders and employees. These days, HN does a downright terrible job with deeply technical topics; that's the area I hear the most complaining about on Twitter and in private. Since deep tech is HN's weakest point, let's go after it. ..."

The weakness of the argument is that the engineer/developer/programmer view is a subset of the interests hackers, founders and entrepreneurs. I draw a clear distinction between tech guns for hire who only want depth as opposed to those who want to solve technical problems and maybe innovate which requires both depth & breadth.

1 point by wyuenho 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Why can't HN force categories on every posts? Have the community create and curate the categories, and select their own categories on HN to read. Just a blanket vote up/down button hardly measures how valuable anything is for any particular group if that group is not constant.
2 points by jefe78 3 hours ago 1 reply      
I've come to realize in my short time here, that dissenting opinions are dangerous. I've learned to respect the karma gods and pander or, post my opinion and delete it before taking too hard a karma hit.

Its sad to see that an informed, but non-conforming opinion is taken as fact and karma-nuked.

1 point by kedi_xed 2 hours ago 0 replies      
It's simple really. Digg was good, then it got popular, Reddit was good, then it got popular. I've increasingly visited HN more than Reddit to get my old Reddit fix, as I assume others have, and so popularity has increased and now the quality is degrading as people want their karma fix or 2 cents.

There should be a brainstorm on this. I'm starting to realise I want comment submissions from well known or quality submitters. Not just your average kid or someone who is trying to troll.

The other issue is one-off opinion pieces on some guys blog. HN feels like every programmers chance at 15 mins of fame. Why Ruby On Rails is X times better than this (adudecodingblog.com), My way of speeding up Python (pythonlover.com), etc. having someone like pg, of Joel, or big wigs viewing items or articles like these, offering actual real world advice, and providing comments.

Maybe a subscription based hackernews, where the kudos goes to the legends of the industry, interns are made, and I get my intelli-fix and boredom disguiser because I'm stuck in a cube-farm polishing PL/SQL wondering how the hell I got here and when can I play that stupid COD:Black Ops with its really crappy hit detection. Why do I keep playing it?! Why haven't I asked for a bigger paycheck? Why am I not contracting? How is it that the kid I use to teach programmer is now earning more than me? Oh well, keep surfing...

1 point by jcsalterego 5 hours ago 0 replies      
It seems there's always been reluctance to add features, for the sake of simplicity. Personal messages, for example, would have been useful in many, many instances, but instead we find ourselves checking out the plain-text profile and finding alternate methods of communication.

This limitation has also sprouted ancillary sites attached to the HN Tree of Life, such as searchyc.com, hackermonthly.com, and hnrecap.com as mentioned in the post.

In a similar vein, carving out a sub-HN seems to be: a) downloading the source code, b) bringing it online at another domain and c) announcing via "Tell HN".

All in all, unless someone with >10^5 karma decides to take the time and add some community features to HN (for various values of "community" and "features"), we're all going to continue and see more noise and many different signals.

As an aside, I wholeheartedly appreciate the name, "Bloomfilter."

2 points by teyc 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Where is the data that shows HN has degraded? We aren't seeing kitten pictures. A scan of the front page shows the mix of articles being programming, startups, tech.

I'm not sure what Alex wants? More discussion around PG's hackers and painters?

1 point by zaidf 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Or may be after a while our perception about something changes disproportionate to the actual change?

That's basically boredom--and it can happen even if you consume something good for a long time. That "good thing" doesn't change so much as your perception of it.

2 points by doron 4 hours ago 0 replies      
The Illustrated Guide to Flame Warriors is a handy reference: http://redwing.hutman.net/~mreed/index.htm
1 point by jpwagner 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Well, obviously posts/discussions like this can actually be contributing to the "problem" as some see it, but I'll make one point I don't see made here.

For me personally, I've learned a lot and grown a lot over the course of the 4 years I've been lurking and occasionally contributing here. So for me, a smaller percentage of the stories/articles/posts/discussions appear as insightful as they once did. I don't mean to knock HN in any way, in fact my point is that that fact is not a "problem" to me. New users are joining everyday and everybody who makes the effort to learn and contribute gets something out of HN.

It's what brings me back 17 times a day.

2 points by mickeyben 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Very well written article. I think he has some good points. I'd really like to see a 'deeply technical' alternative to HN and hope he'll find the good guys !
2 points by reedlaw 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Could this phenomenon be in any way attributable to nostalgia? Personally, I find any online community loses attractiveness after a certain period of time.
1 point by d0m 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Maybe experienced HN (read as a mix of high karma + there since the beginning), could have a bigger impact on which articles are chosen. I honestly don't mind a "dictatorship" selection where chosen members could remove useless post / select useful one.
1 point by SeanLuke 4 hours ago 0 replies      
This was discussed before: http://hackerne.ws/item?id=1934367

I had a comment which I guess I should link to rather than repost: http://hackerne.ws/item?id=1934605

1 point by tomrod 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Wait... he complains on his post about not submitting his blog posts to the community.. which then gets submitted to the community and upvoted (albeit probably not by him). Does that sum it up?
1 point by alexknight 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Honestly I'd love to pay for a Hackernews account if it meant weeding out some rather distasteful people. Not saying that is the be all/end all solution to the problem though.
1 point by dave1619 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Another HN challenge... as discussions get longer (like this page), it gets more chaotic and more difficult to follow.
1 point by jaekwon 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Hi, I'm taking on this challenge. Al3x, can you send me an email at jkwon.work@gmail.com?

Also, I'm taking suggestions for seed users. There will also be a HN Karma cutoff where everyone above a threshold can join. You can nominate HN users or yourself here.

1 point by ddkrone 44 minutes ago 0 replies      
Reeks of elitism.
1 point by Pooter 4 hours ago 0 replies      
The solution, ultimately, is for the site to wither and die, and be replaced by something else that will have the same fate. This is what happens to all things, and to all human social groupings in particular, from ancient Rome on down to your nuclear family.

If you're tired of it, start something else. Or hang out and jump ship when the next great thing comes along. Trying to preserve the golden age is rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.

1 point by mkr-hn 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Sounds like (s)he wants a Less Wrong for startups.
3 points by tianyicui 5 hours ago 2 replies      
IMO, a tag system like StackOverflow or Quora seems a good way to go.
2 points by ypirate 3 hours ago 0 replies      
The points system has been gamed. There's some organized down voting for critiquing some big players (MSFT,APPL). There's clear fanboyism that gets inexplicably upvoted. It's mutated from "slightly cynical hacker" to "astro turf public relations".
2 points by gabaix 4 hours ago 0 replies      
what about tagging? automatic or crowd-powered.
Seems a great way to sort through the noise.
tags could be "technical", "startup", "YC" etc.
3 points by mthreat 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Case in point - this article.
1 point by pdaviesa 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Pretty soon you guys will be telling the kids to turn down that damn music and stay off your lawn :)
-4 points by p90x 4 hours ago 0 replies      
6 points by mcav 5 hours ago 0 replies      
If he wanted to advertise for BankSimple, he could've done a heck of a lot better than a passing reference in a blog post about HN.
Amount of profanity in git commit messages per programming language andrewvos.com
210 points by AndrewVos 9 hours ago   140 comments top 32
63 points by edw519 8 hours ago 3 replies      
Out of 929857 commit messages, I found 210 swear words (using George Carlin's Seven dirty words).

That set only includes [shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits], so these are probably not meaningful results.

I have personality commented "asshole forgot to increment the counter" 527 times in 4 different languages.

[EDIT: 528 times in 5 different languages. Sorry, bitches.]

6 points by jakevoytko 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I never curse in my commit messages. That doesn't mean I don't want to! Cursing is a vice of mine, acquired through summers of cleaning bathrooms and picking up trash at a state park in high school. I use euphamisms when coding professionally, but it's easy to map my commit messages at old companies back to my original swear.

"Blameless" bug:

   Original: Now recalculates the height of the container element after repopulating
the content.
Translation: Did Bob test this fucking thing ONCE before he committed this?

Fixing my own mistake:

   Original: Tweaks the NUM_PATHS config value.
Translation: Wow, I apparently have shit-for-brains. I hope nobody ran a build in
the past 20 minutes.


   Original: Updates the object creation code per Bob's feedback.
Translation: Another Goddamn FactoryFactoryBuilder?! I officially don't
understand this codebase.

Major cleanup needed:

   Original: Style tweaks needed for GCC compilation.
Translation: OMFG. This isn't even valid C++. It doesn't even compile.

OK, I'm not perfect:

   Original: Fuck IE7.
Translation: No seriously, fuck IE7.

41 points by nostrademons 9 hours ago 2 replies      
I'd kinda like to see which swear words appear most often in commit messages. I'm guessing that "shit" and "fuck" are much more common than "cocksucker" and "motherfucker", and if that's not true, I want to know which language has the most cocksuckers and motherfuckers.
42 points by stcredzero 9 hours ago 0 replies      
How to offend members of 3 different programmer communities in 9 different ways with just one sentence: "It somehow makes sense that C++, Ruby, and JavaScript are all equally profane."
18 points by snprbob86 9 hours ago replies      
Pie chart? I have no idea how to interpret this...


27 points by twymer 9 hours ago 2 replies      
Given that there were only 210 total swear words, the accuracy of this seems pretty questionable. It's possible that one guy could be responsible for a large percentage of swearing for a given language.
10 points by rflrob 9 hours ago 1 reply      
A neat idea, although I think the pie chart isn't really the right format. I'd prefer to see a bar graph, with the y-axis as (swears/million messages) or similar.
5 points by r00k 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I wrote a post on my blog 4 years ago (!) with lots of examples of profanity in code comments.

It took a half-hour to write and has consistently gotten more traffic than the rest of my blog.

Ah well, give the people what they want: http://codeulate.com/2007/12/fcking-programming/

11 points by jrockway 8 hours ago 1 reply      
No Perl? I fucking swear all the time...
3 points by jxcole 9 hours ago 2 replies      
This is an example of bad poor graphical representation. The proper way to do this would be to take the swear words per word for each language and then map this to a bar graph, then you could easily see which has the highest vs the lowest.

A pie chart is good for things that add to 100%. The number of swear words that occur in something is not appropriate for this type of graphic.

21 points by csphy 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I want to know the proximity of the curse to 'IE' in the Javascript commits
9 points by PonyGumbo 8 hours ago replies      
I'm completely stunned that PHP is on the bottom here.
2 points by mgrouchy 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised there are so few commit messages with curse words in them. 210 out of 929857, thats like 0.02%, I would have thought that developers were more vulgar then that(I know I am).

Maybe if we looks at comments in source code we would get a better representation of the vulgarness of developers.

1 point by jcw 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Yeah, this is funny, there is novelty here, etc. A story counting profanities in source code/commits/etc. pops up every now and then.

I've found that the only real profanity in a source code comment is "HACK".

My swear jar overflows with quarters.

4 points by damoncali 7 hours ago 0 replies      
My favorite:

- fuck it. let's release

2 points by jefe78 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Well played!

I wonder if this has anything to do with:

I know I plan to comment my python code a little differently now! Maybe that will help balance the numbers?

I know I'd be pretty vulgar if I programmed in C++/Javascript all day!

2 points by khingebjerg 8 hours ago 0 replies      
3 points by jerguismi 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Not statistically signifant, but interesting idea.
1 point by davidw 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Hah, maybe I should add that to http://langpop.com - are you interested, Andrew?
2 points by mrcharles 9 hours ago 1 reply      
This would be more interesting if it scanned comments from source files for profanity.
3 points by cfontes 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Is it ok statistically to get for example all Ruby commits and 25% of C++ ones and compare them ?
Another kind of chart would be nice... also some other params.
2 points by m0hit 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Interesting. Of course I am thinking of the many ways that the results might not be representative, but that doesn't make it any less of a cool weekend project.

Would be great to see some context around where the most _profanities_ occur by language, and the kind used.

2 points by chrismetcalf 9 hours ago 1 reply      


A one-liner I wrote that uses git blame to seek out who swears the most in a given codebase. Pretty fun.

1 point by edge17 7 hours ago 0 replies      
i'd like to see this same comparison, except comparing different version control systems
2 points by JCB_K 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Next time they do a test they should include "git". Let's see what happens.
1 point by mcarlin 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Sample size is too fucking small. Also, as others have pointed out, you've allowed far too few swearwords.

Good job though :-)

1 point by tomwans 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Seems that python devs are practicing the Zen of Python :-)
1 point by dustingetz 6 hours ago 0 replies      
how about 'chainsaw'?
2 points by boctor 7 hours ago 1 reply      
No Objective-C love for the iPhone/iPad crowd?
1 point by michaelschade 8 hours ago 3 replies      
Even ignoring that which other commenters have pointed out, I simply don't buy it for one reason: that PHP slice is way too small.
1 point by dcdan 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Numbers of committers sampled per language might be helpful in identifying potential bias.
-1 point by kunley 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Go Ruby go!! ;D
HelloFax (YC W11): Sign And Send Faxes From Your Browser, Without The Hassle techcrunch.com
207 points by ssclafani 1 day ago   102 comments top 40
43 points by pg 1 day ago 3 replies      
YC has switched over to HelloFax and we love it. With 250 companies we have to deal with a lot of faxes, because every later funding round or acquisition means we have to sign stuff. So not having to deal with actual paper faxes makes a big difference for us.
8 points by jasonkester 20 hours ago 0 replies      
So the only thing that differentiates it from the thousand-odd online fax services that have been around since the 90s is that it lets you skip the "photoshop my signature onto this image" step?

I'd say this would be a tough business to be in, unless of course you had the schmooze power of YC behind you. Amazing how that can transform a site like this that would otherwise live out its life in a little crack on the 3rd page of Google for "online fax" into a viable business.

(I suppose it also helps if all your competitors stop improving their products in 1998.)

12 points by 100k 1 day ago 1 reply      
Yes, a thousand times, yes. This is great, I hate having to dig up a fax machine when I want to fax something. Unless I can find one at an office, I have to go to Kinkos, because I don't even have a phone line.
8 points by johnrob 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is a very crowded and somewhat mature space, which makes for an interesting marketing problem. I'd love to hear about how you guys approach it in some future blog posts!
8 points by JunkDNA 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is great. I have a fax/printer/scanner at home for this purpose, but I am lucky if I send 5 faxes a year. Plus, if I ever drop the landline, it won't work. I really like the idea of paying per fax. None of the subscription services make sense for a casual user. Good luck HelloFax.
6 points by cmer 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you could allow me to receive fax with the same kind of pricing, that'd be awesome.

Whenever someone ask me for my fax number, I start sweating. It rarely happens, but when it happens, I'm stuck.

Let me buy a "disposable" fax number for 12-24 hours for $2. I don't want to pay monthly for something that I rarely use, but I'd be happy to pay a flat fee to receive a document.

10 points by yarone 1 day ago 1 reply      
Just a comment on HelloFax.com: the headline says "Throw away your fax machine!"

I don't have a fax machine. I'd guess lots of visitors don't either. Just saying, maybe there's a better headline to be written.

Good luck guys, efax is terrible!

14 points by allangrant 1 day ago 2 replies      
I love HelloFax. Really, I do. Started using it a few weeks ago, and discovered undocumented features that were EXACTLY what I wanted. Before when I ran a web dev company I had to sign contracts all the time, and this was my process: save from email -> word -> enter text / insert image (signature) -> print to pdf -> efax. Now I can do it via HelloFax in about 1 minute.
8 points by dirtae 1 day ago 1 reply      
As co-founder of an online fax service[1], I'll be watching HelloFax closely. It's a mature market, but most of the existing players are crappy, so I think there's a big opportunity here. It's a difficult marketing problem, though. AdWords advertising for fax related keywords is very expensive, and there are services out there that offer completely free faxes (even if they are cluttered with ads). Perhaps the signing functionality offered by HelloFax will give them enough differentiation to generate good word-of-mouth awareness.

[1] https://www.faxfresh.com/

3 points by il 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats on the launch! HelloFax is a fantastic product, and an excellent example of launching an MVP when you have just enough features to make some group of users very happy.

The ability to sign documents within the app alone has been an incredible time saver. It makes you think "How is this not the default way to send faxes yet?"

4 points by damoncali 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is awesome. Now if we could just get people to accept these electronic signatures reliably, things would be golden.

Yes, I'm talking to you, Wells Fargo.

2 points by dctoedt 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Not to be a downer, but this brings to mind Fred Wilson's warning the other day about bridge-technology startups: "Most of the time they do really well while the transition pain [from old- to new technology] is high but once most individuals and enterprises have made the change, their business slowly disappears." http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/02/bridge-technologies.html
6 points by jtagen 1 day ago 1 reply      
Little misleading... it says "throw away your fax machine" but has no support for receiving faxes.

I'd love to use a service like this, even at $1.99 per fax, but without receive support (so sad that companies sign first and want to fax to you) it's no good to me....

2 points by Sandman 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Really one of the most useful startups I've seen in a while. I would definitely use their service.. but, unfortunately, I usually need to send faxes to non-US numbers and that is, at this moment, still not supported.
Still, great job, you guys, I wish you all the luck!
1 point by mcculley 15 hours ago 0 replies      
D'oh. I was excited that I might actually be able to throw out my fax machine. I just sent a fax through HelloFax and the service seems to be very useable. I went through the interface trying to figure out how to add a credit card to my account and determine how expensive the service is. But they don't have pricing yet.

My small business uses Packetel for incoming fax-to-email and a real fax machine for outgoing faxes. I would love to get rid of the fax machine and the stupid copper phone line it requires.

1 point by ylem 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Will you guys have an API? Also I guess the problem for the infrequent user who wants to receive a fax is the id problem...Say for example that I want state farm to fax me a document. If you go with a pool approach and match by phone # expected, then there could be interceptions. The safest way seems to be to have a dedicated # (if it were always from a savvy source, you could have them post a unique code that you could ocr to identify, but you can't rely on that for the general case)....How much does it cost for that? The other difficulty is what happens if I use the service, get my state farm fax and stop using the service. If the number is then recycled, then if state farm decides to fax me something else without notifying me, it then goes to someone else (and may have data in it)...A difficult problem. Good luck!
2 points by aymeric 1 day ago 1 reply      
Hey guys, I love how each page has a clear goal. I'd suggest to add a call to action at the end of this page: http://www.hellofax.com/content/learnMore
3 points by leek 23 hours ago 0 replies      
If you're like me and looked to cancel your eFax subscription, here is the related URL: https://www.efax.com/cancelLiveChat.html
1 point by jlgosse 1 day ago 0 replies      
Amazing looking service. However, there's a typo on the "About us" page, which I thought I'd bring to your attention.

"Joseph Walla
Enterepeneur with a soft spot for the public sector."

Good luck with everything though, you guys are going to kill it.

1 point by quickpost 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Have you figured out your pricing yet? It bothered me that I couldn't find any pricing info before signing up for the service....
5 points by kevingao1 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats guys - huge moment and just a sign of bigger things to come
1 point by Groxx 1 day ago 0 replies      
I love how this could essentially be used as a way to bypass physical signatures which are still required by some painfully-useless laws. I shall keep this in mind if I'm ever required to fax something.
2 points by mahmoudimus 1 day ago 0 replies      
Everytime I have to fax something, it used to be such a huge hassle.

Here's the heuristic:

1. Find the nearest Kinko's/FedEx Store

2. Find my old or get another Kinko's card Kinko's/FedEx Store card

3. Put 1 dollar on it

4. Fax for $0.25

Two or three months later, repeat the same process.

HelloFax is a great example of a solution to serious pain point.

Good luck and congratulations!

1 point by nailer 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Aren't web to fax gateways a 'bridge technology' as recently discussed (interms of avoiding investment) on HN?

Ie, immediate use, dwindling long term prospects?

1 point by RK 1 day ago 1 reply      
I have previously used the subscription-less http://payperfax.com

Anything I should know to make me use hellofax? (20 free faxes is definitely a nice start!)

1 point by ylem 23 hours ago 0 replies      
All I have to say is, Thank God! I look forward to using this the next time I have to deal with sending a fax. And once you can receive faxes and do everything in one place...For the dedicated fax #, do you have any plans to do this for infrequent users who don't need a regular #?
3 points by sandipagr 1 day ago 0 replies      
signed up for the 20 free fax! would last me a lifetime :)
2 points by niccolop 1 day ago 0 replies      
I used hellofax recently for the first time, much better than pamfax, and no hidden charges like efax.
3 points by yayitswei 1 day ago 0 replies      
We used HelloFax to sign our incorporation documents- was a real timesaver!
3 points by jabrams2003 1 day ago 0 replies      
These guys really identified a pain point. This is hands down the most useful application I've used.
2 points by jefe78 1 day ago 1 reply      
You have a typo on your sign-up page:

"Get 20 fax fages free"

Otherwise, cool idea.

1 point by 6ren 1 day ago 2 replies      
Will it send faxes internationally, i.e. outside the states?

As a specific example, if I'm in Australia, and I want to send a fax locally, can I use HelloFax?

3 points by steve918 1 day ago 4 replies      
What's a fax? Wasn't that my grandmother's email provider or something?
1 point by d0m 1 day ago 1 reply      
You know the "Try it" in the learn more section, I found it a little bit annoying that it takes you to the homepage instead of back to the learn more section.
1 point by davidmurphy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats! This is awesome. Looks like a GREAT idea and looks like you executed really well. High five!
2 points by edna_piranha 1 day ago 0 replies      
thank god i don't have to worry about buying that blasted fax machine!
1 point by nhangen 1 day ago 1 reply      
It will take a lot of work to steal me from Faxzero.
1 point by ditojim 16 hours ago 0 replies      
does it have google docs integration like echosign?
0 points by mkramlich 1 day ago 0 replies      
faxing? talk about early adopter!
0 points by alienreborn 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Neither did I send any faxes in the last few years nor did I use any other online fax services, so I refrain from commenting about your site but please do change the favicon to your site logo. :)
The Technology Behind Convore eflorenzano.com
205 points by conesus 6 days ago   36 comments top 7
58 points by abstractbill 6 days ago 3 replies      
Finally, Python may not be the best language for this real-time endpoint. Eventlet is a fantastic Python library and it allowed us to build something extremely fast that has scaled to several thousand concurrent connections without breaking a sweat on launch day, but it has its limits. There is a large body of work out there on handling a large number of open connections, using Java's NIO framework, Erlang's mochiweb, or node.js.

I wrote justin.tv's chat backend, in Python, using the Twisted network libraries. It has scaled to peaks of more than half a million concurrent chat connections, on 8 fairly modest commodity servers. Python is more than capable here, with the right networking approach. Feel free to ask me anything about it.

6 points by siculars 6 days ago 2 replies      
Congrats on the launch! I've actually found myself using Convore more often than I thought I would. Particularly because I'm often in places that block irc.

Have you looked at distributed counting in Cassandra for your counting needs yet[0][1]? Great info on its development and use at Twitter. It seems like you too have lots of interesting things to count. Your initial choice of Postgres for everything was a bit interesting. Your problem seems like a perfect fit for a hybrid solution (which you are already implementing by way of redis) that I think more and more companies will come to embrace by hook or by crook.

Continued success!

[0]General nosql at Twitter and a fair bit on Cassandra:

[1]Specifics on Rainbird, the counting system at twitter built on Cassandra:

[cross post from the blog]

3 points by swanson 6 days ago 1 reply      
Kind of surprising to not see node+socket.io in there, but it is nice to see some python projects (Celery/Eventlet) doing the same job. I'd be curious to see if they end up swapping that out if/when scaling becomes an issue.
3 points by krakensden 6 days ago 1 reply      
Sort of a random query, but why are you using Celery with Redis? Last time I looked into it, the documentation basically said "you can, but you should really use AMQP".
3 points by travisfischer 6 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for the article Eric. I greatly appreciate your transparency and willingness to share. It is a great contribution to the community.
1 point by sliverstorm 5 days ago 0 replies      
Grah... I was very interested at first, because out of the corner of my eye, I thought this said "... Behind Corvette". Curse you, disappointment.
2 points by pkteison 6 days ago 2 replies      
So it's IRC on the web reinvented again? What's the advantage, why not just use an IRC client?
       cached 23 February 2011 05:11:02 GMT