hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    18 Apr 2011 Best
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FBI seized PokerStars.com, FullTiltPoker.com, UB.com,... domain names twoplustwo.com
862 points by bjonathan 2 days ago   381 comments top 75
points by nika 2 days ago replies      
Reagan is the one who signed "asset forfeiture" into law. I remember at the time reading newspaper articles claiming this was "just going to be used to keep drugs off the streets" and how "law enforcement are outgunned and now can defend themselves against drug dealers".

It was obvious to me then that this was a violation of due process. Also, it is not authorized by the constitution, and thus every act of seizure under it is criminal act. (There is a federal law that makes it a felony to violate constitutional rights under color of law. Fourth amendment prohibits this.)

Notably, Bush the First, Clinton, Bush the Second and Obama have not made any moves to undo this legislation.

Meanwhile, this has been used to take money from bikers on their way to buy a motorcycle, and random motorists in Florida and Texas who get pulled over for speeding. "It could be drug money" says the "law enforcement officers" who take life savings and then spend it on themselves.

Just because they haven't seized your assets yet, doesn't mean you aren't at risk.

When the government can take whatever it wants, without any legal restraint, and in violation of the ultimate law of the land, that government is not a legitimate government.

We should be outraged. We should be throwing the bums out-- from Obama down to the local state congresspeople or local sheriffs and judges who fail to take actions overturning this, or who themselves participate in this. It does not matter what party they are from, they are all culpable, and they are all criminals.

Edited: I removed the reference to my property that was stolen by the FBI because it prompted many people to attack me below. I really would rather the discussion be about how to resolve this issue for domain names, or maybe some discussion about how to overturn these seizure laws.

Edited: I've made the legal case in defense of those wrongfully convicted. I cannot keep up with the tide of people who have no citations of the law, but are quick to disparage me personally, for my crime of defending victims here.

Frankly, I think that the ease with which people assume that "naturally" these people were "bad guys" and therefore what they did was "illegal" despite the law and the constitution, is the very proof of my central point that the government is out of control, and they are getting away with it because people can't be bothered to challenge the belief-- taught by government in government schools-- that the "rule of law" holds sway.

points by mycroftiv 2 days ago replies      
This is a disaster. A very sad day for the internet. We are entering into pastor Niemoller territory here: first they came for the file-sharing websites, next they came for the online gambling websites, and I would guess that Bitcoin is probably next in line, and following that, Magic: the Gathering online and the MMORPGs.
points by TY 2 days ago replies      
It's real and it's happening now.

I have nothing to do with online gambling (anymore), but this just sent shivers down my spine. Who's next?

The US Government has just strengthened the case of those who were concerned about having parts of Internet infrastructure under the control of the US government.

Domain seizures have been happening for a while (i.e. [1]), but this case will probably be the highest profile to date and will hopefully raise public awareness about this disturbing issue.

I won't be surprised to see US based domain registrars to start loosing a lot of their business quite soon.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/us/04bar.html

points by lawnchair_larry 2 days ago replies      
The hijacked DNS has not propagated everywhere yet. Mine are still working. If anyone has last minute business to do on these sites, such as cashing out before the FBI steals your money, add these to your hosts file:

$ host pokerstars.com

pokerstars.com has address

pokerstars.com mail is handled by 20 mx20.pokerstars.com.

$ host absolutepoker.com

absolutepoker.com has address

absolutepoker.com mail is handled by 10 mail.absolutepoker.com.

absolutepoker.com mail is handled by 5 mx1.absolutepoker.com.

absolutepoker.com mail is handled by 5 mx2.absolutepoker.com.

$ host fulltiltpoker.com

fulltiltpoker.com has address

fulltiltpoker.com mail is handled by 200 mit-mx00.fulltiltpoker.com.

fulltiltpoker.com mail is handled by 100 mx00.fulltiltpoker.com.

$ host ultimatebet.com

ultimatebet.com has address

ultimatebet.com mail is handled by 100 mailb.ultimatebet.com.

ultimatebet.com mail is handled by 200 mailc.ultimatebet.com.

ultimatebet.com mail is handled by 10 mail.ultimatebet.com.

$ host ub.com

ub.com has address

points by pero 2 days ago replies      
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Federal authorities unsealed an indictment Friday against the founders of the three largest internet poker companies operating in the U.S. The indictment charges eleven defendants, including the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker, with bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses, according to Federal authorities in New York. Restraining orders were issued against more than 75 bank accounts used by the poker companies and their payment processors, while five Internet domain names used by the companies to host poker games were seized, federal authorities added in a statement. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/doj-indicts-founders-of-top...


points by nbpoole 2 days ago replies      
For those that are skeptical, check the nameservers:




All of the domains point to nameservers at cirfu.net, which appears to be the FBI's Cyber Initiative and Resource Fusion Unit (http://itlaw.wikia.com/wiki/Cyber_Initiative_and_Resource_Fu...)

What's more interesting (to me): the domains don't appear to have been using US domain registrars.

points by ssclafani 2 days ago replies      
The indictment from the DOJ with a list of the charges:


points by heyitsnick 2 days ago replies      
I'm happy to see this featured so highly in hacker news.

As a professional poker player, the biggest concern right now are players balances. I know players with 250k+ bankrolls that are extremely concerned about the status of their money online.

Right now it's entirely unclear the relative size of the seizures.

If anyone has any questions from someone in the midst of this, fire way. I'll be up all night.

points by dstein 2 days ago replies      
Has a bureau of the US federal government just claimed ultimate authority over the internet's domain name system?

If this is the case, then obviously we have a very serious problem on our hands. This threatens the way the internet works at the infrastructure level. Clearly the US needs to be stripped of their root DNS server privileges.

points by dpifke 2 days ago replies      
Someone came up with a Firefox add-on to automatically use alternate domain names when one tries to access one seized by the US Government:


I'm reminded of the John Gilmore quote, "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

points by olalonde 2 days ago replies      
Isn't their image with no alt tag (http://pokerstars.com/banner7.jpg) in violation with Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973? [1]

    Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 

A Federal law requiring US government electronic and
information technology (EIT) to meet accessibility

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_508_of_the_Rehabilitati...

points by InclinedPlane 2 days ago replies      
I for one am incredibly glad!

Nothing is a more serious menace to our society and our way of life than ... online gambling. I'm glad that in this time of unprecedented natural disasters, geopolitical unrest, and financial crisis our government still has its priorities straight.

points by ajg1977 2 days ago replies      
Probably related to this - former online gambling lynchpin turns cooperating witness.


points by eftpotrm 2 days ago replies      
While I'm not at all surprised to see this happening, I'm still astonished that the USA continues to try to stamp out gambling through legislation. I remember growing up being astonished at the number of references on USA TV shows to illegal gambling; I've never once come across it in the UK.

I love cricket, but there's been a persistent series of match-fixing and spot-fixing allegations for years, almost exclusively originating from illegal south Asian (primarily Indian) bookmakers. The legal markets haven't been the source of this sort of problem at all.

Much as I might not like gambling, there is a persistent human desire for it and the evidence seems to be that banning it, as so often, exacerbates rather than minimises harm. The US government should stop trying to hold back the tide on this.

points by eof 2 days ago replies      
Wow this is huge.

I used to play online poker for a living, I had a decent chunk of cash locked up for almost a year when they came down on online poker previously (UIGEA) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAFE_Port_Act#Internet_gambling...

It's worth noting that these are NOT American companies. It doesn't look like anyone (players) has had their assests seized; but this is bad news for a lot of people.

It also appears people are still playing.

points by lusis 2 days ago replies      
This is actually perfect. Filesharing sites don't register on the average user radar.

Online gambling sites? Joe Schmoe's everywhere are about to get seriously angry.

It's sad it came to this but maybe it takes something as overreaching as this to get the attention of people.

points by sp332 2 days ago replies      
The MAFIAAFire Firefox plugin will redirect seized domain names to alternate domains. It's already working with all of the domains listed in the article. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/mafiaafire-re... Of course, it depends on how much you trust the maintainers of the plugin not to do something nefarious :)
points by ig1 2 days ago replies      
As what happened with the guys run the porn redirector under the Libya domain, if you're using a domain/registrar which is regulated under laws which make your website illegal then you're just asking for trouble.

It's just basic common sense: Use domains/registrars which fall under the legal authority of a country in which your website is legal.

points by vessenes 2 days ago replies      
If the press release is true, these guys are going away for a long time. They allegedly bribed the owner of a US bank with cash and allegedly purchased 30% of the bank in exchange for the bank allowing them to circumvent US money laundering and anti-gambling laws.

There's a lot of civil liberty discussion in this thread, but I think this is actually a fascinating story about the linkage points between the internet and the real world -- in the real world, these guys needed bank processing. To get it, they went way, way over the line, as did the Bank owner.

points by teyc 1 hour ago replies      
points by eli 2 days ago replies      
Crazy. DC government just passed a bill allowing the city to offer online gambling. Will the FBI also sieze dclottery.com?
points by j79 2 days ago replies      
Viewing Google cache, I noticed ub.com about us page:

All financial transactions are processed by Hoop & Javelin Holdings Ltd., Vincenti Buildings, Suite 522, 14/19 Strait Street, VLT1432 Valletta, Malta, owner of this website.

Can the FBI seize the domain because it's a .com TLD? Or, because transactions were occurring in the States?

points by pumpmylemma 2 days ago replies      
Okay. This makes me want to indulge in youthful indignation.

If I saw this and was at a company like OpenDNS, I'd start considering saying "No. Sorry. We're going reverting back to the last good record." The federal government might have technical jurisdiction, and U.S. customers might technically be violating U.S. laws but the ability of the federal government to seize internet properties terrifies me because it might set a national and international precedent. (Other countries already do this, but U.S. doing it kinda makes it globally sanctioned.) I'm terrified of a slippery slope, even though I usually find slippery slope arguments dubious. (Plus, I just think this is a dumb seizure to begin with...)

(End of youthful indignation.)

points by thought_alarm 18 hours ago replies      

    Winners don't conduct illegal gambling operations.

-- William S. Sessions, Director of the FBI

points by skunkworks 2 days ago replies      
US government has been gunning for poker sites for a while (since 2006 when the UIGEA passed). Some places like Party Poker withdrew from the US market, while others flourished by skirting the rules to the best of their abilities (e.g. can't have ads for internet gambling on TV, so let's make a play money site fulltilt.net that will eventually funnel traffic to our real cash games).

I am however surprised that they're seizing domains as I figured this would remain one of those "live and let live" legislations, like the online gambling equivalent of brown-bagging your drink. I imagine this will not end well for whoever was involved in this decision.

Also, 2+2ers sup bro.

points by redorb 2 days ago replies      

Shows the propagation is underway.

points by andrewcooke 2 days ago replies      
when this happened a while back for wikipedia and filesharing sites i wrote a script that lets you add, update, dump, and share entries in your local hosts file (you can even put the text on a website and pull it from a url). it's not really much use since the sites will be moving anyway if no-one else can contact them, but in case someone finds it useful - https://github.com/ghettonet/GhettoNet
points by bostonscott 2 days ago replies      
This is another case of government manufacturing criminals.

"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers."

- Ayn Rand

points by ig1 2 days ago replies      
It's worth noting that most gambling sites warn their employees against travelling to the US. The US has in the past arrested employees of foreign firms for actions which are entirely legal in their home country but illegal in the US.

And it's not just gambling sites, in 2001 Dmitry Sklyarov was arrested on a similar basis.

points by angrycoder 2 days ago replies      
Coming soon...


points by ForumRatt 2 hours ago replies      
This domain seizure nonsense is just the tip of the iceberg.


points by jdp23 2 days ago replies      
points by brk 2 days ago replies      
It seems that it's stuff like this that could be the biggest driver in validating non .com domain names.

I could see a Benelux registrar organization setting up a quality .tld that was free from seizure over stupid shit.

There are still other minor routing problems that can occur, but with proxies and DNS, that is much much more of a whack-a-mole problem than high level domain name seizure.

points by cabalamat 2 days ago replies      
Note to self: all future domains I buy won't have a .com extension.
points by akavlie 2 days ago replies      
So yeah, about that distributed DNS idea...
points by BrandonM 2 days ago replies      
Did anyone happen to cache the IP address for fulltiltpoker.com? I'd like to add it to /etc/hosts so that I can at least connect to the client and get a screenshot of my balance.
points by Maascamp 2 days ago replies      
points by ajays 2 days ago replies      
You know, these "asset forfeiture" laws will never change as long as it's the 'little people' who are getting reamed.

The day the government grabs the assets of a few rich people, you can bet your ass these laws will change in a hurry.

points by jhamburger 2 days ago replies      
I was under the impression that Howard Lederer and possibly several other "celebrity" poker players had ownership interests in Full Tilt Poker so I'm surprised I don't see any familiar names listed as defendants in the indictment
points by andrenotgiant 2 days ago replies      
points by fanboy123 2 days ago replies      
CNBC Twitter:
Three Largest Internet Poker Companies Charged With Fraud, Illegal Gambling - Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker, & Absolute Poker - Charged
points by mrtron 2 days ago replies      
Online gambling is legal almost everywhere - how does the FBI have the ability to do this?
points by ynniv 2 days ago replies      
In case anyone thinks this is about deterring online gambling, Washington DC (the municipality, not the Federal government) has recently legalized online gambling as a type of lottery.

[ http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_ONLINE_GAMBLING_DC]

points by viraptor 2 days ago replies      
The event was big and changed a lot... but not for pokerstars or other services.

The client can use ips to auto-update with new domain names probably (it's got a pool of addresses to try). In a few days enough new links will be created to pokerstars.net that it will be reasonably visible on google. Service itself will buy loads of domains and start advertising as pokerstars.{your_tld}. In the meantime, pokerstars.net is still available as usual.

points by beaker 1 day ago replies      
I don't know why but this issue really irks me. The hypocrisy on this is off the charts. Gambling is legal in our country - the WTO has made that legal judgment (http://www.ibet.pro/2007/08/25/us-government-ignores-wto-rul...). Our actions are an attempt to preserve a protection racket for U.S. gambling operations and it's just wrong. Not only that but the strategy of seizing domain names, arresting execs, will never solve this problem. This shit pisses me off - I'm sorry.
points by beedogs 2 days ago replies      
America sucks more every day.
points by vnorby 2 days ago replies      
WHOA, that's really big news for the poker industry. These are all very large, very big businesses (talking billions of dollars) in the US. Can anyone confirm if their poker clients are still functioning properly?
points by enb 1 day ago replies      
"Australian internet whiz Daniel Tzvetkoff, who has become a prized FBI informant in a bid to avoid a 75 year jail sentence in the US, may have brought down the multi-billion dollar American online poker industry.

The three poker sites - PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker - have been shut down."

Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/technology-news/f...

points by Maro 2 days ago replies      
I'm located in Hungary.

Pokerstars.com works, Fulltiltpoker.com works, UB.com gives me an FBI page.

points by Natsu 2 days ago replies      
If anyone hasn't figured it out yet, the Internet Police have come and they're starting the crackdown. So people who have been relying on the non-enforcement of certain laws, even the dumb ones, are going to get some nasty surprises soon. Or at least, that's how it looks to me.

They've killed several botnets and lots of other sites, too, if anyone has noticed.

points by codexon 2 days ago replies      
Here's what the domain names look like, for those of us who's DNS hasn't propagated yet.

points by PHPAdam 1 day ago replies      
PokerStars is back - http://pokerstars.eu

This is the message I get when I log in:

points by ataggart 1 day ago replies      
And yet so many people are urging this same government to craft new "net neutrality" laws. Bewildering.
points by pathik 7 hours ago replies      
Meta: This is probably the most upvoted HN post I've seen.
points by whackedspinach 1 day ago replies      
How exactly am I supposed to live in a system like this? I understand I can't have a perfect legal system, but the amount of effort required to challenge these ridiculous seizures seems very difficult. There are so many unconstitutional laws that need to be fixed. We need a second supreme court.
points by metachris 2 days ago replies      
Pretty strong charges:

* Violation of Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act [5 years prison]

* Operation of Illegal Gambling Business [5 years prison]

* Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud and Wire Fraud [30 years prison]

* Money Laundering Conspiracy [20 years prison]

And for all of them fines double the gross gain or loss: http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys/pressreleases/April11/schein...

points by MaysonL 2 days ago replies      
An interesting article about Sunfirst Bank, and a previous brush with money-laundering problems:


points by AlexC04 2 days ago replies      
Odd, they're all resolving for me. I wonder if that's USA only? I'm in Canada
points by tlack 1 day ago replies      
So far the US is only cracking down on domains in the .COM TLD. Do you guys think the US will eventually crack down on non-US-owned TLDs that are operated by US entities, such as .CO (operated by NeuStar)? And after that, perhaps a doomsday scenario, will they eventually force US-hosted DNS caches to expunge records that are related to criminal activity as, in a way, they are aiding and abetting..
points by dendory 2 days ago replies      
This will only get worse, and the US has no issue with doing this with International sites. Remember rojadirecta.org? It's a Spanish site, owned and operated in Spain, that fought for 3 years a legal battle, and won. Then the DOJ just came and in one day seized the domain. No appeal, no warning, their whole legal battle for nothing. They have been offline ever since. The Internet is at the complete mercy of the guys in ICE.
points by roscohearts 2 days ago replies      
FBI needs to back down, citizens have a choice.
points by thehodge 2 days ago replies      
Another interesting thing to note is that most of these are not US companies (I doubt any of them are, my guess would be a US based registrar)
points by MaysonL 2 days ago replies      
Two ineresting side notes:

pokerstars.net is still up

pokerstars.co.uk gives a 404 error, after redirecting to pokerstars.com/uk

seems like sloppy webmastership from the FBI.

points by caf 1 day ago replies      
The entire attack on online poker, and poker in general, is funded, supported and encouraged by that completely immoral mix of human misery and animal cruelty known as the racing industry.

The sooner horse racing ends up where it belongs, alongside dogfighting and bear-baiting, the better.

points by warmfuzzykitten 2 days ago replies      
They're resolving to normal web sites for me in California. It takes six hours for DNS servers to resolve? I checked whois and it looks perfectly normal. Also, you can ping the domains to get the URL, e.g., Is this story true?
points by jneal 2 days ago replies      
Wow, I don't know why this surprises me so much - although I know plenty of people that play poker "illegally". A quote simply because I personally feel it's ridiculous.

I also recall the difference between the poker related .com and .net sites. So fulltiltpoker.net is still up as is pokerstars.net - that, if I recall correctly, was because the .net website was aimed a playing poker with "fake money" while the .coms were all aimed at playing poker with "real money"

points by nothans 1 day ago replies      
Web app to report how much money is frozen in your poker account: http://socialsensornetwork.com/online-poker
points by Chrono 2 days ago replies      
The sites mentioned still resolves for me but if this is actually true... I am at a loss of words
points by thehodge 2 days ago replies      
They all show for me apart from absolutepoker.com but that could be DNS related
points by loganlinn 2 days ago replies      
The domain, http://www.pokerstars.net/, is still up
points by rooshdi 2 days ago replies      
Well, there goes Full Tilt Capital...
points by antidaily 2 days ago replies      
So no season II of 2 Months 2 Million?
points by nicklovescode 1 day ago replies      
The worst part: look at the HTML they replaced it with!
points by idefix 2 days ago replies      
seems to open fine in california
points by roscohearts 2 days ago replies      
The gov. wannts to control everything this is going to change revolution is in need contact jksiedlarczyk@yahoo.com
Joel Spolsky on allocating ownership in your startup onstartups.com
428 points by _pius 4 days ago   67 comments top 21
points by ghshephard 3 days ago replies      
Joel's article is pretty good as a starting point, but, I think there is a lot of variation on what the first set of employees get.

I've been a first 10 employee (As an infrastructure contributor, not core engineer) twice in companies that eventually were valued at greater than $1 Billion. The first time I received 0.03% Equity (Before Dilution) - the second time I received 0.1% Equity (Before lots of dilution).

For one of those companies, I know that some of the core engineers received 3-4x what I did, so - extracting to all of the six core engineers in Layer 1, Plus the Administrative crew - comes around 6 * .4% + 3 * .1% = about 2.7% for the first nine employees. We had our series A before anybody came on board, as an employee.

There is probably a different allocation method for teams comprised of "Serial Entrepreneurs" - Your risk in joining that team is much less, so your equity is typically much less. Also, the approach usually goes like the following:

Step 1: Two - Four Founders create a company. Roughly sharing the equity, though, if there is a "Named" founder that will Garner Press/Financing/Customers, they take a bigger chunk.

Step 2: Founders brainstorm for month or two, commit to working together for a minimum of four-five years, and then go pitch their preferred VCs. VCs give them a valuation of $5-$10mm (pre-money) and invest $1mm-$2mm.

Step 3: First 5-10 Employees are hired, with a stock pool of 3%-10% - Sr. Employees with a great track record who currently have great jobs at Google/Facebook/etc.. will require a larger equity share. Out of work contributors who have a solid, if not exceptional track record will receive significantly less. The team now has a clock ticking, and has to demonstrate some traction within six-nine months to get their next round before the money runs out.

points by agmiklas 3 days ago replies      
I didn't think his IOU solution for founders that either don't take a salary or contribute property made much sense. For that to be fair, you'd have to set a super high interest rate on the loan.

At the same time, I see the difficulty with assigning a concrete value to the shares early on. The angel investment world solves this exact problem using convertible debt. Why not take the same approach with investments-in-kind made by the founders?

If a founder forgoes a salary, why not agree to convert the pay difference relative to the other founders into stock at the time of the first equity financing at the share price negotiated with the VCs?

points by ookblah 3 days ago replies      
I come from perhaps the small subset of a being good friends w/ my co-founder, having a 50/50 split, and being the technical one ....so that sets up context for my thoughts.

I resonate w/ this article a lot because to me, the appearance of fairness trumps everything. The 50/50 split lets me know that I don't have to worry about who does what exactly or who is working harder, but sets it up so we are both "all in". I feel like if you're debating equity split at that stage (provided you're both at the same point, quitting your job, etc) you're already setting up a rocky relationship. Either that or you're not really finding a co-founder, more of a dedicated employee.

I guess I'm just a little unclear on how you can define clearly what a "60/40" workload split looks like when they might not even be the same type of work.

points by alain94040 4 days ago replies      
1. Use http://foundrs.com to split equity early on, before your project gets traction. It has vesting built in. And it forces co-founders to have that oh-so-feared discussion early.

2. I respectfully disagree with Joel on certain aspects. He is very unclear about how to split equity among a few founders. He seems to advocate 50/50, which I strongly advise against. Fairness is one thing. But my litmus test is: if you quit, would the project die instantly? Then you are the CEO and you should get more.

I have advised tens of founders on those issues, including convincing some to fire useless co-founders. It's painful, but usually pretty clear when an outsider (like me) listens to all sides.

points by limist 4 days ago replies      
A 50/50 split can work for the (very) small subset of cases where two people of comparable skill and commitment start building something from scratch (nothin' but a half-baked idea) together, with no prior investment/work/IP, no domain expertise, no key contacts, no customer channels, nor any major capital infusions. Oh, and both parties have a clear record of making good decisions together and resolve disputes effectively.

But for most other cases in the real world, these two resources offer a more rational and open/honest approach:



points by Chocobean 4 days ago replies      
His answer for "What happens if not all the early employees need to take a salary? " makes sense, but leaves the question of "why don't I get paid now instead of getting paid later if it means I get just as much (or less due to inflation)." Presumably, you'd have an understand co-founder who understands that cash in the company now is a little more important. Failing that, I think it might be fair to add interest to that IOU.
points by bravura 3 days ago replies      
What do you do about disputes in the case of 50-50 ownership? In particular, what do you do if one founder wants to fire the other founder?

I've heard of a so-called "shotgun clause". It's analogous to the problem of fairly cutting a cake. One person cuts, the other person gets to pick a piece. IIRC, in the shotgun clause, one founder can demand that the other founder leave, and names a price for the company. If the other founder wants to stay, he can buy out the first founder for the named price. This sounds reasonable, except that founders might not actually have the money to buy out the other founder.

points by krosaen 11 hours ago replies      
Do the founders get the equity in the meantime before the future "stripes" are granted? e.g, let's say after two rounds of 10% employee equity, the company gets acquired, leaving 30% that had been set aside for future rounds of employee equity, but never granted. I'm assuming the founders would split the remaining 30%? Curious if anyone had insight into why this would not be the case.
points by Murkin 3 days ago replies      
10% for the first 4 employees (paid?).

Anyone has example of a startup that actually did that ?

AFAIK the total employee pool is rarely beyond 15% total. And that number is for a few layers ahead.

points by acangiano 4 days ago replies      
> Otherwise your co-founder is going to quit after three weeks and show up, 7 years later, claiming he owns 25% of the company.

Or half the company for a $1000 investment.

points by ozataman 3 days ago replies      
Good article, but leaves a few points open in my mind. The biggest issue that most people seem to be missing is control. When you have a 50/50 setup, you better make sure that you are comfortable with all the decision-making dynamics that partnership structure will bring.

Consider when you have a technical and a semi or non-technical founder. Let's say the technical founder is the visionary for the product you are building, understands what the customer needs (which means he has some/good business savvy) and give direction to all engineering related activities - from technology stack selection to what features and how they will be built. He/she is the one who will take the lead in defining the product and its -hopefully- many iterations going forward. A quick high profile example that comes to mind is Mr. Zuckerberg - he did the programming and he continues to give direction to the product.

Now you also have the semi/non-technical founder, who is obviously there because he/she is talented, smart and will have large impact going forward in building customer relationships and contribute to higher level discussion on where the products should go. There is a good chance the company won't go anywhere without this guy either.

How would you now do the split? A 50/50 arrangement would mean both parties get the same say/leadership over where the company/technology needs to go. Is that right? This is not about money, as both parties will be in good shape as long as a reasonable arrangement is chosen. It is about what is fair/right/sensible regarding what the company is going to be about and how it is run.

points by gyardley 3 days ago replies      
Holy good lord, that's a lot of equity for employees.

I can see this causing all kinds of problems. You're not going to allocate an option pool for employee layers one through five all at once, prior to your seed round, because that'd be massively dilutive to you in the event of an early sale. (The unused options go away, but the premoney the VC invested at takes the unused options into account.) But creating such hefty option pools down the road is going to cause issues with your existing investors, who at that point would be diluted.

The conflicting interests of founders and earlier investors (who don't want to be diluted by a large new option pool) and later, new investors (who want to make sure the company has a lot of options to incent new employees) will get you to an 'industry-standard pool' pretty naturally. Unless the market's changed dramatically recently, that standard pool is a hell of a lot smaller than what Joel's suggesting.

points by mkramlich 3 days ago replies      
Sounds like reasonable advice. And I'm reminded of how good of a writer Joel is when in peak form. I'm also a fan of Inc. magazine and it's been great to see both him and Jason Fried contributing in print there as well.
points by ry0ohki 3 days ago replies      
The general advice I've heard is you don't ever want 50/50 splits because if there are important decisions to be made, you can often end up in deadlock, and no one is truly in charge of making a final call or being responsible. Since I don't have enough karma on onstartups to ask Joel this, I'm curious what his response would be.
points by kchodorow 3 days ago replies      
A lot of comments seem to be squabbling over details, but your startup is almost certainly going to fail, and the longer you haggle over splitting proceeds, the more likely failure is. Just split it and start working already!

If your company is a success, great, but is it really going to matter if you're worth 50 million vs. 60 million in the infinitesimal chance that it pops?

points by imwilsonxu 2 days ago replies      
I second Joel's method. Sum it up.

- For ownership, fairness, and the perception of fairness, is the most important because arguments are very likely to kill the company. 50-50 is simple and acceptable.

- For stakes, divide people into layers by risks they take. Taking the biggest risks, founders the first layer should end up with 50% of the company, total. Each of the next layers take 10% respectively, split equally among everyone in the layer.

- Do use vesting to prevent some jerk that quit after two weeks and still think he owns 25% of the company for his two weeks' work.

My thoughts.

- For founders, ownership can never be calculated accurately. We're human beings, we can come up with excuses as many as possible to claim our benefits. That's why 50-50 works in most cases.

- 50-50 is a perception of fairness, is a symbol of “Hey guys, we are equal to each other, we are working for our company, not any of us!”, no matter who brings up the idea, who has more experiences, etc.

- Ownership is a process, not a decision. What determine your cake is risks you took, value you created, how long and hard you got involved, etc. Instead of a meeting, a discussion, or even an email.

points by gatlin 4 days ago replies      
I'm working on starting a small worker co-operative. The advantages are normally considered for a large group (say, to increase buying power for interested consumers) but in the case of a lean startup, the law simplifies these questions. After bills and other fixed costs, you apportion net savings to the members proportionate to their contribution. Additionally, in a small group democratic (maybe even consensus) voting allows everyone to be equally in control of what is a joint partnership. I know Texas has laws covering "cooperative associations," can't speak for other states. Thoughts?
points by slowpoison 3 days ago replies      
IIRC, in "Founders at Work", I think it was Vinod Khosla, who suggested to Excite (@Home) founders to have an unequal split based on a set of criteria, or it'll get ugly later (I'm paraphrasing). And I think it makes sense. Dividing everything equally amongst founders may make sense in the simplistic cases, but more often than not, people of varying capacities/skills come together to form a startup. It's better to not ignore those inequalities and design a split that address that upfront.
points by hxf148 3 days ago replies      
I hardly know whether to call my infostripe.com operation a startup or not. I've invested in good scalable hosting with rackspace and act as all dev/ceo/marketing roles.. it's early for us but I guess being a startup is a presence of mind in many ways.
points by fedd 3 days ago replies      
what about the advisors? some suggest give them stake.

Zuckerbergs need Sean Parkers so that VC would invest faster

points by tomjen3 3 days ago replies      
This is great advice, except that he puts a yearly cap before the first vesting which means that the company is better of fireing you the day before you earn your shares than keeping you employed.

Neither you nor your employees need that kind of perverse incentives.

Poll: Display points on comments?
414 points by pg 4 days ago   299 comments top 169
points by samdk 4 days ago replies      
I think that not having points has some nice qualities, but it also feels like I'm being denied information that I find useful in reading/skimming a thread. I've noticed I find reading HN a lot harder while this has been in effect. (I've also noticed that I tend to unconsciously give numbers in usernames some weight when reading a comment. The same applies for the time it was posted.) One possible compromise would be to display either a number or simple graphic that approximates point totals instead of displaying them explicitly.

Also, I've been planning to write a longer blog post on the following, but given that I've had no time lately and am not likely to have any soon, I'll just float the idea here.

One idea I've had that I think might be interesting is dealing with upvotes or points in terms of logarithmic scales. That is, it takes one upvote/point to get a comment from 1-10, 2 upvotes/point to get from 11-20, etc. (Exact numbers would have to be scaled, of course.) I find that going into a thread an hour or two old and seeing comments with 50-100 points is a major disincentive to commenting, even if I have something to say. That comment or couple of comments and their resulting threads are going to make sure very few people ever read what I've written. An appropriately scaled log-scale system might make it so that really really good comments still get really really high scores, but so that others (which might have simply come too late in the discussion to be competitive on a raw-point scale) still get a chance at being seen.

(One related idea would be to make the point-approximating graphic log-scale even though the points themselves remain the same underneath.)

points by patio11 3 days ago replies      
I'm conflicted. As a (heavy) consumer of HN, not having the best comments called out to me has made it more difficult to parse, and not being able to sort searchyc results by points will eventually diminish its value as external memory for me.

As a producer on HN, I have noticed two things: one, the subjective self-assessed quality of the comments I have been writing since the change has been far higher than it was in the few months prior to the change. I've been quipping less and writing meatier, substantive, useful things (I hadn't stopped writing those, but there were periods of weeks where I had no comment longer than a paragraph and very few actionable bits in those comments). I do not know why this is -- it could be phases of the moon, totally unrelated to the interface change, for all I know.

I also note that my per-comment scores for meaty comments are higher than they've ever been, which may or may not be desirable. I don't care about karma, but to the extent anyone else cares about their karma relative to folks on the leaderboard, my anecdotal single-point observation is that winners seem to be winning at the moment.

points by edw519 4 days ago replies      
For years I listened to users complain whenever I removed something they were used to for the improvement of the whole endeavor. I have rarely encountered a user that was happier with less information.

Now I know how they feel.

points by jerf 4 days ago replies      
I think it's too soon to actually judge, as we're still in the "ick! change!" phase. Ask again in another week or two. Same for any other experiment you run in the future; unless it obviously and immediately fails, give it some simmer time. (IMHO, of course.)
points by michaelochurch 4 days ago replies      
I think the scores should appear to a user after (A) that person votes, or (B) 24 hours. Keeping the karma hidden to a user until he or she votes is, IMO, a good idea.

I'd actually argue for keeping the text color the same at 0 or -1, for the same reason.

I don't know that these "contentious exchanges" happen in practice. I remember that a year or two ago, there was the discussion of whether people with high average ratings deserve to have their names appear in orange, and my thought then was that making a fetish of karma averages discourages nested discussions, since root-set comments can end up at 20+, but 6th-level comments, no matter how insightful, are unlikely to get more than a single upvote.

points by keyist 4 days ago replies      
"My goal in not showing points on comments was to prevent the sort of contentious exchanges where people (in this case literally) try to score points off one another."

I think a suitable compromise would be to hide for X days until most voting activity is over (reusing the threshold where downvotes are no longer available but upvotes still are might work). This would still meet your goal without the cost of information loss.

EDIT: I'd hate to give up lists like http://top.searchyc.com/comments_by_points and http://top.searchyc.com/users_by_average_points_per_comment .

points by tokenadult 3 days ago replies      
I went back to the post where pg asked for advice on how to prevent decline of HN:


He wrote, "The problem has several components: comments that are (a) mean and/or (b) dumb that (c) get massively upvoted."

To help along the thinking process here, as we digest our own personal experiences (each from a different subset of threads, I suppose, unless several participants here read HN exhaustively), let's think about those issues:

a) After the change, are mean comments less likely to be upvoted?

b) After the change, are dumb comments less likely to be upvoted?

c) What is the general character of highly upvoted comments after the change? Are comments with the highest number of upvotes after the change usually helpful, thoughtful comments, or flippant comments that don't gratify intellectual curiosity?

Over the next few days, it should be possible to look at some highly upvoted examples. The bestcomments view of HN content


still shows highly upvoted comments, although right now it shows them without explicit comment scores. How do those comments look to you?

P.S. There is a lot of speculation in this thread about how comments are weighted, how users gain karma, etc. As far as I know, except for possible details of the current experiment, the source code for this site in ARC,


which was mentioned in an HN thread a while back,


tells any code-literate user most of the story about how karma is allocated and how users gain karma. (Please note that I am NOT a code-literate user here, not in ARC, and I have never attempted to reverse-engineer any aspect of the karma system here. I simply empirically observe what happens to my own submissions and comments after I submit them, which I can still do during this experiment by viewing my own followed threads.)

points by Terry_B 4 days ago replies      
I thought it was working well without points until this morning.

With this ASK HN post (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2444709
) about the best credit card payment method I would typically immediately go and look at the comment scores.

Because a vote for a comment is typically a vote for the thing being recommended.

It's really a "poll-like" question except it can't be a poll because the OP doesn't know the options in advance.

Other than that one problem though,I found I was judging people's comments more thoughtfully without the scores.

points by skennedy 4 days ago replies      
Without. The lack of points make me look closer at the content rather than group think of a post. Even if briefly, a brand new comment is at the top of a thread. Unless I read it there is no way of knowing the quality in comparison to other comments. Would be interesting to know if the average karma per post is going up/down for those that have been around for a while.
points by blhack 4 days ago replies      
Points should stay:

If a post has a lot of points on it, it's telling people that they should be paying attention. For instance, (and this may have been after the points disappeared, but the example still works) the other day when ioerror came into the thread that was talking about him getting harassed at airports. I don't know who ioerror is, but points allow people to call my attention to his posts, more so than just voting them to the top of the hierarchy.

I've learned a lot reading comments here over the last 3 years. Lack of showing points makes it harder to discern what I should pay attention to. A good comparison might be book reviews. If I get on amazon and search "iOS4 development", I'll get tons of results, but when a book has 200 5 star reviews, it helps me decide that that is the one I should read.

This is true even if the books are all free.

Don't get lost in the idea that everybody here is a seasoned veteran who knows everything about everything and can easily judge a post's merit based on its content. It's less true for me now than it was three years ago, but it was (and still is) helpful to be able to look to the community to help me know what I should be paying attention to.

points by staunch 4 days ago replies      
The problem is I feel no feedback for voting, so I've stopped doing it.

If I could see the points after I vote I would probably vote even more than before.

points by mcav 4 days ago replies      
Maybe making it a coarser indicator would give the best of both worlds... maybe a colored indicator (or grey dot) with color/darkness indicating how many upvotes.
points by m0nastic 4 days ago replies      
Not to try and "King Solomon" it, but couldn't you make it a user profile option to display comment points?

Personally, I think it's better now that they are not displayed, but if it reverts back to displaying them, I'd be happy to just not have to see them myself, regardless if other's want to.

points by entangld 4 days ago replies      
HN isn't only opinions. It also gives advice. How would you HNers who don't like points get advice in an area you know nothing about? What indicators would you use? Whatever sounds the best? Seeing a cumulative score of the opinions of intelligent users helps me.

Perhaps some of you know much more than me and don't need to learn anything. I'm not in that boat. HN helps me learn how other entrepreneurs think and what they think about areas that I'm moving into. This isn't reddit. This is a serious forum and seeing which advice gets the most upvotes helps me tremendously.

points by ElbertF 4 days ago replies      
• I'd like to at least get some feedback when I vote, now my vote seems to just disappear into a black hole. Perhaps make the arrow orange after I click it (or simply a tick, " voted)?

• It feels pointless to upvote the only comment in a thread, it doesn't affect anything unless more comments are posted (again, lack of feedback).

• I often can't tell if a comment is any good (e.g. an answer to a scientific question), points really helped here.

points by india 3 days ago replies      
This is a nightmare. Please end this. There are 201 comments in this thread at this moment. I am not interested in reading 201 comments about this experiment. I am however very much interested in seeing what the top few most insightful comments in this thread are. That is a very important signal. Right now I am feeling blind as a bat...
points by anigbrowl 4 days ago replies      
With. [EDIT: oops, deleted half my post] If something stupid only has a couple of points in a busy thread, then I know there's no need to respond with a passionate denunciation of the obvious. Likewise, if something I disagree with has a ton of upvotes, perhaps it's me that's stupid and I should think carefully before starting an argument. Sure, it's flawed, but so's every other approach.

If you want to get real results, I think you need to start doing randomized trials of different users, showing karma to some and not to others to see whether it results in a change of behavior. Of course, you probably need to warn people about this in advance.

BTW, there seems to be a little bug wherein clicking on a comment or poll option no longer updates. I had to refresh to see whether my vote had taken or not, although the - correctly disappears.

points by makmanalp 4 days ago replies      
What is the use case for seeing the points on a comment anyway?

All you need to know is that the comments on the toppish are the best ones, and as you scroll down you can stop reading whenever you feel like it's gotten too bad.

I find that without points I'm definitely more focused on the content and are less likely to consciously / subconsciously groupthink.

points by sosuke 4 days ago replies      
I seem to prefer HN without points because it forces me to actually look closer at the content instead of just skimming for the big numbers.
points by dkersten 4 days ago replies      
I've been getting more upvotes since the scores were hidden. Maybe my comments were better, or maybe groupthink was holding people back, but either way, my karma has increased wince the scores were hidden, so.. I'm all for keeping it how it is. :-D

Seriously, though, I kinda like it without scores, because I don't get inadvertently suckered into voting to go along with the crowd (I try not to anyway, but sometimes it happens without thinking about it), while now I only vote if I feel the comment needs it (ie, the comment is very relevant and informative (up vote) or off topic/rude/irrelevant (down vote)).

points by joshhart 4 days ago replies      
Maybe you could have a color range indicating roughly how good the comment was? I like the feedback a lot the numbers gave but I think hiding the actual numbers would be a good thing so people don't play the numbers game too much.
points by tokenadult 4 days ago replies      
I think, based on the small subset of threads I have sampled by a convenience procedure, that not displaying minute-by-minute comment scores avoids the cognitive illusion human beings suffer from called anchoring bias



and helps readers focus on the inherent worth of a comment. That's my general observation from seeing which comments are floating up or down in threads and which comments are graying out.

points by antirez 3 days ago replies      
I was for not displaying points initially, but after a few days of using the site in this way I'm for displaying the points again. The strongest reasons are:

1) It is harder to scan for good content.
2) Even if I want to read everything, when my knowledge about something is too weak to evaluate the real value of a comment, I can no longer use the wisdom of the crowd to make an idea.
3) Sometimes to resonate with a comment like a question like "Please can you point me to the source code?" the best thing to do is to upvote, so that it is easy for people willing to reply to evaluate if the effort is forth it. There are many instances of this case.

So all in all it was better with points IMHO even if there are advantages without points.

points by cookiecaper 3 days ago replies      
I'm late to the party so I doubt this will be read by many. I just want to say that I've found the experience in the last few days without a displayed score really interesting, both as a reader and a commenter.

My voting decisions in the past were based on the metric "How many points does this deserve?" If I found a good comment with 0-3 points, I was sure to vote up, and if I found a bad comment with 4+ I was sure to vote down. Normal comments or comments that had scores that were roughly where I thought they should be would be ignored.

I'm generally relatively sparse with the votes, but I've been voting a bit more actively since the counters were removed, and as someone whose voting habits are dictated by the score, it's been really interesting to go "blind" for a while. At the very least, I'd like to see this continue for a while longer, and perhaps finally wind up as a configuration option that each user can toggle based on his/her preference.

points by random42 3 days ago replies      
I like HN without comment scores, because it avoids the bandwagon effect, also username biases become more important that the actual content, BUT comment score do solve an important problem, to highlight the quality of a comment, in a threaded discussion.

Solution - May be instead of say "37 points", mark it in a range, (say "20-50" points), to give some idea of the comment quality.


Even better, Show the percentile range for the comment, within the thread. (Say "80-90"%ile comment, would be better than a "40-50"%ile comment.)


Grade them ("A" - "E") for the thread comments.

points by greendestiny 4 days ago replies      
I'm not sure. I definitely prefer to read with points on. I find it hard to skim a comment thread now, and I have no idea what the community thinks of particular points of view.

As for what it does for the community there hasn't really been time to judge. I've seen a lot less of the usual suspects coming in saying the same the things they always say because they know it'll be highly upvoted.

Could there be a keep it for now option?

points by jonmc12 4 days ago replies      
Ideally, I'd like the voting history - both upvotes and downvotes in a little sparkline (or at least the %). That can tell me more about the comment than upvotes alone.

If there will be no points on comments, it would be very beneficial to have some kind of indicator on the comment that it has 2-3 std deviations of votes above the average comment on the thread.

points by gommm 4 days ago replies      
I think it would be a good idea to keep it for another week or two so that we can all get used to it first.

The advantage I can see from not having points is that I spend more time actually reading the comments and not be influenced by the majority here.

The disadvantage is that I lose a bit of information when there's a comment with scientific content in which case I like to look at votes to see if it's correct.

I agree with some people to show the points in topics that are more than 2 days old...

points by kmfrk 4 days ago replies      
I am glad that pg managed to remove the karma display while making it clear what comments are below 1 karma, so you don't downvote someone beyond what is reasonable.

I also get the impression that it's affected the discussions for the better.

points by Locke1689 4 days ago replies      
I think no comment points is fine, but in the case where there are no points I think you need to have a more accurate comment ranking system on the page. While having gravity to pull comments down is perfectly reasonable when points are displayed (because users can still look at the points and pick out old but valuable comments), without points the most important indication of comment quality is based on the ordering on comments.

Also, perhaps it would be useful to still display comment points in single-view? It would prevent eye-balling a comment, but would still allow you to view a comment score with a little extra effort.

I am aware this could provide preferential treatment to comments already on the top of the page but with the influx of new users the most important thing to prevent is a deluge of mediocre comments, not necessarily the dearth of exceptional comments.

points by thekevan 3 days ago replies      
I prefer points on comments. I commented about this elsewhere:


A couple reasons. If I am not totally familiar with whatever the original post is talking about, often the top rated couple of comments give me some good insight or jumping off points to look into it further. Again if this is something that is new to me, it gives me a hint that the poster(s) of these comments know what they are talking about as opposed to a comment rated at -3 which seems ordinary to me but maybe has a hidden agenda I have not seen. (An example of this could be a comment saying--and let's pretend I know nothing about domain registrars--"I recommend GoDaddy because they respect wildlife on a corporate level and have family friendly advertising." I know that is a crock but if it were about a Rails hosting company or a feature of node.js I would not.)

I respect the HN community and have learned a lot here. I generally trust their judgement and I have found if a comment is rated highly, it most likely adds a lot of value to the discussion. (Unlike on reddit where the top couple comments may be a clever joke or inside reference to the community--but that is okay because I read the two sites for different purposes.)

Sometimes I disagree with the highest rated comment(s) and sometimes those comments have a bunch of replies from other HNers stating their agreement. I then see my opinion is in a minority and maybe I re-examine it or stand firm and make a comment to the contrary.
Basically it is a nice guide in my perusal of this site. It is not absolute but I like to use it as a reference.

points by lukeschlather 3 days ago replies      
I think HN would do well to look at how Slashdot scores its comments.

Especially, I think having a few pre-defined tags that people can give is very useful, and in many ways a lot more useful than votes. Votes, as many people have noted, are often off the cuff, and I'll give a +1 without too much thought. Calling someone insightful? A troll? I'm going to think about that a little harder.

So the big thing is increasing the average amount of time people spend before voting. Some AJAX trickery would be a little strong-armed. I think focusing on finding ways of filtering content that are more descriptive is a better direction to go. (Being more descriptive, I think, is the only way to force people to be more discerning.)

Though I don't mean to suggest precisely Slashdot's system. The tags should be carefully chosen. "factually incorrect" would be a nice one to have. (And is a little less insulting than "troll," making no assumptions about the intentions of the author.)

points by notJim 4 days ago replies      
One thing I don't understand (I'm relatively new, I guess): are comments in a thread sorted according to upvotes?

If they are, my vote is for without points, because then I can still skim, but I won't have these numbers to focus on.

points by philfreo 4 days ago replies      
"With", simply because I'm often too busy or lazy to read entire threads and just want to see the "best" comments.

I'd be okay with hiding the numbers but having some other indicator which could accomplish the same goal.

points by anateus 3 days ago replies      
I think a poll isn't the best way to decide this issue. After all the problem you're trying to fix is the greater number of low-quality comment, i.e. those who provide low-quality comments outnumber those who provide high-quality comments. Thus, it is not unreasonable that the low-quality commenters would select the option that enables them the most.
points by barista 4 days ago replies      
Stop groupthink. Please don't show points on comments.
points by bguthrie 4 days ago replies      
For what it's worth, I think it's been a big improvement. It forces me to focus more on the content of individual posts, it's made me more careful with my own allocation of points, and--I know this this fuzzy and subjective--I think it's improved the quality of discourse. Which ultimately is the only metric that really matters here.

Maybe that's just a temporary thing; people change their behavior when they know they're being observed. But I'd urge you to keep it for a little while longer.

I like the idea of a more coarse-grained system, perhaps one that uses font weight or shades of grey to emphasize and de-emphasize certain areas of the conversation, weighted perhaps towards the dialog around a particular comment rather than the comment itself. Perhaps over time that would come to suffer from the same problems as the last system. But hiding the algorithm allows you to readjust it before people have the chance to reverse-engineer and game it. Numerical point systems are useful sometimes, but they tend to activate humans' incentive structures in some really negative ways.

points by Evgeny 4 days ago replies      
Often, when the discussion is related to the field I'm not knowledgeable in, the points are very useful to me.

Simplified example: if I know nothing about security, but I can see that the comment "Emailing passwords in plaintext is wrong" is heavily upvoted, and "Emailing passwords in plaintext is not an issue" is downvoted, it helps me learn things.

points by anigbrowl 3 days ago replies      
I prefer HN with points displayed on comments.
1168 points

I prefer HN without points displayed on comments. 989 points

Ah, welcome my creatures of the night. You have brought victory after a close contest. Seriously, it is interesting that early evening USA saw an almost perfect 50-50 split (384-382 at 9pm PST), but as daytime moves west across Asia towards Europe, there's been a strong trend towards points.

Paul, this might be worth exploring in more depth, breaking out by age or timezone for example.

points by sliverstorm 4 days ago replies      
I kind of like the feel of the site since, but I don't love how hard it is to wade through comments now. Have you considered collapsible comment threads, ala reddit or slashdot? I know this place doesn't want to turn into either, but as the comment volume goes up it seems like a better and better idea.
points by mrjbq7 4 days ago replies      
I'd recommend adding an "Undecided: let the experiment continue" option.
points by spicyj 4 days ago replies      
Ironically, I'm actually voting much more than before; perhaps because I'm reading more comments in depth, perhaps because I can't feel like a comment already has its "proper" score. Either way, I like the new way. (Perhaps show points after a few days or weeks, though.)
points by WiseWeasel 3 days ago replies      
I totally understand why the karma is kept hidden, to avoid herding votes, but I also really miss the access to the HN community barometer. I placed great value in the information contained in those vote tallies, and it hurts to have that taken away completely.

A compromise would be for voting to be disabled on all threads after x days, with vote tallies being displayed at that point.

If you guys want to fancy it up, you could have a button at the bottom of the page that says, "OK, I'm done voting now, please show me the tallies", and the voting buttons would disappear, and tallies would appear in their place; and you'd only have to keep track of x days worth of user thread status flags before you can purge the data.

Also, the vote tally could be displayed for a post once you've voted on it.

points by msg 3 days ago replies      
It's been said a few times on the thread but I'm not willing to read the entire thing just to upvote rather than comment. Here is the problem:

It's been said a few times on the thread but I'm not willing to read the entire thing just to find the nuggets among the blather. Here is the problem:

It's been said a few times on the thread but I'm not an expert on everything and I'm not willing to halt my day and gain the background to fairly judge the veracity of every comment on the threads I'm interested in. In fact, I'm fairly likely to miss a counterintuitive point or chance to think deeper.

Was this comment too verbose? I don't know because I only skimmed it while I was reading this enormous thread.

points by jarin 4 days ago replies      
I think it would be useful to see the number of upvotes and the number of downvotes instead of the total score (or possibly a percentage instead of a hard number). That way, you can see whether a comment is at -2 points because it's bad, or if it's at -2 points because it's controversial.
points by pavlov 3 days ago replies      
PG, can you tell us if hiding the points has reduced the number of up/downvotes being given globally on the entire site? (IOW, has karma growth across all users slowed down noticeably?)

My personal feeling is that I don't click the upvote button nearly as often as I did before.

When the tally was displayed, my vote had an instant visible effect. Without that small gratification, voting feels less meaningful.

points by davi 4 days ago replies      
I immediately liked the change. I realize now that in addition to evaluating the comments I was reading, I was also evaluating the readership's collective response to the comments. It makes for better reading to only evaluate one thing at a time.
points by richardw 4 days ago replies      
I think it's great. It makes people slow down and consider the discussion instead of being guided by those who have seen it earlier. That reduces the impact of the first-to-vote.

Essentially, it makes each vote more independent.

points by afhof 4 days ago replies      
I think the bigger problem is that highly rated comments below the first comment are pushed out by replies to the first.
points by vacri 4 days ago replies      
The solution is simple: display capped votes.

- 'good' results get shown for the cap, and from experience on other such sites, upvotes slow down once it hits the cap anyway
- 'bad' results show as well, as someone already said, sometimes a comment needs to be downmodded to oblivion, other times it just needs that slight rebuke and you don't want to downmod more.

Caps of +/-10 are enough to point out 'this comment is worthy of more attention', and will help avoid that problem where a popular opinion draws a hundred upvotes where a mere insightful opinion draws only a score.

points by natch 4 days ago replies      
If points count, then I want to see them.

But there's a bigger problem, as long as points matter for anything: Early comments, even fairly inane ones, have an overwhelming point advantage over late comments, even fairly good ones.

points by duck 4 days ago replies      
Mini-poll: Has everyone noticed how polls don't get very many upvotes? Many of them tend to get a ton of actual poll "votes", but not upvotes. I have always felt like if you are going to vote for a item you should give the poll a vote as well.
points by dave1619 4 days ago replies      
I think a bigger question is how do you create order when a thread gets to 100+ comments like this one. I personally get lost and stop reading comments on long threads. But there's a wealth of good conversation going. It just gets harder and harder to pinpoint them as comments increase.
points by johnfn 3 days ago replies      
I've been noticing that the poll tilts in favor of the highest comment on the page. 'Without' used to be slightly ahead when edw519 (for example) was on top; now that a post more in favor of the points is on top 'with points' is nearly 100 points ahead.

I guess that in some ways it's hard to be completely unbiased.

As for my own opinion, I want to echo that no points are fine as long as we see some sort of gradation of quality. Maybe just >10, >50, >100 is necessary. It doesn't have to be too complicated.

points by russell 3 days ago replies      
Make the display of points optional. I find them useful in finding comments to look at on long discussions. I use upvotes to signal interesting comments, but I rarely do it on comments that have large upvotes. Now I am inclined not to upvote. I guess to remain consistent, I should upvote comments only at the end of the discussion.

I find that I miss the points on other sites, why couldnt they have a way to uplift comments so I could see through the cruft.

pg, while you are at it, could you fix the size and spacing of the up/down arrows. I never downvote. When I accidentally hit downvote, I have doubalely penalized the commenter, once for the downvote and once again for the upvote I intended to give.

points by DanielStraight 3 days ago replies      
Asking people what they want isn't necessarily the best way to give them what they want. Remember the Henry Ford line, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would've said faster horses." PG has mentioned this before as well in response to requests for UI improvement on HN. I don't remember the exact words, but people were saying things like, "If there was any other site that had the quality of HN and better UI, I would go there," and PG's reply was that the reason the was no site that had the same quality and better UI is because he spends time worrying about quality instead of worrying about UI.
points by fuzzythinker 4 days ago replies      
I mostly like no points displayed, but with one exception - comments that provides information you are unsure of trusting or not, and there hasn't been replies to it yet. (eg. scythe's recommendation on domain registrar [1]). In order to have better information on the post's trustworthiness, I had to click on the user's link. I guess we'll need to wait to see how much other nuances for this no points display.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2445061

points by 6ren 3 days ago replies      
For the case where scores are used to measure agreement: a special kind of vote comment (like polls for submissions), to express agreement/disagreement.

A checkbox for whether you want your comment to be voted on, or evaluated. This is displayed, so HNers know how to treat it.
A "poll" comment doesn't count towards karma

points by allwein 3 days ago replies      
The consensus points I'm reading are:

I miss knowing whether a comment will be good and worthwhile to read or not.

I miss the points because I use them to search/filter/etc.

I'm being more thoughtful in reading comments because I don't have the points anchoring or influencing my opinion.

I'm being more thoughtful in the comments I write.

On the whole, it's sounding like the change is bad for individual users, but good for the HN ecosystem in general.

points by 3am 4 days ago replies      
I'm not in a YC startup, and I don't seek to start one. So take it with a grain of salt... the tone here has been better in the short time without points.

I think some of the personality types that YC attracts do poorly in a civil discussions where there is a (public) competitive element.

points by mediaman 3 days ago replies      
The majority will likely state they prefer to see points, because people will systematically underestimate the (negative) influence the data have on their decision making, much like people cannot accurately estimate their own ability to drive cars with above average skill.

Paul, in making the judgment, if even a third of voters think points shouldn't be displayed, it is a strong indicator that that's the right thing to do, because there is no countering cognitive bias that would cause people to state that they want less information.

points by fname 3 days ago replies      
I'm sure it's been brought up before, but what about only displaying comments either above or below a certain threshold. For example, hide the points on a comment once it's above 4.

Or show points after someone has upvoted or downvoted a comment?

points by johnrob 3 days ago replies      
I feel like part of a firehose when commenting on this thread, but I'll quickly add my 2 cents:

How about showing points for top level comments (those whose parent is an actual posting). Any derivative comment has no visible score. This would help me parse the high level topics while still deflating most of the flame wars.

points by godDLL 3 days ago replies      
As current poll results indicate we're torn.

On one hand, skimming the comments to see which are worth it to read is now denied. On the other hand, discussions seem to have improved, and more focus is on a comment's content and less on community appreciation of it, which makes an individual voice stand out more and not be drowned.

I like HN without comments, I just wish there was a way to tell which comments the community appreciates more, at a glance.

points by rsbrown 3 days ago replies      
Beware the results of polls such as this. Any time change is introduced, we know that some people will naturally react negatively. When asked what they prefer, people will often give an explicit response even though their "espoused theory" may differ greatly from their "theory in use": http://www.lopn.net/TheoryofAction.html

Not to say these polls aren't valuable, just take them with the requisite serving of salt.

EDIT: In the interest of full disclosure, I strongly support the new "no display" points.

points by larsberg 3 days ago replies      
On the upside, I spend a lot less time looking at the HN comments. I used to scroll down, looking for insightful comments within otherwise low-ranked threads or in a sea of trite comments. Now, I can't distinguish them, so I don't even look past the top-ranked reply and the top comment or two.

Not having points displayed has probably given me ten minutes a day of my life back :-) Though I can't say that I prefer it that way.

points by jmatt 4 days ago replies      
I generally support not displaying points on comments. But I did run into a case where it would be useful to have some sort of feedback on a series of comments (even if it's just dots or some other non numerical indicator).

I was reading a recent post on the open-sourcing of some of Greplin's Lucene and Bloom filters code. sigil made a comment asking about performance based on how they implemented prefix matching. Then nostrademons responded[1]. When points were displayed it was trivial to get a consensus of whether the community agreed on the performance assessment or whether it was dubious/questionable. Since points are not visible I can't rely on the consensus of the community to help verify or make a decision. Instead I just have the posts and order of the posts. Which, of course, isn't necessarily bad. But has taken away my ability to use the HN community's consensus as verification.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2444585

points by danenania 4 days ago replies      
I really miss the points. I know it's superficial, but it added a form of engagement that is gone now.

What I don't understand is anyone getting worked up about the points one way or the other. To me it's just a meaningless, harmless, and somewhat fun diversion. Yet so many seem to take them seriously and get bent out of shape if they don't agree with people's votes. What difference does it make? Oh no, my post is light gray now! Oh no, a less than brilliant comment has a high number next it! Really? Just take a deep breath. It doesn't matter.

Despite all the grumbling, HN is still one of the best places to find interesting and intelligent discussions on the web, and despite the occasional flukes, votes are generally a good indicator of which posts in a long thread are most worth reading when there's limited time. I say don't fix what isn't broken!

points by nitrogen 4 days ago replies      
I think some of my posts have received more upvotes without points than they would have with points displayed. I wonder if in general there has been more total upvoting without points, as people are simply expressing appreciation or agreement rather than trying to move posts toward a "fair" score (something I've done in the past).

It's difficult to say whether that's a good thing. Since the poll numbers look pretty close so far (though it's only been ~15 minutes as of this writing), maybe it should be an option.

points by ern 3 days ago replies      
I think that visible point counts make it clearer what the norms of the community are to newcomers and reinforce them for other users.

Comments that fail to attract points (but are not downvoted) send a clear signal that something is not right. +1 would be an appropriate HN score for borderline snark, for example, that adds some insight, but doesn't aid the tone of the discussion. This sort of subtle signalling is lost when points are hidden.

points by grandalf 4 days ago replies      
It's a nice improvement. There is nothing worse than writing a thoughtful comment and then seeing someone write a snarky reply that got more points than the thoughtful comment. It just causes bad energy.

I like how points are shown only for each user's own comments. This way it's a competition only with one's self.

points by teyc 4 days ago replies      
I felt the way you have put the comment in various shades better. The algorithm already sorts out what comments should float to the top. If people feel an answer is incorrectly placed, they can vote on it to fix it.

Point scoring: yes, it is a problem. HN "feels" somewhat nicer.

Further, there may be different reasons a comment may have been voted up:

1. The comment voted up is considered relevant

2. The reader agreed with the sentiment.

3. The comment was irrelevant, but was humorous.

Similarly, a comment may have been voted down because:

1. The comment was irrelevant.

2. The comment was relevant, but the reader disagreed with the point of view.

3. A polarising comment may end up with a net score of 0, but it is actually very relevant.

4. The comment was relevant, but was delivered in a brusque manner.

points by faramarz 4 days ago replies      
I think it would be useful if the points were shown after a time delay. Throughout the day, I visit the same thread a dozen times and follow the discussions. It would be nice to gauge what the general consensus is by seeing the comment points upon the 3rd visit or so..

But to answer your poll, I voted for them to be hidden.

points by brg 4 days ago replies      
I prefer without comments, but would like some mechanism by which comment scores affect layout. It is often now difficult to process a large discussion, as high signal and low signal replies are indistinguishable.

For instance, having predefined threshold for collapsing to a title (5, 10, 50) or deep shading for >= + 10 comments would be very helpful in processing a large discussion.

points by OoTheNigerian 3 days ago replies      
I blogeed about it http://oonwoye.com/2010/09/25/angelgate-dave-mcclure-and-re-...

summary is below.

    Vote count should show up only after the discussion is no longer ‘hot' (say after a day). So people are not unnecessarily influenced by the upvotes by others

No down voting: So people will not lose karma just for having an opposing view. Not gaining, is not as bad as losing

points by smokinn 4 days ago replies      
What I used the scores for most was to know when to stop scrolling down when a story was highly commented. I would figure that if there are 100+ comments chances are any threads that start with an initial post < 10 are safe to skip.

Now though, I have very little info as to where I can "safely" stop. (Though I know I've gone too far if the font starts fading!)

points by Groxx 4 days ago replies      
I'm going to toot my own horn: https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/hahhhdmfdgfiehpg...

I prefer them hidden until I don't want them to be hidden. It makes sense to hide them prior to voting, but I do like to see them sometimes - either after I vote, or on the comment's "link" page. But getting rid of the first, default display is nice once you get used to it.

points by jasonlotito 3 days ago replies      
I like without points, but would still prefer some way to know the quality of the comment. Maybe some visual indication (both color and a symbol maybe) would help. Then we would know a comment has been rated higher than normal. Set a cutoff small enough to be useful in smaller threads (like 5 or 10 points), and leave it at that.
points by dr_ 4 days ago replies      
Oddly the point system went off when I hit a karma of 250, making me think I was being punished in some way. Great to see that isn't the case.

Honestly, there are sometimes WAY too many comments to wade through, and I feel that comments with higher points have been vetted by the community, so I tend to focus on them. This isn't the case when there are just 10-12 comments, but with over 70 comments, the point system can be helpful.

To remove the system is to imply that the community can no longer be trusted to handle the sometimes contentious exchanges on their own. I hope that hasn't become the case.

points by tt 3 days ago replies      
The problem HN is facing is a human-interaction problem of which hiding or showing points on comments won't solve. Sooner or later, problems with user experience will come about one way or the other.

I saw some other post about the Whirlpool Moderation forum (http://whirlpool.net.au/wiki/wp_modfaq) and thought the transparent moderation policy they have is pretty amazing. PG et al should at least research it and consider implementing something similar.

points by codeup 3 days ago replies      
I agree with the goal in not showing points. I think it works and the benefits outweigh the costs mentioned by others.

The quality of comments on HN has increasingly suffered from people behaving like in hives. Let the content of a comment decide if you agree, not the number of others who agree with the comment.

Similarly, let the content of comments in this thread have a say in the future of not showing points on comments, not just the number of votes for or against it.

points by ecuzzillo 4 days ago replies      
I'd be most interested to see whether hiding the scores changed voting behavior appreciably. Do stupid comments get upvoted more or less? It seems like that's the ultimate test, much more than whether people prefer it after trying it for a few days.
points by benreesman 3 days ago replies      
for years i've been very impressed with how well the original approach worked, and I tend to get downvoted a lot, being a bit of a troll now and again. I don't oppose a new approach, but I do think it is on the hook for compelling evidence of improvement. hacker news has aged well in the same way that the constitution has, considering Internet time.
points by Goladus 3 days ago replies      
I thought I would hate not seeing points on comments, but I find it's been very refreshing. It's much rarer that I find myself annoyed at the number of people who have upvoted something stupid or ignored something insightful. I still see the points on my own comments, which is the important part.

My vote: definitely continue hiding the points. It takes focus away from the content.

points by CallMeV 3 days ago replies      
Perhaps this is a good thing. I consider it like this.

I well understand the idea of downvoting to express a response towards ugly, trolling and irrelevant comments. By downvoting, responders show trolls that their attitudes are not welcome.

However newbies such as I are often too scared to ask our questions, or to comment on something of interest, or indeed to contribute in any way, for fear of someone more experienced coming along and downvoting us.

As a system of control, to weed out the unhelpful while promoting helpful discussion, karma points were initially a useful tool. High karma scores indicated a valued contributor to the site.

However once the mindset of points farming settles in, as I suspect it has done here, the contribution ceases to matter in the rush to acquire more points, leading to a drop in quality and this competitive points scoring obsession. Delusion replaces reason and desire to contribute.

Doing without the points scoring could go some way to redirecting the focus on the items and the discussions stemming therefrom, rather than on the karma farming.

And that is my opinion.

points by blahblahblah 3 days ago replies      
Whether displayed or not, the points never really contained any useful information about the quality of a post. The ability to dispassionately evaluate an argument solely on the basis of whether it is logically consistent, based upon a reasonable interpretation of fact, and skillfully written without letting your personal biases enter into the evaluation is a skill that most people (sadly) do not possess. The reality is that most people will upvote posts that agree with their own worldview or appeal to their sense of humor and relentlessly downvote any viewpoint they personally disagree with, even when well-presented and logically consistent. Comment points only provide information about what is popular. Groupthink virtually guarantees that the point system is incapable of distinguishing between useless garbage and expressions that are both heretical and true.
points by swah 4 days ago replies      
One thing about points its I can pinpoint the "best" or most controversial comment quickly - if you can do that other way, for me its fine.
points by petercooper 4 days ago replies      
I voted up both as a sort of "abstain". At first, I hated it. Now, I think I might like it. It's stopped me from voting comments up and down so much but I think, perhaps, it discourages the wrong sort of people from voting but the right sort of people keep on doing it anyway. If that's true, it could be a big win.
points by 3pt14159 3 days ago replies      
No one will probably read this, but please, please, please bring back the points score. I've been working on a hacker news crawler that rolls up facts about comments (user centric trends, etc) and without the points it will be very much limited.
points by leon_ 3 days ago replies      
I'd prefer no visible "karma" at all. Karma should define a comment's placing in the thread/a posts' placing on the main page - nothing more. No user karma.

Also no user nicknames - if we had a truly anonymous discussion culture there would be more interesting discussions and people wouldn't be afraid of posting controversial opinions.

points by jamesbkel 3 days ago replies      
I quickly scanned for another reference to this, but didn't see anything - pardon if a duplicate.

It seems that you can vote for both options. After I voted, the other choice still has the 'upvote arrow'. I didn't try to see if it worked since I don't want to vote for the other option.

Is this intended? I never noticed on any other polls, but maybe I just wasn't paying attention.

points by dennisgorelik 12 hours ago replies      
When will we get our points back?
points by hammock 3 days ago replies      
One benefit of points displayed that is totally lost is the ability to compare the points of a comment with the /replies/ to it. This lets me get a general idea at a glance if a commenter was mistaken or incorrect or misinformed or whatever (this happens for example when a thread has one comment and one reply, and the reply has 100x more points than the comment)
points by wslh 3 days ago replies      
If I were you, In a few cases (10%) I would include random fake points to see what happen. Someone who has 2000 points showing as 20000 or 200 to see how the HN crowd react.
points by mattdeboard 3 days ago replies      
There seems to be significantly more downvoting going on now. Worthwhile, constructive comments are being downvoted to the bottom of the page and I know that I personally am having very old comments downvoted for seemingly no reason whatsoever. What is going on?
points by stuhacking 3 days ago replies      
Why not stop rendering HN pages in tables with inline formatting and render the page as a semantically structured document with a default style sheet. This will allow others to come along and restyle the site as they see fit. Don't like comment points? hidden. Post score is less than -4? hidden.

I personally don't understand the reasoning behind using tables as formatting and inline styles on a site whose content generally includes articles about web development.

points by yurifury 4 days ago replies      
I'd like some sort of indication of which posts are exceptionally high scoring. This would let people skim the comments if they aren't going to read them in-depth anyway, by signalling that maybe this one comment thread is actually a worthwhile read.
points by crystalis 3 days ago replies      
Without points, I mostly just read posts from users whose comments used to show a lot of points. Without points, that list only gets smaller for me.
points by Vivtek 4 days ago replies      
I'm starting to think I like it better without comments. Although if without, then I'd prefer those dots that showed up for a couple of hours on frequently upvoted comments. I really do like a skim option.
points by thenduks 3 days ago replies      
I use HN to hear about news and read interesting articles, and also to occasionally engage in conversation. Points on comments have absolutely no bearing on being able to do that, so I didn't even notice at first that they were gone.

It is handy to know the points of your own comments, which can help you adjust your behavior to fit in with community expectations -- but we haven't lost that ability, so I'm not even sure what 'cost' this poll is referring to.

points by joubert 4 days ago replies      
I find this interesting given the discussion yesterday about transparency about salaries.
points by jamesbkel 4 days ago replies      
Hopefully not adding to the noise, but wanted to specify my opinion beyond the simple Y/N of the poll. I like not knowing the precise point value, but I do agree - especially for large threads - that it is nice to have a way to quickly scan. I think that some sort of color coded could work, as several of the other posts suggest.
points by Ruudjah 3 days ago replies      
In 2000, having a guestbook on a website where you can post a message anonymously was the norm, spambots did not exist.

in 2005, the ability the reply using an account was the norm, where replies could be rated 1-5 (slashdot and the rest).

In 2010, upvoting messages by giving them points was the norm, which Digg started and Reddit perfected.

In 2015, labelling posts I think will be the norm. Users will get the ability to associate posts with labels, such as insightfull, funny, interesting, firstpost, nonsense, et cetera. Every post will get it's own tagcloud, the labels being associated a lot being bigger.

The problem with upovoting is that you only classify posts using a numeric value. A numeric value can only express a limited classification. It does not say anything more specific then "bad rated" (<1), "not rated" (1), "somewhat rated" (>1 <6), "good rated" (>5 <20), and "awesome" (>20). Other then that, it does not say anything useful.

points by instcode 4 days ago replies      
I think a user content generated community where huge number of people participate needs an explicit feedback system. We all want to learn from the good sources and filter out what aren't worthy and we need a way to distinguish them. If you think the point rating system isn't good, it doesn't necessarily mean we don't need it.

Here is my suggestion: How about we use the absolute points to rank a comment in a different scale, such as if a comment collects enough a number of point, it will be ranked as 1 star, then 2 stars... and so on. In this way of rating, we not only get what we want but also not to follow "group thinking" as someone said in this thread.

points by burke 4 days ago replies      
Without. I don't want to have to read the whole comment thread to get the HN Zeitgeist.

What if it was an option? Or better yet, something like "Hold Ctrl to see comment scores", or "hover here to see the score for this comment", etc.?

Seeing comment scores is massively valuable to the way I consume HN -- skimming the article, then reading the top-rated 2-5 comments.

points by w1ntermute 4 days ago replies      
More importantly than hiding points, I think names should be visible on mouseover only. There's truly no need to see the username before reading the contents; rather, you should look to see who wrote a particularly good comment after having read it.
points by latch 4 days ago replies      
I want points gone, but I want something more generic to take their place to filter out useless comments. The ordering doesn't work because 1 - it often doesn't differentiate between a 50 point comment and a 2 point comment, and it doesn't handle useless comments which is a child of a popular comment.
points by rooshdi 4 days ago replies      
Hmmm, both options do seem to have their pros and cons in the current layout of the comment system. You may want to keep displaying comments without points but also try splitting the comment section into two parallel parts: A "Top Comments" column on the left side and a "New Comments" column on the right. This will highlight newer comments at the top longer and may encourage more readers to comment and reply to those while still showcasing the top comments of a story on the opposing left side for those who wish to skim real quick.
points by gojomo 4 days ago replies      
I'd prefer an experiment in 2-axis voting. The up/down karma points need not be displayed per comment, but the new right/left agree/disagree totals would be intended-to-be-displayed-per-comment. More details here:


points by Tiomaidh 4 days ago replies      
My gut reaction is to keep them, but I think that's just because I don't like change.

If you do decide to drop them, it might be nice if something different was done for the time-displaying. I keep thinking the minute count in the comment header (pg 22 minutes ago | link) refers to points (pg 22 points [random text] | link). I still feel like jerf's comment (9 minutes ago) has more points than skennedy's (4 minutes ago), even though I know it's not actually true.

Although I'd probably get used to it within a month--it's just an annoying thing during the transition.

points by gbelote 4 days ago replies      
I like comments without, I find myself focusing more on what's being said than skipping over folks with significantly less comments.

I've read criticisms about not being able to quickly/easily filter out top comments (which I care about, too). But there might be other (better?) ways of achieving that without reverting back to scored comments. For example, coloring/annotating comments that cross a certain threshold (either an absolute number, or relative to the other comments in the post). The advantage of color is that it becomes easier to visually filter out highly voted comments.

points by SkyMarshal 3 days ago replies      
I like it better without. I prefer not having the herd effect/anchoring effect of points pre-affecting my judgement of someone's content before I even read it.
points by skm 3 days ago replies      
I vote to remedy imbalances:

  valuable && low points => upvote
valuable && high points => read, no need to upvote

Does anyone else do this?

points by dpcan 3 days ago replies      
Show me comment points after I've reached a karma threshold. If I have 2000 karma points, then comment points show up for me.
points by Jebdm 4 days ago replies      
A better way to do this experiment would be to have half of threads show comment scores, and half not.
points by wybo 3 days ago replies      
It would be good if the data/information were at least available somewhere, such as through an API.

I must admit that as somebody studying social science of the internet, and interested in data in general, I might not be your typical user, but still...

points by entangld 4 days ago replies      
It seems people who don't want points displayed are trying to evoke a feeling.

I want points for one reason and one reason only. So I can tell which piece of advice people agree with.

points by BasilAwad 4 days ago replies      
How about showing comment points after a set period of time? I can see the value of not showing points on current submissions, but I was frustrated when I was trying to skim older topics.
points by hboon 4 days ago replies      
Give it another week or two. Then poll again. It's too soon to conclude, both for people who may take time to get used to it, as well as people who don't visit HN that often (but still regularly).
points by samstokes 4 days ago replies      
For the same reasons (presumably) as leaving the scores off comments, might it have made for a more representative poll to hide the scores on the poll options?
points by dkeskar 4 days ago replies      
Unless I am mistaken, there are two changes: a) no points display and b) no downvote arrow for many of us. Both are good.

There used to be many responses triggered by consternation over downvotes. This way, most people can only upvote iff they resonate with the comment, without the possibility of jumping on a bandwagon (or trying to derail one)

Suggestion: Moving the comment box to the bottom would nudge people to scan the thread before responding, duplicating, etc.

points by Kisil 3 days ago replies      
How about separating "quality" and "agreement" into separate scores?

While it complicates the interface, it would be much more useful for both authors and readers. It naturally leads to measuring controversy - the most interesting comments would be those with high quality and mixed agreement. Having a sense of HN's opinion would direct posts towards areas of maximum contribution. It would also re-direct some of the pile-on upvoting from low quality but obvious/funny/mean/etc. comments, so they could drop down the page despite having some appeal.

Some example cases:
a) I may agree with the snarky comment that calls out someone's obvious mistake, but I can simultaneously downvote for snark.
b) I may disagree with someone's analysis of the iOS vs Android market battle, but I can now register my disagreement while acknowledging that the poster made a good point.
c) I made a comment that came off as means-pirited, though that wasn't my intent. The quality downvotes are an unambiguous message, which I can't just write off with "I guess HN disagrees."

points by nickconfer 3 days ago replies      
I voted for with points, but I think there really should have been a third option.

The main reason I like points is it helps tell me what comments are worthy of me spending time to read when a story has 50+ comments.

So without points, I think you still need a way to show what is valuable and worth reading for the most popular stories. There are a couple ways to do this.

One option would be to personalize what comments are deemed important to me. For instance if I go and up vote pg comments, then when I go to another story and theres a pg comment it should give me a mark to let me know this comment will probably be of value to me. Another user might visit the same story and down-rate your comment because they don't like it. Thats fine, in the future, your comments probably won't be displayed prominently for them in this case.

This moves away from the group-think mentality of what is valuable to an individuals preference, which I think is more valuable and provides a less contentious exchange platform.

points by huhtenberg 4 days ago replies      
Perhaps make this a configurable option and keep them hidden by default?
points by jedwhite 3 days ago replies      
People are social creatures. Things displaying votes are more likely to get upvotes. Without the display, the better comments are likely to get upvotes.
points by brendano 4 days ago replies      
How about, display a discretized form of points? -- e.g. high, medium, and low, with unknown thresholds (that may be changed through time or whatever).

Can still use them as a heuristic for filtering, but the details and possibly divisive aspects of worrying about minute differences are hidden.

points by palehose 4 days ago replies      
Upvoting a comment should signify that I agree with what the author is writing, not that I want that comment to have more karma points. I don't care how many upvotes a comment gets if the people who are upvoting it are not people I agree with.

It would be more helpful if there was a lingering effect to agreeing with someone instead of just giving someone a karma point increment. Lets say that I upvoted zzyzx's comment, and based on that upvote, I am able to see a thumbs up on other comments that zzyzx upvoted, indicating that people who I agree with, agreed with that comment.

points by tedkimble 4 days ago replies      
My biggest complaint of the recent changes is that it appears to have broken the hckr news Chrome extension, which added new comment highlighting. For me this is one of those features that I never knew I wanted, but now that it is gone I can't remember how I browsed HN without it.

As for the point displays, I want them to be there, but I think HN will be better off without them displayed.

points by eam 3 days ago replies      
How about if points are hidden for the first 2 hours or so after a story is submitted? This way initially there wont be any bias on the comments, and eventually we can see the comments that are the most meaningful.
points by marklabedz 3 days ago replies      
While I appreciate the idea of logarithmic scales and other advanced formulas for accumulating points, how about a simple threshold for displaying the points on each comment? For instance, no points are displayed until a comment is +5 or -2?
points by Tangaroa 3 days ago replies      
My problem with showing the point score is that it can lead to a share of the score being due to popularity rather than quality. Some people will uprate comments that they might otherwise consider too marginal to uprate, if they see that everyone else is uprating that comment. More commonly, moderators are also readers and will only want to read the highest valued comments if they are short on time, and then these become the only comments that they issue any ratings for.

Even without point scores, a comment's relative score can still be inferred from the system floating high-scoring comments to the top while comments with negative scores are displayed in a shade of gray. Readers are given hints to what the community currently considers valuable, but moderators have to read the comment to be sure.

points by goblin89 4 days ago replies      
Seems like it could be made either
a) easier to read / skim through comments ---with points shown, or
b) easier to cast a fair vote, and thus contribute to HN ---with points hidden.

Thinking of it this way, maybe we should have two different modes--- ‘quick reading', with points shown and voting disabled, and ‘contribution', with points hidden and voting enabled.

Wait, I know it complicates things a bit, but it makes sense. Look:

- If you do read everything carefully and don't rely on crowd's opinion, then you don't need points anyway and you can well contribute to HN by voting justly. Use ‘contribution' mode.

- If you usually read HN in a hurry, thus you shouldn't be tempted to vote. Use ‘quick reading' mode.

The weakest point here is changing mode. Don't know how frequently people switch between ‘skimming' and ‘contribution' mode while reading HN… If not often, then maybe it makes sense to place a switch on the user's settings page. (Maybe with contribution mode disabled for noobs.)

points by sambe 3 days ago replies      
HN doesn't want either comments-solely-for- or voting for agreement or disagreement. Yet that is what a lot of people want to express. Perhaps it is more useful to have agree & disagree buttons, and the comments interest value is the total votes in either direction. Offensive/troll comments could still be flagged to separate them from comments which are largely disagreed with.
points by shawndumas 3 days ago replies      
Having a bit of aspergers I am seldom able to interpret feedback.

HN has been such a shelter of safety for me because of the clear (in comparison) and immediate feedback.

points by mdg 4 days ago replies      
There are quite a few people here who are suggesting pg make it an option. While that would make everyone happy, it wouldn't solve the problem; people who vote based off points will continue to do so.
points by user24 3 days ago replies      
One thing I'll say is that if 'without points' is kept, please change the arrow UI. It's now impossible to tell if you accidentally downvoted someone.

I like it sans-points over-all though.

points by mcantor 4 days ago replies      
It would have been funny if no one could see the point total for the options on this poll itself.
points by maddalab 4 days ago replies      
I skim through the points, both on stories and discussions to decide which ones to read. As the size of the community has grown, I believe, probably mistakenly, that the points are more closely related to domain names on submissions and user names on comments, rather than the quality of the comment.

I tend to read some comments based on user names, irrespective of the points, for a few users, raganwald being one, primarily because I have read pretty much everything he has written and find it interesting more often than not. Even in cases where his comments has garnered few points, I have found the comment worth while. So I can understand the tendency to up vote comments based on user names.

Having said that, I vote for display of points and the hiding of user names. I would like comments to stand up for themselves rather than for the user posting the comments.

points by volida 4 days ago replies      
As long as there are points, and comments are sorted by popularity, not showing the points, I don't see how it can mitigate the problem of people trying to game the system.

If it is somehow measurable who is trying to do so, in obvious way, in some automated way and if this activity is at a level that affects the rest, then the user could be somehow penalized off that karma gained. Nevertheless this is democracy, so I would only expect this behaviour being penalized only if it really affects other in some measurable way, so that the community could approve penalizing users who are trying to advantage of lack of automated moderation.

The contrary could be done i.e. instead of penalizing users who are suspectable in such behaviour, preferably award recursively to each comment in the same thread more points, therefore the commenters who are 'legit' are awarded. Therefore, add a category of comment points named 'HN ponts' which are awarded automatically by the system.

points by clark-kent 3 days ago replies      
Show HN and Ask HN are two good reasons why we need comment points. Comment points provides raw data to know how many people agree/disagree, like/hate a technology or topic.

In a post with 100+ comments, the points makes it easy to parse the various threads and conversations going on.

points by blantonl 4 days ago replies      
What is the algorithm that determines where a comment ranks in the hierarchy from top to bottom? It appears that there is more to it than just points.
points by nhangen 4 days ago replies      
I hate not seeing it, which is why I think it's important to keep hiding them for a while. I find that I actually judge a comment by how I feel about it, rather than what the community feels about it, which is nice.
points by breathesalt 4 days ago replies      
Even if the difference only amounts in cosmetics, I still would prefer HN without points displayed on comments. Hopefully though, it will place an emphasis on the message--you can always intuit its popularity by its position.
points by markokocic 3 days ago replies      
I would prefer if HN would let me configure if I want to see points or not.
points by tuhin 3 days ago replies      

-Display points after one has upvoted/downvoted a comment

- Have a quota of votes in any thread so a user has say 5 votes to spend in a new post (may increase with karma)

points by kschua 3 days ago replies      
I use the points on the comments to sift make a quick decision whether I should read a particular comment.

As a compromise between your goal of people scoring points, maybe a scale might be good?

For example,

0 - 100

100 - 300


Edited: for formatting

points by mshron 4 days ago replies      
What about an experiment? PG could take a few dozen people he wants to be exemplars for the community, pick some semi-popular articles before and after the change, and ask the test subjects to rate which article had better comments. For best results, only pair people with articles they haven't read.

Myself, I didn't even realize how strong the group-think effect was until the comments were turned off. It feels like there's more substance now, but I might just be reading more closely in the absence of loud communal signals.

points by tonystubblebine 4 days ago replies      
I notice that my eye gravitates to longer comments now. That's probably a good thing.
points by niels 3 days ago replies      
I prefer HN with points initially hidden, but displayed after a while. This way ratings are not as susceptible to group think.
points by koenigdavidmj 4 days ago replies      
Maybe hide them on a story view and show them when you click the permalink to that post?
points by gcb 3 days ago replies      
after removing the points on the comments, my comments bashing HN or Apple stopped being a consistent -1 to 3~7 (i post when the thread is already late)
points by wowamit 3 days ago replies      
The points would make sense if I could sort by upvotes received for a comment. As long as that is not the case, I prefer it with comments displayed without points.
points by sixtofour 3 days ago replies      
When I'm skimming comments on a front page post, name and points help me zero in on things I'm more likely to find interesting or useful.
points by VB6_Foreverr 3 days ago replies      
What would be an interesting experiment would be no points and no name displayed. Let the comment rise or fall purely on its own merits rather than the rep of its author. It seems to me that some people need only to cough to get karma
points by logjam 3 days ago replies      
Why not allow the user to choose?
points by adrianwaj 3 days ago replies      
Well, if you could at least do a "display:none" on the points, at least hackerbrain would show the points. I'm sure those points are used by derivative sites during parsing. Can you please put them in the html?
points by skm 3 days ago replies      
I love seeing what other people in the community find interesting. Points let me see not just the comment, but how others felt about it.
points by razerbeans 3 days ago replies      
I personally find that seeing the points by comments allows me to see interesting comments while I am skimming over a thread. I wouldn't mind having points hidden if there was some way that the most commented on threads or most popular threads appeared closer to the top of the story.
points by Devilboy 4 days ago replies      
50/50 so far. I guess it's up to you Paul!
points by thurn 3 days ago replies      
Sort of unrelated feature request (is there a better place feor this?): a small piece of JavaScript to warn before you submit a title that starts with a number between 3 and 15. There are about five articles on the front page right now that break the "remove useless numbers" rule.
points by pacifika 2 days ago replies      
What about this:
Star the top X comments (configurable setting in user profile). I don't care how many points any comments have, but I do care about reading the best comments in a thread.
points by chicagobob 4 days ago replies      
Hey! If you're going to turn off points in comments, please make it a preference. I enjoy seeing them.
points by oscardelben 2 days ago replies      
Why not making it an option?
points by mdg 4 days ago replies      
Why not let the person who submits the article decide whether or not comments are visible for that thread?
points by eiji 4 days ago replies      
Only display points when logged in. What about that?
points by sushumna 3 days ago replies      
For some who wants to quickly go through the comments, it would be good to go through those comments which has more points. They are the most valuable comments and worth reading.
points by ramynassar 3 days ago replies      
I prefer without
points by kbd 4 days ago replies      
Wow, vote even at 500 to 500.
points by KevBurnsJr 4 days ago replies      
I just voted for the poll option with the fewest points. I like rooting for the underdog.
Why the password "this is fun" is 10 times more secure than "J4fS!2" baekdal.com
407 points by joshwa 2 days ago   168 comments top 44
points by iuguy 2 days ago replies      
It's interesting. The author shows some fundamental misunderstandings and makes assumptions that are not necessarily based on real-world situations to present an idea that longer strings with more recognisable characters (e.g. passphrases) are better than shorter strings with larger keyspaces. If you pick two data points you can actually fiddle with the numbers to present either side of the argument as the truth. For example:

A full 16-bit unicode 2 character password has 65 536^2 or 4,294,967,296 permutations to work through.

A lowercase alphabetic password of 6 characters in length has 26^6 = 308,915,776 permutations.

Of course there's a tradeoff involved, and that tradeoff is what IT departments try to manage, with mixed success. It's easier for the software to determine whether or not the password contains methods of increasing the keyspace than whether or not the user has typed out a 200 character long series of 'A' characters, so that's what they use. I don't know whether or not increased length has a higher risk of collisions for some algorithms (that's tptacek territory, not mine). Over time, software products have been guided by best practice standards from organisations like COBIT that define and mandate complex passwords based on keyspace rather than length alone.

Secondly, there is a difference between an online brute force and an offline brute force. Depending on the algorithm, with the right kit (or Amazon EC2 instances) you can get billions of hashes per second to crack a password hash offline. At that point your increased length only matters if the attacker doesn't know about the complexity. The samples provided are terrible as they're all lower case with a space at most. This is the poor end of the trade-off. To brute force a SHA-1 hash of the word 'sum' on my 2 year old laptop takes less than a second.

Online brute forcing (e.g. brute forcing a web form) is generally something you're not going to do if you're looking to compromise a web account, unless it is a specifically targeted attack (e.g. the user is an admin or a specific person of interest). In these situations your brute force rate is dependent on your network throughput, the application's ability to respond to concurrent requests and any other factors that may affect it (such as any monitoring system). Your web application on a linode slice will probably choke out between 40 and a hundred attempts per second (and you'll notice it unless you're blind or have no performance reporting). If you can get past the automation detection in larger sites, like Amazon, Google, Twitter etc. you'll probably be able to go much, much higher. For this reason, web site brute forces tend to be dictionary based, or at most on dictionaries and a number.

Ultimately when choosing a password you need to consider what you're defending against. If you own the box or the app, chances are you trust the defences. If you're going to change the password every few months then maybe you will choose a weaker password. If you don't own the kit and you're not intending to use the password, then use a tool such as Keepass[1] and generate the passwords yourself. That way it doesn't matter what J Arthur Random says on the Internet, you won't need to remember the passwords at all.

[1] - http://keepass.info/

points by ianferrel 2 days ago replies      
The author relies on the assumption that one can try 100 passwords per second (or, fewer, in the case of an extra delay), but that doesn't correspond to real-world security breaches.

The danger of having an insecure password is not that someone will bombard the server with login requests. That can easily be detected and stopped by even the most cursory of server security. The danger is that they crack the server and get the list of password hashes, at which point the time to crack a password is dictated by the hardware at their disposal and the hashing algorithm. Your server capacity or timeout protocols are irrelevant.

So, the 100 attempts/sec number is essentially a fiction. It applies only to a manufactured threat. The real threat is much worse, which means that a password like "this is fun" is not reasonably secure.

points by patio11 2 days ago replies      
The danger with semantically meaningful passphrases is that they have a lot less entropy than you think they do. I still use them for everything, but it is something to be aware of. (You can get more by e.g. padding it with a number, doing the usual l33tspeak tricks, etc.)
points by michaelochurch 2 days ago replies      
I would not use "this is fun" ever. If it becomes at all common for people to start using 2- or 3-common words instead of smaller non-word strings, password crackers are going to start generating 2- to 4-word strings. "This" and "is" are two of the most common words in the English language. A flat dictionary approach may take prohibitively long, but a smart password cracker is going to start with the most common English words, and I just don't believe "this is fun" will survive very long.

If you use 3 uncommon words with no logical connection ("masquerade nefarious pulchritudinous") you are probably safe, but if two of your words are among the language's 100 most common, and your password is a sentence... bad idea.

A cracker faced with a 20-character password space is going to choose "this is fun" before "J4fS!2". It's only with a 6-character password space (which is pathetically small) that "J4fS!2" is likely to be hit.

points by tel 2 days ago replies      
As I wrote in another comment, high entropy passwords by definition must be hard to remember. It's not strictly true, but it definitely refutes the title of this submission.

While I think this post is rather optimistic in its calculations " using maximum entropy distributions, for instance " it does bring up a good point: Personally memorable nonsense sentences are rather high entropy.

Actual practical guessing is not pure distribution entropy but instead closer to the KL divergence since an intelligent brute force guesser has to make assumptions about the password distribution in order to reap benefits. If your password comes from an expected distribution (letters in English words, words in English sentences) you're losing a whole lot of potential entropy, traded for particular memorability.

If you can hedge between those bets, though, you're in a good place. "this is fun" is not actually terribly secure compared to "J4fS!2" unless you're actually attacked by a uniform dictionary brute force search. "slurping radicals debilitate enzymatically" is super high entropy and quite likely easier to remember than "J4fS!2".

points by juiceandjuice 2 days ago replies      
Assume there are 7500 very commonly used english words. A three word sentence, all in lower case, would yield 421 Billion permutations. Let's say, of those 421 billion permutations, which don't tense or plural nouns about 1 in 5 are familiar english language constructs, which drops down to around 20 billion permutations. In this case, if we took all capital letters, all numbers, and 6 punctuation characters, we'd end up with ~67 unique characters, for a combined 82 billion permutations.

Furthermore, like Richard Feynman discovered in Los Alamos, you could narrow down the possibilities of combinations if you know something about a person. You could probably build profiled dictionary attacks and reduce possibilities a lot.

So, is it more secure? No, it's maybe equally secure, but it would completely depend on the attack. A combination of capital letters would probably be more secure though.

points by cool-RR 2 days ago replies      
One advantage of gibberish passwords like "b923F$5mvA" is that if someone looks at your fingers while typing them, he'll have a hard time figuring them out from your keypresses, whereas if you typed "this is fun", it would be much easier.

Ditto for when someone has a visual glimpse of your password which is only a few seconds long. (e.g. someone looked at your laptop screen while you got an email with your password from an irresponsible website.)

points by jjcm 2 days ago replies      
This should be fairly obvious to anyone who's done any sort of combinatorics - you're saying that a 10 character password using symbols and lower case letters is more complex than a 6 character password using 36 more characters in the character pool. Anyone who's even glanced at password complexity research will be able to tell you that. To break down the numbers though, a 10 character password using lowercase letters and symbols (spaces) has 30155888444737843000 possible combinations. A six character password has 735091890625 combinations (around 1/4000th of the complexity, assuming a brute force approach). While the author also takes into account the possibilities of using a dictionary attack, you can't really tie a number to the search space for that. It depends on the breadth of what the program will go to. Will it check alternate spellings (color/colour)? Will it check for apostrophes? Foreign languages? Etc.

A while back I wrote a small piece of JS to demonstrate to some people the complexity growth in passwords. Some people didn't believe me that asdfasdfasdf was more complex than Fc34!j_, and this was the end result. Feel free to play with it. The source is rather simple as well:


points by synnik 2 days ago replies      
There is a huge logic gap here. He is comparing 11 characters passwords to 6 character passwords. The difference in length also will account for a significant difference in the time required with brute force.

I think what he is trying to show is that is that the lower security of using multiple common words on a password with 11 characters is still greater security than a random 6 character password, and still quite acceptable.

points by jasonwatkinspdx 2 days ago replies      
The most useful thing we can do as web developers:

- support very long passwords, so that users can use pass-phrases if they like.

- use bcrypt or the like for storage

- do not create easily cracked side channels, like a fixed set of "security questions" for forgotten passwords

points by onedognight 2 days ago replies      
"this is fun" has structure and I suspect is an easy password to guess from the pool of all three word passwords. Just like using a dictionary is better than brute force, trying common words that usually go together when guessing three word passwords is much better than trying all three word passwords. If Google were to write a "word" password cracker using their data trove, I suspect "this is fun" would go down early. Likewise putting spaces between words would be to the Google cracker like adding a number on the end of a dictionary word is to a standard cracker.
points by ig1 2 days ago replies      
No it's not. If I was brute forcing a password these days, I'd use the google ngram database, and "this is fun" and pretty much any other memorable phrase would fall pretty quickly.
points by stretchwithme 2 days ago replies      
hmm, perhaps I'm missing something, but shouldn't systems just not allow you to attempt to login so much and so frequently?

I guess these systems do get hammered by so many improper attempts and you'd risk blocking the actual account owner. But if a billion attempts are made from the same ip in an hour, shouldn't that be considered suspicious?

Personally, I like what Google's doing with the two-step verification. That's probably where security should be going.

points by merloen 2 days ago replies      
In my 25M word corpus, "this is fun" occurs 23 times. There are only 94,000 trigrams that occur more frequently.

Therefore, you should be pessimistic, and consider the password "this is fun" less safe than passwords in the shape [a-zA-Z]{3}, like "tsP", of which there are 140608.

Assume attackers know the algorithm (e.g. three common words, one 7-letter word in l33tspeak, a 6-letter string of random ascii characters) but not the parameters.

points by jarek 1 day ago replies      
"None can remember a password like "J4fS<2", which evidently mean that it will be written on a post-it note."

That's bullcrap. Few will remember this password, but most can if they try. My work domain password is over 8 characters in this level of complexity and it took me about 10 minutes to get used to typing it, a day to fully get it into muscle memory. If you ask me what my password is, I'd have to type it out.

points by barmstrong 2 days ago replies      
One benefit he didn't even mention: keyloggers

Someone scanning a keylogger file might not even notice "this is fun". It doesn't look like a password.

The only time someone has gotten my password was actually from a keylogger when I logged into Facebook at a hostel while traveling.

Pro tip: Another way to defeat those is using the virtual keyboard in windows to "click" your password in. I do this while traveling now.

points by tzs 2 days ago replies      
If site X suggests to users that they use pass phrases consisting of common words chosen at random, then "this is fun" is not very secure. A brute force attack using /usr/share/dict/words found on many Unix systems would take about the same effort as a brute force attack on an 8 character random password where characters are drawn from upper case, lower case, digits, and common punctuation.

You'd actually break most people's common words passwords using smaller word lists, say the 4096 most common words. Three words from the top 4096 chosen at random gives a password equivalent to a little under 6 characters of mixed case/digits/punctuation.

points by swaits 2 days ago replies      
This person is just.. confused, to put it nicely.

My password system is detailed here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2431480

It's secure, passwords are never stored, and it's not based on any false premises.

points by presto8 2 days ago replies      
The title is a bit misleading. The passphrase "this is fun" may be 10 time harder to brute-force than "J4fS!2", but both are hard enough that nobody would bother trying to brute force attack them. So they both are equally acceptable. I personally would rather type "J4fS!2", and here's why:

We use PGP Whole Disk Encryption at my company. The passphrase strength requirements are quite strict. It took me about two dozen attempts before I found a password that it would accept. The password was something along the lines of what the article is proposing, five short English words arranged in a sentence (about 25 characters long). This was acceptable to PGP because the software prefers longer passphrases with less entropy per character over short passphrases.

The problem is that it's quite hard to type this long passphrase in when all you can see on the screen is stars or dots. The longer a passphrase is, the higher chance there is of introducing a typo. A shorter passphrase, mixed case and with symbols, is, at least for a programmer, easier to type, especially with muscle memory.

In the case of PGP Whole Disk Encryption, they obviously realized this since you can press the tab key to enable showing the password in plaintext as you type it. I always do this because it increases the success rate of my password acceptance quite a bit.

On an unrelated note, it seems that a far bigger security risk on the Internet is the use of the same password on multiple web sites. If you use "this is cool" on ten different sites, then you are opening yourself up to serious vulnerability if one of the sites is compromised. Using a hash of a common password with the domain name provides a lot more security, but the simple implementations available today produce passwords that are short with mixed case and symbols versus long strings of words. But since the only sane way to use this approach is with a password manager, extension, or bookmarklet anyway, this doesn't seem to be a major limitation.

But having to create and remember short three to five word passphrases for dozens of web sites would be a daunting challenge!

points by EGreg 2 days ago replies      
He forgets one of the easiest ways of getting people's accounts:


points by pronoiac 2 days ago replies      
I think dictionary attacks are a far more common attack profile than looking for written down passwords. Also, pointing out common passphrases is a good way to ensure that passphrase checking makes it into later iterations of password cracking.
points by 16s 1 day ago replies      
Speaking of passwords, I believe hackernews account passwords are transmitted over plain-text HTTP. Even the password reset is plain-text HTTP. Perhaps that will change soon?
points by Ratufa 1 day ago replies      
Good "dictionaries" for doing on-line brute-force attacks don't just contain words, they contain likely passwords. Guidelines for choosing good passwords should point this out. For example, something like "J4fS!2" is a much much more secure password in terms of protection from on-line attacks than "letmein" or "chang3m3" or "tryandguessthis" or "password123" or "root!@#" or "b4ckm3upsc077y". All of those passwords are actual passwords taken from the list used by an SSH brute-force password cracker.

Because people aren't random when they choose words to remember (e.g. "beavisandbuthead" is also on that list), a better set of password-choosing directions would provide instructions one how to add some additional (pseudo-)randomness to passwords that are being created. The classic "pick a phrase, take the first letters + punctuation" method is one way to do that ("pap,ttfl+p" is a somewhat strong password), and it's not hard to think of other password generation schemes that also create strong passwords.

points by meric 2 days ago replies      
Doesn't anyone use code for password?


points by mleonhard 2 days ago replies      
My undergraduate research addresses this subject:

A Comparative Study of Three Random Password Generators


points by tcskeptic 2 days ago replies      
When helping people construct passwords I always guide them to use an acronym from a favorite line of a song (or bible verse, or poem depending on audience) and then add a symbol and a number. So for example if you really like Led Zeppelin you might take the opening line"

"Hey Hey Mama Said The Way You Move Gonna Make You Sweat Gonna Make You Groove"

and turn it into the password hhmstwymgmysgmyg!8

or "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep"

to become: twaldadbihptk$9

Easy to remember, relatively high entropy, pretty good compromise.

points by contextfree 2 days ago replies      
“In a sense, there is no such thing as a random number; for example, is 2 a random number?”
points by EGreg 2 days ago replies      
In http://qbix.com , we have implemented passphrases out of the box for all of our apps.

Try signing up there. You will find that the passphrase suggestions are quite nice. To obtain them, I took three random words, searched yahoo news for those words, and for each result, chose 3 contiguous words and presented it as a passphrase suggestion.

In the event that Yahoo is unreachable, our server generates one of 50 million unique phrases from ADJECTIVE NOUN VERB NOUN. I would say this produces greater entropy than if you left people to choose their own passphrases, even if they don't copy our passphrases exactly.

points by dvdhsu 2 days ago replies      
I refuse to believe that there are no tools that can dictionary attack sentences.
points by mcorrientes 2 days ago replies      
Using multiple words or even sentences as password (as described in the article) doesn't even work always, there are too many websites or application which have a password length limit.

I recommend to use a password manager, KeePass is quite good.

Good password manager should be able to easily generate a new strong and complex password every time.

Remembering only one password and getting rid of the laziness of choosing always the same password is another advantage too.

Even if a website that stored your password in clear text and someone hacks the website, you shouldn't have to worry about other applications or services you may have used with the same password.

My personal rule is to choose unique strong passwords (alphanumeric and symbols) with at least 9 chars.

Brute forcing a password with 8 chars was with my 5870 no big deal at all, but cracking a password with 9 chars is too expensive (ec2 gpu) or takes to long for the usual hacker.

If someone really brute forces my password, with gpu and a cluster support, damn, than he really deserve it.

But that's just my two cents.

points by billmcneale 2 days ago replies      
Another positive aspect of sentence passwords is that they are more likely to survive a keylogger attack.
points by LiggityLew 2 days ago replies      
What about moving away from semantics (easy to remember words) and change to patterns on the keyboard? That's how I handle my most secure passwords. Patterns on the keyboard using all the keys and combinations of shift create passwords that are easier to remember than a random length string, and can become quite long (>8 chars).
points by kodemunky 14 hours ago replies      
This article is total crap, the author has very little in the way of security clue -- how does such nonsense make it onto HN?
points by jitbit 2 days ago replies      
I wonder how many people will use "this is fun" as their password after reading this...
points by jcfrei 2 days ago replies      
the author only considers common words attacks, what about common phrases attacks? with a database consisting of common sentences, (eg. from reuters) those passwords could be broken in a much shorter timeframe than claimed in the article.
points by torstesu 2 days ago replies      
1. Construct a complex password key with a minimum length of 8 characters, e.g -Kr/2.pq4

2. Make an algorithm based on the URL. E.g. news.ycombinator.com
a) Take the last 4 characters in the URL, excluded the domain suffix: ator
b) Shuffle the letters based on your algorithm: orat

3. Combine the password key and the output of your algorithm: orat-Kr/2.pq4

4. Always enjoy individual, secure and easy to remember passwords for any services.

The algorithm you use can be more complex, e.g. adding characters in between, but the basic idea should be explained.

points by spullara 1 day ago replies      
Not any more. Now added to all the password dictionaries.
points by xilun0 1 day ago replies      
The author either knows basically nearly to nothing in computer security and password bruteforcing, or knows stuffs but miserably failed to properly communicate the hypotheses used (he did communicate some of his hypotheses, but not in an appropriate way that would have rightly prevented the general public from making password choices based on this article while under radically different conditions) and caveats to take into account when interpreting his examples.

This article is misleading in the sens the results it gives are only applicable for very narrow cases, and fast reading it can give the impression that "J4fS<2" is a "secure" password and that "this is fun" is even more secure. While this can be true under those very restrictive hypotheses he used, the fact that it was not prominently warned that those hypothesis should not be blindly used for basing password choice for random online web sites or other things makes this article dangerous.

points by vshlos 1 day ago replies      
I started writing a response, but then it got too big. Basically the 5 second timeout is a bad idea because its implementation is not worth the effort. http://oim.ae/gx8qMD for the reasoning.

But the other thing, use UTF8 high value characters. Or simply learn Russian and use a password from russian words.

points by reedlaw 2 days ago replies      
This is why I like using Passpack. I can store secure passwords securely without post-its.
points by Draft_Punk 2 days ago replies      
TL;DR - Password fundamentals...length always beats complexity.
points by dude_abides 2 days ago replies      
Not any more.
points by drivebyacct2 2 days ago replies      
Novelty accounts on HN? Really? I guess I've quickly become a pessimist in the last few days of changes around here but the green on what is presumably new accounts highlights the poor quality of new commenters.
points by zyfo 2 days ago replies      
I never understood this. Why? I can't imagine this being the bottleneck for a secure password in any realistic situation.
Rails 3.1 shipping with CoffeeScript github.com
314 points by bjonathan 4 days ago   199 comments top 27
points by patio11 4 days ago replies      
Normally, I'm skeptical of "change the syntax and your life will magically get better, no matter how headachey interacting with the rest of the world will become", but then Thomas showed me Sass and it was lifechanging. (After you've gotten around Sass, CSS looks like Assembly code to a web programmer. I mean, sure, you could write it... but you'd need a damn good reason to. If you haven't tried it yet, make yourself an excuse for a weekend project -- it will make your life better.) Has anyone found CoffeeScript to be lifechanging?
points by bcrescimanno 4 days ago replies      
If I'm reading it correctly (and I'm not a Rails guy so I may be mistaken) they're making CoffeeScript the default scripting language for Rails. This strikes me as a really unfortunate decision.

There's a world of difference between fully supporting something and making it your default. Making newcomers jump through hoops to get regular javascript instead of CS (another language in which they may not be familiar) just seems like a poorly thought out plan. As someone pointed out in the GitHub comments; this is just like making HAML and SASS the defaults over HTML & CSS.

I'm not saying anything negative about these libraries; I'm certainly not an authority on them and can't speak to their effectiveness. However, the net result of a default change such as this one is reduced accessibility to newcomers.

Of course, if I'm reading it wrong and this is really just adding support for CoffeeScript to Rails, then disregard everything I just said. :)

Edit: well, don't disregard it--remember it for the future!

points by JonnieCache 4 days ago replies      
Calm down boys and girls, its opinionated software, remember? That's kinda rails' raison d'être.

I'm just disappointed they didn't have the balls to make HAML the default templating engine.

points by augustl 4 days ago replies      
Rails has a history of doing things with JavaScript that many developers disagree with. RJS is a prime example, where you would write Ruby code that generated JavaScript that assumed you used the Prototype.JS framework. And it wasn't until Rails 3.0 we got view helpers that didn't inline JavaScript.

So in my opinion we had one minor version with JavaScript I could relate to, and now we're back to where we were. But I don't mind, I'll just avoid using it.

points by ddagradi 4 days ago replies      
Really? Everyone seems to be freaking out as if Rails will no longer serve your standard JavaScript files again. Rather, by default, the generator spits out CoffeeScript templates. If you don't want to use CoffeeScript, don't use CoffeeScript and write regular JavaScript instead.

Will this confuse new users? Probably not, since the template file is going to include instructions and an explanation. Will the change break any existing sites? I really doubt it.

In the end, encouraging a better default language is a great change. New users are already required to learn to write ERB/Haml to make a Rails app; this is no different, and easily ignored if you're not interested.

points by djacobs 4 days ago replies      
I have no problem with Rails supporting CoffeeScript out of the box, as the abstraction is really good at showing the power of Javascript and not emphasizing its bad parts.

(And, come on, list comprehensions in Javascript? Awesome.)

No one is taking away your raw Javascript, it'll work just fine. This just makes it easy for people to use CoffeeScript when they first build an app. It's more of a statement than anything else.

points by oomkiller 4 days ago replies      
I don't understand what the big deal is here. All this patch does is make a application.js.coffee instead of application.js, and add support for actually generating JS from this.

One of the recurring arguments I've seen is that this change will make it harder for people to get started with Rails. I really don't understand how this is the case, because if you understand what public/javascripts is for and what javascript_include_tag does, you should also be able to write normal javascript all day long. Hell, you don't even need that, adding your own HTML to include a script into the page works too (as always). There is no need to write CoffeeScript if you don't want to/don't know how to; write all the js you want.

In reality, the only outcome of this will be more people discovering and learning CoffeeScript. I seriously doubt this will discourage anyone from learning Rails. If it does, they were bound to find something that discouraged them eventually.

points by MatthewPhillips 4 days ago replies      
Am I the only one who thinks they are propping up their successor? If you're going to learn Coffeescript, why bother with Rails at all? Just write cs both server and client side. When some one builds a mature node.js MVC framework, Rails is going to be in trouble.
points by aneth 4 days ago replies      
It's interesting that rails is headed toward whitespace significance in all its file formats, yet the most apparent difference between ruby and it's main rival Python is that whitespace is not significant.

Between yaml, sass (although not scss), haml, and coffescript, is the next step a version of ruby getting rid of end statements in favor of whitespace? I've often dreamed of such a thing.

  module Foo
module Bar
class Fubar
def boom
p "I like monkey patches"


points by mberning 4 days ago replies      
I love this kind of stuff, but at the same time, it presents a huge problem for software maintainability and building a scalable development team.

When I go to hire somebody it is a near certainty that they are very proficient with CSS. Sass? Probably less likely. For the sake of argument let's say I could find somebody proficient in Sass, what about all the other boutique technologies I have in my product?

At some point your product can devolve into an opaque and indecipherable hodgepodge of 'cool stuff'. Sometimes it really is better to keep things simple, even though you are causing yourself some personal pain.

points by caioariede 4 days ago replies      
By default, really?

I don't like the idea neither I'm a Rails developer, but I think that this will increase the learning curve.

Let it be just a choice.

points by danest 4 days ago replies      
"Yes, it's true, Rails 3.1 is going to ship with CoffeeScript and SCSS in the box for use with the new asset pipeline. It's bad ass." @dhh


points by trustfundbaby 4 days ago replies      
I don't like that its the default, it seems like something the 37signals guys like (pow was written in coffee script) so "goshdarnit! all of you have to use it".

Yes I know, you can change it.

Yes. I know its impact is probably minimal if I don't care for it.

But, I really would like to see a strong argument made for why this should be a default for Rails, especially when SASS and HAML, which have wider adoption and facetime with the Rails community aren't the default (and I think, rightfully so)

points by MatthewPhillips 3 days ago replies      
I converted some of my javascript to coffeescript last night, and the one thing that I still feel weird about is not having void functions. I have been instead ending those functions with null, but it feels weird. Is it not the "coffeescript way" to have void style functions at all? I should try to convert these to expressions?
points by djhworld 3 days ago replies      
I'm a Java/Scala/Ruby developer at heart and I have very little input into front-end development.

While I've written some javascript, I wouldn't say it's very good and I'm not really that well versed in the features of Javascript either.

Would you say it's better to

a) Learn to do Javascript properly then learn CoffeeScript
b) Learn CoffeeScript and forget about Javascript?

points by apgwoz 3 days ago replies      
Disclaimer: I don't use Rails or Ruby.

Wouldn't including CoffeeScript create a new dependency on Java (to run in Rhino or what not) or Node.js? How is the CoffeeScript compiled to JavaScript if this is not the case?

points by Aqua_Geek 4 days ago replies      
If nothing else, the core team's decision to make it default has piqued my interest in learning CoffeeScript. Anyone know of any good resources off-hand to start digging in to it?

I assume their website is the best place to start... (http://www.coffeescript.org)

points by bonzoesc 4 days ago replies      
Is Rails 3.1 going to depend on having both a ruby interpreter and a JS interpreter (presumably node?) capable of running coffeescript installed?
points by nightlifelover 4 days ago replies      
Just wondering is there a framework like Rails written in JS? Using JavaScript and V8 on the server side makes a lot of sense since V8 is much faster then the Ruby interpreter..
points by jorangreef 3 days ago replies      
Rails 4.1 will drop Ruby and change the default language to Javascript. It's more DRY.
points by chubs 4 days ago replies      
That's fantastic news! I can't wait for coffee to become widespread.
points by kapso 4 days ago replies      
Did not see this coming. IMHO one problem does not kill another problem. Dont see CS as a solution at all.
points by hoopadoop 4 days ago replies      
There is going to be some overlap of concerns once all of Sproutcore has been integrated into JQuery.
points by jaekwon 4 days ago replies      
i know what i'm using for my next project now.
points by joubert 4 days ago replies      
Isn't CoffeeScript bad for perf on mobile because, for example, its extensive (over-)use of closures?
points by weixiyen 3 days ago replies      
On that note, why bother writing Ruby, just have CoffeeScript full-stack with CS compiling to Ruby. That way developers don't need to deal with 2 languages.
points by smoody 4 days ago replies      
IMHO, this smells like a marketing move -- in the same way that merging Rails and Merb was a (brilliant) marketing move. If Rails wants to stay "cool" (and if you believe that "cool" is a zero sum game), then Rails has to stay buzzword compliant. Yes, Rails has a lot of support but the Rails team isn't stupid and they know, by definition, that it's just a matter of years before Rails itself becomes something of a relic -- one kids know of only because their daddies and mommies used to use it.
Introducing Prompt. Nice SSH for iOS. panic.com
301 points by taylorbuley 3 days ago   139 comments top 23
points by jrockway 3 days ago replies      
So, as a UNIX hacker, here's what I don't get about the iOS community. There is way too much excitement over the simplest things ever. Let's break down some of the copy for this app:

Prompt is a clean, crisp, and cheerful SSH client

What does that mean? What does a clean ssh client do; not commit any protocol violations? What is crisp? When you bite into it, it's like a ripe apple? What does cheerful mean? Is the ssh client really happy that it can make a TCP connection to the intarwebs, especially for me?

What does this sentence mean to someone that wants to ssh from their phone?

it helps you when you need it, and stays out of your way when you don't

So when I want to be sshing, I can run it, and when I don't want to be sshing, I don't have to run it? Splendid. It works like every other computer program ever made.

Perfect for system administrators, web developers, movie-style hackers (“Let me just TCP/IP into the UNIX port!”), or any person who needs to connect remotely and type some magic.

So I googled for "ssh client", found your page, and you're telling me who uses ssh clients. How would you get to this page without knowing what ssh is, and how would you know what ssh is without needing to use it?

Anyway, a lot of happy-sounding words for ... a program that decrypts text from the Internet and writes it to the screen.

points by jimwise 3 days ago replies      
I'd been using touchterm for a while, and had experimented with other iOS ssh clients. They... worked, but the experience always felt a bit clunky.

I've been using prompt for a day now, and so far it feels better than the others. The app design feels really clean, the method of expanding the keyboard to handle modifier keys and frequently-used non-alpha keys works well without grabbing too much screen real estate (this is clearly visible in the screen shots for what it's worth).

Finally, the terminal emulation has been flawless for me so far. Emacs runs well (and is quite usable with Prompt's modifier key placement, unlike in other iOS ssh clients I'd tried; remember, folks, ESC is Meta, Meta is ESC). touchTerm had some screen lag/partial refresh issues for me with Emacs -- these may have been fixed in later versions, though, as I gave up at some point.

In short, I like it.

obDisclaimer: I don't know the developers. I don't have a dog in this fight. I do like the app. I'm not the only one who likes it though -- see the daringfireball take here:


points by ezy 3 days ago replies      
iSSH is still better. Especially on an iPad, and most definitely if you use a bluetooth keyboard once in a while [1]

Furthermore, I don't understand how someone could even make the remark that an ssh client reminds them of linux, and mean it negatively. :-) I certainly don't want an the equivalent IOS SSH client to the one Apple makes for OSX -- Terminal is rather shitty.

[1] BT keyboards on ipads don't support CTRL as a modifier for all keys, you have to create a workaround. So far, iSSH is the only app I've seen that has done it (By using option and remapping).

EDIT: Ga! Read the wrong tab.. was responding to Prompt and Grubers comments on it (re: linux), but this link points to the actual app. Just clearing that up... sorry.

points by rauljara 3 days ago replies      
Anyone downloaded this? Anyone have a sense of how it compares to any other ssh clients?

I was super excited when I downloaded TouchTerm, but it was just so difficult to do anything with it on my iPhone that I gave up, despite thinking it was very clever. The Prompt screenshots at least look a lot cleaner than TouchTerm's, but I don't want to go through another fit of excitement only to never actually use it.

points by ceejayoz 3 days ago replies      
Anyone got any ideas on getting a .pem key from EC2 into this? I got my non-EC2 id_rsa into it just fine, but .pems seem to disappear.
points by plusbryan 3 days ago replies      
Hey @panic - I love the shiny new products, but could you pretty please update Coda a bit? It used to be my favorite editor, but the lack of git is killing me!
points by doron 3 days ago replies      
Slightly off-topic
I couldn't find a free SSH Ios app.

not that 4-5$ is a big deal, but there are myriad of ssh clients for free on android, no doubt due to different clientele, and different developer sentiments.

points by reduxredacted 3 days ago replies      
I'm presently using iSSH, which supports port tunnels (SSH Port Forwarding as PuTTY calls it).

Could anyone enlighten me as to whether or not it supports SSH port forwarding and how well that works? iSSH works pretty well, but it pops up regularly warning that it's going to disconnect due to inactivity (despite the fact that I'm actively using the port tunnel to RDP into something).

points by twir 3 days ago replies      
ITT: pedantry over the words "clean, crisp, and cheerful."
points by justinxreese 3 days ago replies      
It's definitely one of the prettier SSH apps, but it faces the same barrier I've seen with other SSH apps - typing is too slow! It will sometimes be a full 2 seconds between when i finish a word and it starts appearing on the screen.

Has anyone else noticed this or found one that doesn't do this? I'm doing this on iPhone, maybe the iPad is better, but I don't see any reason why.

points by sigil 3 days ago replies      
Does anyone else have a major problem with the idea of using a closed-source SSH client? Even if it is App Store reviewed, I just can't bring myself to type production passwords into such a thing.

For this reason, and because I'd also like an on-the-go SSH client setup that works on other devices, it would be great to see a browser based terminal emulator and pty muxer like ajaxterm [1] really take off. It's almost there, but currently not so usable in mobile Safari.


points by krosaen 3 days ago replies      
A bit off topic but anyone know how they do the fancy header with the pushpin notes swaying forward as you hover over them?
points by cloudkj 3 days ago replies      
I was just looking for a simple SSH client for the iPhone today, and was disappointed that all the apps cost a few pretty pennies. Any recommendations on the SSH client(s) that will get me the best bang for my buck?

EDIT: I caved and just bought Prompt. It is indeed pretty slick, though I don't have other iOS SSH clients to compare it to. There does appear to be some bugs: I can't seem to "disconnect" from a session, even though it's already hung. The little "eject" icon in the servers list doesn't seem to work.

points by xuki 2 days ago replies      
I type "exit" and the app crashes. I think this is a feature.
points by twism 3 days ago replies      
Has anyone tried GNU Screen on this yet (before I plunk down the $5)? Thanks.
points by lordlarm 3 days ago replies      
The problem with ssh on iOS and then especially iPhone is the size of the screen. When I'm eg. connect to irssi I can maybe see one line of previous conversations.

And regarding 'Prompt', I dont see how Panic has made something 'new' here. There are several ssh clients with favorites, shortcuts and nice designs. Some are even free.

points by luckydude 3 days ago replies      
So I bought this, didn't much care for it, anyone care to tell me how to kill a connection?
points by cambriar 3 days ago replies      
I look forward to giving this a shot. I have been used to the Terminal application on my iPhone, even with the gestures, and it was never any fun to work with. I saw that you implemented arrows on the keyboard, and I was in. Thank you.

I believe this is my first Tier 5 purchase, I'm such a bum.

points by alexg0 3 days ago replies      
How is this different/better then iSSH?
points by askedrelic 3 days ago replies      
Does this have 256 color support? Anyone know of an iOS Terminal with 256 color support? Too much to ask for in a terminal? Heh.
points by mixmastamyk 3 days ago replies      
Thanks for the advertisement. Would be nice to have a free ssh client for ipad.
points by ignifero 3 days ago replies      
I wonder if this would get so upvoted if it was free.
points by chmike 3 days ago replies      
This looks like spam to me.
What was the code quality of the initial version of Google? quora.com
286 points by mlinsey 2 days ago   70 comments top 14
points by nostrademons 2 days ago replies      
The irony is that this is still going on at Google, and presumably everywhere else in the industry as well. Some new strong-willed engineer joins, takes a look at the code, declares "This is amateurish. We should be doing so much better," and then gets a whole bunch of people to rewrite it, usually in a different language, with a different style of coding.

I'll credit this with a major shift in my thinking about what constitutes "good" programming. From the outside, I looked at Google and thought "wow, they're accomplishing amazing things, they must have amazing engineering practices". And yeah, things are pretty rigorous...but what I found was that the people who were, by and large, responsible for all those amazing things didn't care. Most of them had fairly loose preferences for favorite programming languages, and favorite development methodologies, and basically ignored the fad du jour. What they did have was an obsessive focus on the user, and on getting things done so they could move on to get other things done. Navel-gazing about what language was best or whether we should be using OOP or how stupid the previous engineers were was generally reserved for the B-players. The As were thinking about how we could return results as you type, or how we could process real-time microblog feeds, or how we could expose new and potentially groundbreaking new features without losing millions of dollars from UI tweaks.

Basically, the code quality of the initial version was "good enough", as was the code quality of every subsequent version of Google (except when it wasn't, which is when it got rewritten), and that's all that mattered. As long as you can do useful things for the user, it doesn't matter whether your coworker thinks you're a 1337 hacker.

points by smoody 2 days ago replies      
I was developing an app in Java at the time (1996). The Java motto was "write once, run anywhere." (everywhere?) We used to say "write once, debug everywhere." It was a mess (granted, we were using it to build a client, not a server). A San Jose Mercury news reporter and asked Eric Schmidt (who was running the Java show at the time) to respond to my claim that Java was buggy and Eric Schmidt replied with something along the lines of "If it's crashing, then they must be bad programmers."

Of course I got the last laugh because he went on to become a billionaire. Wait a minute.... maybe he got the last laugh. Either way we're both laughing to this day.

points by sriramk 2 days ago replies      
Slightly tangential note. I read Steven Levy's book last week - it is a very good read. If you are even remotely interested in technology and entrepreneurship (which is probable give the site you are seeing this on :) ) - you should definitely go read this.

The parts on Google's early years are very nice. The chapter on Google in China is also phenomenal.

points by klochner 2 days ago replies      
The most surprising thing for me: python was much more stable then java at the time.

Checking wikipedia, python was released 4 years before java. I always just assumed python was a more recent language.

points by tokenadult 2 days ago replies      
An excerpt from the new book In the Plex by Steven Levy, quoted in the Quora post:

"Over the course of that two years Page and Brin had figured out Backrub's applicability to web search, failed to license the technology to Excite or Altavista, and had founded their own company."

I still remember the days when Altavista was the very best at Web search, and Excite had some features that made it worth checking as a plan B. It was near the end of the two years described in the excerpt when I started noticing Backrub regularly crawling my site, which used to rely primarily on Yahoo for online search referrals. I became a Google user as soon as the Web crawling from Google identified a site I could visit to see the sender of the Web crawler in action. I became hooked almost immediately, and started telling my friends about Google in online forums as I discovered more and more pleasantly surprising highly relevant results from searches I did. Too bad for Altavista and Excite that neither company grabbed PageRank and other Google technologies when they had the chance.

points by eneveu 2 days ago replies      
>What surprised me was that Larry Page had lots of trouble getting his crawler and indexer to work, partly because he was in Levy's words "not a world-class programmer" but also because of lots of bugs in the brand new and still unstable language he was using, which was called Java.

Reminded me of:


points by rdl 2 days ago replies      
I sort of miss the time when knowing how to use Google (and knowing to use Google at all) allowed you to be instantly 10-100x smarter and more productive than everyone else. (it still applies, just not in the tech industry; being able to google to find drivers for obscure industrial or enterprise computing hardware is sometimes a competitive advantage, but that's about the limit)
points by arfrank 2 days ago replies      
There are two excepts of the book at the bottom of the answer that also link to a free preview of the first chapter. I'd recommend reading the preview even if you don't plan on buying the book right now.



points by kenjackson 2 days ago replies      
Sold me on Levy's book.
points by cydonian_monk 2 days ago replies      

I don't recall the name, but I remember using something exactly like (the originally intended) Backrub my first year in the dorms (1996 or early 1997).  The program I was using was more of an overlay where you could draw on the page (using a simple MS-paint like UI) in addition to adding text annotations.  You could either keep the changes local, or share them on some central site.  It's downfall, as I recall, was threefold: buggy code, popularity, and the publicly annotated copies of popular websites turned into layer upon layer of graffiti.  Something like the original concept for PageRank as mentioned would've been perfect. 

It was a neat concept, but really only practical (as implemented) for the static web.  It died long before dynamic page generation became widespread.  (I just can't remember the name of it! :) )

points by dillona 2 days ago replies      
What did they switch to after Python wouldn't scale?
points by gromy 1 day ago replies      
“Larry Page's grad school project was initially designed to be a way for users to make comments and annotations on web pages.”

Google has been trying to learn social since before its inception.

points by nikcub 1 day ago replies      
If this was an ad for the book then it worked, just bought it and am reading it now - fantastic so far
points by fedd 21 hours ago replies      
the article makes the day i ship my shit be the next week, not next month
Cellular Automaton Music Generator earslap.com
278 points by travisglines 1 day ago   49 comments top 28
points by bhrgunatha 23 hours ago replies      
points by wheels 1 day ago replies      
This is pretty neat, but the idea is by no means new:


points by peregrine 22 hours ago replies      
http://earslap.com/projectslab/otomata/?q=2e3e4e5e6e7u8s8h8z... Making things not only auditory appealing but visually appealing also. This one has some interesting patterns.
points by zmitri 17 hours ago replies      
Starting working on a JS version so I can use it on an iPad. It's pretty rough right now, but on its way. Need to add in the html5 audio and more complete collision detection. http://www.zmitri.com/static/automataJS.html
points by bajsejohannes 1 day ago replies      
This seems like a great idea for background music for a game. Repetition shouldn't be a problem at least.
points by agscala 21 hours ago replies      
What part of music theory is applied to something to like this which makes all of the tones sounds very nice with each other?
points by wallflower 1 day ago replies      
See also: Wolfram's Tones


points by scythe 1 day ago replies      
A surprisingly short loop:


and some lame attempt at "chaos":


(though of course these are just finite state machines and they all loop eventually)

points by Flow 1 day ago replies      
This was very interesting, look what I made after 5 mins of tinkering: http://earslap.com/projectslab/otomata/?q=06020n0j89796949
points by simcop2387 9 hours ago replies      

made this one by playing with the url itself. interesting format, each note is two characters describing X position and Y+direction it looks like so XYXYXYXY.

I built a table of the Y, the X are just 0 indexed numbers

0 qwer
1 tyui
2 opas
3 dfgh
4 jklz
5 xcvb
6 nm01
7 2345
8 6789

points by trafficlight 1 day ago replies      
I want this as a VST.
points by nazgulnarsil 15 hours ago replies      
I accidentally created my most interesting one the first time and lost it forever.
points by bgraves 1 day ago replies      
This is a really great project!
Here's one that I made:
points by d0m 1 day ago replies      
Awesome; only suggestion I might add is a way to step back - or go to beginning (without copying the link I guess)
points by babyshake 1 day ago replies      
Is there any way to interact with this programmatically via SetVariable calls made in javascript? I have some ideas for alternate input methods...
points by evolvingstuff 1 day ago replies      
This is quite fun to play around with! Many of the other CA-based music generators I've seen have sounded rather atonal and random compared to this one. Here's one I made using symmetric initial conditions (doing this makes for somewhat interesting visual patterns as well): http://www.earslap.com/projectslab/otomata?q=0q1q2q3q8w8y8p8...
points by deathbob 1 day ago replies      
What a beautiful and fun idea.

Here's one I did that develops really nicely.


points by SeanDav 1 day ago replies      
Really pleasing sound and interesting idea!
points by mitko 1 day ago replies      
Thanks a lot - this is the first time I actually create a melody that sounds good and it is sooo easy
points by bf84 1 day ago replies      
Very nice!

I remember Native Instruments had a Game of Life-based drum pattern sequencer in one of their Reaktor packages.

points by wbhart 1 day ago replies      

It would be really cool to be able to change the number of rows and columns and also the instruments and tones/chords for each row/column.

It's fun opening more than one browser tab and having more than one of these going at once. I refer you to my comment about needing to be able to change the instruments.

points by mmcdan 1 day ago replies      
I hope this gets made into an iphone/android app. I would definitely play around with this on long trips.
points by rasur 1 day ago replies      
Some excellent work there, and interesting Supercollider projects too. Nice one!
points by nphase 1 day ago replies      
I want this as a monome app.
points by mkrecny 1 day ago replies      
This is awesome!
Show HN: Let's end the Programmer Salary Taboo salaryshare.me
270 points by rglullis 4 days ago   147 comments top 42
points by rglullis 4 days ago replies      
After the discussion yesterday about how hard it is to know if your salary is comparable to your co-workers, and inspired by nostromo's "trick" (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2439443), I decided to implement a website where everyone can compare notes, without having to disclose personal info.

It works by creating "salary pools". When you create a pool you get an unguessable URL (e.g, I created a pool at http://salaryshare.me/8a6e32dd8c9166905db6cfd588044bad). Share that URL with everyone that you want to participate, and after a minimum number of people have given in their salaries, the results are disclosed.

Apply any standard disclaimers that should apply for an application developed in less than 6 hours.

points by Sukotto 4 days ago replies      
This looks great.

Ideas for the future...

  - improve formatting of the list (right justify numbers 
for example)
- slider to allow us to cut off low and high outliers
when looking at averages/charts/etc
- display mean/mode/median/stdev [1] (which take into
account above filtering)
- chart results
- ability to add a timeout for entries (only accept new
salaries for X days before locking)
- countdown timer on entry page
- ability to send semi-anonymous invites from within the
- allow tags or something for the user starting the
survey to add things like industry, general location,
- allow OP to write a brief blurb about what to include.
for example, "base salary only", "salary plus expected

This kind of data can be extremely valuable if you can convince your users their privacy is secure and likewise convince your clients (job boards and the like) that it's accurate.

[edit]... I see you're a job posting company so I guess you already know how valuable this sort of info is[/edit]

[1] Nice article on averages (if you're not already familiar with the pros and cons of the different types: http://betterexplained.com/articles/how-to-analyze-data-usin...

points by zipdog 4 days ago replies      
Who defines the 'minimum number of people'? If it's not user-defined, I think you should make it clear what that value is. Otherwise, if I share this to my team of 7, but the minimum is 8, we'll never know.

For smaller groups, you could add an option to show only the average, not the salaries. Then with as few as 3 people it would be reasonable to disclose the value.

points by mbowcock 4 days ago replies      
HN Salary Pool


If any ones interested.

points by mtalantikite 4 days ago replies      
I've had something like this in the back of my head for a while, glad to see someone implement it.

One thing though is how do you suggest getting people to join the pool? Pass the link around? You might not want to get caught as a ring leader on something like this, or even as a participent, as some companies really hate salary sharing.

points by JoachimSchipper 4 days ago replies      
Nice idea, but I'd want to e.g. wait a day/week/month and then disclose all salaries and close the pool. After all, salaries added after the pool has been opened are much less private.
points by shawndumas 4 days ago replies      
A few stats and graphs won't hurt; but it's great for 6hrs.
points by timrobinson 4 days ago replies      
> US Dollars, please

But I get paid in pounds sterling. Can't this just be a free-form text field?

points by mesmerized 4 days ago replies      
What's stopping someone from sending a link, then entering a bunch of fake salaries (by clearing cookies), to find out co-worker's salary (not one of the ones you entered, though they may all appear legit).
points by landhar 4 days ago replies      
Good idea.

Here's a suggestion, the numbers on the list should match a rank, eg:

  1. $10
1. $10
3. $8
4. $7
4. $7
4. $7
7. $2

This will make it more relevant when looking how high up on the list your annual salary is.

Edit: fixed formatting.
Edit2: corrected the ranking as suggested by SimonPStevens

points by andywood 4 days ago replies      
Developers at BigCo (Microsoft/Amazon/Google...): http://salaryshare.me/0c844406ed64408ec6ccb6cfa59f83e5
points by urza 4 days ago replies      
feature request:

* "show results only" - I would like to see results of pools that people are posting links to (without having to "make up" something first)

* other currencies - there are also other countries then USA

* global public pool + allow to submit some more info

points by emehrkay 4 days ago replies      
points by mildweed 4 days ago replies      
points by rickmode 4 days ago replies      
Has any tech company used fully disclosed salaries as described in Mavrick [1][2]? It's an intriguing idea.

Mavrick describes how all salaries were publicly posted. People see exactly where they are in relation to others. Of course this created tension at first, but eventually things settled. The magic happens during hiring. An open position's salary is also public, and everyone on an interview panel naturally ranks candidates versus current employees. Is the candidate better than Joe? She better be because she'll be making more than Joe.

Has anyone heard of a tech company doing something like this?

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maverick_(book)

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Maverick-Success-Behind-Unusual-Workpl...

points by klochner 4 days ago replies      
How about listing public pools on the front page (and giving the option to make a pool public)
points by paradox95 4 days ago replies      
The anonymity doesn't really translate to start ups where there are < 100 employees. I work in an office with 10 people. If everyone posted their salary I would be able to easily guess who posted what. I'd much rather a site lik http://www.ackwire.com/ posted on HN a couple months ago).
points by trusko 3 days ago replies      
I don't agree with comparisons like that. I had two developers one making $10k more that the other, both about the same quality I would say. I didn't set their salaries, they had salaries negotiated when they joined the company. I thought it was unfair. It's not. Everybody has different skills, work ethics, productivity and on top of that expectations. The guy with $70k always complained about salary while $60k guy was completely happy.

It's up to everybody to negotiate salary that makes them happy, if you are not able to move on somewhere else where somebody will pay you what you are asking for.

However, putting all this aside, this application could be useful in environments where you have at least 5-10 people with the same skills, seniority, productivity, otherwise you are comparing apples and oranges.

Also, a lot of companies prohibit you from discussing your salary with other co-workers or not?

points by hiroprot 4 days ago replies      
Sorry, didn't do it for me. I was at first confused by the "give it a name", then it took me to another page and I lost interest.

Why not just a simple form that lets you enter your salary, and provide some optional info that will only be revealed to people you choose?

points by tlrobinson 4 days ago replies      
Perhaps make a public version that asks for more information and automatically generate pools when enough have submitted data for a particular segment (company, location, title, years experience, degree, etc
points by latch 4 days ago replies      
right align the numbers in the results, and don't make the list numbers mess with alignment. see the HN list for an example of how the mis-alignment makes it unecessarily difficult to scan/compare


points by levirosol 4 days ago replies      
Why not throw a couple ads on this and monetize your efforts? Job placement / recruiting ads bring great money.
points by ad80 4 days ago replies      
Nice idea. Topic will always bring hot debates, but glassdoor is doing a pretty good job.

Apologies for a bit off topic, but I built a bit different site in Poland, where you can actually vote on salaries for job offers based on the location / job content / role / company name (if known) for job offers from various websites, where in salary field it says "atractive" or "high" etc. Have a look http://www.jakapensja.pl (in Polish)

points by pmb 4 days ago replies      
CS Academia - young professors and postdocs - http://salaryshare.me/aa134b0ded8013e4d211e1abdc5eb8ac
points by elai 4 days ago replies      
SF/Bay Area iPhone Developers (put 22 if you just want to see the results)


points by hammock 4 days ago replies      
Put your bugs on this thread.

Submit button does not work in IE7

points by notJim 4 days ago replies      
points by kunjaan 4 days ago replies      
Software Engineer I or Entry Level Software engineer in Boston :


points by turnersauce 4 days ago replies      
Grad students: (not that our salaries are all that secret...)
points by whatusername 4 days ago replies      
Austrlians: http://salaryshare.me/34675bce652fe030839ff6d0fa349647

Assume Parity with $USD to make it easier

points by jsherry 4 days ago replies      
Very cool. Might be interesting to collect age, years of experience and perhaps company while you're at it so you can see a nice distribution. This might destroy some anonymity amongst a close group of friends, but amongst a diverse anonymous crowd such as HN it would be interesting.
points by Sandman 4 days ago replies      
points by evoltix 4 days ago replies      
Nice solution to a known problem. The app is simplistic and doesn't really need to collect any more information. As long as people enter accurate salaries then this should prove useful. Good job.
points by hanchang 3 days ago replies      
The site is awesome, I did basically nostromo's trick with my colleagues in the past and found that I had the highest salary by a reasonable margin but was the newest hire. Ah, the joys of negotiation... A webapp would be great for more distributed teams though!

Me and a couple of buddies made a basic version of Glassdoor back in college before they existed. It's called FuelForHire but it never took off because we never marketed it. I'm promoting it now in hopes it helps people figure out their salary, and on top of that it contains reviews of the hiring process, compensation package, and work environment to give the numbers some context. We DO NOT require you to write a review in order to view one like Glassdoor does, so stop by and take a look, although we'd love it if you did write a review!


It's probably better suited for people to talk about their experiences at past companies instead of their current employer especially if you're paranoid about your anonymity but feel free to use as you see fit.

Again, the site was made 3 years ago when I was young and stupid, so there are a lot of issues (plaintext passwords, anyone?). If there's significant interest I'll start fixing them right away. Check it out:


points by codexon 4 days ago replies      
Without verifying anyone's identity, couldn't the boss just flood the pool with low salaries?
points by fapi1974 4 days ago replies      
www.glassdoor.com does this pretty well...
points by JohnIdol 4 days ago replies      
Nice one. Other than secret pools, it would be very interesting to have a global pool where people could indicate country, years of commercial experience and salary.
points by yuhong 4 days ago replies      
Great workaround, but ultimately I'd still want the cause fixed.
points by markdennehy 4 days ago replies      
How's this different from Glassdoor.com?
points by goldmab 4 days ago replies      
It looks like a lot of people are entering zero just so they can see the results of some pools.
points by njharman 4 days ago replies      
this site pre-existed, glass cieling or something like that.
Online Cash Bitcoin could Challenge Governments, Banks time.com
269 points by kiba 1 day ago   207 comments top 27
points by sage_joch 1 day ago replies      
I think the main takeaway is that governments are making a strong case for an alternative, decentralized currency:

  * preventing transactions they don't agree with
* inflating savings away
* freezing bank accounts of adversaries
* seizing cash at security checkpoints

points by tarkin2 1 day ago replies      
I don't think Bitcoin solves the main problem of new currencies: confidence of their acceptance.

John Law introduced paper money into France by getting the government to accept it for paying taxes. Every Frenchman and woman was confident the state, no matter who took over, would still collect taxes. And the state, knowing the currency was valuable to everyone--even foreigners, could also use it.

Where's my confidence that people will desire a bitcoin in future? Even if, say, every Starbucks in every country started accepting them, it'd only be as valuable as the trend for coffee and the stability of Starbucks. Could I, when planning a mortgage, bet on Starbucks' popularity over 25 years?

I can see how game currencies can come about. But the market for these games is limited and ephemeral in the long run. If you want to compete with banks, you need to think about long term confidence. I've yet to hear how Bitcoin, or any other startup currency, solves this problem.

points by ZitchDog 1 day ago replies      
Bitcoin is a fantastic idea, with one crucial mistake: the finite nature of bitcoins. The fact that coins will one day "run out" will almost certainly lead to increased speculation, which will in turn lead to a deflationary spiral, followed by a "bubble burst" when speculators sell all their bitcoins and average coin holders are left holding the bag.

Infinite coins would tie the value to the opportunity cost of computation, which is actually a really cool idea. Inflation based on the log of moore's law would ensure a steady inflationary rate based on computing power. This would deter speculators and incentivize innovation in computing power in order to more efficiently mine currency.

My hunch is that an uncapped bitcoin competitor would have a more difficult time getting off the ground, since the finite nature of bitcoins favors the first mover.

points by cookiecaper 1 day ago replies      
Bitcoin is awesome because it stands to make electronic payments extremely easy without any hassle from banks or outsiders. No more e-commerce hassles like a merchant account or payment gateway.

The anonymity is less strong than many initially presume since ALL PAYMENTS ARE PUBLICLY REGISTERED, including the payment chain. This is why it's important to generate a new btc receiving address whenever you perform a new transaction. The entire exchange history of that bitcoin is public knowledge, from the day it was generated until the very last transaction. Hence, if you use a bitcoin that was sent to a publicly disclosed address to pay for something, that transaction is linked to you forever. So people need to be careful about how they use which bitcoins, and the client doesn't really make that easy.

There really is a lot of potential in btc, I've been excited about it since I first learned of it, though as soon as the government catches on they will outlaw it (if they can't find a current law to justify prosecution and/or destruction of the btc network, which is doubtful) and do everything possible to destroy it. They won't like it at all, and neither will the banks that even btc users rely on to store their country's regularly denominated currency. I am scared and interested to see what happens to btc as demand rises.

points by gaius 1 day ago replies      
This is what happens when you challenge governments and banks: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2451302
points by gte910h 1 day ago replies      
To me this press effort always seems like just people who already have bitcoins trying to get buyers to raise the price of the currency.
points by AndrewMoffat 1 day ago replies      
Why is Bitcoin a good currency again? If I understand how it is distributed correctly, those with higher/more computational power receive more of the finite bitcoins. How does that not favor the already rich?
points by clistctrl 1 day ago replies      
Bitcoin is pretty sweet, but its extremely confusing. I barely understand it, and i'm an extremely technical user. I think people need to work harder on bringing down the complexity.
points by originalgeek 1 day ago replies      
> Because Bitcoin is an open-source project, and because the database exists only in the distributed peer-to-peer network created by its users, there is no Bitcoin company to raid, subpoena or shut down.

Which will leave only Bitcoin users to raid, subpoena and shut down.

points by AndrewMoffat 1 day ago replies      
There's some great discussions going on in the Economics section of their forums: http://www.bitcoin.org/smf/index.php?board=7.0
points by mshron 1 day ago replies      
As far as I can tell, the only way to actually stay anonymous and have a foothold in the bitcoin economy would be to exchange bitcoins for cash in person with someone.

Even then, once you tried to combine that account with any other you owned that was traceable to you (record in an exchange, email sent to a client containing your bitcoin address) it would be easy to link them together, since the entire ledger is public.

I guess what I'm saying is that your level of sophistication to stay anonymous would have to rise along with the sophistication of an attacker, which is not immediately obvious from these glowing articles on Bitcoin.

points by cookiecaper 1 day ago replies      
Every time btc gets press mtgox jumps. We were looking at averages between 70 and 80c / btc, now it's up to $1.11. I would encourage people to let the furor die down a bit before investing in bitcoins, until they're back in the 80-90c range at least.
points by ender7 1 day ago replies      
Bitcoin is both a really great idea, and a really stupid idea.

sage_joch has already pointed out the reasons why it's a really cool idea.

It's also flawed in a number of ways. First, the limited supply means that you've essentially just created an electronic version of gold. It's more easily tradeable, but its behavior as a commodity will be similar.

If you like investing in gold, that's great. I guess.

Second, bitcoins do not necessarily remove the issue of paying a fee for transactions. Instead of paying a fee per transaction, you will instead pay a fee in order to transform normal currency into bitcoins (this is not as readily apparent now, but if the system ever becomes large enough to actually have stable value, then you will need to pay someone to convert real currency to bitcoins). Will this be cheaper than credit-card fees? Probably? Keep in mind that credit card companies are offering just that: credit, which is a service. Someone has to pay for it (either you, the merchant, or the marketers who they sell your buying profile to).

Third, bitcoins ignore the fact that national currencies are an incredibly valuable tool for modern governments. They can of course be misused (see: Argentina, post-WWI Germany), but adjusting the value of your currency is one of few ways of improving your country's competitiveness globally (see: the trouble Ireland, Greece, and other European nations have had recently because they do not have control over the Euro). So, don't expect national currencies to go away, or become obsolete.

Perhaps the Bitcoin community has an answer for these concerns...

points by euroclydon 1 day ago replies      
I have a hard time getting excited about a currency when the main reasons given for it's existence are for online gambling and Wikileak donations. I would be excited about a dollar alternative that allowed the common person to protect themselves from the inflationary rot that the US Congress is hell-bent on subjecting us to.
points by patja 1 day ago replies      
Good recent Bitcoin podcast interview on Econtalk: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2011/04/andresen_on_bit.htm...
points by pnathan 1 day ago replies      
Bitcoin is really cool.

I just wish I knew what to sell to get some. My dabbling with mining bitcoins has convinced me it requires a on-all-the-time setup to mine with any prayer of success.

Last time I looked, there didn't seem to be a real economy, just people trading bitcoins. ~.~

points by euccastro 1 day ago replies      
Not arguments, but advice: RTFA.
points by kragen 1 day ago replies      
Oh shit. I guess that's the end of the road for Bitcoin, eh? No way governments and banks are going to let it live now that Time says it "could challenge" them.
points by rick888 21 hours ago replies      
What's to stop someone from taking apart the software/building rogue software and generating their own bitcoins without going through any of the complicated math calculations?

If they can't, then there must be some central authority preventing this..which means it's no different than the government

It also doesn't really help with privacy. In fact, it does the exact opposite:

Taken from: http://www.bitcoin.org/smf/index.php?topic=5907.0

"Every bitcoin transaction ever made is public, and the life of every bitcoin is fully recorded in public for all to see,"

points by iterationx 1 day ago replies      
>>Intermediaries as Choke Points

Interesting to see an article using network theory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choke_point

points by barmstrong 1 day ago replies      
Just realized, BitCoin could become a force to recon with overnight if just one step happened: Paypal started supporting BitCoin.

Peter Thiel is a libertarian and seems like he would be very sympathetic to the idea - who knows, crazier things have happened.

points by nabilt 1 day ago replies      
Great article that explains the basic technology and it's potential impact. Great link to send to some of your non-tech friends.
points by thedaveoflife 1 day ago replies      
Money is fiction. The value of money is derived from trust in the central authority that creates it. Therefore I think an entity like Bitcoin (though not necessarily Bitcoin itself) could conceivably come to replace federal currency because its source is not human beings, but an unflappable algorithm.
points by DiabloD3 1 day ago replies      
For those that think Bitcoin has no purpose, what about all the small time FOSS authors out there who are, frankly, scared shitless of Paypal coming in and closing their account?

Bitcoin is perfect for stuff like this.

And if you think Bitcoin is a waste, feel free to send your coins to 1DbeWKCxnVCt3sRaSAmZLoboqr8pVyFzP1

points by known 1 day ago replies      
Sounds like computerized http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawala
points by known 1 day ago replies      
http://www.weusecoins.com/ for the beginners
points by waynerad 1 day ago replies      
Someone tell my why the US government can't just demand ISP's block the protocol that Bitcoin uses?
Living in the zone jacquesmattheij.com
271 points by swombat 2 days ago   82 comments top 37
points by edw519 2 days ago replies      
Once you realize this you try to replicate the conditions that lead to is.

"Replicating conditions" rarely works for me. No matter how much I stage the room, the lighting, the time of day, my mood, etc., it doesn't seem to matter. Why? Because I'm focusing on byproducts, not the real thing. The only way I can get back into the zone is to work on "zone appropriate" work that is "zone ready". Call it whatever you want: the most important thing, the critical path, the lowest building block, etc. It needs to be ready to be worked on (all the prerequisites done) and I need to be ready to work on it. Necessary and sufficient conditions.

One thing that struck me the other day is that when I'm interrupted by a living human being when in the zone I'm probably not the nicest person to be around.

That's OK, because you're not yourself anyway. You're some other persona living in the body you share. Sometimes I think I have multiple personality disorder, my personalities are "me in the zone" and "me not in the zone". We both know each other exists, we respect each other, but we have never met.

Total immersion is a powerful tool, it makes it possible to achieve things that are normally at or just beyond what I could do in a regular work setting.

I'll take it a step further: it's the only way to get some things done. Sometimes I look at some work that I did and I can't believe I did it. (Worse, I wonder how I'll ever do something at that level again.) Then I realize that I was in the zone when I did it and all I have to do is return to the zone and trust that my other persona takes over. You don't have to be able to build something right now, you just have to believe that it's possible for you to build it when you're in the zone.

Nice post, Jacques. A few other things that may be helping:

  - I do all my work in my private home office.
- no land line
- only 6 people have my cell phone number for emergencies only
- no texting
- no chat
- I only check email in batches
- I only check Hacker News in batches
- L-shaped desk, single 19" monitor
- great office chair
- 3 kinds of light: natural, overhead, and task
- green & black full screen Textpad editor
- alt-tab to full screen test session
- windows open all year round (in winter it gets cold)
- sweat suit in winter, gym clothes in summer
- I work on only one thing: the most important.
- When I'm stuck, I go away from the computer.
- I always have pen & pad nearby. Always.
- Certain foods & drink help - this changes and is tricky.
- I face the door.
- I face southwest in every desk I've ever had. (I don't know why.)
- Cats remind me I'm not alone, but don't interrupt (much).
- SO knows: If I'm typing & looking at screen: don't interrupt!

points by lionhearted 2 days ago replies      
Very, very good post.

Some other thoughts -

If you notice some habitual thing you do when feeling initial frustration (surf to a website, turn on the TV, whatever) - then try changing your environment slightly to make it harder. If you use Google Chrome, delete or move a site you go to habitually. This can help a lot for not bailing out during that first 15-30 minutes of warmup when working on something a little frustrating and a little beyond current skill level.

Silence is good, but if you have a hard time finding it, try to find music that drowns out the outside world for you. Electronic music helps me - a nice mix of Benny Benassi, David Guetta, or John Digweed and I can ignore background noise. Also, if lyrics distract you and you like electronic, maybe try looking up some "minimal techno" - it's kind of weird, but very cerebral. I work very well to it, it's zone-getting-into music for me.

Silence or kill your phone entirely.

Make very clear to people when you're about to work on something important and don't want your concentration broken, let them know you're going to be an angry cave bear woken up from hibernation if they bother you, and let them know exactly what to bother you on - "Don't disturb me from working unless something is on fire, and maybe not even then" tends to get the point across.

Also, you've kind of got to regular your caffeine/sugar/food a little bit so you don't totally spike and crash. It takes a while to get this down, but there's very few things that are as much of a bummer as having your blood sugar crash, caffeine withdrawl, and hunger kick in all at the same time when you were doing good work. Knowing your own rhythms and eating/drinking/caffeinating intelligently during your work helps a lot.

points by zyfo 2 days ago replies      
What he describes seems to be the same as flow
...the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

For tips on how to create the zone that OP is talking about, read the wikipedia article [1]. The book Flow by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi [2] is also highly recommended.

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)#Components_of...

2: http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Psychology-Experience-Mihaly-Csik...

points by MortenK 2 days ago replies      
There is a psychological term for that state of mind, which I'm sure most of the readers here know already. It's been investigated thoroughly by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (try saying that 3 times fast).

It's called Flow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29) and to me is a really interesting topic, as well as a mental state I'm sure most programmers are experiencing regularly. At least unless they are sitting in a hectic environment, like say, a home office with 3 cats and a frequently insisting girlfriend (theoretical example).

points by pmjoyce 2 days ago replies      
Interruptions collapsing the mental model into fragments reminds me of a pg quote about interruptions that has always chimed with me.

But the time quantum for hacking is very long: it might take an hour just to load a problem into your head. So the cost of having someone from personnel call you about a form you forgot to fill out can be huge.

This is why hackers give you such a baleful stare as they turn from their screen to answer your question. Inside their heads a giant house of cards is tottering.


points by billybob 2 days ago replies      
"An interruption - no matter how short or slight - collapses that whole mental model in fragments on the floor. I literally have to re-build it before I can continue to work and that typically takes anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour."

One thing that helps me with this is to "sketch out" my plan in comments before I start. That way, if I get interrupted, I have comments to jog my memory of what I was doing.

This also helps when I have to chase a rabbit trail. Maybe my comment for a particular step just says "capture the substring and replace it with foo," but to actually do that, I have to look up the method documentation. When I finish with that detail, I don't want to have to say "now where was I?" My next comment helps me get back on track.

points by geoffw8 2 days ago replies      
I have this, and I'm not a coder. I started life as a designer, working on mobile campaigns and the similar. When I came out of this "constantly sit in Photoshop" mode, I found it really hard to work. In a management role its impossible to have a "zone" thats comparable to my Photoshop days.

I beat myself up because sometimes I don't feel like I'm working hard enough, whereas what I actually think is happening is my brain has associated "working hard" with being in "the zone" - something I find hard to do with this type of work.

I'm currently sitting in Photoshop doing some logo resizing for our homepage, and its nice being "back in the zone"!

points by michaelochurch 2 days ago replies      
I don't think flow is some sacred state that requires specific conditions for most people, and I don't think it's broken by bathroom breaks, fetching coffee, or even short, rote social pleasantries. Most people can achieve it.

As for flow, I think it's like sleep in its onset. You can't force yourself into the state, but if you make the conditions right, it'll usually start in 10 minutes and fully set in within 40-60.

What makes flow impossible in most work environments is arrogant, short-sighted managers (there, I said it) who ask for detailed, impromptu status reports several times a day. They're so used to email clients and web services that can be checked 33 times per day, with no degradation in performance, that they think they can pull that shit off on the people working for them, and it's not that way. Establish a sane, regular reporting schedule and fucking stick to it.

points by chegra 2 days ago replies      
I don't know if any of y'all picked it up, but I personally find I'm way more productive when I was at school than when I'm working. I think this can be attributed to work environments tend not to afford you the luxury of a quiet environment.

I think one of problems with the work environment is that they don't know how much they leave on the table because of the environment, and without a cost, there can be no cost/benefit and no impetus to change.

points by snikolic 2 days ago replies      
I've recently started using VMs to help get me into my zone faster and keep me there longer. I keep a separate VM for each project I'm working on, and I keep all other activities (browsing, music, chat, etc.) out of them. I've found a few advantages:

1) Easier to get into my work. When I restore a VM, it's still in the exact state it was in the last time I worked on that project. Terminals open, commands still partially typed in, working files open, notes typed to myself, docs/references still open, etc.

2) Easier to avoid distractions. The logical sandboxing of work and play has really been helpful for me - once that VM opens up, everything else gets hidden and drowned out. There is no temptation to "just peak at HN" - I'm either completely in my work VM or completely out of it. When the divide between work and play is blurry, I err, but this keeps that divide very crystal clear.

3) It's easy to recover from distractions when they do occur (and they are inevitable). I just minimize the entire VM I'm working in, and all of my work is kept in its exact state: positioning of windows, files open, etc.

points by fdb 2 days ago replies      
The book "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning", by Andy Hunt of the Pragmatic Programmers, talks at length about managing focus. It also includes techniques for improving learning, gaining experience and even meditation techniques.


points by atlei 2 days ago replies      
Two golden oldies by Joel Spolsky:

Where do These People Get Their (Unoriginal) Ideas?

- http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000068.html

Human Task Switches Considered Harmful

- http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000022.html

+1 to "Flow" by Csikszentmihalyi

points by tejaswiy 2 days ago replies      
It's interesting that you mention multiple monitors. Despite all cases made for programmer productivity and screen real-estate, I find that having a browser window up, starting at me in my second monitor while I try to code on my main screen is incredibly distracting. I've yet to figure out how to use the browser purely for work related stuff without hopping on YC / Reddit to see what's happening, so I'm just going with single monitor for now.
points by MatthewPhillips 2 days ago replies      
Let me add that it must be a desktop computer. I don't want a laptop with its wide screen, its trackpad, or its keyboard that I have to adjust to rather than it adjusting to me.

A second monitor will make me 10% more productive but I can live without it if I have to. Give me a laptop and my productivity falls to a crawl.

For me the zone happens somewhat randomly. If I tell myself that I'm going on a programming binge after work I'm probably not. I'll find some excuse, pick up a 6 pack and watch a baseball game or something. But if I read about some new library or a new technique, I'll often pop open a text editor and play around with it. Next thing I know I've decided to use it instead of some other library than I previously was working with, and have completely replaced the code in a couple of hours.

points by Swizec 2 days ago replies      
My process of getting into the zone is completely different. I absolutely need my environment to be chaotic and random. I'm always on the hunt for my "coding mojo".

This usually means changing the desk I work at every few weeks, possibly going to a sofa for a few days. Today I even went to work at a coffee shop despite having a readily available office. It's just too boring there.

Another thing I seem to need is enough low-grade internet to quickly refresh my mind when I get stuck on a problem. It lets me delegate whatever I'm thinking to the back of my mind while I mindlessly surf the internets until the problem is suddenly solved and I can get back to work.

points by daoudc 2 days ago replies      
I almost missed my train stop yesterday because of this. I think the train works particularly well for me because:

  - It's a routine, so I can plan a difficult job to work on
as I'm walking to the station
- There's no internet, so no HN/other distractions
- It's normally quiet

One thing I've noticed is that I can only get into the zone if I've got a hard enough problem to work on. I don't seem to be able to do lots of easy problems as efficiently as one large one.

points by leftnode 2 days ago replies      
I moved to a new laptop and it's really helped me get back into the zone more frequently and easier. The reason is that I haven't set up my Bookmark Toolbar in Firefox, so going to Reddit/HN/SomethingAwful isn't just a click a way and it's not always visible. Throw in an F11 with multiple desktops to tab between (first has a full screen shell, second is my editor, third is my browser) and it makes for an incredibly productive environment.
points by humj 2 days ago replies      
The zone is something I'm very familiar with and have been aware of for a long time, even before programming. To me, the zone is a product, not only of complex problem-solving, but also, high creativity (but perhaps these are one and the same). By day, I'm an architect (as in physical buildings), and I often find myself in the zone particularly in early design, when thinking very big picture and developing new concepts; asking myself questions like..
- what are the different components of hte project
- how do they relate to each other
- how do they fit into the existing infrastructure
- how does it change the existing
- what is the experience of each type of user
- how do these experience differ from expectation (good or bad)
- how do these new relationships and interactiosn affect the business model

just to name a few... So these are a lot of questions to handle all at once. I find myself asking suprisingly similar questions now that I'm coding/designing. The basic principles of physical space don't differ much from web space. My analogy for this sort of juggling is an image of a person standing one-legged on a ball with a stack of plates on his head and juggling an array of different objects.

When I'm in the zone, my mind is hyper-extended and I tune everything else out. I often won't even answer someone who comes up to speak to me. In college, my mother would call me and I wouldn't answer for hours. She'd get angry and say.. you couldn't spare 5 minutes? 5 minutes means having to drop all the things I'm juggling, fall off the ball and break the stack of plates on my head.

In the most extreme cases, when in the zone for extended periods of time, I've forgone eating and sleeping (no caffeine needed in the zone), without any ill effects until snapping out of zone, which ends in a crash.

points by BasDirks 2 days ago replies      
When I have been zoning for 4+ hours, I often dream about vim and data structures. Same thing with chess, not joking.
points by Afton 2 days ago replies      
stands up

Hi. I'm a programmer who's never been in the zone (as I understand it). This is in spite of being engaged in my work, and vigorous efforts to improve my practice.

I wonder how many of us there are.

points by hallowtech 2 days ago replies      
My zone is best found between 7pm to 5am, usually on the couch with the laptop, and some easy to zone out tv series playing in the background. I think I've played through the Highlander and 4400 series several times just writing code. Its easier if you've already seen it, so its not really an interruption, but rather a way to keep from burning out on just staring at the computer screen.
points by gvnonor 2 days ago replies      
Being in the zone is more acute and recognizable when one plays an outdoor sport for a moderate period of time. I used to play tennis competitively and I could clearly tell when I was in the zone. It would be amazing, I would feel like I could take on anything my opponent would throw at me and without even breaking a sweat. I would expend very little effort but still end up playing the best tennis of my life.

In programming, I doubt if it's as easily discernible. I've been programming for a few years and had a few productive stretches coding 8-10 hours at a time(with small breaks in between of course), but never felt like I was in the zone even once.

points by ollysb 1 day ago replies      
I've realised that lately I don't really code in the zone anymore. My workflow is completely tied to testing. Spec, red, code, green and the code just grows and adapts. All consuming flow is now very hard to achieve, there's simply too much time waiting for the computer to run tests, it's the stuttered conversation of a satellite phone. On the other hand it's far easier to return to work. Distractions used to feel like being forced to stop whilst cycling up a steep hill. Now the pace feels slower but it's steadier and more controlled.

I miss those old sessions. Lost in my own world, code flying out for hours at a time sometimes straying far from the next compile but certain that if I just kept hacking there would be a glorious moment when it burst into life. I wouldn't go back now though, the red, green has me. I'll just have to wait for that cloud editor I'm longing for, the one that'll run tests instantly as I type.

points by kitsune_ 2 days ago replies      
Regarding "the zone" and "uninterruptability": I often wonder whether programming attracts people whose modus operandi is what it is, and "other people" would, for instance, have no problem with being interrupted, or whether programming is an activity which forces people to tackle problems in this way.
points by jpr 1 day ago replies      
> It was the very first time that I used 'structured programming', a technique a friend of mine had shown to me.

Huh? How old is this guy? I thought structured programming was something that came out in the 30's or something.

points by james_ash 2 days ago replies      
I found Jason Fried's analogy in "Rework" useful. Paraphrasing: "Going to work" is like going to sleep. If someone keeps interrupting you every few minutes, you're never going to fall asleep. It takes uninterrupted time to get there.

I've tried to use this analogy with my wife. Still working on it.

points by esmevane 2 days ago replies      
I'm glad to hear this voiced in the communities I've attended. Honestly, I'm having extreme bouts of difficulty explaining this to the folks I collaborate with. They are genuinely wonderful folks, but I just can't seem to get across the severity of even minor interruptions.

Sometimes, I will deliberately engage in nothing but research until everyone is out of the office. Then, I start coding. Not an optimal resolution, by any means, but until articulating this amicably is possible, it's what I've got.

points by soofaloofa 2 days ago replies      
The closest I have come to this ideal is when playing sports. For me, mental preparation was absolutely key.

I imagine high performing athletes are able to achieve this feeling of being in the "zone" quite often.

points by 5h 2 days ago replies      
headphones in, volume up, only vim open.

could be in the middle of a war zone, or my office that frequently mimics such, as long as I am interested in the problem at hand I can get in the zone.

points by antfarm 1 day ago replies      
paul graham has some interesting things to say on working environments and distractions, quote: "a working environment is supposed to be something to work in, not despite [of]".

listen to:

points by demoo 2 days ago replies      
Maybe it is because I'm not a real coder, but whenever I'm working on some project (usually front-end web design) I find myself checking resources and other code examples often.

How do you guys deal with these while 'in the zone'? Got a book or notes lying around? Or are visiting the web/irc to get unstuck?

points by kefs 2 days ago replies      
Related reading for those living with us nerds:
points by walta 2 days ago replies      
I find that the hard part comes from not knowing what to do next. For me I have a notebook that I call my planning notebook. I write in the notebook the outline of what I'm trying to accomplish -

Who it's for
What it should do
When I think it'll be done
Where it needs to happen
Why I'm doing it
How much it will cost

This frames the project for me. Then after that I come up with what I think the next thing I need to accomplish on the project is and write it down. Later when I site down at my computer, I have no questions about what to do next and so I can hit the zone really fast.

points by ww520 2 days ago replies      
Music is what does it for me. Just put on a headphone and code away.
points by hanibash 2 days ago replies      
I like to participate in day long hackathons for this reason. Mentally, I know that I've blocked that time off for coding, and socially, all my friends know that I have too.
points by weicool 2 days ago replies      
Shh! He's wired in.
points by tarkeshwar 2 days ago replies      
Hardest factor that keeps me away from the "zone" is: the task-at-hand being uninteresting and grungy, which is typically the case at regular jobs. Any tips on how folks overcome this factor? Other than to go built my own startup.
The Lisp Curse winestockwebdesign.com
244 points by winestock 2 days ago   148 comments top 19
points by pg 2 days ago replies      
Occam's Razor suggests that the reason there is no dialect of Lisp as popular as less expressive languages is that no one happens to have created one yet. What languages are has changed. Languages used to be specs. Now they're open source projects. Open source projects seem to succeed based more on the energy of their initial organizers than anything else. There are only a few big language-project organizers, and none of them happens to have chosen to implement a language that is a dialect of Lisp. That's the sort of thing that's true until it's false. E.g. Clojure could be the counterexample.

Maybe there's more to it than a small sample size, but that seems the likeliest explanation. The second most likely explanation is almost as mundane: that the reason new dialects of Lisp have trouble attracting adherents is that mainstream programmers are put off by s-expressions.

points by TY 2 days ago replies      
Most of the essay can summarized by this quote from it:

  Lisp is so powerful that problems which are 
technical issues in other programming languages
are social issues in Lisp.

While this is not a bad essay I'm experiencing a fatigue from reading articles/books/posts about great powers of Lisp and why Lisp is where it is today.

Instead, I'd love to see that mental energy spent on advocacy/defence/adulation/hatred of various Lisp dialects on actually writing great software.

Let's stop looking at Lisp as a religion and instead use it as a great tool to create beautiful things.

Disclaimer: I've used CL, Scheme and Clojure on my various (mostly personal) projects. For the current one, I use Python as it fits better for what I'm doing today. My next project will use whatever it needs to work.

points by sedachv 2 days ago replies      
The Lisp Curse is all the people writing opinionated articles about the Lisp inferiority complex, instead of contributing to existing Lisp software.

There are tons of incompatible, undocumented libraries for Perl, Python and C. This is no correlation to anything. The people who want to use existing libraries use them. Those who want to reinvent the wheel will do that and there is nothing you can do to stop them.

Lisp Machines aren't magic.

If you think GNU Emacs is "obsolete," you can work on http://common-lisp.net/project/climacs/ or http://common-lisp.net/project/phemlock/ or http://mclide.in-progress.com/ , but don't expect anyone else to share your opinion. GNU Emacs is the best multi-language, multi-platform programming environment available today. Most people somehow manage to avoid the "Lisp Curse" and just work on improving Emacs extensions.

points by luu 2 days ago replies      
I'm always wary of arguments along the lines of “we weren't successful because we were too awesome”, when there are alternative explanations. Could there possibly be any other reason?

I've found Ruby to be very easy to extend, and one complaint I've heard is that it's so easy to write DSLs that everyone has their own incompatible languages. And yet, Ruby is successful. So, how come Ruby is more marketshare than, say, SML? Could it possibly be that most people just find it easier?

It implements most of the unique features of Haskell and OCaml. In some respects, Qi surpasses them. For instance, Qi's type inferencing engine is Turing complete. In a world where teams of talented academics were needed to write Haskell, one man, Dr. Tarver wrote Qi all by his lonesome.

Seriously? Qi is nice, and “better” than Haskell and Ocaml in some respects, but it's also inferior in many other respects. To port all of Haskell's experimental features to Qi would require teams of people. There's nothing particular to Lisp that would make that orders of magnitude easier. Haskell just has a lot of features.

points by randrews 2 days ago replies      
I see his point about how everyone rolling their own thing is bad for the Lisp community, but he's got a kind of ridiculous view of C:

"Making Scheme object-oriented is a sophomore homework assignment. On the other hand, adding object orientation to C requires the programming chops of Bjarne Stroustrup."

It really doesn't. You can have a system that uses structs with function pointers, which is how things like Glib work. You can have a compiler that adds special syntax for doing this, which all gets translated into normal C calls; this is how Objective C works. OO is just Not That Hard To Do in any language.

Anyway, Lua is another great example of this curse because there's no module system or standard library to speak of, everyone rolls not only their own object system but their own list functions. The reasons are different though; Lua's design goals are to be a tiny language for embedding, so they sacrifice completeness for being really easy to customize.

points by shasta 2 days ago replies      
Or the explanation could be that Lisp just isn't that great. First of all, it doesn't even make much sense to talk about "Lisp" as if it's a language. The difference between the toy lisp you can write an interpreter for in a page of code and Clojure is night and day. And the other features are actually much more important than just being a Lisp. I'd be afraid to work with the "Haskell" that the smug Lisper of the article slaps out with macros. Not only would it probably not be as well designed as Haskell, unless they copied Haskell's hard work wholesale, but it wouldn't interop well with any other Lisp code.

Secondly, if you actually look at the defining feature of Lisp, S-Exprs and macros, it's not a good idea. Code generating S-exprssions may be more sane than generating C code through string manipulation, but it's still a bad idea and for the same reasons. Code is a human readable format (even if you force it to be S-expressions and pretend it isn't). Code shouldn't be generating other code, it should be generating more structured values. There are composability advantages to doing so and as an added benefit, you don't get stuck with S-expressions as syntax. I predict that in the not too distant future, languages will provide a better alternative to almost every current use of macros (we're already over half way there).

points by ChuckMcM 2 days ago replies      
An alternative explanation is that Lisp doesn't have a person with a strong vision, program management skills, a thick skin, a diplomatic way to saying no, and a big ass repository.

The same argument is repeated throughout the essay, "Its not that Lisp doesn't have X, it has {X0,X1,..Xn)!" and that is the problem. Using lisp I get no or very low re-use for any code out there. Ergo I must write a lot of it myself. He recognizes it and laments:

"Look more closely: Large numbers of the kind of people who become Lisp hackers would have to cooperate with each other."

At the solution. But here is the rub, the qualities of the lisp user today are, in part, derived from how difficult it is to re-use code. People who could write anything they wanted enjoy the expressive power of lisp and tolerate the requirement to create from whole cloth basic things that should exist already.

Now posit a world where there was the Lisp equivalent of CPAN, and an aggressive authoritarian requirement on documentation, coding standards, and unit testing. Once sufficient mass had built up in this repository, even dweebs who don't know the difference between arrows and monads could use Lisp to make something useful, and they would take on the false mantle of 'lisp hacker' and the population of lisp users would swell and there would be still more things checked in and poof a thriving 'lisp' community, except it wouldn't look at all like the current community.

points by gphil 2 days ago replies      
This idea kind of reminds me of the notion that ideas are cheap, and that execution and hard work are what it really takes to create a valuable company.

It seems to me that the hard part of developing language features is developing the documentation and the tools, and it's this work that will drive language popularity much more than the features themselves.

points by mtraven 2 days ago replies      
As someone who has programmed Lisp commercially for a long time, I have to agree with this essay. I've had much the same thoughts over the years.

At one point I was one of five Lisp engineers in a 10-person company. I think we had no fewer than five hairy macros for creating complex UI layouts, because everybody wanted to do it their own way, and you could hack something like that out in an afternoon.

You'd never get the same kind of phenomenon in a Java-based project, because creating something like that in Java is a major undertaking, so you'd have people settle on one that probably came from outside, and a whole ecosystem of sponsors, books and whatnot.

Just very different worlds. But Lisp programmers can't reinvent the wheel all the time, so I'm very glad of things like Cliki, asdf, and Quicklisp that are promoting sharing and standardized libraries.

points by gord 1 day ago replies      
I suspect there are similarities to : Why aren't the smartest people the richest, why dont they get laid the most?

The lisp language 'microkernel' is clearly a fundamentally important construct - the essential core of all computer language.

But lisp needs to interact with the surrounding ecosystem - less than genius level programmers, ugly APIs, non-mathematically perfect OO abstractions, old fashioned data stores. Its actually a lot of work to wrap that... given the impedance mismatch. Perhaps this is the same reason microkernel operating systems have won in theory but not in practice - interfacing to 'the real world'.

Comparing Arc and Scheme [both of which I really enjoy] to the Javascript / node.js 'environment' ... it seems Node.js is more amenable to real work. Its a less expressive / powerful / elegant language - but via Node, Javascript melds beautifully with the async IO model of the OS and gives superb primitives for developing TCP/http services.

Maybe its not the breadth of the libraries available, but the smoothness of the bridge between the language and the real world.

Geeks who apply their smarts and learn something about social interaction do get laid [ to abuse my analogy ].

points by ww520 2 days ago replies      
Large cooperative programs are usually written once but read many times. For large projects to succeed, the reading part needs to be optimized.

Lisp being too expressive encourages the optimization in the writing part - I can write my own macros/DSL to make writing MY program easier. The readers needing to learn and understand those are their problem. This encourages people to write their own libraries instead of understand and reuse the existing ones since it's always easier to build a mental model of your own writing than the others.

As noted by the others, Scala is starting to have the same problem in regarding in its ease of proliferating DSL.

points by kleiba 2 days ago replies      
Not all professional programmers are college kids with degrees in C.S. Imperative languages are much easier to get your head around than OO-languages if you don't have a formal training. And lispy abstractions like map and first order functions are even trickier. So I thought it's natural that the more abstract a language, the more difficult it is for it to make it into the corporate world.
points by schickm 2 days ago replies      
Oh lordy...this essay effectively summarizes the entire codebase of the lisp application that I work on with a team of 6 or so other developers.

I think what can work though is having an awareness of the power of the language you are working with, and then balancing the usage of that power with readability of code. You can write macros all day that save you precious typing time, but when someone else has to figure out those macros all that saved time is lost. Any language that allows the developer to define the syntax will always be troubled with this concept.

points by magice 2 days ago replies      
I think this essay is bull. As someone points out, it is yet another I-am-so-good-that-no-one-wants-me things that LISP people love to throw out. Maybe THIS attitude ("Lisp is Olympia and I, the proud user, is Zeus") is why.

Let's be frank, there are many many excellent languages that do not even attract enough people to have a "community." Icon always comes to mind as example: brilliant language, excellent libraries, but the only believers are myself and a professor. Other than that, Haskell, SML, OCaml have never attracted a significant number of users. They all are brilliant, right? BASH may have more serious products than those great things.

Let's face it, the true Lisp curse has not been discovered, and Lispers' attitude has helped it hide even better. I have my theories; you have yours. And mine are always more correct than yours. It's Lisp land, man. You can't argue against that.

points by plinkplonk 2 days ago replies      
It is past midnight where I live and it has been a long day, and I am sure it is my fault, but I am having some trouble identifying the central point of the essay.

Is it something like "The curse of lisp is that it is too expressive"? Genuine question. Please help.

points by jhuni 2 days ago replies      
The beauty of Lisp is in its simplicity. Lisp has the simplest syntax in the world, and the entire language is based upon five simple primitives.

All other mainstream languages complicate matters with operator precedence tables, multiple operator notations (prefix, infix, postfix, postcircumfix, etc), and many other syntactic weirdities.

The simplicity of the language makes it the best language there is for collaboration. Lisp is not to blame here - the community is.

A properly organized community can create standards for the use of macros to prevent their abuse and standardize on libraries to prevent fragmentation. Unfortunately, the Lisp community isn't well organized.

points by coliveira 2 days ago replies      
The reason Lisp programmers don't have a fancy IDE is that they don't feel the need for it. Everyone that really understands what he's doing is using Emacs or their own thing.

In a way it is similar for other languages. Why Ruby doesn't have something like Eclipse? Because it doesn't need one. Even for C/C++, the only reason why there is a Visual Studio is that there are so many entry level programmers that will buy it. Experienced C programmers feel much more comfortable using UNIX/gdb.

On the other hand Smalltalk programmers have an IDE because they need it: it is just the way it works for Smalltalk.

points by Tycho 1 day ago replies      
The problem with this argument that I see is that Lisp can't make everything easy - there will still be more advanced problems that take collaboration to solve. Thus while other programmers band together to make simple web servers, Lispers should in theory band together to tackle deeper problems. Which would make it more competitive than other languages, not less.
points by systems 2 days ago replies      
lisp needs a cpan
Screw you. Pay me. venturebeat.com
239 points by privacyguru 2 days ago   86 comments top 16
points by edw519 2 days ago replies      
Oh the horror stories I've heard:

- a software house whose biggest client found out that they were 75% of their business. So they just stopped paying their bills and waited them out until the source code ended up in receivership.

- A contractor that bid a time and material job, deployed it successfully, and got paid. He was then called back in to change a few things for which he was not paid because, "We paid for it to be right in the first place."

- a local trucker that made 500 successful deliveries buy screwed one up, so he got paid nothing. He blocked the parking lot with his truck in order to get paid. (The company would rather pay him that get the bad press from the local newspaper.)

- bounced checks, checks without signature, checks where the 2 amounts didn't match, checks with next year's date: too many to mention

Also, I'm surprised no one has mentioned a controversial practice I know that others have used: time bombs in the software. It goes something like this: Here is your working version which we will make permanent when you're paid in full.

I have never resorted to something like this and I hope I never do. Has anyone ever tried this? What are the ramifications, financial, business, and legal?

points by crikli 2 days ago replies      
My small firm has never had cash flow problems and we've never had a client successfully avoid payment. (EDIT: We've had cash flow problems in the beginning due to being a startup, but never from non-payment).

There are a few things that we do that have created this scenario:

1) Stipulate a 10 day payment policy. We don't really expect people to pay that quickly, but prospects/clients always bring it up. It give us the opportunity to communicate how serious we are about getting paid. We then flex the policy to something more realistic, although we make them fight to get the time beyond 10 days.

2) Payment is made regardless of the client's invoice status. We work with a lot of creative agencies so we're not always contracted to the ultimate payer. We make it very clear that we will be paid on time regardless of the status of their invoices. This is a really big thing to look out for it you work with agencies; they want to try to wait to pay you until they've been paid. We make it crystal clear that we will not allow their collection issues to become our collection issues.

3) Meet with your clients face-to-face and build relationships and in some cases friendships with them. It's a lot harder to screw over someone you have to look in the eye. Also, in my case I'm a pretty big dude, ex-lock (rugby), and it's also harder to screw over someone who could break you in half. It's primitive, but it works. :)

4) ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS get money up front. We have a sliding scale for this based on total contract size, but it ranges from 25-50% as an initial payment.

5) Don't start the clock or work until you get paid. We guarantee delivery time, however our clock doesn't start until we've deposited payment, and our contracts stipulate this.

6) Follow up on invoices. We follow up on invoices at 15 day intervals. This is a good thing for so many reasons. It reminds them you're serious. It allows you to communicate before you have to go to the mattresses. It keeps you on top of your A/R because it's too easy to go "oh, it'll be okay, they'll pay" and go back to the IDE.

points by michaelochurch 2 days ago replies      
This wouldn't work in New York where you can call cabs from the street, but I lived in a town in Minnesota where there was a "non-payer" phone-number list that cab companies used. If you didn't pay the driver, your phone wouldn't get through to any cab company until you paid it back, plus interest and a processing penalty.

It seems like a "bad client" list would be, at least, a partial solution.

points by eli 2 days ago replies      
When I got my first real job at a small consulting firm, I was shocked at how many clients just refused to pay their bill. They didn't even really seem to have any specific reason for not paying.

Law firms were they worst. I guess because whaddya gonna do? sue them?

points by ihumanable 2 days ago replies      
As someone getting started in the Freelancing / Consulting world and trying to figure out how you are supposed to do things the "right way" this was a really accessible, fun, and valuable piece to watch, definitely worth the time.

I do have some questions for the HN community if anyone has some advice, thanks in advance.

What's the best way to go about contracts, especially form contracts. Most of the work I do is the same kind of thing and normally the only variables are rate / duration / deliverables. Is the best way to go about this to find a lawyer and have him draft something that I can just drop "$rate / $time" for "$durationOfProject" into.

Is it best to go to the lawyer with some sort of draft in hand already or should you let them do all the work? Can anyone point to some good resources for boilerplate contracts?

Anyways, it's all very new and confusing and exciting, just trying not to fuck it up too badly. Thanks for any advice.

points by michaelpinto 2 days ago replies      
My lawyer once pointed out to me that "contracts are only as good as the people who signed them" and what I've learned over the years is to go out of my way to avoid doing business with anyone who seems to be a flake. Granted that things can go south, but this strategy works well. And I say this as someone who went to court once and still couldn't collect.
points by leftnode 2 days ago replies      
Just had to send out a Fuck You, Pay Me email this morning. That's the #2 piece of advice I'd give to graduating computer science/engineering students: always get paid. #1 is don't build that idea the business major across the street has for free, which ties in nicely to #2.
points by tomkarlo 2 days ago replies      
I once had a client ask if they could just not pay a $2M bill (after 18 months of work) in the name of the "relationship" (because presumably there were much bigger deals down the line.) My boss, to his credit, didn't miss a beat before saying "that's not the kind of relationship we want."
points by canadiancreed 32 minutes ago replies      
This is something that, as someone that is looking to get into the whole consulting business (yes I must be insane), found quite interesting. Thanks for sharing.
points by jgarmon 2 days ago replies      
During my consulting days, this was a hard issue to get across to many clients. (Part of the reason I don't do much consulting anymore.) My time has a value. You're paying for my time. Whether you extract value from my time is up to you, but I'm going to be paid for it either way.

My consulting colleagues often disagreed with this philosophy, trying to walk some careful balance of not asking to be paid too much so the client will use you again. use being the operative word here. If the client is the type that doesn't value your time, you don't want them to hire you. It never ends up being worth it.

points by blazamos 2 days ago replies      
Any particular reason you changed the title? Some people might find it offensive, but they've already semi-censored it with the title "F*ck You. Pay me."
points by rabble 2 days ago replies      
There's a ton written about running a startup, but there is amazingly little written about doing a professional services design / development firm. Anybody know of good sources for running a good services firm?
points by sleight42 2 days ago replies      
Tangential but I'm hugely impressed with the camera work in this video. The alternate long and close-in shots of Mike, the speaker, and the use of contract gave it a decided Hollywood feel for me.
points by ElliotH 2 days ago replies      
Wish I had seen this about a year ago. Learnt some of it the hard way already sadly.
points by jnhnum1 2 days ago replies      
Don't people usually deal with this sort of thing by signing a contract ahead of time?
points by daimyoyo 2 days ago replies      
This question might seem naive and if it does I apologize. I live in Vegas but in all likelihood the vast majority of projects I'll be taking will be for out of state companies(especially in CA.) Should I retain a lawyer here, or should I look for one based in California? Thanks for any insight.
Ubuntu Unity usability testing results and analysis ubuntu.com
239 points by keyist 3 days ago   112 comments top 23
points by btmorex 3 days ago replies      
Overall, pretty interesting. A lot of those are definitely usability bugs. I wish someone would do a comparison between mac os x, windows, ubuntu with the same tasks to see how they stacked up against each other.


5/11 participants (P2, P3, P5, P9, P10, P11) crashed Unity during their hour of testing. And towards the end of her test, P11 opened a zombie quicklist that stayed on top of everything and didn't respond to clicks.

This ubuntu release is shaping up to be pulseaudio 2.0. I know everyone will just say "use LTS", but somehow debian testing manages to be both more up to date and more stable than normal ubuntu releases. I'm not sure why canonical can't at least match that.

points by andyking 2 days ago replies      
I work for a small non-profit radio station where we've got a couple of Ubuntu boxes (running 10.10, or whatever the latest version with standard GNOME 2 is). I've only done it because we recently expanded our volunteer base and didn't have XP licences to cover computers for every desk!

I've actually been really surprised at how well the volunteers have taken to using the machines, and how some even seem to prefer them to the tried-and-tested XP installation we've got on other computers in the building.

It helped that we were already using Chrome, Thunderbird and OpenOffice as our standard applications throughout the station - so when I installed the machines, I just stuck big, bold icons for each one on the desktop to make it obvious what to do. Audacity was a new one (we're using Adobe Audition on other machines) but people took to it reasonably well.

Comments I've received have been along the lines of "There's a lot less shit on the desktop than on those other [XP] computers," "It's easier to find what you're doing, and it seems a bit faster too," and so on. For some reason, our XP machines accumulate junk on the desktop, whereas the Ubuntu boxes stay relatively clean!

It works for a lot of our older, less experienced members who find it difficult to find, say, the Thunderbird icon among a pile of old documents and folders on the Windows desktop, or get confused when Start -> Email opens up an empty install of Outlook Express for some reason. It often feels like I spend more time helping people out when something's disappeared, they can't print, they can't find something on a Windows box than actually doing my job, so the Ubuntu machines have been a boost - they seem to just keep trooping on.

Of course, our users are simply booting the machine and opening up some standard applications that also run on Windows, and not going in and changing settings, or anything - I suspect that's where it would fall down in usability.

However, I've tried out recent pre-releases of Unity and GNOME 3 and found them pretty confusing, and I expect a lot of the users who've made positive comments to me about Ubuntu at work would too. It seems like a step backwards to me, with too many unclear mysterious icons, and bits of the UI whizzing on and off the screen while I try to work - and I'm sticking with the LTS at home, and not updating the work machines, either.

points by dkarl 2 days ago replies      
Nobody understood Ubuntu One.
4/11 people (P7, P9, P11, P12) thought the Me menu icon might be a close button

With silly corporate-ad-campaign-flavored names like "One" and "Me" it's no wonder.

points by Legion 2 days ago replies      
> P7 and P11 thought that "LibreOffice Calc" was a calculator

"Calc" is just not a smart name for a spreadsheet application.

> and P7 and P9 thought Ubuntu Software Center was the Recycle Bin.

I understand that, because that is what the icon looks like.

points by quadhome 2 days ago replies      
Some of these are humbling. They reinforce how disconnected I-- a programmer-- am from the average person.

> P1 recovered amazingly well after trying to save "Letter to Mr Smith 08/04/11", and getting the vile response "Error stating file '/home/ubuntu/Documents/Letter to Mr Smith 08/04': No such file or directory"

That's something I'd never consider, what with various directory separators baked into my subconscious.

points by vessenes 2 days ago replies      
This was my favorite -- DESIGNERS, THIS IS WHAT AD BLINDNESS LOOKS LIKE IN AN APP: Don't design stuff like this in, people don't notice it anymore.

" Only 2/6 noticed an XChat Gnome notification, despite (1) a
notification bubble appearing, (2) the Ubuntu button going blue,
(3) the messaging menu envelope going blue, and (4) an emblem
appearing on XChat Gnome's launcher. "

points by acabal 2 days ago replies      
If almost 50% of the users managed to crash the GUI with routine tasks in the span of a single hour, that's a sure sign that it isn't ready for prime-time yet, regardless of what anybody's opinions on features or functionality are.

I personally think this is almost definitely going to end up as another Pulseaudo-style debacle that'll jade even more Ubuntu users. This kind of stuff is exactly why I never recommend Linux to friends, even though I personally use it on my day-to-day machine: because it's just not (crashwise) stable enough for Grandma, and Shuttleworth has a very bad habit of making his end-users his beta-testers. Grandma isn't going to loyally log in to Launchpad, report a bug and reboot; she's going to complain to me, and then I'm going to reinstall Windows 7, which for all its faults at least doesn't crash once every two hours.

points by akavlie 2 days ago replies      
I run with a laptop (display on, but rarely used) connected to an external monitor. Linux assumes the laptop is the default, and changing the external to primary is next to impossible.

Unity puts everything important on the laptop display in this configuration. That alone is a deal breaker for me.

Note that Ubuntu Classic works perfectly in this setup. My panels go to the external monitor when it's plugged in, and move back to the laptop immediately when it's unplugged.

Unity (as it's currently designed) would pose some serious issues in a dual-display setup even if I could move it to the external monitor. As the launcher is stuck on the left, I'd be constantly overshooting it (laptop display is to the left).

points by hasenj 2 days ago replies      
Here's what I think should happen before final release:

- Make the launcher always on by default

- Remove the recycle bin icon (I really don't get the point of it)

- Remove the applications icon (redundant with the Ubuntu button). Perhaps add a "System" lense view instead (system settings and all that).

- Add an "expose" icon (super-w). And perhaps hide the workspaces icon by default.

points by divtxt 2 days ago replies      
How far we've come!

I remember about 10 years ago, with the rise of XP and the advent of OS X, expecting Linux desktop to fall ever further behind on a usable & full-featured desktop.

Here we are discussing the usability tests of big UI innovations.

I'd like to thank everyone who got us here! (cough including Redmond cough)

points by rubergly 2 days ago replies      
I wonder: 11 people seems like a rather small sample size; does Canonical typically do any testing with larger samples?

I'm surprised that only 5/10 people tried to open another Firefox window by clicking the launcher icon. Personally, I think clicking the launcher icon not opening a new window is silly, but that's because I'm used to Windows 7 and not OSX.

points by calpaterson 2 days ago replies      
It's a shame they're doing this at so late a stage. I understand that 11.04 is now in feature freeze and Unity will be released as is
points by mitko 2 days ago replies      
On the other hand this testing doesn't include any other ubuntu user. Of course you'll have some learnability gap. I see also a lot of windows people having trouble to figure out in their first few hours in OS X.
While Unity definitely needs some polish, it already makes it more efficient to manage my desktop experience on my netbook running Ubuntu. The guys at Cannonical are trying to do major innovation and provide some consistency with the old UI.
points by pbhjpbhj 2 days ago replies      
What this story is missing is a couple of screenshots from the particular implementation used.


points by steevdave 2 days ago replies      
I work with Ubuntu for work ( we make ARM devices ) so every so often I have to run Natty to test if it is usable yet. If you have a "decent" OpenGL graphics card, then depending on when you install it may or may not work. I currently have an issue with working with the dock or launcher or whatever name they are calling it. Right clicks are being passed through to the desktop so I can't remove or add anything to it.

If you don't have an OpenGL based video card ( no ARM machine does, they all use a subset of OpenGL called OpenGL ES ) then upon logging in, you get a long dialog explaining that you need to logout and choose classic desktop. And it has an exit button. When you click said exit button, after a bit it loads the classic desktop, however the xsettings manager doesn't get started (or it might, just depends on if it feels like running it seems) and gnome becomes very ugly.

There is no mention of Unity-2D which is a version that is QT based. And it suffers from the same issues, xsettings may or may not launch and then you have a ton of dialogs about apps crashing in the background ( this is with either Gnome "classic" or with Unity-2D ).

Ubuntu made great strides in making the Linux desktop accessible for everyone, but this latest release shows just how much further they need to go.

Keep in mind that at the time the decision to write and use Unity was made, the Gnome 3 desktop was in an absolute mess. A lot of work has happened since then and it would be even better if Mark Shuttleworth could swallow his pride and just scrap the Unity project and work with upstream like before.

I mention the ARM bit at the beginning of my statement if only out of frustration due to the fact that our company provided Ubuntu developers with over 50 machines that are in either a desktop configuration or netbook yet it still doesn't run anywhere close to where it should on them.

points by ambiguity 3 days ago replies      
It would have been nice to have a test group that used the classic Gnome 2 desktop. This would give the Unity scores a bit more context.
points by wazoox 2 days ago replies      
I don't have my Macbook at hand, but IIRC correctly the Mac error message is more like "The file can't be saved; try a shorter name or removing special characters".
points by PetrolMan 2 days ago replies      
I installed 11.04 and when I was first setting everything up (because the video drivers weren't installed yet) I played around with Gnome and actually ended up with a setup that looked a lot like Unity. The difference was I had a lot more control over the panels which I really liked.

Then, once the drivers were in place, I switched to Unity and was initially really wowed by the way it looked. I really like the idea behind the side menu but right now it is a bit finicky. Sometimes it will partially open when I move my mouse to the edge and other times it works just fine. I absolutely hate the launcher menu (might not be the right term - app drawer or whatever else might be more fitting) simply because it makes it a chore to find applications.

I've also found Unity relatively unstable. I've had it simply lock up and I haven't found a way to get around it other than resetting my computer.

Even stuff like the way moving a window to the edge of the screen and it taking up a portion works seems inconsistent. I can sometimes get 1/3, sometimes 1/2 and sometimes 2/3 but I honestly haven't spent enough time trying to figure out why it works in different ways. Nor do I feel I really should have to... UI should be relatively intuitive.

Anyway, I think Unity is promising but it is really rough right now... really rough.

points by steevdave 2 days ago replies      
Where is P6? Was there one and their comments were so bad that they didn't add it to the list? Numbers missing in a list like that really bug me. It also causes me to wonder why it never comes up. I haven't read the thread since a lot earlier and being as I know a few people around the Ubuntu camp I asked them and no one seemed to have any idea why P6 was not on the list.
points by nrbafna 2 days ago replies      
I am really surprised one thing didn't come up. It's about the super+(?) shortcut.

If you press them very quickly, say 'super+D', then it will take to desktop and open dash as well. To be safe, you have press 'super', wait till numbers appear on the icons in launcher and then press 'D'

points by tcarnell 2 days ago replies      
Great post! I started using Ubuntu Unity on my netbook, however, I had first installed Ubuntu Desktop and added Unity later so I can switch between them at loging time.

I think that Unity is great! Really encapsulates the spirit of a netbook - a small, versatile and fun communications device. I have an asus 1005pe - which I can also highly recommend.

points by dhruvbird 2 days ago replies      
wow! this is how usability tests should really be done! :-)
points by omouse 2 days ago replies      
Needs more participants who aren't students or teachers heh. Interesting results though.
Fooling myself to work dextronet.com
225 points by jirinovotny 13 hours ago   53 comments top 21
points by dasil003 10 hours ago replies      
A pretty good list of tips, however I've gotten more mileage over the years by digging deeper into my procrastination to understand its roots. Most often than not there is some fear or dissatisfaction tied to the procrastination that needs to be heard. Checking in with myself and becoming aware of these deeper feelings forms the foundation on which long term productivity is possible.
points by bitwize 11 hours ago replies      
Pretend you are grinding for gold and experience?
points by csomar 4 hours ago replies      
I tell myself that I will merely write down the steps needed to complete the task. Just a rough draft, at first, and that's it. Maybe just 3 steps. I then add more steps, breaking the 3 steps into smaller sub-tasks. I then add some details, and thoughts, notes of things that I shouldn't forget when doing this task. I just think the task through and write everything down. After a little while, I will be a proud author of “The Complete Guide To Finishing Task X for Dummies”.

I have exactly the same problem, but I don't think it's laziness. I think it's the fear of failure, or more precisely the fear and uncertainty of being able to do a task. Breaking the task down into smaller steps, make you able to overcome that fear but not procrastination.

points by Terry_B 5 hours ago replies      
I find writing out the instructions to be very helpful as a start as well. If I'm really struggling to get started on something I tend to divide myself into Thinking Me and Robot Me.

Thinking Me just starts writing out the dot points on how to do something, because thinking is easy right? Then Robot Me just starts following the instructions, because simply following instructions is also easy. Can even listen to your favourite music while doing it.

Then next thing you know, you're under way...

points by farout 11 hours ago replies      
I can not recall that exact title of the book something about ants and elephants (looked on amazon - did not recognize those books) but these are my takeaways from it:

1. state your goals

2. write down your milestones - must be actual measurable metrics

3. write reasons why you will not reach them - expect the unexpected; yes you can not expect all the unexpected but this is preparing you so that when there are issues, which are guaranteed to happen, this is how you need to respond without your emotions totally taking over.

4. Write down what you will do when you encounter these problems. Again be specific. Think of this a as a recipe book/play book.

5. write down the rewards you will give to yourself for each milestone achieved. You need to put a positive feedback loop as incentive. Worked in kindergarten with goldstars.

6. and from the another book: Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
answer the 2 Qs:

Do I think I can do it? (meaning skills and resources)

Is it worth it to me to do it?

Wow, a lot of work? Sure is. Worth it. Yes.

points by forensic 12 hours ago replies      
I actually like your advice but it's such an obvious sales pitch for your software.

Your ulterior motives make me nauseous.

P.S. I would probably try your software if it wasn't stuck in windows land. Why not make a WebApp?

points by mrschwabe 10 hours ago replies      
#9 is perhaps the best tip (start thinking about your most important task before you goto sleep). Particularly in combination with #3 (do a specific task first thing when you wake up and start at the computer).

I find that 'working momentum' is highest beginning as soon as the computer turns on in the morning. For this reason, each day I will typically schedule 3 hours of focus on one specific task/project/vision; before doing anything else. Trust me, anything you focus on for a solid 3 hours a day will eventually get done... probably sooner than you expect.

points by srgseg 10 hours ago replies      
Counter-experience to 2. Not eating at the computer:

I used to take a break to eat food - I'd watch TV or read a magazine while eating. However, this context switch would be costly, and when I got back to the computer, I'd be starting to get tired from digesting the food.

By coding while eating slowly, I was able to realise massive productivity gains. This only works if, like me, you don't mind eating luke warm food.

Then, instead, I'd take the break/nap after eating, and would not have my productivity affected by the energy spent digesting the food.

points by gohat 11 hours ago replies      
This is fairly blatant self promotion. That said, these are really good ideas.

Decomposing a task into what needs to be done to do it is really effective.

points by oscardelben 10 hours ago replies      
One tip that I'm experimenting right now is to stay at the computer only when I know exactly what I'm going to do. Thinking and breaks have to be done out the computer with old pen and paper.
points by cma 7 hours ago replies      
In a recent radiolab, other tricks creatives use were discussed:


points by aaronf 3 hours ago replies      
"Although Swift To-Do List is awesome ;-), good old physical paper has an intricate quality that no software can offer: It exists outside of your computer. When I have 1-3 super-important tasks, I often write them down on an actual physical paper, and put the paper in front of me."

Do you really think software cannot replace pen & paper completely? Shouldn't that be the goal of any task management software? Why not build this way to focus on the top 1-3 tasks into your product?

points by gcb 7 hours ago replies      
Tried all that. Work for some days, then I completely start to forget to check my notes for whats next and idle on the internets
points by HedgeMage 13 hours ago replies      
Linking once to something you use or something you made that you are proud of is awesome. Getting that spammy about it caused me not to finish the post.
points by pw 5 hours ago replies      
Did anyone else realize that English must be the author's second language?

Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just always amazed by the little clues that are behind by otherwise proficient non-native speakers.

points by will_lam 5 hours ago replies      
Nice list of productivity lifehacks. I use a combination of Rescuetime Premium, LeechBlock for Firefox to prevent any slacking in case I'm tempted. In the meantime I use FocusBooster (Pomodoro technique) to keep the pressure on :)
points by panacea 4 hours ago replies      
Cognitive dissonance hacks?
points by Void_ 11 hours ago replies      
So what todo list software do you use?
points by sktrdie 8 hours ago replies      
That was a great read until I realized he was mentioning the To-Do List software way to much... great way to let people buy your software :).
points by dbuizert 8 hours ago replies      
I hope to be working outside the house soon. That will change a lot since I am not distracted by stuff that goes on here. (Live across tram track, hospital and behind all that there is a firehouse)
points by mrleinad 13 hours ago replies      
Can't fool myself. I'm too smart.
Collection of documents that startups commonly need: Privacy Policy, NDA, etc... pearwords.com
216 points by x03 3 days ago   25 comments top 5
points by duck 3 days ago replies      
I like the idea, but I just don't see startups needing or using an email disclaimer. Plus they are pretty much worthless legal wise - http://www.economist.com/node/18529895.
points by woodall 3 days ago replies      
I know you are not offering legal advice, which IMO is good, but has the language in any of these documents been looked over by a profession/practicing lawyer? Other than that, these are great; I'll be using the Privacy Policy and NDA.
points by jamiecurle 3 days ago replies      
The privacy policy states

  PearWords does not...
Place "cookies" (small text files) on your system for any reason.

I would beg to differ, it may be Google Analytics dropping the cookies on pearwords' behalf, but they're still there. (http://d.pr/D3oy)

points by blhack 3 days ago replies      
This is excellent, thank you to whoever is putting it together.
Simple algorithms openmymind.net
214 points by taylorbuley 3 days ago   32 comments top 14
points by baddox 3 days ago replies      
I like the writing style and simplicity of presentation. I would recommend putting some thought into the order and organization of the articles. Perhaps you should have "main" articles about data structures, then sub-articles about the algorithms that are relevant to them (e.g. "binary search" could be under "arrays," "heapsort" and "priority queue" operations under "heaps," etc.). Obviously, it's a challenge to choose the order and organization of topics and subtopics"it's essentially the task of developing a curriculum.

If you plan on doing some tree/graph algorithms, perhaps you could have a brief introduction to the topic by talking about trees and graphs in general, then proceeding by discussing heaps, simple binary trees (which can branch off into more advanced topics like the various balanced binary trees), and so forth.

As a side note, I think binary trees are a great visual way to introduce the concept of asymptotic running time in a more accessible/pragmatic (albeit less rigorous) way, by showing that the more balanced a binary tree is, the fewer steps it will take on average to find an element (approaching the best-case of log base 2 of n). You can show how a worst-case unbalanced binary tree degrades to a linked list.

points by jcampbell1 3 days ago replies      
A fantastic set of articles. I do think that tutorials in general obsess over sorting too much. Rather than expanding this with dozens of sorting algos, it would be nice to see a treatment of trees and graphs. Lay the foundation for someone to understand search trees, huffman coding, A*, etc.
points by tszming 3 days ago replies      
points by nikolaplejic 3 days ago replies      
I really like the simplicity and the choice of language. I think a comments / discussion section would be useful, for people to ask questions, talk about the ways to make the articles even better and perhaps translate the code to other languages.

All in all - I hope you keep up the good work, solid tutorials like these make it more compelling to keep up with the basics and learn new things from the "CS 101" department.

points by Apocryphon 3 days ago replies      
I've seen many of these "intro to algo" presentations and I have to say this is one of the best. I suppose the Web 2.0 minimalist style helps to facilitate understanding very well. Perhaps there could be sites that could provide math tutorials in the same way.
points by damncabbage 2 days ago replies      
This site is great! I love the way latch has presented the examples with each concept. (I would've begged for something like this ten years ago when I was still in highschool.)

I would love if he could take this further and, say, cover graph algorithms in the same way the Linked List was done here.

points by mfonda 3 days ago replies      
I really like this idea, thanks for putting this up. I think it would be nice to additionally split it up into a data structures section and an algorithms section.
points by tcarnell 2 days ago replies      
Nice! Great idea for a site - actually, I kinda had a similar idea when I registered "algolution.com" - the idea being to have a library of algorithms AND people can add implementations in different languages and of course vote up which are the best.

In addiation I had thought to add a 'live run' feature so that you could actually run 1 or more algorithms together and compare performance/memory usage etc!

hmmm... if we defined an API for running a piece of code and returning results, we could build a series of independant web applications that could run sandboxed code in different languages live on the web...

points by f1gm3nt 3 days ago replies      
http://www.youtube.com/user/AlgoRythmics By far the best. Is it possible to implement something like this?
points by nickconfer 3 days ago replies      
I had this same idea the other day. Glad to see someone made this. I hope you add more content in the future.

From a teaching perspective I think it would be great to see the math behind this as well to get the worst case scenerio.

points by giltotherescue 3 days ago replies      
Yes! Thank you for putting this together.
points by thurn 3 days ago replies      
Is this open source? Nice visuals.
points by olragon 3 days ago replies      
you are my sunshine
points by Rickasaurus 3 days ago replies      
Oh look, it's 200 level CS algorithms.
Pictures of the first GUIs from Xerox digibarn.com
212 points by coliveira 3 days ago   36 comments top 20
points by thought_alarm 3 days ago replies      
There are a few demos of the Xerox Star floating around on YouTube. Seeing it in action gives you a much more complete picture of the system.


The "look" was obviously hugely influential, the "feel" not so much. It is quite an odd beast, as the mouse is actually only used for selecting objects.

The Lisa GUI prototypes are also and interesting bit of GUI trivia. It's easy to see the Star's influence on the final shipping version of the Lisa GUI compared to its prototypes.


points by jgrahamc 3 days ago replies      
I'm old enough to have used these machines and what's interesting is that I remember well how much of a 'wow' it was to get to use a lovely user interface like that. Since then I haven't seen a real step change in user interface until we moved recently to sensitive touch screen devices.
points by mcritz 3 days ago replies      
This is amazing! It's hard to imagine these images are real given how complex and beautiful the UI design is.

· Multiple fonts.

· Multiple, simultaneous languages.

· Dithered graphics to simulate value, tone, and shading.

· Rounded buttons.

· Use of line-weight to simulate dimension.

points by rbanffy 3 days ago replies      
I'm impressed by the utmost attention to details. I remember similar care when working with educational software for Apple IIs - we limited our 50% checkerboard pattern to 279x191 (instead of the 280x192 maximum) in order to be able to do exactly the same rounded corners on all four corners of the screen.

At times, the guy who came up with these ideas infuriated me, but, in hindsight, I am very glad I surrounded myself with such perfectionists.

points by Luyt 3 days ago replies      
From the same site, stories from back then:

"My Cajun country upbringing had never taken me any further west than Dallas. And since I wanted to make a good first impression on my new California friends, I purchased a spanking new three-piece navy blue polyester suit, super-wide ‘70s tie, platform shoes and the finest imitation naugahyde briefcase I could find and made my first reservations at Rickey's Hyatt House.

I arrived at the lobby of PARC, resplendent in polyester and cheap Old English cologne, and was met by Charles Irby… ponytail, scruffy beard, tie-dyed t-shirt, khaki shorts and Birkenstock sandals. He welcomed me warmly, and then took me around to meet the eclectic cast of colorful characters and future luminaries that made up the Star development team. As we toured the offices, and the more folks I met, and the more beanbag chairs I saw, the more conspicuous, foreign and puritanical I began to feel… a penguin in the company of parrots. And yet, I was embraced and welcomed into this cadre of characters. It would not take me long to assimilate."

points by pholbrook 3 days ago replies      
I remember I was working on the desktop part of the system, and we were implementing "background copy" - and the hardest part was figuring out what the UI should be for doing a foreground copy vs a background copy. (The Star had tiled windows, not overlapping, so there wasn't a model of just letting a status window overlap.)
points by bostonpete 3 days ago replies      
Very impressive. One inconsistency stands out given the careful attention to detail. In this image, they make a point of emphasizing that background pixels should be split to form a cleaner edge:


...but this image shows that most of the top of a folder icon (not including the tab) did not split the background pixel:


points by epenn 3 days ago replies      
Actually the first GUIs from Xerox were on the Alto, which the Star is based on (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerox_Alto). Although this is certainly from the first that was available commercially.

Nonetheless, these screenshots are amazing and show how groundbreaking the GUI concept was at the time.

points by daralthus 3 days ago replies      
Worth to check out the "Mother of all demos" too, where Douglas Engelbart shows of the mouse, email, wordprocessor etc. in 1968!



points by rsbrown 3 days ago replies      
Wow, I see the Mac, Amiga and other next gen UIs that came soon afterwards in these. I'm also struck by how much more appealing these screenshots appear than the early versions of Microsoft Windows.
points by rplacd 3 days ago replies      
The typography demos are oddly tasteful. http://www.digibarn.com/collections/screenshots/xerox-star-8... seems like a dig at the Lisa - it does seem woefully inadequate there for DTP.
points by elliottcarlson 3 days ago replies      
Seems to be down for me - gotta love CoralCDN: http://www.digibarn.com.nyud.net/collections/screenshots/xer...
points by pholbrook 3 days ago replies      
This shot - http://www.digibarn.com/collections/screenshots/xerox-star-8... - third row down, second across - is actually a screenshot of XDE, the Xerox Development Environment. The window is Hardy, the XDE mail tool.

Note the use '!' to mark commands that you can click on.

points by shin_lao 2 days ago replies      
I'm pretty sure someone could come up with a skin for a desktop (KDE, Gnome, whatever...) very close to these screenshots and it would still feel very modern.

Timeless classic?

ps: Too bad the JPG compression is that heavy!

points by rudiger 2 days ago replies      
Over thirty years later and so little has changed... I think Alan Kay had a quote about there being no significant new inventions in computing since 1980.
points by hootmon 2 days ago replies      
I will never understand why Xerox did not sue the pants off Jobs when he stole 99% of this visual gui design and then claimed forever onward that Apple was responsible for it.

The thing that killed this was at that time no company was going to spend close to the salary of a typist to outfit said typist with this kit. (I believe it was in the 10-20K range.)

points by RyanMcGreal 3 days ago replies      
I'm getting a "Network Error (dns_server_failure)" when I try to load the site.
points by kingsidharth 2 days ago replies      
This get's us back to basics. It's interesting how some things like "Title bar" and Scrolling never changed.
points by coldnose 3 days ago replies      
Am I mistaken, or is this a whole-cloth Lisa screenshot?


points by nixy 2 days ago replies      
Wow, it even had a wallpaper.
Rackspace cloud beats Amazon EC2, by a lot scripting.com
194 points by davewiner 3 days ago   76 comments top 27
points by jread 3 days ago replies      
I've conducted extensive benchmarking of rackspace cloud, ec2 and about 38 other iaas providers. Rackspace cloud is definitely not faster than ec2 by a long shot. Rackspace cloud utilizes homogonous infrastructure, AMD 2374 to be exact. All instance sizes are burstable, so you typically get about the same CPU resources on a 1GB instance as you do on a 16GB instance according to our benchmark results. Ec2 on the other hand scales CPU much better all the way to dedicated dual quad X5570s with the cc1.4xlarge. Both this and the rackspace sponsored bitsource study compared an ec2 m1.small. Any study that does this should be immediately discounted as that is about the worst possible performing ec2 instance size. Adrian cockroft from Netflix refers to these types of studies as benchmarketing. They do not accurately depict the performance capabilities of ec2.


points by AngryParsley 3 days ago replies      
I think EC2 and Rackspace Cloud serve two different groups. EC2 is the only provider on which I've actually been able to boot 50 nodes, have them come up in a few minutes, use them for an hour, and kill them all off. That sort of thing would be a giant pain on Rackspace Cloud, since they e-mail you the root password when you boot an instance. Also, Rackspace Cloud accounts are limited to 50GB of RAM usage unless you contact them to increase the cap. (Rackspace only mentions this in their API docs: http://docs.rackspacecloud.com/servers/api/v1.0/cs-devguide-... See section 3.8.2: Absolute Limits.)

Still, most small and medium-sized companies would do best to go with Rackspace, Linode, or something similar. You'll get better support from them and it's not often that a 10 person company needs a ton of servers for a short period of time. Even then, you could use both: short-lived instances on EC2 and stable, well-supported, long-lived stuff on Rackspace.

points by gfodor 3 days ago replies      
For what it's worth, I ran a trivially complex system on Rackspace cloud about a year ago and it was a total clusterfuck. My machines were rebooted all the time and I would receive e-mails saying they were rebooted by Rackspace because of infrastructure issues or maintenence. I'd say this happened once every 2-3 weeks and I was only running 3 servers. This was a hobby project so to have to drop what I was doing every 2-3 weeks to reinitialize a server was a huge pain. I eventually shut it all down and switched to Linode just so I didn't have to worry about them randomly rebooting my machines all the time.

I've ran much larger clusters on EC2 over the last several years (50+ servers) and can count on my fingers the times that machines have been rebooted. And when they have, it's due to a lightning strike or a AWS failure that's reasonably explainable.

points by DarkShikari 3 days ago replies      
I chose the cheapest option on Rackspace, a 1GB 32-bit Windows 2003 server that costs $0.08 per hour, which works out to $59 per month. Significantly less than the $90 a mini-server costs on Amazon.

Is that supposed to be cheap? I used EC2 for some compute tasks a week ago; it was 23 cents per hour for an x86_64 8-core 2.16Ghz i7 system with 8 gigabytes of RAM -- which sounds way more than 3 times as powerful as the system they mention.

Running on "burst CPU" doesn't sound like a very useful strategy when I need to load a few dozen cores for a few days.

points by jfb 3 days ago replies      
We're on Rackspace, and getting murdered by a couple of things:

1. Not being able to idle a system, or to restore from a system image (some persistent bug on their side w/r/t setting netmasks on external interfaces, of all things);

2. Not being able to buy disk independently of RAM.

We were moved from DFW to ORD and since then, we haven't seen the random weird outages that had me pulling out my hair. It hasn't been bad enough to make me want to move to EC2/some other hosting company, but I do look longingly at, say, spot instances, which would be a perfect tool for some of our problems. I'd love it if FreeBSD worked correctly, but I'd also like a pony, so what the hell.

points by jcsalterego 3 days ago replies      
When Cloud Servers work, they work great.

The pricing and build-out structure is linear when looking at RAM & disk space, so this may or may not fit everyone's requirements. There is no EBS-equivalent, and load balancing has just been introduced formally into the control panel recently. The persistency is something I've taken advantage of, compared to EC2's ephemeral nature (unless one employs EBS).

As for cloud servers going down randomly, Rackspace Roulette can be tough, and the only silver lining is it provides a good incentive to build (or at least, to think about) applications which work around failure.

There is one other lesser known gotcha which is max RAM capacity per account; I think the default is something like 50GB and if you require more (for burst perhaps), you have to get this amount pre-approved. Apparently this is to safeguard against (accidental) abuse of the Cloud Servers API, but it's probably also a good mechanism for capacity planning on their side. At any rate, I've seen/heard the turnaround to be about a couple of business days.

One the flip side, there was a very active thread a while back about how Mixpanel moved away from RS: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1884685

EDIT: One more note about RS -- resizing cloud servers. It's a great ability to have, but it can be slow. It tends to take longer the more data you have (not too surprising). A good practice is to wipe unnecessary log files before resizing, as I've been told that each resize action actually causes the cloud server to jump to another physical host. Don't quote me though, I'm just on the Internet :)

points by acangiano 3 days ago replies      
An in-depth performance comparison published by an independent third-party: http://www.thebitsource.com/featured-posts/rackspace-cloud-s... Rackspace Cloud appears to perform much better than EC2 in the States.
points by cylo 3 days ago replies      
Rackspace lets you burst CPU, whereas Amazon EC2 does not. It's not terribly surprising that Rackspace is performing better in that area.

What you need to be careful about is the fact that EC2 and Rackspace Cloud are currently in two different leagues when it comes to controlling your instances. Amazon has a far better control panel (not to mention the API) for exercising granular control of your instances. Hard drive space is dynamically scalable on Amazon whereas it is not on Rackspace (their solution of mounting Rackspace Cloud Files via FUSE is unacceptable).

The monitoring system for EC2 is also far better, and completely non-existent on Rackspace unless you pay them $99/mo out of pocket on top of your hourly usage charges.

All in all, my Rackspace experience left a very bad taste in my mouth when dealing with their support, and it was a culmination of the small and simple things that left me frustrated (the lack of pv_grub support out of the box, etc., etc.) and kept me on EC2 despite the lack of CPU bursting.

points by latch 3 days ago replies      
For one of our sites, we ran unixbench on EC2, Linode and StormCloud (LiquidWeb)..and I can tell you that EC2 wasn't the best value with respect to price/performance (not by a lot).

I can also tell you that having not picked EC2, I have, more than once, wished for Feature X offered by Amazon. Maybe Rackspace Cloud offers a comparative list of addons/products, so my point might not be too relevant. But, my point is that price/performance shouldn't be the only determining factor.

points by staunch 3 days ago replies      
Honest question: could this just be because no one is on Rackspace?
points by nicpottier 2 days ago replies      
My practical experience does not agree. I've actually started moving off of Rackspace cloud because I find that sometimes it is super slow. No such problems with EC2 in three years of use.

The new Micro instances on EC2 make it a no-brainer.. really.

points by psadauskas 3 days ago replies      
The biggest reason I've stuck with EC2 is that no other provider provides many hundreds of GB of disk space like EC2 does. Even the smallest "tiny" EC2 node can have 1TB of EBS attached to it.
points by mjs 3 days ago replies      
I more or less understand the reasons, but I do think it unfortunate and weird that the companies offering cloud services price them on some combination of RAM, disk space and bandwidth--CPU performance doesn't really figure, except occasionally in vague terms, and neither does disk access speed.

RAM is important, sure, but there should be some way to quantify the expected CPU performance as well.

points by mike_esspe 2 days ago replies      
Can anyone explain why cloud hosting is so expensive? I can get i7 quad core with 8 Gb RAM for $60/month from dedicated servers providers, but i can't find comparable price with cloud hosting.
points by TillE 3 days ago replies      
Tangentially, I was just looking at the possibility of hosting a file on Amazon S3, and it's astonishing how expensive it is. They want $0.15/GB for bandwidth.

In contrast, Linode sells bandwidth for $0.10/GB, and that comes with a whole VPS. So if I pay $160/month, I get 16TB of bandwidth on a VPS with 4GiB of RAM and 128GiB of storage (oh, and Linode pools your bandwidth across all nodes). On S3, $160 will buy me a little over 10TB of bandwidth, nevermind storage or anything else.

I understand that these cloud services are the most convenient way to scale, and probably the best way to absorb an unexpected spike in usage. But they seem to charge a roughly 50% premium for every resource, as compared to a reliable VPS provider with great customer service, an API that lets you set up temporary servers, etc.

points by prakash 2 days ago replies      
At Cedexis, we compared cloud performance using 15 billion measurements from actual end-users in 220 countries and 23,800 networks between:

- Amazon, Rackspace, Joyent, Google App Engine and Azure and

- How do EC2's East, West, EU & APAC zones compare


Drop me a note if you are interested in additional information, a similar test for your website -- prakash at cedexis.com

points by jsprinkles 3 days ago replies      
There was a comparison about a year ago that tested performance over a week span. Linode performed better than Rackspace Cloud and that fits my experiences. No Windows so not helpful to Dave but worth looking at.


points by StavrosK 3 days ago replies      
I'm considering a server provider for a new startup I'm working on, but the recent EBS issues of Amazon have put me off it entirely. Would you suggest I reconsider? What are your experiences with AWS?
points by jjm 3 days ago replies      
How does Rackspace compare with say Joyent? I'm cross shopping for some more CPU. I've been a very long EC2 user/developer.
points by simonhamp 3 days ago replies      
http://www.lesslettuce.co.uk/ is running on Rackspace cloud and we've not had any problems whatsoever with it. Got nothing to compare it against though, haven't tried EC2. But this makes me glad we went with RS in the first place!
points by justinwi 2 days ago replies      
Shameless plug: we recently launched a service to help folks discover and evaluate different cloud computing offerings. In addition to Rackspace & EC2, you might consider Linode, GoGrid, SoftLayer and a small pile of others.

It's free and includes benchmarking and pricing data into it's recommendations.


points by djjose 2 days ago replies      
I've used both and performance-wise my team didn't see any drastic differences. We switched to EC2 mostly because of RightScale (which now also runs over top of RackSpace). It's not cheap, but running on RightScale has made server maintenance and scaling a breeze for us. If this is a pain on your team, I recommend them.
points by jonursenbach 3 days ago replies      
Just guessing here, but the reason Rackspace Cloud is probably more performant than EC2 is probably because EC2 is more utilized than Rackspace.
points by JonasH 2 days ago replies      
Does anyone have experience with http://www.cloudsigma.com/? They seem like a nice alternative for european companies. It would be interesting to see a comparison with Amazon and Rackspace.
points by epynonymous 2 days ago replies      
wait a minute, i've been using a fedora instance on rackspace with 256 MB memory, it's much less than $60 a month.
points by imagetic 2 days ago replies      
Isn't the word "cloud" is just an expensive way to sell shared hosting?
points by bkmrkr 3 days ago replies      
no comments?
Why no company that values their data should ever "Go Google" e1ven.com
189 points by e1ven 3 days ago   119 comments top 21
points by msy 3 days ago replies      
This is precisely why I think it's insane that people trust their email - the nexus of their online presence, normally the key to every account and their primary communication tool for everything from conversations to account statements to a free service. It's not 1996 anymore, this stuff matters. I pay for Rackspace email. When I have a problem I can call a human and get an answer. As far as I'm concerned it's a bargain.

Google doesn't do human, it doesn't matter if it's a free gmail account, a serious-money adwords account or your entire business on apps, you're just a number if something goes wrong you're on your own, shouting at the unmoving monolith.

points by steevdave 3 days ago replies      
Why don't people make backups anymore? I know that using Google Apps is much easier than running your own stuff in-house. It requires much less time and resources, but at the same time there are still best practices and disaster recovery plans that should always have something about backups in them. And just having them isn't good enough. They also need to be followed. Having worked at a place without these ( and attempting to get them implemented ) versus where I currently work that has them and follows them, I have to say, there are a lot fewer times where I feel like screaming here. Do it, and stop expecting 100% uptime and availability of all docs/important information from any service, internal or external. Nothing is 100% but there are many ways to make it less stressful.
points by gregable 2 days ago replies      
I think a lot of this is not about security or service level. It's psychological, it's about control/trust. When it's under your control and you can fix things yourself, you psychologically feel more safe. If you rely on someone else and they say "we're working on it" but don't give you an estimate, you feel a lack of control. It may be that doing things yourself has worse uptime/performance/etc than relying on someone else, but the psychological effect of that loss of control when something bad happens is huge.
points by yesbabyyes 3 days ago replies      
Dropbox has an advantage here, in that all files are stored local (mirrored, really) in user's computers, and they are backed up. It doesn't scale to shared editing, though.

I'm turning more and more to plaintext/markdown on Dropbox.

points by eitally 3 days ago replies      
In case anyone cares to hear a counterpoint, I run a nearly 20,000 seat Apps domain and the service and transparency we receive from Google is leaps & bounds better than from any vendor of similar size. Perhaps my happiness makes sense given how much we're paying them compared to, say, e1ven's company.
points by ttyS0 3 days ago replies      
Yes, because we all know that when we run these systems outselves, they never go down.
points by minalecs 3 days ago replies      
I might of missed it, but are you using Google Apps (free) or Google Apps for business ? http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/features.html
points by res0nat0r 3 days ago replies      
What type of SLA's did you agree to when you signed up for Google Apps?
points by Vvector 3 days ago replies      

Support and reliability

24/7 phone and email support for critical issues

99.9% uptime guarantee SLA

points by joe_the_user 3 days ago replies      
No person or organization should put itself in a position where it depends only on an external source for either security or backups. Whatever else might or might not be "mission critical", I think this inherent is.

Come back and tell me that relying on using Google docs while keeping local backups is problematic or awkward. That would be a fair complaint.

Toshiba isn't going to help me if my drive goes down either. Whether they send a nice or not nice email isn't the point.

points by mark_l_watson 3 days ago replies      
Personally, I use Google Docs every day, and I back up all of my docs on a regular basis (easy to do). Same with my GMail: use POP3 to keep a backup copy locally.

I would not consider running my own services and not back up my data. If you use GMail and/or Docs for free or as a paid customer, still, why would you not make local backups?

points by powertower 2 days ago replies      
It gets much worse than this.

A lot of businesses are completely dependent on Google via organic search and AdWords for 90%+ percent of their revenues (without even realizing it).

What happens when you log into your AdWords account and you're greeted by this cryptic message:


Except that you've done nothing wrong, have never been warned, are not a spammer, and are completely legitimate.

What happens is that after contacting Google you soon realize that a monopoly with no customer support is the most dangerous one.

points by slewis 3 days ago replies      
Just Googled around and found http://www.backupify.com/ or maybe something like http://www.ltech.com/google-apps/products/google-docs-backup

Has anyone tried those products?

points by schwit 3 days ago replies      
I would be afraid that in a dispute Google could do a PayPal and lock you out of your data. I would also be concerned that Google would provide law enforcement access to your data without your knowledge, consent or a warrant.
points by nolite 3 days ago replies      
Please stop paying them.. companies seem to only learn through the wallet
points by lwhi 3 days ago replies      
I think this is the problem with all cloud services. The liability costs involved in dealing with worst case scenarios are potentially so huge, the majority of providers have terms and conditions which relinquish all responsibility when bad things happen.

The only real solution is backup, and the only backup that can truly be relied upon is one you make yourself; in which case the point in making use of a cloud service in the first place is pretty much reduced.

points by mariusmg 2 days ago replies      
In another news scientists discovered that water is wet...
points by slewis 3 days ago replies      
So are you actually switching off Google?
points by simonhamp 3 days ago replies      
This is precisely the reason why I don't use Google Docs for any mission-critical documents. Store them in Dropbox or some other shared, automatically-backed-up system where you can easily retrieve a copy from somewhere.

Always have redundancy too. We keep most of our files in Dropbox. But we all use Time Machine too. We also use version control for a lot of our work.

This might seem like overkill, but each has a specific use and purpose with the added bonus of providing us with backup redundancy.

points by atacrawl 2 days ago replies      
I worked for a company that switched to Google Business a few years ago. The one thing I'll say about the experience is that administering the back end totally sucks.

The UI in a lot of places makes no sense. For instance, there are settings for when you set up an email list that are labeled so obtusely that you're not really sure of what you're selecting.

Another thing that totally bit us once was when dealing with document ownership in Google Docs -- a lady in marketing had created a bunch of documents, then later left the company. After scouring the back end for about an hour (literally), I concluded that there was NO WAY for the admin user to reassign the owner of the document to a different person. I ended up having to log in as that person (luckily we kept people's accounts active for 6-12 months after they left) and switching the owner that way. Totally absurd. (If I'm wrong about that, please do tell.)

As far as customer service goes, it's definitely a minus. They don't make it easy to tell you who to call or email when you do have a problem, and once you get there, the time before your problem is resolved can vary wildly (from hours to days). That really sucks when you have a salesman breathing down your neck because he can't use his email.

points by VladRussian 3 days ago replies      
>We've been running flawlessly for 6 months, paying them $50/user to avoid handling it ourselves.

if you open Excel and put some typical numbers into it (like commodity hardware cost, networks, electricity, data center mortgage, basic maintenance employees, 40% margin, etc...) you'd see that $50/user/month is just basic usage - timeslice to run provided software on provided hardware. There is no room in that number for a real person dealing with your specific issue. An elephant can't squeeze into a needle eye, even if he promised it to you in writing and accepted the money - just look at the elephant and at the needle with your own eyes.

Teaching binary to 3rd Graders using the Socratic method garlikov.com
190 points by scorchin 3 days ago   30 comments top 10
points by alxp 3 days ago replies      
One day after a visit to the Computer History Museum, my SO and I got to see the live demo of the analytical engine they have there. We watched the gears turning and stopping to add up numbers, saw the complex mechanisms to handle carrying digits, and she asked me how this would work if it was binary and I just said "much more simply". Then she admitted that, even though she has been working as a developer and manager of developers for years, she never learned binary.

When we got home I got out a pad and pencil and got her to write down 0, then 1, then asked her, if you only had two digits, what would come next? Tentatively she wrote 1 0. THen I asked her to add 1 to it. We more or less carried on the way this transcript went, except instead of using aliens with two fingers I introduced AND, OR and XOR 'boxes' that 0s and 1s go in and come out. I hadn't planned any of this but by the end of it she was just about drawing the circuit diagram of a full adder with carry bit.

I'm sort of thrilled to see that what I was doing is precisely the socratic method. I love teaching, never really did much of it until I gave a course in Unix and shell scripting at an old job but for a week I had more energy at work than I ever did just programming or in meetings.

points by drblast 3 days ago replies      
This is wonderful.

My wife homeschools, and the math curriculum she uses uses a very similar method from the beginning.

My daughter knows "12" as "One-ten two" and "33" as "three-ten three" and says it that way. She also knows those mean twelve and thirty-three, but for the purposes of the math program she uses the place terminology.

We can only hope that it will give her a better understanding of what's going on than pure memorization, and the jury's out until she's older, but it's a fascinating way to teach.

I sometimes wish we were all born with eight or sixteen fingers, but that's just the CS/EE bias in me talking.

points by ericHosick 3 days ago replies      
This is a great way to teach and Mr. Garlikov did an amazing job. It is hard work to "teach" this way because it requires student/teacher interaction (which is a lot harder than just standing there and lecturing). Coming up with the content is equally difficult.

But it there are so many more things students learn using this method.

One is they learn how to create new ideas from existing ones: "inventing". It really gets me when I hear people tell kids "don't re-invent the wheel".

points by docmarionum1 3 days ago replies      
Reading this gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

I can't imagine trying to teach 3rd graders binary using a standard method - I even have peers in college that struggle with it. Probably because it was just taught to them as something different - this weird language computers use, instead of them developing an intuitive sense for it. But whenever I try to explain it to them, or anyone else, I always try and explain it as "just like decimal, exactly what you already know."

The Socratic method really is much more interesting and captivating for students. For example, Walter Lewin's physics lectures (Which are well worth watching, even if you're not taking a physics class), which I'm currently watching to "supplement" my actual physics class in which the professor stares at the board and rambles.*

*Not to say that his lectures are the Socratic method - that's probably not feasible with a lecture hall of hundreds of students. But the way he teaches makes you feel like you're discovering everything again along with him.

points by elviejo 3 days ago replies      
I love to learn using the Socratic method.
One of my favorite books is: "The Little Schemer" which is great and twists my mind in ways that I didn't think where possible.

Anyway do you know of other books, on any topic, that use the socratic method?

points by ars 2 days ago replies      
This is very cool, and I'm going to try it when I can.

But just to nitpick, he did actually tell them plenty of things, it was not just questions.

2 Examples:

> Could it be because we have 10 fingers?

> No, only to you guys, because you were taught it wrong [grin] -- to the aliens it is two. They learn it that way in pre-school just as you learn to call one, zero [pointing to "10"] "ten". But it's not really ten, right? It's two -- if you only had two fingers.

Not a criticism, just a nitpick.

points by measure2xcut1x 3 days ago replies      
I learned how to count in binary using my fingers as digits probably about third grade. The pinkie is the 1. At that age, I thought it was pretty cool that I could count to 31 on one hand, and it stuck with me to this day. I'm sure I'll teach my son the same.
points by whozman 3 days ago replies      
Captivating. Understanding something by answering questions on your own (even if guided) always feels more like true understanding. But what happens when we come to a point that requires mental leap beyond what a student can do? Is there a set of problems, or a set of students that are more suitable for Socratic method (3rd graders seem to do just fine at it)? Or is there a set of teachers that are more adept to teaching this way? Please give your answers through questions only.
points by nbashaw 3 days ago replies      
This gives me an idea. What if there were a virtual university that was entirely conducted via chat? Like Quora meets Convore.
points by charlieflowers 3 days ago replies      
This is amazingly similar to Test Driven Development. In the purest form of TDD, you don't write a single line of code until you have a failing test. The failing test is the unanswered question. Then, you write the code that "answers that question." This means that each step of the way, you are confirming that prior principles are correctly understood by the human and the computer before building on those prior principles.

As the Agile theory puts it, this approach "maximizes feedback".

Rent the country of Liechtenstein for $70,000 a night with Airbnb airbnb.com
188 points by jamesjyu 3 days ago   59 comments top 27
points by furyg3 3 days ago replies      
Ahh Liechtenstein. Random trivia: the Swiss once invaded the country by accident and nobody noticed.


points by 1053r 3 days ago replies      
It must not come with legislative powers, because at $70K per night, that's only $25.55M a year. The GDP of Lichtenstein is 5.05B according to a quick google search (google for "lichetenstein gdp" and you get a result from google public data sources). I'll pay $25.55M for the right to tax the people of Lichtenstein for one year! Even if I only raise taxes 1%, that's a cool $25M profit!
points by plnewman 3 days ago replies      
Fun fact: Liechenstein actually voted itself into an absolute monarchy in 2003.


points by csomar 3 days ago replies      
I can see lot of potential for this.

1. The buyer. He benefits from a unique and authentic experience. He amazes his audience because he doesn't just rent a hotel or a room, but a whole location and customize it to fit.

2. The seller. $70K/day, if they get booked 50 times a year that's $3.5 million. The country habitants benefits too from the incoming tourists and currency.

3. AirBnb. It's like having 1,000 clients in one time.

points by JoachimSchipper 3 days ago replies      
AirBNB sure knows how to pull a nice marketing stunt.
points by edanm 3 days ago replies      
Let's get an HN super-meetup going. If everybody pitches in $100 it won't take too many members to rent out Liechtenstein for an all-HN users weekend!
points by jacques_chester 3 days ago replies      
It's a "too good to check" story, I'm afraid:


Or rather, "rent a country!" sounds sexier than "rent a few hotels!"

points by delackner 3 days ago replies      
Somehow this feels like the uncanny valley of human reality. Along the lines of renting a family for the afternoon, or a puppy for a walk, only on a massive scale.

I once had a dream that I was the king of the city, and they marched in parade to honor my name. No wait, that was last weekend in Leichtenstein at SuperBlingFest2012.

points by JonnieCache 3 days ago replies      
Are legislative powers included?
points by joejohnson 3 days ago replies      
Liechtenstein is 160 km². That's only $437.5 per square kilometer!
points by Splines 3 days ago replies      
Warning: Minimum stay: 2 nights.

And no indoor fireplace? Pfft. I'll pass.

points by alexg0 3 days ago replies      
Do they kick out all the 34,000 people that live that for the time? What do you actually get?
points by visava 3 days ago replies      
collect 700 people using groupon like site and then it is just $100/night.This is an idea for a site if there are more deals like this
points by nikhilpandit 3 days ago replies      
Another fun fact related to this story: Snoop Dogg tried to rent Liechtenstein in the past, but was not able to. (source: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2010/07/snoop-d...)

He should try using AirBnB next time!

points by joubert 2 days ago replies      
I clicked on "Book Now".

Next I was prompted to contact the "host" to confirm availability (does this mean they kick out the citizens?)

Oh, and BTW, minimum stay is 2 nights, so this will cost me $140,000.

points by tudorizer 3 days ago replies      
Who's in with me? :D
points by tudorizer 3 days ago replies      
Wouldn't it be cool to rent this in the name of Hacker News for 2-3 days? With 150 people, it's not that expensive.
points by tectonic 3 days ago replies      
If those 500+ rooms are all included, that's only about $140 per night. Not free, but one hell of a (hacking) conference destination.
points by joubert 2 days ago replies      
One should set up a Kickstarter project to raise the $140k required (minimum stay is 2 nights).

Participants can then be one's guests.

points by joejohnson 3 days ago replies      
It always strikes me how nice their website is. I really like the design and layout.
points by krmmalik 2 days ago replies      
I wonder if Richard Branson will be listing his Necker Islands anytime soon ;-)
points by takinola 3 days ago replies      
It's actually a pretty good deal. The country sleeps 500 so that comes to about $140 per night. This is comparable to rates on Kayak for the cheapest 4 star hotels in nearby Zurich.
points by svag 3 days ago replies      
The next thing would be to rent the moon, or mars, or any other planet...
points by gwern 3 days ago replies      
April 14th. Hm.
points by presidentender 3 days ago replies      
...Just how far does this rental extend? Can I declare war? 'Cuz this kid from high school still owes me $50.
points by michaelochurch 3 days ago replies      
13 days late, bro.
Leaving in a Huff ericdsnider.com
186 points by quilby 4 days ago   33 comments top 10
points by pstack 4 days ago replies      
Eric was actually talking about this the Rick Emerson Show (rickemerson.com) some time last week. I don't recall which day it was, but he shared the experience with the whole internet reaction to the email snip he posted that AOL subsequently responded to by claiming "oh no, we're not forcing anyone to work for free or be fired!" and then laid off the person who originally sent the email that was snipped from.

It was a sad and frustrating story to hear (though amusing and snarky as Eric tends to be, from my limited experience).

I'm a big proponent of doing what you love because you love it (like running a forum or BBS or online service or writing) rather than trying to suck every last penny out of something that you can. But when someone else is making every last dime on something while expecting your contribution to be entirely uncompensated, save for "but you'll see your name on a byline!", it is almost downright sickening.

Unfortunately, this is a trend on the internet. It seems that fewer places are willing to pay for writers or even photographers, anymore. You should be thankful that your work is going to be used at all and then you can use the fact that someone published your content as leverage to promote yourself into something that does pay, somewhere . . . unless those people want you to work for "ego", too.

It's very difficult to justify not paying content creators when you've just made a few hundred million dollars off of the "they should thank me for printing them!" model. Or . . . maybe that's exactly why it's so easy to justify. Why pay when they're giving it to you for free?

I'm grateful I never entered one of these industries. I grew up with dreams of being a writer. Then I had dreams of being a radio broadcaster. Then I had dreams of being a video game developer. I went into the world of enterprise software and unix and linux, instead. A world where there is competition, but people aren't practically throwing themselves at you to do the job for free, because it's "fun".

points by trustfundbaby 4 days ago replies      
I didn't want to even read that, but it was so well written that I couldn't stop.
points by Vivtek 4 days ago replies      
Money quote is - AOL: you've got fail.

Just one of the many points where this guy made me chortle with schadenfreudige glee.

points by pchristensen 4 days ago replies      
Holy crap, Eric Snider used to write for the BYU student newspaper and I loved reading his column! I even bought his compilation books: http://www.amazon.com/Snide-Remarks-Eric-D-Snider/dp/B000REH... and http://www.amazon.com/Snide-REmarks-II-Electric-Boogaloo/dp/...

You won't be disappointed to read him.

points by teyc 4 days ago replies      
This is classic price anchoring at work.

For years people would be very happy to produce work and get (somewhat) paid for it because it is about writing something they are passionate for. Then, this gets disrupted because the owner gets a big payout and doesn't share. Disgusted with how things have turned out, since they now perceive their work to be worth more, they leave. Suddenly the talent acquisition has turned into nothing.

(The case of HuffPost is somewhat different, presumably the traffic would stay around longer. )

But this business model is subject to disruption. I read that pirates operate on a fairness principle, because many of them suffered as sailors in government ships. May be someone here can start a HuffPost alternative that issues equity instead?

points by dhimes 4 days ago replies      
TL;DR: It's a well written chronicle of the corporate communication that occurred during the restructuring of cinematical.com/moviefone.com under AOL after they were bought from Huffington. The author wrote freelance for cinematical. After the editor-in-chief at cinematical resigned (and two other editors there had resigned), the editor-in-chief of moviefone was apparently put in charge of corralling the freelancers. The author is responsible for starting the internet backlash which led to the firing of the editor-in-chief at moviefone. He respects her a lot and regrets his involvement in bringing about her termination.
points by petewailes 4 days ago replies      
Anyone else ever feel that watching AOL do anything is like watching your child make a bad choice, and knowing that you can't stop them?

I'm getting to the point of just feeling sorry for them nowadays.

points by daimyoyo 4 days ago replies      
Jason Calacanis should negotiate to get cinematical back from aol. They clearly have no idea what to do with it and I'm sure he'd have no problem with the whole "pay people who create content" model.
points by budu3 4 days ago replies      
"... suspicious foreign person Arianna Huffington". I know that he's not a big fan of Arianna's but that statement makes him sound like a Xenophobe.
points by cabalamat 4 days ago replies      
I read the first few paragraphs and couldn't tell where this was going. Is there a tl;dr version?
Stanford CS enrollment increase "downright scary" computinged.wordpress.com
183 points by andreyf 4 days ago   172 comments top 30
points by patio11 4 days ago replies      
Capitalism happens? Seriously, anecdotal fresh-out-of-school salaries for talented CS people are near $100k. Anecdotal fresh-out-of-school salaries for talented English majors are near... well, they get discounted frappuchinos at any rate. This is Mr. Market saying "Thanks, I've got enough literary criticism -- can I please, please, please have more code monkeys?"
points by forensic 4 days ago replies      
Who are we kidding. This is a symptom of the economy. There is money in software.

What does the economy of the future look like? Millions and millions of programmers. Manipulating technology is where value comes from and software is the most efficient way to manipulate technology.

I just hope we have enough robotics and computer engineering people to improve the platforms all these programmers are going to work on.

The web browser is pretty limited in its ability to improve human life. We need other platforms to target.

points by famousactress 4 days ago replies      
As someone who's been regularly interviewing Stanford students and grads for internships and full-time positions, it's worth pointing out that lots of these CS students don't want to program. I've been surprised at how many of them are getting a CS education as a platform for a career in product management, or even marketing.

It makes some sense, given the makeup of the companies that are exciting to work for nowadays. I think especially if you want to join an early-stage startup, there are lots of benefits to having a technical education, even if your role isn't expressly technical.

points by dstein 4 days ago replies      

  When expensively educated, fashionable young graduates
start showing up in your field, you're in a bubble.
- Kevin Marks

I fully attribute the increase to The Social Network movie coinciding with the ballooning of Facebook's market cap. Flipping tech startups is the hot new get rich quick scheme. Just like flipping houses and subprime mortgages before it.

points by larsberg 4 days ago replies      
The same thing appears to be happening here at the University of Chicago -- increased numbers of undergraduates in the sequence as well as greatly increased Ph.D. student applications over the last couple of years. And not just money-grubbers in the undergrads as well; many refuse to interview with the previous staples for our graduates -- the finance industry here in Chicago or "big companies" such as Google and Facebook (one of them said to me during a lab, "I mean, really, PHP? Who wants to work with THAT?").

I haven't seen as many Ph.D. students from other disciplines coming through our intro sequence and regretting their current path. But, I do see quite a few juniors and seniors who only started taking CS classes as a sophomore or junior (usually because their advisor told them the classes were too hard and would make it difficult to do their Core Curriculum) and really wish they had evaluated the major earlier before they made choices that prevented them from switching majors and still graduating in four years.

points by pjhyett 4 days ago replies      
I know it's in vogue to throw the word bubble around, but I'd be interested to see the CS enrollment stats worldwide. The first generation of kids that spend more time in front of their computer than the TV are starting to hit college. More screen time is bound to create more people interested in how they can program the thing they sit in front of all day.
points by jonmc12 4 days ago replies      
I graduated in '01 with an EE degree. At that point in time, engineering, including software, seemed like a field where you were ushered down a career path towards a pigeon-holed role at a large company. The advice was to get into a) technical sales, b) product marketing, or c) consulting if you wanted to start a career towards being an entrepreneur.

Now, its much different - the technology is more empowering and much cheaper. I can build stuff, and if I can build stuff people want, its a direct path to starting a company. Constrained by my ability to build stuff, I committed myself over the last 2.5 years to focusing on becoming a better engineer.

What is interesting, is that many of my peers that I thought were done coding have come to this same conclusion. In the last 6 months I have had 3 friends - 1 a successful consultant at a big firm, 1 a successful tech salesman and a fortune 100 company, and 1 a VP of engineering at a mid-sized firm. Each of them is coding on nights and weekends now.

Why? 1) Paul Graham - 'build stuff people want' and the subsequent success of that strategy, 2) It is really hard to hire developers to build stuff, 3) Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Zynga and other companies that used tech to change the world in insanely short periods of time.

So, from what I am seeing, its not about people gold-digging (as many comments have suggested) - its that the skill of engineering has turned from a boring career skillset into an incredibly empowering tool. I imagine many undergrads are seeing it this way too.

points by benwerd 4 days ago replies      
Rinse and repeat everywhere, and we're likely to see an overabundance of computer scientists in three or four years.

Developers: may I suggest getting a second degree?

points by zmitri 4 days ago replies      
This is a good sign!
The general public is just realizing how important computer skills are, no matter what you are trying to do. A well rounded CS major can learn something new and apply those skills to something else. I think public schools and high schools need to start integrating and making CS/programming courses necessary just as basic math and science courses are required -- then once people reach university age, they can focus on different topics without having to take CS courses to learn the basic skills they require to approach those topics like a CS major would.
points by kenjackson 4 days ago replies      
Can't they just accept fewer students? Seems odd to get worked up about something you directly control.
points by kyan 4 days ago replies      
I was a section leader for CS106A/B/X at Stanford and Eric Roberts was my undergrad adviser. I graduated in 08 and all through my 4 years, the number of students majoring in CS and taking CS106A/B/X was increasing rapidly.

Personally, I think that it's fantastic. Programming is a great skill to be exposed to even if you're not a programmer. There's no shortage of hard problems to be solved in CS and the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned.

From my experience of teaching at least 100 kids who have taken the CS106s, no one has done it for a higher salary out of college - a lot of non-CS majors take it to satisfy the Engineering GER (a requirement) and the rest take it out of interest.

points by b3b0p 4 days ago replies      
At my school the first 2 CS courses were always packed... in the initial weeks of courses beginning at least.

I had a professor in one of those courses once say something like this:

    Look to your left, look to your right, 
because one of you won't be here by
the end of the year.

Both these courses were considered weed out courses. They were Java based and most majors I had heard required at least one or both of them.

$100k in San Francisco is less than $50k where I live. I rent a single bedroom, no debt in Oklahoma. My good friend lives in San Francisco, single bedroom apartment, doesn't even need a car. I take home after taxes, expenses, etc about 50% to 25% and I make almost half of what he makes. Anecdotal, yes. Maybe not typical, but it does show that cost of living is a major factor on salary.

points by michaelochurch 4 days ago replies      
Who is coming in to the programs? And what are their motivations?

You can't evaluate whether this is a good or bad change based on the numbers alone. For example, the legal profession has been swamped with excess entrants and it sucks. On the other hand, programmers tend to be job-creators more than job-takers, even as employees ("intrapreneurs") so I think this is probably a good thing.

points by buckwild 4 days ago replies      
Maybe there is a more simple explanation. I speculate it is just that computers (and programming) are becoming more of a required skill in many fields. I know psychologists and MBAs who use programming to data mine. I myself am a bioinformatician and heavily use programming to answer scientific questions.

It could also be that kids are being introduced to programming at a younger and younger age. I started learning programming in my early teens, but I have a little cousin who has a Java class in her private school. She is about 8 now and can program Java better than I can...

points by tytso 3 days ago replies      
One of the problems that I see is that perhaps "Computer Science" is too broad. MIT has been mocked by some for having a "humanities" department, where Theater, Foreign Languages, Literature, etc., are all combined together, but given how complex the world has become in the world of computer science disciplines, I'd argue that a "Computer Science" degree is almost as broad.

Consider the different sorts of work that a CS undergraduate might pursue: Alice could become a CPU architect, working at Intel or AMD on the next micro-archtecture for the next generation of x86_64 chips. Bobby could work on creating a new secure PHP framework that makes security exposures much less likely. Candice could on writing J2EE applets for Ford. David could become a GUI engineer. Elaine could be writing the engine for an amazing new MMORPG. Frank could be working on new compiler optimizations for the Go language. Gerald could be a product manager for an amazing new consumer electronic device that's actually not derivative of other products. Hermione might be a webmaven who can create a website using Drupal, Wordpress, or what ever else is appropriate/demanded by her clients. You get the idea.

All of these require radically different preparation for a successful career, and one interesting question is where should that preparation take place? On the job? At a trade school? At an undergraduate CS program?

Some CS programs focus heavily on Java programming these days. Others still have a very heavy Systems bias (although I lament that MIT is no longer requiring undergraduates to build a CPU out of TTL chips :-). Some try to spread themselves super-thin, and have a peanut-butter coverage of all of these topics, and assume that if student needs to learn the intricacies of the Java standard libraries, they can do that on the job. Others will assume the same about what Virtual Memory is. (No kidding, I was sitting in 1st year introductory CS graduate class at MIT when a student raised her hand, and asked in lecture, "I'm sorry, what is Virtual Memory?". My jaw dropped.)

Similarly I think there's going to be a huge variety in salaries based on both the very wide range of talent available --- both in terms of quality, and their scope of training/skills/experience. If a company only wants the very best and brightest, asking for $100k/year even for a recent college graduate isn't insane. I've done phone screens for people who have been out in the industry for years, and they flubbed amazingly basic questions --- so much so that I wondered how/why their previous employers had hired them. My personal conclusion is that the market is extremely tight for certain classes of software engineers (for example, really good Linux Kernel engineers), and some companies react by hiring anyone they can get, and other companies react by holding the line, only hiring competent engineers, and paying more if that's what it takes.

points by narrator 3 days ago replies      
I blame "The Social Network" movie. That was the first movie that made software development look like a fun way to party, make tons of money and get hot chicks. The Palo Alto dev house pot smoking scenes and the fictional Sean Parker antics were quite amusing in that regard. That, and there's easy money in software these days.
points by troymc 4 days ago replies      
I'd attribute part of the increase to what I call the "Top Gun Effect."

When Top Gun (the Tom Cruise movie) came out, there was a big increase in the number of students signing up for aerospace engineering courses and programs.

The trigger doesn't have to be a movie, just something in popular culture. In this case, I think it's all the positive media around Facebook, iPhone, iPad, Kinect, Google and more (including at least one Oscar-nominated movie).

points by ThomPete 4 days ago replies      
Great, that just means more gold diggers for us merchants to sell tools to.
points by phamilton 4 days ago replies      
At my school, CS is the 6th most popular major (out of 135). That's a big deal, especially since we aren't necessarily a tech school (BYU). They haven't had trouble placing grads yet, but they are starting to get worried too.

Meanwhile, EE and CpE are pretty low. Definitely below the job market's demand.

points by juiceandjuice 4 days ago replies      
This is more likely due to a generational shift than anything.

People between the ages of ~23 and ~28 are sort of the go-betweeners with roots (and maybe even parents) in generation X but firmly planted in Generation Y. 22 and younger is firmly Generation Y, transforming into Z or whatever you want to call it. Right now, people around 18 have lived their whole life with the internet, and probably half of it with broadband.

points by ninguem2 4 days ago replies      
>A 20% rate of increase is healthy and manageable.

At this rate, all of mankind will be Stanford CS students by the end of the century.

points by spydertennis 4 days ago replies      
As technology becomes more ubiquitous, the people who understand technology will become more valuable. This is a symptom of more people knowing what the internet is than did 20 years ago.
points by snikolic 4 days ago replies      
I think this is cyclical, and to be expected. I had a conversation ~2 years ago with the head of a CS Dept in Boston who was anticipating this. He explained that enrollment in his department had grown by an order of magnitude (or more) during the dot-com bubble and shrank by a similar amount after the bust. Just as Lehman et al. was occurring, he was bracing for the same thing to happen again...and here it is.
points by cube13 4 days ago replies      
The courses that were mentioned were all 100 level courses. Can anyone who went to Stanford(or knows the courses) comment on how technical they actually are?

It's a good sign if these are actual technical courses, but if they're just Word/Excel "programming" non-technical courses, we're just seeing a lot of people padding their resume in a bad economy.

points by ChrisArchitect 4 days ago replies      
not one mention of The Social Network movie or if a chunk of this influx is looking for a career at making iPhone apps?
points by Apocryphon 4 days ago replies      
Anyone know if the life sciences ever experiences this as part of hype for a biotech boom? I'm sure they have a constant stream of enrollment for the med industry.
points by chopsueyar 3 days ago replies      
This isn't the guy from "Best of the Best"?
points by amathew 4 days ago replies      
For a person considering going back to school as a non-trad student for either a BS in Computer Science or Computational Math, is this a bad time to be getting a degree in CS?
points by reedF211 4 days ago replies      
For anyone still saying "there is no bubble"...
points by forgotAgain 4 days ago replies      
I wonder what the career counseling office could contribute to the discussion?
Dear Internet: Take the reset buttons off your damn forms pin21.com
176 points by f00li5h 4 days ago   76 comments top 18
points by frankiejr 4 days ago replies      
I used to think exactly the way the author did. I'd actually get agitated when I had to explain to the IA/Design departments again why this was such a bad idea. I won about half the time, usually with my argument driven solely by my ego. Being vehemently against any use of it under any condition I refused to accept that there was any appropriate use for it.

Then, I actually did some research.

First, there are instances where reset buttons have a place. From Jakob Nielsen's post Reset and Cancel Buttons (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20000416.html):
Reset can be useful for forms that satisfy both of the following criteria:

- the form is filled-in repeatedly by the same user

- the data to be entered differs significantly from one use of the form to the next

For cancel buttons, my "never ever" opinion was flawed because I refused to see the reset or cancel button from the viewpoint of users unlike myself. I spend a lot of time building these things (as most of you do). I know how forms work. After actually sitting down with users that don't, and people that don't spend that much time online, I found another thing to be true: People are afraid that form data will be submitted even if you hit the back button. They want the Cancel button to ensure their data won't be collected against their will.

A point the article makes but then ignores is the button's layout & design. Layout for these buttons is key. If they have to be used, they shouldn't inputs or buttons. I've found that the best design for these is a plain text Reset or Cancel link that's opposite the Submit or Next button. An alert is also key. Using one can instill confidence, assuring the user that their information will be cleared and not submitted.

However, there are a number of reasons these buttons could fade out of use, not limited to the following:

- Users are becoming more familiar with the way the web works. They understand that form data isn't submitted until a submit button is clicked. Because of this, forms are generally a trusted interactive element.

- With the widespread use of AJAX, it's only a matter of time before form data is collected in the user session before a submit button is clicked. It's already being used in some places to track successful conversions & Lead Dropouts (Sitecore OMS is one). If this becomes common, forms will revert to being less trusted. Reset and Cancel buttons won't fix this, though.

The rule I follow is much the same as it's always been: Don't use Cancel or Reset buttons. Though now, I understand the exceptions and plan accordingly. Think about the target audience for each specific form and include the appropriate functionality.

points by socillion 4 days ago replies      
A similar annoyance is writing a well-thought out forum post, pressing submit, and being told in some way that your session has expired.

Some sites you can go back to retrieve your post, others will just present you with a newly empty form.

points by wladimir 4 days ago replies      
Even better, get rid of your forms entirely, especially long forms with all kind of questions that you really don't need the answer to. Or have fields that are ambigious and improperly validated. Or multipage forms that have no way of going back without losing your filled in data.
points by almost 4 days ago replies      
Here's a quick User Script to get rid of them all:


It should work as an extension in Chrome or with Firefox if you have Greasemonkey installed.

points by xd 4 days ago replies      
I have a form that can be populated with records from a grid. "reset" allows the user to clear the selected record and input new data.
points by podperson 4 days ago replies      
Anyone giving "wizards" as an example of good UI design instantly loses all credibility with me.
points by bendtheblock 4 days ago replies      
Good example of implementing a feature because it's easy to do, rather than because it has real utility. Why it's part of the HTML form spec I don't know. Was it ever useful?
points by almost 4 days ago replies      
I don't think I've seen a reset button in a while. Does anyone still use them?
points by ascendant 4 days ago replies      
Am I the only one who would love to somehow switch the "submit" and "reset" buttons on this guy on some random website just to see what sort of anger you could incite? Imagine that blog post...
points by ggchappell 4 days ago replies      
A good point, one that needs paying attention to.

> There are lots of guides on website usability, go and find one for yourself.

... some of which should tell you that having an automatically scrolling display right next to something you (supposedly) want people to read, is a bad idea.

points by natabbotts 4 days ago replies      
Why not add the following rule to your user stylesheet?
input[type=reset] {display: none; visibility:hidden;}

That hides them all from view.

points by hrktb 4 days ago replies      
This seems to ignore the case where a form is pre-filled with previously inputed info or some defaults. It feels more natural to clear the form and write all fields with new infos than to overwrite everying field by field.

now it's a long time I haven't seen a useful reset button.

points by Semiapies 4 days ago replies      
Reset buttons can be useful in CRUD applications when you want to "clear all changes" in an existing record - everything gets reverted to the field values in the HTML.

Admittedly, I don't use them much, usually going with a "Cancel/Close" link that takes the user out of the record-editing view.

points by joshuaheard 4 days ago replies      
There's only one thing worse than having a Reset button: putting it next to the Save button


points by wickedOne 4 days ago replies      
though quite useful for 'advanced search' forms
points by aj700 4 days ago replies      
They still exist and I've pressed them just before thumping the desk.

Is there a greasemonkey script to get the browser to ignore them; are there extensions for any browser to do this without greasemonkey?

or with a user stylesheet?

what is the right css? I haven't used it in a while?

points by tim_iles 4 days ago replies      
In Messaging on the Facebook app on Android, you have Send on the left and Clear on the right. Gets me far too often, and it's just not even necessary. If I don't want to send what I started writing, I simply hit back. Hate it.
points by pmr_ 4 days ago replies      
Dear Cats on the internet,
please spellcheck your posts and proofread them before you post your rants to the internet. Otherwise some people might think they are unpleasant to read and possibly wont take them serious.

If you have a "related reading" section you might want to also use it to post some links to those guides. We are here to help each other, aren't we?

And: No, I don't use reset buttons.

Is Sugar Toxic? nytimes.com
169 points by px 4 days ago   135 comments top 22
points by JonnieCache 4 days ago replies      
Toxicity as a concept is entirely defined by dose. Bleach is not toxic if you take a small enough dose. Conversely, water is toxic if you drink too much of it.

Unfortunately toxic, like so many other of our perfectly good scientific words, has been hijacked by quacks trying to deprive the credulous of their money.

points by bgentry 4 days ago replies      
For those who haven't watched the video lecture referenced early in the article, I highly recommend checking it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

Lustig does a fantastic job explaining the cellular processes at work, which appealed to my engineering side. I'm not usually passionate about biochemistry and this lecture is definitely long, but if you make it through the first 15 minutes you will be hooked.

points by rflrob 4 days ago replies      
"In Lustig's view, sugar should be thought of, like cigarettes and alcohol, as something that's killing us."

I don't smoke, but I do drink alcohol in moderated amounts, and I'd disagree that alcohol is "killing us" [1], and feel that even if it were proved beyond a doubt that alcohol monotonically decreases lifespan, it helps make life enjoyable enough to be worth it. The same is true for processed sugar, in moderate amounts (though I'd take a ripe honeycrisp apple over a twinkie any day).


points by sp332 4 days ago replies      
I can't find a link now, but I remember some research being done that had runners in a lab swish a sucrose solution in their mouths and then spit it out. They ran longer than the control group who got artificial sweetener. So something happens to your metabolism before the sugar is digested, and no one has studied how tasting sucrose might be different from tasting HFCS. It's just weird and complicated :)

Edit: here's a quick explanation of some of those studies: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/fitness/exercise/...

Edit2 I found the research, but it's behind a paywall. http://journals.lww.com/co-clinicalnutrition/Abstract/2010/0...

points by pdx 4 days ago replies      
I used to pop Rolaids for heartburn like crazy. I did this for years, until I was actually developing a toxic reaction to the Rolaids and I began trying other ways to control my heartburn.

I finally discovered that sugar (and alcohol) were my biggest contributors. So for me, sugar is definitely toxic. Now that I limit my sugar, I go weeks without heartburn, and when I do get it, it's usually because I had some beer or wine the previous day.

Based on this experience, I was interested that he talked about the fructose being removed by the liver (as alcohol is). I probably have some liver issue. This article has led me to a new avenue of research. In the meantime, I am a believer in limiting sugar intake.

points by teach 4 days ago replies      
"Because each of these sugars ends up as glucose and fructose in our guts, our bodies react the same way to both, and the physiological effects are identical."

I find this statement, as written, to be almost willfully misleading. In sucrose, the glucose and fructose molecules are bound by an acetal bond, which must first be broken. The bond is broken with water, which donates a hydroxide to the fructose molecule (and a hydrogen to the glucose, of course).

With HFCS 55, the fructose and glucose are unbound, so the fructose molecule can be absorbed without first being "broken off" and slightly changed via hydrolysis.

This almost certainly affects the metabolization of the fructose.

Source: my wife, who has a PhD in nutrition.

points by pradocchia 4 days ago replies      
In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it's clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2, that is common to obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers.

I've seen this liver-cancer connection in other places, such as Chinese Traditional Medicine and Italian folk medicine. Interesting to see it cropping up here.

points by fanboy123 4 days ago replies      
Anyone who has questions has the option of posing them directly to Gary himself. The NYT has a Q&A that's open for a few days. Looks like he has already started responding.


points by Jun8 4 days ago replies      
Here's my (somewhat childish and Bioshock-ish) response along the lines of Shaw's "The reasonable man adapts ..." idea: Why are we still bound by our body mechanisms that were determined by our cavemen ancestors millions of years ago? Rather than cutting back sugar, maybe we should find a way to re-engineer our cellular structure to avoid the metabolic syndrome, mentioned in the article. Why work towards healthy, rather than bend "healthy" towards our will?
points by yread 4 days ago replies      
According to
it is:
Sucrose (table sugar) - 29,700 mg/kg (LD50)
points by trustfundbaby 4 days ago replies      
I'm actually curious about what this says about consuming fruits in large amounts ... since they are pretty much all fructose.

Some folks I know (I did for a bit) consume fruits with gusto, erroneously thinking they don't have effects close to what refined sugars have on the body

points by wnoise 4 days ago replies      
How can one buy bulk glucose to use as a sweetener instead of fructose or sucrose?
points by neworbit 3 days ago replies      
I see that this article cites "fatty liver = insulin resistance" and correlates that directly to sugar ingestion. Well and good - I don't want to be foie gras. But this article also suggests that going off sugar quickly causes the fatty liver to remediate itself - or at least so in lab animals, such problem "promptly goes away". How prompt is this effect in people? Failure rates on commonplace diets seems to make me think it isn't all that swift a process. Anyone have any good stats/links/refs?
points by DanielH 4 days ago replies      
I just recently stumbled upon it, so for those who wanted a more compact version of Robert Lustigs talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14ZIKOQkTiM
points by mkross 4 days ago replies      
Maybe sugar is toxic. I don't know (and there seem to be some pretty reasonable opinions both ways). However, there is a line in the article that really stands out to me:

"If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles " heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them."

I can't tell if this is the author of the article extrapolating sugar's toxicity to explain the root of all ills, or whether Lustig makes that assertion. Either way, there doesn't seem to be anything more than postulation on that front. I'm hoping the purported science behind this theory is actually sound and not just fluff so that we get into arguments about sugar based on incorrect assumptions.

points by msluyter 4 days ago replies      
Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist who runs the "Track Your Plaque" program and the Heart Scan blog (http://www.heartscanblog.org/) has identified sugar as one of the primary factors contributing to heart disease. He advises his patients to generally eliminate all sugars, grains (they break down into glucose in the bloodstream), and anything else raises blood glucose levels.
points by hirenj 4 days ago replies      
So, according to the wiki, HFCS contains about 55% Fructose, 45% Glucose. Regular sucrose is at a 50-50 split. Given your stomach splits sucrose into the respective monosaccharide units anyway, you're going to end up with roughly the same amount of glucose and fructose floating around.

The big issue then is just having a large amount of fructose (from whatever source) in your diet. Since excess fructose is shunted off to be stored as fat, this is what's causing all the problems.

What would be kind of interesting is whether we can just go about engineering corn so that we block off the fructose pathway, and just produce glucose. This also has the nice side-effect that it's also much more delicious for bacteria to eat, meaning a greater yield of things like biofuels.

points by timedoctor 4 days ago replies      
This validates my diet:
Zero added sugar (essentially means no processed foods)
Zero deep fried food
points by pessimist 4 days ago replies      
"Officially I'm not supposed to worry because the evidence isn't conclusive, but I do."

Wow, that was a content-free article, borderline scare-mongering, eg. "when you bake your children a birthday cake or give them lemonade on a hot summer day, you may be doing them more harm than good". There's no information about what sort of doses are really bad at all, and so nothing useful to learn from it. I have 2 kids who will eat as much sugar as we give them, so this is a serious issue for me, and I'm disappointed by such articles.

points by mast 4 days ago replies      
I'm not a nutritionist, biologist, or doctor, but I have a huge sweet tooth, and I actually tried to answer this question on my humble little blog (http://foodconstrued.com/2011/02/sugar-cravings/) back in February.

My answer: It is not the sugar, but the empty calories leading to obesity and then to further health complications.

points by jalada 4 days ago replies      
points by tmcw 4 days ago replies      
Journalist who hasn't done any research on sugar agrees with doctor who hasn't done any research on sugar. And this happens to be great linkbait.

Tell me why I should pay for the New York Times, again?

       cached 18 April 2011 04:11:01 GMT