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Airbnb Nightmare: No End In Sight ejroundtheworld.blogspot.com
1002 points by moonlighter  4 days ago   482 comments top 78
1
edw519 4 days ago  replies      
Airbnb & YC, just fix this please:

1. Get a new place for EJ. Furnish it fully. Pay for everything.

2. Help her restore her virtual identity. Use any resources at your considerable disposal.

3. Help her find her irreplaceable stuff. A few private detectives and a small team of scouters can make more progress in 2 weeks that the SFPD can make in a lifetime. Publish pictures of her grandmother's jewelry to enlist a giant army of spotters.

4. Hire her and pay her well (perhaps even with equity). She is obviously an excellent writer and an empathetic persona. But more importantly, she is an expert in addressing what is clearly the weakest link in your business model's chain.

5. Fuck the business models, projections, and funding rounds and just "do the right thing".

This appears to be a royal fuck-up. But nothing compared to the lost goodwill for Airbnb, YC, the startup community, and the "new order" in general. Many of us had thought that you all had deprecated the era of Ford Pinto thinking. Current data appears to be to the contrary.

Turn this lemon into lemonade before the window closes. Tick. Tick. Tick.

[EDIT: This has nothing to do with assigning blame; this incident was clearly an outlier and nobody's fault (except the obvious bad guys). And it has nothing to do with solving this class of problem. All I'm saying is that fixing this instance will lead to solving this class. It presents an excellent opportunity to fix things in a way that never could have been imagined before. Airbnb has a compelling business proposition with an obvious Achilles heel. This unfortunate situation presents an excellent opportunity to address that weakness head on. But only with a 179 degree change in thinking. I don't know what the ultimate solution to this problem is, but now is clearly the time for Airbnb to get moving on it...]

2
jgrahamc 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have a simple question for AirBnB.

  Did one of the founders ask this woman to take down
or limit access to her blog post?

When you cut through everything else I think the answer to that would be telling. If the answer is no, then it points to dishonesty on the part of EJ, if the answer is yes, then much has been learnt about how AirBnB dealt with this situation.

3
fletchowns 4 days ago  replies      
He then addressed his concerns about my blog post, and the potentially negative impact it could have on his company's growth and current round of funding. During this call and in messages thereafter, he requested that I shut down the blog altogether or limit its access, and a few weeks later, suggested that I update the blog with a “twist" of good news so as to “complete[s] the story”.

If this is true it is downright appalling. Does he really think this woman that just had her life turned upside down gives a shit about his next round of funding?

4
redthrowaway 4 days ago 0 replies      
So somewhere between, "we need to appear to have taken responsibility for this and done everything in our power to help the victim and prevent future incidents", and "we need to take responsibility for this and do everything in our power to help the victim and prevent future incidents", Chesky et al went seriously off the rails. If there's anything worse than doing nothing, it's saying you've done the right thing when, in fact, you clearly haven't.

I know pg isn't likely to talk about this while the situation is still ongoing, but it'd be nice to hear his thoughts on the matter. This is the kind of behaviour you expect from a major airline or telecom, not a YC startup. It certainly doesn't speak well of the character of the founders.

5
niyazpk 4 days ago 1 reply      
Isn't this easily the most popular news about Airbnb this year?

I am surprised that they kept their mouth shut in all their public channels. No mention in the blog, no direct message in twitter. And it looks they chose to talk about this issue in TC only because TC wrote about the original story. This is what they replied to people in twitter:

@joyandjoy EJ's blog post says, "They have offered to help me recover emotionally and financially, and are working with SFPD"

Yeah right. Now EJ's blog post says that they did not keep their promise.

This is what happens when you hesitate to help the victim of an incident like this and instead start plotting and planning PR activities supposed to do the damage control for your next valuation.

What a shame.

6
g123g 4 days ago 1 reply      
It is becoming so typical of the modern society to try to put spin on everything for our own narrow benefit rather than trying to get to the root cause and fix it.

This is another glaring example of it. A month after such a gruesome incident, nothing at all has been done by AirBnB. But they have gone out of their way in trying to put a positive spin on this whole sordid episode in order to protect their precious funding. When will somebody from AirBnB step up and say that we take responsibility for what happened and will do whatever it takes to help the victim and fix the system so that something like this does not happen again rather than wasting their efforts in trying to put a positive twist to this story? Doing such a thing will help them much more in the longer term than trying to simply sweep this story under the carpet.

7
kooshball 4 days ago 3 replies      
They must have totally messed this up for her to write a rebuttal post like that. This post absolutely torn apart all positive points from Chesky's response. I just still can't believe airbnb didnt see this coming, and stomp on the problem as hard as they can to get EJ on their side. If everything she said is true here, airbnb truly screwed up and deserve the negative PR coming their way.

Isn't this why you give up equity to have advisers on your team? Shouldn't they have predicted this?

8
muhfuhkuh 4 days ago 6 replies      
It's a sad state of affairs, to be sure. But the answers are simple, although it's going to be a real pain for AirBnB's "frictionless" transaction model.

1) You MUST put down a CREDIT CARD. Not a bank card, not a debit card, not a prepaid card. No plasticky no rentee. A major credit card to make a transaction. No bitcoin, no cash, no BS. Airbnb then puts a hold equal to transaction cost + 20% for the duration of the stay. That 20% can be put toward insurance on both ends, paid out when satisfactory closeout of the transaction on both ends occurs. If renters balk at the 20% hold, they shouldn't be on vacation. If owners balk at the "hold" instead of cash in hand, they can take their business to craigslist or wherever.

2) AirBnB must then become an arbitrator, a mediator, a guarantor, and/or (unless they want to outsource this) an insurer.

9
brianchesky 4 days ago 8 replies      
Brian Chesky (Airbnb CEO) here. My heart goes out to our host. My co-founder has contacted her multiple times, as recently as last night, and we have again offered to help her in any way that she needs. We will continue to make ourselves available to her to do whatever she asks of us in this time of need. We have encouraged her to reach us so that we can help her through this, and we are standing by.
10
cageface 4 days ago 5 replies      
In our rush to disintermediate old industries we may discover that some of those intermediaries are there for a reason.
11
TeMPOraL 4 days ago 0 replies      
Oh. My. God.

I really believed they're doing their best to help EJ. I trusted in that.

Yes, I liked AirBNB to the point of talking about it with friends and pretty much advertising it all around as a great idea and a great company - just because I liked them. They looked trustworthy and like a really nice company.

If what EJ wrote is accurate[1], then I find the way they handle this situation outraging. It hurts my feelings and right now completely destroyed my trust in AirBNB. If they won't fix it soon and start behaving like a real human beings, theny I'm no longer caring about them, and will advice my friends against them.

[1] - I try to not jump into conclusions too fast.

12
newchimedes 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the most disturbing part is how they tried to get her to take her blog or limit access to her blog post. The reason? Because it would hurt their funding round. So instead of a $5 billion valuation they now get $4.5 billion.

Please. The fact is this incident happened on their watch. Trying to pretend they are the hero in this mess and spin it their way bothers me tremendously. I mean, she got robbed as a consequence of using their site. That stuff happens and honestly I don't think anyone really believes they can stop all bad things from happening. But this whole let's try to hide this under the rug deal makes them look 1000x worse I think than her getting robbed (which still sucks!)

13
bambax 4 days ago 0 replies      
> And for those who have so generously suggested a donation fund be set up to help me recover, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and suggest that instead, you keep the money and use it to book yourself into a nice, safe hotel room the next time you travel.

Will do.

14
moonlighter 4 days ago 2 replies      
EJ writes: "And I was - but no longer am - scared of Airbnb's reaction, the pressure and the veiled threat I have received from them since I initially blogged this story."

Wow. That sounds quite different from what Brian Chesky claims here: http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/27/on-safety-a-word-from-airbn...

15
robtoo 4 days ago 1 reply      
From a comment on an earlier post by Brian Chesky:

We've created a marketplace built on trust, transparency and authenticity within our community, and we hold the safety of our community members as our highest priority.

I'm really not sure how he can reconcile that comment with the actions described in this post.

16
econgeeker 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is reminding me of the Soutwest Air response to the mistreatment they put Kevin Smith thru. When he went public, it was obvious they didn't give a damn about him and they were totally in damage control mode. Rather than apologize and recognize the error, they tried to turn it into a debate about whether fat people should fly, and they misrepresented the situation further.

I saw that comment on tech crunch and felt that Chesky was begin dishonest (based solely on having ready he previous blog post from ej) and now we see that AirBnB tried to get her to shut up!

As a frequent AirBnB customer (staying in a place rented via AirBnB at the moment, in fact) I'm finding that I'm having less and less faith in the company as these incidents unfold. (I'm not just talking about this, but Kutchner, the Craigslist, the fact that they keep their customers in the dark, etc.)

Frankly, as someone who has been online for two decades now, talking to people I can get a good feeling for how trustworthy they are. AirBnB inhibits this because it inhibits communication-- it can only happen thru their service which is not conducive to having a dialog.

The sole purpose of restricting this communication and restricting customer's ability to assess the risk in any of these transactions is AirBnB's desire to prevent the possibility that a deal might happen off of their site.

Reality is, this is silly. We found an apartment on AirBnB once and then found it on the internet (wasn't hard given knowledge of the details of the apartment.) We could have booked it that way and saved the AirBnB commission... but we booked it thru AirBnB anyway because we wanted them to escrow the funds. (Little did we know how little protection AirBnB provides in that regard.) But we were able to find out more about that apartment by looking at its website compared to the info on AirBnB.

And more importantly, having the owner's email address allowed us to discuss a lot of possible issues about the situation, and assess their trustworthiness... something impossible or difficult to do thru AirBnB.

17
vladd 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Airbnb was mentioning their funding to a victim of ransacking? OMG that's bad..." (quote from TC comment)
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chegra 4 days ago 1 reply      
Hmm...
At this point, AirBnB has gone beyond the point of reconciliation with this EJ. Either she is lying or AirBnB is lying.

The onus is on AirBnB to supply evidence to the contrary of what EJ has to say. They have more at stake. Their brand is now blowing in the wind along with the goodwill they have built up.

What we have so far is that you have indeed offer to help financially. What we don't have is evidence to support you did or you did and she turn down the offers. Appropriate receipts would easily discredit her. Any other response short of supplying document would only discredit AirBnB.

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krschultz 4 days ago 0 replies      
We're lucky this was a property crime. I know the victim is feeling crushed right now, but property can be replaced (aside from some personal items). There is a huge potential for a sick property owner or vacationer to become violent with the other party. Imagine if they story was about a kidnapping, murder, assault, or rape. AirBnB better figure out the mechanism for their background check ASAP, becuase you can count people being good >99.9% of the time, but that <0.1% breaks your system.
20
karlhiggins 4 days ago 2 replies      
What's telling about this whole story is how Airbnb tried to "manage" her.

I thought the whole point of being a startup is you don't need to fall in line with the dehumanizing bullshit that you find in big corporations.

That's why I'm in a startup at least and it works for me on that level.

But there's such a stench of insincerity about the Airbnb approach that I will never use their site now.

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vnchr 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just be a good company and take care of the customer. This isn't rocket science. Hire someone who is her personal assistant through the process until the process is over, help as much as possible.

Concerns for setting a cost-inefficient precedent? BS. Not helping her has become the real cost-inefficient precedent set in this case. I had no idea this had been going on for a month now.

This is a shame. Take care of your customers, so much more when they're in your backyard.

22
willyt 4 days ago 1 reply      
The internet is moving really fast, I've already seen non tech people I know commenting about this on Facebook. They might have lost already. When something like this happens I think you probably have hours to sort it out, rather than weeks. Remember that it was less than 24 hours from the story breaking that News Corp decided the best course of action was closing a business with ~7 million repeat customers. Of course there may be other reasons they did this but still...
23
flocial 2 days ago 0 replies      
The real nightmare is Airbnb's handling of this situation. Slow and inadequate response, a founder trying to put a spin/silence the victim (this is called a coverup) and another founder sending a feeble email stating he/she"would enjoy meeting" the victim. Sure, if I was the victim I would love to grab a cup of coffee with the founder of the company that created a service that was the direct catalyst of the most traumatic event of my life in recent years to "touch bases" and get to know each other. How about, "I would like to personally meet you to apologize and talk about how we can make this situation right. Here's my phone number, please call me any time of the day." You're in the same neighborhood, surely you can get in touch personally in five weeks if you tried hard enough.

And pg doesn't seem to have a clue when it comes to the "personal touch" either. "Fix it", in this case doesn't mean compensating all damages financially and maybe adding a little extra money for trouble. The victim's home and sanctuary was violated by people. If this was a natural disaster, maybe money would go a long way, but this person's trust in people was violated and she also lost "priceless" memorabilia etc. to vandals who are either social misfits and/or drug addicts that methodically deceive unknowing victims.

This situation is reminiscent of Sony's reaction to cracker attacks. The criminals attacked a glaring hole in the security model, company shifts blame to criminals. "A community built on trust" without security? What about trust and verify? The victim clearly states that Craigslist has a better security model and for all we know that couch surfing site too.

The lack of security measures in this case illustrate a glaring hole in the founder's approach to the problem. Any casual observer would conclude that the safety of users is only secondary to the company's goals of generating more revenues and obtaining more funding.

Airbnb, please come out of the state of denial and just simply admit:

A. We messed up big time

B. Any compensation will never truly fix this situation but we will do everything within reason to remedy it

C. Lessons from this disaster will be applied immediately to ramp up security and formalizing the response of such crises in the future.

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codeup 4 days ago 0 replies      
We've had the initial blogpost and Brian Chesky's response on Techcrunch. I would love to read what Airbnb CEOs have to say about the second blog post.

I think they should take credible steps as soon as possible to improve the author's situation. While they're at it, an explanation of how such incidents can be stopped from happening again would also be good.

If trust is so important for their business model, they have to demonstrate that Airbnb is trustworthy.

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jeswin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just like everyone else, I hope the AirBNB guys will do the right thing.

I don't know if many of you have seen her Jan 2nd post titled 'New Year. New Home.'

"As 2011 sets in, I find myself curled up on a new couch in a new apartment in a not-so-new city, reading today's (and yesterday's) New York Times, and listening to the rain fall against the skylight overhead. A Duraflame log burns in the fireplace, a bar of dark chocolate sits half-eaten on the counter, and a lull of soft music whispers from the stereo. I am cozy, comfortable and perfectly content. I am home."

".... unpacking dusty boxes, unloading suitcases and scouring the internet for furniture. Something along the lines of a home began to take shape, and with it came that invaluable feeling of being at peace."

"....For the time being anyway, it's my home. And - surprisingly or not - a pretty great home it's turning out to be."

It is a tragedy.

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niyazpk 3 days ago 0 replies      
Update: SF police arrest suspect in trashing of Airbnb rental

http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-20085741-245/sf-police-arr...

27
msluyter 4 days ago 1 reply      
I guess I'm weirdly cynical, but I never though airbnb had a viable model. Perhaps for rental properties, but I would never rent my own home. I see a certain analogy between this and hitchhiking. Hitchhiking used to be safe in America, but now you rarely see it because it's perceived to be dangerous. I always figured airbnb would follow the same trajectory.
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chrisgoodrich 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is such a tragic situation. I am shocked by the lack of response by Airbnb. The very least they can do is provide her assistance and connecting her with the right resources to move forward.

When I was in college, a classmate in a philosophy class found out I was a business major and turned to me and said "you guys are just so heartless." I resented the statement but brushed it off as a gross generalization. Situations like these just prove my classmates point to be more real than I was willing to admit at the time. Putting profit above the safety and well being of your customers/users is a terrible business practice that will certainly lead to the death of your business. This isn't even about PR, this is fundamental to the future of the Airbnb platform and they aren't even listening.

The hotel lobby has a huge opportunity here that I don't think they realize yet. With this being on the front page of the Financial Times today, the hotel lobby should be swooping in anytime to pick up the pieces of Airbnb's failure to act. If I were the manager of any hotel in the SF area, I'd be offering her a free stay until things got sorted out. Airbnb is going to be left in the wake wondering what the hell happened.

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watty 4 days ago 0 replies      
Awful customer service and PR failure on Airbnb's part, they should be ashamed. Not only did they NOT do anything to help this poor woman but they lied about it for positive PR and asked her to remove/edit the blog? Wow, that's about as low as it gets.
30
pontifier 4 days ago 1 reply      
It seems like easy money, but being a landlord is a crummy business to be in. I haven't had an experience quite this bad, but we screen our tenants, don't keep our own valuables where they can get them, and take a large deposit up front. We have still had places trashed and had to pay repairs of well over $10k to return them to rentable condition when someone moves out...

Luckily we have much of the tenants information to try to collect from them. Un-luckily we can almost never collect damages from these types of people. They will quit their job to not have an income we can garnish.

You don't want to be a landlord. I don't want to be a landlord.

31
giardini 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is a shakedown, even if it occurred as EJ said.

Renting one's own living space to someone sight unseen is absurdly naive. It is incumbent upon the owner of the property to protect his own. Hotels do it, B&Bs do it, but EJ did not. That is sheer stupidity. There should have been someone to meet the renter and to monitor their stay.

The relationships here are business relationships and there are certain minimal precautions one should take. EJ took none. I don't believe she is justified in insisting that Airbnb fix everything. She learned a lesson (and luckily, so did many others vicariously). A normal person would stand up, clean up and learn. A nutball would get a lawyer (and eventually lose).

Also, doesn't she have insurance? Although I would imagine that most policies would not cover renting one's dwelling to a complete stranger sight unseen without a special rider ("hotel insurance" maybe).

Finally EJ might look at her property's deed restrictions. Is she allowed to run a business at her residence? Is she allowed to rent her home? Is she required by the state or city to to pay a "hotel tax", a "business registration fee", etc.? EJ may be in violation of any number of municipal and state laws.

32
covercash 4 days ago 0 replies      
It would be great if some journalist would do a bit of fact checking on both sides of the story instead of just blindly republishing what they both claim to be the truth. I'm sure someone must have a SFPD source that could verify some of this story, even off the record would be better than nothing.
33
16s 4 days ago 0 replies      
My advice would be to forget PR, forget trying to spin it. Just tell the truth, do the right thing for the victim, and figure out how to prevent it going forward.

That's all they have to do.

34
jcunningham 4 days ago 0 replies      
So Chesky dropped the "suspect is in custody" line to give the press the impression of closure?

Foxy move on his part.

Looks like he just got busted though or the victim would surely know of the existence of a suspect.

35
estel 4 days ago 1 reply      
I doubt I'm the only one that was interested in using AirBNB with their growing traction and successes.

No way will that happen now. It's hard to imagine how they could have handled this worse.

36
btucker 3 days ago 0 replies      
What a huge missed opportunity for AirBnB! For a drop in the bucket of time & expense, they could have easily come out of this looking stellar & likely would have gained the business of many people who have been on the fence.

Instead the come out looking like they're trying to hide the flaws in their model.

37
jclampet 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm much more inclined to believe EJ than Airbnb's spin. The week after EJ's story appeared one of my writers (I'm an editor at a travel website) approached EJ for a story we were doing about safety and vacation rentals. She helped out on the story, but didn't want any more attention drawn to her case at that point. She's been thrust back into the spotlight b/c of Airbnb's spin, not because she's out to get them. If her story was fake, Airbnb wouldn't be doing the serious damage control they're engaged in now.

I think they're seriously worried that the attention to the case will highlight two big weaknesses of their product: 1. In many markets, it's illegal to do short-term rentals, 2. Homeowners/renters insurance doesn't cover damages in these situations. Many markets won't crack down on these rentals (see the NYT story about SF rentals last weekend), but if they in the name of safety or code violations, Airbnb's got a problem. And if people start getting spooked about insurance issues, they're screwed from the other end.

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Simon_M 4 days ago 2 replies      
"...keep the money and use it to book yourself into a nice, safe hotel room the next time you travel. You'll be glad you did."

Statements like this certainly fuel the hotel industry conspiracy theories from yesterday for me. It doesn't even make sense, as she claims the hotels will be safer for the travellers. The travellers safety was never at question here was it?

39
farrel 4 days ago 0 replies      
Does AirBnB educate hosts on the risks involved?

Does it encourage them to remove valuables and non-replaceable items from the apartment being rented?

Does it tell them that any damages incurred will probably not be covered by their homeowners insurance? Does it provide information on how to attain extra insurance?

Does AirBnB hold the guest liable for any damages to a hosts property?

40
runjake 3 days ago 1 reply      
The people who did this are horrible, and Airbnb definitely has areas they could improve their process.

That said, I'm more shocked at "EJ's" naivety and passing of all responsibility on Airbnb. You're renting your place out to complete strangers, not only that, you're leaving all of your valuables there with them. You don't know their real (or the fake one they stole) name until you're already aboard an outbound plane?! That is insanity to me.

If a person NEEDS Craigslist-style warnings about being careful, that person should probably not rent their place out on Airbnb. This is just very poor judgement on her part.

41
ericelias 4 days ago 0 replies      
Upon reading the article about TaskRabbit, I think Airbnb can apply the same type of checks:

"Since many common tasks are carried out in the senders' homes, runners are vetted through a three-step process..

which starts with an application form and progresses to an automated phone or video interview that poses a series of questions designed to weed out deadbeats.

Finally, TaskRabbit pays the database giant Acxiom to perform a federal criminal background check on each prospective worker."

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/07/mf_taskrabbit/

42
larrys 2 days ago 0 replies      
Even though Fred Wilson said "We couldn't wrap our heads around air mattresses on the living room floors as the next hotel room and did not chase the deal."

...with regards to not funding airbnb I somehow feel that that might not have been the case.

I think Fred's age (49?) and experience in life basically made it hard to understand how an idea like this couldn't have potential problems such, as only one example, this situation.

Hold on a second before you say "it only happened this one time".

How do we know that? People seem to think that either your place gets trashed or it's absolutely fine.

It's not digital it's analog. There's an in between state.

Something could get stolen that you don't know even about until much later. It won't always be the obvious thing like jewelry (and why would you leave that actually) it could be one of many little things you don't realize you have until missing. Or something could be broken.

The fact is there is no way for airbnb to insure against any number of minor type things that could happen. Where minor becomes your problem and your aggravation.

Have you ever seen how big of an industry shoplifting prevention is? Do you really think that only a minor % of the population commits petty type crimes?

And there is the reverse situation.

If you stay at someones place what if they honestly think that you stole something of theirs because they can't find it? Honest mistakes like this happen all the time. And the most obvious culprit tends to be blamed.

43
Herald_MJ 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just to kick off an alternate perspective on the situation: up until reading about this incident, airbnb and the whole business model of "borrow my home" has somehow escaped my attention, and even though what has happened in EJ's situation is really horrible and she has my sympathy, I definitely recognise that her case is an extreme minority case that potentially wouldn't affect me as a user of the service. After reading about airbnb following this incident and browsing their website a bit, I am actually quite keen on trying the service! So perhaps any publicity really is good publicity!
44
lsc 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to me that what AirBnB should do is just this:

1. Announce they are instituting a (possibly optional) insurance policy. At most, there should be a checkbox when I rent my place out that says 'insure it' and if I check it they take the cost of insurance out of what I'd get paid otherwise. If insurance is cheap enough (I don't know what 'cheap enough' is) they can simply make it mandatory.

(The decision to self-insure or use an external insurance agency is not germane to this discussion... that's something they need to figure out internally.)

2. Offer this person some sum (say, 5x what insurance would have paid) for her silence.

Now, I'm sure they are working on 2. but I think #1 is actually more important, because many of us are not going to be willing to do this negotiation in public to get compensation... so insurance is better all around. The people renting out the houses know they can get paid with minimal hassle, and AirBnB knows exactly how much it is going to cost ahead of time. If you can find an insurance company that insures hotels, they might also be able to help with risk mitigation efforts.

I really think that instituting some sort of insurance policy is a good way for AirBnB to accept responsibility for the problem, and a realistic "and this is what we are doing to mitigate the problem going forward"

45
rumpelstiltskin 4 days ago 1 reply      
Prediction: She will sue Airbnb. And win.
46
gobongo 3 days ago 0 replies      
All of this discussion about what airbnb should or shouldn't do is ultimately moot now. Unless they can prove "EJ" is totally fictional and/or an insane liar the company is essentially dead in the water already (at least as a US operation). Not just because of the PR hit (though that is substantial), but because of the inevitability of media, lawyers & politicians circling the wagons around this story.

Airbnb's business will be explicitly illegal throughout much of the US by year's end, and honestly in its current incarnation I'm not convinced that it is a bad thing (for obvious reasons this is clearly a market which needs more regulation and process than they provide).

Nice experiment... too bad about all of that flushed away money though.

47
Zakuzaa 4 days ago 3 replies      
Now wait for the mainstream media to jump on this.
48
veyron 4 days ago 0 replies      
Question: Suppose that I use airbnb to rent out my apartment to someone, and that person leaves the door unlocked and a third person goes in and steals my imac. Who takes liability here? Is there something in the airbnb agreement which explicitly waives rights to pursue airbnb for the losses?
49
Hisoka 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just a side note.. have you guys ever wondered what the impact of this story would've been if AirBnB was not an YC company? That's a big reason why AirBnb is always talked about here. If this was just a regular, non-YC, non-funded company, I doubt this would be a big story. I doubt Techcrunch would talk about it and I doubt we here would vehemently argue about this... In the end, it's about a woman who's room got trashed.. Yes, very unfortunate, but let's face it, this would not make big headlines if this was just a regular company.
50
tinbad 2 days ago 0 replies      
Last paragraph of the blogpost:
EJ doesn't want other people to help her and strongly advises them to book a hotel room instead of using airbnb.. after all that happened to her, shouldn't that be of latter concern?
I mean being in her shoes, I would welcome any donations from people willing to help.. unless of course it's not a true story.

I can't be sure of course, but all the anonymity around it makes it kind of suspicious.

51
G5f3 4 days ago 1 reply      
Parallels with DropBox and their no password login disaster? Bad processes and a botched PR response.

Methinks these super-hot startups may be reaching critical mass before they develop business maturity.

52
gallerytungsten 4 days ago 0 replies      
"He requested that I shut down the blog altogether or limit its access"

If true, that's really sleazy.

53
blumentopf 4 days ago 1 reply      
What's totally missing here is some kind of compassionate reaction from Airbnb.

Regarding that joke in the FAQ about guests stealing the grand piano: I think it's okay to make such a joke IF AND ONLY IF the reaction to a case like this is in the same vein: The minute they learned about this ordeal, they should have stopped working, cancel all meetings and help her. And if that means mopping her floors themselves then do it. They did the opposite, they acted greedily and stingily and thereby didn't just let down the girl, but everyone in the startup community who admired and rooted for them.

54
ajays 4 days ago 0 replies      
The solution for AirBnB is (or was...) simple.

1. Make this person whole, at least in terms of material possessions and safety, to the extent possible. And do it FAST

2. Ask them to take down the blog, and replace it with something along the lines of "my situation is resolved. Thank you AirBnB. But I can't discuss the terms".

3. Work on strengthening your internal processes to make sure the chances of a similar incident are further reduced by a couple of orders of magnitude

4. Improve your customer-service department.

But it's been almost a month, and they still haven't done any of this. They just seemed too concerned about what this will do to their valuation. This is pure bullshit on their part! It shows that they have absolutely no idea how to operate in a customer-facing industry.

55
jh3 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is pretty awful. I'm hoping Airbnb takes care of her. They are in a pretty tough position, though.

If they go under because of this I personally hope it is not until August. So, first and foremost, fix EJ's situation, but also for all of the people who are still using the service, currently using the service, or have plans made in the next few weeks through this service, take care of this. Don't leave her hanging.

Also, it is unfortunate that Airbnb will be known by a lot of new people because of this incident.

56
marcamillion 4 days ago 0 replies      
Oh boy....this is going downhill fast!
57
Omnipresent 4 days ago 0 replies      
Airbnb should look at,this situation as an opporrunity to turn bad publicity into a good one. Some bucks taken out from huge funding rounds and spent towards ej would go a long long way. This should also be combined with better identity measures implemented to avoid airbnb from having to cover cost of any more cases like these.
58
jsavimbi 4 days ago 2 replies      
tl;dr: Devil's Advocate.

This is not going to be very popular, but I'm just going to go on the record and say that this whole story may be a hoax.

And I highlight "maybe". What we have here are two blog posts from someone we know nothing about who epitomizes a concentration of fears (woman, home, identity, violation) and manages, in two blog posts over the past seven months to bring about a PR nightmare for AirBnB. Is Chesky and idiot and/or sociopath? Probably not, and this could be some crappy CYA on AirBnB's behalf, but the second blog post in response to Chesky's On Safety release does nothing but reinforce and add onto the imagined fetal-curling fears the author expressed in her first post, but also systematically tries to disprove any actions mentioned by Chesky while simultaneously smearing unnamed AirBnB reps.

Two blog posts over seven months. Talented writer with no writing history able to communicate and project emotions and elicit visceral responses from complete strangers.

Am I the only one whose bullshit alarm is going off?

Disclaimer: I have no connection to YC, pg, AirBnB, Chesky, Starwood Hotels nor have I participated in AirBnB's program or any similar crashpad/couchsurfing/hosteling schemes.

59
rdouble 4 days ago 1 reply      
This story is beginning to smell fishy. I was burglarized in a similar, but not as extreme manner. My landlord was involved immediately. Why is there no mention of the property owner in any of these stories?

In my case, the "investigation" was over in about 1.25 days. There's not much the police can do. SFPD would not spend 2 months investigating a burglary in an illegal sublet.

Furthermore, there are no photos of the damage, the victim is anonymous, and there is no description of the neighborhood or apartment complex. If someone was bent on catching the burglars, more info would be disseminated, not less. The articles are written as though the author has an axe to grind with AirBNB, not that she wants to catch the thieves.

60
learc83 4 days ago 1 reply      
My first thought is that you'd might actually have a higher chance of having someone trash your house if you leave it unoccupied for week vs. letting someone rent it on Airbnb.
61
nakkal 3 days ago 0 replies      
Airbnb should probably read their 6th golden rules of thumb

http://www.airbnb.com/home/goldenrules

"If something goes wrong unexpectedly, be accessible to help remedy the situation. Be a hero to your guest!"

62
TWAndrews 3 days ago 0 replies      
Between this and the spammy--potentially illegal--posts to Craig's List (http://www.tnooz.com/2011/06/01/news/airbnb-admits-rogue-sal...) to generate rentals, it's very hard to think of AirBnB as a well run company.
63
kabdib 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow.

AirBnb is /done/.

64
cpg 4 days ago 0 replies      
Noone has commented this yet. What are the chances this is all in some way a PR play (possibly gone bad) to get on the news during a round of funding? (The "there's no such things as bad publicity" kind)

Not saying it is .. but I do wonder. The only thing that would make it doubtful is that part where she says he told her about _the impact on Airbnb round of funding_. But then again, if your mind is twisted ...

65
jvc26 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm slightly concerned that AirBNB are spinning this rather than just sorting stuff out. Veiled threats to the victim, whilst spreading incorrect stories are a concerning development in an already distressing case. If the guy in custody is the guy responsible, why are AirBNB and EJ not in sync? This smells massively of a total PR disaster for AirBNB, whatever is said about compensation or no, threatening victims, or telling them to 'limit access to their blog' is as naive as it is stupid - how does the internet usually react to 'limiting access'?
66
Firebrand 4 days ago 2 replies      
Airbnb's Terms & Privacy section states that "We are not involved in the actual face-to-face contact between users," have "no control over the conduct of our users or the truth or accuracy of the information that users post," and " do not investigate any user's reputation, conduct, morality, criminal background, or verify the information that any user submits to the Site."

It's a business, they're supposed to be money driven. Although it's sad to see someone abuse the system, she agreed to those terms when she put her apartment up there. The owners aren't obligated to recompense the lady.

67
uladzislau 4 days ago 0 replies      
Did anyone see this as an utter failure of handling customer expectations by Airbnb? Don't make promises if you're unable to keep them. I feel very sorry for this poor lady.
68
guildchatter 3 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone actually know the "real" story? I feel like Airbnb/YC is saying one thing, and EJ is saying something else.

Is this a case of miscommunications that got blown out of proportion?

69
steilpass 4 days ago 0 replies      
Scary how fast a startup can get a bad company.
70
pressurewasher 3 days ago 0 replies      
And for those who have so generously suggested a donation fund be set up to help me recover, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and suggest that instead, you keep the money and use it to >> book yourself into a nice, safe hotel room the next time you travel <<. You'll be glad you did.

Devil's advocate (not being inconsiderate): doesn't the hotel industry have an enormous interest in the demise of Airbnb? Interesting how the blog posts makes this suggestion after the heart strings have been tug.

71
olaf 3 days ago 0 replies      
I never understood any hype around AirBnB, my hunch was and is "stay at a distance, this is somehow dirty".

As an afterthought, I think, they sell an illusion, sack in money and let their customers alone take at
least one huge risk.

For me they have already passed the point of no return, they have shown who they are
(instead of supporting the victim full heartedly they play an evil game), I will not use their service.

Could this help: "As a gesture of goodwill and without acknowledging any legal obligation."

72
racerrick 4 days ago 2 replies      
Is it possible that she made the story up?
73
tribeofone 4 days ago 1 reply      
Who really cares?
74
AltIvan 3 days ago 1 reply      
Fuck this shit. This is like when a Facebook user gets contacted by a raper using it; this is like when a Gmail account gets completly deleted.

Shit happens, and it will continue to happen to someone from time to time, but one case between thousands should not damage so much a single company.

75
pathik 4 days ago 2 replies      
Isn't Airbnb's reaction a normal one? Wouldn't anyone do the same if it could have adverse effects on their current round of funding?
76
dr_ 3 days ago 0 replies      
I feel badly for the person whose placed got trashed, and it seems Airbnb is doing what they can to remedy the situation - but am I the only one who feels there's a certain risk to be assumed with online transactions such as this?

If a girl meets a man on match.com who claims to be single, but after getting into a relationship with him she finds out he's married - is match.com to blame for this? Could they have done more to verify his background - perhaps, but that's also the risk we take.

It's an unfortunate incident, but trust me other than hacker news, techmeme and techcrunch (that's where the FT got it from) this is not really headline news, and it's not going to affect airbnb's performance in the long run.

On a separate note, I hope pg realizes with 423 comments on here it's hard to make heads or tails of what to read - hopefully the comments rating system will be brought back.

77
alanfalcon 4 days ago 2 replies      
This time her blog title is direct and to the point, and mentions Airbnb by name. It seems she's learning some SEO tactics during the course of this ordeal. Personally I'm glad as it seems obvious this story didn't deserve to be mostly unnoticed for most of a month after the first blog post went up.
78
funthree 4 days ago 3 replies      
A summary:

As of today, July 28, I have received no confirmation from either the San Francisco Police Department or the District Attorney that any culprit is in custody for my case.

I received a personal call from one of the co-founders of Airbnb. We had a lengthy conversation, in which he indicated having knowledge of the (previously mentioned) person who had been apprehended by the police, but that he could not discuss the details or these previous cases[sic] with me, as the investigation was ongoing.

Too much about this case remains unknown and unresolved, and according to both the District Attorneys and the police, it could be many more months before the criminal investigation moves forward.

Edit: This is clearly a problem with a thief, with society, with criminal behavior. This woman wants to throw her story and passive aggressive attitude around to destroy Airbnb, and it is blatantly obvious. Come on people.

I have been robbed. I have been a victim. I didn't flee to the internet to write a story about the gas station parking lot where it took place. Why? I would have gotten no attention for it, no sympathy, and the gas station would have not been to blame at all and everyone knows that.

Not to be insensitive, but this is reminiscent of the type of people that sue McDonalds for spilling hot coffee all over themselves. Not entirely the same, but it feels oddly familiar.

Airbnb tries to offer a good service. That doesn't mean they can keep the murderers out of Disneyland. She made a good point that craigslist makes warnings of scams more obvious on their website than Airbnb. She should have honestly just left it at that. Because at this point she is just doing more damage on the perpetrator's behalf and I think she knows it.

The knee-jerk reaction to this story is showing itself to be very far from this, so go ahead and downvote me, but nonetheless my opinion here is valid. Your next stay at Airbnb may very well be a scene out of the movie Hostel. It is just as likely however that it may happen at the next apartment you rent, the next hotel you stay at, or the next ski lodge. It doesn't matter that it was Airbnb.

I understand that she feels the reaction piece to her initial post was disingenuous, but with writing like this, it is clear she is just out to watch Airbnb burn. She should go hire a private detective and find the guy if she is so hell bent on revenge. She is after the wrong people. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. This woman has no target and her anger is entirely misdirected.

This is what insurance in our society is for. Get some. Be happy for what didn't go wrong and could have. She should be happy she didn't get raped when she got back to her apartment, as she obviously crossed tracks with a very bad person. Seriously. Shit happens in life. Everyone in this world has to deal with deceit, robberies, theft, and lies. She is no different, nor are you. She is playing out the sympathy excuse far too well. Her reaction is more similar to that of the McDonald's hot coffee victim than that of a robbery victim at this point. And like I said previously, I'm pretty sure she knows it.

Good luck Airbnb.

2
An iOS Developer Takes on Android nfarina.com
649 points by nfarina  1 day ago   112 comments top 33
1
ThomPete 23 hours ago 3 replies      
What a wonderful approach to development.

Skip the ideological critiquing and start shipping some awesome products..

I guess that is really what separates the great developer from the good developer.

2
flyosity 1 day ago 7 replies      
As an iOS developer, this is probably the best comparison between iOS and Android development that I've read. I'm pretty scared of Eclipse and the slow-as-hell emulator doesn't sound fun, but coding layouts that don't involve lots of "how tall is this text for this given width?" calculations is a welcome addition.
3
bignoggins 15 hours ago 0 replies      
iOS developer here. Releasing first android version of my app this week. Even though I didn't do the coding, I've taken a look at the code and done quite a bit of testing. The part about animations is totally true. Animations are much faster and smoother on my iPod 3rd Gen than the equivalent animation on a Droid Incredible, which has much better hardware! We've tried to optimize as much as possible, but we are realizing that there is just no way to match the iOS version's speed and responsiveness.
4
S_A_P 20 hours ago 0 replies      
This article was damn near perfect. I much prefer this style to "the problem with X" or "Why X will never succeed". This person isn't interested in platform evangelism, he/she wants to ship. A very inspiring attitude to have.
5
podperson 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Seems like a very balanced article to me. The comments about Eclipse made me laugh (I just had to start using Eclipse for a different reason and hate it with the heat of a thousand suns).
6
ZoFreX 21 hours ago 0 replies      
A couple of points...

> Android has a system of layout containers (similar to HTML)

It would be more correct (I think) to say it's inspired by other Java layout managers, Swing and SWT aren't a million worlds removed from Android (but I can't really expect someone new to Java to know that!)

And the emulator. The Android emulator is not slow. I have a netbook, which is an absolutely fantastic way of finding out which applications do far too much but you never notice because your computer is very fast. Team Fortress 2 is slow. Eclipse is slow. I tried booting the Android emulator and gave up waiting after an hour and a half.

Overall, awesome article. Refreshing to see someone providing a useful comparison between the two rather than arguing over one or the other, and as a Java developer who knows a little about Android, I feel I just learnt a lot about iOS. I'm actually amazed at how much they have in common, you wouldn't think so from the arguments!

7
wallflower 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Good overview and I recommend this detailed dive into the deep end by a HNer:

http://clayallsopp.posterous.com/building-an-android-app-fro...

8
chriseidhof 23 hours ago 0 replies      
This is really good stuff. As an iOS developer, this is exactly what I hoped to read someday soon. I'm impressed, great writeup and quite thorough.
9
rimantas 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Question to Android devs with iOS experience: are there any tools available which would be counterpart for Instruments?
Instruments do not get mentioned in these comparisons for some reason, I think these are great tools to debug and improve performance.
10
eevilspock 22 hours ago 2 replies      
Eclipse is to IntelliJ as Android is to iPhone.

Anyone who's used both IntelliJ and Eclipse as IDEs for Java development knows what I'm talking about. Eclipse, like Android, emphasizes "openness" and customizability while IntelliJ, like the iPhone, emphasizes "It Just Works" coherence and integrity.

If you like IntelliJ's approach, you might want to try AppCode, a development environment for Objective C made by the makers of IntelliJ, JetBrains. http://www.jetbrains.com/objc/

11
alain94040 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Best explanation of why rendering on the iPhone uses the GPU and Android can't. A great article to read.
12
znq 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Totally agree with the other comments. This is the first honest and realistic writeup about "Android vs iOS development" I've read.

I started with Android myself and started porting an Android app (which I wrote) to iPhone and I had exactly the same problems iOS developers have when starting with Android. So it's just a matter of what you're used, too. From my experience some things can be done quicker on iOS, others on Android. However, that doesn't necessarily mean better, because providing a framework for a special case usually comes with the cost of restricted flexibility.

I also agree that Eclipse is a behemoth and quite overwhelming in the beginning, but there is a great tool for any code base that is larger than your typical pet project. Especially when having to read, understand and trace down other people's code.

13
juliano_q 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Thanks for this article it just made me feel happy. I so tired of flame wars regarding IOS x Android that I barely read Engadget anymore. Many people dont understand why I have a Macbook, an Android phone and an iPod, looks like you MUST took a side and be an evangelist.
14
raminf 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Nice overview. I have to disagree with the assessment of Eclipse though. Under one app you can build and debug Java, Python, Ruby, HTML, Javascript, and Air apps. Once you get used to the workflow, it's incredibly productive.

As for the emulator, unless you want to invest in a large set of devices, it's the only way to test against different screen sizes and device profiles. Even though it's nice to have a device for debugging, you'll need to make peace with the emulator to make sure your app doesn't go all wonky on devices other than your exact model.

15
al_james 23 hours ago 3 replies      
Interestingly (but inevitably) as a java developer who first learned Android and then moved to iOS, the sticking points he mentions are exactly the same ones I found, but the other way around.

I think Eclipse makes sense if you think like a java coder, Xcode not so much, and Objective-C will fry your mind...

That said, Eclipse and the Android SDK is a pain to install even if you are a java wizard.

16
euroclydon 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Didn't Apple just release Auto Layouts for Cocoa? Will Auto Layouts come to iPhone?

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2788608

17
hahainternet 22 hours ago 1 reply      
The biggest complaint seems to be that Android is software rendered. As of 3.1 (i think, maybe 3.0) this is no longer an issue as a single line in the manifest will cause Android to automatically accelerate your drawing if possible.

I've yet to actually try it though :)

18
Yhippa 23 hours ago 0 replies      
What a great comparison. Admittedly I haven't researched this but I was surprised to read that the UI components in iOS were based on OpenGL. That's pretty cool! Hats off to Android for their layout manager. I like when I use an app on Honeycomb that scales well as opposed to blowing up the pixels to fill the screen.
19
bad_user 20 hours ago 1 reply      
If you're starting Android development, just save yourself the pain and just use the IntelliJ IDEA community edition.

The Android plugin included doesn't have fancy UI stuff, like for designing interfaces or visually editing the XML configuration files, but it does have code-completion of XML tags and properties and it works better as a code editor, being less painful.

20
dmix 23 hours ago 1 reply      
This was great.

Im curious, where you experienced in Java before jumping into Android?

21
jbuzbee 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Nice well-written article. I just did the same sort of article myself telling about my experiences going from IOS to Android:

http://www.smallcloudbuilder.com/apps/articles/410-crossing-...

22
mooneater 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Clicking their site http://www.meridianapps.com/ leads to "App Engine Error: Over Quota. This Google App Engine application is temporarily over its serving quota. Please try again later"

Ouch!

23
rheide 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow. I never expected that much negativity for the Android side. I've dabbled in both but haven't done Android since over a year ago. I was (and still am) really looking forward to using Eclipse and reading Java. I just get very tired of XCode.
24
marcomonteiro 22 hours ago 5 replies      
I hate to be picky about this but in all the time I've been doing iOS development and throughout everything I've ever read I have never seen anything to suggest that iOS using OpenGL for all of it's drawing (simulating a 2D interface in a 3D environment like the article suggests). Drawing is done using the Quartz system and animation is handled by Core Animation (which creates "an illusion of motion").
25
pwelch 22 hours ago 1 reply      
"It takes the Android Emulator ~2 minutes to boot up on my perfectly-modern machine. But what really hurts is the edit/debug cycle. Every time I change a bit of Java and need to rerun the app, it takes about 30 seconds to redeploy and start up in the Emulator. Compare that to 5 seconds on the iOS Simulator. It may not sound like much but remember you'll be doing this hundreds of times throughout your day."

I do not have any experience with iOS development but I can vouch for how hard it is to use the Android Emulator. I just recently submitted an Android application for a programming course and if it were not for having an Android mobile device to replace the emulator I would not have completed the project in time. The Emulator is slow and buggy and made it hard to test new code.

If you are interested in developing an Android application deffinately check it out but take this guys advice and get a device to test it on. It will save you a lot of time.

26
pgr0ss 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Fastdev makes the Android Emulator usable: http://developer.appcelerator.com/blog/2011/05/titanium-mobi...

After you suffer the initial emulator load, changes appear in the app by simply bouncing the app. It's one big win for Titanium.

27
scottjad 21 hours ago 3 replies      
> Apple has made it pretty easy to start writing iOS apps. Of course, Step One is “Buy a Mac.” Easy! Then just download the free Xcode Installer from the Mac App Store, and start writing code when it's done.

> Android is a bit more involved. You can download the SDK easily, but to actually start writing code, you'll want to setup Eclipse and install Google's ADT Plugin.

Buying and setting up a new computer is "Easy!" but installing Eclipse is "more involved"? Having to sign up for a $99 developer program is omitted. The size difference, of a couple hundred mb for Eclipse vs 4gb for Xcode is omitted.

28
reidmain 23 hours ago 2 replies      
Why do you "have to kiss that silky smooth scrolling goodbye" if you setup your UITableViewCells in Interface Builder?

I've used it for all of my apps and the scrolling is just as fast as any of Apple's native apps. Interface Builder just packages up all that initial layout code and then it is executed when the nib when it is unpackaged. After that there is no difference.

29
oflannabhra 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Great write-up. I read the whole thing and bookmarked it as well for future reference. Thanks for sharing.

Which resources (online or otherwise) did you find most helpful?

30
mricardo 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I installed the Android SDK easily. I do not understand all the fuss regarding the SDK installation. The emulator is slow though, no question there.
31
rudy750 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Slow Clap for you sir...
32
xcode 23 hours ago 2 replies      
Few Comments.

1. The most important thing to think about and say is the market share, fragmentation, monetization issues. Article doesn't pay enough attention to this it, but it still drives why we do what we do. (save, the author was egged on to make the app by their users).

A paragraph would be useful. Perhaps something like.

Fundamentally, Android is the platform you have to be on to defend the turf. It generally wont make a lot of money, but you have to be there to protect & project mind share. Additionally, it is the dominant mobile platform.

2. Development Tools.
You can use IntelliJ Idea. Its a Mature Development Platform, and gives you many options. The article doesn't make any strong arguments against eclipse. The installation/getting started was more involved, but personally, it took me an hour or so, so I don't think it is a big deal. It is useful to separate opinions from facts. Personally, I use emacs bindings in all my editors, and Eclipse is pretty nice to me in general.

3. UI Design Tools
This section is written in a way that projects inaccurate information. It implies that you have to use XML as opposed to using a Interface Builder interface. This is not true - there is indeed a drag and drop interface akin to IB in android. The author mentions it as a preview tool. Indeed it is also a design tool.

33
smcj 22 hours ago 1 reply      
This is a great and honest article and has changed the way I think about Apple users/developers.

Before that, I considered Apple users to be a group of gay douchebags, but today I have learned that there is at least a sane person on the other riverside.

(I have neither developed for any smartphone nor do I possess one, so no need for "Stupid FANDROID!1!")

3
How The Hell Is This My Fault? techcrunch.com
472 points by jamesgagan  3 days ago   281 comments top 50
1
jellicle 3 days ago 5 replies      
Sounds to me like Paul Graham has made a fairly fundamental and common mistake, which is to say believing the AirBnb people when they reassure him that everything is under control and there's no fire here.

Paul, if you actually read the statements made by the CEO on news.ycombinator.com, it's very clear that AirBnb are the primary, if not only, ones at fault here.

I don't want to call Paul a liar, since it seems likely to me that he has just made a mistake of believing someone else. But he's putting his own reputation behind AirBnb, and AirBnb is lying. That's unwise.

Let me compare a different response that I'm familiar with. A friend of mine had her apartment destroyed in the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks. Insurance companies came and set up booths in Manhattan and were cutting checks left and right, without even SEEING the damage. My friend had a check in her hand on 9/13 if I recall correctly. She didn't get in to SEE her own apartment until a month later, and the insurance company didn't see it until much later than that.

As of today and yesterday, there are articles in newspapers across the land. There are phrases like "As of Friday afternoon, Airbnb had not returned calls from The [Washington] Post requesting comment." - that's a quote from a WashPost story, of course. One thing I know: when the Washington Post calls and a company has something good to say about themselves, they take the call (calls, actually).

It's apparent from the latest newspaper stories that AirBnb is now reacting in a cover-it-up fashion - they're trying to offer the woman a sum of money with the condition that she shut up. That's fine, I guess - very corporate of them.

But frankly I expected better. I guess I sort of expected that even if AirBnb was being dumb, that when the first article hit news.yc, that someone would call them and straighten them out. Instead it seems that PG, also, is blinded by "going to be as big as Ebay".

2
sriramk 3 days ago 4 replies      
I can't believe I'm defending Arrington here but for once, I think PG is off and Arrington is right.

Arrington's editorializing has been fairly tame in this story. A lot of the mess has been due to EJ's posts and Airbnb's attempts at damage control.

If you look through the original post, there are only a couple of lines where Arrington says Airbnb isn't financially responsible and that is, imho, a fair interpretation of what the spokesperson/Lukezic told him. TC has also done a fair job of publishing Airbnb's side of the story - guest posts, updating their posts, etc.

Airbnb's real problem here is EJ, not Arrington. Airbnb's image isn't getting tarnished by posts on TC, it is getting tarnished by EJ's blog posts which make Airbnb's people seem cold and insensitive.

If you look at PG's comments on the earlier thread, he seemed to imply that Airbnb disagreed with EJ's version of events (they called her before her second post, etc). That could be Airbnb's big problem - it seems to me they want to say EJ is lying but can't in public.

3
jacquesm 3 days ago  replies      
Everybody calm down please.

EJ is real, she's a real person, it really did happen, just in case anybody was still wondering about that.

I've passed her contact info to PG and him being the smart man that he is I'm pretty sure that he can come up with a solution that will satisfy everybody and will allow the victim to move on and get AirBNB past this crisis. Any words to the effect that AirBNB is 'setting precedent' are null and void, of course they aren't and even if they were it would not matter one bit, sometimes you just need to do the right thing, even if that hurts you financially. Sometimes lawyers are good, sometimes they muddle the water. In this case I'd advise to leave the lawyers out of it, this is an emotional train-wreck and lawyers are only going to make it worse.

The future can wait until after this has been resolved to EJs satisfaction. Customer = King. Be happy that so far the mainstream press seems to be ignoring this story, the last thing you want at this point is to leave that clock ticking to the point where they do pick it up and who knows how many more EJ stories start hitting the news.

Yes, this could be an isolated case, but given the numbers involved it probably isn't.

Whoever lied will have to come clean about it at some point, maybe PG will owe Arrington an apology, maybe not.

Note that 'offering help' and 'giving help' are two very different things, and PG has not said anywhere that AirBNB has given her help, just that they've been offering it from the beginning, it may have been an unconditional offer, or it may have been a conditional one with conditions unacceptable for EJ. If they did nothing tangible for the last 30 days that really is a problem, but that means that PG can still stand by his words. Whatever hang-ups that stop 'offering' turning in to 'given' need to be resolved immediately.

Time will tell, all that depends on what really happened and other than EJ and one or two people at AirBNB nobody knows, the rest is hearsay. It is very well possible that PG is acting on incomplete or wrong info. The fact that AirBNB is willing to move to keep this out of the media during a funding round may tell us a bit about their attitude towards being truthful with investors, assuming that that is true, which we can not take as read at this point.

As far as damage to the apartment, pictures with some proof would help (and would indicate the extent of the damage), and if the truth is to come out about the interaction with AirBNB then someone would have to dump their email cache.

Personally I don't think that is the best way forward (other than for EJ if she's telling the truth and wants to make that more than plain, and AirBNB turns out to have not done anything tangible other than saying they will 'support her' and have 'offered help'), what this mostly needs is to be taken care of, whether that happens in the public eye or not is not relevant.

I exchanged some email with the lady, EJ is right now literally scared out of her wits, concern for her safety and well being should come first, after that, when the situation has been normalized as far as possible there will be a time of reflection for everybody involved, including PG.

YC companies are hitting bigger home-runs each year and with that comes a need for a more professional approach to PR. When you're dealing at this level and you have this many interactions with your customers (2 million nights booked = 4 million chances for someone to be dissatisfied) there will always be trouble. It is unavoidable, so you have to plan for it and you plan for the worst case scenarios.

Luckily, there was no bodily harm in this case, the perps were gone when she returned. But that is just about the only icing on this cake, other than that there needs to be some real hard work done to set this right and to do what can be done to avoid a repetition in the future. And if there is a repetition (imo inevitable) that person should have been warned up front about the risks in an un-ambiguous way.

Best of luck to all involved, especially to EJ and the AirBNB team.

4
kyro 3 days ago  replies      
HN has been pretty disgusting the last few days: the level of schadenfreude here has hit ridiculous new highs.

It seems that every time a story breaks about a successful company, a bunch of envious and disgruntled people come out of the woodwork and jump onto the bandwagon headed straight for the founders' heads. A community of seemingly intelligent and rational individuals turns into the most rabid, emotionally-charged group of catty girls I've ever seen. We only have one side of the story here. What if the've offered help and she's rejecting it? What if there are some very legitimate reasons that AirBnB is not going totally public about it? You don't know, and you have not heard the other side of the story.

The same thing happened with Dropbox. You guys were so ridiculously quick to foam at the mouth with your theatrics and conspiracies.

It's pretty revolting. Envy is just not a good color on many of you.

Edit: Spelling. Thanks, Jacques.

5
redthrowaway 3 days ago 2 replies      
Sorry PG, but you have a steep hill to climb if you want to defend aribnb.

The crux of your (and their) problem is this: Why, if, as you say, airbnb was being as helpful as possible from the get-go, did the victim write that second post?

That's it. You cannot have a claim to credibility until you answer that question. Even if that answer is, "she was paid off", the existence of her second blog post puts the lie to airbnb's (and your) claims. Either she's telling the truth, or they (and you) are. They are mutually exclusive stories.

Bringing Arrington's Arringtonity into this is a red herring. The story isn't about him. There are two involved parties, here, and you've aligned yourself with airbnb. The victim's story isn't being run through the TC filter; it's there for everyone to see. So far, the collective 'you' have not addressed it, refuted her points, or shown how the two accounts are compatible.

It's easy to hop on the "Michael Arrington is a sensationalistic dick" bandwagon, because he is. That doesn't address the issue, though, and it comes across as a deflection.

6
coffeemug 3 days ago 4 replies      
The way many people here jumped to conclusions after the initial AirBnB story based on almost no information is really disheartening. Insulting the founders of the company, the victim, and concocting conspiracy theories based on a few paragraphs of information with barely any evidence is a really poor way to conduct oneself. Most decent people wouldn't do it in face-to-face conversations without getting to know a person at least slightly, and it's unfortunate that our psychology is built in a way that an extra layer of anonymity afforded by the internet enables a large number of people to drop all sense of tact and respect, and jump into personal attacks with very little information about the actual incident. If you're one of the people that engaged in this type of behavior, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. You're doing real damage to real people, while knowing almost nothing about what's actually going on, but more importantly, you're damaging your own reputation.

I had the opportunity to hear the founders speak a number of times. They're one of the very few founders that are incredibly genuine about bringing a positive change into the lives of their customers. They live and breathe positive change they bring to the world, to the point where they carry letters from customers that thanked them for saving their lives because the bank would have repossessed their home if not for AirBnB. Jumping on them because they didn't have a chance to give a complete response while handling a crisis is really uncalled for.

I don't know the victim but it's easy to misinterpret events after going through an emotional trauma. Most likely it's a misunderstanding, but even if it isn't, it's really inappropriate to insult people given the information currently available. In fact, it's never appropriate to insult people, and it's best to hold back criticism until more information is available, lest you do some real damage to real people.

There are some valid concerns about where personal responsibility ends and liability begins (legally and ethically), and how AirBnB's service will evolve to address these issues, but there are different ways to discuss these concerns, and discussions here so far have been nothing but poisonous.

EDIT: I posted this comment in the other thread (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2825045). Sorry for the crosspost, but this is getting ridiculous.

7
bugsy 3 days ago 3 replies      
That's extremely interesting. When the victim EJ posted (was it Thursday?) about being intimidated and lied to by Airbnb, it was obviously very different from what they were saying publicly. I figured though she is very very upset about everything and overreacting. However, this new report is a second witness that Airbnb is playing dirty behind the scenes while acting all nice guy in public, and PG defending it. Probably he believes what they say, but the fact is that it's Arrington that ends up being right on these articles, but even if it wasn't, we already know the story came from EJ the victim and not Arrington anyway, so PG either didn't do proper diligence in checking before posting or is outright lying to protect his investment. I think PG is honest and just didn't check up on things, but believed what he was told by his unnamed contact at Airbnb, who is clearly angry at the victim. The unnamed Airbnb contact's attitude of anger corroborates EJ's story that she was intimidated by them. What a mess. It's obvious at this point both that PG should apologize to Arrington and Airbnb is basically done for. I am sure they have many people there trying to do the right thing but they have at least one person there in CYA mode who has basically both destroyed the company and lied to PG.
8
moonlighter 3 days ago 0 replies      
- "Brian Chesky called me and I updated that post"
- "Chesky repeatedly thanked me for the updates by email and on the phone"

Seems like Chesky and Lukezic spent more time talking to Arrington trying to do "PR damage control" rather than talk to their customer EJ. Which, given Arrington's new post, totally backfired, too:

"At least have the decency to stand up and say you're wrong, Airbnb, and apologize for the lies. Because hiding behind investors, and attacking the press, is both dishonorable and stupid. That's no way to gain customer trust."

Ouch. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

9
WordSkill 3 days ago 2 replies      
You know, I am no cheerleader for Michael Arrington, we've certainly banged heads a few times in comment threads (it's a fun way to spend an evening) but what Paul Graham is doing here is pretty cynical:

Once it became clear yesterday that the empathically-challenged kids in charge at Airbnb had no clue of how to manage the problem, and that the company was hemorrhaging tens of millions in notional value every time Brian Chesky opened his mouth and a bunch of lies and half-truths came tumbling out, the investors called an emergency meeting and tried to figure out a way out of this mess.

Clearly, as the situation had been left to rot for a month, giving the victim plenty of time to become more upset and alienated, it was too late to pretend that the situation itself had been handled in any way properly.

There was also no longer any subtle way to silence to victim - that bridge already been burned by the ham-fisted attempt to bully her into deleting her original post... attempts made, incredibly, OVER THE PHONE!

And, as those attempts were now part of the another blog post, it was too late to act like fucking professionals, meet her in person, put her up in five star luxury while they arrange and pay to have her home cleansed, fumigated, redecorated, refurnished, blessed by a witchdoctor, whatever it took to shut her up.... it was too late for all that.

So, Paul Graham, an intelligent man with a good eye for small details, noticed the one and only sliver of a chance Airbnb has to get out of this mess with it's valuation above the billion mark, rather than far below it: the universal antipathy towards Michael Arrington!

So, now, the course is set and, from here on out, Airbnb and their investors are going to completely ignore the truth that it was the victim's own account which contradicts Airbnb's rapidly shifting assertions, and, instead, they are going to pretend that the whole controversy is a link-bait concoction by Silicon Valley's favorite super-villain, Dr. Arrington. What actually happened will not matter and, right now, you can bet the Paul Graham is down on his knees praying that Jason Calacanis will take the tasty Arrington bait and run this story in the other direction.

Of course, the only reason this story has legs is that Chesky's article turned out to be so astonishingly and needlessly untruthful that the victim felt compelled to sit down and write a practically line-by-line rebuttal. It was truly one of the most remarkable own goals I have ever seen and, if you weren't already questioning the sanity of the CEO of a supposedly $1.3bn company not identifying, a month ago when it happened, that this could be a serious IPo blocker and, as such, promptly nailing it down, you have to wonder just how psychotic he is to have written something so bold, to have put himself in the position of being publicly exposed as a complete and utter bullshitter.

So, that is why Micheal is getting it in the neck and, on this occasion, undeservedly so... but you shouldn't let that spoil your enjoyment of it ;)

10
Legion 3 days ago 0 replies      
>> Airbnb has been offering to fix it

EJ said as much in the first post. But offers without follow-through are worthless. And the problem is that, from EJ's perspective at least, there has been absolutely none. And swinging a bat at Arrington won't change that.

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9oliYQjP 2 days ago 0 replies      
Long term, this kind of problem isn't going away for AirBnB. To ignore it would be as foolish as a retailer avoiding the problem of shrink. To treat this case like it is an isolated, unique event, is also ridiculous. AirBnB might be tremendously safe. But so is flying, and people have irrational fears of flying because the odd disaster happens. Airlines have entire disaster teams in place to handle these rare events.

Honestly, I think a big problem here is that you have men handling a situation in which they were completely oblivious to the feelings of their customer. Men can't possibly appreciate the sense of vulnerability most women have walking down the street alone at night, let alone the sense of violation that occurs from events like this. What the woman in question implied in her blog post was anger that the men were cold and not paying attention to her feelings. My advice would be to find a woman with great customer service experience and give her authority to personally handle this situation, in-person.

That would take care of the immediate problem. Long term, AirBnB needs to develop a strategy for handling these sort of cases. Reports of insurance being offered is a good first step. But they need to think about having disaster teams in place similar to the ones airlines and insurance companies have. They are in the same boat as these companies; when something goes wrong, it goes very very wrong. That leaves people in severe distress and it takes more than just a standard customer service response to deal with situations like this.

12
cookiecaper 3 days ago 1 reply      
There are a lot of long words in these posts, so I doubt anyone will read this, but I want to say it anyway.

First, this whole thing just wreaks of a big disaster of miscommunication between all involved parties. Many commentators I think are being overly sensitive and pedantic (I commented yesterday on the shocking revelation that an airbnb founder would "enjoy meeting" EJ). The following points seem clear to me:

* EJ's perspective is tainted by her negative experience. While she criticized the founder for an impersonal meeting request, she could have disparaged the founder just as easily had it gone the other way: "Oh, the founder sent me this mail gushing with concern... if he really cared, he would have done X and Y differently, now he is just backtracking like a coward in light of media attention"

* airbnb believes that they are helping and is trying to do what's feasible, but is weighed down by concern over insurance, regulation, fault, and other pertinent issues involved in this precedent-setting incident. airbnb also is likely to (subconsciously) give a story that is perhaps unrealistically positive to one of its earliest mentors and investors, who readily believes and defends one of his earliest and most successful investments; I can't help but think there are child-parent-type instincts on that kind of relationship.

* Arrington is writing the story mostly accurately, perhaps not with the rigid journalistic method that ensures precision in retelling, as we generally expect to find lacking in the casual vernacular of a blog. In fact, I think a lot of TC-related controversy stems from nothing more than the casual format that leaves much room for misreadings (and miswritings). While it may not be fun to read or write an article that follows classical journalistic procedure, there is a reason that that procedure was put in place...

* Commentators jump to the defense of EJ prematurely, partly because of white-knight impulses and partly because of the victim's emotionally-charged writing.

I hope that people calm down over this. We need to allow all parties involved some time, I think. This is a major thing in the history of airbnb and the logistics require careful attention -- they may not get it perfectly right, but I believe they're operating out of good faith and trying to do the right thing. I also believe EJ is struggling to get a grip on her new circumstances and would also benefit from some time apart from the sensationalism. As for PG/TC/others, it just causes volumes of unnecessary drama to get publicly entangled.

I'm not sure that anything else productive can be done at this point by continuing to expound on the issue, it merely seems to create more controversy for controversy's sake.

13
ig1 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think perhaps the more important question here is with pg going to bat for Airbnb against Arrington, is this going to affect the long term relationship between Y Combinator and Techcrunch.

Techcrunch have always provided favourable coverage to YC companies, but if that relationship is going tepid because of this affair, the negative fall-out could be far worse for YC than for AirBnB. Most consumers will forget about stories like this after a while, journalists tend to hold grudges (see Arrington vs Calcanis).

14
OoTheNigerian 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is my little 2 cents on this whole fiasco that seems not to go away.

All this would not have come to this if Airbnb guys asked themselves a simple question. How would I handle this if this happened to my sister of wife.

The main problem is Airbnb had about a month to fix this before it became 'viral'. It was only the post by TC that made me realise this issue was about a month ago (30 days!).

As a fan of Airbnb, (I have not used the service, but i have given them a few customers), I am a bit disappointed in the response. I do not blame them for waat happened to EJ. The problem that has happened is as a result of their reaction to what had happened.

I am kind of amazed that after a month, not one of the founders has gone to see the house (they have the address) but rather they have been doing "everything" to help. This is politician talk, not startup talk. Why startups were really cool was the possibility of getting in touch with the founder of it rather than the "automated customer service of big companies".

The only actionable thing Airbnb have done during the last few days fiasco is try to cover their asses. i.e change the security page, write a blog post on TC and defend themselves. Now anything they do will not be perceived in good faith but in reaction to the angry mob (as PG calls it). It is never good to be reactionary.

If I were the CEO of Airbnb, I would do this:

Go and look physically and look at the house.

Go and look for the victim and be sincere in my apology and request for another chance to start again.

Behave as if it was my sister this thing happened to.

I really hope some good "no win no fee" lawyer has not got to her first.
When you are successful, people are out there trying to hang you, please Airbnb, do not give them a rope.

I wish you guys all the best!

15
chailatte 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why is it left to PG to defend AirBnB? Why aren't the founders handling the PR?

Why isn't AirBnb implementing solutions 5 weeks ago to prevent this from happening again to their users? Why haven't their users heard about this until now?

Why don't we have any tangible proof that AirBnb is actually helping this poor woman? If no, why don't they do it now, instead of saying they are trying?

Are there any grownups in AirBnb? This is not a side project selling cereals that you have fun with anymore. It's a real business! What a sad, pathetic group of people. 1000X valuation for a company that lets 'daddy' do all the dirty work, while they go hide in the corner.

16
ajays 2 days ago 1 reply      
Here is something I don't understand.

San Francisco is a tiny city (heck, I've walked from one end to the other; it's just 7 miles x 7 miles, or 11km x 11km for the rest of you). Most of the principles in this sad tale live in San Francisco. HOW HARD IS IT TO JUST WALK OVER AND MEET THIS PERSON?? Instead of relying on PR and telephones and email and blogs; just walk over, give her a hug, talk to her and treat her right! Put a human touch on all this interaction, people! It's not like she's living in Podunk, Nebraska (no offense to Nebraskans) and out of reach. She's living right here!

Close your laptops. Put down your iPhones. Just meet her in person and solve her problems. I am willing to bet that a face-2-face with the principles will solve more problems than all the articles in TC, blog posts, etc.

17
todayiamme 3 days ago 3 replies      
This might seem stupid, but given the line of events if I was AirBNB's founders I would do this; offer EJ my place to stay, and cook a simple meal for her. That's it.

The shortfall of AirBNB over here is that they might care, but they aren't coming across as someone caring, and a little bit of empathy coupled with a genuine act of kindness will go a long way over here.

18
nikcub 3 days ago 0 replies      
airbnb chose to use Techcrunch as the venue, and there is still no mention of this on their own blog or website.

they should just cut it straight and adress all their users on their own site

19
resdirector 3 days ago 0 replies      
I really look forward to reading a Paul Graham essay about his experience here, once the dust has settled. I know he has written about PR before, but this is probably essay-worthy in of itself (perhaps something like "in the eye of a shitstorm" or similar).

I'd like to know his philosophies and how he came to his decisions to do what when, his thought processes etc.

20
lancewiggs 3 days ago 1 reply      
Hundreds of comments and votes. But I have not seen an apology from AirBnB on HN. Perhaps I missed it, but they should be everywhere.

Why don't they understand this? Why are they not incredibly active on this and other forums? Have they no conscience? Do they really not care? Is this really still seen by them as a PR problem rather than a a horrible event that they at least partially enabled and thus should feel terrible about and seek to help the victim in any and all ways they can?

The success of eBay, a P2P business, was initially driven by its community, and members treated each other with respect and were happy to trade with each other. AirBnB is behaving as if it doesn't care about its community, its customers.

Is that the death knell sounding? Perhaps.
To me the only recourse now is a new person or team at the top, folks that actually live the desired values of the company.

21
rweba 3 days ago 3 replies      
This might now end up affecting not only Airbnb but also the image of Ycombinator and pg.

Also the important issue here is not just the (terrible) handling of this specific incident by Airbnb but the fact that it puts into question their entire business model: Is it really smart to rent out your personal residence to a complete stranger? Does the potential benefit($$$) outweigh the significant risks(being completely violated)? Yes, they could put in some more checks but will that be enough to make people feel SAFE?

Personally I think the risk is too high and the problem will only become worse as the service tries to expand to more customers and scammers become more aware of it. That nice "guest" may simply be casing the joint, copying your keys and snooping in your mail. Who needs that risk?

22
maurycy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Let me start with a very simple sentence: people are good.

The AirBnB service depends on this simple premise. This is the first axiom of their business. No matter how insured everyone is, the axiom has to hold. Otherwise, you end up with an infinite streak of disputes.

If you invite strangers to your home, then you assume that people are good, either. It is that simple. Frankly, only a good person would invite strangers to her home. It might be slightly too naive, but it does not change the fact it takes a lot of good faith, and trust. (It might be too much, I agree, but it is not her fault, as it was not BitCoin begginers' mistake to commit into the idea of the digital currency _too much_. It is more experienced ones' responsibility to share their knowledge.)

Once you find the property destroyed, your world view is going to collapse. It turns out, basically, that some people are not good. What's worse, bad people were physically close to you, just few days ago.

It is _extremely_ stressful.

Here and there I've read comments suggesting that EJ extrapolates a bit. Even if so, so what? She is so distressed, I'm very surprised that there's so little understanding about her current position.

The way the AirBnB folks behave does not reveal that they do genuiely believe that people are good. The way the public sees it right now is that they're very cautious, as well as lawyers, and all that stuff, is rather a defensive, and unsafe, behaviour.

While I somehow understand them, the problem is that the service relies on the assumption that people are good. After all, it is about _sharing your property with complete strangers from Internet_ (no matter if it is your home, or the other one.)

The reason why the story reads so bad is that it mixes up the social context of sharing per se, with the formal context, relying on lawyers and PR firms. All comments points out that getting her a new property sets a precedence for further refunds are totally off the took. To come up with such comment, it takes to view the world as a distrustful place. The view that, basically, contradicts the whole idea.

To me, the whole story is about nerds facing social complexities. The business they've created is not about numbers (i.e. brokering rooms, without having to incur the costs of building a hotel), but about sharing. The sharing, in nearly all cases, of single most valuable thing in your life.

I'm so frightened with lack of common sense.

First of all, the AirBnB folks should ensure her that people are good. I mean, people _are_ good. That the unfortunate event was a nightmarish accident, not the correct image of the world (no BS here, as, statistically speaking, the event is an outlier.)

Ensuring someone that the world is a trustful place definitely does not involve communicating publicly, or privately, with lawyers, or PR companies. I don't know how to explain this but it is all about showing that you're a human (of course, it still makes sense to speak with a lawyer before, though to avoid some simple misunderstaindg.)

We don't know her. We have no idea what are the actions necessary in order to make her safe. I think, though, it takes nothing more than showing your real, not faked, care, and, what comes as a surprise, asking her, not a PR company.

Once this is solved, the community should be somehow informed about the solution. If she wants to, EJ could write the explanation. She would have control over the amount of private informations shared, giving her power she has lost due to the abuse. Also, the really case closed means a good story about the world within that people are good.

Personally, I think it makes a lot of sense to offer her a job. She is an extremely talented writer, and seems to care about people. The AirBnB business operates heavily in the social context, so so good person, coming from inside, would be priceless for a now a bit dry company.

Of course, meanwhile it makes sense to get constant updates on legal implications. This is mostly the internal process, though. It takes very little to commit an honest legal mistake, so it cannot hurt (keep in mind to ask EJ is she needs legal help, too.) The same goes with the PR firm. I'm under impression, though, they would recommend similar steps to me. The PR folks I know are really good people.

It might be that EJ does not want to speak with the founders anymore. There is already a lot of misunderstanding, and I would understand her if they've lost her trust. If so, either the investors or the directors should step in. I realize that it sounds _too much_. However, PG is already involved, and members of both groups signal that there is a more mature instance that overlooks the things to be fine.

I do not believe that the solution cannot be reached. It does. It takes, though, understanding that people are good.

(On a more formal side, the reason why it was really a bad idea to mention lawyers publicly is that the AirBnB itself operates within a grey area. Depending on the local laws, the service is either illegal or not covered with all hospitality laws.

It means that signing up the property to the service takes valuying the social relationships more than legal matters. It cannot be otherwise given that, it turns out, some guests were completely anonymous (guests of the guests?), to say nothing about lack of cameras in most buildings.

The lawyers, and formalities, raised so frequently create a state of understandable confusion. If renting the property is dubiously insurable (I'm not sure whether insurers were that happy if knew that they insure hotel rooms per se; the fact has to spread, yet, though), and there are no legal protections, there is nothing but the social trust to rely on.)

That said, I wish all the parties involved the best.

I wish EJ only good things from now. ;-) And, I wish AirBnB more luck, as they've faced a huge sh*t-storm, and I like their service for the reason it relies on _good_ behaviour.

23
meinthecity 2 days ago 0 replies      
The tragedy about this is that everyone involved here could have done something to avoid this except maybe EJ.

In order of culpability, here are the mistakes they made:

AirBnB's clearly inexperienced leadership has done a horrible job at communication. Sadly, this makes any real action they have taken to help the victim irrelevant to the public. Then again, their business has a fundamental risk, one of crime, which they seem unprepared to address or mitigate. Given their past resourcefulness, I have a feeling they will find ways to improve their product to make this less likely. I am not so sure about their ability to improve their communication.

Michael Arrington's job is to draw more eyeballs to TechCrunch and he invariably picks stoking controversy over responsible journalism. If it wasn't already clear to everyone including pg that he will do this at any cost, it should be now. Michael could have done some real journalism and talked to the police to find out more details, probed AirBnB for more details up front and may be even the victim on the one hand. On the other hand he should certainly have avoided comparing AirBnB to scamville, I don't think anyone thinks AirBnB is scamming users. But that's just who he is. He also takes great pleasure in calling people names. Notice that his latest post about pg has "Liar" emblazoned on the top. Can't say I expected any different, given his past behavior but at least pg will remove his blinders now that Arrington is treating him exactly like he treats non-luminaries.

The fact that PG had to jump into the public fray may have seemed inevitable given AirBnB's incompetent response, but it is almost always a bad tactic to have multiple people presenting the public face of a company. Even minor differences between what they say will be highlighted and will cause more confusion. PG even made the tactical mistake of responding emotionally to Arrington's "make the story more interesting without giving a shit about anyone else" approach, but in the long run this is a good thing. As I said, he'll now remove his blinders about Arrington.

EJ is not at fault except that she should have known that she was taking this risk when she rented her home to complete strangers sight unseen. This may be a flaw in AirBnB's model and their lack of focus on safety on their site, but if EJ had been my 6' 5" wrestler brother, I'd have waited a sufficient amount of time before giving him a knock upside the head and asking him what he expected when he handed over keys to an apartment that held all his belongings to a complete stranger while he was abroad. If EJ were my sister I'd tell her the same thing, minus the knock upside the head!

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rmason 2 days ago 0 replies      
I remember seeing Jack Welch being interviewed once about the press. He said for successful people it's a cycle - they're either building you up or tearing you down. If AirBnB wasn't so successful their problem wouldn't be news.

If he hasn't done it already you will see PG bring in a top PR person who is experienced in handling a crisis. Not just to get AirBnB out of trouble but to be a resource for future YC companies in handling episodes of this sort. Quite frankly I am shocked their VC's aren't helping them out this way.

25
badclient 3 days ago 0 replies      
Arrington nails it. It's the same thing I wrote yesterday in a comment: Airbnb wants to call out the victim but are holding back whether it is for legal or other reasons.

I can understand them. It's hard to just sit idle when someone irrationally attacks you. At the same time, if you have a customer-business relationship, airing the customer's dirty laundry may be strategicay bad no matter how wrong she is. On the other hand, the customer can write piles and piles of questionable content.

Here's what I'd love: for EJ to post the ordinal emails or to show them to techcrunch or arstechnica for an independent take on the situation. At the moment TC is just a megaphone for both parties. May be this can investigate this at the root with original communication between EJ and airbnb, assuming ej agrees to it. And if she doesn't, I would be as suspicious of her as I may be airbnb having read her posts.

26
kristiandupont 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's amazing to me how polarized the comments are even here on HN where the debate is usually very balanced.

Obviously we know very little about what's going on behind the scenes right now. There are conflicting messages coming from all sides.

I am not saying that EJ is lying. But calling AirBnB are completely cynical and lacking any sense of PR seems incongruent with the skills they have otherwise shown and also with the empathy that they at least managed to convey in interviews etc.

27
trotsky 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wish Arrington didn't try to make himself the story so much - I know it's his schtick but it's very distracting from the actual story here.

He's obviously on HN regularly - if he had a problem with the way he was characterized in a HN comment the easiest way to respond to that is right there. Anyone reading pg's comment would see his rebuttal, pg would see it, and people could directlly make up their own minds.

Instead he makes a "oh god look at this liar" TC post because he enjoys using his bully pulpit to shape public opinion. No wonder he lets people like MG call out random CSR lies on twitter and get them fired at AT&T.

28
orionlogic 3 days ago 0 replies      
Sometime ago i watched a video, a panel directed by Arrington and said to myself "how could PG like this guy"(i see the Arrington way) because PG said this several times. TC really supportive and give good reviews for Ycom startups so its normal to say that i think.

But for this event TC is a bit prolonging the situation. Why not talking millions of happy transactions instead of a unlucky bad one? In 2011 bad news still sells.

29
Shenglong 2 days ago 0 replies      
do you really think they are so dumb that they don't realize it's not worth the bad PR to save money and effort in this situation?

I'm siding with pg on this one. I can't imagine any intelligent person making this PR trade-off just for some cash. I don't want to analyze the he-said-she-said, but I've been up to date since this went viral, and I don't see any logiacl reason that AirBnb would refuse to pay for her expenses.

Think about it logically... rather than emotionally.

30
larrys 2 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe PG/YC/Airbnb see this for what it is. A great deal of notoriety that will help this startup after the situation lands on the front page of every major paper as well as the nightly news. Then will come EJ on 20/20, morning shows etc. telling her story as a word of caution. Airbnb will respond that they've fixed the problem though. Then even your aunt will know about airbnb. What's that publicity worth.

In the end, this won't hurt it will help. (Think of all the weird stuff selling on ebay like dead bodies, dead body parts etc that were constantly publicized many years ago. At times it seemed like there were new stories weekly.)

31
bane 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is it just me or has this entire debacle resulted in an awful lot of beating up of otherwise upstanding HNers and armchair novice PR advice based on a case full of conflicting details where apparently nobody has the complete story?

I'm actually finding this entire thing distasteful from all possible sides. I'd rather just wait and see what happens while the various parties work this out in relative private.

32
bennyfreshness 3 days ago 0 replies      
Another example of a select few bad apples ruining it for everyone. This is such a shame. I've had great experiences with Airbnb. The last person who rented my loft left it cleaner that it was before!
33
lwhi 3 days ago 0 replies      
Diversionary tactics. Not admirable but I'll still be impressed if he pulls it off.
34
shareme 3 days ago 0 replies      
1. Victim is not on trial here.
2. This is not the time to score link bait points.
3. Several layers of communication that are not direct here..let the parties come to their own way of helping and implementing solutions. I would imagine it does not help the police either ..

above all else. MA you are not helping just shut up.

35
babebridou 3 days ago 1 reply      
This situation is in fact a very understandable vendetta of the unfortunate victim towards the rest of the world - and she is right - everyone should pay for what she suffered. The actual word is compassion, and there's never enough of it in the whole world for any single unfortunate person.

With that said, no company with AirBnB's business model can publicly say they will assist victims whatever the cost. It's just impossible. It would be a blatant lie. They must at least maintain some sort of windshield against insurance frauds, and doing that requires tons of hard PR and legal decisions to be made, and the assistance of lawyers. And everyone hates lawyers. Companies are sometimes inherently good, sometimes not, but they should never be inherently so stupid as to sign their own commercial/financial/legal doom. You can get up from bad PR, but you can't get up from bankrupcy.

Now after this argument in favor of an actual public silence, let's see what we have:
1) a victim
2) there is no 2. There is a victim and that's all.

Just fix the victim. No need to go through internet flamewars or PR messes, no need to even listen to that. Airbnb should just send a team of 24/7 dedicated people with quasi carte blanche (within what the company can afford, of course) to see through that victim gets better, if that objective can even be met. If the "get better" project goes so wrong as to lead to law suits or whatnot, then let justice decide, because in the end, yes, someone has to pay for what happened, and the legal system is here to decide who should pay.

Now about PR: switch the debate from a "what did AirBnB do in that situation" witch-hunt to "This is what we are doing, this is how it's going from our point of view, now what do you (Mr/Mrs Customer) think we could improve on?". Open a public discussion on your social network and dedicate someone to analyze public input. And use it the next time something like this happens (because unfortunately, it will happen again). Centralize this debate somewhere where you can handle all this information, and by "handle" I don't mean "censor" but of course "assimilate".

...and just ignore those stupid emergent flame wars between big internet guns who are mostly in for pride (white knights & trolls) and money (journalists, consultants, lobbyists & investors). Let them deal with the crap they fling around themselves, and keep focusing on the "get better" project: the victim asked specifically for your help, and that's what really matters here.

Related link: an analysis of an excellent online PR crisis management by Monoprix (in French only, sorry) http://guybirenbaum.blogitexpress.com/91728/html
The "victim" (an employee who got fired for taking home unsold & trashed goods) explained that he "tried hard to make a fuss and a buzz" of his situation because he felt that nothing short of prosecution and trial could make him feel better. This is a case of a failing "get better" project with exemplary PR - and to be honest, it's only when the project fails that PR become important. What did Monoprix do? They centralized the debate on their Facebook page, switched the focus from "Monoprix is bad" to a laconic "here's what we are doing, tell us what we can improve on" and they have dedicated Community Managers assimilating and discussing the comments instead of censoring them.

36
djloche 2 days ago 0 replies      
The key problem is that MA is reading 'we're not legally liable' as 'we're not going to help her'.

There is a huge difference between the two. Companies go out of their way to fix issues where they have no legal obligation to do so. However, they can still claim that they have no legal obligation with the offended parties to do so, they're just doing it out of the goodness of their hearts (and reputation of the business going forward).

37
NIL8 2 days ago 1 reply      
Arrington and TC irritate the crap out of me! There was a time when I loved to read TC, but now they are so obnoxiously arrogant and dirty that it makes me cringe to see links from them in HN posts. Why would they drop Paul Graham's name into this empty story?

Can someone explain to me how this is anybody's fault other than the jerk that robbed the lady (and maybe the lady's naïveté)?

I know AirBnB has made a lot of people angry with their business tactics, but how are they responsible for this crime? Can you imagine if the Hampton Inn sued Expedia for someone vandalizing a hotel room or expecting restitution from Kayak for what a vandal did in their hotel?

AirBnB should listen to their lawyers and not accept responsibility for the act of a criminal or the poor judgement of a user.

38
chappi42 3 days ago 1 reply      
I see airbnb as a match-maker and consider it quite naive to entrust a 'facebook-friend-like' stranger my appartment without proper checking who this person is.

Typical America were drinking hot coffee leads to lawsuits.

(Which doesn't mean i'm not sorry for the person, or that risks shouldn't be stated (more) prominently, or that insurances should be here)

39
puppetaccount 2 days ago 0 replies      
To AirBnB:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

40
ImperatorLunae 3 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone else see the irony in responding to pg with a list of n things?
http://www.paulgraham.com/nthings.html
41
capdiz 2 days ago 0 replies      
After reading the lady's blog. airbnb dudes you really screwed up. You dare suggest she takes her blog down. I had actually defended airbnb yesterday before reading her side of the story. But am now inclined to believe that you guys screwed up and need to do some damage control.
42
mindcrime 3 days ago 0 replies      
So what should I be reading instead of TechCrunch?

ReadWriteWeb?

GigaOM?

TheStartupFoundry?

43
dools 3 days ago 0 replies      
AirBnB: Air Bold n the Beautiful?
44
jamesgagan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Listen, someone was gonna post it.
45
mindcrime 3 days ago 2 replies      
/me puts some popcorn on to pop, cracks open a soda, and sits back to watch the show...
46
realou 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hello. It seems that this Airbnb business model is a bit flawed because it requires a level of trust from customers which cannot be obtained in the world we currently live in. How to add trust? many solutions exist.

One such solution could be, for example, to have ALL the rented properties daily cleaned up by Airbnb-hired people (contracted 3rd party companies will be happy to do this in most civilized cities). This would be a cool service the renters would appreciate, and would provide the rentees at least some level of trust their home is not being vandalized.

A concierge service could also help.

I am sure many other ways exits to add Trust to the model. This must become Airbnb's most valuable product feature... This should be considered an important "enabling technology" without which the business cannot survive in the long run.

47
grovulent 3 days ago 2 replies      
It's he said - she said - kinda stuff that ultimately we'll never get to the bottom of.

But Arrington so often finds himself at the centre of these idiotic exchanges and personal attack-fests that it's very hard not to believe PG about this.

It's just a real shame that the reputation of a really cool company rests on that level of exchange between folks. It must be really frustrating for them.

48
merubin75 3 days ago 0 replies      
He had me until the last line: "I don't know what Paul Graham means by 'typical Arrington fashion,' but I do know this. It's not my job to fix it when companies do stupid things."

Bullshit!

No, it's not your job to fix the mess other companies create through stupid policy or bad decisionmaking. But it's also not your job to pile on and stir up everybody's passions when something goes wrong.

Michael Arrington is a huckster -- Walter Winchell and Drudge mixed together. For years, he's picked fights and written stories that destroy reputations. Then when he's called on to the carpet for his behavior, he reacts in the 'typical Arrington fashion,' by protesting his innocence and calling on his readers to save him.

I'm not an apologist for what Airbnb did here. But Michael Arrington and TechCrunch helped fan the flames. Not because they reported on it, but becausse of the WAY they reported on it. And now when they're called on it, he reacts by wrapping himself in a flag of righteousness.

Yep, smells like bullshit alright.

49
Confusion 3 days ago 1 reply      
Well, that's a non sequitur drama queen title if I ever saw one. A straw man in so few words: cunning. No one is faulting Arrington for what happened to EJ. Arrington is being faulted, rightly or wrongly, for bad journalism. Bait-and-switch.
50
hluska 3 days ago 4 replies      
Let's engage in a little thought exercise. Pretend that you are the Airbnb victim. You live in incredible fear of psychotic criminals and identity thieves. The fear is so uncontrollable that you "spend [your] mornings recalling nightmares and breathing through panic attacks."

Would you:

a) go into hiding at a friend's place and lay low?

b) go extremely public and take on a startup?

4
Poll: What should be done about the endless repetition of stories?
422 points by ColinWright  4 days ago   148 comments top 89
1
pg 3 days ago  replies      
Usually it's not a problem, because people only vote up the first version of a story. And when a dup does get upvoted, mods can just kill it. The Airbnb situation is unique because

(a) an angry mob is upvoting any story to do with this and

(b) we have to err on the side of not killing stories critical of YC or companies we've funded, or we get accused of censorship.

Fortunately the combination only occurs occasionally, so it's probably not something that needs a structural fix.

2
ansy 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think articles that are not the original source should be merged as comments under the original source since they are often just another news organization or blogger commenting on the source without additional source data.

This will also bring Hacker News more in line with paragraph 5 of the Hacker News Guidelines[1].

I believe even if an article "adds to the conversation" it still isn't worthy of a top level submission. It should be a comment like all the others.

EDIT: To implement this maybe power users above a certain karma threshold can be granted the ability to mark an article as derivative and point to the original source submission. If some magic number of power users do this, the article and the comments are moved and any links to the derivative article are redirected as well.

This will also discourage karma whores and blog-spammers from submitting derivative articles because there is a good chance it will get rolled into someone else's submission that actually submitted the source article.

[1] http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

3
jcr 3 days ago 0 replies      
HN submissions are URL based, but display of submissions are based on a
combination of factors including up-votes, flags and time since
submitted. As the name "Hacker News" (or "Startup News") implies, the
goal is collecting "news" articles rather than "classics" or even
"topics" and of course, this design splits discussions amongst related
submissions.

For the moment, let's just assume a "merge" feature exists. How would a
merged thread be handled for the sake of display? How would up-votes be
handled? How would flags be handled? --We've got a tough problems right
there, but we've skipped over the most blatant problems...

Who decides a merge?

Can merging be abused?

What granularity of merging is desired? (Do you want everything
regarding recent problem of the AirBnB customer to be in a single
submission, or do you want absolutely everything regarding AirBnB in
total to be in a single submission?)

Who decides the granularity?

The existing duplicate checking is based entirely on the given URL of a
submission, so it is easily abused, and knowingly flawed, but it's still
far better than nothing. Identifying duplicates, and more relevant to
this discussion, similarities, would require content analysis of the
submitted URLs. It is feasible, but it is not easy. None the less, a
solid content analysis algorithm would take care of the "who" and
"abuse" problems, as well as allow some degree of configuration on the
granularity.

Using your example ( http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2822080 ):

Assuming the seven submissions of the "G-Man" video are hosted at
different URLs (duplicate videos on youtube), really serious content
analysis would require downloading and analyzing all seven video files.
Oh wait, the asshats at google (and every other video site) refuse to
simply give you a link to the video file(s), so you have to do your own
parsing, processing and often de-flash-ing of their pages to figure out
the file download URL. And as soon as you have it working, they will
change how they present video to break your code (see
http://savevideo.me and similar browser addons for reference).

The other problem with content analysis on HN is the server would melt
into a pile of slag. As HN exists, a single FreeBSD box (AFAIK), it
would never be able to handle the load of content analysis.

Colin, your manual cross referencing is helpful, and I do appreciate it,
but I believe it is a waste of your skill and time. Yes, I remember you
have some code to somewhat automate it, but the reaction from the last
time you ran it was not the most positive. We can't treat HN as our
private play pen; for users it's a utility, but for PG/YC it is a way to
source hackers to fund and a way to promote news stories about YC funded
companies. --I don't mean it in a bad way, instead, it's just the well
known facts/benefits about HN. HN serves different purposes for
different people. I've always admired how PG and RTM consistently try to
sell shovels in a gold rush (viaweb, ...), and HN is simply their newest
type of shovel. ;)

Sadly, the phrase, "All press is good press," should now come to mind.
In other words, consolidating submitted stories into merged submissions
is actually disadvantageous to PG, YC, and the YC funded founders. You
are asking them to get less valuable press. Everyone who understands how
AirBnB works has been expecting a catastrophe like this to happen
eventually. BUT AirBnB making it onto the front page of the Financial
Times is extremely good for their business, even with "bad" press like
this.

Though many find "endless repetition" of similar submissions annoying,
the people in control of HN/YC and the founders of YC funded
companies understand it is VERY advantageous for them. Given you are
asking to "harm" the powers that be here on HN, you can be reasonably
well assured that we're stuck with endless repetition. This is most
likely the reason why you (currently) have 218 "Do Nothing" votes, and
worse, 27 "Go away. Just Go Away" votes.

It might be a great idea for HN users, but HN is the wrong place of this
particular great idea.

4
mquander 3 days ago 3 replies      
Option not listed: I just flag anything that appears on the front page if another, better post about the same thing is also on the front page. If lots of people did this, then we would quickly wind up with exactly one post about a topic on the front page, so people's discussion would mostly go onto that post. Problem easily solved.
5
bartonfink 3 days ago 1 reply      
Let's say that someone reposts an old Spolsky article that has been around for 3 years and was posted back in the day when it was fresh. Instead of detecting the duplicate and not allowing the repost, I'd like it if HN automatically posted a link to the old discussion as a comment on the new post. Maybe do some sort of filtering on dates, so that the system disallows reposts of recent items as it currently does, but doesn't block posting a 3 year old article again for more discussion. Not everyone was here 3 years ago, and asking someone to search HN for every old article they might be interested in is a pretty crappy interface for discussion.

Edit: Removed dangling "There's value in revisiting discussion" statement.

7
AlexC04 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think a "related to", "reply to" or "topic threading" mechanism would be neat, but possibly difficult to work out.

People generally want to submit their own threads for various reasons (adsense, unique-impressions, karma, etc...).

The tagging would probably still have to be community driven, but an "is child of topic", or "related to topic" tag would allow users to see a different sort of front page. (GROUP BY TOPIC, ORDER BY DATE DESC)

You'd only see the most recent post on a topic until you clicked on a "show related" follow up link.

Google news seems to do this grouping reasonably well. One headline and see all 872 articles on this topic. Obviously PG isn't going to write that but a poor man's version could be implemented with a 3 column relationships table.

It would also leave the current new and frontpage untouched for those who loathe & fear change (or unintended consequences).

I'm sure there's some other actual considerations to worry about in this - that's only an off-the-cuff response. But generally I think a "related to" list and a front page filter showing only the most recent article in a "thread", with the ability to expand out into the others under "more reading"

Maybe only the highest voted in a thread?

8
pseudonym 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd vote for a style of hand-merge mechanism that would

- Take the title of the post with the most discussion

- Turn it into a link like a poll, where each link has it's own "interior" link

- Throw all of the conversations from the posts and throw it into the main body of the combined post.

Users keep the ability to gain points, the front page stays clean, and no data is lost. The only downside is there's no easy way to flag things as "merges", unless the ability to "flag to merge" is added for people at a certain karma level. Enough flags, it automatically rolls them together.

9
petsos 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think the problem is that you can not change your vote.

When duplicate stories appear in the front page then you will probably upvote the first one. Problem is that this may not be the one with the highest score, or with the biggest discussion. When you then realize that there is a better submission of the same story, you can't change your initial vote.

I think that if you could change your vote, the problem would be corrected by the community itself.

11
trotsky 3 days ago 0 replies      
I voted for provide a merge mechanism, but I think there are real issues with that approach that would need to be solved. Merging makes a lot of sense for multiple stories on the front page at the same time, but depending on which story you read you might bring back a significantly different take, there might be conflicting facts etc. Then you'd have people arguing details that are all ostensibly correct based on the article they read. Merging stories that had significant time gaps could be even worse as new information may be understood by now (if it's an evolving story) and the comments will have a high volume of high rated comments that will discourage new discussion as it'll be unlikely to be noticed.
12
MattLaroche 3 days ago 0 replies      
One of the downsides of simply merging items, with different URLs, is that the different articles might both be worth posting because they cover different aspects of a story. So it'd be great to see multiple URLs on one item.

Also, there'd have to be a pretty clear standard about what constitutes one item. Sure, same URL - same item. Probably different URLs for the same story on the same day should be one item. But in the AirBNB ransacking case, I'd argue there should have been multiple articles: one for the initial "This is what happened" blog post and one for the "Suspect in custody, AirBNB has made changes to their organization" followup. Edited to add: And another for todays posting, noting that AirBNB probably hasn't done enough for the victim.

I assume some people blindly post TechCrunch URLs to try to boost karma - so a karma based solution might work. You post a duplicate URL, it changes your karma by -1 or 0. Not enough of a karma hit to really change the overall karma, but perhaps enough to search for the article first.

13
hackinthebochs 3 days ago 1 reply      
I vote for do nothing. If the story is exactly the same just from a different source, it should be downvoted. Some duplicate stories have a slightly different slant and thus encourage a discussion of the subject from a different perspective. The most obvious example is the AirBnB story from the financial times. There is a lot of overlap in the comments from this submission and previous ones, but there are also different perspectives. I think for stories that are this big its better just to leave it alone instead of attempting to cull the duplicate submissions.
14
jff 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to see some sort of tagging mechanism, perhaps, so that I could ignore this all-too-common front page:

* Why you should quit college and launch a startup

* Why college is super important

* How I did great without attending college

* Ask HN: Please tell me I'm smart for dropping out of my freshman year

If I could say, "I'm not interested in seeing any more college articles today", I could avoid these waves of "X Considered Harmful", "Considering X Harmful Considered Harmful", etc. posts, which seem to go away after a day or two.

15
mindcrime 3 days ago 0 replies      
I vote for "do nothing." I don't see this being a big problem, and to the extent that it is a problem, I don't think it merits risking the unintended consequences of a possible "fix."
16
resdirector 3 days ago 0 replies      
pg in relation to the Offer HN fad of a few months back:

Don't worry, these things always run their course.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1839740

17
politician 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'd like to see a tag mechanism where tags may be attached to a submission and voted on. Then, I'd like to be able to view the home page sorted by tags instead of by submissions.

Hopefully, that'd result in all Airbnb stories grouped together under tags representing different aspects of the story as well as automatically cross-referencing it with other examples of PR failure.

18
lallysingh 3 days ago 0 replies      
If things are on the same topic, but provide separate, unique points of view, they should go into an inner list, like you'd see for multiple google results from the same location.
19
pasbesoin 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm in favor of pg remaining the benevolent dictator of HN, but perhaps -- just perhaps -- if a trusted person or cadre here were to implement their own "duplication identifying/deprecating" service that passed muster, he might be willing to consider interfacing with it.

For example, if someone developed a third party tagging mechanism, there might be one or more classes of tags that identify duplicates.

The tagging could remain a third party browser-based overlay, or it might at some point be given access to write appropriate comments re its discoveries or even, gasp, moderate.

With this approach, third parties do what they're going to do, and if it's liked enough -- no guarantees, and no pestering! -- maybe it gets "blessed". Kind of like how search eventually ended up getting a textbox in the footer.

Anyway, I'd favor a design where I can quickly tag; if there were someway to conveniently incorporate the ID of the better post/resource, all the better. Then either let other users see/reference the tags directly, or (and/or) feed them into some form of meta-analysis and/or moderation.

We might also take a pass at improving the existing duplication detection.

I haven't really thought the above through, particularly how it might be gamed or otherwise end up being a negative.

P.S. Ideally, but perhaps not practically, I'd also like duplication detection/flagging to catch the all too numerous instances where people grab references from comments and post them as new posts. It's fairly prevalent and a readily apparent karma whoring mechanism for some. (On the other hand, sometimes such an elevation is warranted; it's not an entirely black and white issue.)

20
nickolai 3 days ago 1 reply      
I voted for merge.

It would also be nice to have an "alternate links" section on top of the comments page, with possibily of upvoting the alternate submissions.

Even better if an alternate link could replace the main one if it is voted as more relevant (ex main blog post replacing a post merely quoting it)

21
veyron 4 days ago 1 reply      
22
jakecarpenter 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not convinced that multiple submissions is a bad thing. We're all going to continue to get out information from different sources, and the discussion that follow a particular submission may have as much to do with the source as the story. Some people might place more trust in one source over another or one poster/submitter over another, and I think that is why the multiple submissions problem hasn't already worked itself out on its own. Any sort of automated merge/filter would be a form of editorializing that could squelch valuable discourse.
23
hluska 3 days ago 0 replies      
I feel like this problem is bigger than just Hacker News - with the plethora of different news/discussion sources,I often find that 'breaking news' gets old and stale within an hour of the event. Or, sometimes more damaging, I read an interesting comment, then can't remember where I read it (so I can properly cite another's analysis).

Sadly, I don't know there is a site specific solution. While a merge would theoretically be great, I think we would start to see super threads with several hundred comments (and associated repetition). The search feature would be interesting, though it would discourage extremely busy people from submitting (since you could theoretically have to read three or four articles to determine whether yours deserves to be a separate item).

Perhaps some sort of curated site that grabs content (complete with discussion) from around the web? Different take on a newspaper's editorial section...

24
felipehummel 3 days ago 1 reply      
Do it like stackoverflow. Search submitted urls/articles and show in the article submission interface. Preferably ajax-y so as user types url and/or title it already sees if he is posting something repeated.
25
retube 3 days ago 0 replies      
Other tech solution: you could cluster posts by content. E.g extract keywords/key phrases and group submissions that have some threshold of over-lapping terms. Of course not trivial, but an interesting project.
26
T-zex 3 days ago 0 replies      
I would be a very happy man if I could filter out stories having Airbnb in the title.
27
barista 3 days ago 0 replies      
Digg handled this very well. When you submit a new story it looks up current submitted stories to see anything matches and recommends those to be used instead.

I loved that because it leaves the decision to the user and gave them option to still post a new one if it had material not covered in already submitted stories

28
ajkessler 3 days ago 0 replies      
If this is really such big problem, wouldn't it be easy enough to simply check the link that someone is attempting to submit against all previously submitted links?

This wouldn't necessarily stop all repeat stories, but it seems much more feasible than hoping everyone does a search, and would at least stop people from uploading identical links.

You might also consider a time bar of some sort? Say, if the same link was submitted more than xxx days ago, it can be resubmitted, since there is a good chance there is something new to add to its discussion.

29
blahedo 3 days ago 0 replies      
It need not be a "merge" as such, as long as we are granted the ability to mark something as a dup (and mark what it's a dup of). Everything else can be done algorithmically; I outlined some ideas for this in an Ask HN last year: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1975950
30
eykanal 3 days ago 0 replies      
Another possibility: when submitting a link, simply have an automated check against previously submitted links, and give an automatic upvotes or two to the previously linked submission. In this way, if a bunch of people resubmit something (say, an old article is making the rounds on the net yet again), it will have a chance to be brought back to the front page - with all the previous discussion - so that HN can stay a place where people can discuss the hot topics of the day, even if the "hot topics" happen to be four years old.

This aims to solve the "double discussion" problem, but it won't fix the "I don't want to see it again" problem.

31
egor83 3 days ago 1 reply      
So there are two points here: different articles on one topic may contain different perspectives, so they all should be preserved when merging; on the other hand, it would be better if there was a single place where people would discuss a topic.

Maybe a good solution would be to let people vote for merging several articles on the same topic, and once there's enough votes, merge them in one, say by concatenating both links and discussion trees?

If that's too heavy, maybe just extend each article with links to other discussion pages (say, adding beneath the text "This topic is also discussed here (link)").

32
brk 3 days ago 0 replies      
It would be interesting to see some sort of on-the-fly "topic" creation. For the AirBNB scenario, one AirBNB topic that would be a page that links to the 3 or 4 individual submissions currently ongoing (potentially with some comment previews, etc.). This would also cover the case of the same basic story (Foo releases Bar!) that gets picked up on multiple tech news sites and blogs.

For things that are re-posts of the same content it might be best to be hand-curated. Where If the re-post appears to be gaining traction, pull out the old submission and discussion, but put it back on the front page for X amount of time (merging discussions from the new submission into the comment thread of the old one). For scenarios where the re-post is getting no traction then just kill it.

33
FilterJoe 3 days ago 0 replies      
I like the Google News approach that algorithmically groups together related stories as follows:

Show the most popular story (or 2 or 3), then provide a link that states "See all 143 related stories."

The hard part on a community news site is how to deal with discussion. I think a neat way to do it would provide a choice to see discussion by submission or merged discussion of all related submissions.

The benefits of doing it like this would be as follows:

1) Declutter the front page of related stories
2) Still make it easy to see all related stories with just one extra click
3) For stories with little discussion, makes it easy to see discussion on all related stories as well
4) For stories with lots of discussion, the traditional way of discussing around 1 story only is a great option, to keep discussion more focused (less overwhelming).

Downside: I suspect this would be difficult to implement and therefore buggy - especially how the algorithm decides to group things. The Google News algorithm does a pretty good job.

34
Mz 3 days ago 0 replies      
I sometimes post a cross-reference to say "here is where the still live discussion is". I have never been downvoted. I suspect comments of that sort get downvoted when they come across as somehow ugly -- like they are being critical of the new submission for having been made at all or, worse, are actively discouraging real conversation from breaking out because it didn't happen in some prior submission. I think it's rude when someone remarks that it's a duplicate in a negative sounding way and then links to something where the conversation is long dead. I recently saw this done in a piece where the previous submission was from 12 days earlier. I just thought that was asinine behavior. I replied to it, then thought better of it and removed my remark. (Glad to have this chance to remark on it here though.)

I don't know what a better solution might be. I am just saying I do know that how you comment on the existence of a duplicate and frame the cross-reference matters.

35
lhnz 3 days ago 0 replies      
We should be able to link stories together. The most popular/recent story should then be shown instead of all of the others... (But you should still be able to visit the others if you wish to.)
36
grandalf 3 days ago 0 replies      
Most stories are not just a single news item that is relevant immediately after some event and then less relevant over time.

Many stories evolve and new information is added. The Airbnb stories lately are a perfect example.

If you're busy enough to occasionally miss a day (or even a half day) of HN, you might not realize that something has already been posted.

I really think this is a non issue. Occasionally when there are dupes, I ignore them if I found them boring the last time, or read/comment again if they were fun last time.

37
zwieback 3 days ago 0 replies      
I agree that dilution of new page isn't a big problem and the crowd aspect should ensure interesting links go up.

The problem to solve is split discussions so I think it would be great if duplicate links would be automatically merged and the discussion page unified.

The more challenging problem to solve is how discussions about stories that are almost identical or link to identical stories could be merged. Could there be an option to view discussions independently or show a page that auto-merges similar discussions?

38
kirillzubovsky 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am not sure what you mean by "merge" mechanism, but it would be wonderful to have a feature like on StackOverflow, where's before you actually click submit, the app recommends that you review suggested links before posting your own.

Of course, this is going to help people who haven't see the same story repeat, but this isn't going to stop those who repost hot topics just for the sake of gaining karma points.

39
seles 3 days ago 0 replies      
One idea: instead of making the formula for article placement based on the points and decay based on time of creation, don't use time of creation in the formula at all, and instead make just the points themselves decay. This way old things can come to the top again if they start receiving upvotes again.

This idea alone wouldn't solve the problem, but if combined with some sort of "merge" mechanism then it would be sweet.

40
hugh3 3 days ago 0 replies      
As a partial solution, how about adding a polite note on the "submit" page, asking people nicely to check the past few days' worth of front pages before submitting, to see whether there has already been a discussion on the same subject.

I've just been to the "new" page, where I flagged a few versions of the "Internet Explorer Users Are Stupid" story from yesterday.

And it wasn't a very good story the first time (though it's exactly the sort of thing which tends to get a lot of upvotes, for entirely the wrong reasons).

41
michaelpinto 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is a usability problem: On an average day X number of new stories appear " but now that's a flood of information that only a few people can keep up with. So two solutions that can be tried are:

- Have a design mechanism that allows users to link stories together: So you sort of crowd source the process

- Have categories for stories like Digg: So for example if everyone is suddenly subbing the same breaking biz news story you'll see the dupes right away. This would have the added benefit of allowing users to really see the topics they want: For example as a designer as much as love you programmers I'm not sure that an article about Haskell, and to be fair a programmer may feel the same way about typography. And in a sense you're already doing this by having categories like "Ask HN"

42
alanh 3 days ago 0 replies      
An official mechanism to link related/duplicate submissions would be great. They could be displayed at the top. Listing submission dates there would also be helpful.

I do not like the idea of a merge because often comments are VERY article-specific, NOT simply topic-specific!

43
rdl 3 days ago 0 replies      
The solution should be to create more awesome startups, which will get more press coverage, thus having more unique stories on hn.
44
JoelMcCracken 3 days ago 0 replies      
Turn HN into twitter (sans 140 char limit). Posts are "unstructured", bit do retain @reply information. User @a and @b posts a link about Airbnb, user @c wants to reply, says "@a @b what #Airbnb really needs to do is bla bla bla.."

Then, the front page becomes a list of "trending topics".
Topics are determined by some kind of statistical analysis of the overall conversation.

The /new page is a list of new posts that are not @replies, or something similar.

Order/score can similarly be determined, such as by reply counts.

More computationally intensive, but more "true".

45
oemera 3 days ago 0 replies      
What about listing the story with the up votes and merging all the other stories about the same thing under the first one.
I think it would be good like Google did it with discussion. If googles finds a page which seems to be a discussion, you can click the plus icon and all the other related results are getting listed.

What do you think about that? I think it would prevent that other topics are getting to the second page.

46
bavcyc 3 days ago 1 reply      
Filter on URL would be the first step, if it is a duplicate URL submitted then point the submitter to that story.

Could also use recently, i.e. last week or 24 hours, to compare stories at submitted URLs such that if someone submits a story on G-man advert from a different site it is found or at least present to the submitter to check if their submission is a duplicate.

47
n_simplex 3 days ago 0 replies      
Idea for the merge mechanism.
If a user thinks a link has been submitted before; the user posts a cross reference comment whose syntax must be simple as in:
MERGE: news.ycombinator.com/link/to/article

If the merge comment gets enough upvote, then a detection algorithm automatically merges it to the other one.

I left out a couple of details, but this is the simplest way I can think of to automate the merging without reverting to clustering algorithms.

I guess this is equivalent to voting the story down the front page, but it allows for salvaging the discussion in the down voted link.

48
mrb 3 days ago 0 replies      
Clearly: provide a merge mechanism, for example by allowing users to vote for a merge. If a certain threshold is met, the two submissions are merged.
49
Joakal 3 days ago 0 replies      
There's a first come first serve mentality with duplicates, so why not transfer the points from it to the first one?

Other ideas: Reference the duplicates, allow people to submit the link (makes moderation easier).

Look to Whirlpool, they lead in Moderation :D

50
jodrellblank 3 days ago 0 replies      
I really don't mind the constant dribble of down-votes that I get for trying to prevent the splitting of discussions

I don't think you are "harming the community", helping if anything, but after seeing yesterdays posts I do suspect you are more hurt by downvotes than you say you are, and that you might benefit by not being so.

51
dhughes 3 days ago 0 replies      
How about a single title but the ability to have multiple links to different sources? Almost like tags but only it's links.

As others have mentioned the same story is often available from multiple sources so merge all sources under one super title.

It's also good since you can update without having to yet again submit a link but for the update and for people who haven't seen either the orignal(s) or the updates it's now all in one place.

52
narrator 3 days ago 0 replies      
How about a tagging function. Users can vote if a tag applies or not. That way you get a self-generating ontology.
53
stretchwithme 3 days ago 0 replies      
Prompt submitters with articles using some of the same terms and ask them to be sure its a new topic or a substantially different perspective on an old one.

Use a list of the five likeliest matches. Let sphinx or some other search engine do the work.

This won't work in every case, but even 50% would be a significant improvement.

54
clawrencewenham 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd endorse a script that auto-submits "Richard Feynman and the Connection Machine" every 2 weeks. It'd have a deeper psychological impact than just putting "Please search before posting" on the submissions page, and it's an article every newbie should read anyway.
55
chollida1 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd be happy with a hide button
56
cfontes 3 days ago 0 replies      
Would be nice to have a system like stackoverflow... where you type the topic and it gives you related things already submitted, so you can see that you are late and don't post it.

Just a random thought !

57
ericelias 3 days ago 0 replies      
quick note - upon submitting the link, there could be a lookup function on the keywords of the title or linked story title, which shows similar submissions...replicating the Google instant search functionality.

yes, there would be obvious issues with keyword overlap and would not apply for customized titles.

58
Jarred 3 days ago 0 replies      
There should just be threads with multiple links. The "original source" is what happens when you click it. The secondary source is where things like TechCrunch's opi ion pieces go.

Instead of having some classifier do the grouping, have the high-ranking community members handle this merging. The discussions in these big threads would be about the topic in general, not just TechCrunch's version or Venturebeats version

59
rexreed 3 days ago 0 replies      
You mean like what happens in the regular "mainstream" media? You didn't notice the endless stories on Casey Anthony or the Debt Crisis? This is the normal pattern with ALL new sources. Why should HN be any different?
60
tvon 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've always wanted a way to associate stories, even if there is just a list under the headline (when viewing comments) listing possibly related stories (based on user feedback).
61
dlikhten 3 days ago 0 replies      
Do the same thing that is done in stackoverflow.com. Except that needs to be combined with fetching the title/basic info from the article and trying to combine it with recent articles from past couple of days.
62
d0m 3 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe, when you post something, it could say (Did you know about X or Y posts) a little bit like stackoverflow. So, in a way, it's an automatic search while posting.
63
kunley 1 day ago 0 replies      
Allow downvoting of submissions!
64
slmbrhrt 3 days ago 0 replies      
While I'd like a mechanical solution, I think the best results are probably going to come from human intervention/interaction.
65
zacharycohn 3 days ago 0 replies      
Even when a big story breaks, there's rarely more than 3 or 4 links that pop to the front page throughout the day. They're from different sources, sometimes they provide different insights. Other times they don't, and they just go away.

If 4/30 links on the frontpage are about the same story, it's really not that big of a deal.

66
mikecane 3 days ago 0 replies      
A recent situation that, um, puzzled me in the past few months was a story being posted here and getting no traction until someone else posted it 24-48 hours later. These things just happen, it seems.
67
dools 3 days ago 0 replies      
I like the merge idea, but it would be good to preserve all links at the top. So more like grouping than merging. That way if several stories offer different perspectives they are all still viewable
68
SebMortelmans 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you mean the AirBnb news that's all over HN last day, leave it as is, it shows kind of the importance of a topic. It's big news, there should be many views/topics about it, it's logic.
69
rokhayakebe 3 days ago 0 replies      
You shouldn't do anything because sometimes you may get an update on the story and the discussion could be totally different.
70
orochimaru 3 days ago 0 replies      
Some intelligent comparison algorithm should be developed to
tag them as possible duplicates of stories that have been published in the last N minutes/hours/days.

It shouldn't be very tough to come up with a beta version of the algorithm. They're asked in most technical interviews and everyone answers them :D

71
zobzu 3 days ago 0 replies      
just like bugzilla.

if you dont know what i mean, just go to any bugzilla install and type something generic as new bug title

its going to ajax its way and show you matching bugs while you type.

it could be the same for stories

72
peteboyd 3 days ago 0 replies      
Merge the article for the purposes of comments, but allow references to each unique article cited. Perhaps an indent under the main story with related stories and just one comment section.

Either that or leave it alone. Most of the airbnb stories are semi unique takes on the same stories.

73
pvodsevhcm 3 days ago 0 replies      
keep distinct news items, but merge into a parent item that links both, much like the way this polling story work.

The parent item gets the combined vote total of child items, and any summary screen that shows the parent item would then remove all children of that parent item, showing the parent instead.

74
Apocryphon 3 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I'd like to promote is refraining from reposting too many stories to other aggregator-type sites such as MetaFilter.
75
aangjie 3 days ago 0 replies      
Well perhaps google search style online suggestions for existing posts will help.. i don't like forcing people to search, besides, people might just learn to hit the search and skip buttons from muscle memory.
76
podperson 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think we need to repeat this poll, over and over.
77
dreamdu5t 3 days ago 0 replies      
Merging is the only solution that is feasible and doesn't lose content.

It just requires moderators or people over certain karma thresholds.

78
nomdeplume 3 days ago 0 replies      
1) change name of site to redd1t or d1gg.
2) Do something like Wikipedia has where people can vote in integrity/quality of source/story.
79
kqueue 3 days ago 0 replies      
Have HN inform the user that the link has been submitted before.
80
pokoleo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Merge would be nice.
Voting on a merge would be nice too...
81
saddino 3 days ago 0 replies      
Provide a "merge" mechanism. Keep track of merges. When merges exceed a threshold, HN merges them for all.
82
swixmix 3 days ago 0 replies      
I vote we convert the repetition to recursion, which should be more acceptable to the Y combinator crowd.
83
nithinpb 3 days ago 0 replies      
Automatic search while submitting and display it on the side? Like Stackoverflow?
84
qusiba 3 days ago 0 replies      
How about a done-vote button?
85
sidcool 3 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, most on HN are not action oriented?
86
velutinous 3 days ago 0 replies      
Provide a Google -1 button
87
milkmiruku 2 days ago 0 replies      
Topic clustering? A la Techmeme, Google News?
88
chewbranca 3 days ago 0 replies      
It can be a tricky problem because you have a 1 to 1 correspondence of hacker news posts to web pages, so you can't combine articles from multiple sources into a single discussion.

Its a design choice that has pros and cons. One related problem that I find more relevant than multiple posts from multiple sources, is the life time of posts on hacker news. Once something fades from the front page, it falls into irrelevance aside from reference for google search. Which is again a design choice, and I'm not sure the future goals of the site are to support long term discussion.

89
sixtofour 3 days ago 1 reply      
Avert your eyes.
6
Airbnb Victim Speaks Again: Homeless, Scared And Angry techcrunch.com
392 points by jamesgagan  4 days ago   132 comments top 36
1
bignoggins 4 days ago 5 replies      
I'm using airbnb in Berlin right now. Two days ago I received a knock on my door. Turns out it was the real owner of the apartment and he had the Paperwork to prove it. Fortunately he was nice enough to let us stay without compensation. When I went to the airbnb website to try and call them all I got was a web message box. I filled out a message and sent it on its way but that's a pretty lousy system. Luckily for me my situation is nowhere as bad as ej but airbnb really needs a 24 hour hotline. I've had many good experiences but all it takes is that one time.
2
markbao 4 days ago 3 replies      
Wow. I love AirBnB, and I hate to say it, but that was a completely boneheaded move. There is absolutely no doubt that EJ is very public on this issue. If it's true that AirBnB tried to cover up the problem, then why? Did the founders think that EJ wouldn't turn around and say that they're asking her to remove the post?

Handling this situation should be a top priority for AirBnB. There's the potential that the mainstream media could have a field day with this. The incident will undoubtedly be part of the hotel lobbyists' list of reasons AirBnB should be made illegal. And if the investigation reveals that they were cooking drugs in the place, that's even more damning.

It's disappointing to see this happen to one of the most interesting startups as of late, and I hope they turn around their attitude for the better. This is already really damaging, but it could be way worse if things don't change.

3
vessenes 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is a seriously damning essay from someone who's clearly working through PTSD issues (or is an amazing liar).

Part of the issue is that young fast-growth CEOs don't major on empathy, typically. It's somewhat contrary to the necessities of the job. These co-founders have absolutely no concept of how this woman feels, or if they do, they have determined that they won't let her know about it. The best thing say Paul Graham could do would be to hire them a crisis management coach, stat.

While the co-founders are reportedly worrying a bit about valuation right now, they could (and should) be turning this into an amazing PR story; massively over-compensating her, setting up a Lloyds-based insurance coverage program, appearing on something like Oprah to talk over how it felt, and what we can all do as we're moving into this awesome social-based home sharing..

4
sriramk 4 days ago 1 reply      
If that AirBnb co-founder really asked her to tone down her post because it would mess with future financing, that's just sad. Talk about inappropriate timing and priorities
5
BasDirks 4 days ago 2 replies      
Acquaintances have said they'd probably not use Airbnb for fear of problems like this. After this incident and Airbnb's response, they will never even consider it. And they will tell all their acquaintances, etc, etc.. Airbnb's Achilles' heel is the deep-rooted fear of someone fucking up home. That they did not patch this with a good backup-plan should be a warning to investors.
6
ColinWright 4 days ago 2 replies      
This article on TC adds nothing at all.

Original blog post:
http://ejroundtheworld.blogspot.com/2011/07/airbnb-nightmare...

HN submission of that blog post for discussion:
http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2820615

========

ADDED IN EDIT: Clearly this is contentious - it went up to two points, now as I write this it's down to zero, and who knows where it will go next.

Yes, I agree, sometimes TechCrunch adds information, but I claim that in this case it doesn't. Further, I claim that by reading only the excerpts they include, you are not being given the whole picture as written by the blog author. The post is well-written and well-crafted - providing summary excerpts does not give the full impact or the full situation.

And, given that the crunchy bits don't actually add anything, let me quote from http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html where it says:

    Please submit the original source. If a blog post
reports on something they found on another site,
submit the latter.

7
JacobAldridge 4 days ago 1 reply      
Worth noting that, despite recent large valuations and funding rounds, the founders of Airbnb are still driving their baby and have a massive emotional attachment to it. (As do all business owners.)

This is their first significant black eye (the Craigslist stuff was far more limited in its audience reach), and has the potential to derail a company that's only 2 years old. Of course they're going to be responding emotionally, and unfortunately that means perhaps doing too much or doing the wrong thing (like suggesting to meet for coffee without asking how EJ is coping).

Now, that emotional involvement with the business is considerably less than the emotion of coming home to discover your house has been ransacked, so I'm not trying to compare. I'm just observing that Airbnb's response (for better or worse) is not devoid of emotional triggers either. I do hope EJ is receiving the support she needs and am sure she will get through this. I similarly hope the ongoing support the Airbnb founders are receiving recognises the feelings element of running a large business through the prism of their emotional attachment.

8
jamesgagan 4 days ago 3 replies      
I find this bit particularly damning: "During this call and in messages thereafter, he requested that I shut down the blog altogether or limit its access, and a few weeks later, suggested that I update the blog with a “twist" of good news so as to “complete[s] the story”.

Seems like we are all still waiting for the "good news" ending to this tale.

9
farrel 4 days ago 1 reply      
AirBnB gives the illusion that you can just rent out your apartment without any precautions. I've stayed in a few dedicated holiday apartments and almost without fail:

1) They are furnished with the basics and that's it. No valuables and nothing that can not be easily replaced.

2) The owner or an employed managing agent interacted with us (either at the apartment or when we fetched the keys) when we arrived and left.

3) They had insurance in place and 80% of the time when I signed for the apartment I was also signing my own liability.

If you are prepared to rent out a fully furnished (and in this case full of valuables) apartment to strangers you need to be prepared for the potential massive downside. 99% of your guests may be hassle free but it just takes that 1% to wipe out any financial upside and even then they may not even do it on purpose - accidents can and do happen.

10
rdouble 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is a ridiculous article. Instead of just quoting an anonymous blog post, TechCrunch could be calling AirBNB, calling the victim, digging up the police report, locating the relevant profiles on AirBNB, and so on, and so forth. They have the resources, they could contributing to the understanding of this event, rather than just spreading FUD. There is no journalism present whatsoever, it is pure spin.
11
yardie 4 days ago 0 replies      
Airbnb is one of the good ideas that came out of the SF/SV area that wasn't really means tested and a cock-up like this was bound to occur. It places an incredible amount of trust in the hosts and guests. This is alright I guess for some places but definitely not others.

I assume that if Airbnb got its start in Detroit, for example, and not San Francisco then safety and security would have a different context. For me, when I was in university I left the door to my apartment unlocked, a lot. I knew everyone in our building and had so many people coming and going from my place that it was easier that way. Plus, being a broke college student the most expensive thing in the apartment was the bottles of liquor :-). But this is definitely not something I would do in any other city.

EJ assumed that keeping valuables in a locked closet would be enough. Severely overestimating the role a locked closet plays in a house. Being a traveller myself I am constantly worried about the security of my house. Renting it out to a stranger with my valuables still inside would drive me nuts.

I like the idea of airbnb but I haven't used them because they don't have listings for the places I go. And the thought of having to move all the expensive stuff out of my place, pay for storage, and move it back when I arrive is a bigger hassle than I can deal with.

12
beedogs 4 days ago 0 replies      
Airbnb really needs to pull their head out of their ass on this one. This seems like it could literally destroy their company.
13
bprater 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised the mainstream media hasn't picked this up. It has all the right plot points to drive a story -- over-the-top crime, police can't find the persons involved, the victim is striking back at the company who started the mess.
14
ig1 4 days ago 0 replies      
Try googling for "craigslist murder" or "gumtree stabbing", crimes happen. The classified industry is still alive. Foursquare and Twitter stalking didn't kill either of those products.

The London Metropolitan police typically deal with 50-100 crimes related to online classified ads a year.

People are incredibly poor at judging risks so things like this get blown out of proportion. You need to look at the context and compare against other risks. For example what's the risk of your house get burgled if you go on holiday and leave it empty for a few weeks ?

15
JoachimSchipper 4 days ago 1 reply      
This should not be [dead] (and please don't downvote me because you disagree with him; on the other hand, perhaps someone should tell him):

"brianchesky 3 minutes ago [dead]

Brian Chesky (Airbnb CEO) here. My heart goes out to our host. My co-founder has contacted her multiple times, as recently as last night, and we have again offered to help her in any way that she needs. We will continue to make ourselves available to her to do whatever she asks of us in this time of need. We have encouraged her to reach us so that we can help her through this, and we are standing by."

16
sixty 4 days ago 1 reply      
airbnb need to realise this will not go away. The way I see it, their two main options are:

1) hire a PR firm, lawyer up and let the spin doctors handle things. With the amount of money they have, this is a real option. They could probably convince or coerce (bully?) the victim into accepting a settlement in exchange for keeping quiet. The PR machine would then be free to write (or rewrite) the story as they see fit.

2) Come clean. Realise that it's never the victim's fault. Compensate her financially for her loss. Offer to provide counselling. Help her with the logistics of finding and moving to a new place. Work with the victim (and other airbnb users) to figure out how to reduce the chances of this happening again. And all the while, document everything. Brian C speaks of openness and transparency - show us, don't tell us.

17
cageface 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is bad enough but what happens when the inevitable assault, rape or murder finally occurs? Screening people is a chicken & egg problem because if you only rent to people with a ton of positive history nobody new gets in.

The only solution I can see is digging way deeper into the personal background of a prospective tenant than any hotel would dare.

18
mxavier 3 days ago 0 replies      
A little OT from the actual story but I find it annoying when TechCrunch and similar sites find a random picture to put near the headline. I suppose the point of this is to attract more eyes to the article, but when the story is about someone getting their home trashed and you show some completely different house that looks like a bulldozer drove through it, I can't help but think you're creating an association that is a best worthless and at worst misleading. Pictures in articles serve a purpose and that purpose certainly isn't to remind me what a trashed house is.
19
ck2 4 days ago 1 reply      
If you care for the reaction from someone who doesn't really know/understand what Airbnb is:

"Who lets strangers into their home, unsupervised?"

Does make some sense, right? Who would?

20
compnerd 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm starting to get the feeling that the Airbnb founders will do "whatever" it takes, to see their business succeed.
21
preavy 4 days ago 1 reply      
The story is on the front page of this morning's Financial Times (UK edition): http://www.politicshome.com/timthumb.php?w=450&src=%2Fim...

Story here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/9aac5f80-b924-11e0-bd87-00144feabd...

22
niekmaas 4 days ago 2 replies      
How does this work legally? Is it still burglary when the people were allowed in the house? Of course taking things that do not below to you is theft. But going through someones documents, is that illegal?
23
shawnee_ 3 days ago 1 reply      
The headline is a bit too much, even for TechCrunch.

EJ is not "homeless". She almost certainly has never been homeless and will never be homeless; this is an insult to people who have been homeless, broke, and literally have nowhere to go. Choosing to not stay in a $3.8K / month loft in SF does not a homeless person make.

And she's at least a bit responsible for feeding the sensationalism of this; it is coming off a bit Drama Queen.

24
ISeemToBeAVerb 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is one of those sad instances where you see a really great company forget their roots and give their soul wholeheartedly to the idea of becoming huge. This was going to happen eventually. In fact, this issue is the biggest chink in the chain of the whole collaborative consumption ideal. The idea of social sharing is amazing, but the companies working in this space should know that eventually someone would come along and exploit the system for nefarious purposes. It's great that some of these companies are getting funding to grow, but did no one think that this was a possibility? Did no one think this could happen? I love the idea of AirBnB, but they need to understand that they have a responsibility to their community that far surpasses their responsibility to any funding they receive.
25
braindead_in 4 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder how CouchSurfing managed such issues. I am sure it must have happened with CouchSurfing too. I know that they have ratings for members and past history. I guess you can get an impression of the trustworthiness. But then this sort of thing can happen too.
26
Jilly 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm sorry, but very little of this story rings true for me. "EJ" reminds me of a roommate I had in college who was a serious drama queen. If she felt wronged by you there was no remedy short of spending every moment lavishing her attention and apologizes (and who has time for that?) that would appease here and it was never enough. I don't doubt AirBnB offered assistance and "EJ" herself said so. However, with a drama queen it is never about finite forms of attention (money, vindication, etc) but renewable sources where she is able to maintain victimhood without taking a shred of responsibility for her part (no matter how small) in the events that are alleged to have unfolded. I mean what kind of drama queen psycho ex carries on about a CEO wanting to meet her for coffee, but not asking about her feelings? What are they dating or something? Nobody cares about her "feelings" feelings are transient and not fact. What they want is to solve the problem and since they are men, they're having some real problems understanding what a losing game they're playing when the opposing side is a drama queen.
27
Maro 4 days ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of Paypal, where the founders said they won the online payments game because they figured out how to deal with fraud.

Maybe that's one of the keys to success here, figuring out how to deal with these cases at the business plan level.

28
ivankirigin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Can we all admit that techcrunch gets page views by spreading FUD? Read original sources for this case
29
int3rnaut 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know why but on top of feeling bad for this woman, I feel bad for the AirBnB guys because the whole concept is so idealistic and believes in the good in people--if only everyone represented humanity the way they envisioned this from the birth of their idea; that would truly be a good world.
30
iamdave 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a little less worried about what the MSM will do here (editorialize and paint the hotel industry, as some other HNers have said as golden boys), I'm actually curious to see how someone up on Capitol Hill is going to react to this.
31
arepb 4 days ago 1 reply      
I barely invite my friends over, why would I let a random into my house, even for $(amount)?
32
blackiron 4 days ago 1 reply      
Some strange things to note about this case:

- she rants about airbnb, but not so much about the thieves.. in those Ebay scam cases the victim usually directs his/her anger and takes action toward the scammer, not towards ebay. She reports very little about the thieves and the progress of the police investigation.

- Are these psychotic rockstar thieves so expert at hiding their identity? its a very 'proffesional' job then.. which can raise more points to the hotel lobby conspiracy theory.

- I thought that you use airbnb to rent extra properties; not your home with your documents, jewels, money, personal diary and what not in there.

33
dreamdu5t 3 days ago 0 replies      
If this was bound to happen, I wonder why AirBnB didn't have a better contingency plan.
34
nodata 4 days ago 3 replies      
This is really crappy and airbnb fucked up big time, twice now.

But... there's something odd about the way the victim writes, and I don't understand why it's jumping out at me:

"bouncing between friends' homes".. "clutching my pillow".. "breathing through panic attacks".. "scouring the city's pawn shops".. "this too shall pass and I will be made whole again."

35
stef25 3 days ago 1 reply      
As much as this sucks for EJ, she is being quite the crybaby. This has nothing to do with AirBnB and everything to do with the fact she handed over the keys to her personal flat (containing many expensive items and personal documents) to a complete stranger. The medium through which this stranger found you, be it a pinboard at a supermarket, craiglist, airbnb or through a foaf, is irrelevant.

Initially AirBnB may have been populated with California Apple fan boys (you can trust), but it's just a matter of time before Joe six-pack (who you maybe can't trust so much) gets on there.

If you rent out your place through AirBnB it should be YOUR responsibility to vet the person and / or make sure there is little to steal / destroy. This isn't the responsibility of the founders of AirBnB.

36
latch 4 days ago 2 replies      
I was the main anti-AirBnB poster last time around...but..

I gotta say, something about all this now seems like it's a set up for a big fat lawsuit. I've never been violated this way (or anything close to it), so maybe I'm being insensitive, but this is crossing into whining territory to me.

If you want to complain about a _really_ bad experience, a lack of customer support, and insensitive and money-focused founders, that's fine. But I don't really need to hear about your pillow-clutching and fading normalcy.

7
Another Airbnb Victim Tells His Story: “There Were Meth Pipes Everywhere” techcrunch.com
387 points by jasonlbaptiste  1 day ago   230 comments top 42
1
cletus 1 day ago  replies      
As much as some people might view this as "sometimes things go wrong", which is basically true, that's not the whole story.

The story here is that people are doing things that in most jurisdictions are illegal. AirBnB is profiting off this. Do something illegal and you can't insure against any negative consequences.

The whole EJ situation is a potential inflection point. Without knowing the full facts (which no one seems to), it seems like AirBnB was trying to rectify things with EJ and I suspect they were trying to keep her quiet in the process. I have no proof of this. I also suspect that they probably misrepresented their actions to PG. Again I have no proof of this. It is merely my suspicion.

But there's something "off" about EJ's position here.

Why exactly is a vandalized apartment leaving her homeless? Is it too damaged to occupy? Does she simply not feel safe there?

If she has received offers for help, why hasn't she taken it? It's possible she's traumatized by what happens. It's possible she feels so wronged by AirBnB that she's not acting rationally. Or maybe she just wants to get her story out to warn people. I really don't know.

Yet something seems... off. The comments of EJ, PG and AirBnB just don't add up. I'd bet money on there being more to come on this story. And while some want to give EJ a free pass here, I don't want to vilify her but she has to take some responsibility for giving strangers the keys to her apartment.

I think AirBnB can count their lucky stars this was just a robbery and not a rape or murder. Or someone could have set up a drug lab, causing the Feds to confiscate the property as the proceeds of crime possibly taking months to sort out and prove the person renting out the property didn't know about the drug lab.

The hotel industry has fundamental protections for this kind of issue. Not only security but there's the fact that the hotel owner isn't storing their prized valuables where guests can steal them. Nor are hotels putting their staff in a position to be attacked or robbed by a guest sleeping under the same roof (incidents can occur in a hotel but at least there are locked doors separating you from the guests). LIkewise hotels take ID (usually).

The legal precedent they set by paying off EJ is a cause for concern though some argue it isn't. This isn't like Apple choosing to replace broken hardware they aren't responsible for (this happens). While doing something illegal (and profiting from it) that can't be insured against, liability is something that could easily destroy the company.

Ultimately, AirBnB is making a bet they can effect change on the laws relating to subletting. If the person renting out a room is leasing the property they're in, there's a good chance they can't sublet it (even though many do). This may help them on the liability front as well.

Part of the problem here is anonymity on the Internet. This I believe is changing and it will help (IMHO). But it only takes keylogger malware or someone sniffing packets at the Internet cafe to steal someone's online identity and then do what they want.

EDIT: clarifications.

2
dasht 1 day ago 1 reply      
There is a deep ethical problem with starting or funding airbnb, in my opinion:

The fraction of people with enough sophistication and resources to be good, safe, hosts and guests is a tiny, tiny fraction of the people in the world. It is absurd to think that airbnb could ever scale to justify its investments if only those sophisticated users were customers.

The model relies, therefore, on large numbers of hosts and guests taking foolish risks. Airbnb's light and airy "how it works" video is a fine illustration of just how glib they are in encouraging people to make bad mistakes. The advice on their "safety" page is risible.

Because most people are decent, most foolish risks from using airbnb go "unpunished" but certainly not all - as we've seen. A significant percentage of those risks lead to great loss.

I fear that Airbnb is going to help kill, kidnap, rape or otherwise grievously harm someone's person, directly, at this pace. That's because to make its numbers the company must, needs be, incite dangerously foolish behavior from many customers.

That the investors controlling so many dollars signed off on this investment speaks poorly of the VC system that produced airbnb. It speaks poorly of their common sense and/or dedication to basic social responsibility.

3
mgkimsal 1 day ago 7 replies      
What's going to be a game changer is when stories start breaking about owners who rent out their space as a way to lure in people for killing or torturing them.

Right now it's about "you were stupid, why did you rent your space out to strangers?". Later on it'll be "why did you try to save $20 and go sleep some place where you're 110% vulnerable?". You don't control the locks, you don't know the neighborhood or even the layout of the house all that well (are there cameras in the room spying on you?).

If Holiday Inn or Marriott had tried to go 'downmarket' by trying to get in the "rent out your space with us - we'll handle the booking logistics", they'd have been eaten alive by the insurance costs of dealing with QA on thousands of rooms/spaces they don't control. They'd have too much name brand recognition and goodwill in their names to lose by leaving customer safety and security to chance. ABNB seems to be coming at this from the other way. What do they have to lose? Investor money? It's a big experiment for them, which they're hoping will pay off, but I think there's a reasons beyond "laziness" or "not getting it" to explain why larger companies well-versed in hospitality/property management have not gone down this road.

Will things still work out for ABNB? They might, but they're taking such a hit on this by not just making some of these situations right, then changing their procedures and policies. Apparently these incidents - as infrequent as they may be - have been occurring for a while. There's probably quite a few more that haven't come forward because they've felt it was their own fault, much like domestic abuse spouses blame themselves. Not really wanting to see ABNB fail, but can't help watching this play out, and I somewhat suspect it'll get worse before it gets better.

4
gojomo 1 day ago 2 replies      
Might have even been the same meth c[r]ooks.

Kudos to Dayton for keeping a balanced perspective on the situation, and not equating customer service clumsiness with indifference.

I like AirBnb. I will continue to use AirBnb as a guest. (Hypothetically if I were to be a host, I would only rent a hardened/rental-only property with careful assessment of the potential guests.) I am also still bullish on the general theme that the transparency and efficiency of the net makes peer-to-peer transactions between strangers more safe and easy than ever before.

But they're going to have to innovate on 'trust and safety' to avoid any impression they're AirBnBnMethDen.

5
msy 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm starting to think that much like Quora, AirBnB worked because of the nature of its early members and that the model simply doesn't scale.
6
smanek 1 day ago 2 replies      
"""Airbnb, while pointing out that the incident was the first of its kind out of some 2 million stays booked since the company's founding in 2008 ..."""

source: http://travel.usatoday.com/destinations/dispatches/post/2011...

Either USAToday misinterpreted/misreported a quote, Airbnb lied to a reporter on the record, or Troy is making up his story. I can't see any other way to reconcile the evidence put forth.

7
diN0bot 1 day ago 0 replies      
it's interesting how the couch surfing and airbnb cultures have diverged.

i love the community aspect of couch surfing---the fact that it's about spending time with cool people in new places, rather than finding "a cheap hotel", is huge to me.

i get that there is a market for people who want cheap hotels rather than a community. however, there was a sense that you were getting more from paying more...like more security or something.

yet everyone in couch surfing knows the importance of community references, and to meet folks at a cafe before deciding whether to bring them over.

letting someone you've never met use your home while you're not there.....interesting culture screw up. i think adding a little money to the mix drastically changed what became emphasized.

8
gojomo 1 day ago 1 reply      
Let's not forget even four-star hotels are not immune to room-invasion burglary, as Alex Trebek learned in SF last week:

http://www.baycitizen.org/crime/story/alex-trebek-crime-figh...

9
bugsy 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's very interesting that he had the exact same experience and was given the run around by AirBnB. His story also shows that they are not being completely truthful when they said EJ's case was the first time anything like this had happened in 2 million rentals. I wonder what the real statistics are.
10
klenwell 1 day ago 1 reply      
This does answer one thing that puzzled me about the EJ story. If this was meth addicts, she surely couldn't have been the first victim of this sort of thing.

If the culprits in this case aren't related to the ones in the EJ case, I'd be curious if there's an identifiable profile here. The stereotype of the meth addict I operate by is a down-market tweaker who'd have no idea Airbnb existed much less the patience or resources to take advantage of it. But I suppose there's a more upscale demographic that might make up a hellish niche market for Airbnb.

11
waterlesscloud 1 day ago 5 replies      
I'm realizing I'm confused about what value airbnb is offering.

If they don't vet people on either end, are they really just a craigslist with payment processing?

12
benatkin 1 day ago 3 replies      
Just in case anyone's curious, CouchSurfing has been around a bit longer than AirBnb and they have their own safety tips and tools: http://www.couchsurfing.org/safety.html

Here's the AirBnb page about safety: http://www.airbnb.com/home/safety

CouchSurfing is similar in that it's about strangers staying at people's places. The biggest difference is that people let others stay at their houses for free. Usually both parties do it for the experience. Many people think it's fun to meet travelers. I knew someone who traveled to Asia and couch-surfed.

13
reso 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is what a bad media cycle looks like. You get a nosebleed in the ocean and the sharks start circling. They'll get through it, though, I am completely confident. At the end of the day, the bad guys are the assholes that abuse the system.
14
jsavimbi 1 day ago 1 reply      
> At the end of the day you are renting to a stranger.

No better words can express my sentiments. Airbnb customers are participating in a business experiment, they're not hoteliers.

What I do find worrisome is that Airbnb being in the customer service business, doesn't appear to be focusing on the user experience at all. What did they do with the money?

15
pitchups 1 day ago 2 replies      
There are a few glaring, obvious questions to which I have not seen any answers so far - or maybe I have missed them:
Why was it difficult for Airbnb to immediately have the person that trashed the place arrested? Don't they have the person's identity - address, credit card information, phone number, IP address? Don't they run a basic credit check when a person signs up to rent a unit listed on the site? Or at least do some basic identity verification? Or was this person using a stolen identity? Or does Airbnb require that the entire responsibility for this rests on the person renting the place?
16
uptown 1 day ago 0 replies      
Trashing is one thing ... but how long until a "guest" leaves behind some hidden cameras?
17
jmtame 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's interesting to note the pattern between EJ and Troy: in both of these cases, the renters were not home, which means they were treating Airbnb more like a "vacation rental" service. They both had a gut feeling that told them the rentee was "off" in their communication. They both didn't meet the people in advance. And the rentees were both meth addicts.
18
turar 1 day ago 1 reply      
The identity theft aspect brings up a whole new concern.

If a renter steals a host's identity without trashing their place, there's no way to know that something went wrong until it's too late.

And if the host subsequently rents her place to other guests, there's no way to know who the identify thief is.

19
beedogs 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think it's time for a name change... to AirB&E.
20
djm 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm starting to think that these unfortunate incidents may actually provide airbnb with the future of it's business model.

Right now they are just hooking people up and handling payments. They could go from that to learning how to put in place the best verification/insurance/customer service/emergency handling mechanisms in order to beat competitors in service quality.

It's analagous to how paypal won payments by learning to be the best at handling fraud.

21
nanijoe 1 day ago 0 replies      
Hopefully, AirBnB is learning what most rookie politicians already know, ie Take care of your PR problems before close of business on Friday , otherwise the entire weekend will feel like one looong horror movie.
The good news though is that by Monday morning, people are usually ready to move on to some other news item.
22
class_vs_object 1 day ago 1 reply      
This new account (of a home trashing occurring 1 month ago, of which Airbnb had knowledge) doesn't seem to reconcile with what Airbnb told EJ:

"I do believe the folks at airbnb.com when they tell me this has never happened before in their short history, that this is a one-off case."

23
Uchikoma 1 day ago 0 replies      
Creepy for guests: One could book AirBNB space and then reoffer it on AirBNB (is this possible?) or craigslist. So when you arrive, there is a "host" which is not the real one.
24
yason 1 day ago 0 replies      
I might be too old for AirBNB but I wouldn't feel okay accommodating strangers in my own apartment.

I will do that for friends and if I'm around myself, for friends of friends too, but even then the scheme needs to originate from some plausible circumstances where I can evaluate my potential guest in other context before we discuss accommodation. So, receiving an email from someone I don't know ("hey, I know your friend, can I stay at your place?") doesn't fly.

It's my home and I don't want to think about whether tonight's guest is that one from a thousand or ten thousand who will wreck my place.

25
jonuts 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here is Brian Chesky claiming there have been "no reports of major problems" with AirBnB at TC Disrupt in May. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etaUBLkRteA&feature=chann...

Whoops?

26
larrys 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder if it occurs to anyone how renting your place out impacts your neighbors. I'm not sure everyone is happy about transients coming and going in a particular building that someone might rent out and the safety of that to others in the building. Some condo buildings for example don't even allow a lease of less than 1 year because it changes the nature of the building.
27
farrel 1 day ago 1 reply      
Besides liability for damages incurred by the guest, hosts are also probably on the hook for liability should the guest be injured (or worse) while staying in your place.
28
code_duck 1 day ago 2 replies      
AirBnB never should have set up such an unsafe system, but surely the decisions of the renters are at fault as well. I personally would never even consider allowing people who were not carefully screened by myself to have free reign with my property.

I'm pretty sure this is getting large enough to garner the attention of politicians. That may be a positive thing, since AirBnB and their clients are apparently not taking care of safety and procedures adequately on their own.

29
nodata 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm struggling to believe how much of a cock-up this is becoming. What should be a simple reality: "sometimes things will go wrong" is turning into something that even seems to be infectious. I give it two days before Y Combinator is explicitly associated with airbnb in a newspaper.
30
Omnipresent 1 day ago 1 reply      
Arrington, "in his arrington way", is really out to screw AirBnB now.
31
rglover 1 day ago 0 replies      
After reading EJ's story and now this, I think it's safe to say that although what's taken place is unfortunate, it's really up to the person renting out their place to protect themselves. If Airbnb absolves themselves in their policy docs, then there's not much they have to do if something bad happens. On the contrary, however, they obviously need to have a serious overhaul of how they portray security to customers, as well as the vetting process for renters. Also, developing some sort of insurance program will help to skirt some major issues. I'm glad this is happening now, though, before someone gets hurt. Hopefully Airbnb will look at these events as warnings and take the necessary steps to refine how they protect themselves and their customers.
32
rwallace 1 day ago 0 replies      
What we aren't hearing about is the people who declined to use Airbnb and had their homes ransacked because a burglar spotted they were empty. The risk of having the place trashed by a guest has to be offset against the improved security from having somebody in the place. Do we have any data or even credible estimates of the sign and magnitude of the _difference_ in security from using Airbnb?
33
anonymous 1 day ago 0 replies      
What if the hotel industry is setting up these unsuspecting customers of AirBnB? They, the hotel chains really don't like this business model.
Create enough negative press, a carefully crafted situation that will cause a busienss to fail and they you can cash in on how "safe" a Hotel chain is...
34
uladzislau 1 day ago 0 replies      
This one is even more bizarre story than the first one. The part about left cat and stolen computer is hilarious. I'm sure there should be more to this kind of horror stories from Airbnb, EJ was just the first brave person to come forward on her blog. Kudos to her and Mr. Dayton, otherwise such things could happen to many more Airbnb customers including HN crowd. And everybody who is defending Airbnb now should think how would they feel if something like this happened to them or their home.
35
bproper 1 day ago 0 replies      
For God's sake we get it. Why does this drivel have to be on HN everyday? Sometimes when you deal with strangers, they are crazy. Not TECH, Not HACKER, Not INTERESTING!
36
jh3 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's a damn shame that people can't trust people.
37
HanPham 1 day ago 2 replies      
Seriously, fuck this guy. AirBNB simply facilitates finding people. AirBNB doesn't owe these people a single cent. In fact these AirBNB "victims" should apologize for their self-centered whining. Don't want any risk? Then don't let anyone into your house, dumbass. Don't blame random companies just because you're a fucking idiot.
38
muratmutlu 1 day ago 0 replies      
My favourite part of the story is they stole the computer...and left a cat!!
39
JVerstry 1 day ago 2 replies      
Renting to strangers is like having sex without protection. Period.
40
zalzally 1 day ago 1 reply      
If I were Arrington, I would have posted this story first thing Monday morning.
41
AndyJPartridge 1 day ago 0 replies      
Stay or rent, you have a choice to do either.

(Can't think of anything else to add, sorry.)

42
michael_dorfman 1 day ago 0 replies      
That business already exists: it's called the insurance industry.

I'm shocked that AirBnb apparently hasn't availed themselves of it.

8
Auditor's response to "Our security auditor is an idiot" (Update 3) serverfault.com
383 points by sharjeel  4 days ago   136 comments top 21
1
reitzensteinm 4 days ago  replies      
If this is real, I'll be stunned if the auditor keeps his job.

Then again, after working at startups my whole career, maybe I'm just naive about how messed up the real world is.

2
JacobAldridge 4 days ago 4 replies      
When "I have been in this industry longer than anyone on that site" is a cornerstone of your defence, you've already lost. Also, I know the UK has really strict laws, but I doubt he'd be able to sue for "liable".
3
dasil003 4 days ago 3 replies      
I can't help but feel there is some kind of social experiment going on here.

I mean I know there are a lot of incompetent people out there, but a security auditor asking for a list of plaintext passwords is not something that should take more than an email or two to resolve even in Bizarro world. "Techies" exhibiting this kind of willful ignorance are usually a bit better and hiding under their rock.

4
yaix 4 days ago 1 reply      
The auditor was actually serious. Wow. I really thought he just wanted to check the reaction of the admin, to see if he'd actually hand over sensitive stuff.
5
AgentConundrum 4 days ago 2 replies      
Please tell me this is a troll. I mean, I've seen some pretty incompetent people doing jobs they're not cut out for before, but I really want to believe this level of incompetence can't actually find jobs.
6
iuguy 4 days ago 1 reply      
A colleague of mine once had to stand one foot on top of the other and chew his own lip when an SI's "security expert" introduced himself as an 'old-school CISSP' just to stop laughing out loud at him.

There are many idiots in the information security industry (I should know, I are one) - we're doing our best to get rid, but more keep showing up.

7
Confusion 4 days ago 2 replies      
What's interesting is that the PCI standard seems to be unclear in this respect. He quotes from the standard:

  8.4 Render all passwords unreadable during transmission
and storage on all system components using strong
cryptography.

This seems to leave room for passwords to be encrypted instead of hashed. I'd even say it suggests they should be encrypted instead of hashed, by not distinguishing between 'during transmission' and 'during storage'.

At the very least, quoting this isn't going to convince someone that passwords should not be decryptable.

8
16s 4 days ago 4 replies      
Quite a few managers and auditors really don't understand the difference between a password hash and a password.

I expect the auditor was asking for password hashes, although he was using the phrase "plaintext passwords". Who knows, but that part of the story may just be a wording misunderstanding.

Not everyone speaks geek, and it's important to know when you're talking to someone who does not ;)

Edit: Not sure why this is being down voted as it is a true statement. I've had to explain what a password hash is on several occasions. And even after that, there was still some misunderstanding/confusion.

9
techiferous 3 days ago 0 replies      
"any inventive suggestions for how to troll him [the security auditor] a bit?"

Nothing productive could come of that. This situation is not for your entertainment. Just move along...

10
hermannj314 4 days ago 0 replies      
From the perspective portrayed in this article, the auditor seems misinformed about fundamentals in his industry and his response to being called on this seemed superficial and borderline childish.

It must be difficult to be ridiculed in a public form of your own profession. Not to mention being called stupid and ignorant for misunderstanding something. I hope I always have the humility to admit when I'm wrong, but also have the patience and understanding when other people don't.

11
kaeluka 4 days ago 0 replies      
the Daily WTF - live!
12
codeglomeration 4 days ago 0 replies      
This sounds more like social engineering to me. My first thought was this was a hacker who took control of an email address from the security firm, and just tried to exploit the weakest link in order to get plaintext passwords.
13
motters 4 days ago 0 replies      
Argument from authority. Nice try.
14
jarin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Incompetent people in the security field really need to be called out like this.

Incompetent developers generally only hurt the company; incompetent security professionals hurt every single customer as well.

15
marcamillion 4 days ago 0 replies      
At first, I thought that this was a bogus post...but it seems to be real - or this guy is keeping up with the story.
16
dougws 3 days ago 0 replies      
I haven't been in the industry that long, but I've encountered a few "security professionals"--auditors, penetration testers, etc. All of them have been totally incompetent; they could tell you the definition of, say, a SQL injection attack but had no idea how to really analyze a system. On the other hand, all of the great programmers I've met have had a really good grasp of security. I'm starting to think that if you don't write code, you're not qualified to audit it.
17
keithpeter 4 days ago 2 replies      
As I live and work in Birmingham, UK, I hope this is all an elaborate hoax.
18
blahblahblah 3 days ago 0 replies      
Apparently, neither of these guys paid attention in high school civics class. Slander involves oral, not written, communication. Libel (not "liable") is the term for a tort involving false and damaging written communication.
19
Auguste 4 days ago 0 replies      
That security auditor could give a lot of the guys featured on The Daily WTF a good run for their money.
20
antihero 4 days ago 1 reply      
If it's in the UK they may be liable under the Data Protection Act, too.
21
diminish 3 days ago 1 reply      
Dreaming of a world without passwords... Any ideas?
9
Understanding the Git Workflow sandofsky.com
355 points by RSkuja  2 days ago   74 comments top 17
1
pilif 2 days ago  replies      
The minute I learned about "rebase -i" and "add -p" has changed how I think about commits. I learned how I could easily keep the history clean and conversely, I learned the huge value that a clean history has for maintenance.

Now, building the commits as self-contained entities that don't break the build in between not only helps me while searching bugs later on, it sometimes helps me detect code smells around unneeded dependencies.

That said, I still like to merge big features with --no-ff if they change a lot of code and evolved over a long time, as that, again, helps keeping history clean because a reader can clearly distinguish code before the big change from code after the big change.

Of course the individual commits in the branch are still clean and readable, but the explicit merge still helps if you look at the history after some time.

"you said 'a long time in development' - surely the merge target has changed in between. Why still -no-ff?" you might ask.

The reason, again, is clean history: before merging I usually rebase on top of the merge target to remove eventual bitrot and in order to keep the merge commit clean. Having merge commits with huge code changes in them which we're caused by fixing merge conflicts, again, feels bad.

But this is certainly a matter of taste.

2
decklin 1 day ago 1 reply      
The idea that fast-forward merges are easier to follow is subjective. I find my --no-ff history easier to read. This author doesn't.

What always using fast-forward merges really means is that you rebase each branch onto master once it's ready to be public. Therefore, instead of resolving conflicts when the branch is merged, the commits are rewritten to avoid introducing the conflict in the first place.

Sometimes, this is really simple -- I added a line in one spot, you added another line in the same spot, you merged first, so I rewrite my commit to add my line next to yours instead of merging and resolving the conflict. Sometimes, it's not -- maybe there's not even any text-level conflict, but your feature and my feature interact in subtle and unanticipated ways and something breaks. Now, there's no "good" point in my branch to refer to, because I rewrote it on top of something where (I didn't realize) it was never really going to work. The unit test I now need couldn't have existed because it involves things that, when I was developing the branch, didn't exist.

Rebasing first is trading off when you do that work. There's more to review when the branch is ready, and there's a stronger incentive to get it right the first time. I think this may work better for the "two founders deploying from master when they feel like it" scenario -- you pay for manageability with context switches. If you have a formal QA process, I think being able to distinguish between "this branch failed QA" and "the combination of these branches failed" may be more helpful -- you can parallelize work and hack on a different private branch.

Git, thankfully, does not force us to choose one model or the other :-)

3
sunchild 2 days ago 0 replies      
This opened my eyes a bit. I am a walking, talking git anti-pattern today. I'm mostly on a two-man team, so I can get away with it. I'm definitely going to start thinking more about a clean history on master.

What are some other best-practice git workflows that HN readers use?

4
gruseom 1 day ago 1 reply      
I work this way and agree about the value of a clean, linear history. It makes working with past versions of your code a breeze. There's one thing the OP doesn't mention that I've found important.

Say you're working on a major design change in a private branch and it has 100 commits. When it's ready to be put on top of master, you'd really like not to squash all 100 commits. Unfortunately, if there are conflicts, then rebasing B1,B2,...,B100 onto master is likely to be much harder than squashing B1,...,B99 into B100 and then rebasing. Why? In the squashed case you only have to deal with conflicts between B100 and master, while in the unsquashed case you have to deal with all the conflicts that ever existed as you progressed from B1 to B100. It's frustrating to find yourself fixing conflicts in code that you know doesn't exist any more. It's also error-prone since it forces you to remember what you were doing at all those steps. In such situations, I give up and squash. That's not great either, since you now have the disadvantages of a single monolithic commit.

The solution is to be diligent about rebasing B onto master as frequently as master changes, so B never has a chance to drift too far afield. This at least gets rid of the worst pain, which is conflicts that compounded unnecessarily. It also keeps you aware of what's happening on master.

5
simonw 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is the first argument for using rebase that I've found truly convincing - really worth reading. This will probably change the way I use git.
6
zwieback 2 days ago 1 reply      
Nice post, thanks.

I've been using traditional RCSs for years but find that whenever I introduce SVN (or CVS before that) to a team it's very easy for new users to fall into bad habits around branching and committing transitory changes.

I'd like to try git to help manage the mess during the prototyping phase but I'm wondering how suitable it is for new users to learn git vs. learning svn.

Any opions out there on the suitability of git as a first version control system? My team consists of highly experienced engineers (EE/FW) with little or no software engineering experience.

7
motherwell 1 day ago 0 replies      
https://github.com/nvie/gitflow works really well. The original post http://nvie.com/posts/a-successful-git-branching-model/ was really compelling, and using it has really helped, at least what I do.
8
pflanze 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've always been an extensive user of rebase -i. Committing partial work often using git commit -a is easier, or at least takes less concentration, than always being careful to commit selectively with git add -p, git commit $files, but it needs squashing of those partial commits later on. I found that git rebase -i wouldn't scale to several days worth of work: I would frequently make errors when dealing with conflicts, and restarting rebase -i from scratch would mean redoing much of the work.

Because of this, I wrote a tool[1] that lets me do the same thing as git rebase -i, but allows me to edit the history changes incrementally, by keeping the history edit file and conflict resolutions around between runs; it does this by creating git patch files from all commits in question. I now always use this whenever I need to do more than one or two changes on some history; also, I'm now often creating commits to just store a note about a thought/idea/issue (the tool automatically adds a tag to the original history head, so I can look at those later on).

I originally wrote this just for me, which is the reason its own history isn't particularly clean and that I'm relying on a set of never-released libraries of mine; also maybe there are other, perhaps more well-known or polished tools than this, I don't know. I guess I should announce this on the Git mailing list to get feedback by the core devs.

[1] https://github.com/pflanze/cj-git-patchtool

/plug

9
joelhaasnoot 1 day ago 2 replies      
Hmm, this makes sense to me: lots of Git features I'd forgotten or not used before.

Can anyone sketch my "merging" strategy I should be using in my scenario:
- Have 3 branches dev, stage and master
- Bugs are fixed on master, bigger bugs/changes on stage and new features on dev
- Big functionality changes/additions come in the form of new branches, which currently I first merge with dev, then with stage and if everything is OK, with master. This doesn't always work well due to the timing of things: sometimes my dev branch is out of date with the master and needs fixes from the master before applying.

How should I handle merging the branches?

10
andrew311 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm wondering how people address one of the scenarios raised in the post, specifically this:

"It's safest to keep private branches local. If you do need to push one, maybe to synchronize your work and home computers, tell your teammates that the branch you pushed is private so they don't base work off of it.

You should never merge a private branch directly into a public branch with a vanilla merge. First, clean up your branch with tools like reset, rebase, squash merges, and commit amending."

I'm wonder how people address cleaning a private branch that has been pushed (when your goal is to get its changes into master cleanly). Rebasing the private branch is pretty much out of the picture since it has been pushed (unless you don't care about pushing it again). I can see some ways of doing this:

1) You could do a diff patch and apply it master, then commit.

2) You could checkout your private feature branch, do a git reset to master in such a way that your index is still from the private, then commit it. Ex:

currently on private branch
git reset --soft master

Now all the changes from the private branch are changes to be committed on master. This is easy, but it puts everything in one commit.

If you wanted to do a few commits for different, but stable points, but you already pushed the private branch and can't rebase it, you could instead do "git reset --soft" on successive points in the private branch commit chain, committing to master as you go.

If you wanted to reorder commits from the private branch, I guess you could rebase the private branch (which means you can't push again since you pushed it already), then do the tactic from the last paragraph, then ditch the private branch cause it's no longer pushable.

Does anyone have better ways of putting changes to master for private branches that have already been pushed?

11
stretchwithme 1 day ago 0 replies      
What really helped me grasp git was attending one of Scott Chacon's speeches on the topic. Scott works for github, knows what he's talking about and explains things thoroughly.

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QF_OlomyKQQ

12
alunny 1 day ago 2 replies      
For very short, "oh there's a syntax error I missed" commits, "commit --amend" is very useful, and quicker than "rebase -i".
13
Maro 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great post. Calls attention to the importance of having clean, stable commits in the 'master' branch and thus avoiding plain vanilla 'git merge' for 'squash' and 'rebase'.

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2427238/in-git-what-is-th...

14
endlessvoid94 1 day ago 0 replies      
After reading this, I finally motivated myself to read through the man pages for git pull, fetch, merge, and rebase.

Thanks :-)

15
swah 2 days ago 1 reply      
He should start the article with the last paragraph.
16
trusko 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good article. Thanks
17
jebblue 1 day ago 2 replies      
Git is plain scary. We should stick with SVN.
10
Java 7 is now available oracle.com
335 points by Mitt  5 days ago   202 comments top 27
1
rkalla 4 days ago  replies      
There is a good amount of stuff to get excited about in this release.

  - Try-with-resources-Catch-Block [0]
- Fork/Join libraries from Doug Lea (author of Executor framework) [1]
- Inferred/Simpler generics in declarations (should have been in Java 5)
- NIO2, brand new/robust filesystem APIs [2]
- NIO2, treat ZIP/JAR files like directories of files for R/W [3]
- SDP support [4]
- String-in-switch (NOTE: check on performance implications of this for tight loops)
NOTE: Read through "COMPILATION" section here for details [6]
- Elliptic curve cryptography (when normal curves just don't cut it)
- Underscores in numbers (e.g. int million = 1_000_000;)
- XRender pipeline on Linux (Swing/Java2D rendering get a big boost)
- New sound synthesizer (replaces a proprietary lib that wasn't OS)
- XML stack finally got updated across the board.
- InvokeDynamic (already talked about numerous times below)
- Other Swing stuff I'm not all that pumped about.

I think the most exciting items are:

  1. Try-with-resources
2. NIO2 filesystem API
3. InvokeDynamic

Features that got pushed to 8 (next year) that will be really exciting:

  - Modular programming (super packages? think OSGi-lite)
- Syntactic Sugar: Collection literals
List<String> people = {"Frank", "Mary", "Satan"};
- Closures
- Modularization of the JDK (JDK gets broken into core modules)

And one that I can't get confirmation on if it's in 7 or got pushed, index-access for List and Maps [5]:

  - List<String> people = {"Frank", "Mary", "Satan"};
System.out.println("Hello " + people[0]);

I understand that a lot of people don't find Java sexy any more, that is understandable, it has become a platform for what seems like a lot of next-series of languages.

That being said, I've been working with Java since 1998 and still love it. I know people get a big kick out of writing code with no exception handlers and no curly braces, and programming is a creative/artistic process so you have to do what feels good... but none of that stuff ever bothered me.

I like being a pedantic programmer.

[0] http://www.javacodegeeks.com/2011/07/java-7-try-with-resourc...

[1] http://artisans-serverintellect-com.si-eioswww6.com/default....

[2] http://openjdk.java.net/projects/jdk7/features/#f250

[3] http://openjdk.java.net/projects/jdk7/features/#fa537814

[4] http://openjdk.java.net/projects/jdk7/features/#f639

[5] http://mail.openjdk.java.net/pipermail/coin-dev/2009-March/0...

[6] http://mail.openjdk.java.net/pipermail/coin-dev/2009-Februar...

2
coverband 4 days ago 2 replies      
Did they always have this clause in the Java license, or is it new to Oracle's release?

"These Supplemental License Terms add to or modify the terms of the Binary Code License Agreement....

A. COMMERCIAL FEATURES. You may not use the Commercial Features for running Programs, Java applets or applications in your internal business operations or for any commercial or production purpose, or for any purpose other than as set forth in Sections B, C, D and E of these Supplemental Terms. If You want to use the Commercial Features for any purpose other than as permitted in this Agreement, You must obtain a separate license from Oracle."

Sections mentioned are:
B. SOFTWARE INTERNAL USE FOR DEVELOPMENT LICENSE GRANT. ...
Oracle grants you a non-exclusive, non-transferable, limited license without fees to reproduce internally and use internally the Software complete and unmodified for the purpose of designing, developing, and testing your Programs.

C. LICENSE TO DISTRIBUTE SOFTWARE.
...
Oracle grants you a non-exclusive, non-transferable, limited license without fees to reproduce and distribute the Software, provided that (i) you distribute the Software complete and unmodified and only bundled as part of, and for the sole purpose of running, your Programs, (ii) the Programs add significant and primary functionality to the Software, (iii) you do not distribute additional software intended to replace any component(s) of the Software, (iv) you do not remove or alter any proprietary legends or notices contained in the Software, (v) you only distribute the Software subject to a license agreement that: (a) is a complete, unmodified reproduction of this Agreement; or (b) protects Oracle's interests consistent with the terms contained in this Agreement and that includes the notice ...

D. LICENSE TO DISTRIBUTE REDISTRIBUTABLES.
...
Oracle grants you a non-exclusive, non-transferable, limited license without fees to reproduce and distribute those files specifically identified as redistributable in the README File ("Redistributables") ...

E. DISTRIBUTION BY PUBLISHERS. This section pertains to your distribution of the JavaTM SE Development Kit Software with your printed book or magazine ....

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, because of the Android lawsuit?

3
famousactress 4 days ago  replies      
Meh. The world turns. I spent a decade developing primarily in Java, and the last few years were really disappointing. The community splintered, the language and platform really lost any ability to maintain momentum. I might have been stoked about Java 7 three years ago (when it should have come out).
4
spullara 4 days ago 0 replies      
InvokeDynamic is a pretty awesome new feature in JDK7 and will likely be tranformative for dyanmic languages on the JVM. For my mustache.java templating solution it increased performance on an integration benchmark by 25%.

http://groups.google.com/group/mustachejava/browse_thread/th...

5
kragen 4 days ago 4 replies      
Looks like this version is not open source. Is there an open-source version of Java 7? Edit: Yes! http://openjdk.java.net/ has an announcement at http://mail.openjdk.java.net/pipermail/announce/2011-July/00.... So why would anybody "accept the Oracle Binary Code License Agreement for Java SE"?
6
j_col 4 days ago 2 replies      
You can now finally use a string in a switch statement, hurray (it's the little things that make me happy)!

http://download.oracle.com/javase/7/docs/technotes/guides/la...

7
nkassis 4 days ago 4 replies      
So for languages like Clojure,Scala does this offer any new feature for them?
8
nextparadigms 4 days ago 1 reply      
Does it come with more patents? Serious question.

I'm thinking Oracle tried to put a lot more locks on this version of Java, to make it theirs, and not so open source anymore.

9
Emore 4 days ago 5 replies      
Anyone know why an OS X release is not on the list?
10
macmac 4 days ago 0 replies      
Watch out for the Commercial Features as defined in table 1.1 of this document http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/documentation/...

Commercial Features appears to be jRockit technology.

11
bromagosa 4 days ago 1 reply      
«JSR TBD: Project Lambda
Lambda expressions (informally, "closures") and defender methods for the Java programming language»

Welcome to the sixties, Java!

Sorry, I couldn't help it >:D

12
clobber 4 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent. Looking forward to the memory enhancements that should help make Minecraft servers less of a hog :)
13
johnnyo 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm glad to see it's finally available.

I'm especially happy to see some of the language syntax that makes your standard try/catch/finally blocks a little cleaner and less error prone.

14
sgt 2 days ago 0 replies      
Having created several "enterprise" systems in Java, I'm now looking into Mono, because there are some aspects of Java that I'm simply tired of having to deal with again and again. So far it looks very interesting and it works really well on Linux and OS X. Anyone here got experience with using Mono (and possibly Fluent NHibernate, WCF, ASP.NET MVC, etc) in the "enterprise" environment?
15
rubyorchard 4 days ago 2 replies      
Too little to show for 5 years.
16
suprgeek 4 days ago 0 replies      
Making sure that the people excited about Java 7 wait until this gets patched http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2820204
17
gnoupi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Pity though that Swing didn't get much love in this release. But I guess that's the course of things.
18
fleitz 4 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome, so java finally has closures & lambdas?
19
msx 4 days ago 0 replies      
http://mail-archives.apache.org/mod_mbox/lucene-java-user/20...

that worried me little bit. what do you think ?

20
_mayo 4 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone have a link to the changelog?
21
gmosx 4 days ago 0 replies      
A great release (professionally handled by Oracle), but still I am waiting for Java 8 (esp. closures + modules)
22
kennystone 4 days ago 0 replies      
Good for Oracle. There are (reasonable) concerns about their ownership of Java, but at least it's moving forward again.
23
dmitrykoval 4 days ago 0 replies      
Have anyone done any performance comparison with the openjdk yet? GC related tests would be of high interest :)
24
dstywho 4 days ago 2 replies      
closures yet?
25
jzoidberg 4 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome IO stuff - finally we have great cross platform file handling.
26
czDev 4 days ago 1 reply      
oh man, can't wait to use closures in my Java code
27
zszugyi 4 days ago 1 reply      
Too little, too late.
11
The Secret Ingredient In Your Orange Juice foodrenegade.com
329 points by bradly  4 days ago   183 comments top 23
1
martey 4 days ago  replies      
I don't think that the health conclusions of this piece (don't drink orange juice from the supermarket!) are warranted. All the sources listed in it lead back to Alissa Hamilton's book "Squeezed." While not having read it, all of the information I can find suggest that Hamilton is not trying to suggest that orange juice is unhealthy. For example, this interview in the Boston Globe - http://articles.boston.com/2009-02-22/bostonglobe/29257797_1... :

You'd be better off with a whole orange than a glass of orange juice. It has more fiber and more vitamin C. But I'm not a dietitian. The book is not about whether you should drink orange juice and whether it's healthy. It's about how little consumers know about how popular and - in the case of orange juice - seemingly straightforward foods are produced and the repercussions for agriculture.

2
rmason 4 days ago  replies      
Hate to be cynical but I suspect the whole point of the article is to sell you on buying a juicer.

The domain is owned by a copy writing firm called http://www.wonderworkingwords.com/ . I can't prove it but I am willing to wager that a juicer firm commissioned the article. The firms motto after all is 'words that sell'.

3
jsdalton 4 days ago 0 replies      
Lately I've started drinking OJ from a brand called Evolution. They claim to just squeeze it and bottle it, more or less. They use cold pasteurization, a.k.a. irradiation, which doesn't bother me and helps preserve the taste. I've also found all I really need is a small glass in the morning.

It's quite expensive, however.

4
Cushman 4 days ago 1 reply      
Secret ingredient? It's sugar water.

This is like talking about the chemicals they put into Coke... Yeah, they're in there, and maybe they shouldn't be, but that's not why you drink it and that's not why it's bad for you.

Edit: Downvote why? Sugars in 10oz Coca-Cola classic: 33g. Sugars in 10oz Tropicana Pure Premium original orange juice: 28.1g.

[1] http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-coca-cola-classic-i98...

[2] http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-tropicana-orange-juic...

5
chememit 4 days ago 3 replies      
Chemical engineer's perspective: This is interesting. I'd learned about the chemical additives required for flavor in from-concentrate orange juice, since the dehydration ("concentration") by nature removes a lot of the more volatile chemicals that give OJ it's flavor. Without looking into it, I'd guess the deoxygenation process works by heating and pulling vacuum to lower oxygen solubility, which would also have the same consequence of removing the flavor compounds.

That said, the addition of chemical flavoring agents is completely irrelevant to health. Again I know more about process design than health science, but I do know that the flavoring chemicals that get removed and added are in such trace amounts that they likely have no health consequence, whether present or absent. In fact, many of the compounds are actually toxic at high concentrations.

And towards the "don't drink juice at all" argument, I feel like the world would be in a far better place health-wise if everyone drank juice instead of soda. At least juice is a fair representation of fruit, while soda is basically fructose dissolved in phosphoric acid. (The article mentions pectin and fiber as missing fruit components in juice - this is true as both are solids likely removed by juicing, but pectin is just a sugar polymer like starch, and fiber is just indigestible solids...nothing special health-wise). The argument reminds me of the people telling everyone not to go to college, just because in their specific case they didn't need it. Potentially decent advice for a small, already advantaged subset of the population, but horrible advice for everyone else.

6
sudonim 4 days ago 1 reply      
Tldr; 100% juice like tropicana is deoxygenated to remove all the flavor and make it last a long time and then natural flavor is added to make the taste consistent.

They shouldn't be able to say its 100% juice. WTF.

7
seandougall 4 days ago 3 replies      
Sigh... I for one am getting extremely tired of people freaking out because they see organic chemical names among the ingredients that go into food. Lots and lots of perfectly ordinary and harmless chemical compounds (e.g. ethyl butyrate, valencine) have scary-sounding names, and lots of toxic ones don't. If you want to educate yourself, pick up a copy of _On Food and Cooking_ by Harold McGee, and learn about what those compounds actually are.

Or you can run around screaming about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide.

I for one would not be the slightest bit bothered if somebody added orange juice to my orange juice.

8
ZoFreX 4 days ago 0 replies      
"You see, these “flavor packs are made from orange by-products " even though these ‘by-products' are so chemically manipulated that they hardly qualify as ‘by-products' any more.” (source) Since they're made from by-products that originated in oranges, they can be added to the orange juice without being considered an “ingredient,” despite the fact that they are chemically altered."

Does anyone know if this applies within the EU, and more specifically, the UK? I believe our labelling laws are stricter than this.

9
johno215 4 days ago 1 reply      
Hmm,

Although I don't put this below the food industry to do, it is peculiar that the sources listed are all other blogs. Looking through the blog links I found a NYT article sourced but it said nothing about chemically processed orange products being added to 100% orange juice.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/business/22pepsi.html?scp=...

Any one have any better sources?

10
unicornporn 17 hours ago 0 replies      
i drink brämhults ( http://www.bramhults.se/ ). at least they taste different every time.
11
mannicken 2 days ago 0 replies      
Oh, hey, bad news: even if you don't drink juice, never have any sugar, and spend all your time counting calories -- you're still going to die at some point. Sorry, had to ruin the whole health obsession parade here.

This is coming from a guy who counted his calories, and still logs his weight every morning, and freaks out if he's not unhealthily skinny. I just ate an apple and now I'm obese (in my mind anyway) and I weigh 79 kg. I used to feel skinny when I weighed 95kg but ran 6.5 miles. Funny, isn't it?

12
socksy 4 days ago 2 replies      
If this is the case, wouldn't it be cheaper to take sweetened water, add food colouring and flavouring? I assume someone's probably doing it already.
13
yew 4 days ago 0 replies      
I can't say I really care about whether or not orange juice is "natural" - it's all made of chemicals at the end of the day, so the only thing that really matters to me is which ones, and how much - but the degree to which truth-in-advertising has essentially ceased to exist does bother me. Exactly how much do I have to modify something before I can't advertise it as "100% Natural!" anyway?

Speaking of which, can anyone provide a good (comprehensive) source for information on the subject from a legal perspective?

14
blackboxxx 4 days ago 1 reply      
Not sure if this is an urban myth or not, but I've heard Cheese Wiz is actually grey. Orange food coloring is later added to the goo to give it that cheddar color.
15
zwieback 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not a juice-drinker myself but I'd like a little more detail on what is actually done to the by-products. I think one thing people forget is that for most of us the choice isn't between natural/industrial, it's the choice between industrial and nothing, at least most of the year. Can you grow oranges in your backyard? In Oregon I can't and I hate grass juice.
16
hsuresh 4 days ago 0 replies      
There is a fascinating documentary - Botany of Desire http://video.pbs.org/video/1283872815/. The video shows that even fruits are grown in ways so as to make them taste better, and therefore more consumption.
17
haridsv 2 days ago 0 replies      
Article says deoxidation causes the orange juice to become bland, so what happens to the original sugars? I can understand adding flavors, but that would not bring back the sweetness, if the deoxidation destroyed them, so do they add extra sugars as well?
18
shaggyfrog 4 days ago 0 replies      
I read all this almost a year ago on CBC's website: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2010/09/08/f-whats-in-it...

I stopped buying orange juice entirely because of it. "Perfume packs"... gross.

19
sliverstorm 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why do I drink juice? Because in the morning on my way out the door, I am unlikely to spend the time eating an orange. Because fresh cranberries are nasty.

My own practice to try and avoid extremely fabricated foods: buy the in-house brand. While it will never be 100% pure orange juice squeezed yesterday, they don't have a brand identity to defend, so they seem to engage in fewer food-processing antics.

20
yhager 4 days ago 0 replies      
This was covered in a few blogs before, Here's an example from fooducate: http://www.fooducate.com/blog/2009/05/31/on-orange-juice/

There is also a response from the Florida dept. of Citrus there.

21
smithian 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised that most of the reaction and commentary on this seems to be about either 1. the vague health claims that fresh-squeezed is better than old OJ enhanced with flavoring or 2. the sugar debate

What I want to know is, why should I pay $4.29 for a carton of old flavorless juice enhanced with a flavoring cocktail, rather than $5.99 for fresh squeezed? I personally don't see the value proposition in the Tropicana any more, and while I have been buying the fresh squeezed kind (that they make from the oranges in the store) I definitely won't be buying the Tropicana/Florida's Natural again. I think if this was more well known there would be a lot fewer people willing to plonk down premium money for a fake premium product in the future.

22
robchez 4 days ago 0 replies      
Favourite Home-Made 'Juice' Water Kefir[1]. Why?

Can Make massive batches at home.

Add any fruit.

The bacteria eats majority of the sugar.

It's Fizzy.

Slightly Alcholic.

[1] http://nourishedkitchen.com/water-kefir/

23
chopsueyar 4 days ago 0 replies      
...and natural flavors too! I used an exclamation mark so I must be female.

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2010-title21-vol2/xml/CFR-2...

12
Free online version of Stanford's Fall 2011 Intro to AI course ai-class.com
323 points by finin  3 days ago   43 comments top 15
1
law 3 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me of CS229, of which there's an online version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzxYlbK2c7E

It's considerable more focused in scope, presenting the mathematics behind some of the more popular algorithms extensively used in machine learning, which is a subset of artificial intelligence. The course starts off pretty slow, but quickly gains speed and momentum. By the end, you should be fairly comfortable with clustering and classification/regression, among other topics. The lecture notes are also fantastic.

2
asknemo 3 days ago 5 replies      
Could anyone explain to me why the HN community seems to have a particular interest in AI compared to other more "academic" areas? I have seen quite some amount of AI resources here, but at the same time for most startups discussed here they aren't particularly related to AI. Just curious.
3
webspiderus 3 days ago 1 reply      
I took a version of this class (also taught by Norvig and Thrun) last year, and I definitely found it very enjoyable. I ended up taking it after CS 229 (which covers the mathematical underpinnings of machine learning with some rigor), so I unfortunately couldn't evaluate how good of an introductory course to AI it would be (having covered a lot of the concepts prior), but even still it was a class I enjoyed. Of particular interest was hearing the instructors draw parallels to their work (particularly with Google and the DARPA challenge), which made a lot of the theoretical concepts much more tangible and helped me recognize their practical applications.

you can also see a prior version of the class here: http://www.stanford.edu/class/cs221/

4
drewda 3 days ago 2 replies      
Looks like a good way to sell more copies of AIMA[1]. (Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan, with my own signed copy--but not necessarily enough of a fan to "upgrade" to the third edition.)

[1] http://aima.cs.berkeley.edu/

5
sliverstorm 3 days ago 3 replies      
This could be risky for Stanford. What happens when all the online students ace the class (demonstrating the curve was very easy), or get consistently better grades than the students enrolled at Stanford?
6
henry_flower 3 days ago 2 replies      
The course has the requirement: "A solid understanding of probability and linear algebra will be required."

Can anybody advise some books or online resources that one can use for 2 month to prepare himself for the course? Thanks.

7
nchlswu 3 days ago 0 replies      
I find this approach interesting compared something like OpenCourseware. If I understand correctly, this is a very similar approach, with a graded portion not typically offered at something like Khan or Open Courseware?

I'm curious about any enrolment caps and what's next for this approach.

EDIT: missing word.

8
redthrowaway 3 days ago 0 replies      
That is really cool. I've forwarded the link to a couple instructors in the CS dept at my school. It seems like a great chance for some of us in the frozen northern wastelands of Vancouver to see how we stack up against the best and brightest in the US.
9
AdamTReineke 3 days ago 1 reply      
That's awesome. I wonder if I can convince my college to count it for credit.
10
dzuc 3 days ago 1 reply      
Could someone describe what sort of prerequisite knowledge is required for following along a course like this?
11
scratch 3 days ago 1 reply      
I may be straying a little off topic but it's worth noting that many of the mentioned course material and much more from a wide variety of subjects can be found at http://www.academicearth.org/.

This place is filled with awesome. Maybe you know?

12
matmann2001 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wish they had a version of a class like this that was meant to fit more easily into spare time. I'll be taking 18 hours at my own university, and I don't think I'll be able to set aside enough time to put a serious effort into this class.
13
jrubinovitz 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm considering trying to take this and get my university to give me credit for it (it's Stanford, from one of the guys that wrote the textbook and I am getting a grade). However, I'm thinking whatever this class costs may hold me back.
14
turing 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool. I'll be taking the intro AI course at my school this semester, so it will be fun to compare. Definitely excited to hear what Thrun and Norvig have to say. I met a colleague of Thrun's in Tokyo earlier this summer. By far the most interesting conversation of the entire trip.
15
jamesbrewer 3 days ago 0 replies      
I decided to sign up for the course (I don't think I can officially sign up until later this Summer) but I'm not sure that I'll have the time or that I can afford the text. I'm also a Sophomore CS student, so the work would be very challenging for me.
13
Vandalised home puts pressure on Airbnb ft.com
314 points by arghnoname  4 days ago   138 comments top 17
1
Ygor 4 days ago  replies      
The question now is will this be the Hindenburg moment of this type of services, or is it just a speed bump?

We'll see how all this bad press is going to spread across the rest of the mainstream media and tabloids. I know we are all disappointed with the way airbnb handled the situation, but we really shouldn't be happy if all the sensation seeking press starts using this to boost their sales, and in the process damages this market beyond repair.

2
adnam 4 days ago 4 replies      
Why would anyone give the keys to their home to a total stranger? (And leave them on their own for a whole week?)
3
arghnoname 4 days ago 3 replies      
There's nothing new in the actual story. I thought it's placement on the front page (below the fold) of the print edition was significant. It's not exactly a tech publication.
4
bproper 4 days ago 4 replies      
It would cost a fraction of their recent raise to make this woman whole again, at least financially.

They should have brought her in, given her a heartfelt apology from the executive team, and paid her a large lump sum. In return she would sign a NDA.

5
Omnipresent 4 days ago 0 replies      
never imagined this type of thing would happen in startups - top level bureaucracy. Doesn't this happen in big corps?

Maybe I'm looking at this whole black cloud of bad PR in a simplistic way but why is it so hard to bring EJ over or fly over to her, assess the situation, put her in a hotel, replace her stuff, help her find a new place. Doing that will get AirBnB much much more popularity than their famous cereal box story that we've heard so much of.

6
chailatte 3 days ago 4 replies      
At this point in time, I wonder if it's in pg's best interest to cut loss, and sever the relationship with airbnb altogether. Sell yc's stake in airbnb, and avoid talking about them ever again.

Sure, airbnb has a $1b valuation for now. But does anybody really think they're worth $1b after this, and only on an estimated $10M cumulative revenue? (not to mention the pending stock market collapse and IPO window closing, precipitated by US default next Tuesday)

They have a pretty toxic public image now amongst early adopters, and will only get worse. They have a business process which now appears to be broken, and it will cut into their already miniscule revenue to fix it. They do not have a moral/charismatic leader that can guide them thorough an important crisis like this. They are deemed illegal in many parts of US, and will likely be more so later once more mainstream media picks up on it.

On top of that, they are destroying yc's precarious image. And they're dragging this entire mess on all the other yc's startups (the other yc founders have to stand up to defend airbnb. Other applicants realizes that the best performing company in yc is one that does evil)

7
Havoc 3 days ago 0 replies      
>These included doubling the size of its customer support team, setting up a 24-hour telephone hotline, and offering insurance products.

That is a pretty weak response. Peddling insurance...really?

Even worse I can't really think of a better response. i.e. The model might be inherently flawed & un-fixable.

8
indrax 3 days ago 0 replies      
Other times when people get their houses ransacked while on vacation, we don't have a flap of stories about the post office leaving mail in the mailboxes. A criminal decided to use AirBNB to find an empty apartment and provide cover.

It is important for them to react well to this, but they just can't provide real security. And they shouldn't have to, they're matchmakers.

All this media attention is going to make them feel like they need to do everything, but past the basics of providing good customer service lies a few good measures and a lot of security theater. They're being hammered to do the impossible because they are novel.

9
shareme 4 days ago 2 replies      
Its not a customer service issue..hold on wait..let me explain..

Its an identity problem..How do you have processes and procedures in place that uses identity as the qualifier of being able to trust a person to temp rent to ? Fro example, world wide what do we use as the identifier to get all this info? Is it a credit card number? Is it a credit card number and other pieces of info?

Look at the processes of PayPal..similar identity/trust problem or Amazon Stores..

I submit that Airbnb has not solved the identity/trust set of problems yet and that is their stumbling block not reactions to customer problems as the techmedia has blarred..

10
pseudonym 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm a little surprised it took this long to start showing up in print, as it were. I'll also be interested in seeing if they do a followup with her latest post.
11
civild 4 days ago 2 replies      
It won't be long until the tabloids pick this up and run with it, applying their own sensationalist inaccuracies. I think Airbnb have to act quickly to fix this before it turns into a Fox affiliate human interest story and damages their reputation irreconcilably.
12
zwieback 4 days ago 2 replies      
My first thought was "business opportunity to offer insurance to airbnb customers".

Apparently there are already websites up to do just that.

13
dbuizert 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think more importantly, could this have been prevented? They should have done the proper research on the risks involved.

They should also have provided users with a quick (even webpage) on risks involved and precautions people can take and make. And provide the users more background info on the renter. It's not as simple as running a hotel.

To me this looks and feels like a story of simple thinking and bad iterating. I doubt this is the only case out there. There should have been a lot of minor issues as well. And we all know it starts small before it becomes a tornado and tears your house and community down.

14
gaurav_v 3 days ago 1 reply      
The last line of her most recent blog post pretty much sums up the entire thrust of her story and its problems for Airbnb:

"And for those who have so generously suggested a donation fund be set up to help me recover, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and suggest that instead, you keep the money and use it to book yourself into a nice, safe hotel room the next time you travel. You'll be glad you did."

15
helwr 4 days ago 1 reply      
There is no such thing as bad publicity
16
Uchikoma 4 days ago 0 replies      
Danger, Will Robinson.
17
karl11 4 days ago 3 replies      
Has there been any verification anywhere that this actually happened, beyond just two blog posts?
14
I am an HFT Programmer slashdot.org
312 points by marksu  1 day ago   228 comments top 24
1
cletus 1 day ago  replies      
I worked for a time in finance and investment banking. Problem-wise it can be pretty interesting but it's important to distinguish between two classes of developers.

1. Traders; and

2. Non-traders.

Engineers who are traders are typically called "quants" (quantitative traders) as they write software that employs trading strategies to make money, as one or more of spread trading (trading between the bid-ask spread), prop trading (taking a position in the market) and arbitrage (of which HFT is merely the latest incarnation; some may dispute this definition).

Traders of all kinds have their bonus defined as a percentage of the profit they make. That percentage can be as high at 10%. In 2007 there were some Wall Street traders who walked home with $50m+ for the year. I remember seeing an AmA on reddit from a quant who took home $20m.

While maths is obviously important, it is not (IMHO) as important as psychology. It takes a special kind of individual who can hold a position worth billions of dollars and make rational decisions. Human psychology is typically completely wrong for trading: people hold on to losers too long ("I'll sell when I get my money back") and sell winners too soon.

I know enough about myself to know I could never do that. Some can and they get rewarded for it.

The second class of engineer, the non-trader, earns a respectable salary with benefits as compared to other software engineers. They are however the second worst paid employees at an investment bank (the worst are support people). All those business types who join IB, assuming they survive, will typically have a salary and career trajectory that will dwarf that of any engineer within a few years.

The only way for an engineer to make real money is to be a quant, found a startup or join an early stage startup. In the last few years the competition for engineers has heated up to the point where engineers are (or can be) more adequately compensated for their contribution.

The other thing that happened is the cost of seeding a startup went from $5m to $50,000 in the last decade, almost all of which is engineer time. This makes engineers just that much more valuable.

As far as not having some kind of positive impact, working in investment banking can be exactly that. People like to demonize the finance industry with some justification but it does a lot of good too.

You want to buy a house? Well the only reason you can get a loan is that investor (and/or depositor) funds are matched to you. In the last few decades securitization (MBS ie mortgage-backed securities) have revolutionized this market. On the other hand, the subprime collapse should, in my mind, lead to criminal prosecutions across the entire finance and insurance sectors.

Spread trading (or "market making") is also misunderstood. People see market makers as scalpers when in fact they're providing a valuable service: they're creating liquidity. The reason you can buy or sell shares at any time (rather than waiting for a seller or buyer to show up) is because of market makers.

IPOs are a complicated business. They're possible because of the finance industry as well. Although, curiosity, VC as it exists in the Internet startup world is almost completely unrelated to the finance sector. It's basically a byproduct of university endowments.

Still, I think I'm done with that industry (I now work for Google) typically because IB types aren't, in my experience, very nice people to work with plus you're near the bottom of the totem pole.

2
zedshaw 1 day ago  replies      
This is a huge load of bullshit. 99% of the "banking programmers" are some of the worst coders in the world. A vast majority of them just babysit a Bloomberg terminal, barely understanding the supposed math they use all day. Others just babysit an Excel spreadsheet, or worse, develop whole applications in Excel then try to get a real programmer to "build it". The lower echelons are even worse and just make shitty C# and Java web apps that are huge wastes of money.

The supposed "C++ optimizer" guys are some of the worst. They're the guys who go off and make algorithms they think are blazing fast, and sure for one tiny little use maybe, but then when you actually see the code it's a huge convolute mess for nothing. It's usually riddled with bugs, not in source control (Clearcase), only if it is only because the Compliance Dept. told them to, and they refuse to share because they're too damn competitive.

I've even seen projects by some of the top guys that were built by hand. No make file because the dude didn't trust make.

Don't even get me started about these jackasses that think their huge monolithic shitpiles of Java code are somehow superior, yet the only reason their code can actually run is because some bank sunk millions (and maybe billions) into infrastructure just to run that crap even moderately fast. I had one project where the damn process used so much ram per request they had to go buy an Azul box just to make it run even at 2 req/sec. That was their "cream of the crop" coders.

Finally, they constantly do this thing where they say, "Oh man my code is so awesome it's written in C++ and is so fast. No you can't see it. Oh but I make $500k a year!" They equate how awesome their code is by how much they make, but rarely have any idea of what other people's code is like.

Honey, if all you can make from your corrupt financial masters is $500k while they make billions and trillions then you're not a very good coder. And if I can't see your damn code, then you're a damn liar.

Take it from a guy who thought he'd run into some quality in the finance world. There is none, they just have so much money they can't help but make tons of it.

3
jasonkester 1 day ago 3 replies      
Quick quiz:

Given the ability to charge $100/hr for your time (which is what this guy's rate works out to), would you prefer to make:

  a.) $500,000 by working 100hr weeks

b.) $250k by working 50hr weeks


Me? I tend to lean toward secret option c: make $100k by working 25 40hr weeks, then spend the rest of the year squandering it on a beach with tall cold beers, good surfing/climbing and good wifi.

Gotta keep them priorities straight.

4
tmsh 1 day ago 3 replies      
I used to work in HFT. From about 1999 (right out of high school) until 2008.

In response to the OP, zedshaw and a couple of others (who make good points), I'd say:

* obviously if you're good at your job in HFT after a while you don't have to work 100 hour weeks. People wait for you. There are levels of support. You still get woken up once in a while, but not if the firm is well structured and the support training / delegation is good.

* people are right in that the closer you are to the money, the more financial upside (and downside) you usually have.

* there are some very mediocre programmers, like in any sector -- however, they tend to not last as long because the trading side is very demanding (in terms of quality) and that filters down pretty quickly.

* do the people who really know what they're doing in the trading and HFT space have an OCD level of awareness of all levels of their code? sometimes. and it's easy to then conclude that this must not be found in other fields/areas. i can't speak for the rest of the world, but there are exceptions everywhere i've been.

in fact, i wouldn't even say it's the norm that in HFT people are more capable of deep diving into assembly or whatever. however, basically there are a handful of people in HFT who have been fortunate enough to grow up in that industry and have made mistakes without being fired -- and those people are very bright and careful about their code, and the large purchasing price for quality/reliability and quickness delivered does affect things on a macro scale probably. there's also basically a lot of hard-core russian programmers (from the many different technical universities in russia) who are quite rigorous with their code and trust the idea of finance more than the idea of startups or silicon valley even -- but this is probably a generalization (just my experience perhaps).

most software rewriting is trivial once you know what you have to do. and most software projects don't 'know what they have to do' until half way through. i used to work with a guy who made a point of rewriting ALL trading-related code every two years. another guy didn't trust OSS because he thought it was mostly hobbyist. they're both sort of wrong -- but it's a different culture/mindset. and these guys weren't idiots. respectively, they were some of the lead developers / architects for some of the largest algorithmic shops in chicago.

but my point is that programming for HFT or real-time trading requires that you really know what you're doing down to each line of code, so that you can react when things do break (and they will break). if you can't react quickly, you will eventually not find yourself on interesting projects and you might even get fired.

so ironically you have to slow down and really get to know how to do programming very carefully, and then scale that up so that you can react really quickly later (with something like binary search). this is a useful thing to practice in some ways. other people probably learn variants of it in other fields.

* the recession hit large parts of the financial sector pretty hard. i went back and visited chicago somewhat recently (now work in SV). i can't speak to everyone, but if i were an undergraduate or someone trying to figure out career trajectories for the first time, i would feel much more secure in even the startup space than in financial services at this point. because you know most of that is going to be replaced (with automated, distributed technology) in our lifetime.

5
hugh3 1 day ago 5 replies      
How to get a really good salary:

1. Be really smart

2. Be willing to do something that's deadly boring to most smart people

Me? I'm a scientist. I'm not gonna write your goddamn binary tree pricing algorithm or remove your varicose veins or argue about some dull point of legal text in court. But I'm sure I'd be a lot richer if I did.

(In other news, man, those grapes sure look sour, I'm glad I can't reach 'em.)

6
bfung 1 day ago 0 replies      
Programming skill is only a small part of why Wall Street Programmers earn top salary. The major factor is that their industry is very close to the money, and their jobs are close to the money. As a result, it's easy to measure someone's worth in terms of currency. In trading, if your group is making money, and you can convince everyone else (or just the boss) that you are worth x% of the profits, then there you go. As your industry and job function moves further and further away from the money, it gets harder to measure your performance in terms of raw "dollars", but the game to convince everyone else your currency worth still applies.
7
orijing 1 day ago 5 replies      
It's true, and it's somewhat discouraging. When I was in my last year in college, I applied to various types of companies, in different stages of life, plus a quant fund.

In the end, while the salary/potential bonus for the fund was very enticing (despite not having graduated yet), I stuck with the middle-of-the-road tech company. (I also looked at Google and Dropbox but decided to go to FB). Google was desperate for people, and threw money at everyone who had a Facebook offer. I like that they offered $$$, but I knew that most people there aren't compensated as well, which suggested that future compensation might not be as enticing. Dropbox was actually really cool (the people I met there), and I was thinking about it a lot, but in the end, I just wanted to stay where I've been, and work in Palo Alto. (I know, it's weird: All my friends want to work in SF).

But it sucks, because while everyone thinks I took FB for the money ("It's pre IPO!"), that's the farthest from the truth. In fact, they're so surprised that I decided not to work in New York. "Are you stupid? That's more money than any of your peers make out of college!" Not to mention, the people there I met through two straight days of technical questions (compared to Google's easy-peasy 4, 45 minute sessions) were some of the smartest I've met. And I like working with smart people.

I was afraid that if I'd gone on that route, it would affect me as a person. Don't get me wrong: I've studied financial institutions and believe that they produce value, but in the end, it's more awesome to tell friends and family that I ship products rather than arb derivative contracts. I figured, the money will come.

What the hell are you gonna do with 500k a year, anyway?

8
wallflower 1 day ago 2 replies      
I have a friend who works in trading. He's very sharp and very smart and has friends who work for D.E. Shaw. I used to ask why he didn't go work for D.E. Shaw and he said that he would never survive the interview gauntlet there. And most importantly, he would not be smart enough. Now, I know how good at math my friend is (he used to win Games t-shirts - from the magazine and studies math at graduate level). And now when I talk to him about HFT, he's like even if I could bluff my way into an HFT job they'd fire me after three months once they found out.

My math abilities will never ever approach my friend's. If he is not confident about his ability, it speaks volumes to me about the ability and sheer analytical horsepower of some of those working in HFT.

Yes, they may be financial wizards who cause far reaching effects but they are doing what challenges them.

9
MarkPNeyer 1 day ago 4 replies      
they get paid well, but they're also doing work of dubious value. i left trading because i wanted to do something that i knew would make a positive impact on the world.
10
bignoggins 1 day ago 3 replies      
This is slightly OT, but can anyone recommend a good book for understanding the modern finance industry (IB, quant, trading) and its impact on the economy? Finance in general is just a giant black box to me.
11
scythe 1 day ago 0 replies      
That comes to about $74/hour; he's rich for working 100-hour weeks.

I don't know what good the money is if you don't ever take the time to spend it, though.

12
paganel 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Another HFT programmer here. I once had to make a run-time modification to an algorithm to keep about $100 million from going at a lower price than what the traders wanted. Sometimes market conditions change so fast that the traders demand the ability to make rapid adjustments to the algorithm. They're willing to take the risk. They can't wait for the safe development cycle.

Someone should post this next time the issue of "TDD and sudoku-solvers" comes up on HN.

13
gte910h 1 day ago 4 replies      
That hourly rate is pretty crappy for that level and amount of work. (<$100)
14
pdovy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Argh, guys like this give the rest of us a bad name. It's ridiculous to claim that we're somehow universally better than developers at Google or anywhere else.

One of the big arguments in that Slashdot thread seems to be backlash over developers bragging about how they change software that handles millions of dollars in the middle of the day without any testing. Let me tell you, any HFT firm worth it's salt is very conscious about risk controls. I mean honestly, what kind of business are you running if you're routinely exposing yourself to potentially massive losses because of one developers error? Not one that would be around very long.

I can only speak to where I work, but we are not coding by the seat of our pants. Yes, traders do make intraday changes to their strategies, but they can do that because their software is backstopped by a tiered risk infrastructure that limits the damage their software can do.

15
benthumb 1 day ago 1 reply      
This fellow's braggadocio is off-putting. Especially the dig he makes at the expense of Google. I mean, I wish he'd clarify what he's talking about when he says that the "engineering talent is just not there"... just not where?
16
thinkbohemian 1 day ago 0 replies      
TIL slashdot commenters are fairly mean and biter. Good post, and thanks for the intelligent and well reasoned comments HN.
17
ebaysucks 1 day ago 1 reply      
1. Works 12 hours a day on average
2. Works 100 hour weeks

Stopped reading there.

18
bwanaaaa 1 day ago 1 reply      
So many intelligent replies here. And to think some of the best coders do not live in the US - think of Skype (Estonia), Tim-Berners Lee, Linus Torvalds, etc... Their contributions tower above anything done by any one person on Wall Street. Yet Wall Street has only contributed to the common good by paying taxes. Even then they seek to game the system and have also managed to get the government to give them more than they ever paid (think bailout). Their scrooge-like aversion to philanthropy, charity, education, or any research to help the human condition is what annoys. Certainly those of you who code for the street have food in your belly, but when will you decide to fix your monstrous employer? They don't even have to know.
19
sliverstorm 1 day ago 1 reply      
Would it be foolish to try to play with HFT (or perhaps "medium" frequency or something) as a private entity? Or is this something essentially only available to Wall Street?

Not looking for money, it just seems like it'd be interesting to explore.

20
nazgulnarsil 1 day ago 0 replies      
"the way I make money is opaque to people with no economics background"

"rabble rabble moralizing rabble rabble!"

you people do realize that normal people think the same thing about software developers right?

21
Astrohacker 1 day ago 2 replies      
So he does what any good programmer does, but he earns 5x as much. One reason they earn so much is that the companies they work for have corrupt ties to the Federal Reserve and the US government, and when the money supply is inflated, they get all the new money, and can thus pay their programmers (and all employees/partners/shareholders/owners) with the new money. Their salaries come at the expense of people who don't get the new money, like pensioners.
22
dadads 1 day ago 1 reply      
I like how the slashdot discussion rapidly turns into a moral debate.
23
eurohacker 1 day ago 0 replies      
its when simple quants make bonuses 20M per year - causing worldwide economic crisis - and the country is defaulting

then you think that something must be wrong with the American economic policy and tax system

24
ntkachov 1 day ago 1 reply      
They are specialists. They specialize in optimizing the crap out of very specific algorithms. I would much rather take a pay cut than work all day on optimizing stuff. For the money that they pay the work sounds extreamly boring (imho)
15
Games company claims their graphics are 100,000x better ausgamers.com
307 points by trog  13 hours ago   122 comments top 36
1
coffeemug 8 hours ago 5 replies      
I think what they're doing is great, but I see two problems with their presentation. First, computer rendering techniques are extremely well understood and well researched. We've picked the low hanging fruit, much of the high hanging fruit, and everything in between. There is no "groundbreaking new technology" to be invented. They're converting polygons into voxels (although each voxel is probably a sphere for cheaper computation), and using software ray-tracing to render in real time. Since ray-tracing is trivially parallelizable, the multicore technology is just about there now. A 12-core machine will give just about 20FPS. The reason why they can get away with an incredible amount of detail is that ray-tracing diffuse objects is fairly independent of the number of visible polygons in the scene.

The second problem is that 10^4x improvement in level of detail does not mean 10^4x aesthetically pleasing (or in fact, more aesthetically pleasing at all). Ray tracing gets very expensive the moment you start adding multiple lights, specular materials, partially translucent materials, etc. It is very, very difficult to do that in real-time even with standard geometry, let alone with 10^4x more polygons. This is why their level doesn't look nearly as good as modern games despite higher polygon count (compare it to the unreal demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttx959sUORY) They only use diffuse lighting and few lights. In terms of aesthetic appeal of a rendered image, lighting and textures are everything.

Furthermore, one of the biggest impacts on how aesthetically pleasing a rendered images looks is made by global illumination. That's also something that's extremely difficult to do in real time with raytracing, but is possible with gpu hardware with tricks. The trouble is, these tricks look much better than raw polygons.

Again, I love what they're doing. Real-time ray-tracing is without a doubt the future of graphics, but it would be nice if they were a little less sensational about the technology, and more open about the limitations and open issues.

2
ja2ke 0 minutes ago 0 replies      
These guys are doing something similar and are demonstrating more dynamic lighting and destruction tech: http://www.atomontage.com
3
saulrh 12 hours ago 7 replies      
I'll say the same thing now as I said last time these guys released a video: I'll believe it when I see them make a single blade of grass move, or when they place a single dynamic light source and cast a single dynamic shadow. Until then, this technology is awesome, but more or less useless.
4
prawn 12 hours ago 4 replies      
John Carmack's repsonse:

"Re Euclideon, no chance of a game on current gen systems, but maybe several years from now. Production issues will be challenging."

https://twitter.com/#!/ID_AA_Carmack/statuses/98127398683422...

5
greendestiny 10 hours ago 0 replies      
It's no accident that there is that much repetition in the models. It's also no accident that they are all nicely tiled in power of two axis aligned bounding boxes. Clearly these things take up enormous amounts of memory and need to be in some big octtree like hierarchy - so while they can instantiate these pretty impressive leaf nodes they can't do things like have them on uneven ground.

So much work left to do.

6
mambodog 11 hours ago 2 replies      
Every time this comes up I like to point people to the Atomontage Engine[1], which takes (what I think is) a more pragmatic approach, combining voxel and polygon graphics. Voxels are used where appropriate (eg. landscape, destructible buildings) and polygons can be used for dynamic objects.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sfWYUgxGBE

7
gavanwoolery 7 hours ago 1 reply      
As someone who has worked with GPUs and software renderers for over a decade:

I am pretty sure that their tech depends on a few types of repeatable data, which they are able to cache effectively based on rotation -- in other words, they have come up with an efficient way of querying the front-facing voxels in a large set of data based on the resulting view matrix. Where this falls flat is if the data is not procedural, or it is not diverse - as you can see in the video, there is a bunch of the same data copied over and over. However you compress it, such detail is not free and I am guessing there is a lot of data that depends on a good deal of memory/storage to work properly.

I am not so worried about animation or dynamic lights or textures as everyone else is. If they can render it to a buffer and get the normals/depth/UV coordinates, the rest of the rendering can be done in screen-space, including SSAO, deferred lighting, and similar rasterization tricks. Animation can also be rendered on top of the scene, and intersected with the former depth buffer. The only thing I am worried about is the size of the data set and ability to create more diverse landscapes.

8
vrode 9 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm sorry, but as much as I respect people both on Reddit and Hacker News, I wonder where does all the enthusiasm come from, when:

* demos show nothing new from a technological perspective

* the presenter sounds like a door-to-door salesperson

* as it seems to me, the only purpose of the demo is to raise a hype and somehow (I still don't understand) they succeeded

Euclideon got financed by Australian government.

I really hope the board took a critical approach and relied on at least /some/ technical expertise to grant these people A$ 2m. If they made this decision based just on a demo - I'm moving to Australia at once, where I will invent a technology you have never seen in your whole life before. Ever.

9
mullr 12 hours ago 0 replies      
The last time we talked about this (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1179970), the consensus was that it was a lot of snake oil and not useful for most applications.
10
llambda 3 hours ago 1 reply      
This has been "announced" since 2010 all the while being only "a few months" from release. So far nothing has materialized. Vaporware. Also note this is nothing but voxels plus an advanced search algorithm, for resource conservation.
11
yason 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Anytime there's too much bragging--or any bragging at all--before the actual product is finished, my bogus filter lights up. And it's really hard to turn it off later.
12
rektide 40 minutes ago 0 replies      
Graphics are only a very small part of the advantage a truly volumetric world could present. A game that captured wind currents, scent, EM spectrum... these are just some of the attributes air normally carries that most games do not capture but that a volumetric system might be used to capture.
13
jxcole 10 hours ago 5 replies      
The most unrealistic things in video games for me are faces. While increasing polygon counts and such will certainly help, I can't help but notice that faces will never cross the uncanny valley unless they can do something about the lighting.

Check out:

http://graphics.ucsd.edu/~henrik/images/subsurf.html

So, unless they can do all this AND ray trace it at the same time, it really won't make my game experience 100,000 times better.

14
chime 11 hours ago 1 reply      
I can understand that adding dynamic objects/shadows is difficult and their videos do not show them being capable of doing that yet. However, why can't 90% of the objects be rendered in the new static way like they do (statues, buildings, tree trunks) and dynamic objects be added on top of it using whatever method game devs use right now? I don't really care if the cactus is moving or not but I sure would like to see it in much higher detail.

Why can't we take the good from both and get better results?

15
dkersten 12 hours ago 1 reply      
IMHO polygon count is not nearly as important as texture, lighting (and therefore also shadows) and animation quality.

Their polygon count is impressive and the object detail looks awesome, but, as other people commented here, I wonder how well it will hold up when dynamic objects, animation and dynamic lighting are added.

16
Troll_Whisperer 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Graphics don't improve linearly with the number of pixels or polygons added. I'd say the improvement is closer to logarithmic. E.g. 500 polygons/second is a step better than 50, 5000 is two steps better than 50, etc.

Improving the rate by 100,000 times is only a six step improvement and that's if they haven't surpassed the limits of the human eye. I much prefer 72 frames per second to 36, but giving me a thousand frames per second is a waste since my optic nerve can't process most of them.

17
goalieca 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Polygon engines work nice with physics and animation. I'm trying to figure out how they could have a dynamic world based on particles.
18
AlfaWolph 11 hours ago 1 reply      
I thought it was interesting that they predicted some sort forthcoming schism between 'real' scene objects and 'artificial' ones. At first I thought he was talking about the characters and scenes of residing on one side of the uncanny valley or the other, which I think is a valid thought. But he wasn't talking about that at all and posited instead that objects will either be scanned in from the real world and placed in game vs assets created by artists. I don't think this will be the case except in games that strive for realism. It will be more like Photoshop, where real scanned in assets still require artists to perfect and stylize them for your game. Until high resolution, tactile VR arrives, you're still running into 'Ceci n'est pas une pipe'.
19
sycren 5 hours ago 0 replies      
To all those talking about physics, interaction, lighting and shadows, what do they think of the Atomontage engine using similar technology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CCZIBDt1uM&feature=BFa&#...
20
tlrobinson 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Oh, is this for real? I came across the video somewhere earlier today, but stopped watching after I got to "we give give computer graphics unlimited power".
21
hamoid 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I think a good game and a game with good graphics are two unrelated things.

What would my mom say? This game looks a bit better than this other game? Or this game looks 100,000x better than this other one :)

22
virtualritz 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I think these guys are on to it too. W/o govt. funding and "orders of magnitude better" marketing babble: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sfWYUgxGBE
23
jarin 12 hours ago 2 replies      
20 FPS in software is pretty impressive, I wonder (if this is real and if it takes off) how long it will take to see hardware voxel acceleration.
24
alexscheelmeyer 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Regarding the technology used. In this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWujsO2V2IA you can see lots of artifacts and also talk of point cloud data, so it is clearly not raytracing but rather point data rendering. All the repetition seen is because of the memory constraints. The point data is probably preprocessed and compressed in numerous ways, which makes it very difficult to do animations. But as others have mentioned, even as a last resort they should be able to just use this technology to render terrain/background and then use polygons for moving/animated objects. This would probably also utilized current technology better as the polygon pipeline would not just sit there unused.
25
monochromatic 9 hours ago 2 replies      
Color me skeptical. However, I'd like to pose a question to HN:

If the claims from this video are legit, is this level of innovation deserving of a patent? (Yes, a software patent.)

26
hartror 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Still no dynamic objects in these videos. A limitation they're not discussing and working on?
27
Dramatize 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I think their point was if the same amount of research and money went into improving their technology, then future games would be amazing.
28
plasma 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm hoping they show a nicer looking demo (instead of 'programmer art') to get a better idea of how much better it would be.
29
keyle 11 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm in Brisbane. Mmm I'm nearly tempted to apply for a job there.
30
Maro 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't know much about current 3D graphics technology, but the fact that they're trying to disrupt it is really cool. They remind me of a crazy inventor, let's hope they got something =)
31
Nicknameless 11 hours ago 1 reply      
If this technology is legit without problems with animation and lighting etc, what will it mean for the costs of game content creation? You still need artists to create the models, textures etc, and higher detail generally takes much longer with diminishing returns. I also find that environments with highly detailed objects also need far more objects to be convincing which compounds the issue.

In short, the tech sounds great, but will it result in better games or just more expensive games (and in turn, fewer games with more innovative but risky design)?

32
leif 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I just want to say that this is probably the best company name I've seen yet.
33
andrethegiant 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I remember when the first video came out, they said their technology worked "like Google" to find the appropriate pixels to display on the screen. No further description of the technology. Seems too vague to be true.
34
siphr 4 hours ago 0 replies      
So when they say atoms do they mean voxels or is it something else?
35
cpeterso 8 hours ago 0 replies      
But will the games be 100,000x more fun?
36
WoundedMarlin 12 hours ago 2 replies      
If this takes off the whole graphics industry is going to get so much better. I am talking from movies to games to everything else you can think of. I mean think if FIFA started to use this in there games, you could make it so you see a shoe lace move or individual hair strains moving.

I hope they get this out to market sooner rather then later.

16
A Billion Dollars Isn't Cool. You Know What's Cool? Basic Human Decency techcrunch.com
300 points by joshfraser  2 days ago   133 comments top 29
1
temphn 2 days ago  replies      
For those just tuning in, Paul Carr has been bashing AirBnB since last summer:

http://techcrunch.com/2010/07/25/fawlty-logic/

And has a vested interest in their failure:

  Disclosure: I like hotels a lot " and I've spent much of my 
life in them. Both of my parents are career-long hoteliers,
first managing large corporate chain units and now owning
their own hotel in the UK.

And now he's accusing these poor guys of "losing their souls". This whole internet lynch mob thing is scary. Let's remember that they didn't trash the apartment, they just set up a CRUD site with a good UI that got really popular. How exactly are they more responsible than Faith Clifton, the criminal who ransacked the apartment and who they helped SFPD arrest?

Seriously, some extreme hyperbole here.

2
TY 2 days ago 2 replies      
TL:DR:

Paul mourns

" a not-too-distant past where technology entrepreneurs created things to make the world a better or more interesting place, not just because they wanted to make a billion dollars."

And this is in the past because:

"To make money " real money " at this game you have to attract millions, or tens of millions, of users. And when you're dealing with those kinds of numbers, it's literally impossible not to treat your users as pieces of data. It's ironic, but depressingly unsurprising, that web 2.0 is using faux socialization and democratization to create a world where everyone is reduced to a number on a spreadsheet."

And finally:

"In the final analysis, a billion dollars isn't actually all that cool. What's cool is keeping your soul, whatever the financial cost."

Sometimes Paul has an interesting insight, but it's buried so deep in multiple layers of ranting that it's impossible to get there without a significant amount of willpower and spare time.

Please feel free to insert the "short letter" quote here...

EDIT: and please do feel free to add a comment why you are downvoting my comment.

3
murz 2 days ago 1 reply      
"We take it for granted now that the most popular online publications rely on search engine traffic for their survival."

"..blindly approve any headline that name-checks a trending topic or two."

"..we are reminded of the grimy truth: making money with online content is a question of attracting millions of eyeballs, whatever the moral cost."

I can't believe I just read that on TechCrunch.

4
atdt 2 days ago 3 replies      
I think it's very important that readers and contributors of this site scrutinize their emotional response to this article. Moral criticism is very hard to swallow. When it is leveled against a community, it is natural for the community to close ranks and lick its wounds. If you prick us, do we not bleed? etc. So you should expect to find eloquent and moving defenses of the current state of the vocation, and you should expect to find them compelling. But I think a far more useful response to this article is to do a bit of soul-searching.

The amounts of money pouring into the industry are staggering. There are extremely powerful incentives for us to avert our attention from the warping influence it has had on our values. Many of us -- myself included -- consider ourselves very lucky to be shielded from the economic chaos and instability that is destroying so many lives in other industries, and the thought of forfeiting this safety is exactly as terrifying as the thought that it is rightfully ours is seductive.

There is a lot in this article I disagree with, but like the author I am also scandalized that so much talent is squandered in pursuit of an IPO. There is so many astonishingly brilliant and creative people on this site whose time would be much better spent on problems of real social and intellectual significance, problems of lasting significance for the well-being of our species.

In a free society people have a right to choose in which direction they spend their energies. But we cannot, in the name of individual choice, ignore the enormous shaping influence of social forces on the course of human life. Much of our behavior over these past few years has been driven by the fact that money is the surest measure of success in our industry, and I would bet a kidney that a lot of people here are nagged by a suspicious that there is something deeply perverse about this. And if you're one of these people, I'd like to propose to you that one way to change things is to start having more honest discussions about this with colleagues, and to be a little more courageous about recognizing success when its measure is lives bettered rather than money raised.

I've been a complete coward about this, and I feel gross about myself as a result. But I'm committed to changing.

5
Groxx 2 days ago 1 reply      
>Worse than that, I'm nostalgic.

Good lord. He says it, but I don't think he knows it. Those glasses aren't just rose tinted, he's looking straight into the flower and believing he's looking at the world in the past.

If he'd been born ±X years ago, he'd be saying the same thing about 32+X years ago. It doesn't mean the world's going to shit and all you people suck except the ones that don't, it means you've discovered something crappy about the world you didn't realize before, and you've failed to apply it to the past. Just because you didn't notice it before doesn't mean it didn't exist before. Jeez, if you're going to have an epiphany, go all the way with it; otherwise it's worthless.

6
rguzman 2 days ago 2 replies      
Arguing against the supposed behaviors of a "current breed of silicon valley wunderkinds" seems, at best, like a straw man. Do Paul Carr or Sara Lacy really know founders and their companies that well? Pieces like this make my blood boil a little bit -- Carr, Lacy, and the like profit from being the peanut-gallery for the "wunderkids" while taking cheap shots against them without complete information. So much for basic human decency.
7
trotsky 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's a rather compelling monologue until you realize it's published at Tech Crunch, a division of AOL that demonstrates much of the same behavior that AOL's Huff Post does, is run by a wanna-be Angel / VC, and regularly shills for vacuous startups who happen to have met the right TC writer over drinks.

Sure, there are problems in SV tech - and there always will be when people are making a lot of money. But when your paper is for the most part happy in a co-dependent relationship with all of this and only cries foul when your editor gets his feathers ruffled by someone like Paul Graham disputing their reporting - you're not doing any of us any particular favors.

8
Confusion 2 days ago 0 replies      
Paul Carr fails at being a decent human being.

Three blocks down the street, someone's husband got killed a month ago and the lone mother can't make ends meet with three children to take care of. Someone elderly lost all her children, whom she counted on to take care of her in her old day. Some fourteen year old orphan living on the streets just got raped. They are all hungry and alone.

That's just down the street. In Somalia, children are dying of hunger by the hundreds. In between those fates, there is plenty of suffering that's much, much worse than some incident where someone with plenty of friends, funds, food and a future had a bad experience.

Basically decent human beings put things in perspective and reserve judgment. They try to support EJ by calling upon AirBnB to take certain actions and lament it when that doesn't happen. What they don't do is make this into the worlds current biggest problem and act as if those not taking their proposed actions are minions of Satan himself. Someone disagrees with you on how to handle this case: big deal. If you're so convinced you're right: strike a deal with EJ to fund her trial costs and be repaired after she gets compensated. Put your money where your mouth is and preferably instead of where your mouth is currently. Basically decent human beings don't get their way by shouting the loudest from a high profile website.

The people that trashed that house suck. Michael Arrington and Paul Carr suck for their inflammatory and unconstructive reporting. AirBnB sucks for not handling the situation more gracefully: for God's sake, hire someone specialized in disaster mitigation. There's dozens of people out there that do nothing else but resolve such cases. Throw a cool 150K in and be done with it. Your worst mistake is trying to handle this personally.

But all of this really should not be so important to the vast majority of us that the top stories for the past few days have been about this case. A reasoned analysis of the various ways in which AirBnB could (have) handle(d) this situation and the ethical and business consequences of those ways, that's something that would be interesting. Mud slinging and shouting matches aren't, even if some reasonable arguments are being shouted all ways.

9
pvarangot 2 days ago 0 replies      
At least Carr is straightforward enough to get the get into the underlying discussion, being in my opinion if current "web 2.0 OMG croudsourcing community-building" technologies are really better for the people, or only better for investors.

I'm amazed this point is raised so clearly by a rather trollish and old fashioned media outlet as TC, and mostly avoided by most HN users, who seem more concerned about discussing PR and fingerpointing.

10
keiferski 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not sure why this has turned into another airbnb discussion. It was only a few paragraphs of the post, which was for the most part valid.

Attacking the author's background or interests is completely beyond the point, and at some level, only supports his argument; nothing could be more petty.

11
tlrobinson 2 days ago 0 replies      
Oh please, TechCrunch thrives on this kind of controversy.
12
SeoxyS 2 days ago 2 replies      
I have very mixed feelings about this column. On the one hand, Paul Carr is a brilliant writer and I'm a huge fan of his work. I also agree with him on a lot of his argument.

On the other hand, I respect Paul Graham a lot more than I do Michael Arrington. He loses me at this paragraph:

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we also know for sure that investors in the company leaned on publications like TechCrunch to stop reporting the story. Their ludicrous wail of protest: AIRBNB IS RUN BY NICE GUYS! IT'S NOT FAIR TO CALL THEM OUT WHEN THEY SCREW UP!

13
jjmaxwell4 2 days ago 0 replies      
What about all of the great things that AirBnB has done for people? Think of the savings travellers have experienced, the revenue people have been able to get for empty apartments. On the scale of it, nearly all of AirBnB's users benefit from the experience.

So while the founders have made millions and millions of dollars, society in general has also greatly benefited from the service. That's how most industries work; the people who use the service win, as does the company. Value is added.

Its horrible that this person's house got ransacked, and maybe the founders handled it poorly, but on the whole they have created a great service that makes "the world a better or more interesting place".

14
Joeri 2 days ago 0 replies      
This article misses the point. Technology is a tool, it's implication for morality is not decided by the sort of technology we have, but how we use it. This may sound weird from a software developer, but we don't need more technology. As a species, we can solve all the problems in the world with the technology we have today. We just collectively refuse to.

When you hit your thumb with a hammer, you don't blame the hammer company, you blame yourself. If facebook didn't improve social cooperation, it's not facebook's fault, it's the facebook users' fault.

15
lawnchair_larry 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's true, Craig Newmark is definitely the coolest founder.
16
tholex 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ok. I don't comment on Hacker News much, but this article sent me reeling. <rant> The sheer hypocrisy in this thing is unbelievable. First of all, TechCrunch has already stated their opinion on AirBnB, and even published follow-ups attacking the pro-AirBnB counterarguments. Fine. You don't like them. We get it, there have been like 10 posts including the words "scandal", "fiasco", and "the plot thickens", despite an almost total lack of actual information. Yeah, it's a shitty situation so let the police, EJ, and AirBnB work it out. You think they won't have a post-mortem? Please.

This article, however, kills me. He bashes Huffington Post's decision solely on the title. With a title like "You know what's not cool? A Billion Dollars. You know what's cool? Basic human decency", TC is playing the same game here. Except they're even cheesier in their delivery.

The only other example of lack of "basic decency" presented in this article is AirBnB, which anyone coming from HN could probably see a mile away. Same quotes, same rhetoric. Could you possibly be caring about anything except getting more eyeballs on your site? Please, go watch some Alexis Ohanian talks. Make a good product. Engage people. Don't bash your own bread-and-butter techniques like you're on some higher moral ground.

The AirBnB guys made a big product, and it's been super convenient to me. They're reaching the point where their popularity leads to difficulty in control and direction. This just happens to be the same effect touched on in that Amy Winehouse article. Hey TechCrunch? You are getting really bad at journalism and your opinions are nothing but twitter fodder. </endrant>

17
ajj 2 days ago 0 replies      
Come on folks, how is all this half-information bashing better than trial by media?

We don't know exactly what happened. There are various incentives for both parties to say things that may / may not have happened. AirBnB needs to be careful to make sure they are not the target of a lawsuit. The conversation that they had with EJ can be misrepresented. Or they may even be worse than what this shows.

Who knows? Why are we, a bunch who would normally need citations to believe that humans need water to survive, engaging in such ludicrous trial-by-media with hardly any validated information?

18
toisanji 2 days ago 0 replies      
this is getting quite old
19
Vivtek 2 days ago 0 replies      
I dunno - this is a pretty hysterical piece. Weren't there capitalist bastards in the world before the Internet? I guess Standard Oil isn't a concept any more.
20
sorbus 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we also know for sure that investors in the company leaned on publications like TechCrunch to stop reporting the story."

How the hell is he getting that from the article linked there? It's a long rant about PG posting something on HN claiming how the article it was a comment on is inaccurate. In no way is that "investors ... lean[ing] on publications ... to stop reporting the story."

21
zarify 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad he led with the irony bit, considering the irony of someone on TC spending a paragraph calling someone out on link bait headlines.
22
Hyena 2 days ago 0 replies      
This all seems pretty blown out of proportion. EJ rented her house to a stranger. That stranger trashed the house and robbed her. The listing service botched their PR badly and only got around to doing the right thing after some missteps. This was all pretty inevitable and unfortunate.

How is this not the story of every corporate disaster? How are we switching from "a firm is a way to turn very smart people into a very dumb organization" to "these people are soulless"?

23
da5e 2 days ago 0 replies      
Carr's phony sentimentality is exactly what ej didn't do. She wrote measured, balanced prose, which was very convincing for me.
24
Gatsky 2 days ago 0 replies      
On top of all this, as far as I can tell, Airbnb is not doing anything to help the Somali famine. The cheapest listing they have in Kenya is $10 a night, well beyond the scope of any of the thousands of refugees pouring out of war-torn Somalia. I think we should criticize Airbnb for their lack of action in Somalia.

Corporate 'ethics' is one of the greatest modern disasters. The most powerful and wealthy people in society routinely crush individuals, wreak ecological havok, sell harmful products, manipulate the law and just plain cheat, lie and steal. By those standards, it doesn't seem that Airbnb has done anything particularly unexpected.

25
JSig 2 days ago 1 reply      
For me, this whole situation comes down to personal responsibility. It was EJ's decision to let a stranger stay in her home. No one made her do this. While it is unfortunate that this happened to her, she should have realized the risk. If others don't like the risk/reward they should not use the service.

If AirBnb were to bail her out, it would send signal that any future/past cases like this would be met with a similar reaction (hello US GOV!). I don't think this is a road they want to go down.

EJ's problem is her own. AirBnb's problem existed long before EJ.

26
blackboxxx 2 days ago 0 replies      
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? --Mark 8:36
27
nobnoobody 2 days ago 1 reply      
I have NO opinion or interest in this matter other than to sit back and watch it all unfold. After everything pg/yc related just in the last 24-30 hours, I just thought people would be interested in seeing pg's only response: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2826570 It was placed after the main flurry of traffic on that post from what I could tell.
28
bmac27 2 days ago 1 reply      
I don't understand the singling out of Web 2.0 as some kind of outlier in the history of capitalist enterprise. As if the Rothchilds & Morgans of the world were saintly characters who didn't see their customers the same way while they were coercing government entities to tip the scales in their favor.

The rest of the piece was fine, if not another instance of piling on. But I couldn't get over that initial thought.

29
kyro 2 days ago 0 replies      
A nice read if you've got some extra time to spend on the toilet. If you get sick of Angry Birds, of course.
17
Steve Jobs Sometimes Lies to You zachholman.com
301 points by holman  4 days ago   124 comments top 26
1
ryanisinallofus 4 days ago  replies      
My wife: "Will you take the trash out?"

Me: "Yeah, for sure. I'll take it out tonight."

Tonight rolls by and the next day she tells me "You didn't take out the trash. You lied."

Did I lie? Or did I have honest intentions of taking out the trash with circumstances getting in the way? Maybe I just forgot?

I don't presume to know Jobs' intentions but without a history of lying during presentations I'm going to assume his were true. Maybe the team pushed back? Maybe he just changed his mind? Maybe they are still working on it?

"Steve Jobs Lies" just attracts allot more clicks I guess than "A Year Later, FaceTime is Still Just A Tech Demo."

I would have preferred the later.

2
varunsrin 4 days ago 3 replies      
' “Open” isn't just a buzz word. People like the word “open”. Marketers love it. '

A very valid point, everyone these days in jumping on the open bandwagon.

This problem isn't limited to just Apple unfortunately - several companies have been guilty of twisting open to suit their needs (HTC not releasing some modified Android code which was under GPL a while ago, and Google not releasing the Honeycomb source come to mind).

Not that any of these are wrong from a legal standpoint (OK, maybe the HTC one was) but it's still twisting the nature of open standards & platforms to suit business / marketing agendas. Open is quickly becoming the next Web 2.0.

Apple & Google have both done great things for the open standards community ( Webkit, Android etc.) but there is always a conflict between 'true' openness & business interests. Never forget, corporations exist to serve their shareholders - embracing openness is simply a means to that end.

3
rdl 4 days ago 9 replies      
I might care more if I'd ever actually observed someone using FaceTime. I have 3 MacBooks, an iPad, an iPhone 4, my coworkers and girlfriend and friends have FaceTime compatible devices too, but I've never seen anyone use it. Maybe they don't open it because it is a dead product.
4
Maakuth 4 days ago 0 replies      
My understanding of the situation has been that most of the FaceTime technology is indeed in the open just because they mostly used already existing technology. What is not in the open is the cryptographic key that is used to sign all the FaceTime client keys. So technically you could create a FaceTime compatible client by following open specifications and filling the gaps by reverse engineering, but Apple devices wouldn't want to talk to it without Steve's cryptographic signature.
5
joshaidan 4 days ago 1 reply      
Reading this makes me think of the iPhone commercial about FaceTime. http://youtu.be/EmAIptWS7Mk

"If you don't have an iPhone, you don't have FaceTime on your phone."

Perhaps it was the marketing department that was not informed of Steve's intentions to open up the FaceTime protocol, or maybe Apple really has changed their position on opening up the protocol.

I really wish they would open up the protocol. It would be very cool. And just think, all these android users would have to get iTunes accounts.

6
jsz0 4 days ago 1 reply      
Most people have a motive for lying. I don't really see that here. What does Apple have to gain by suggesting FaceTime would be an open standard? Did lines of people show up to buy iPhones because FaceTime would be an open standard? I doubt it. Quite the opposite I think. If you could only FaceTime between iOS devices (and Macs) that might be a competitive advantage. My guess is they simply calculated it was not worth the effort in the end. Making something an open standard and supporting centralized authentication/etc is a nontrivial thing for what purpose?
7
jm4 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm genuinely curious why it even matters whether it's open or not. I get that he said it would be open and now it's not. But beyond that why does it even matter? I can use Tango, Qik, Skype, etc. I think there's an iOS app out there that does Google Talk video. They are even easier because I don't have to explain to my parents how to connect the phone to wifi.

Maybe with the proliferation of all these other video chat apps opening up Facetime became a lower priority?

8
jmspring 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Steve Jobs Sometimes Lies to You" but following other posts... "Does he respect you in the morning?"

I'm sorry, but re: FaceTime, not opening it up is old news. There is probably more traction in following what is going on in the RTCWeb world than there is in any particular company's opening of their video calling API. Keeping eyeballs in the realm of the proprietary app is key.

Many companies are in paying attention to WebRTC, but it's not there yet. Some companies, I suspect, like Apple, probably don't care (at least for now). It's better to focus on the primary customer experience.

Speaking of experience, I haven't researched, but how do the assorted non-facetime apps compare w/ facetime?

9
jasongullickson 4 days ago 3 replies      
What are your thoughts on this?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facetime#Standards

It would appear that FaceTime is built on top of open standards, is Steve more explicit than that in the original presentation (for example, does he say that access to Apple's FaceTime servers will be available openly, etc.)?

10
benihana 4 days ago 1 reply      
Didn't Apple do something similar when they forked KHTML? I think it took them a few years to make it completely open source after they said they would.
11
jgh 4 days ago 1 reply      
Oh gosh, I'm glad all these good people on HN have lined up to defend Steve Jobs, I don't know what I would do if I found out that he, at any point in time, lied to me. I would just... I would probably faint. Just thinking about that possibility has made me all lightheaded. I need a fan. I need to sit down. Steve Jobs will not lie to me! He is a good man! He makes the devices I crave! Electrolytes!
12
marioestrada 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's the only information we have publicly about what happened with the FaceTime open standard: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2011/05/11/facetime-standar...
13
digipen79 4 days ago 1 reply      
You have a great point, sir, and Apple (along with other companies) does need to be called out when they say they will allow the general user access to something and they do not put it into practice. What can we do about it, though?
14
mmahemoff 4 days ago 0 replies      
Good point. Skype haven't been too quick about innovating anywhere lately, but companies like Tango and Fring, would be all over it if it was open. And maybe Google too, given GTalk, Android, and Google+.
15
tomazstolfa 4 days ago 0 replies      
wrote this a while ago. might be relevant for the debate - http://www.funkykaraoke.com/2010/10/on-facetime.html
16
andrewpi 4 days ago 0 replies      
The lack of any apparent activity regarding an open FaceTime protocol is pretty annoying. Has anyone emailed Steve to ask what the holdup is?
17
ara4n 4 days ago 0 replies      
At least Apple's failure to deliver on their promises on Open FaceTime leaves an opening for other folks to deliver (e.g. http://jointheseen.com/sdk)
18
mmuro 4 days ago 2 replies      
"Open" does not always equal "Open Source."
19
known 4 days ago 0 replies      
You cannot successfully run a business without lies.
20
tobylane 4 days ago 1 reply      
There are plenty of (insert absolutely any apple product here)-killers that are loudly touted by the manufacturer, and any apple-hater that we have never heard of since. Do we whinge that there hasn't been more proof that the iphone/etc are best? Silence isn't incriminating, it's silence.

How open is Honeycomb, or Ice Cream?

21
ethank 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't think that a calculated decision not to deliver something indicates that he lied in the moment. Its faulty logic. It means that he set out to deceive rather than made a mistake, spoke too soon, didn't consult with his team or whatever the case may be.

Downvote away, but its true. What may be a lie after the fact was not a lie in situ.

22
juliano_q 4 days ago 2 replies      
I think Facetime is already open. You can use it on your Mac, on your iPhone, on your iPad. Looks like this is open to Steve Jobs, open to all your iOS devices. Why would you need to have another kind of device anyway?
23
holman 4 days ago 1 reply      
You in San Francisco? I'd love to buy you a beer and talk about myself. Serious offer.
24
buster 4 days ago 1 reply      
one cent for every lie, and i'd be millionaire by now..

(this had to be said and will be worth the massive downvotes)

25
napierzaza 4 days ago 0 replies      
He's not in political office. He's not beholden to your or me. Unfortunately they didn't open it. It would be great if they had. But it's just a dead feature. Steve Jobs actual legally binding responsibility is to the share holders that he will make Apple money. Why not reverse engineer FaceTime and release a OpenSource version?

Anyway,if you REALLY want someone to dilly dally with the term "Open", you should get an Android phone.

26
saturdaysaint 4 days ago 0 replies      
This strikes me as an affront to Jobs' integrity a little more severe than his failure to deliver a white iPhone in a timely manner. In other words, this author is going to need to write an article of PG-level insight before I read another word of his. This is almost as bad as the "5 reasons why exercise makes our startup awesomer" guys.
18
Putting "Search" into Google yields a surprising result google.com
297 points by ColinWright  4 days ago   130 comments top 43
1
js2 4 days ago 7 replies      
A few years back, Sergey and Larry were on NPR's Fresh Air. At one point in the interview, Terry Gross says "I tried searching for 'Google' by putting 'Google' into the search box and clicking I'm Feeling Lucky, but it didn't seem to do anything." Larry tries to explain what happened, but it seemed to go over Terry's head. At one point during the explanation I think Sergey mentioned recursion, and Terry asks "Recur-what?" To which Larry's reply was something like "Sergey is just geeking out, nevermind."

edit: maybe I'm misrembering the details a bit. From http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/17770.htm -

"Yah, it was a pretty interesting segment. Sergey talked about idempotence. :) The host (terry gross?) wondered why when you go to www.google.com and type in google and hit I'm Feeling Lucky, it went back to the main google page. Larry called it recursion. I could just imagine NPR listeners' heads shaking all across America. :)"

2
thought_alarm 4 days ago 1 reply      
I suppose that's what $2.6 billion in annual operating losses buys you.
3
nostrademons 4 days ago 3 replies      
This is ancient, it's been like this since before I joined Google, which was before Bing came out. I think back then Dogpile was #1 (??), then Yahoo, then MSN Live. Occasionally it comes up and people get a good chuckle out of it.
4
luigi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe it's because in recent years, much more has been written about Bing as a search engine.
5
uvTwitch 4 days ago 2 replies      
This makes sense to me. If you're using google to find 'search', you're probably not searching for google.
6
benologist 4 days ago 1 reply      
It's not that surprising, Google doesn't have to optimize for 'search' because they're synonymous for it.
7
markokocic 4 days ago 1 reply      
What's even funnier, if you click on "I'm Feeling Lucky", you are automatically transferred to Bing.

It would be nice if they would prepopulate Bing search box with search query.

8
Groxx 4 days ago 0 replies      
My guess for the reason is this: http://www.google.com/trends?q=google%2C+search

Note the epic rise of "google" as a search, and the decline of "search". "Googling" is replacing "searching".

9
highace 4 days ago 4 replies      
"Dogpile.com makes searching the Web easy, because it has all the best search engines piled into one."

My brain just exploded.

10
tryke 4 days ago 0 replies      
Since "Google" has become its own verb, it makes sense that few people link to google.com with the word "Search".
11
harel 4 days ago 3 replies      
Search for 'search' on Bing and Google comes up first as well:
http://www.bing.com/search?q=search&go=&qs=n&sk=...

They return the favour perhaps?

12
mcherm 4 days ago 0 replies      
Some things go without saying.

That, of course, means they go without linking.

13
hrabago 4 days ago 1 reply      
Wasn't it just a few weeks ago, there were complaints that Google favored its own properties in its search results? What happens to that claim now?
14
rkalla 4 days ago 2 replies      
Incase the result gets changed, here is the search result page (Bing is #1)

http://i.imgscalr.com/kmPbJfLoV.png

15
jimbokun 4 days ago 0 replies      
The interesting thing for me is that it returned a couple of Japanese results in the first page, with the characters "検索" highlighted. I've done a few Japanese searches from this computer before, which I guess is why it's giving me Japanese results, but I was surprised to see them translate search into Japanese and rank the results along with the English results.
16
glassx 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hotmail is #1 result for me when you search for "e-mail". :-)

http://f.cl.ly/items/1X081Z0a2P1E2y2J3U0Y/email.png

(Gmail is still #1 for "mail" though, probably because of their URL - mail.google.com)

17
btilly 4 days ago 0 replies      
The most surprising thing about it for me is that it told me that someone I knew had shared bing on buzz earlier this year.
18
Aqwis 4 days ago 0 replies      
Google Search doesn't appear at all if I do the search on Google.no. Yahoo comes first, followed by Bing and search.com. Twitter, AOL and 4shared (a file sharing site) are all on the list, and so is "Google Insights for Search".

I wonder if this reflects the relative popularity of the alternative search engines in different countries. Google's search ranking algorithms hold many mysteries.

19
ronnier 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is good for Google. They don't want to appear to be a monopoly. Google needs Bing to be mildly successful.
20
Daniel_Newby 4 days ago 1 reply      
On Bing, "search" goes to Yahoo.
21
jameshart 4 days ago 0 replies      
And the irony is, that Bing's advertising is all about how instead of 'searching', Bing is for 'deciding'. Yet they're not even on the first page for 'decide'. More SEO needed :)
22
nsavant 4 days ago 0 replies      
I never "search" for things. I "google" them.
23
marquis 4 days ago 0 replies      
It also knew very well what my location is and was blatant in using this knowledge to direct me to my local citysearch, for example.
24
thethimble 4 days ago 1 reply      
Google's first result is Bing.

Bing's first result is Yahoo.

Yahoo's first result is Yahoo. Way to break the cycle.

25
pawelwentpawel 4 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty sure that they know about it. Just shows the google's strong position on the market - then can show bing.com as the first result and still remain the first-choice web search engine ever created.

Not sure whats up with the "feeling lucky" button as if you type something to the input box, it redirects you straight to the live search. You cannot really specify what do you want feel lucky about ;)

26
hackermom 4 days ago 1 reply      
Where's Altavista? :)
27
daspecster 4 days ago 0 replies      
bing.com has yahoo at the top haha.
http://www.bing.com/search?q=search&go=&qs=n&sk=...
28
pcj 4 days ago 0 replies      
http://www.bing.com/search?setmkt=en-US&q=search gives you Yahoo as the first result. Google is 3rd result.
29
madiator 4 days ago 0 replies      
By the way, I realized that I cannot click on "I'm felling lucky" anymore for any keyword since the google instant immediately fires up.. :(
Used to spend quite a bit of time doing that.
31
beforebeta 4 days ago 1 reply      
Google appears as the last result on the search page!
32
anirudh 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder why they even have the "I am lucky" or even the Google Search button as tyrping even a letter takes me to the results page.
33
winsbe01 4 days ago 0 replies      
dogpile is still around? didn't know that.
34
lawlit 4 days ago 0 replies      
This one is more surprising : http://www.google.com/search?q=search+engine
35
kang 4 days ago 0 replies      
A proof that Google is so ethical !
36
chintan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Take a look at Sponsered Ads on bing and google
37
sung1 4 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe this is some sort of inside joke?
38
autumn_ 4 days ago 2 replies      
Google is first on google.com.au
39
okeumeni 4 days ago 0 replies      
I can't see duckduck :(
40
known 4 days ago 0 replies      
Google sells advertisements.
41
bsphil 4 days ago 0 replies      
Oh, algorithms.
42
suyash 4 days ago 0 replies      
if you type "search engine" google doen't even show up on the 1st page atleast.
43
enthalpyx 4 days ago 0 replies      
... and what does not come up as the first result for "decision"?
19
The Supreme Court Should Invalidate Software Patents forbes.com
293 points by praptak  4 days ago   115 comments top 24
1
timsally 4 days ago 5 replies      
It's not up to Justice Scalia to do the right thing. It's up to Congress. As Scalia is so fond of saying, garbage law in, garbage decision out. Just because Congress is incompetent doesn't mean we should put it on SCOTUS to fix our problems for us.

I'll preempt the constitutional argument by saying that hasn't been made yet. You underestimate how strong such an argument has to be to succeed. What SCOTUS could clarify is Diamond v. Diehr. That still wouldn't be the end of our patent problems though.

2
nostromo 4 days ago 3 replies      
Of all the supreme court decisions, I wouldn't expect this to be drawn mostly on partisan lines. Yet the author makes a good case that the liberal judges would invalidate the patents and conservative judges (with Scalia an open question) would not. Why are conservative judges more likely to support software patents?
3
scott_s 4 days ago 1 reply      
I find this argument unconvincing: Second, writing software is an individual, expressive activity at least as much as it is an engineering discipline.

The implicit argument is that creating software is inherently more creative than, say, creating a mechanical device. Yes, I take enjoyment in crafting my code so that its model is no more complex than it has to be, and in refactoring the code so that it is as clear as aesthetically pleasing as possible. But I imagine that people who design physical items feel the same way about their work.

Please note that I am not disagreeing with conclusions - I have said nothing about his conclusions. But I think the overall argument is stronger without this one. With it, it feels like he started with a conclusion, and used whatever arguments lead to that conclusion.

4
Daniel_Newby 4 days ago 3 replies      
This will never happen.

Consider a mechanical timer in a washing machine. A timer that produces a novel washing cycle is certainly patentable.

Consider a chain of electromechanical relays that produces the same cycle. Clearly it is just as patentable, and could be covered by a well-written version of the preceding patent.

Consider the transistorized version of the preceding, with the relays replaced by transistors. Patentability: ditto.

Consider a mask-programmed processor that produces the same cycle. (Mask-programmed means the program is hardwired into a metal pattern.) Patentability: ditto.

Consider a flash-programmed version of the preceding that produces the same cycle. Patentability: ditto.

Consider a volatile memory version of the preceding that produces the same cycle. Patentability: ditto.

Why does this matter? Because in the coming age of nanomachines, "software" will frequently be embodied in custom mechanical machines, chemical reactions, interference patterns of light, and so forth. If software is unpatentable, then neither can you patent the special sauce that turns dirt into nanomachines.

5
niels_olson 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why does it have to be the supreme court? Why can't the industry tell Congress "This sucks, fix it", the way the military did with Don't ask, don't tell?

VCs just aren't as good at that whole "leadership" thing as much as generals I guess? (yes, I'm trying to goad someone to action.)

6
tsotha 4 days ago  replies      
Software patents are a policy issue, not a constitutional question. This needs to get fixed in Congress.
7
MetaMan 4 days ago 1 reply      
As a software programmer I don't agree with this view that software patents are wrong in principle. There I said it!

Software just as much as hardware can be used to "express" something new. I.e. to invent something.

An patentable invention is a novel "solution to a problem which is NON-OBVIOUS to someone skilled in the art".

The real issue with software patents is that they are granted far too easily. The test that seems to be applied by the patent examiners is "is that new?". However, they should be asking "given the problem the inventor is trying to solve
is the solution (the invention) really non-obvious to some one skilled in the art?".

However, even though I think that software patents, with the proper examination standards are just as valid as hardware patents I think there is a case for limiting (or even banning) ALL patents - NOT just software patents.

One idea would be the requirement that a working prototype has to be produced and seen to be working. That, along with a proper non-obviousness test, would limit companies going for patent "land grabs".

8
cft 4 days ago 0 replies      
Big companies are interested in getting rid of patent trolls, because the defense against trolls is asymmetric. They would like a system that allows them to attack or defend against other large companies, while they remain immune from trolls, such as Intellectual Ventures and its off-springs, like LodSys. One solution would be a 2 year expiration on software patents. Another idea would be to demonstrate "substantial" sales for renewals.
9
euroclydon 4 days ago 1 reply      
The SCOTUS ruled against the patentability of an algorithm which codified a certain hedging strategy in the Bilski case in 2010. This was believed to reinforce the invalidity of many software patents.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_re_Bilski

10
andreyf 4 days ago 1 reply      
That would be nice, but I think that when there are big companies and billions of dollars at stake, things aren't so easy.
11
brlewis 4 days ago 0 replies      
Read Bilski people. Overall it was 5-4, but if you read the majority and the dissent, it was 9-0 on this sub-point: that State Street (not a Supreme Court decision) is bad precedent, and Benson, Flook and Diehr are good precedent.

Diehr is only muddied because people choose to muddy it. I'm working on an essay that details this now.

12
felix0702 4 days ago 0 replies      
The bottom line: Supreme Court will never invalidate software patent.

Image this if Supreme Court does invalidate software patent.

A big sticker will be on the US map and shows, “Welcome to take all software inventions you want. All my software inventions are yours. Oh. BTW, yours in your country are still yours!” You see how this affects global competitions in software and finance industries.

However, the current patent system still has room for improvements.

1. Software innovation changes too fast. The patent length should cut to 5 years (excluding the waiting time to get the patent). I have discussed this previously, http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2409917

2. Patent non-practicing entities (excluding public research institutions and schools) should be banned to sue anyone. However, even so Patent Trolls still know how to get around this. This just increases difficulty, but definitely won't stop them.

3. Claim description has many ways to interpret. This is where the money is spent in litigation. If a standard structure and a list of words are allowed to be used in the software claim description, this probably makes easier and faster to find out if a software patent is valid. But I have to admit this is a hard problem to solve.

13
Eliezer 4 days ago 0 replies      
"How to define personhood is a legislative issue, and in the U.S. system, of course, laws are made by the Supreme Court."

-- Brad Templeton, speaking of Artificial Intelligence

14
draggnar 4 days ago 0 replies      
That as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously. - Benjamin Franklin
15
scottmp10 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think that it will be very difficult to have serious patent reform for the software industry without having significant effects on other industries. So while it seems like the software industry is generally behind getting rid of patents, the changes will be very difficult to isolate to software and companies outside the field will likely oppose any significant changes. FWIW, I hope they make significant changes for software patents soon.
16
aab1d 4 days ago 0 replies      
In India we don't have the concept of software patents, unless some sort of hardware is involved. I am guessing that this is way better than the system where all business methods are patentable. This kills innovation. We should all just petition for change.
17
doctoboggan 4 days ago 0 replies      
>Only if this fact becomes common knowledge, in the way that everyone knows doctors hate malpractice lawsuits, will we have any hope of the Supreme Court"and specifically Justice Scalia"doing the right thing.

Yet we still seems to have malpractice lawsuits all the time.

18
entrepreneurial 3 days ago 0 replies      
Someone should just patent the patent: "conferring a right or title, esp. the sole right to make, use, or sell some invention" Joke
19
Finbarr 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've been thinking this a lot recently. You can't patent software in the UK and it seems ridiculous that you can in the US.
20
pg_bot 4 days ago 1 reply      
A simpler solution would involve giving the defendant of patent litigation the option of making their suit winner takes all.(All of the court fees within reason are paid by the loser) This would keep software patents but reduce frivolous lawsuits.
21
Som 4 days ago 0 replies      
...and stop the software cost by transactions/servers/CPU's.
22
antidaily 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here, I'll predict the vote: 5-4 not in favor.
23
WalterBright 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, please.
24
petegrif 4 days ago 4 replies      
This is a simple minded piece. It is so riddled with half digested bs I don't even know where to start with it. I guess I'll just pick on something so blindingly obvious that anyone with more than one braincell (which apparently does not include the author) would already find beyond question.

Copyright protects the expression of an idea. This is an absolutely excellent form of protection when the expression of the idea is a huge part of its value. A piece of music, or a novel IS its expression. If you rewrite James Joyce's Ulysses in your own words you have lost Joyce's expression which is precisely what people value in the reading. Hence a work in which the expression is critical to its value is well protected by copyright.

Software is not such a work. If someone spends years refining an invention and someone else reverse engineers it and yet changes the expression of the work copyright is no protection whatsoever because no-one using the work gives a rat's ass about the underlying expression.

The idea that copyright is a meaningful protection for software is so laughable that anyone daft enough to take the idea seriously is clearly so appallingly badly informed that they don't deserve to be taken seriously.

20
Why my Mom Bought an Android, Returned It, and Got an iPhone betabeat.com
287 points by spiffae  4 days ago   196 comments top 62
1
yock 4 days ago  replies      
The real issue here is not the hardware and not Android, but what device manufacturers and network providers cram down the throats of their customers. Custom UI enhancements/replacements, useless bundled apps that can't be removed, and the removal of standard, OS-delivered features. None of this should have been new or a surprise to the writer's mom, who was coming to Android from a feature phone. Feature phones have been plagued with the same crap for years, except they don't have a marketplace full of replacement apps that range from the serviceable to the remarkable.

I'm glad the author's mom found a smartphone she likes, but this isn't an Android problem. It may very well be a Google problem, since Apple was indeed successful in keeping the kruft off the iPhone, but Android devices come to market in a completely different way than iPhones, and as long as we sign over our rights in exchange for a $400 device discount we're going to have to deal with some of it.

2
aw3c2 4 days ago 4 replies      
That was pretty misleading. Not Android was the culprit, but the carrier's crapware.

I never understood why people would not actually buy their phones and then decide on a contract or prepaid to go with it? I even bought mine off Ebay in excellent condition and almost full warranty (2 years in Germany) so much cheaper that I still have not reached the difference to the "normal full or subsidized price" with my monthly contract payments.

3
bcl 3 days ago 2 replies      
I am a recent convert to Android from iOS and while I'm mostly happy with it I have to say that Android really is like a PC and iPhone is, well, like an Apple. Android takes alot more tweaking, settings aren't always easy to discover, apps run in the background without any obvious indication, etc.

As for the battery, my Droid X2 drained it like crazy for the first day, but as I used it it got better. I don't know why, but over time it got alot better. I can now go a whole day, with some serious app usage, and still have 60% at the end of the night.

Even with its quirks I prefer Android to Apple. I am now able to plug my phone into my Linux box and actually access the data on it! I am not forced to use iTunes to download only 'blessed by Steve' apps, I can write code for it without having to download a new 2G Xcode every 3 weeks.

Android is more free, and while it has some rough edges to it, I prefer the freedom of Android to Apple's vision of a Utopian phone.

4
anigbrowl 3 days ago 0 replies      
So the problem here appears to be Verizon, not android. Also, the fact that the writer bought the phone in a store without trying it out first.

I lost my Nexus one recently* and when I got around to replacing it my wife also decided she wanted a smartphone instead of the Blackberry she had. So now I had to look into family line sharing plans etc. and thought I'd better go to the T-Mobile store, and that I might as well scope out the newer phones while I was at it. So even though I'm tech savvy and know Android phones very well, I spent a good 45 minutes asking questions and playing with the store models. At the end of all that I decided to just get another Nexus One for myself and the same model for Mrs Browl; 4g wasn't so important to me because I don't watch videos or do big downloads on my phone, likewise I didn't need beefy CPU because I don't want to play 3d games on such a tiny screen, and I decided to stick with a naked Android phone because I didn't want all the vendor crud. Also, you can get a Nexus One new in the box for $250 now and avoid a service contract.

* Which is part of why I've been a bit unsocial of late IRL, btw - I owe lunch to a few people!

When I got the phones I upgraded both to the latest version of Android but otherwise left my wife's phone unconfigured, and gave her only minimal 'tech support' - I was curious to see how she'd choose to customize it, and also to get a more objective look at how she'd react to Android and the Google ecosystem (she didn't have a gmail account prior to this). While she had quite different tastes from me in terms of how she organizes it and what sort of apps she likes, she's been entirely comfortable with it.

Her main complaint is the rather mediocre selection of apps in the Android marketplace (she likes apps more than I do); mine is the glitchiness in the stock browser. On the upside, our total monthly bill for both phones is under $100.

5
trotsky 4 days ago 1 reply      
Shouldn't this be "Why my Mom Bought a Samsung Charge from Verizon, Returned It, and Got an Apple iPhone" ?

Kind of strikes me as similar to writing "Why I bought an American car, junked it and bought a BMW M5" - the american car part isn't half as important as which one specifically.

6
yalogin 4 days ago 1 reply      
Many people are saying its not Android but the carriers and manufacturers that do not understand user experience. The average user simply does not care. To her the biggest motivation to buy the phone is Android and it will receive the majority of the blame whether its deserved or not. That's just the way it is. Windows received a lot of flak because of dumb users which more or less it did not yet recover from. So that's just how it is.

The Android brand is being diluted and sullied by experiences like this and Apple is benefiting with its insistence on one model per device type. Google needs to tackle this very soon. If they get a bad reputation the markets in Asia will suffer. Android is expected to sell tons of phones in Asia and any bad reputation couple with Apple's growing image as a high end phone will be bad for Android.

7
drivebyacct2 4 days ago 3 replies      
I wrote this up yesterday and didn't publish it because my Facebook friends couldn't care less.

CyanogenMod releases faster, has more stable [stable] releases, uses better, more mature, widely embraced software (mtd over bml, ext4, etc), has more (and more consistent) features. Carriers are asking the manufacturers to lock the bootloaders to keep you from flashing CyanogenMod on it and your mom having a stable phone that receives fast updates.

They prefer methods of control that cause users to want to upgrade because half their phone capacity is already being spent running Blur, Sense or some daemons that have running to support their proprietary front ends. And none of it, of course, is truly necessary. Extremely complex theming options are available, again via an open source feature developed by T-Mobile and shared with the OSS community.

And before anyone says it, my mother hated her Droid in it's later Froyo days. It was faster and better battery than Eclair but was also more prone to freezing and being low on memory. I installed CM7 stable, she gets push updates that are seamlessly handled via Rom Manager. The only thing I had to tell her was to make sure the "Backup checkbox is filled in". If need be, restoration instructions are very simple for me to give over the phone, but in ALL my days of flashing nightlies on several (of my) phones, I've never had to.

Same story with the brother's Droid Incredible with the horrendous and offensive previous versions of Sense. The sad thing is, Verizon killed the Gingerbread update. It was leaked and largely fully functional, but no phone will ever see it.

Not all Androids are created equally. [Just to be on the same page, I'm not using this as an excuse. It's a huge perception problem. End users don't know that the Thunderbolt, Nexus S, and Droid X all have different interfaces and complexities going on in the background.] I'm also not sure if I "want" Google to do anything about it, besides be more emphatic that the "Google" branding on the phone makes it better. (That branding is reserved for the clean, near-AOSP roms)]

8
ZoFreX 4 days ago 1 reply      
Can we PLEASE stop repeating that "30-40%" return figure? Even the source article says it only applies to SOME Android phones, which isn't really that big of a surprise - some phones, like the Charge from the sounds of it, are genuinely crap. No decent source is claiming that Android phones are being returned en masse, however, in fact I have my own source on some information: Phones 4 U (high street store in the UK) tell me that 40% of their monthly contracts were for Galaxy S II's, and that the return rate on them was "exceptionally low".
9
nextparadigms 4 days ago 0 replies      
Google needs to standardize the platform more, and get stricter with manufacturers. It was good to be more open in the beginning to grow, but I think they have enough growth right now, and getting stricter with their quality requirements and maybe even with using stock Android (something I'd actually like to happen) would benefit the whole ecosystem in the end, and especially the customers.

Android should be more like Windows (not WP7 - that's too strict), where users still have a lot of choice, but it's standardized enough to work pretty well across different hardware. The way I see it from most open to most closed, it's something like this Linux > Android > Windows > WP7 > iOS.

I think Windows is a pretty good compromise for a multi-hardware OS, and it has already proven it works the best in the market, granted it got a big boost from IBM PC's early on with this standardization issue, while Android grew by itself because of the extra openness. But as I said, I think it's about time to move to more standardization now. I'm hoping they've been already working on this issue for a while, and they will start implementing this with Android 4.0.

10
bane 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've known a few people who moved from a BB to an Android, returned it, then went with an iPhone.

While I love love love my Android phone, it's definitely a geek's phone that offers a much more capable mobile platform, but at the tradeoff of more exposed complexity. And most of the additional capability are things that most people don't care about (yay! I can add more home screens, and I have a tricorder app! and I've hacked my phone to run emacs!) vs. having access to more and higher quality consumer oriented apps.

I know that the BB platform is also complex, but most people just use it as a phone with a nice email client and one or two very basic (and very common) apps -- like facebook. That's really all they want.

When they buy a phone and it's loaded with crap, and they don't know how to get rid of it (or they can't for some idiotic reason that only the carrier could ever explain), they get turned off. When they go to the Apple store they can get a phone with just the main stuff they were looking for on the screen, and it's relatively easy to get their facebook app or whatever and be done with the entire experience.

11
buro9 4 days ago 4 replies      
I can confirm that the Samsung Galaxy S2 also suffers from this.

Worse still, it's not just removing stock apps and loading Samsung ones, they've gone and removed the stock Android keyboard too.

My girlfriend hates the Samsung keyboard, and the only other alternative on the phone is Swype which she hates even more.

As a direct result of the keyboard not being the one she knew and loved her use of the phone has plummeted.

She still uses the phone, but not for anything that involves touching the keyboard. So SMS, email, web... all useless in her eyes. She uses maps still to see where she is, and she reads Twitter (but will wait until she's home to respond to things), but that's about it.

This current top of the range Android phone, with it's carrier dictated keyboard, has made the smartphone a paperweight that she lugs around just in case someone calls. She's even asked me if we can dig out the old Blackberry gathering dust in the shed just so that she can be in touch with people again.

I searched the Marketplace, but the Android stock keyboard isn't on there. So until I can afford a replacement for her, it looks like she'll just do all of her communication when she gets home each evening.

The big problem: As much as I explain this is the fault of Samsung, she just associates it to being an Android issue.

I'm just hoping it won't be too long before Cyanogen Mod is available for the S2 so that I can fix it for her.

12
snorkel 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is Verizon's longstanding tradition of crippling perfectly good devices for the sake of restricting users to using VZW's media services. I had a Verizon phone that was perfectly capable of Bluetooth and USB transfers which Verizon's OS had deliberately disabled because heaven forbid someone may transfer content to the phone that wasn't purchased from the Verizon mothership.

It's plain to see what took so long for Verizon to carry iPhone was Apple waited for Verizon to finally accept the condition that VZW can not bastardize and cripple the OS. To bad Google didn't enforce the same policy.

13
LeafStorm 4 days ago 1 reply      
Probably one of Android's biggest issues is the fact that the carriers keep messing with the phone - slowing it down, installing crapware, making unnecessary UI changes, etc. For example, any given Verizon Android phone has a bunch of crap apps that I can't remove or move to the SD card despite the fact that they are the primary reason that I am running out of space on the flash memory. And they completely reskinned the Droid 2's UI, and it looks ugly.

If the carriers would ship their phones with stock, performance-optimized Android software, people wouldn't have so many complaints about Android. No one buys "Visual Voice Mail" or "ThinkFree Office," and all it's doing is ticking people off.

However, at this point I have given up on finding motivations for the actions of Verizon and AT&T, and have concluded that they are just evil.

14
padrack 4 days ago 1 reply      
I heard from a few friends at google that there are pretty intense discussions going on right now about what they can demand from their partners.

They had to bend over backwards for the carriers and manufacturers at first because they were the new kid on a very crowded block. but now they are the market leader and should use that leverage to demand a certain standard for Android units.

15
alextp 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's really hard to understand all this crippling branding imposed by the manufacturers and the carriers in Android phones. Do you really want people to wince every time they see your brand?
16
km3k 4 days ago 2 replies      
"does most of her emailing on an iPad"

If she already has an iPad, isn't an iPhone the obvious choice? I love my Android phone, but if someone is already used to iOS and likes it, why not get them an iPhone?

17
sixtofour 4 days ago 1 reply      
Right from the beginning, it seems Verizon is the problem, not Android. They went to the Verizon store. Then they went home with an unactivated phone, and went through Verizon's crappy activation.

I bought my Epic (Sprint) at Radio Shack, and left the store with an activated phone. I deleted the minimal crapware at home and have no complaints.

18
2muchcoffeeman 3 days ago 0 replies      
I always find the blame shifting in these sorts of threads interesting. My only comment is, if the user thinks it is Androids fault, then it is Android problem.

More interesting are some of the proposed solutions to tighten controls. So basically you want to introduce enough restrictions such that there is a more consistent UX across Android phones. Which is ... pretty much what Apple does with the iPhone!

I think iOS consistency is directly related to Apples way of doing business. If you want to improve Android and not end up like iOS, you may need a different strategy.

19
ashconnor 3 days ago 0 replies      
Although Android wasn't to blame in this article, I have sold my HTC Android to get an iPhone 4 as I was disappointed with the lack of international support.

Android didn't support the Thai language I needed and had to be installed via rooting and copying of font files. It also still doesn't have a native keyboard for the language.

I however booted my iPhone 4 and hey presto perfect Thai fonts and a native keyboard to boot.

Maybe it's not just Android because Thai fonts on Linux suck too.

20
mdda 3 days ago 0 replies      
If his Mum had lusted after an iPhone, that's what they would have bought.

Instead, she lusted after an HTC Incredible, so they bought a Samsung Charge...

In some ways, it was her son that distorted the picture, assuming that all Android phones were equivalent. Without his conviction, his Mum would have dragged him, and his Incredible into a store, and said "I want one like his".

21
cft 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is exactly the experience I had. I bought G1 the day it was released, then I bought Droid the day it was released. So yesterday I went to get Droid 3, and I did not buy it. Blur (Motorola's custom UI) makes the phone unusable. I absolutely need a phone with physical keyboard for ssh, so I am stuck. The bootloader is locked. I would actually PAY $50 extra to get a stock Android. Perhaps this is a business model idea for Motorola- charge extra for pure Android... I work for a company that has 10M+ users, and we have been making decisions whether focus on iOS or on Andorid app. Until recently, the thinking was that iOS will be reduced to 10% market share, much like Mac vs PC, so our long term focus should be Android. But recently, with the proliferation of custom bloatware on Android, and based on users' feedback, we are re-evaluating.
22
pvarangot 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've had similar problems with my Android phone and LatAm carrier (Claro).

Claro has a deal with Yahoo, and they overwrote Browser's search provider configuration, which is a file owned by root, so that when I choose Google the search provider is really Yahoo. They also uninstall GTalk on all phones (which can't be re-installed from the app store) and I had to rely on shady links to .apks posted on forums to install it, and now don't have automatic updates for it.

While I can't directly blame it on Android or Google, I beleive Google should really be the one stepping into the mud and fighting my carrier in order to solve this. As a customer my chances against Claro are almost nil.

23
Kylekramer 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hazards of being open to manufacturers. It is a clear trade off, one we seen before with Windows. OEMs and carriers love this access, but more often than not they just fuck a good phone up. Of course, there are clear benefits, such as the ability to sell a phone for $150 outright with $35 a month unlimited data plans. It is a compromise, just like the iPhone model has compromise. It just happens the iPhone's compromises work better for those who have tons of attention to detail and a few extra dollars to burn. But at the end of the day, the Windows model works, even if it is at the expense of some frustrated customers and the scorn of the power users. Most users won't care, smart users will either avoid Android or go for an Android without such BS, and the world will still turn.

Reminds me of a movie quote: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0168122/quotes?qt0294371

24
gommm 3 days ago 0 replies      
I just got a samsung Gio from China Telecom. The Android Market is not there, instead there are three different lame market apps (estore, gomarket and samsung apps), google integration doesn't work, google maps is not available and it's really just a broken experience using this phone. I tried to install android market manually, but there are a lot of dependencies missing...

Now to be fair, for chinese users, gomarket is probably better and most people don't use google apps that much but it's really a pain...

25
jsz0 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's frustrating how little progress has been made. In a lot of ways I feel like the problems are getting worse not better. For the average person who has very low expectations and a high tolerance for pain it may not be a big issue but it really gets on my nerves to keep hitting the same issues over and over again every single day. I would be happier using stock Android but the process of rooting my phone is about 25 steps and requires downgrading to an old version of Android to root the device before installing a new ROM. (even though Motorola supposedly decided to unlock their boot loaders I haven't seen any change yet)
26
roadnottaken 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Why not certify and approve a few of the best components and then place some sort of “premium Android experience” certification label on phones that pass tests and use components approved by Google?"

This is a great idea.

27
blinkingled 4 days ago 0 replies      
I never got this ostensible iPhone good for Mom, Android bad thing. My Mom is as technically ignorant as it can get. I gave her an Android phone connected to her home WiFi and with little help she can lock/unlock, make and take calls, see her GMail, visit any photo sharing links I send her etc.
Similar story with my friend's parents.

For crying out loud - it's the same simple concept and mostly the same amount of complexity involved. Of course people have preferences - somebody's Mom might perceive iPhone as simpler or better - but that's not a platform issue, it's a preference issue.

Before this can be debated you have give a real thought to how people use their phones - take use cases and compare them on both phones. Checking email - on Android there were 3 different apps installed containing the name mail for example and there was 1 on iPhone. Most newer phones and launchers will allow you to hide apps you don't use - problem solved - one time thing. This is just an example but I don't think anyone goes to this level before claiming this is better or that - I don't think there is much difference now a days given my experience.

Also from the article - "Want to activate your phone? Take the battery out, write down a series of minuscule numbers" - Umm why? VZW will gladly activate and setup your phone and so will BestBuy.

[Edit: Oh she already had iPad experience - no wonder then.]

28
gcb 3 days ago 0 replies      
i will say that on every android article.

Android will only be relevant when we start to treat phones as PCs.

the mobile operators of today are the IBM of yesterday that rented mainframes time.

the unlocked mobile phones of today are the PCs of yesterday that you could install any OS you pleased. ...even that at the time you only had a bunch of DOS and BASIC shells, now you only have a couple android distros.

dumping your $600 on an iphone is like still be paying for a mainframe to use a slow clipper app over a slow terminal that could run 10x faster on a local PC.

give that up and buy an unlocked android phone, root it in 2 steps (all you need if it's unlocked), give everyone your SIP phone number (or gvoice if you're lazy like me) and keep changing operators every year to the cheaper promotions.

29
machrider 4 days ago 0 replies      
This has turned out exactly like the Windows PC situation, it seems. Computer comes loaded with so much crap it's almost unusable, and you have to have a tech-savvy friend spend a day cleaning it up (or doing a clean reinstall) to make it usable. I wonder if Google will do more than Microsoft has done to try to retain control of the end user experience.
30
jarin 3 days ago 0 replies      
My mom did the exact same thing. She wanted to finally get her first smartphone, so she went to Best Buy to upgrade from her crappy flip phone to an iPhone 4, but the sales rep insisted that Android was "way better".

She knows how to use a computer, but she isn't the most tech-savvy person around. She was calling me constantly trying to figure out how to use her Android phone. I finally said she should probably switch to an iPhone instead, and a day after she did she was playing Angry Birds and sending me MMS picture messages, all without any help at all.

31
dusklight 3 days ago 0 replies      
Title is extremely misleading. Should be "Verizon Android Phone" instead of just Android.
32
mtogo 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm sorry what? To make the phone work right I have to possibly void the warranty or brick the phone and load a customized operating system?

To be fair, that's pretty much what you need to do with an iPhone, too.

33
stretchwithme 3 days ago 0 replies      
I was torn between Android and the iPhone for a while. But fear of experiences just like the one described eventually led to pick the one I knew would work. I picked the one where the single responsible is the best in the world at sanding off all the rough edges of the user experience.

Past experience with Apple Care and with other devices having multiple responsible parties made it easy. When many are responsible, none are ultimately responsible. Except you, of course.

Apple goes out of its way to do everything for you that has a learning curve and where there's no point in you learning it. It just makes more sense to write a piece of software that performs a complex task well than to expect millions to struggle with it.

Yes, I know Android is infinitely flexible. But on a mission critical device like my phone, I don't want to have to infinitely flex.

34
axiomotion 4 days ago 0 replies      
She's pretty tech savvy "uses Gmail, has a Tumblr, does most of her emailing on an iPad

That is all it takes to be called tech savvy these days?

35
revscat 4 days ago 1 reply      
It seems that Google's mistake has been in allowing the carriers too much latitude in modifying an otherwise decent platform. The carriers have proven, definitively, that they provide negative value for end-user experience and overall device quality. If carrier interference isn't somehow controlled -- or even limited -- then Android's reputation will be severely damaged.
36
S_A_P 3 days ago 0 replies      
The onus here is on Google. They are going to have to more rigorously enforce their platform or it will become useless. Say what you want about iOS, but I know exactly what to expect when I use or develop for it. That makes my life much easier. Android in its best case can be fantastic, but the problem is that there are many cases that are far from best case. I am hesitant to develop for Android due to this.
37
Tichy 3 days ago 0 replies      
TL;DR: not Android is the problem, but the vendor crapware. As a rule, always only buy Nexus phones.
38
ashishgandhi 3 days ago 0 replies      
"I'm a big Android fanboy and proud PC owner."

How are both related except being not-Apple? Almost as if you are supposed to pick sides - one being Apple and the other not-Apple. Use what suits you. Doesn't matter who makes it.

"... but I worry about the future."

The author's mom is much happier with an iPhone and the author suggests that everything works. Also a friend is mentioned who uses a Nexus S which is "a pleasure to use". Given how things are it's reasonable to say a stock Android will always exists which Google launches with every new Android release. So what's the worry about?

39
retube 4 days ago 0 replies      
A fairly similar experience to buying a laptop with Windows pre-installed. Tons of junk and third-party bullshit. Multiple anti-virus bollox, browser toolbars etc. Took me an hour to clean up.
40
darklajid 4 days ago 0 replies      
I upgraded my Android phone (from HTC Hero to LG Optimus 2x / P990) very recently and I still cannot stop smiling when I pull it out. It's amazing. It is the first upgrade that actually feels like a leap forward. The Hero was okay, but this thing is stunning.

But - I did a lot of research before, compared reviews, checked prices and even made sure that this phone is supported by 3rd party ROMs. Obviously I'm a niche kind of power user - I got the phone and installed CM in the first hour of usage and tried a couple of different ROMs since then (now running MIUI).

Apart from the battery life (which, tbh, is really crap. Depending on usage and what kind of crazy stuff I'm running atm I get between 10 and 30 hours) I have zero complains. Best thing ever.

41
drdaeman 3 days ago 0 replies      
If one's nitpicky enough " there are no smartphones that work right " not a single one.

The only thing that varies (mostly between users, less frequently between devices) is what's considered "good enough".

42
smackfu 4 days ago 0 replies      
Everything has negatives.

Android: might have to deal with crapware.
Apple: oh, you can't do that on an iPhone.

43
teejaygreen 3 days ago 0 replies      
I recently got the Charge (from Amazon Wireless, saved a couple hundred bucks), and I've had none of the problems listed in this article. This is my first Android phone, I came from an iPhone, and I've found the experience to be very pleasant so far. Perhaps I just "don't know better", but I'm still happy.

It sounds like this guy's experience was "This phone is different than my phone, and I can't do things the way I was expecting to. It sucks." It's like someone sitting at a computer running a different OS then they use, and saying "this sucks, I can't figure out where X is. In my OS X is right here, but it's not right here now. This OS is crap". It's also like someone switching from Office 2003 to Office 2007 and hating it because the menus are different.

Also, I feel like everyone overreacts to the installed apps you "can't" get rid of, and not just on this phone, but any phone including the iPhone (I'm looking at you Stocks app). I don't like or use them either, but it's not like they're getting the way, preventing you from doing anything, or taking up any noticeable amount of the phone's resources. For me, it's more frustrating to not have the option of removing them, then actually having them on my phone.

44
hammock 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is an open/closed debate, nothing more. The OP likes closed systems. "I'd love to see Google somehow mandate the stock Android experience on all phones." He is afraid to customized his stuff and just wants it to work out of the box. Well, that's what Apple is. Go do that. Android is a different model entirely, for a different segment of consumers than yourself.
45
barista 3 days ago 0 replies      
She should have tried Windows Phone. Same benefits of iPhone with choice of hardware
46
linuxhansl 3 days ago 1 reply      
Can we stop blaming Android for what the carries do with their phones? Please?!

I have a Nexus S. I switched it on and it just worked.

In fact about 5 minutes after I switched it on, it
informed me that there was an upgrade to Android available.
"Do you want to upgrade?" Sure. Just like that, over the air.

Do that with an iPhone, you need iTunes installed (i.e. you need a computer somewhere).

There's no crappy software on it either.

47
chulipuli 3 days ago 0 replies      
As the owner of a Motorola Charm, I can relate to the lady.

The Moto Charm sucks. It is full of bugs.

I'm not a Motorola hater, as I've had a couple in the past (including the old v555, which lasted for a couple of years).

48
gcb 3 days ago 0 replies      
or, Why i got a non-subsided android phone and kept it.

yeah, it's bad to have some of my options crippled by bloatware. but i can still choose to avoid those. and still plenty of choices, with different screen sizes, batteries, prices, keyboards or not, etc.

iphone has lessbloatware, but no choices.

49
hippich 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is verizon problem, not android. Buy smartphone from retailers who is not affiliated with any cell provider (i.e. without all this junk apps and customized UI), buy SIM card from cell provider, plug it in and use. This is how it works in Europe.
50
chadillac 4 days ago 1 reply      
new Android devices should come with MIUI Rom right out of the box. ;)
51
shalinmangar 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've used at least three Android devices now and I always recommend people to buy only the flagship device of a manufacturer. They usually get upgrades...eventually (hello Samsung?) and the experience is usually better.
52
keithpeter 3 days ago 0 replies      
As we are talking about portable miniature computers with phone capabilities, does anyone know an Android/Win7 phone that can do this kind of stuff...

http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2011/04/how-one-radio-reporter...

I'd need audio in and decent non-destructive editing

53
fidrelity 3 days ago 0 replies      
I understand that the author is pissed because of the bad UX. But all he claims is a branding issue or a manufacturers fail.

Still it's Googles job to set boundaries to not let them do what they want.

In my opinion this is just one of many imprecised android reviews.

54
bobwebb 3 days ago 0 replies      
I guess this illustrates one of the downsides of Google Android being free software: when just about any manufacturer can create a sub-standard phone that runs the operating system, it can really damage the brand as a whole.

What a shame.

55
kitsune_ 4 days ago 0 replies      
The HTC Desire was the best phone I've ever bought. Especially coming from an iPhone 3G, which was very buggy and slow.
56
haydenevans 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is why I will never buy an Android device. Device manufactures have ruined the platform.
57
jvc26 3 days ago 0 replies      
What the author actually meant to title the post was, 'why my Mom bought a phone which was ruined by Verizon and returned it for a handset they couldn't pollute'.
58
pen25 3 days ago 0 replies      
the user has an ipad. is used to an ipad.of course she isnt going to like android. of those smartphone users who started out with wm or palm who has went on most have went to android not iphone cause of its flexablity and IMHO look and feel. some has went the iphone route and love it. me i cant stand it. its just a feature phone to me. many android users wont buy an ipad they will buy an android tablet. reason being is the continuity. LOL
59
gcb 3 days ago 0 replies      
where are the wireles data provider start ups?
60
scriptproof 4 days ago 0 replies      
I guess the article was written by Steve Jobs.
61
juliano_q 4 days ago 0 replies      
So you made a poor choice of device for your mom and you are blaming Android? If you know that the Nexus S is a pleasure to use, why would you buy a phone full of crapware? Why didnt you bought the Nexus S?

I like Android, but I always make a careful research before buy one or recommend one. I use a Nexus S and it is amazing. I will change it only for the next Nexus.

62
davidedicillo 4 days ago 0 replies      
To all those people saying that it isn't Android fault but the carrier's: it is Android fault.

Android wants to be open, and with openness comes crapware, just like your gigabytes of crapware installed on your "some-how-open" Windows machine. The solution? Make sure that carriers won't install crapware anymore, but then how would that be open anymore?

21
Could You Modify It ‘To Stop Students From Becoming This Advanced?' cato-at-liberty.org
272 points by docgnome  5 days ago   234 comments top 35
1
_delirium 4 days ago  replies      
I suppose it's a Cato blog post, but I was hoping for a more interesting discussion than just a random call for private education, with a market-will-solve it assertion. People learning at different paces and on their own is a fairly interesting problem highlighted here, but I think it's wishful thinking to claim that the perfect answer is already known.

It's not entirely clear to me that private schools would cater to individuals, or group by ability in the way that tutors do. There are other market forces at work, such as the preference of many students and their parents for students to be grouped with those of a similar age--- and the dislike of many parents for their students to be seen as "behind". There are also administrative/cost problems with individual attention that weigh in favor of uniformity. For example, if there are a few students who learn "too fast", the optimal business solution for an education provider might be to say, "fuck 'em, 5% of the students isn't where my money is coming from". Or, it might be to generally go by age but have a smallish exception pool; the age-groups-plus-'gifted'-class model that many public schools already use might cover enough of the skills variance, while being much cheaper to administer than a fully individualized model.

At the very least, I don't think it's entirely obvious what the results would be. The bits of evidence we do have don't seem super-encouraging. For-profit universities, for example, appear to have decided that a mass-production model is the best business strategy. And existing private K-12 schools don't seem to have adopted an ability-based model, instead using traditional age-based classes. Is there a reason that, if market incentives would indeed cause such an outcome, they wouldn't have already caused it? It's true that the private-education market is currently effectively restricted to wealthier families, but it's still quite large.

2
sequoia 4 days ago  replies      
I'm a parent of two who does NOT plan on putting his kids in public school because I think they won't be served well there (plan on "home schooling"). My 5yo uses Khan Academy and it seems to be great. Finally, I basically hate most aspects of public school.

That said, I get sick of everyone piling on public school whenever something like this comes up. Public school is set to the following task: "take everyone, everywhere, all across the country, and bring them to the same level of proficiency across the board, with tightly limited funding and regardless of outside factors." Someone comes along and finds a tool that works on a teeny tiny cohort then climbs on their pedestal and declares their system better than public schools.

Personally, I think public schools are being set to an (almost?) impossible task. What the reviewer said in that article about "slow them down please" is obviously abhorrent, but the "They have a monopoly! They're monopolists!" chatter is silly, in my opinion. First of all they don't have a monopoly (for those who can afford it: private charter homeschooling etc.). Secondly, they are just trying to do their best to meet their goals with what they have. It's selfish, yes, but having students at more or less the same level of competency makes it easier for them to do the task to which they've been set.

When I was in school, the teacher would often say "Sequoia, that's a great question, but it's a bit advanced and I've got 30 other students here. I can't spend a lot of time answering advanced questions when half the class is struggling with basic concepts." That was annoying and I'm not going to send my kids to public school in part because of it, but I didn't rail against the teacher for being a selfish monopolist. S/he was just doing his/her best given the circumstances and requirements: often times public schools are doing the same.

EDIT: an article that informs my thinking here: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/11/myth-ch... Great article, whether you've seen Waiting for Superman (hit piece "documentary" about why public schools suck and charter schools are the answer) or not.

3
jdvolz 4 days ago 1 reply      
As the father of a near 3 year old the educational questions weigh heavily on my mind. While this is a great thought experiment ("How could we make it better?") it's scary when given a concrete example that is near and dear to your heart.

I believe:

[1] Each general subject has a core competency that you have to achieve at a minimum.

It's broken into skills and subjects.

Skills includes: programming, reading, writing, functional mathematics (+-*/ and solving word problems), learning (figuring out how the pupil best learns for themselves, or if you want "meta-learning"). I may be missing some skills here.

Subjects include: english, history, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics (both higher level functional math and theory / proofs). I may be missing some subjects here.

[2] on top of #1 you have focused subjects of interest which you should support the pupil learning to whatever depth they are interested in learning. Most people I know upon finding something they are truly interested in become a borderline expert. Are they world class? Maybe or maybe not, but they are certainly journeymen. These range everywhere from finance to car repair to engineering to language learning to musical instruments to basically anything people take an interest in.

If your student can reach functional usage in all parts of #1 earlier that gives them more time to learn different things from #2. Note that the skills and background knowledge learned in #1 are reusable to various subjects in #2.

Circling back to the article: It's a stupid idea to even attempt to prevent a student from mastering anything in #1 above faster. It might help if the peer group instead of being defined by age could be defined by what your interests in #2 are. Then you get cross pollination of students by more advanced students in those same interesting subjects.

4
icegreentea 4 days ago 2 replies      
Could also mean that some teachers don't want the headache of dealing with a class with even greater disparities in skill and knowledge. It's hard enough dealing with a couple students bored in class cause they already know it. It's even harder to deal with half the class bored cause they already know it.

Or it could really mean anything. Removed from context and the teacher's deeper reasoning, these quotes are largely useless. Maybe it was just the really lazy teachers who didn't want to deal with kids asking more advance questions who talked to them. Could be -anything-.

Trying to squeeze more analysis out of this will just result in all sorts of confirmation biases regarding teachers and the education system.

5
jmtame 4 days ago 1 reply      
That is why the for-profit Asian tutoring industry groups students by performance, not by age. There are “grades,” but they do not depend on when a student was born, only on what she knows and is able to do.

I just interviewed Andrew Hsu for Startups Open Sourced and he mentioned this was very important in education. He had scored so high on his IQ test at 6 years old he was classified as "genius" and received 3 B.S. degrees at 16, and then dropped out of his Stanford Ph.D. at 19 to do a startup. One thing he says really makes a difference is splitting students based on skill level, not by age. Hoping to release the interview soon.

6
Alex3917 4 days ago 1 reply      
This isn't surprising. There was actually an experimental elementary school in my town that was eventually shut down because the students were too advanced in math, so once they got to middle school it started causing political issues. Rather than having the other three elementary schools adopt the same system, they literally demolished the school and replaced it with a parking lot. There is actually a pretty good book about the whole incident called Public Schools Should Learn To Ski.
7
bendotc 4 days ago 3 replies      
Really interesting, shocking quote from the original article, but the Cato free-market spin is questionable and not terribly well suited to Hacker News, IMO. The original Wired piece is great, though.
8
tokenadult 4 days ago 0 replies      
Segregating pupils by age in school has always been a bad idea, and it has always been known to be a bad idea by careful observers of children and their learning.

http://learninfreedom.org/age_grading_bad.html

Segregating pupils by age in school began in the English-speaking world (in Massachusetts) as an imitation of the Prussian schools of that time. It was strictly for administrative convenience. It is not at all a cultural or historical universal to group school learners into lock-step groups by age.

After edit: One comment about the author of the submitted article. He is actually a programmer by occupation. When his employee shares of Microsoft stock vested, he turned his good fortune to improving education in the United States. I have known him online for years as a thoughtful contributor to discussions of education policy.

I came to Hacker News by links from Paul Graham's essays

http://www.paulgraham.com/articles.html

and came to those because pg frequently writes about education policy and has some of his own thoughts about how schools could be better. So I've always expected threads about education policy to be within the Hacker News topic scope of "On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."

9
wizard_2 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've read though most of our comments here and I have a question. Are people concerned with the education of their neighbors kids?

I'll be able to afford private schooling for my children. The average demographic here probably can. I relish at the idea of seeing how a Khan Academy Classroom could teach my child (maybe in some sort of "Free school" environment?) and I realize that public education probably wont be able to cover that.

What I worry about more is that my children's friends wont be able to go to a private school, and while I realize Khan Academy is free online. Most kids will probably be sent to public schools.

I was educated in public school and I don't think it was horrible but I do think we can do better.

I think the question is;
How do we bring this type of learning to public education?

10
seanalltogether 4 days ago 1 reply      
My brother is currently working with the Adams County school system which is switching to an entirely new system of public education. http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/22189278/detail.html

They will no longer have traditional grades like Grade 7, Grade 8, etc, instead they will only have levels, and all students of a certain level will share the same classroom. When you level up in Math 10, you move to Math 11, even if you're still only in English 6. Your age no longer has any bearing on the level you belong in, only your ability.

The educational track will now be entirely in the hands of the students and they have until the age of 20 I believe to "graduate" from high school under the new system with a certain number of levels achieved.

11
lwhi 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think the issue involves monopolies as much as a historically based needs.

Our education systems were formed as part of the drive that became known as the industrial revolution. Standardisation was a key focus, because people needed to be able to become part of the industrial processes that surrounded their day-to-day lives working in factories and offices.

Workers needed to possess skill sets that are known, and they ultimately needed to become replaceable.

It stands to reason that our education system will change as we move away from the industrial revolution and into the next.

The question should be: what do (and will) society need from an education system in the coming 50 years?

12
Duff 4 days ago 1 reply      
The education system is broken and has been for decades. The supporters of the system re-characterize criticism of the system into "attacks" on teachers (ie. union membership) and demand more money.

The establishment "won" their side of the argument in many states -- states that richly compensated employees (the payscale in most NY school districts ends at $110k, plus 65% pension for life) and administrators (typical school superintendents make $175k in NY) and built lots of new schools. Yet those investments yielded marginal "value" at best.

Until recently, the critics were mostly focused on religion (ie. Catholic schooling dominated education in many areas until fairly recently), monetary issues (taxes) and ideological stuff (unions suck).

That seems to be changing now. Movements like the Khan Academy are bringing scientific methods focused on outcomes to education. There was a recent "Freakonomics" podcast talking about how the New York City school system is experimenting with multi-modal learning, which seems to be successful in its early stages.

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code_duck 4 days ago 2 replies      
I spent some time with a 6 year old, who was my girlfriend's nephew. I noticed that he spoke well and was very sharp, but wasn't able to read. I suggested that we should read some things and he should learn to read, but no - his mother said that he was going to learn to read in 1st grade, with the other kids. Starting him earlier than that, she said, would stunt his social performance because he would be so far ahead of his peers.
14
wccrawford 4 days ago 2 replies      
It doesn't surprise me at all. The incentives are all wrong. Teachers are incentivized to push students to the next grade with as little fuss as possible. They aren't ever asked to help kids improve themselves... Only to make sure they learned the minimum required knowledge.

That teachers would ask that students be kept ignorant just to make their job easier does not surprise me a bit.

To be clear, not all teachers are asking this. Some teachers really care about the students. I had quite a few good teachers in school, and only a few bad ones. But my perception is that that balance has been changing. Lower pay, more work, and general bad conditions have been driving the good teachers to go elsewhere while the bad ones stay to collect a paycheck.

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dodo53 4 days ago 3 replies      
It's a very bad way of putting it - but I think there's a valid discussion needed around whether schools should enforce 'rounded' education - I think the question is essentially what should we do students who are at 10th grade maths and 5th grade social science?

Should we allow earlier education specialization? (ie move them up grades but accept they'll be lacking in some areas) Or keep them in 5th grade until they are sufficiently good in all areas - maybe allowing them skip classes they're already excelling in so they have more free time for self-study?

I imagine allowing 5th graders to attend 10th grade maths only say (or more general any student being in a mix of any level in any subject) becomes impractical to schedule.

UPDATE: and as other people pointed out that's ignoring all the potential social advantages of being roughly grouped by age

16
zafka 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a fine example of supplying a quote from an imaginary adversary to show how much better your own position is.

The proponent is just using the popularity of the khan schools to frame the bashing of public schools.

17
ohyes 4 days ago 4 replies      
How did this article hit the front page? What is insightful or interesting about it?

"This attitude is a natural outgrowth of our decision to operate education as a monopoly."

This is blatantly not true, in the US we do not operate education as a monopoly. There are plenty of private schools.

18
DanielBMarkham 4 days ago 0 replies      
Seeing that it's a Cato Institute article, I anticipate a lot of noise here. I'd like to note, though, that in a standardized, rule-from-the-top system, outliers create immense problems, whether the outliers are really smart kids or kids who need additional attention.

In a distributed, self-optimizing system, this is not the case. Outliers can be handled in various ways.

This observation isn't political. You can observe the same thing in stuff all over the place, like network traffic. If you had universal rules for everything, the internet would tank. Instead we have a (somewhat) distributed and adaptive system using common protocols. Best of both worlds.

Perhaps the argument begins at how to create such adaptive distributed systems. If so, that's cool, but that should be the starting place, not a discussion of free markets or social concern, at least in my opinion. (I was very discouraged to hear Bill Gates blow right through this concept when talking about helping education systems. He's trying to quantify and create the universally-optimized teacher. Good luck with that pipe-dream, Bill.)

19
bugsy 4 days ago 0 replies      
Too short an article. That particular quote was called out and discussed here when the Khan Academy article was discussed previously.

It's a certain mindset that thinks this way. It reminds me of another discussion here where some people and a supporting article (http://geekfeminism.org/2010/08/10/restore-meritocracy-in-cs...) argued that it is unfair that some students have previous experience programming when they enter a CS program, therefore classes should be done in obscure (and thus pretty useless) languages that no one has heard of, in order to equally handicap everyone.

20
shawndrost 4 days ago 0 replies      
Could you modify it "to not take a random quote from out of context and extrapolate a false portrayal of a system"?
21
skrebbel 4 days ago 1 reply      
The article identifies a strong problem, but:

> "This attitude is a natural outgrowth of our decision to operate education as a monopoly."

Without any arguments to support it, the libertarian approach is served as the only solution.

22
user24 4 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me very much of Lockhart's Lament[1] - an excellent essay on the state of mathematics education, and which has featured on HN several times[2]. So yeah, if this topic interests you and you haven't yet read the lament, go and read it!

[1] http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf

[2]a http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=130499

[2]b http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=666563

[2]c http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=256176

23
rglover 4 days ago 0 replies      
It made me sick to my stomach to read this. Why are people so frightened by intelligence and more importantly, intelligent children? It's sad to see that we've become so competitive and complacent with our shit education system, that we're willing to limit intelligent students on purpose. True educators will find the value in the Khan Academy and similar services. Heartbreaking to learn that people are actually trying to limit the success of a company that promotes free knowledge.
24
shareme 4 days ago 0 replies      
It skips the whole effing core of the debate...

Its not, "How do we get better test performing students?"

Its, "How do we produce people who are at the top of their self-learning game?"

The general idea is that someone progresses from elementary school of directed learning to self-directed learning when finishing a University degree..

Some of us reach that stage when in fact we are in High School..

25
raldi 4 days ago 1 reply      
If you ran a school with complete authority, how would you handle these cases?

(I don't mean that rhetorically; I'm curious to see some hacker brainstorming.)

26
canistr 4 days ago 0 replies      
But this is already occurring for students enrolled in extracurricular math programs like Kumon that accelerate their math skills. Khan Academy isn't doing anything that Kumon isn't already doing other than adding a few more science subjects.
27
vnchr 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think the innocence behind that statement comes from the difficulty a teacher will face if s/he must teach students with diverse learning needs (child A is learning timestables while child B has moved on to trigonometry).

That said, I think a teacher should suck it up for the sake of students in this sort of situation. At worst, we find ways to reorganize teachers and students based on students' self-progress.

28
i5ao 4 days ago 0 replies      
the "problem" isn't student tracks or free markets. it's teacher tracks. teacher unions (or monopolies) retard innovation-- and accommodate failures-- as evidenced by the quote.
29
mahyarm 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think this more a function of all subjects in one classroom and one teacher model of grade 1-7. If this was a grade 8 13 year old, he would be just taking Math 11 classes and English 8 classes in his schedule. If they put their primary school schedule in bands (all classes teach math from 1-2, teach english from 2-3, etc) advanced kids can move to another classroom during that band.
30
clarkevans 4 days ago 1 reply      
In 90% of the geography (50% of the population?) of the united states, there is effectively only enough population to support a limited set of teachers & facility. It is nice that we can have magnet schools in urban areas. What about deeply surban or rural areas?

Perhaps the whole idea of competition between schools is incorrect -- should we instead focus on creating a competitive learning platform (under neutral brick & mortar facility) where competition is between classrooms?

31
46Bit 4 days ago 0 replies      
An anonymous quote does not a compelling argument make.
32
pnathan 4 days ago 2 replies      
I like the US college system. In each track, you move along at the appropriate speed and levels.
33
chopsueyar 4 days ago 0 replies      
Disgusting.
34
kenjackson 4 days ago 2 replies      
Without attribution of who made the original statement and the context, this is completely meaningless. The Wired article is good, but the Cato article is not HN worthy at all. Purely political propaganda.
35
siromega 4 days ago 1 reply      
As a software developer who works with teachers on a regular basis (and one of my parents is one), the issue of becoming "too advanced" is a legitimate problem. Its the same reason why Einstein supposedly got Fs throughout school - he was bored with the curriculum, he was too smart for class.

Teachers have to work within the framework and structure of the current education system. Let me assure you that in education the tallest blades of grass are the first to get cut. I don't really blame them, its just self-preservation.

If you look at the current structure of grouping kids by age, then the teacher's issues are perfectly reasonable. How are they going to keep the 15% of really smart kids from being bored, goofing off, and raising a ruckus while the teacher tries to run around and help the average or behind kids with the exercises. A child could legitimately be 3-4 months ahead in school work if they're brilliant learners. So what do we do, let me out in March if he has mastered all the material for the school year? Let him start on next year's material?

If we start grouping by ability to learn and knowledge level, that has problems too. I was great at math but only a good reader and poor at spelling/grammar. Do I get put in an advanced class and lag the other students in areas where I wasn't as strong? Does elementary school look like high school with different classes throughout the day, and how does that impact students in non-knowledge areas?

The rates at which children learn is not steady across all subjects. The rates at which children learn aren't even steady throughout childhood - they could start slow and speed up at a certain age. Self-paced education would be ideal for every student if we were all self-starters and bright, KA will be great for home-schoolers and tutors. Even kids who need remedial help over the summer, give them an iPad and the Khan Academy app and let them catch up over the summer. But letting a bright, ultra-focused kid master an entire grade level over the summer and then the kid will be a hellraiser in school for the next 9.

23
Airbnb Competitor Checks IDs: 'We Don't Want to Trade Security for Volume' betabeat.com
261 points by citadrianne  3 days ago   96 comments top 22
1
mbreese 3 days ago 5 replies      
Any of Airbnb's competitors are going to use this to their advantage. Rightfully so too... I didn't even know about Roomorama until this story.

The biggest part of the story though was thrown in at the end:

The harrowing story of the Airbnb user EJ prompted Ms. En Teo to reach out to her competitors in order to set a precedent for sharing information about sketchy users, so if she gets a report about misbehavior she can send an alert to get him or her banned from other sites. Incidents like this hurt the entire market as well as individual users, she said.

Some kind of data sharing would be a great thing for this industry as they are all vulnerable to the same problems (theft, etc...).

2
cdp 3 days ago 2 replies      
Is anyone else finding it interesting to see how a bootstrapped startup is implementing tighter security standards and accepts slower growth as a consequence while the startup du hour, fueled by massive amounts of other people's money, is pursuing growth at all cost and with little regard for the consumer? Reminds me a little of the YouTube founders who wanted to grow and be acquired as fast as possible and willingly accepted pirated content.

I think this has nothing to do with Roomorama taking advantage of the situation for their own profit. If anything, these guys have every right to be pissed off that a careless competitor is tarnishing the whole industry.

3
dadkins 3 days ago 4 replies      
Honest question: how is Airbnb or any of their competitors different than vacation rentals?

You rent a house for a week when the owners aren't using it. Often the key's in a combo box or they mail it to you. The only real protection is a security deposit which you pay upfront. The concept has been around for ages.

4
kevinpet 3 days ago 1 reply      
There's no real security in the process described. If they stole a wallet with a credit card, they also have the ID. I'd categorize it as actually harmful because it gives more of an illusion of security.

Couchsurfing apparently has someone capable of logical thinking on staff. The round trip of verifying an address adds real security.

5
joelhooks 3 days ago 1 reply      
I am a fairly frequent renter through these types of services (mostly use VRBO) because we have way too many kids and hotels are way too expensive.

Nobody has /ever/ asked me for ID. "Key is in the lockbox, here is the code! Have fun!" is the typical greeting.

6
cubix 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised that scanning IDs is much of a deterrent. If would-be thieves are going to the trouble of booking rooms on AirBNB and the like, they are obviously more than casual criminals, and probably fairly technically adept ones at that. Taking the next logical step to Photoshop the image doesn't seem like much of an obstacle for someone so motivated.
7
untog 3 days ago 1 reply      
Expect to see a lot more of this. AirBnb are vulnerable right now, and in a very competitive marketplace. They really need to step up their efforts to contain the issue, or competitors are going to walk all over them.
8
iamelgringo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Some friends of mine started http://Tripping.com, which isn't about room rentals, it's about meeting strangers while traveling globally.

But, even since the beginning, their focus has been on security. I suspect that this is the advantage of having a female CEO / Founder. She grokked that as a potential problem from the very beginning.

Jen O'Neil, is one of the most fantastic young CEO's I know. The whole team is simply amazing.

9
indiefan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Meh. I'm sure when this is all over, AirBnb will have put some measures in place to add additional security (from a pr perspective at least). Really, nothing short of legitimate insurance is going to make using a service like this "safe" (id's are easy enough to steal/fake) and I'm sure that the people likely to use something like this (who were already ignoring the common sense dangers involved) are not going to be deterred by ej's story (she claims on her blog to have been the type of person to leap first and wait for a net to appear).

In the end, many people who were never going to use AirBnB to begin with will feel more certain in their (probably wise) decision, and many new people who will be open to the idea will now have heard of it for the first time.

10
chailatte 3 days ago 1 reply      
Another sign that AirBnb could care less about its customers.

When first AirBnb heard about this, they could've

a.) Choose to protect her and other users from future incidents

b.) Hide and hope it goes away

If they choose a, 5 weeks ago, they would've already either changed the business process, or blogged about it to their community to warn them of danger (heck, the perp hasn't been caught/IDed yet).

But because nothing was done, the fact that they kept outputting PR responses, and offered no tangible amount/receipt/proof that they helped her, tells me that AirBnb is all about the $1 billion valuation. Nothing more.

11
driverdan 3 days ago 0 replies      
As others have alluded to, it's trivial to photoshop an ID with different info and photo. You could use a stolen credit card and a modified ID to make a reservation.

That said, I'm more concerned with "email a scanned photo ID". Are they seriously having users send scanned IDs through email? Email is completely insecure and should NEVER be used for sensitive information such as an ID. IDs should be treated in the same manner as credit cards. Would you ever ask a customer to email you scans of their credit card? You'd lose your merchant account faster than you can say law suit.

12
ilamont 3 days ago 0 replies      
Roomorama doesn't scale. You could try to crowdsource some of the vetting responsibilities, or appoint community members to "check IDs", but then you get into uncomfortable privacy issues.
13
almightygod 3 days ago 1 reply      
When the major media picks up this whole rent-a-room-to-a-stranger-fiasco the bad guys will be AirBNB and the good guys will be the roomorama (and other competitors that capitalize on it)
14
nextparadigms 3 days ago 0 replies      
This should be their slogan. It minds me of Avis' old slogan "We try harder" (because we're second).
15
almightygod 3 days ago 1 reply      
Unfortunately as good as the intent is, a malicious user with devious intentions can simply forge an ID or use one of the many IDs they've already stolen from their unsuspecting AirBNB hosts.
16
d0ne 3 days ago 0 replies      
Something like http://www.trustcloud.com could help in situations like these.
17
tobylane 3 days ago 0 replies      
In a country with widespread use of fake ids, this doesn't mean a lot. Once you're past 21, what do you do with the IDs? Keep them for younger friends or throw them away?
18
sentinel 3 days ago 0 replies      
This whole air bnb story is blown out of proportions.

Yea, when you open up your house for people you don't know, it can happen that you will get it trashed (honestly I am surprised this is the first time that it happened).

19
va_coder 3 days ago 0 replies      
The victim is such a great writer Roomarama should hire her for copy and PR
20
paisible 3 days ago 3 replies      
There is no such thing as bad press, and AirBnB is only going to get more exposure and users from this.
Case in point : Godaddy http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2822946
21
azov 3 days ago 0 replies      
> "He made no inquiry into my current emotional state, my safety or my well being."

Airbnb definitely screwed up here, but she just sounds like a professional victim. Lots of homes get burglarized every day. On a smaller scale, everyone probably had a car broken into at least once. Yes, it feels bad. Very bad. But it's not THAT BAD. Not on a scale when you expect someone to inquire about your "emotional state, safety, or well-being" a month after it happened. Airbnb's handling of this case is a big failure, but it's not fair to blame them for someone being so damn sensitive.

Let's face it, she didn't do it out of sheer goodness of her heart. She did it for money. Letting strangers into your home does and always will involve some risk. If you're so vulnerable that you can't possibly take that risk - don't do it, period. It's simply not the right way for you to earn a quick buck.

22
pbreit 3 days ago 3 replies      
'We Don't Want to Trade Security for Volume' = 'we don't want to be successful'.
24
I Want To Unsubscribe, Not "Manage My Preferences" georgesaines.com
251 points by gsaines  1 day ago   113 comments top 21
1
murz 1 day ago 2 replies      
I think requiring a log-in is actually against the CAN-SPAM regulations.

FTC.gov's web site states:
"an e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender"

http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-complia...

2
dirtae 1 day ago 3 replies      
Absolutely agree. We (AnyLeaf) send a weekly email newsletter to our users, with one-click unsubscribe. Companies that make unsubscribing difficult are ruining it for everyone. Even though we are very clear about the fact that we'll be sending email and make it simple to unsubscribe, we still get users flagging our messages as spam. This seems to be largely because unsubscribing from email newsletters has become so annoying that a significant fraction of users will just mark a message as spam rather than figure it out, even if the message is not truly spam.

It's hard to blame them, especially when huge senders like Target make it so difficult to unsubscribe that the author of this blog post couldn't figure it out:

http://bigfatmarketingblog.com/2011/01/17/adventures-in-emai...

It's a shame that RFC 2369, which provides a standard for unsubscribing from mailing lists, has never been widely adopted.

http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2369.txt

3
blackboxxx 1 day ago  replies      
When an email tries to be sneaky with the old "Manage my Preferences" trick, I flag it as spam. They should know better.

BONUS: if anywhere in the email they mention the word "webinar", they're gone.

4
wccrawford 1 day ago 1 reply      
If I didn't opt-in and they send me a message that I have to log in to opt-out, I mark it as spam. Sometimes I'll also log in and remove myself, but not always. Depends on the company.

On the other hand, if there's a simple 1-click link, I will usually click it and merely archive or delete the mail.

Webmasters: It's in your best interest to make it easy to unsubscribe. It only makes people mad. It doesn't make them stay as customers.

5
gte910h 1 day ago 0 replies      
I report them to the FTC and tell them that I did if require anything more than a click or two and send them this link:

http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-complia...

File a complaint here: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

6
gst 1 day ago 1 reply      
At least there is some (complicated) method to unsubscribe.

I try to unsubscribe from Amazon's affiliate spam newsletter for years now, but it just doesn't work. I can toggle the "subscribe" box on the website as many times as I want - no matter what the website displays, the mails just continue to arrive in my inbox.

I've contacted the support numerous times now, but they either tell me that "after unsubscribing it takes some time until you stop to receive the mails" or that "we've unsubscribed you now manually". Of course this never worked.

So if anyone from Amazon is reading this: This concerns the German "Amazon PartnerNet" affiliate program and the message category that I can't unsubscribe is "Feedback zum Partnerprogramm". I'd happily send you my account information if there's any chance of fixing this annoying bug.

7
gasull 1 day ago 2 replies      
http://www.otherinbox.com/ comes handy for part of this problem. One of the default folders that OtherInBox creates in your Gmail account is an OIB/Unsubscribe folder/label. Then you can label messages from meetup.com as OIB/Unsubscribe, then all future messages from meetup.com will go there.

Unsubscribing from Meetup groups isn't an option if you want to subscribe to their Google Calendar. And you might want to get some messages from Meetup but not others (maybe you just want reminders for meetups), so labeling as spam is not an option.

8
palish 1 day ago 6 replies      
Whenever I sign up with a service, I try to use the "+" trick.

  foobar+linkedin@gmail.com

That way, if worse comes to worst, you can just block the whole destination email address.

Sometimes this doesn't work, though, which is annoying.

9
DanLivesHere 1 day ago 0 replies      
I use Mailchimp for http://dlewis.net/nik and all the emails I send have both "unsubscribe from this list" and "update subscription preferences" on every email. Clicking the former will unsubscribe you -- no log-in required. (Comically, I once forwarded a copy to someone who clicked it, to see what would happen, and blammo, I was unsubscribed from my own list.)

The second is used for changing your email address or your name. That's it.

As a publisher, I actually prefer it this way. If you do not want to get my emails, I don't want you getting them. I'm not writing for people who don't want to read.

10
spullara 1 day ago 2 replies      
This word "spam", I do not think it means what you think it means. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_(electronic)

"Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately"

It seems as though a lot of people on HN think that any email message they didn't want to get at that moment is spam. Reminds me of the misunderstanding of the work "hacker".

11
mmahemoff 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wrote up some ideas on best practices for unsubscription recently, after trawling through my inbox to clear the clutter.
http://softwareas.com/best-practices-for-mailing-list-unsubs...

If you're doing one-click unsubscribe, a smart practice is showing a message with other ways to stay engaged, e.g. Twitter ... and providing a one-click undo (ie re-subscribe).

12
o1iver 1 day ago 0 replies      
The best solution I have found is just to use Gmail filters (if you are using Gmail). I have about 20 emails a day that get labeled "useless" and are immediately archived or deleted...

Plus: you can define pretty specific filters (incl. keyword based if you just want to remove certain emails from a certain address/domain, for example containing "upgrade", "marketing", "try", etc)

13
gallerytungsten 1 day ago 4 replies      
I use a challenge-response system called Active Spam Killer.

http://a-s-k.sourceforge.net/

When some dastardly spammer adds me to their list, despite the challenge message explicitly telling them not to, I then add them to my "blacklist" and never hear from them again.

Note that you do have to be running your own mail server to get this system working; and you have to edit the lists from the command line. Those challenges aside, this software has eliminated vast quantities of spam and unwanted list mailings for me.

14
rvkennedy 1 day ago 1 reply      
Seconded: may I hereby propose a new standard for email, the "bite me" button? Something to throw the entire company in question down the memory hole.
15
dendory 1 day ago 1 reply      
I never unsubscribe from lists. Any time I get an email from some new list I've apparently been subscribed to, I add a new filter to automatically delete any mail coming from that domain. I don't think my email is physically able to receive any mail at all from facebook, google, yahoo, and most of the other big domains out there, and I don't miss it at all.
16
shabble 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can't remember the site off the top of my head, but something recently wanted me to go through an entire sequence of 'exit interview' forms in order to unsubscribe.

My response in the 'feedback' field was quite satisfying to write, but I doubt it'll ever actually be looked at.

17
AD7863 1 day ago 0 replies      
I really do hate it when you have to 'manage your preferences' when you want to stop receiving email more-often-than-not that you don't remember signing up for.

What's more is, if you can somehow manage to remember your account details and navigate the labyrinth of menus to get to where you want to be, you then have to unsubscribe and believe it or not, some websites have even told me it could take up to a week for the changes to take affect.

Ridiculous is the word the springs to mind.

Most recently though, I have started to mark emails which don't offer me a one-click-unsubscribe as spam, that'll teach them.

18
paulbjensen 1 day ago 0 replies      
I setup a mail filter to forward the email back to wherever it's sent, multiple times, and delete that email from my inbox. I've generated email threads from LoveFilm where they've had an entire conversation with themselves, great stuff.
19
Herring 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is why I love gmail filters. Opt-in spam is terribly easy to filter out.
20
stretchwithme 1 day ago 0 replies      
The whole "unsubscribe" thing when you haven't subscribed to anything is a lie.
21
veyron 1 day ago 2 replies      
Does anyone use a service like mailinator or spamgourmet?
25
The future Firefox UI mozilla.com
252 points by paulrouget  23 hours ago   178 comments top 45
1
blauwbilgorgel 21 hours ago 4 replies      
What I don't like about these Chrome UI's is that they don't respect my OS settings. I am on Windows 7 with the classic NT skin. iTunes and Chrome are one of the few programs that don't respect this skin.

While in this case it is simple user preference, in other cases it could mean an accessibility concern, or even give room to malicious attacks: With all these custom browser skins, pop-ups over the HTML body (link destination on hover) and no clear divide between window and application, users won't clearly know the difference between interaction with the browser, and interaction with a smart malicious website.

With smart design one could make the bottom browser toolbar appear to be higher, and control the top half with your website. Fake plug-in install modal windows etc.

2
starwed 21 hours ago 4 replies      
Folk are focusing on the two changes that make this more like chrome (tabs in title bar, and apparent removal of search bar.) There's more going on here.[1]

* Simplified, customizable graphical menus. No idea how well this will work, but it's only a mock-up at this point.

* Removal of the forward button, merging the back button with the URL bar.

* Refinement of per tab UI. In chrome you still get the browser chrome on pages like preferences or history.

* A change in browser chrome when entering fullscreen mode. (Chrome just over-lays the standard UI when you mouse to the top.)

[1] If anyone knows the context for these images, would be nice to link it!

3
beaumartinez 21 hours ago 2 replies      
4
ramidarigaz 22 hours ago 2 replies      
Strongly reminiscent of Chrome, and I don't think that's a bad thing. Chrome's UI was one of the primary reasons I switched from Firefox.
5
bostonpete 22 hours ago 7 replies      
I can't believe nobody's complaining about the missing dedicated search box. I thought that was everyone's big beef with Chrome. Then again, I haven't used Firefox in quite some time so maybe they've already dropped it.
6
BlazingFrog 20 hours ago 3 replies      
I'm hoping they will do away with the "you need to restart Firefox after installing an add-on". Chrome has been able to install/uninstall/disable/tinker with add-ons without the need to restart for years.
That and a new logo (tired of that fox) and I may give it another try.
7
cultureulterior 22 hours ago 4 replies      
I don't understand why no browser manufacturer integrates tree tabs. It's such a great interface innovation, and everybody is just ignoring it.
8
stephank 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure what people like about Personas (or the equivalent in other browsers). It always stands out, distracts, and for me even messes up the great website I may be viewing at the time.

I'd be much more interested in a CSS extension that lets websites 'bleed' their background into the browser chrome.

9
jgranby 22 hours ago 2 replies      
I wonder whether this latest proposed redesign will finally have Firefox behaving like, y'know, a native OS X app, or whether it'll be just as shallow as all previous efforts.
10
jerhewet 19 hours ago 0 replies      
[shakes his head in disgust]

If I wanted to use Google Chrome, I'd install Google Chrome.

11
nxn 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Very nice, if they actually manage to pull this look off it would probably make it the best looking browser. My only concern is that they wont and that it will still look like crap in linux.
12
ZoFreX 20 hours ago 1 reply      
While this does look very pretty I'm kinda concerned that they're throwing a lot of good stuff away. I'm running Firefox 5 and it really feels polished, there's so many things I'm still discovering and thinking "hey, that's cool". It's a feeling you most often get when a design has been iterated, and tweaked, and worked on for a long time... I get the same feeling frequently on the Mac I have to use at work.

This is prettier, yes. It's also a lot curvier and wastes a lot of space compared to Firefox 5. In particular, vertical pixels are at a premium for me, and Firefox 5 has done a lot to improve this... this is a step backwards, as the main bar at the top is larger.

And seriously, those curves take up a ridiculous amount of real-estate - compare those tabs to Chrome or FF5, how many can you get on your screen?

13
erickhill 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I could be an edge case, but I really dislike branded chrome skins that become a part of the window (like the Harry Potter example). Just feels tacky to me.
14
ori_b 22 hours ago 0 replies      
So... chrome?
15
notatoad 18 hours ago 0 replies      
i hope they roll this out gradually. one of the biggest things that makes people stick with old browser versions is a reluctance to move to a new UI. if they introduce a big change, we're going to see a whole bunch of people sticking with an old browser version for much longer than they should.

this is something that chrome is awesome for. they have changed the UI around a bit since v1, but each change has been so minimal that nobody has really noticed too much.

16
rglover 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Wow. I really hope this isn't just speculation and something that's being put into production. Yeah, it looks like a Chrome clone, but it's been done well and with a slight twist. As a dedicated Chrome user, though, it's going to take more than just a coat of paint to get me to switch back. Can't wait to see where this ends up.
17
pbreit 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Why has Firefox been so slow to slim down its UI? The back button is still way too big and the button colors not subtle enough. A browser should disappear into the background to some extent. It's just a window into the interwebs after all.
18
derleth 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't care as long as I can still use the Add-Ons (extensions, themes, etc.) to make it work like I want, which is pretty much like an improved Firefox 3.6 or so. That's the big thing Chrome doesn't have: The ability to customize the experience in very deep ways.
19
nodata 4 hours ago 0 replies      
This UI may be good for small screens - but for desktops? I'm not so certain.
20
bradgessler 21 hours ago 2 replies      
I like that wallpaper. Does anybody have a link to that?
21
smhinsey 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I really hope this new tab layout doesn't mean Tree Style Tabs is out of the picture.
22
BillPosters 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Status bar 4 eva. I don't want "improved" UX, I want to keep it as is, and anyone who wants a new UX should opt in for that. Don't force me to look at your latest designer's attempt to be noticed.
23
sprokolopolis 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I agree that these mocks seem to waste space. I much prefer a more compact design.

In these mocks, only the active tab actually looks like a tab. The other tabs visually communicate that they are another interface element all together. I would suggest that all tabs have a full tab outline. Currently, the S-shaped curve on the tabs feels too wide and takes up too much horizontal space. The curve on the corner of the tabs should be sharper to match the rounded corner of the window. The difference in shape of the s-curve near the traffic lights and the s-curve of the tabs is bothersome.

I am quite happy with the way Firefox 5 looks with a custom skin ("Default Mod") and some minor customizations. It would be nice to be able to move the tabs into the title bar to free up a little space.

24
jamesteow 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I would most likely use the full screen view as I never need the menu options anyway (it's also how I use Photoshop).

I would likely switch back to Firefox if they executed this.

25
yaix 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Glad they finally copied Chromium.

Would be great if they copied it too with regards to startup speed and JS execution speed.

26
mchusma 21 hours ago 2 replies      
The final design was awesome, just get rid of the home button and it will be even better. I can't remember the last time I used that button.
27
d0m 20 hours ago 0 replies      
It looks fantastic! Only thing I fear about firefox is the speed. (Speed at Starting, loading setting windows, obviously loading pages, caching, etc.)
28
WayneDB 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Where's the mockup for Windows? There are way more people running Firefox on Windows than OS X.
29
UIZealot 8 hours ago 0 replies      
They sure love showing off screenshots on Mac OS X. But when are they going to follow the basic Mac OS X convention of putting the close button on the left, and centering the tab titles?
30
joakin 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Very good mockup. Hopefully it will get into the main releases without many changes
31
mrsebastian 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I did some digging around -- it should start appearing in Firefox 9, 10, and 11 (i.e. it will probably be complete in the Nightly channel before the end of the year, and in Beta/Stable builds next year some time):
http://www.extremetech.com/computing/91652-mozilla-unveils-n...
32
lion0 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Seems much cleaner. They should do a comparison of how much screen space is used by the chrome vs. other browsers. Can't wait for this to high the nightly / dev builds.
33
jeremyarussell 21 hours ago 1 reply      
I hope they allow people to keep the old current look if they'd like. I'm more tired of changing constantly then anything, and I love the UI in firefox now. Not that new ideas shouldn't be tried, just that what's not broken shouldn't be "fixed". And I personally don't like chrome because it seems to simple, so trying to turn into Chrome isn't going to win my vote. (but hey, it's about what the mass wants right?)
34
sshah 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know if they are planning on bringing back Ubiquity. Of the different lab projects, this one I miss a lot.
35
joenathan 15 hours ago 0 replies      
If you want to try the new look out right now, SoapyHamHocks has put together a theme http://soapyhamhocks.deviantart.com/#/d425ffz
36
dpark 19 hours ago 1 reply      
What's the green "tree" button to the right of the home button?
37
broot 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm glad they finally got rid of that extra search bar, it was ugly and clunky and useless. Any word on when this changes happens for real? I would love a better looking firebug delivery device.
38
neatoincognito 22 hours ago 0 replies      
What does it look like with a bunch of tabs open?
39
aj700 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Is the background blue check thing a Lion desktop picture or just something blueprinty that moz are using for this? How do I get it (with nothing drawn on top of it)?
40
DrewG 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Love the ones with the short URL bar. That is one thing from IE9 that needs to be copied.
41
alexeiz 10 hours ago 0 replies      
this new UI is just awesome
42
thirtysixred 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I hope they don't get rid of the ability to have extra toolbars since I use the web developer toolbar quite a bit, and adding an extra step to get to it would be very annoying.
43
samuelhalle 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Chrome, is that you?
44
ahmetalpbalkan 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I see wasted pixels...
45
mariusmg 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Yeah, let's make thing more round and diverge even more from the OS look. Morons.
26
"SQLite is not designed to replace Oracle. It is designed to replace fopen()." sqlite.org
244 points by ma2rten  3 days ago   57 comments top 12
1
larrik 3 days ago 1 reply      
I first used SQLite because I thought (in C++) "Man, instead of writing crazy datastructures, I wish I could just use SQL on a spot in memory" SQLite came up in my Google search, and ta da!

Of course, this was back in 2003 or so, and that project never turned into anything more than a fancy wrapper over SQLite and Lua.

Still, SQLite == awesome, when it is appropriate.

2
techtalsky 3 days ago 1 reply      
Even though SQLite isn't designed to replace Oracle, I'm certain there's plenty of companies that have purchased expensive Oracle licenses for projects where SQLite would have worked perfectly well. I've often used it for web-based custom CMS's of one kind or another where many people would have used MySQL and the client would never know the difference. I'm sure many people have used Oracle for web-based internal tools like this with less than a million rows of data.
3
alanh 3 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, more projects should have a page similar to this one. Upvoted because it's good to keep in mind when thinking of sqlite and when documenting your own project.
4
reduxredacted 3 days ago 4 replies      
By the use of "an", I learned that I have been pronouncing SQLite wrong. The maintainers clearly prefer the spelling out of SQL in the title.

I've always been on the "sequel" side of pronouncing SQL (hey, it's no worse than "scuzzy" for SCSI), which morphed SQLite into "Sequelite". I never realized how bizarre that sounded (almost more like a material than a database).

5
dendory 3 days ago 1 reply      
I use SQLite exclusively in my projects, I love it. Easy to use, easy to backup (1 file), doesn't rely on a SQL database running, no security concern with username/password for the database engine (altho make sure your database file isn't web accessible)..

For any small/medium site it's great.

6
malkia 3 days ago 0 replies      
We use SQLite exactly for that. At some point we were generating +50000 shader (.hlsl) files for 3 different platforms (so much due to various techsets and techniques).

Loading them back from the tools/game took a long time, for that reason they were put in small SQLite db - which is a little bit more complex than this "CREATE TABLE files (key, value)"

This sped up us significantly. We might be using this idea for more and more small files lying around.

7
peterwwillis 3 days ago 0 replies      
I suppose it depends on your definition of "simplicity". My go-to simplified data storage container is Berkeley DB. (Little did I realize Oracle recently shipped a Berkeley DB with SQLite inside it... heh)
8
pacaro 3 days ago 0 replies      
I love the example that this provides with respect to the conflation of "Storage" with "FileSystem", while data may indeed be stored on a filesystem somewhere, the habitual thinking that appends " to file" to the phrase "I need to save these data" seems unintentionally limiting to me.

Instead of trying to answer questions like "what should our file format look like?" It seems more interesting and valuable to ask first, "what storage is most appropriate", the answer may be REST, database, file, /dev/null, or any abstraction over one or more of these. You may then find that questions about file format, or structure simply disappear, it is the role of the storage mechanism chosen to efficently store and recover the data, use the hard work that the team that built that solution invested, and apply your own hard work to solving your own problems.

With cloud and mobile being added to the set of common target platforms (however ill-defined), I hear/read people asking "how do I read/write a file" increasingly often, when on those platforms (and many other) the concept of a file (at the application layer) may not be useful at all...

9
derrickpetzold 3 days ago 4 replies      
Can anyone say when Oracle is justified? I have yet to encounter a problem the postgres or mysql didn't support but alas I have not worked on everything.
10
smharris65 3 days ago 1 reply      
Can anyone provide more info when the site says "...the file locking logic of many network filesystems implementation contains bugs (on both Unix and Windows)"?
11
alleri 1 day ago 0 replies      
Laughed a lot! :D
12
rbranson 3 days ago 4 replies      
... because the only use for file I/O in applications is structured tables of data? What about audio/video, documents, graphs, log-structured data, object caches, unstructured flat files, etc? Don't get me wrong, SQLite is awesome, but this is a classic example of the relational database world's pervasive attitude that they are the superior solution for any data storage problem.
27
The Batman Equation stackexchange.com
239 points by meadhikari  3 days ago   20 comments top 12
1
alecco 3 days ago 0 replies      
The original submission at reddit had several interesting threads including strings ready to paste in Mathematica and attempts to run it in WolframAlpha.

"Do you like Batman? Do you like math? My math teacher is REALLY cool"
http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/j2qjc/do_you_like_batm...

It's shameful of HardOCP and others not to credit the original submitter.

2
skrebbel 3 days ago 0 replies      
that first answer is basically pretty basic procedural graphics. There's a whole scene of people using smartly combined simple functions to create pretty and/or realistic shapes.

Check out 'cdak', a 4kb executable realtime animation for a rather impressive example: http://capped.tv/quite_orange-cdak (video) or ftp://ftp.untergrund.net/users/ized/prods/cdak.zip (4kb windows executable)

3
iloveyouocean 2 days ago 0 replies      
I saw this posted on Reddit a few days ago. I briefly considered submitting it here, but thought 'This kind of thing belongs on Reddit, not HN.' But what do you know, here it is with 182 points. Oh well.
4
dlaw 3 days ago 1 reply      
I must admit that this strikes me as rather dull: make the equation complicated enough and you can obtain any shape you'd like. I would far be more impressed by a simple one-line equation that drew this shape.
5
iwwr 3 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a way to massage this so that Wolfram Alpha can graph it in whole?
6
wisty 3 days ago 0 replies      
Note, there's even less cerebral things you can draw with polar co-ordinates.
8
fedorabbit 3 days ago 0 replies      
once upon a time, I thought this is how computer generate graphic shapes...
9
realou 2 days ago 2 replies      
The "batman" image and icons are under IP protection... I wonder if this equation automatically falls under that umbrella. And what about the particular result of that equation , when graphically rendered. Could I sell T-shirts with that equation's rendering on them?
10
conradev 2 days ago 1 reply      
11
brianbreslin 2 days ago 0 replies      
How long before this is converted into css3 ?
12
BlackJack 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder what the equation would look like if a 3rd dimension was added.
30
Ask HN: Desperate Python Hacker Seeking Help and Suggestions
202 points by helpmehn  2 days ago   178 comments top 63
1
justin_vanw 2 days ago  replies      
Your description really isn't enough to give you advice. You should post your resume online somewhere and link to it.

But, based on what you said, I can tell you:

Using Python in school and at a job doesn't make you a Python Hacker. From your description of yourself it sounds like you mostly play with programming. It may just be the way you worded it, but what was the last 'major' software project you have worked on, either for work or open source? Have you been a developer professionally, or have you skirted on the edges of the industry? I interview candidates and review resumes all the time, and nothing sets off my spidey senses more than someone who overestimates their skills. If you don't know a topic well and know you don't, that is totally fine, but when a candidate says they are an '8/10' in a language, but I gauge them to be a near beginner, it tells me they are blissfully unaware how much they don't know. That means that they probably have never learned any language or topic with a high degree of mastery, and that they aren't aware of how much more is out there in the language in question. That means they aren't very curious, and they aren't passionate (or worse, they aren't smart).

It also sounds like you have a graduate degree in some non-technical field. Did you graduate recently? The courses you list are not very advanced, and coursework doesn't really matter for employment anyway.

We are hiring aggressively (like most big tech companies in the valley) have an engineering challenge up at: http://codeeval.com/public_sc/48/ . If you do it competently we will call you back. We pay well, have great benefits, offer relocation, etc. However, it is fairly challenging and the majority of people who attempt it are not able to complete it.

Honestly, FizzBuzz is meant as a test of basic programming competency. It's disqualifying when an engineer can't do it, but it's not anything to brag about. A competent engineer should be able to implement FizzBuzz in any computer language in a few minutes, even if they've never seen the language before, so long as they can get documentation.

No matter what happens, you aren't going to find work in Michigan. You aren't connected and from the sound of it your resume is very light, and you don't have a network, so contracting and freelancing just isn't realistic for you. Based on your description of yourself, you would be a fairly junior level engineer wherever you go. You have to start somewhere, though. Good luck!

2
bfe 2 days ago 6 replies      
As someone born and raised in Michigan and whose partner was also born and raised in Michigan, my advice is that other than visiting grandparents and hiking and touring breweries, you will find your opportunities tremendously expanded by as quickly as possible getting the fuck out of Michigan.
3
strlen 2 days ago 1 reply      
There are a number of open source Python projects that have vendors associated with them (or large corporate users). OpenStack is one such example, but there's also various scientific libraries, e.g., NumPy/scipy that may better suited to your background. Typically open source-heavy companies are more open to remote/distributed work: I am not saying working remotely full-time, but something along the lines of working on site for the first six months (to prove yourself) and then working remotely most of the time/flying in on site for one week a month.

Consider this: identify several such projects along with the companies that are heavily involved in these projects open source communities, i.e., ones that are actually contributing and/or heavily modifying them.

First, send a patch, do something to "get your feet wet". Then pick a substantial sub-project (not something trivial), start contributing to it and at the mean time contact the engineer/managers working at associated companies (as not to be trapped in the HR resume black-hole). In the interview, at least mention the work you're doing.

Chances are they will be willing to fly you out to interview and help relocate. Be honest with them and say that (due to family reason) you'll need to at the very least travel.

In the worst case, you could do the reverse of working remotely/visiting the office frequently: rent a room in the remote area, work in the office most of the time, travel to Michigan for weekends/a week at a time: this will be difficult, but at the very least you'll be able to establish more "formal" experience and industry connections that you could translate into a more sustainable arrangement later (don't, however, start a position knowing that you won't be able to stick for at least a year and a half to two years: that would not very ethical, especially since you're looking for a company that will invest in your career). Of course, some family situations, e.g., elder care won't allow for that. In that case, still the advice applies: you're far more likely to find a remote-work scenario in an open-source related company than elsewhere.

4
jcr 2 days ago 1 reply      
I realize you're using a new HN account, possibly throw-away, or you may actually be new here. At the start of every month on HN is a "Who's Hiring MM YYYY" thread (which includes remote work), and a "Freelancer/Seeking Freelancer" thread.

The most recent were on July 1st, and on Monday new ones for August will be posted. The most recent are linked below, but keep your eyes open for Monday.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2719028

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2719083

good luck!

5
9oliYQjP 2 days ago 1 reply      
My advice. Don't do contract freelance work. It is risky in that if you're not a good business person, you will string yourself along under the illusion of paying the bills. But you'll slowly be moving backward as projects take longer than you expect, you undercharge, etc..

You really may need to uproot your family. I know that the tech economy is booming in several major urban areas. I'm up in Toronto, and have headhunters calling me like crazy. There is a dearth of programming talent. I know several people in San Francisco and they say that the valley has the same problem.

The situation is so desperate that I know several companies that would entertain hiring somebody in Michigan to do work for them remotely. It might take a trip up to Toronto to meet with some folks, but that's just a several hour drive.

6
SeoxyS 2 days ago 4 replies      
Have you considered a drastic move to SF, NYC, Boston, or another startup hotspot? Having no money in Michigan is no better than having no money in a more expensive city, so cost of living shouldn't even be a factor here.

Also, don't limit yourself to Python / C. Stress that you're able and willing to learn any programming language and solve any challenge that comes your way. I know there isn't a single unemployed Ruby developer in chicago, thanks to Groupon.

Finding a job as a developer is actually not that hard, in this economy. Be thankful you're in this industry and not, say, the automotive industry.

7
wickedchicken 2 days ago 1 reply      
Don't underestimate the power of 'cold-calling.' While it's terrifying for people not used it to it, you'd be surprised how friendly people are when contacted out of the blue for a legitimate question. Find some developers on open source projects you like, see where they work (either location-wise or company-wise) and send them an e-mail saying "Hey, I wanted to thank you for writing/contributing to the X software package. I've noticed you live in / work at Y; I am currently seeking a development job in Python or C and would be interested in moving there/working there. Do you happen to know of any opportunities available? If not, again accept my thanks for X software." Don't attach a resume, if the person is responsive the first thing they will do is ask for one.

The key here is to actually want to move to that area, work with that company (whether it's 10 or 10,000), or work in that field. People detect insincerity relatively easily, don't contact people unless you actually want to work with them as opposed to anybody. On the flip side, never let yourself be discouraged by thinking "nah, I'm not good enough for them." The worse thing that happens is the person doesn't respond; this may feel bad but you end up with a thicker skin and learn how to do it better the next time.

Also: do not spam. Again with the insincerity thing above: this technique only works if you want to work with them instead of anybody, and I promise you they can pick up on that.

8
neilk 2 days ago 1 reply      
Aside from the "move immediately" advice, I'd suggest getting your code out there in a more public way. This dramatically increases your chances of being hired, because it replaces the technical interview. You just have to prove that you're capable of dealing with other human beings, and most people can do that.

Do something -- anything -- to get your code out there. Even if it's the most obscure and idiosyncratic library, throw it on Github.

I got a ticket to the Valley on the strength of some decently interesting (but by no means amazing) open source code. And I'm not even American and have no CS education, so it was considerably more difficult for me than it will be for you.

Incidentally, my current employer, the Wikimedia Foundation, is very open to remote contractors. (I caution you that we tend to be a bit slow to hire.) If you want to continue to live in Michigan, you won't be unique in your isolation, because these organizations are basically run over the internet. And your salary will go much further if you don't have to deal with rent in SF. http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Jobs

Mozilla has similar advantages. http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/about/careers.html

9
look_lookatme 2 days ago 1 reply      
First off you need to consider scraping together enough money to get out of where you are. Move to a place that has jobs. You say "family"... do you have children? This is an important consideration in terms of where you can go... I think there are basically two types of cities with solid startup/software job markets: There's the NYC/SFs of the world, incredibly lucrative, incredibly expensive. Then there are the Austin/Boulders of the world, financially reasonable, but not the "big time". From the sound of your situation, the latter is just fine.

Also if you are that desperate, you should consider moving to one of these places and leaving your family behind until you've made enough money to bring them to you. That may sound horrible, but it's the way people have pulled themselves up and made a better life for their family for centuries.

10
mattwdelong 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just moved from Grand Rapids, and can say there is a very small but growing startup scene in Grand Rapids.

Although I didn't get to check it out, there is a great Python User Group that meets regularly (I believe every other Monday) at various locations in GR, usually at Calvin College. Join the group and they'll send out regular updates. Ben Rousch is the contact there, he also runs the local Web Dev User group. I've exchanged emails with him before, he is a great guy and very helpful. It might not hurt to get in touch with him.

More importantly, just recently someone put up a job posting on the group looking for a python/django programmer. I suggest you check it out. http://www.fiveq.com/blog/employment/fiveq-employment-opport...

It might not hurt to drop into Atomic Object, they're growing and usually hiring as well: http://www.atomicobject.com/pages/Working+at+Atomic+Object

If I can be any help to you, perhaps putting you in contact with other people then let me know. My email is listed on my profile page.

Best of luck.

11
samarudge 2 days ago 3 replies      
Maybe being blunt, but if you're seriously about to be out of house and home because you can't find a job, you need to lower your fence. Aspiring to be a programmer/hacker/startup guy is great, but even a job stacking shelves in a shop would give you enough money to survive on while you continue looking for a job you'd enjoy (Or working on your own projects). Put it this way, living on the street gives you hardly any chance of getting somewhere you want to be. Having a house and a crappy job for a few years while you get back on your feet is a much better choice.
12
dotBen 2 days ago 1 reply      
Repeating the advice of others to move, if only in the hope that the repetition will alude to the validation of said advice.

I usually don't have a good word to say about recruiters but in cases like yours it might be worth contacting a few who work in one of the hubs you could move to, and have them look at your resume. They'll help you brush it up if needed but more importantly help you validate that there are employers looking for your skill set (because if they don't think they can place you, they won't spend any time with you).

Have them set up 3 or 4 interviews and scrape together the fare to come here and you might not need the return ticket. Just don't indicate to them that you are desperate but white-lie and tell them that you just want to relocate to SF/NY/etc.

BTW I moved to SF from a different country (UK) 5 years ago because it is where I needed to be for my career - it was hard but I did it and it is one of the best decisions I made. The winters are better here too! :)

13
rdouble 2 days ago 1 reply      
Try to get a job as a sysadmin or IT person at a health care organization/hospital. In economically depressed areas, these organizations usually provide the best paying jobs because they are not subject to normal market forces. They exist everywhere, and will hire anyone even sort of qualified for the job. You can use that experience to move to a city where they have the python jobs you want, because health care orgs everywhere are desperate for people who know about their specialized infrastructure.

Here's a few examples of what I mean if you are say, in Grand Rapids.

http://careers.spectrum-health.org/?job=main.searchbycat&...

14
kyro 2 days ago 0 replies      
Have you tried looking through some of the more recent "Who's Hiring" threads here on HN?

Here's the most recent one from June, looking for freelancers (I'm not sure if a July one was posted):

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2607058

And here's a list of some more recent threads:

http://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=whoishiring

I imagine you're pretty stressed out, but hang in there, and good luck.

(Woops " looks like jcr beat me to it. His/her comment has even more recent information.)

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iamelgringo 2 days ago 1 reply      
Contact StartupDigest VIP: http://startupdigest.com/vip/ tell them you met Jonathan from Hackers & Founders online on Hacker News. The concierge job placement service they started two months ago is already the best in town... low key. no pressure. opt in system for both startups looking for talent and engineers looking for jobs. As a bonus, it's run by two of the savviest and most connected hackers in the Valley: Chris and Brendan.

<full disclosure>
They just sponsored Hackers & Founders Silicon Valley this past week, and they are our sponsors for the next month.

But, their sponsorship was mostly to because we're boot strapping an incubator without much of a budget at all.

Doesn't matter. They're the best source of startup jobs in town, and it's the best way to find startup jobs in town.

</full disclosure>

Also, start doing some challenges at CodeEval.com. After you have some completed, ping me, and I'll let Jim, the CEO know. We'll get you hooked up.

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danielmorrison 1 day ago 0 replies      
helmehn,

I founded Collective Idea (http://collectiveidea.com) a successful and growing Ruby shop in West Michigan (Downtown Holland). We are actively looking for programmers, and I know many other companies in the area that are too. The ones I've talked to recently are looking for Ruby, Objective-C, and PHP, but I'm sure there are many, many more.

West Michigan is actually a fantastic place to be a programmer right now. We have dirt-cheap cost of living, beautiful scenery and a number of top-notch software companies working for major companies. (We count Fortune 100 & 500 Companies in our active client list.)

How do you get a job here?

1.) You could have emailed me. My email is on our website, and so are the heads of companies at our competitors. I have interviewed a number of people over the years even when we weren't hiring. I talk with our competitors frequently, so I know who's hiring and will gladly recommend people we can't hire.

Software companies are hiring. Ad agencies are hiring. Manufacturing & Medical companies are hiring. Nobody needs to leave Michigan to get a great job.

2.) Go to meetups.

Grand Rapids has a large number of great meetups and user groups for Ruby (http://www.meetup.com/mi-ruby/), Python (http://www.meetup.com/grpython/), Linux (http://grlug.org/), .NET (http://wmdotnet.org/) a new and huge Web Dev group (http://grwebdev.org/), Software Craftsmanship (http://softwaregr.org/), and many more (http://conga-wm.org/group-list/). The annual BarCamp is in a few weeks (http://barcampgr.org/) and we even have Y-Combinator style seed accelerator, http://momentum-mi.com/.

Go to any of these. Talk to people. You don't need to know "contacts in the industry" you need to meet people. They'll tell you who to talk to, where to apply, and how to brush up your skills.

3.) Write some code.

In the age of GitHub and SourceForge (who has coders in Grand Rapids and is often hiring http://geek.net/about/careers/) there's no excuse for not having code that you've written. Find some small project and make it better, or contribute documentation. Don't get discouraged if you can't find a project to hack on right away, you will. Blog about it. Talk about it.

Michigan, and especially West Michigan has some amazing programming shops, some of the best coders I've met anywhere, and everyone is hiring. I know many people have moved away, but there is no reason to anymore. This is a great state, a bit underrated, with an under-the-radar software scene that is ready to explode.

Anyone know Ruby and want to work for a Michigan company in a lakeshore town? Talk to me.

17
codeslush 2 days ago 1 reply      
If you're able and/or willing to go to Silicon Valley, which is where I think your best bet is (note: I don't live there, but if I was near homeless that's probably where I would go), then I will figure out a way to get you a plane ticket with few strings attached. The strings would be around timing and departure location: I need enough time to get a decent fare. I would expect you to have a plan. I would ask that you fly out of a major airport for competitive fares. That's pretty much it. My email in my profile.
18
rdl 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is there anything (other than money) stopping you from moving to San Francisco (well, Mountain View) next week?

It would be pretty easy to find a tech company willing to do phone/internet screen for a day or two remotely, and then fly you out for interview. If it goes well, you'd probably be pressured to just stay and work and then have someone else pack up/ship your stuff :)

You should have done this instead of wasting your time trying to find jobs locally, really.

19
Sam_Odio 2 days ago 0 replies      
If your skills are as you describe then move to the bay area and look for a job out here.

There are a lot of hackers out here who could help you out. Heck, even I have a couch (in Mountain View) that you can crash on for a few weeks. Email me.

20
juiceandjuice 2 days ago 0 replies      
I feel like I was in a similar position. My advice is gonna suck, but you should really try to start working at a grocery store/shitty party time jobs/borrow or something to save up about $2000 and flat out move. That will be enough to get you to the bay area, find a job, and live for about a month, maybe even get a room.

If you come to SF, you'll be able to find a job doing something somewhere to get off the ground. I promise you this.

21
mberning 2 days ago 0 replies      
Try temp agencies and contract agencies. I'd be shocked if they don't pick you up. I've been told they are pretty desperate for warm bodies right now and know several people that have gone that route out of desperation. Sure it is not permanent or glamorous but it will pay the bills.
22
inovica 2 days ago 0 replies      
I agree with some people that a move might be your best bet, though from your post its not obvious if there is anything (such as family) keeping you from moving. I think its a shame that oDesk did not work out for you - maybe try another service such as eLance where I personally feel (as someone who employs via these services) that a better quality of person is found on there. Yes there is the chance of competing against lower waged people in other countries, however I personally employ based on skills and communication and these days the costs are not as wide as they once were.

I am curious as to why you have not found something locally. Surely there are groups you can join, either on or offline, which would help you.

I hope that some of the comments on here will help you or spur you into some action

23
aaronbrethorst 2 days ago 0 replies      
Canonical is hiring Python folks (please note you'll have to dig through there for the PyJobs): http://www.linkedin.com/jsearch?page_num=1&sortCriteria=...

plus, many of their positions assume you work remotely.

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DavidTO1 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here is my story. I graduated from Mechanical engineering 3 years ago. After I finished school I got a job at a small company doing embedded development, mostly in `c`. My salary was $78000.

Two years after I started my job, I decided to learn iOS programming during evenings and weekends. A few months later I quit my job and decided to do iOS programming full time. At the time, I was working on an idea and didn't have anything ready for the world to see. Months passed and I still wasn't ready. I realized that it would take me another year to complete so I decided to pivot and work on another product.

After 1 month of pivoting I released my first project on the Mac App Store and was making ~$5000/month. A few months later, a company came knocking on my door and gave me a job offer. I accepted and am now making more than I did in my first job. I still have my business running on autopilot. I am 27.

This is not to brag. It is to show that if you really want to get out of the rut that you are in, lock yourself in a room, build something and release it into the wild. If you don't have a good idea, copy someone else's. By doing this, you'll learn new skills and will eventually become valuable to others.

Best of luck.

25
wisty 2 days ago 0 replies      
Dude, you NEVER have to go through HR. Use Google, and track down a manager working on something interesting. Most interesting projects will have a web presence of some kind. Those that don't usually aren't interesting (or are buried deep in Google or Apple).

If you can't get the manager's contact details, then you call HR, and ask for their details.

If that doesn't work, find a company that might have some interesting projects. Contact their IT department (get the number of HR if you must), and ask about what projects you might be able to join. Note, many interesting projects are not in IT, but in other departments; but IT will have some idea where those projects are. If you are good at number crunching, tell them that. You can try other tricks, like if the manager says they are too busy, you can ask if they have someone else who can take the call. You can also find out if the company has a programmer's mailing list - maybe IT could help you there?

You will get rejections, but it's better to get 20 rejections and an offer in a week than no rejections and no offers.

26
Nate75Sanders 2 days ago 1 reply      
There are plenty of people in Seattle (and I'm sure most big cities) having a really tough time finding people to hire. In Seattle, I know of several companies looking for python devs.

As other people here are stating, you need to move.

27
cmoylan 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a Python/Ruby developer in Chicago originally from Michigan. If you want to stay close to Michigan for whatever reason, but need a job, Chicago is a great compromise.

Chicago has an excellent Python user group: http://chipy.org/
Get on the mailing list and let them know your situation. Also consider learning Ruby on Rails. If you Python, Ruby will be easy to learn. If you know any Javascript at all, leverage that.

28
awwx 1 day ago 0 replies      
"meaning I have to go through HR"

By the way, the reason why you haven't been able to find a job is because you have no idea how to land work. (I can tell because saying "I have to go through HR" is as clueless as someone saying "I wrote a program but it didn't work so my computer must be broken" :-)

The relocation option works because you don't need to know how to land work to get hired -- there are jobs all over the place and you just walk around and stumble over one.

That's not a bad idea for your situation right now: if you don't find something just by posting on HN here, you could get yourself to San Francisco, crash on someone's couch, walk around and talk to people, land something that gives you some income. (The trick here is that the more active you are about it -- e.g., if you come to SF, and if you go around and talk to people -- the faster the process will happen).

Now, longer term, thinking about where you want to be next year (that is, after you've resolved your immediate crisis), you might find it beneficial to learn how to land work, depending on your goals. For example, maybe for personal reasons you'd prefer to be in Michigan.

Someone hires you because you will solve a problem for them. Some of the problems that people have can be solved with Python or numerical analysis, etc. Of the people with problems that can be solved with your skillset, a small percentage already know that their problem can be solved with Python or whatever. Those people advertise for jobs. When you don't find a job in Michigan, it doesn't mean that no one in Michigan has problems. It doesn't even mean that no one in Michigan has problems that can be solved using linear algebra and so on. What it means is that people in Michigan with those problems don't know yet that their problems can be solved with those techniques. Thus sending HR a resume listing those skills won't land you a job because the recipient doesn't understand that you can solve their problem.

You can learn how to land work in the same way you learned how to program. Think back to what what your most effective learning method for you, when you were learning to program. (Was it reading books, taking a class, or talking to people who already knew how to program, or what?) Then use the same method for learning how to land work: if reading books works best for you, read a book or three; if classes are your style, take a class or a workshop; and so on.

29
gte910h 2 days ago 0 replies      
Move.

Really.

SFO, NYC, Boston, Atlanta, all need tons of work.

30
a2tech 2 days ago 1 reply      
Move to Ann Arbor, get a CS job. Until you get on your feet down here you can do contract work through a company like Stout Systems http://stoutsystems.com/
31
sixtypoundhound 2 days ago 0 replies      
Agree with the above and would like to build on it a bit - my background is similar to yours (math undergrad, got the equivalent of a MS-stats via industry training programs, active Python hacker who developes in other languages).

First - don't underestimate the value of your math skills vs. your programming skills; I busted six figures as a stats geek long before my technical skills got into that range. If you're good at math, this is rare & valuable - particularly if you're also good at talking to people. (Those people are called analytics directors and it's a nice way to make a living; plenty of paid hacking time).

Second - agree you should consider leaving MI - NY or Boston sounds particularly a good fit; I'd look at the financial industry. While the work can be soul-sucking, you can build a nice bankroll relatively quickly in that space that can fund other interests.

Third - You should definitely expand your search beyond Python. While Python is my language of choice, I also attend PHP meetups and (infrequently) events targeted at Oracle and Microsoft developers. Here's some (bigoted) commentary comparing the different groups:

- I've found the Python groups to have smarter hackers relative to the other groups; the talks tend to go much deeper into the underlying technology/computer science behind the topic and the dinner conversation is better.

- Many folks at the Python meetups are employed in roles where their focus is using other technologies (lots of Java, some C++, several DBA/sysadmins - Oracle, SAP).

- Recruiter activity is fairly low at the Python meetings (0 - 2 recruiters per event); most recruiters who come are hiring for non-Python roles. I find this amusing, since I've identified this group as the best source for my next analyst hire and/or technical cofounder connection.

- The PHP group across town is about 30% larger and tends to be a bit "fluffier" in terms of presentation content. The technical skills of the average developer at these events is a full order of magnitude below the Python folks - when discussing equivalent issues, the average PHP developer has a looser grasp of system internals, how the algorithms inside the box work, and subjects such as OOP and functional programming.

- We have a TON of recruiters and hiring managers working the PHP meetup with relevant web development jobs. There are generally between 3 - 5 "announcements" per session; generally from folks with LONG lists of jobs that use PHP. A surprisingly large number of these want simple framework developers, which I see as significantly less rigorous than the stuff my Python buddies are working on.

- And to fully explore the dark side of the force - I've run into tons of recruiters looking for Java, MSFT, and Oracle people; also seen demand at good pay for closed source packages (SAS, Microstrategy, Saleforce.com). I'm talking about drag and drop stuff that developers would laught at. I've seen SAS analytics rates which rival a director's pay - and aren't very rigorous from a technical perspective (started my career as a SAS programmer working on statistical analysis). Did you do SAS in college?

So - many options, definitely look outside Python and leverage those math skills.

True Confession: Despite having some nicely developed programming chops in Python/PHP/Javascript, my bills are being paid by my analytics day job - where my relatively high priced existance is being rationalized by (wait for it)... analytical applications I built using Access VBA, Oracle, and Sharepoint. Stuff that makes real developers laugh hysterically. Seriously - we're making millions of dollars a year off of these applications, most of which were cranked out in under 2 - 4 weeks of core dev time. The latest round of miracles does use Python, but the "cash cows" which have protected us from layoffs... straight up SQL and Object Oriented VBA... go figure.

Point is - focus on the application space, use your highly valuable quant skills, and, if you need the cash, don't be afraid to use corporate technologies and lower end stuff.

32
jvanenk 23 hours ago 0 replies      
This post is a day old now, so I'm guessing this won't be getting too much visibility, but AtomicEmbedded (my employer) is hiring experienced embedded software developers.

http://www.atomicobject.com/pages/Embedded+Developer+Applica...

If the Embedded group doesn't look like your thing, you can also submit an application to our parent company, AtomicObject. They are also hiring.

http://www.atomicobject.com/pages/Working+at+Atomic+Object

AtomicObject normally hires generalists (which it sounds like you are), so experience with many languages and programming concepts is a huge plus. AtomicEmbedded needs a more specific developer who can get their hands messy with microcontrollers, oscilloscopes, and low level C code while still playing in the land of ponies and fairies (Ruby/Rails/Python/C#).

If any of this sounds like your thing, don't hesitate to submit a resume. We're always looking for the right people.

33
parfe 2 days ago 0 replies      
Learn Java and learn it now. Python might be nice in comparison but it isn't going to put food on the table where you live. I'm lucky to have python job (thanks to being part of a coup to overthrow PHP). If you can't find python jobs stop looking for python jobs! Java has tons of warts, but if it feed you, who cares?
35
pyohio2 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why are you not at PyOhio? The west michigan group carpolled. Broadly speaking: go to python meetups, network.
36
andy_boot 2 days ago 1 reply      
"5 years C# experience,"

/\ Try bending the truth.

Firstly you'll need different CVs depending on the job you are going for. So take the one saying "Did python for 5 years at XYZ corp" and change it to "Did python and C# for 5 years at XYZ corp" - This should get you past the HR gatekeepers and in the meantime you just have to skill up on c#. When you reach the interview with technical people they will be more reasonable - providing you are actually comfortable with c#.

37
SoftwareMaven 2 days ago 0 replies      
Do you have to stay in the area? Would you be willing to relocate?

I agree that any developer meetings (not just python) would be good for networking.

38
erikb 2 days ago 0 replies      
The thing about programming is, to be good you need to do it. You wrote a lot of things like "I can do this, I can do that." But I guess a lot better to find a job would be "I've done that". Hell, even if you write a Snake or Tetris clone for the iPhone/Android Market, or write small patches for documentation errors for opensource stuff you use. Even projects where you just helped a friend to finish his master thesis would be better then nothing.

And if you are out of money stop looking in one direction. Open up in many ways. And if you fry burgers at McDonnals, who cares. Pay your bills and in your free time get going with doing anything programming related.

My point is: I think the US is the most developed IT market these days. People who actually do things should always be able to get a job. If you didn't get a job until now, it is probably because you didn't really look for it, or you still don't have "what it takes".

Also I think through doing things you automatically learn to know like minded people and thus find entrance into companies.

39
jsvaughan 2 days ago 0 replies      
A few ideas

1. Consider where it is going wrong. Are you getting interviews for things you are suitable for? Are you getting knocked back at the interview stage? i.e. it it you CV that needs sorting out, or the interview? Or is it that there is nothing that matches your skills? Regardless of anything I would get someone else to give you feedback on your CV.

2. Find companies using the technologies you use and ring them up to see if they have any work available, rather than waiting for adverts.

3. Consider being a tester. It is rare to find a good tech skilled tester / QA and they are valuable.

4. Get the skills for the jobs that are available. Frankly if you are desperate then put 5 years of C# on your CV and work night and day building something in C#.

40
shareme 2 days ago 0 replies      
1. Get your projects up at Github..stat!
2. Find 5 programming 'Friends' do projects for them and use them on resume..helps kick down the hr door.
3. Mobile is growing as far as needing testers..become familiar with winrun, etc as far as testing mobile apps..I do see those pop up in Western Michigan..

That is about I can offer right now.. my location is NW Indiana..my solution was to pitch to Chicago startups that are established to get something..as its only 1 hour 40 minute train ride to Loop-Chicago..

If you feel comfortable in disclosing more details via email..my gmail account is in my account details

Biggest step you need to do right now is 1 and 2..

41
18pfsmt 2 days ago 1 reply      
I may be able to help you directly with work rather than give advice. Whether you are married, have kids, or other obligations is of major importance, however. I could even possibly set you up with your own br/ba once my remodel is finished.

I prefer not to use email without GPG, so rather than email I will put my phone number in my profile if I see you are actively following the replies.

42
pyre 2 days ago 0 replies      
The power of advertising at work! At the Perl Lightning Talks on Thursday at OSCON there were dueling advertisements for Grant Street Group and Booking.com. Grant Street Group does remote work out of Pittsburgh and Booking.com is based out of Amsterdam (but they will pay for relocation).

Granted these are both Perl-oriented jobs, but if you really are 'at the end of your rope' then I would make an attempt.

[I say the power of advertising at work because they both successfully pimped their employers]

43
joelhooks 2 days ago 0 replies      
http://www.djangojobs.org/ has a huge stack of jobs. Perhaps applying the Python knowledge applied to Django web apps might bring home the bacon.
44
stretchwithme 2 days ago 0 replies      
A few ideas.

Practice your skills (google "code retreat"). If code flows from your fingertips during interviews, you'll get the offers.

Move to where your skills are in high demand.

Try contracting. Get to know people in your area that do the work you want. Ask them how they landed their jobs.

45
driverdan 2 days ago 0 replies      
Other than the suggestions to move, why don't you have any industry connections in your area? Go to networking events, meetups, conferences, etc.

If you can't find any get on meetup.com and create a Python meetup. Even if you get 1 person to come you can say you organized the local meetup group.

46
curt 2 days ago 1 reply      
Find someone to look over your resume and cold-call CEO's/hiring managers of companies you're interested in.

It's my first time ever applying to job postings. Started looking a few weeks ago and found out my resume was crap, after getting some advice and rewriting it my response rate is 75%.

If you're interested in a company and think they might need you, just email the CEO a short note. You'd be amazed at how often you'll get a response, a couple even introduced me to other CEOs looking for someone with my skill set.

The two key's points to communicate: why are you interested in the company and what can you do for them.

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nikoftime 2 days ago 1 reply      
Do you absolutely need to stay in Michigan? There are amazing companies (like mine: BrightScope.com) that are hiring right now in places like San Diego, CA for the same skill set you have (check out our careers page -- if you apply, I'll see it -- just make sure to mention your HN posting).
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StavrosK 2 days ago 3 replies      
Wait, why are you mentioning FizzBuzz? It's like saying "I can walk in many ways".
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phektus 2 days ago 0 replies      
Get your remaining funds and start a saas website using any of the Python web frameworks available. Just spend some time finding which problem to actually address, and require your users to pay you on a monthly subscription (strictly no freemium).

If this goes well you have a project that can at least help you pay the bills at the moment. If not this would go better on your portfolio than being able to do FizzBuzz.

Again, ask money from day one.

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jtheory 2 days ago 0 replies      
One thought, only partly in jest -- interacting directly with others is an essential part of networking. Don't post your plea to HN and then figure you'll check back tomorrow to see if it stirred up anything useful. :)

Advice + thoughtful response = conversation => ???

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BasDirks 2 days ago 0 replies      
I can FizzBuzz 6 languages in 3 minutes, it's nothing for an engineer to be proud of, I'm a designer. Advice about Haskell? Drop it for now, you need food on your table.
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amjith 2 days ago 0 replies      
http://amjith.posterous.com/how-to-find-local-tech-jobs

I wrote this for Utah. But I'm sure this can be applied to other states.

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sitkack 2 days ago 0 replies      
put your python resume on dice, monster, list location as the bay area. get flown out for interviews, get moving expenses paid.
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OllieJones 2 days ago 0 replies      
I understand Pixar (in the East Bay area near SF) has openings for skilled pythonistas. They can't be alone. But they are in the bay area, not Grand Rapids.

If you're going to stick around the upper midwest and feed your family, you need to get your Java and C# mojo working. Don't listen to the ones who sneer at those languages; good programming is just like good waitering -- delight your users and you'll be fine.

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mattbillenstein 2 days ago 0 replies      
Move out of Michigan -- it would seem to me half your problem or more is looking for a job in the worst job market in America...
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wdr1 2 days ago 0 replies      
What skills does your market demand? Given the situation, you may be better served by focusing on adapting to what is needed (presumably more mainstream languages like Java & C#?)

I personally wouldn't want to do either, but it sounds like you have to decide if you want to compromise on technology or moving to a larger market.

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spooneybarger 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is moving out of the question?
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wrath 2 days ago 0 replies      
Unsure if you're willing to relocate but there are 2 python job opening in my company.

http://www.gazaro.com/careers

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BDangIT 2 days ago 0 replies      
Have you thought about what the companies' problems are and how you can use Python to solve their problems? Yes, companies are looking for specific skills but there are companies that are looking for someone to fix their issues. They don't care how you implement it as much as it gets that issue off their backs.

So if you want to land a job or a client do some thinking on what their issues might be, their dreams, their goals, and maybe their fears. If you know these and can translate these into how you can implement solutions, then you will show them how much value you bring to the table. And when you can think of ways to create value, you can immediately charge almost anything.

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j2labs 2 days ago 0 replies      
Move to NYC. We're short on Python devs here and there's plenty of work for anyone who's really good at it.
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andys627 2 days ago 1 reply      
elance.com web design. you can get jobs filling out wordpress themes and probably make $1,000 a month at least
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skbohra123 2 days ago 0 replies      
Move to India.
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whitmo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Have you considered moving to the bay area?

People will lick your balls for your fizzbuzz awesomeness. Can you write tests? doesn't matter, you write python!

       cached 2 August 2011 15:11:01 GMT