hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    8 Aug 2011 Best
home   ask   best   8 years ago   
United States loses AAA credit rating from S&P reuters.com
749 points by tshtf  2 days ago   493 comments top 56
geuis 2 days ago  replies      
(Reference: http://www.federalbudget.com/)

Steps to recovery:

1) End all offensive military actions overseas. Finish winding down Iraq and abandon Afghanistan wholesale. These actions have cost several trillion dollars over the last 10 years. We can't get that money back, but we can stop spending more.

2) Defense spending is in the top 3 highest budget expenditures. Cut it by 1 third across the board. Maintain important overseas installations such as Japan and Taiwan. Given China's rise, its wise long-term to keep a presence in the region. Scale back deployments in Europe unless Russia still is still a threat to western Europe.

3) The most amount of money the U.S. spends is Health and Human Services. The U.S. health system is a fucking mess. Somehow we spend the most on healthcare and get some of the worst societal benefits out of any industrialized country. I don't have an answer here, but it likely involves completely tearing down the existing system to its nuts and bolts and building it back up. I'd love to hear ideas on this point from others that know more about it.

4) Social Security is the other one. My mom relies on it, so does a lot of my family. We're from meager backgrounds and traditionally have come from poorer parts of the nation. That being said, cut it.

When I look at my paycheck and see that upwards of 40% of my income is being sucked out by the government and used more for things I oppose than things I support (e.g. war spending versus scientific investment) it pisses me right off.

Yes, I have heard the naive argument "But taxes are there to run the things you use like roads and government services that you use every day". This is true only in part. Yup, we need an army. Yup, we need local police. Yup, we need roads. Yup, we need a justice system. But it doesn't take trillions of dollars a year to run those things.

The government shouldn't interfere with business like propping up failing business models. It should work to make sure that business plays fair, i.e. anti-monopoly or collusion, etc.

I'm more liberal than conservative, and definitely not one of these people that wants business to have free-reign over everything. But there are bottom lines that we have crossed and need to back off.

DanielBMarkham 2 days ago 1 reply      
Some great non-hair-on-fire conversation here. Whenever I read and note that most folks are not that far apart on things, I keep wondering why the system is so broken. Here's the systemic problem, which has nothing to do with Treasury Bills, tax structures, or political parties.

Phases of political maturity:

1) Apathy. Political parties are like football teams. You pick one and they're your guys. You root for them no matter what. If anything, there might be something wrong about folks who take these things too seriously.

2) Emotion. The other political party is the devil. They are out to destroy America.

3) Enlightenment. The other party is just full of people like me. There are some smart folks, but the problem is that they have all the wrong incentives and conclusions.

4) Understanding. Gee, there are those same bad conclusions and wrong incentives in my favorite party too. Ergo, parties don't matter. There are smart people everywhere. When the system fails, it's a problem of the system, not of the people or parties.

The problem in the U.S. is that the majority of folks are in stage 1 or 2 when we need them to be in 4. So when deep structural conversations come along, they're still either rooting for their team or blaming the other guys, when they should be talking about principles that need to be changed for the entire system to work better, no matter what the actual goals of any party.

There is another problem that helps create deadlock -- an understanding of where the money comes from. I think many folks view the economy as something the government grows so that it can harvest money in the form of taxes. (This is not a Keynesian discussion, simply a discussion about taxes in general.) Other folks view the government as something the economy grows in order to keep it functioning. These are two deeply conflicting world-views. I'm not sure you'll ever reconcile them. Some put trading first and sharing second. Many put sharing first and trading second. These two camps have come to demonize the others, sadly. (Which takes us back to the observation above)

For this problem to be solved, we need to give up on arguing specific issues or philosophical positions and instead talk about fixing structures so that the budget stays balanced long-term no matter who is in power or what their priorities are. This is a meta conversation, the kind the framers had. I am very doubtful there is anyone around today in power that can handle it. Not a happy outlook. All of the people in political power got that way by playing ideological and rhetorical games and by being fiercely loyal to their party. It's the exact opposite qualifications for folks that would have a chance at actually solving anything.

I think we could talk forever and reach general agreement informally on all number of things, but if the system remains broken, it's all going to be for nothing, sadly. Without an honest look at meta systemic issues, a free-for-all discussion around U.S. policy is all so much activity without results.

latch 2 days ago  replies      
For those who aren't sure why this matters there are two things to note.

First, interest will go up. US Bonds are now considered riskier than they were before. This means investors in US Bonds will expect to collect more interest due to the greater risk they are taking. Instead of paying China and Japan 3% (for example) on $1 trilion (each), the US will now have to pay 3.5% (and climbing). Of course, the higher the interest rate, the harder it is to pay back (the quicker a new ceiling is reached), the likelier this happens again.

There could be some pretty massive dumping of US bonds. A number of foreign investors can only carry AAA risk. (It's kinda unclear where they'll run to though, since I think all the other AAA countries combined don't issue as much debt as the US). So, the economy might take a pretty big hit by losing all those investors.

Now, generally you need 2 of the big 3 rating agencies to trigger any of this. So it remains to be seen whether Moody or Fitch will follow. I think they both will.

Also worth mentioning is that Canada recently came back from a downgrade (by S&P) mostly by tightening their spending belt. Took 10 years (1992-2002). Australia did it too, though it took 7 years longer.

credo 2 days ago 1 reply      
This illustrates one of the risks of hostage-taking and the mistaken assumption of Republican leadership that the "hostage" (their words, not mine) wouldn't be harmed

see quote from Senate minority leader below

From http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-debt-deal-the-triu...

But at the Capitol, behind the four doors and the three receptionists and the police guard, McConnell said he could imagine doing this again.
"I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting," he said. "Most of us didn't think that. What we did learn is this - it's a hostage that's worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done."

[edit]: Interesting to see all the downvotes, but my comment had a direct quote from the GOP senate leader. Can anyone explain why they downvoted it.

As for temphn's point below. Has any Nobel laureate defended the "hostage taking" ?

Congress already controls both spending and taxation. So they can start fixing the deficit problem by cutting down on pork, cutting tax loopholes etc. Threatening to force a default is not the answer.

pitdesi 2 days ago 1 reply      
An answer to the question we're all wondering- "What happens now" answered well in a planet money from a couple of weeks ago:

TL;DR - "I'm not sure it will have any impact. When you look at the bond market " 10-year U.S. Treasuries, for example " where is it today? In the light of all this hype about debt ceilings and possible defaults, it's at 2.93 today, so this is an extremely low interest rate in both nominal and real terms. It means that everyone in the world is willing to hold these bonds and is not the least bit worried about the possibility of a default. So, investors haven't changed their view of the creditworthiness of the United States at all, and I don't think they're likely to in the foreseeable future."
-Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research

chailatte 2 days ago 1 reply      
Took those lazy rating agencies a while.

- 1.6 Trillion budget deficit

- 14 Trillion national debt

- 55 Trillion US total debt

- 115 Trillion Unfunded liabilities

- 17% U6 unemployment

- 45.8 Million Americans on Food Stamps

- 52 Million Americans without health insurance

- 1/2 of mortgages are underwater

- 63% labor participation rate, lowest since early 80s

- -5% in Real medium household income in the last 10 years

- 25% of US households have zero or negative net worth

- 1 out of every 45 households was hit with foreclosure

- average length of unemployment is now 40 weeks

fletchowns 2 days ago 2 replies      
Didn't S&P maintain that Lehman Brothers had a favorable rating up until they collapsed? And in the subsequent congressional hearings the rating agencies simply responded that the rating is their opinion. Why do people put so much faith in these ratings when they have proven to be not very useful in evaluating the risk associated with investing in an institution?
winestock 2 days ago 1 reply      
So it begins.

A quote: "The outlook on the new U.S. credit rating is negative, S&P said in a statement, a sign that another downgrade is possible in the next 12 to 18 months."

I.e., things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.

Time to bring this back to a hacker's perspective. Is there any way to "hack" the system so as to get government finances to within commuting distance of sanity? Or have recent events already answered that question?

fanboy123 2 days ago 2 replies      
from the press release:

"The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. "

eps 2 days ago  replies      
One thing to keep in mind is that many institutional investors, including those in Europe, are required to invest exclusively into triple-A instruments. This downgrade means a major sell-off of US bonds and whatnots currently held by such investors, and that could have an interesting avalanche effect.
logjam 2 days ago 2 replies      
One minor elephant in the room that only a few seem to be mentioning is the 500+ point selloff on Thursday.

On Thursday evening, the economist talking-heads expressed some confusion about what was driving that sell-off on that particular day. There was vague talk of problems in Europe, although there has been worse news out of the Eurozone for months without that kind of drop.

On Friday, we get the S & P announcement of a decision that may impact markets. One can only imagine when this particular decision was actually made.

What drove the sell-off on Thursday?

localhost3000 2 days ago 2 replies      
These are the same guys who rated subprime mortgage backed bonds AAA. How the rating agencies still have any credibility is completely incomprehensible to me. I hope someone in the press has the wherewithal to make this point.
hooande 2 days ago 2 replies      
I find that this graph summarizes my thoughts on the US debt in relation to the world economy: http://www.china-mike.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/china-w...

The United States produces so much more in terms of GDP than the next largest nations that it's a stretch to compare them. I think the fact that we produce more than 2X what the next largest single nation produces means that debt may function differently for us. The global economy is complex enough that relative position can mean more than short term profit and loss.

Debt is a bad thing. But the debt ceiling we just fought over extending represents 1 year of USD GDP. In everyday terms, someone expected to make $100k per year being $100k in debt. To me that sounds more like a student loan than a national crisis.

Should we make changes, cut spending and increase revenue? Sure. But we should also keep the bigger picture in mind, and look at our debt as it fits into the context of a global economy.

SkyMarshal 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wanted to check out Krugman's take on this:



1) The 'madness of the right' holding the debt-ceiling hostage cost us the confidence of investors (and S&P).

2) The ratings agencies have shown they aren't qualified to rate anything, much less sovereign debt.

3) S&P miscalculated the downgrade by $2T before going ahead with it anyway.

4) S&P's magic number for averting a downgrade was $4T deficit reduction over the next decade. The Congressional deal failed to reach that, but according to Krugman that number is barely relevant to the US debt costs and should not effect the credit rating. The real downgrade risk is with long-term unfunded healthcare liabilities, which S&P seems to have ignored here.

warmfuzzykitten 2 days ago 0 replies      
The real story is that S&P thinks downgrading the US debt will provide political cover against investigations into their role in the mortgage securities debacle by the SEC and Justice. They were determined to downgrade no matter what. Their original justification is the US didn't make their $4 trillion cut target. When Treasury showed them a $2 trillion dollar error in their arithmetic, they changed the justification to political gridlock. Time for a perp walk.
giardini 2 days ago 0 replies      
The SEC should criminally prosecute S&P, Fitch and Moody's for their corrupt participation in the financial meltdown. It should have been done sooner (the case was already made). To do so now would look like vengeance. But if vengeance is required then vengeance should be served.

Put their controlling officers in jail and shut down the companies forever.



silverlight 2 days ago 4 replies      
If the government that produces the reserve currency can't hold up a AAA rating, what can? The idea that anything else should have a AAA rating if the US gov't doesn't seems a little ridiculous to me on face value.
apaprocki 2 days ago 1 reply      
... and now all the random crap financial code out there that simply hard-codes "AAA" as the US credit rating will have problems. I bet a lot of people will be bug testing this change over the weekend.

EDIT: This seems to sum it up:

mark_l_watson 2 days ago 3 replies      
Yeah, the US deserves a downgrade. What pisses me off is that my wife and I have savings, live within our means, and if you believe Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff (which I do), there is going to be 5% to 10% yearly inflation for a good while that takes money from savers and basically gives it to debtors.

I am actually sympathetic to some debt forgiveness - it is not the people in need that I am pissed off at. Anyway, it is a mess, and everyone who is worth less than many millions of dollars is going to feel some pain.

I expected this economic collapse to happen after the 2030s - suddenly, after a few years of W. Bush's presidency I realized that the grand plan was to cause the collapse to happen much sooner.

NHQ 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am totally flabbergasted that media and governments would give one-shits-worth of consideration to what the credit ratings agencies have to say. The same agencies that gave high ratings to the sour derivatives market which eventually collapsed our economy. The ratings agencies are Wall Street shills. Lowering US Debt ratings will result in the US having to pay higher interest rates, which go into the pockets of the major financial firms. Government et al playing right into the hands of the banks.
imcqueen 2 days ago 1 reply      
I just got a NYTimes news alert that S&P is in fact holding off on downgrading the US based on the math error that was discovered.

Did anyone else see that come through? Is NYT just behind a little?

jballanc 1 day ago 0 replies      
The true shame is not loosing some arbitrary rating from some arbitrary organization, but that this action still matters even after said organization was shown, conclusively, to behave in a completely arbitrary and ultimately self-serving way.
veyron 2 days ago 0 replies      
End of the day, these are the same jokers who were rating junk assets as AAA and completely missed every problem in this financial crisis.

And the fact that moody's still maintains Aaa means that there's a nonzero chance it will have no effect. I hope.

mdkess 2 days ago 3 replies      
I am not American, and here's what I don't get: America can borrow money right now at 1.5% for five years. Why is there such a clamour to stop? I would hope that the government would be able to get better than 1.5% return with the money - if the CEO of any company chose not to take on debt at this rate they'd get fired. It seems like all of the media coverage is glossing over this.
bokonist 2 days ago 4 replies      
Mindboggling. Does the S&P understand that the U.S. debt is all denominated in a currency that the U.S. government can print at will? If the U.S. government doesn't have an AAA rating, what does an AAA rating even mean?

At the moment, the national "debt" is over $10 trillion dollars, while the total supply of currency is about $2 trillion, and total government profits are about negative $1.5 trillion. If we assume that the government will not use it's powers as fiat-currency-creator to back the national debt, than the proper credit rating of the U.S. is F. There is no way it could possibly pay back the debt. The debt is five times greater than the total supply of dollars. It's debt to profits ratio is way worse than many bankrupt companies. On the other hand, if we assume that the government will continue to use its power of fiat to back the debt, then the rating is AAA. It's safer in nominal terms than any other sort of debt. It is the baseline, the reference point. No other dollar-denominated debt can possibly be safer.

So you have two possibilities for the U.S. "debt" - AAA or F. Rating it anything else just demonstrates extraordinary ignorance.

alecco 2 days ago 0 replies      
From Khan Academy last week:

Government's Financial Condition

(Khan was a Hedge fund analyst)

OllieJones 2 days ago 0 replies      
Perfect. Obama and Boehner are doing an excellent job of what they are paid to do: transferring the wealth of the USA to Wall Street plutocrats. They've given the sleazeball so-called "rating" agencies the cover they need to demand higher interest rates.

No new taxes. No new jobs. I can't believe that folks who are in their 20s and 30s aren't throwing rocks at people my age (late 50s) for our generational greediness.

By the way, I had a six figure federal tax bill one year, when my cofounders and I sold a startup. Maybe I'm an aberration, but I was proud to be able to chip in that much to the government that paid for ARPA back in the day.

cantbecool 2 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder what would have happened if S&P dropped the rating during the trading day, and not after the markets closed. We probably would have seen another -500 point drop on the DJI.
kenjackson 2 days ago 1 reply      
Has the US ever not had a AAA credit rating from S&P (until now)?
chicagobob 2 days ago 1 reply      
Please note that there are two other credit rating agencies, Moody's and Fitch, and both of them have stated that they have no current plans to downgrade US debt from AAA, although one of them did place a negative outlook on the US. So, generally as long as one of the three agencies has a AAA rating the debt is usually fine for most investment / trust purposes.
bubbleRefuge 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a non-issue and further proof of the incompetency and worthlessness of Wall Street. The ratings agencies are out of macro-economic paradigm. The US federal government can meet any and all financial USD obligations because it is an issuer of currency as opposed to a user of currency such as Euro-zone states or US states. Of coarse it is possible that politicians refuse to pass the necessary legislation to meet these obligations ( not raising or eliminating the debut ceiling). Read more at www.moslereconomics.com
d2 2 days ago 0 replies      
So keep an eye on treasury bonds on monday morning. Rate goes up, people still believe the US is safe, regardless of S&P. Rate goes down, market sentiment mirrors S&P's rating, and that's very very bad.
VicT11 2 days ago 0 replies      
“It doesn't make sense. In Omaha, the U.S. is still Triple-A rated and if there were a Quadruple-A I'd give the U.S. that.” -Warren Buffett
fleitz 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if the downgrade is because the US might be unwilling to pay its debts or because they feel the people may be unwilling to bailout the banks again?
BlackJack 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Treasury officials noticed a $2 trillion error in S&P's math that delayed an announcement for several hours." - http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405311190336650....

Says it all.

finin 2 days ago 0 replies      
from the S&P rationale section of their press release:

"Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act."

ejbadger 2 days ago 1 reply      
S&P is the same agency that rated AAA mortgage backed securities. not exactly a brain trust over there. my guess is they took this route for publicity.

again the same group that rated a bunch of debt AAA when it was junk. what is their motivation?

quattrofan 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is the beginning of the end of the dollar as the worlds reserve currency, its bad for the rest of the world and only good for the US, its imbalanced.

I am not so sure most Americans are ready for what the world will be like when it happens, because unless the need for a regular deficit is reduced and reliance for imported oil curbed, it will be very painful indeed.

binarysolo 2 days ago 0 replies      
The ensuing blame game and rage depresses me:







I have my own opinions as to who's responsible and what amger is well placed, but I think one can draw their own conclusions.

Yes I know these are a limited sample set of people who have set their profiles to public. But still...

uladzislau 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's not just US the whole world economy system is screwed. Look what happens in Europe.

People should really make some radical improvements to the way economy and finance system work. The main things: it should be simplified and transparent.

If only a few experts understand what happens how could the system be reliable and secure? Everyone also knows that the more complicated is the system the higher is the failure rate.

Tekhne 2 days ago 0 replies      
This downgrade may just be the first sign of real problems to come. For detailed coverage of the coming US financial storm see the documentary I.O.U.S.A. from former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker (I've seen it on Netflix streaming).


Tycho 2 days ago 0 replies      
It seems that for the last 40 years we've been in one huge bubble - the 'American bubble.' Overconfidence in the continual growth, recovery and viability of US economics is finally coming to an end, and most of the globe is exposed.
almightygod 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't care about karma burn; F&$# those damn ignorant republicans
Rariel 1 day ago 1 reply      
THere is a simple solution to the Social Security "crisis". Right now only income up to 100,000 is subject to social security taxes. Anything over 100,000 is not taxed for social security. If we raised taxable income to 150,000 or 200,000 even we'd have plenty of money.
ck2 2 days ago 0 replies      
Regardless how you take this news, S&P just bought themselves a whole bunch of free advertising.

I don't think that was their primary goal but their name is now going to be mentioned on every newscast and in every paper everywhere for weeks.

da5e 1 day ago 0 replies      
The debt is not the problem.
yoyar 2 days ago 0 replies      
The chickens will come home to roost. It's just as simple as that.
daniwan 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Raise the taxes on the rich! Jesus Christ!
dennisgorelik 2 days ago 0 replies      
That's a good news and a wake up call.
goatrope 2 days ago 0 replies      
So, anyone know what happened to whoever bet 1bil that we'd lose AAA?
Rariel 1 day ago 0 replies      
daniwan 18 hours ago 0 replies      
All the seemingly smart guys here, producing stupid arguments. Stop thinking how to cut children's lunch and start thinking how to get a 2nd job!
marcamillion 2 days ago 2 replies      
WOW....talk about CAJONES! I must tip my hat to S&P. This one...just WOW.

I mean, I am not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination, but I just never imagined that they would be able to pull the trigger.

All it takes is some 'investigation' by the US Treasury into S&P and that's it....game over. Not that I think the US Treasury will retaliate....but WOW. I never thought they would take this step.

Good for them.

Double-dip recession, here we come.

Jonathan's Card jonathanstark.com
609 points by ams1  20 hours ago   190 comments top 46
brianleb 11 hours ago 5 replies      
This reminds me of something that happened when I was just a bit younger... My girlfriend and I were graduating from pharmacy school and she was applying for residency positions (yes, they have those for pharmacists). Well, she found out she got the one she really wanted and so that night we went out to a nice dinner to celebrate. We did it up like you would expect a happy couple to - nice bottle of wine, share an appetizer and dessert, etc. We were still living on loans at the time and so in my head I was keeping track of about how much the meal was going to run me at the end of the night (for better or worse - keep in mind we were in college at the time). We had easily cleared a hundred bucks (quite the meal for college students who usually eat $7 sandwiches or more likely cook for themselves!), and when it was time for the bill, our waitress told us "The couple that was sitting over there paid for it."


You wanna talk about made our day? Try made our week. We had seen the older couple earlier, but we didn't know them, and they were gone by the time we got our bill. We couldn't even thank them, and we were just so... shocked. Since then, whenever we go out for a nice meal, I look for a young couple who looks happy and in love, just waiting to return that favor.

C.S. Lewis described altruism in one of his apologist books as a "good infection" - kindness that spreads uncontrollably. I can't do anything but agree.

eggbrain 15 hours ago 2 replies      
Things like this are just apt for abuse. While in real life when this happens, we get a small connection with the person (they live near me / they also were getting coffee), on the internet, people only see a free gift card that automatically refills itself, and not the people that paid for it. When you are playing with other peoples money, it's hard to be frugal.
ookblah 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Hmm, I think posting the value of the card affects the data points. I understand why it needs to be done, but my thinking is that if nobody knows how much is on there it leaves it less prone to outright abuse.

If the card suddenly gets a $100 recharge I'm sure it will be abused a lot more. Maybe that's part of the experiment, but I'd like to see what people do in general without that knowledge.

EDIT: or maybe even just a "this card has more than <insert cost of minimum item>" so that people know it can be used, but not how many times.

pangram 19 hours ago 5 replies      
Whenever I go through a toll bridge, I frequently pay the toll of the person behind me. I've sometimes wondered if it propagates backward at all. For the Starbucks card, I would love to live in a society where this could work. Unfortunately it's one of those things where one anonymous bad egg will ruin (i.e., drain the account) for everyone else. Some way to restrict it to a community with less anonymity would help (i.e., go to a web site, auth through hacker news, and then you get the image -- then it is tied to your HN identity).
joshmlewis 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I used to work at Chick-fil=A before I started working for a startup and we would get people that would start paying for the people behind them in the drive thru and the next car would pull up and we'd say: Hey you had a...(whatever they had)..and the car behind you has already taken care of it. They would look shocked, smile, and say well we will get the car behind us. And this would go on for 10 or more cars.

It was really awesome. We also had people come through and ask for food for a homeless guy that sits on the off ramp on our interstate exit, and Chick-fil-A would give them food to take to the homeless guy and I'm sure many more situations occur all across the country that make peoples lives better. I think there is a thread of hope in humanity.

danielodio 15 hours ago 3 replies      
gabrielroth 18 hours ago 4 replies      
I'm kind of playing devil's advocate here and kind of not: How can you justify spending $n to buy coffee for someone with a smartphone instead of donating $n to someone with fewer resources and greater needs?
wallflower 17 hours ago 1 reply      
> Plus, it's actually kinda fun to see those rewards stars drop into my in-app coffee cup.

Well, Jonathan may get the Rewards so it is not completely altruistic.

A real-time map of where transactions have been made ala http://twittervision.com might be interesting if this card goes viral


david927 5 hours ago 0 replies      
There's a cafe under the castle in Prague where for a decade or more, patrons can buy an extra coffee for someone else. A physical cup goes up on a line above the counter. Others, usually students, will come in, see the cups, and ask for the free coffee. A Czech architecture student told me she never paid for a coffee -- just took one from those donated. When I would visit the cafe, I would make sure to add another cup or two to the line.

Jonathan's Card didn't seems to work, and it makes me think (unsurprisingly) that what works at local levels as this cafe in Prague, can't work in the Extremistan that is the entire global community.

We're so used to all the benefits of this new, suddenly-made-close world: play poker with a guy in Singapore one moment, buy an antique off an old woman in Portugal the next, without moving anything but the mouse; that we forget the beauty and function that the local still provides.

wallflower 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I know it is a fictional movie but if you haven't seen it, "Pay it Forward" is a movie that might make you briefly think about your impact.
Udo 6 hours ago 0 replies      
At this point it's clear that the card can be abused as there are people who for some reason think it's cool to suck the balance completely dry.

However, a company like Starbucks could set something up that is very similar to Jonathan's experiment but with a reduced abuse potential: just introduce a card with a limit per transaction. For example, if you could only charge 6 USD per purchase to the card, it would make life difficult for the cheaters.

danielodio 13 hours ago 0 replies      
$5,000 for @jonathanscard ... why not! http://twitter.com/#!/Socialize/status/100375061587951616
michaelschade 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Although the bit about paying it forward and social sharing is a great idea on its own, I think I'm a tad more excited that he actually made an API for this. That's seriously awesome.
coverband 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Such a simple and wonderful idea; it brightened my Sunday. (Edit: I wonder how soon it will take SBX to decide that this is a vulnerability in their mobile app and change something that will break this.)
rglover 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Standing in line waiting for my drink. Cool experiment. Going to put the cash back when I get home.
robryan 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't really like how this is playing out, seems every time the card gets a decent amount of funds it gets takes in 1 lump sum. As people have said I think the buy a gift card thing ruins it, socially I don't think people would run up $100 purchase in one go unless they aren't buying coffee/ food.

If people donating to it's money is all going to a couple of people working the system for their own gain it doesn't really motivate people to give to it.

ben1040 19 hours ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the drive-through "pay-it-forward" chains that spontaneously appear from time to time:


emeltzer 15 hours ago 0 replies      
The twitter feed updates once per minute, so if the $100 is spent by a bunch of people w/in that period of time, it will just show -$100. Should be checkable by Jonathan?
rdl 19 hours ago 1 reply      
It would be really fun to combine this kind of point of sale reward with games or puzzles or tasks, sort of like mechanical Turk combined with OKCupid or wufoo.

Cash prizes are less interesting for this kind of thing. (various studies)

dustyreagan 19 hours ago 1 reply      
This is a really cool experiment. Coffee seems like the perfect use case since it's awkward to exploit, in that you're not going to buy $100 worth of coffee, just because the card has $100 on it. But what about other physical goods, like Barnes & Nobles, HEB, Home Depot?
jt2190 14 hours ago 0 replies      
"Jonathan's Card is an experiment in social sharing of physical goods using digital currency on mobile phones."

What, exactly, is the hypothesis? While this _seems_ cool, I really don't understand what he's setting out to prove, that we don't already know: This will work until the number of people who abuse it grows to a certain point, after which everyone will loose faith, and nobody will contribute more funds.

[Ha. I just noticed the posts describing how this is being hacked.]

russjhammond 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Here is a heat map of the location of @ mentions for @jonathanscard, which for the most part is the location of those that have added funds to the card.


dave1619 18 hours ago 2 replies      
It would be cool if you could see who paid for your coffee and also who had spent the money, and let them communicate.
dvdhsu 18 hours ago 3 replies      
As somebody else mentioned, it's unfortunate that one bad person could ruin it for everybody else.

Is it possible to restrict the card only to coffee (to prevent huge catering orders)?

jyap 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I put in $11. Part of it was to download my iOS app Canon Lens Buddy (http://bit.ly/pe2KFS) as part of Advertising/social experiment.

The credits lasted 10 minutes before used up. Should be interesting to see if this results in any downloads.

Proof of top up:

michaelschade 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I've created a Haskell implementation of his API: http://rawr.mschade.me/jonathanscard/

The page on Rawr includes a basic usage example as well as links to my implementation on GitHub and Hackage.

notJim 19 hours ago 1 reply      
There's no money on the card? http://jonathanstark.com/card/api/latest
lucianof 17 hours ago 1 reply      
I tried to load it, but all I got was: "This recipient does not accept payments from non-U.S. PayPal accounts." (I'm Swiss)
Why would Starbucks restrict from where they get their money?
danielodio 15 hours ago 1 reply      
OK I just tried a test: @Socialize put $49 on the card -- let's see if a smaller amount still tips off the hacker: http://drod.io/2E071F3T0C0V0G1w0f39
artursapek 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I hope Starbucks' system can handle the amount of activity this thing is eventually going to get! You're picking up a lot of steam.
jonb 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I contributed in order to get people telling my wife (http://twitter.com/#!/raintea) Happy Birthday tomorrow (8/8).

Thought I'd cross-post here for the cause too :)

BlackJack 19 hours ago 1 reply      
The balance just went from $0 to $40 - awful nice of whoever did it. I'm a big fan of this idea - put in $5 and you can help out someone who you've probably never met!
hassanhassan 18 hours ago 0 replies      
awesome initiative! I always loved the pay it forward concept.

P.S. does anyone want to call this guy Lord Starkbucks?

Now I know where Jon Snow ends up.

grandalf 13 hours ago 1 reply      
It worked! Thanks for the iced Americano and pastry!
connor 12 hours ago 0 replies      
I agree, photos, names, or some proof of humanity of the people behind the karma would help to stem abuse. The internet almost makes this abuse of karma easier due to the anonymity. You just don't feel as bad.
angryasian 18 hours ago 0 replies      
interesting experiment, but all it takes is one troll to ruin the whole thing.
apaprocki 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Interesting experiment in that the image is public with no signup/restriction to get at it. You would need to have a continuous stream of new "pay-it-forward" users to add money on the card, no? There are lots of coffee drinkers in the world... Wasn't there something in the news not too long ago about an investment firm that ran this way? :)
corroded 11 hours ago 0 replies      
this is such a good thing and i hate to see this go to waste when some capitalist bastard starts selling coffees for half the price using the card.
useflyer 19 hours ago 1 reply      
this is completely amazing and a great proof of concept -- there is so much that could be built on top of this
canistr 19 hours ago 0 replies      
And in case anyone was wondering the first balance he tweeted was:


I got $7.91 left on me.

18 Jul

projectionist 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of cafe in Japan where you order for person who comes after you and you eat what was ordered by person before you http://www.cabel.name/2009/09/kashiwa-mystery-cafe.html
EmielMols 15 hours ago 0 replies      
So, anybody set up the Auto-Reload yet ;-)?
Qa8BBatwHxK8Pu 12 hours ago 0 replies      
US only?
stringbot 16 hours ago 1 reply      
And Starbucks shuts this down in 5... 4... 3... 2...
danielodio 14 hours ago 1 reply      
OK I'm going to go nuclear to determine if this is some automated script or a manual hack: @Socialize just put $300 (!!!) on the card (remember... this is to promote the SDK Speed Challenge... so maybe click the link so I can claim some kind of ROI! http://go.GetSocialize.com/SDK-Challenge)

I figure if it's a script, the $300 will disappear instantly. But if it's manual, it's unlikely that someone could manually xfer that at a Starbucks counter w/o getting questioned.

Confirmations (max was $100 at a time):


SICP is Under Attack vedantk.tumblr.com
559 points by vedantk  4 days ago   195 comments top 49
thaumaturgy 4 days ago  replies      
This is one of a very very small number of programming-related articles I've ever been glad to read. Programming should be taught as an approach to problem-solving and structured logical thinking, not as an approach to a particular language.

If you can understand the core concepts of programming, the individual languages begin to matter a lot less. Python is great. Java is great. C++ is great. But they are just tools for solving classes of problems; if you don't understand how to, as the author says by way of example, deconstruct problems and understand the advantages and disadvantages of various solutions, then the software you write will never be as efficient or as elegant as it could be.

There is a compelling argument that, in the age of nearly limitless computing resources, it doesn't matter anyway. You will in all likelihood be a glue programmer: you'll rely on APIs and libraries, most of which have been written by someone else, and you will simply string them together by applying the functions that most obviously address whatever problem you're trying to solve. Who cares, really, if you're using Quicksort or heap sort, you're just going to call sort() on your array (or map, or key-value store, or whatever), and define a callback function that will evaluate any two given values in the array to be sorted, and that's it. Who cares if one requires a little more memory than the other, or a little more time to execute?

Just knock it out, and then get back to arguing online about the One True Language, or the One True Framework.

But, I've been programming for about 25 years now, in dozens of languages, and I can't help but feel that this language-specific approach to programming is producing anemic programmers.

Programming can be a craft; in can be done well, and elegantly. I can hack together a decent, reasonably strong wooden workbench for my shop, but it doesn't possess the same craftsmanship as a dedicated wood worker. It does the job, but it is ugly and uninspiring, and nobody admires it.

So, I guess I think that programming is similar, and moving from SICP to teaching Python or Java is just another representative sample of a disappointing sea change away from what I've come to know and love about programming.

angrycoder 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is kind of sad, like an english department no longer teaching Shakespeare because it is written in archaic language and can't hold the student's interest. But computer science isn't like english, so I guess it is a bit of false analogy.

Fortunately the text and lectures are available for free online, so there is nothing to prevent the curious student from digging in.

edit: now that I've more time to reflect, I want to revise my thoughts...

I would be pretty pissed I was handed dive into python or something similar as my freshman programming text at a college like MIT or Berkley. I would hope that most CS majors wouldn't be going to into one of the top CS programs in the country cold, having never written a line of code. This is in no way meant to disparage Dive into Python or similar books, but it is something you can read on your own over the course of a week or two. If you aren't going into CS at a top uni to study the hard shit like SCIP, I don't really see the point.

jdietrich 4 days ago 0 replies      
This isn't a question of whether we should teach SICP, it's a question of whether it's an appropriate introduction.

I love SICP, I think it's one of the most brilliant didactic texts ever written, but I think it's a terrible starting point for most students.

To me it appears that SICP is used as a trial by ordeal, intended in large part to scare off 'unsuitable' candidates. SICP is all about the beauty and interest of computation for it's own sake, but it doesn't really engage with solving the kinds of problems most software is written for. I think we're inadvertently dissuading people who would make great programmers, but who see computer science as a means rather than an end and need to relate algorithms and data structures to practical problems.

There is clearly value in CS for its own sake and academics are obviously inclined towards this, but I think dismissing the practical application of CS is unhelpful. If we segregate programmers into 'Computer Scientists' and 'Software Engineers', we lose the most precious part - the bit in between, where radical ideas meet great engineering.

I want to see more diversity in computing and I think SICP as an introductory course is a serious hindrance to that aim. We don't teach children to read and write by starting with linguistic theory. I think we should teach software the same way - start with Dick and Jane and work our way up to lambda calculus.

gswang 4 days ago 10 replies      
Whoa, stop. There's a lot of issues in this article. First of all, Berkeley is NOT getting rid of SICP and SICP ideas. This is flat out untrue.

I'm a recent instructor for the course, and I've spoken to several TA's about this course. Below is a rough summary of what we've discussed. This should not be construed as the "official line", but take from it what you will.

First, Berkeley are not getting rid of SICP. ‎For those who aren't aware, they (the future TA's/instructors) are making lecture notes based on SICP but using Python 3).

From a TA:
At the end of the day most of the reason for moving to Python (beyond the weak argument that it's a bigger community), is that there was a meeting where they realized that nobody wanted to teach the course in Scheme after Brian retires. I'm not burning him at the stake, I read his argument and I've considered it. All I'm saying is that he has bad information. Also, lambda is cool but the only difference between that and defining a function inside the body of another function is the requirement of a name. I know lambda's amazing and it's not nearly as magical when you do it in Python, but Python supports proper closures which is the real reason lambda in Scheme is so powerful.

A different TA:
But the real reason it's not being taught in Scheme? My understanding is that it's not being taught is because no professor wants to teach it in Scheme.

Secondly, we talked about some concerns about whether SICP is actually a good INTRODUCTION. I don't think we dispute that there's a huge value in the course, but whether it's good for an introduction is I think, debatable

I do know that when I was a student, I raised many of these same concerns and frankly, I dont think those concerns are invalid. I think that until you have an appreciation for mathematical elegance and REALLY REALLY understand SICP, which appears to only be true for less than half of the students, much of it is lost. I know that was the case when I took the class, at least.

Should clarify. I'm not saying that 50% of the class "doesn't get it", but there's a deeper level that I think is hard to grasp for people who either don't spend 40 hours a week on this, or don't have a mathematical background.

Good example: Data directed programming. Me as a student was: WTF is this? So I always just call this 'get-data' function? What's the point? Where's the application?

The examples in Scheme are often /SO SIMPLE/ that exercises seem like they are dumb. They often look like a point docking trap in exams to students.

In my mind, SICP is better as a capstone, senior course. Think about all of us who defend it. Do we think that we could reach a better audience with that message if the audience were seniors looking for a summary/enlightenment, rather than freshmen exploring CS and engineering applications?

Here's an interesting direction to take SICP: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses​/electrical-engineering-an​d-comp...

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but my understanding is that this is essentially SICP if they were to teach a graduate-version of the course. This looked /insanely/ cool.

In any case, for future TAs and Instructors of this course:
It is now up to you to make sure the spirit of SICP and CS education lives on! Not that it's been any different since the beginning of time.

abstractbill 4 days ago 3 replies      
I love SICP as much as the next person. I've spent vacations devouring it while despairing girlfriends try to get my attention. Seriously, it is awesome.

But, being realistic, an incredible amount of value is currently being created by software engineering. Value to society, and (hence) value to those who can practice the craft. I'm not surprised that so many schools are teaching software engineering, instead of computer science.

davidhollander 4 days ago 4 replies      

I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A simpler way to analyze this problem is noticing the f(n-3) term implies your function has to memorize up to 3 previous results. Then just use the coefficients from the formula to cycle the next result into memory. Using algebra and generating new coefficients as per the OP's solution is unnecessary.

    function f(n)
if n<3 then return n end
local a, b, c = 0, 1, 2
for i=3,n do
a, b, c = b, c, c+2*b+3*a
return c

ldar15 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'd been programming over 20 years when I read SICP. The book was interesting. It was interesting as an introduction to functional programming. But, in my opinion, a lot of the stuff in it that is held up to be clever or informative is just difficult because the reader is expected to figure out how to to imperative programming in a functional language.

A computer is an imperative device. It is a deterministic state machine. Teaching introductory programming with a functional language is teaching students wrong, i.e. it does them a disservice. This being ycombinator, and given pg's thoughts on the merits of FP, I may not have a popular view. We will just have to agree to disagree.

Once you figure out (i.e. immediately if you have done it before) that computers are imperative, not functional, many of the "truths" or "revelations" in SICP are like "well, duh" or worse, "why the fuck did you make me go to all that effort?"

palish 4 days ago 7 replies      
So did anyone else look at the challenge problem, see f(n-3), f(n-2), and f(n-1), then immediately think "oh. A three element array would solve that"? Took me less than 60 seconds...

I'm a little worried that I'm so good at imperative programming, though, since it might indicate that I'm "crippled" when it comes to functional programming. I bet one of you could code circles around me when it comes to e.g. implementing a DSL.

Anyone have advice about how I'd go about "diving into functional programming"? What's a fun project to do in Haskell, for example?

I rarely approach a programming problem by trying to define functional routines. Instead, I almost always use state. Seems like a bad habit that I need to focus on breaking.

civilian 4 days ago 4 replies      
I think that starting with Python is a fine choice. Please keep in mind that it's just the introductory course-- these students are going to be battered with CS theory later on.

We are graduating around 20% fewer students in CS than we were in 2004. We need to find a way to make CS more accessible. I'm not saying that we should make the whole degree easier, but I think that having an easier & more practical first course would be good. The students might not learn as much theory, but they'll get the adrenaline rush of being able to code quickly and do some real damage with their code.

## EDIT: It was a 36% drop from 2004 to 2008. Here is my source: http://marketing.dice.com/pdf/Dice_TechTalentCrunch.pdf

acangiano 4 days ago 1 reply      
Publishing a Python version of SICP would solve the problem. Sure, you can't always translate Scheme to Python with ease, but even a smaller, modern edition of SICP written in a Pythonic way would be extremely beneficial.
spacemanaki 4 days ago 3 replies      
I basically agree with the OP that Dive into python is a pale replacement, but at the same time there is something to SICP's critics. Peter Norvig seemed to think most people would get the most out of it after getting some experience, and the HtDP authors definitely have a point about how much heavy math is involved. It's still a wonderful book, and won't be lost, I'm sure.



Goladus 4 days ago 0 replies      
It looks like the rationale for Berkeley's change is different than MIT. At MIT the change was made because "being a better programmer" in the classical sense was deemed to be less important than other aspects of engineering. If you look at the new MIT course, you'll see that it starts with an intense overview of python and programming techniques and then moves on to apply those techniques in a variety of relevant engineering-related areas. This makes sense in the context of the MIT major given that the choice to focus on software development doesn't have to be made until later on.

(edit: also there's an interview floating around somewhere that talks about the rationale being that modern programming is different in the sense that it more often requires ability to figure out existing libraries as much as an ability to compose well-structured programs.)

dougws 4 days ago 0 replies      
At my school our intro class was in Python, but an SICP class was required for majors. I think this was a pretty decent compromise, especially since many prospective majors placed out of the intro class anyway. I agree that SICP (really FP in general, though the consensus seems to be that SICP is the best way to teach it) is a necessary part of any serious CS curriculum, but I don't think it's necessarily a good place to start--especially if non-CS people are taking the intro class.
Jach 4 days ago 3 replies      
Even MIT abandoned SICP for its introductory course in favor of Python. But I believe it's featured in its second course, no? I don't consider that a mistake. If you're getting rid of it from the curriculum altogether, though, that's a mistake. This article didn't say if that was the case or not. (Also the point of SICP being language agnostic is fairly false. I mean sure you can implement iteration as recursion in other languages, but without tail call optimization it's going to be ugly. Then there's the whole "code as data" problem that's not easily extendable outside the s-exp world. I guess one might say the important, deeper parts of SICP work across languages, but is there an equivalent somewhere to SICP that's not in Lisp?)
atdt 4 days ago 2 replies      
There is a rather breathless presumption that underlies many of the comments to this article, and it is this: that the only way to learn anything thoroughly is to learn it from the inside out: to start from first principles and gradually pile up complexity and abstraction. There is something very compelling about this approach, probably because it purports to model the mind after nature. Just like complex phenomena in nature is built up of smaller, fundamental particles, so too understanding will be built up from atomic units. But stop and think for a moment: how many things in life are really learned that way? Isn't it more often the case that you hack around and only later come to understand what it was that you were doing? I think the fact that it is so intuitively compelling disguises the fact that this conception of learning is really quite bizarre and implausible.
sorbus 4 days ago 1 reply      
So SICP is awesome. The article makes that assertion in the third paragraph, and then continues making that point for most of the rest of the article. It does not, however, make a good, convincing argument for why "Dive Into Python" is significantly worse, especially as an introductory text.

> It's just.. it's just not the same.

Never say this. Horrible people (like me?) will point to it as you admitting that your argument is founded on nostalgia for the way things were, regardless of how strong the rest of your argument is.

yason 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not worried. Good programmers read SICP on their spare time if they don't have to do it in school. If they haven't heard of SICP, they will once they'll join the company of other good programmers and probably find it interesting. On the other hand you can't force material on people who reject it because they don't understand it.

It's just the question of where do we need universities at all when everything valuable is replaced with ever-easier material? Of course, the marginal number of people who actually want to become academics in CS will be needing universities, but that would amount to 1/10th or likely less of current CS student population.

justinhj 4 days ago 0 replies      
It makes me so happy to see such an interesting and passionate article on hn, and at the top no less. So much more valuable than all the "what kind of socks to wear when launching a starup" type posts.
thedigitalengel 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've always found SICP quite overrated (I'm saying this after reading it).

Given Python's learning curve, a much better curriculum would involve going through the codebase of a few well-chosen projects, sending in a few patches and perhaps writing a report on the high-level design of the piece of software or on how the project solves a particular problem (how does XYZ handle i18n? how does ABC stay stable even on a failing network?)

a3_nm 3 days ago 0 replies      
I can think of at least three conflicting approaches to teach programming:

- Start with a low-level language like C (or MMIX...), possibly on embedded devices, so that students know what is going on at the hardware level and don't think that primitives in high-level languages are free.

- Start with a functional language like Lisp, so that students know the theory and the elegance of functional programming.

- Start with an easy and practical language like Python, so that students get to write (crappy) code as soon as possible, tweak it until it works, and finally see their program work and do something impressive (to them).

SICP is an excellent book, and a very good choice for the second approach, but it is not the only sensible way to discover programming.

ihodes 4 days ago 0 replies      
I absolutely agree with the gist of this article.

The assumption that college should prepare you for a career is a fallacy. You should be able to teach yourself programming well enough to program, and take a few classes on the side for kicks+extra progress. But going to a 4-year institution and expecting that to be your golden ticket to a career? Ludicrous.

I go to school to be exposed to things I wouldn't otherwise. I go there to meet people I wouldn't otherwise. I go there to figure out myself, and challenge myself. If I wanted to go into a career working with Spring MVC, I'd have been ready for that out of high school (less the degree many places require"the requirements are a separate issue).

helicalspiral 4 days ago 0 replies      
SICP is going nowhere at Berkeley. Take a gander at http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~bh/61a.html Brian Harvey at Cal is synonymous with 61A) and note:

"Starting with the latter, in 2011-12, 61A will be taught by John DeNero (fall) and Paul Hilfinger (spring) using lecture notes based on SICP (since its text is now available on the web with a Creative Commons license that permits such use) but with the program examples recoded in Python. This is, on its face, a strange idea; Scheme and SICP build on each other's strengths and programming in Python as if it were Scheme will surely result in some of the examples looking unlike the way a native Python speaker would code them. But the long-term plan is that over time, the 61A curriculum will gradually change to include "more modern" ideas, leaving out some of the SICP ones to make room; because of its huge collection of application libraries, the new ideas will be more easily expressed in Python than in Scheme. Also, there is currently a vibrant open-source project community using Python, and 61A students can be introduced into that community."

lekanwang 4 days ago 0 replies      
How introductory programming is taught should really be approached from two directions these days. (1) How to teach a firm foundation for those likely to pursue computer science, and (2) how to motivate and teach a breadth of material to those students who likely will not take more computer science courses.

At a place like Stanford, a majority of undergraduates will have taken an introductory computer science course by the time they graduate, but it's obviously not true that a majority will be computer science majors. And while I appreciate SICP and Scheme and functional programming, and completely understand why that kind of thinking should be valued, it may not be the best way to present a breadth of introductory programming knowledge that will motivate, interest, and offer practical examples. Sure, lambdas are awesome, but when you are just starting out in your first programming course, the deep theory behind why lambdas are so interesting will almost certainly be lost on the students. It's like building up a field of math from, say axiomatic set theory or algebra. By the time you get to multiplication and fields (perhaps akin to variables or for loops in programming), you gain a very deep understanding and appreciation for the topic that can only be gained by this bottom-up problem based approach, but then again, a non-mathematician (or non-computer scientist) could have probably just assume the existence of multiplication or loops for the sake of solving higher-level problems.

Raphael_Amiard 3 days ago 0 replies      
Actually, i agree with him than SICP goes through a lot more important concepts than Dive Into Python, or any other book like this can do.

I also don't find it good that berkeley is abandonning it. But, i really think that it's not necessarily a good choice for an introductory course.

To sum up my position fast, i would say : "First teach how to program some silly things, by teaching the basis of a language (and python seems a very good choice for this). Then when students are addicted, show them some SICP"

This resonates with a lots of comments about SICP, where people who liked it are often quite experienced programmers, and not beginners (Not to say that SICP can't be appreciated by novices, but that it's probably a bit hard for an introductory course)

EDIT : Sorry, jdietrich did say something very similar to me in an earlier comment that i didn't see : http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2846189

vii 4 days ago 0 replies      
SICP is a great book. Its abandonment is a sad reflexion of the gradual descent of programming teaching from principled discipline into an introduction to the process of trial and error. While most developers probably spend the majority of their time experimentally cobbling together applications from blackbox components, this they can and probably must learn on the job. What SICP tries to teach they cannot -- the most fundamental idea in programming:
The evaluator, which determines the meaning of expressions in a programming language, is just another program.

We are starting to embrace again more featureful languages and regrettably accepting that the majority of programmers will use multiple languages regularly. Therefore SICP seems more appropriate than ever!

serichsen 4 days ago 0 replies      
What I do not understand is that Python is seen as a good language to teach Computer Science. I would have thought that a requirement for such a language is that it is theoretically sound. Python has a broken scope concept. Also, I think that a "there is only one way to do it" philosophy, coupled with the crippling of several constructs, is not a good basis for forming an open mind.
rdouble 4 days ago 1 reply      
The merits of SICP have been debated many times. More interesting is the choice of "Dive Into Python." Is that really the best Python book for Berkeley CS?
schiptsov 1 day ago 0 replies      
Why to make so much noise? Universities, even good ones, are about making money at first. So, if mediocre masses thinks that python is 'more practical' or that 'with Java they can always get a job' they have no choice, but to follow these stupid stereotypes.

Trying to convince mediocre masses that Scheme is really beautiful or SCIP is the greatest programming book ever (OK, together with the Man-month =) is not their job, their job is to get money from student's parents, good PR and grants from government or IBM.

Those who are smart enough and have a bit of taste will find out SCIP or discover beauty of Scheme (Python3/Ruby) and abandon Java or PHP themselves. ^_^

blahblahblah 4 days ago 0 replies      
The books that are beloved by practitioners in a field are not always the best choice in terms of pedagogy. Clearly, these professors think that another book choice will help their students really grok the material. If they're successful, great. If they're not, they'll probably recognize it and supplement with other material or switch to another text. It's certainly possible to be a competent programmer without ever having read SICP in the same way that it's possible to learn linear algebra and calculus without ever having read Strang. My CS program didn't use SICP and I don't feel like I really missed anything of critical importance. There are other very competent authors writing other very good textbooks, after all. I was still exposed to Assembly, Fortran, Pascal, C, C++, Java, Scheme, Lisp, and Prolog in my program and learned core concepts of computer science such as asymptotic complexity, recurrence relations, Boolean logic, countability, Turing machines, finite automata, parsers, interpreters, threads, data structures, grammars, Backus-Naur form, etc.
curious_man 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know if someone has already cited this lengthy interview to Hal Abelson (co-author of SICP) about this change, but I think it is worthy to point it out:


daakus 4 days ago 0 replies      
I did have SICP when I started undergrad, and I wish, and asked my professor why can't we use "something modern like python". He gave me some reasoning, and I wish I remember what it was. I think part of the problem is that there isn't enough of a "fun" or "excitement" component in SICP for a very many n00bs, which I was then. Python was cool. Perl was cool too. They're not terrible languages, but admittedly boggled down by syntax. Scheme had a "for education purposes rep" (many times propagated by professors themselves). And there was no "easy_install mechanize" or "easy_install pyqt" to start doing cool shit in Scheme (which I don't believe is true, but for whatever reason at that point it wasn't apparent this was even an option to me).

Overall, I had a lot more fun starting off with Python on my own time. I may have taken longer than most to come around and appreciate Scheme, and certainly find myself wishing JavaScript had less syntax. SICP is awesome though. In fact, I sold most of my books after I was done with university including that one. But maybe 3 or 4 years later, I ended up purchasing it again as I wanted to find classic Lisp literature. Only after it got delivered did I realize this was the same book. And this time around I did truly enjoy it. But I wish I remember what reasoning my professor gave for preferring Scheme over Python.

pnathan 4 days ago 3 replies      
Practical programming should not be the point of early computer science curricula.
Hyena 4 days ago 4 replies      
The obvious solution: rewrite SICP to use Python rather than Scheme. It is CC attribution and non-commercial, so I don't see any legal barrier to outsider revision.
nikcub 4 days ago 0 replies      
programmers who have a good understanding of scheme and SICP are likely to pick up programming in python (or equivalent such as C#, Java, etc.) anyway - either on their own, or through industry experience.

it is a shame that csci is shifting away from teaching fundamentals to teaching syntax. it would be like teaching art with color-by-numbers.

agentultra 4 days ago 0 replies      
I felt the same way wrt The Little/Seasoned/Reasoned Schemer and religious experiences.

It's a shame that they're removing SICP in favour of a technical introductory text.

Python is great and all, but SICP isn't about teaching Scheme.

puredanger 4 days ago 0 replies      
You might find this recent interview with Abelson to be interesting, esp with respect to the history of SICP at MIT:


troymc 4 days ago 1 reply      
The author makes the assumption that the only books people will ever read are those books that were assigned as part of a formal course. That may be true of some people, but it's certainly not true of the average programmer!
jpdoctor 4 days ago 1 reply      
Good god. I took Sussman's course when SICP was still in the notes phase. I never would have predicted that it would have such a following almost 30 years later.
vedantk 3 days ago 0 replies      
### An Update

SICP will not be abandoned at Berkeley.

Although Python will be used to convey the material, I have been assured that much of the content from SICP will be preserved.

I recognize now that CS61A is a fusion of sorts: an exciting modern treatment of traditionally intellectual material. This change reflects concerns about the difficulty of SICP, the popularity of Python, and a general lack of interest on the part of students and teachers in Scheme. Fair enough. I think this is the best possible solution for an introductory course, but that's just my opinion.

I want to reiterate that I mean Berkeley or its professors no disrespect, and that I only raised this issue because I was concerned about a potentially drastic shift in the curriculum.

I can't begin to thank you all for your comments, criticism, emails, and interest. It's made a world of difference.

omaranto 4 days ago 0 replies      
For those who haven't read SICP: don't get the impression that it only deals with very easy stuff like the example in the post about turning a recursive definition into an iterative one. It actually touches on many of the bet ideas in CS. This post could have easily chosen a more interesting example.
blueberrymuffin 4 days ago 0 replies      
The new 61a will still try to (roughly) follow the old 61a/SICP curriculum. Dive into Python will (I think) probably just be used in the beginning to introduce the language.

Specifically where it says "in 2011-12, 61A will be taught ... using lecture notes based on SICP".

ryan-allen 4 days ago 0 replies      
SICP will always exist though, people don't have to go to MIT or whatnot to read it and receive it's wisdom! I have my copy, it's not going anywhere!
dsmith_hacker 4 days ago 0 replies      
Damn, I feel like I'm really missing out having only been through a community college for CS. This is exactly what I need.

I don't know if anyone else posted this already...

SICP full-text online: http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/

gigamonkey 3 days ago 1 reply      
I don't know what, if anything, is going on at Berkeley, but Hal Abelson talked quite a bit about the switch from SICP to a different intro course at MIT when I interviewed him for Code Quarterly http://www.codequarterly.com/2011/hal-abelson/ and it wasn't about abandoning Scheme or "not teaching core computer science". (Well, maybe a bit less core computer science in the intro course but that was basically so that CS people could have more time later for CS without all that annoying EE stuff. And vice versa.
lostmypw 3 days ago 0 replies      
Muy importante. :-)

Late to the party here, but over at the other SICP-related thread that's on the frontpage right now I've linked to an updated version of SICP where an enthusiast has created a pdf with greatly improved legibility, formulas set with tex and figures drawn with vector graphics.


sigzero 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am just curious on this as I don't know Scheme at all. Could a new SICP book be authored that used Python instead of Scheme? Thereby, teaching what SICP was meant to teach yet using Python a well used "field" language?
naughtysriram 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wonderful article..

- Lambda - The Ultimate Ponzi Scheme ;)

- SICP is a bit old book :(

- Things must EVOLVE, Mutation is bad ;)

- The best way to make both ends meet is to tie a knot ;)

- SICP 2.0 - Why don't the nirvana hackers hack the SICP book and lay down stuff they have learnt since their enlightment, as a legacy for all the future CS students? :)

- It will be a OPEN book, highly reviewed and revered ;)

jbooth 4 days ago 0 replies      
To the ramparts!!
lispm 4 days ago 0 replies      
So the school for auto mechanics is no longer using the Ford Mustang II from 1974 for teaching purposes? How sad...
How to seem good at everything: Stop doing stupid shit jinfiesto.posterous.com
392 points by jinfiesto  3 days ago   130 comments top 44
Periodic 3 days ago  replies      
I see a lot of people do stupid shit because they don't seem to think it will make a big difference. One mistake isn't a big deal, is it? The problem is that it becomes habit, and then you're making plenty of these, and you think it's okay, but in reality a lot of these mistakes have become normal.

I think the most profound thing about the post was that it showed a striking difference between determined practice and directed practice. Just being determined and putting in the hours will _not_ be sufficient to pass a plateau of learning. Sometimes you need _directed_ learning to push you past that plateau.

Applying that to code, I think this is the difference between just programming a lot and thinking you'll get better, and actually reading texts, reading code and talking to other programmers to see how other people do things better.

For example, you can start using more anonymous functions in your code because all the cool kids are doing it, but unless you really understand how to deal with high-order functions and what a map and fold are, you are just going to be doing stupid shit that doesn't really help your code at all.

dschobel 3 days ago 4 replies      
Same thing applies in job interviews and dating. The people opposite the table from you want you to succeed because no one likes giving interviews or going on first dates. They just want to fill the vacancy.

All you have to do is not disqualify yourself by being stupid or obnoxious.

arctangent 3 days ago 4 replies      
The possibility of making game-ending blunders is one of the main reasons I don't play competitive chess any more.

Of course, it's very frustrating to make a "simple" error in a game of chess that might have already taken up a couple of hours of time and which may lose the match for your team, which represents a large geographic region.

But after a lot of reflection it became apparent to me that this kind of frustration is very much an inherent property of the game of chess.

It turns out (once you play enough games and get pretty damn good at it) that it's actually quite a limited and simple game. Once you're down half a pawn or so there aren't many possibilities to generate a counterattack on another part of the board to make it possible to win without relying on your opponent making a subsequent simple mistake.

I did play quite a bit of Go at university and for a while I was confident that I could get good. If I'd stuck at it I would certainly be a low-ranking amateur dan by now but I decided to spend the majority of my spare time learning more about IT.

One reason for my early enthusiasm in the game of Go was because it's such a complex game it's not really clear when a "simple" strategic error has been made. Perhaps more importantly, because both players experience much more difficulty choosing moves than in chess, there's usually a reason to play on when you've made a mistake even when playing a highly competent player.

This has been a long reply. I'm trying to illustrate that the secret to seeming good at everything is to participate in activities which are intrinsically difficult and where your intelligence will have the chance to shine through rather than to participate in activities where one foolish blunder can allow a person of much lesser ability to beat you.

SkyMarshal 3 days ago 1 reply      
This article echos one of Nassim Taleb's central themes, that what doesn't happen (or that we don't do, or we actively avoid) is often as or more valuable than what happens/what we do/etc. But we tend to discount the value of things that we can't see or that didn't happen, thinking everything of value must be 'actionable', and that's a mistake.

It's a pretty common idea among traders as well. One of the fundamental teaching examples is why it's better to avoid a loss than make a gain:

Say you start with $100 and take a 50% loss down to $50. Now, what percentage gain will it take to get you back to $100? Many people new to the game will unthinkingly answer a symmetrical 50% gain, but of course that's wrong. To get from $50 back to $100, you need a 100% gain.

For every loss, getting back to even requires asymmetrically more % gain. I imagine poker players are very aware of this harsh fact as well.

There's even an old misquoted Japanese/Chinese proverb that hints at it - If you sit by the river long enough, you'll see the body of your enemy float by. Implying the power of doing nothing and letting your adversary shoot themselves in the foot. (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1225153)

jdietrich 2 days ago 1 reply      
Poker players understand this implicitly. They refer to marginal but cumulatively significant errors as "leaks" and good players invest enormous effort in identifying and plugging their leaks. While at the highest level poker requires some very sophisticated skills, the journey from novice to competent professional is mainly one of diligently plugging leaks.

Poker is unusual in being so strongly a game of incomplete information. A top professional may only have a few percent advantage over a complete novice, so skill is rarely evident in the short term. Identifying leaks is painstaking in poker because even in hindsight you are rarely sure of the right way to play a hand. Even over a long session at the tables, a player can do everything right but lose, or play terribly but walk away with bulging pockets.

I think that poker theory has a great deal of relevance to entrepreneurs. The mental fortitude required to invest money in an uncertain outcome based on partial knowledge is an overwhelmingly important skill in both.

bambax 3 days ago 0 replies      
In the foreword to a book called "In search of stupidity", Joel Spolsky makes the case that the success of Microsoft owes much to the fact that each of their competitors did a lot of stupid shit while M$, mostly, didn't.

The article is a bit dated today, but I think he's still got a point:


For every other software company that once had market leadership and saw it go down the drain, you can point to one or two giant blunders that steered the boat into an iceberg. Micropro fiddled around rewriting the printer architecture instead of upgrading their flagship product, WordStar. Lotus wasted a year and a half shoehorning 123 to run on 640KB machines; by the time they were done Excel was shipping and 640KB machines were a dim memory.

rubergly 3 days ago 2 replies      
Not doing stupid shit is important, but what about not being afraid to make mistakes? Making mistakes is healthy and arguably one of the best ways to learn; if your motto is 'don't do stupid shit', then I fear that you'll miss out on a lot of opportunities.

Also, your definition of 'stupid' is going to change throughout the years. You shouldn't be afraid of trying something new now because you might realize in a couple years that what you were trying to do was stupid; doing it is what helped you become a smarter and more experienced person.

I know this wasn't actually the point of the article, but it seems like the 'don't do stupid shit' motto could easily be taken too literally into this interpretation.

sequoia 2 days ago 0 replies      
Scumbag article:
Highly provocative title; zero practical information.

I know negative comments are frowned upon but I just wish these knock-off quasi-zen bullshit articles didn't bubble up to the HN twitter bot so often. I'm irritated because I took the time to read this assuming that the author was going to deliver something useful and that wasn't the case, it was just a bunch of hot air. "Succeed by not failing." Very good.

I'd like to give the author full marks for marketing. Provocative title, slick design, little substance... he ought to get a job at Wired!

georgieporgie 3 days ago 1 reply      
How to stop doing stupid shit: minimize your unknown unknowns. How to minimize your unknown unknowns: learn the correct way to do things. Without guidance and mentorship, which is largely non-existent in software, you're stuck flailing around until you attain enlightenment (either by discovery or invention) on each thing you do. When you start the next task, you start the process all over again. Over time, you gain wisdom, at the cost of neurotic self-doubt.
coryl 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm fortunate to have a brilliant Muay Thai teacher and accomplished fighter who preaches this kind of philosophy every class. No matter what you do, you should do it mindfully and in the case of fighting, be aware of trade-offs and price you pay for technical inadequacy. Far too many people have the misconception that fighting or training is about hitting hard, when it's really more about hitting correctly. Parallel to the chess example: if you're getting hit and you don't know why or how, you're not training correctly. You're not studying and identifying your mistakes and then improving on them.

Having an excellent teacher to see and explain those things puts you at such an advantage over someone stuck with a less experienced or educated teacher. I like to think that theses lessons can help carry over into the startup world. That is (in sum), technical execution and winning are the only things that matter.

geekfactor 3 days ago 2 replies      
I liked this post but am not quite sure where to start in applying this to software development. I created a follow-up "Ask HN: What are the stupid things Rails developers do?" here:


bfe 3 days ago 0 replies      
This great post should be really encouraging: you can achieve a terrific competitive advantage right off the bat just by launching a business that manages to avoid doing stupid shit.
imperialWicket 3 days ago 1 reply      
I have used a similar technique for teaching competitive croquet. Instead of this one simple rule, I offered three. The first two rules pertain to strict technique and croquet theory (similar to the specifics about not leaving pieces hanging, and structuring your opening moves). The third rule is always: don't F up your shot.

In the chess example, I reconfigured the 'don't do stupid shit', to something like, a) Open with an intent, b) Don't lose pieces without purpose, and c) Do everything for a purpose. I wanted to add this information to the thread, because I think the 'don't F up your shot' croquet analog includes a more explicit sense of limiting your actions based on your ability. In croquet, all the theory and mental prowess in the world is sacrificed if you can't execute the ideal shot under the circumstances. This is acknowledgement of your current ability is what I think applies to much of programming (and life).

Note that I am NOT suggesting that you avoid moving your abilities forward. However, focus a lot of effort on knowing what you know, and learn how to use it well. The more you use it, the more you learn and expand on that skill set. The more carefully you use what is within the realms of that skill set, the fewer mistakes (and the more successes) you will have.

stcredzero 3 days ago 0 replies      
A music analogy. I know a woman who is a wonderful harpist. She's a freaking musical genius who comes up with awesome and highly imaginative stuff, and has the guts and skill to execute it. However, she often does this thing where she accelerates near the end of the number. I think she's just being sheepishly modest, but it makes the end feel like a cartoony little apology. Really, instead of speeding up, she might just as well segué into "Shave and a Haircut...Two Bits!"

There's an analogy here for both authors and software developers.

jamesbkel 3 days ago 6 replies      
I agree with the overall point here, but isn't this just the same as saying "practice" and/or "keep practicing, especially with those that are better than you"?
DamagedProperty 2 days ago 0 replies      
What you are really talking is about making a decision to raise your standards. The human mind does not process negatives very well so telling someone to stop doing stupid shit is a hit or miss message. Really the title of this post should have been, "How to be good at everything: Raise your standards." But that isn't as catchy or sticky as "Stop doing stupid shit."
Raising your standards means setting a new bar of what you are going to expect from yourself in a given task or skill. It comes with the presupposition that you can meet the standard thus the added confidence. Many people do "stupid shit" but don't know why. And frankly the 'why' doesn't matter. You have to believe that you can improve and setting standards is concrete way of telling your mind you won't accept certain behavior anymore.

Of course this sounds easy but it's not.

Making the decision is the hardest thing anyone can do. It comes with consequences, both good and bad. Consequences in potentially eliminating the fulfillment of needs you may have or possible coping mechanisms you have grown into. When you make a true decision you cut off possibilities.

Raising your standards necessitates making a 'real" decision and cutting off options. Sometimes doing stupid shit is the only way some people know how to wrap their head around the f*cked up things they have come to understand.

mkrecny 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is BS. If you don't allow yourself to do stupid shit you're not being creative or explorative enough in the pursuit. You may be a technical master but you will never be a game-changing luminary.
mr_november 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm currently obsessed with golf (and for those who write it off as a ridiculous waste of time, I encourage you to give it a go; I used to be of the same mindset as you and I was pleasantly surprised to be very wrong. It's a great thinking man's/woman's game, gives you lots of time with quality friends, and puts you in some of the most beautiful environments you can find).

The post speaks to me as 9 out of 10 amateurs are out there doing stupid shit almost every swing - trying to hit the crap out of the ball at the expense of basic fundamentals (primarily balance), attempting miraculous shots when in trouble only to put themselves in more trouble etc. I was one of those dudes not too long ago (and still am sometimes), but recently tried to 'stop doing stupid shit'. It is unbelievable how quickly your scores can drop (that's a good thing for those who don't play) by accepting the predicament you have put yourself in and playing the next shot with intent, focus, and generally being smart about it.

I never thought of consciously applying this thinking to startups/programming but it's completely doable and probably effective.

zitterbewegung 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm fortunate to have http://www.math.uic.edu/~kauffman/ louis kauffman) as my math professor. Instead of taking regular classes I just kept on taking independent study with him to get rid of all the stupid things I did in mathematics. I asked him for a research paper within my abilities and I am going to write on in the Fall. I am reading up on the research before hand.
kgroll 3 days ago 3 replies      
Alternatively, I'd encourage you do to "stupid shit." Lots of it. Isn't that what learning is all about?
kayoone 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think for many people the hard part is identifying the stupid shit they do in the first place.
cdelahousse 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think by stop doing 'stupid shit', you mean learn the fundamentals properly.

That's what your piano teacher beat into you (not out of you). That's what those chess drills taught you.


Fundamentals are never taught properly for anything.

I say this a programmer, a former music student (university level) and someone who's learned alot of shit.

pkulak 3 days ago 0 replies      
The point he seems to make is that one failing is worse than many successes, and, sadly, he's probably right. It reminds me of college football. The team that schedules a third of its games against patsies and goes undefeated will go to the championship game. The team that plays 12 equals, but has one loss, will usually not be in the top 5.
benbeltran 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the hard part about not doing stupid shit is knowing what the stupid shit is. This advice is great for people with intermediate-to-advanced knowledge of the field they want to "stop doing stupid shit".

Though it is mentioned in the article, I think it doesn't get as much attention, the most important part to this little piece of advice for someone learning something new: Learn what you should not be doing as well as what you should. (People usually focus on the later and not the former) ... A great tip for educators too.

dimmuborgir 1 day ago 0 replies      
What the author is trying to say is Dunning-Kruger effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect
SolarUpNote 2 days ago 0 replies      
I heard a tennis coach say something similar:

If you don't try to hit the ball too hard, just get it back in-play -- you'll beat everyone who's worse than you, everyone who's as good as you, and half the guys that are better than you.

zackattack 3 days ago 0 replies      
By taking the leap forward to being fully transparent with your skill execution, by being courageous and taking the risk to let yourself be vulnerable, you can see massive improvements

I recommend video taping yourself during skill execution and then asking an expert to review it for you. You will be amazed at how many mistakes you are making and also how easy and straightforward they are to correct once you are aware of them.

This is helpful for everything from sports to dating to programming.

And because I'm always scheming, many savvy internet marketers are allowing people to upload videos of themselves practicing niche skill X and then hiring a coach to review them. Some cool HTML5/Flex software on a CRUD database could be a big hit here.

astrofinch 3 days ago 0 replies      
"We tend to seek easy, single-factor explanations of success. For most important things, though, success actually requires avoiding many separate causes of failure." -- Jared Diamond
nazgulnarsil 3 days ago 0 replies      
the way I like to think of this is stop failing in obvious ways. Failing in novel ways is fine as you learn things, all you learn from failing in an obvious way is something you could have learned by some other poor sap's example.
mailanay 3 days ago 0 replies      
I recently read Ray Dalio's (founder of Bridgewater) principles - http://www.bwater.com/Uploads/FileManager/Principles/Bridgew...

It is very interesting in how he is focusing on "reaching goals" instead of "looking good" or "looking stupid" etc...

I think a must read for everyone

uladzislau 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wrote the whole book about stopping doing stupid shit. Check it out http://whyprojectsfailbook.com
It's about project management but the principles could be applied to startups, business, software, etc.
Avoiding most common pitfalls and not doing stupid mistakes will get you really far.
smackfu 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Stop doing stupid shit." It would have been a lot easier to just stop playing the chess prodigy.
blackman 3 days ago 1 reply      
i think really what he wants to say is to drill the fundamentals. getting the basics right is important.

don't do stupid shit means nothing. why would anyone want to do stupid shit? This kind of the same meaningless wording that everyone thinks applies to them in horoscopes how many times have you read "doesn't suffer fools gladly"?

tathagatadg 2 days ago 0 replies      
Do you think finding mentor(s) is the quickest way to identify the stupid things? I recently started going to Chicago Python users group meetups, and just listening to people talk around me and noting down stuff to google later, has inspired me more than anything (& also the mailing list)... finding stupid things "alone" is more like doing your own proof-reading ... its pretty difficult to find your own non-obvious bugs.
koof 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wish this were satire.
adharmad 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Looking back on some piano competitions, it seems like the vast majority of the time, winners were chosen simply because they didn't do anything that was stupid enough to be easily criticised."

The recent presidential election comes to mind.

jsmcgd 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've often thought the key to winning a (conventional) war is simply to make less strategic blunders than your opponent.
pshapiro 2 days ago 0 replies      
"If you don't act what makes you fail it doesn't happen."
- Tathagata
dnewms 3 days ago 0 replies      
This also seems relevant to a general takeaway from the "Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance": 'embrace quality'. Always strive for the best you can do in the situation you are given - whether it is chess, piano, coding, or mowing the lawn.
dustinupdyke 3 days ago 0 replies      
I read this as don't follow the convention if there be a better way to do things, don't follow the party line if the party line is wrong, and always push for the right thing, because it is better to aim high than to concede to a lesser solution.

I think about how much this applies to middle management sometimes. Are you doing to do stupid shit that others ask you to do even when it is wrong, or are you going to demand the right approach and build a reputation for at least trying to always do the right thing.

E.g. saying yes to a ridiculous deadline that you know your development team can't possibly hit is stupid shit. Say no.

achompas 3 days ago 3 replies      
Sure, this sounds like good advice. But I'm relatively new at developing software, and I cant really identify "stupid shit" just yet. So what are some dumb things developers constantly do?
iradik 3 days ago 0 replies      
Corollary: "Ninety percent of life is just showing up." -- Woody Allen

It's stupid to be absent, either physically or mentally, from your own life. Whether this be not being "awake" or late during a meeting/class/work/date or not preparing places to show up to.

HiroshiSan 3 days ago 1 reply      
What would that mean in terms of programming or say investing? I want to learn both...with 0 knowledge of either but I'm not sure how to go about it, if I were to use this method of learning how would I do it?
vvpan 2 days ago 0 replies      
To me this all sounds like rhetoric.
When patents attack Android googleblog.blogspot.com
383 points by MikeCapone  4 days ago   279 comments top 36
yanw 4 days ago  replies      
It's sad that pro-patent asstroturf hijacks serious anti-patent discussions on HN, it's obvious that the HN sentiment towards software patents is that of disgust, yet when a passionate and rare post like this makes headlines somehow a pro-patent sentiment creeps out.

Software patents are a joke, just listen to this now famous 'This American Life' piece: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/441/w...

In this case it's so blatantly anti-competitive you have to be blind no to see the problem with it, we have all of Android's competitors consorting together, time and time again to block Google from buying patents so they could kill it.

Even if you are pro-patent (slim chance if you are a HN member) you should appreciate the anti-competitive risk of these patent consortiums. And if the government wasn't infested with IP lawyers (former RIAA, MPAA, BSA; None reformists) this issue would have taken center stage ages ago.

davidu 4 days ago  replies      
Drummond is very smart. And he's always been friendly to me. But that's not to be confused with Google being the good guy. They tried to buy these patents and failed.

And they claim that they aren't litigious with patents, and they haven't been yet. But to paint them as the victim is disingenuous -- while they don't use patents offensively, they have many other tools at their disposal that they do use offensively, market share in advertising and search amongst them.

Google is a massive company with massive resources. They happen to be exceptionally smart and know how to use tools outside of litigation to achieve their means -- but that doesn't make them any less a monopoly or anti-competitive company; far from it.

It's impossible to view Drummond's post in a box -- it's not just about how patents hinder innovation -- /everybody knows that/ already. But Google does everything for a reason, they are very strategic. Since Google knows it has better tools to be competitive outside of patents, it is in their interest to eliminate patents as a source of pressure from competitors.

And if you invent something amazing, and you patent it, and then Google decides to copy you -- you may not feel that patents hinder innovation as much as you do right now. But since they are a behemoth with lots of other tools at their disposal, they want to eliminate a favorite weapon of their competitors. Smart, but altruistic it may not be.

funkah 4 days ago 8 replies      
I keep seeing this idea that Apple is filing patent lawsuits because they are afraid of their competitors and their business is on the verge of collapse, and I just don't understand. Their business is better than ever, breaking records every quarter. I think maybe people are reading too much into market-share figures, or projecting their wishes onto reality.

Also, did Google not just try to buy the Nortel patents? Weren't they in an auction with the same companies called out in this blog post? I wonder if we would be reading this post at all, had Google won that auction.

Ultimately, patents are not good for our industry, obviously. And if Google manages to bring about change in this area, we will no doubt be the better for it. But it just seems a little funny to strike this "patents are bad" pose when they just bid like $3B for a bunch of 'em.

jerf 4 days ago 3 replies      
Is this why we're seeing a sudden burst of anti-patent news? Is Google in the early phases of drumming up grassroots support for a direct assault on software patents in general, without their name being on the effort? Is this post actually move 3 instead of move 1?

Honest questions, BTW, if there's anybody with answers who are allowed to give answers...

econgeeker 4 days ago 2 replies      
The problem with this is that prior to the introduction of the iPhone, android was designed to look like and work on phones like the blackberry. It was a better feature phone OS. After the iPhone came out, Google changed courses and counterfeited the iPhone.

If google wanted to compete, they could have spent 7 years investing in fundamental innovations-- like Apple did with touch-- to create their own new UI. Maybe they could have done a voice driven phone. OR, if touch was inevitable, they could have done their own, innovative take on touch UIs.

They did not. They turned around and cloned the iPhone and then gave the OS away for free. They were able to do this because the patent system requires Apple to publicly disclose their inventions. In exchange for this disclosure, Apple gets a monopoly on the use of their inventions. If you don't like this, that's fine, amend the constitution, and take it up with your congressman.

Google is now claiming that the government should step in and use force-- that is, decrees backed by men with guns and the threat of violence-- to allow google to steal other companies innovations and get away with it.

Think about that. Google cannot compete fair and square, so they steal their competitors technology. When this is pointed out, they call for the use of violence to let them get away with it! Talk about Doing Evil!

Apple learned their lesson last time around. They relied on copyright and license agreements to protect the invention of the GUI. The government did not have their back when Microsoft stole their invention, so this time, Apple made sure to patent their inventions.

This is not "anti-competitive", this the very definition of competition. Apple made a better widget to break into the fiercely competitive mobile phone market.

People only say "anti-competitive" when someone is competing successfully and they don't like it.

If justice prevails, Google will become the wholly owned search and advertising subsidiary of Apple. If corruption prevails, Apple will be prevented in succeeding against google in court. We'll see how it turns out.

Either way, Once again, Apple-- the only company in Silicon Valley with a track record of genuine innovation-- is being attacked by counterfeiters who can't be bothered to spend any R&D on coming up with something new themselves, and once again, the thieves are claiming that they're just "competing."

If you hope to ever profit form doing something innovative... and not get squashed by a company like google ripping you off... you really should be on Apple's side on this. They have always been the underdog that stuck to their guns and innovated really hard. That they've been successful at this shows that the underdog can sometimes win.

If its taken away from them, it will not be justice, and it will not be moral.

MrScruff 4 days ago 1 reply      
I find Google's stance here ingenuous. They're attempting to portray themselves as the persecuted innovator, but their behaviour in the market in question doesn't really stand up to scrutiny.

While the patents Apple are using to attack Android with seem dubious, the motivation for this tactic is obvious. Google extremely blatantly cloned the look and feel of the iPhone and have pursued a strategy of dumping Android in an attempt to reduce smartphones to a commodity. Of course Apple will try every trick in the book to prevent them doing this.

As a strategy for Google this makes perfect sense, but playing the wounded party as they do in this post is ridiculous, whichever horse you have in the smartphone OS race.

kooshball 4 days ago 1 reply      
adding more content for discussions


Brad Smith (Microsoft General Counsel):
Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.

rufo 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm kind of disappointed that the word "reform" doesn't show up anywhere in this article.

Indeed, one of the main courses of action they're taking is to "strengthen our own patent portfolio"…

napierzaza 4 days ago 2 replies      
Google is lying if they are pretending that Apple and MSFT have started the software patent issues. And they clearly could have tried harder for the Nortel patents if they wanted to. How about try to not just bid a magical number but actually try and win auctions instead?

If Google really cared about the issue of PATENTS they'd be putting as much leverage behind changing the patent laws and not just calling sour grapes for themselves. I haven't seen them jumping in and defending (actually small) tech companies from litigation or doing much more than... a blog posting.

They're also saying that the Nortel patents are dubious, but I doubt it. A legacy company like Nortel probably had a lot of patents made long ago that are worth their weight in gold.

What is Google doing about it (based on this blog post)? Not fighting the patent system itself but of course trying to overturn the patent sale, buy more patents for themselves and basically become involved in the back and forth that had predominated software patents for a while now.

This is a blog post from Google about how they want to be heavy hitters with patents too. They want to throw their weight around with patents just like everyone else and use the system in the exact same way as this axis of evil who are conspiring against them.

hullo 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's blatantly incorrect to say of Apple (and even Microsoft) that "Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation."

Regardless of one's feelings about software patent lawsuits (I'm opposed), a better phrase than "instead of" might be "in addition to".

brlewis 4 days ago 1 reply      
Nice to read a Chief Legal Officer using plain language.
jawns 4 days ago 2 replies      
So ... if Google had won the patents, was their plan to just release them into the wild? Or would they be defending them, just as these other companies are doing?
worshipGoogle 4 days ago 2 replies      
Forget Multitouch. Let's talk about how google one day decided to take Java, a project Sun had spent decades developing and selling as a product, and copy it (not necessarily the source code) and give it away for free, in all of it's Google "Don't be Evil" righteousness. Thus causing handset makers who were paying Sun for their product to stop paying them and instead get the free version from Google instead.

Is android a better platform than Java's? Yes, definitely. But that's not the right question. The right question is: was it right for Google to take someone else's IP and give it away for free?

Frankly I hate the way people view Google, as some righteous white-knight out to save the world from having to pay for anything that's worth buying. Instead "just give me all your personal info, and look at a few advertisements, and be on your way" (pat on the head).

I think Oracle has every right to go after Google for hijacking Java and turning it into another add-generating revenue stream, without so much as a tip of the hat to the company that spent decades and billions of dollars building it into what it is today.

Just my $.02.

blinkingled 4 days ago 0 replies      
Patents are here and companies will find a way to exist with either DoJ's help or by acquiring their own patent portfolio. That's not the interesting news here to me.

I think by being offensive and teaming up with Microsoft, Apple is risking being at the losing end of a huge PR and mind share battle here. Microsoft still makes money using their market position but they are no longer in the mind share race.

Apple's business is in a position right now where they aren't a monopoly yet to start abusing it - unlike Microsoft which has so much leverage that losing mind share and having bad PR doesn't do much in terms of being a dent in existing, established business. However, for Apple if the rising tide against their close-ness continues with the help of economical realities and being perceived as a bully in the same league as Microsoft - they could see stagnation.

Apple has really no reason to pick that bullying route - they are always first to create new market categories, they are the most profitable ones, they still have lot of novelty factor going for them and they can compete in every better way if they wanted.

justin_hancock 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think that some people have missed some of the points in the article in particular the aggressive litigation against Samsung, HTC, Motorola etc it isn't just Google thats being targeted. This is an anti-competitive stance, Apple, Oracle and Microsoft are being very aggressive in their pursuits. In my opinion the critical and genuine patents in mobile are linked to the radio portion of the device, the remaining patents are dubious as they don't represent novel or non-obvious solutions to a problem, more I did it this particular way so I am patenting it.

The US patent system, is broken. The cases as far as I know are being fought in the US, I doubt any of the claims would be accepted by a European court, though feel free to correct me.

febeling 4 days ago 1 reply      
Patent lawsuits are probably filed nowadays how you would threat opponent in a game of chess. You just need to attack to maintain the strategic position. You need a lawsuit in an advanced state as a strategic asset. I don't buy that Google is really any better in a moral sense.

I do believe, though, that there are plenty of people at the companies driving these current litigations that hate what they are doing. It's just the rules of the game that let aggression emerge.

gord 4 days ago 1 reply      
Note to Google - fix smartphones and insure against future patent abuse by advancing an even better alternative - a fully formed HTML5+Javascript mobile OS offering.

Mobile and Web are the same thing, its just we have a legacy crud that needs to be factored away.

Ideally my phone runs linux with a GPU accelerated HTML5 UI, and has a javascript programming model with open API to get to hardware features. We are nearly there.

I believe Objective-C and Java languages are ultimately unsuited to phone app development. [ because phone app development _is_ web app development ]

This would be a bold, unifying, visionary strategy. You already have this in place, it just needs to be amplified - doing so could be the perfect strategy to win the patent game by making the patent game largely irrelevant.

AllenKids 4 days ago 6 replies      
If the patents were used to block android out of market, then maybe it is harming the consumers. But I see no problem with demanding license fees and maintaining certain feature exclusivity, even that means Android become not so free or less user-friendly. Google does not represent all people and Android has no inherent right to be free.
marcamillion 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just finished listening to that Planet Money podcast on this, just to see this blog post this now.

Should be interesting to see how this plays out.

I wonder if all parties involved would lobby for the destruction of software patents - wholesale - and call a ceasefire.

flocial 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is wonderful actually. I don't believe Google's motives are altruistic for a minute but the only way to make this debate stick is by having one angry giant of a corporation against it and lucky for everyone Google is the one.

The system is broken but at the same time I suppose we need patents in some form at least for hardware. Apple couldn't make phones if it wasn't for innovative suppliers. The only thing between them going it alone and taking orders from Apple are patents. It's a bit tricky because if this patent battle plays out, Apple, Microsoft, and HP/Palm would be the only players able to make smartphones on their own without fear of patent suits. That's a near monopoly.

It's enough of a tricky debate and politics usually favors entrenched interests of large corporations. Despite Google's clout they couldn't match the sheer magnitude of Apple, Microsoft, and others. Plus, Google has always had an antagonistic relationship with government, since government keeps trying to pry sensitive personal information from Google.

pcj 4 days ago 1 reply      
If this was coming from an open source community (instead of Google) that's developing something like Android to give away for free, I would have understood. But, Google gives away Android for free so that it can sell loads of them and there by locking down most of the users (non-geeks) to the Google Ad universe and earn its revenue by selling loads and loads of Ads. Its not like Google genuinely cares about the expensive mobile industry and its actual intent is to provide cheap phones to those who can't afford it (on the lines of OLPC). While whether or not patents and specifically Software patents is good or bad for the society is a different argument, this issue doesn't deserve the same sympathy that companies who are attacked by patent trolls do.
there 4 days ago 0 replies      
off-topic, but if your weblog is not a personal one and has multiple people authoring content, put the author name immediately under the post's title.

reading a post that starts with "I have worked" makes me immediately stop reading and scroll around to find out who "I" is.

lambtron 4 days ago 0 replies      
technology is an inherently fiercely competitive landscape--a missed technology cycle can materially adversely impact a businesses operations.

coming out of the 2008-2009 recession, companies are flush with cash, of which shareholders encourage companies to invest in various operations, assets, etc. using these cash stockpiles to buy nortel patents and prevent google from enhancing their dominance / protection against litigation in the android space is a form of competition. it is all a game.

charlieok 4 days ago 1 reply      
I agree that patents are a problem. And, I saw Google's offer today for a free Android phone with a 2-year contract.

I would love a deal on a phone, but I think it is unethical to bundle products in this way. I would rather have the opportunity to switch carriers anytime I want.

I love mobile devices and mobile services, but the market conditions are too restrictive. I'd like to be able to (for example):

o Have multiple devices from different vendors on the same carrier plan
o Have multiple carriers for each of my devices, so I can use whoever has the best service at any particular location
o Pay a fair price for the data I send and receive to/from each carrier, and not pay for what I do not use
o Sign up only for internet service from a carrier, without anything else bundled in that I do not want, such as voice service, SMS plans, etc. Only internet protocol, thank you.
o Use my phone, which I bought, on any compatible carrier, in any country in the world, for a fair price.

If Google offers an android phone with these terms on their main search page, I will gladly pay a fair price for it.

fredliu 4 days ago 0 replies      
pro- or anti-patent aside, this post sounds to me more like Google is really not confident in winning the current lawsuits around Android against its competitors.

As this blog is definitely not just a random rant against patent from some random lawyer. Its intention is more interesting. Is Google crying out loud just because it sees the patent system unjust? or is it really because they believe they are gonna lose most of their android related lawsuits, so they want to cry "its unfair!" earlier before the final whistle? just a thought...

jannes 4 days ago 0 replies      
They clearly listened to This American Life's piece on patents. That title can't be coincidence. They just appended the word "Android" to it. :-
ChrisArchitect 4 days ago 0 replies      
a tough topic/post to go front-and-center public with. a bit surprised to see it coming from Google. Guess it is the CLO griping.. but the multiple sides of this coin are hard to ignore. Coin being an operative word as much of this calls into question the nature of business and competition
jheriko 4 days ago 0 replies      
i am yet to hear a valid justification for ANY patent. can we just ignore them en masse please? the law will then have to change... at any rate i have zero respect for them. if i invent something already patented, good luck trying to extract money from me... i dare you.
kleptco 4 days ago 0 replies      
It makes sense for the legal system to guard against copying. If people buying Android phones actually thought they were buying iPhones - that's a problem. But if Apple can convince the government that they had a truly original idea and that no one can use that idea regardless of how they came up with it - that's absurd.
beerglass 4 days ago 0 replies      
To put their money where their mouth is, Google should may be put their thousands of patents in the public domain and license it to anyone as per the alternative system they believe is better than the current patents system.
swarzkeiser 4 days ago 0 replies      
Google was born off of a patent: PageRank. It is unfair to criticize the entire concept of patents when they've guaranteed the just reward for several great, honest inventions.
evilswan 4 days ago 2 replies      
If the "innovations" in Android were already covered by prior patents; they weren't innovations at all, were they?

Not necessarily my point of view, but isn't that how patents should work? Protecting prior art.

jchrisa 4 days ago 0 replies      
Google should buy Lodsys :)
mikaelgramont 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hopefully Google will use some of those $3B to lobby against software patents.
pohl 4 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if anyone in Google is wishing that they hadn't tried to adorably bid pi billion, and had instead played to win.
patrickaljord 4 days ago 2 replies      
Good to see Google speak out against the patent trolls that Microsoft and Apple are, shame on them.

Edit for people downvoting: As I say in my comment below, this is one of the definition of a patent troll according to wikipedia[1]:

> Purchases a patent, often from a bankrupt firm, and then sues another company by claiming that one of its products infringes on the purchased patent;

This is what Apple and Microsft did by buying Novel and Nortel patents, making them de facto patent trolls.

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_troll#Etymology_and_defi...

Who Rules America: An Investment Manager's View on the Top 1% ucsc.edu
350 points by ph0rque  4 days ago   201 comments top 31
michaelochurch 4 days ago 5 replies      
Terrible writing.

I'll sum it up: hard working people in the bottom half of the "top 1%" are not evil power-brokers but the most successful professionals. You have to look at the top 0.5 or top 0.1% (I'd argue that even 0.1% is generous) before engaging "the corridors of power", which consists of financial and real estate elites as well as contractors exploiting corrupt government officials. Is this news?

A more interesting exposition might be the ruse that exists because Americans conflate these two classes of rich. It has all sorts of pernicious cultural effects. American conservatism is founded on the false belief that the $5m/year bankers are merely scaled-up versions of the $400k/year neurosurgeon who has been working hard since he was 6... when in fact, they're totally different.

This is fairly important if one looks at where revolutions begin. They usually start from the high end from the middle class, among people who are "rich" but not especially powerful. The American colonists were very wealthy, but had no clout because they were 3000 miles away from those making the decisions. The French revolutionary thought leaders were wealthy salon denizens, although far from the court at Versailles, and therefore increasingly out-of-power as the clouds darkened over France. History describes such revolutionaries, radicals, and agitators as "middle class" in hindsight (they're our heroes, and the U.S. associates "middle class" reflexively with virtue) but these people did, in fact, come overwhelmingly from the richest ~5 percent. The American "Founding Fathers" were downright rich. Revolutionary agitation usually comes when hard-working, intelligent, and previously fortunate people become out of power and hit a ceiling, either because society is deeply stagnant or because they're actively being deprived of autonomy. Eventually, conflict between the small, closed, social-network-based "upper" elite and the larger, fluid, merit-based "upper-middle" elite reaches a boiling point. It was this way at the end of the 18th century in America and France, and it will very likely be this way in the major conflict of the first third of the 21st century. The danger is that the conservative American has been misled into believing that the more noble elite ("elitist liberal intellectuals") is the oppressor while the truly damaging elite is held up as the good one, as if there were any similarity between a $20m/year, fifth-generation-wealthy banker and "Joe the Plumber". There's not. But conservative Americans have been led to believe that bankers are hard-working people just like them while "intellectuals" are an elitist enemy oppressor. Culture is, in the U.S., slowly replacing race as the elite's favorite divide-and-conquer mechanism. American conservatism is a machine for driving a wedge between the people who are trying to save this society ("liberal intellectuals", although neither word should be pejorative) and the common people of the country they are trying to save.

No news in the OP. The world is run by a morally debased and increasingly incompetent oligarchy, heavily intertwined with the banking system and with about 40% of its membership in the U.S. upper class. That was only news in 2008 to people who weren't paying attention.

Astrohacker 4 days ago  replies      
It makes perfect sense that most people in the top 0.1% are associated with the financial and banking industries if you know how banks work. Banks, and the Federal Reserve, create new money. They give this money to themselves, and then loan it out. This is as bad as, and effectively equivalent to, counterfeiting. Creating new money, i.e. counterfeiting, i.e. inflation, does not create new wealth. It merely changes the distribution of the purchasing power of the money away from most people who have the money and to the people who get the new money. This is where the wealth of the top 0.1% comes from. Freshly printed money. It is a terrible system. The people with the highest wealth are not contributing in proportion to their wealth. Rather, they are stealing their wealth from the bottom 99.9% by stealing their purchasing power by printing new money.

If you would like to read a thorough argument about how fractional reserve banks and the Federal Reserve are scams, read "The Mystery of Banking" by Murray Rothbard. Google it and you will see it is available for free at mises.org.

For some reason this subject is very polarized and I get downvoted whenever I explain this. Don't downvote me just because you are uncomfortable with what I'm saying. Note that I am not ignorant. I have learned about economics. It just so happens that when trying to understand the issues myself, I have arrived conclusions that are not mainstream. But they are the correct conclusions in so far as I presently understand.

cjy 4 days ago 3 replies      
I found this article poorly written and defended. I didn't find it HN worthy. It is basically an investment manager complaining that the wealthiest Americans are mostly in finance and don't pay enough taxes because most of their earnings are from capital gains. He makes a lot of presuppositions in his writing that he never defends. For example:

"I asked if her colleagues talked about or understood how much damage was created in the broader economy from their activities."

How does finance destroy the broader economy in general? Liquid functional capital markets are critical for a stable economy. Finance is only bad for the economy when incentives are structures so that government limits the downside.

"America's top corporations reported 31% profit growth and a 31% reduction in taxes, the latter due to profit outsourcing to low tax rate countries."

Outsourcing is not bad. He treats it like it is a dirty world. Companies should have work done where it is most efficient. Google comparative advantage.
"It wasn't the hard-working 99.5%"

Because the top .5% aren't hard working.

"In my view, the American dream of striking it rich is merely a well-marketed fantasy that keeps the bottom 99.5% hoping for better and prevents social and political instability. The odds of getting into that top 0.5% are very slim and the door is kept firmly shut by those within it."

By definition, the odds of getting into the top .5% have to be very slim because only .5% of the population can get in there.

Also, I should note that the lower 99.5% benefit from lower capital gains taxes when it comes to appreciation on their homes. Obviously, this hasn't been a benefit lately. But, this is important given that the home constitutes the biggest chunk of net worth for many families.

arjunnarayan 4 days ago  replies      
There's a pretty simple solution: Abolish the capital gains tax, and tax all capital gains at the income tax rate. There is no more "capital gain". Only income. Whether your income was earned through labor or rents on capital that you own seems rather irrelevant to me.
yummyfajitas 4 days ago 4 replies      
The author of this article seems to be trying to confuse things:

Membership in this elite group is likely to come from being involved in some aspect of the financial services or banking industry, real estate development involved with those industries, or government contracting.

What does "involved in some aspect" mean?

...built a small company and was acquired with stock from a multi-national. Stock is often called a "paper" asset...CEO of a medium-cap tech company...another was able to amass $12M after taxes by her early thirties from stock options as a high level programmer in a successful IT company.

rdl 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why the fuck does he consider CEOs and others who sell their companies to be "directly connected to the finance industry?" To that extent, a cashier at wal-mart is directly connected to the finance industry because she helps a traded corporation make revenue.
HSO 4 days ago 1 reply      
Coming from HN, this just caught my eye on the NYT: "Even Marked Up, Luxury Goods Fly Off Shelves" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/04/business/sales-of-luxury-g...) while the country struggles to pay its debts and is losing its future. Just goes to show how separated the top .5% of American society has become from the rest... What I as a an "Asian-European" will never get is the unmitigated adoration of material wealth in American society/mass culture. Can't help but feel that is also a part of the problem. I mean, you don't have to be all ethical and bright to realize that Einstein, for instance, was not particularly wealthy and yet deserved (and commanded) orders of magnitude more respect than your typical billionaire. What's with the obsession about bling?
sigil 4 days ago 0 replies      
Common fallacy: personifying "the top N%" as if it were some mostly static set of people -- hard for anyone else to break in, rare that anyone falls out once they make it in. The old class system anxiety.

In reality, the further you get towards the top, the harder it gets to stay there:

The composition of the very top income groups changed dramatically over time. Less than half (39 percent or 42 percent depending on the measure) of those in the top 1 percent in 1996 were still in the top 1 percent in 2005. Less than one-fourth of the individuals in the top 1/100th percent in 1996 remained in that group in 2005. [1]

Here's another study with similar results across all income brackets. [2] None of the brackets are very stable; people move around quite a bit.

Or, we could just sit around reading collections of personal anecdotes. Seriously, why is this article on the front page?

[1] http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/206340741....

[2] http://books.google.com/books?id=lhiIyq8ylUMC&lpg=PA146&...

numlocked 4 days ago 2 replies      
Another client with a net worth in the $10M range is the ex-wife of a managing director of a major investment bank, while another was able to amass $12M after taxes by her early thirties from stock options as a high level programmer in a successful IT company. The picture is clear; entry into the top 0.5% and, particularly, the top 0.1% is usually the result of some association with the financial industry and its creations. I find it questionable as to whether the majority in this group actually adds value or simply diverts value from the US economy and business into its pockets and the pockets of the uber-wealthy who hire them.

This paragraph ruffled my feathers quite a bit. It's overreaching to say that a programmer who managed to make out like a bandit when their company hit it big is just "diverting value from the US economy". That scenario is quite a bit different than, say, profiting off of elaborate financial engineering.

And of course large amounts of money have "ties" to the financial industry. What the heck else are you going to do with the money? Equating a programmer who happened to strike it rich during an IPO (presumably) with an investment banker as both being tied to the financial services industry is ridiculous.

torstesu 4 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of the Citigroup reports on plutonomy that was allegedly leaked. The reports give an interesting, and to some degree offensive, look into the mindset of the plutocrats -- that is, the richest of the rich



mkramlich 4 days ago 1 reply      
This started off sounding like it was going to be a Repub/TeaParty/Koch-style political propaganda piece, but the further I went into it the more pleasantly surprised I became. Makes some good points about the distinction between different groups and tiers at the top of the American income ladders. It's true that the concerns and goals and challenges of upper income "working class" folks like small business entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers are different than the folks from Real Money and the big financial firms, banks, executives of huge multi-nationals, etc. I also have become increasingly confident in the theory that the so-called credit crisis a few years ago was basically a setup or con job. There's a lot of evidence, at least at the level of circumstance and motive and means, aligned with it being true.
nazgulnarsil 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is encouraging. Want to know what a truly sick economy looks like? One where the top 1% inherited their assets/incomes. Ignoring the huge selection effects in talking about the top .1% of winners in the financial markets is silly.
rmason 4 days ago 2 replies      
Take a good look at the Forbes 400. The vast majority of them are entrepreneurs and though a sizeable number made their money from the financial industry it's no where near a majority - not even close.


jwingy 4 days ago 0 replies      
I personally don't care much that these people are wealthy or even able to evade paying as much taxes as we do. The problem I have, and the problem I think the author is trying to expose is that DUE to their wealth, these top 0.1% are able to exert a vastly disproportionate amount of influence on our political and legal system, often times to the detriment of the other 99.9% of us, and preventing politicians from making the level headed, balanced decisions they need to make.

Even if the people as a organized collective can get together to rally against a certain issue, and even if that group can win, anybody with lobbying power (e.g. money) can simply lobby again at a later time to throw in some rider on a completely unrelated bill to pass some law getting what they want.

auganov 4 days ago 0 replies      
A typical article spreading hate towards the rich portraying them as people that have insight into secret evil money making techniques unavailable to other people.

Any ways that hate has always been there and I don't think it's going anywhere.
Just delete it from HN, no need for it here.

shapoopy 4 days ago 0 replies      
While I appreciate the effort to bring attention to the serious differences between the simply well-off and the astonishingly-rich-and-powerful, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around some of this:

"While income and lifestyle are all relative, an after-tax income between $6.6k and $8.3k per month today will hardly buy the fantasy lifestyles that Americans see on TV and would consider 'rich.' In many areas in California or the East Coast, this positions one squarely in the hard working upper-middle class, and strict budgeting will be essential. An income of $190k post tax or $15.8k per month will certainly buy a nice lifestyle but is far from rich."

What in the hell?

Where I come from, six figures is rich, period. I grew up in a household whose yearly income was a bit over $100,000 (pre-tax), and had no delusions about my place in the economy. Sure, weren't "free from financial worry," but we nonetheless could afford the occasional vacation and a new or semi-new car when we needed it.

My significant other comes from a place where $50,000 each year (pre-tax) is considered rich (and this in the apparently-mythical California, no less). She grew up with a pre-tax annual income of less than $10,000.

While it's inaccurate an potentially damaging to misrepresent the degree to which it truly is the super-rich that benefit most dramatically from our economy, it also seems just as potentially damaging to write as though we really are all in the middle-class. This article seems to utterly silence the existence of poverty and the working class in order to make its point.

Maybe I just come from one of those strange parts of the country where we still have backwards things like "industry" and a "proletariat." I suspect, however, there's a lot more folks from places like where I'm from than places like the strange utopia this guy lives in.

Uh, </end_rant>?

dodo53 4 days ago 0 replies      
>One of our clients, net worth in the $60M range, built a small company and was acquired with stock from a multi-national. Stock is often called a "paper" asset.

This seems odd (also the example of programmer with stock options later) - so is he saying that because the payment is in equity you're in the financial sector / not producing real value? I'd read that last line as being disparaging about stock because it's "paper".
The only example with any bite is the investment banker admitting they think they add no value.

recampbell 4 days ago 4 replies      
Regarding those who will only bring home 15k per month post retirement:

"And, for those folks who made enough to accumulate this much wealth during their working years, the reduction in income and lifestyle during retirement can be stressful."

This is where I started laughing out loud! What a profound lack of perspective.

aj700 4 days ago 1 reply      
Possible self-rectification

Elite keeps serfs ignorant by providing no economics education.

Voters fail to grasp debt situation.

US soft defaults, inflation etc.

Dollar loses preeminence, 50% of value, the unwarranted part.

Massive inflation affecting all imports, which is most of what people buy, since America makes very little.

Inflation acts as wealth tax, and transfers value from old to young. Many factories move (back) to US. More jobs. Less inequality.

So, I think the demand for dollars from overseas investors who want safety really hurts the US. You could do all this without the evaluation if you would start seeing China as a threat and get protectionist now. Autarchy, in fact.

srbloom 4 days ago 1 reply      
I already knew the about the vast disparity in the top 1% of earners, but I did not know how difficult it is to retire comfortably. A 30-year retirement is quite a luxury.
sekou 4 days ago 1 reply      
If there is a reluctance among the very wealthy to pay taxes, I'd guess that they don't trust a government that they believe to be inefficient, and that they see no benefit in paying taxes for themselves or their businesses.

It seems like in order to get into that top .5 percent, you'd usually have to have a certain kind of perspective about reality, and to change the mindset of someone who takes every possible action in terms what's best for the growth of their wealth or their business might not be easy, sometimes close to impossible. Regulation is important here to keep these folks from getting carried away.

You'd have to get them to see the value in growing the economy as a whole and how that serves their interest. And hey, they may already know that and just not think the government is any good at growing the economy.

I guess it's about finding common ground and moving in a way that the very wealthy and everyone else thinks is beneficial and responsible.

tomelders 4 days ago 1 reply      
Works out that around 31,191 people rule america.

That works out at about 33 people per member of congress. A manageable number I suppose, should they all decide to lobby.

I do find it highly unlikely that they'll ever reach a consensus at those sort of numbers though.

That said, around 1,245 of the top 0.01% should statistically be sociopaths, which is a concern.

mahyarm 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nice to know the numbers.
kds 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Give me control of a nation's money supply, and I care not who makes its laws."

-- Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744 - 1812), a popularly-alleged quote

rwmj 4 days ago 0 replies      
Be interesting to get comparative figures for France pre-revolution.
irisdai 3 days ago 0 replies      
Koch Brother-backed tea party is a dangerous sign of this claim, if the law and public allow top 0.?1% to control the psychopath of US. So-called "small government" is just an excuse of going down to dictatorship by the rich few.
ch 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Ordinary citizens in the bottom 99.9% are largely not aware of these systems, do not understand how they work, are unlikely to participate in them, and have little likelihood of entering the top 0.5%, much less the top 0.1%."

So how does an ordinary citizen become aware of 'these systems' and begin to participate in 'them'?

pedram 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's interesting how boldly he states on the front page that "conspiracy theories are wrong":

Why would some rich people conspire to get more power? That would be immoral.

mattmorgan 4 days ago 0 replies      
If some of the top 1% can't retire comfortably, then who IS retiring these days?
kleptco 4 days ago 0 replies      
People who tend to accumulate lot's of money tend to be sociopaths and should be closely monitored and controlled.
InclinedPlane 4 days ago 0 replies      
Pass. If you think that the state of America's economy today in any way requires violent insurrection to "rectify" then you have either a bizarrely warped sense of reality or a very unusual set of ideals.
Mark Cuban: If you want to see more jobs created -- change patent laws blogmaverick.com
327 points by fraXis  1 day ago   127 comments top 21
ender7 1 day ago  replies      
All right, so we all agree that software patents are a problem. So what do we do?

A). Abolish software patents. Existing software patents, or parts of patents that govern software, are nullified.

B). ???

Personally, I'm fine with A, but I would like to hear a really good B. Anyone?

Bonus points: Provide a list of ~5 software patents that are "good" software patents. Something were granting the patent led to innovation, or where the technology would not have been developed without the existence of software patents. Actually, I would be happy with just one patent, so I know what it looks like.

AgentConundrum 1 day ago 1 reply      
I really wish he had been a little clearer on what these patent trolls are and why they're bad. I'm sure most people here on HN understand what's going on, but this article is little more than preaching to the choir without that extra clarification.

As it stands right now, this article has sort of a whining feel to it. "All my companies are getting sued because we're infringing patents, and I'm sick of paying for it! The only way to stop them is to similarly arm yourself with lots of patents so you can sue someone just as hard as they can sue you!"

I'd like to see more detail from him about how most of these patents are obvious and non-innovative, and that the idea of patent troll companies who do nothing with the patents but sue for infringement of them. I think that's what he was getting at with these lines:

> I'm not talking about a new company that had an idea that someone beat us to. No sir. I'm talking about companies that have been doing business the same way for years that are getting hit by patent trolls.

...but that could also be read as "we've been infringing these patents for years, and I'm pissed off that someone noticed." We all know that's not what he meant, but there's a lot to be said for clarity, and clarity wasn't a major component of this article.

pbh 1 day ago 3 replies      
According to Wikipedia, Mark Cuban has $2.5 billion.

If he thinks the patents are bogus (which I totally believe), why not fight a high profile, precedent setting case?

If he thinks the law is broken, why not lobby for patent reform? Or a loser-pays system?

atlei 1 day ago 0 replies      
From Wikipedia:

"The term patent usually refers to an exclusive right granted to anyone who invents any new, useful, and non-obvious process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, and claims that right in a formal patent application. "

In my opinion, the key part is the non-obvious part of "new, useful, and non-obvious"; the invention of a new medicine is usually non-obvious, but the invention of Amazon 1-click shopping is obvious (in hindsight).

What is "non-obvious" ? If a single individual can come up with a similar solution (without access to the underlying research/data involved in the patent) in a short amount of time (a week, or at least in a DAY in the 1-click example) it does not represent a significant investment.

There should also be a requirement that the idea is implemented to be able to sue others. You may stop others' implementation if you have a patent, but you should not be able to charge them for anything until you have implemented a working solution yourself (to avoid patent trolls).

Or simply use the KISS principle and remove all software patents once and for all !

artsrc 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Many standards bodies require reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing. One reform would be to require all patent holders to offer reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing.
epynonymous 23 hours ago 0 replies      
good points raised by cuban, but i have to say, he's offered zero solutions to the problem, just gripes. i don't think anyone's come up with a good solution yet for patents probably because there are an over-abundance of them (millions, possibly billions pending), you can't just do away with the system suddenly, hell i think i have 1 or 2 myself.

but let's just play devil's advocate and say that the government refused to grant anymore new patents and grandfathered all the current patents, you would still need something else to take its place, perhaps say the latest trend of open source licenses, though some of the issues with some of these licenses seem to be on similar bad footing of corporate abuse.

i don't have any solutions myself, but i think china's ip laws are relatively lax and a good example of what would happen if there weren't patents or at least very poor enforcement. basically you'd have a bunch of companies competing against each other possibly reverse engineering or out right stealing things, at the end of the day, you, the consumer, would possibly have a better set of choices and these companies would be innovating to compete, not necessarily strangling you financially with patent litigations.

my major gripe with patents are the same as cuban, these big corporations are using it as a new line of business/revenue stream and are throwing their weight around with the protection of another big corporation (a.k.a. the government), this a major loophole in the system, what was meant to quite possibly protect the little guy, the small company, has now backfired and become a major liability. e.g. nobody in their right mind would file a suit against ibm, they would surely find some infringement in their arsenal of patents and make you hurt for a good long time. you're suing ibm for using your algorithm, they'd turn right around and sue you for something along the lines of using the bathroom on an airplane (http://news.cnet.com/2100-1017-961803.html).

the problem is truly systemic. when governments/companies/countries become too powerful, it really becomes easy to abuse/manipulate the system, absolute power corrupts absolutely. that's why there needs to be more refinement of government to handle these things, to make sure that the system works.

AllenKids 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is more of a thought on Google's awkward situation rather than patent laws in general:

What if the DOJ scrutiny around the Nortel patent bundle went well for Google and Apple/Microsoft etc were forced to put essential patents in a pool and license it to other vendors under fair conditions? As Google's CLO said, it still does not give Google the weapon to negate Oracle or Microsoft or Apple's IP lawsuits. What if DOJ smites down the same way everytime an important patent auction is happening? As long as Microsoft/Apple etc is willing to throw money at it, the best outcome will always be everybody gets its fair share. Again, Google's patent WMD remains a dream.

Unless a patent reform retroactively grands Google all the immunity in the world I really do not understand how this would end well for Google without sorting everything out in court just as it is.

* Of course theoretically Google could buy up MMI or other companies with a giant patent trove in mobile space to balance things out. Then again all public companies' board have fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value and as long as Apple/Microsoft are willing to pay more, Google has slim chance of exclusivity.

protomyth 1 day ago 1 reply      
At this point I would be fine with starting with the baby set of killing any patent that implements a business process. It would be a good start, simple to explain, and kill off a goodly chunk of the trolls.
Hyena 1 day ago 1 reply      
Auction patent extensions in blocks. First, you start with a free, though much shorter than present, initial period. After that, however, you must purchase the next extension at auction. At period2, there will be X2% as many extensions as there are expiring patents. At period3, you must buy another extension out of that tranche, which has X3% as many extensions as period2. And so on.

Extensions could be sold to any party before their "apply on" date, they are not specific to a particular patent until it has been attached to it. Once a patent passes its expiration date, it can never be recovered and is now public domain forever.

I think this would work best if the sum of the extensions was less than currently available. The basic idea is that a company who felt a patent really was central to their business could pay a potentially very hefty price for the privilege, so the number of extensions for sale should be kept quite small.

Goladus 16 hours ago 0 replies      
So he makes an excellent point, especially for the long run, but I must admit the tech sector is not currently facing serious job issues. Of course it would probably be more beneficial to the economy and to society to have Google hiring employees instead of buying patents, but that's not going to save Detroit.
donnaware 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Yes, the patent syste is broken, but here is what I think is at the crux of it. What happens is that the patent office is completely overwhelmed by, not only the volume but the complexity of the patents being filed. So what they do is basically punt it to the courts. They take a cursory look at a filing and if it is not too obviously a bad patent they grant it and then let the interested parties fight it out in court. So that is what is driving the patent troll problem.

To do it right you really need the patent office to a real in depth analysis so that when the patent is finally granted it can really mean something.

Politically, that is simply not possible because it would require an expansion of the Federal Government which we all know now is somehow a horrifying thought.

lists 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Is the tech industry really that influential for job growth in America? Say everything Cuban says is true, wouldn't there only be a marginal difference between today and his tomorrow? Aren't the majority of unemployed non-tech specialists?

It isn't clear to me why money lying around necessarily entails job growth in the tech industry, especially for larger software firms but even smaller ones. But again, I feel this would only be marginal contribution to the job situation were it the case.

watty 1 day ago 3 replies      
Think of all the jobs required to fight these patents in court.
donnaware 22 hours ago 0 replies      
the really insidious effect of this patent trolling is that it robs capital from true inovation. Instead of companies like Google and Apple spending money on hiring people to inovate and create new products, they are spending billions on defending what they already have. Very sad.
notJim 1 day ago 3 replies      
I'm sorry, but this is completely absurd and startlingly naive as a solution to the unemployment problem.

The limiting factor on the number of people with programming jobs is the number of people capable of filling those roles. There simply are not competent developers who are having trouble finding work right now.

If you want to talk about creating high-paying jobs that will allow the US to be more competitive and prosperous in the future, that's fine, but then you still have to address the greater problem of creating a qualified work force.

zenica 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I think that just having requirement that a patent actually has to be in "real production/read product" by the holder is the only modification to the law we need. (there is challenge here how to ensure that production in not fake, but it could be possible to ensure that)
maeon3 1 day ago 1 reply      
While we are patenting every line of every software program ever written, we should also patent colors, smells, tastes, sounds, sensations, thoughts, individual words, photographs, individual syllables, and visual/body language gestures.

How come lines of code fall under the category of 'invention', But English sayings, phrases and quotes do not?

pkulak 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Another words"... Really, Cuban? At least we know this is really him speaking, because that's pretty damn embarrassing to put out to the whole world. It's a great post though. I agree 100%.
startupcto 1 day ago 1 reply      
For one, patents are not only serving technology companies. Drug companies live ad die by their patents. A new drug cost that much to develop if without a patent protecting it, it would have not make any business sense to even develop new drugs.
known 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd say US should try doubling their exports to $2.5 trillions.
justinsb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Perhaps these patent deals that are putting a price on inventions (particularly at the billion dollar valuation level) will encourage companies to spend _more_ on R&D - hiring more highly skilled workers - because they can create relevant patents more cheaply than they can buy them.

The suggestion that abolishing patents will cause companies to spend that money hiring people instead is not intuitively obvious to me. It sounds a lot like trickle-down economics, which may be intellectually appealing but doesn't seem to have worked out as originally expected.

Zed Shaw: The wonderful Rob Sobers did a great job translating LPTHW to Ruby learncodethehardway.org
319 points by knowtheory  3 days ago   65 comments top 17
mikemaccana 3 days ago 2 replies      
There was an unapproved translation before, IIRC. I guess this is out because the adapter asked Zed's permission first and kept the copyright?

If so, I'm cool with that. Zed can be a firestarter, but this shows he's cool with others contributing something provided they do it the right way.

rsobers 3 days ago 2 replies      
I started off doing this to teach myself Ruby. I enjoyed the Python version so much and thought it would map pretty well since the languages are fairly similar.

After about 15 exercises, I saw that it was actually coming out quite nicely and reached out to Zed. Zed was super cool about releasing it under his license as long as the end result was high quality.

I wouldn't have cared if he said not to release it because I got to learn Ruby and play with Sinatra, Jekyll, etc.

mikeryan 3 days ago 2 replies      
(side note, there seems to be a page linking problem)

Clicking into http://ruby.learncodethehardway.org/intro.html
and hitting the title takes me here http://learncodethehardway.org/ruby/

Clicking a link there takes me to

It looks like that header should link back to
http://ruby.learnruby ...

tomkarlo 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a single-page version of this available that I could put into my Kindle? Alternately, I'd be quite happy to pay for a copy if it was posted to Kindle Self-Publishing (https://kdp.amazon.com)
deepcode 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Exercise 9:

10 There's something going on here.
11 With the three double-quotes

- no triple-double-quotes in ruby version, actually

tghw 3 days ago 0 replies      
I work with Rob. I always knew he was awesome, but I didn't realize he was this awesome. Great job Rob!
tnorthcutt 3 days ago 2 replies      
Is there a particular reason pagination navigation is not used (e.g. at the bottom of each page, including previous/next links)?
losvedir 3 days ago 2 replies      
Where is the source for the quote from Zed Shaw? The link doesn't mention it at all.

I know Zed Shaw railed on a previous translation to Ruby; I'd be curious to know the backstory here about why this one is different.

edit: Nevermind, in a different HN thread[1] Zed talks about it.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2846671

marcamillion 3 days ago 1 reply      
Out of curiosity, is Rob Sobers pretty known in the programming community?

I have never heard of him before, but based on the way Zed wrote about him, seems that he just might be famous and I haven't heard about him (which is very possible).

Otherwise, if he was just a 'regular' web designer that learned Python the Hard Way and translated to Ruby and Zed has given him so much credit....that would be AWESOME.

In all honesty, quite uncharacteristic of Zed - as far as I know, not being a dick (just honest) - which is why I think he is 'programming famous'.

I am hoping he was just a regular 'joe blow' though.

Anyone know?

BadassFractal 3 days ago 2 replies      
Could someone explain the reason why the "learn x the hard way" method has been so popular around here? I keep seeing the name thrown around, but haven't had a chance to look into it yet.
yoshyosh 3 days ago 0 replies      
I was kind of bummed before that a book with such wonderful reviews was only available in one language. This is awesome! Thank you guys so much for doing this :)!
foobarbazoo 2 days ago 0 replies      
@zedshaw Would you be up for a Factor version done with the same spirit and quality?
Apocryphon 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great resource. I'm in the process of learning Ruby, and will be trying out Ruby Koans and Satish Talim's Ruby Learning site as well in comparison. Does anyone know how good those tutorials are, or if there are any other good online Ruby guides?
blackman 3 days ago 2 replies      
I really like the idea behind these books, it reminds me of how I learnt originally, typing BASIC programs into my zx spectrum from the back of computer magazines.
nazgob 3 days ago 1 reply      
I would buy it for Kindle!
chefsurfing 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great thanks Rob!
scrrr 3 days ago 2 replies      
It would be nice to be able to copy and paste the code snippets without the line numbers. Otherwise great job!
Free icons for any object in the world thenounproject.com
316 points by tansey  4 days ago   57 comments top 29
MatthewPhillips 4 days ago 3 replies      
These CC Attribution licenses always scare me off. First off, what the heck does this even mean?

    You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author

The author almost never specifies how they want to be attributed. But since they're using an Attribution license they must want to be attributed some how.

So how am I going to attribute an author if I'm using their icons in a mobile app? That seems like quite a bit of extra work.

I don't want to sound unappreciative, this is an awesome project, but I need a "how to use CC attribution art for dummies".

arkitaip 4 days ago 1 reply      
This could be incredibly useful when designing highly international sites/apps. Hopefully it will be indexed by the already awesome icon finder

EDIT: Icon finder delivers

iamwil 4 days ago 0 replies      
Actually, what I really need is a VerbProject. What's the universal symbol for "Invite your friends"? How about "Like"? Web apps are more full of verbs than there are nouns, but we use icons of objects as substitute for verbs. like an envelope for "send mail" and a floppy disk for "save"
danparsonson 4 days ago 0 replies      
Small suggestion - don't start searching until the user has stopped typing for a short period (or if you're doing that already, increase the time-out). If I'm typing 'house', I don't need search results for 'h', 'ho', 'hou', etc., and since the site is running slow at the moment, it seems to get a bit confused when multiple result sets come back.
tedkimble 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've been using a few of them lately; they're great. However, I wish they would expand their wonderful noun project to include verbs and adjectives and more. (Yes, it looks like they take the noun part rather serious.)

Sure, there are nouns/icons like running (http://thenounproject.com/noun/running/), but I've had to abandon a number of searches on their site after realizing I'm not searching for a noun!

Jach 4 days ago 2 replies      
Unfortunately this doesn't help me decide what a "FtrsIndexScanRel" icon should look like. :( I like these, though I'm a bigger fan of the famfamfam icons.
bprater 4 days ago 1 reply      
I just tried to embed one of these on a test site. It's really not that useful. The HTML code ends up taking up half a screen.

I'd prefer these icons dumped into a custom font file. Then it takes up literally one character in HTML and can be completely modified using CSS.

westiseast 4 days ago 1 reply      
I used these before on a travel site - fantastic. Some of the icons are a bit too over-worked (ie. they don't work well small, and they're a little too detailed) but overall, a huge set of icons really well designed. Only issue I had with the site (a while back) was couldn't find a big ZIP download of all icons, or PNG files. Had to go to some other big creepy download site for that. Weird.
MortenK 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm on a laptop with Internet explorer 8 and is getting the message that "Internet explorer does not support the NounProject", and later down on the page "Currently, Internet explorer is the only browser that cannot display the format that is best suited for this site".

Does anyone with access to the site, know what this technology / format is, that IE 8 doesn't support?

robtoo 4 days ago 1 reply      
No search facility? Really?

Yes, I know you can URL-hack, but a search-engine with stemming would make the site a lot more usable/useful.

gills 4 days ago 0 replies      
An impressive suite of icons in a nice minimalist format. But...I guess looking at a large number of these, linguistic expressions seem to be less complex per concept than the iconographic equivalents.
robert-boehnke 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a torrent of these icons, maintaing the metadata?

I don't really want to tax their servers at the moment.

JacobIrwin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sweet UI. Useful and directional app for sure.

Wanted to give you a heads^ that there was some lagging during homepage load and during icon (file) zip: 'noun_project_705.svg' downloading. I'm on MacBook Pro OS X Version 10.6.8 using Chrome (and the apps I am controlling in other Chrome tabs are cruising). Maybe there's some versioning-optimization fixes you could look into - or maybe it's me. I'm running at full wiFi connectivity (and AirPort bars) at the Sandbox Suites near Union. So I thought I'd at least drop you my observation as to see if I could help. Overall though - sleek work, I find comfort when controlling your app.

yummyfajitas 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just curious, does this site have a public API? The kickstarter project suggests there is one, but I can't find it on the site.
evilswan 4 days ago 0 replies      
The site is REALLY slow right now.

Have you tried viewing the html - there's some neat ASCII art at the top.

jamesrcole 3 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps you could allow feedback on icons?
A number of them don't conjure for me the thing they're supposed to. For example, 'mummy' is definitely not what comes to mind when I see the 'mummy' icon. The icon doesn't really look like anything in particular to me; I find it just gives of a slightly weird vibe. Or the 'golf' icon - the club looks more like a hockey stick to me.
fuzzythinker 4 days ago 0 replies      
Was hoping verbs would be their next project. Sadly theverbproject.com is just someone's blog/portfolio page.
hng 4 days ago 2 replies      
This reminds me of the Isotype project (1924-1934). If it isn't an inspiration it is an nice coincidence.

* Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotype_(picture_language)

* Isotype gallery: http://www.gerdarntz.org/isotype

streptomycin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Like Neal Stephenson's mediaglyphs.
zbowling 4 days ago 0 replies      
been using non-project for a while. One of my favorite sites for basic objects.
martinshen 4 days ago 1 reply      
Isn't this kind of old. It was a kickstarter project several months ago. I thought it was shared here
maxogden 4 days ago 0 replies      
also see the related http://iconathon.org initiative which is a series of icon brainstorming hackathons in a bunch of cities
Kwpolska 4 days ago 0 replies      
Reverse the triangles in #680 and I would be happy. (hint: triforce.) I was unable to find A BLOODY KEYBOARD.

Also, your polish locale sucks. Use UTF-8 and ask the BROWSER, not determine my LOCALE by IP.

Additionally, you shalln't use ` /' in HTML5.

pavel_lishin 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'll say it. There's no icon for "penis".
machinespit 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Easter Eggs are pretty neat (if you can find them).
Here's one: http://thenounproject.com/noun/swing/ Mouse over the thumbnail
Cyph0n 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't really see the point to this. On the plus side, the design is awesome, especially the 404 page:


Lambent_Cactus 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a way to filter to show only the Public Domain icons without opening each shadow box individually?
pbreit 4 days ago 1 reply      
Crazy slow loading web site and doesn't work right on an iPad. But a nice idea.
enterneo 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't find social icons :-(
Anonymous hijacks Syria's government pages gov.sy
300 points by jimmyjim  11 hours ago   33 comments top 16
lotharbot 10 hours ago 2 replies      
The text loads slowly. It actually freezes if you're in another tab, which IMO is a poor implementation decision; it means you actually have to sit and watch it come on the screen word by word.

For those who either don't want to wait for it to load, or didn't get to it before it got taken down, here's what it says:


To the Syrian people: The world stands with you against the brutal regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Know that time and history are on your side - tyrants use violence because they have nothing else, and the more violent they are, the more fragile they become. We salute your determination to be non-violent in the face of the regime's brutality, and admire your willingness to pursue justice, not mere revenge. All tyrants will fall, and thanks to your bravery Bashar Al-Assad is next.

To the Syrian military: You are responsible for protecting the Syrian people, and anyone who orders you to kill women, children, and the elderly deserves to be tried for treason. No outside enemy could do as much damage to Syria as Bashar Al-Assad has done. Defend your country - rise up against the regime! - Anonymous


Once the text has loaded, it links to several revolutionary sites, and also scrolls images across the top that apparently link to youtube videos.

adammichaelc 10 hours ago 0 replies      
In case you don't want to wait for the page to load, here's what you'll see:


The actual text:

To the Syrian people: The world stands with you against the brutal regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Know that time and history are on your side - tyrants use violence because they have nothing else, and the more violent they are, the more fragile they become. We salute your determination to be non-violent in the face of the regime's brutality, and admire your willingness to pursue justice, not mere revenge. All tyrants will fall, and thanks to your bravery Bashar Al-Assad is next.

To the Syrian military: You are responsible for protecting the Syrian people, and anyone who orders you to kill women, children, and the elderly deserves to be tried for treason. No outside enemy could do as much damage to Syria as Bashar Al-Assad has done. Defend your country - rise up against the regime! - Anonymous

yaix 7 hours ago 2 replies      
This is a very good hack and also a reminder for Western countries and political actors that these kind of break-ins are not necessarily criminals acts but may be political demonstrations. If a break-in is non-destructive and has as motivation a political demonstration, in a democracy it should be treated as such and not be brushed aside as "criminal".
sage_joch 9 hours ago 1 reply      
The page is nearly unresponsive. If the idea is for the Syrian people to see it, this is an unfortunate side effect of being on the top of Reddit/HN.
8ig8 10 hours ago 0 replies      
<!-- mod.gov.sy was seized for the people by Poppy :) Support the fight vs oppressive regimes in #operationfreedom @ irc.anonops.li Props to the hundreds of Syrians that had mailed this server with messages of protest over the past year. You're admirably, recklessly brave! -->
redthrowaway 9 hours ago 0 replies      
The traffic seems to have killed the site. Here's a mirror showing what it looked like when it was still responsive:


dkersten 3 hours ago 1 reply      
I can't load the page so don't know if the text was in English only or also in Arabic. I was in Syria in October 2009 on business and.. about 80% (or perhaps even higher) of the population did not speak any English, so this text isn't going to help much.

EDIT: Ok, I see from the mirror that it is in both English and Arabic.

agilo 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Fyi, mod = ministry of defense
adrianwaj 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Kudos. I am hoping Anon do more than just deface for moral support, but actually ruin and undermine as much of their systems as possible.
lightyrs 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Great production values.
niels_olson 9 hours ago 1 reply      
dear anonymous, thanks. Please do libya also. And if you could access their fire control systems, I have friends who could make use of that access.
shpoonj 11 hours ago 0 replies      

I don't think there's anything more to say.

XLcommerce 9 hours ago 1 reply      
How are people in Syria accessing the net? If it's mostly mobile and/or ie6 then I hope this was tested on those platforms.
JDulin 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Well done Anonymous. Although it may seem like an empty gesture based on what the U.S. government has (or hasn't) done.
yarian 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Make sure you wget :)
jessica_moyer 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Google Threw A Punch, Microsoft Fires Back With A Missile techcrunch.com
291 points by InfinityX0  4 days ago   143 comments top 31
sriramk 4 days ago  replies      
Ex-MSFT employee here, enjoying the fact that I can comment on HN on MSFT legal affairs for once :).

I love Frank.X.Shaw's move here (hiring him from Waggner Edstorm was one of MSFT's best moves). Google is essentially trying to spin a situation where they were invited to be a part of a bid as a anti-competitive move. I'm slightly surprised that Google didn't see this coming - Drummond must have known that any public spat would lead to MSFT digging up any email threads between the two companies, especially those which make it seem like MSFT is trying to reach out to Google.

hristov 4 days ago 4 replies      
That does not mean anything. Yes MS may have asked Google to partner with them to buy the patents but no-one knows what the terms were. A good attorney can make an agreement that allows Google to be sued on the patents even if they are co-owners. Or the agreement may say that any Android phone manufacturer can be sued on the patents by Microsoft, and Google does not have the power to give those manufacturers licenses.

So an undisclosed offer made in private does not mean much. If Microsoft had made their offer public they may use it to make a point, but as things stand now this supposed offer is best ignored.

PS: I should also note that this "we made them a generous offer and they refused" statement is a trick often used by PR people and politicians to muddy the water.

rbanffy 4 days ago 1 reply      
I am confused. Why would Google want to jointly bid on patents in a way they could not be used to protect itself and its partners from Microsoft?

Microsoft's council can't be so naïve.

Edit: by refusing to participate, Google indicated that either they wanted the patents in order to be able to defend against Microsoft or that they didn't find them worth the effort. The proposal could pretty much be the way Microsoft used to measure Google's interest and intentions

chc 4 days ago 1 reply      
The Microsoft tweets seem to (probably intentionally) ignore the obvious reason why Google would want the patents " to create a mutually-assured destruction scenario that convinces Apple and Microsoft to get off its back. Sharing the patents with Apple and Microsoft would keep Google at a disadvantage just like not having them would.
drivebyacct2 4 days ago 2 replies      
I asked about this on Twitter to deaf ears. Isn't Microsoft mixing up Novell and Nortel? Even if Microsoft did offer to partner on the Novell patents, the accusations are being levied more directly at the Nortel buy by Microsoft, Apple, etc.

Maybe I'm missing the point, or it's not fair to think that Nortel vs Novell makes a difference. I really have no idea. I'm just wondering aloud. I don't really get how this is all perceived in a legal sense or in terms of how this affects Google's statement today. I get it's relevancy, but does it make Google's position less tenable? Maybe I'm just naive because they support the position I was already in favor of.

edit: I guess my other post which is more speculative would be the response to "they also mentioned Novell in the post".

orky56 4 days ago 1 reply      
Google seems to have one foot in the water and the other out. They lose their credibility either way. They bid a high amount ($3.14bil) in the Nortel bid and went alone by their choosing in the Novell bid. Their press is just spinning the story AND their strategy based on unforeseen outcomes. I get it that they are using patents just as leverage to keep Android free or as cheap as possible. In the end however, they are competing with other mobile platforms for market share based on the best combination of price, quality, and user experience. It's anyone's game and as long as it's legal, there are no rules.

Edited the Nortel and Novell discrepancy.

drivebyacct2 4 days ago 1 reply      
Again, re-reading, it seems like Google's major complaint was in relation to the Nortel patents because of the ridiculous price that they sold for (multiples of what their expected worth was). Even if Google missed out on joining an effective patent troll consortium, is that really the way innovation and industry should be encouraged?

It seems imminent that Apple will benefit from Android via Samsung, and Microsoft is already from Android via HTC, Motorola. Is it possible that Google did try to buy them to secure Android. If they had such a large set of patents, wouldn't that have given them and their hardware partners significant leverage against Apple and/or Microsoft? It seems like a defensive pattern.

Is it possible that Android's success will feed Google's competitors who've joined together to ensure their ability to leach off of Android via patents? Doesn't that make Google's interests fundamentally juxtaposed from Apple/Microsoft's who will profit simply from patent imbalances?

tensor 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think the take home message of all of this, more than ever, is that software patents are damaging to innovation and an overall detriment to the industry.

These companies should be competing on performance and features, not with lawyers over whether a linked list is an innovation (example taken out of context, but some of these patents are no better than the multiply linked list patent covered a year ago).

aaronsw 4 days ago 1 reply      
One interesting possibility: Google planned to only use the patents defensively but the joint bid would have required them participating in offensive action, which they refuse to do.
yalurker 3 days ago 0 replies      
Google says the group of major players colluding together in a joint bid for patents is anti-competitive. Google did not want to join this anti-competitive collusion. How is this inconsistent, shocking, or bad?

Couldn't the simple explanation be "If we join forces with Microsoft and Apple to jointly buy these patents, the DoJ is going to come down on all of us for illegal anti-competitive behavior"? Why are people acting like Google did something wrong by not wanting to join the cartel that they are now publicly saying is anti-competitive and that the DoJ should impose limits on?

extension 4 days ago 3 replies      
"Sorry Google but we offered to collude with you and you turned us down, so we had to collude against you"

Is this how rotten Microsoft has become? They don't even grasp what they are being accused of.

EDIT: I really wish people would reply with their opinion rather than just downvoting. Or at least do both. I thought it was an interesting observation that I haven't seen anyone make: Google complains about Microsoft's ethics and they respond with a point about strategy. Do they even understand the difference?

jdp23 4 days ago 2 replies      
Well-crafted tweets by MS execs. Pass the popcorn!
sek 4 days ago 0 replies      
Microsoft attacked Android Phone producers, Google needs to defend them "against" Microsoft.

A bidding with Microsoft wouldn't make sense at all.

jigs_up 4 days ago 0 replies      
Mobile companies such as HTC, Motorla and Samsung are being forced to pay Microsoft licensing fees for their Android phones because of patents Microsoft owns. Google needs its own arsenal of patents in order to prevent the situation from getting worse. How is Android supposed to prosper if mobile companies are being forced to pay Microsoft to use it? Owning the patents jointly with Microsoft gives Google nothing to use against Microsoft, therefore defeating the whole purpose of owning the patents.
goatforce5 3 days ago 0 replies      
> Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation.

I think that 'instead of' should be a 'As well as'.

g123g 4 days ago 1 reply      
These behind the scenes emails raise a question in my mind. On what other issues these companies are covertly colluding with each other which we don't know. One obvious thing could be some kind of silent agreement on not competing with each other on employee salaries etc. to keep them in check. There could be more like trying not to increase valuations of startups they are trying to acquire.
Joakal 4 days ago 2 replies      
"Bid with us or it's a shame that you didn't join the club.."

Or am I misunderstanding this article?

blinkingled 3 days ago 0 replies      
Google's punch was related to Nortel Patents, Microsoft's misfired missile carried Novell patents as the warhead.

"Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no."

So Google may still have a point that Nortel patents were gobbled up by Apple and MSFT to strangle Android just as the Novell ones are.

ams6110 4 days ago 0 replies      
In two large organizations A and B, how likely is it that someone at B can find an email from a person at A to a person at B that appears to contradict some assertion by some other person at A?
Hyena 4 days ago 0 replies      
Doesn't this suggest that MS tried to organize a cartel to put a lock on the wireless industry? The major players all coming together to purchase patent portfolios and agreeing not to sue each other over it sure smells like an anti-trust violation.
iamelgringo 4 days ago 0 replies      
Google is going to need to hire a lot more lawyers these days... anti-trust inquiries against themselves, weak patent portfolio... Gonna be really interesting to watch.
tomica 3 days ago 0 replies      
anyone remember when AAPL claimed "we just wish to protect our innovation" (i think it was about the HTC suit).

well, how does buying novel/nortel patents protect your innovation? how does joining with MSFT to keep patents away from GOOG protect your innovation?

Gaussian 4 days ago 0 replies      
Google: Bidding pi x 10^9 no longer looks so adorably wonky...
pagejim 4 days ago 0 replies      
can someone throw light on what these patents hold?
afsina 4 days ago 2 replies      
I believe reaching to Google from MS was a planned move. And it worked.
stewsnooze 4 days ago 1 reply      
Seriously. Front page news. A few people exchange emails. Then a deal isn't done. pah.
FameofLight 4 days ago 1 reply      
Googles make a large hue and cry whenever its free enterprise are in danger. Same happened with bing story. All bogus claims.

People who spend large amount of money in creating new technology want to have something in return. Every product can't go by freemium model.

napierzaza 4 days ago 0 replies      
Obvious lies. Google is the lone white knight who is alone in a forrest full of trolls. Who wants to collect and sell our personal information...
ck2 4 days ago 1 reply      
By the end of this decade Microsoft is going to become the next Yahoo.

Their biggest asset all these years was being the default OS on the majority of PCs sold in the USA and around most of the world.

As other free options catchup and become much, much more robust this decade (and already most portable non-x86 devices ship without the need for ANYTHING from Microsoft) they become irrelevant. Lawsuits and patent royalties will be all they have left by 2020.

barista 4 days ago 0 replies      
whatevar this ain't seeing the front page of HN.
“Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power socialmediacollective.org
267 points by harryh  3 days ago   186 comments top 25
tibbon 3 days ago  replies      
I didn't quite get the need for anonymity until I was at SXSW and watched danah's opening talk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl0VANhnvxk) and talked to her a bit more about it afterward.

I realized how incredibly privileged and rare my situation is that I can live my life fairly openly online with little fear of repercussion.

- As a heterosexual no one questions my sexual orientation online, or will harass me for it. Photos of me with a significant other won't cause an issue with anyone.

- I don't have, nor have I ever had an abusive relationship in which I must distance myself from someone.

- I'm fortunate enough to live in a country that (generally) allows me to do whatever online and I don't need to fear for my life. I am also a native born citizen here and don't have any immigration issues to deal with.

- I don't fear for my job because of what I say online (my work situation is very understanding and isn't nosy). Of course, not everyone works in technology.

- I have no children to protect

- I also feel that I understand the internet rather well and generally have a feeling for the direct repercussions of something that I do.

These (and many other things) aren't true for everyone. I felt silly for not realizing it beforehand, partially because danah had hung out at my house at hackathons and such even, and I just didn't get it until her presentation.

CapitalistCartr 3 days ago 3 replies      
The key to it all is this quote: “Real names” policies aren't empowering; they're an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people.

People who, like me, are privileged white Americans can easily afford to use our real names, although I don't. What Google will get if they keep this policy is only people who don't care. Blacks, Latinos, rape, abuse, and stalking victims, people who have something controversial to say, gays, people in repressive countries won't join. It'll be a nice Stepford village.

sp332 3 days ago 2 replies      
I think my favorite, horrible quote on this is from Facebook's marketing directory, Randi Zuckerberg:

...People hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want

Well, how dare people say what they want.

jdietrich 3 days ago  replies      
If you aren't happy giving out your real name, you shouldn't be using social networking.

Anyone with a social graph of any size has already betrayed their identity, whether they know it or not. When people are sharing large volumes of data about themselves and their connections to others, they are a correlation attack waiting to happen. Pseudonymity on the internet is largely a fool's paradise - either you are fully anonymous, or you are using an identity which is separated from your own by a brittle and invisible membrane.

You may be filtering out low-level annoyances, but you're also establishing a false sense of security. If anon chooses to dox you, they'll do it and there's not a damned thing you can do to stop them. Pseudonymity offers some degree of protection for people with little to hide, but if for whatever reason you sincerely believe yourself to be a target, you should act as if your pseudonym has already been compromised.

kkowalczyk 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm kind of surprised that I haven't seen people stating the obvious: on a practical level Google+ has (and will always have) anonymous accounts.

You can create G+ account under any random, but plausible looking name. You can be 15 year French old girl and call yourself "George Bush" (there are already 3 of those on G+). It's not like Google requires valid proof of identity to sign up.

Do people, including Danah Boyd, do not realize that? Given that in practice G+ has anonymous accounts, what is the fuss about?

I understand that Google officially won't acknowledge that but the "no anonymity" is just posturing. They have no practical way and probably no intention of making sure that people provide the real names.

So the issue here seems to be not about anonymity but about being obvious about being anonymous and the many justifications given in favor of anonymity do not carry over.

armandososa 3 days ago 1 reply      
First, most the comments say this is a white american (where american means United States, sigh) policy, but as a tiny brown low-middle-class Mexican I have no problem going with my real name.

Second, Is Facebook's 'No custom HTML/CSS on profiles' policy is an abuse of power? How is that having a rule on a social network is an abuse of power? You don't like FB's boring profiles? use MySpace. You don't like using your real name? Go hangout on Twitter or 4Chan for that matter.

I can see why some people don;t like using their real names, but calling it an abuse of power is such a ridiculous overstatement.

pbh 3 days ago 0 replies      
Since we are on the topic of names, Bringhurst notes:

"An increasing number of persons and institutions, from e.e. cummings to WordPerfect, now come to the typographer in search of special treatment. In earlier days, it was kings and deities whose agents demanded that their names be written in a larger size or set in a specially ornate typeface; now it is business firms and mass-market products demanding an extra helping of capitals, or a proprietary face, and poets pleading, by contrast, to be left entirely in the vernacular lower case. But type is visible speech, in which gods and men, saints and sinners, poets and business executives are treated fundamentally alike. Typographers, in keeping with the virtue of their trade, honor the stewardship of texts and implicitly oppose private ownership of words."


jstraszheim 3 days ago 3 replies      
I simply cannot understand how Google can be so short sighted about this. The simple questions: what about an in-the-closet gay teen? or what about a domestic violence survivor? should make their whole stack of cards fall down.

They should have thought these things themselves. In fact, they should have been so obvious that this conversation would be unimaginable.

I don't get it.

gojomo 3 days ago 1 reply      
Pseudonymity is important, but cheap disposable identities lead to lots of community-destroying mischief.

What's the best practice for enabling pseudonyms but curtailing throwaway spam/harassment/sockpuppet account-creation?

For my next project I'm considering offering two registration options:

(1) Use Facebook, which is close enough to 'real names' for most purposes " while still having some room, as Boyd notes, for many users of persistent pseudonyms.

(2) Buy a pseudonym with a nonrefundable Bitcoin payment. If you're serious about pseudonymity, why not go all the way? This is a variant on the 'Metafilter $5 one-time fee' model, but as Matt Haughey has noted that still occasionally suffers from chargebacks by dedicated vandals. Bitcoin solves that.

Any thoughts?

warmfuzzykitten 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's interesting to me that almost everyone here is using a pseudonym yet discussion in Hacker News tends to be civil, constructive and informative.

The issue clearly isn't anonymity. Hacker News does several things to weed out the trolls. First, user names are unique (which causes many to pick out a pseudonym even if they don't want to), allowing comments to be tracked by identity. Second, HN uses a reputation score to downgrade habitually unconstructive commenters. As a result, people who would be rude on slashdot are more restrained here because the culture doesn't reward name-calling or opposition without reason.

Facebook achieves the same end by allowing its users to limit what they see and from whom and not really caring much what they call themselves unless they offend for another reason. Google has the same mechanism but has chosen to concentrate on the least important aspect of social networking - the names people use - forgetting the most important aspects: fostering a culture of civility and allowing users to control what they see.

Ronkdar 3 days ago 4 replies      
Abuse of power? What power? You don't have to use Google+ or Facebook. They're convenient, sure, but you'll do just fine without them.

They only have as much power over you as you think they do.

tzs 3 days ago 1 reply      
On the one hand, using your real identity online opens you up to abuse, danger, and invasion of privacy. On the other hand, anonymity brings out the scumbag side of way too many people.

I'd like to see "semi-real" identities. What I mean by that is that they could be mostly anonymous, but it would take some work to create them, and it should get harder to create them the more you have created.

The idea is that you can have an online presence separate from your real identity, which you can use for forums, games, social networks that go beyond your actual friends, and such. However, because you can't just trivially abandon a semi-real identity for a new one there would be some incentive to treat it with care similar to that you would use with your real identity. You wouldn't want to be an ass online and get your semi-real identity widely banned.

dan-k 3 days ago 1 reply      
To me this article sounds more like evidence of an unhealthy sense of entitlement social media users are developing than a good argument against Google's policy. Not that there's anything wrong with the points the author makes about anonymity. I doubt anyone who's spent much time dealing with social media, including the Google+ team, would question the fact that anonymity provides a valuable service to society in many ways. However, that's completely irrelevant when it comes to the decision of what a particular social network (or any other kind of network, for that matter) should adopt as its identification policy. That's an issue that's about the type of community the team working on that particular product wants to have. Unless people were somehow forced to sign up for a specific service, the argument has no legs to stand on.

All it takes to see the problem with the author's logic is simple principles of supply and demand. If there is actually a significant demand for anonymity online that's not being met by the current services, another one will come along to fill that gap. In that case, the needs of those people are met, and they have no reason to be mad at Google. Otherwise, there wasn't significant demand in the first place, which justifies Google's decision not to accommodate it.

So, really what we see here is nothing more than someone whining because they are discovering that they have to use Google's service on Google's terms, rather than their own, which runs contrary to their sense of entitlement. In fact, they are the ones acting like there's a universal context; it's just that their universal context is one where they can be anonymous wherever they want without worrying about the consequences.

nl 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure if most people are aware, but Google has a blog post that covers most of this quite well: http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2011/02/freedom-to-be...

Peter Steiner's iconic “on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog” cartoon may have been drawn in jest--but his point was deadly serious, as recent events in the Middle East and North Africa have shown

Attribution can be very important, but pseudonyms and anonymity are also an established part of many cultures -- for good reason.

When it comes to Google services, we support three types of use: unidentified, pseudonymous and identified. And each mode has its own particular user benefits.

While some of our products will be better suited to just one or two of those modes, depending on what they're designed to do, we believe all three modes have a home at Google.

newman314 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think those proposing a "Real Name" policy seem to be confused that having such a policy confers trust. Similarly, being anonymous does not automatically mean trolls everywhere. The fact is that even for sites with no RealName(tm) policy today, most of them have a ratio where normal conversation greatly outweighs trolls. So for the most part, the current model works.

I think we need to disassociate name => trust as a start and really start exploring how to cultivate a culture of expression without trying to force the whole name thing as a solution.

As a small example, given the recent storm around Airbnb and "EJ", can anyone (including Randi Zuckerberg) really advocate that EJ absolutely had to be using a real name in order to gain credibility?

zmmmmm 3 days ago 0 replies      
When I think through all the different conversations I've had online that I almost certainly would have chosen not to have were they directly traceable to my real name it becomes brain dead obvious to me that a "Real Name" policy is going to strangle the life out of G+ as a medium for interesting conversations. Sure I'll be on there ... but what you will see will be strictly my professional persona - the lowest common denominator of what I can afford to expose publicly across all aspects of my life without offending anyone I know.

It's weird to me that Google can't see that the answer to the problems they are trying to solve can be solved equally well with pseudonymous identities as they can with real identities. Hacker News and Reddit both implement systems that encourage respectful conversation through karma type systems which allow anyone to speak but everyone to easily see and understand the context of that speaker. That's all you need.

mmphosis 3 days ago 0 replies      
"The problem with screen names or handles deserves some amplification. Concealing your identity behind a handle is a juvenile and silly behavior characteristic of crackers, warez d00dz, and other lower life forms. Hackers don't do this; they're proud of what they do and want it associated with their real names. So if you have a handle, drop it. In the hacker culture it will only mark you as a loser."

- Eric Steven Raymond http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html#style

yock 3 days ago 0 replies      
Privacy is great, no doubt about it, but a company has a right to offer services under their own terms. They constructed their business model with a profit goal in mind, and they determined what it would take to reach that profit. Now, I'm not saying it's particularly fair to those who want to participate but feel they cannot due to the limitations placed on their privacy, but that's life. Sometimes it's unfair. If it makes you feel better to complain about it on the Internet then go right ahead. In the meantime there are many other who simply didn't sign up for the service.
fredBuddemeyer 3 days ago 0 replies      
our site littlebiggy.org lets people talk about people so the potential for abuse made us insist on real names. people are used to this for facebook so it wasnt a problem until important posts about corruption were missed. so we've made pseudonyms a manual exception. if you need the protection of a pseudonym you request it from a littleBiggy editor. a hassle but the best balance we've found so far.
saraid216 3 days ago 1 reply      
She posted this on G+ itself, too, and there's an actual conversation there:


icarus_drowning 3 days ago 1 reply      
Not allowing pseudonyms on G+ is obviously a tremendous and awful mistake, and I think most (not all, obviously), of the people here on HN agree with that statement because of the obvious cases that boyd mentions. However, I think that huge mistake is different than "an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people". The latter requires intent, and neither I nor danah boyd can know if this is Google's intent. Indeed, I suspect that Google's intent isn't even known to most of the people working on G+, or even the "upper ups". The marketing people probably want better data for AdSense, and the Engineers are probably viewing the problem from the perspective of simplifying the site's infrastructure, etc. etc... I sincerely doubt that anyone is attempting for some sort of authoritarian power grab.

What they are doing, however, is making a really big mistake.

gegegege 3 days ago 0 replies      
Unless they start requiring ID be presented every time the Internet is used, while big brother is watching over your shoulder, the whole argument is moot.

There is no way to enforce people using their real name online and such policies will only hurt the reputations of companies that try to enforce them.

If I really wanted to bully someone online, I could sign up for an account using a fake name and a proxy/VPN. Nobody would be able to stop me. Requiring people to use their real name, as if by magic, is not going to stop anything.

alextingle 3 days ago 0 replies      
Furthermore, Google+ requires that new sign-ups provide a real phone number, and they phone you up to check you are for real. That's massively intrusive, far worse than anything Facebook ever did.
technomancy 3 days ago 0 replies      
Tempted to use the name Roger Pollack if I do end up back on G+.
petegrif 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great piece Danah.
Hacker puts a video cam on an RC truck and saves the lives of 6 soldiers go.com
264 points by acangiano  3 days ago   96 comments top 19
illumin8 2 days ago  replies      
The funny thing is that if the DoD contracted out to build these, they would end up costing over $1 million each. There are a lot of unique opportunities for startups that are willing to use off the shelf technology and package it in unique ways. Provided, of course, you don't have any ethical qualms about selling technology that might be used for good or evil.
jdietrich 2 days ago 0 replies      
The first bomb disposal robot was built from a powered wheelbarrow[1] controlled remotely by a length of string. Within three weeks it was being used in action in Northern Ireland and within months had become one of the most valuable tools for ordnance officers serving there. There's a long military tradition of improvisation and invention.


pkteison 2 days ago 4 replies      
I'm torn. On the one hand, I appreciate a good hack. On the other hand, if it's going to be used day in and day out to save lives, a certain amount of quality and versatility is needed so that you can rely on it. If every scout team uses a two foot tall RC car, bomb trip wires go up to 3 feet above ground, or they quit using trip wires and switch to magnetic induction coils like the trip lights for stop lights, or speed bumps that the car can't handle get built all over, or patrols can't safely go out on rainy days when the streets are muddy. I worry that this only works well when it's a disposable individual hack used as an additional precaution, not as a standard issue primary first line of defense.
davidhollander 2 days ago 1 reply      
A response to statements such as:

> it shouldn't be that damn hard to send some RC cars to Iraq to save lives

Actually, efficient resource allocation is usually a NP hard problem! It's very computationally complex, and the US Department of Defense is one the largest bureaucracies in the world. From that perspective, and depending on one's expected value for bureaucratic efficiency in relation to size, one could also argue that the efficiency of the DoD is surprisingly good.

What could possibly help the Department of Defense's resource allocation problems for such infantry equipment, and to open up the possibility for more off-the-shelf solutions, is to push acquisition demand down to the squad level as much as possible. You would more or less be giving squad commanders equipment purchasing credits to allocate independently of one another. This would simulate one the best tools currently available for resource allocation, markets.

epochwolf 2 days ago 3 replies      
It's a good story but I really, really hate auto playing videos.

Edit: "video ads" -> "videos" I don't like either one.

daeken 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is really, really cool. I wonder how much it'd cost to take something like http://micromotorx.com/kids-x-treme-ride-on-cars.html and fit it with cameras and all that. It seems like the larger size and the weight might be able to trigger things that a little RC car wouldn't. Of course, it's significantly more obvious than a little RC car, so it might get attacked separately -- then again, that's valuable info too.
MiguelHudnandez 2 days ago 2 replies      
So, I am excited about this, but there is a major problem with thinking that this could be scaled up without increasing the cost.

What happens when we have hundreds of these things out there, and insurgents wise up to them? I can imagine the conversation:

"Hey, check it out. Now we can get an X11 receiver and we can watch the video feed from all the nearby US troops' scout drones. Now we just wait for a drone to come into range and we can use remote detonators instead of trip wires."

I think military hardware is way too costly in general, and this RC truck is a cool success story, but scaling it up would only be beneficial in the short term. It is a cat and mouse game. That said, we need more rapid innovations like this to keep our troops safe. Just don't think we can solve all our problems without a lot of engineering.

Solving the eavesdropping problem will require engineering. That said, wasn't there a similar problem with our incredibly expensive predator drones sending the video feeds unencrypted? http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126102247889095011.html

bugsy 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is an awesome success story and shows once again that given a chance (ie not explicitly banned or thwarted) can-do inventive american individuals will come up with great solutions that work well and save money and lives.

I can't help but move past that and, knowing how corruption, waste and inefficiency work, predict that this device will be banned by higher ups for field use, requiring that devices that cost at least $2 million each and are built by military contractors be used instead. I also predict that the public will be happier and more comfortable paying $2 million through taxes than paying $500 through passing the hat at the county fair, which he points out raised $6.

ChuckMcM 2 days ago 0 replies      
Nice hack, and I'm glad it worked out. Given all the other stuff a soldier carries I assume they don't all want to be toting RC trucks along as well.

That being said, history is full of examples of innovations in tactics on the battlefield becoming tactical doctrine later, the risk is that the last war's tactics won't be as applicable to the current war's tactics.

It would be great if the DoD could move more quickly to adopt working tactics but my friends who work and live in that world are very very much aware of how 'bad' tactics can get a lot of people killed and so there is a very healthy level of risk aversion to changing things too rapidly and without a lot of analysis.

forgingahead 2 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting -- I was in the army (Non-US, but allied) years ago, and we were developing a lot of similar technology. RC Cars/Trucks with cameras, guns that shoot around corners, and surveillance balls amongst other things. They were developed for close-quarters combat, clearing rooms, hallways, that sort of thing.

The tech isn't new, but what's interesting I guess is the application they accidentally discovered. Strap a camera on a hardy RC vehicle, and have that be the sweeper in the front of a patrol checking for roadside bombs.

Interesting article, thanks for posting it.

sologoub 2 days ago 0 replies      
These guy should put this up on kickstarter to raise cash for sending the units as gifts until DoD gets off their ass and actually learns from it!

Of course it's not as tough as it probably should be for all of military due, but the fact that it was still alive from 2007 means it's good enough to start.

kno 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder why the Army doesn't have stuff like this already, for all the money they spend each year.
threepointone 2 days ago 0 replies      

For once, thank you for editorializing the title. Perfect choice of words.

jonaldomo 2 days ago 1 reply      
PBS has a good documentary called remote control war. It is on netflix, it talks about similar current technologies and those under development. There is also a clip about hackerspaces developing similar devices later in the program.
jarin 2 days ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the time back when I used to post on Something Awful, when SA members put together a fund to buy armor plating for a member who was going to Iraq and his platoon.


camworld 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have shared this story with some of the Army leaders I work with.
dhughes 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'm surprised the reveres isn't true that small RC planes or land vehicles are not being used as unmanned bomb delivery devices by the Taliban.

If this were to happen I'd guess Libyan rebels would do it since I see a lot of fabrication of weapons by them.

swah 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hackers, saving lives without moving their asses away from the PC.
sbierwagen 2 days ago 1 reply      
I hate upvoting stories like these, because the HN comments are always going to be pure crap, but oh well.

Also, fuck video ads.

What's a Closure? nathansjslessons.appspot.com
242 points by gulbrandr  3 days ago   55 comments top 19
hendi_ 3 days ago 1 reply      
I found that structure of teaching awesome!

If you already know some JavaScript you can skip the beginning and start right away at 8, "Nested Functions". Otherwise if you know any other programming language just start with the lessons and reach the lessons and learn about closures in less than 10 minutes, and -- maybe even more important -- learn many of JavaScript's basic on the way.

I really hope the author of this does many more lessons. I found this to be a really great way to introduce some of JavaScript's somewhat awkward features, like local variables and function scope.

Compared to Eloquent Javascript that also features try-as-you-read exercises I found this site to be more condensed. Decide for your own whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage. I'd suggest taking the best of both worlds, use this to get the basics and see if you get a hang on JS, and if yes continue with the examples from Eloquent Javascript.

mwexler 3 days ago 1 reply      
This was a clever use of unit tests to help you "pass" each lesson. I've read a bunch of tutorials on closures, but this one really helped me "get" it. Sure, it takes liberties and glosses over things... but seeing it grow right before my eyes was really helpful.
roel_v 3 days ago 7 replies      
Maybe somebody could explain what the difference between a lambda, a closure and a monad is, and how/if they are different from a function pointer (or generalization of it like a signal), or from unary or binary function objects. (my C++ bias in asking this question may be obvious ;) )

I see the first three concepts used interchangeably (as far as I understand), but maybe that's because they're used slightly different between different communities?

ynniv 2 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, I love the flow!

Except JSLint. JSLint barfs all over otherwise valid JavaScript and provides really unhelpful error messages. For a minute, I thought that I forgot how to write valid JavaScript.... Hate! Hate! Hate! You're teaching folks to program, not write syntactically pure JS.

But drop that and the experience is great.

veyron 2 days ago 1 reply      
It would be awesome if the web version of LPTHW had an interactive tool just like this.
schlichtm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Please make more lessons (html, css, javascript, node, php...). I would pay.
MikeTaylor 3 days ago 1 reply      
Or there is this -- http://reprog.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/closures-finally-expl... -- which takes a much more informal approach. (Disclaimer: I wrote it myself, so it reflects my own rather practical moment of enlightenment rather than rigorous computer science.)
nkassis 2 days ago 1 reply      
Sorry if this is a stupid question but when you use continuations-passing style, what happens to the stack in javascript? Does it clean it self up or does the language just keeps going functions all the way down and fills up?
lostmypw 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm late to the party again.

To understand the importance of closures it might be interesting to look at this poster[1]. Look at the node in the top left that says "Functional programming". Every paradigm that descends from that node depends on closures. THAT's how important they are.

[1] http://www.info.ucl.ac.be/~pvr/paradigms.html

Troll_Whisperer 1 day ago 0 replies      
This was a great tutorial. There's a long discussion on reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/iviw3/whats_a_c...
shard 2 days ago 2 replies      
Anyone else try to do a lazy AND evaluation for chapter 12 and have it fail? I did


but the desired answer checked gC even if fC already failed..

dreamdu5t 2 days ago 0 replies      
The closure articles are a perfect reason for merging threads on HN. One of these appears weekly!
f7u12 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for sharing. Running through this tied up some loose ends for me.
jordinl 3 days ago 1 reply      
is it me or this is confusing?

"Define a function named generate that takes one argument, a function f. It should return an array that consists of the function f and another function that doubles its input."

DNeb 2 days ago 2 replies      
My C++ brain must be getting too old -- head is swimming :( From all the talk, these must be very useful, but I don't understand why? Why not just use an object?
127 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have no idea what I'm supposed to do in problem 12. Everything else was fairly obvious. I just can't comprehend what's going on in number 12.
re_todd 2 days ago 0 replies      
A closure is a function that can access variables that don't have to be passed in as parameters.
chewbranca 2 days ago 0 replies      
Focused on javascript, but this is a great introduction to closures: http://jibbering.com/faq/notes/closures/
ck2 3 days ago 1 reply      
I found that structure of teaching awkward.

If someone already knows some basic javascript, you could show them a basic, familiar function but then show them how it can become a closure. Then make them realize that everything can be treated essentially as an object in javascript, nearly everything, but especially functions.

I didn't know the formal names of "Stateful Closures" or "Continuation Passing" but I knew that I can make a copy of a function as another object so it retains different values than another copy and that I can pass a function as a return value.

They should also cover self-executing closures and using timers in closures via setTimeout(function(){ - I don't think those concepts are too advanced.

Top Gear caught faking another electric car "failure" guardian.co.uk
225 points by raganwald  1 day ago   122 comments top 29
rickmb 23 hours ago 2 replies      
This is why I stopped watching Top Gear. None of the "tests" in Top Gear are serious, and most of it is just great entertainment... until it becomes malicious.

When it comes to subjects like electric cars, or environmentally friendly technology in general, Top Gear has the same ethics as one of Rupert Murdochs tabloids or Fox News.

fossuser 1 day ago 2 replies      
I find this extremely frustrating. It must be hard enough attempting to push forward a big change with a new product that many consumers don't know about and when a program with such a large audience actively tries to sabotage the effort I just don't understand it.

At least this time they're not trying to take down a new company, but the damage they try and cause to electric vehicles' reputation is unfair. The strange thing is that there are some reasons not to get an electric car (if you need to make extremely long trips often, the potential battery replacement issue after ten years) and rather than discuss these they make up reasons and fake failures. For many people electric vehicles are a great option and hopefully the direction manufacturers continue to go in.

Why try to destroy them?

easyfrag 23 hours ago 3 replies      
I recall an episode where they ridiculed a Prius's fuel efficiency because it didn't out-perform a sports car on their test.

Their test was to loop non-stop around a race track at the Prius' top speed, which is pretty much what the sports car was designed to do.

They neglected to do a round in stop-and-go traffic, which is what the Prius was designed for.

eli 20 hours ago 1 reply      
"The car unexpectedly ran out of charge when they got to Lincoln"

That's not how I remember it playing out. They had plenty of warning and made numerous references to the battery meter and its "miles left" estimation. As they were looking for a charging station, James May said something to the effect, "He's running on whatever the electric equivalent of gas fumes is."

If you just read this article, I encourage you to watch the episode before getting all wound up.

mrcharles 23 hours ago 1 reply      
I recognize they are going about it the wrong way, but their point, as far as I can tell, is to show you that the infrastructure to support these isn't in place, and even if it was, the downsides to charge times are anathema to motorists who love to drive.

I do think they could go about it differently, and if they had simply added "This is what happens were you to run it dry on a trip" would have smoothed all this out. I do wish they would have done so, as their point will now be lost in the screaming and shouting over their bias.

I do think it's a point worth making. An electric car is only as useful as the distance you want to drive it. As soon as your round trip exceeds the limit, you have to charge it for hours.

I don't think they are out of line by pointing out these problem. I do think they are out of line by staging it without explanation.

tatsuke95 1 day ago 2 replies      
I think it can safely be said now that if you're using Top Gear as a buyer's guide when shopping for a car (and considering an electric car), you're doing it wrong.

I love the show. It's the most entertaining "car show" on television. But I've never had the inclination to take what these guys say to heart. By that I mean, 90% of the time the hosts are reviewing Bugattis, Ferraris and Lambos, which is a world completely disconnected from my own. Can one really expect practical reviews?

edkennedy 23 hours ago 1 reply      
A lot of the comments here are saying that Top Gear is an entertainment show, and should not be taken seriously. Yet that seems to avoid the main point of the article which is that it's on BBC, yet not adhering to BBC standards of reporting. The article claims they are not held to these standards because they make entertaining TV that brings in big bucks for BBC. Should Top Gear attempt to follow BBC standards, or should they get away with it because they have a great tv show?
nhebb 1 day ago 0 replies      
For reference, here's the discussion of Top Gear's response to the Tesla lawsuit: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2400822
eli 23 hours ago 2 replies      
This is a pretty weak accusation.

It was quite obvious watching the program that they were aware the battery was running low (they commented on the "miles left" meter several times). They more-or-less willfully ran out of juice in a small town. So what.

The point wasn't that the car can only go 60km versus 100km on a charge, or whatever the numbers. The point was that the car has a range limit, that the limit is not terribly far, that the car takes a while to charge when it dies, and there aren't many charging stations.

Perhaps Top Gear was a bit hyperbolic to make that point (Consumer Reports they are not), but these are all fair points.

I'm sorry. I'm all about calling out bias where I see it, but this just smacks of a car maker trying to spin some largely legitimate complaints with their product.

Not many people could get away with owning a plug-in electric as their only car. Even if it were half as much as a comparable gas car (rather than twice as much). As Clarkson said in the episode, the leaf is actually a really nice ca and electric is obviously the future, but today it is just not practical.

meow 22 hours ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the AC vs DC debate in late 1800s. There were public staged demonstrations showing how harmful AC was. Of course none of this stopped AC from becoming the default standard for long range power transmission. Same goes with electric cars too. Regardless of what these fossil brains try to prove, there is no stopping to new technologies. Once the battery technology catches up, EVs will become more popular.
MikeW 1 day ago 6 replies      
How would they know the car was driven in loops for 10 miles in Lincoln unless the device was recording {the GPS coords, engine state, battery state}.

This sounds like spyware. I'd love to know if that data was being periodically fed back to Nissan wirelessly or read at the time the car was returned.

I'd love to know if this tracking is fitted in all their cars of this model, or just ones they hand out for review.

Such fine-grained tracking doesn't sound like a good thing at all.

ck2 1 day ago 3 replies      
I think people can take what they want from Top Gear, it's entertainment, not factual TV.

That episode made me wish I could afford a Leaf, it seemed really well engineered and I knew they were being silly about electric cars on purpose because they are "neanderthal" car dinosaurs that refuse to adapt.

They were trying really hard to find ways to insult the Leaf but fell far short - "range" was all they could come up with. Sad to learn they actually had to fake it though, it's pathetic on their part. I'd still buy it with their demonstrated range - if it was twice that, even better.

But 60mpg+ gas/diesel cars are common in the UK anyway, so the Leaf is less dramatic there. I'd love this one too but they will never let Americans have it:



barredo 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I like Top Gear when they are funny, not when they're malicious, both episodes (Tesla then, and Leaf now) seems to have malicious intent against electric cars.
overgard 20 hours ago 0 replies      
After watching the episode, It seems like the point they were making in Top Gear was that:

A) It's not particularly hard to get stranded in one of these things.
B) When you do get stranded, it's non-trivial to get them recharged.

I think those are both fair points. A lot of people seem to be pointing out that "well if you plan ahead this won't happen", but how many times have you had to use your car to get to something you didn't plan ahead for? Maybe there's an emergency, or maybe I'm late, or maybe I just forgot to charge the thing overnight. Electric cars are cool, but for most people I can only imagine them supplementing a gas car, not replacing it.

nextparadigms 1 day ago 1 reply      
Tesla got a bit of backlash when they sued Top Gear, but it seems they were right to do it all along.
Jamiecon 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I've watched, and enjoyed, Top Gear for a long time now, since before they introduced the new magazine format.

I saw this episode when it was broadcast and enjoyed the electric car segment. The programme is an entertainment show and part of that entertainment is that the presenters repeatedly experience various 'disasters' during their filming. I didn't take the various incidents involving range particularly seriously at the time.

When they were discussing the cars slightly more seriously back in the studio, they actually acknowledged the inevitability of electric cars and went over the ways in which the technology was improving. They also correctly pointed out that current technology limits the utility of the models available now, and discussed mitigation ideas such as battery exchange. To be honest I was surprised at the maturity of their analysis! Overall, based on what I know about this area from other sources, I would not consider the piece to have been misleading.

Someone has already pointed out that The Guardian is a fairly left leaning paper and this particular article is a comment piece. Personally I think it's a bit silly for people to get so indignant about something so insignificant. They're just having fun. They're not out to get anyone. I don't believe they have a vindictive agenda. The presenters play caricatures of themselves.

Chill the hell out!

goblgobl 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Top Gear is an entertainment show with cars as the backdrop. Just like Daily show is a comedy show with political clips.

If you want a car review show, take a look at Motor Week.

I think these claims of "faking" are ridiculous when you have episodes where cast members "die" (top gear apocalypse), and characteristics are emphasized for comedic effect (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQh56geU0X8).

This article claims because of Top Gear's antics, the public is being misinformed about the benefits of electric cars. It completely misses the point that 1. it is not a car review show, and 2. there is a major poetical component of the show that celebrates automotive history. They like exciting cars and bash boring uninspired ones (except if its remarkably boring). Their reviews emphasize a car's essence, not necessarily a list of facts.

I think this view is coming from a place that has a vested interest in electric cars, and not anyone who really watches the show. Otherwise they'd be attacking all the claims ("Some Say") made about The Stig.

darksaga 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm wondering how many people actually take this as purely entertainment and not a show where they can glean useful information about new cars on the market.

I've never watched the show, but it seems like they're trying to blur the two lines. When they get called on it, they use the excuse "it's just entertainment" as justification for misleading their viewers.

pacemkr 19 hours ago 2 replies      
I've seen their review of the Leaf. Clarkson was anticipating the car running out and talking about it while looking at the dial, which he pointed out. What made it "unexpected" in the program, as this article claims, must have been lost on me. There was a point to be made and they let the car run out to make it, again, to me that was obvious. The points made were valid:

* The infrastructure to recharge this thing in the middle of a trip is not there.

* You better be prepared to wait a good number of hours to charge it.

* You better know how far you're going and note how much charge you have left before you head out.

* You will have to replace the batteries after some number of years and it will cost a lot of money.

* Electricity is the future, but these cars are not it. (Yes, they actually said that.)

Which one of these points is all of a sudden not valid?

I'm sorry, the review was spot on.

georgieporgie 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Top Gear is entertainment.

"at no point were viewers told that the battery had been more than half empty at the start of the trip."

So? They're making television. They're showing a valid problem with electric cars. Their review of the cars was actually very positive, aside from the currently inescapable problem of long recharge times and uncommon charging stations. As it is television, you want to do so in a manner which is entertaining and not dangerous. Would the makers prefer that they run out of juice on a busy highway?

The rest of the article degrades into an anti-testosterone rant which has little to do with Top Gear. I was a teenage, aggressive idiot, too, and Top Gear didn't even exist then. They're actually very careful on Top Gear to follow rules of the road, and anyone driving like a fool as a result of it has only himself to blame.

maeon3 1 day ago 1 reply      
When electric cars become more reliable, easy-to-use, less expensive (overall) then gasoline powered cars, then nothing anyone says will stop the takeover. Short of destroying the company itself, the cars will sell themselves. You can't fool all the people all the time. The happy customers will tell their friends, and nothing the Pope, President and Top Gear can say to hinder that.
maeon3 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here is the top gear video saying the tesla was a failure in the real world:
ZipCordManiac 11 hours ago 0 replies      
As somebody who doesn't know much about cars, I always thought Top Gear was a serious review show with a few jokes thrown in. Not downright misleading setups and information.
donnaware 22 hours ago 0 replies      
maybe they can move the program to Fox where it belongs.
entrepreneurial 23 hours ago 0 replies      
How many combustible cars have you seen on the road over the past couple of years?
aj700 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't even have to read this. It's the Guardian. It's just a personal vendetta against people who question the religion of warmingism.
brudgers 1 day ago 0 replies      
tl;dr Reality TV show fails to meet basic journalism standards.
dublinclontarf 1 day ago 1 reply      
Top Gear is a great show. Its funny,witty and soooo different from the usual PC shite on the beeb (extreme individualism or Libertarianism,extreme are they serious?),which is why its so popular.

Long live Clarkson.

vaksel 1 day ago 1 reply      
they didn't fake anything, they just showed what would happen if your car ran out of juice.

what is it with companies, who expect the media to suspend critical thinking when covering their products.

Electrical cars are great...but the logistics of them still need to be highlighted for consumers to make an informed decision.

to ignore that you are literally up shit's creek if your car runs out of juice...is just intellectually dishonest

Why "Coupon Code" Should Not be a Field on Your Payment Form rachelbaker.me
208 points by rachelbaker  4 days ago   94 comments top 30
pg 4 days ago 4 replies      
Does anyone out there have an answer from actual A/B testing?
OpenAmazing 4 days ago 6 replies      
It depends.

On an older site I ran we discovered the same thing and exploited it. We made it easy to find coupons for our product via Google. Interested visitors would land on our buy page, see the coupon field, search Google, find one and buy the product because they felt like they were getting a great deal. The conversion rate went up. The original price took in to account a lot of users would be using a discount. We split tested having the field and not, and we made more money with the coupon code field and giving out a lot of coupons.

Yes, some users that would have paid full price may take advantage of the discount. But, potentially, you will get a lot of customers that only buy because they find a discount. My guess is that this works better for lower cost "consumer" type purchases (not larger, business purchases).

Making coupons / discounts easy to find is a marketing strategy. Why do you think half the apps in the app stores have "Limited time discount offer!" as the first line of their description.

cubicle67 4 days ago 1 reply      
I use NameCheap and they have this field. There's also http://www.namecheapcoupons.com/ though, which is very findable.

... which gives me an idea - when you hit a coupon code box, you feel the need to supply a coupon, and once you've found one everything's ok again. So what if the company makes it simple to find coupons for small amounts, say 5%, but has other discount codes as well (for 20%) that it uses. Once you find the 5% one you stop searching, and you're also happy because you've got yourself a discount. Meanwhile the company still has a way of offering deeper discounts when needed

mmcconnell1618 4 days ago 1 reply      
I work with a lot of retail stores and yes, if you add "Coupon Code" to the checkout page some customers will stop and start looking for coupons. There are a couple of options:

a) Don't call it coupon. Call it "offer code" or "referral code" or something that doesn't immediately scream "Discount!"

b) Why try to hide the codes? They will be easy enough to find on Google if they're available so instead, make compelling offers where you provide discounts in exchange for customers purchasing more or taking some other action. Look at rental car web sites. Most offer a "Deals" page where you can see coupon codes because they realized the codes were easily shared anyways.

c) Don't use a text box. Instead create referral links with the code embedded so that only people using the links will get the coupon code. This way, people without codes never see the option to enter one.

d) Check the HTTP referrer when a visitor first arrives and apply coupon codes as needed OR only display the coupon box when you know a customer has come from an advertiser site.

e) Proactively suggest offers that don't require coupon codes at all. For example, when a customer has $97 of items in their cart, display a message box offering a discount if they purchase > $100.

a5seo 4 days ago 0 replies      
There is academic research that confirms the injustice hypothesis:


rkalla 4 days ago 2 replies      
I had this exact experience that Rachel describes the other day -- was signing up a new startup and saw that, was already feeling like the service was too expensive, then got annoyed at the idea that me (some sucker from the web) was paying more than other people and just ditched the signup process.

Granted, I wasn't going to make that startup rich, BUT, I didn't even get past that signup page to experience their product and give them a chance to win me over.

With so many choices for every kind of app, I think she brings up a really good point here. Don't make your new customers feel like suckers about to pay sticker-price if they don't have to.

teyc 4 days ago 0 replies      
A better alternative may be to frame it differently

    If applicable, please enter your gift card number.

This implies it is single use though.

Another option is to provide the field when user is already very invested. For instance, he has entered shipping details, contact details etc.

I wonder if anyone has split tested "enter coupon" phrases which doesn't encourage shopping cart abandonment?

The other option is to offer them notification whenever new coupons are available. It is a good way get people who might have abandoned the shopping cart anyway to opt in.

qeorge 4 days ago 0 replies      
Your competitors can also buy AdWords on keywords such as "(your business) coupon codes", sniping your sales at the very end of your funnel.
joshfraser 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have a text link that says "Have a coupon?" that expands into a text field when clicked. I'm not sure how much that helps, but it felt slightly less taunting to me.
benologist 4 days ago 1 reply      
I have to agree, when I see coupon field I know there's a discount I'm not getting so I go and look for it.
zipdog 4 days ago 1 reply      
I agree the Coupon Code field is a taunt, but what if someone has a coupon code and has lost the url for the coupon-specific form, or just ended up at the main form anyway? That could be especially frustrating - to have the coupon and not see any way of entering it.

Perhaps another solution is to have a checkbox "I have a coupon" instead (and ask for the code on the next step) or a link. That's less of an incentive, but still keeps the option for coupon holders on the main form.

shabble 4 days ago 0 replies      
Having a click-through example.com/deals page which sets a hidden field or drops a cookie could avoid some of the Sad Missed Deal approach.

Then again, it immediately informs your potential customers of all your available deals, without the hassle of searching around, so they're more likely to find some way of optimising their payment downwards. You could (pseudo-)randomly display certain deals, or set rate/quantity caps ("Buy quickly, only 50 coupons remain!")
to deal with that.

By providing visibility on all your deals, the customer feels more satisfied knowing they got the best possible deal, and you limit the proliferation of all those annoying voucher search sites (and cart abandonment when none of those 3-year old $5 off codes work).

DJN 19 hours ago 0 replies      
At Trafficspaces, we include a coupon code called LUCKYDAY right there on the payment page of all our plans. Saves the Google search and increase conversion rates to over 30%.


gkoberger 4 days ago 0 replies      
If you need this field, try calling it "Gift Code" or something more cryptic like that. People will be less likely to assume it's something they'll find on RetailMeNot.
fpgeek 4 days ago 1 reply      
I generally agree (especially for startups and other less established / unfamiliar-to-the-user vendors).

That being said, I've seen at least two companies cleverly use the visible coupon code field: Lenovo and Dell. They use it to establish at least 3 tiers of pricing:

1. People who don't use the coupon code at all anyway and get the standard "sale"
2. People who Google for a code and find a 5-10% coupon
3. People who get a better coupon through "less public" means (e.g. newsletter, limited-use coupon, etc.)

On top of that, I suspect Lenovo and Dell have their standard "sales" because they want higher "list" prices that make the corporate volume purchasing discounts look better.

waterside81 4 days ago 0 replies      
Our product is featured a lot on daily deal sites so we have to show a coupon code box. What we also do is include the logo of the daily deal site (Groupon, Zulily etc.) as a visual hint to the customer as to where the coupon might come from. That way, I hope, we eliminate the curiousity. Haven't ever heard from a customer asking for a coupon.
fezzl 4 days ago 1 reply      
The coupon code field is only intended to be seen by people who already have a coupon code. Solution? Make the coupon code field inconspicuous and hard to find. Make it an accordion dropdown in small text somewhere in the corner, for example. Those holding a coupon code will not give up trying to find that place to type in their coupon code, while those who don't have a coupon code have minimal chance of being thrown off by the taunting "coupon code" field.
markokocic 4 days ago 0 replies      
The funniest thing here is that often all it takes to look up coupon code is tho view page source, where coupon code is hardcoded in javascript.
jamesshamenski 4 days ago 0 replies      
Allmenus.com yesterday launched a new feature that somewhat solves this issue. In the shopping cart, we have text reading 'Discount Code' with a link 'Apply'. If you click the link, we reveal an input box with a button to submit a coupon code.

I believe that by removing the text box, less visual attention is stressed to go out and find a coupon. If a customer has come to our site with the prior intention of redeeming a coupon, I believe they'll navigate our interface without a problem.

See what i'm talking about, just add an item from the menu to meet the order minimum to see the text appear:


Sidenote: Yes, we'll test the lingo to determine what preforms the best and monitor campaign results for changes in usage patterns.

Maro 3 days ago 0 replies      
When I purchase something on Amazon and GoDaddy, I usually spend 3 minutes to google a coupon to save $5. It feels good.
damoncali 4 days ago 0 replies      
On the other hand, I was once told by a savvy marketer "You know you've got them when your customers think they're fucking you."

Make the codes easy to find (put them on Twitter and they'll get scraped by coupon sites), and you can get some traction out of this sort of thing.

joshfraser 4 days ago 0 replies      
I get distracted by those fields too, especially with car rental companies where I KNOW there are lots of coupon codes out there. Even after I find one part of me is still wondering if I could have gotten a better deal if I'd just searched a little bit longer.
fixie 4 days ago 0 replies      
I was briefly thinking about this the other day and my quick fix was to de-emphasize the coupon/gift card fields by using progressive disclosure. Screenshot of mockup: http://d.pr/KxJe. Although this doesn't completely remove the fact that the site accepts coupons, it helps with the 'empty field' issue described in the original post. Thoughts on this? Anybody run across any other solutions?
ams6110 4 days ago 0 replies      
Idea for a browser plugin: find coupon codes when such a field appears on a form
viscanti 4 days ago 0 replies      
A better alternative is to pre-fill the form with a "standard" discount, or have that code somewhere nearby. Coupon codes work wonders for tracking off site promotions. Are people finding you from a blog, a magazine article, a special event, or what? Having specific coupon codes for each let's you measure the effectiveness of campaigns you otherwise wouldn't be able to accurately measure.
creativeone 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm almost done with savable.net, I'll be developing a large database of coupon codes that you can us when facing the empty coupon code box.
ltamake 4 days ago 1 reply      
http://xkcd.com/837/ How I wish this was a real thing. :(
ck2 4 days ago 1 reply      
That is why RetailMeNot exists.
bennesvig 4 days ago 1 reply      
When I see Coupon Code the first thing I do is look on Twitter Search.
swombat 4 days ago 2 replies      
Wow, a generalisation based on a single anecdotal data point!

You could sink the titanic over again with holes that large.

Guys (and gals), please resist the temptation to take a single personal anecdote that you care about and blow that up into some kind of authoritative advice such as:

Do not show the Coupon code field unless you absolutely need to do so. When sending marketing and promotional materials, send them to a different version of your payment page that reflects the discount you are offering. Having the same payment page for your discounted and full price purchases just invites Google searches for “(app name) coupon code” and resulting abandoned cart.

Those arguments are no better than http://xkcd.com/605/

$1 chip tests for HIV in 15 minutes, fits in your wallet fastcompany.com
208 points by d0ne  4 days ago   124 comments top 10
ikarous 3 days ago  replies      
I really doubt the "no human interpretation" part of the Engadget article. I've been involved in HIV education as part of the gay community, and this sort of kit worries me greatly. If the test is an antibody based test, then it could do far more harm than good by giving uneducated users a false sense of security: a negative result does not mean that you don't have HIV.

While I'm sure that everyone on HN understands the seroconversion window period, this is simply not the case in the larger community. Ignorance about HIV is widespread. I cannot even begin to count the number of people who believe that pulling out before ejaculating affords some sort of magical protection from the virus. These are the same people who upon seeing a negative result would assume that they're safe without condoms.

The CDC states that the window period for detectable HIV antibody formation is three months; however, this figure is based on first generation HIV tests and is considered somewhat conservative. Public health experts like H. Hunter Handsfield state that detectable antibodies usually form in four to six weeks.

Whatever figure you choose to believe, it's a pretty significant time period. And it's a deadly one. It's during the window period that an HIV infected person is most infectious. Their viral loads are off the chart and they can unknowingly infect multiple people in a short period of time.

The "cure" for HIV is the same as it has always been: education and safer sex practices. HIV is largely a preventable disease. I would be okay with personal test kits if they were bundled with extremely clear educational packets printed in multiple languages. But this particular kit is advertised too much like a silver bullet to assure me that the manufacturers are anywhere near that responsible.

jdietrich 3 days ago 1 reply      
Statistical note: With a 4-6% false positive rate, this device is only useful where there is a very high probability of infection. In much of the developed world where HIV infection rates are a fraction of one percent, this would mean that the overwhelming majority of positive tests are false positives.
Shenglong 4 days ago  replies      
You know what would be a fantastic sub-market for this? Bars and clubs in college towns. Regardless of whether you believe 1-nighters are moral or not, they're going to keep happening. Might as well promote safety and reduce the spread of STIs.

Edit: I don't mean this should be an alternative to traditional protection. It just adds another layer of certainty.

Robin_Message 4 days ago 4 replies      
A 6% false positive rate? You don't want anyone taking this without probable cause then, else you're going to get a metric crap-ton of people going to their doctor's and having to have a full workup done.

Edit to clarify: My point was that just because it was cheap doesn't mean it'll ever be sold to the public. Apart from anything else, consider the psychological impact of discovering you (may) have HIV from a test kit you picked up from next to the Oreos on a whim.

alexholehouse 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think it's worth pointing out that while this is great tech, it's still relying on antibody detection, and the incubation period between infection and antibody production can be anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months. However, you yourself become infectious from a couple of days after infection, and in fact there's often a really high viral load in these early few weeks/months before antibodies start being produced.

Long story short, for the 2-6 months after you first become infected the test would return negative, but you'd still be highly infectious.

corin_ 4 days ago 2 replies      
The title in the nature.com report includes "in the developing world", so I wonder if this will be one of those products that doesn't really get targetted towards US/EU - where, while we may not have HIV problems anywhere near as bad as in Africa, but a $1 15 minute test would still be insanely useful.
gapanalysis 4 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder how this will come to market and how privacy will be protected. I know purchasing a test chip is not the same as confirming HIV positive but it is a data point, just as pregnancy tests are. If it's OTC do you have to consider how easy it is to track?
badclient 3 days ago 0 replies      
As someone who had a false positive not long ago, I am not gonna be using this anytime soon.
gegegege 3 days ago 0 replies      
These will never be available over the counter because they would lead to a rash of suicides by people who test positive and are infected as well as the false positives. HIV testing is generally done in conjunction with professional support and not something that should be done at home.
dstein 4 days ago 1 reply      
At this price, countries should just purchase a test for everyone, and eradicate HIV.
Scott Adams: The Heady Thrill of Having Nothing to Do wsj.com
193 points by mattjaynes  1 day ago   44 comments top 19
reinhardt 1 day ago 4 replies      
We have not won the war on boredom. At best we have won the war on idleness, which is only a lite version of it. If anything, these kill-time gadgets exacerbate the deep boredom problem, what Pessoa calls tedium:

Tedium is not the disease of being bored because
there's nothing to do, but the more serious disease of
feeling that there's nothing worth doing. This means that
the more there is to do, the more tedium one will feel.

I can totally relate to this quote and attest to the ineffectiveness or even negative effect most tech toys have in alleviating my chronic diminished motivation and under-functioning reward system.

georgieporgie 1 day ago 2 replies      
I'm not too sure I agree with the specific notion that availability of distraction destroys creativity. Here's my (off the top of my head) take on creativity:

Problems 1: You come up with an idea, and tell yourself, "that's a good idea, I should remember that!" and then you don't remember, or you tell yourself that you need to focus on fixing these bugs at work, or on whatever other task is at hand.

Problem 2: Your mental energy is sapped by whatever you're currently doing. It's like the classic Stephen King quote about how working simple manual labor (laundry) was fantastic for creativity and writing.

The solution to problem one is to always have a means of taking notes, one which you will definitely revisit. This frees you from wanting to focus off-task when you need to be on-task, and it allows you to revisit and refine your thoughts. Problem two is tougher. Find a job doing exactly what stimulates your creativity. Let's face it, though, that's not as easy as blogs and Dice make it out to be. The only advice I can give is to quit your job and do exactly what you feel like doing until you've found a problem you want to solve, but that's not a very constructive path.

I've found that by simply doing whatever I want each day, I'm exposed to way more interesting problems that I want to solve. I listen to things like podcast while performing tedious, manual labor (cycling, weight lifting, cleaning, wrenching, etc), and I feel like it's both easier to get the tasks done, and I'm left with a feeling of better variety of mental exposure. I'm currently experiencing a much more creative/inventive period in my life than I have in years.

Vivtek 1 day ago 2 replies      
There's boredom, then there's freedom from distraction.

I'm free from distraction when walking the dog in the woods by myself. I'm bored when stuck in line at Meijer's behind the guy whose credit card expired yesterday. The latter is excruciating and exhausting.

But aside from that: Scott Adams has a weird way of mixing some decent insight, like his thesis here, with some really inane stuff that sounds like late-night college freshman bullshitting. I mean really: "You might see the best-seller lists dominated by fiction "factories" in which ghostwriters churn out familiar-feeling work under the brands of famous authors. Got it." Has he never heard of Charles Dickens? Probably not, actually. But those fiction factories have existed since books got cheap enough for the mass market.

Not saying he's wrong - I guess I'm saying he's got nobody in his life willing to shoot down his pretty arguments before they hit the Wall Street freaking Journal, and that's a little sad.

mceachen 1 day ago 2 replies      
There was a comment on the site about this article being a "rip off" of Huxley (once again, wikipedia delivers in spades): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World#Comparisons_wit...

"Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism."

stcredzero 1 day ago 1 reply      
In Larry Niven's A World Out of Time (1976), a human mind is uploaded to a computer, and finds himself running an interstellar spacecraft. Since he has to be awake for centuries, he comes up with a trick. He writes a virus to erase all of his memories of boredom, so the next time he becomes bored and realizes he's experiencing a heretofore "new" emotion, he feels novelty. Then somehow, he learns of the trick and does it to himself again.

I guess that once we're uploaded, we could use something like this to "solve" the reddit and HN repost issue.

chubot 1 day ago 0 replies      
There is some degree of truth to this, but it is balanced out by the fact that Internet gives you so many more ideas to combine. Creativity is essentially combining different ideas, and technology puts at your dispisal a constant stream of new ideas. You can follow in great depth the ones that tickle you.

The majority of people will always passively consume. That's nothing new; it's possibly a lot more visible now with a lot of content-free blogs/twitter/etc.

But for those so inclined, technology helps a lot. For one example, look at how many free programming languages are available for use now -- things that you can build billion dollar businesses on. It wasn't like that in 1985. And a pretty promiscuous combination of ideas that was required for this to come into being. Or just consider open source in general.

jsherry 1 day ago 0 replies      
"My period of greatest creative output was during my corporate years, when every meeting felt like a play date with coma patients."

Love that line.

tejaswiy 1 day ago 0 replies      
I agree with this. Creative bursts usually come at midnight when I force myself to switch everything off and go sleep or when I'm stuck on an aeroplane with nothing to do at all than sit and stare out of the window.

I however, won't miss staring at people while in line at chipotle. I also disagree with the sentiment that innovation itself is dead because of readily available distraction.

superuser2 1 day ago 0 replies      
I went to see Ira Glass speak about creativity and storytelling. I was a beautifully crafted speech, and one rhetorical nugget I remember clearly was this:

"Ideas come from other ideas."

He argued that we cannot be creative in isolation, but that if we surround ourselves with high-quality ideas and stories, we are more likely to produce them ourselves. That is what he sees (and strives to create) in public radio.

zwieback 1 day ago 0 replies      
My experience with my kids is that boredom definitely breeds creativity. We don't allow unlimited TV or computer time and when they are forced to be "bored" a short burst of complaint is usually followed by creative play. When they complain they are bored they hear Grandma's maxim: "Only the boring get bored."

However, I think it's slightly different for adults. Creative play is not something we're good at. I often find myself picking up some menial chore around the house when I feel I have nothing to do instead of doing something creative.

My best inspirations of creativity usually come when I'm thrown into some new, unanticipated situation by some outside force. Let's say I go to the DMV and wait in line and strike up a conversation with the next unlucky customer - all of a sudden I learn something totally new and unexpected that causes me to try or do something I have never done before.

In that sense our electronic gadgets are awful because they allow us to get immersed in completely self-selected entertainment, reinforcing existing feedback channels. Maybe it would be better to be receive only one channel on your TV and be forced to sit through a rerun of a Lawrence Welk episode (preferably with a lot of Polka.)

timinman 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think this is applicable:

"when you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow exclude people. so create."
-Why The Lucky Stiff

PanosJee 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's very interesting to analyze the greek word for employment, working which is απασχόληση (apasholisi).

It comes from two words απα - σχόληση (apa-sholisi).
The first part of the word απα (apa) is used when we want to give the opposite meaning so απασχόληση (apasxolisi) is the opposite or the lack of σχόληση (sholisi).

So that does this word means? It comes from the verb σχολάζω, sholazo which means study. For the greeks working was inferior to cultivating your mind, going to the gym or the theater. Studying for them was whatever had to do with the culture of the mind or the body. So employment or working prevented you from studying.

Aristotle has said:
- "'σχολούμεθα ίνα σχολάζομεν" (asholoumetha ina sholazomen) which means that we are working in order to be able to study. More or less he said that we work in order to have the means to improve our body, soul and mind and not just work to live.

That's what the Greek said. (not the modern ones of course :) )

terhechte 1 day ago 0 replies      
I guess there is some truth to this. I usually have my best ideas while I'm jogging / walking.
See, I've been jogging the same route (with minor variations) for almost 4 years now. Around 20 minutes after I started walking I can feel ideas pop up in my head. I've had some of my best ideas of the past years while jogging.

So that even helps combining two useful things for me: I process the happenings of the day, and I stay in form.

6ren 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think a big aspect of creativity is finding new connections between things, applying a technique to a different domain, and combining ideas.

I think you need alternation, between stimulation and boredom. And the stimulation needs to have interesting ideas in it. Though, depending on the type of person you are, you won't find it novel (and therefore not stimulating) unless it does have new and interesting ideas in it.

But to be fair, I find my mind does tend to wander to creative problem solving if it's not occupied. i.e. boredom does help me. I think it might be that working out new ideas is hard work, and it's easier to be distracted.

twidlit 1 day ago 0 replies      
My best hack around this is commuting instead of driving a car and doing something mindless like cleaning the house or laundry after being stumped by a problem. Its in these times that ideas & solutions get formed or destroyed.
justinhj 1 day ago 0 replies      
"To be fair, economics is to blame for some of the decrease in creativity. A movie studio can make more money with a sequel than a gamble on something creative."

More specifically people want to know that they will enjoy something so they buy a brand that they're familiar with, even if it is repetitive.

blackboxxx 1 day ago 0 replies      
When there are so many people in this world in need of a friendly visit, or assistance in some way, shape or form, doing nothing is irresponsible.

Bottom line. HN pretty much qualifies for doing nothing. We should all abandon HN immediately and forever and get on with our lives.

I dare you.

resdirector 1 day ago 1 reply      
There's a startup in this, somewhere.

Has anyone tried the YC startup http://www.rescuetime.com/? (I've been meaning to try it myself, but they want my credit card to begin.)

Parse (YC S11): A Heroku For Mobile Apps techcrunch.com
194 points by csmajorfive  3 days ago   61 comments top 25
danilocampos 3 days ago 0 replies      
These guys are really onto something. Playing with their stuff for a little while was at once fun and annoying: I'd have killed to have this tech when I was an indie iOS dev, trying to scrape by knowing nothing about server development.

Seriously, I'd come up with cool features all the time, but have no idea how to get started building the server components they needed. Parse abstracts all that pain behind a few Objective-C methods that work just like all the other frameworks I use each day. I can store arbitrary data to the cloud and construct specific queries to pull it back down " without the mental overhead of learning or maintaining a new stack.

It's a simple idea but it's implemented with enough clarity and flexibility that you can accomplish a lot of neat stuff. Huge cheerleader for this team " I think they've got a lot to offer the many mobile developers who have ambitious projects and limited time/budget for outside server help.

bgentry 3 days ago 3 replies      
Ok, using the "Heroku for x" analogy worked when x was another programming language. How is this service in any way similar to Heroku?

I've read the article, seems like an interesting idea, but I just can't see where the comparison comes from.

biot 3 days ago 3 replies      
Pricing? Free during beta is nice, but if this is $99/month after, that will weed out weekend projects. Also, is it a per-app cost, per-user, per-company, or something else? Per-user weeds out free apps. I like the concept, but it doesn't make sense to use it without knowing what rough order of magnitude cost I'm looking at when it goes live.
drcode 3 days ago 2 replies      
What I really want (and would pay money for) is something like PhoneGap but which lets me code in HTML5 and then deploy into the Android Market and iPhone AppStore at the push of a button, Without having to use Java/Objective C.

Why has no one provided this product yet? Do the TOS for Android Market and AppStore make this impossible?

(To be clear: The deployment part is the part I want, the part that I don't want to have to fuss with)

adelevie 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've been following the development of Parse for the past couple months. Really solid progress. What struck me as the coolest part of their product is the ActiveRecord/ARel-style querying:

>ParseQuery query = new ParseQuery("GameScore");
query.whereEqualTo("foo", "bar").whereEqualTo("baz", "biz");

The ability to stack query options like that is very Railsy. I have a feeling that as more Rails developers focus on mobile development, they will take some of the nicer API designs with them into the Java/Obj-C world.

mattj 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks awesome - but I'm curious to see how much overlap this will have with the new stuff in iOS 5 (cloud storage etc.).
juanbyrge 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm an IOS developer, and to be honest I wouldn't use Parse (at least not today).

1) Unless you're building a mobile client for an existing website, would you really bother with authentication? Can't you just transparently store users with a UDID?

2) Client-side caching is the biggest pain in IOS apps. Network calls are relatively easy. I try to make simple/dumb calls to the backend and just do smart filtering and data manipulation on the front end. Parse doesn't really help here. Do they have integration with core data? They don't even seem to mention it.

3) Some of those testimonials are hilarious, but clearly fake. Why not use real ones?

4) You usually need a server running for a landing page, anyway.

5) No support for storing images or audio. Storing simple strings isn't that useful.

Anyway, just my honest feedback :) Good luck!

snowmaker 3 days ago 0 replies      
Parse is awesome! This is a terrific way to get a new mobile app up and running.
nhangen 3 days ago 1 reply      
Looks awesome, but if I hear "A Heroku for..." about one more thing, I'm going to flip out.

It's closer to Urban Airship than Heroku. Just because they are both YC companies doesn't mean they have to be compared.

cageface 3 days ago 0 replies      
I could definitely use something like this. I know how to do the backend stuff. I just don't want to.
chintan100 3 days ago 0 replies      
As an iOS Developer who cant do any server side coding, this service is a boon!

I visited both Kinvey and Parse and the one major difference i can see straightaway is that Parse allows schema less development. From their website:

"For example, you do not need to specify any schemas before pushing data to us. Our data API simply uses a schema-less JSON-like format."

While Kinvey lists "model your data and file requirements" as the first step to using their service.

Of course, both the services are still in beta and post-beta pricing will also be a major differentiator going ahead.

old-gregg 3 days ago 0 replies      
Congrats on the launch guys!
d0m 3 days ago 1 reply      
In the doc:
"score: 1337, playerName: "Sean Plott", cheatMode: false"

I see what you did there :) Are Parse guys day9 fan?

chubs 3 days ago 1 reply      
Looks fantastic. I'm personally really interested, and would like to know:
* Pricing - beta/free won't last forever!
* How will this compare with using iCloud when it comes out? I believe that icloud will provide api's for some storage/syncing capabilities.
zachinglis 3 days ago 0 replies      
The guys behind this are incredibly smart. I really wish them the best of luck.

I do agree with @biot though. Pricing needs to be better defined and there needs to be the ability for people with side projects to be able to integrate this without forking over $99 a month.

I feel that the much bigger users would be building their own service instead of using Parse as it would be more economical anyway.

RoboTeddy 3 days ago 0 replies      
Check out part of the guide: https://www.parse.com/docs/ios_guide

The API is simple and does exactly the sort of things you need it to do. Awesome.

dominostars 3 days ago 1 reply      
What separates you guys from Kinvey and StackMob?
pwim 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems more like Google App Engine than Heroku, in that by using this service, you are tied to Parse's infrastructure and can't easily change.
cheald 3 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, I kid you not, I sat down with a friend who pitched me this exact idea yesterday.
pixelmonkey 3 days ago 0 replies      
as the founder of Parse.ly and owner of parse.ly and parsely.com domains, I just have to say -- that's friggen cold, dudes ;-)
cynusx 3 days ago 2 replies      
Can I query the data gathered by mobile devices with a web-application?
omaranto 3 days ago 1 reply      
I realize that names of companies or services don't have to be descriptive but surely it's a good idea for them not to describe perfectly something completely different...
scopendo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Will Parse provide offline support? I saw sync mentioned, but it seemed to be more with respect to syncing multiple devices by virtue of a common web-based datastore.
Hisoka 3 days ago 3 replies      
Not sure how useful this will be. Synching and authorization are very specific to each app.
khangtoh 3 days ago 1 reply      
How much did they spent on the domain name? Just curious.
DEF CON: The event that scares hackers cnn.com
186 points by alexmr  1 day ago   41 comments top 12
swombat 1 day ago 2 replies      
A surprisingly well-written tech article for a source like CNN: clear to non-technical people, and yet not chock full of gross inaccuracies. Mainstream journalists have gotten me used to much lower quality.
munin 1 day ago 6 replies      
everyone freaks out because "oh man your computer will get hacked in N seconds on the defcon wifi". lets dissect this a little bit.

if i put a computer on the defcon wifi, it'll probably be say, modern linux (ubuntu, debian, or redhat) running either a minimal subset of services (ssh) or perhaps nothing, with firewall policy applied, or a modern windows (windows7) with the firewall on. i'll be using a modern, fully patched web browser, also perhaps with some additional mitigation technology (thought nothing out of the ordinary) think perhaps noscript and EMET.

and also this is the one time of the year when i'm ready for this. every other day of the year i go to the coffee shop i don't know anything about the other randoms there but i assume they're drifting office droids hacking on their excel macros or recruiters cruising linkedin in between meetings.

so, if someone exploits me on the defcon wifi ... where else will that exploit work? everywhere, probably! it's probably a super awesome exploit that has super awesome properties that targets super popular software and is also unpatched. someone owns my openssh 5.3 on my laptop on the defcon wifi ... if i pcap that ... i'm a rich man. i can own boxes like mine.

so ... as a hypothetical attacker, why would i do this? i'm surrounded by people like me. they're alert. they're cautious. and they are the most capable people in the world to detect what i am doing and reveal it to everyone. oh and there are a whole bunch of law enforcement people there too, AND the entire thing happens in a casino which has heavy security and is already wired for sound and audio everywhere you go.

... anyone who is smart enough to be able to own your box at defcon, is also going to be smart enough to realize that they might as well wait until the week after when you're sitting at a coffee shop.

Groxx 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wow, that's impressively well-written. And it's about computer security. And it's about hackers, who are hacking. That's like a perfect storm of news-writer fail, and they did a pretty good job through it all.

I love that they included this quote, it sums up security very very very well:

>It's not about breaking the lock, he said, it's about learning the lock can be broken.

I've found ways to open most combination locks in a second or two, without even looking suspicious. It's easier than entering the combination, usually. Those $20k-insured round-keyed laptop locks? Takes about 30 seconds on average, 5 or less if you're lucky. My dad lost a $20 bet with me on that, with the one his employer supplied (and expected him to use) - it took me 5 minutes on the first attempt, and less than a minute each time after that.

Security isn't about stopping people from breaking in. It's about not being the low-hanging fruit.

jwatzman 1 day ago 1 reply      
One of the most insightful points in the article, summing up much of DEF CON, got buried near the end of the article; it's worth emphasizing:

It's not about breaking the lock [...] it's about learning the lock can be broken.

X-Istence 1 day ago 2 replies      
The DefCon wireless is nowhere near as scary as people make it out to be. Making people believe that something is scary is part of the fun of it for those of us that help run the con.

Currently at con, on my laptop with OpenVPN and tethered to my phone because the DefCon wireless is overloaded and not handing out an IP address.

Pewpewarrows 1 day ago 1 reply      
If you value your sanity, I'd suggest steering clear of the comments on this article. Although I guess you could say that for comments on most article on CNN.
djcapelis 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Defcon is much more like a family reunion than a scary thing. This year hundreds of hackers literally opened their veins to give blood in honor of one of our own who needed it. The hacking of other attendees that goes on has more of a prank feel to it (much like a lot of the con!) than a scary thing. It's just a bunch of people getting together to talk, do interesting things and/or get drunk together.
swah 1 day ago 2 replies      
I'd love to know the OS usage stats here and how they differ from HN.
overshard 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm pretty sure any hacker worth his weight in microchips doesn't have a problem. I've been to def con and always take a *nix system with a solid firewall and a way to ssh/vpn home to do all my logging into websites from.

DEF CON doesn't scare hackers. It gives us a chance to see if our setups are actually secure and if we get pwnd we deserved it and learn from the experience.

ck2 1 day ago 0 replies      
That memo of things to do/not do, is a great list for everywhere 24/7, not just def con.

If you can be hacked there, you can be hacked anywhere, and some damage cannot be recovered from (ie. losing google account).

zackattack 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm in Vegas. Anyone have an extra badge they wanna sell me? I wanna stop by tomorrow. #meetup
DeanCollinsLCC 1 day ago 0 replies      
Bury your room key...-why LV hotels dont use RFID for room keys.
Scan your credit card remotely - not if they are mag stripe.

FUD articles like this is why people dont know to use VPN or HTTPS, what a waste of CNN's money sending him there for this - sorry but it has to be said could have been a much better more accurate article covering actual security issues.

Are you a Facebook employee? facebook.com
183 points by antichaos  2 days ago   94 comments top 21
slug 2 days ago 2 replies      
gojomo 2 days ago 1 reply      
Now, if you were to browse Facebook through a proxy that always tampered with this result in transit to say you were an employee... might some stray client-side code do anything interesting because it trusted that response?
ry0ohki 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not? What the hell was that walk in the woods for then??!!
goldmab 2 days ago 1 reply      
That's cute but it's not accurate. I interviewed there over two years ago and I appear to be blacklisted, since whenever I look at any of their job descriptions I get this:

"Hey, we have reviewed your application and unfortunately don't have an opening for you."

I can't really square that with "Maybe soon?"

yid 2 days ago 5 replies      
For what it's worth, I am, and I still get a 0.
helloburin 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think it checks the referral page you came from when clicking it and shows the {"is_fb_employee":"maybe soon? https://www.facebook.com/careers/department.php?dept=enginee...} when coming from HN.

If I open a new window and copy/pasta the URL, it'll say false :)

Jarred 2 days ago 3 replies      
I think this is_fb_employee variable is to check if they should be running the internal testing version of Facebook. Facebook has a subdomain which, in their offices everyone is redirected to. It's something like 'preview.facebook.com'. It houses the latest testing build of Facebook. This way all the employees are testing Facebook just by being on it, and they have other people testing their new builds for short periods of time (~2 weeks). Chances are, the server checks if the user is at an IP of a Facebook office, and that's the only condition where this is true. This would make sense because if they just redirect users to Facebook.com in their offices to preview.facebook.com, then nearly anyone could do it. This would also help prevent leaking of new features as well, because employees wouldn't be able to access them outside of Facebook.

They mention this in the Facebook Effect (http://www.amazon.com/Facebook-Effect-Inside-Company-Connect...). Or, at least the part about an subdomain for testing their website in-house. Everything else was me analyzing that.

taylorbuley 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well played, Facebook:

{"is_fb_employee":"maybe soon? https://www.facebook.com/careers/department.php?dept=enginee...}

csomar 2 days ago 1 reply      
According to Facebook, I might be soon an employee.

  {"is_fb_employee":"maybe soon? https://www.facebook.com/careers/department.php?dept=engineering"}

clarkevans 2 days ago 0 replies      
It appears that this web service has a rather obvious defect, the Content-Type is set to "text/html; charset=utf-8" yet, the response body seems to be JSON rather than HTML. The proper Content-Type should be "application/json" with Content-Disposition to "inline". Perhaps they didn't do this since some browsers ignore the Content-Disposition with this Content-Type, and prompt to download the content regardless.

Even so, "text/html" is still wrong. Since the content actually isn't intended for a JSON parser, but, a human, "text/plain" would be the most conservative (and not wrong).

leon_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
let's build a better and stronger platform for ... clicking virtual cows!
base2john 2 days ago 1 reply      
{"user":842915,"is_fb_employee":"Dish Washer"} ? WTF?
swapsmagic 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ok looks like if the url is referred from Hacker News, then they are displaying, {"is_fb_employee":"maybe soon? https://www.facebook.com/careers/department.php?dept=enginee...}

Even if you are logged out.

I am not an facebook employee so if i just paste the url in address bar and enter it, it shows: is_fb_employee: false with my UID.

If i logged out, it shows UID: 0 with is_fb_employee: false.

It's a nice idea to attract ppl from different site and based on the site domain, give them relevant career page url. (May be an intern project)

So for HN, it's engineering career page, if the referral site is relevant to some other domain (i.e. sales/marketing) then they will give http://www.facebook.com/careers/department.php?dept=sales.

Not sure how much data facebook have of other websites for categorizing majority of the websites in to different domain, but i feel Google can do much better with the same concept.

pettazz 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm going to start using this as an endpoint for stats checks on my own stuff to see if Facebook employees are visiting my site.
dreamdu5t 2 days ago 0 replies      
Who cares? Getting excited over some random graph value used internally... okay?

I mean, I already assumed FB had a staging server. Why does this interest people so much?

mahmud 2 days ago 0 replies      

  ln -s user_info.php user_info

Shenglong 2 days ago 2 replies      
Can someone please edit a question mark into this title? It's frustrating me.
richchan 2 days ago 0 replies      
I hope there isn't a flash app on Facebook that is using just that to decide whether to show an employee/admin interface.. Will be quite easy to spoof the result of that page if it is client-side.
the_cat_kittles 2 days ago 11 replies      
wow, I am the 49,200,124th user? we should see who can get the lowest score...
h00k 2 days ago 6 replies      
So, what's the point?
Kirchart123 2 days ago 0 replies      
{"is_fb_employee":"maybe soon? https://www.facebook.com/careers/department.php?dept=enginee...}

Maybe soon ... Engineering department .. I HOPE SO!

..im actually an engineer

Linus Torvalds dumps Gnome3 for XFCE (G+ discussion) google.com
182 points by ricw  4 days ago   143 comments top 30
1amzave 4 days ago 7 replies      
My biggest problem with Gnome 3 (and the number one reason I abandoned it in favor of Xmonad, which I've come to like quite a lot), was that it breaks the UI concept of the modifier key.

Simply pressing and releasing the super key (with no other keypress in between) triggers a change of state (bringing up the "overview" or whatever it's called). The modifier key is such a basic interface concept that I struggle to imagine why they would go out of their way to break it -- any way I look at it, it's just monumentally idiotic. And best of all, I could find no way of disabling it.

Admittedly, they're not the first to do this. OpenOffice has done something similar for quite a while (pressing and releasing a modifier key brings up a menu); that was one of the many things about OO that pissed me off. Nevertheless, precedent is insufficient justification for such a thoroughly moronic change.

I've been wanting to rant about that for a while now, glad to get it off my chest. Thankfully, Xmonad is fantastic, so in a way I'm grateful to Gnome 3 for leading me to switch to it.

Triumvark 4 days ago 2 replies      
The full history:

Dec 13, 2005: "I encourage people to switch to KDE. This 'users are idiots, and are confused by functionality' mentality of Gnome is a disease."
- http://mail.gnome.org/archives/usability/2005-December/msg00...

Jan 26, 2009: "I thought KDE 4.0 was such a disaster I switched to GNOME. I hate the fact that my right button doesn't do what I want it to do... the whole 'break everything' model is painful for users and they can choose to use something else."
- http://www.networkworld.com/news/2009/012209-open-source-ide...

Jul 26, 2011: "I used to be upset when gnome developers decided it was "too complicated" for the user to remap some mouse buttons. In gnome3, the developers have apparently decided that it's "too complicated" to actually do real work on your desktop, and have decided to make it really annoying to do.

I'm using Xfce. I think it's a step down from gnome2, but it's a huge step up from gnome3. Really."

Linus has always endorsed being pissed off at your interface and ditching it for something radically different. The current move, as you can read, is not one of satisfaction with XFCE. Clearly Linus just thinks all UIs are shit, and maybe that's a signal no one has figured this out yet, or maybe it's just a signal he's a curmudgeon.

(Edited for typos - I kept swapping 'Linux' and 'Linus.')

sriramk 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've been using Gnome 3 for a few months now. When I started, people told me on Twitter to stick with it and that I'd grow to like it. I didn't. And after three months, I'm very tempted to turn on compat mode (something I avoid doing in most software I use)
ajross 4 days ago 1 reply      
I came really close to the same decision. But honestly: I like gnome-shell (not all of gnome 3, the totally mucked up dconf/gconf configuration mess in F15 is unforgivable).

Along with all the favorite gadgets, it also throws out a ton of crap. It just gets out of the way for the most part. The clean vertical desktop scrolling is actually a fantastic feature once you get used to it. Putting the status icon mess into a hot corner seems weird the first time, but I find I quickly got used to it and that it's a great way to save screen space. Likewise I don't need to dedicate screen space to a desktop switcher: swapping desktops via the top left hot corner can be done very accurately (after a little practice) with two quick flicks of the mouse. Dragging a window all the way to the side locks it down to a half-screen-maximized mode which duplicates almost exactly my preferred working environment and saves me a ton of fiddling.

Really, I think it's a keeper. It's got some serious maturity (though not stability) problems in Fedora 15 right now. I think the defaults for some of the settings are just wrong. But overall I like it.

hristov 4 days ago 2 replies      
So the same shitstorm that hit when the new Ubuntu interface came on is now hitting Gnome 3. I wish the Linux interface designers would realize that desktops are not tablets and that they should be making a super polished desktop interface and not trying to break everything down.

The good thing about Linux though is that in Linux you always have options. There is always another GUI. So I think linux should be able to survive this wrong turn relatively unscathed.

whackberry 4 days ago 6 replies      
This is going to be unpopular, I know. I'm a linux buff too, diehard fan since 1997.

BUT. One has got to admit the Windows 7 interface is great. I bought a new notebook that came with it and I gotta say, I wish Linux had ONE great interface and standard GUI programming API.

sjwright 4 days ago 4 replies      
Linus isn't the target audience for Gnome 3.

Enough said, let's move on.

16s 4 days ago 0 replies      
xfce4 is really awesome. I can vouch for it as well. If you need a productive, traditional desktop, then try it. The only thing I miss is the gnome samba mount options.
trotsky 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really wanted to like Gnome 3 and gave it an extended trial run. I really like the gnome shell for the most part, overview mode, left dock, dynamic desktops. It felt right on my 14" 16x9 laptop screen. However, it took a serious hit in terms of power management and other laptop usability - no auto dim on battery? No exposed lid close event? No exposed power profiles? It also didn't feel nearly as good on my dual desktop monitors. A lot of what the shell does right is conserving real estate, but when you have a lot of it the extra room isn't so critical and you start missing some of the convenience.

I did absolutely hate it until I learned a number of keyboard shortcuts and how to launch applications by typing a few letters of what you want.

I am back with KDE 4.6 for now, but I am looking forward to giving it another try after they've polished it up a bit. I heard when it launched that august was a target for a point release.

zokier 4 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting that he felt the need to change to either Gnome3 or XFCE. Why not keep using Gnome2 if it works for him? If enough people would keep using Gnome2 it probably could be forked like KDE3 was forked (although I'm not sure if Trinity actually survived)
IgorPartola 4 days ago 1 reply      
Excuse me but what is Gnome3? I've been using Xubuntu and Xfce4 for a number of years now and have been really happy with it. Periodically I will try regular Ubuntu and Gnome just seems to have too many awkward issues. For example it insists on me having a desktop (preferable one full of icons and Excel spreadsheets). Even if I turn off icons on the desktop, I still must have the Desktop directory. Their file manager is also confused: it thinks I need help mounting network file systems. That's the job of things like Fuse and NFS, not of a GUI application. Things like this are the reason why I prefer not to spend too long using Gnome.
nodata 4 days ago 1 reply      
Gnome3 doesn't fail because of that - it fails because it doesn't alert the user and teach them the changes as they use Gnome3.

For example. I have Firefox running. I want another Firefox window, so I click the Firefox icon. At this point, why doesn't Gnome3 say "Hey! Just so you know, you've already got a Firefox window open, so we'll take you to that - but if you want a NEW Firefox window, click the logo again while holding down Control".

mvanga 4 days ago 0 replies      
With GNOME3, I really tried. I decided to give it some time to see if the workflow would sink in but after a month of using it, I reverted back to GNOME2. Using GNOME3 makes you feel like the developers have effectively decided how your desktop workflow should be. I'm quite disappointed with this trend towards a polished, "grandma-friendly" desktop.

As of now, I'm fine with GNOME2. Perhaps I will switch to something like XFCE in the future.

D3lt4 4 days ago 1 reply      
"I have yet to meet anybody who likes the unholy mess that is gnome-3." I like Gnome 3 (quite a bit), then again I don't know Linus.

On a another note, it seems every time he speaks he gets several hundred likes and yet he doesn't say anything particularly special/insightful compare to the other people in conversation (I found this somewhat humorous). :)

ristretto 4 days ago 0 replies      
I try hard to stick to XFCE, but after every update, ubuntu replaces thunar with nautilus
kungfooguru 4 days ago 7 replies      
meta-shift-enter = new terminal. Xmonad!
Jach 4 days ago 0 replies      
Exactly my thoughts. Once Gentoo drops gnome2 it's Xfce for me. I used it before on a low-powered laptop and it was nearly as good as gnome2, in some cases better.
MostAwesomeDude 4 days ago 3 replies      
I miss my CPU/RAM/NIC monitor. :c
cabalamat 4 days ago 2 replies      
While we're at it, distros should upgrade KDE4 back to KDE3. I switched from KDE4 to Gnome 2 because KDE4 was so bad.
f7u12 4 days ago 1 reply      
I always thought I was weird for liking XFCE more than Gnome. Sounds like I'm not and it's time to give Xubuntu a full-time shot, especially with Unity being the default in Ubuntu now.
pkulak 4 days ago 5 replies      
Linus wants a new terminal to pop up when he hits the terminal icon? That's pretty old-school behavior. OSX and Windows have long moved away from it. I don't use Gnome3, but hitting cmd+n or cmd+t when I want a new terminal doesn't seem to bother me much.
strmpnk 4 days ago 2 replies      
I find it amusing that Linus finds what I consider annoying behavior more usable. Changing things up is always painful. I really hate clicking on Terminal and having something new pop up when I might just be trying to bring that application back into focus (to me 'one window' = 'one application' is a fallacy).

EDIT: Seriously though. People are making a big deal out of someone having a different opinion. Silly.

markokocic 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm much happier since I abandoned both Gnome and KDE, and went with StumpWM instead.
WeAreKnights 3 days ago 1 reply      
As a designer, this kind of attitude is one of the many reasons I don't contribute to open-source projects. You can't touch anything without people complaining about change. Computers are very different than they were 20 years ago yet we're tied down to outdated interface principles. In Linux-land, we're expected to design for the way things have always been not the way they should be. It seems geeks are just as stubborn about change as everyone else.
pagejim 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think its time someone provided an alternative to the big two, GNOME and KDE. They have been around a long time and I guess reached their pinnacle. A nice, lightweight, intuitive environment minus all the fuss and cpu hog would be welcome by many I guess.
blinkingled 4 days ago 2 replies      
Someone just needs to desktopize Honeycomb even more and port it to x86. It shouldn't be too hard to make it work better than the mess KDE and GNOME are at this point.

That someone should be Intel and AMD I think - if they put their money we could really see some hope for Linux on Desktop via Tablets. Real threat to Microsoft if they can make it work great on both platforms.

pablohoffman 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've been using tiled window managers for 7 years now (currently on awesome, which I switched 3 years ago) and the interface has always remained pretty consistent. I wonder if Linus has tried tiled WMs?
erikb 4 days ago 1 reply      
Can you please refer the link where Linus says anything about XFCE? The link you provided doesn't say anything about Linus dumping Gnome3 to switch to xfce. It just says he doesn't like Gnome3 and wants Gnome2 back.
Enoshack 4 days ago 0 replies      
I switched from puppy-525 default desktop to xfce - what an awsome os!
j_baker 4 days ago 0 replies      
I predict the next Hacker News posting on Linus will be titled something like "Linus wipes his ass". Oh wait, we've already had that one: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2372096

Seriously though, who cares? Let's see postings from Linus about why he designed the Linux kernel the way he did or why git's command line interface is so damn unintuitive (this coming from a hardcore git fan before you downvote me). But posting submissions for every silly opinion he has reduces us to preteen groupies following every move of the latest teenage heartthrob.

Lessons from a Design Legend (a before-and-after) giftrocket.com
179 points by kapilkale  17 hours ago   43 comments top 21
ender7 16 hours ago 2 replies      
The difference really is night and day. Amazing!

I have one major issue, though. Their original "Redeem" button was ugly and garish, but it looked like a button. It screams out "click me. CLICK MEEEEEE".

The new "Redeem" button is gorgeous, but it's actually a step backwards in terms of usability. First of all, it doesn't look like a button. Am I supposed to click? Where? Are the little circles also buttons? Speaking of the little circles, they really steal the show. They're so colorful and attractive, that you don't even notice the central circle - and, critically, you don't read the text that says "Redeem". I had to look at the pre-overhaul image to get a reminder of what I was supposed to be doing at this screen.

armandososa 16 hours ago 3 replies      
While the new design is undoubtedly prettier I'd wait to call it a success and see if it actually works better, because I kinda feel like the old design was better in the functionality department. Here's a couple reasons why:

1. It's very de auteur. If you watch it in contrast with every other Mike Kus design as beautiful and awesome they are you'll see that this design is not that original and looks just every other Mike Kus design.
2. The mobile app looks like a giant bueautiful useless splash screen. It has a lot more graphics and details and yet it conveys a lot less information that the 'before' design. For starters, that the damn button is clickable and it will redeem something from Mario's Pizzeria.

Or am I just becoming an old cranky designer?

gojomo 7 hours ago 1 reply      
FYI: this blog post's text was unreadably faint on initial load into FF6 with NoScript.

(Kind of ironic for a post which includes the emphatic lessons "When it comes to contrast: go big or go home!" and "Pay attention to typography".)

Enabling Javascript for the page helped; perhaps that's how the "text-shadows [Mike applied] to nearly everything" so that "the text felt more vibrant" were implemented?

So I would add a lesson #7: don't rely on fancy Javascript effects for something as basic as readability.

twidlit 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't have any issue on the aesthetics as these are subjective. On any point on the spectrum of utilitarian and flamboyant you win/lose some audience effect. The trick is to rest on the spot where your target audience's visual preference resides.

The issue here (at least on the front page and mobile screen) is the Information architecture. Putting the graphic first before the tagline pitch is not very effective (the graphic is a visual aide not the other way around) and a form instead of a call to action button doesn't also work. The next set of info is too far below the fold, etc.

I can see that its layout is inspired by the Facebook logged out home page. But this is not a household-known social network but an app that does one thing and a bunch of extras so the goal is not to dazzle then cause action but to inform to cause action.

In my humble opinion this exercise took some important aspect of the product backward in terms of informing users more efficiently and I would imagine the load times (for the website) also adversely affected. Im not saying you should scratch this redesign but refine this version more and hopefully iterate to one that is pretty and informative (and faster!)

Cushman 16 hours ago 1 reply      
"2. When it comes to contrast: go big or go home!"

    background-color: #F7F2DD;
color: #4F5354;

Uh huh.

jamesteow 12 hours ago 1 reply      
HN'ers can be serious buzz kills. Yeah, you can argue that it's less usable but the brand and emotion is dramatically more upbeat and fun, which is what I think the company is going for. I would be more likely to pay attention to hall the pages with this re-design than the templated startup design that was created before. This new design is easily one that will be passed around Twitter and other social media. The fact that you were able to make gift cards seem fun and attractive is a testament to his talent. Kudos to you guys.

And while I wouldn't call Mike Kus a design legend (I'd reserve that for peeps like Jonathan Ive, Dieter Rams, the HFJ duo... basically those who have a profound effect on the industry, peoples lifestyle and/or the craft) he definitely is one of the best web designers out there.

jamiequint 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Without a doubt the new site looks way better, Mike Kus does some amazing work. However, in the process I think a lot of things have happened here that probably would lead to more user confusion or drops in conversion than the old design. Design is more than just making it pretty, its also making it usable and making it convert.

A few specific examples...

1. I find the point about contrast in the article to be completely false. There is a more muted palette but I disagree that brown on black is higher contrast than red on white.

2. The mini-circles around the redeem button are just distracting from the primary call to action on that screen, do they do anything? Why would you trade the location name for buttons that don't do anything?

http://o7.no/pwkxA9 [png]

3. The homepage no longer has a single clear call to action ("send a giftrocket"), if you increase the number of possible users paths on a page it will almost always lead to reduced conversion. Your homepage has 19 things I can click on above the fold. (For point of comparison Square and LivingSocial have 5, Groupon has 4). Does anyone give a GiftRocket by clicking on the categories and browsing?

katieben 17 hours ago 0 replies      
There's a standard "startup app look", and your first design was that - it didn't stand out from other apps. The new design is excellent, it feels much more like sending a gift. I can imagine users better connecting with the new design. Thanks for sharing these design tips. Bravo!
Concours 2 hours ago 0 replies      
The new site looks great, gorgeous but I think you should do an A/B test, I wouldn't be surprise if you find out, the old site convert better than the new one, I'm almost sure the old sure convert by far better than the new one, so the question will be: Are you trying to get a nice looking site or get new users? The new site has too much distraction: Don't make me think! Don't make me ask myself what all those nice looking icons are for! Credit to the designer for the creativity/talent but, I'll really do an A/B test here to find out if it's really an improvement.
bugsy 14 hours ago 2 replies      
Aside from the article itself, I am confused by the title. Are they meaning to call themselves a "design legend"?

I have not heard of them. Also, their blog site layout is quite flawed. The text hits the left edge of the page at 1000px width. First, text should never hit the left side of the page. There should absolutely always be a margin of no less than 8px, but nearly always should be at least 0.25". Second, 1024px is more than half of a 1920px width screen and the site only looks proper at about 1280px width. This is too wide.

We (people using computers) have been forced into wide screen aspect ratio displays because of the need to show movies. Fine, that is the way it is. But this means that common use is to have two pages or tasks side by side. Full screen for tasks of reading produces lines that are much too wide to scan properly. Web pages should not require more than 960px for basic reading. The 960px includes the window scroll bars and frame if present, so the actual page text should be slightly smaller.

Do not design windows that expect 1024px or 1280px width, and do not design windows where the text crashes into the page edge when resized. Both these are very amateur hour mistakes. Therefore, it is inconceivable that the people at this firm are "design legends".

Silhouette 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Friendly word of warning to the site owners: whatever you're doing is tripping so many malware alerts in my browser/plug-ins that I couldn't even get as far as reading your article (which is a shame, because it sounded interesting).

FYI, I'm not running anything particularly unusual, and I have never seen that kind of effect on a page before with this browsing set-up. Either (a) you've been "0wn3d" or (b) you really need to tone down the scripting to an acceptable level or (c) you're probably going to put off a significant number of people who might otherwise be interested in your site.

flocial 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I love the design from a pure aesthetic point of view but if you're going for commerce it's "test or die" because at the end of the day conversion metrics rule your business. I'd like to know how this new design contributed to their bottom line. Also, no offense to the very talented designer, but looking through his portfolio the current style follows a lot of his other work, hence not too much originality to distinguish it from his other clients.
ldar15 11 hours ago 0 replies      
And this improved sign-up and retention by how much?
yoshyosh 16 hours ago 1 reply      
The first design is much better in terms of usability and clarity. The header immediately catches my attention and brings me into a sentence that describes your service. The second design just directs me to put in my email, why should I? What is the value proposition, I don't even know what this thing does. The first design uses white space and contrast very well, exposing the call to action button. It also contains a mobile phone picture running the app to give the visitor a preview of what the device would look like on their phone. It's like the 'test drive effect' car dealerships have when they let you try out the car; there is less mystery to what you are getting.

The second design did make some good changes, particularly larger pictures of food, however it comes off as too design heavy and lacking clarity in several areas.

Overall I feel there is more clarity with what you want me to do in the first design.

Edit: You have to view the work as a whole when comparing the designs side by side. There were several important parts of Mike's design that were cut out to fit the blog post that actually bring a ton more clarity.

zobzu 16 hours ago 2 replies      
The fonts on the new version are less readable.
Logo in gold on yellowish/cream background? its the same color category!

Black on weird textured background for the body? do not use textures for background - like - ever - if you're going to write text on it

Then gold text on cream again.

Design legend much?

The rest is ok and there's some actually good tips but what I listed is totally noobish.

rglover 14 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a great post because it does two things: first, it shows that you don't necessarily need an out of this world design for your first version, but also, that it pays to upgrade your design once you have the means. But, like a lot of people are saying, the one thing this article lacks is a demonstration of the designing generating more business than the previous version. Here's hoping that Gift Rocket does a follow up post comparing stats from the before and after.
thomasfl 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Liked the down to earth tips.

Websites like this are really design products. If it's not graphic design, it's service design. The technical stuff is comes second.

mkr-hn 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I can't keep from noticing the texture in the background, so the text might as well not be there. I gave up on trying to "design" my own blog and just focused on making it mildly appealing and easy to use. No complaints so far.
jamieb 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I wrote a really scathing review. So scathing that even I couldn't post it. But in essence:

Brown background.


Brown sky.

Brown favicon.

Spot the odd one out.

temptemptemp13 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Does anybody know how much that kind of work costs? I'd shoot mike an email but I'm guessing you guys could give a broader range of answers.
kennystone 14 hours ago 0 replies      
New site is absolutely gorgeous. The blog post is nice, but you have to click around the full-size website to see the difference. The design gives me confidence using your site and makes me almost feel like the results are hand-crafted. Great job.
Poll: Have you read SICP?
179 points by craftsman  3 days ago   104 comments top 55
niels_olson 3 days ago 6 replies      
Personally, I'm a physician with an undergrad in physics, played with logo and basic as a kid. I picked up SICP and got to chapter 2 or 3 on my own time last summer but set it down to go learn Python as it was pretty obvious Abelson and Sussman expect you to either be a bachelor's degree candidate with a lot of time to work on this, or you have a substantial background understanding to bring to bear.

I tried Ruby but didn't like the flavor. Too sugary, too much stuff. My goal is really to add math to my diet, I don't need a job. I see Python as a good starting point to get some fundamentals under my belt, access to a large community with a lot of running software, and then get back to more lisp-like languages, R, and functional programming. Perhaps I didn't give Ruby a fair shake, I'll probably visit it again.

Lutz's Learning Python and Shaw's Learn Python the Hard Way have been a great combo for me as an independent student. Lutz does a great job of hand-holding in the beginning, which can be critical for the solo learner out there, but I wouldn't be the first who started getting impatient half-way through. Which is where LPTHW takes off. However, I have also gotten good use out of the beginnings of a lot material. A few notables:

* Brian Harvey's Scheme lectures at Berkeley (of all things) were absolutely critical to understanding recursion conceptually -- unfortunately they're gone now, which really makes me sad. http://webcast.berkeley.edu/course_details_new.php?seriesid=...

* Little Schemer -- I admit, I didn't see where it was going, shelved it, but loved the puzzling presentation. Will probably pick it back up after I finish LPTHW.

* Real World Haskell -- Some great introductory conceptual materal, but assumes a huge amount of prior knowledge. A noob can't pick up this book and learn programming.

* I just want to make mention of the fact that Windows hit the scene when I was a freshman in highschool and dominated my computing life for 15 years. The intellectual cost of that obstruction to the efficient use of my time can't be over-estimated. I have a visceral disgust for Windows that defies any logic.

* Conversely, my Cr-48 running Ubuntu has a wonderful study partner. It was quite wonderful to be reading LPTHW in Calibre, look to customize Calibre's buttons a bit, and find out it's written in Python. I have a visceral gratitude toward Google and the FLOSS community that defies any logic.

* Finally, Shaw's Advice from an Old Programmer is the best career advice, in any field, I've ever read (having done physics, military, and medicine). Read it or be square: http://learnpythonthehardway.org/book/advice.html

[edit]: for anyone who reloaded the page and found this comment elsewhere, my apologies. This part seemed better as a stand-alone comment.

alexk7 3 days ago 2 replies      
I suggest you watch the original video lectures by Hal Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman [1].

[1] http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/classes/6.001/abelson-sussma...

nandemo 3 days ago 3 replies      
"Kinda started reading it but didn't get what the hype is all about".

I put it on my to-read list after reading Peter Norvig's review. I read maybe 2% of it and skimmed a lot more. While I'm sure I could learn quite a bit if I seriously studied the whole thing, I'm not sure it would be a good use of my time: most of the contents I already studied in college, though in a quite different approach. There are topics that I'm weak at, but if I decide to learn (say) compilation for real then I'd be better served by reading a book focused on compilation.

In other words, while SICP seems rather hardcore as an introduction to computer science, it feels rather unexciting as a review of my CS undergrad syllabus.

Sukotto 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you're unsure what the OP is talking about, SICP stands for "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs" aka "The Wizard Book". http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/
jcdreads 3 days ago 0 replies      
I ran a lunchtime SICP reading group at my last job wherein we read a section or two at a time and someone (usually me) would illustrate the concepts by walking through our own Java code base (a big industrial ad server). It helped that we were already using a bunch of functional programming idioms, and that we had a few little compilers in the code to begin with, but viewing all that agile-developed code through such a pure academic lens remains one of the more professionally rewarding exercises I've yet had.

Even though I'm still mostly a mouth-breathing Java programmer; at work anyway.

bartonfink 3 days ago 3 replies      
No, but it's on my list of things to read when I get time.

Neither of your 'No' responses match what I suspect is a relatively common sentiment.

city41 3 days ago 0 replies      
When I was in college I was browsing the library and I just grabbed this book on a whim. Had no idea what it was or that it was so famous. Began reading and got hooked, so I checked it out. Next thing I knew I had read the whole book and done most of the exercises. Not to be too dramatic, but it was a turning point in my understanding of programming.
lostmypw 3 days ago 0 replies      
An enthusiast has created an improved version[1] of SICP, free
download available.


    The typography has been modernized for better on-screen legibility
and comfort. All the mathematics is set in proper TEX, and figures
redrawn in vector graphics.

[1] http://sicpebook.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/new-electronic-sic...

mgrouchy 3 days ago 1 reply      
If you want to read it and don't have a copy and want one in ePub format, you can snag it here: https://github.com/ieure/sicp
b_emery 3 days ago 2 replies      
For those who have read it, I'd be interested in knowing what it is that you feel you got out of it, ie how did it make you a better programmer? Better understanding of what's going on at a low level?
mahmud 3 days ago 1 reply      
I read all of it and solved a substantial number of the exercises. If anybody knows how to recover lost data from a dead HD with ext2 file system, I would get the adventures of my youth back.
spacemanaki 3 days ago 1 reply      
How about another category: % of completed exercises? I read all of it but only did 1/3 of the exercises.
anigbrowl 3 days ago 0 replies      
Needed: No, what is an SICP anyway?

Having read a few pages of Structure and Implementation of Computer Programs, available for free at http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/, I quite liked it and thought it was well-structured and well written, and have added it to my disturbingly large reading list.

larsberg 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yup. At Northwestern, the first course covers the first three chapters. I later went back (~5 years after graduation) and did the fourth chapter and its exercises.

I now have an instructors' guide as well, but still haven't convinced myself to do the fifth chapter, mainly because all of my FP is in SML these days. But I really should...

pointyhat 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yes. SICP is a profound work. I'd argue that it is a profound experience too. As is GEB (Godel Escher Bach). They are both a mind altering typeset form of LSD.
candeira 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have started it twice: first time I got to chapter 3, second time I got stuck at chapter 4. It sounds a bit petulant to say, but I think it already has made me a better programmer. I had to stop for various life-related issues, but I love how it's written. Whatever you think of it as a beginner's textbook, it's a great piece of literature.

Recently I had to do some Gimp scripting and got some experience using Scheme as a programming language (as oppoosed to a learning language for doing SICP exercises). The moment I have some free time again I will try SICP again.

wildmXranat 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've read about a couple of chapters based on a recommendation that these select couple sections would broaden my view of designing parsers and understanding s-expressions. It did. On the other hand, I skimmed the rest of the book and didn't find anything in particular that I needed out of the text. Thus my choice of 'No and I don't want to' seems like a fair one considering I read way less than 25% of it. Maybe a chapter count poll would be better. Let's call it a 5% for me.

I'm guessing that developers don't actually ready cover to cover and cherry pick sections until books reveal more pertinent info later?

sanj 3 days ago 0 replies      
Been there, read the book, took the class, missed the first arrow on the CDR diagram on the first exam, TA'd the class, enjoyed the wizard hat. Two thumbs up.
DannoHung 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've read the whole thing but didn't do all the exercises. I generally don't like doing exercises unless I don't understand a concept.
X4 3 days ago 0 replies      
Get PDF Version: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

This is for those who hate to have the browser open to read something. Reading something in a PDF Viewer on touch enabled devices is much better.

lostmypw 3 days ago 0 replies      
Nah, I'll read CTM (Concepts, Techniques and Models of Computer Programming)[1] first, as it addresses concurrency, for example, and seems to be easier to digest.
CTM is viewed by some as a/the modern successor of SICP.

I had been looking for opinions regarding CTM vs SICP to choose which to read first and I've found two postings [2][3] from a mailing list to be very helpful in that regard. Also a comment on HN[4].

I do plan to read SICP sometime in the future as I'm already interested in Lisp, i.e. I'm reading Practical Common Lisp, On Lisp, deferred Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming for later and plan to read Lisp In Small Pieces, which covers compilation.

I've also stumbled across PLAI (Programming Languages: Application and Interpretation)[5] by Shriram Krishnamurthi which seems to cover similar topics, and I plan to dive into that sometime in the future as well. If someone can tell where PLAI stands in contrast to SICP or CTM, that would be very helpful. Ah well... I found an opinion [6] on that too.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Concepts-Techniques-Models-Computer-Pr...

[2] http://lists.racket-lang.org/users/archive/2008-February/022...

[3] http://lists.racket-lang.org/users/archive/2008-February/022...

[4] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1119132

[5] http://www.cs.brown.edu/~sk/Publications/Books/ProgLangs/200...

[6] http://schemers.livejournal.com/584.html?thread=1864#t1864

MattLaroche 3 days ago 1 reply      
My "No, and I don't want to" should count as "No, but I've never heard of it."
m_myers 3 days ago 1 reply      
"No, I don't feel it's relevant/valuable enough to make the time for it."
flipp 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm 1 week away from the final in the last semester of SICP at Berkeley. Wish me luck! haha
Khao 3 days ago 1 reply      
Where's the answer "No, never heard of it"?
kroger 3 days ago 0 replies      
In case you are interested, here is my shameless plug.
I am writing a series of posts about SICP in Python:


Hopefully I'll have more time to continue with it this year.

mian2zi3 3 days ago 1 reply      
I took 6.001.
jasonkester 3 days ago 0 replies      
Missed an option: No, and this is the first time I've ever seen that Acronym.

I have no idea what it is, and since the poster didn't think it was worth his time to type out four words to define it, I don't see why it's worth my time to scan through the comments here to find out.

So I chose the first option, which at least has "No" in the title.

TomLimoncelli 3 days ago 0 replies      
I read it this January after hearing it mentioned so many times. I was very impressed. My impressions were:
1. Ah, that's what it would have been like to attend a GOOD university!
2. Much of the systems knowledge I learned the hard way are clearly explained here. This would have jumpstarted my career by 10 years.
3. No current first-year student would sit through this. Though, it should be required reading for seniors.
shaunxcode 3 days ago 0 replies      
I really don't want this to come off as flippant - but: fuck yes. Honestly the most important experience in my computer science "self education". I am still working on SICM. Every year I seem have learned just enough more math/physics to grok another page or two.
hpguy 3 days ago 0 replies      
Another option: all of it, but skip most of the exercises (yes, that's what I did)
imp 3 days ago 0 replies      
For anyone starting to go through SICP, there's a collaborative class on Curious Reef working on it: http://curiousreef.com/class/structure-and-interpretation-of...
jb55 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm through about 25% of it, but I decided to do all of the exercises in Haskell rather than Scheme. In a way it improves the experience as a whole, thanks to type errors slowly prodding me in the right direction.
btcoal 3 days ago 0 replies      
I took 6.01, in python. Just missed out on SICP, but I'm going through all the exercises now.
ozten 3 days ago 0 replies      
I spent 6 months and read the entire thing and did most of the reasonable exercises. I lead a Seattle SICP study group a couple years ago.

I <3 SICP, but I don't agree with the idea that Universities should still be teaching it. It relies too much on math for a subject domain.

Robotics is a much better domain. AFAIK this was the book that was took over for SICP in 6.001.

A web programming course would be an even better subject matter.

davesmylie 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm reading it right at the moment.
It's a bit of struggle coming from a Oracle/Ruby background - particularly with some of the high level (for me) maths background required.

I often think of working thru HTDP instead, but finishing SICP has become somewhat of an obsession - I will not stop til I have worked thru the thing from start to finish, no matter how long it takes . . . (and so far, it's taken about 6 months)

mtraven 3 days ago 1 reply      
I TA'd 6.001
dhirengupta 3 days ago 0 replies      
No, I want to but I have not given a try..it seems like read when you have nothing to do..but I might never be in that state..
programmiererin 3 days ago 0 replies      
I started reading it but stopped at some point, because all the advice - which I totally agreed with - was just too obvious if you had many years of experience and exposure to a couple of different kinds of programming languages and worked in a bunch of different shops. Buf I've heard many smart and experienced programmers praising it. Not sure if it's meant to be read by beginners only?

I'd suggest e.g. "On Lisp" for every experienced programmer, which is available for free too, in case you are not already a crazy LISP hacker, THAT'll learn ya! It is amazing how easy it is to do a couple extremely complex looking, universally applicable tasks (query parsing and processing, pattern matching, ...) - once you grokked a couple of concept you don't get exposed to normally in your mainstream language.

ethagnawl 3 days ago 0 replies      
I watched the lectures and still find the intro song stuck in my head every few weeks.
chromedude 3 days ago 0 replies      
You should add a category - No, I have never heard of it.
abc_lisper 3 days ago 0 replies      
Read or Do it? I just finished(did) the first chapter...
ekm 3 days ago 0 replies      
I read two chapters in Freshman year,then switched to my Java coursework.Today's posts have made me think of going back to it.
hardboiled 3 days ago 0 replies      
Only first two chapters. But it was enough to blow my mind. Also reminded me of how my math skills had to be polished.
Cyph0n 3 days ago 0 replies      
I heard about it yesterday for the first time thanks to a submission on HN. I'll probably read it sometime in the near future.
njharman 3 days ago 0 replies      
I watched the video lectures.
kkylin 3 days ago 1 reply      
I read all of it, and also took 6.001 from Hal & Gerry. (Looking at the comments, I must be an exception.)
kingtim 3 days ago 0 replies      
Had it as a text as an undergrad. Didn't fully comprehend it at that time. I have been revisiting it lately by watching the Abelson and Sussman videos -- which BTW are excellent (and hilarious too). Now that I have been working as a software engineer for 20 years, I can see how much these concepts would've helped me along the way if I had internalized them.
vukk 3 days ago 0 replies      
No, but I plan to read HtDP http://htdp.org
cbo 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's the only book on programming that I can say changed everything about the way I code.
s1rech 3 days ago 0 replies      
I read it but didn't do most of the exercises, which amounts to 75% at most I guess
jdefr89 3 days ago 0 replies      
Honestly I
Don't Know why there is so much hype about it... It just looks like any book that explains building levels of abstraction... I would never say it's an essential..
ChibaPet 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd have taken the intro class to the Joy of Six if I'd had the opportunity. As for SICP, I've started it a couple times, but I regularly get pulled away. Same with PAIP.
Ben_Dean 3 days ago 0 replies      
twice. will do it again soon.
Some People Understand REST and HTTP steveklabnik.com
172 points by llambda  21 hours ago   53 comments top 10
snprbob86 19 hours ago 3 replies      
So there are some parts of REST that make perfect sense to me. In particular, the preference for nouns w/ CRUD over verbs has many great side effects: easier caching, better logging, easier discoverability, etc. And I also get the Content-Type and Content-Language stuff, especially in terms of avoiding ".json" or ".xml" so that you can compare resource identity via a simple string compare.

But I simply do not see any value in HATEOAS outside of largely read-only datasets and generic dataset explorer type applications. Maybe it makes sense for someone like Freebase, but it's completely useless for pretty much every other API out there.

You simply cannot build a useful API client application without deep knowledge of the problem domain and the interface part of API. You're going to have API documentation and you're going to have to read it.

Now, I understand the desire to avoid IDs and manual URL construction. That's a valuable goal. And I'll admit that I never thought of using 201 and the Location header on create; clever. But just knowing the list of relative URLs from a resource is useless. It's not like a Link rel="newcomment" header is going to show up and magically you'll have comment form. Besides, you need to know which
"rel" to lookup, so you might as well just append "/comments" and avoid the indirection.

And this all breaks down yet again when you get to offline support. If you've got a web app which is going to deal with not-yet-saved objects, you're back to being unable to compare URLs, or constructing them.

Lastly, while I like working with clean URLs and GET/POST over RPC calls. I dislike the ad-hoc specifications necessary to build real applications. We've got a "RESTful" API for our app, but we keep running into situations where different views need subtly different data. For example, decorating a resource with relationship to the current user (eg. isAdmin) or joining data when returning a list of related objects (eg. members vs memberships). The query param spaghetti is growing unwieldy, subtle authorized data leak problems are an inevitability, client-side models get confusing and easily create bugs if passed around.

The only solutions to these problems are excessive discipline. Discipline is something that compilers are great at providing, which is why you see things like ProtoBufs and Thift. There's no arguing over HATEOAS or RESTfulness or GET/POST or Content-Type or any of that. The message definition files act as a baseline API documentation, which are enforced programmatically. The designers of these tools had things to do and didn't have time to deal with this nonsense.

Stop the pontificating and get back to work.

icebraining 19 hours ago 4 replies      

    The good

GitHub uses custom MIME types for all of their responses. They're using the vendor extensions that I talked about in my post, too. For example:


Super cool.

Hmm, I wouldn't call that "good." It's definitively better than sending 'application/json' or 'application/xml', which tell us nothing about the structure of the data, and it's probably inevitable in their context, but "good" would be to use an actual standard mimetype instead.

The problem with using mimetypes tied to the service is that it undermines the concept of Uniform Interface, by forcing developers to write clients specifically for that service. Imagine if instead of standardizing on (X)HTML, CSS, JS and a couple of image formats, each website used their own format.

technoweenie 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Any notion of HATEOAS in the GitHub API is purely experimentation. With the exception of the pagination links, the rest of them could change format or be removed at any time (until something is properly documented at http://developer.github.com/). I don't think the Link header is descriptive enough, so most of them will probably go away.
shimonamit 20 hours ago 2 replies      
Another interesting post by Steve. What are your thoughts on twilio's date prefix in the URI versus using "v1" for example? Does discovery appease the purists qualms about versioning? But if using HATEOS enables discovery (which twilio is doing), why put a date there in the first place? I am thinking they're future-proofing their top-level resource discovery, but maybe I'm missing something.
KevBurnsJr 17 hours ago 0 replies      
REST is a style, not a pattern. The application of this manner of classification to application architectures on the web was the broader goal of Fielding's dissertation, titled "Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures".

See chapter 1 http://www.ics.uci.edu/~fielding/pubs/dissertation/software_...

antonyme 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Well, I for one don't understand REST. In particular, how to implement it in current HTML with current browsers.

There's all this nice, theoretical stuff about URI design, HTTP verbs and stuff. So I went to actually implement this the other day, only to find that you can't actually do it properly without hacks, because HTML and browsers only support the GET and POST methods for FORMs. WTF?

Can you actually implement a set of CRUD pages for an entity without resorting to hacks like hidden _method fields?

Surely REST is intended to be used for more than AJAXy APIs?

extension 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Can clients of your API talk to other people's APIs using the same interface? If not, then the client is obviously coupled to your server and you definitely do not have a REST application. You have a thick client application. REST is the antithesis of this -- the client is generic and doesn't need to change along with the server.

Putting links in your proprietary data format does not make it hypermedia, it just makes your API easy to reverse engineer. Maybe it also allows you to change your URLs, but it doesn't allow you to change the structure of your data. Hypermedia does. Hypermedia comes in generic media formats that clients know what to do with.

If your API is called "The [company] API" then it is almost certainly not RESTful. If your API is called "[generic type of data] interchange protocol" then it might be RESTful. But we don't usually call that kind of thing an API, we call it a protocol or a format. Really, I don't see how an API, as they are commonly understood, can possibly be RESTful. The main big important point of REST is to not have APIs.

rjd 17 hours ago 2 replies      
Recently I decided to use the ASP.Net MVC framework for a project and tried to combine the API into the web site project for ease.

It became quick to me all the mentions of REST within the framework where fictitious. What it actually is an object API exposed via HTTP, its not REST at all.

Thinking I mis-understood what REST was I started doing some research only to discover than no I was correct in my understanding (from white papers) and secondly almost ever single developer article I read (blogs) was wrong. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what REST is out there. Its kind of disheartening to see how many people just don't get it, and are perpetuating falsehoods :/

ASP.net's main problem is technical. (and I assume this is the same for many languages) You can't have functions with the same parameters. You can't have a separate endpoint methods for POST, GET, PUT, DELETE etc... So if you try to shunt data objects around using it you can't just put them back where you got, of do smart discovery, to things i like from REST. So the whole framework falls to pieces, its designed to mimic REST, but not be REST.

For .net devs reading this I'd avoid the MVC framework for REST. But if you have to for what ever reason you will have to build your own "verb" dispatchers, and drop the use of "action" functions in your controller classes, only have one public method, the standard Index() one, expose nothing else. I may float my samples online at some point but I'm to busy at the moment so I hope this is enough to help.

sukuriant 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't hate to be the guy to point this out, but I absolutely hated the layout of that website. I am on a 1440x900 screen. I do not want a website to be the god of my computer while I'm reading. This website absolutely did not support scaling on screen. It did not resize when I moved it to half of my screen, and it did not provide me with a scroll-bar at the bottom so that I could adjust my viewing window of the screen to see all of the text per line.
dreamdu5t 19 hours ago 2 replies      
Vendor mimetypes are bad. They defeat the purpose of REST.

I should be able to request from Github the content-type(s) I am willing to accept, and Github serves them to me.

It's ironic that a blog post about people understanding REST highlights their misunderstanding of it.

What Github does isn't bad, but you shouldn't praise it for being RESTful.

Show HN: My weekend project - preview TV sizes on your wall tvsizematters.com
174 points by weirdcat  4 days ago   50 comments top 19
sanj 4 days ago 1 reply      
I recently went through this exercise, but it involved cutting up large pieces of cardboard and holding them up against the wall while my wife looked on disapprovingly.
ck2 4 days ago 2 replies      
Clever, but steal some ideas from here:


Compare 4:3 and 16:9 content in the box as an option.

I use that to try to figure out what to get to replace my 32" 4:3 CRT TV (yes it's a dinosaur - I'm waiting for black friday). Oh and the answer is 40" 16:9 will replace a 32" 4:3 TV for viewing 4:3 content sometimes.

asnyder 3 days ago 1 reply      
When you reach over 80" you should switch to recommending projectors. For example, I have a 120" screen and a Panasonic AE200U projector.
biot 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd love to see a compare feature. For example, someone with a 40" screen might want to see how that compares to a 60" screen. Right now, you can drag back and forth to try and get an idea of the comparative size. Having two sliders would be great to overlay the smaller size on top of the larger size. You could then also display the relative screen area of each -- 60" is 50% larger than the 40" screen diagonally, but 125% larger in terms of area which is what really matters.
nodata 4 days ago 2 replies      
Make this for furniture and you will be rich.

You could estimate sizes based on perspective.

gus_massa 4 days ago 1 reply      
Nice work. The first thing I tried was to drag the corner of the TV, to make it bigger. Is it possible to add this feature?
beezee 4 days ago 1 reply      
Awesomely clever. Can you do something about the browser history bloat? A couple drags of the slider and I'm stuck on the page forever, that might piss people off.
instakill 4 days ago 1 reply      
Your links should have affiliate codes. Make some money out of it.
weirdcat 4 days ago 2 replies      
By the way, I'm looking for a partner to release it as an iOS app. Anybody game?

Hit me up at notabing --- gmail.com

JonoW 4 days ago 1 reply      
Wicked idea, nicely executed, wish I'd thought of it!
alain94040 3 days ago 1 reply      
Seeing the title, I thought this was like SnapShop (http://www.snapshopinc.com/), where you hold your iPhone, point at the wall, and you see the picture with the TV added, as in virtual reality.

Could you make it like that? It would be so much simpler than having to take a picture, upload it, etc...

aw3c2 4 days ago 1 reply      
I expected a VR-type application where you have a reference something the user has to place on his wall and then he can move backwards, film the wall and see the device rendered on the wall as if it was there.
krmmalik 3 days ago 1 reply      
My wife is a hobbyist artist and is thinking of displaying some of her art work in online shops. SHe was talking last week about a technology such as this that would enable her to demonstrate her artwork in its intended environment, in the same way as this project for the TVs. I knew this could be done, just didnt know how. I'd be curious to learn how this is achieved, or if there are any services out there that provide this service?
IanDrake 4 days ago 0 replies      
Good idea and great execution.

What else can this type of app be applied to?

cks 4 days ago 2 replies      
Cool, but why is the default picture behind the sofa. It would make more sense simulating sitting in it.
americandesi333 3 days ago 0 replies      
Now this would be more powerful if it was 3 Dimensional... Another weekend project :)
edawerd 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great idea. You might also want to show links to compatible wall mounts to go with the TVs.
emp_ 4 days ago 0 replies      
Feature suggestion: show minimum viewing distance (not visual, just a number in meters/feet)
ed209 4 days ago 2 replies      
are you going to tell us how much you make on affiliate sales?
       cached 8 August 2011 15:11:01 GMT