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Steve Jobs Resigns as CEO of Apple yahoo.com
1638 points by taylorbuley  8 days ago   305 comments top 103
danilocampos 8 days ago  replies      
Apple's going to be fine. Steve's most extraordinary work isn't the Mac, the iPhone or the iPad. It's rebuilding Apple in his image. It was creating organizational culture and habits that mimic his weird brain, like their aggressive software prototyping to prove that things work well and feel good.

Fuck, I'll miss him, though. I'll miss the way he got up there each and every time like he was selling you your own personal Jesus in a box. Not out of hucksterism, but because he really was that excited to share what he and his people had been working on. Excited to do things better. Excited to solve problems in a way that was far more tasteful, more satisfying, than anything anyone had bothered to try before. Maybe he'll still do announcements as his health allows " but maybe that would send a weird message.

He's a man who was lucky enough to find out exactly what he did best " and to seize upon it with every cell in his body.

I'm a better person for his example. The resurrection of Apple was one of the most enjoyable things I followed in my childhood. No matter how you feel about his approach, this is a guy who loves his work with an intensity that couldn't be faked and won't be soon matched.

alanfalcon 8 days ago 2 replies      
"I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you."

From the WSJ blog: http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2011/08/24/steve-jobs-resigns-as-...

EDIT: Now posted on Apple.com: http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/08/24Letter-from-Steve-...

thought_alarm 8 days ago 3 replies      

    Apple Computer Inc
the Apple II
the Apple //e
the Apple //c
the Apple //GS
the Mac
Mac OS
the Mac II
the NeXT Cube
Mac OS X
the iMac
the Titanium PowerBook
the iPod
the iTunes Music Store
the iPod Touch
the iPhone
the iPad
the App Store

These things have been utterly inspirational and important to me from the time I first discovered computers for myself at age seven, to today. Without them I would not be who I am today, doing what I'm doing today.

Thanks Steve.

(And if you're wondering what Steve Jobs had to do with the Apple //c, //GS, and Mac II, he was the one who brought in Frog Design to design Apple hardware throughout the 80s, and their work was marvelous, just as Jony Ive's work is marvelous today)

AlexMuir 8 days ago 2 replies      
Many of us on HN aspire to the success that Steve's had. We'd love to be him, to build something amazing like Apple. But I bet he'd give anything to have the good health and indeterminate life expectancy that we have tonight. I'll go to sleep thinking how lucky i am. And I'm going for a run tomorrow, because all the success in the world is for nowt if you lose your health.
alexqgb 8 days ago 2 replies      
This is really sad. I'm just glad he got to enjoy the glory of seeing a company he started in his parent's garage become - if only for a moment - the most valuable enterprise on Earth.

I mean wow, what a ride.

swombat 8 days ago 2 replies      
It makes perfect sense as part of the succession planning for Apple. This way, when Steve (very sadly) resigns "permanently" from any and all jobs, it will just be business as usual and not take down the Apple stock by 30% or something equally ridiculous.

Still, quite a shock.

armandososa 8 days ago 3 replies      
I don't know why, but I feel a little sad right now. Like being witness to the end of an era.
waterlesscloud 7 days ago 0 replies      
Jobs preparing for his very first TV appearance in 1978.

It's funny how very nervous he is. Guess he learned to get over that...


padmanabhan01 8 days ago 3 replies      
This is the first time I have personally felt sad when a CEO has quit his company.
gamache 8 days ago 0 replies      
And Tim Cook is his successor, it's confirmed:

> Steve Jobs Resigns as CEO of Apple

> Tim Cook Named CEO and Jobs Elected Chairman of the Board

> CUPERTINO, California"August 24, 2011"Apple's Board of Directors today announced that Steve Jobs has resigned as Chief Executive Officer, and the Board has named Tim Cook, previously Apple's Chief Operating Officer, as the company's new CEO. Jobs has been elected Chairman of the Board and Cook will join the Board, effective immediately.


JacobAldridge 8 days ago 1 reply      
I'm preparing a presentation for the HN Meetup in London tomorrow and I used Apple as a 'forthcoming' example of Succession and its impact on equity/ share value. Guess I better reword that bit now, and again when the markets open tomorrow.
anatoly 8 days ago 1 reply      
It's difficult to imagine this could be for any reason other than his illness, but I'd like to hope against hope.
kooshball 8 days ago 2 replies      
Wow. Even though everyone saw this one coming, I dont think anyone expected it to happen so soon. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts tomorrow, I imagine it wont be pretty.

As the COO, Cook did great job lining up and executing the production line. Most of the creative work should already be in the pipeline for the 2012, 2013 releases. We'll see what happens after then.

breckinloggins 8 days ago 2 replies      
It pains me to admit it, but I'm relatively relieved. Sure, the stock price will take a beating, but I have to believe that Apple, the company, will remain strong under Tim Cook's leadership.

Why am I relieved? Because, although AAPL is still quite high, I think that investors have been weary of the stock due to the uncertainty of Jobs' health and future. Make no mistake, we'll have a roller coaster for quite a while, but I strongly suspect that the next few product cycles will demonstrate that Apple is still a game-changer even in a world where Jobs is not at the helm.

That being said, I'll miss him. He's a true visionary and such high-profile leaders only come along once in a great while.

ww520 8 days ago 0 replies      
Steve Jobs along with Bill Gates and others define the personal computing era. I grew up seeing these people trail-blazed and built up the technology world we know today. It's sad to see Jobs is stepping down, most likely due to health reason. It's like the representation of our computing generation is fading away.

I don't know why but the dialogue from Blade Runner suddenly comes to mind, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain..."

meterplech 8 days ago 0 replies      
Can people stop talking about the effect of the stock? I get it- many of us own AAPL. This is one of the greatest entrepreneurs and CEOs ever stepping down. Let's focus on that.
teyc 8 days ago 0 replies      
The biggest thing Jobs brought to the computing industry is humanity. The understanding that in the end, humans come first.

The second thing is he taught that you don't have to check every box in order to be successful.

He stripped computing back to its roots in science fiction, and built devices that were originally imagined, taking away feature after feature until something is understood.

bane 8 days ago 0 replies      
I can only feel a bit of sadness not just from his resignation, but from the health circumstances that are likely behind this.

I have to take my hat off to Mr. Jobs. Though there is much I disagree with him on (and personally, I'm not much of an Apple fan or consumer), he's one of the most amazing, talented and driven people I've ever seen.

He's brought a unique and masterful skill to the art of selling, vertical integration, acquisitions and consumer electronics. And I mean art. Vertical integration was never something I thought I'd appreciate on an aesthetic level until I saw the level that Jobs has raised that form to time and again. The NeXT computer production line was divine.

I think he's learned tremendously from what happened to Apple the last time he left and has spent extraordinary effort to ensure a smooth and capable team takes over. I can only guess that this might be happening after seeing the capability that the current team has executed with these past few months.

I want Apple in the fight, they continuously raise the bar in the industry and literally make it great to be a consumer, even if you don't buy their stuff yourself.

Kudos to Jobs for a job well done, and I wish him the best in health.

nhangen 8 days ago 1 reply      
I'm sad about this in the same way I'm bummed when a great athlete retires. We've witness one of the greatest turnarounds in history, and though I'm confident that Apple will remain strong, it sucks to see this happen.

That said, when the market dips, buy, buy, buy.

AlexMuir 8 days ago 1 reply      
And the greatest second act in (business) history draws to a close. He's changed the world. And he made Apple the most valuable company in the world. That's quite some achievement for a terminally ill man.
Bud 8 days ago 1 reply      
Steve will now be Chairman of the Board, to answer some questions from other comments. It's hard to see how this does not at least hint at some more bad health news, although I too hope that it does not mean this. Here's Steve's letter to the Board:


jacquesm 8 days ago 4 replies      
deleted, since: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2922792 said roughly the same thing and 6 minutes earlier.
thought_alarm 8 days ago 0 replies      
I was really hoping that such succession news would be delivered by the man himself, if and when it happened. But I presume that's not going to happen.

All the best to Steve and his family.

mortenjorck 8 days ago 0 replies      
Considering where Apple is today, especially in context of its epic journey across the past fifteen years, it almost seems like this would have been time regardless of any concerns about Steve's health. He helmed a company that started one revolution through several more, an eclipsing second act largely unlike anything else in the history of business. You need a one-in-a-million CEO to do that. 

Apple doesn't need that where it is now. Its struggles are just memories today. It still needs an incredibly smart CEO that can keep the company on the right path, which it has in Tim Cook, but the era in which Jobs was critical as CEO is over. Whether he's chairman of the board or executive visionary-in-residence, it'll be a more appropriate position for Apple's founder in this new decade. 

This doesn't mark the end of Apple's ascendancy, just the very end of the turnaround. The dawn is over. This is Apple greeting the day.

untog 8 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. I very much hope that this not for illness reasons, and instead he simply decided that now was the time to make the changeover.
tomelders 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think the days of Apple having a rock star CEO are over. I genuinely believe that a big part of Apple's success is down to Tim Cook, and I think the company is in good hands. But I doubt he'll ever take to the stage or become the face of Apple. That's no bad thing, but Apple has become a sort of entertainment, a movie almost, that people love to watch. I think those days are over and a new era of "mysterious CEO" is about to be ushered in. If anything, Apple is about to get a lot more secretive.
staunch 8 days ago 0 replies      
A sad day. Fortunately, he'll continue to inspire the world of technology and entrepreneurs for decades to come. Thanks Steve!
arnoldwh 8 days ago 1 reply      
Sad day..I think I must have watched his stanford commencement speech at least a dozen times.


puredemo 8 days ago 1 reply      
This article is pretty vague on the details of 'why' he resigned. Does anyone have more information?

All the best to Steve and his family..

stevenj 8 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for all you've done, Steve.
dm8 8 days ago 0 replies      
One of the most iconic leader of our times. I will miss his keynotes. They were simply joy to watch.

The famous advert "Here's to the crazy ones..misfits.." totally applies to his career. I'm sure if AAPL ever recreates the same ad, he deserves his spot in there.

AdamTReineke 8 days ago 4 replies      
John Gruber wrote that Steve Cook should succeed him last month. http://daringfireball.net/2011/07/succeeding_steve_jobs

Edit: Yup, I meant Tim Cook... Doh!

jmjerlecki 8 days ago 3 replies      
The Edison of our generation. Sad to see Jobs go and hopefully his health has not gotten worse. The greatest turnaround of a company ever " Steve will leave a long legacy.
kellishaver 8 days ago 0 replies      
Though I believe the company will be fine, this kind of feels like the end of an era. It's sad, as well, because it sounds very much like his reasons for stepping down are health-related, which can't be good.

He's survived and built amazing things in the face of great illness, when a lot of people would have given up. Sure, he had more financial resources than most to put into that battle against cancer, but a large part of it still comes down to determination and will. It would have been easy, several years ago, to say "I'm too tired to do this anymore" when you've fought cancer and don't need the paycheck. Someone like that doesn't step away from something they love unless they feel they absolutely have to.

I just hope Steve and his family are given the respect and privacy they will no doubt need and desire in the weeks and months ahead.

brianwillis 8 days ago 0 replies      
It's really hard to know what to say. Jobs' resignation definitely marks the end of an era, and implies that his health is getting worse, but we all knew that this day was going to come eventually.
johng 8 days ago 0 replies      
What a roller coaster Steve Jobs' life (and his stewardship of Apple) has been. But, all in all, great job. Amazing job. Cheers to Steve.
ForrestN 8 days ago 0 replies      
I think there's a bit of contradiction in all of the hand-wringing about whether or not Apple needs Steve to survive. Given that his health has been in question for several years, and speculation about what will happen if he has to leave, and given that he is a visionary, masterful auteur who guides Apple's strategy so successfully, don't we trust him to have accounted for all of this and developed a succession plan that continues Apple's success?

If there was really a dearth of innovators, of executors, of strategists at Apple when he leaves, wouldn't he have worked to solve that problem? Great CEOs are hirers and developers of great talent. I suspect Jobs has done as good of a job setting up what happens after today as he has everything else.

g123g 7 days ago 0 replies      
For some reason this news is reminding me of the O Fortuna song.


It is passing of an era and things will not be same at Apple or in the tech industry after this.

pkamb 8 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder how long http://www.apple.com/pr/ will take to update for this.
susanhi 8 days ago 0 replies      
Apple will be fine for the next 5 years. The iPhone, iPad, MacBooks, iMacs, etc. will carry them and their revenue. They probably have a few new products ready to release within a year as well, maybe TV or something else. The next 5 years I don't see them stalling. The iPhone and iPad have too much momentum. But the big question is from year 6 to 10. Apple needs a product leader, someone who will lead the whole company to rally around the latest and greatest new apple product. Hopefully Tim Cook can fit into that role, with help from Ive, Schiller, and others. Another hopeful note is the leadership institute Jobs has set up inside Apple with ex-business school profs archiving all of Jobs exploits and training then next generation of leaders. However, I think really nobody really knows what Apple will be like from year 6 to 10. But I'll be rooting for Apple and hope they continue to make revolutionary products.
corin_ 8 days ago 1 reply      
Remember that just because the market is closed, things still happen, and you can keep an eye on the after hours price.

Edit: as pointed out below, after/pre-hoursm

jianshen 8 days ago 0 replies      
As sad as this is, I really am looking forward to see how the company evolves the culture that he's created.
kaiuhl 8 days ago 0 replies      
Huge news. One can expect an overwhelming wave of punditry about this move, but it'll be interesting to read their official press release and what his role will be moving forward.

Surely he'll still be the arbiter of taste until he's dead?

plainOldText 8 days ago 0 replies      
When I first read the title I thought it was a joke.
I was thinking how can a joke be voted number 1 on HN.
Reading through the other titles however made it real.
Well, I guess nothing lasts forever, and following Bill Gates, it is now Steve Jobs' time to step down as the CEO.

The other week I was imagining how would Steve Jobs' office look like in the new headquarters they are planning to build. I guess that doesn't hold anymore. Well, we'll just move on.

yesbabyyes 8 days ago 0 replies      
It's wise to do this now, in a controlled manner. All the same, it's going to be interesting to see what happens with Apple in the long run.
losvedir 8 days ago 0 replies      
Aww, I was kind of hoping Steve Jobs would do something insanely huge and visionary (in the way that only he can, it seems) with that massive stockpile of cash Apple has.

Looks like it'll come out in dividends or some such run of the mill fashion.

culturestate 7 days ago 0 replies      
I can always tell how big the media thinks a story is by how many unusual places I see it reported. As I type this, "Apple's Steve Jobs steps down" is in the headlines box on ESPN.com right between the little league world series and a story about Tom Brady. I think that's a small but fitting tribute to a man whose ideas and leadership have reached people and places beyond what any of us could've imagined even 10 years ago.
redial 8 days ago 1 reply      
He took Apple from nearly bankruptcy to become one of the biggest, if not the biggest company in the world.
He never stopped changing the world, but best of all, he retired on his own terms.
Jun8 8 days ago 1 reply      
Oh no!! This means his illness is now quite severe. There can be no replacement to him.

A lot of people say it's hard working for him (my friends at Apple totally dread meeting him by accident), he's egotistical, parks at a handicapped spot, etc. etc. To those people, I give the following, attributed to Judy Garland: ""They say it's hard to work with Judy Garland...do you have any idea how hard it is to BE Judy Garland?"


tiles 8 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if there was maybe some foresight in him having an official biography approved shortly before he stepped down as CEO.
marquis 8 days ago 1 reply      
From the WSJ on Tim Cook: "people who know him don't consider him to be a visionary". I'd be shocked to hear that Jobs hasn't been grooming his replacement. Cook can keep Apple running for another couple of years, and I expect to see someone else come up as CEO from within the ranks who shares Steve's vision and ability to focus on what makes Apple successful.
Knack 6 days ago 0 replies      
Apple is now worse then Microsoft ever was. Because they're more snaky in putting the thumbscrews on the customers. The true face of Apple is an ugly one. I'm not saying Google or Facebook or Microsoft don't focus on making money on the expense of the customers and on the expense of the freedom of the internet. But I really fail to understand why some of you guys seem to see Steve Jobs as a hero. Are you aware that the direction Steve Jobs and all the big companies are heading to is to force people to buy an app for 5 dollars to write a comment on Hackker News? And as an extra premium they sell your private data to allow other companies rise the prices to the max.

To me Apple has reached a new all time low as they sued Samsung with photoshoped pictures as if Apple had invented the tablet. They made the first great one, but they did not invent it.

EDIT: Typo

mkramlich 8 days ago 1 reply      
Apple just lost their greatest salesman. Luckily their products are so nice they go along way to selling themselves.
rhygar 8 days ago 1 reply      
This is about timing. AAPL became the most valuable company in the world recently. The best way to quit is when you're on top.
pacomerh 8 days ago 0 replies      
CEO or not, this guy is capable of giving you some serious advice that can change your life. Such quality products must come from people with good intentions towards change.
code_duck 7 days ago 0 replies      
The whole resurgence of Apple and the amazing products they've been making are enough, but I'm truly impressed with Apple's early years. The Apple ][ was such a standard in schools, and the first Macs were so unique (admitedly, I like the C64 and Amiga a bit more...). Woz rocks, too.
jjm 8 days ago 0 replies      
Believe it or not, things can still happen for the better. This change could continue the trend of success through new ideas. Had this not happened I would have said that the peak if the product lifecycle was upon Apple anyway. Hope this makes sense, typin on train from iPhone.
psychotik 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised there isn't enough mention of Jonathan Ive in commentary about the future of decision making at Apple. I think he's got a lot of Steve's aesthetic senses, and also has some of the same unquestioned authority/credibility that Steve does.
cpr 8 days ago 0 replies      
Truly the end of an epoch in computing, assuming his influence fades quickly in a much reduced role at Apple.
iand 8 days ago 0 replies      
End of an era definitely. No-one can deny that Jobs has had one of the the most successful turnaround careers ever.
leon_ 8 days ago 2 replies      
I hope Apple will survive this. I don't want to develop for windows.
artursapek 8 days ago 0 replies      
He was the biggest public figure behind Apple, though as an Ind. Design student I'll be just as bummed when Johnny Ive steps down. I hope Steve still shows up at the annual Apple Christmas con's, he's such a great presenter.
clu3 7 days ago 0 replies      
Very tough time for Apple ahead

"Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new" - Standford Commencement speech 2005

So "the old" are Gates, Jobs,... (born circa 1950s) and "the new" will be Brin, Page, Zuckerberg...

dpio 8 days ago 0 replies      
Clearly, he was just as bummed about webOS as everyone else.
tyler_ball 7 days ago 0 replies      
Without my Mac I would not have learned how to code. I would not have been able to find employment in Web Development, something I enjoy so much.

Without my many iPods over the years I would not be as huge a music fan as I am now. I may not have learned how to play guitar, something I enjoy so much.

I would be completely lost without my iPhone. It makes me the smartest person in the room.

Thanks Steve.

navs 5 days ago 0 replies      
Sad to see him leave. Even sadder to see him so unwell. Latest pics of him are gut wrenching.
sebkomianos 8 days ago 0 replies      
I really, and I mean REALLY, hope that his biography coming out on November 21 this year and his resignation today have nothing to do with his health.

In any way, thank you very much Steve, I guess you can leave your company quite happy and satisfied. :)

arjn 8 days ago 0 replies      
The end of an era for Apple. However, this is hardly unexpected. He has been very ill for a while now. Time for him to focus on himself and his family.
mathattack 8 days ago 0 replies      
I have to admit I feel like his letter was more like Lou Gehrig than Michael Jordan. I wish him the absolute best.
dmerfield 8 days ago 1 reply      
Apple just confirmed Cook will replace Jobs as CEO.
ww520 8 days ago 0 replies      
This is really sad. His health is failing or he won't resign. It's an end of an era. :(
Egregore 7 days ago 0 replies      
I don't like the closedness of iPhone and iPads, I prefer the more open platforms, like Android. But I deeply regret Steve Jobs leaving, he is a visionary, he did a lot of things for which he has my respect.
RealGeek 8 days ago 0 replies      
I hope Steve would still show up at WWDC :)
krishna2 7 days ago 0 replies      
So much for the AAPL is going to tank and time to short comments. The change is a blip....
aidenn0 8 days ago 0 replies      
It's always tough when the former CEO is chairman of the board. Has the feeling that daddy is looking over your shoulders...
ricw 8 days ago 0 replies      
Nothing has changed in the short term, though lets hope that in the long term his successors can keep innovating as much as Apple has under Jobs.

Most importantly though, I hope that Steve recovers soon from whatever might be ailing him.

Somewhat sad times..

typicalrunt 8 days ago 1 reply      
Wow there are 9 duplicate stories on HN right now.

Doesn't HN have a duplicate submission filter?

shn 7 days ago 0 replies      
If you read all the news you would think that the guy just passed away. Good heavens! no. He's only 55. I think we'll see more from him, only different than it used to be. It's life, ever changing...Thanks Steve!
dkrich 8 days ago 0 replies      
This is really sad, but with his official biography set to be released, and now this, the writing is on the wall. I certainly hope he recovers, though.
merubin75 7 days ago 0 replies      
"Jobs's greatest creation isn't any Apple product. It is Apple itself."

Source: John Gruber, Daring Fireball blog

connex 7 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a good book out there dealing with how steve jobs actually evolved from birth to the production of the Macintosh ? That´s the part of his life that interests me most.
Tichy 7 days ago 0 replies      
Sad, awful feeling in the gut.
craigmccaskill 8 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if this has been timed specifically prior to a major product release (iPhone 5) to help combat any stock drop.
mdg 8 days ago 1 reply      
so is it eerily quiet on the streets of SF right now ?
g-garron 8 days ago 0 replies      
I hope we may still see him around, doing those great presentations. He is a genius on that.
leeskye 8 days ago 0 replies      
San Franciscans are probably wandering the streets wondering if they're going to get their iPhone5 before Christmas.
sinkercat 8 days ago 0 replies      
The showman, the leader, the visionary. Get well soon, Steve. We will miss you.
dataminer 8 days ago 0 replies      
I hope he gets well soon
davidcollantes 8 days ago 0 replies      
Sad day. He will be missed. I wish -- and hope -- he will get better.
MetallicCloud 8 days ago 1 reply      

  >Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world...

Not exactly objective reporting is it?

Frenchie 7 days ago 0 replies      
There's a page "leaving card" to thank Steve Jobs for his work as CEO: http://www.plumpl.com/stevejobs
tyty 7 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like some people are trying to capitalize on this: http://www.byestevejobs.com
miratom 8 days ago 2 replies      
Great unbiased journalism: "Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software."
schme 8 days ago 0 replies      
During the time I've read HN I haven't once seen posts get this poetic and sentimental. I wonder what's it like on the Apple side of things.
tomelders 7 days ago 0 replies      
ataaso 7 days ago 0 replies      
Why didn't he wait for the iPhone announcement?
shoota 8 days ago 1 reply      
Time to short AAPL.
toblender 7 days ago 0 replies      
Don't worry people, I'll be stepping in as CEO soon.
benkulbertis 8 days ago 0 replies      
Good. (Downvotes please)
crizCraig 8 days ago 0 replies      
Cross site poll: What do you think will happen to Apple now that Steve Jobs has resigned?
tonio09 8 days ago 1 reply      
Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced iPad 2 which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

I just wanted to highlight this segment as a perfect example of media neutrality.

taylorbuley 8 days ago 1 reply      
Tim Cook has reportedly been given the nod, but I'm still sort of hoping that somewhere Zuck is updating his resume
baby 7 days ago 1 reply      
"Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced iPad 2 which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices. "

yeah mmm okay, this article is biased.

Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda Resigns From Slashdot slashdot.org
775 points by SandB0x  7 days ago   143 comments top 30
nicpottier 7 days ago 8 replies      
I don't visit /. anymore, but definitely grew up on it. I don't think you can understate the impact it had on a generation of geeks. Especially when it comes to Open Source, I think /. was incredibly important in educating people on a concept, history and philosophy many of us take for granted now.

And hot grits aside, it really did set the bar for intelligent discussion. /. was the first site where the comments were always more valuable than the articles. RTFA's were common, sure, but so was incredible insight and inside knowledge. That's what made it all so addictive.

I remember hitting refresh constantly on /. during 911. Personally, I found it the best source of information anywhere, though you had to have your own sanity filter on as well.

Thanks cmdrtaco, and congratulations on a real legacy. For me at least, /. is mostly replaced now, but that doesn't diminish what it was.

_delirium 7 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting decision. In practice I don't think this will change a lot, because it's been years since Slashdot was primarily the personal project of Malda; from what I can tell, he's been "just another editor" and a bit withdrawn from the decision-making for a few years now. But I can see wanting to do something else.

For all its downsides, Slashdot is a quite interesting experiment imo.

In terms of form: It was one of the first (the first?) widely read tech blogs, in the sense of something that posted about technology in reverse chronological order, with a comments section below it (the comments section was even threaded). The idea of having users submit stories and write blurbs was also fairly novel, and has led to several different directions. Kuro5hin and MetaFilter took it in one direction, expanding from blurbs to more general kinds of article submissions (and Kuro5hin switched to voting rather than editorial curation), while Reddit/Digg/HN took it in the opposite direction, paring it down to link submissions with no blurb (again with voting).

In terms of content, imo it was a main way, especially in the late 90s, that a generation of tech people were introduced to things like the EFF, free software, problems of software patents, driver support for Linux, hardware hackability, and other such techno-liberty type things. Those predated Slashdot, of course, but it sort of crystallized a community on the web, alongside those that had previously been organized mainly around mailing lists, Usenet, etc. It also gained considerable mindshare for those ideas from a broader set of readers who weren't necessarily "activists".

gallamine 7 days ago 1 reply      
It's a shame that Steve Job's leaving overshadows this. Slashdot has been a rock of the internet for 14 years, and I still regularly visit it. This paragraph is good:

In the last 14 years, Slashdot has covered so many amazing events: The explosion of Linux. The rise of Google. The return of Apple. The Dot Com Bubble. The DMCA. 9/11. Wars. Elections. Numerous successful Shuttle Launches and one Disaster. Scientific Breakthroughs galore. Cool toys. Web2.0! Social Networking. Blogging! Podcasting! Micro-Blogging! The Lord of the Rings being filmed and an entire trilogy of new Star Wars. OMG Ponies!! So many moments that I could run this paragraph for hours with moments where we shared something important, meaningful, or just stupid. But the most important to me was my marriage proposal to Kathleen. Slashdot has posted Over 114,000 stories so far. And there will be many more to come. I just won't be the one picking them.

jacques_chester 7 days ago 1 reply      
Slashdot was my first true time-wasting site. During free periods in high school I'd read Slashdot compulsively -- as nicpottier observed, it was probably the first site where the comments were often more valuable than the story.

Slashdot was a blog before the word 'blog' was coined. A universal shared experience, in my case for literally half a lifetime.

steveb 7 days ago 0 replies      
To me slashdot was critical in galvanizing the geek community and bringing free software to the mainstream in the late 90's. The comments added incredible value and created a community that I had not come across anywhere else.

I think the high point of that period was the announcement of the open-sourcing of the Netscape code base. Nowadays, itt is hard to imagine the need for all the stories on how to convince your boss to use this software some dude in Finland wrote.

Slashdot also championed everything2.com, kind of a proto-wiki.

The low point was all the trolling in the article about death of W. Richard Stevens, which lead to much of the moderation code that needed to be put in place.

Rob's run at slashdot was pioneering and hugely influential. I look forward to his next project.

whazzmaster 7 days ago 4 replies      
I've been down on Slashdot for the last few years, even going so far as to remove it from my RSS reader and bookmarks bar. I check back sometimes here and there but devote most of my time to HN/reddit now.

Taco's farewell (and Hemos' reply in comments) really brought to me back why I liked Slashdot in the first place back in 1998- an editorial voice curating interesting tech stories.

That editorial voice was important to me in 1998, as I was in college for CS and was really uninformed about things like (as _delirium notes in this thread) the EFF, the RIAA, open source software, The Many Uses of Linux, etc. I compare that to today when I just scan lists of links on reddit or HN and pick out the items that interest me. The editorial voice was a good starting point for me- it directed me to interesting things that I couldn't have fathomed. As I grew into my techy career and interests, I needed it less and less.

I hope it's not viewed as complaining or whatnot, but I do wonder if anyone else avoids Slashdot in 2011 almost purely because of the commenters' obnoxiousness. I always get a picture of sysadmin-like greybeards pounding away furiously at their keyboards the moment anyone suggests that some software, somewhere be written in something other than C or perl. Ah slashdot, you truly taught me what a 'troll' was (and "-5, Troll"? shudder.) And for that I thank you.

kahawe 7 days ago 1 reply      
> And since I'm going to have to find a job in a few months, I'm on LinkedIn as well.

Well, this is going to be one short CV and cover letter... "I built slashdot" should be plenty enough, really.

rmason 7 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I don't see mentioned is that Slashdot was a uniquely Michigan success story. They were an example to a lot of Michigan startups that you could be successful and stay in the state.

I haven't seen him lately but CmdrTaco used to attend startup related events. One of the early Slashdot crew, Kurt DeMaagd, is now an assistant professor at Michigan State.

sunchild 7 days ago 2 replies      
To this day, I log into nyt.com with:

user: cowboyneal
pass: cowboyneal

Anyone else?

zobzu 7 days ago 1 reply      
Slashdot still has the best comment moderation system, even if none is perfect. When the story gets crowded by zillion of comments you still get the best ones in a single page without having to read literally 10 or 15 pages of comments.
kabdib 7 days ago 3 replies      
It's made its way into near-future SF. Some character in a novel by Ken Macleod, faced with a Plot Device disaster, says to a friend "I can't even get to Slashdot."
5hoom 7 days ago 1 reply      
What the hell is going on today? Thats two influential tech personalities resigning from their signature positions in 24 hours. Im starting to get worried here. Whats next, John Carmack resigns from id?(heaven forbid!)

My world view has been shaken. Best of luck & thanks for the good times CmdrTaco. I wore out F5 keys on that site :)

smudgy 7 days ago 0 replies      
I still read Slashdot but not as much as I did "back in the day" - it's my chicken soup site, where I go to feel comfortable surrounded by like minded folks.

While Jobs' resignation is big corporate news, CmdrTaco's might be bigger community news - the guy was "one of us." His site was one of the first online communities and their slanted (according to some) point of view was what spun off other hacker/nerd sites.

I will admit that I'll miss Rob Malda at Slashdot - his name there on the posts made me feel at home, someplace familiar.

So long and thanks for all the fun.

presidentender 7 days ago 1 reply      
Slashdot was the source of my now-permanent news habits, and, I believe, the Petri dish in which modern hacker culture was first cultivated. Slashdot had memes before they were called memes, or so it seems; most importantly, it had discussion via threaded comments and community moderation. I first used this handle on Slashdot, and whenever one of my sites goes down due to traffic, I'll say it's been slashdotted.

But the relevance of Slashdot as a site has been eclipsed, first by Digg, then by Reddit and HN. The network effect is part of it. The technology is part of it. There's some je ne sais quoi about these newer sites; maybe they'll be replaced by some other, more minimalist social news platform in the future.

nl 6 days ago 0 replies      
I feel really old now. All the things I remember most about Slashdot seem to have been forgotten.

Things I remember (most of these are pre-2000):

Netscape being open sourced (and the role Slashdot played in that)

Oracle shipping on Linux

The hidden Slashdot threads (wah_is_cool anyone?)

Discovering a input validation hole that let me post a "Powered by Windows NT" image in the middle of a thread about the original CERT XSS attack warning (http://www.cert.org/advisories/CA-2000-02.html)

Signal11 vs CmdrTaco (http://www.kuro5hin.org/images/kuro5hin_Sig11_vs_Taco.html)

The K5 split

greyish_water 7 days ago 0 replies      
And he'll resign again in a few hours.
ac-slater 7 days ago 1 reply      
I went to go see CmdrTaco speak in 2005. Someone asked him how to make a website as popular as Slashdot. Malda said to start it in 1997. Of course in the next year the meteoric rise of both digg and reddit began.

I think there is a moral here about not resting on your laurels and never thinking no one can catch up with you.

napierzaza 7 days ago 1 reply      
This will overshadow Steve Jobs' resignation.
the_topper 7 days ago 0 replies      
I was always impressed with the story selection on Slashdot. There was a certain mindset that they were pandering to, but it flat-out worked.

I was a voracious reader of Slashdot in the early years until I had an epiphany when reading the They Might Be Giants interview in 2000. I realized that the collective geek mindset was rooted more in fantasy than reality. Posters were so desperately wanting the TMBG guys to be off-the-wall wacky and absurdist, but really it was more that the two John's were just doing their own thing, and that thing was outside the realm of normal music. Yet no one picked up on it.

I couldn't read Slashdot after that. The geek fantasy fog was too thick and pervasive and self-referential.

wollongong 7 days ago 1 reply      
slashdot was the first digg/reddit, they missed the social boat and kept strict editorial control, or else they'd have grown rather than floundered
enthalpyx 6 days ago 0 replies      
I love that this is on the front page of HN -- which is to me, what Slashdot was 10 years ago.
imroot 7 days ago 1 reply      
If you've followed the lifespan of VA Software, OSDN, OSTG, GeekNet...I don't think this will come as a surprise to anyone.


Slashdot built the community that a lot of people still have close ties to. I'll always remember reading my first few Bruce Perens posts, and adding him (and a few others) to my 'Friends' List.

I'll also never forget listening to their marketing person talk about how they could 'bitchslap' negative comments (about the advertiser) to -2 so that nobody could see them.

Slashdot is a great place for the folks who have been in the industry for any amount of time. It was always a trusted and stable source of news, reposts, and April Fool's Pranks. I will continue to think that this is something that he did on his own free will and volition, and not something that was forced upon him by the powers that be at GeekNet.

Ann Arbor, MI isn't the Linux Hot-Spot -- nor is it a mecca for new and exciting technology jobs. I hope he enjoys his time off and finds something that gives him the love and satisfaction that slashdot gave him over the last decade.

RobIsIT 7 days ago 0 replies      
The answer that I've always wanted to hear Rob give would come from these questions:

What are the underlying linchpins of the SlashDot community? How would you rebuild it? What steps would you take, what processes would you put in place, what technology would you use?

I would never want to create a SlashDot clone, nor would I expect anyone could clone SlashDot. However, there are very important lessons in community building, management and infrastructure planning that Rob is an expert at.

code_duck 7 days ago 0 replies      
I thrived on Slashdot for years - definitely the first large, tech oriented news forum I was into. Really, one of the first blogs - but you rarely hear Malda quite take credit for his unique place in internet history. He's refreshingly humble.
cpeterso 7 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder how he feels about getting stuck with the "CmdrTaco" handle. :)
AlexC04 6 days ago 0 replies      
Think he and Steve Jobs are heading out to launch a stealth startup?
njharman 7 days ago 0 replies      
trying to steal the limelight from steve, eh?

I've recently starting reading again after long time away. It's good again!

quinndupont 6 days ago 0 replies      
It was a great 14 years! Huzzah!
Uchikoma 7 days ago 0 replies      
He waited till Steve resigned.
jpdoctor 7 days ago 0 replies      
ZOMG. Steve Jobs and Cmdr Taco are the same guy.
Microsoft UI has officially entered the realm of self-parody seldo.tumblr.com
736 points by wyclif  3 days ago   326 comments top 58
varunsrin 3 days ago  replies      
The first problem with the article here is that some of the buttons (Move To, Copy To) did not exist previously. They are also extensions of existing functions (Move, Copy) - so concluding that half the UI is covered by buttons that were not used is an inaccurate assumption.

Secondly, the actions are being moved from the context menu to the ribbon. Most new computer users find it very hard to remember additional, non intuitive actions like right clicking & context menus. Each of these is a 'modifier' that power users are used to, but which make the mental model of file manipulation much harder for beginners to wrap their heads around. They have to remember to apply these modifiers to see if the functions they want exist. Moving the functions into a contextually aware ribbon will make life much easier for these users.

Third, Move, Copy, Delete & Rename occupy the center of the ribbon. These are the most used commands (by far) and rightfully occupy center stage. Power users will call it clutter, but it will be extremely helpful for beginners.

[Disclaimer: MSFT Employee, but I do not work on Windows]

krig 2 days ago 2 replies      
I don't understand how there can be so many posts here defending this UI. Is this a concerted effort by Microsoft to flood hacker news with their viewpoint? I just don't see how this is a defensible UI, at all.

Seriously, it's overwhelming. The UI is constantly shouting commands at the user, regardless of what the user is trying to do. UIs like these are exactly where the problem my parents have with computers come from. They go in with an idea of what they want to do, let's say they want to find a note they wrote previously. As soon as they open the window, they are bombarded with commands. Move! Copy! Save as! Select! Select all! It's a cacophony of nonsense to them. Copy? Copy what, where? Nothing in there helps them find their note.

Really. "Easy access." What does that button do? I have no idea what might happen when that's pressed. It sounds a bit dirty, but accepting that it's probably accessibility related and not an invitation to intimacy, I still can't figure out what it might do. Ridiculous.

pointyhat 3 days ago 5 replies      
Disclaimer: I'm a Windows and Mac OS X "power user" and I'm going to be rather critical of Apple who are seen as at the forefront of UI design. I'm probably going to get voted down for this.

I'm a proponent of the Ribbon UI and I fucking hate toolbars in OS X.

I use Outlook, Word, Excel and Windows Live Mail extensively. All of which have the ribbon UI. It turns out that for the sake of actually getting stuff done, this is incredibly useful. I genuiely hardly ever need to use the context menu because what I need is there "in my face" and "obvious". While this fits newbie usage patterns perfectly, it also helps us power users who don't always switch back to the keyboard shortcuts (mouse already in hand) and don't want to jump through several hoops (like faffing with context menus) to get stuff done.

On the other hand, I have absolutely no fucking idea what the hell the toolbar buttons do when I'm using Finder or Mail on OS-X (Snow Leopard and Lion). The icons are crap, there are no visual cues and I always end up dropping to a terminal to get stuff done because I simply can't be arsed to figure it out or piss around with right clicking or the awful keyboard shortcut system on OS X. I don't think people usually get that far with OS X without getting "shiny I paid $2000 so it must be good Apple mental block" as I call it.

I'm fed up of so-called self-proclaimed experts chucking out blog posts criticising user interfaces while masturbating over Apple's efforts. Microsoft's UI allows you to get shit done and get it done quickly. So it might not be as aesthetically pleasing, but it works and works well for those of us with shit in our eyes.

Also, Microsoft research what you want rather than tell you what you're having (like Apple do).

martingordon 3 days ago  replies      
Everyone I know loves managing their files, so it's great that Microsoft is finally improving Windows Explorer!


For the hundreds of nerds complaining that they don't have access to the file system on their iPads, there are millions of normal people who are delighted by a computer that they can use rather than manage.

How much longer can Microsoft keep making a 20th century operating system? What's going to be the great innovation of Windows 9? Yet another reshuffled toolbar driven by all of their wonderful data?

encoderer 3 days ago 2 replies      
I think the point is missed.

It's hard to claim that the context menu is good UI. The fact that so few people use the menu bar means that it's currently useless and needs to be reworked. It's not as if they're replacing the context menu with the ribbon, they're replacing the currently-unused menu bar.

DevX101 3 days ago 0 replies      
Before power users criticize the UI, keep in mind the recent study that 90% of computer users didn't know to use CTRL-F to search a document. Things that may be intuitive to you, may not be so to most other users.

Maybe MS did extensive usability testing, maybe they didn't. But that CTRL-F study was so surprising to me that I don't trust my instinct when it comes to judging the effectiveness of a user interface for hundreds of millions of people

eddieplan9 3 days ago 2 replies      
This reminds me of this famous quote:

The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don't think of original ideas, and they don't bring much culture into their products.

krschultz 3 days ago 1 reply      
The concept of the ribbon - tabs with buttons grouped by function - has a lot of advantages in theory. Obviously you can have bigger buttons which is always a good thing, and you allow each button to have sub-buttons which actually works out really well. I personally think Microsoft is on the right track from a high level perspective.

The problem comes in the implementation. The graphic design is just horrible. Where is the grid? Where is the white space? What the hell is that round button that replaces the file menu? The title bar just looks awful.

If they could clean it up graphically I really think it could be just as nice as anything on Mac OS X. Ask yourself this, if Apple had come out with the buttons on tabs in the exact same groupings but done it in a gorgeous way, who would be complaining about it? We'd all be heralding it.

kingofspain 3 days ago 0 replies      
Everything I had to explain to my ex-boss about dealing with files is there in one click. I could hide it if I wanted and have my usual experience. I really don't see the problem.

I actually think that overall this a big improvement. Minimalism can go screw itself when it costs me hours of free labour :)

alanfalcon 3 days ago 2 replies      
Reminds me of this video, which I was told was actually created by Microsoft as a self-parody, though I don't have any supporting evidence.

"Microsoft Designs the iPod Package:" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9HfdSp2E2A

antonyme 2 days ago 0 replies      
While the Ribbon UI was intended to simplify complex UI, these screenshots suggest it may not. Take for example the "Explorer in Windows 8" image. The visual hierarchy is very confusing. The ribbon appears to have 5 pages - but File is bold and special for some reason (it invokes a huge popup menu?). But the focus of the entire app is on Files - so what conceptually would not go under File, except for Folder operations? Furthermore, above this special File menu there are three super special (and somewhat inscrutable) icons. But aren't these just shortcuts for File operations? Why don't they just live under File menu? For that matter, why have toolbar buttons been hoisted into the title bar itself?

The current tab appears to be the Home tab, based on the highlight. But this has nothing to do with your "Home" directory - it is merely the "default" page for the most common operations. These operations are used to manage your files - the names of two other tabs in this hierarchy. What would the user expect to find there?

The layout of the Home tab is visually confusing. There is no grid or use of whitespace to guide the eye, and it presents a non-uniform 2-dimensional array of controls of different sizes. At least the old toolbars being 1-dimensional meant the user could easily remember approximately how far along the toolbar to look for the icon - now the user must scan a far more complex terrain to find what they're looking for.

There are two different sizes and layouts for action icons. So Copy and Paste are large icons with text below, while Cut is a small icon with text to the right. Why? Presumably it is less frequently used, but the inconsistency is visually jarring and non-obvious to the user.

While some buttons cause immediate actions, others have a small down-arrow next to them, suggesting they will probably pop up a menu instead. This introduces another variation to the two button types, giving a third type. But some have a default action when clicking on the button itself (a fourth type), and only reveal a menu when clicking on the arrow - yet there is no visual indication of which behaviour a button has. (This is apparent in IE and Office also.)

A user may wonder what is the difference between clicking on the dark blue File toolbar tab, versus clicking on the menu button in the very top of the titlebar, versus pressing Alt to reveal the hitherto hidden menubar?

While the Manage ribbon tab appears at the same hierarchy level as Home, Share and View, it has a brightly coloured tab _above_ it labelled "Library Tools". Vertical lines suggest it is superior to the Manage item; yet presumably it is also higher than Home, given its placement and urgent red/orange background? What is the difference between pressing Manage and selecting Library Tools?

A user not trained in the intricacies of the Office Ribbon UI will IMHO be utterly baffled by the complexity exposed in this UI and the inconsistencies therein.

While it is laudable that Microsoft is attempting to refresh the design of this venerable component of Windows, this work seems to be little more than a reshuffling of features and shortcuts, rather than a rethinking of file management.

sp332 3 days ago 2 replies      
In Windows 7, the menu bar is hidden by default, that's why no one uses it. Also, "no one uses" those other commands only because no one knows they exist now. The whole point to the new UI is to change things to be better.
icarus_drowning 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure why, but I've never really gotten used to the ribbon. Especially in Office 2010 , I find it incredibly difficult to navigate and, frankly, hugely annoying. To see it brought to something like explorer is horrifying, especially considering the large amount of vertical space it takes up.

Shouldn't there be more intuitive ways of doing these things? Why is there a need for a move button or copy (one or the other) when you have drag and drop? I know it is very much in vogue to abstract the file system away from the user, and it strikes me that this is exactly the opposite, and just might be just a little over engineered.

crenshaw 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is an odd article, because Microsoft addresses exactly the point this person is arguing against.

MS says, "Only 2 of the top 10 commands customers invoke in Explorer are available in the Command bar, the main UI element for invoking commands."

And have this picture, http://blogs.msdn.com/cfs-filesystemfile.ashx/__key/communit...

The takeaway from the data isn't that you should focus on people using context menus, because all commands haven't been available in other places. But they used their data and said, "there are the most common desired actions" coupled with their own design sense that said, "if we moved them to the ribbon they'd be easier to use".

To me that makes a great deal of sense.

I feel like this person, Seldo, who wrote this blog post attacked MS without either reading the full MS post or not understanding it. Statements like, "But the more important thing is that the remaining 50% of the bar is taken up by buttons that nobody will ever use, ever, even according to Microsoft's own research" (which she bolded) simply aren't in the data MS presented. It's as if she misunderstood the distinction between location and action.

And later she says, "Again, this is Microsoft's own research, cited in the same post: nobody " almost literally 0% of users " uses the menu bar, and only 10% of users use the command bar." Again she seems to not understand that the most common actions were only available from the context menus.

anigbrowl 3 days ago 1 reply      
The writer of this blog uses a picture of the Golden Gate bridge as the background image on the page. As someone who lives near the bridge, I can affirm that at any given time, more than 50% of the bridge is empty; that is, less than half of the bridge's surface is covered by cars or pedestrians. Clearly this is a complete waste of resources, and we should just get rid of the empty half.

Also, what is up with those suspension towers and all those cables? Does anyone actually cross the bridge at those great heights? I say cut them up and stick them underneath as support piers, so that they're not obstructing the view or (more likely) sticking out of a fog bank and creating a hazard to passing aircraft.

georgieporgie 3 days ago 1 reply      
With regards to Microsoft's usage statistics, and the counter-argument, I can't help but think of this:

Simple usage statistics aren't especially valuable if you don't look at the overall picture as to why features are used (e.g. who would cut and paste if they understood how to move?). I'm not sure if either side is properly analyzing the available information.

codingsolo 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is a grossly-skewed assessment of the interface. Wouldn't the under utilization of features warrant an analysis WHY they are not being used? Wouldn't there also be a UX overhaul to make those features/commands/buttons/menus more approachable? The data and infographics would only be relevant if they were based upon the Win8 redesign.
devth 3 days ago 1 reply      
This prototype is a failure of both design and usability. It's an offense and a joke against anyone who expects to be able to interact with a machine in an efficient and intelligent manner.

- It's ugly as hell

- A beginner is bombarded with way too many things to click on

- An expert is annoyed by useless buttons and waste of space

Sure, you can turn it off, but who wants to configure and reconfigure UI preferences for the rest of their lives (sidenote: reminds me of eclipse)? Sensible defaults, please.

Contrast this with Apple, whose designs often define what good design and usability means. In their apps:

- The appearance is simple, well-designed, elegant

- The only actions present are those deemed most necessary to the user

- Tons of functionality is hidden under shortcut keys, modifier clicks and context menus for expert users (after years on OS X, I still discover hidden elegance as a result of their zealous attention to detail)

psychotik 3 days ago 0 replies      
The best way to 'fix' Windows Explorer is to focus on improving usability of the OS such that Windows Explorer isn't something average users needs to use. Focusing on improving it is focusing on the wrong problem, IMO.

Having said that, I think the author of the post seems to ignore the fact that Microsoft's research shows that not many use the menu bar currently (because currently, the menu bar is hidden by default). By adding the ribbon, I assume their goal is to improve that statistic, and in turn make it easier for users.

skeptical 3 days ago 1 reply      
Microsoft UIs current state is, in general, cluttered and broken.
I agree with this blogger, and my reaction was similar when I red the original post on msdn.

Having been absent from microsoft office (or any office like application for that mater) for many years, I recently got to use recent versions of microsoft products such as Word, Outlook, etc. The ribbons were a big facepalm, I didn't know such bad things exist, a few co-workers of mine said that they find them practical. I spent an average of 20-40 seconds each time I needed to click one of those buttons, even after many months of usage.

The buttons are jammed together in a rectangular area in ridiculous amounts. Some ribbons have close to 20 buttons, this will never be intuitive, it's just not visually easy to identify the buttons. Also, often a button is on the other site, all the away across the window in a far far away ribbon.

I never managed to use any microsoft OS after XP. Did the users really need other MS OS after XP? Quite frankly, I cannot find sinigle advantage of using vista or seven.

PS: The screenshots have something of a 1998 charm, I think it's that overlayed info. mspaint?

Mavrik 3 days ago 0 replies      
Em, if the author would actually fact-check, he'd know that most of those buttons dont't exist yet, so they'd hardly have more than 0% usage.
mc32 3 days ago 2 replies      
The UI, is apparently customizable. From the Team Blog:

"We knew that using a ribbon for Explorer would likely be met with skepticism by a set of power-users (like me), but there are clear benefits in ways that the ribbon:

-Exposes hidden features that they already use but which require third party add-ons to use in the Explorer UI today.

-Provides keyboard shortcuts for every command in the ribbon, something many people have been asking for.

-Provides UI customization with the quick access toolbar, taking us back to a customization level that is basically equivalent to Windows XP."

frou_dh 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's the stuff at the top left of the screenshot that puts it over the edge. They couldn't resist having just one more menu, so there it is partially crammed in to the title bar.
Ironballs 2 days ago 0 replies      
What people often miss in Ribbon UIs is that they are in fact very much for the power user. Here are a couple of reasons why:

Every button or command on the Ribbon can be accessed via polymorphic hotkeys. Every command can be accessed as a chain of key presses. There is zero need for mouse usage -- even in PowerPoint.

This is huge. This was not doable in previous versions of Office! There were some commands you could not access via anything else than the menu, and to those of us that are vim users, you know how bad that can be! I do a lot of PowerPoint presentations and besides designing arrows or shapes I have no need for a mouse. And PowerPoint is a WYSIWYG editor!

The other reason is that you can hide the Ribbon. See the screenshots? That chevron symbol (^) means that you can essentially auto-hide the Ribbon and bring it back, while still retaining its usability via hotkeys.

I'm by no means an all-guns-blazing MSFT fanboy, but I need Office at work, and instead of jumping on the silly bandwagon of bashing all that is Ribbon, I found my inner vim user and learnt to god damn power use the hell out of it.

To those that actually need Office daily, I recommend opening it and pressing Alt. Let the funny stuff unfold.

epaga 2 days ago 0 replies      
This makes me wonder how often I fall into the same trap when designing UIs.

"Not enough people are using this feature" can lead you to think "Let's make that feature's UI more prominent" instead of what it (normally) should: "Let's scrap that feature". Simplicity, minimalism, and elegance seem to be completely elusive to Microsoft, even with their brand new developments.

strmpnk 3 days ago 0 replies      
While I haven't used this UI and I think it's bulky and ugly, there is one important thing to note that I think people miss on first pass.

Typical use based on their research has used the context menu. On Windows that is typically a right click (IIRC). Now Windows 8 has claimed to moving towards more touch capable user interface. I'd imagine anything that is directly touchable with common controls being larger targets is a huge improvement from right-click simulation. These controls, while ugly, I could see as an improvement to usability in those scenarios.

Additionally, I haven't seen any effective file management interfaces for touch devices yet. Most of them shun the filesystem in favor of flattened document collections, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out on upcoming tablet devices. Personally, I was looking forward to stepping away from filesystems and lessening their role in my regular interactions, but time will tell where valuable experiences will be spent, so I'd say we wait and see for this one.

fmavituna 3 days ago 0 replies      
Article is ignoring a big thing, features such as "Copy Path" is almost hidden in Win 7/Vista unless you know where they are.

In 7 you have to "Shift + Right Click" to see "Copy as Path" in the context menu. Now how many users (even power users) actually know about this? So many of my friends were really pleased to find this out when I showed them.

There are lots of other features such as you can actually copy a file and when you try to paste it to a "File Open Dialog" 7 will automatically paste the path of the file, so that's why "Copy Path" was quite hidden, because for common usage it's just easier to do copy & paste.

We have to understand that just like everyone know what is Ctrl + C all power users eventually gets rid of menu bars and just uses hotkeys. New Ribbon interface (with hide/customise features) provides a nice infrastructure for that while not punishing the normal users.

rradu 2 days ago 0 replies      
On a related and more positive note: Microsoft also released a preview of changes they're making to the actual copy/paste process. And it's kind of cool.


AllenKids 3 days ago 0 replies      
I generally like ribbon in Office and think MSFT has some great ideas here, like moving the info pan to better fit the wide screen reality.

But at this stage it looks so very very bad, and remind me the open office mouse with 30 buttons.

siromega 3 days ago 5 replies      
The simple answer is that MS had to add all those buttons in the ribbon to make the UI more touch friendly. You cant right click on a tablet with your finger.
jasongullickson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Usability of this (and anything, really) would improve dramatically if in each system there were one correct way (based on selection by scientific usability testing) to initiate each task.

The "helpfulness" of providing "n" ways of doing the same thing is an illusion and only undermines the ability for users to establish a shared context which can be used to make user actions more automatic for the experienced and easier to teach to the inexperienced.

voxmatt 3 days ago 0 replies      
This post didn't even need words, just that progression of screenshots. Windows 7 feels almost like a nice breeze and them, wham, that Windows 8 monstrosity. Functional, data-driven arguments will never convince me that a user's first reaction to that window will be anything other than confusion.
abhimishra 3 days ago 0 replies      
This post seems to miss the point - obviously some of the commands that were less-visible or non-existent earlier would not show up on the telemetry data, but can still be important to surface in a redesign of the UI.

The newly-added buttons on the ribbon are there to address the most-requested features (by actual customers) as well as some of the missing features users most-often go to third-party plug-ins for, per the actual blog post from the Windows 8 Engineering Blog.

As for whether the UI is stream-lined or not - while simplification has its place, it is not always a good thing. The OSX Finder is surprisingly devoid of things even basic users can find useful - in many cases it isn't easy to find the appropriate menu option or shortcut to perform these actions - personally I think it goes too far by way of simplification.

It is good to make computers easy-to-understand - but by attempting to remove the learning curve COMPLETELY you can also damage the productivity a computer can provide. The sweetspot, of course, is somewhere in the middle.

runjake 2 days ago 0 replies      
Seems like I've been defending Windows Phone on here so much lately, maybe it's time to balance it out.

I think this is hideous crap UI design. Fortunately, it can be shut off (at least in the leaked betas).

I'm not aware of anything good that's come out of Microsoft and usability tests. Apple didn't seem to use them and it turned out well for them.

Microsoft, go with the Windows Phone paradigm, full force. It is your (successful) future.

jdp23 3 days ago 1 reply      
I just showed this to a Mac user who responded "Streamlined! Intuitive! Look at all that stuff, why would I use that?"
pinaceae 2 days ago 0 replies      
The ribbon discussion reminds a lot of the iPad one - all the IT "geniuses" simply don't get it.

Hate the ribbon. Hate the iPad.

But for the majority of users, those are massive improvements in UI.

Right-Click, Double-Click, ... arcane commands only people like and love that are good at memorizing actions. And if those memorized actions are gone, the rage begins. You need to be anal to love the old Office UI or the command line. Do you remember the hate the old Office UI got in the past from the very people who now praise it?

Personally, I think the ribbon UI was the ballsiest move that MS did in a decade. It showed real guts, real vision. In Office 2010, they improved upon it, making Excel, Powerpoint and Word actually more usable. Exposing new functions and teaching me about them, from within the UI.

BonsaiDen 2 days ago 0 replies      
Dunno... but I get the feeling that everyone thinks that computers should be easier, and nobody should have to learn anything in order to use the. Uh, what?

We're living in a world where digital technology more and more becomes the dominant driving force of our society. We already lost the ability to change hardware to a - relatively small - group of people (yes, considering the amount of people using the stuff, the group is tiny).

So what now? Make sure there's only an elitist circle of high paid, influential "technology gods" left? While I definitely consider my self as a geek, I would not like such a society at all. It can be the target of humanity that ordinary people get even "dumber" than they're now.

Sorry, but I think people should strife for new knowledge, they should keep their spirit of discovery. By simplyfing the whole world around them, at least in my eyes, it becomes harder and harder for kids to figure out all these things on their own. And once all the knowledge is locked away from them, the elitist will choose who gets insight into the then "magical" workings of the world.

Yeah, maybe my picture of the future has a little bit of a dark taint, but well that's what you get when even your colleagues, which are the same age as yourself, are light years behind in terms of thirst for knowledge.

contextfree 3 days ago 0 replies      
Between this and the last post about the copy dialogs with their graphs etc., I wonder if they are making a conscious decision to focus the traditional desktop UI more on "power use cases" (not necessarily "power users"). It's telling that the PM prominently talks up Copy as Path and batch file scripting in the video. It makes a certain amount of sense - for casual use there's the relatively minimalist, design-y immersive UI, so the people working on the desktop UI feel free to focus on the remaining use cases and move in the opposite direction.
systems 3 days ago 0 replies      
Well, in general I agree with the comments saying that the review missed the point about reworking the Tool/Menu bar so that people start to use it more

I still think, it's too crowded, and will benefit from a mode selection (i.e. Advanced with all these button, Basic with only the most used ones and Custom )

zobzu 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm probably the only one to think that it's good that MS keeps buttons that are less used.
Cause you see less used does not mean NOT used.
Sure cut&paste is going to be like 80% of the use, but when you make a new dir you're going to have that working and in front of you.

Here's the key sentence,take note:

It's not how OFTEN you use it that matters most but how USEFUL it is.

Browser makers, please take note when you remove 99% of the UI. Thanks.

Beside I know most "noobs" look for these functions in menus and will love the buttons. Even on OSX many just don't know how to move/copy. They can do it in iPhoto or iMovie, but when it comes to the finder they're lost.

eliben 2 days ago 1 reply      
Although I'm (very very) far from being a MS fan-boy, I find an inherent flaw in such reviews written by programmers/hackers/power users. What they all miss is the real target audience for Windows - i.e. my Grandpa.
greendot 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have to help "stupid users" in both the PC and the Mac world. There are "stupid users" everywhere and not more on one side or the other. I look forward to this new Windows Explorer. You would be amazed at the things regular people just do not know. MS is putting that all up front, in their face. They see it, they know where and what the commands are. It matches what their version of Office looks like. They will probably be able to figure it out instead of calling me to go show them how to do something, that as a nerd, deem "easy".

Plus, I agree with the other users. Our viewpoint is skewed. We are top tier users. We're not the ones that need disclaimers on the side of our hair-dryer that says, "Do not user while bathing."

mmuro 3 days ago 1 reply      
_They use this to show that “the commands that make up 84% of what users do in Explorer are now in one tab”. But the more important thing is that the remaining 50% of the bar is taken up by buttons that nobody will ever use, ever, even according to Microsoft's own research._

This hits the nail on the head when discussing the UI decisions made. If Microsoft had included the top 10 commands in an organized manner, plus a few more from their data, it'd probably be fine.

marze 3 days ago 0 replies      
They entered that realm long ago.
mariusmg 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you're not using keyboard shortcuts for file operations, you're doing it very wrong. Hide the ribon UI and problem solved.
code_duck 3 days ago 0 replies      
There's really no question... the screenshot he has provided is heinous. Talk about being out of ideas 20 years ago...
mkramlich 2 days ago 0 replies      
I felt they entered that realm a while back. One of the reasons I switched to Mac.
leeoniya 3 days ago 0 replies      
explorer is progressively getting bloated and nasty; there's no 'power user' version and now way to bring back useful features which have existed before.

i've been using Classic Shell to keep my sanity on W7 and the 'Super Bar' is big step back in productivity for me.

my search for seamless Explorer replacements continues...

blackrabbit 2 days ago 0 replies      
The concept might be to increase their usage...
pixcavator 3 days ago 1 reply      
BTW, is "officially" the new "literally"?
lhnn 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, let's get rid of advanced features, because a lot of people don't use them.
hackermom 2 days ago 0 replies      
Someone should open a can of Apple HID on their asses.
agilemanic 2 days ago 0 replies      
haha this made me laugh. would like to hear an official statement from the MS Design department
planetjoe 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm getting off-point here, but did anyone else get annoyed that the MS blog post used bar charts when they should use pie charts to compare relative percentages?
zachallia 3 days ago 0 replies      
They missed april fools day by a few months
jhawk28 2 days ago 0 replies      
Most people I work with detest the ribbon interface.
kirillzubovsky 3 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe this is an ingenius plan by Microsoft employees to revamp the company from inside out (or outside in?). But seriously, the kool-aid drinking types are probably really flustered by your post, as they think the ginormous waste of screen space is the best thing ever invented. sad
VaedaStrike 3 days ago 0 replies      
Oh the myopic mind has no bound. Well...except where it has to have bounds to be considered myopic...

Do you expect an UI designed for someone that's never heard of HN and who is unaware that you can copy and paste pieces of text SHOULD seem attractive to a technohipster blogger?

So many times HN seems like the next incarnation of the Library of Alexandria and then posts like this make it seem like a bunch of silly stupid cyber bullies stuck in myspace and high school WHILE guffawing at the teacher's assignment for the day.

Microsoft is often times silly, stupid, evil, whacked out. But don't go projecting myopic mamby-pamby "critique" like you knew something.

Love them or hate them or think they're falling off of the face of the earth Microsoft gets enough right to still pull in the pennies, a tad bit more than I think this poor chap manages with his blog.

Steve Jobs Resigns as Apple CEO (Official Letter) wsj.com
632 points by hunterowens  8 days ago   65 comments top 22
Timothee 8 days ago 3 replies      
"I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."

This makes it sound like it does have to do with his health unfortunately, and not that he just feels that it's the right time to do it. (like Bill Gates did with Microsoft)

On another note, even though in reality it's not just for the Board but, as put in the letter, for "the Apple community", it feels odd to imagine that he would need to write a formal letter of resignation.

dmerfield 8 days ago 2 replies      
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently.
leeskye 8 days ago 0 replies      
"Beyond the products, beyond the profits, Jobs' greater gift was to inspire untold numbers of current & future entrepreneurs to be the next Steve Jobs" - Hunter Walk
ffffruit 7 days ago 0 replies      
A true pioneer of the computing industry - farewell.

His Standford graduation talk, always inspiring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA

OpenAmazing 8 days ago 2 replies      
$76 billion dollars in the bank.

If Apple had announced they were going to spend it all to make Steve well again, would would have protested?

Somewhere in here is a lesson on the price of immortality.

eekfuh 8 days ago 1 reply      
The way he worded his reasoning, makes it sounds like a health issue. I honestly hope that this is not the case.
Zakuzaa 8 days ago 0 replies      
Never thought I could be so saddened by a Big Corp. CEO's resignation.
ac-slater 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'm grateful that Steve managed to sell America on tablets and smart phones after so many failed attempts by others.

But as someone who likes to take things apart and tinker, I've haven't been a big fan of Apple in recent years.

mkramlich 7 days ago 1 reply      
One silver lining to this: he's going out on top.
click170 8 days ago 4 replies      
I'll be interested to see if 10 years from now Apple has stayed true in hardware quality or if they sink to EMachines-like quality levels.
novodam 8 days ago 0 replies      
who knew that he would take that LDAP bug so seriously?
mtgentry 8 days ago 4 replies      
Fuck all those WSJ assholes with their "SELL SELL SELL" comments.
sebkomianos 8 days ago 0 replies      
I really, and I mean REALLY, hope that his biography coming out on November 21 this year and his resignation today have nothing to do with his health.

In any way, thank you very much Steve, I guess you can leave your company quite happy and satisfied. :)

bobstobener 8 days ago 0 replies      
The Walt Disney of technology. I will miss him. Get well Steve.
alexmr 8 days ago 2 replies      
The true test of Steve's legacy will be whether Apple can continue in the image he molded for it well beyond his departure. Great CEO's are felt for a long time after they leave.
technostx 8 days ago 0 replies      
Steve Jobs is leaving at a good time. Apple is the best company in the world. I hope he has his health and can enjoy being with his family and taking a backseat role with Apple.

Enjoy the ride Steve. Thanks for being such an inspiration.

rooshdi 7 days ago 0 replies      
I certainly hope this doesn't mean Steve's health is declining, but rather that he and Apple feel the time is right to make a smooth transition towards assigning Tim Cook as the new CEO. It definitely feels like Steve is sincere in his belief that now is the right time for him to step down. I just hope he still has the capacity to creatively inspire Apple in his new role as Chairman as much as he always has.
ck2 7 days ago 0 replies      
You know how the news people run the wonderful stories about people's lives AFTER they are gone? Well I sure wish they'd do it while they are still around.

As much as I am not an Apple (or Jobs) fan, I still recognize great achievement when I see it.

Best wishes to him and his family.

krishna2 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think the biggest thing is that everyone in Apple has a question they can ask themselves, "What would Steve Jobs do?". And if they can honestly answer the question and take decisions based on that, Apple with its lead and its teams and its products will stay ahead for a while to come.
[cross posted from another thread]
tylerneylon 8 days ago 1 reply      
Whatever happens next, this is the end of a great era for Apple.
dm8 8 days ago 1 reply      
If he looks back on his company career, he will definitely feel satisfied. 4 products (mac, iPhone, iPod, iPad) that not only changed the world but also became multi-billion dollar businesses. Not to mention countless other products (iTunes, App Store, Safari, Final Cut Pro, Apple ][ etc. :)
franze 7 days ago 0 replies      
Steve really has a deep-seated need to one-up HP.
Icon Ambulance google.com
608 points by sgk284  7 days ago   86 comments top 13
nhashem 7 days ago  replies      
Because it's Steve Jobs, this is a great anecdote. I'm sure we'll hear dozens of them in the next couple days and weeks, all examples of Jobs' attention to detail and design resulting in superior products and software.

Yet imagine your boss calling you on a Sunday and saying, "So I was reviewing the DBA's data model for the new product, and I really don't like how he's called the columns with customers identifiers 'cust_id' instead of 'customer_id.' We use 'customer_id' in all our other tables. It's just wrong and and I'm going to have him fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?" And then you get an e-mail called 'Customer Column Naming Convention Ambulance' five minutes later.

I mean... if you got a call like this from anyone else, wouldn't it be absolutely absurd? How did Jobs manage to put his own mark on design decisions like this without totally micro-managing or hit-and-run-managing everything?

aneth 7 days ago 0 replies      
Assuming the anecdote is accurate, my guess is this was Steve's subtle way of nudging Vic to be more attentive to details. I don't think Steve would call anyone at anytime making a fuss over such a small thing - he would never get any work done.

Call someone who's work is starting to slip once on a Sunday to complain about some minutiae, and you are letting them know that you are watching - even if you aren't really watching all the time. I think this is a leadership technique, not the micro-management it appears to be.

This also is a way of Steve asserting control and dominance. Making someone scurry over a mis-tinted letter sets the tenor of the relationship.

I think it's important not to take the wrong lessons from all these anecdotes. Jobs knows how to get good work out of people by causing them to demand perfection of themselves and to fear producing imperfect products. No CEO has time to exact perfection end to end - their job is to set standards, expectation, and culture. Sometimes ridiculous demonstrations of micro-management are just what someone needs.

ary 7 days ago 1 reply      
Sudden love for Gundotra's favorite authoritarian? Sounds more like a sigh of relief.

Vic Gundotra at Google I/O 2010: "if Google did not act we faced a Draconian future, a future where one man, one company, one device, one carrier would be our only choice"

huhtenberg 7 days ago 2 replies      
> I'm sorry I didn't answer your call earlier. I was in religious services...

Is that what he literally said? "In religious services"? I find it really hard to believe. It is more fitting of a blog post that has been adopted to the format of "The Jobs Tales". Gender-neutral, religion-agnostic, PG-13.

comice 7 days ago 3 replies      
I think most rational people would have said something like: "Steve, I agree that is an important detail but it does not warrant a phone call to me on Sunday morning. Send me an email. We'll speak tomorrow."

The question is, why didn't people say things like that to Steve Jobs?

Or do only the ones that prostrated themselves to him ever speak up? (or get the attention when they do?)

I want some stories of people telling Jobs to piss off.

random42 7 days ago 1 reply      
Why did it sound like a eulogy to me? :(
A-K 7 days ago 2 replies      
That penultimate paragraph is certainly a change in tune from Vic's I/O keynote last year... ;)
siglesias 7 days ago 0 replies      
Which icon is he referring to?

Update, via @arnoldkim: Jan 2008, Jobs did MWSF Keynote and introduced Webclips with home screen icons. twitpic.com/6aye3l

mariusmg 7 days ago 1 reply      
I would have been impressed if Jobs would have fix it himself...
giancarlofrison 7 days ago 1 reply      
where is the story?? someone that call on sunday for the icon deserve so much admiration? I don't believe it...
joshu 7 days ago 4 replies      
This doesn't ring true to me.
veidr 7 days ago 0 replies      
Steve Jobs is the exception that proves the rule, "Don't micromanage".
Kavan 7 days ago 1 reply      
I have just blogged about this article at FounderandFriends.com.

Here is the text from it.

Steve Jobs, is someone I admire hugely. Yes, he has numerous personality floors but his obsession to follow his heart in all things in his life is extremely admirable. Watching his Stanford Commencement speech too many times in a job I didn't enjoy led me to quit as a Derivatives Trader and sent me on my current path, back to the startup world I left many years ago. He has literally changed my life.

Steve's obsession has led him to become a product perfectionist. And is why Apple is now the second most valuable company in the world. Almost every product that comes from Apple is spectacularly awesome. And Vic's post illustrates the depths of Steve's obsession. I have heard similar stories about Jack Dorsey at Square, tweaking spacing on receipts because he felt they were not beautiful enough.

In Vic's post the comments are full of ‘the devil is in the details' quotes of admiration for Jobs' obsession. But the question for us is, ‘Should we as startup entrepreneurs have the same obsession with the details of our products?'.

My answer is that, unfortunately, we can't. And I really mean it when I say unfortunately. I am a perfectionist myself in a lot of ways. When I do something I pour my heart and soul into it. I want it to be the best I can make it. I become obsessed and it is constantly in my mind. I go to bed and wakeup thinking about it. My girlfriend recently pointed out that 70% of our conversation is about SayMama. All the SayMama animations, transitions and buttons movements, design, logo and user flows have all been laboriously thought through and refined. The amount of energy myself and the team have spent on details has been immense.

The problem is that we misplaced our passion. We are currently pivoting the business, or rather accelerating it to where we wanted it to be in a year or so from now. This means that we will be putting most of our energy into a new product. All the details we crafted in saymama.com don't matter.

Obsession is not the problem, the problem is where we focus the obsession. For us startups, the obsession should be placed in finding product/market fit and gaining traction. And in finding our product champions who will help spread the word. A higher level of abstraction of obsession. Not the details but the broader product.

Obsession with the details of a logo are only gifted to those who have viable product that serves a users need. Those like Steve and Jack who already have a viable business. Personally I can't wait for this day, but until then all my energy will go into defining where SayMama and our subsequent product fit into the world of real time video communications.

We are still guided by the same compass, ‘to take real world human interaction and replicate it online'. But the obsession is not on the product details. It is on creating something that solves users' problems in a way that no one else does.

The Patent Pledge paulgraham.com
577 points by anateus  1 day ago   187 comments top 77
tc 1 day ago  replies      
It's not immediately clear to me whether this solves any part of the current problem. But on reflection, I believe I understand the motivation here.

Big companies that use patents as a revenue stream (MSFT, IBM, etc.) typically bide their time and bring a patent lawsuit once a new company is established and there is blood to drain. It's the threat of such a lawsuit in the future that can negatively impact investment in a startup, as the right collection of patents could conceivably capture much of the economic surplus of a new venture. Alternatively, a big company might use the threat of a patent lawsuit, now or in the future, to push a young company to agree to an early acquisition.

The pledge doesn't seem to have much impact on these scenarios, even if a big company were to follow it rigorously.

Most of us, I believe, would prefer to see companies make a stronger commitment: "No first use of software patents" [period]. Google hasn't made this pledge, but to the best of my knowledge, they've acted in this way so far. It does seem in line with "don't be evil."

That said, I think I see what PG is going for here. He wants companies to make a pledge that, at a minimum, allows a new product or service to be tested on the market. That way, if it gathers traction, it will attract investment despite the threat of patents, and the new company will be able to mount a reasonable defense.

Perhaps more importantly, though, by allowing the product to succeed first, even in a modest way, it makes the offensive use of patents worse PR for the big company. Killing a successful product with patents is no longer an abstract issue. It takes away from customers and the market something very real.

beagle3 1 day ago 4 replies      
I disagree that this will help, because the established companies the pledge would apply to are a secondary problem and mostly seem to fight each other (has Microsoft asserted patents against a startup? has IBM? has AT&T? when they asserted patents it was against multi-million dollar businesses!). The primary problem is patent trolls (see e.g. lodsys / intellectual ventures) for whom this pledge could be considered self-harm.

I will quote myself from [ http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2855835 ] here for another solution, one that actually can _easily_ go through government (except for the intense lobbying against it by whoever enjoys the current patent regime); you can read there for some discussion if it is interesting. Quoth myself (with minor editing):

Intellectual "Property Tax". Have everyone declare the value of their intellectual "property" (patents, copyrights, trademarks) - each and every item, for that year, on their tax return, and have them pay 1% of the value as "IP tax", per year.

Clarification: you can set a different value every year. The value may drop to zero because a competitor's patent solves the problem better; or it may go up because it becomes essential to something that becomes commonplace.

That amount is what one pays for a compulsory license or if successfully sued, and up to 3 times that for willful infringement, per year -- and no more. (But of course, a patent owner can always negotiate a lower payment, as is done with music recordings that have compulsory license agreements)

All of a sudden, everyone has an incentive to state a reasonable value for their patent. Copyright catalogs that are not being published (old music recordings, old books, old movies) would be assigned 0 value by copyright holder, to avoid tax - which means anyone can freely make a copy. If they believe -- at the end of the year -- that someone is making a profit at their expense, they can set the value as high as they want at the end of that year, pay the tax, and sue the profiteer.

Simple, elegant, and coffer filling.

edit: put missing link

edit: added clarification about setting value each year anew.

ansy 1 day ago 3 replies      
PG, was this pledge created in response to litigation you have experienced with YC companies?

There doesn't seem to be much evidence companies with fewer than 25 employees are getting sued unless there's something left unspoken here.

I think it would be more constructive to begin the discussion of what patent reform should resemble so that companies and individuals can show support for it. Some kind of software patent working group that can put forward a vision that everyone can get behind. If enough people and companies come to support a way of thinking then it will slowly affect current behavior and ultimately shape the legal framework of the future.

Even if it was a problem that companies smaller than 25 were being sued for patent infringement, I'm not sure the legal litmus test should be how many employees are at the company.

dctoedt 1 day ago 1 reply      
AlexBlox asks in an earlier comment: "does publicly stating this pledge bust any opportunity to double back (i.e. it is more legally binding than just a pledge?)"

A court might well hold a company to such a pledge, on a theory of "equitable estoppel." This type of defense to an infringement charge is always highly fact-specific; here's an example of a case in which the defense succeeded:

A patent owner accused a manufacturer of eyeglass frames---which it had previously sued for infringement---of infringing other patents. After back-and-forth correspondence---in which the manufacturer denied infringement---the patent owner went silent for three years. In the meantime, the eyeglass manufacturer expanded its marketing efforts for the products in question.

The trial court held that the manufacturer was not liable for infringement, on grounds that the patent owner's actions, in view of all the circumstances, had misled the manufacturer into thinking it would not be sued. The appeals court found no error in this holding [1]; it explained that:

"In the context of patent infringement, the three elements of equitable estoppel that must be established are:

(1) the patentee, through misleading conduct, led the alleged infringer to reasonably believe that the patentee did not intend to enforce its patent against the infringer;

(2) the alleged infringer relied on that conduct; and

(3) due to its reliance, the alleged infringer would be materially prejudiced if the patentee were permitted to proceed with its charge of infringement."

[1] Aspex Eyewear, Inc. v. Clariti Eyewear, Inc., 605 F. 3d 1305 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (affirming summary judgment in favor of accused infringer), http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/...

acangiano 1 day ago 1 reply      
> Please join them!

Paul, there is a major oversight here. The site http://thepatentpledge.org/ doesn't even have a contact form. Also, you may want to make the links nofollow.

nailer 1 day ago 1 reply      
Patent trolling big companies is just as unethical as trolling small ones.

PG: Red Hat, a multibillion dollar business, already has a working patent pledge - they won't use patents except defensively against people who attack them first. Copy that and use it.

geebee 1 day ago 0 replies      
One line from this essay has me a little worried...

"A clumsy parasite may occasionally kill the host, but that's not its goal"

This came up in a previous discussion on HN where I made essentially the same point. As someone pointed out in response, a parasite can get away with killing off the host as long as there's somewhere else to go next. In fact, a parasite could wipe out an entire species as long as it can make the jump to something more resilient.

it was just a short aside, but here's a link the the thread...


ScottBurson 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here's another proposal that doesn't rest on social pressure, the effectiveness of which I fear Paul overestimates.

Start a non-profit coalition with the following rules:

(1) All patent disputes between members will be resolved by binding arbitration. The arbiters are a panel of domain experts (not lawyers!). There is no presumption that an issued patent is valid.

(2) If a member of the coalition is sued by a non-member, the other members of the coalition make their entire portfolios available for a defensive countersuit. When a member's patent is used to defend another member, the former is compensated by the latter on terms set by arbitration.

(3) There is no restriction on using one's own patents to sue non-members.

It would also be stated policy, at least in the areas of software and business model patents, that the arbiters would be directed to apply a very high standard of obviousness, so that most issued patents would be of little use in an arbitrated dispute.

Could such a thing work? No voluntary system can address the patent troll problem, as trolls have nothing to gain by joining it. But for practicing entities, it seems to me that membership in such a coalition could be beneficial, by reducing the likely number and expense of patent disputes.

bpm140 1 day ago 5 replies      
PG suggests that this won't stop the trolls but it might deter more traditional companies.

Does anyone have stats on who is doing the most damage to early companies? Given the press, it's easy to think that trolls are the biggest offenders by an order of magnitude. Is there data that suggests otherwise?

brianlash 1 day ago 1 reply      
Because it's one line and because its implications are that important:

For quantities you can count (windows, money, people...), the word is "fewer." For quantities you can't, the word is "less"

The pledge should read: No first use of software patents against companies with fewer than 25 people.

guelo 1 day ago 3 replies      
My personal pledge is that as a programmer I refuse to work for any company that goes on the attack with software patents, this obviously includes Apple and Microsoft. I also refuse to participate if asked by my company to help create a patent, I am willing to be fired over this.

Since good programmers are a scarce resource if enough of us took this pledge it could really start having an effect.

gphil 1 day ago 1 reply      
The content of the pledge seems to indicate that there are a lot of (or at least some) cases where large companies are suing very small companies (< 25 people) over patent infringement. Is this the case? I've only heard about the patent litigation between the tech giants, and not anything about small firms getting sued by larger ones. Are there any recent/high profile examples of this that I missed? Or is it just something that goes unreported?
maximilianburke 1 day ago 1 reply      
So if a company grows beyond it's sub-25 people are they expected to then license any technology they're infringing on? Could this lead to an even bigger penalty if the company is made aware that they are infringing when they are small and doesn't act on it when they grow, thus willfully infringing?
dotBen 1 day ago 2 replies      
I'd like to see a different Patent Pledge.

One where software engineers pledge not to participate in formal patent creation. Because ultimately, all of the software patents out there were 'authored' by a software engineer. You have to have the person that actually invented the new implementation on the document.

Sure, your employment contract says that any IP you create on your employer's dime is owned by your employer. And so, sure, they could go out and pursue a patent for some new implementation that you invent. But you can stand up and say no, that you won't participate in the 'patentization' of your work (ie the formal, legal work to obtain the patent).

And without your involvement, it would likely fail. It certainly makes a statement internally and externally, at least.

How does this work? Well, you can make that commitment - in writing and verbally - when you join a company. Or you could simply state as much, formerly, in an email to your boss and superiors tonight when you get home.

With the software engineering talent market what it is anyone but a dope-shit code monkey has the leverage to dictate terms.

ayanb 1 day ago 2 replies      
From the http://thepatentpledge.org/ website -


These companies have agreed to be the first to publicly renounce aggressive use of software patents on small companies. Please join them!

A Thinking Ape,


I think the whole YC gang is going to promote this aggressively, which means a strong network effect. Remains to been seen what happens outside this network.

danmaz74 1 day ago 0 replies      
I appreciate the good intention of this proposal, but it doesn't really make so much sense. Tech startups are small businesses, but their goal is to grow. With that pledge you could only grow up to 24 employees, and what then? You're ready to be slaughtered?

This problem needs to be fixed at its root, with a different law.

SoftwarePatent 1 day ago 3 replies      
This pledge boils down to "shine light on bad actors", but I doubt it will change any behavior. Only rent-seekers [1] want software patents to exist, and you can't decrease their reputation any more, it's already 0.

The S. Ct. already had their big chance in Bilski to dial back software patentability, and they blew it. Our only hope is Congress. (/me shudders hopelessly)

And to anyone suggesting we abolish patents completely: they increase societal utility in many sectors, most notably pharmaceuticals.

[1] lawyers and trolls.

EGreg 22 hours ago 0 replies      
The purpose of patents, as I understand it, is to propose a compromise in order to promote innovation: the company which publicly discloses its non-obvious innovations through a patent is granted a MONOPOLY RIGHT by the government, and enforced by the courts, to prevent anyone else from implementing this invention without paying licenses. (Depending on the country, they may be forced to offer licensing, or not.)

In the software industry, patents are unnecessary. Because whatever is patented, even if it is not obvious WHEN patented, it (or a variant of it that falls under the patent) nevertheless becomes OBVIOUS to lots of people a mere 3-4 years later. Therefore, we can easily explain how a 20-year monopoly has wound up HURTING the industry rather than helping it. Companies implement an invention WITHOUT rummaging through new patents that come out every year. It is obvious that most of the stuff implemented in the software industry was arrived at in a different way. Non-practicing entities can sue those who actually implemented the invention 3-4 years later. Meanwhile, those who implemented it, get hit with a suit.

Therefore, patents have now become a tax on innovation.

I repeat: the inventions were not obvious AT THE TIME THEY WERE PATENTED. And, those who ultimately implemented them DID NOT READ THE PATENTS in order to get the idea for the invention. Therefore the system is not serving its purpose.

Patents are an exchange between the inventor and the public. The inventor discloses how an invention works, and in return gets a monopoly for 20 years so that no one else can implement it.

In open source, the IMPLEMENTOR not only discloses a theoretical thing but actually builds it AND releases all the inner workings of it, AND others can build on top of it. So we get the upside with no monopoly. Why do we need the latter, then, if so much innovation happens without it?

Adaptive 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a "spirit of the law" with no "law".

PG's solution, while elegant and functional for individuals, will fail for corporations.

We have a spirit-of-the-law in America with regards to being a citizen: you pay taxes and receive benefits of living here. Corporate persons are, one would imagine, also party to this spirit of the law, yet they not only ignore the spirit, they find ways around the tax laws on a regular basis.

Even if companies were forced to comply with this by law, they'd just find away around it. Sub-25 person shell companies making up large corporations. Who knows.

The fundamental problem is the same as with the rest of corporate personhood: we have given corporations the rights of individuals but they lack the implicit ethics and social peer pressures which result in moral behavior.

corbet 1 day ago 0 replies      
Companies with less than 25 people are relatively unlikely to have sufficiently deep pockets to attract patent attacks in the first place. And trolls, of course, won't care about the pledge. Nice idea, but doesn't seem that useful to me.
samgro 1 day ago 3 replies      
I have a PG question for PG: what problem does this solve?

I see 2 problems currently.

1. Microsoft suing Android makers, and other similar examples, where large companies burn billions of dollars of our economy over something pointless.

2. Patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures and their shell companies suing startups.

How does this solve either of these problems? Who really needs this?

nathanb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Potential problem: I suspect many patent troll companies are small (<25 people), and the patent pledge could potentially prevent companies from taking preemptive action against these trolls. I don't think this is a dealbreaker, but it's a probably unintended consequence which should be drawn out.
AlexBlom 1 day ago 0 replies      
I like the idea of pledging, though there may be some variance (what if a startup violates a startup, margin is high, the technical innovation was real, etc?) That being said, there is a lot to be said in simplicity.

I'm no lawyer - I have to ask the logical question - does publicly stating this pledge bust any opportunity to double back (i.e. it is more legally binding than just a pledge?)

ianlevesque 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is ultimately not a helpful avenue to pursue. Asking companies to please not abuse a favorite group of companies (in this case startups) is not a solution to this problem. It's very similar in my opinion to the patent exceptions being carved out in congress right now for the finance industry (their favorite group of companies). We need to be striving to help everyone with patent reform, not just our favorite types of companies.
EGreg 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I agree with pg, although I am concerned this might take away from the urge to reform software patents the real way:

I would propose to eliminate software patents, or limit their time frame to 2 years. The industry moves way too fast and 17 years is way too long. I know pg wrote that "if you are against software patents, you are against patents", but consider this: the 17 years are completely out of proportion to how quickly the software industry moves. And the pace at which they are submitted is simply too great for the patent office to do anything appropriate in most cases. When we apply the patent trade-off to it, you get a negative result, not a positive one.

The patent trade-off is essentially that the company discloses their "secret" invention to the public, in exchange for a 17 year MONOPOLY (enforced by the government) on so much as implementing this invention in any context.

In software, innovations such as "in-app purchases" or "one-click buying" may not be obvious in 1997, but a couple years later they become "incremental improvements" that are pretty obvious to everyone. In fact, OPENNESS (open source, especially on the web with HTML, CSS and Javascript) has been the biggest driver of innovation, and not patents. Clearly, there are other motivations besides having a monopoly, and those motivations don't need the patent system at all. In contrast, they are being stifled by the patent system.

No one read the lodsys patent in order to "invent" in-app purchases. They were just bloody obvious to implement when the time came. Almost any experienced practitioner in the art would have said it was obvious when they were introduced. Then Lodsys came out of the shadows and demanded money.

My point is that the very purpose of patents is being undermined. It is supposed to promote innovation, by letting companies feel safe disclosing their "trade secrets" and "secret inventions". In reality, though, these inventions are extremely obvious to everyone when they are introduced a couple years later, and all software patents accomplish is the downside of the compromise: namely, a patent troll (a company that never implements anything, but just files patents) actually comes out and leeches money from those who DO implement the innovation.

That makes innovation more expensive, and patents become like a tax on those who actually IMPLEMENT ideas -- which we all know is much more important than merely HAVING them. For up to 17 years anyone implementing this will have to pay, and is the industry better off? Not at all. It moves so fast, that in a couple years, what was patented by a troll becomes the next obvious step. Software patents for 17 years are not benefiting society.

Estragon 1 day ago 1 reply      
I suppose it would be a good start, but the self-interest in this proposal stinks a bit. What's the distribution of employee numbers in companies in which Y Combinator has a stake?
mas644 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Not a bad idea...like Paul said, it's a start. Here's a comment that I read from some user on Slashdot regarding the Apple vs Samsung/Motorola patent dispute that summarizes my feelings:

"Look, you pack of fucking navel-gazing fucktards. Put down the fucking guns, agree to pool your resources to buy sufficient hookers and Caribbean vacations for Congresscritters to have the existing patent system tossed out the door. We get it that you all sort of started out accruing vast numbers of patents, some good, some bad, some absolutely fucking moronic, in no small part to fend off attacks from each other and from evil little patent trolls, but look at how it's complicating your lives. You couldn't roll out a steaming turd without someone somewhere trying to claim you infringed on a patent they own.

Apple, you're now one of the biggest companies around. If anyone can afford the required number of prostitutes, golf club memberships, or whatever it is those corrupted evil bastards in Congress have an appetite for. Google, come on, you could help out here, same with Samsung. Then you can, you know, compete on the quality of your products, rather than trying to stuff newspaper down each others throats in what can only be described as the bonfire of the idiots."

greengarstudios 1 day ago 0 replies      
pg is concerned with startups, and I am too. But I think a lot of the rest of the world is concerned about what's going on between, say, Apple and HTC.
bourdine 10 hours ago 0 replies      
PG, you're absolutely right - IP is a real problem, that so far no one has decided,
but I think Moon have also another one side -
limits to 25 will run to huge number of small startups that can not be grow more then 25 peoples and
this is can stops investment from venture capitalists.
I think, we dont need draw a line between huge and small startups. We just need another patent system - transparent
and work well as we need. At first, we need to know, was gived a patent on our inventions or not - by few clicks.
At second - we need to know, what kind of invention and claims for it was pended but still have not sugessted.
At third, we need to see all climes of concurents patents - because we are allways can invent another one claims, and
build on them ower new products, that we can protect.
I think we can solve this problem - as technicians, we are much easier to prepare a bill
and after appeal to members of Congress or the legislature with a request to meet our demands.

We need to change the whole system. Obtaining a patent should be a simple thing as buying a domain name
or product in the online store. Now, placing an order, we practically give it to the blind -
we do not know if already issued a patent for the same invention or is it the same invention is filed by someone.
We do not know this and therefore has a great chance that in six months we will
letter of refusal and then we just lose time. This is I'm think about. And, IP and Patents is a strongly related to my startup,
I'm will apply to YC W12.

pilom 1 day ago 0 replies      
"when established companies with bad products use patents to suppress small competitors with good products. This is the type of abuse we may be able to decrease"

This is not abuse. This is the purpose of a patent. It gives you the ability to be as shitty as you want and still be the only gig in town. Society says "wow you're terrible, but thanks for letting us all know how you did it!"

dodo53 16 hours ago 0 replies      
What about as a further peer-pressure type 'good citizenship' patent thing - a voluntary pay $x per patent in your portfolio to a non-profit which uses money to search existing patent-base and seek to preemptively invalidate invalid/frivolous patents. You could have a little badge on your website or some such.
wingo 1 day ago 0 replies      
The thing is, does software innovation happen in companies? Yes, but also no: universities and free software also play a role.

Patents are largely a problem of companies buying government. But what about the people?

Kilimanjaro 22 hours ago 0 replies      
There are millions of programmers in the world and most of us don't like patents. That should be enough to prohibit them by consensus. If we don't raise our voices in our own field, nobody else will do it for us.

I applaud that move.

bengebre 1 day ago 0 replies      
Having just listened to the "When Patents Attack!" podcast today (http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/07/26/138576167/when-pat...), I question how this addresses what I saw as the fundamental challenge with patent trolls -- shell corporations. These companies are spawned as needed to sue the alleged patent infringers. Since the shell companies are just a bunch of lawyers and the ownership of a patent, there's little in the way of assets to counter sue for (i.e. there's not much for the suing entity to lose). I don't think these guys will be swayed by a moral or ethical argument either. And since these shell companies don't employ coders, well, I don't expect it will impact who coders decide to work for.
collint 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think you could come up with some sort of patent truce, you use a search engine that finds overlapping patents. The truce comes with a constitution/trust that declares some metrics for that search engine. Any patents that go over that metric are not to be used for litigation by members of the truce.

You can require members of the trust to invest in the trust at level relative to market cap. Breaking the trust results in loss of the assets/cash invested. The trust can also fund a defense pool/lobbying budget to protect the interests of the trust. Namely that members outside of the trust cannot successfully litigate on patents the trust hase agreed are frivolous.

edit: obviously transparency, open membership and some high profile members are useful for such a plan.

wharryman 1 day ago 0 replies      
Several have already pointed out that this pledge doesn't address the top biggest issues with the patent system: Non-Practicing Entities (trolls) and 'weaponized' IP litigation.

It would be more interesting if someone with the necessary legal muscle could design an effective and legal "IP shelter" from the U.S. patent system . The structure would be some series of foreign companies/organizations that could claim immunity for internet products as they would be 'foreign' and therefore not infringing. There are obviously many legal and tax issues that make this difficult (PCT, not viable for physical products, etc). However, if it could be designed and then templatized, much like Series funding documents have become, then it would allow any startup, but especially ones that attempt to tackle traditionally hostile industries (MAFIAA), to exist in a 'safe haven' away from the utter nonsense that US intellectual property has become.

Even if it creates some $X burden on startups, I am sure that most startups would be willing to pay this expense if it takes the risk of an Armageddon-like legal suit out of their startup picture. It would also be a forcing function on the US legislature due to loss of prestige and possibly revenue (imagine if the next Google incorporates in Canada and only a subsidiary works in California due to patent concerns).

bfe 1 day ago 0 replies      
This might usefully and reasonably be expanded to cover an individual or a non-profit of any size including universities, as well as a small company, in parallel with the Patent Office's definition of a "small entity" for reduced fees.[1] Companies suing universities for patent infringement for doing research is similarly problematic for innovation.

And, I think the intent would be served equally well by getting rid of the restriction to software patents.

[1] Although the small entity rules define a small company as a maximum of 500 employees, rather than 25.

mhp 1 day ago 0 replies      
Why not just have all companies pledge not to settle frivolous patent suits? The way the trolls make their money is by realizing that its cheaper for these companies to settle than to duke it out in court. The lawyers don't even care if you aren't infringing because it really doesn't matter. The trolls survive because people aren't willing to fight it out against them and they can pick on the weaker and smaller companies. If everyone said at the outset, "I will fight to the death a frivolous patent suit with all of my resources" the trolls would run out of easy targets.
chc 1 day ago 0 replies      
Have any lawyer-types looked at this? IANAL, but I kind of doubt corporate lawyers will allow this even informally. For any target that a big company would want to sue, I'm pretty sure that going through with this pledge would leave the company vulnerable to a laches defense (basically, "You should have sued me before I invested billions in this") once the little startups aren't so little anymore. If I'm talking nonsense, anyone can feel free to correct me. It will be cool if this works.
jessriedel 1 day ago 0 replies      
From what I understand, the key points of software patent reform would be (a) significantly raise the bar of "non-obvious" and (b) shorten software patent lifetimes. The related issues of small companies being at a disadvantage (due to economies of scale with litigation and patent portfolios) seems rather orthogonal.

Since this pledge would only address this issue of secondary importance, which seems a lot less salient to the public, I can't imagine it getting off the ground.

damonpace 1 day ago 0 replies      
The only problem I see with patents is the legal process (legal bullying). It should not take 2 years and $1 million to prove your innovation does not conflict with another patent. That's ridiculous! Ideas & companies are killed by the threat & cost of going through a lawsuit, not by the threat of actually losing a law suit. That's why so many companies would rather pay a fee to use a patent than actually go through a lengthly lawsuit to fight the patent owner. (See Microsoft & many phone manufacturers.) It's called legal bullying, not patent failure. It doesn't just happen in the school yard anymore. PG is simply trying to get the 6th graders to stop picking on the kindergartners, so the kindergartners can play safely in their own playground.
briguy 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am sure there are a thousand reasons that these ideas would not be feasible, however I have been thinking of two other approaches towards software and business process patent reform.
(1) would be to shorten the time that a patent is valid to 1 year . Give the Company who 'invents' (and goes through the patent process) a small head start, however in today's quickly changing world, I think that this shorter time-frame is more proportionally in-line with the R&D investment of these types of processes. Patents that protect the Physical items (that in general are more costly to develop and take a longer time to implement due to the more expensive and time consuming manufacturing processes) the protection would remain longer (engines, chip-sets, medicines, etc)
I think that these shorter term-limits will shake out the patent trolls, yet still allow a patent holder some opportunity to leverage their work and license to companies that could not wait the 1 year, however after that, it is all about execution.
(2)Perhaps another approach (and much less realistic) would be to keep the existing term limits, but have a prix-fixe license fee schedule/menu for all software and business processes. There would be a few Tiers of patents (i.e. Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, etc). You would apply to a patent (and a Class) and the license fees would spelled out for the annual license fees. Perhaps the Amazon 1-Click Patent would be Class-1 (i.e. "pretty darn obvious" and the fees would be $100 per year), etc. Anyone willing to pay the fee could license the patent (no one can be denied). This would also stop hoarding, and would allow people with legitimate inventions to monetize their investment, however still allow those that feel that they can execute to also move forward an innovate.
djb 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a nitpick but I think the pledge should read "No first use of software patents against companies with fewer than 25 people," since people are countable:


T_S_ 1 day ago 0 replies      
Volunteerism doesn't work when there is too much money at stake. How much has that green consumer really done for the environment without assistance from a carbon tax? Like calls for conservation, this is well-intended, but a distraction from the real problem, which is that the patent system is badly engineered for innovation.
cgopalan 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I also hope the patent pledge site will progress towards discouraging companies like that of Like.com by including instances of how they shamelessly killed Modista. Like PG, I am still ambivalent about patents (though mostly believing they are bad), but clear cases of misuse like these need to be emphasized and publicized.
marquis 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm a fan of the declared, taxable value of patents rather than making an arbitrary pledge that could result in a surprise attack.

My main concern is that the knowledge of a small company possibly infringing on IP (regardless of whether you feel patents exist or not) greatly disrupts the acquisition options by a larger company, as they would devalue the smaller company based on expected patent licensing/legal attacks.

graiz 1 day ago 1 reply      
1. Large companies aren't on this list and are unlikely to put themselves on the list. There is no competitive advantage to be there.

2. There's a presupposition that small companies are somehow better then large companies. I can say that a company like Lodysys is likely under 25 people. You don't want to put yourself in a position where you have agreed not to be agressive with any company based on their size. Many of the Inc. 500 are under 25 people.

I'd rather see a simpler pledge.

> We will use our patens defensively, not offensively.
> (Optionally)
> We will license our patents only to others who will use them defensively.

zdw 1 day ago 1 reply      
The number thing is abusable. Witness facebook still operating under the SEC's 500-person limit:


I'm not aware of any measurement method that any moderately smart rules lawyer (aka anyone who's played more than 5 hours of a strategy video game or pen and paper RPG) couldn't figure out a way around.

huhtenberg 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just a relevant anecdote from the trenches -- a friend of a friend was a co-founder in Israeli start-up and they were approached by a Redmond company with an investment inquiry. An inquiry which was backed by a patent that would've been used to sue the startup should they not enter negotiations. And so they "negotiated" and in the end took the money. The end.
jakestein 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is there a way for other companies to make the pledge from that site? Or is this limited to friends of PG for now?
thethimble 1 day ago 0 replies      
The problem with this pledge is that any company that would make the pledge and stand by it already isn't a patent threat.

It's the companies that would make the pledge and break it or not even make the pledge at all that are the problem. Beyond a little peer/public pressure, this pledge does very little to address those companies.

justinsb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Do non-trolls really bring patent cases against small companies? A company of <25 people probably doesn't have the cash to make a financial settlement worthwhile, and if a small company has a good product it'll have >25 people soon enough.
officialstation 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I was checking the source code for http://thepatentpledge.org/ and noticed a reference to favicon.ico which is not there (returns a 404 Not Found): http://thepatentpledge.org/favicon.ico
tcarnell 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Great stuff! I would add my company, but there is not point - I have no patents!

I think until we see Microsoft, Google, Oracle and Apple on that list it wont be worth much.... and if we do see Apple on that list, would be believe them? and would they care if we didn't believe them?

oemera 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great idea pg but what exactly does it fix? After you have 26 employees they will take you down like before the pledge. What can a company with 26 employees do against a arsenal of lawyers and patents? Do you think after having 26 employees you should have enough money to counter the attack?
matthodan 1 day ago 0 replies      
Does anyone else find the pledge hard to read/interpret? I think I read it 3 times before the meaning sunk in. Granted, I hadn't read the rest of PG's article yet. Short and memorable (e.g. "Don't be evil") might be better. My suggestion: "[Insert company] won't sue companies with less than 25 people for patent infringement." It ain't perfect, but that's what I got.
dethstarr 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think this is a good idea in theory, but the patent trolls are ruthless as ever. Their primary motivator is making money, and I doubt they'll stop their actions.

On the flipside, if this can garner public pressure against the trolls-- and perhaps some real action in changing the laws, I think the world would be a better place.

Keep it up Y Combinator!

mparr4 1 day ago 0 replies      
>Technology companies win by attracting the most productive people, and the most productive people are attracted to employers who hold themselves to a higher standard than the law requires.

The problem is, the ones doing the suing (like blackboard which PG mentioned in a comment elsewhere) are the weaker companies with a lot to lose (as mentioned in "Are Software Patents Evil") who probably aren't attracting the best people to work for them anyway.

FredBrach 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think it solves everything unless patent trolling.

Here is why. Well let's say Microsoft marks its name into the current patent pledge because it's so green to be in the patent pledge even in its current form.

So now, it is the same as always, Microsoft will not be able to pursue ANY company which SEEMS to be a STARTUP at a given time from the point of view of the mass. Do you understand? Microsoft can't say: “Hey! Are you dumb? This company has 26 people so I can sue them. Don't troll me fools!” Hello the greenness… That's too late! The goal is to be green, nobody care about the strict truth. I think even a hype company with 500 people can be safe with the current patent pledge.

And probably it may even overtake the patent framework. It may be almost a "don't sue a startup" pledge.:d

artursapek 1 day ago 0 replies      
Speaking of patents, (although this is a month old now) I recommend everyone listen to the show This American Life did covering patent trolling: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/441/w...
lhnn 1 day ago 1 reply      
>Already most technology companies wouldn't sink to using patents on startups. You don't see Google or Facebook suing startups for patent infringement.

You would, however, see Facebook sue startups for using the word "book" in their website name.

philipkd 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Can someone clarify for me, what does "no first use" mean? Does it mean you can't sue a small start-up for being the first to use a patent you already own?
davedx 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd like to see a site for crowd-sourced prior art. That would be cool.
earbitscom 1 day ago 0 replies      
PG - Could this lead to companies on the list agreeing not to license their patents to patent-unfriendly companies? Seems that could do a lot to pressure bigger companies into leaving smaller companies alone.
abbottry 1 day ago 0 replies      
People make crappy products then slap patents on them so no one can compete with them. For the greater good of society this should be illegal, competition breeds innovation right, if you make something crappy, you should welcome someone else to make it better, after all, if it was something you actually used, YOU would want it to be the best, no?

Also, patent trolls that create patents for ideas they have, and are completely incapable of executing.

Software patents are crap.

jayfuerstenberg 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm worried that this pledge would legitimize software patents on some level.

Even if the road to a software patent-free world is a long one I think it's better to pursue that than compromise this way.

What if a company hires its 26th employee? Is that an invitation to litigate?

I commend Paul Graham on at least trying to contribute his ideas but I think we need to think more on this.

rsuttongee 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think this is a great idea and that it will prevent pledging companies from engaging in patent abuse, but I wonder how many large companies will bother to sign up for it. I imagine that if Apple/Google/MS all just take a pass that they won't catch much flak for doing so.

I wonder though if we could make the whole thing more effective by also adding an underlying threat to the pledge:

That any company, patent pledging or not, who violates the <25 rule will have their talent actively recruited away by those companies that have pledged.

mikeklaas 1 day ago 0 replies      
Anyone know how many employees Lodsys has?
piotrSikora 1 day ago 0 replies      
From the companies that pledged so far, how many actually holds any patents?
mlinksva 1 day ago 0 replies      
''The patent pledge is in effect a narrower but open source "Don't be evil."''

I get 'narrower' but what does 'but open source' mean here?

fedcir 1 day ago 0 replies      
Afer reading the story about Ugmode/Modista, a suggestion for any start-up facing this problem in the future:

1. Escalating embarrassment of like.com could have soured their potential acquisitions and forced them to settle.
2. If lawyers hear about your problem, they might help you. If you had the ability to reach every lawyer, professor and law student in the country, you would find someone. (Maybe not someone great, but someone who can at least avoid a default judgment and keep you in the game for another couple of years, and possibly emerge victorious.)

n.b. You do not need, or, probably, want, a patent attorney to litigate a patent case. Patent attorneys do tedious stuff with the PTO, courtroom litigators convince judges and juries. Nor do you need a lawyer from your city or state. You could have some kid fresh out of law school in Alabama dialing in to Northern District of California judicial teleconferences and filing your motions electronically.

-- Former patent litigator who would have liked to help, if he'd heard about this

arikrak 1 day ago 0 replies      
Why should small companies deserve special protection? If the current patent system is just, let them sue anyone big or small. If the system is broken, they shouldn't be suing big companies either. How about a pledge not use ridiculous patents to sue anyone? That may be way too vague, but that would make more sense.
gord 1 day ago 0 replies      
Its a bandaid where a bazooka is needed... but its an epsilon of improvement in the right direction.
motters 1 day ago 0 replies      
As far as I know, pledges are legally worthless.
idonthack 1 day ago 0 replies      
That's cute.
dev1n 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's the Gentleman's rule for patents.
Learn Vim Progressively yannesposito.com
569 points by yogsototh  3 days ago   112 comments top 32
dschobel 3 days ago 4 replies      
Damn, I've been using vim for almost a decade and didn't realize that /<term> worked as a movement so you can do things like y2/foo and yank to the second occurrence of “foo” (to use the example from the tutorial).

That's why I scan every beginner vim tutorial that comes across hn. I always learn something

thristian 3 days ago 4 replies      
Here's a Vim trick I only figured out fairly recently. Everybody knows that % jumps between a bracket, brace or parenthesis and its matched pair, but what happens if you hit % while the cursor isn't on such a character? Turns out, it searches forward until it finds such a character, then jumps to its matched pair.

So for example, let's say you had a nested function invocation that was getting long and unwieldy and you wanted to break it out onto its own line:

    foo = makeFoo(

If you put the cursor on the 'g' at the beginning of 'globalConfig' and press "d%", it will cut the function name and all the parameters in one action.

beaumartinez 3 days ago 2 replies      
Nice tutorial"better than many.

However, these kind of tutorials always fail to mention the number one way to learn Vim:



    :h usr_02.txt

Those two (and successive pages in the user manual) will teach you practically everything about Vim"and they're included right in Vim.

d0m 3 days ago 5 replies      
Actually "cw" doesn't change the current word.. it changes where the cursor is to the end of the word. Something I tend to use a lot is: (| is the cursor)

  ciw (Really change the current word. "Fo|o Bar" -> "| Bar"
ci" (Change in between ": "Test 12|34" -> "|"
da" (Delete in between " AND the "": a"Test 12|34"b -> ab

Also, plugins are extremely important. For instance, one of my favorite makes the "w" smarter for day to day programming word. (I mapped it to ,w) For example:

  "pac|kageManager" ci,w "|Manager" 
"pac|kage_manager" ci,w "|_manager"

ma2rten 3 days ago 2 replies      
Don't do what this guy says! Or at least don't stay in phase 1 for longer than a day. I've had used vim for a few years as a pico replacement, whenever I was on a remote computer on ssh. I picked up some really bad habit, like staying in insert mode all the time and using the arrow, home and end keys. I actually had to deactivate the arrow keys in my vimrc.

I would recommend going thought the tutorial, that comes with vim (vimtutor command) and after that reading those articles:



crux 3 days ago 5 replies      
One thing I would love to see"and which I can only assume exists"is a guide like this, tailored to writing prose rather than code. This article maintains certain assumptions that are held by nearly every other guide, like 'You are always in normal mode, and only enter insert mode for short bursts of typing text, after which you press <Esc> to go to normal mode.' Which is true and useful for coding, but slightly less so for prose"not entirely less so, and it's still a good idea to get in the habit of busting out of insert mode when you've finished whatever thought you're writing down, but the lines between thinking, composing and editing are blurrier than in prose.

Nevertheless vi controls can be pretty semantic, and lend themselves pretty effectively to working with words, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs. On the other hand, using search for mid-paragraph navigation is an order of magnitude less efficient in prose, when you're so much more likely to have symbols and words doing totally different things in many places in your text.

JshWright 3 days ago 3 replies      
"A last word about notation: instead of writing Ctrl-λ, I'll write <C-λ>."

Does anybody else's keyboard have a λ key?

crazydiamond 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is an _amazing_ collection once you've gone past the beginner's stage:


For some great plugins, check http://stevelosh.com/blog/2010/09/coming-home-to-vim/

dbingham 3 days ago 1 reply      
My problem with using Vim, and the source of my hesitation to learn it more, is that I'm a fairly haphazard typist. I type fast, but messily. I've never really been able to clean it up. I'm just naturally a little clumsy.

In my IDE, this is never, ever a problem. Most of the dangerous commands require I go to the mouse, so I can't simply blaze through them on the keyboard. Anything I mess up at the keyboard, I can always undo with backspace or a cntl+z. Furthermore, there is visual confirmation of exactly what each command I entered is doing and a chance to cancel it if it's going to do stuff I don't want.

In Vim, this isn't the case. I can be blazing along on the keyboard, attempt to enter a command, screw it up and enter not just one, but a whole sequence of incorrect commands. These commands could be very problematic -- doing things that are hard to undo. And it can be very difficult for me, as a Vim novice especially, to figure out exactly what I screwed up and how to undo it.

I know some of that may be remedied with more knowledge. I'm sure there's some way to view a detailed command history, and I know it has an undo. But I still feel as if, for myself at least, the danger of keyboard mashing screw ups completely counteracts any gains in productivity I'd make. And given that I wouldn't really gain anything by using Vim, I prefer the comfort of my visually based IDE.

Aside from which, I'm really fond of the way Eclipse's windows are dockable and movable and I make frequent use of that feature. Interrupting processes or juggling multiple terminal windows just isn't the same.

pestaa 3 days ago 2 replies      
Nicely illustrated tutorial, well done.

One thing to note though: Y and yy are not shortcuts to 0y$ -- the latter does not yank the line ending. I use it to insert one line into another, but find splitting and joining lines to be cumbersome.

insraq 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great post. I like the way author splits the big problem into smaller ones and reduce the learning curve by different stages. When I recommend vim to my friends, they are usually frightened by the OReilly's thick vi/vim book and most people cannot "survive" in vim before they give up.
BadassFractal 3 days ago 4 replies      
As someone who works on large .NET / Java / RoR projects, would I gain anything from switching to vim from say, VS 2010, Eclipse and RubyMine? I'm quite used to relying on visual IDEs, but if vim is supposed to make me incredibly productive then I'd certainly like to explore that option.

Anybody here made the switch and felt it was worth it?

ranza 3 days ago 2 replies      
Love the small videos that illustrates whats going on! Nice one!
antonp 3 days ago 0 replies      
This post on SO has some nice bits in it : http://stackoverflow.com/questions/726894/what-are-the-dark-...

"imap jj <esc>" being my favourite.

shocks 3 days ago 0 replies      
Everyone uses vim in their own way, you should learn how to use vim for the style that suits how you work. Only learn what you need to learn, you can't learn everything. No one knows all of vim; if you say that you do, you are a liar.
Bo102010 3 days ago 0 replies      
What I would love (and suppose I should make) is a CodeAcademy sequence for vi.
WilhelmJ 3 days ago 0 replies      
When I learned to use vim years ago, one interesting observation was that the biggest thing to learn in vim is efficient navigation.

i.e. if you know how to get to a particular logically defined place in the file, you will always be able to carry out copy-paste-delete to and from that place to where to cursor is.

One would be surprised how easy thing become once you know the basic navigation rules due to marvelous mix-n-match nature of vim operations.

Tycho 3 days ago 8 replies      
is ESC really the only way to get back out of insertion mode? that feels like CTS waiting to happen
dcosson 3 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know why the decision was made to make hjkl the vi navigation buttons? I've always felt like jkl; would be faster since your fingers are already there
tudorizer 3 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone fancy a game of vim golf? :) (after finishing the last phase, of course).
keithpeter 3 days ago 0 replies      

This PDF file has a lot of tips/command lines about Vim

It is also produced really well, with landscape pages and bookmarks, so that it can be displayed on your monitor very efficiently.

akavel 2 days ago 0 replies      
For me, the ultimate first lesson of vi survival is absolutely ":q!". I'm surprised it's shown only by the end of the second lesson.

Other than that, I hope I'll push myself to try this tutorial.

zeke 3 days ago 0 replies      
One hint I have not seen here: while in input mode use <Cntl>n to auto-complete the word you are typing. This is very good for longer variable names and ensures your name matches what you have typed already.
alwillis 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've looked at a lot of Vim beginner tutorials"this one is outstanding.
jordinl 3 days ago 1 reply      
What would be the best way to copy text and paste it replacing some other text?
kmm 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've been using Vim for about three years but I've never been very handy at it. I'm now wondering that that might be because I touch type with only four fingers and whether it's possible to relearn my typing methods.
callmeed 3 days ago 1 reply      
Very cool ... but why teach paste before cut/copy?
katieben 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'd love to see this in emacs.
theviciousfish 3 days ago 0 replies      
proof that you can learn new (vim) things every day! Never used the rectangular blocks before. mind == blown!
sidconn 3 days ago 2 replies      
Anybody explain 'edition mode' 'insertion mode' ? New terms?
dupe123 3 days ago 1 reply      
even better, use viper mode in emacs.. you get all the keybindings of vim and you don't have to write vimscript to customize your editor
HenryFonda 3 days ago 1 reply      
I am on a strange website
Show HN: Like Button for Hacker News hnlike.com
536 points by sbashyal  4 days ago   65 comments top 20
pg 4 days ago 9 replies      
It's worth thinking about the question of whether this will make HN better or worse. I'm inclined to think worse. It will bring more random people to the site, and (to the extent it works) it will mean that an article's score on HN will depend partially on the completely random factor of whether the author included this button.
dshah 4 days ago 2 replies      
Nice work!

A big improvement would be to not go through the submission step if the article has already been submitted (and has votes). Would be more like the reddit button.

Speaking of which, making this look more like the standard social media buttons would be good too.

I'll put an open $100 Amazon Gift certificate reward out there if you want to make those changes, and release back to the community.

g-garron 4 days ago 0 replies      
It was just the day before yesterday that I've written this

About how I like HN, and why it is not yet-another-social-site full of kids trying to push their post to the top.

Sorry if this sound negative, but I'd rather prefer HN as it is now, If I find something I think might interest this "mature" community I'll come here and post it, It does not matter if this is not as easy as submit the story to Facebook. It worth the "effort" as here I get real good comments about my submissions.

We already have Facebook for the "brainless" people. I've to admit that I blog a lot and only maybe 1% of my own posts deserve being here. With this button in my blog, maybe lots of me posts might end up here.

Anyway great job designing and creating this. :).

Hope my opinion adds something good to this discussion.

pestaa 4 days ago 1 reply      
I like the idea but if I ever use it, the reason would be backwards: to show how many hackers already upvoted the entry.

Most articles hit the front page on HN and in a good case stay there for a day, but rarely more. The votes after that point are so distributed over time the entry would disappear anyway from the most visited page.

I'd rather link back to the proper page on HN (where I'd want to read the comments anyway, I think I'm not alone with this).

If there was a way to link back and upvote with a single click, I'd raise my hat.

Nonetheless, really nice work for a weekend.

Andi 4 days ago 1 reply      
If you have a good story, you will go to hackernews and post it. I think this "innovation" is going to lead to a lower post quality.
mike-cardwell 4 days ago 0 replies      
The way this button works suggests to me that it would be easy to use CSRF to get people automatically upvoting your articles if they happen to be logged into HN when they come to your site.
lubutu 4 days ago 3 replies      
It's impressive how lossy-compressed that PNG image is. The button artwork really needs some love...
biturd 4 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe after the submit the window should go away, because this is what I get, which looks odd http://i.imgur.com/BCvWV.png
impendia 4 days ago 0 replies      
So there are 378 upvotes (and counting) but that could be a little misleading. I venture no opinion on whether this is a good idea or not, but I confess to having upvoted the link because I was curious to try out the button.
thelovelyfish 4 days ago 0 replies      
A "like" button instigates nothing more than a childish popularity competition.
ahmetalpbalkan 4 days ago 1 reply      
It actually does not make users "like", right? First it sends you to submit page, then you submit and then you're counted as liked?
jeremyarussell 4 days ago 0 replies      
I figure a good compromise exists. Just release the source code and let everyone host their own hackers like button. Then people get to choose what they want. (and even choose to alter the code to not allow "likes" at all.) And, just show details of how many liked it. This ways they can integrate hacker news info with their own blogs displays, etc.

Personally, I can see through pulse and news.ycombinator.com how many votes something has. If I want to upvote something I'll take the thirty seconds to find the article on hacker news.

Just my two cents.

RFE: Typo

donniefitz2 3 days ago 0 replies      
Please don't do this to HN. I really like it here.
PLejeck 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hacker News is like Digg but without so much sucking.

If Digg were 100% programmers, it would be Hacker News.

I personally think this is a good idea if only to reduce duplicates and such.

As long as we never explicitly link to Hacker News itself, no noobs will come here, and the benefits should outweigh the negatives.

artursapek 4 days ago 0 replies      
Do we really want submitting a story to HN to be as easy as getting fed inside of a Skinner box?
mvts 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have the feeling, that a social network is the exact opposite of what HN is aiming to be. I'd rather like to think of it as a community.
dartma 4 days ago 0 replies      
I would suggest not doing it, although it seems like a nice idea.

I honestly do think that content will suffer on HN as a result.

jamesrom 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is the exact moment when HN jumps the shark and becomes digg/reddit/slashdot/et al.
hm2k 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm sure I saw a better implementation of this on someone's blog only last week, but I don't recall where.

I can't be the only one who saw this...

ahmetalpbalkan 4 days ago 1 reply      
instead of showing an image, have you considered doing that orange 'Y' logo with HTML+CSS?
Mari0 - Super Mario Bros. + Portal stabyourself.net
530 points by ChrisArchitect  3 days ago   29 comments top 12
saurik 3 days ago 0 replies      
For a previous rendition of the same concept, Dorkly made a similar video, that I think is much more enjoyable (as Mario himself takes humor out of his having the gun); although , the Dorkly version didn't attempt to make the game play "work" (this version from Stabyourself actually looks like something that, if built, could actually be played; the Dorkly one is "just" machinima).


NickPollard 3 days ago 1 reply      
Surely the Mario version should shoot orange and blue pipes?
redthrowaway 3 days ago 2 replies      
I like the idea, but the levels would have to be entirely redesigned if you wanted to preserve good gameplay. Having a portal gun tacked on to Mario, with no need for it in the game and levels not designed around its use, would just kind of suck.
kentbuckle 3 days ago 2 replies      
One additional difficulty in making Portal 2-dimensional is the loss of a relative frame of reference, which can cause control problems. If you hold down the left key to enter a right-facing portal, and exit through another right-facing portal, do you start moving right even though you are holding down the left key? Massive kudos if they can find a intuitive way to solve this.
jeffool 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you enjoy this, or even the idea of game mash-ups I can't recommend Tuper Tario Tros enough!


Like the afore linked Super Mario Crossover, I see this and wonder, "how did they NOT make this?"

albertzeyer 3 days ago 0 replies      
I very much like Portal in 2D. A similar game, with much simpler graphics (actually just ASCII) but much more challenging, is ASCII Portal.


artursapek 3 days ago 0 replies      
If the diversity of hazards was ramped up this could easily be very fun, a much more intense and fast-paced arcade take on Portal. Never mind the classic sprites and music, the format of Super Mario is just different and would amount to a different Portal.

But as of now, most of the enemies in Mario were designed to be adequate hazards for a character who can only walk and jump, the matchup becomes pathetic if he's suddenly equipped with a Portal gun. From the video it seems the game-makers will have to be more creative with how Mario can be killed (Great heights, ranged attacks, time-trials, as opposed to just touching a mushroom/turtle/pipe plant)

protopete 3 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me of Portal: The Flash Edition
ChrisLTD 3 days ago 2 replies      
Cool idea, but it looks like the resulting game would be way too easy.
erikb 3 days ago 0 replies      
At first I thought it was just plain stupid, to combine these 2 concepts. But after watching the video I can really believe that it will be a lot of fun! Kudos for that idea!
swileran 2 days ago 0 replies      
I know nothing about Portal, but that is really amazing.
idanb 3 days ago 0 replies      
Now just make a kick butt flash implementation and you'll get $1M internet dollars!

No but seriously, this is super cool.

Walking on a cube-shaped planet straightdope.com
439 points by yaks_hairbrush  6 days ago   78 comments top 20
thesz 6 days ago 3 replies      
Reminded me of Cyberiad: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cyberiad

"The Highest Possible Level of Development civilization. A gravely injured hermit comes to Trurl's house and tells Trurl of Klapaucius's adventure: Klapaucius wanders across an old robot, who tells him that he has logically deduced the existence of a civilization that reached the highest possible level of development (hence "HPLD"). He has inferred the existence of such a civilization by figuring that if there are different stages of development, there will be one that is the highest. He was then faced with a problem of identifying that one; as he noted, everyone claimed that theirs was the HPLD. Upon much research and thought, he decided that the only way to find it is by looking for a "wonder", i.e. something that has no rational explanation. Eventually Klapaucius discovers one such wonder: a star in the shape of a cube, orbited by a planet also shaped like a cube with the huge letters HPLD written on it."

Now I know how it is like, to be one of HPLD.

aristidb 6 days ago 4 replies      
"Ask a Physician" has something to say about this: http://www.askamathematician.com/?p=6657
morsch 6 days ago 2 replies      
Another planetary thought experiment (edit: sorry, credit where it's due: excerpt from The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks):

I was born in a water moon. Some people, especially its inhabitants, called it a planet, but as it was only a little over two hundred kilometres in diameter, 'moon' seems the more accurate term. The moon was made entirely of water, by which I mean it was a globe that not only had no land, but no rock either, a sphere with no solid core at all, just liquid water, all the way down to the very centre of the globe.

If it had been much bigger the moon would have had a core of ice, for water, though supposedly incompressible, is not entirely so, and will change under extremes of pressure to become ice. (If you are used to living on a planet where ice floats on the surface of water, this seems odd and even wrong, but nevertheless it is the case.) The moon was not quite of a size for an ice core to form, and therefore one could, if one was sufficiently hardy, and adequately proof against the water pressure, make one's way down, through the increasing weight of water above, to the very centre of the moon.

Where a strange thing happened.

For here, at the very centre of this watery globe, there seemed to be no gravity. There was colossal pressure, certainly, pressing in from every side, but one was in effect weightless (on the outside of a planet, moon or other body, watery or not, one is always being pulled towards its centre; once at its centre one is being pulled equally in all directions), and indeed the pressure around one was, for the same reason, not quite as great as one might have expected it to be, given the mass of water that the moon was made up from.

This was, of course,"

blahedo 6 days ago 1 reply      
The seas wouldn't even be flat to the "surface" of the cube, right? They'd deform into a spheroid. So looking at it from a peak (or from space) it would appear to be a liquid sphere intersected with a solid cube.
mckoss 6 days ago 2 replies      
Very fun thought experiment. It reminded me that we did a problem in calculus to compute the effect of gravity inside a hollow sphere. It turns out to be ZERO.

So, if the Earth's mass, was all densely concentrated in a, say, 1 mile thick shell, you could drill a hole through the shell and experience total weightlessness when you popped out on the "inside" (assuming a total vacuum on the inside - if not - you'd experience a very small gravity toward the center based on the mass of the contained atmosphere).

huhtenberg 6 days ago 2 replies      
> On spherical earth the horizon on average is a little over three miles away.

I read (long time ago) that the horizon is 29km on a seashore. In other words if you see a ship disappear on a horizon, it was 29km away. And so his 3mi vs my 29km is a bit of a discrepancy. Can anyone set things straight here?

georgieporgie 6 days ago 1 reply      
Regarding the perceived gravity on a cube planet, the movie Sunshine tries to portray accurate physics for a similar situation. It has great sci-fi visuals, though the end gets a bit... silly.
bediger 6 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like such a planet would have some odd-looking periodic orbits: http://arxiv.org/abs/1108.4635

One family of orbits is parallel to a face of the cube, if I understand the paper even a little.

defdac 6 days ago 1 reply      
If no sci-fi-3d-renderer makes a complete physically based rendering of this I will be surprised. Some nice Mie-scattering-atmosphere simulation with awesome distances and displacements maps from a Borg cube.. Yumm..
6ren 5 days ago 0 replies      
The Integral Trees (Larry Niven): the habitable space is a torus.

It's a torus of air in orbit. The trees look like integral signs because they align pointed toward the star, but have constant wind in opposite directions at either end, because the air there has different orbital speeds, being closer or further from the star.

gchucky 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm getting an error when I try to load it. The cache is still alive, though: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?sclient=psy&...
Semiapies 6 days ago 0 replies      
Naturally, the large airless portions of the surface would be pocked by craters, with enormous scree fields washing center-ward from from many of those craters, as the debris fell back to earth to bounce, slide, and roll "downhill".
tsunamifury 6 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, this illustration might be the first one ever to help me understand how space can be 'curved'. If you altered the space around the cube to reflect a linear gravitational pull, you'd have a cube with streteched out points and a flat ocean within the curved bason of the cube face.

Correct me if I'm completely imagining things here, but is this how space is 'curved' by gravity? The disorted shape of the ocean and cube would reflect how the cube-planet felt to an observer within its gravitational pull.

kb101 5 days ago 0 replies      
It seems that both the straight dope and ask-a-physicist links describe the effects as something similar to having eight giant mountains on Earth whose summits make up the points of a cube. This led me to wonder, what if we consider the case where the Earth is exactly the same (geologically) as it is now, but in the future we put up eight giant towers whose tops describe those summit points? Assuming a supermaterial has been discovered whose properties allow for an extremely light structure with enormous compression strength relative to its weight, like aerogel ( http://bashinginminds.com/2010/01/23/playing-with-nasas-soli... ) but even aerogel-ier. What would that be like?

Is it then too far-fetched to imagine that some freak process of nature or other might conceivably allow for the creation of a bizarre planet with an immensely dense spherical core and a lighter mantle and crust that take on the shape of a cube externally? Nature is not averse to giving us cubes, after all: http://www.gemstoneslist.com/pyrite.html

stcredzero 5 days ago 0 replies      
There are all sorts of rules for drama and character development. What are the rules for incorporating neat scientific/sci-fi ideas into a story? In lots of Larry Niven's stories, the ideas are necessary to solve the central mystery, but not always.

EDIT: In a mashup of The Culture and Dilbert, a godlike nanotech Dogbert forces the hapless Homo Sapiens Dilbert to work on a "cubical".

shahin 6 days ago 1 reply      
here I'll summarize the article for you in one sentence:
just think of the earth as it is, only with 8 huge mountains one on each corner.
jamesbritt 5 days ago 0 replies      
"Cubeworld", from the anthology Mathenauts


Great book, BTW.

donnaware 6 days ago 1 reply      
hmmm, do you suppose such a planet might be made of diamond ?
davidcollantes 6 days ago 1 reply      
I imagine walking on a cube-shaped planet will be not different that doing it on a sphere shaped one.
teeray 6 days ago 0 replies      
"Earth-scale gravity is so strong that a cube made of the strongest rock would soon be deformed into a ball."

Not necessarily true. If the cube-shaped world has a cube-shaped moon orbiting at the same period as our moon, it will be sooner transformed into a ball by creepers.

Want to Write a Compiler? Just Read These Two Papers. dadgum.com
385 points by ColinWright  6 days ago   77 comments top 19
gruseom 6 days ago 1 reply      
Bob Barton taught the guys who wrote Burroughs Fortran to write a compiler in one day. Check out the following story. (Lengthy, sorry. But worth it. Also, I edited it a bit.)

Phillips programmers still had a soft spot in their hearts for the Burroughs 205. So when it came time for them to buy another machine they said that they would buy a Burroughs 205 computer if the following conditions were met:

A. It had to have a compiler that would compile and execute existing IBM 650 Fortransit programs with no modifications whatsoever.

B. The compiler had to compile faster than IBM's Fortransit.

C. The time for loading the compiler and object programs had to be faster than IBM's.

D. The object programs had to run faster.

A call was placed to Bob Barton... Bob said that he could not spend any more effort on the 205. All of his budget was allocated for 220 projects. However, if John Hale would designate three people for the project, he would fly to Dallas for one day and teach them how to write a compiler.

When I heard that someone was flying in from Pasadena to show us how to write a compiler, I was very skeptical. I had seen many other so-called experts from Pasadena and I was invariably disappointed.

The day that Bob spent in Dallas was one of the most amazing days of my life. I am sure that I never learned so much in an eight hour period. We stopped briefly for coffee in the morning and went out for a quick lunch. We did not take a break in the afternoon. The day was intense to say the least. I took a cab to the airport to catch his plane. He talked all the way to the airport and was still shouting information to me as he walked up the steps to the plane and disappeared into it. He said that IBM had spent 25 man-years on Fortransit, but that the three of us could do the job in six months.

They ended up being two guys (not three) and doing it in nine months (not six). Of course, compilers were simpler back then. But they were also far less well understood. These guys hit every one of those crazy requirements and invented virtual memory in the process.

Edit: here is the part about virtual memory. They had to do it to meet requirement D.

The goal of executing object programs faster than the IBM 650 sounded like real trouble to Bob. Both systems had a drum memory. The drum on the 650 rotated at 12500 rpm compared to 3570 rpm on the 205. However, the 205 drum was more sophisticated. It was divided into two areas. The primary storage was 80 words of 0.85 millisecond average access memory. The secondary storage was 4000 words of 8.5 millisecond average access memory.

Bob said that it seemed to him that our only chance of meeting the object speed goal was to figure out an "automatic blocking algorithm". I did not hear the term "virtual memory" until several years later. By an automatic blocking algorithm, he meant moving segments of code from the secondary storage into the primary storage and executing it from there. Since the first goal was to compile existing programs without modification, I would have to do it without the programmer adding any flow directing statements to the programs.

Bob said that a lot of people in Pasadena had tried without success to implement automatic blocking, but I should not let that stop me from trying. I would be the first person to try it with a high-level language. The success of the project seemed to hinge on that algorithm.

During the course of the next two months I did discover the algorithm. The next time that I saw Bob was in the Pasadena Plant in April, 1960. He was in the process of cleaning out his desk... I described the algorithm to him and he became tremendously enthused. Frankly, I had not grasped the importance of the accomplishment.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2856567. The whole memoir is wonderful. I laughed, I cried. Ok, I didn't cry. But it's all kinds of inspiring awesome.

Jabbles 6 days ago 4 replies      
"Just"? I make the first one 94,000 words. Has anyone actually read the papers to make sure that the OP has recommended something worthwhile? "Reading" and then coding alongside would probably take a full week's worth of time (I'd be interested to know if different).

It's a genuine question. People are recommended to read SICP all the time, by many influential people, but when a proper discussion of whether it's actually worthwhile comes up, we found a considerable range of opinions.


Goladus 6 days ago 1 reply      
> Not surprisingly, the opaqueness of these books has led to the myth that compilers are hard to write.

Opaqueness of the books is not what makes everyone think compilers are hard to write. What makes compilers hard to write, for someone who has never done it before, is the scope of the problem you're trying to solve. Writing a compiler, to spec, for a non-trivial language takes a lot of WORK.

Regexes and grammars can be tricky to grok and walking abstract syntax trees can be hard as well. A hundred-pass compiler may make that part easier, but it almost certainly doesn't reduce the overall amount of work required to go from scratch to a working compiler, and that's where the "compilers are hard" reputation comes from.

(Incidentally, that doesn't mean the two sources mentioned aren't worth reading. Scanning both of them, they look excellent.)

Goladus 6 days ago 1 reply      
Just a note for anyone reading the Crenshaw book, in chapter 9 he notes:

    The C language is quite another matter, as you'll see.   Texts on
C rarely include a BNF definition of the language. Probably
that's because the language is quite hard to write BNF for.

There is now an excellent reference that includes a full BNF Grammar for C(C99): http://www.amazon.com/Reference-Manual-Samuel-P-Harbison/dp/...

(This book didn't exist when the tutorial was written)

6ren 6 days ago 2 replies      
> The authors promote using dozens or hundreds of compiler passes, each being as simple as possible.

This kind of approach can seem wrong, because it's breathtakingly, disturbingly inefficient, but it's an excellent way to break down a problem, so you can see it, play with it and understand it. It's much easier to write an efficient version once you know what the hell you're doing.

thesz 6 days ago 3 replies      
>The authors promote using dozens or hundreds of compiler passes, each being as simple as possible. Don't combine transformations; keep them separate.

Actually, this way you will get an inferior compiler (optimizer).


The thesis referenced above argues (and provides examples) that you cannot overcome important problems by separating transformations. You need to combine them.

asg 6 days ago 3 replies      
I've not had a formal CS education. So the first time I had to write a mini compiler, I decided to do it by hand, for its educational value, rather than use a parser generator. Google got me Crenshaw's paper (Lets build a compiler), and I remember it was very simple to follow his code to write my own. So yes, much recommended.
pella 6 days ago 1 reply      
The Definitive ANTLR Reference: Building Domain-Specific Languages


-- + --

Language Implementation Patterns: Create Your Own Domain-Specific and General Programming Languages

"Learn to build configuration file readers, data readers, model-driven code generators, source-to-source translators, source analyzers, and interpreters. You don't need a background in computer science"ANTLR creator Terence Parr demystifies language implementation by breaking it down into the most common design patterns. Pattern by pattern, you'll learn the key skills you need to implement your own computer languages."

mavelikara 5 days ago 0 replies      
I found Peter Sestoft's "Programming Language Concepts for Software Developers" an enjoyable read. The book incrementally builds two compilers - one for Micro-ML and one for Micro-C. The implementation language is F#.


krishna2 6 days ago 1 reply      
Surprised that no one has yet mentioned EOPL ("Essentials of Programming Languages"). An awesome book imho.
Jun8 6 days ago 1 reply      
If one wanted to jump in and write one, what's a good language to write a compiler for, provided the resulting thing would be of some use to the developer (and maybe to others) and not a toy? Coffescript? Scheme? Or just write a parser for, e.g. Markdown?
wglb 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is good advice, but Not surprisingly, the opaqueness of these books has led to the myth that compilers are hard to write. Having written a couple, I can assure you that writing a compiler is hard. But that is why it is worthwhile.
edtechdev 6 days ago 0 replies      
In my opinion, the best way is to study and contribute to an existing compiler.

There are dozens to choose from that compile to javascript:

or java's JVM:

or .net/mono's CLI:

digitalbanana 6 days ago 0 replies      
i had to put together something resembling a compiler for a class, i used mainly two sources:

for the theory part: http://www.diku.dk/hjemmesider/ansatte/torbenm/Basics/ Basics of Compiler Design - Free book)

actualy put something together:
(PLY (Python Lex-Yacc))

maybe not the solution for real world use, but helped me jump past some nitpicking parts with the C / lex / yacc implementation.

plaes 6 days ago 0 replies      
Hum.. can someone tell him that he spelled Knuth wrong :S
telemachos 6 days ago 1 reply      
The Crenshaw tutorial uses Turbo Pascal. Any recommendations for Pascal on modern Macs?
jc-denton 6 days ago 0 replies      
I strongly disagree with "Learn a parser toolkit". If you want to do it yourself you should write also a parser yourself.
trurl 6 days ago 1 reply      
I learned more about modern compilation by reading and implementing "From System F to Typed Assembly Language" than I did from the compilers course I took.


compay 6 days ago 1 reply      
Want to know Modern Philosophy? Just read Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason." After all, how hard could one book be?
The "overlearning the game" problem andrewoneverything.com
351 points by sendos  3 days ago   140 comments top 21
wisty 3 days ago  replies      
It's related to Goodhart's Law:

Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.

This is often the result of attempting to overoptimize a system. You can optimize a race car to a huge degree, because you know exactly what you want it to do.

You can't optimize a schooling system, because you don't know exactly what you want it to do. A little noise is a good thing, because the you want a little wiggle room for teachers to sidestep the dictums of education czars, and students to sidestep the dictums of teachers.

The Greeks solved this quite a few years ago, with sortition. Under sortition (injecting noise into elections - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition), Bush and Gore would have been forced to pay "paper, scissors, rock" for the presidency. Under the US's more pure democracy, they would have been tempted to make all kind of Faustian bargains with sordid players to nail down the last 0.01% of votes.

Randomization means that the last percent is just not worth chasing, so players in a competition won't be tempted to bend the rules for a tiny advantage.

The same process could be used for tests. If you allocate places in desirable courses (say medicine) randomly to anyone above a certain score, the top students won't bother drilling as hard just to get the top score.

Stocks are the same - quants wouldn't sweat timing as much if their placement in order books was randomized. It would be more efficient to pay attention to fundamental value than momentary fluctuations if they weren't guaranteed to make large profits on the momentary fluctuations. Some would still work on timing, but not as many.

Patents are just bad policy badly implemented at the moment, not over-optimized.

drewcrawford 3 days ago  replies      
If you pay a man by the hour, he'll work a lot of hours. If you pay him by the brick, he'll lay a lot of bricks.

These "games" are basically the equivalent of counting lines of code or checkins. We're measuring poor proxies instead of the things we're actually interested in. The solution isn't an arms race to build bigger and better proxies, the solution is to measure real things instead of artificial ones.

Here's just one example of what I mean by "measure real things". Electing representatives every X years to decide the laws of the land was once upon a time the fairest and best way to have the voices of the masses heard. Today it is feasible to directly poll everybody about every issue, so we no longer need the proxy. If you say everyone cannot be educated about every issue, fine, I can "follow" PG's votes on wall street reform and grellas's votes on IP tort reform and Schneier's votes on TSA etc just by copying their votes on those issues into my ballot, a permission which I can revoke at any time or on a vote-by-vote basis, as easy as unfollowing them on VoteTwitter. This is better than the proxy of professional politicians deciding every issue with fixed terms.

jacques_chester 3 days ago 0 replies      
Systems theorists say that "structure predicts behaviour". It's a bit trite, but also deep. Here's an example.

The US political system pretty much guarantees bad budgeting. Members of Congress are elected fairly independently. There is no party discipline, so each member will operate independently to maximise pork. This encourages horse-trading within and across party lines; nobody can be forced to give up something for a general good.

There's more: there's no incentive to balance the budget. The Executive's separation means that Congress does not need to concern itself with proper administration; it only doles out the cash. It has every incentive to ... maximise pork.

The dynamic behaviour of American government arises from the static structure. The drafters of the constitution drew on their knowledge of history and current affairs to try and avoid certain pitfalls. The US Constitution was state-of-the-art when it was written. It's less so now.

Countries where the Executive is formed out of the Legislative -- the Westminster system -- tend to have much stronger party discipline, because that discipline is required to pass budgets, enact legislation and to form the Executive. This tends to almost eliminate horse-trading, except between parties and independents. It's not perfect -- whole parties can engage in pork too -- but when policy emerges that benefits the many at the cost of a few, countries with party discipline will find it easier to adopt than those without.

Australia, which has the amongst the toughest party discipline in the democratic world, is also a reform leader. And I think a lot of that is explained by our constitutional arrangements.

loup-vaillant 3 days ago 2 replies      
I think "overlearning" is not a good term (edit: it is quite accurate, though), because it tend to suggest the worst solution of all: that we refrain from learning. I prefer "lost purposes"[1].

The primary purpose of a game is generally to Have Fun. This purpose is lost if you have "solved" the game. The stated purpose of patents is to foster innovation. However it doesn't work[2]. The purpose of schools is learning. However its methods are flawed [3,4]. And so on.

The trick is to know your goals, and then find out means to best achieve them. The author said:

> But, in real life, we need to keep "playing the game": we need to have elections, and protections for inventors, and laws that govern society, and a market where companies can raise money.

But the actual goals are different: We don't need election, we need a working democratic system (which may, or may not, mandate elections). We don't need protections for inventors, we need innovations. We don't need laws, we need a fair and working society. We don't need a market where companies can raise money, we need a working economy.

Well, I could attempt recurse further up until pure morality, but that would be intractable. But at least you get the idea. If something looks broken, think about its ultimate purpose before you try to fix it.

[1]: http://lesswrong.com/lw/le/lost_purposes/

[2]: http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/against.htm

[3]: http://vimeo.com/5513063 (Dr Tae)

[4]: http://www.khanacademy.org/

shubber 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm reminded of Mechanism Design: a Nobel prize winning theory of economics that starts with the supposition that agents in any system will exploit its rules to maximize their personal gain. The corollary, which I've been quite taken by, is that where we can influence the rules of the game, we should design them such that exploitation serves a social good.
Joakal 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hey USA, your first past the post system actually does tend towards dual party governments [0]. Compare it to preferential system where voters can pick several parties or vote for one party for the preferences listed.

For example, look at this: http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2010/guide/deni.htm With USA's system, Australia Labor Party would have got re-elected.

There's still improvements to be made for democracy that doesn't need to involve such fancy technology yet [1].

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duvergers_law

[1] http://techpp.com/2011/06/08/homomorphic-encryption/

groaner 3 days ago 0 replies      
The cynic inside me would extend this problem to the entire economy or even human society itself. Any economic transaction is supposed to benefit both parties: the buyer offers an amount he is willing to pay for what he wants, the seller provides his goods or services at a price he is willing to accept. As PG might say, wealth is created in tandem with creating stuff that people want.

The problem is that some elements in society have become extremely effective at creating a perversion of "stuff people want" for their own benefit. They exploit loopholes in the system, whether by preying upon the poorly-informed, shifting costs onto externalities that we can't price properly, engaging in corruption, or producing items of questionable actual value but very attractive perceived value. They take advantage of our desire for easy answers to our problems with minimal effort expended.

Case in point: Ponzi schemes, coal power plants, Halliburton, the tobacco industry, Zynga, and even to an extent, religion

We've tried to control this with laws, education, and social norms, but ultimately it seems the invisible hand reigns supreme.

DanielBMarkham 3 days ago 1 reply      
We run into this situation in programming quite a bit. The answer is refactoring: taking the principles and patterns that work, streamlining them, ditching the cruft that works for a few edge cases but mostly gets in the way, simplifying the underlying metaphor of the system, and re-asssembling.

The only way to do this with much larger systems, such as systems of governance, is revolution or exploring new lands. Personally I'm a bit concerned about revolution -- the assumption with refactoring is that the people refactoring understand what the "good" parts are and what the "bad" parts are. They also need to be able to generalize and simplify in order to keep the system cognitively approachable. In my experience, it's very easy to be angry-tear-down-the-system guy, very difficult to actually refactor. As the author points out, it's not that these systems are entirely useless. The hell of the thing is that the reasons for creating these systems are still very valid.

I remain convinced that programmers (hackers) have a lot to add to the discussion when talking about complex, brittle systems. After all, we spend a lot of time both working with them and fixing them. To me, programming and systems architecture is applied philosophy. Very cool stuff.

erikb 3 days ago 0 replies      
Many people see this from a macroeconomic or political point of view. So I think adding a more philosophical point of view might also be of value. Of course, because it is philosophy, I can only present my own point of view. There is no right or wrong.

For me, as a Zen student, the solution is to just accept that that it is, what it is. No system (shape, for Zen students) can be perfect. It is created to solve a problem and with time starts to fail badly at doing anything about the problem. Then another system is created by someone else and the cycle restarts. You might think for example that the stock market or democracy is a thing that doesn't change, because it exists longer then you live. But in the end it will change. We had different political systems before and we will develop different systems in the future.

So in the end the system is one of the most important things we have, because it gives us something to base our decisions and actions on and goals to strive for. But also the system is nothing, just an illusion we create for us, maybe based on how we understand the illusions other people created for themself.

The thing that is interesting to me personally is that every system itself is instable and will change or die in the end. But the life cycle of a system, what it does for us and doesn't, that all will always stay the same and even though we try to change that, we will never succeed. So while it changes a lot in one way it is totally unchangable in another. But that just as a side note.

kragen 3 days ago 2 replies      
Less Wrong talks about this a lot; their term for one variant of it is "superstimuli".

What's the difference between your "overlearning" and "hacking"? They sound like the same thing.

This phenomenon is the reason for the Wikipedia rule, "Ignore All Rules".

Jun8 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very interesting post!

However, I got hooked on thinking about the childhood game that he mentions briefly in the introduction. Asking more and more questions about an object and wanting all of them to be consistent is a good description of mathematics. According to Godel, both teams are bound to lose, because you cannot create a system of descriptions/properties about a system that are self-consistent (as their number increases), there will always be questions to a team whose answer will be inconsistent with the previous set of questions. The game is then to see which team can push the inevitable further.

IDEABOLT: It would be interesting to develop a program that plays this game. Each answer could be stored as an RDF statement in database.

aconbere 3 days ago 0 replies      
There was a book written in the 80's that covered the overarching philosophical discussion on this kind of thinking about games. The author broke games into two categories: finite and infinite.

Finite games like the one invented by the children described by the OP have end states, they have winners, and the goal within them are always framed from that perspective. While infinite games have no winners, have no end, and the goals are often framed around ensuring that the game never ends.

It's easy to think of finite games in our lives, they are everywhere in our society, and the OP does a good job of pointing out some of the less obvious cases. Infinite games are less obvious, the one that I found most illuminating was "language", a game where people actively collude to extend the game to the end of time, and has no winner.

Anyay, it's an interesting read, but a little bit mumbo-jumbo by the middle of the book. I would recommend it.


drhouse_md 3 days ago 0 replies      
This article seems to be addressing 'the spirit' of a document or system.

Perhaps another way to look at the problem is to imagine creating an A.I. that you want to succeed at whatever system you present. In most cases, an A.I. will take the literal interpretation of the system and become a test-taker, an electable 'gotcha-game' politician or even an entity that finds it can maximize game theory to its own ends by complicating the rules of an existing system to the point of absurdity once it becomes powerful enough to modify and create rules.

So then how do we create systems resistant to beings that take everything literally? I suppose the only way is to reward certain outcomes as opposed to rewarding the direct product of the system itself.

Examples: After an election, have we elected someone who has met with a high degree of favorability in the electorate by the end of his term?

After having students become proficient test-takers, do they then become excellent doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.. ?

In a game invented to be fun or fair, once overlearned, do they produce fun or fairness?

If not, then a new game needs to be created or the existing one might need to be extensively modified to produced the desired product. This is where the internet shines, where everyone is welcome to take an existing system and modify it to something better. The problem with politics, law, stock market, etc... is that they have become the only method adopted in real society (there is only one game in town).

If reality were allowed to adopt, incorporate or evolve from systems/games from virtual reality (i.e. internet) there might be some productive change. But first we would need to see the first step taking place, that being even flawed virtual systems are allowed to manifest in significant proportion within real life society.

Don't hate the game, hate the player. Every game that profits a winner will have its cheaters.

resatori 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think it is time we recognize that it is not the systems that shape our world but the individuals.

There is no optimal system, be it political, economic or whatever.

You can always find loopholes.

I think it is time we take responsibility for what we do - then there is no need for a better system.

The patent system is not responsible for people attacking each other - its the people.

donaq 3 days ago 0 replies      
Regarding politics, it is interesting to note that the people have not, for their part, also overlearned the game of electing the best man for the job. I wonder why this asymmetry exists?
One_adm12 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great post. I face this everyday in my job at an "old media" company. There are policies, rules and constraints in place which served some purpose at some point in time, and haven't been challenged for years. Unlearning the rules of established games is almost as important as evolving them. Everything should be questioned and challenged to find the root of the point of the rule/law/restriction and if it doesn't make sense any longer, throw it out.
thewisedude 2 days ago 0 replies      
Doesn't "Exploiting the System" capture the same idea? I think basically what people are doing here is understanding the core weakness that is intrinsic to the system(which probably is not perfect) and using(abusing) it to their advantage.
stretchwithme 3 days ago 0 replies      
Seems most of the things mentioned are an inevitable result of centralizing and expanding government power. Someone is being gamed alright.
useflyer 2 days ago 0 replies      
Have you noticed that yesterday every comment was concise, and now that applications are open, every comment is elaborate, long-winded, and footnoted?
Greedy_Fools 2 days ago 0 replies      
People are predators and that's what predators do, never stop searching for what they need. Predatory behavior is the problem, and there is little will in successful predators to outlaw there own behavior.
sien 3 days ago 0 replies      
The original purpose of Gerrymandering was not to enhance the voting power of minorities, it was to game elections.


Black majority electorates came decades after Gerrymandering.

Not a bad article though.

Papers Every Programmer Should Read (At Least Twice) objectmentor.com
346 points by ColinWright  8 days ago   26 comments top 13
onan_barbarian 8 days ago 1 reply      
It's not a terrible list, but it's very biased towards the question "how should we structure computer programs?".

This is a good question, but perhaps not the _only_ question, and I'm not sure that a top 10 list would be quite so focused on it, at the expense of algorithms, architecture, concurrency, networks, formal methods, etc.

I also doubt the ranty "Worse is Better" should be on any top 10 list, influential or not. Some of these papers seem better suited to give someone a background to furiously prognosticate here on HN and perhaps LtU than to do anything of consequence.

drv 8 days ago 1 reply      
A paper that would be on my personal list is "What Every Computer Scientist Should Know About Floating-Point Arithmetic" (Goldberg): http://download.oracle.com/docs/cd/E19957-01/806-3568/ncg_go...
fogus 8 days ago 3 replies      
I would add "Out of the Tarpit" by Ben Moseley and Peter Marks. I read it at least twice a year.


_delirium 8 days ago 1 reply      
Robert Kowalski (1979). "Algorithm = Logic + Control". Communications of the ACM 22(7): 424-436. http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~rak/papers/algorithm%20=%20logic%20...

(It's the paper that originated Prolog, but is also more broadly interesting for its analysis of, well, algorithms as logic plus control.)

ColinDabritz 8 days ago 1 reply      
There was an excellent cs theory stack exchange question on this:

http://cstheory.stackexchange.com/questions/1168/what-papers... [pdf]

The top two are nearly tied for:
"A mathematical theory of communication" by Claude Shannon


"On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem" by Alan Turing

http://l3d.cs.colorado.edu/~ctg/classes/lib/canon/turing-com... [pdf]

I would add that

'The Annotated Turing' by Charles Petzold


is an excellent treatment of Turings paper, including much of the relevant additional math and computing history both before and after.

arethuza 8 days ago 0 replies      
Tony Hoare's ACM Turing Award lecture "The Emperor's
Old Clothes":


pnathan 8 days ago 0 replies      
I've always found rpg's Patterns of Software to have some deep insights into the nature of software systems. Particularly the ruminations on habitability.
cpeterso 8 days ago 0 replies      
Butler Lampson's "Hints for Computer System Design" (1983) is a classic paper with some great anecdotes:


endlessvoid94 8 days ago 0 replies      
"On the Designing and Deploying Internet-scale Services" by James Hamilton: http://www.mvdirona.com/jrh/talksAndPapers/JamesRH_Lisa.pdf

html version: http://www.usenix.org/event/lisa07/tech/full_papers/hamilton...

adulau 7 days ago 0 replies      
MapReduce: Simplified Data Processing on Large Clusters by Jeffrey Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat (OSDI'04: Sixth Symposium on Operating System Design and Implementation) http://labs.google.com/papers/mapreduce.html
Iv 7 days ago 0 replies      
A programmer should not encourage paywalls.
astrofinch 8 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone know where I can find an ungated version of "An experimental evaluation of the assumption of independence in multiversion programming"?
VinzO 8 days ago 1 reply      
It seems the site is down :(

Any mirror link?

Resigned daringfireball.net
343 points by A-K  8 days ago   87 comments top 13
ryandvm 7 days ago 8 replies      
I, apparently in agreement with Apple's investors today, have a little trouble with the notion that Steve Jobs stepping down will have no effect on Apple's success.

I'm afraid the Apple faithful are playing a little fast and loose with logic on this one. Let me see if we have this straight...

1) Steve Jobs was absolutely and almost singularly responsible for Apple's meteoric rise over the last 14 years. His vision, his taste, his standards, his business acumen, all of it - has driven Apple past competitor after competitor to become the most valuable company in the world. [By the way, I agree.]

2) Steve Jobs is also completely unnecessary for Apple's continued success. [Hmmmm]

I think I can agree with Gruber's wisdom in choosing to prognosticate no further than a month. What made Apple remarkable is going away today. From here on out Apple will be as likely as the next company to blunder in the marketplace by playing it safe. You will not see Tim Cook do anything half as insane/brilliant as Jobs was capable of.

Estragon 8 days ago 5 replies      
What an irritating post, basically saying nothing but, "Hey, look, I saw this coming!"
Tichy 7 days ago 1 reply      
I have to say, I am more concerned about Steve Jobs than about Apple. Today's news made me sad because the world will miss contributions from a genius.

I am confident that we will have nice computing hardware in the future. Even today, Apple are not the only ones to deliver.

But there is/was only one Steve Jobs.

Guess I am one of the few on HN who doesn't own Apple stock, so I am free to just worry about the man and not the company.

A-K 8 days ago 4 replies      
Gruber at his best. I get the feeling that he's had large pieces of this particular post in the works for quite some time.
pooriaazimi 8 days ago 3 replies      
Jobs's greatest creation isn't any Apple product. It is Apple itself.


MikeCapone 7 days ago 2 replies      
I thought that the Slaughterhouse-Five reference at the end was appropriate. Stuff happens, we need to deal with it as best as we can and keep looking ahead. That's what Steve always does.
st3fan 8 days ago 3 replies      
The thing to keep in mind is this: Apple tomorrow, a week from now, and next month is the exact same Apple from yesterday, a week ago, and last month.

Don't know about that. Apple, like all hi-tech companies, is constantly changing, adapting, finding new ways, dealing with change, innovation, etc.

aculver 8 days ago 1 reply      
One of the first tweets I read in the minutes after this news broke was "@gruber Well? Help us process this, John." I'm glad he didn't waste any time.
Zakharov 7 days ago 0 replies      
After reading that I had to stop and remind myself that Jobs isn't dead yet; the article read like an obituary.
tonetheman 8 days ago 2 replies      
How exactly is a company a fractal design? What the hell does that mean really?

Seriously how does this apple-ass-clown constantly make it to the front page?

Apple is not a person it is a company. Steve might be full of humility, Apple is not.

rockmeamedee 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think he summed it very well with Vonnegut at the end.

So it goes.

sigzero 7 days ago 0 replies      
It wasn't a surprise to anyone. Everyone knew it would happen eventually. He is still remaining the Chairman of the Board, so he will be around for a bit in that role. I see nothing changing for the immediate future but we will see.
joppa_road 8 days ago 0 replies      
i just can't get the words of dennis hopper from apocalypse now out of my head: when he dies, it dies, man.
Why I do not want to work at Google canonical.org
344 points by rl1987  4 days ago   131 comments top 24
DavidMcLaughlin 4 days ago  replies      
This guy really should go work for Google and figure out the problems they need to deal with running a service like Gmail. Even for just a little while.

At work we had a researcher from Yahoo Mail come in and give a presentation on the machine learning techniques they use to try and stop spammers abusing their mail servers. It was eye-opening to learn just what kind of hourly battle they face to keep spam out of their systems and the ways they are trying to combat it. It was even more enlightening when the presenter told stories about the problems that machine learning can't solve - like people within the company being bribed to whitelist spam companies based in Vegas.

On the surface it's such a simple problem, and I'm sure anyone who's tried to prevent their web application's outgoing mail being marked as spam by the evil corporations of Yahoo and Google will have had the desire to go write a blog post saying what a crock of shit the whole thing is and how they would never take part in that. But here's the thing - those systems are in place because if they weren't, email would be a completely useless form of communication at this point.

The people sending spam make _millions_ of dollars abusing a system which is popular because its open and based on trust. That kind of money combined with greed gives people all different levels of drive and incentive to get their emails about bigger penises and viagra through to your inbox. Every time they prevent one form of attack, these guys will create a new one.

To do this they do things like install mail servers on unsuspecting user's machines, specifically targeting Yahoo/Hotmail/Google users because their IP will obviously need to be trusted by those companies. They will also hack into other people's private mail servers. They will spoof email headers and pretend they're someone else. They will hire people, experts, who will find new ways of breaking in to servers they detect as having mail servers running on them. All this just to get past the spam filters and prevention that make email a useful form of communication to begin with.

And let's forget the people who couldn't set up their own mail server for just a second. I like to think I know what I'm doing. After installing Postfix and jumping through all the hoops to get my emails whitelisted by Gmail and making sure I didn't have an open relay on my mail server, you know what happened? Someone managed to hack in by brute force anyway. I only noticed because of the _millions_ of automated replies that were coming in every day from dead email accounts or people that were out of office.

Now, I could have worked hard to fight this. I could have did something other than changing my passwords and hoping they didn't get crack them again. But the point is - I only ran a mailserver to get email delivered to me on my personal domain. I didn't want to have to fight and battle and dedicate myself to solving this problem. I wanted to take this thing for granted. I just wanted to send and receive email. Instead bad people could not only sit there and read all my incoming mail - but they could use my server to spam people and get me blacklisted and blocked from so many other services I worked so hard to be trusted by. And they did all this without even specifically targeting me. I was a statistic to them, someone who simply didn't know what they know. In the end, I moved my personal mail account to Google Apps, free of charge. Problem solved.

By using Gmail or Yahoo Mail or Hotmail - you are almost definitely more secure than setting up your own mailserver. You have people paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year working full time to make sure your data is secure. I mean if privacy is your reason not to use Gmail, then I hope for your sake your mail server is secure. Maybe you think it is. I know I did too.

And all these people complaining about advertisements based on the content of their emails. Yahoo Mail had a team of like 30 people just doing _research_ on how to stop spammers. Then all these other people working on support. How does that service get provided to us _free of charge_ without advertisements or some sort of monetisation? I know in some people's heads they think it's literally just a Bayesian classifier and some hand-coded rules, but it's so beyond that.

And of course, let's not forget the fact that a lot of people would not be able to set up their own mail server anyway. Maybe you don't need them, but Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail enable hundreds of millions of people to communicate _for free_ with other people around the world that otherwise wouldn't be technically competent enough to buy a domain name and set up a local mail server. It lets you communicate with them too, because they don't get frustrated wading through hundreds of spam emails just to read the good stuff.

And that system only works because we have good guys that are fighting the bad guys who want to ruin it for the rest of us. And this is just the one example of email. Which has all this decentralised and open properties that you desire. I am reminded of Diaspora when they released a first beta of their code and it got absolutely torn to shreds for security reasons, and we haven't heard much since.

The real world sucks.

That's why I think it might be a good idea for you to go work for Google.

ender7 4 days ago 4 replies      
Here's the issue. No one cares. Well, I care, and presumably a number of other readers care, but compared to the total sum of internet users we're just a rounding error.

You know why people are using services like Gmail? Because it just works. Have you ever tried setting up your own mail server? I like to think that I'm pretty damn skilled with "the computer" but after a day of tweaking I'm still not sure mine is operating properly.

The sad fact is that being idealistic is not enough. You have to be idealistic and better than the bad guys. If you offer people a system that is hard to use, wastes their time, and/or is simply inferior to other options, no one will ever use it no matter how idealistically pure it is. Then you just sound like an asshole when you say "you're all morally inferior for refusing to degrade your experience."

So. Fix your system. Make it better than what we currently have. Then come back and convince me to care (hint: if your solution involves end-users installing and maintaining multiple servers, you're doing it wrong).

omouse 4 days ago 4 replies      
49 comments in 5 hours and almost all of them talk about the technical aspects or about working at Google.

This is about more than that, it's about decentralization as a way to empower people so that in the end we don't need centralized companies or governments to control our data.

Apple (and other companies) control what you're allowed to download. Google (and other companies) control what emails get through to you and your email history. Microsoft (and other companies) control your hardware.

He forgot to mention the larger and more disturbing point; many of these companies are American and so they're under the jurisdiction of the NSA and FBI (and CIA if you're not from around there). With centralization, law enforcement has easy and direct access to things. The only barrier is a warrant and even that isn't a barrier as we saw in the AT&T NSA wiretapping case.

He wouldn't want to work at Google or many other companies because they're pushing for centralization which brings certain political/social effects that he dislikes.

So can we please have a discussion about the political and social implications of decentralization vs centralizaton rather than the technical aspects??

cageface 4 days ago 1 reply      
There's a lot of interesting grey area between surrendering everything to Google and rolling your own mail server. I unplugged from Google this month but I'd still rather pay a little money to fastmail.fm, for instance, than fight spam myself.

The net isn't the wild west anymore but it doesn't have to be a sterile walled garden either.

kragen 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's heartening to see so much interest in my little post; it was quite a surprise to come home from a weekend traveling around to dance contact improv and discover hundreds of comments waiting for me.

It's disappointing that so many of the comments focus on one or another point about why things are the way they are: spam filtering is hard and benefits from secrecy from spammers, centralized software is currently more usable, etc. My post was about values, about what kind of a world we can be building, not about which tactics are expedient in the world we currently live in. People with the same values can get together to discuss what tactics to use to advance their goals, but it's no use in suggesting to me that I should use a tactic that advances goals I oppose because that tactic is more expedient!

tommi 4 days ago 6 replies      
I do understand that the mail post is about why he doesn't want to work at Google and not about demonizing Google. Yet, what still strikes me odd is that many people feel like Google and other big companies should act the way they want.

"Their “real names” policy on Google+ is one example; it makes it likely that only people who feel they have no repercussions to fear from anyone, ever, will write there."

And that is fine in my opinion. Not everybody needs to be on the Google+. It's their playground, let them run it the way they want.

Jach 4 days ago 1 reply      
>If Alice's email gets marked as spam, Bob ought to be able to find out why " and fix it!

While Gmail doesn't exactly let you figure out why, you can nevertheless fix it. That's what the Not Spam action is for. I've had mail land in the spam folder that shouldn't have, it only took a few 'not spam' actions to retrain it to let it through again. You're also free to backup your Gmail through both imap and pop. I never got the Gmail paranoia--the worst they do from my perspective is possibly deep-analyzing my emails in an effort to better serve me ads. They possibly sell the data to others (though I've seen no evidence of this) for them to serve me better ads. All these ads I don't ever see anyway because I use AdBlock Plus making their efforts pointless for my account.

I'm not a fan of the rhetorical conflation of decentralized computing with democracy. His other material I don't really want to comment on.

ilovecomputers 4 days ago 4 replies      
So far the "real name" policy is the only major, undemocratic, incident that I've seen from a centralized online service. Does anyone know of any other incidents that make case against centralized servers?

Nonetheless, I agree with him that we need to make decentralized computing practical. The best example I've seen of this is Opera Unite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivshJ-qyg5w

There is also Freenet, but so far (from reading their mailing lists) they are discussing about changing their load management. I've tried Freenet and it slows down my machine (not very practical), but it is the only software project I've seen that distributes the hosting of digital content among peers instead of a centralized server: http://freenetproject.org/

grovulent 4 days ago 3 replies      
Yeah - I'm not a fan of centralisation either, but what this article misses is that the most important thing enabled by the internet is not blocked by any of Google's practices.

What is the most important thing? In my view - it enables the formation of "Super Groups" - which I think will represent the most significant cultural change since the dawn of language.

All you need for the formation of super groups are sufficiently cheap and efficient signalling processes. Google has perhaps contributed to this drop in signalling costs as much any company on the internet.

Anyhoo - for those who want to know what a super group is - I wrote about it here:


lionhearted 4 days ago 0 replies      
> Google wants you to keep your mail in
Gmail instead of on your home computer

Offline Gmail is cool.

"Mail Settings" (gear in top right corner) -> "Offline"

Doesn't work in all browsers since Google Gears was deprecated in the newest versions of Chrome and Firefox, but it's only a minor hassle to run an earlier version of Firefox for the offline mode and syncing.

Very helpful to me and quite easy/convenient to set up, even with the recent Gears deprecation.

_debug_ 4 days ago 1 reply      
I love the fact that he has his own mailing list instead of a blog. The internet continues to surprise me every day.
snitko 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think there's always a balance between something being open and transparent (and possibly free and opensource, as those two things usually, though not always, go hand in hand) and something being closed and proprietary. I personally think having an opensource search engine - where all the rules for SEO are well known, constantly refactored and updated by the community - would be awesome. Would it be economically viable? Can't tell you that.
zmonkeyz 4 days ago 0 replies      
'Apple wants to relegate websites to second-class status on their popular computers, and exercises viewpoint censorship on what “apps” they allow in their “app store”.'

It was originally intended that you would make web apps to access on the IPhone and they did not want developers making apps for it. Consumers and developers demanded that feature so you got what you wished for. (not you per se)

mlinksva 4 days ago 1 reply      
FWIW I think "Why I do not want to work at Google" originally composed in HN thread http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2728174

These older posts are also fun http://lists.canonical.org/pipermail/kragen-tol/1999-January... http://lists.canonical.org/pipermail/kragen-tol/2006-Novembe...

Doing many things, including filtering spam, is more difficult in a decentralized environment. (It is curious that email, itself decentralized, has come to be dominated by several large service providers; I wonder how much of this is due to economies of scale for fighting spam and other attacks relative to other economies of scale relative to things not characterizable as an economy of scale? Search of documents published in a decentralized manner on the web is another example.) Many things are even easier in a completely centralized manner, thus G+, Facebook, Twitter, and their morbid predecessors. For all their issues, architecturally decentralized email, web, and internet are much more valuable than the 2011 versions of AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy silos. So thank you to all working on making the next bits of decentralized architecture work. I imagine it is possible to do a bit of this work at Google et al, but it is clearly way, way down the priority list of any such companies.

matth 4 days ago 1 reply      
Much of Kragen's vision for the future is in line with where I think our world is heading.

It actually inspired me to draft up a blog post: http://blog.matthewghudson.com/post/9497957290/the-public-an...

sschueller 3 days ago 1 reply      
Why do you have gmail.com listed for the canonical.org SPF record?

"v=spf1 a mx include:gmail.com ~all"

Might be a reason your emails end up in spam at gmail. Although a and mx would cover it I would also add:

ip4: a:canonical.org

If you use gmail to send mail the SPF should be: include:aspmx.googlemail.com or include:_spf.google.com

msh 4 days ago 2 replies      
Isn't This part of problem freedom box want to solve?
damian2000 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think there is a fair bit of difference between 'closed' centralized control in the form of apple / facebook, which is generally proprietary and secretive, compared to the 'open' centralization that google espouses ... they are one of the great proponents of open source ... their android OS for example is open source. Given that, I probably still wouldn't want to work for them though, from what I've heard theres a lot of c++ coding at 1am in the morning. ;-
anotherevan 4 days ago 1 reply      
Every time I see one of these "Why I don't want to work at Google" articles I think to myself, "Don't worry, they don't want you to work there either."
ristretto 4 days ago 0 replies      
Then don't
billmcneale 3 days ago 0 replies      
tl;dr: This guy doesn't want to work for Google because he hosts his own email and Google wants you to store your email in Gmail.
napierzaza 4 days ago 2 replies      
"Apple wants to relegate websites to second-class status on their popular computers,"

Does he realize that Apple computer has been around a lot longer than the internet? And that they've been making an OS with applications on it a lot longer than there was a web browser? So maybe that's actually what Apple DOES and does well?

sneak 4 days ago 0 replies      
He had me right up to the point where he claimed that Jake Appelbaum has made a significant contribution to anything.
garyd 4 days ago 1 reply      
Kragen is obviously not well informed of how the Internet works regardless of how long he's been online. Or to use one of his piss poor analogies, just because a cat is 20 years old does not mean he knows every cat in the neighborhood. His descriptions of DSL, wireless networking, p2p, network topology, and his guesses about the infrastructure behind major "evil" web sites are about as narrow sighted as a twenty year old feline.
Why must you laugh at my back end? pud.com
340 points by pud  2 days ago   211 comments top 40
ary 2 days ago  replies      
Cold Fusion? No, no... no.

> CFML. I really like programming in CFML (a programming language, “ColdFusion Markup Language,” as opposed to ColdFusion, a commercial CFML interpreter made by Adobe). I know it's not "cool" like Node.js or Clojure or even RoR.

Doctors used to bleed people with leeches to get out the "bad humors". They stopped using that "tool" for a reason. It was a bad tool, and better "tools" came along.

Not only is CFML not cool, it is hard for most people not familiar with CFML to understand [1]. The syntax mixes in with HTML markup in such a way as to make it very difficult to distinguish the two apart. With a syntax highlighter your mind still has a hard time as there isn't enough of a difference to make a subconscious context switch easy. Also, the need to cram logic constructs into HTML/XML-like syntax makes for some screwed up code. My understanding is that you can put the attributes for the tags in any order, and that means that things you'd always expect (in other languages) to appear in a certain order, like conditions for statements, are instead a matter of style [2].

> It's got an old vibe. Not just because it was the first made-for-web programming language (tho it's modern & updated frequently), but because whenever I meet other CFML coders, they're always old dudes.

My experience with CF developers is similar. This is not a good thing. This is nothing like the C and C++ graybeards you occasionally meet and develop immense respect for. These old CF developers are, in my anecdotal experience, the kind people that learned one type of development and stuck with it for a long, long time. They've not really improved their skill sets beyond what was popular practice when they first learned Cold Fusion. These are the kind of people (I kid you not) that think HTML tables are a great way to get your page layout just right.

Why did the OP take an entire blog post to say what could have been posted to Twitter ("you darn kids and your twittin'!")? The whole post boils down to what appears to be proud, willful ignorance.

A lot of "you're a developer, but you really should learn about business" stuff gets posted to HN. This case looks to be turned around and we have a business person doing double-duty as a developer. My advice is to learn something more current, and not because it's cool. More current technology has business value in that it's easier to find people who can work with/on it, and you will be able to find more of those kind of people for longer. The underlying tech will also (usually) be supported for longer, and by a wider range of companies. The reasons are too many to comprehensively list here.

I wasn't laughing at your back-end, by the way. It made me a little sad.

[1] http://www.quackit.com/coldfusion/coldfusion_tutorial.cfm

[2] http://www.quackit.com/coldfusion/tutorial/coldfusion_loops....

nhashem 2 days ago  replies      
This is great. Seriously. I cut my teeth in the early 2000s writing the type of PHP code that would make your eyes bleed. Global variables everywhere. HTML/PHP/MySQL in the same file. Career-wise I ended up going down a backend/database developer path, so if I do anything with consumer-facing web applications, it's on my free time.

I'm working on such an app now, and right now the fastest way I can get anything done is writing similar code to what I wrote in 2003. It's not quite as bad, but I continually succumb to doubt. Shouldn't I be using a framework? Wouldn't Python or Ruby be a better language to use now? Is it 'cheating' if I just throw these form elements in an HTML table? Shouldn't I be using something more scalable for the backend than a default installation of MySQL 5.1?

And yet, every time I try and address any of the above, it just gets frustrating to me. I have a limited of free time to work on this web application each week. So I want to spend that time actually DOING things with my web application, not just ramping up on learning some stuff so that I can maybe do some things a few weeks from now. This web application is getting a bit of traction with users. I always figured that I would eventually "code myself into a corner," and that making these suboptimal technology stack choices would result in me hitting some local maxima that would bite me in the ass and I'd have to basically rewrite everything.

But after reading this blog post, I feel a lot better about my choices. If this guy can make his web application work with the technology stack he prefers, then so can I.

acangiano 2 days ago 3 replies      
In computing, there is an emphasis on the tools, rather than what you do with them.

It's worth noting that it's not limited to computing either. Countless amateur photographers spend their time discussing hardware, rather than techniques and other aspects that would benefit their craft to a much greater extent.

Personally, as much as I'm fascinated by the tools, I'm much more curious about what you do with them. So I'm always glad when I see someone succeed and create something useful with an odd stack of technologies. It reminds me to focus less on the tools and more on the creation process.

jsdalton 2 days ago 1 reply      
Some weird part of me loves this, and I don't know why.

That said, I'm very confused. The post says these sites are running off of your "awesome" backend:

  * http://www.pud.com
* http://adhdinc.com

But those are just pages with links to other services? Furthermore, while some of those services (TinyLetter, FaqMe) do seem to be produced by ADHD, others (Blippy, AdBrite) do not seem to be, though it seems you claim to have participated in them in some way, shape or form.

I don't really care one way or the other, but my real question here is: Which websites in your list are actually running off of the backend described here?

qaexl 2 days ago 1 reply      
(1) I have respect for people who can put a project together and get revenue flowing through it.

(2) This technology stack sucks.

(3) That your technology stack sucks does not mean you suck.

(4) Maslow's Four Stages of Competence starts with Unconscious Incompetence. You don't even know you are unskilled. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_competence)

(5) This isn't a popularity contest. (http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-o...) Being cool and being in the in-crowd has nothing to do with your technology stack. That goes for nerds too (http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html)

(6) The tone of this article is defensive. The issues relates to identity, not technology.

(7) Relax, people.

PedroCandeias 2 days ago 3 replies      
I don't hang out with a lot of programmers and I guess this is the reason. This "laughing" the op alludes to. This endless discussion of what language or back end is the best. I find it impossible to talk about programming with people who would rather indoctrinate me on the benefits of their chosen language than talk about, say, data structures. It's like arguing about what colour is the best. It's pointless.

So big ups to pud for his post and his peculiar stack. In its own way, it's a very cool and imaginative stack. And it works, which I think is the only thing that matters in the end.

reinhardt 2 days ago 2 replies      
As long as Xeround sticks around and does what they say they can do, I'll never have to worry about scaling my database

Never heard of that database/company before so I clicked on the link out of curiosity and guess what, their server is down. Not very reassuring for an "infinitely scalable solution".

51Cards 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not laughing, I run several sites on a similar stack and it all runs very well. I do run Railo though just because it runs circles around the native CF server (and I don't use any of the "high level" stuff Railo doesn't include), and I use mySQL 5.5, but all under Win 2k8 Server. I have dabbled in several other frameworks as well but I simply keep coming back to CF to get things done. Be it personal familiarity or platform flexibility or a combination of both, it's never come up short or failed to perform very well and that's how I judge something to be an acceptable platform.
hristov 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is that the same pud that did fuckedconpany? It was a hilarious site where people made fun of over valued companies during the first boom. Unfotunately the site eventually became overrun by nazis (not kidding) and had to be shut down.
JasPanesar 2 days ago 2 replies      
Customers don't care what you code in.

Or what your backend is like as long as it works.

They just want their lives to be easier.

Use what you know, use it well, and make a difference.


Most techies who have a negative opinion about any technology do it with hearsay and not first hand experience.

For examples, all web languages pretty much do the same stuff, and you'll rarely come across a web app that uses a language in a novel way that actually makes a difference which language you use. They all have their pros and cons, it just depends on what you want to coo / boo over.

To be fair many haven't accessed the tools that may require money to use. Alternatively others might not have had the luxury of free time to learn something on their own. It's not better, or worse, just different. Sadly a lot of devs build wizardry to make their own lives easier and avoid tackling making their users lives easier, and that shouldn't happen in any language.

All that matters is can you deliver a result that works well. If techies spent as much time obsessing over improving their skills and finding way to build valuable solutions than which tools to use, they'd know this.

For those who hold a holier than thou attitude in believing the only way one can correctly create and innovate with a computer (software included) need to be from narrow list of tools/education fields, they forget that smart people can often learn to be great at more than one thing:

"I was lucky to get into computers when it was a very young and idealistic industry. There weren't many degrees offered in computer science, so people in computers were brilliant people from mathematics, physics, music, zoology, whatever. They loved it, and no one was really in it for the money."
(Fortune) Steve Jobs

Get building.

blantonl 2 days ago 0 replies      
For those of you that were not around during the dot.com implosion in 2000-2001, pud (the author of this blog post) ran the notorious site http://www.fuckedcompany.com which gave an awesome view into companies that were going down the tubes during that time.

good times... good times..

freshhawk 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't understand what's so difficult about holding the following facts in your head at once:

1. Better tools make you more productive and make larger problems tractable. Using outdated or subpar tools seriously limits your options, especially if you need to compete with professionals. The simpler your problems, the less this matters.

2. It's easy to get sucked in to constantly learning the new language/framework/toolset when you enjoy learning these things, finding the balance between the diminishing returns of trying out new tech and being highly productive is difficult. Welcome to life.

3. Some people on the internet loudly engage in ignorant fanboyism, especially if they see smart people using their new piece of tech and figure they got onto a good idea early.

4. That same fanboyism defends crappy tools because it's human nature to feel that kind of tribal defensiveness when you've invested a lot of time learning and using something, this is especially strong when someone has all or most of their experience with a single tool or set of tools.

Here's an idea: in the real world tools and productivity are tied in a complicated way.

The comments "it doesn't matter what you use, just keep getting things done!" is just as stupid as "stop working on things and upgrade your skillset immediately!".

Since this is aimed more at the commenters than at pud's submission I will say to him: You are impressively productive with that tech stack, it really doesn't look like it would be difficult for you to move to something more powerful than cold fusion at least. You seem like a pragmatic guy who can see the future payoff from that investment. You also look like a young guy who should not be ignoring the kind of commitment to life long learning necessary to compete in this industry.

eapen 2 days ago 1 reply      
As a ColdFusion developer looking for a job in the valley, I also faced all the negativity associated with the language. In fact, I ended up barely mentioning the language on my resume. If the language was renamed to something else and totally re-branded, it would probably gain more respect. Most people still think of the older versions when it was built in C. But since the conversion to Java, it has been able to benefit from a lot of the Java enhancements while still functioning as a duck-typed language.

Another advantage is that, it has a very short learning curve. But like with any tool, it can be used by amateurs to produce amateur looking code. Using a framework (eg. FW/1) encourages better structured code and OOP approaches.

You can meet most of your web needs with ColdFusion and some highly specialized items may be more complicated. But that is the case with just about any language. The only part where I havent found sufficient documentation or user experiences related to scaling applications. That is not to say, it hasn't been done.

Given the relatively high price of Adobe CF (compared to Ruby/PHP etc), it is not really an option that startups (in the Bay area) will consider. There are open-source CFML engines like Railo as the author notes, but unfortunately, it lacks publicity.

mattbillenstein 2 days ago 0 replies      
What sort of traffic do you push through this infrastructure? Micro instances only have ~600MB of memory and I found them to be severely over-sold cpu-wise -- doesn't windows require like ~300MB of RAM to just boot?

And Windows is only a penny more per hour on micro instances (although that is 50% more than Linux) -- but quite a bit more on larger instances should you ever have to scale up: http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/pric...

Re database choice -- http://xeround.com is totally down right now... Thoughts?

I dunno, just seems like a world of hurt should you actually have to scale up -- but presuming you do, perhaps you'd have the funds and/or resources to cover it anyway.

Additionally, How on earth do you hire people to work in this stack?!?

radagaisus 2 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't even know CFML was an open standard.
Check out cfwheels.org before you comment. It's a RoR like framework, and from 15 minutes of tutorials - it's actually pretty good. It handles APIs better than Django and deals with AJAX in a smart way.

CFML verbosity and the entangled html is a downer though.

bobstobener 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've built my product on CFML as well and I can't understand why it doesn't get more love from the developer community. It's a solid, productive language and the only language available in both commercial and open source (free) versions with tremendous support forums on both fronts. I personally use Railo for the CFML engine. Again, very productive and it enables me to get products to an MVP stage quickly.
encoded 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if some of the laughing isn't so much at you and your stack, but at the laugher's experiences with those (or similar) technologies.

We've all worked with technologies that cause us pain in our development process. Sometimes, the pain becomes so great that we look for, and find, something that we like better. Changing to this new techonology eases said pain, and allows us to be (or at least feel) more productive.

I believe it's possible that some people laugh because they remember when they used one or more of those technologies, and the pain they felt while using it. They laugh and suggest other technologies because they assume you have the same pains they've had, and they'd like to offer you what they consider a better alternative that might ease some of the pains. After all, it worked for them!

It appears that you've had some pains with this stack, but that you've found ways to deal with those pains that don't involve leaving your current technologies. Good for you. You've built successful applications on them. Also good for you. These are, of course, the things that really matter.

dreww 2 days ago 0 replies      
this stack is... interesting. but the real problem, i think, with what he's saying, is that it is basically "i refuse to learn anything new that is not tightly bound to what i already know".

it's true that the laughter is unnecessary, and the trends and hype can be obnoxious, but it is somewhat about the excitement of always learning new things and new ways to think.

oemera 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm little late here but I can't stop but write my response to this.

I know the problem to laugh about code, backend or infrastructure. I know a lot of people are opinionated and if they don't like something you can't stop them firing on you.
I'm very happy for you that you found a stack which works for you HOWEVER this doesn't mean that it works for others. A lot of programming languages, paradigms, frameworks and infrastructures just work for one guy on his greenfield project but while getting bigger things get lot harder and crappy cause it isn't modular enough or no-one understands "the legacy code" ect.

At beginning it seems like you can't run into such problems but after a couple months of development this happens nearly in every project. You learning from these mistakes and get better with every project. There are a lot of things in software development people are talking about but you can only truly understand it when you came to the point where you have this problem people are describing to fix.

For example a lot of my old colleagues are in love with PHP. They get stuff done with it and somehow they get code shipped but they don't go for elegance and having less code smells. They just go for "it works what you want more?".
Software development is not only "it works" it is far more than that! Maintainable code, readable code, performance, architecture, elegance (for example: less readable code which covers the same as before) you name it.

I found my self learning a lot from different languages, paradigms, people and different systems. For example what I love about linux is: I could write a automatic shell script to do anything. With Windows you can't! You just can't write for every step a shell script a lot of things are only available through the GUI. This bad. I don't like that. And I also don't like to run the GUI on a server. You are wasting a lot of resources here.

st0p 2 days ago 0 replies      
At the end of the day, making stuff work is all that matters. I would never have considered CFML or IIS or Windows as a webserver, but if it makes your stuff work and helps you make stuff work, why would I laugh at it?
softbuilder 1 day ago 0 replies      
So, he's got:

* rapid development tools (at least for him)
* scalable, low-maintenance backend
* affordable infrastructure
* automated deployment
* automated backups

This is almost a Joel Test for web startups.

dclaysmith 2 days ago 2 replies      
The synchronizing with Dropbox is pretty clever. Had never thought of that. Probably some latency issues--it wouldn't suit all cases but definitely would be a simple fix to a few problems I've had in the past.
alnayyir 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's less laughing and more "first world paternalistic concern for a third world nation trashing about".
kakuri 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you don't mind working alone, work with whatever you like. If it's important to your business to attract the best talent, you need to use the best tools. I'm leaving my job largely because of tools & tech, and passed on a lucrative offer to pursue a different job with better tech.
rbanffy 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't laugh, but I am surprised it works. I have abandoned Cold Fusion in the late 90's - it kept hanging up, to the point of someone (me) having to write a program that detected the lockup and proceeded to restart the service. It may have become more reliable over the years, but I wouldn't know. CFML also has several drawbacks as a web programming language - the way it mixes presentation and application logic makes it hard to test properly and reminds me of what is wrong with a lot of PHP and JSP code out there.

I am also surprised someone claims it's faster to work on Windows than it is on a Unix-like OS. Most of the things I do on servers are moving files around, installing/updating packages and occasionally restarting a daemon. For that, clicking and dragging on a remote GUI is much less efficient than issuing equivalent commands in a shell.

I also read IIS progressed a lot since I last had to automate virtual server creation. Again, Apache runs on Windows and spitting (usually rendering from a template and adding custom values) a new config-file and doing a graceful restart appears simpler than right-clicking, form-filling and manually copying settings from one place to another. Windows doesn't even offer the courtesy of select/middle-button operation (unless you are operating IIS from the console).

Like someone else said, unless your infrastructure fails miserably (and CF/Windows failed me long ago) your app won't suck because of the technologies it stands upon. A good idea implemented in CF, PHP or ASP is just as good as a good idea implemented in Django or Rails or Node or Lisp. It's just that it may be harder to evolve it over time, or make it scale, or deploy it in the first place.

rdouble 2 days ago 2 replies      
What sites are running this hilarious back end?
ebiester 2 days ago 2 replies      
The only piece that made me cringe was CFML. I promise that a better life awaits you if you have the courage to break free.
bobstobener 2 days ago 0 replies      
Typical posts against CFML. "It's old." Well then so is Java, PHP, you name it. Actually, of all of those languages, CFML has the latest iteration (which is the most important stat). Railo and Adobe both have new updates ariving soon. Hey, how bout that JSTL huh? Morbid since the late 90's.
perfunctory 1 day ago 0 replies      
For a webapp written and maintained by one person it does not matter what tools you use. Just like it doesn't matter what tools you use to build a doghouse.
hm2k 2 days ago 0 replies      
The web page at http://xeround.com/ is currently unavailable. It may be overloaded or down for maintenance.

HTTP Error 503 (Service Unavailable): The server is currently unable to handle the request. This code indicates that this is a temporary condition and that the server will be up again after a delay.

bcrouse 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't get it. Would anyone argue that you couldn't launch successful sites this way? Tools are made to improve the process and enable new possibilities; that's why use good tools.
fatalerrorx3 2 days ago 1 reply      
You need elastic load balancing for iPhone Apps, do they call your web servers that often? How many users are you dealing with currently? Wondering if my single server in my house will be enough to launch a new web service shortly..the server is currently a quad core dedicated Ubuntu LAMP Server with 2gigs of ram that I built a little over a year ago, currently hosted off of residential cable

P.S. That's a nice looking backend

kokon 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why must you laugh? If it works, why not?
emehrkay 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've killed a potentially great startup by trying to get the "code perfect"
joshu 2 days ago 1 reply      
aren't micro instances heavily throttled?
trebor 1 day ago 0 replies      
I laugh at your backend because you need to exercise!

(Just a joke, nothing more.)

bitwize 2 days ago 0 replies      
Because it's big. And dirty.
austintaylor 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not using source control.
samyvilar 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not surprise people would laugh at this back end, it's sort of a who's who list of frow upon technologies, it's amazing how popularity contests are so prevalent in tech ...
iml 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm laughing at your front-end, actually.
Steve Jobs' Best Quotes wsj.com
326 points by arst829  8 days ago   67 comments top 25
m0nastic 8 days ago 2 replies      
Folklore.org seems to be down right now, but my favorite Steve Jobs exchange is the following:

We worked our way up to the front of the crowd to get a good look at the units [Osborne 1] that were on display. We started to ask one of the presenters a technical question, when we were suprised to see Adam Osborne himself standing a few feet from us, looking at our show badges, preempting the response.

"Oh, some Apple folks", he addressed us in a condescending tone, "What do you think? The Osborne 1 is going to outsell the Apple II by a factor of 10, don't you think so? What part of Apple do you work in?"

When we told him that we were on the Mac team, he started to chuckle. "The Macintosh, I heard about that. When are we going to get to see it? Well, go back and tell Steve Jobs that the Osborne 1 is going to outsell the Apple II and the Macintosh combined!"

So, after returning to Cupertino later that afternoon, we told Steve about our encounter with Adam Osborne. He smiled, with a sort of mock anger, and immediately grabbed the telephone on the spare desk in Bud's office, and called information for the number of the Osborne Computer Corporation. He dialed the number, but it was answered by a secretary.

"Hi, this is Steve Jobs. I'd like to speak with Adam Osborne."

The secretary informed Steve that Mr. Osborne was not available, and would not be back in the office until tomorrow morning. She asked Steve if he would like to leave a message.

"Yes", Steve replied. He paused for a second. "Here's my message. Tell Adam he's an asshole."

There was a long delay, as the secretary tried to figure out how to respond. Steve continued, "One more thing. I hear that Adam's curious about the Macintosh. Tell him that the Macintosh is so good that he's probably going to buy a few for his children even though it put his company out of business!"

alanfalcon 8 days ago 1 reply      
great stuff. Like Steve on Startups:

“The problem with the Internet startup craze isn't that too many people are starting companies; it's that too many people aren't sticking with it. That's somewhat understandable, because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That's when you find out who you are and what your values are.

“So when these people sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they're gypping themselves out of one of the potentially most rewarding experiences of their unfolding lives. Without it, they may never know their values or how to keep their newfound wealth in perspective.” [Fortune, Jan. 24, 2000]

lionhearted 7 days ago 5 replies      
This one, too -


“When you're young, you look at television and think, There's a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that's not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That's a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It's the truth.” [Wired, February 1996]

jballanc 7 days ago 0 replies      
My two favorite Steve quotes both came during a talk with some interns one summer (paraphrasing from memory):


Intern: "Where do you see Apple in 5 years? 10 years?"

Steve: "I don't know. I'm too focused on where Apple is going tomorrow...and I think anyone that does tell you they know where their company will be in 5 years is lying, or doesn't have enough to worry about now."

(It was clear that Steve saw Apple's roadmap as a continuous progression from the present, rather than a plotted course to some arbitrary goal. That's an attitude that I've found has served me very well...)


Intern: "What are your dreams?"

Steve: "To not be asked questions like that...next"

phil 8 days ago 2 replies      
All armchair commentators would do well to consider this one:

Q: There's a lot of symbolism to your return. Is that going to be enough to reinvigorate the company with a sense of magic?

“You're missing it. This is not a one-man show. What's reinvigorating this company is two things: One, there's a lot of really talented people in this company who listened to the world tell them they were losers for a couple of years, and some of them were on the verge of starting to believe it themselves. But they're not losers. What they didn't have was a good set of coaches, a good plan. A good senior management team. But they have that now.” [BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998]

javert 7 days ago 2 replies      
So many of these remind me of Howard Roark, the architect in Ayn Rand's novel "The Fountainhead."

The idea of designing products for yourself, that YOU want, not for a committee and not for the masses - and of loyalty to the central idea of the product all the way through. The idea of a man who is religious about his work - but who is not actually religious. Building something in your own image - for Roark, it was actual buildings; for Jobs, as has been said, it was Apple.

gxs 7 days ago 0 replies      
“It's like when IBM drove a lot of innovation out of the computer industry before the microprocessor came along. Eventually, Microsoft will crumble because of complacency, and maybe some new things will grow. But until that happens, until there's some fundamental technology shift, it's just over.” [Wired, February 1996]

Wow I find this one especially prescient. Imo it shows real insight, and shows he wasn't following some pipe dream.

cpeterso 8 days ago 0 replies      
Steve's advice to Nike:

"Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff."

adulau 7 days ago 0 replies      
There is a missing quote from Steve Jobs that I really like.

"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."

lionhearted 7 days ago 0 replies      
This one's my favorite -


Q: There's a lot of symbolism to your return. Is that going to be enough to reinvigorate the company with a sense of magic?

“You're missing it. This is not a one-man show. What's reinvigorating this company is two things: One, there's a lot of really talented people in this company who listened to the world tell them they were losers for a couple of years, and some of them were on the verge of starting to believe it themselves. But they're not losers. What they didn't have was a good set of coaches, a good plan. A good senior management team. But they have that now.” [BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998]

plainOldText 7 days ago 1 reply      
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma " which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I think this is simply one of the best quotes I've ever come across.

rbanffy 8 days ago 3 replies      
Two of my favorites are not there:

"I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."


"I am saddened, not by Microsoft's success " I have no problem with their success. They've earned their success, for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third-rate products."

bnycum 7 days ago 0 replies      
One of my favorites not on there.

"We do no market research. We don't hire consultants. The only consultants I've ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway's retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made [when launching Apple's retail stores]."

philjackson 7 days ago 2 replies      
"We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn't build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves."

Seems contrary to advice I often read from people here.

arst829 8 days ago 2 replies      
Perhaps the most pertinent to startup life: "“It's more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.”
dulse 8 days ago 1 reply      
I love that perhaps his most insightful and quote-able interview ever was to Playboy in 1985.
whatrocks 7 days ago 0 replies      
Great 1995 interview with Jobs from the Smithsonian:


In our business, one person can't do anything anymore. You create a team of people around you. You have a responsibility of integrity of work to that team. Everybody does try to turn out the best work that they can.

daimyoyo 7 days ago 0 replies      
bonzoesc 7 days ago 1 reply      
Sums up my thoughts on vi:

> Some people are saying that we ought to put an IBM PC on every desk in America to improve productivity. It won't work. The special incantations you have to learn this time are the “slash q-zs” and things like that.

mateo42 8 days ago 1 reply      
His answer the 1996 interview question with Wired about technology revolutionizing our lives definitely seems at odds with what we've listened to him tout about such things as the iPad.
AaronInCincy 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think $404.50/share is about the best quote he's ever had.
acak 7 days ago 0 replies      
The bicycle analogy to computers.


Paraphrase: The computer is to the human mind, what the bicycle is to our ability to travel.

pavanred 7 days ago 0 replies      
I am eagerly waiting for the Steve Jobs's biography. Its based on 40 interviews with Jobs. I am hoping there are a lot more such interesting stories.
grammr 7 days ago 0 replies      
"I want to put a ding in the universe."
If I Launched a Startup - Cheat Sheet startuplawyer.com
327 points by feydr  7 days ago   37 comments top 9
grellas 7 days ago 0 replies      
A sharp, concise checklist put together by a talented startup lawyer - to which I would add a few observations:

1. A Delaware C-corp is often a fine choice for startups but be careful not to make it a fixed rule. Whatever you do must fit your circumstances and not be something you do simply because it is declared from on-high. You don't want to find yourself in the position of the young founder who ultimately said "why incorporating my startup [in Delaware] was my worst mistake" (see http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2399139). And, as tptacek points out variously on this thread, sometimes an LLC or an S-corp might be a better fit for you or your team - this choice is often tax-driven, though it can also tie to the less formal management structure and the often lower cost of an LLC (see my comments here on some pluses and minuses of LLCs in a startup context: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1276724). My point: think it through before making this choice (on domicile, here are some thoughts on how local domicile might in some cases be better than Delaware: http://grellas.com/faq_business_startup_002.html).

2. C-corp is a particularly good choice for 2011 if you plan to hold the stock in your venture for more than 5 years with the hope that you can sell it free of any federal capital gains tax and also free of AMT. Not all stock grants will qualify, even in a C-corp, and so you should check with a good CPA (for some of the relevant factors, see my comments on so-called QSB stock: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2018041).

3. Vesting for founders is a mix-and-match process and does not have to be uniform for all founders. Those who have not yet make significant contributions to a venture at the time of entity formation normally should take their interest subject to vesting - otherwise, they might walk away with a large piece of equity before having earned it. This wouldn't necessarily apply to all founders, however, and it is at times appropriate that one or more founders on a team get their stock (or at least a significant part of it) free and clear of vesting requirements. Otherwise, there is an unfair risk of forfeiture placed upon them. Also, the one-year cliff idea often doesn't fit with founders, in my experience; more typically, there is some sort of immediate pro-rata vesting (monthly, quarterly, etc.).

4. The "lock down the IP" point is often overlooked, especially by founders trying a DIY approach: make sure you have not only technology assignment agreements to capture all IP generated in the pre-formation stage but also invention assignment / work-for-hire agreements to make sure the company owns all IP generated by founders after they have their initial stock (the company does not automatically own it just because they are owners doing work on the venture). The idea of IP has its detractors today but your company will suffer in fund-raising and on exit if holes exist in these areas. All it takes is one bad episode - anything from a founder bolting to form a directly competitive venture using the same IP to an ex-founder filing suit to block further company development on IP that he claims he owns - to convince most founders that IP protection is in fact vital in the early-company stage for most ventures.

5. One other very important item: make sure to separate your founder grants from any large cash investments that are done for equity. If you don't, it will create tax risks because, if cash and services are contributed for stock at the same time and for the same type of equity, the service providers (i.e., those contributing the "sweat equity") can potentially be taxed on the value of the equity received as measured by what might be a high company valuation (e.g., you get 50% and an investor gets 50%, you contribute your talents and services and the investor puts in $200,000, all for common stock - result: you are at risk for having received up to $200,000 income item on which you must pay tax). Not a particular tax risk if investors use convertible notes (because the stock is not priced in that case) but a potentially serious one if investors get stock. The relevant planning tip: while you don't need to unduly front-load expenses, don't wait too long before setting up the entity either - you should generally do this before you have your investors lined up and about to sign.

tptacek 7 days ago 4 replies      
Note that while these are probably the best practices for a company that knows it is immediately going to take funding, LLCs and S-Corps are valid choices for companies that aren't sure or that are going to be making money before they take funding.

The S-Corp in particular has some attractive features: it simplifies equity grants to employees compared to an LLC, and taxes are easier to deal with in a C-Corp (there's also a sort of notorious salary-vs.-distribution trick people place with S-Corps to reduce their taxable income).

The LLC is incredibly easy to set up; you can probably get one via 1-click on Amazon now.

In the only company I founded that took serious VC, I didn't handle any of the legal, but the sense I got was that legal for a real VC round is so innately expensive that the S-to-C conversion isn't a big deal by comparison. It's most convenient for everyone if you're not even incorporated, but that's their problem (it is dumb to do business without incorporating); if you're worth funding, nobody is not going to fund you because of the cost of converting to their preferred structure.

idlewords 7 days ago 2 replies      
Can't resist giving a shout-out to the sole proprietorship without outside funding. It's pretty amazing how much cheaper it has gotten to start a whole range of software businesses in the last three years.
alphadogg 3 days ago 0 replies      
The one non-negligible issue I had with the tips was the "vesting over time" approach recommended in the article. I prefer to setup vesting to milestones, such as "x contracted clients", or "delivered first MVP (minimum valuable product, as defined by a list of mutually-accepted user stories)", etc. IOW, I prefer vesting to some sort of deliverable, not just time.
neeleshs 7 days ago 0 replies      
These are great points for someone like me who knows only programming. I would say this is a good list to look at 'when the time comes'.
EDIT: More clarity in line 1
Eduard 7 days ago 2 replies      
"If I Launched a Startup - in the US" this should be named.
doctoroakin 7 days ago 0 replies      
great resource here!
TheOtherDamian 7 days ago 0 replies      
I am tired of the word hacker.
arkitaip 7 days ago 1 reply      
These are the things he would do in the beginning?! What about the part where you create something of value? I guess this is the explanation why lawyers don't launch startups.
Misadventures in VC Funding: The $24 Million Moz Almost Raised randfishkin.com
321 points by dshah  3 days ago   50 comments top 20
nikcub 3 days ago 1 reply      
This happens all too often. A firm would rush to a term sheet knowing that they haven't done all the work required and knowing that there is a chance they will pull out of the deal, only so that they can kill off the interest from the competition.

I think it is very likely that they hadn't done any real DD (on you, or the market) until after you signed, and during that DD found that the business/market was not as hot as they thought it would be.

I have been through a similar process twice. The first VC gave us a term sheet 3 days after the first meeting, only for them to drag through the DD.

and all VC's say that they have an interest in the market you are in. The only way to substantiate it is to see if they have made investments in similar industries. ie. has this firm previously invested in an enterprise SaaS company related to marketing or aimed at marketing departments? If this firm or partner had only invested in server software, or consumer, etc. then it should have been warning.

You should also look at how many deals that partner has done and what their decision making process is. There is no mention of this in the post, but it could be that he took the deal to his partners and they decided to turn it down. There is no mention of the other partners at the firm nor how they make decisions.

The solution is to go through DD with 4-5 firms at the same time before signing anything or before finalizing terms. Tell them straight up that you want to do DD with all these firms between date x and date y, and that by date z you want final committals, from where you can go over terms with those who are still interested.

Things were done in the wrong order in this case, and you said you didn't want to shop the deal -- the VC took advantage of that.

patio11 3 days ago 2 replies      
Only tangentially related to the post: you know that bit about firms ridiculously underinvesting on SEO? This has been true over and over and over again in my experience. If you somehow manage to avoid that pathology, you will eat your competitors' lunches.
lancewiggs 3 days ago 0 replies      
What a great article - thank you. But please, that's it with the fund raising, please stop now.

You've demonstrated that SEOmoz can get through tough times and grow organically. You've even grown SEOMoz to a reasonable size and are now able to layer on team members almost as fast as you can hire them. Next year you'll be much bigger, and it's going to be even easier.

As you say the fund raising process distracted you from the main customer cause, and I suspect that having those funds would most likely have done serious damage.

So it's good to see you are sticking to your guns and moving away from fund raising to keep building the business. There seems to be no reason to give any of it away for the sake of a few bucks a year or two earlier than otherwise expected.

Perhaps you could also slow growth just a fraction and take some more cash out to ensure that the shareholders are comfortable along the way. While it might take a year longer to get to $100 million, you'll be a lot happier along the way.

The contrarian VCs of old would be writing checks, but by the time SEO is cool with many of the current crop you'll be starting your own fund.

Great stuff.

jkahn 3 days ago 1 reply      
Rand, thank you for the detailed and revealing post. Especially the parts that you didn't need to share that made the story much more concrete - such as revenue and gross margins.

I am curious - how do you think the funding would have changed your current trajectory? From all appearances your business is growing well.

michael_dorfman 3 days ago 1 reply      
A great inside view.

I'm particularly impressed by Rand's ability to keep his spirits up; as one who has been through similar, I know how soul-crushing it can be, if you let it. Kudos.

vaksel 3 days ago 1 reply      
frankly I'm surprised they even had to raise funding with their current revenue levels and profit margins.

And an investor might think that the company has peaked already. Everyone knows who they are. And SEO is something that doesn't have a lot of growth for company adoption. It's been around so long, that most people already know about it. So your hope for customer acquisition is to find that one marketing professional that doesn't know about SEO.

lawrence 3 days ago 0 replies      
Rand, I wouldn't be surprised if this post gets you that round, and at better terms.

Neil will be kicking himself at some point.

ericboggs 3 days ago 1 reply      
Most surprising takeaway from the post: Gillian is Rand's mother. (Mentioned in passing in the deck.)
scottkrager 3 days ago 0 replies      
This sucks.

Rand and SEOMoz have been the biggest leaders for the SEO space for years. They've been able to successful communicate the value of SEO in a way no other firm has. And their tools are killer in the hands of a good SEO.

I'm looking forward to what they can do in the next 5 years even without the extra $25 mil.

andrewcross 3 days ago 0 replies      
This has to be the most transparent article I've ever read. Very refreshing.
Uchikoma 3 days ago 1 reply      
What I found interesting: They pay nearly 200k/month for 200+ Amazon servers (though it's not clear what other costs, like ops, are factored in).
marcomonteiro 3 days ago 0 replies      
I loved this post. Well written, personal and insightful. I'm starting a SaaS company and I truly appreciate being able to learn from others experience. Thanks for sharing Rand and best of luck for you and the rest of SEOmoz.
ttpva 3 days ago 1 reply      
83% gross margin and only $1m in net profit per year? Isn't that a bit low for a tech company? (no mean to be harsh, just questioning)
akg_67 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank for sharing your experiences openly. It offers great takeaways for enterpreneurs looking to raise funds. Only comment I have is that instead of quitting fund raising process now, use the DD work you already performed to see if you can raise funds from someone else. There is no point delaying for another year when you will need to redo DD work again. Just give yourself a finite window like another 3 months for fundraising and 3 weeks between first contact and closing for each VC whom you are considering before moving on. I believe you initially controlled the fund raising process but then gave control to Neil who just dragged it on.
joemysterio 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know much about VC, but just in my "main street" experience people always get shaky before stroking a big check. When it comes time to sit down and send away a lot of money on a business, a piece of property, whatever, that is when the doubt begins to creep in.

It could be that they loved seomoz but weren't that excited about the industry. Or, like Rand mentioned, they were nervous about the market. The July numbers probably wasn't the reason they pulled out, but it probably was the excuse they used internally to rationalize the decision.

ChaseB 3 days ago 0 replies      
Most of the story is unreadable for me.


*edit: working now.

omegant 3 days ago 0 replies      
enlightening post and comments to say the least!
badclient 3 days ago 1 reply      
So...who's Neil?
rdl 3 days ago 2 replies      
Why would a Seattle company try to raise in NYC vs. Silicon Valley?
zackattack 3 days ago 2 replies      
I gotta be honest, that was depressing to read. Why would he want to raise $24mm when he could just build a profitable sales machine from day one, with a Scalable and repeatable sales process? I think he should read the book _The Lean Startup_ by Eric Ries.
How did academic publishers acquire these feudal powers? monbiot.com
316 points by sasvari  2 days ago   82 comments top 23
jgrahamc 2 days ago 1 reply      
Reminds me of the time I wanted to read Chadwick's 1932 paper "Possible Existence of a Neutron" in which he mentioned the discovery of the neutron.


retube 2 days ago 4 replies      
Yes this is a problem. Occasionally I have to to resort to emailing authors directly and asking for a copy of the paper - in most cases they have been obliging.

As far as I am concerned publicly funded research papers should (must) be freely available. If the public are funding it then the public has a right to the fruits of this investment. And newspapers must be able to link to or reference a source when they quote or review academic literature (in fact I think it should be law that they have to).

A very simple solution would be for authors or institutions to make copies freely available on their websites. I can only assume that they are not allowed to, due to copyright imposed by the journals.

It's ironic that the invention of the www was driven by the need for an easy way to freely distribute and share academic literature.

P.S. There's also a strong case for privately funded research to be made public too. Companies who make product claims based on privately funded research for example absolutely must make this research ("research") available for the public to review. It is notoriously hard to get pharma firms to cough up the papers which support their claims for the latest wonder drug.

impendia 2 days ago 3 replies      
I heard an interesting argument from my advisor (a very famous mathematician). I strongly disagree with it, but it is the only argument I have heard for keeping this system in place.

His argument was the following: In many fields such as laboratory science, research is expensive; one has to apply for grants and then spend the money, and these departments have large budgets, and this all looks good to deans. If a department is going through a lot of money, then it must be prestigious, important, and doing good work.

I heard a joke once that mathematicians are the second-cheapest academics to hire because all we require is a pencil, paper, and a wastebasket. But, in fact, we require online access to all these journals, for which we have to spend a ton of money. Spending all this money makes us look good to our deans, and lends prestige and the look of importance to our department, and allows us to compete with other departments for resources.

I think it's a bunch of BS, frankly, but it's the one time I heard the existing system defended, so perhaps it's worth bringing up.

blahedo 2 days ago 0 replies      
It doesn't have to be this way, and individual fields can break away (to a greater or lesser extent). For instance:

In Natural Language Processing / Computational Linguistics, the professional society (Association for Computational Linguistics, ACL) was its own publisher, with no profit motive, and so authors for its conferences and journal never signed over copyright (merely granted permission to ACL to publish the work). For years, it was quite standard for nearly all of the authors to post PS or PDF versions of their papers on their own websites. Then ACL started accepting PDF instead of camera-ready, and just posted the PDFs themselves; and then they started scanning the back-catalogue.

The result of this is that the vast majority of all NLP/CL papers ever written (excluding only those published elsewhere, e.g. in AAAI, and a very few missing proceedings from fifty years ago) are available online, for free, in PDF, at http://aclweb.org/anthology-new/ .

This is how science should be.

dctoedt 2 days ago 1 reply      
One possible disrupter is the open-access model used by the Social Science Research Network, http://www.ssrn.com, which was founded in 1994 and seems to be extensively used in the legal academic community.

SSRN makes posted PDFs available for free download. The Wikipedia entry says that "In economics, and to some degree in law (especially in the field of law and economics), almost all papers are now first published as preprints on SSRN and/or on other paper distribution networks such as RePEc before being submitted to an academic journal."

Quality and prestige metrics: SSRN ranks posted papers by number of downloads, and it also compiles citation lists---if I successfully find Paper X at SSRN, I can look up which other SSRN-available papers have cited Paper X. (Sounds like a job for Google's PageRank algorithm, no?)

According to SSRN's FAQ, it's produced by an independent privately held corporation. I assume that means they're a for-profit company. I don't know how they make their money, other than that they will sell you a printed hard copy of a paper, presumably print-on-demand.

impendia 2 days ago 3 replies      
But surely, one might think, that some of the price goes to offset the expensive costs of peer review?

The author neglected to mention that peer reviewers work for free, and that the editorial boards are also made up of scholars who work for next to nothing. (edit: see reply below, this was in the article and I missed it)

It used to be that it fell to the publishers to typeset the articles, but with the advent of TeX they don't have to do that either. (in my field anyway)

Speaking as an academic, these companies do nothing for us. The sooner we agree on an alternative model which doesn't go through them, the better.

rmc 2 days ago 1 reply      
University libraries are still mostly money grabbers aswell, but are slowly changing.

In the 1830s Ireland was mapped to a great detail (for tax purposes) of 1:6500ish. These maps would still be very helpful for OpenStreetMap, and are obviously outside copyright. A few Irish universities have them (e.g. Trinity Map Library, a copyright deposit library for Ireland & the UK), however they charge €50,000ish for a copy of the digitial scans of the full set. Other libraries are similar.

Universities really are not pro-sharing

DanielBMarkham 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm buying into his thesis, but heck, I really expected to see some causality explained. The title began, after all, with "how did...."

It would be great if somebody could provided an insider's account of why the academic publishing industry maintained those margins from 2000 to 2010. Did nobody propose legislation to stop them? Were there no criminal investigations? Who are these people connected with politically? What sorts of causes to they contribute to? Just how is the status quo maintained? The guy made a point I was already predisposed to agree with, then kind of went on a rant about how bad it all was. Hey, I'm with you. I'm just not sure my useful knowledge of the issue has increased any.

tylerneylon 2 days ago 1 reply      
The obvious negative this has on folks outside of research-level academia is a significant contribution to tuition prices, which seem to be rising at about 5% per year.

But a less obvious - and personally very painful - consequence of greedy publishers is the inability to do serious academic research outside of academia/industry. I have the ability (math PhD) and the will (have published a few papers post grad school, though it's hard to find time), but I have all but given up due to lacking access to books and articles behind these paywalls. Yes, you can find a decent chunk of articles online -- but very often there are one or two (or more!) key papers you _need_ to read to be at the front of a field, and one of those will be behind a paywall. The worst part is that I never know how truly useful an article will be before reading it, so in the few cases where I've payed I find that only a small percentage of the time was it worthwhile.

In short, this system essentially kills research outside of academia / industry.

RyanMcGreal 2 days ago 2 replies      
A professor emeritus recently sent me an article to publish on my web magazine. The turnaround time was around 18 hours and he replied to express his surprise at how quickly his piece was published. In contrast, he has had an article pending at an academic journal for three years now.
jpallen 2 days ago 2 replies      
> The reason is that the big publishers have rounded up the journals with the highest academic impact factors, in which publication is essential for researchers trying to secure grants and advance their careers(16). You can start reading open-access journals, but you can't stop reading the closed ones.

This is the only problem standing in the way of open access publishing. While the arXiv doesn't offer peer review and so doesn't negate the need for journals, the ecosystem would quickly adapt to open peer review. Unfortunately the implied reputation of being published in certain journals is still something that's too ingrained in academia. It's getting better slowly but it's going to take at least a generation to go away at the current rate.

jtwb 2 days ago 0 replies      
We forget the value of curation.

Why can a boutique shop sell a $50 dress for $200? Taste. One could simply walk into that boutique, confident that 20 minutes later a cute, fashionable and well-fitting dress would be acquired.

Why can top universities charge so much for tuition? Every year, %s University generates a curated list of individuals, and many hiring processes (not to mention ad-hoc interpersonal filtering processes) emphasize individuals in that list. Like boutique shopping, this is an expensive strategy that often excludes superior talent, but is fast.

Is it worth $200,000 to have one's name on that list? Apparently.

Is it worth application fees and an iron publishing agreement to have one's paper published in Nature. Apparently.

mathattack 2 days ago 1 reply      
I agree with All the points about hiw government sponsored research (including all public school research) Should be free or near free.

The unanswered question is "Why is the market failing?"

A couple unmentioned ideas:

- Until recently, tuition hikes went unchallenged.

- Faculty have a vested interest in maintaining the system. (If my publishing in Journal X marks my competence, what happens if it goes away?)

- An alternate system for rating a very hard to measure topic would be needed. Counting scarce publishing, and references in scarce journals is imperfect but nothing else has beaten it.

I don't have an answer but perhaps a couple bright entrepreneurs could figure out a better equilibrium, and find a way to cross the chasm to get there. Geoffrey Moore would say pick one vertical or academic discipline.

merraksh 2 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting article. In 2011 there is no practical hurdle to web-based publishing portals. Given that papers are already peer reviewed on a volunteer basis, the middle man and its administrative staff has a high cost and a low benefit.

The system could keep volunteer-based peer review, and establish a (perhaps private) forum-like interaction for the authors to improve their article.

Google Scholar has solved many of my article search problems and often gives me directly a link to the PDF of (sometimes just a preprint of) the article. However the problem remains for the libraries, which might well be the largest contributors to publishers, and which may find it hard to cut a subscription and suggest its users to use Google scholar.

PaulHoule 2 days ago 0 replies      
A lot of it is that academics are the most atomized and individualistic group of people that you'll find. If there's any part of society where "Aproi Moi Le Deluge" is the slogan, it's academia.

Cornell has about 18 libraries and is slowly implementing a "Fahrenheit 451" plan to eliminate them. First they eliminated the Physical Sciences Library, next the Engineering Library, and they'll eliminate most of the others, one at a time, until there's nothing left but a remote storage unit, lots of computers, and a few pretty library buildings for show. Since it's happening slowly and only affecting one community at a time, they'll avoid a general uproar.

If I blame anything, I blame the institution of tenure, which can be seen more clearly as a cause of moral decay than ever.

Workers and capitalists alike will fight to the death to protect the interests of groups they are a part of because shifts in the rules can cause their personal destruction. A man with tenure knows he can't be ruined, so he's got no reason to ever take a stand.

Estragon 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is simply a consequence of the fiscalization of academic values, and doesn't just apply to libraries. Professors need "high-impact" papers to justify their grants so they can get more grants. The fiscal imperative to acquire grants is very strong, because grant overhead is a major revenue stream for the host institution (probably THE major stream.) It's much easier to have a high-impact paper if you publish in a famous journal, so everyone shoots for Science, then Nature, and on down the hierarchy as their field sees it. And they will eat just about any kind of shit to get published there, including having their papers locked behind a paywall. Because they are plugged into a system where getting grant money takes priority over advancing knowledge. Don't get me started on how this skews research priorities and experimental designs...
forkandwait 1 day ago 0 replies      
Academic journals are gatekeepers of academic promotion, the prestigious old journals are the only ones that count today, and they are owned by Wiley and friends.

To make matters worse, academics are among the most tradition bound creatures in the universe, especially when there is no clear criteria for truth (which is like all of the social sciences and humanities). The only thing they have to calibrate against is consensus, and consensus favors institutions already in place.

rflrob 2 days ago 0 replies      
Given that PLoS is only 8 years old, I think it's too soon to draw any meaningful conclusions from the fact that the open access movement "has failed to displace the monopolists". I think more important is that the trends are moving in the right direction: some high profile journals (like PNAS) have an open access publishing option, and it's unusual for new journals (at least in biology) not to be open access [1][2]. We aren't where we could be 20 years into the World Wide Web, but we're getting there.

[1] http://www.hhmi.org/news/20110627.html
[2] http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-06/gsoa-gln06211...

roadnottaken 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is not quite right. The NIH does, in fact, maintain a Public Access Policy:


which states that all NIH-funded research must be placed in this database ("PubMed Central") within 12 months of publication. I do not know how widely it is obeyed, but I know that the several labs I've been in regularly deposited their papers there.

Cyranix 2 days ago 0 replies      
Articles like this make me sympathize with Aaron Swartz a little more. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2813870
merraksh 2 days ago 0 replies      
rizumu 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is in line with the True Cost Economics Manifesto: http://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/truecosteconomics/sign
omouse 2 days ago 0 replies      
The military-industrial complex! Done, next question?

Why would a government want to remove the middle-man when the middle-man is making enough money to lobby the government to protect them? -_-'

Gmail.com being MITM'd by Iran using this certificate pastebin.com
312 points by koenigdavidmj  3 days ago   184 comments top 23
emilsedgh 3 days ago 5 replies      
Posting from Iran, Im really worried about the current security status. Iran's opposition mostly exists on internet these days and its very seriously flawed.

Man In The Middle attacks are increasing and users usually ignore error messages about them.
(Firefox throws an error dialog but it has an 'I understand the risks' button. People just ignore the error).

Also, last year many Iranian FriendFeed users were arrested and the goverment knew about all their private discussions on FriendFeed.
(FriendFeed has been censored since the beggining. But it suddenly became uncensored for a day or two. On the other hand, FriendFeed generates an 'auth' key for each user and lets him see his RSS feed using that key. And puts the auth key in every page: goverment probably collected auth keys and used it to read discussions of people they arrested)

Goverments using internet to spy on their civilians is not a myth. Anonymity, trusting the cloud and related issues seem far more important when you suddenly find out a friend of yours has been arrested and his location and charges is unknown.

vilhelm_s 3 days ago 1 reply      
Chrome users should be protected from this by the public key pinning feature [http://www.imperialviolet.org/2011/05/04/pinning.html], right?
deweller 3 days ago 4 replies      
So help me understand...

A government agency in Iran has obtained the private key of the root certificate for the DigiNotar Certificate Authority. And with that, they can decrypt and re-encrypt SSL traffic by pretending that they have the valid SSL certificate for *.google.com.

Is that the way this works?

lawnchair_larry 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm confused about how this was detected. The original report provided this screenshot:


If it is a case of a root CA signing a cert for someone else, this shouldn't have actually produced an error. What did the MITMers screw up here?

VladRussian 3 days ago 2 replies      
if root is compromised it sounds promising :


"...DigiNotar is an official Dutch certification authority, capable of issuing, validating and registering certificates (identities) of Dutch nationals and entities that are recognized throughout the European Union and are used to authenticate government applications. As such, DigiNotar provides VASCO with a strong foothold in the Dutch eGovernment market with the potential to expand the product line to government applications in other countries. Currently, DigiNotar's market scope for its CA activities is limited to the Netherlands. VASCO may decide to introduce DigiNotar as a certification authority in other EU countries...."

all that security was riding on 10M euros (with such [meager] amounts in play, one would think that it would be easier for a player like Iran just buy an authority than to crack/hack it, though seems like VASCO was faster (if of course VASCO isn't in the game as well) :) :

"...VASCO acquired DigiNotar in stock and asset purchase for aggregated cash consideration of Euro 10.0 million..."

what is the cost in Netherlands to have a reasonably secure office building with some access controlled areas suitable for CA authority core operations? Sounds like very cheap.

JoshTriplett 3 days ago 2 replies      
A quick check of Bugzilla didn't turn up a bug directly about this issue, but https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=681902#c6 from one of the people who deals with CA issues at Mozilla mentions "the current DigiNotar incident", so they clearly know about it.
bwblabs 3 days ago 1 reply      
Do we actually know how many SSL certs Google uses, and for what?

From what I can see:

- Google Search & Google+ (https://encrypted.google.com/ https://plus.google.com/) are using a *.google.com from GeoTrust/Google Internet Authority

- Google Mail (https://www.google.com/accounts/) is using a www.google.com from VeriSign/Thawte

Ofcourse I'm also afraid that this is indeed a MITM attack against Iranian users.

With SSL certs that costs less than $15 you can expect that things cannot be thoroughly checked, however a Wildcard DigiNotar SSL cert is costing you € 750 a year (in a 4 year contract http://diginotar.nl/OnlinePrijsindicatie/tabid/1417/Default....), you would expect that these things would not be possible.

If they however hacked the root CA, it's even more scary, also Vasco (the mother company) makes virtually every Two-factor authentication used for Dutch Banking..

wxs 3 days ago 1 reply      
If you want to disable diginotar's root CA on your Mac (for Safari/Chrome) you can open Keychain Access, select the "System Roots" keychain at the top left, find the diginotar certificate in the list, and delete it (or disable it, which is what I did).

EDIT: This definitely works for Safari, not 100% sure if it does for Chrome after all.

gmaslov 3 days ago 6 replies      
This type of compromised-CA attack is why I never understood why browsers don't use the OpenSSH model: accept and store (prompting for confirmation) the certificate the first time you connect to a site, then throw up enormous red flags if the certificate ever changes.

The Firefox root CA list has dozens and dozens of organizations on it. Could a compromise of any one of them mean that this attack could be repeated?

pointyhat 3 days ago  replies      
SSL snake oil. SSL and the percieved trust around it has to die. It's a big lie, especially with broken CAs, lax security, poor encryption due to international policy and several technical and conceptual flaws.

Some critique here to back me up:


blauwbilgorgel 1 day ago 0 replies      
Update on Dutch news site nu.nl (without references or sources, so I can't confirm where they got this information from).


Fraudulent certificates were given out for:

().mozilla.org (backdoored software?)




And Baladin (an Iranian social network)

zrail 3 days ago 3 replies      
I checked and the cert from gmail.com for me is from Thawte. Is this a targeted attack toward only those in Iran?
0x0 3 days ago 0 replies      
Found a pastebin with slightly more info: http://pastebin.com/SwCZqskV
sp332 3 days ago 5 replies      
OK, how do we remove this CA from our computers?
sliverstorm 3 days ago 1 reply      
What are the implications of this? It is potentially unsecured to visit gmail.com from anywhere? Is this web-interface only, or is IMAP/POP access also vulnerable?
packetlss 3 days ago 4 replies      
In order to mitigate attacks like this Firefox users can use:
rmc 3 days ago 3 replies      
Assuming this certificate stuff is legit, how do we know this is being done by Iran? What makes anyone think this is Iran?
sp332 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a bug report from the user who originally noticed it: http://www.google.co.uk/support/forum/p/gmail/thread?tid=2da...
0x12 3 days ago 0 replies      
If your communications can land you in jail or get you killed don't use the internet (or even a computer, keystroke loggers are easy to install and very hard to detect), no matter how clever you think you are, and no matter how many 'lock' icons appear in your browser.

In such cases paranoia is perfectly justified.

It's a real pity this requires a code update because that means that the change will take long to propagate and will likely never be really complete, at the same time I'm sure there are good reasons for that and that an automated process to revoke just any certificate could itself probably be used as an attack vector.

What would happen if they simply revoked the root certificate that was used to sign this fake?

iscrewyou 3 days ago 2 replies      
I am no hacker so I have almost no idea what's going on.

MITM = Man In The Middle.

Does this mean that Iran is eavesdropping on gmail users IN Iran? Or outside their country too?

Does anyone mind sharing what this means to the end user?

I did block the certificate on my Air as wxs mentioned. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2938755

levigross 3 days ago 0 replies      
This attack could of hit people in other countries as well. Small well places malicious BGP updates can reroute traffic into Iran.....
microkernel 3 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone can tell us if this is for real or a hoax? I am lacking sufficient ssl knowledge here...
jsavimbi 2 days ago 0 replies      
So Google wrote Stuxnet?
Pentium-III autopsy sciencystuff.com
310 points by sathyabhat  5 days ago   23 comments top 6
shabble 5 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting stuff. The method of inverting the die and bonding it to the processor carrier is called Flip-Chip (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Flip_chip), and replaced bonding wires for higher density and better thermal properties (you get direct access to the back of the silicon substrate)

The electron microscope images are all cross-sectional, because it appears he doesn't have the equipment to do surface etching, and just cleaved the chip. I've not generally seen good sectional images around though, so it's definitely an interesting look.

http://www.flylogic.net/blog/ has a lot of stuff about depackaging and reverse-engineering chips, as does "Dr Decapitator" (http://decap.mameworld.info/), who decaps old arcade ROMs, and then extracts their actual data from micrograph images to produce romfiles for emulators.


The Sparkfun Saga of the Fake MCUs:

Part 1: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:kMgE8B...

Part 2: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:mEZ-8g...

Part 3: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:3Tlcu2...

(Links via google cache because they seem to have broken their old news URL structure)

Edit^2: I forgot I had this old image of a System-in-Package radio module that I made myself (Digital camera through optical microscope at, iirc, 20x)


The thick black lines at the bottom are millimetre markings on a ruler. The processor is at the centre, and the various other modules are SAW filters (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/SAW_filter#SA...)

sp332 5 days ago 1 reply      
Reminds me of the breakdown of the Mifare Classic RFID cards, but on a much larger scale. They took cross-sectional images of the circuits, then used a Matlab script to turn the images back into simulated circuits. Then they performed cryptanalysis on it! Papers and video: http://events.ccc.de/congress/2007/Fahrplan/track/Hacking/23... The video is long but entertaining :)

Edit: if the torrents aren't being seeded anymore, you can watch the video here http://www.podcast.tv/video-episodes/24c3-2378-mifare-282189... or download from ftp://media.ccc.de/congress/24C3/matroska/24c3-2378-en-mifare_security.mkv

noelwelsh 5 days ago 1 reply      
Kinda off-topic, but does anyone know how many registers the P-III and later have? I've read the P-II has 40, so I assume later chips have many more.

Register allocation is one of the more expensive phases in a compiler, and register allocation on the Intel instruction set is particularly hard because it has some few registers. It's kinda ironic that internally modern chips have zillions of registers. There's a fat chunk of software that squeezes a program in 8 registers and then a fat chunk of silicon that expands into however many registers the chip has. Not only is this wasted effort, the extra silicon costs Intel in terms of power consumption and it one reason at ARM are pWning them on low power platforms.

Luyt 4 days ago 0 replies      
Jeri Ellsworth makes NMOS transistors on silicon wafer chips at home, with an oven, rust remover and some other home chemicals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_znRopGtbE
joelhaasnoot 5 days ago 1 reply      
I actually still have a P-III laying around here from an old PC that was being thrown, but the slot version with a massive heatsink. Just gathering dust, but a piece of history...
TechnoFou 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think that the best possible comment is: Simply Amazing!
GitHub Flow scottchacon.com
307 points by schacon  1 day ago   61 comments top 16
jerhinesmith 1 day ago 6 replies      
"Every branch we push has tests run on it and reported into the chat room, so if you haven't run them locally, you can simply push to a topic branch (even a branch with a single commit) on the server and wait for Jenkins to tell you if it passes everything."

From this, it sounds like Jenkins is automatically picking up new topic branches, running the tests, and reporting on the results. Any suggestions on how to set something like this up? In my (very limited) experience with Hudson/Jenkins, this sounds like it wouldn't be possible without manually setting up a project for each branch.

Aqua_Geek 1 day ago 1 reply      
I wasn't aware that you can open pull requests from within the same project (i.e. not from a fork). The idea of using this for quick code reviews before merging code into the production branch is really interesting to me...
Pewpewarrows 1 day ago 2 replies      
Very good comparison between workflows of deploying several times per day versus much less often. While it might not be obvious to some, the exact same git "flow" won't work for both. Your tools should complement your corporate culture, not the other way around.

I think the most important thing to note from either method, though, is not to develop on master/trunk. Have a separate branch, or further branches off an entire "develop" branch. The tip of master should always be a stable build.

tednaleid 1 day ago 4 replies      
This sounds like a feature branch strategy, which I've only used in 1 or 2 person teams, never on projects that big.

There have been some articles recently on the downsides of feature branching that my experience agrees with (http://continuousdelivery.com/2011/07/on-dvcs-continuous-int...). I'm curious if the GitHub people have hit the same issues.

So if 2 people are working on the same feature, they're probably working off the same named branch.

Are there any race conditions with merging to master? I'm assuming that only one head is allowed in master, correct? So that before a pull request is accepted and merged into master, the latest master must first be merged into the feature branch and have CI run all tests successfully on it before the pull request can go. Does GitHub stop you from merging into master if someone else just merged into master and you're about to create a new head?

Then you have to merge the latest master into your feature branch, run CI on it again and then merge to master after CI is successful (assuming someone else didn't beat you to merging to master again).

(I've got a lot more experience with Mercurial than Git so my mental model could be a little off)

simonw 1 day ago 1 reply      
Question about the chat deploy bot: there are a few lines in there that look like this:

    hubot deploy github/ghost-down to production

Is that deploying a branch directly to production, or does that cause a branch to be merged with master and then master deployed to production? If the former, why deploy a branch directly rather than sticking to the "master is production" idea?

blackRust 1 day ago 0 replies      
Well written and presented. Important not to miss out his closing comment:

"For teams that have to do formal releases on a longer term interval (a few weeks to a few months between releases), and be able to do hot-fixes and maintenance branches and other things that arise from shipping so infrequently, git-flow makes sense and I would highly advocate it's use.

For teams that have set up a culture of shipping, who push to production every day, who are constantly testing and deploying, I would advocate picking something simpler like GitHub Flow."

So if you fall in the second category, this is a read for you.

gnufied 1 day ago 2 replies      
Its interesting that they abandoned CI Joe. I wouldn't say, I saw this coming. But, unless they wanted to maintain/write a full blown CI server themselves, it would have got harder for multiple projects.
dave1010uk 1 day ago 0 replies      
In a small web agency, mainly creating sites for clients, we find a mix of "git-flow"-style and continious deployment works best.

In the weeks before a new site is launched, we work to our own feature branches and merge into master when a feature is complete. In the run up to the site launch, when there's just CSS tweaks and the odd bug fix, people start working on directly master and deploying straight to staging servers.

When a site has been launched we normally keep working just on master, though occasionally creating feature branches for bigger changes.

This seems to work well for us as our DVCS needs change over time. I'd be interested to hear how other web agencies manage the different stages of developing clients' websites.

freedrull 1 day ago 3 replies      
Is it really zero-downtime deployment? I've read about Passenger 3's zero-downtime deployment strategy, but on my Passenger 3 setup, the server is still always a little unresponsive for a few seconds after a restart.
dasil003 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here's what I'm curious about that is not mentioned at all:

How do they manage deployment to staging? At my company we typically deploy topic branches directly to staging, but we have fewer developers and slower pace. If multiple people need to deploy topic branches we set up an ephemeral staging branch that merges the multiple topic branches together, but I can imagine that getting super hairy on a team the size of GitHub's.

Do they just mostly deploy directly to production, thus severely minimizing staging contention?

randall 1 day ago 5 replies      
One question i've always had: How often do "regular" people commit? Should I be committing every time I hit save... or should I wait? (I don't work in a dev team, so I'm looking for the wisdom of developers who have to work in teams.)
geeksam 1 day ago 0 replies      
For those who enjoyed this talk, Corey Donohoe gave an awesome presentation at Cascadia RubyConf that goes into more detail about what they use Hubot for, and also mentions deploying branches to a subset of their boxes. It was one of the best talks of the conference: http://confreaks.net/videos/608-cascadiaruby2011-shipping-at...
puredanger 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm curious how CI is done on branches. It's mentioned but not elaborated on in the article.
ethank 1 day ago 1 reply      
I wish they'd post a guide on how to do a separate CI job per feature branch. That'd make this approach really scalable.
terinjokes 1 day ago 2 replies      
For reasons decided long ago, the company I'm at uses Mercurial, and I don't think we're in a position to retrain everyone and move to a private GitHub repo.

Anyone know of ideas for doing code reviews for the whole pull request, commit, or a single line like GitHub? This is probably the most beneficial part for us.

lylo 21 hours ago 0 replies      
How do you handle branches which require DB migrations?
You can't google 9999999..99999999999999999999999 google.com
312 points by reg29  19 hours ago   69 comments top 22
waterhouse 18 hours ago 5 replies      
On a faintly related note, I once was calculating partitions, using a relatively inefficient method (memoization: if f(n,k) is the number of distinct ways to express n as the unordered sum of integers no greater than k, then f(n,k) = f(n-k,k) + f(n,k-1)). My computer started to feel the strain in the thousands (this algorithm is O(n^2) in space and time). I then googled for the partition of, say, 1034, which is:


I figured that chances are that no website will have that integer on there by accident. Lo and behold, I found, among other results, a text file containing the partitions up to 10,000, presumably done with a more efficient algorithm (likely Euler's ridiculous pentagonal-number recurrence formula, which, memoized, is roughly O(n^1.5) in time and O(n) in space): http://oeis.org/A000041/b000041.txt

buro9 18 hours ago 3 replies      
The double dot indicates that this is a ranged query.

11..22 would be to search for all integers between 11 and 22.

The effect is that the search is too broad. The problem is more likely to be that the range search is a mapreduce that performs a search for each item in the range.

You can imagine why that's a bad idea, and some aggressive timeouts are probably what stop it from going too far.

Plus the numbers in the range of the OP search are likely to fall in the ranges of sensitive numbers, credit cards being the most sensitive... which are likely to be explicitly blocked.

user24 18 hours ago 0 replies      
The reason for this is that you can google ranges of numbers, and people a couple of years ago were using this feature to find credit card numbers that were posted online, eg searching for 4000000000000000..4999999999999999

It was around the time that johnny's google hacking page became popular, iirc. (http://www.hackersforcharity.org/ghdb/)

ck2 16 hours ago 0 replies      
You also cannot google some stuff commonly found in phpBB because of so many hacked sites out there.

Also remember how you used to be able to search for anything up to the 1000th item (10 pages of 100 results). Not anymore for a long time now. Google sucks it all in but won't share and play nice with others.

Why not allow such searches unless a bot is detected (too many pages too quickly, etc.)

skeptical 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Probably that string was used as a dork together with some more text to find vulnerabilities on web applications or so.
So it was reported as a honey

This does look like a string that could very much be generated by some poorly coded webbapp. An incorrect usage of a floating point number can easily generate such output. If it occurs on a critical part of an application it could very well been used as a dork. Just an hypothesis though.

Back in 2005 google tricks were at their peak. Many hackers experimented with search phrases in order to retrieve interesting/valuable/uncommon/dangerous?/sensitive info from the web. "index of/ .mp3" "apache server at port" being the absolute classic.

More and more people started to jump in the bandwagon, webmasters gradually became more aware of this, and google too. The natural reaction was google honeypot.


But it wasn't too long until google started to remove such features. These days one can hardly search for symbols on google. They the old tricks, most of them will not work, google simply ignores the details and returns a list of results based on the actual words contained in the query. It's becoming a QA machine. That's one of the reasons I switched to duckduckgo.

For a proper reading on the subject check ou the vast website of the, now deceased, great hacker Fravia:

martinkallstrom 7 hours ago 3 replies      
I think this question is cool to think about and try to answer: What is the lowest integer that doesn't have any hits on google? Is there any reasoning that can help estimating the approximate magnitude it should be?
jergosh 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Guess they don't want you to search for credit card numbers
david927 16 hours ago 0 replies      
"With all due respect John, I am the head of IT and I have it on good authority that if you type 'Google' into Google, you can break the Internet." -- The IT Crowd
pointyhat 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I get this:

Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network. Please try your request again later.

tsycho 13 hours ago 3 replies      
Reading the comments here gave me an idea....google your own credit card numbers to check if its already in some scammer's index. While no results might not necessarily mean you are safe, a positive match is a clear red flag.
mahrain 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Funny how Duckduckgo lists all sites linking to this story.
arrowgunz 18 hours ago 3 replies      
Can someone please explain me why that happens? Google says - "Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network. Please try your request again later."
program 18 hours ago 2 replies      

111111..111111 // minimum case

or any other integer combination. 6 digits is the minimum amount that spawn the bizarre error.

37prime 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Take out a few 9's out and Google still returned an error:
n0fair 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network. Please try your request again later. Why did this happen?
known 9 hours ago 0 replies      
mikkohypponen 17 hours ago 0 replies      
However, you can still set Google Alerts for a search like that.
tete 17 hours ago 1 reply      
I see why it doesn't work, but why doesn't it work with quotes either?
digamber_kamat 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Change the last 9 to 8 and see what happens ?
fletchowns 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Bing to the rescue: http://www.bing.com/search?q=9999999..9999999999999999999999...

Pretty similar URL format eh?

Hacker News Like Button hacksandthoughts.posterous.com
286 points by thebmax  4 days ago   25 comments top 10
rjprins 4 days ago 1 reply      
Instead of a Like button, I would much more prefer a link back to the comments section. That is more in line with my use of Hackers News; read article => read comments.
mcormier 3 days ago 0 replies      
Please not another like button. I long for a time when there wasn't 6 or 7 like buttons for different websites on every blog article screaming "Pick me! Pick me!" and causing visual clutter.

At a former company I worked at our CTO likened our product which had many warts to a machine with many levers. He then went on to compare our customers to monkeys that we had trained to pull the levers in the right order. Pull them in the wrong order and you get an electric shock or something.

Every time I see a cluster of like buttons on a web page I think of monkeys and levers.

This functionality could totally be implemented on the server end. When you submit a link it could tell you that the story was already submitted and when.

Wishing the like buttons would just go out of fashion...

sigil 4 days ago 2 replies      
Hacker News needs you to be logged in to your account for upvoting and does not provide a programmatic way to do that on your behalf. I remembered from earlier experiences that a resubmission (once per user) counted as an upvote.

Yeesh. I know this is Hacker News and we all appreciate a good hack, but what are the chances of having a real api for this type of thing? For instance, is there a way to programmatically get the list of all articles I've ever upvoted (the "Saved" page)? Or to put "You like this" alongside the HN like button if you've already upvoted it?

kirillzubovsky 4 days ago 1 reply      
Cool button. However, and I am a fairly new member of HN, I think the beauty of HN is partly in the old-school interface and the lack of a 'like' button. Manually copy-pasting a link actually enforces some level of commitment on your part. Having a one-click button would drive too much less interesting content.

That said, it would be nice if this button scouted HN for the page URL and simply notified users that a discussion with X comments was taking place here.

This solution would reduce the amount of gaming that one could do to vote a post up, but would let dedicated readers know where to look. Thoughts?

socialmediaking 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is this on the frontpage in addition to the Show HN, because every is testing the button out?
huhtenberg 4 days ago 2 replies      
What is that site exactly that prompts me for my HN username and password when I click on Like? Needless to say, I will not be doing what it asks for unless the site is news.ycombinator.com itself... but then the real HN should already know that I am logged in. So, sorry, it's a no go.
fatalerrorx3 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very interesting idea, and I like the hacking nature of the solution. I was about to ask if it was using my current HN cookie to create that popup but I see now that it is...you basically are reframing the HN pages to fit into that popup, and if the user isn't yet logged in, it shows the HN login page, if you're already logged in then it's taking you to the submit a post page...very cool hack.

Someone else had mentioned that it would be an issue trying to do this by scraping, but this could just as easily be done this way. The downside of course (like someone else had mentioned) is that HN users would need to enter in their username/password to perform the scrape to count current post points and the scrape to upvote posts, and if they didn't see ycombinator.com in the URL they would be skeptical in providing these details because an unscrupulous hacker could then use those logins (if they stored them) to upvote all of their own posts. If others are interested in the scrape version of this hack I could make it ...The upside to the scrape hack version would be the fact that the UI could be adjusted as needed, but like others mentioned HN isn't know for it's elegant UI to begin with...it's more about simplicity

g-garron 4 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe the button should only be visible once a story have gotten some "n" number of votes (the old way)?.
daakus 4 days ago 1 reply      
In other words - CSRF fail.
overtnibble 3 days ago 1 reply      
Couldn't agree more..
       cached 2 September 2011 02:11:01 GMT