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The Patent Pledge paulgraham.com
610 points by anateus  4 days ago   191 comments top 78
tc 4 days 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 4 days ago 5 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 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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?

guelo 4 days 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.

brianlash 4 days 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.

gphil 4 days 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?
ayanb 4 days 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.

maximilianburke 4 days 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?
Adaptive 4 days 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.

dotBen 4 days 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.

danmaz74 4 days 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 4 days 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.

samgro 4 days 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?

corbet 4 days 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.
Estragon 4 days 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?
EGreg 4 days 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?

nathanb 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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.
greengarstudios 4 days 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.
EGreg 4 days 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.

pilom 4 days 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!"

wingo 4 days 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?

bengebre 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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).

Kilimanjaro 4 days 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.

djb 4 days 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:


bfe 4 days 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 4 days 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.
jessriedel 4 days 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.

dodo53 3 days 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.
chc 4 days 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.
damonpace 4 days 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.
bourdine 3 days 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.

huhtenberg 4 days 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.
briguy 4 days 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.
graiz 4 days 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.

T_S_ 4 days 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.
mas644 3 days 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."

zdw 4 days 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.

justinsb 4 days 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.
jakestein 4 days 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 4 days 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.

marquis 4 days 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.

oemera 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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.

artursapek 4 days 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...
FredBrach 4 days 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

lhnn 4 days 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.

earbitscom 4 days 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.
rsuttongee 4 days 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.

tcarnell 3 days 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?

abbottry 4 days 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.

Benjo 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd love to see an rss feed on the pledge site.
davedx 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to see a site for crowd-sourced prior art. That would be cool.
cgopalan 3 days 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.
jayfuerstenberg 4 days 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.

mikeklaas 4 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone know how many employees Lodsys has?
officialstation 3 days 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
piotrSikora 4 days ago 0 replies      
From the companies that pledged so far, how many actually holds any patents?
mlinksva 4 days 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?

arikrak 4 days 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.
fedcir 4 days 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

gord 4 days ago 0 replies      
Its a bandaid where a bazooka is needed... but its an epsilon of improvement in the right direction.
motters 4 days ago 0 replies      
As far as I know, pledges are legally worthless.
philipkd 3 days 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?
idonthack 4 days ago 0 replies      
That's cute.
dev1n 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's the Gentleman's rule for patents.
US Government seeks to block AT&T & T-Mobile's $39 Billion Merger bloomberg.com
364 points by ldayley  4 days ago   162 comments top 24
jordanb 4 days ago 5 replies      
There are more than a half a million reasons why Congress will attempt to block this lawsuit:


My guess is that Boehner will announce a bill to "defund" it shortly. That seems to be their favorite way to control the executive currently.

As a very happy T-Mobile customer, I nearly punched my monitor when I saw the announcement that it was going to be consumed by the Death Star. I did not have faith that the justice department had the cajoles or the honesty to actually try and stop it. I still have little faith that the government will be able to stop it, given that Congress has dropped all pretense of being anything other than available to the highest bidder.

ansy 4 days ago 3 replies      
The DOJ may be using its leverage to get better concessions out of AT&T. Basically, because AT&T set such a big cancellation fee for itself, the DOJ can bargain up to just less than that amount. It's saying, "shape up or we'll seriously make you eat that $7 billion fee!" I actually think the huge cancellation fee means the deal is more likely to happen because AT&T will tolerate a lot of regulatory arm twisting before walking away.

Exactly what AT&T will need to do I'm not sure. AT&T will probably be forced to sell any T-Mobile operations that overlap with AT&T's existing service just like in the Verizon-Alltel merger a couple years ago. Presumably this will be to small regional carriers so choice is preserved for people in those areas. AT&T will probably need to agree to some kind of consumer price protection at the very least to keep AT&T prices at current levels or lower for a number of years and protect existing T-Mobile customer contracts. AT&T might also have to sell or spin off its TV and home internet operations. The issue of ridiculous text messaging fees might come up, but nothing will be done about them.

cookiecaper 4 days ago  replies      
If there has ever been an obvious need to prevent a merger it's this one. I really hope that common sense outweighs AT&T's ability to purchase bureaucrats this time.
thematt 4 days ago 3 replies      
T-Mobile would clean up on this deal if the US Government succeeds. Look at that breakup fee: $3 billion in cash and another $4 billion in non-monetary benefits.
daimyoyo 4 days ago 1 reply      
Good. To have all the GSM spectrum being controlled by one carrier would clearly have been anti-competitive.
ratsbane 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is great news. I'm a happy T-Mobile customer and I've had bad experiences with AT&T and its predecessor, BellSouth, in the past. I don't want to be forced into AT&T.

Question: What can we do to support the government's efforts? Write our congressmen? Write the DoJ?

grandalf 4 days ago 1 reply      
The Sprint/Nextel merger led to a steady increase in mobile phone plan prices. One can only imagine what an AT&T/T-Mobile merger would do.
cshenoy 4 days ago 0 replies      
The breakup fee may be what T-Mobile was looking for all along since Deutsche Telekom AG has said it's not willing to invest more in the venture. $3 billion isn't chump change and I'm sure they'll take full advantage of those agreements (e.g. spectrum rights, etc) should the deal fall through.
baltcode 4 days ago 2 replies      
From the article:
"Should regulators reject the transaction, AT&T would pay Deutsche Telekom $3 billion in cash. It would also provide T-Mobile with wireless spectrum in some regions and reduced charges for calls into AT&T's network, for a total package valued at as much as $7 billion, Deutsche Telekom said this month."

I don't get it, I thought this would happen if the deal went through. What is this $7 bn package in the event that the deal is blocked?

alexqgb 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if this gloriously epic lawyer-fail had anything to do with the DOJ's call? http://bit.ly/oGKw2x [Leaked AT&T Letter Demolishes Case For T-Mobile Merger]
jonknee 4 days ago 2 replies      
When was the last time a merger of this size got blocked by the Feds?
Daniel_Newby 3 days ago 0 replies      
AT&T said yesterday that it was surprised by the government's lawsuit ...

So now we know where Saddam Hussein's publicity man went.

lancewiggs 3 days ago 0 replies      
The extraordinary high breakup fee is important here, and it's there despite the many reasons we and the DOJ itself are citing.
It seems that they breach everything - it;s a terrible deal for consumers.

So why are AT&T and their investment bankers pushing so hard for this deal? There is certainly an agency cost - the execs at AT&T want to do a deal and run a bigger company, and their lawyers and bankers want the deal to go ahead so they van get paid. However T-Mobile has to spend money on lawyers and bankers as well, and so some of that breakup fee will be used to pay them, as well as T-Mobile itself.

AT&T were banking on a compliant DOJ, and to be fair over the last decade there was very little push-back from any of the regulators. Since the GFC we would hope that they look over business dealing a bit more firmly, and this seems to be the case.

PBS have a very good article (video) on the topic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XquULysO1E

In Australia, NZ and the UK there is a Commerce Commission or Monopoles Regulator that can just say no to deals like this. It's sad that the DOJ has to do so via an expensive lawsuit. Your taxes at work.

AndrewWarner 4 days ago 0 replies      
This whole process is going to weaken T-Mobile even more.

Founders I've interviewed told me that the acquisition process plays head games with them and their people -- especially if it falls apart.

marshray 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yay, for once they do something for the consumer.

We'll see if they hold to it, or is just a sham only to be dropped after promises and payouts.

dupe123 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes! I'm glad to see the government is taking a stance against it. Cell phone bills are expensive enough, I could only imagine what this merger would have done to them. I just pray they hold strong. This could be a really good thing for Tmob. Could seriously help level the playing field.
dethstarr 4 days ago 0 replies      
T-Mobile has horrible service and horrible data plans. I'm sick of them and wish they would get sucked into the black hole that is ATT. Where I still will have horrible service and bad data plans.

Need to switch to Verizon.

squozzer 4 days ago 0 replies      
A lot of good points, but one I didn't see is what will T-mobile do if the deal falls through?
$7bn IS chump change compared to what T and VZ spend annually on infrastructure.
Unless DT wants to step up their game, T-mob will muddle along as #3 or #4 until a merger with someone goes through.
And if the DOJ blocks T, they'll (probably) VZ, which leaves Sprint. Good luck with that...
beefman 4 days ago 3 replies      
I'm trying to understand why comments on Hacker News and Reddit are so uniformly against this merger. Is it because T-mobile has better customer service than AT&T (and most other carriers), and people are upset this will probably be lost?

When T-mobile came to the US, I was under the (perhaps incorrect) impression that they licensed their towers from AT&T (then Cingular). But my impression is that they, by now, have their own towers which will extend AT&T's network. Surely folks realize that mergers are badly needed in the wireless industry - that they are the solution to many of most onerous problems with wireless service today - and that artificially dividing infrastructure, as the FCC did, is tremendously wasteful.

kylecordes 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why bother? There will be a few minor agreements and/or spinoffs, then it will be approved.
AmericasNewsNow 4 days ago 3 replies      
Eh, theres always Verizon. AT&T cant get out of its own way anyway. If the govet wanted to block something, they should have stopped Google from buying youtube...
Vincentmb 4 days ago 5 replies      
I definitely understand the resistance to this merger, especially on Dan Hesse's part, but lets step back and think about what a "big two" would look like (Don't we live in a free-market?). A Verizon, AT&T dominated market is still going to drive innovation and maybe even more important an AT&T merger with T-Mobile will help to improve the quality of their service for their customers. As an AT&T customer myself, I'm all for it. One thing I know for sure; $7 Billion in failure is going to drive AT&T to do what it takes to make this happen ($3 billion breakup fee in cash an additional $3 to $4 billion in spectrum and services).
crag 4 days ago 1 reply      
Yay. About time the government did something for the consumer.

Thought someway somehow, ATT will get it's merger. They'll just spread more cash around.

Like TARP. Republican voted it down (for show). 4 days later they vote it up. At a cost of like $700 billion.

pessimist 4 days ago 4 replies      
I'm a happy T-mobile customer, and I hate AT&T, but IMHO the government has no business blocking this deal. Maybe the law allows it to block on nebulous competition grounds, but if it does then the law is an ass.

Business should be allowed to screw over customers as they see fit, customers can and must be allowed to walk away. And I can still walk away to join Sprint/Verizon.

Yes, neither of these companies may be offering me the best deal possible, but unless they are colluding, the government should not be involved.

First employee of startup? You are probably getting screwed itlater.com
367 points by Murkin  3 days ago   198 comments top 50
michaelochurch 3 days ago  replies      
First, I disagree that early employees of startups are "probably" getting screwed, but it definitely can happen, and often does to people who don't know their real value.

The part of this that resonates with me isn't the mathematics. The math isn't very relevant because there's a really large unknown: the eventual value of the company. One percent could be a lot of money, or it could be nothing. There's also the matter of dilution: is he protected against dilution from investor and employee stock grants over the next N years? I would guess not. His 1% could be 0.2% or less by the time an exit happens.

What is obvious is the emotional undercurrent to this very common anti-pattern. It sounds like he's not a real co-founder, he's "just a coder". They seem to be trying to sell him on a rotten deal because they think it's just such a privilege to work on their golden idea that they don't need to compensate properly. He's going to bust his ass to make the code work, for a salary half of his market rate, and in return he gets a tiny sliver of the company that gives him no real control, on a 4-year vesting cycle. I'm sorry, but these two guys are not (after 4 years, after he's done some real work) worth 79 times what he is just because they had the connections to raise money.

Prospective employees tend to view equity grants in a pre-employment context, when a 1% share seems extremely generous because the employee hasn't done anything yet. But that's what vesting's for! Vesting allows companies to compensate based on future contributions, with the knowledge that if the employee quits or is fired before the 4-year period is up, they won't have to pay for all 4 years of work.

At the least, if still thinks it's an "exciting" opportunity worth pursuing, he should recognize that he probably can't value the company better than the market, that we are in frothy times, and that the equity is worth more to an investor than to him (different risk profiles). So the value of 1% (post-money) of a $2.5 million company is $25,000 at most. That's $6,250 per year, far less than what he's giving up.

The first employee of a startup is not necessarily getting screwed. If that employee gets appropriate respect for his skill set, and reasonable compensation for the risks inherent in a startup, then it's a fair trade. A lot of people go into startups as early employees knowing the risks and upsides and that's fine.

What he should do if he actually wants to work on the startup: First, he needs to value his contribution to the company over the next 4 years appropriately and put a number on his "sweat equity". Let's say his market salary is $100,000 and he's being paid $50,000. Now add to his base salary: benefits (15% for health insurance, 401k matching), job-loss risk (25%, since typical severance offers are 1/4 tenure at current salary), career risk and opportunity cost (15%), and overage hours (30%, assuming a 50-55 hour work week). That's $185,000 per year. Take that, less the $50,000 he's making, and his sweat equity is $135,000 per year. Over 4 years, that's $540,000. The company's valuation is $2.5 million, "pre" to his contributions. He should be getting about 16% of the company, assuming he remains for 4 years. This number seems high, but if he's there after 4 years he will have been there almost as long as the founders, so it's about right.

First action: he needs to ask for 20% and settle for no less than 12%. If they say, "but you haven't done anything yet", he should point out that the equity grant is subject to vesting and that he won't get anything if he doesn't do any work.

Second action: he needs to demand the right to listen in on investor and client meetings. Otherwise, the other two founders will hold all the power in the organization because they, and they alone, hold that special knowledge of what investors want. If they think he's "just a coder", they'll show it by saying (in effect) that no, he's not "good enough" to be in the investor meetings.

The most likely outcome of his making these two demands is that they'll tell him to get lost. If that's the outcome, it's also the best outcome because it means the startup's a tarpit.

patio11 3 days ago 3 replies      
Imagine three twenty-something guys working on a startup that has more lines of code than dollars in the bank. They're working out of an apartment and spend most evenings eating ramen noodles from the same MSG-laden box. They work approximately equal hours (too many). They suffer approximately equal stress (more than they ever expected). They bear approximately equal responsibility for not tanking the company through poor performance. They each accept dramatic pay-cuts relative to easier, better jobs which they could sleepwalk their way into.

Next door, there are another three guys, eating ramen, etc etc.

Now, it seems to me like the three guys behind Door #1 are very similar to the three guys behind Door #2. However, in one case they're all co-founders, and in one case they are two co-founders and a first employee. Those are very, very different statuses for the third guy. The third co-founder gets mentioned in press hits about the company. The third co-founder can call himself a co-founder, a status of value in an industry (and society) which is sometimes obsessed with status. The third co-founder cannot get excised from the cap table without that being mentioned as a subplot in the eventual movie.

The first employee will not usually get mentioned. The first employee gets no social status of particular esteem. The first employee will not have a seat at the table -- literally or figuratively -- when the eventual disposition of the first employee's equity is decided. The first employee's equity stake is approximately 1/6 to 1/40th (or less!) of what the third co-founder's was. Well, theoretically. 0.5% is 1/40th of 20% in engineering math, not in investor math, because investors can change the laws of mathematics retroactively. 0.5% of millions of dollars is sometimes nothing at all. (This is one of the least obvious and most important things I have learned from HN.)

If you're good enough to be a first employee, you're probably epsilon away from being good enough to be a third co-founder. There may be good reasons to prefer being an employee... but think darn hard before you make that decision.

wheels 3 days ago  replies      
Another way of working things out is figuring out what the probable return on the stake being given is, e.g. something like, say:

• Employee given 1%

• Two additional funding rounds at 30% dillution each bring that to 0.49%

• In a $30 million exit the employee will get $147,000

• Probability of an exit at $30m of 10% (somewhat generous, but let's assume that the company has already raised an angel round and that's being used as a filter)

• So the adjusted value, including probability of failure, of those options is just $14,700

You can adjust the math to fit the startup at hand, but it's generally a reasonable formula for evaluating the value of options vs. salary. In general if you want to join a startup as a first employee you should either push for a larger slice, a near-industry-standard salary or do it for the experience (say, if you're interested in starting a startup of your own down the line).

pg 3 days ago 2 replies      
You can write an article claiming that anyone doing x is probably getting screwed, if you choose numbers that make it a bad deal. In my experience (which at this point is pretty extensive) the numbers he uses here are extreme outliers.

I'd expect a startup that was only able to raise money at $2m pre to be giving the first employee way more than 1%. How much more depends on how good he is (a factor that's not even considered in this article). Someone as good as the founders could reasonably expect 15%.

blader 3 days ago 0 replies      
A more accurate title for this would be:

"Taking a pay cut that is more than the market value of your equity stake? You are probably getting screwed."

OstiaAntica 3 days ago 1 reply      
The comparison math forgot the impact of taxes. The employee's $50K "investment" is pretax money, whereas the investors are putting in after-tax dollars. The marginal combined state, federal, and payroll tax rate on that second $50,000 in earnings is probably over 40%, so maybe the actual take-home salary given up for the deal is $29,000. Plus the equity earned is taxed at much lower capital gains rates (15%).
kabdib 3 days ago 1 reply      
Happened to me.

Years of effort . . . startup bought . . . eventually wound up with 17 shares of Oracle.

I'm not bitter. It was a fun ride, I learned a lot, and after an initial pay cut (when I first joined, and funding was tight) I got paid a decent salary.

pgroves 3 days ago 0 replies      
The founders are playing a dangerous game in this story. If key engineers don't have much reason to stick around other than it being exciting, they are likely to leave as soon as they get bored or tired. And yes, you can get bored while working 80 hour weeks.

I was once in this exact position. I was the first employee and over the next few years a bunch of senior managers came in and each got 5-10x the stock I'd gotten.

When the whole thing got old, I looked around and saw that I didn't have much upside potential (especially since there had been dilution), my salary was below market, and I left.

What was incredible looking back is that something similar happened with a truly key engineer... someone who was recruited out of a university because he had more or less built the text mining library the company was using by himself. A product line rested on his shoulders, so he had a ton of responsibility, but when things got rough he didn't have enough reason to stick around.

Added: The point is, there are good times and bad times in startups. In the good times you should look around and decide who you really need to stick around in the bad times and give out stock accordingly.

earlylinkedin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Some people are talking about the "expected value" of being an early employee, which is a very valuable view. I'd like to focus more on the best case to give a sense of what you can hope for if everything goes right.

I was fortunate enough to be an early engineer at LinkedIn after I graduated college. I was one of the first few engineers hired. I'm not an amazing company picker, and I barely knew what a startup was at the time -- I just got lucky because I knew one of the cofounders.

I received a decent option grant (especially for a kid just out of college!) and stayed at the company for two years. My options got diluted approximately 50% during the various funding rounds. Right now, LinkedIn is a top 20 website in the world, and there's a consensus that its current stock price is "very optimistic". My net worth on paper ends up being a couple of million. Needless to say, I'm thrilled. However, I also want to point out that there are only twenty "top 20 websites", and most of them aren't going to change anytime soon. So if you're one of the first few engineers at one of the 10-20 companies that's going to go from nothing to huge in the next 5-10 years, then you can view a few million -- perhaps 10-20 million -- as being the best that you can expect. And there are literally a few dozen, or maybe 100 people that will get this kind of success every decade. There is little skill involved here. It's all about getting lucky.

Furthermore, people forget that it takes time for value to build. It might take you 4 years to get most of your stock options and decide you want a more stable job or a change of scenery, but it might take another 10 years for your company to go public or get sold. You're giving up a big chunk of your 20s for the potential of a few million in your mid-late 30s -- but you could probably save close to that much anyway with good spending habits and better paying jobs.

So if you want to be an early employee at a start-up, it's an awesome experience. But you should do it because you love it, because you're passionate about the product, or because you cherish the learning opportunity. You shouldn't do it because you think it will make you a gazillionaire.

(just to be clear, I did love my time at LinkedIn -- I made some great friends, learned a ton, understood that startups are the kind of places that I like to work at, etc. I'm really happy I was there, and would be even if the company hadn't become a big success)

localhost3000 3 days ago 0 replies      
My first gig out of school was with a startup. First employee. They paid 20% below market wage and gave way less than 1% equity. I didnt know any better (young/naive). I got screwed, big time.
craigmc 3 days ago 1 reply      
Leaving aside that 1% is, in reality, too small a % for employee #1 of most startups, there are two factors that might make it worth it:

1. Route from employee #1 to v. senior position (with commensurately higher salary) is shorter* irrespective of whether the employee stays with the startup or moves on. (*Shorter than if the employee was working as a small cog elsewhere), and thus there is a fairly strong "jam tomorrow" argument that can be made.

2. Route from employee #1 to owning your own funded startup is again shorter. As employee #1, if you do a good job, then you'll be considered a de facto founder, and thus will have that to add to your pitch when it is your turn to try and raise $500k.

A third factor is that money is not everything. Working for a startup can be awesome, and might give you a whole range of professional and life experiences that you would not get when sucking down at your $100k pa teat.

davidw 3 days ago 3 replies      
It'd be very interesting to look at real data from real companies and see how early employees made out. And naturally you'd want to include a wide spectrum of companies, both successful and unsuccessful. You could look at what rates people were actually paid, how much stock/options they got, how much it turned out to be worth and so on.
roel_v 3 days ago 2 replies      
But comparing to the opportunity of somebody else is irrelevant. If the employee has 500k to invest, they're free to get the same terms as the investor. It's about scarcity: apparently the founders think that finding an investor with 500k is harder than finding the tech guy. Ergo, the investor gets paid more.
jacques_chester 3 days ago 4 replies      
Alternative title: "Don't remember how to multiply, add, subtract and divide? You are probably getting screwed".

There's so many things in life where party A gets away with soaking party B because B didn't perform some simple arithmetic.

goldmab 3 days ago 1 reply      
There's a mistake in the math: one year of a salary cut is given as the amount invested. Why one year?
rmorrison 3 days ago 1 reply      
This post is missing the most valuable part of working at a startup: the experience.

Sure, you can go work at ________ (big company paying fresh developers $120k+), but you're going to be pigeonholed into working on a small aspect of the product/company.

If you join a promising small startup, you're going to learn about all aspects of business, startups, selling, marketing, fundraising, etc. These skills will be extremely helpful to you throughout the rest of your career, especially if you plan to start your own company someday.

ayanb 3 days ago 1 reply      
Without having a bias towards the investor community, I think this comparison is only done from a money standpoint. Its also important to note what other value investor money and involvement brings to the organisation.

Investors bring contacts from their immediate and extended network, sometimes a strong brand (think SV Angel/ YC), mentorship, experts in the given field, and media attention.

Joakal 3 days ago 1 reply      
I didn't know the forgone loss of salary for equity could be compared with investment that easily. That's brilliant!
HaloZero 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just wanted to point out (read a bit) you get equity at big companies too? That's not a not negligible amount of cash. So the guy isn't just losing $50K in salary, but the equity that the other company (bigger company) would be giving him. Not sure what the equity grants at bigger companies end up being though.
dlikhten 3 days ago 1 reply      
Differences between Co-Founter, Investor, First Coder:

- Starts the compamy, has the idea/initial impl
- Takes risk, may work for a while with zero salary, investing personal time for nothing.
- May wind up getting ZERO (total) for the investment.
- Company does not get paid, co-found does not get paid.
- Big potential payout
- Health benefits? Post funding, or from other job while building startup.

- Puts money into company.
- May lose everything, that money is just going to the founders for some food and servers or something of that nature.
- Payout depends on investment size. However lets say compared to co-founder, small payout.
- Minimal invested personal effort compared to co-founder.
- Invested time assisting the company and connecting the company to personal contacts to help it grow.
- Provides advice when needed (hopefully)

First Coder:
- Gets paid less than average coder
- Gets potential payout less than investor
- Gets paid or laid off. There is no in-between. May agree to not get paid this month and instead get paid later in hopes of assisting the business during a tough month.
- Has to be pretty close to the business since it's so volatile, so will see the lay-off coming.
- Probably coming in with benefits provided to employee.

As you can see risks/benefits are quite different for everyone. So its not just "you are getting screwed".

I think that getting a very small % is actually practical depending on how far along the company is. The question is about how much risk is being taken, and how much is being contributed.
A smart co-founder will see the contribution of a very valuable employee and offer more % to that employee especially if they are so critical to the company. Its not about employee #1 its about the fact that during the early phases, each individual person has the ability to make big things for the company, and they should be rewarded for those big things. Keeping life static is quite boring and no incentive. Yet having incentives for employees transforming the business early on is quite good.

cHalgan 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure, but if you want to build a world class team you need to pay more than market rate + excellent team/work environment + more responsibility + more impact on world + give equity. There is no free lunch. Really.

Did Facebook become successfully because they went cheap with hiring VP of engineering early in their game? (answer not: they recruited the top)

Yes, you can get lucky and build a successful company by hiring people which are fresh from college for less than market and dream about being rich.

The point is the following: DONT HIRE BAD DEVELOPERS.

Unfortunately, good developers are good in math and they were around so they will not go with salary cut + questionable equity stake. Yes you can get lucky but there are so many other unknowns when you run a business and you should limit unknowns to the minimum.

Hisoka 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think it depends on how much work was actually done before you joined. If the 2 co-founders already completed the main app/product, and you joined, 1% actually sounds fair. If you're gonna be the one creating almost the entire product from scratch, 1% is pitiful.
rmrm 3 days ago 0 replies      
my history with startup options:

1st company: acquired
2nd: ipo
3rd: bankrupt
4th: acquired

Net value of all option shares : 0

Meaning, in toto, my strike price x shares is almost exactly what they ended up being worth. The net present value of an option is the strike price. Even the private options market is pretty efficient. Whereas a lottery ticket might have a net present value of only 60%, so these are pretty good lottery tickets. But that is essentially all they are.

grimen 3 days ago 0 replies      
Depends on if the startup got production material and deals. Letting people in more than a very small equity and salary is just plain stupid if you worked hard for a year to get anywhere. Hardest thing is not to compe up with an idea, hardest things are: start, execute, ship, and have models to get paid. When these are almost done, new founders are not needed - they should have joined earlier.

I've lately met people tryng to get onto the boat as if all we worked for was air. If I take someone more in for more than a good salary he/she better be a unshaped diamond.

Of course, the article mentions 50% of normal salary for 1% - that is just so stupid. The people who wants to signed up on that cannot be unshaped diamonds.

spinlock 3 days ago 0 replies      
Cash is king. You can demand more equity and priority in the debt stack ordering when you write checks. Life's not fair but whining over how you're getting screwed won't help you realize the opportunities that are available to you.
par 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you give employee #1 only 1% of your startup, then there is something wrong with you, or employee #1 is more of an intern and not a key hire.
vineet 3 days ago 1 reply      
Having been employee one and started 2 companies - I strongly disagree.

It is hard to find employees/co-founders that (a) have the right skills, (b) the right interests, (c) the right industry knowledge/contacts, and (d) are in the same place in their life to make the same amount of commitments.

And even when you do you find such people, it is hard to give them 10% equity in the beginning and then tell them that they are under-performing, and only deserves 2.5% equity.

Now, I agree, that the definition of under-performing is very different for a startup compared to a more established company. I have also found people are willing to accept when they are under-performing, but contracts and equity that is given is harder to change.

However, I would love to have the right cofounder, and even share the equivalent equity with him if he can take over half my burden.

Perhaps the answer is to find people with a very good fit, start them with low equity (~1%), and tell them how they can get more equity. And then doubling equity multiple times as they are able to rise to a founder level responsibility.

brudgers 3 days ago 0 replies      
If I were valuing the deal, I would give primary consideration to the likelihood that the business is underfunded based upon their inability to provide a competitive salary after receiving funding. I would also consider the crap nature of the equity offer as evidence that their source of funding does not bring a wealth of experience to the table...no smart tech investor is going to tolerate the risk associated with screwing over critical hires.
nwatson 3 days ago 0 replies      
One more factor to consider, though: angel or Series A preferred shares often cost much more per share than the employee's per-share Common strike price. The option-exercising employee has a lower outlay and thus less risk. Of course, in all but the most favorable exits the reward per share will also be smaller.
kelnos 3 days ago 0 replies      
Related question: when we're talking "equity" here for early employees, are we talking stock or options? At my last startup, all employees (even #1) were given options, not stock outright.
nivertech 3 days ago 1 reply      
This guy can work for a year and invest his money on the same terms as angel investors.
The only technical problem how to do it tax free, b/c you obviously owe income tax and in some countries like Israel also VAT.

There are some solutions, but they are not trivial. The employee actually buys a convertible debt in the company on the similar terms as angel investor and can cash out on later rounds.

rudiger 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is just a special case of "Working on a startup? You are probably getting screwed." The first employee doesn't have it too much worse than the founders, the second employee, or the third.
JoeAltmaier 3 days ago 0 replies      
Works the same way for contractors. Take a lower rate, delay payment, accept warrants instead of grants...its all investment, and should be on the same terms as any other early investor.
ailon 3 days ago 0 replies      
The question is: would someone working on 100k salary invest real 50k into a startup? And the answer is 99.9% no. They'll just spend the 50k on fancier food and other crap.
slowpoison 3 days ago 0 replies      
He forgot to factor the risk into the equation here. Investors have risk. If the company goes down they lose $500K. How much do you lose $50K?

1% may or may not be less. We definitely need deeper analysis here.

robjohnson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Not entirely an accurate depiction of equity calculations, but it is nice to see as many people as possible doing these back-of-the-napkin sketches to educate. Mark Suster has some great posts about equity math.
caffeine5150 3 days ago 0 replies      
I was a co-founder of a startup (non-tech) that raised $60+ million over 10 years and in my experience, a dollar of sweat equity, particularly from a person without some extraordinary personal value-add, is rarely as valuable as a dollar of paid in capital, all things being equal.
sarcasmatron 3 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting responses: I've never worked with startups for the payout, but for the experience of working with startups.

As to stock, I prefer shares to options from both sides of the transaction.

Finally, FASB 123 doesn't cover contractors or other non-employees - worth keeping in mind.

sl_ 3 days ago 1 reply      
DodgyEggplant 3 days ago 0 replies      
Then open your own startup, and get 99% of the shares for 0% of your previous salary
toblender 3 days ago 0 replies      
At least he got offered equity. The first one I joined didn't even have that.
abalone 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's a market. If you think you can get >1% for "saving the company" with your hax0r skilz, go right ahead and try to negotiate that.
dfragnito 3 days ago 0 replies      
There is risk associated with hiring an employee. There is no risk associated with a cash investment, There is investment risk, the risk associated with making the wrong investment like hiring the wrong employee.

The investor with 50k in hand now vs the 100K per year employee willing to work for 50k. The Investor wins. With the 50K the start up can hire the 100k per year employee for 50k. If thing do not work out you can fire them and hire another one.

The money is less risky giving it a higher value, plus its all upfront which has already been discussed.

marcin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Nice polarising title, but:
1. You're not getting screwed, you are making a choice, which is driven by market factors like your alternatives, expected utility from the job etc.
2. The numbers given are quite extreme - if the guy is really worth 100k I find it hard to believe that he would be offered 50k and only 1%. Also his option stake could raise with more responsibility given, this is just the initial negotiation point as I see it.
3. It only makes sense in the Valley or US.
amorphid 3 days ago 0 replies      
Youre not getting screwed if you walk into the job with your eyes wide open.
ailon 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you are going to work as an employee in a startup primarily for the money, you are doing it wrong already.
realschool 3 days ago 0 replies      
At a start-up I'm making a good rate for my first job.
Stravob 3 days ago 1 reply      
you got a mistake with your math 500K of 2 million is 25%
rglover 3 days ago 2 replies      
Honestly, going in as the first employee of a startup shouldn't be a decision made by someone just looking for compensation. Rather, a first employee should be someone who is so hooked on the idea of that startup, they focus on the ability to build a company from the ground up. It's a risk, but if all else fails, they can find a job working for an established business that can offer those numbers. Joining a startup early on should be based on beliefs and passion for the company, not a paycheck.
earbitscom 3 days ago 3 replies      
No offense, but this is horseshit and the math is embarrassing.

The number of people ready to invest $500k, for whom this is "a small part of his capital," is about 1/1000th of the number of people who will enjoy working and learning in a small, exciting company, and having more input into the product, regardless of total potential for financial gain. So, the value of $500k in cash from an accredited investor is already worth more than the time investment of the average employee, for whom there are replacements lining up. [Edit] This is to say nothing of the additional value that an investor adds.

Even if that were not the case, and this were strictly a math exercise, the investor is putting in $500k NOW. You're putting in $50k spread out over the next 365 days, during which a solid company's valuation may go up by ten fold. Right now, your $50k is worth 1% of the company. But you're not putting in $50k NOW. You're putting in $0 NOW. You're putting in $136 tomorrow, and $136 the next day. Good luck making an early stage investment in an exciting startup for $136. I have never seen early stage stock available on lay away.

Ask the secretaries at Microsoft or Google if they got ripped off. This is a joke.

My job is to watch dreams die reddit.com
349 points by SandB0x  18 hours ago   52 comments top 12
sudonim 13 hours ago 6 replies      
I've been following the housing bust.

In 2009, I remember reading a resignation later by a guy who made his "F* you money" betting for a housing collapse. He blasted the big banks, ivy leaguers, and old boys network.

I bought complex derivatives (SRS, SKF) but lost betting against the market.

I read http://calculatedriskblog.com for a while and educated myself about the macro factors in the markets.

Through "calculated risk", I learned of Jim the Realtor http://www.bubbleinfo.com/ who videos (vacant) casualties of the housing collapse. Seeing it made it real for me.

Over time, I've realized that the further from reality that decisions are being made, the more likely we are to make destructive decisions.

When soldiers kill people with drone aircraft in video game-like conditions, it removes the reality from something that would be extremely traumatizing when done with bare hands.

In our wonderfully complex world, we sow complexity, and reap disaster. Im not sure what the answer is, but there is something terribly wrong when destruction is more profitable than creation.

patrickk 16 hours ago 1 reply      
There's a Hollywood blockbuster waiting to be made out of a story like this (as noted in some of the Reddit comments). Something along the lines of Fight Club (grimy house scenes, top-notch monologue) or Lord of War/Up in the Air (someone doing a toxic job but good at it).
pseudonym 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Both interesting and depressing. No matter who you think should ultimately take the blame for the housing crash, it's easy to forget how many people other than just the homeowners are affected by this crap.
molbioguy 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Looking at a beautiful albeit narrow slice of something can hurt you (even though it feels good) because you fail to see the larger picture (which may not be so pretty). It introduces a bias that may lead you to incorrect conclusions and bad decisions. Enjoy the craft, but be wary.
tonio09 10 hours ago 1 reply      
this was very emotional article. very sad indeed. isnt it weird that all front page articles on reddit are overtly emotional? it seems that plain groundbreaking research papers will never make it to the frontpage...
sgt 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Nearly read "My dream is to watch Jobs die". I am far too tired to read HN right now.
mike55 9 hours ago 0 replies      
It thought it will be a post by a VC.
nazgulnarsil 9 hours ago 0 replies      
First world problems....
forinti 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Tom Waits should put a melody on that.
jamaicahest 11 hours ago 0 replies      
And the influx of redditors on HN is complete.
davedx 16 hours ago 5 replies      
Interesting, but hacker news? Come on... if I wanted general news, then I'd go to Reddit.
ristretto 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Since i m not going to read it, can somebody please post a tl;dr here: http://tldrplz.com ?


You can't google 9999999..99999999999999999999999 google.com
349 points by reg29  3 days ago   79 comments top 23
waterhouse 3 days 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 3 days 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 3 days 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 3 days 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.)

martinkallstrom 3 days ago 4 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?
skeptical 3 days 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:

jergosh 3 days ago 0 replies      
Guess they don't want you to search for credit card numbers
pointyhat 3 days ago 0 replies      
I get this:

Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network. Please try your request again later.

david927 3 days 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
tsycho 3 days 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.
arrowgunz 3 days 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."
mahrain 3 days ago 0 replies      
Funny how Duckduckgo lists all sites linking to this story.
program 3 days ago 2 replies      

111111..111111 // minimum case

or any other integer combination. 6 digits is the minimum amount that spawn the bizarre error.

37prime 3 days ago 0 replies      
Take out a few 9's out and Google still returned an error:
n0fair 3 days ago 1 reply      
Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network. Please try your request again later. Why did this happen?
mikkohypponen 3 days ago 0 replies      
However, you can still set Google Alerts for a search like that.
tete 3 days ago 1 reply      
I see why it doesn't work, but why doesn't it work with quotes either?
drungli 2 days ago 0 replies      
I tried also this:
same results!
digamber_kamat 3 days ago 0 replies      
Change the last 9 to 8 and see what happens ?
fletchowns 3 days ago 1 reply      
Bing to the rescue: http://www.bing.com/search?q=9999999..9999999999999999999999...

Pretty similar URL format eh?

The Million Dollar Question sebastianmarshall.com
330 points by jirinovotny  4 days ago   69 comments top 27
DanielBMarkham 4 days ago 3 replies      
I really liked this post. Sebastian continues to develop his conversational style. Very nice.

Asshole consultant inside of me kept nodding early on: "You just don't get it, Sebastian! Charge more!"

You see, there's a very sad truth consultants learn early on: it doesn't matter how much you know that can help somebody. All that matters is how much influence you can have.

The reason some consultants charge ten times what others do for the same information? It's not that they are ten times as smart; it's that they don't want to waste their life giving great advice to people who aren't going to value it. If you walk in the door at 10K per day, bet your bottom dollar people are going to listen to you. And that means you can help. Walk in the same door for free, just to help out a friend? Your advice, by definition, is worthless. You'd be lucky getting them to accept just a tiny piece of advice.

But then I got to the key of the piece: when you do finally "get it", it changes your relationship with "normal" folks.

I think Sebastian's being a bit over-dramatic here, but I firmly agree. There is something very crazy about making money from thin air. Especially how it's done today, with some keystrokes and a bunch of virtual magic. At least in the old days if you met a millionaire he could take you down to his factory or something. Maybe told you about all the hard work he's done.

Nowadays the same type of guy made much more money that than that and there's not even an office. For most people, it just doesn't compute. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that to most people, there's something just wrong about making money the way it's made today on the net. Something shady. If you're lucky you get the "odd weirdo" label. If you're unlucky you attract attention from people you would rather not.

Because of that, I think I'm giving up on the $40Mil dream. I'm happy just to make enough to free up my time to work on things I love doing. I'll let the other guys be the really extreme weirdos. :)

Short side story: I sold a piece of land a year or so ago. It wasn't much, but it was in the tens of thousands of dollars. The guy who bought it paid cash. He was a contractor. Over the past decade he had been saving here and there, scrimping up enough in cash to make his dream come true. He kept it all in hundred-dollar bills in a large ziplock bag. It wouldn't have been my choice but it worked for him.

As he paid me, he told me he had gotten stopped for a bad taillight by the police a few months back. Once they saw his money that he had been saving, he had a hell of a time convincing them he wasn't a drug dealer. While I understand that carrying large amounts of cash is suspicious, to hear him tell it the police went far beyond suspicious and started thinking there was definitely something wrong going on. You see, to those small-town cops, you just don't carry that amount of money around. Somebody who looked like that should not have the amount of money like this. Just having the money was an indication of something really bad, even if it could all be explained.

He almost lost all of it.

You can only stand out so much -- the forces of society will gently (or not so gently) pull you back into line. You either have to conform or move to some place where the definition of "normal" is different.

ryanwaggoner 4 days ago 4 replies      
This is a fantastic post, very thought-provoking. But also very sad to me. I disagree with the underlying premise that success and happiness are somehow negatively correlated. There's this idea in the post that if you want to be uber-successful, you can't have a "normal" life.

I know very successful people who are miserable, stressed-out workaholics. And I know very successful people who could have been one of the people strolling around Sebastian when he was writing this post. I know people who run startups from their home office and take their kids to school in the morning. Hell, look at Sebastian's own situation: he apparently has enough time to sit and pontificate for a couple hours on a train platform in Japan, in the middle of the day. He can't be working THAT hard :) Maybe what he's trying to say is that you can't have the idyllic suburban family life if you want to float around the world living off of random consulting gigs? But there are probably quite a few very successful people here on HN that live relatively idyllic family lives in cities and suburbs all over the world.

I think the idea of feeling isolated for being very ambitious is true, but I would caution Sebastian and others against the idea that you have to sacrifice your connection to a community, your face-to-face relationships, your health, and your overall happiness on the alter of amassing $40m for an amorphous purpose like being able to build a shrine with 5% of your wealth or less. You certainly can sacrifice all those things, but most people will never amass $40m no matter what they sacrifice. Better to find something (and someone) that you love, work hard at it, and enjoy life. Yes, you should take chances, yes you should push yourself and be ambitious. But this is the only life you get; don't squander it living a life you don't enjoy because you're hoping for the big payoff down the road. It probably won't come.

davidw 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure I buy it. I've met plenty of wealthy people who were happy to come home to a pretty normal family because their jobs are a constant source of novelty, stress and challenges. If one feels the need to stick out as part of one's identity, great, but it's just one way of living. I kind of like sticking out as a foreigner over here in Italy sometimes; it has its positive aspects. I certainly chose a road less traveled, but whatever, to each his own. For other things I'm happy to be pretty ordinary: I have a wife and two fantastic children and live in what passes for burbs over here.

Also, being a bit of a skeptic and contrarian, perhaps some of these people had other good reasons to say no to his plans. Without knowing their point of view, more about his proposals, and other particulars, maybe their inaction was sensible.

rdouble 4 days ago 3 replies      
Almost every millionaire I know is married with kids and living in the suburbs. Unless you win the lottery or are a professional skateboarder, becoming rich is more like boring suburban reality than being an international flaneur. (Interestingly, the rich pro skaters I know all live in the suburbs with their kids, too)

As someone who has also floated around a lot, even through Japan, it's an interesting lifestyle but sort of the opposite of how to get rich.

astrofinch 4 days ago 1 reply      
There are lots of bugs in peoples' brains that prevent them from doing things that seem like good ideas, and I don't think the fear of becoming illegible (http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2011/07/31/on-being-an-illegible-p...) is anywhere near the most important one.

My vote for the most important bug is as follows.

It looks as though human brains were architected to think in two modes: "near" mode and "far" mode. The reason for this is that early human tribes had important rules that directly impacted survival and reproduction (for example, "don't take more than your share of the food", "don't sleep with another man's wife"). It was critical for us to tell others that we were going to uphold these rules or we would get kicked out of the tribe. At the same, time our genetic fitness would increase massively if we could find a way to covertly break those rules while still upholding them verbally (more food and more descendents for successful rule breakers).

The upshot of this is that even if something looks good when processed using far mode it's not necessarily easy to translate it into near mode where it actually gets done.

In my view, this is an explanatory factor for procrastination as well. For example, the popular Google Chrome extension Chrome Nanny (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/gpdgmmdbbbchchonpf...) requires the user to enter 64 random alphanumeric characters before visiting a distracting site--which moves the idea of visiting this site from near mode (where it might actually happen) to far mode (where it won't).

For more on near and far modes you can read http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/06/near-far-summary.html. Note that novel tasks and desirable risky acts are both associated with far mode.

Jun8 4 days ago 4 replies      
"Why won't you?" Indeed. I created this HN user almost two years ago, before I applied to YC. In these two years I did pretty much nothing towards my goal, except reading HN, nodding in agreement over good posts, and bookmarking stuff on Delicious, adding to the hundreds I already have. What stops me? Fear? No, I just know I can be successful with my idea. Laziness? Maybe, but I've worked 18 hr days on projects I liked. So what? I don't know.

Meanwhile I will upvote this article and bookmark it.

ender7 4 days ago 0 replies      
Man, what a memorable post.

I like to think about his main point of "people won't understand you" a little differently. Humans were originally pack animals, and it shows. You are nothing without your pack, but together the pack is strong. Modern life isn't nearly so simplistic, but we still have our packs, albeit a little more nuanced. The place we work. The neighborhood we live in. Our family. Our friends (who are probably drawn from work, neighborhood, and family).

Doing what Sebastian does seems to be a lonely path. You get to be the alpha, but only of a pack of one. I get this feeling when seeing a lot of executives interviewed - men and women who are supposedly at the helm of enormous packs, but in practice seem a lot more alone than one might imagine.

sgentle 3 days ago 0 replies      
I really enjoyed this article. I'm not actually convinced that the answer is a fear of not being understood by others, but it's very close or the writing wouldn't resonate the way it does. The problem is that I know lots of people who couldn't give the slightest damn about fitting in, or who are already occupied in a field far enough from societal norms that their job description takes a whiteboard and a venn diagram on a good day.

I wish I could remember who said this; I think it was M. Scott Peck, but I can't find the reference: we are attached to our own mental model of ourselves. So attached that we will fight to maintain that model even if it's useless or actively harmful.

An example: have you ever noticed that if someone's depressed, complimenting them doesn't work? Have you noticed that you yourself feel awkward when others compliment you? That might seem obvious, but only because you've absorbed it through repeated exposure. Think about it: why in the world would someone saying good things about you feel uncomfortable? Shouldn't it be basically the best thing you can get?

The answer is that when you're thinking "I'm average looking at best" and someone says "you're beautiful!" it's like someone just tried to rip your left brain from your right. How can you possibly reconcile these two things? You have to either destroy your own sense of self or reject the person's compliment.

I suspect that in this case what looks like fear that the world will misunderstand you is actually fear that you misunderstand yourself. Jumping head-first into a crazy idea isn't just changing what you do; it's changing who you are, and that's goddamn terrifying.

ForrestN 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sebastian identifies a key problem that underlies a lot of how society works: lots of people effectively have motives to avoid things they want. But I'm not sure he's right about his reading of why the problem exists. As nice as it is to think of this as some kind of trade-off, I'm not sure that most people gain any normalcy or understanding, at least not in any positive way.

Think about his friend, the one who's big goal is financial independence. It's his primary first-order objective, and he's being shown a plan to pursue it. He's not afraid to pursue it because he thinks it's going to cause him to be less understood (at least one of his friends, Sebastian, will probably relate to him more). He just flinches at the thought of really going after what he wants.

The million dollar question is the right one: why do people get anxious and self-sabotage when a path to success is put in front of them?

Unfortunately I think the answer is that most people have a lot of psychological conflicts around being happy/getting what they want. Why this happens is probably some complicated mixture of neurology of and pain acquired in childhood, and how to fix the problem is one of the central aims of psychology and psychiatry. The behavior Sebastian describes in his friend is a great example of one's ability to function being impaired by his psychology.

Hopefully we'll get even better at fixing these sort of problems, but in the mean time, hopefully more people will understand that these problems aren't inherent to living life, that there's no sad tradeoff to going after the life you want, and thus be comfortable seeking treatment. You don't have to be crazy to pursue psychological help, you just have to notice that your feelings sometimes get in the way of you functioning the way you want to.

cynicalkane 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is a great post, but what I really want to know is how to make a million bucks without Sebastian Marshall mentoring you and no real connections. Actually, maybe I start by trying harder to make connections.
Dove 4 days ago 0 replies      
Fantastic insight that people tend to say "no" when offered a chance to pursue their dreams. But I disagree about the reason. I don't think it's that they don't want to be different; having an interesting dream is already being a bit different. I think it's that once you can have something, it's no longer a dream.
martinkallstrom 4 days ago 0 replies      
When I decided to embark on a new project this summer, I was at first held back by fear of failure. When I looked closer at the fear I realized that I could hack it by redefining my terms of success. Instead of defining success as making it big, I defined it as climbing up a steep learning curve. To do something new and learn from it, that's my definition of success.

And like that, the fear was gone. I'm now one month into my project, and I'm crushing it. Never been happier.

ScottWhigham 4 days ago 1 reply      
Very powerful - thanks for sharing.

But the more you do, the further away you get from being understood, from the joys of normal life, from being understood by your neighbors and backing each other up and living together harmoniously.

I cried for the first time in three years when I realized it.

The million dollar question… why don't people take the large opportunities in front of them? Why don't they allow their dreams to become realities?

Become it means you won't be understood. And we need to be understood, fundamentally, it's so important to us.


redsymbol 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very inspirational. If you're a startup founder/entrepreneur, worth your time to read fully.

Reading from beginning to end, I found the last paragraph powerfully moving. (Skipping to the end won't work - that last short para builds on everything before.)

seats 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome, and I totally agree-

"It's like everyone fantasizes about… whatever… but once their fantasies start to become reality, they piss their pants and self-sabotage."

joss82 3 days ago 0 replies      
It proves, once again, that extrinsic motivation does not work.

If you help someone achieve a goal, they will owe you some of their success, lessening their own merit.

On the opposite, as this story shows, the intrinsic motivation can make you do stuff that you thought impossible: http://www.maximise.dk/blog/2009/04/moving-boat.html

So maybe to help people achieve their dream, you have to tell them that it can't be done, that it's impossible.

This would be a truly altruistic way to help people, since you can't claim any part of their success in that case. All they will tell you will be "I told you it can be done!".

csomar 3 days ago 0 replies      
Change in financial situations creates lot of stress. When your stress level is high, the typical path you are going to take is the one that alleviates your stress and not increase it.

Sebastian is suggesting x10 higher wages for his clients. This is a financial breakthrough in the life of the client. It creates enormous amount of stress. The stress pushes you back, for a less stressful zone.

I say this because I was there, and I'm sure I'll be there again. I see this differently than the OP. I don't think that people don't understand you, especially when they are smart. The simple fact of thinking of it generate stress and they hide from hard/stressful situation.

aganders3 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks, I enjoyed this post. I don't resonate with everything he says, but it was worth reading. The more philosophical points of his post were an interesting contrast to this piece I read yesterday:

Reading the OP I was actually a bit put off by what seems like vague braggadocio, but then I turned it around on myself - maybe that's me suffering from the same illusion as a mask for my own jealousy?

rjbond3rd 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great writing, but here is a quibble regarding the "...pretty girl, maybe 23 years old. She's not beautiful... she'll... be a very good wife for someone."

Ouch. I know he's just day-dreaming there, and his point is that she is a "normal" person. But why define her success in terms of being a "wife for someone"? She could -already- be an incredibly successful, independent person living life on her own terms, making her own rules.

And for all we know, she may be just as alienated from normalcy as the author. Sorry to nitpick but this hit home for me.

Hisoka 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just want to say.. this is 1 of the most insightful, and meaningful posts I've read in my entire life. Thank you so much for sharing this. I resonated with every single bit. Thanks for not making feel alone in my thoughts.
typicalrunt 4 days ago 2 replies      
Amazing post. I read every word of it (as opposed to just scanning it).

What type of work does he do* and where can I meet/read more people like him?

He strikes me as a kind of mentor...something which I find is lacking in the IT industry. Mentors don't always need to be the smartest person in the room, they just need to have experience and patience to see the things that you are blind to.

* He says he's a strategist, but that's awfully vague.

mikecane 4 days ago 0 replies      
Holy shit, yes. But you don't even have to talk about the kind of skywalking he's engaged in. Anyone from a blue-collar or lower-class background who does non-manual labor is automatically alienated from everyone and everything they knew. See Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams by Alfred Lubrano.
tintin 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'll be fair with him: I would also decline because I would not like to be like him.
For me it has nothing to do with being understood. I read his 'who am I' and all I thought was "man, his life is so empty". But I can't say why.

Sometimes people just want a simple life. Making a lot of money or working less hours does not mean your life will be better or more enjoyable.

cgopalan 4 days ago 1 reply      
The call to action on this post seems to be stop worrying about the fact that you will not be understood and go ahead with your plans.

I am curious. Does the fear of not fitting in outweigh the benefits of financial freedom?

I dont know the answer to this question since I have never been in that situation, so I thought I would ask.

killion 4 days ago 0 replies      
When the headline is meaningless it doesn't make me want to click off.
fscottqureshi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Way too wordy, not nearly as insightful as he thinks it is.

This guy is clearly so full of it on so many levels. All hat, no cattle.

idlewords 4 days ago 3 replies      

A prolix.


Facebook doesn't like privacy countermeasures jwz.org
330 points by xentronium  1 day ago   102 comments top 24
rickmb 1 day ago 3 replies      
Facebook better wake up and realize that especially thanks to companies like them and their failure to self-regulate and respect privacy values outside the US, using Like-buttons for tracking is likely to become illegal in the EU and many other places in the next five years.

Technically, one could argue that they already violate existing laws, but incidents like these will make absolutely sure that these practices will be explicitly outlawed very soon.

It keeps surprising me how companies like Facebook and Google seem to be oblivious to the way privacy is perceived elsewhere, and are actively provoking stricter legislation than would be the case if they showed some respect. There is absolutely no question about these tracking practices being perceived as ethically unacceptable in many countries, so why provoke both negative publicity and legislation that is likely to handicap less intrusive solutions as well?

cletus 1 day ago 8 replies      
This is a non-story for the reasons stated but a story for other reasons.

It's standard that widget publishers require to use their widget "as is". That's basically what Facebook is saying. Not only do you not know what any custom modifications will necessarily do but it's a completely valid argument that you want a consistent user experience with your widget.

As for user tracking, this is basically an inevitable byproduct of Facebook hosting the widget, a situation I'm sure they're not unhappy about, but this really isn't a big deal in the context of how the Web works.

The story here (IMHO) is trust. Most pages have a Google Analytics tracking script on them. Do you trust Google? I do (disclaimer: I work for Google). Protecting user data and privacy are key priorities here. It's why Google+ has relatively simple privacy controls and allows you to export your data at any time.

Do you trust Facebook? I don't. Then again, there aren't many companies I do trust. But Facebook's track record seems to be to befuddle the user and trick or opt them into sharing things wider than they understand or want.

yuvadam 1 day ago 3 replies      
Friendly reminder, blocking all and any of Facebook's pre-click tracking measures can be implemented easily in AdBlock Plus (or any equivalent ad blocker) with the following rules:


slowpoke 1 day ago 0 replies      

  If it hadn't occurred to you yet that Facebook cares far
more about the "Like" buttons that you don't click than
about the ones that you do -- there you go.

I've been telling this to people since ages. These stupid Like buttons are an infestation, and exactly the reason why I care so much about Facebook's privacy policies despite not being registered on it - it's just not as simple as "not having an account". This goes for the other networks, too, by the way.

Besides, this solution with the two clicks is very clever, and privacy friendly. In addition, it speeds up page loading. It speaks for itself that the only measure Facebook has is trying to sue with a very broadly formulated policy, which I doubt applies in this case anyways:

  if such use could confuse users into thinking that the
reference is to Facebook features or functionality.

Well duh, it is a Facebook feature/functionality.

kragen 1 day ago 0 replies      
The most important update, from Aristotle: "Tina Kulow of Facebook Germany has spoken again. In a tweet, she wrote: “To clarify: a 2-click button is not ideal " but not a problem. Only a Like button that merely visually pretends to be one is not OK. That's all.” Since heise online changed the design of the button for the first click that activates the Like function, there should now be no obstacles on Facebook's part to further use of the 2-click button by heise online and other websites."
jeza 1 day ago 1 reply      
Apparently it's more of a copyright issue than the 2-click process. They don't like their logo being used on a locally hosted image. So heise.de made the button more generic and it's all good now.
bryogenic 1 day ago 0 replies      
A simple solution to this would be to not use facebook icons for your first click image. So maybe a simple 'social share' icon that brings up all the sharing options and at the same time loads the traditional facebook like button.
Xuzz 1 day ago 1 reply      
Before we spend too much time attacking Facebook over this, let's try and think of possible reasons why this might be not an "evil" move. No need to go out of our way to conclude "omg they're evil stealing our privacy".

Firstly, what if they just don't want to confuse users? I see people confused all the time of when you need to click and when you need to double-click, every time I see someone using the computer " I'm sure I do this myself, too. What does allowing someone to introduce uncertainty as to what's required here do, especially when their click-through buttons look just like Facebook's normal ones on other sites? I'd say it'd just confuse people. I don't have an issue with Facebook doing that, I'd actually rather have them enforce, this, so you know what is going on when you see a standard Like button.

(As a few other comments have noted, just replacing the button with a custom-styled one would solve this issue. It'd also solve user confusion, since it no longer appears to be Facebook requiring a double click.)

So, maybe they're not just after destroying privacy, after all? Maybe?

(I don't work for Facebook, or even know anyone who does. I just like to try and see both sides of something like this.)

maeon3 1 day ago 3 replies      
I forgot how when I click a like button on a foreign page, face book is keeping data about what pages I am visiting and (who,what,when,where,how) and is selling that click data about me to the highest bidder (and I cant turn it off) to advertisers or worse government agencies doing warrent-less surveillance.

I'm never clicking a facebook like button again until I can turn off user website tracking.

blahedo 1 day ago 2 replies      
I'm glad this came up to make me think about it more; I'd already gotten in the habit of logging out of FB except when actively viewing the feed, for precisely this reason---I didn't want FB tracking me across browsing other sites. (The FB-hosted comment systems were actually the proximate worry, as well as the Like button.)

But that was my half-thought-through answer. Of course they're perfectly able to track me even without being logged in.[0] So the real answer is I need to be sure I'm not loading cross-site img and iframes... My Omniweb install I'd already configured to do that, but setting up proper privacy countermeasures on my Firefox install just jumped way up the priority list.

[0] http://panopticlick.eff.org/

yason 1 day ago 0 replies      
What are web browsers doing by sharing this accidental data between 3rd party sites anyway?

The default setting ought to be that connections to 3rd party sites are done in incognito mode. This would disallow tracking by looking up the referer and sites like Facebook couldn't also tell who's login cookies the browser is storing. You could then whitelist connections on a per-site basis.

jaekwon 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's the visitor's choice to visit a webpage.
It's the developer's choice to choose widgets.
Do you really think it's fair to say,
"I want to use your widget, FB, which happens through your servers, and I want to use them my way without your consent."
The default option (not choosing the widget) is always fair.

My point is that to make such widgets illegal, widgets that service three consenting parties, is completely retarded.

rudiger 1 day ago 1 reply      
Is there an open-source implementation of this two-click system for Facebook's Like button (and others like Google's +1 and Twitter's tweet button)?
thedjpetersen 1 day ago 2 replies      
I was surprised to find out that Facebook tracks not only what 'like' buttons you have been clicking but also where you have been browsing. Is there a privacy browser extension?
doki_pen 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is this really just a facebook problem? Isn't it a problem for any client side service that is used across the web? Analytics packages, ad software, value add stuff like disqus, etc.
hayeah 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the 2-clicks "like" button is super smart. I am going to implement it as a Chrome extension, what do you guys think? I've created a repo on github:


eloisius 1 day ago 0 replies      
Not sure how great it works because I only sought it out after reading this, but here's Facebook Disconnect for Chrome. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ejpepffjfmamnambag...
thelovelyfish 1 day ago 0 replies      
Facebook, google, all these other giant technology firms... They will be looked back on in the future as ruthless opportunists doing their best to take advantage of the public with technology before anyone can figure out what they're doing and stop them.

The world is not some cute friendly little place. It is equally as barbarous today as it was in the dark ages. The TVs have convinced everyone otherwise it seems. Evil people are using machines to take over the world.


Sigi 1 day ago 0 replies      
A possibly related note: I use two browsers to browse the web in an attempt to protect my privacy (as futile as it seems to be); one is logged in to google, and the other is not.

When using the browser that is logged in, I get 15 "+1"s for google like-like button. however, when using the other browser that's not logged in, I get 0 "+1"s.

Can anyone explain?

jcfrei 1 day ago 1 reply      
what about the like buttons on techcrunch? they only load if you hover over them as well.
baby 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was doing it on my website, I never had any problems with facebook.

Actually, I had other problems with them, and what they did is just plainly banned my application and blocked my website from using facebook API.

RexRollman 1 day ago 0 replies      
Facebook is detestable. Just like its founder.
pacemkr 1 day ago 0 replies      
Don't use the Like button.

There, problem solved.

If your startup isn't social and free, it isn't hip. If you don't have a Facebook page and seven shades of "Like" buttons, you are destroying your business. Just stop.

Stop putting that social media flare (crap) on your website. Your users don't care, because sharing a link is not an unsolved problem.

calbear81 1 day ago 2 replies      
I love the privacy "oh no they're selling our data!" paranoia that people still have without considering WHY and what legitimate reasons Facebook has for sending back data when a Like button is implemented.

First, they are a SOCIAL network, this data helps them figure out the engagement level with different brands that participate on the Facebook social platform. Second, in this case, the use of 2-click solution creates a disconnect with the expected behavior of the Facebook Like widget which means users going across different sites will not know whether they need to make one or two clicks to enable a "Like". Third, when you don't use the Facebook Like widget, you don't get any insight into your connections with your social graph unless you click on the Like button which defeats the purpose of being able to see that "4 of your friends like this".

There are real privacy concerns that we should consider but I'm tired of reading EU Privacy office statements that show a lack of understanding of how the web works and without regard to the impact to the monetization ecosystem which is the lifeblood of many web publishers. What bothers me more is that there's a lack of consideration that there are legitimate reasons a certain level of data is collected in order to make the web more social.

Michael Arrington Resigns From Techcrunch wsj.com
313 points by moses1400  3 days ago   74 comments top 23
glymor 2 days ago 4 replies      
If the paywall is affecting you:

TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is resigning as editor of the popular technology blog, and will run a $20 million venture-capital fund backed by TechCrunch-owner AOL Inc. and several venture-capital firms.

Mr. Arrington "will run the fund and will continue to write for TechCrunch, but will have no editorial oversight," said an AOL spokesman. Erick Schonfeld, who has served as co-editor in New York, will become interim editor while AOL searches for a replacement for Mr. Arrington, the spokesman said. AOL purchased the site last year.

Mr. Arrington's new fund, called CrunchFund, closed Thursday with $20 million, according to people familiar with the matter. AOL leads the limited-partner group, which includes a long roster of venture firms that kicked in $1 million each: Austin Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Greylock Partners, Redpoint Ventures and Sequoia Capital.
Several individuals contributed money, including Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz of the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz; general partners at Benchmark Capital; angel investors Ron Conway and Kevin Rose; and Yuri Milner of Russian firm DST Global.

It isn't immediately clear what is the fate of AOL's venture-capital arm, AOL Ventures, which has made recent seed investments in start-ups such as spam-defense company Impermium and price-tracking service Shopobot.

Mr. Arrington's partner in the fund is Patrick Gallagher, who has been a partner at VantagePoint Capital Partners since 2008.

Mr. Arrington wasn't immediately available for comment. He posted a message on Twitter after news of the fund broke: "slow news day."

Mr. Arrington, a former lawyer who is known to be well connected in Silicon Valley, started TechCrunch in 2005. The site built up a following for its coverage of young tech companies.

Long an angel investor himself, Mr. Arrington announced on TechCrunch in 2009 that he would stop making investments in start-ups due to a perceived conflict as both publisher and investor. It's "a weak point that competitors and disgruntled entrepreneurs use to attack our credibility," he wrote at the time.

But in April this year, after AOL acquired TechCrunch, Mr. Arrington announced he was investing in start-ups again, while also becoming a limited partner in venture funds Benchmark Capital and SoftTechVC.

Mr. Arrington has often said that transparency and full disclosure keep things above-board when his blog writes about companies he has some financial stake in.

guelo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Arianna is now saying that Arrington will not have writing privileges and that he no longer works for Techcrunch at all. http://www.businessinsider.com/mike-arrington-no-longer-work...
cft 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hopefully, Hollywoodization of the Silicon Valley will slow down as the Techcrunch hype machine falls apart.
flocial 2 days ago 1 reply      
The title is sensational. He's just relinquishing editorial responsibilities and not all writing privileges so he can run a AOL-funded venture capital fund. The question is will he be able to leverage his connections and influence to perform as a capable fund manager?
ig1 2 days ago 1 reply      
bangs head on wall

I've got a draft article I was writing for my blog arguing that Arrington should resign because his conflicts of interest make his role as editor of TC untenable.

Among other reasons I was arguing that Arrington has to disclaim his investment in any article about a competing firm, however since his investment in SV Angels he's now invested in a number of firms which are in stealth mode, which means in practical terms that it's impossible for him to meet his obligations.

ayanb 2 days ago 0 replies      
He could serve up some drama, but one thing most people will agree on, he has always cheered for and egged on startups and the ecosystem. Simply for that, I wish him good luck.
Kavan 2 days ago 0 replies      
AOL = TechCrunch and AOL = CrunchFund (as it is AOL's capital seeding the fund)

So even if the fund had a different name, and Arrington doesn't work for AOL directly, there is still a conflict of interest. As Paul Carr said in his article, are TC journalists likely to write a really negative piece on a CrunchFund company knowing that Tim Armstrong ultimately runs both?

Would the Wall Street Journal or the New Times start an investment fund and invest in the exact companies they are reporting on? IMHO they would not, as they realise their core business's need for independence.

If AOL want to follow through on their strategy "AOL is planning on being the largest high quality content producer for digital media." they need to realise that they are a media business and so need to follow the same rules basic rules for good journalism as every one else in their industry.

IMHO this is a very poor decision by Armstrong. For another glamorous dabble in the VC world where he will probably make about 10% ($2M) per annum, he could be betting the entire AOL business.

Not much upside and a whooooole lotta downside = bad trade.

petercooper 2 days ago 2 replies      
But staying with TC, notably. As he said after the sale:

So we begin another journey. I fully intend to stay with AOL for a very, very long time. And the entire team has big incentives to stay on board for at least three years.

However, I rather hope Michael's "dream" comes true instead: http://peterc.org/blog/2011/381-michael-arringtons-dreams-of... ;-)

bkrausz 2 days ago 2 replies      
Strange that this is only 11 months since the acquisition, I would have assumed he would leave at a 1 year vesting.
rmason 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well when there's a website with a pool predicting your departure the crowdsourced consensus was Arrington wouldn't be at AOL long:


gwern 2 days ago 0 replies      
Companies investing in other companies always strikes me as weird, and investing in a venture capital seems even weirder.

Companies have a fiscal responsibility to deliver as much money as possible to their shareholders, do they not? So if AOL is giving Arrington a few million dollars, that's money AOL shareholders are not seeing; it's only justifiable if AOL thinks Arrington will use the money to outperform the market (otherwise just invest in the market or return to shareholders) or there will be some friends-with-benefits deal worth millions to make up for Arrington's lack of edge. Neither one seems all that likely.

suprgeek 2 days ago 0 replies      
When AOL acquired TC, I get the feeling that the clock had started counting down for Michael Arrington. Not because AOL wanted to get rid of him, but more because of his need to be disruptive which was being reined in to some extent. The "loose" cannon tag is well earned to some extent.Should be interesting to see some of Arrington's larger investments as a VC.
itsnotvalid 2 days ago 0 replies      
Aren't we expecting this? Editorial independence is a good thing here, so really no surprise here.
wslh 2 days ago 0 replies      
Funny that their current e-mail contact is: crunchfund@gmail.com on CrunchBase page: http://www.crunchbase.com/financial-organization/crunchfund
jetbean 2 days ago 2 replies      
I have to ask, why is this important?
johnx123-up 2 days ago 1 reply      
Will the CrunchFund going to be a competitor for YC?
breck 2 days ago 1 reply      
Glad to see he's still writing for TC. If I notice MA's name in the byline, I usually read it.
nkeating 2 days ago 0 replies      
Cant say that I'm a fan of his tactics, but the Man's seemingly omnipresent influence on the tech world is undeniable.
par 2 days ago 0 replies      
Didn't he report some alleged collusion last year among some silicon valley angels? Perhaps he feels this is his way of competing and creating a true angel market. I'm interested to see where this goes, more startup money can only be good for us!
djd 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not big a news as the Title suggests.
Gist: He quit as editor and started a seed fund
bshells 2 days ago 0 replies      
$20 million. Who said we are having a eco crunch?
mrmaddog 2 days ago 3 replies      
Even though I hope M.G. Siegler becomes the next head of TechCrunch, I have a feeling that AOL will view this as it's chance to take command, and put one of its own on top.
puredemo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good on Mr. Arrington. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does in the next few years.

He can be polarizing, but his journalism and analysis have always seemed spot on to me.

GitHub Flow scottchacon.com
312 points by schacon  4 days ago   61 comments top 16
jerhinesmith 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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.

simonw 4 days 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?

tednaleid 4 days 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)

blackRust 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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 4 days 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.)
puredanger 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm curious how CI is done on branches. It's mentioned but not elaborated on in the article.
geeksam 4 days 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...
ethank 4 days 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 4 days 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 3 days ago 0 replies      
How do you handle branches which require DB migrations?
Tilemill: Maps done right tilemill.com
307 points by will2live  3 days ago   42 comments top 14
jinushaun 3 days ago 4 replies      
I've used TileMill pretty extensively, and while TileMill is great for generating static maps (PNGs) for infographics, it won't replace Google Maps any time soon for serving dynamic maps.

For example, you can serve a dynamic map of Washington DC on a website using TileStream and TileMap, but if you wanted to also view Fairfax, VA or Baltimore, MD, you're out of luck unless the tileset includes those tiles. With Google Maps, you always have access to all the tiles.

That's not to say that TileMill isn't a great product. The choice to use CSS is brilliant. Plus they're based in Washington DC, where I'm currently living! Nice to see tech outside of the Bay Area, NYC and Boston.

icefox 3 days ago 2 replies      
I never thought I would see the day where there is OS X and Linux downloads, but only a VM image for Windows. Very cool.
untog 3 days ago 1 reply      
This looks really, really slick. Next time I'm creating a map-based site I'm going to have a play around and see what customisations I can do. It's very difficult to match the default Google Maps style for clarity, but sometimes it would be good to have more options than their styles permit.
cal5k 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm consistently impressed by the work DevSeed puts out with such a small team. What's the secret? :-)
nollidge 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the screenshot should use a bit higher-contrast color scheme for the map. I was slouching in my chair a bit and couldn't really see what it was at first :)
dave1010uk 2 days ago 0 replies      
The Google Maps API lets you style maps too [1]. You can change colors and show/hide different map features. There's also a wizard [2] to make styling easier. You can get some very interesting effects [3].

[1] http://googlegeodevelopers.blogspot.com/2010/05/add-touch-of...

[2] http://gmaps-samples-v3.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/styledmaps/...

[3] http://googlegeodevelopers.blogspot.com/2010/10/five-great-s...

crenshaw 3 days ago 2 replies      
Was just about to download and start using this. No Windows version though. Maybe the start of a weekend project for me.
aw3c2 3 days ago 0 replies      
The ruleset screenshot reminds me of http://www.maperitive.net/ which is an excellent tool too (not web-based).
pbhjpbhj 2 days ago 0 replies      
In case anyone is wondering about the shell script for Ubuntu install it checks for maverick or natty and then installs like so:

    apt-add-repository ppa:developmentseed/mapbox
apt-add-repository ppa:chris-lea/node.js
apt-get update
apt-get install tilemill

rmc 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have started to play around with this foR custom OpenStreetMap rendering. Carto, the css format, seems a bit easier to play with than the raw mapnik xml.
gmbuell 3 days ago 0 replies      
The main MapBox site (http://mapbox.com/) is definitely worth checking out as well. They have a pretty cool iPad app and a nice ~6 minute video demoing everything (http://vimeo.com/20006926)
henry501 3 days ago 0 replies      
Love TileMill, love TileStream, love the tilesets. One day I'll move to DC...
domhofmann 3 days ago 2 replies      
Really incredible work. Is there anything we can do to speed up exporting, short of manually parallelizing across multiple computers? Distributed export might be a nice feature.
geogra4 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks great, thank you.
Linus Torvalds now on GitHub github.com
296 points by olliesaunders  1 day ago   67 comments top 13
cookiecaper 1 day ago  replies      
It'd've been advantageous to see this go on a purely open service like Gitorious instead. They often provide similar features as GitHub and could definitely use the exposure of Linus's account.

I use and enjoy GitHub, so this definitely isn't a personal gripe, I'd just like to see the competition in that space heat up a bit, and there'd be bonus points if we could simultaneously promote a completely open platform.

cpeterso 23 hours ago 1 reply      
The "torvalds" github account claims to have been created today. Did github have reserve that account name for Linus or did they boot a squatter? I see there dubious accounts registered for "linustorvalds", "billgates", and "stevejobs" but not "billg" or "sjobs".

btw stevejobs uploaded Windows 8 source code in 2009! Bill, you might want to give Steve a call. ;)

moe 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Poor Linus will probably be flooded with patches and pull requests for every commit he makes.

On the other hand, he might very well spark some interesting things just by committing small stubs of his ideas.

yesbabyyes 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Sorry for taking http://github.com/linus, Linus!
grandalf 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Congrats to the Github team for this. I'd say it's a pretty huge endorsement, regardless of whether Linus intended it that way or not.
jsaxton86 1 day ago 0 replies      
The README file is great:

TL/DR: I've never used GTK before, I know my code sucks, but my little divelog program is better than anything else I could find, and if someone wants to fix my code they are welcome to do so.

xuhu 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Hard to believe, but the sources compile cleanly on win32 (using mingw). And ... it actually works!

I put binaries up at http://patraulea.com/diveclog/diveclog-win32-110904.zip

bostonvaulter2 1 day ago 1 reply      
I assume diveclog is for scuba diving?
wtracy 19 hours ago 0 replies      
He has nearly a thousand followers within a day of creating an account. Nice.
thedjpetersen 1 day ago 1 reply      
It would be really cool if he puts his fun side project scripts up. I would enjoy seeing what he hacks on the side.
MrKurtHaeusler 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Hmm he seems to have left out the unit tests.
tbranyen 22 hours ago 0 replies      
9 million hits/day with 120 megs RAM tumbledry.org
295 points by verisimilitude  4 days ago   123 comments top 29
jroes 4 days ago  replies      
Blogs really don't need a PHP, Rails, or anything backend. It's static content.

Here's how I think blogging should work:

1. Visit a web app where you create your blog post, add pictures, use your rich text editor, that sort of thing.

2. Click the "Publish" button, which generates static HTML and runs any other processing like tag generation or pngcrush.

3. Your static HTML gets pushed out to some server that does the hosting for you. It could even be one of those really cheap shared hosting providers.

If you really want comments, let someone like Disqus or Intense Debate handle it. Pretty much any dynamic feature you need can be outsourced.

michael_dorfman 4 days ago 1 reply      
I guess my age is catching up with me-- my gut reaction on seeing the headline was: 120MB? That's a lot of RAM-- who has that? Oh, wait...
api 4 days ago 1 reply      
This underscores how ridiculously overspecced modern servers are due to the bloat of a lot of modern software.
jacques_chester 4 days ago 2 replies      
The key points:

    1. Use caching.
2. Use Nginx.
3. Use PHP-FPM.

silverbax88 4 days ago 1 reply      
I agree that this should be the standard, not an exception.
noelwelsh 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to know how much the Joyent Smartmachine contributed to this. They make some bold claims on their website, and really do seem like a great alternative to EC2 (disk IO that doesn't suck!) if they deliver. Anyone have any experience?
dan_manges 4 days ago 0 replies      
Some interesting techniques in here (e.g. Faking Dynamic Features Using Inline Caching), but otherwise it seems easy to scale to this level when the majority of page content can be cached.
mfjordvald 4 days ago 0 replies      
Cross posting this from a comment I made on reddit:
This is something I've actually worked extensively on solving and it's not quite as easy as this article claims it to be. In fact, there are quite a few too many draw backs to this method to any site that isn't largely static or updated very rarely.

* Whenever anything is updated the entire cache is invalidated and each item needs to be fetched again. This means you'll have some page loads being slow and others being fast. If you have a very dynamic website you will hardly ever even see a cached version.

* You can't cache things forever, primarily because when anything is updated the entire version namespace is invalidated. This means that if you have a site that isn't updated at all in a long time then the cache is still invalidated by the TTL and has to be updated. Of course, if you decide to cache forever and the version namespace is incremented then...

* You never know when your cache is full. Since the method of updating the cache isn't to invalidate keys but rather to just fill it with new keys, you will have a lot of stale data. This data will eventually have to get evicted from the cache. This means you don't reliably know when you need to upgrade your cache memory.

All that said. Version namespacing your cache is better than not caching at all and it's usually also better than having a lot of stale data as active keys. If you want to do proper cache invalidation in case you have a highly dynamic site then it's still possible, but it requires a lot more work, there's a reason for this famous quote: http://martinfowler.com/bliki/TwoHardThings.html

dan_manges 4 days ago 1 reply      
It's not apparent if the 9 million+ daily hits number is taking into account that peak hours will be higher than off hours. It would take 100 reqs/sec if the traffic is even throughout the day, but 375 reqs/sec if 15% of the day's traffic is in the peak hour.
drv 2 days ago 0 replies      
The title says "120 megs of RAM", but I wonder if that's at all comparable to a real machine with 120 MB. I imagine that the "120 MB" VM is running on a beefy host with tens (or hundreds) of gigabytes of RAM shared between the guest VMs and also used for disk cache. It seems likely that accessing a guest's virtual disk would actually hit the host's disk cache a lot of the time (especially when that guest has been busy recently); that would improve the speed of disk access for that VM enough that it could make up for the lack of memory for disk cache within the guest.

This is purely speculation, but I would be interested to see if there is any actual research to back it up.

I suppose if the guest in this instance is not swapping very often, then this is fairly irrelevant, but the article didn't mention anything about swap.

wingo 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very nicely done. Using JS to give personalized experiences seems to be the way to go. I suppose you could generate a JSON list of id,date pairs to reduce page bloat, if it matters.

[Edit: This is 100 qps. It's a lot for a blog, but is not an unreasonable load by any means.]

todsul 3 days ago 0 replies      
The difference between Apache and Nginx is that out of the box, Nginx is built for speed. Both are capable of thousands of requests per second, but Nginx arguably does it better with its event-based architecture (opposed to Apache being process based). The config syntax is also refreshingly simple, so converting .htaccess rules couldn't be easier.

We were recently paying a small fortune for hosting one of our websites. It was bumping up against memory limits even after a serious code rework and aggressive caching. Instead of upgrading we decided to test a new config using Nginx.

Now we run three sites, one fairly popular, on a 512Mb Linode with Nginx, APC, FPM, Varnish and a CDN, and it can take an amazing amount of load. Varnish needs memory, but without Varnish we could run this setup on a box a fraction of the size.

This plan costs $19/month! I still can't believe we're paying so little.

Instead of focussing just on the server though, and like the TumbleDry article somewhat suggests, HTTP cache is probably the best place to start in terms of performance. Varnish, CDNs, etc all rely on intelligent HTTP caching. And if you do it right, you don't need to worry (too often) about cache invalidation.

What I'm really looking forward to is making use of ESI in Symfony2 and Varnish. That will mean setting different cache headers for portions of pages, which will further reduce the need to manually invalidate cache.

For now though, I'm loving Nginx + FPM + APC.

g-garron 4 days ago 0 replies      
As a lot of you have said:
Static content is the key to success.
You can name it:

- Movable type

- Drupal + boost

- Wordpress + SuperCache

- Jekyll or other static website generators

Better if Nginx is serving those static files, LAMP can be behind creating the static files.

I used that way with Drupal+boost for a lot of time and worked.

kahawe 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have to say I haven't tried that myself nor have I looked at the prices so my question is: All the fun of having your own server aside, why wouldn't I rather just run a site like that on something like amazon ec2 and stop worrying about hits and load even if it is just a personal blog?
ez77 3 days ago 0 replies      
For static, high-traffic, small-size content, doesn't it make sense to load a minimal OS entirely to RAM and serve it from there? Has anybody tried this? (I guess this rules out VPSes...)

Note: This is a variation of a previous comment I made, but a variation nonetheless. Sorry to belabor the point.

senthilnayagam 4 days ago 2 replies      
discovered blitz.io will keep me and my servers busy this weekend
RyanKearney 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not too sure I'd go with a load testing company that can't even keep their own website up.


> Internal Server Error

ez77 4 days ago 2 replies      
Naive question: suppose that you serve a low-throughput site, say with a total of 3MB of data (probably text files). What's the simplest way to ensure that those 3MB of content (very little compared to 120MB) live always in RAM? By this I mean not giving the server a choice =).
antihero 4 days ago 2 replies      
That's about 100requests/sec, which isn't particularly amazing.
michael_h 4 days ago 0 replies      
By inlining the comments, he's reducing cpu time by...transferring extra data across the network?
gtklocker 4 days ago 0 replies      
He could just say "tl;dr\n<machine specs>\n<I use static pages>".
krmmalik 4 days ago 1 reply      
Quick Question. Would using Nginx as a front-end to Node improve performance in the same way it has done for serving PHP?
waffle_ss 4 days ago 4 replies      
Wonder how much faster it would be if PHP was taken out of the mix (looks like he's just just serving static pages anyway).
TylerE 4 days ago 0 replies      
One thing to point out, based on my experience, is that you need about 10x or more peak throughput to handle a given average throughput. Spikes kill you.
winsbe01 4 days ago 0 replies      
love it. gives me faith that the archaic machines i have serving can still hold their own!
njharman 4 days ago 0 replies      
hits/day and megs ram are orthogonal.
luigionline 4 days ago 0 replies      
how about just using a CDN service. There is no need to play around anymore.
schiptsov 4 days ago 0 replies      
There was some post about a happy Win/IIS/CF guy - he definitely should read this.. ^_^
j_col 4 days ago 1 reply      
Very impressive, it's amazing how the "LAMP" stack continues to evolve.
Amazon's Kindle Tablet Is Very Real. I've Seen It, Played With It. techcrunch.com
292 points by ssclafani  2 days ago   189 comments top 32
joebadmo 2 days ago  replies      
In certain ways, this "post-PC" era that Apple's brought us into with the iPad seems like a step backward. We're going back to something more like the broadcast television model, where a more or less centralized authority produces the content for passive users to consume. These tablets just keep getting more and more optimized for that.

I suppose it's somewhat natural, given the way the market works, but it seems our tools for consumption are advancing at a significantly greater rate than our tools for production.

I guess the opposing side is the Web. Amazon seems to be shaping up to be solidly on the side of the centralized authority-type cathedral builders, while the Web and Web technologies are more bazaar-like. It seems more and more like Google is the only powerful singular force whose incentives align with the Web instead of with more centralized production hubs.

SwellJoe 2 days ago 2 replies      
I was momentarily excited...until I read the description of the new Kindle.

I played with a Nook a few weeks ago, and almost bought one. $249 is nearly an impulse purchase price point. But, I already had a netbook, a Kindle, a laptop, a Nexus One (which broke a few days ago, to be replaced by a Sensation), a desktop, and a DS, so I talked myself out of it.

One of the big reasons is because I wouldn't be able to get rid of my existing Kindle. The Kindle has a killer feature, which I can't replicate: International 3G Internet for free. It's a piss poor excuse for a web browser, but when I'm out of the country, I can google "wifi hotspot city-name" and find a place to connect my netbook or laptop and get some work done. This is a miracle for someone that travels as much as I do.

The battery life is also spectacular. Since I travel in a motorhome, and sometimes go days without plugging in, the ability to read books without having to think about charging my ebook reader is awesome.

So, the two really awesome things about the current Kindle that I have, are not present in the Android Kindle. Also, the fact that they've forked Android hard makes me more than a little hesitant to consider it. My new phone is only a slight divergence from standard Android, and I find it annoying as hell...I'll probably be rooting it and putting a more standard Android on it when I have more free time. The notion of a total fork without a standard Market and all the Google apps (Maps is my lifeline when travelling), and possibly without some of the other apps I rely on, is just crazy. It's hard to imagine such a thing not sucking.

In short, it sounds like I'll be better served by a Nook, should I decide to buy a little ebook/tablet. At least it is readily converted to a standard Android device. Or, maybe I'll just wait out the next round of tablets...or, maybe I'll just not buy a tablet. I still have yet to figure out what I'd use one for. They seem to be highly focused consumption devices, and I do enough consumption as it is.

Lewisham 2 days ago 5 replies      
If Amazon are going to maintain an Android fork, I wonder how well Android apps will be able to play with it. It would be a huge disappointment if 2.2+ apps were unavailable (or installing Google Market for that matter).

I can see why Amazon has gone down this path, but I do wonder if it's the right thing, rather than doing everyone's favorite/most hated carrier-specific bolt-ons instead. I also hope that Amazon doesn't give up on color e-ink, because reading on a Kindle is so much nicer.

achompas 2 days ago 1 reply      
By far the most interesting quote from Siegler's article:

Overall, the UI of this Kindle felt very responsive. You can flick through the carousel seamlessly. This is something Amazon has apparently been working on quite a bit, I'm told. And they continue to.

If Amazon gets this right, they're a long way towards recreating the iPad UX. In fact, this entire article suggests that the Kindle tablet will be the first widely adopted non-iPad tablet. In addition to the above:

1. The interface sounds great. I am a humongous fan of the Kindle Cloud Reader and iOS interfaces, and I believe they're designed very well. Users can expect a well-designed tablet from Amazon.

2. Users can draw from a central source for their content. Amazon will provide all the movies, music, and books you need--something every other Android tablet has lacked so far. Mainstream users will appreciate the centralized content provision, especially from a company as respected as Amazon.

3. Cutting the Android Market solves a lot of potential issues: no spyware, no OS incompatibilities, no apps with large hardware requirements. Everything in the Amazon Appstore will work on this Kindle (I expect it to be a requirement for admission).

This tablet sounds very...Apple-like. A very closed ecosystem with access to interesting content and a curated app store. I would buy it if I was shopping for a tablet.

Steko 2 days ago 2 replies      
Five or Six Things That Occurred In My Brain When I Read This Article:

(1) $250 with free Prime? Buying one for sure, maybe two.

(2) No camera? Ugg. At least a front facing camera for Skype pls, I'll pay extra.

(3) November, meh I was hoping late September.

(4) Eclair fork? That has to be wrong lots of optimizations made in Froyo which has been available for over a year.

(5) Maybe this provided some additional incentive for Google to withhold Honeycomb source?

(6) MG Siegler continues to break character and occasionally commit actual journalism. Would love to see this trend continue.

ajg1977 2 days ago 1 reply      
If there's one thing they need to nail on this device (beyond the Kindle app) it's web browsing.

a $250 7" tablet with a top class browser is a hugely compelling product all by itself.

drivebyacct2 2 days ago 2 replies      
Google's applications are not part of Android.

Putting a skin on Android and not shipping it with Google apps is NOT a fork. Even if you want to consider it one in a technical definition, it's not a significant one. It's as much a fork of Android as CyanogenMod is. (CM does not come with Google Apps, though they can be added after-the-fact).

superuser2 2 days ago 4 replies      
E-ink made the Kindle. Tablets are exciting, but reading a novel on a backlit screen is no fun, and if it were, we'd read on our cell phones, because they're easier to carry around.

This is disappointing. The Kindle 2 (the model I had) did one thing, and one thing phenomenally well. I don't want my kindle to be a Swiss army knife.

psychotik 2 days ago 1 reply      
This could become a potential nightmare for app developers. Assuming they don't break public APIs in their custom fork, developers are still going to need to worry about backward compatibility and not being able to provide advanced features for their apps on Android devices. Couple that with problems with payments/in-app purchases and this is just a nightmare waiting to happen for Android developers.

If the forked-OS stuff is true, this feels like a bad move by Amazon.

gamble 2 days ago 1 reply      
This will have a hard time competing with the iPad internationally, if it really is focused on deep integration with their digital stores. Amazon has been extremely reluctant to roll out their content stores beyond the US. For example, they still haven't expanded their mp3 store to Canada.
mootothemax 2 days ago 2 replies      
I've been sorely tempted to pick up a Kindle for the last few months, and had thought it'd make a nice Christmas present. I know - I'm so considerate. Given that the present version has been out for a while, I was wondering if an updated version would be released in time for the Christmas rush.

10 hour battery life, not going to fit in at the beach, nor the less safe parts of the city? Nah, I'll go for the current Kindle instead thanks :)

gfodor 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is cool and all, but I'd really like Amazon to make a DX with an extra inch of space, so it's the size of a real book, and I can read PDFs on it without squinting.
georgemcbay 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds pretty good to me with the exception of "pre-2.2". No Dalvik JIT? Hopefully that part was a misunderstanding. Having run pre-Froyo and Froyo+ on the same device, the jit engine is a pretty big deal.
6ren 2 days ago 0 replies      
Won't be as successful as the Kindle, because the kindle is exceptionally tailored to its usage of buying and reading books - whereas this is android dragged half-way there. And android tablets haven't been doing well anyway (20:80), even the very best of them. The 3G kindle's tailoring is:

- free 3G (yes, free), to buy amazon books

- black and white E-Ink which is much closer to paper than colour displays.

- much lighter and slimmer (241grams; 8.5oz)

- long battery life (2 months - about x60 longer than a tablet), though this probably overshoots the need. i.e. they'd be better off using a smaller battery (or even AA batteries).

I'm so impressed with the Kindle because it resists trying to be the best at everything, but instead makes comprises that optimize it for its purpose. Whereas the Android tablet described here is much worse on all fronts and half-hearted as Android: neither fish nor fowl.

jmelloy 2 days ago 2 replies      
I think it's interesting that everybody is attempting to differentiate on top of the Android kernel, and are forced to build their own skin to compete.

Free Prime memebership (for life?) is interesting. Amazon has a big content catalog, and it makes a hell of a lot more sense for them to go this alone and not be forced to use Google's shit app store.

Overall, I think they'll have trouble differentiating between them and the iPad and them and the nook Color, and it doesn't seem like they've really brought anything new to the table.

blinkingled 2 days ago 0 replies      
* Google's Android Market is nowhere to be found. In fact,no Google app is anywhere to be found. This is Android fully forked. My understanding is that the Kindle OS was built on top of some version of Android prior to 2.2.*

MG goes on to say it is smooth and responsive. And I think many Apps are going to be incompatible with anything less than Android 2.2. Given this I would think Amazon will want to have at least 2.2 on there.

Would be kinda sad if they ran 1.6 on it in 2011!

[Edit] May be it is 2.1 - AWS SDK for Android Requires Android 2.1 (API Level 7) or higher. Oh well may be they will keep it up to date!

listic 1 day ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know how durable are the current e-ink readers? May it be so that Amazon moves away from e-ink readers in particular because they can't be made reliable?

I like to read books and I was a theoretical fan of e-ink readers, but I never owned one. My younger brother, on the other hand, was against them: "why buy the device that only reads books?" On a recent trip to the countryside he borrowed a (PocketBook 301 plus) reader from a friend and put it in the tent's pocket together with a phone, iPod and other such stuff. In the morning, he found that the screen failed because it had a tiny crack. Maybe someone accidentally kicked it or something, but modern phones, iPod and such withstand abuse rather well, and this thing broke after one night - it even was in its own leather case that covers the screen! Googling revealed that cracking screen is a common issue.

I start to suspect that those e-ink screen are a flawed technology as they are. There might be a reason Sony makes their readers with a metallic case, but do they last even then?

kloncks 2 days ago 0 replies      
A lot of people questioned whether or not there was a market for a CrunchPad, or a cheap entry tablet.

Looks like this will validate that. Now, if only webOS could chime in and make this an interesting battle. That would be special.

systems 2 days ago 0 replies      
First you think its a revolution, then it calms down to en evolution.
From tablets to Notebooks

1. First come tablets

2. Then tablets gets a stand (so you dont have to hold them all the time)

3. Then tablets gets a keyboard (so you can type quickly)

4. Then tablets gets a mouse like device (so you dont have to touch the screen while on the stand)

5. Then they run (your favorite distro of) linux

6. Then they become keyboard-less more portable laptops

7. Then we call them notebooks

markgx 2 days ago 0 replies      
Amazon could carve out the "sub-iPad" tablet market if their $250 price point holds and they release a usable tablet. Look at what happened with the HP firesale.
mrinterweb 2 days ago 1 reply      
I heard a lot of rumor that the rumored Amazon tablet would use a Qualcomm Mirasol passive color display technology with a refresh rate capable of running video. I wonder if this rumor is still circulating or confirmed.
ipsin 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'm not interested unless it's:

1) easily flashable with an actual Android ROM (a la Nook/cyanogen)

2) got a 3G data connection, similar to the current 3G kindle

If both are true, it's a really compelling device.

AdamGibbins 2 days ago 1 reply      
I really hope they don't hope to make this a replacement for their eink non-backlit devices. That would be a disaster :(
mikecane 1 day ago 0 replies      
It will be interesting to see if Amazon permits loading of competitor eBook apps. Right now, both Aldiko and Kobo are available in their App Store (I can't find Sony, that might be a search bug, maybe...). And if they do allow it, are we in for a 30% in-app purchase vig down the road ala Apple?
AndrewClyde 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think the Kindle-branded tablet will be successful and manage to compete with the iPad.

However, it's not going to win in the way people expect it to; I think it'll bring a lot of people into the post-PC tablet world and introduce a cheap tablet to a lot of people, but it's not going to revolutionize anything major and won't be able to do anything the iPad and/or TouchPad can't do.

rospaya 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wonder if they'll be selling it internationally, like a Kindle. The major difference is that this probably won't have a 3G connection so it should be even simpler.
Fjslfj 2 days ago 0 replies      
Facebook is forking Android in a similar fashion.
tricolon 2 days ago 1 reply      
I really don't get the point of a Kindle with a battery life of only 10 hours.
rmc 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is this the start of the tablet wars?
d0m 2 days ago 1 reply      
Any TL;DR with a picture?
eyko 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm buying.
rshm 2 days ago 3 replies      
$250 is too much. Ebay/Amazon has similar specs 800MHz/7"/Android 2.2 for $87 and below with a free shipping.
Iran forged the wrong SSL certificate daemonology.net
243 points by cperciva  3 days ago   108 comments top 20
jgrahamc 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is something I've been talking about for a while. Back in 2009 I gave a presentation at Virus Bulletin on JavaScript security problems and highlighted some statistics on remotely loaded JavaScript:

1. 47% of the top 1,000 web sites include google-analytics.com

2. 69% include a remotely loaded web analytics solution

3. 97% load something remotely

If you can attack any of these you get access to a very large number of web sites and can inject arbitrary code. Clearly forging the SSL certificate for SSL loaded remote JavaScript is one way in, another is an attack on the DNS of non-securely loaded remote JavaScript.

At the time techcrunch.com loaded 18 different JavaScript elements remotely. Attacking one would allow a complete site takeover using JavaScript. And those 18 elements could easily have been loading other elements so that attack could have been done through a third-party.

A quick survey in the UK shows that the banks HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Royal Bank of Scotland all load third-party JavaScript on the secure page used for online banking login. Barclays look like they are not, but in fact the domain they are using for one piece of JavaScript is a CNAME for a third-party.

yahelc 3 days ago 0 replies      
There's an easy solution here: Load Google Analytics locally. There's no urgent need to load ga.js from Google's servers; there are benefits, namely speed, utilizing client cache, and getting updates, but its core functionality does not rely on where ga.js comes from.

Then, the only resource loaded form Google's servers is http://ssl.google-analytics.com/__utm.gif, and that's just loaded via a new Image(), so even if you MITM that resource request, it doesn't execute as a script or anything similar.

cperciva 3 days ago 4 replies      
Paging tptacek, please come to the white courtesy phone and explain that SSL is the greatest thing since sliced bread. ;-)
robtoo 3 days ago 1 reply      
We don't know that they didn't get a forged certificate for ssl.google-analytics.com.

Diginotar haven't (AFAIK) released even a partial list of affected domains, other than admitting that there were quite a lot of them.

mike-cardwell 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not a big fan of handing over the security of my website to third parties by letting them inject arbitrary code into my pages, eg Google Analytics. A lot of people seem to do it without giving it any consideration though.

You have to weigh up the pros and cons I agree. However, do you need that like button which works by including javascript from facebook.com, or can you live without it? Even better, can you do something alternative which allows you to have a like button, but without including third party script?

derrida 3 days ago 1 reply      
The DigiNotar hack adds to the hack of Comodo in terms of recent attacks on certificate authorities. The lead of Comodo blamed the attack on "a sophisticated state actor" aka Iran.

Moxie Marlinspike pointed out that it was his script 'sslsniff' that the hackers downloaded to carry out the attack. They didn't even change IPs from the one they used to download 'sslsniff' to the one used in the attack. The lesson: this could have been carried out by a script kiddie.

The head of security companies implying that hacking attacks must be caused by a state actor, simply because they don't understand the attack, creates a frightful prospect for the future of world security. Take these claims with a grain of salt. So long for 'sophisticated state actors'.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7Wl2FW2TcA

kahawe 3 days ago 1 reply      
Can anyone explain to me how I can open up a CA and get my CA certs distributed with browsers and JVMs and what not? Is there some sort of "IANA" that approves and manages this and why would they approve all sort of shady CAs which clearly are a dangerous weak link in the whole SSL construct.
brown9-2 3 days ago 1 reply      
Sooner or later it's going to happen; obtaining forged SSL certificates is just too easy to hope otherwise. What can we do about it? Don't load the Google Analytics javascript when your site is accessed via HTTPS. This is easy to do: Just throw a if("http:" == document.location.protocol) around the document.write or s.parentNode.insertBefore code which loads the Google Analytics javascript. On the website for my Tarsnap online backup service I've been doing this for years " not just out of concern for the possibility of forged SSL certificates, but also because I don't want Google to be able to steal my users' passwords either!

I don't understand - if you are uncomfortable loading the GA javascript into your pages when users are using https to visit your site, why are you ok with loading the GA JS when visitors are using http?

Or is it implied in here that the analytics is used on http only pages because the sensitive pages on your site are https only? In other words, you are only using GA on non-sensitive portions of your site?

fletchowns 3 days ago 2 replies      
How come it's just one CA that is needed to ensure the trust of a domain, especially one as important as *.google.com? It seems like it's only a matter of time before something like this happens again.
ck2 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is how you delete Diginotar from Firefox btw


but I think they just pushed new minor versions with them removed anyway.

oldstrangers 3 days ago 2 replies      
All this SSL spoofing of late coincides nicely with the adoption of "always on https" by facebook/google/twitter/et al.
derrida 3 days ago 2 replies      
Iv 3 days ago 3 replies      
I use NoScript. google-analytics is never activated.
Triumvark 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's like Comodo and RSA are the security equivalent of 'too big to fail.'
pavpanchekha 3 days ago 0 replies      
What would be necessary for some Paxos-based system to be used to sign certificates? That way, half of CAs would have to get hacked before something like this could be pulled off?
fun2have 3 days ago 2 replies      
Does this apply to ad networks as well?
aqrashik 3 days ago 1 reply      
Slightly offtopic. can anyone explain how DigiNotar revoking the wrong certificate works?

As per my understanding the browser simply trusts all certificates issued by a trusted issuing authority, so how would you revoke a single certificate?

TobiHeidi 3 days ago 3 replies      
Just by having a forged SSL Certificate for ssl.google-analytics.com how can they supply their javscript ? The request still goes to the google servers and not to any evil-democracy-suppressors.gov.ir

So sure if they could reroute the request to their servers evil things could be done. But they can NOT. Or am i missing something ?

blumentopf 3 days ago 0 replies      
What with Mozilla wanting to build a browser-based OS, the non-existent security measures of the DOM will beam us back like several decades in terms of security. Awesome. Not.
swombat 3 days ago 1 reply      
I know that security through obscurity is no security at all, but I don't think it's particularly clever or helpful to give direct, useful advice to the goons in Iran.

This is not an anonymous argument. If you were sitting next to me, I'd be, right now, arguing that you should not publish this article because it will only cause harm overall.

What's next? "Why terrorists are stupid and what they should do to cause maximum damage"? How will you feel when the Iranian government does implement your kind suggestion?

How Steve Jobs handles trolls (WWDC 1997) garry.posterous.com
236 points by ryannielsen  4 days ago   65 comments top 16
stiff 4 days ago 2 replies      
Context: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDoc#Cancellation

This guy is not necessary a troll, of course this is just speculation, but if a project he was working on for a few years got cancelled, I could pretty well understand his frustration, even if the decision to cancel turned out valid in the end from a business point of view. I don't think it is valid to stick labels on people (both on the "troll" and on Steve Jobs) without knowing the whole story.

redthrowaway 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'd hardly call the guy a troll. He was a developer who had sunk time and money into developing with a technology (OpenDoc) that Apple had just killed. He wasn't polite, but he was justifiably upset and dismissing him as a troll is both inaccurate and unfair.
tomstuart 4 days ago 1 reply      
The "inaudible" part of the question is: "I would like, for example, for you to express in clear terms how, say, Java, in any of its incarnations, addresses the ideas embodied in OpenDoc."
acangiano 4 days ago 0 replies      
The "trolling" (hardly) aspect is a non-story. What's brilliant about this video is the message of starting with the customer experience, and then pick the technologies to serve the customer best.

Should you develop web, desktop, or mobile apps for your next startup? Watch the video. Find a problem, then pick the technology stack that provides the best solution and experience for your customers.

jmtame 4 days ago 0 replies      
Kind of reminds me of this story: http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/08/kno-raises-46-million-more-...

I know one of the early engineers who wrote the low-level software for that device. He was one of the more arrogant engineers I've known and basically dismissed the iPad because it didn't have enough "power." When he showed me the Kno tablet, I said "I couldn't even fit that thing in my backpack, let alone on any desk. You're never going to sell this thing to people." He insisted that power was more important.

And it turns out he was wrong because he was thinking like an engineer. Kno scrapped that idea and decided to build exclusively for the iPad. http://techcrunch.com/2011/04/08/kno-bails-hardware-30-milli.... Good on them.

spiralganglion 4 days ago 2 replies      
There's another part of the talk (not included in the linked clip) where someone asks Steve what things they'll do differently than the rest of the industry. Steve responds that being different isn't important; what's important is being better. The two have a back and forth on this issue " it's hilarious in hindsight given the perfectionist nature that Apple has come to embody.

And for what it's worth, the market seems to have proven Steve right. Nowadays, we can see some of Apple's competitors resorting to "different" in an attempt to gain traction. Doesn't seem to be working for them, either.

kevin_morrill 4 days ago 4 replies      
It's helpful to watch the preface video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=u...!

This is a lesson Microsoft needs and has never really learned, neither under Gates nor Ballmer. The bizarre approach in Windows 8 that has all kinds of UI doing the same thing with no clarity around development platform sounds exactly like what Jobs talks about with people going in 18 different directions.

ssharp 4 days ago 1 reply      
"And, one of the things I've always found is that you've got to start with the customer experience and work backwards..."

This is such a common idea in business strategy that I have a hard time believing that most large companies don't, at least at the top, understand it. However, it also seems like a principal that is very hard to stay focused on as a product or service flows down throughout the company. There has to be a very good reason why this strategy flows through Apple's veins, yet gets lost in the mix of many of its competitors.

__david__ 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Mistakes will be made, but that's good because it means decisions are being made."

What a great insight, it's really striking a chord with me right now.

tmsh 4 days ago 1 reply      
His response is almost as great as jean patches. Man, that probably makes me sound like a troll. Oh well.

Here's to one of the greatest capitalist visionaries of our lifetime though. In jean patches no less.

chuinard 4 days ago 2 replies      
This was really interesting, because lately I've been asking myself how to improve my design ability by starting with the technology or starting with the customer.

I will read through the App Engine docs every day or so to figure out what cool thing I can make out of the APIs provided. Maybe I should forget that and just think to myself 'what would I want to use?'.

d_r 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great video. For one, it showcases SJ's confidence in deprecating technologies for the benefit of newer and better things.

It also underscores the importance of being able to translate tech "pieces" into compelling products. I'm an app developer. When reading documentation for the latest release of iOS or Lion SDKs, and seeing all of the new APIs, I feel like a kid with a brand-new box of Legos. The challenge (and art) is in combining these technologies to build something actually catchy.

aoporto 4 days ago 1 reply      
Two great things to note about this video:
1. Jobs puts a good amount of time thinking about what he is going to say. Many presenters would just start speaking, some would ramble, even just a little. Pauses can be a good thing in a presentation for both the speaker and the audience.
2. Start with the customer experience. Absolutely.
Mithrandir 4 days ago 0 replies      
RyanMcGreal 4 days ago 0 replies      
> I would like, for example, for you to express in clear terms how, say java, in any of it's incarnations, addresses the idea (inaudible).

I believe the (inaudible) part is "embodied in OpenDoc".

skrebbel 4 days ago 0 replies      
Only in America could "what have you been doing the last 7 years?" be considered an insult.

I consider it an interesting and spot-on question with, in fact, a very nice answer, too.

Someone who can't deal with questions like that probably should never dream of becoming CEO of any company at all.

Make things caterina.net
228 points by razin  1 day ago   30 comments top 9
swombat 1 day ago 3 replies      
Very interesting, but somewhat misleading, imho.

People who go their own way may well become leaders, simply because to go your own way you have to be decisive, and most people are indecisive, and in times of uncertainty they will look to people who are decisive to take the lead.

But that doesn't mean that the qualities listed are leadership qualities. I'd say that the ability to understand and empathise with people, to figure out what they want, the ability to motivate others to do their best, the ability to communicate convincingly, and the ability to make decisions under pressure - all those are way more important than the ones listed in the quote.

Of the list of leadership qualities:

> courage, endurance, patience, humor, flexibility, resourcefulness, determination, a keen sense of reality, and the ability to keep a cool and clear head even when things are going badly

I'd argue that only the last one is really a requirement for leadership. All the others make for a better leader, but they are not requirements.

wccrawford 1 day ago 4 replies      
I absolutely disagree with that quote about leadership.

If you aren't leading people, you aren't a leader. It's right in the name. If you're going your own direction, alone, you're a pioneer. But not a leader.

grappler 1 day ago 0 replies      
I especially connected with the bit about "fear of missing out", and with her earlier post (linked in the article) on that subject.

When I started playing with computers in elementary and middle school, it helped me put aside some of the trivial things that were important to my peer group at the time, like wearing the right brands or being seen with the right people. Technology was about making a better world, sharpening useful skills, and attacking hard problems that used to be impossible to solve.

The connection between people that technology has brought over the last couple decades is awesome for a great many reasons. I doubt I need to defend that point.

The biggest downside though, for me, is the invasion of the messiness of the social world into the idealism of the tech world. It bothers me when I go to an event that is ostensibly a "hackathon" or some similarly maker-oriented affair, and the mood is not unlike high school, or hollywood, or a nightclub. Many of the people there are paying acute attention to signals of status from others, and working on sending the right signals of status themselves.

It is my impression that motivations like elevating one's social status, and fear of missing out, are the primary things bringing most people into the world of technology today.

Improving the world, solving hard problems, and making things seem to be lower on the list. I'm sure communities focusing on these things are still thriving, but they seem to be getting harder to find, because the status seekers can be pretty good at adopting the lingo of the idealists.

antirez 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Can't agree more. Another symptom of the same issue is that the Internet startup scene is becoming auto referential as hell.
hrabago 1 day ago 0 replies      
To some degree, I feel the same way.

I look at what people had created and in between the thoughts of "this is cool", "this is boring", and "why didn't anyone think of this before?", there's a sense of inspiration that someone has created something and people are using it now. (I also get something similar to NIH, but I've learned through the years to mostly ignore that.)

I get a lot of joy in using software to allow people to do something new, something better than they had done before, or just to make their everyday life a little bit easier.

KZMcPherson 1 day ago 0 replies      
Invigorating. I am one that got lost in all of the noise. Now 27 an just about to find my footing and get on track to be what I am suppose to be and that is "The One Which is Me". Since I was young I longed for the recognition that come to so many these days yet I have been chasing it in the wrong way. As you say her I really need to focus on making thing and get back to what really makes me happy which is studying what make enterprise business so successful and bringing back to the mom and pop that can barley turn on their own computer. I do this not to have the superiority complex, but to help those whom are lost in the riff of today and cannot find the way to the next stage and or the right person to actually want to help them and not just cash their check and go. thank you for helping to reset my mindset back where is needs to be .
badclient 1 day ago 1 reply      
But I want to hear about things out there that they love. About loving the thing they're building. There's less of that.

Just because lots more folks know about valuations and are connected does not mean that they are not building stuff.

This holier than thou post by Caterina actually just sounds like nostalgic rambling.

Let's get excited and make things.

This line, from the perspective she delivers it, is almost criminal. Most of us are nerds and have no problem building stuff. We do have a problem making money off it so kudos if we are building a little less and figuring out more about how to make money by charging or flipping(Caterina should know about this?)

chexton 1 day ago 0 replies      
Despite the potential conflict surrounding the leadership quote provided in the post I found that overall the post resonated with me.

As someone starting down the entrepreneurial path I have found that it's easy to get caught up reading the countless startup news sources, scouring endless books on how to succeed or attending the large number of conferences pitched at people like me. All have their merit in moderation but, particularly as someone who has decided to bootstrap my current startup, I find I get the most done and feel the best about what I'm doing when I focus on what my startup is building and how we're building it, rather than getting caught up in "all that noise".

In writing it down here it seems pretty obvious that focusing on what you're building should be the priority but it can be surprisingly easy to lose focus.

wyclif 1 day ago 2 replies      
Perhaps I could take this "make things" post seriously if the things made and shouted out (cough Flickr) could go the distance and remain viable. Did Flickr have a good run? Sure. But it seems to me there's a problem inherent in cashing out your company and moving on to the next thing. The Internet is littered with the corpses of once-great companies.
Netflix to lose Starz, its most valuable source of new movies latimes.com
231 points by mattjaynes  3 days ago   144 comments top 28
bittermang 3 days ago  replies      
"However, executives at Starz apparently concluded that they would lose even more money by giving consumers a reason to subscribe to Netflix instead of the cable channel."

I don't think they get it. The landscape has changed and I'm not going back.

I don't have cable. I don't have satelite. I don't have an antenna for broadcast TV. I have the Internet serving content to my TV via my Xbox, and I use it to watch Netflix.

If your content isn't available on Netflix. I'm not consuming your content. Period.

I'm done bending over backwards. I'm done with schedules. I'm done with managing the space on my DVR. I'm done keeping up with new episodes and seasons. I'm done with movie theaters full of loud other people who aren't me, and the litany of other issues that have been discussed to death from overpriced tickets, to concessions, to 3D projector woes and content. I'm done with physical media getting scratched. Hell, I'm even done with sketchy torrent sites, and different scene groups fighting over who gets to release what, and a billion codecs and formats. I'm done with it. I'm done.

So frankly, good bye and good riddance to Starz. Go climb this hill and die upon it. I never liked the fact that their schizophrenic content releases would appear during a timed window, only to disappear from my list later before I actually got a chance to watch it. I grew to avoid movies labeled with the Starz logo, and my heart would sink when a feature would open with one, because I knew the experience was fleeting and I wouldn't be able to enjoy the content later. So I'm done with that too.

SwellJoe 3 days ago 2 replies      
Unless they've got a better deal with Hulu or someone else, they've just cut off their nose to spite their face. Old media are amazingly good at being blind to the paradigm shift that will kill them, even when they have the opportunity to make money from that paradigm shift.

The options Starz (and every other premium cable provider) have right now are these:

1. Get that content online, now, in a convenient form that is cost competitive with Netflix and Hulu or at least Amazon Video on Demand.


2. Stagnate and eventually die, because the subscriber base for pay cable is going to do just that. Only old people are going to have cable in two or three years.

There are no other options. Without Netflix or Hulu, if Starz doesn't have the ability to launch their own effective pay service online, they will never see any of my money (they probably wouldn't anyway; as others have mentioned, Starz videos tended to be ones I avoided due to quality problems). I have never had cable in my life...but I pay to consume premium content online. I have both Netflix and Hulu+ accounts, and I spend an average of $10 a month on movie rentals and purchases at Amazon. I'm a new customer; an entirely new revenue stream. I didn't cancel cable to use Netflix. I used Netflix because it was the only way I was going to watch TV and movies at home. I'm where their growth could come from, and they don't want it.

cletus 3 days ago 1 reply      
I don't have cable TV. Hell, I don't have a TV. I watch about 3 hours of TV... per week. And you think I'm going to pay for cable to get your movies? Heh.

Fact is, $8/month for Netflix is all I can justify and I justify that largely based on TV reruns than movies. Add in Hulu (not Plus) and that's my limit.

Given all that if I could just get HBO Go without subscribing to cable, I'd gladly fork over maybe even $20/month. As it stands, I can't justify spending >$100/month for the "privilege" so I guess I have to continue relying on, well, other sources.

Steko 3 days ago 1 reply      

Reed Hastings replies:

"Because we've licensed so much other great content, Starz content is now down to about 8% of domestic Netflix subscribers' viewing. As we add a huge more content in Q4, we expect Starz content to naturally drift down to 5-6% of domestic viewing in Q1. We are confident we can take the money we had earmarked for Starz renewal next year, and spend it with other content providers to maintain or even improve the Netflix experience."

zach 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is the right move for Starz. They should focus on moving onto the iPad and the app/channel stores for Apple TV and the next-gen Google TV.

Re-upping would only antagonize their existing content partners who they also have to renegotiate contracts with. Plus it is probably killing their subscriptions on traditional outlets ("Starz? Oh, no thanks, that's the one I get on Netflix"). At least this way they can turn off the spigot and entice people to subscribe before Netflix is primarily cord-cutters anyway.

As for the way forward, licensing to Netflix is not exactly a forward-looking move -- Starz just a licensing middleman in this arrangement and they know it. They need to control a branded and coherent channel, not be a movie broker.

Starz was valuable because of their mainstream movie content. Despite comments about bittorrent, the major value of Starz on Netflix is about 8-year-old girls being able to watch Tangled on an Xbox 360 (again and again...). It has been huge for rounding out Netflix's pitch as an alternative to rental.

But to hear Reed talk about it, he probably was negotiating with the expectation that they'd be parting ways (how could they fix the Sony thing?) and so Netflix may not have been offering as much as last time anyway. I don't think the negotiations failing caught either side flat-footed.

I think these companies can focus better on their revenue when they're separated. Netflix will have to overpay to get their first big chunk of studio newish-releases, but that's okay. They'll have some different stuff and get creative and I bet we'll like the result.

Starz can figure out how to sell themselves to consumers without chopping themselves up. How? Well, every current Apple TV has 8GB of flash memory and Apple has put an App Store on every other platform they own, so you can see where that's going. And Google has gone double-or-nothing on Google TV for that reason. It sure seems like the Apple TV is the cable box of the future. Is Starz well-positioned to become a subscription service on the Apple TV? Sure. But maybe not if people can go next door to the Netflix app and get Starz movies there too.

Seems like the right thing is happening here. I like where this is going.

timjahn 3 days ago 1 reply      
My son turned a year old a few weeks ago. He's going to grow up choosing content on demand from our Roku. Maybe some WonderPets from Netflix. Or a current TV show from Hulu. Or the latest viral video of some kid a year older than him rocking out the Beatles on the drums on YouTube.

He won't be familiar with linear television schedules, or the idea of running home in time for a show. To him, our TV will be the place where he chooses what to watch, when he wants to watch it.

What these stupid studio executives don't understand is their grandchildren will be doing the same thing. Whether they like it or not.

jsherry 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm sure that Starz gets it: the future of content is streaming. Everybody gets it. And it's frustrating that we don't have everything streaming today b/c the technology is there and has been there for some time. But the bottom line is that cable is still alive and well today, and the margins are much better there than what Netflix is offering.

Pirating is not the burning platform here like it was for music. Netflix is not iTunes. Content providers still have the option to make plenty of money through cable and they're going to do just that until that medium becomes completely disrupted and they no longer have that as a lucrative channel. Starz sees Netflix streaming as cannibalizing their cable business, and to a reasonably large extent they're probably right b/c Netflix streaming has gone mainstream. The day will come when cable will no longer support Starz (and others') content and they know it's coming. Until then, sad to say but this is just smart business.

mkr-hn 3 days ago 1 reply      
Give this whole mess ten years. Netflix or something like it will buy up companies like Starz and HBO in the bankruptcy. A self-solving problem.
nhangen 3 days ago 1 reply      
I for one am extremely tired of this kind of stuff happening and as a result, never knowing wheat I can watch, and can't watch, with Netflix streaming.

Two weeks ago, my son and I were watching LOTR and had to pause for some travel. When we got back, I was puzzled that I couldn't find a way to get it back on to finish...turns out their contract expired.

How is this OK for a company in this day and age? I'm tired of giving Netflix a pass because the content partners aren't playing fair. I'm sorry, but that's your business model, and now that you put the competition out of business, I need you to perform and not act like a 10 day old startup.

Screw both TV and video. If this is how it's going to be, I'm out. I'll stick to This Week in Startups, 5by5, and my book collection.

Jun8 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is a stupid (or desparate) move by Starz, but it also shows the weakness of Netflix: if you rely on someone else for content (same goes for API) for revenue, theye can screw you up (e.g. there goes 11% of our valuation), even if it's in the short term. I think Netflix should be more aggressive in creating own content (key to HBO's success). They are already moving in this direction but very slowly. Why doesn't Netflix outsource content (to film & journalism schools or just YouTube era amateurs) and stream it theirselves?
serge2k 3 days ago 2 replies      
Well, guess I have no choice but to subscribe to starz.

Oh wait, their network is pretty much irrelevant to me, I have watched a few of their movies on netflix and I like Torchwood (although parts of this season have sucked) and Spartacus. Other that I honestly couldn't care less and I won't be spending a dime on their second rate premium channel.

When does their deal with Disney and Sony expire? Can't imagine they would go with starz over netflix.

AndrewDucker 2 days ago 1 reply      
What this makes clear is that we need standards.

If there was a standard way of getting video from the producer to the consumer then producers could either go through middle-men (like Netflix) or host the videos themselves, and it wouldn't matter at all to the viewer.

I want to sit in front of my TV (or iPad, or laptop), choose some video from the biggest menu in the history of mankind, and watch it. I have no interest in who produced it, or who shipped me the bits. And I shouldn't have to have.

lchengify 3 days ago 0 replies      
"However, executives at Starz apparently concluded that they would lose even more money by giving consumers a reason to subscribe to Netflix instead of the cable channel."

s/subscribe to Netflix/download from bittorrent

The level of disconnect is shocking, however I doubt the Netflix guys are sweating it. No one is going cancel instant content for $8/mo based on Starz backing out.

bpeebles 3 days ago 2 replies      
I watch a goodly percentage of my content through Netflix instant, and I actively avoid the Starz provided content. It's never in HD, and even for that the quality varies from middling to almost poor. I've watched a couple of things from Starz, but mostly it's because I didn't notice until I had my heart set on watching it.

So, I don't really care if Netflix loses this. I hope it lets them be more aggressive at doing new deals to get movies.

rickdale 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have been critical of Netflix in the past for the quality of their streaming material. Honestly, I like Netflix most because if I see a Starz movie on my cable box I know I can watch it later on Netflix. I dont have Starz.

What I do have though is HBO. I pay for it in my cable bill, but they also let me stream 100% of their content using HBO GO. I admit HBO GO has a long way to go and isn't the online video store, but for quality shows to stream it is hard to beat.

This seems like a big blow for netflix; I thought the streaming material was consistently getting better, this will make it worse.

sixtofour 2 days ago 1 reply      
As long as Netflix keeps streaming Korean crime movies and Japanese dystopia movies and Scandinavian crime/thriller movies and The Third Man, I could give a rats ass about Starz.
kin 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm assuming most people here have Netflix and do not have cable. Here is Starz' dilemma: Let's take all cable subscribers and consider them potential Starz customers. They can A. Pay $15/month to get Starz or B. Pay $8/month to get Netflix + Starz. They would all choose B.
Now let's take all the non-cable subscribers and call them potential Starz customers. Starz technically wants to keep this too, but they would lose out on all the customers in the 1st scenario, which make them more money. Thus, their unfortunate decision.

As consumers, we need to wage war against cable companies by not subscribing. Unfortunately, this is difficult to do considering quality sports programming is dominantly viewed via cable and the like.

invisiblefunnel 3 days ago 1 reply      
Starz was breaking new ground for cable tv content providers. Now they decide to return to the stone age? Of course their internal numbers might tell a different story, but this still seems shortsighted.
rglover 3 days ago 0 replies      
Not specifically Starz, but the idea about how to handle all of the different cable networks has been on my mind for awhile now. Here's a question for Comcast, Time Warner, and all of the other service providers out there: why don't you quit wasting time and compete with Netflix? The one thing cable and satellite companies have that Netflix doesn't is a large collection of long-standing relationships with networks. With a bit of work, cable/satellite providers could easily build a system just like Netflix.

Offer a web-based, a la carte service. All content is presented just like Netflix in a VOD package. Users sign up for an account and are given the option to pick out which networks they want to receive content from. Any network can be dropped/added whenever the user wants.

Worried about costs? Tier the service out: $29.99 a month gets you 10 networks, $49.99 gets you 20, and so on so forth. No real change to what's taking place now aside from customers being happy and being allowed to access content whenever they want, wherever they want.

Oh, and let's not forget the social layer that would fit beautifully on top of this. Allow users to easily post episodes/networks to Facebook/Twitter/etc. Facilitate a conversation between people watching a show. Each show page has a comments section where fans can discuss what they just watched/are watching.

Just the beginning of ideas for this. If you want to keep discussing (hint: I'd love to), shoot me an email: ryan@getconduit.com.

yequalsx 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think that there is sufficient hatred for cable and satellite TV that people who are on the instant streaming only plan will pay for a DVD plan as well. Currently I am on streaming only but would rather pay for a DVD plan than for cable. It's much cheaper this way.

I think an unintended consequence of this is that Netflix ends up making more money.

angryasian 3 days ago 2 replies      
Everyone is looking negatively at Starz, but I imagine there might be some outside pressures from the cable providers, Starz main source of revenue, to not continue. They are in a tough position. We've seen online services set back with this, and the recent Fox - hulu waiting period. I imagine these cable providers are not ready to give up yet.
aidenn0 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Because we've licensed so much other great content, Starz content is now down to about 8% of domestic Netflix subscribers' viewing. "

How about "Because all Sony films disappeared from Starz, Starz content is now down to about 8% of domestic Netflix subscribers' viewing." That would be more honest

bitsm 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if this shot across Netflix's bow (which it likely is, way too early to definitively walk away), combined with Netflix's lower (base) digital subscription, will open the door to premium Netflix packages -- Starz as a premium add-on for $5/mo.

That might create tons of new opportunities network content bundles or al a carte show seasons, and mute the furor over the digital-only switch. For $15/mo. you might be able to get Netflix Streaming + Starz + Breaking Bad.

trocker 3 days ago 0 replies      
Take a look at this:


@bittermang : true, going back is painful and networks & cable operators are probably aware of this. But, as wsj puts it - investors of netflix are scared that its expenditure on the content deals will overtake their revenue and with netflix threatening the existence of so many network companies, netflix soon has to create its own content OR devise an extraordinary plan to sustain the network grudges against it.

It will be interesting to see individual networks starting up their own streaming services.

bobx11 2 days ago 0 replies      
Netflix streaming doesn't have waynes world and many of these movies I would love to watch... how much more do i have to pay to get this content legally? Who's up for making a grooveshark for movies? ;)
chaostheory 3 days ago 0 replies      
At least Netflix seems to have good PR on this occasion.
WayneDB 2 days ago 1 reply      
Astraweb, SabNZBd, Sickbeard, nzbmatrix. Never going back.
pbreit 3 days ago 0 replies      
Both companies are posturing. I expect a new deal in the end.
Now that people are considering NOSQL will more people consider no-DB martinfowler.com
218 points by fogus  4 days ago   140 comments top 34
dgreensp 4 days ago 2 replies      
After reading the article and all the comments here, and from my own experience, I just don't think it's possible to not have a DB. At best, you write your own basic DB, because you don't need anything fancy.

For example, you write S-expressions to files like Hacker News does. This is clever, because the file system has some of the features of a database system, and files and S-expressions are abstractions that already exist. You do have to manage what data is in memory and what data is on disk at any given time, but the complexity and amount of code are low.

The idea that "event sourcing" somehow keeps you from needing a DB is ridiculous. By the time you've defined the event format, and written the software to replay the logs, etc., which if you're smart will be fairly general and modular, congrats, you've just written a database. At best, you keep complexity low, and it's another example of a small custom DB for a case where you don't need a fancy off-the-shelf DB. Maybe it's the perfect solution for your app, but it's still a database.

"Memory images," as a completely separate matter, are an abstraction that saves you some of the work of making a DB. Just as S-expressions can save you from defining a data model format, and files can save you from a custom key-value store, memory images as in Smalltalk could save you from having to deal with persistence. And if your language has transactions built in, maybe that saves you from writing your own transaction system. In general, though, it's very hard to get the DB to disappear, as there is a constellation of features important to data integrity that you need one way or another. It's usually pretty clear that you're using a DB, writing a DB, or using a system that already has a DB built in. If you think there's no DB, there's a high chance you're writing one. Again, that could be fine if you don't need all the features and properties of a robust general-purpose DB.

Funnily enough, in EtherPad's case, we had full versioned history of documents, and did pretty much everything in RAM and application logic -- a pretty good example of what the article is talking about -- and yet we used MySQL as a "dumb" back-end datastore for persistence. Believe me, we tried not to; we spent weeks trying alternatives, and trying to write alternatives. Perhaps if every last aspect of the data model had been event-based, we could have just logged the events to a text file and avoided SQL. More likely, I think, we would use something like Redis now.

guygurari 4 days ago  replies      
In many applications, data outlives code. This is certainly the case in enterprise applications, where data can sometimes migrate across several generations of an application. Data may also be more valuable to the organization than the code that processes it.

While I'm no fan of databases, one obvious advantage is that they provide direct access to the data in a standard way that is decoupled from the specific application code. This makes it easy to perform migrations, backups etc. It also increases one's confidence in the data integrity. Any solution that aims to replace databases altogether must address these concerns. I think that intimately coupling data with the application state, as suggested in the article, does not achieve this.

kragen 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've written some programs like this, even to the point of replaying the entire input history every time my CGI script got invoked. It's surprising what a large set of apps even that naïve approach is applicable to, and there are some much more exciting possibilities under the surface.

To the extent that you could actually write your program as a pure function of its past input history " ideally, one whose only O(N) part (where N was the length of the history) was a fold, so the system could update it incrementally as new events were added " you could get schema upgrade and decentralization "for free". However, to get schema upgrade and decentralization, your program would need to be able to cope with "impossible" input histories " e.g. the same blog post getting deleted twice, or someone commenting on a post they weren't authorized to read " because of changes in the code over the years and because of distribution.

I called this "rumor-oriented programming", because the propagation of past input events among the nodes resembles the propagation of rumors among people: http://lists.canonical.org/pipermail/kragen-tol/2004-January...

I wrote a bit more on a possible way of structuring web sites as lazily-computed functions of sets of REST resources, which might or might not be past input events: http://lists.canonical.org/pipermail/kragen-tol/2005-Novembe...

John McCarthy's 1998 proposal, "Elephant", takes the idea of writing your program as a pure function of its input history to real-time transaction processing applications: http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/elephant/elephant.html

The most advanced work in writing interactive programs as pure functions of their input history is "functional reactive programming", which unfortunately I don't understand properly. The Fran paper http://conal.net/papers/icfp97/ is a particularly influential, and there's a page on HaskellWiki about FRP: http://www.haskell.org/haskellwiki/Functional_Reactive_Progr...

zwischenzug 4 days ago 2 replies      
Perhaps I am an old dinosaur, but this article merely annoyed me.

"The key element to a memory image is using event sourcing, which essentially means that every change to the application's state is captured in an event which is logged into a persistent store."

That is a key element of a database. It's called a logical log.

"Furthermore it means that you can rebuild the full application state by replaying these events."

Yup, logical log.

"Using a memory image allows you to get high performance, since everything is being done in-memory with no IO or remote calls to database systems. "

This is _exactly_ what sophisticated old-school databases do. You can have them require to write to the DB on commit, or just to memory, and have a thread take care of IO in the background.

"Databases also provide transactional concurrency as well as persistence, so you have to figure out what you are going to do about concurrency."


"Another, rather obvious, limitation is that you have to have more memory than data you need to keep in it. As memory sizes steadily increase, that's becoming much less of a limitation than it used to be."

So why not store your old-school DB in memory?

I can understand the argument that you don't want to lock into a big DB vendor's license path, but the technical arguments here look distinctly weak to me.

Maybe old-fashioned DBs are hipper than people think?

jkkramer 4 days ago 0 replies      
Using the no-DB approach is particularly tempting with a language like Clojure. Clojure can slice & dice collections easily and efficiently. It has built-in constructs for managing concurrency safely.

I actually have a couple Clojure apps that rely on a hefty amount of in-memory data to do some computations. Even the cost of pulling the data from Redis would be too expensive. The in-memory data grows very slowly, so it's easy to maintain. Moving faster-growing data in-process would be trickier, but this article makes me want to try.

IgorPartola 4 days ago 3 replies      
Wouldn't this system have a bunch of drawbacks:

- Long startup times as the entire image needs to be loaded and prepared.

- It would be hard to distribute the state across multiple nodes

- What happens in case of a crash? How fault tolerant would this be?

- Does this architecture essentially amount to building in a sort-of-kind-of datastore into your already complex application? Without a well-defined well-tested existing code base, is this just re-inventing the wheel for each new project?

- How do you enforce constraints on the data?

- How do transactions work (debit one account, [crash], credit another account?

- How do you allow different components (say web user interface, admin system, reporting system, external data sources) to share this state?

Just curious.


- Isn't this going to lead to you writing code that almost always has side-effects, causing it to be really hard to test? How would you implement this system in Haskell?

giardini 4 days ago 1 reply      
This has limited use because of

Maintenance: I can easily give a 10% raise to everyone with a single SQL statement. Fowler's method requires that I first create an entire infrastructure (transaction processing, ACID properties) in code for this particular application. And it had better be as reliable as the transaction processing available in modern relational databases (so says my boss) or I'll be looking for a new job.

Support: you get to teach the new guy how "Event Sourcing" works for this application A and also applications B, C, ....

That said, I _have_ done this with great success. But the work involved a single application (a minicomputer-based engineering layout system). The ease with which versioning could be included was a selling point.

And don't get me started on reporting or statistics.

cachemoney 4 days ago 1 reply      
I spent about a year as a maintainer of FlockDB, Twitter's social graph store. If you don't know, it's basically a sharded MySQL setup. One of the key pain points was optimizing the row lock over the follower count. Whenever a Charlie Sheen joins, or someone tries to follow spam us, one particular row would get blasted with concurrent updates.

Doing this in-memory in java via someAtomicLong.incrementAndGet() sounds appealing.

wpietri 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'd encourage everybody to try this out; building an app like this really broadened my way of thinking about system design.

Compared with a database-backed system, many operations are thousands of times faster. Some things that I was used to thinking of as impossible became easy, and vice versa. Coming to grips with why was very helpful.

alexro 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think that the best thing DB-s provide is the separation of skills. I can fully concentrate on the programming side and just be aware of the db side, and the DBA-s will handle setup, replication, migration, analytics, ad-hoc queries, backup, etc.

If, on the other side, I had to do it all myself, I'd most probably have lost my last hair.

courtewing 4 days ago 4 replies      
No matter how skilled I become as a developer, there is always something lurking around the corner to make me feel more naive than ever. As I was reading this article, I realized that my whole career and knowledge about the way applications work is based around the one core idea that when non-binary data needs to be persisted, you use a database.

The idea that you can reliably use event sourcing in memory to persist your data is as foreign to me as it is impressive. Is anyone familiar with major applications (web apps, ideally) that use this method for their data persistence?

yesimahuman 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think it's interesting you can distribute more of your "persistent" state to in-memory storage and then distribute snapshots throughout the day. Online game servers often rely on state being in memory rather than being queried on demand. Achieving high performance otherwise is difficult.

However, I wouldn't call this "no-DB." Rather, it's "less-db." Ultimately, historical and statistical data needs to be stored and databases are great for that (and for a stats team).

pointyhat 4 days ago 2 replies      
I've always wanted "no-DB" to the level of it being part of the platform/language.

I've always thought that software-transactional memory and persistent distributed heaps would get us there. Unfortunately the nearest things have been Redis and Terracotta plugged into Clojure. It should be:

Insert? new an object.
Delete? dispose an object.
Look up? Hash table.

Solved problems that just require persistence.

nickyp 4 days ago 2 replies      
For those who want to take this kind of approach (object prevalence) in Common Lisp see http://common-lisp.net/project/cl-prevalence/

Sven Van Caekenberghe (the author of cl-prevalence) and I used this approach to power the back-end/cms of a concert hall back in 2003. A write-up of our experiences can be found at http://homepage.mac.com/svc/RebelWithACause/index.html

The combination of a long-running Lisp image with a remote REPL and the flexibility of the object prevalence made it a very enjoyable software development cycle. It's possibly even more applicable with the current memory prices.

I especially liked the fact that your mind never needs to step out of your object space. No fancy mapping or relationship tables, just query the objects and their relations directly. I guess that's what SmallTalk developers also like about their programming environment.

mmatants 4 days ago 3 replies      
I am 100% agreeing with the article, with one caveat.

Database engines are not just for storing - each is basically a "utility knife" of data retrieval - indexing, sorting and filtering are available via (relatively) simple SQL constructs. If your app uses an index right now, ditching the DB will mean re-implementing it manually. It's not hard, but it's extra code.

So basically, the DB engine might still be a necessary "library", at least for data retrieval. A middle-of-the-road take on this is e.g. using an in-memory Sqlite instance to perform indexing, etc - seeding it at run-time to help with data searches, but then still not using it for storing persistent information and discarding the data at the end.

emehrkay 4 days ago 2 replies      
I didn't finish the article because I read the one on Event Sourcing (http://martinfowler.com/eaaDev/EventSourcing.html), pretty good pattern. I like that every time he describes a new one (to me), I feel like I have to use it.
rb2k_ 4 days ago 1 reply      
While this article wants to establish additional layers above the filesystem, I always wondered how comparable modern filesystems are to key-value datastores.

As far as I can see, they seem to be comparable to b+tree indexed key value stores. A key would e.g. be "/home/user/test.txt".
Thanks to the B+Tree "indexation" you can do a prefix scan and list folders (e.g. "ls /home/user/"--> all keys starting with "/home/user/").

In the case of e.g. ReiserFS they actually use B+Trees.
They have a caching layer managed by the OS. Most of them have journaling which would be the equivalent of a "write ahead log".

Map reduce based "view" generation can easily be done by pipes and utilities like grep. We might be even able to do some sort of simplistic filtering/views/relations using symlinks.

I guess the main difference is that they aren't optimized for this database-like behavior from a performance standpoint and that the network interfaces to them are SMB/AFP/NFS.

jeffdavis 4 days ago 2 replies      
What about ROLLBACK? And no, going back in time by replaying logs is no substitute, because you lose other transactions that you want to keep (and perhaps already reported to the user as completed).

What about transaction isolation? How do you keep one transaction from seeing partial results from a concurrent transaction? Sounds like a recipe for a lot of subtle bugs.

And all of the assumptions you need to make for this no-DB approach to be feasible (e.g. fits easily in memory) might hold at the start of the project, but might not remain valid in a few months or years. Then what? You have the wrong architecture and no path to fix it.

And what's the benefit to all of this? It's not like DBMS do disk accesses just for fun. If your database fits easily in memory, a DBMS won't do I/O, either. They do I/O because either the database doesn't fit in memory or there is some better use for the memory (virtual memory doesn't necessarily solve this for you with the no-DB approach; you need to use structures which avoid unnecessary random access, like a DBMS does).

I think it makes more sense to work with the DBMS rather than constantly against it. Try making simple web apps without an ORM. You might be surprised at how simple things become, particularly changing requirements. Schema changes are easy unless you have a lot of data or a lot of varied applications accessing it (and even then, often not as bad as you might think) -- and if either of those things are true, no-DB doesn't look like a solution, either.

kahawe 4 days ago 1 reply      
...and on a mildly related subject: more people should consider LDAP.
nivertech 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nothing new here.
I remember working with TED editor on PDP-11.
The machine crashed some times. After restart TED would restore the text by replaying all my key presses.

Other example vector graphic editors: it replays vector graphics primitive instead of pixel bitmaps.

superuser2 4 days ago 1 reply      
Running Redis in journaling mode is essentially this, too. Mongo can run like that too.
adelevie 4 days ago 0 replies      
This seems like an excellent idea. Is it possible to preserve most of the APIs/design patterns we're used to working with for (no)SQL when using Event Sourcing?
Mordor 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why not go for NoDisk solution too - just RAID your memory and back it up with ultracapacitors?
artsrc 4 days ago 0 replies      
Having a database model and an application model in separate processes, and mapping between the two is expensive in many ways.

There are many ways get rid of the problem with getting rid of the database. For example putting all knowledge of the domain in the database via stored procedures, couchapps, and object stores.

overshard 4 days ago 0 replies      
Any time you have someone who is not a programmer who wants to maintain code, you will have a DB. And this almost all the time.
jberryman 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is "event sourcing" similar to the acid-state business used in happstacK?:


dendory 4 days ago 0 replies      
I personally use SQLite all the time. I prefer it to any of the other solutions.
71104 4 days ago 5 replies      
answering directly to the subject: i do hope so. SQL too often introduces only a layer of complexity between the server-side application and the storage, while most of times an application could be designed to just use the filesystem, which is a database on its own by the way: it's a big, usually efficient, lookup table that maps keys (file paths) to values (file contents).

why store passwords through SQL when a server application could just use a specific directory containing one file for each user, each file named with the username and containing his password (without any file format, just the password, possibly hashed or encrypted)? the operating system I/O cache should be able to handle that efficiently and the advantage would be the elimination of the dependence on another software, the DBMS.

mrich 4 days ago 1 reply      
That sounds interesting. However, as soon as you have several distinct applications that share e.g. the same master data, how do do interface them? You will have to design the in-memory transactional store as a kind of global component. Then, not much is left until you end up with a real database.

I am working on a team that is building an in-memory SQL database. It features a custom language that makes it possible to push the time-critical, data-processing parts of the application directly to the database, which allows for the same speed as this no-DB approach. But you don't have to build your own DB and do everything yourself (correct persistence, backup, transactions...)

yk_42 4 days ago 1 reply      
EventSourcing/CQRS (Command/Query Responsibility Segregation) is gaining a bit of traction in the .NET community. There are some great presentations[1], blogs[2][3] and projects[4] related to this architecture.

[1]: http://www.infoq.com/presentations/Command-Query-Responsibil...

[2]: http://www.udidahan.com/?blog=true

[3]: http://blog.jonathanoliver.com/

[4]: https://github.com/joliver/EventStore/

yesbabyyes 4 days ago 0 replies      
I use Redis for this. I imagine it would be possible to create certain js objects that automatically persist to Redis.
drKarl 4 days ago 0 replies      
Two years ago I used an IMDB (In-memory database or Main memory database) in a project. I think it was CSQL. I think this is a nice way to have full ACID and great performance!!
ivanhoe 4 days ago 0 replies      
It looks more like a different DB engine implementation than no-DB system... you still need a structured data persisted somewhere, difference here is in the way you store it and how you buffer it, but IMHO that all can be seen simply as in-memory "DB engine"
klauswuestefeld 2 days ago 0 replies      
Martin Fowler to usurp Prevalence pattern: https://gist.github.com/1186975
My Neighbor, Steve Jobs lisenstromberg.wordpress.com
218 points by ryanwhitney  4 days ago   44 comments top 19
truthseeker 4 days ago 8 replies      
Next up on HN:

Blog post from housekeeper of Mr. Steve about how exacting he is on some occasions and how kind he is on other.

I think Steve Jobs and his contributions to the tech world are extraordinary. I wish him well and hope he lives happily for a long long time. Just as I wish for anyone I know or do not know, that they live happily.

Steve is not a friend of either you or me.
I do not need to know how he was as a neighbor, his driving record, his family life or anything that does not concern his work.
I am not interested in those details of Steve or Salma Hayek or Steve Ballmer.

Can we stop senselessly idolizing people in areas that are not their expertise?

idlewords 4 days ago 1 reply      
If you've ever wondered what a pure name-drop is like when extended to multiple paragraphs, your wait is over.
padmanabhan01 4 days ago 3 replies      
This audio (6 min long) is worth a listen. Steve Jobs, when he was around 26 or so. http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/pagegen/brochure/p3.html
sriramk 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm ashamed to admit that part of the reason for my wife (artithmetic on HN) and I to pick our current apartment in Palo Alto several months ago was because it was a stone's throw away from Jobs' house. He's been a long time hero of mine and when we got a chance to live close by, we jumped at it.

Bonus - we're even closer to several YC startups, I suspect if I shout loudly, the LikeALittle guys can hear it.

dctoedt 4 days ago 1 reply      
When [EDIT: you think] someone's dying, it's more satisfying to tell him (or her) how much you appreciate him, while he's still around to take some pleasure in it, than to attend the funeral wishing you'd done so.
idanb 4 days ago 0 replies      
A few months ago I had just taken a meeting in Palo Alto and went down the street to sit at a Starbucks to wait for a ride since I rode the caltrain and had no way to get around. I was doing some work when Steve Jobs walked in. My grandfather passed away from Pancreatic cancer and was by no means walking around having a coffee with friends at this stage. It was really inspiring to see him pushing through the condition and refusing to give up.

Some jerk kid walked up to him and asked if it'd be alright to take a picture with him. Steve dismissed him with such a confidence you wouldn't expect. I think in general a guy like that with such amazing ideas has to have this extremely thick shell to the world, but underneath I'm sure he's an amazing father, husband, and friend. I was really lucky to be there that day, definitely changed my perspective on a few things.

AndrewClyde 4 days ago 1 reply      
What a fantastic, feel-good piece on Steve. It's nice to know he's just like every other parent outside of Apple, and I'm glad someone remembered who he is as a person, not just a CEO.
napierzaza 4 days ago 0 replies      

Steve (yes I call him by his first name) live near me. As a neighbour. Just down the street. I have moments where he has acknowledged my existence. He even knows my waspy name.

oflannabhra 4 days ago 1 reply      
Honestly, I think the neighborly thing for the author to do is to allow Steve his privacy.
hans 4 days ago 0 replies      
I know he's going, we all do, but man it feels like a kick in the gut for tech. Yes we know tech is actually bullshit, in the grand scheme of things, to keep us occupied, but somehow no Jobs means something less ... like the suits will kill off all the beauty because they don't understand that.

We need a new big visionary in the higher boardrooms but I don't see any, lately they're all just wall street and more so with time.

WordSkill 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nice article but I am Steve Jobs' neighbor on the other side and he has been nothing but a nightmare for my family, especially all the nude gardening.
dvdhsu 4 days ago 0 replies      
One or two Halloweens ago, I went over to Steve's house. While everybody was waiting in line, it turned out that Steve was standing behind a doorway, where everybody was going through.

He just stood there. Nobody noticed until they started walking back having gotten their treats from the front door.

I was impressed. Impressed because he was not the one handing out the treats, but the one standing behind a doorway, where nobody noticed him.

tedkalaw 4 days ago 0 replies      
This reminded me that the people that seem to know the most ABOUT Steve Jobs don't actually know Steve Jobs. Really cool to read.
gabaix 4 days ago 0 replies      
Marc Zuckerberg goes past my house almost every week in Palo Alto. Seeing on the streets someone you see in the media helps making him normal.
trekgunner 4 days ago 1 reply      
I just checked CNN. I had to because the piece at the end made it sound like he ea dead.
hnsmurf 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't get this one. I would assume that you'd have to be extremely wealthy to be Steve Jobs's neighbor. As a result you'd think bumping into other extremely wealthy, successful people would be routine.
espressodude 4 days ago 0 replies      
The human touch to this one makes it the best article I've read about Steve Jobs.
capkutay 4 days ago 0 replies      
Old palo alto represent!
elb0w 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank god this is on HN, not sure what I would of done without reading this article. Lets make sure to spread this one around folks.
I just got meta-copied creatingev.com
222 points by d_r  5 days ago   37 comments top 13
softbuilder 4 days ago 1 reply      
In a country with a billion people, even if you're one in a million, there's still 1000 people just like you.
moonlighter 5 days ago 1 reply      
Something is a bit fishy with that favicon. The version used by the 'rippers' doesn't use transparency, whereas Tian's favicon does have one.

That favicon source (there are probably others):

ig1 4 days ago 2 replies      
I feel a bit disappoint that this has got so many votes on HN, when a simple Google image search shows that the icon in question is a simply a freely licensed image produced by FreeIconsWeb that turns up when you search for "copy icon".

I'm guessing the author of this article knew that (presumably that's where he got it from) but chose to omit that rather critical point from his post to make it seem more favourable to himself.

Link to original image: http://www.freeiconsweb.com/Icons-show/Freeicons/Copy.png

geuis 5 days ago 1 reply      
The author hasn't included a link to the "copy factory" website. I'm curious about what that link is, because I have noticed that Chrome will show favicons despite no favicon.ico being equipped on a site. I have seen this mainly has happened on local apps where I know for certain I am not serving one yet one shows up. I would like to check the "copy factory" site to see if they aren't defining one either, and if the author is simply seeing an artifact from his browser.
insraq 4 days ago 1 reply      
Well as far as I know, the 'rippers' claimed by author has existed for a while now. This tweet is posted on Jul. 16 (http://www.weibo.com/1655212723/l4EWMiVcl ) while the author's post is posted on Aug. 30. So I would say this is just a coincident rather than a rip-off. And I believe the author should spend a little more time doing some research before accusing the wrong person.
meric 5 days ago 0 replies      
Don't feel too bad, you spent a mere 2.5 hours, and as a result a website that took probably 10 times that effort popped up. You lose the personal gain from the project, but the valued created as a result of 150 minutes of work is very efficient!
tlrobinson 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to see them list each other as copies of themselves.
sien 5 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a Chinese copy of HN?
zhang_rui 5 days ago 0 replies      
Author is actually Tianfang Li. As an entrepreneur he is famous in China. I did not think he would have time to make other projects.
Shenglong 5 days ago 3 replies      
What's the consensus in protecting yourself from getting copied in China? Launch there first?
pbhjpbhj 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if all these companies are really negatively impacting creativity and inventiveness?
vynch 5 days ago 1 reply      
haha this is one of the reasons I stick to iOS apps!!
jackjun 5 days ago 1 reply      
The webapp seem to be built using Twitter Bootstrap and Heroku. I would have thought Chinese programmers who resort to copying would be using older technology.
Google App Engine Pricing Angers Developers, Kills PlusFeed readwriteweb.com
213 points by jzb  2 days ago   137 comments top 29
buff-a 2 days ago 5 replies      
Here's my complaint:

I, and many others, spent a lot of time figuring out how to write apps that do it the "app engine way":

  * Fast completes (30 second timeout)
* Offloading to task queues when you cant
* Channels
* Blobstore two-phase upload urls
* Mail eccentricities

We did so, because we believe Google when they told us If you write your apps in this really weird way then we will be able to give you scale and cost benefits that you wont be able to get elsewhere

We believed them, because it seemed reasonable. We laughed at those who complained that django would hit the 30-second limit: "Its not a general hosting! Figure out the App Engine way!" And we educated on how to do it right, and many were happy.

Well, it turns out that it is general purpose hosting, with all of the costs, and yet also with all of the (once rational, now bullshit) idiosyncrasies.


But that's not the biggest complaint. The biggest complaint is that when my friends and peers objected to App Engine, its strange requirements and its potential lock in, they were right and I am a fucking naive idiot. And I really don't like to be proven a naive idiot. I put my faith in Google's engineers and they have utterly destroyed my credibility. THIS more than anything is the cost to me.

ChuckMcM 2 days ago 3 replies      
Heh. TL;DR version - Google starts recovering their costs, hits people in unexpected places.

So back when I worked there Google had no clue what it cost to run their infrastructure at a fine grain level. Sure they knew the aggregate cost, that was easy, but knowing on an application level didn't exist. This was a problem since as more and more things were using the machines, how did you "bill" a department for their machine usage? That really crystallized when the bottom fell out in 2008 and suddenly there was going to be no more new machines/data centers for a while and everyone had to 'make do.'

They mobilized an effort to figure this out, its not like it isn't knowable, and ever the data driven company the first signs of light were appearing just as I was leaving. It should not be a surprise but they discovered many things they did not previously believe was true, and I don't doubt it has driven a lot of change going forward. One of the more interesting outcomes was that projects/products were actually getting cancelled if they cost more to run than they could generate in revenue (I'm looking at you Goog-411)

So this knowledge is being applied to GAE, which is great, its also another way to back compute some of their operational efficiencies.

But that it costs money to run stuff? Well that isn't really news is it? That it costs that much? Well there is the whole if it doesn't make money it will get cancelled threat.

And the kicker is pricing out the scarce resource. It looks (and I've been gone over a year and half so I am speculating based on this move on their part) like their 'scarce' resource is web server front ends. (the labeled "Frontend instance") Traditionally they've been like most multi-tier web properties split between front end machines which host the web facing stuff, and back end machines that do the heaving lifting and storing. And by this change one can reason that residency on the 'front end' is more valuable than crunching in the 'back end.'

I'm guessing PlusFeed gets a lot of web traffic. So they spend a lot of time 'actively' on the front side, and from their numbers they do practically nothing on the back side. This fits well with the sudden massive price increase.

This gives you an insight into Google's business dynamics as well. Where page-views are the limiting resource, and computation is not. When you look at it that way, you can see that most of their 'revenue' has to be delivered through their front end services, and so consuming that resource reduces (potentially) their income. Hence the charge inconsistency.

Now contrast that to Billy-Bob's Web Farm (fictitious service) where every machine in their data center can be a web server, and front end serving is trivial, its all about the bandwidth. Their pricing would probably be more gigabytes transferred.

I would not be surprised at all if it is impractical to run such 'translation' services (basically all web traffic very little compute) on a hosted environment like Google's.

pbh 2 days ago 2 replies      
What's most interesting to me about this article is that the management of GAE seems to actually be getting worse over time.

GAE has always had two main disadvantages. First, there is vendor lock-in because you code specifically to the data store, worker API, and so on (though arguably there are alternative platforms that implement the GAE API). Second, you cannot run custom code (custom C in some virtual machine) or have a custom architecture (if, say, Redis might be useful to have around). These disadvantages probably aren't changing and are probably necessary for auto-scaling, security of Google's infrastructure, and so on.

However, there are lots of little things that GAE has been getting wrong for a while that are totally unnecessary. Lack of hosted SQL support. Lack of SSL for custom domains. Just little things that are probably annoying to implement and boring, but totally necessary for real websites or websites just gaining traction. (I know these are in varying stages of early support at the moment.)

But now, the GAE team almost seems to want to actively disappoint users. With hosted SQL being a request for years, Guido appears to have spent a bunch of time re-architecting the API for the datastore instead. With this pricing increase, they're pushing the many developers who came to their platform based on price (due to the very interesting scaling properties of the Google front-end) off the platform.

Overall, I'm very confused.

nir 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think Google just doesn't really get how unique GAE was. It was a fantastic platform for small apps, and inevitable some percentage of these would grow to big, paying apps.

Also (sorry for the armchair quarterbacking here, can't resist..) it was exactly what Google can do better than anyone - best server infrastructure + Guido Van Rossums - while stuff like Google+ is exactly what Google haven't a clue how to do.

nicksdjohnson 1 day ago 1 reply      
Hi folks,

I'm on the App Engine team, and I just wanted to clarify one thing: The main difference between CPU hours and Instance hours is that CPU hours are charged based on CPU usage, while instance hours are based on wallclock time. The high ratio between the two you can see with PlusFeed is because it's spending a lot of time to serve each request, most of which is spent doing nothing - likely because it's doing outgoing HTTP requests.

Previously, we had no way to account for apps like this, that take a lot of wallclock time but very little CPU time, and as a result we couldn't scale them well. Under the new model, the charges reflect the real cost here - memory pressure. Every second an instance sits around waiting is a second that the memory occupied by that instance can't be used to serve other requests.

As others have pointed out, we're in the process of launching Python 2.7 support - it's currently in Trusted Tester phase - which will support multiple concurrent requests, and services like PlusFeed are likely to be able to take great advantage of that, reducing their instance hours by a large factor. Likewise, doing asynchronous URLFetches (where that's practical) can cut a huge amount off instance time.

dasil003 2 days ago 0 replies      
The strength of GAE is the magic scaling beans, but to take advantage of it you need to lock yourself in massively. It's probably not realistic to port an existing application that actually needs real scale to GAE given the complexity of most apps by the time they reach that point. Therefore, the key funnel for them is new apps with hopes of becoming truly massive. Fortunately for Google way more people dream of scaling than actually will, but they need to A) not scare poor startups away with the price today and B) not scare them that they're going to get bent over and raped on price changes later.

Personally I'll never touch GAE with a 10' pole simply because of the support issue and perpetual-beta-culture uncertainties.

Smrchy 2 days ago 2 replies      
I love using GAE and got 8 apps running currently. At first the new pricing model shocked me. But please take a 2nd look. Sure it's more expensive than the old model. But you can set the maximum number of idle instances in your Application Settings page. Just set it down so no more that X instances get spun up:

> The Idle Instances slider allows you to control the number of idle instances available to your application at any given time. Idle Instances are pre-loaded with your application code, so when a new Instance is needed, it can serve traffic immediately. You will not be charged for instances over the specified maximum. A smaller number of idle Instances means your application costs less to run, but may encounter more startup latency during load spikes.

There is another setting for latency:

> The Pending Latency slider controls how long requests spend in the pending queue before being served by an Instance. If the minimum pending latency is high App Engine will allow requests to wait rather than start new Instances to process them. This can reduce the number of instance hours your application uses, but can result in more user-visible latency.

So if you are fine with a little higher latency for your app then you can reduce your bill by a great deal. If you want all that GAE can offer with max. instances available and lowest latency you gotta pay - as you would when you run n instances at another cloud provider.

andymoe 2 days ago 2 replies      
An alternate perspective: Google App Engine is still a fine platform even with the new price increases. (Which they told us were coming by the way)

And by the time the pricing takes effect the updated python runtime should bring costs down even more.

The instance costs are comperable to Heroku AND you get a high availability data store AND the ability to store really huge amounts of data in the blobstore AND a CDN for serving images from said blobstore. Not to mention background processes, task queue, XMPP, memcache, Multitenancy and multiple versions of apps so you can easily roll things back or test out updates painlessly.

Try and replicate that setup on Heroku or AWS for anywhere near the costs and time that you can get there with app engine.

While you're fighting with AWS and playing sysadmin or trying to think of ways to bring down the costs of Heroku's database services by using RDS instead or being nickel and dimed by add-on fees I'll be shipping code. Code that actually takes advantage of the platforms strengths.

maxent 2 days ago 2 replies      
I think this comment from Wesley Chun on the GAE team is key:


"your app can be slashdotted or tweeted by demi moore -- http://adtmag.com/blogs/watersworks/2010/10/mobile-app-creat... -- or perhaps you may need to build/host something on the scale of both the royal wedding blog and event livestream with traffic numbers that are mindblowing -- http://googleappengine.blogspot.com/2011/05/royal-wedding-be... ... these are the reasons for using App Engine. it was not meant as free/cheap generic app-hosting but to provide a premium service that's difficult to get elsewhere in the market. if you're just after the former, there are plenty of options for you."

My take-away is that GAE is hard to justify unless your usage pattern is unpredictable and spike-y. I'm taking the long weekend to give dotcloud a serious test-drive.

cHalgan 2 days ago 2 replies      
My understanding of all these GAE pricing story is that Google decided that GAE is not a strategic business and that business unit need to break even or they will be canceled. Does this make sense?
cd34 2 days ago 2 replies      
1.5gb out with 880 frontend instance hours in 24 hours.

Someone needs to rethink their architecture.

edtechdev 2 days ago 1 reply      
Yeah I still don't understand why the Khan Academy and other educational/open source developers are using Google App Engine when it suffers from vendor lock-in.
gte910h 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'm wondering if google is just trying to encourage an architecture which is less bad for their site.

I'm guessing a small minority of apps were doing things in a way that was eating up tons more resources than they were paying for. I bet for many apps, this could end up no worse or better.

ddon 2 days ago 0 replies      
We tried to use GAE several times on our heavy traffic production, and was just too slow. We contacted google several times, but never received any help from them. So, thanks to this, we don't use them and we are not affected but the price change.
herf 2 days ago 0 replies      
It sounds to me like the scarce resource was found to be RAM, not CPU. If an "instance" uses a big piece of RAM to serve a request, and doesn't give it up while waiting for a backend, then scalability is RAM-bound, not CPU-bound, and they should probably charge that way.
sasha-dv 2 days ago 3 replies      
That's unreasonably expensive. For $68.46 he payed for a day you can have an "el-cheapo" dedicated box or a great VPS for a month. I still don't understand why people trade a bit of system administration and superb performance for a vendor lock and insane prices.
aaronf 2 days ago 0 replies      
Our charges are going to be increasing from $0/day to $5-11/day. While bearable, it's a serious problem given so little notice, and disappointing since we invested in their infrastructure & optimized for their previous pricing plan. This is a serious hit for a bootstrapped startup getting off the ground. No doubt it will kill a lot of startups.
bane 2 days ago 0 replies      
In my mind, the problem is not so much the extreme pricing difference, but the change in what's being measured, so not only is there a price increase, but it's nearly impossible to figure out how to compare the old vs. new schemes vs. competitors.

The huge price jump is a serious problem, but the weird metrics switch makes it feel like such a bait and switch. I'm going to be highly surprised if this isn't challenged in court.

wccrawford 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think we're missing a big part of this...

How many users were using it?

heliodor 2 days ago 1 reply      
Can people list their choice for python hosting and the main benefits?

What are some good services layered on top of EC2 to provide more management and automation?

Does anyone have any experience with whether DotCloud is priced reasonably?

mark_l_watson 1 day ago 0 replies      
A question for anyone on the AppEngine team that may also be useful for other developers:

I have an app that I want to deploy and control my costs. I would like to pay for 1 FE instance to always be running and limit temporary FE instances to a maximum of 1 (free?) instance when needed. I expect my app to have a relatively small number of users, but they will be active.

I would like to prevent the scheduler from ever spawning more than these 2 FE instances. Occasional unavailability when the site is busy is OK. Except for bandwidth and storage, I would like to know roughly what my costs will be.

Just to be clear, how do I set this up?

angusgr 2 days ago 1 reply      
Can anyone tell me how the new and old prices compare to running a similar app on AWS, Heroku or other competitors?

ie was GAE ridiculously cheap before compared to other options, and now comparable? Or was it somewhat cheaper than competitors before, and now somewhat more expensive?

I realise it's never that simple, but nearly everyone's complaints seem to be (understandably) given in relative terms of before vs. after. I'd be interested to know how it stacks up before vs. after vs. if-we'd-taken-another-route.

kennystone 2 days ago 1 reply      
His app generated no revenue, so any price other than trivial would have him jumping ship. Why does Google want apps like his?
wavephorm 2 days ago 1 reply      
Everything Google does, they do in a half-assed sort of way. And it's getting really annoying. Even their core business of search is showing signs of neglect. SEO experts have learned to game the system such that the quality of search results is pretty abysmal now.

GAE is a half baked AWS. Google+ is a half baked Facebook. Google Docs is a half baked MSOffice. They have no blood in these projects and don't really care whether they succeed or not, which coincidentaly means they probably won't.

Google is getting absolutely clobbered in every category other than search advertising dollars. Their products wreak of ambivilence and neglect, and I'm surprised anyone expected GAE to be a good platform.

crizCraig 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've been developing for app engine since 2008 when it came out and absolutely love it. The price changes are a result of turning a successful and massively growing product into a profitable one a la search, youtube, etc... Google should be praised for this. The changes in price also accompany an SLA that guarantee developers will receive three years notice before a breaking API change or service shut down.

The SSL problem is a limitation in some browsers that causes the type of certificates that GAE needs to use a CNAME, not IP, based routing to display huge warnings.

rbanffy 2 days ago 3 replies      
I am currently playing with the idea of moving an application from all-GAE to part GAE, part EC2 with some spot instances running jobs when cheap enough. According to my sloppy math, this should reduce the load on the GAE side by at least 60%.

Anyway, this is all theoretical (in the worst sense of the word) - the app is not even public.

83457 2 days ago 1 reply      
Can someone please explain frontend versus backend instance processing? Does backend here mean processing that takes place in data storage systems?
davisml 2 days ago 2 replies      
It appears that the chart is being misinterpreted. The cost per hour is less under the new pricing and I believe the total hours is calculated for the month.
igorgue 2 days ago 1 reply      
I hope PlusFeed's author read this:

Man that's some nasty code, horrible, don't open source that kind of "code"... it's bad, even for a 5 minute projects, it's really bad.

Open Source software is not a dumpster of your bad code.

The Sugary Secret of Self-Control nytimes.com
212 points by gruseom  1 day ago   53 comments top 16
rkalla 1 day ago 1 reply      
A really excellent followup to the study that was linked to around here about 6 months ago that found out "willpower" is an exhaustible resource that needs to be managed throughout your day.

The book[1] this article is reviewing discusses learning to exercise your will power through little mini tasks throughout the day (sit up straight, don't curse, don't eat the whole cake, pickup your desk before going to lunch, etc.) as a means of strengthening that skill.

In their studies they found that employing little tasks like that actually made the willpower muscle (let's call it) stronger, leading to more control over your day.

As to "why do I care?" both studies show that people with more willpower generally end up happier with their lives.

This article does make an interesting point that people with ultimate willpower are not markedly happier than people with nominal amounts of it, so you don't necessarily need to train your willpower muscle to the point of entering the willpower olympics, just slightly stronger than you have now (assuming it is weakened) to enjoy a happier life.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Willpower-Rediscovering-Greatest-Human...

sliverstorm 1 day ago 6 replies      
As far as food & overeating/unhealthy foods- I've learned you don't necessarily need self-control. You can stop caring instead. That's how I wound up after going hungry for months, and got used to it.

It's frighteningly effective. Right now, the last meal I remember was about 20 hours ago, and the last meal before that was another 20-24 ago. My stomach is aching, but it doesn't bother me.

Of course, this is not without problems. It basically means I have to consciously remember to feed myself enough to stay healthy. You could say I am now approaching the problem from the opposite direction.

blahedo 1 day ago 1 reply      
> (though not an indistinguishable beverage containing diet sweetener)

Really? Indistinguishable? This presumably doesn't invalidate their results, but a lot of people can distinguish the taste very well. This just seems like sloppiness on their part.

wpietri 1 day ago 0 replies      
Ooh, that's appealing. One of the authors, Roy Baumeister, gave this very interesting address on how cultures use genders differently: http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm
dlytle 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been wondering if there's a good way to test this on a personal basis using something like compounding interest, only with candy.

For example, keeping a bag of Reese's Pieces, and every consecutive (time period) you go without breaking goal X, you add (# of time periods) pieces of candy to a jar. Then at the end of the day, you cash out your jar.

So, longer periods of self control would result in a larger reward, and a physical/visual representation of your progress so far would help reinforce your motivation to remain on track.

Maybe if using candy, you get to eat half of what you'd put in immediately, and take advantage of the gradually escalating amount of sugar to help reinforce your willpower reserves?

Mostly just brainstorming here. :P

RobertHubert 1 day ago 1 reply      
From my experience or learning rather while studying psych I came to believe that as all successful or enjoyable actions are rewarded by dopamine (everything from grasping a spoon so smoking crack). Also, the more closely an action and its reward are pared to one-another in time the greater the strength of the feeling of "that was a good choice or Success!".
So it seems to follow that giving in sooner rather than later (for some potentially greater reward - delayed gratification) rewards the brain more and does so faster thus reinforcing that behavior model more and more successfully over and over.

Because delayed gratification is well, delayed, the chemical reinforcements in the brain don't happen (or happen in some other way that is more conscious rather than instantaneous without reflection). So for a child who has not developed the ability to delay gratification it becomes now or never and that mental reward structure can really hurt them later in life.
Thanks for posting.

zach 1 day ago 0 replies      
The application of this research on sports performance don't seem to have been explored much as far as I've found.

Which seems surprising to me seeing that Dr. Baumeister is a professor at Florida State. You'd think at least the ability of offensive linemen to stay completely still would have the football program interested in this research.

vishaldpatel 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can't comment on willpower over everything, but if it is about working out / doing chores / getting to work, I have a hack for you:

Well.. it isn't really a hack, but something to remind yourself every fucking time that you're stalling. All you need is enough motivation to do it for 5 minutes. FIVE MINUTES!

Thats enough motivation to basically start an activity and forget about everything else in the process, and getting on with it. Just start doing it... FIVE MINUTES!!!

w1ntermute 1 day ago 2 replies      
> “Willpower”is filled with advice about what to do with your willpower. Build up its strength, the authors suggest, with small but regular exercises, like tidiness and good posture. Don't try to tame every bad habit at once.

This is the key. For example, instead of having a bunch of New Year's resolutions, come up with one resolution every month. Focus your (finite) willpower on making it into a habit, at which point it won't require willpower anymore. Next month, move onto another habit and do the same thing. You can drastically change your lifestyle in just 1 year by repeating this 12 times.

tkahn6 1 day ago 1 reply      
Forgive me for my ignorance, but shouldn't "Ulysses had himself tied to the mast" be "Odysseus had himself tied to the mast"?

I haven't read Ulysses but I have read The Odyssey.

radu_floricica 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Baumeister actually wrote a book about this?! It's definitely a must read. If you haven't picked up anything of his before - he's a very good writer, and one of the most "correct thinkers" I know. Not a shred of idea that's not justified by research.
mechnik 5 hours ago 0 replies      
A short opinion piece that touches on the Baumeister's study:
schiptsov 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Nonetheless, the very idea of self-­control has acquired a musty Victorian odor. - Rly? How about Eastern cultures who rely on self-control as a foundation for ages and ages? How about Art of War and other classic Chinese texts? How about The Book of Five Rings and other classics about mortal fights? What about Tibetan tradition which emphasizes self-control as a recruitment for self-transformation? Zen and other traditions based on Buddha's teachings? And, at last, what about Greek's 'Conquer yourself' maxim, which is the second most important one after 'Catch The Moment'? ^_^

It seems like modern journalist, same as modern hackers, are completely unaware, that all those self-help books, starting from Dale Carnegie's and Napoleon Hill's ones are mere compilations and oversimplifications of general western and some times eastern philosophy? But why, not everyone has a degree in Philosophy like the founder of this site. ^_^

The level of submissions and discussions on HN is somewhere below zero, after it became a huge mainstream site. Now being hacker is an ability to praise and admire some celebrities to silently down-vote people whom they can't appreciate or even understand.

Is there any new small community, with at least a little bit above mediocre level? ^_^

rytis 1 day ago 0 replies      
ok, so let's go back to this for example: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2908015 I am nothing).

As the author says: "I am nothing, and so I am finally free to be myself.".

Does being 'myself' mean I lack willpower and thus just ignore everything and everyone else and focus on myself?

Thing is, in my opinion having good self control wins over being myself (which I think is on the edge of being selfish).

I wonder what you guys think on the question 'being myself' vs 'self-control' ?

fractalcat 1 day ago 1 reply      
The NYT only found out about this now? O.o

Steve Pavlina (http://www.stevepavlina.com/) has some good stuff on training willpower (willpower is like D-Day, a huge violent bloody assault which was used to establish fortifications on the ground so that you didn't need to launch a huge violent bloody assault every time you wanted to get things done). Use willpower to build habits that will stay with you even when you have the mental energy of a marketroid.

Why Developers Never Use State Machines skorks.com
217 points by fogus  3 days ago   88 comments top 43
patio11 3 days ago 2 replies      
I use them extensively for Appointment Reminder. In addition to modeling the business logic pretty intuitively (particular types of input can cause an appointment to go from :scheduled to :confirmed, :confirmed appointments should not generate additional reminder calls but :scheduled ones should, etc), they're virtually indispensable for doing Twilio applications. I'll have more to say about that at TwilioConf (and will probably post my presentation afterwards). If you do not model call state with a state machine, anything more complicated than "Hit 1 to talk to sales, hit 2 to talk to support" turns into an ugly ball of spaghetti code with lots of sharp edges, poor testability, and crushing amounts of technical debt getting in the way of maintaining or extending anything.

After I got more comfortable with actually using them for real work (as opposed to "cute toy from CS class"), I started seeing FSMs everywhere I looked in my projects.

For one thing, they make analytics a lot easier to slot into your system. For example, I record the fact of interesting events like e.g. purchases and send it off to KissMetrics or internal analytics stuff for graphing/reporting/auditing/etc. That gets done in my controllers, and it results in a whole lot of duplicative code which I often forget to write. (It's easy to miss that e.g. if I credit somebody manually for a purchase that should count as a purchase, even though it is under admin functions rather than the purchasing pathway. After all, if I forget to write that log code, all that happens is my stats get silently borked.)

This could get fairly easily solved by having the logging code aware of the change in the user's status, which is about three lines if you have a state machine, and won't put the logging logic in 12 different places in your app or cause you to have to pollute the user model with a big ol' case statement of doom. Plus, if you want to log more stuff, you naturally go into the log logic and make it do more things when the right events bubble to it, rather than chasing down a) who "owns" the event or b) where the event happens.

fab13n 3 days ago 9 replies      
Having used state machines a lot for embedded development, I find that they have one huge drawback: the resulting C code is unreadable, which turns maintenance into a nightmare.

SM have a key quality: they are a compact and unambiguous way for specifying a behavior. If your system's behavior is set in stone, it's worth specifying it as a SM and implementing it as one. This SM is also great to include in a spec, standard, RFC etc. But if the system evolves, small changes can require dramatic reshaping of the machine.

Also, they can lead to very efficient implementations, especially if you don't have the benefits of a serious OS with a fancy scheduler underneath.

tseabrooks 3 days ago 1 reply      
Pretty much every embedded system used for a consumer electronics device is driven by a state-machine. They are really fairly fundamental to embedded development. I suspect this guy is talking about (and dealing with) mostly web developers and people who don't sit so close to the metal.

In my current position it's entirely expected and reasonable to write some code and then half way through go back and rip parts of it out and turn it into a statemachine. Though generally we produce fairly detailed designs of our SMs first.

JoeAltmaier 3 days ago 1 reply      
Use them all the time, have for all my career.

They organize complex code, dissect complex set-flag-here-and-test-there spaghetti into a matrix of states and events that can be exhaustively examined and debugged.

Yes you have to organize your code to feed the machine (Vol is hungry! We must feed Vol!) But you have to organize your code somehow, and feeding a state machine can actually be easier to understand that flag-setting. In fact, it makes it absolutely clear what an event is associated with - the machine it feeds.

mmahemoff 3 days ago 0 replies      
State machines are a form of declarative logic as opposed to procedural, and declarative is often superior for modelling real-world activity.

Procedural logic tends to be brittle - small changes have unintended consequences. Declarative models tend to be more robust and, especially with domain-specific languages, safer for domain experts to manipulate. You can certainly design domain-specific languages for the subset of declarative systems that are state machines.

I've happily used state machines in enterprise projects. One was tracking rates of financial instruments, where they would be in various states of validity (i.e. is it a live offer?). Another was a logistics app, where data would move through various states of being cleansed and approved, or rejected. We built a UI around it. By isolating the state definitions and their transitions, it was easy to validate the program's model with business exprts.

CPlatypus 3 days ago 0 replies      
I disagree with the author; most developers' attitudes toward state machines are poisoned not by academic experience but by experience with other developers' half-assed state machines. Back in '93 or so I used state machines extensively for protocol handling within HACMP's cluster manager. It worked very well, but there were still complaints which all came down to the broken-up control flow that state machines introduce:

* The code can be harder to understand, even for those accustomed to the model, because of the need to maintain context manually across states and events. Let's face it: having your variables on the stack is awfully convenient, even if there are good reasons not to do things that way.

* Speaking of stacks, the #1 complaint I used to get was that with the FSM stack traces would only go back to the FSM engine with no history of previous transitions. This is why IMO any decent FSM implementation must keep some history itself.

* A related issue is that static code analysis can't follow through the transition table to recognize the actual flows of control. A good FSM-based program must therefore include stub programs (which can be automatically generated) which will invoke actions in expected sequences so that code checkers can find invalid references, leaks, missing unlocks, and son on.

I like FSMs and think they should be used more. Nonetheless, if you gave me a state machine with ad hoc context management, no history and no reasonable way to generate test stubs, I'd barf too. If more people implemented good state machines, more people would recognize their benefits.

ender7 3 days ago 2 replies      
Can anyone recommend a good introduction to using state machines in code? Especially something in javascript/python? I know what an SM is and how it works, I just want to know how to use an SM library to actually do all these cool things.
mas644 3 days ago 1 reply      
State machines are useful because they're
1) computationally fast
2) simple to implement
3) easy to read [up to a certain size]

The big problem with state machines relates to the number 3 and regards the general concept of "state". Managing state is the challenge of computation! As you add states and transitions, the complexity increases dramatically, exponentially in some cases. This is why novice programmers struggle to manage developing large applications: they depend on global state and side-effects to perform computation rather than creating isolated components (classes, methods/functions)

That is why we use higher level abstractions provided by programming languages. We use state machines unknowingly in our code every time we have a switch or a conditional statement. When we use design patterns such as the GoF state pattern, we are implementing a state machine. When we build closures in functional languages, those can be considered state machines (in an abstract way). It's just that we're doing it in a more intuitive, higher-level way.

What I'm getting at is that computer programs inherently contain state machines. Recall from computer science that a a stored program computer (e.g. Turing machine, Von Neumann architecture) is just a state machine with an unlimited memory. When we deal with more complexity, it's not wise to attempt to model the problem with a state machine. Using the constructs of a high level language are easier to deal with and underneath the hood, the appropriate state machines are being created.

masklinn 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's used a lot in Erlang, FWIW. It's used so much that OTP has a built-in finite state machine behavior[0].

Of course having nicely isolated processes probably helps noticing that you have an ad-hoc state machine on your hands.

[0] http://www.erlang.org/doc/design_principles/fsm.html

moondowner 3 days ago 0 replies      
I (as a Java developer) use state machines often - and know other developers who do same too. I use mostly enums (though there are other ways of achieving it), as explained in this post:

Java Secret: Using an enum to build a State machine: http://vanillajava.blogspot.com/2011/06/java-secret-using-en...

super_mario 3 days ago 3 replies      
Simple, because most developers are not computer scientists i.e. no formal training in finite automata, computability, complexity, nondeterminism, regular expressions, non regular languages, context free grammars and languages, Turing machines, halting problem and underlying math in general.

If they did, trust me they would use state machines without too much reservation where appropriate. But as it is, the concept is foreign to most and good ones intuit their way into implementing one perhaps (just guessing here).

wccrawford 3 days ago 0 replies      
Upon reading this, I realized I had never really looked into state machines much. In my searching, I found a Coffeescript state machine that has a nice chess-based example:


davedx 3 days ago 3 replies      
This man has never heard of video game A.I. programming :
Maro 3 days ago 0 replies      
I spent the last 3 years writing a distributed database which is basically a state machine (it's built on top of Paxos).


kennu 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've always used a state machine whenever I've parsed XML using an event based parser (SAX).

Although lately I've been replacing an explicit state variable with a stack containing the current element path, since that's pretty easy to do using modern languages.

perfunctory 3 days ago 1 reply      
I never understood why one needs a framework or a library for state machines. Can't you just write a switch statement.
conductor 3 days ago 1 reply      
If you are a C developer, try Ragel [http://www.complang.org/ragel].
I use it lot, also can be easily pared with the Lemon parser generator.
bchallenor 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Rust language (by Mozilla) is putting statically verifiable state machines in the type system:


It's based on Typestate, a really good 1986 paper:


I hope this idea catches on in other programming languages.

splicer 3 days ago 0 replies      
FSMs are very common on the embedded systems I work on. In fact, I often find that my coworkers use them too much. For instance, sometimes a DSP filter would be a much cleaner and maintainable solution. That said, if you work on embedded systems and you've never used a FSM, you're probably doing it wrong ;)
wslh 3 days ago 0 replies      
State Machines are also useful when you need to develop on asynchronous environments but think in a more synchronous way.
relix 3 days ago 1 reply      
I discovered how state machines can be practical when checking the source code of Spree, the rails e-commerce engine. The checkout-process is a state machine.

I'd highly recommend using state machines for multi-step forms. It feels very natural and keeps you sane, I believe it should be a best practice.

pointyhat 2 days ago 1 reply      
In my experience, why "developers" never use state machines:

a) Most I speak to had a Z-rate CS education which scraped a bit of OO design in Java and don't know they really exist.

b) Most languages they cut their first code in are about puking data around from SQL to the web which rarely if ever requires an FSM.

c) Someone thumped them over the head with "Windows Workflow for dummies" which is then assumed to be the answer to all stateful problems.

d) It looks hard so they don't bother.

e) "developers" should not be confused with "computer scientists". It's "builders" versus "engineers".

KevinMS 3 days ago 0 replies      
Mail servers are state machines. The SMTP protocol is all about state.

In a way any web app with a login is also a state machine - there's the logged in state, and the not logged in state.

erlang has a very effective state machine library(behavior). But the downside is that it's erlang. http://www.erlang.org/doc/design_principles/fsm.html

signa11 3 days ago 0 replies      
anybody writing networking-protocol code, embedded systems etc. cannot help but use them. to me it seems that the entire article is pretty narrowly focussed on folks doing web development exclusively.

also, fwiw, i think, couroutines are to state-machines as subroutines are to goto. the best tutorial on teh web on this is, imho, by dave-beazley here: http://www.dabeaz.com/coroutines/index.html

foobarbazoo 3 days ago 0 replies      
SproutCore has an entire statechart framework built into it. Not sure where the OP is getting his data...
erikb 3 days ago 0 replies      
Not sure if I understand the author correctly, but it seems to me, that he advises to write the state machine behaviour down as code (in form of a class? api? little frameowork?) when you start a project, so that you will be able to use a cleanly written interface for your state machine when the project gets bigger. Is my understanding correct?

From my experience a state machine is more of a pattern then a real object. Implementing it on the fly is what worked best so far, for me. Of course there is a point where it gets nasty because of complexity. But first that is always the case (complexity IS nasty) and second overcommiting to structure and architecture increases the complexity already in the beginning and might hurt more then it helps. At least fully coding all possible state machine behaviour as the first default task ifor every new project doesn't seem to be a smart thing to do.

phamilton 3 days ago 0 replies      
While I don't use state machines in code that often, I do use them on paper all the time.
bmcleod 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've been adding a state machine whenever I find myself adding a state column for a couple of years now.

I have always found this streamlining at least one change in the couple of months after initial implementation.

gte910h 3 days ago 0 replies      
There are over 10 occasions I can remember using one specifically in a project. I'm sure I've used them several more times.

Then again, I think they're far more common in the embedded world than elsewhere.

sid0 3 days ago 1 reply      
most state machines you're likely to need in your day-to-day development have nothing in common with their computing theory counterparts

I don't follow this? The core of whichever state machines I write seem to be DFAs, with the alphabet being events causing transitions.

nkh 3 days ago 0 replies      
Can anyone recommend a good python library for state machines and example code of its use?
pnathan 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't understand the problem. State machines always seemed like a reasonable choice to a stateful system making transitions between states.

It's possible to build some gorgeous state machine networks with lambda functions and dictionaries.

cpeterso 2 days ago 0 replies      
"A Computer is a state machine. Threads are for people who can't program state machines." -- Alan Cox
hessenwolf 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think in state machines all the time, and I have it second hand that telecoms services in South America mostly run on state machines.
radicalbyte 3 days ago 0 replies      
They're used all the time. A workflow engine is basically a big state machine. They're used all the time in the Enterprise.

In object orientated software engineering the State pattern is a pattern for cleanly implementing a state machine* whilst avoiding horrible switch or massive nested if-then statements.

philgo20 3 days ago 0 replies      
We use FSM to deal with the hiring/applicant flow at http://matchfwd.com

FSM are very common in video games. I've also worked with one in a (very very) big engineering/CAD software when FSM was managing the whole approval/review/audit flow .

It seems there just less common with web dev in general.

UrLicht 3 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't get a CS degree and therefore had no experience with state machines until I started programming professionally. Maybe that's why I took to them so quickly and used them from the get-go on my personal project. Their usefulness is so obvious.
swah 3 days ago 0 replies      
Do you guys think a drawing program should be more easily modeled with a FSM?
whatgoodisaroad 3 days ago 0 replies      
I literally just finished writing a state machine before opening Hacker News.
probablyrobots 3 days ago 0 replies      
I agree with the discussion here. State machines are very useful. The best thing about them is how easy they makes documentation. You just draw a state diagram and you're done!
schiptsov 3 days ago 0 replies      
guess what is nginx? ^_^
oinksoft 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the author should bold, quote, and italicize more phrases.
albertzeyer 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is a stupid statement. Pretty much every code depends on a state (i.e. the content of the heap memory) and is thus a state machine (by its most generic definition).

I think he is referring mostly to a finite state machine, though. But even then, you have that quite often somehow in your code (think of global boolean variables).

Release day economics uniformmotion.tumblr.com
210 points by tbassetto  3 days ago   74 comments top 14
gravitronic 3 days ago 3 replies      
I always like music industry posts showing up on HN as it's my view that the startup industry is in some ways like the music industry of years past.

Competition is fierce. Most start out working on their (startup or music) product part-time until the product becomes popular enough that it is a "hit". At that point the entrepreneur may be lucky to end up funded ("signed") which will help their ability to pursue their product full time and spend the marketing dollars to reach a larger audience.

Thankfully it's unlikely the VC/entrepreneur relationship will become as twisted and exploitative as the major music industry's relationship with artists as being funded does not suddenly unlock access to an entire set of verticals inaccessible to unsigned artists. Or does it?

alex1 3 days ago 3 replies      
I didn't see any mention of songwriting royalties, which can be very significant if they also write their own music.

The songwriter/composer of a song (not a recording of a song, but the actual melody, lyrics) gets a performance royalty each time a song is played in "public" (internet and broadcast radio, in the elevator, at a bar, etc). This is the royalty BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC collect. If the song is recorded and sold by someone, the songwriter gets mechanical royalties for each unit sold. If memory serves me correctly, the compulsory rate right now is 8 cents per unit sold. If the song in any form (recorded, sung by a drunk dude, etc) is used in something like a movie or a TV show, the songwriter gets a synchronization royalty. I've seen sync royalties range from $5,000 to $250,000. Songwriters are usually signed to publishing companies. Publishing companies are mostly owned by record labels themselves (or their parent companies). Publishing companies take a cut of the songwriters' royalties, but not as big as the cut record labels take from recording artists. I've seen rates ranging from 10% to 30%.

On the other hand, the recording artist gets pretty much whatever the record label decides to give them as described in the recording contract. The label will own the song recordings, not the artist. Recording artists (and record labels) do not get any royalties for public performance. Yes, when a song is played on FM radio, the record label doesn't get a penny. The only exception to this is when the song is played on "interactive" services on the Internet. This is the royalty Sound Exchange collects. In those cases, both the songwriter and whoever owns the copyright to the sound recording (the record label) get royalties. The main sources of revenue for the label are from these royalties, and from selling the sound recording in stores and online. They take a large chunk (60-70%) of this and distribute the rest to the song's recording artist, producer, etc.

physcab 3 days ago 2 replies      
Consider for a moment this alternate viewpoint. What if submitting a song to <insert music distribution service> was kinda like submitting a blog to <insert blog service>. You don't get paid for blogging, but if you produce enough good content, you can create an audience and then sell them other things later on. Smart bloggers give out their content for free, then charge for premium services and products like consulting, books, podcasts, screencasts, merch, etc. Seems like the same model could be applied to independent artists as well. Then the questions become, which platform can you use to stay connected with your fans? Which platform will allow you to upsell other services for which you can make real money on? Which platform allows you to publish your content effortlessly to a potentially limitless audience?
ChuckMcM 3 days ago 3 replies      
I like these posts as well, as its a window on the economics of their information content (in this case music).

They didn't mention how long it took them to come with this album, but since the web site says they added a drummer at the end of 2010 and this album was done in April of '11 we will call it 4 months work of three gentlemen best case, and if they really only finished it here at the end of August it would be 9 months. If we use the outside estimate of 9 months, and these guys had 'regular' jobs, lets say they would have earned $60K/year each with benefits, so call it $67.5K/year each for 9 months at an annualized pay of $90K. Note the numbers here are just guesses, I know they are in Europe and may have access to other healthcare options.

So had they worked at this mythical job they would have earned $67.5K * 3 or $203K. They opted instead to spend that time making an album so now, 9 months later instead of $203K in value they have this album with 9 songs on which they own the copyright for the next 75 years. Its an interesting exercise to compare that 'foregone' revenue for the possible future value of the album.

They can make as many copies of this album as they want and sell it for what ever they can get. Now they state that Spotify pays them .003 euros/play, Deezer .006 euros/play. Lets say it averages out to .0045 e/play. To keep everything in dollars, 1 euro => 1.43$ according to google, so .0045 E => 6.4 cents.

The question one can ask is this "Would they have been better off working for 9 months? Or making this album?" We can assume that as soon as they release the album they gave up music forever and went back to a 9-5 job at $60K/yr. (or not but that would be one way to look at it). In financial terms, when does this album they created give them 203K $ of value back?

A 6.4 cents/play That is 3.2M plays. Over the life of the Copyright of 75 years, that is 42K plays per year on average or 115 plays per day. So if they had 115 Spotify/Deezer fans who played one of those nine songs every day, they would earn back exactly as much money as they had 'not made' by not working 9-5. Conversely they would have to sell 29,000 albums on Amazon or 22,500 albums on iTunes to earn back the same amount of money they would have made.

So a couple of things that are also important. First, they don't have to do anything to manufacture copies of the album. And secondly, their time is available to add another album to this 'stream'. (if the financial analysis of making the this one pans out).

What this illustrates is that music is about the long tail, not the up front. If you make back all your investment in making an album in the first year, then your 10 year rate of return will be better than any other investment you could possibly make. What is more you can keep feeding albums into the system at what is your marginal cost of living (eating, thinking, composing, recording). This multiplies your revenue stream going forward.

The record companies used to play an interesting game with musicians, it worked like this:

Give us the 75 year rights to this music and we'll pay you a big chunk of change right now.

Now the criminality was that the record companies created accounting systems which obfuscated additional revenue to the point of not paying the artist anything. However in this world its quite different. If these guys turn into a 'huge success' and sell a million copies of their album on Amazon their are going to make nearly $5M on a $270K investment. In the past they might get $50K in 'upfront royalties' and then never see any of that $5M.

One thing they might do is sell the 'rights' to this album for $203,000. They are revenue neutral at that point and if the album does poorly they are protected from 'losing' money but if it does well they don't stand to gain from that. Risk arbitrage, its what VCs do, it is what music companies do, its what you and I do when we fill up our gas tank at half full rather than wait until the car is empty.

Being a musician is hard work. And early on when you are finding your voice and your fans, its not very profitable (in fact if you don't love doing it you shouldn't because if you die early all you will have to show for it will be memories of creating that music.) However on the flip side, down the road, it can be hugely profitable with little if any additional investment. You develop a following and your numbers get better, no need to go out can cut down additional vinyl trees :-) or schedule another "pressing" of your album.

It is this sea change that musicians need to understand, if you don't 'sign' with a label you are keeping control of your profits and managing the risk yourself. If you do sign with a label you can probably get more money up front but you don't benefit from the upside. Distributors make money on leveraging things like PR where it costs the same to promote 5 different albums at radio stations as it does to promote one. They work to amp the distribution so that they make more money. As a musician/owner you can do that but its not as efficient. The better news for musician is that the long tail money ends up in their pockets if they keep the rights, people underestimate that but it can get to be serious cash.

It will be interesting to follow these guys as they develop to see how it works out.

burrokeet 3 days ago 3 replies      
If the band members are also the authors/composers of their recorded material, they will receive slightly more than what is suggested here, since they will also be due mechanical and/or performance royalties from various services.

That being said, it's the best/worst time to be a musical artist - you can distribute yourself online (the biggest music marketplace) and receive a MUCH larger chunk of the revenue than ever before. At the same time, you are only going to sell 24 albums, because it takes a label or label-like organization to sell records, and because of the former point, you are now participating in a marketplace with a selection of products an order of magnitude greater than a decade ago.

ivancdg 3 days ago 1 reply      
Spotify is such a rip-off for musicians; I love the way these guys highlighted that in a light-hearted way. But the economics of the alternatives are not going to make anyone rich, either.

For future reference: if you sign-up via CDBaby, there is a one-time fee of $35 (or $55 if they create your bar-code) and you are set-up with iTunes, Amazon, etc, without a yearly fee. Even though Derek's gone it's still a good deal.

Also, you should seriously consider contacting Magnatune. If they like your music you can be on all of those platforms for free. And John Buckman is a very nice guy. Et en plus il parle le français comme toi et moi.

pherk 3 days ago 2 replies      
Seems like a very tough business to be in. Guess, how do upcoming bands manage to make it through given that most people on the band are pretty much committed to it full time.
neeleshs 3 days ago 1 reply      
Zero knowledge about the music industry here, how about a subscription based startup? I even have a name for it - asongamonth.com. Any signed up solo artist/band promises at least a song per month and you as a listener pay half a dollar or a dollar a month as subscription per solo artist/band. You can chose to pay for only the bands you like, switch them whenever you want to.
ivancdg 3 days ago 3 replies      
The Earbits guys (frighteningly prolific bloggers) wrote about Spotify recently:


"The service may do a good job fighting illegal file sharing but it also does a great job of eliminating any motivation to buy an album that you can listen to through the service."

In Europe Spotify's been available for a while. I was in on the beta when their catalog was a lot more restricted, and it was already impressive. With the majors on board, it's hard to see the freight train stopping.

How can one reconcile how wonderful it is for consumers with the payment statements that make us musicians cringe? I think of it as all-you-can-eat iTunes for very little per month; the recent competitors/alternatives pale in comparison.

They deserve a lot of credit for building a workable model that makes iTunes look like a rip off (I hate that software).

But they further dilute the value of recorded music, which is a huge paradigm change for the music industry that will ruin the viability of many musicians.

Perhaps we can re-educate the public to value music again by taking a pledge to pay for it, à la pg-patents? Something tells me this new, 'recorded music ~ free' paradigm is here to stay.

frewsxcv 3 days ago 1 reply      
If I listen to only non-RIAA signed bands on Spotify (which I do), how exactly am I supporting major record labels?
spatten 3 days ago 1 reply      
I was hoping to see some numbers from emusic in there. I've been paying my monthly subscription for years, and I've always been curious as to how the payout split goes.

Does anyone have a link / source / info on this?

runn1ng 3 days ago 3 replies      
"..., it costs us 35 EUR/year to keep an album on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon"

Why is that? How much do you have to pay Apple, Amazon or Spotify to sell/play your music?

Valien 3 days ago 2 replies      
Now listening to a new band in Spotify. Thanks. Hope the meager cents adds up from hundreds or thousands of users.
stevewillows 3 days ago 1 reply      
The author paid too much to press those CDs.
Automate download, install, config of IE-only VM's with VirtualBox (Linux/OSX) github.com
207 points by donohoe  2 days ago   59 comments top 14
pygy_ 2 days ago 1 reply      
A small meta-comment:

xdissent[1], the author of this package, is a HN user, but he has negative karma because his fourth comment was snarky and got heavily downvoted. Even though he's aware of the ban he clings to this handle and continues to post messages seen by almost no one (he posted twice on this comment page [2,3]). The rest of the messages eversince the incident have been fine (enable "showdead" in the user control pannel if you want to read them).

Since he seems attached to the handle, it would be nice if he could be upvoted back to the positive side so that he can once again participate.

He's got three upvotable posts in history (before the ban). His karma is currently at -32. This means that he needs 11 brave souls to break even. You know what to do :).

1. http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=xdissent, comments: http://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=xdissent

2. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2955430

3. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2955411


Edit: 58 minutes later: -10. Thanks to the upvoters.

thristian 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have, on occasion, wanted to write almost exactly this script - but the thing that stopped me was that VirtualPC apparently emulates a slightly different IDE controller than VirtualBox, and so when Windows XP starts up in the new VM, it doesn't have a driver installed for the IDE controller, can't find its own hard-drive, and blue-screens. It's possible to edit the registry to install the required driver, but that requires booting into Windows... a Catch-22 if ever there was one.

I was eager to see how the problem had been solved... but apparently Windows Vista and Windows 7 don't have that particular problem, and the IE6 VM (with Windows XP) just says "IE6 support is currently disabled".

That's kind of sad; at least for the light web-development I've done, IE7 and IE8 aren't nearly as fussy and hair-pulling as IE6.

MatthewPhillips 2 days ago 6 replies      
> curl -s https://raw.github.com/xdissent/ievms/master/ievms.sh | bash

Bad trend in the open-source community. Please don't ask your users to install stuff this way. Not that you can't be trusted, it leads to people dropping their guard.

Maci 2 days ago 2 replies      
Alternatively: http://utilu.com/IECollection/

IE 1.0 to IE 8.0 as standalone versions in a single installer.

brianjolney 2 days ago 1 reply      
from the github wiki:

Rough VM size estimates:

IE7: 13GB
IE8: 8.4GB
IE9: 13GB
Currently, the script will leave the compressed RAR files in place, which means you're looking at something like 45 freaking GB if you don't prune them manually (in ~/.ievms/vhd/). This wasn't a big deal for me on my company workstation, but kinda sucks on my Macbook Air, so I'll be adding a cleanup option shortly. You probably don't need to keep the compressed files around anyway since we take a snapshot like you mentioned.

fierarul 2 days ago 1 reply      
I can't believe Microsoft is giving away free Windows licenses as long as you use the vm image for IE.

Which is basically the only reason I do have an old Windows XP vm on my Mac.

aninteger 2 days ago 0 replies      
Adding the link to download the VMs directly from Microsoft:


wiredfool 2 days ago 2 replies      
Is there a way to make this work with KVM, or is this using something special from the virtualbox distrubution to convert the .vhds?
ck2 2 days ago 2 replies      
Why not use IEtester and run all versions of IE on a vista/w7 free vmware player install?

W7 trial iso will work without a key, it will just shutdown every 30 minutes which is fine for testing purposes.

IEtester also has debugbar which sometimes is even better than some firefox tools I use.

speg 14 hours ago 0 replies      
How do you get away with saying: "With a single command, you can have IE6, IE7, IE8 and IE9 running in separate virtual machines." - when in the first paragraph it says IE6 is not supported.
RexRollman 2 days ago 2 replies      
Personally speaking, I would love to see Google release an offical, downloadable ChromeOS images that could be used with VMWare or Virtualbox. Something like that could be a real boon for some users.
ajtaylor 1 day ago 0 replies      
Only last week I downloaded the IE9 VM's mentioned here, but got the never ending BSOD-reboot loop when trying to use them in VirtualBox. This is going to make my day when I get back in the office next week!
arb99 1 day ago 0 replies      
3 hours later (slow internet) and got all 3 working perfectly on OS X (snow leopard).
hotice 1 day ago 1 reply      
Is it legal?
Rails 3.1 Gem Available rubygems.org
204 points by aaronbrethorst  5 days ago   37 comments top 17
tenderlove 5 days ago 5 replies      
Yes, I am very excited. I should have released during business hours with announcements prepared and whatnot, but I really wanted this code in people's hands. I hope that everyone enjoys this release!
nfm 5 days ago 2 replies      
Thanks to Rails core and all the contributors for yet another killer release :)

If you're new to 3.1, the following resources will help you to get started:

Release notes:


Asset pipeline:



dmix 5 days ago 3 replies      
I'm hesitant to give up on Jammit, but asset pipeline looks great.
sc00ter 4 days ago 0 replies      

Any particular reasn to only list DHH under "Authors"? (I assume the plural means more are possible...)

Perhaps a link to http://contributors.rubyonrails.org/ ?

Interestingly DHH is only #2 contrubutor overall, and number 9 this year... (by number of commits; and no, that isn't a perfect measure of contribution)

speleding 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here is something not in the release notes that people may want to watch out for: The format of the session has changed, the FlashHash class to be precise, so trying to load a browser session created on Rails 3.0 will give a marshal load error on 3.1 if it had anything in the flash.

This means you will want to change your SESSION_KEY variable to expire all sessions, otherwise users that are logged in while you upgrade can get stuck until they clear their cookies. (So I postponed the upgrade to the weekend...)

DanielKehoe 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's my walk-through "Read This Before Installing Rails 3.1" which helps in dodging pitfalls and potholes:


eddanger 5 days ago 0 replies      
The asset pipeline is s great evolution to this amazing framework. I'm looking forward to playing with this.
dasil003 4 days ago 0 replies      
This time it's no red herring like the nefarious 3.0.10 release!
CoachRufus87 4 days ago 0 replies      
You guys rock! Thanks for all the work y'all put in.
dkrich 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks! Started learning 3.1 a few months ago and loved the asset pipeline, but had a few problems getting a particular piece to work. Will have to get back to using it soon.
nkeating 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great update.. Asset Pipeline & Coffescript have quickly become indispensable.
thedjpetersen 5 days ago 0 replies      
Alright! Good work Rails core team.
tmeasday 4 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know if/when heroku will support 3.1?
sebilasse 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for the great work. After every release I wonder what's next. Is there some sort of roadmap?
jdelsman 5 days ago 0 replies      
So happy! Thanks guys! Upgrading now ;)
hankberg 4 days ago 1 reply      
How come the identity map is disabled by default?
diegogomes 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hands on. Upgrading!
Google App Engine leaves preview, new pricing google.com
195 points by endlessvoid94  4 days ago   128 comments top 37
riobard 4 days ago 5 replies      
The single most import reason that I like GAE is that it used to charge based on CPU usage, so that I could carefully optimize my web apps to reduce costs. This is also why I think cloud computing is a good thing: shared resources are generally efficiently used.

Now that GAE starts charging by instance-hours, however they are calculated, the drive to optimize is significantly reduced: I no longer have to worry about a web app's CPU usage if I have to wait for I/O anyway.

Some will say that's how we, as developers, should allocate our time to improve productivity, but the cloud platform as a whole just becomes a lot more wasteful.

And this change makes GAE much less appealing than AWS. If I'm gonna pay for instance-hours anyway, why not just launch some EC2 instances and kill them when I don't need them anymore? Sure it comes with admin costs, but at least I can migrate to another cloud provider much easier. Judging from the comments on this thread, migrating away from GAE seems very expensive, if possible at all.

krosaen 4 days ago 4 replies      
A key point seems to be:

The new pricing model charges are based on the number of instances you have running. This is largely dictated by the App Engine Scheduler, but for Python we will not be supporting concurrent requests until Python 2.7 is live. Because of this, and to allow all developers to adjust to concurrent requests, we have reduced the price of all Frontend Instance Hours by 50% until November 20th.

Our app (python runtime) is going from about $9 a month to projected $270 a month, almost entirely due to frontend instance hours. I have to think that once python 2.7 is live and concurrent users != concurrent frontends, this will get waaay more reasonable.

thurn 4 days ago 5 replies      
The trouble with App Engine is that I'm now locked in to their API. They can raise prices and I have no real recourse unless I want to rewrite a lot of code.
kkowalczyk 4 days ago 3 replies      
I'm seeing going from $0 to around $1 per day (can be as low as $0.25), all of it for CPU hours. This can be seen in billing history.

That's obviously not something to be happy about but then again an argument can be made that the introductory free quota that Google gave was very generous.

This might give Go a push - as I understand it Go is the most efficient of the supported languages which should translate into less CPU hours => less money. On the other hand, other than template parsing/substitution, my code doesn't do any CPU intensive tasks. On the other hand, the CPU hrs might count the overall overhead of the platform, which for statically linked Go will be the smallest (both Python and Java have sizable runtimes that need to be initialized at startup - according to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQtLRqqB-Kk, Java runtime is especially bad in that regard (this is towards the end of the talk in the q&a part).

ww520 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think it's unfortunate that GAE use the term instance-hour for billing, which is quite different from AWS instance-hour. GAE's instance-hour is process-instance-hour while AWS is machine-instance-hour.

The difference is quite important. In AWS, you can spin up dozens of processes in an instance. In GAE, the instance is the process. If the process is idle waiting for IO, you are still being charged. Spinning up more processes mean more instances running and more are charged.

In that sense, GAE's $0.08 per process-instance-hour is quite expensive compared to AWS's $0.085 per machine-instance-hour. "Single-thread" Python process needs multiple processes to handle multiple web requests which counted as multiple GAE instance-hours while only a single AWS instance-hour.

nir 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very disappointing. GAE for a while was for developers what Tumblr/WP.com/etc are for writers, a way to put an idea online cheaply & easily. The generous quotas made using the proprietary APIs worth it. Now it's just another PaaS.

Seems to me Google is competing in areas it'll never be really good at like social networks instead of using its core competency of running the world's biggest server farm.

sylvinus 4 days ago 3 replies      
AWS: "We'll continue to cut our prices forever"

GAE: "Almost all applications will be billed more under the new pricing"

Pick one...

andypants 4 days ago 0 replies      
What the...

The cost of my app is going from $9 per month to $200 per month. This is ridiculous...

sriramk 3 days ago 0 replies      
I just sent some mail to my old colleagues in Windows Azure. If you're working on a cloud provider, a large one or a startup, you and your biz-dev/sales team should be out there actively trying to get people dissatisfied with GAE's announcement today (and from what I hear, that is a significant number).
peteysd 4 days ago 1 reply      
Wow - According to their projections based on current usage, I'm seeing a 100x increase in my daily cost. I guess I will be migrating off of App Engine. I'm feeling pretty burned at this point.
PanosJee 4 days ago 2 replies      
We (at bugsense) have about 500k requests per day and some of the are very intensive. Currently we pay $5.40 daily and it will go up to $22. So per month with the old pricing we ll be at $162, with the new pricing we ll up to $660.
It's x4 increase and that makes it bit cheaper than EC2 for the same amount of data. If we subtract the administration cost it makes it cheaper.
The old, cheap days are gone :( But still it compares well in comparison to other popular cloud solutions.
Fizzer 4 days ago 0 replies      
If Google had said from the beginning that their pricing was discounted for the preview, I would not have had a problem with this. But given that they didn't communicate this and that the cost of switching platforms is high, this feels more like a bait and switch tactic.

My cost is only increasing about 4x, but others in this thread are seeing 20-100x increases. Changes like this impact more than GAE -- this will make me hesitant to use any platform that I can't easily migrate away from.

richardw 3 days ago 0 replies      
The source of my disappointment is that basically, they couldn't figure out how to slice and dice page serving without dumping you with the cost of a full VM. I was hoping they were committing to researching how to make that work, so if you made an efficient application you never had to worry about the infrastructure. Now, the abstractions have leaked and we have to worry about VM's. Time to update my answer here:

I guess the problem of really efficient web serving remains unsolved.

cyberfart 4 days ago 1 reply      
About the huge cost increase people mention in the comments: New cost unit is IH (Instance Hour) and GAE python scheduler has a habit of revving up new instances aggressively. To lower costs one needs to lower Max Idle Instances and -maybe depending on the situation- increase Min Pending Latency, thus lowering the Instance count (and the cost).

With the price increase and very harsh cut down on API free-quotas (plus the absence of long expected SSL on custom domains) GAE no longer seems a good option for me :/

anabanana 4 days ago 4 replies      
I have an online store that I custom developed in Python hosted in App Engine.

I'm paying around $15 a month. With the new prices I would have to pay $450 a month.

Time to migrate :(

Any recommendations for a python hosting?

ww520 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have one new app during design phase. The frontend part is going to be in GAE since I had done couple apps in GAE and familiar with it. A part of the backend will be in AWS because I need to run a custom 3rd party app. With the new pricing model, it doesn't make sense to run webapp in GAE. I'll redesign the thing to run the whole thing in AWS.
DennisP 3 days ago 0 replies      
The biggest problem I see is that they charge per datastore operation, and last I saw they were defining each entity returned as an operation.

If you were building a social network or twitter clone using the techniques they recommend in this talk:

...you could easily pull back a hundred entities each time you pull someone's feed. It'd cost you a buck for every hundred pageviews or so.

mark_l_watson 4 days ago 2 replies      
I just read all of the comments and one thing that no one mentioned explicitly:

You can still use a free instance that is 6.5 hours a day, 1 gig of datastore, 1 gig each of incoming and outgoing bandwidth, etc. Low volume sites should easily be able to stay in the free zone.

Free instances had better have a low loading request time (e.g., for Java apps, use Objectify instead of JPA, etc.).

Assuming I understand the new billing correctly, I can get a paid plan for $9/month + $36/month for one reserved always on instance. I also get 24 hours/day of free on demand front end instances to handle a bit more traffic.

I think that a paid for plan still gets the other free quotas of a free plan and you pay each day for any use over each free limit. Is this right? It looks like you can have 1 always on FE instance, and 1 or 2 on demand FE instances, and a reasonable about of resource use for less than a $100/month.

papaf 3 days ago 0 replies      
Meanwhile, VPS and dedicated server providers are getting cheaper, faster and more competitive.

I'd imagine that the majority of the people on GAE have found that they don't actually need to scale as much as they thought when they signed up to it.

flocial 4 days ago 0 replies      
This pretty much confirms my reservations of investing in a closed stack. However, it's really a shame that Google didn't take the time to provide a clean migration path for people to take their apps out of the platform so they can scale up to a regular hosted or self-hosted application.
ayanb 4 days ago 0 replies      
The difference in features between the free and the paid ($9/app) plans are

1)Usage based pricing, 2) Infinitely scalable and 3) an SLA

philwise 3 days ago 0 replies      
I would see this as a move towards 'enterprise' (yes I know people here hate that word), but look at the url...

$9/app/month means that it doesn't really make sense for tiny hobby sites any more: it is comparable in cost to a tiny VPS host, and my VPS currently handles 19 domains.

The place where GAE makes most sense is the 'line of business' app that is basically just a set of forms backed by a database. Those kind of apps don't have any complex things going on that are going to require integration with existing code or custom server configuration: both places where the current crop of PaaS offerings risky right now.

Line of business apps currently require lots of manual labour from DBAs and IS, so paying $9/month to run the HR application is going to be a pretty good deal.

jay_kyburz 4 days ago 0 replies      
The most disappointing thing for me was that the little bit of banner advertising I have on the games is no longer going to cover the cost of the hosting. It was nice a thought that the games could sit there forever and people could enjoy them for free.
ConceitedCode 4 days ago 1 reply      
App Engine seems like a great platform, but unfortunately it's a pain in the ass to switch away if you decide you want to. Unless I'm building a small/quick app I do not want to be 'locked in' to App Engine.
ww520 4 days ago 2 replies      
I don't understand how the instance-hours are being calculated. One of my apps has the old 2.5 CPU-hours/day to the new 34 instance-hours/day calculation. The app is not CPU-intensive and 2.5 hours of work sound reasonable. It certainly is not hogging the CPU 34 hours the whole day. Does the new instance-hour include the process idle time of app?
fernandotakai 4 days ago 0 replies      
One app I manage is going from $0.05 a day to as high as $4.00.

That's really too much.

markokocic 3 days ago 1 reply      
Everyone is talking about huge cost increase for python applications, but I'd like to know what are the numbers for Java applications, since Java is multithreaded?

Is the price increase still tenfold, or something more acceptable?

yoknapatawpha 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's obvious that there are many people who are upset about this price hike, how poorly it has been explained (showing "this is how much more we'll be charging you really soon!" side-by-side with the current pricing really doesn't help), and that it feels like a bait and switch given how AppEngine was originally sold on the basis of scaling against CPU usage rather than instance hours.

Telling us that Python 2.7 may reduce the cost multiplication factor by a bit just isn't very helpful.

Additionally, it also makes Google look a little bit stupid. We're supposed to accept that a world-leading company in the field of data processing, storage and server farms weren't able to determine ballpark running costs for their selling off their excess machine hours until now? Pfff.

In light of the fact that GAE hasn't exactly been the most stable platform, technical support has been untimely and poor, high priority bugs can stay acknowledged for years, a timeline for SSL support is still non-existant, and full search capabilities are only now impending at some unknown date (and how much will that cost when it finally arrives?), it really does make them look like rank amateurs.

The AWS team must be laughing.

tantalor 4 days ago 0 replies      
If your app can survive on 1 instance, but occasionally uses 2 or more, you should immediately change your "max idle instances" to 1 so you won't be charged for the extra instances.

The new free limit for frontends is 24 CPU hours, or 1 instance. I was seeing my frontend time in the 25-30 hour range each day.

chrisboesing 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just a quick note: App Engine hasn't left preview.

This[1] blog post from today says at the end: "[...]and we hope you find these tools useful as we get closer to our goal of leaving preview!"

They just rolled out the new pricing.

[1]: http://googleappengine.blogspot.com/2011/08/50-credit-for-ne...

2AM 4 days ago 0 replies      
After I read the email from Google, I didn't think the impact would be huge on my small app that just started gaining users, but it was a little shock, I headed to HN to find out if other people are affected or my app was badly written. I think everyone is affected.

I will be moving my app, if anyone else likes to use a freelancer, please drop me a line: varese4@gmail.com

jasonkiefer 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a total bait and switch. On the same day that Appengine took our site down for 18 hours with no apology(we support 3000 daily visitors with an average time on site of 13 min). They announced that costs would increase from $240 per month to $6000. SIX THOUSAND! This is truly the definition of evil if you ask me.
datastorebackup 3 days ago 0 replies      
Those who are talking about being 'locked in' to App Engine, there are solutions, like http://www.datastorebackup.com

The essence of your data is saved. Nothing to worry about then..

And regarding the pricing... We'll see.. I'm not sure WHEN exactly it's going to be shifted - does anyone know?

jbaker 4 days ago 1 reply      
There has been a lot of confusion and complaining about the price increases, and this is understandable given the way it has come about. This is one of those oh so obvious things, but you just have to look at it and evaluate.
Besides scalability, app engine can be a great platform from a rapid app development standpoint. It has other nice aspects in addition to the scalability.

And don't forget to look into what may be able to be done to minimize some of the quota impact. Good design changes may be able to have a noticeable positive effect there.

Have a look at AppScale if you are looking at moving off the platform. That may be a way to get 80% of the way there with less monumental changes.

thebootstrapper 3 days ago 0 replies      
Migrate to EC2 with Appscale is a better way?
EastSmith 3 days ago 0 replies      
When is Python 2.7 coming to GAE?
eridius 3 days ago 0 replies      
Strange, there's no mention of the Go runtime on the pricing page. I realize it's still a beta runtime, but it's still odd to leave it out.
       cached 5 September 2011 04:11:01 GMT