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Stripe: instant payment processing for developers stripe.com
1222 points by pc  4 days ago   345 comments top 103
markbao 4 days ago  replies      
Stripe pretty much takes payment processing kicking and screaming into 2011. Merchant accounts are a serious drag. I've opened a few and they've been nothing but headaches (especially if you're young"nobody trusts you.) Couple that with getting a gateway account, dealing with credit checks, monthly fees, monthly minimums, slow people in the payments industry, PCI compliance...

Stripe takes payments and put them behind a simple API. No crappiness and 1099 rules of PayPal. No more reconsidering the meaning of life like back when I had a merchant account. The only downside I see is the 7-day rolling batch (deposit to bank), versus the nightly batch from the merchant account, though I assume that is for fraud protection.

Maybe if you're charging millions of dollars, you should use a regular merchant account. If you aren't, I'm telling you now: don't even bother with a merchant account. Just use Stripe.

physcab 4 days ago 4 replies      
Stripe is a game changer. I've been using it for a few months and honestly its the best API I've ever used. The documentation is clear and concise. Its customized to your account so you can literally copy and paste and see the result. Just like it says, it gets out of your way. I was up and running and accepting recurring payments in less than an hour or so. I actually began to think of larger "swing for the fence" type of ideas that I would have never considered if I were stuck to using Paypal because it was so painless. Looking forward to them eating every other payment processor's lunch.
swilliams 4 days ago 3 replies      
"You don't need a merchant account or gateway."

That's a killer feature right there. I've been considering using Braintree for a project, but seeing this is really making me reconsider.

psadauskas 4 days ago 3 replies      
Their signup process threw me for a loop. You just click into the dashboard, then fill in a name and password later. It looks like just visiting the front page gives you an account, because the sample code is already using some generated API tokens.

I've considered doing something similar for my own side project, but went with the more standard sign up because I was worried it would be confusing (as it was to me, for a few minutes). Do you guys think this is becoming more mainstream, at least amongst developers and the tech-savvy, that other projects could get away with this? I'm curious how many support requests Stripe gets because of this.

Edited to add: How does this work for the non-logged-in state? I already have an account, and the browser cookie expires (or manually delete the cookies). I'll go to the dashboard, and be logged in as "anonymous", and have to sign out and sign in again as the right user. Seems like an extra incongruous step.

marcamillion 4 days ago 0 replies      
Been a beta user for a while, and I love their Ruby API. I used to use Braintree...while they were a good merchant account provider - it was overkill for what I needed.

I much prefer only paying when I make money. I don't NEED a merchant account. I just need to be able to collect money from my customers in an automated way. Stripe makes that relatively easy.

Their API has a quick feedback loop, where you can execute a transaction from the command-line very quickly (for Ruby anyway...I imagine it would be the same for other languages).

Their support is also awesome - could be because they only had beta users. But either way, awesome service so far and much better to deal with than a 'traditional' payment solution for those webappers out there (in my experience).

Not affiliated with the company in anyway, other than a customer.

pitdesi 4 days ago 4 replies      
EDIT: removed so as to not hijack another announcement. Was not the intention, just wanted to offer something people thought was useful.
almost 4 days ago 2 replies      
US only at the moment. Anyone know if they have plans for the UK? I would dearly love to say goodbye to PayPal forever.
ryanwaggoner 4 days ago 2 replies      
What about lock-in? This is awesome for getting started fast, but what happens when you have 100,000 subscribers and you want to switch to Braintree or someone to get some better pricing?
kloncks 4 days ago 0 replies      
Amazing product. We're building an eCommerce platform (http://www.kout.me) and have been building our payments on top of stripe.

Very amazing concept and something that we've needed for a long time. The best thing is the developer focus behind it; it's clear from the beginning that this came to fruition with fellow developers in mind.

PedroCandeias 4 days ago 0 replies      
I know this has already been stated and it doesn't add much to the discussion. However, I feel it's important to add my little two cents just so the Stripe team (and others in the same space) can hear it (again):

Please, please, PLEASE make a payments solution like this available outside the US. Europe, for instance, still lives in the dark ages as far as online payments are concerned and has plenty of startups who would jump at the opportunity to use Stripe.

Erwin 4 days ago 5 replies      
I'm not sure about avoiding PCI compliance so easily. You're embedding their JS library on your page. That page has to be secure, otherwise if someone can inject malicious Javascript they can sniff the CC data as soon as they are entered.

You might not be storing the data on your servers, or transmitting the data directly, but security failures in your setup can cause the data to be leaked.

Compare this to sending the user to an external website via a redirect that lets the user at least verify that they're really talking to PayPal or whoever.

flixic 4 days ago 4 replies      
US only. Well, I kind of knew it before even hitting FAQ.

A bit of a rant here, but it's crazily difficult to do so many interesting things when you don't live in top-20 country (Lithuania here)

Stripe? Nope.

BrainTree? Nope.

Recurly? Nope.

Something else... Likely, Nope.

And so, the only way to get paid is to deal with some of the most expensive and oldest gateways and merchant accounts.

Oh, and:

Hulu? Nope.

iTunes? Nope, but we do have App Store.

Netflix? Nope.

Spotify? Nope.

Pandora, Rdio, ... Nope.

...Amazon? Mostly nope.

And so, the only way to buy or stream media is to buy CDs and DVDs for crazy prices.

Sigh. Rant is over.

Stripe, I know that may take years, but please, don't forget the little guys.

adriand 4 days ago 2 replies      
This looks really, really nice. Support for Canada would be wonderful and pretty much essential for me to be able to use it. The other thing I'm wondering about is ACH payments - will Stripe handle those; if not, is it planned? Also, would Stripe be suitable for a card-holder present situation, e.g. if you wanted to use it for web-based point of sale software?
acabal 4 days ago 1 reply      
Man... I literally just bit the bullet and opened a merchant account and gateway at Auth.net last week, and the second I do, FeeFighters comes out with their own superior gateway, and Stripe launches. Talk about bad timing for me :(
weixiyen 4 days ago 0 replies      
Best API ever for a payments processor - period. It literally takes a couple hours to set up begin collecting payments. If I could buy some shares right now I would. I've convinced 2 people to use it and both are in love. This startup is money.
seanstickle 4 days ago 2 replies      
Does Stripe allow delayed payments? That is, people put in their credit card details, Stripe authorizes the card but doesn't capture the amount charged, then we can approve/decline the transaction, and then Stripe can capture or void the transaction?

We have a situation where we need, for legal reasons, to verify that people giving us money are allowed to do so, and we really don't want to have to reverse the charge after the fact if we find out they're not eligible to pay us.

Otherwise, the system looks great, and I want to use it right now.

rumpelstiltskin 4 days ago 0 replies      
My only concern is that Stripe will be such a hit that they'll be bought out by someone like Paypal. Which would suck since the point was to move away from Paypal to Stripe.
pingswept 4 days ago 1 reply      
I mean this as a serious question: when Stripe has 10,000 customers next year, why will they be less capricious and infuriating than Paypal?

Is there a fundamental difference, or does Paypal just have a ~15-year history of sucking, while Stripe doesn't?

russ 4 days ago 0 replies      
Another difference: Samurai's front page is far more confusing.
PStamatiou 4 days ago 0 replies      
We've been using Stripe for Picplum.com since the middle of the summer. These guys are insane -- they saw an error before we even did and emailed us saying they were working on fixing it. Top notch team.
Sthorpe 4 days ago 0 replies      
Stripe, recently saved me. I am still fighting with my merchant processor *First Data who is awful. I talked to Stripe via Sean Harper with FeeFighters and I was up and rolling in 20 minutes. Yes, Jaw drop fast. Most payment processors require at least two weeks to be setup. Their UI/UX is beautiful and simple. When I need help I get it immediately. I love this company. :)
sabalaba 4 days ago 0 replies      
I saw this on the front page and had to upvote--
I've been using Stripe since early June and can say that it is the best payment platform to develop on, period. It's just lightyears ahead in terms of development time, PCI compliance issues, and overhead. Not only that, but the guys at Stripe are extremely responsive to customer service questions and issues.

These guys are trustworthy professionals and gentlemen.

andrewingram 4 days ago 1 reply      
Even though the credit card details never hits the webserver of the host site, does the fact that the fields are on the site rather than in a secure iframe not mean that there's still a PCI issue? Namely that if a malicious party manages to find a way to inject javascript into the page they can read any form field they want, regardless of whether it's being submitted elsewhere.

This was true of Braintree (the form posts to a remote url rather than to a server run by the site), how does Stripe alleviate this issue?

Hisoka 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just wanted to say you guys were one of the few "startups" I actually gave my email to in the beta page when you announced it. I could care less about the next social app, or next reminder app but as soon as I saw your value proposition, I KNEW I had to be notified when it was out. Thanks for making something that actually solves a crucial problems. This is much much needed, and you guys are definitely on your way to success
BSousa 4 days ago 0 replies      
First, I wish the folks from Stripe all the best, and the only thing I hoped was International companies support.

But as anyone tried Saasy (http://saasy.com/) ? They are the subscription service of Fastspring. They don't require a merchant account and support international vendors. While I haven't tried them yet, when I used non-subscription payments they were the best (www.fastpring.com). They are also very well regarded by indie developers so their subscription service may be quite good.

whichdan 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm comparing payment processing options for a very straightforward SaaS app. I was heavily leaning toward Braintree, but Stripe and Samurai seem easier/cheaper. Is there a strong reason to go with Braintree? I'm not sure if having my own merchant account makes a big difference.

The pricing for 1,000 monthly users looks (roughly) like:

(edit: I did the % based on $9/transaction)

Stripe: $329/mo @ $3,948/yr

Samurai: $358/mo @ $4,296/yr

Braintree: $487.90/mo @ $5,854.80/yr

ThaddeusQuay2 3 days ago 1 reply      
It seems great, until you read the fine print, which I did, in its entirety, and what I saw is quite chilling, in terms of fees, fines, and other undefined costs incurred when things go horribly wrong.

"When a Chargeback is issued, you are immediately liable to Stripe for the full amount of payment of the Chargeback plus any associated Fees, fines, expenses or penalties (including those assessed by the Networks or our payment processors). You agree that Stripe may recover these amounts by debiting by means of ACH debit of your Bank Account associated with your Stripe Service Account, debiting your Reserve Account, or setting off any amounts owed to you by us. If we are unable to recover funds related to a Chargeback for which you are liable, you will pay us the full amount of the Chargeback immediately upon demand. You agree to pay all costs and expenses, including without limitation attorneys' fees and other legal expenses, incurred by or on behalf of us in connection with the collection of any unpaid Chargebacks unpaid by you."


I >do< like the positives of Stripe, but I'd feel more comfortable if I knew how Stripe would handle specific extremes, such as the one about which I had recently asked.


wylie 4 days ago 0 replies      
In Patrick Collison's presentation at Startup Bootcamp last weekend, he really brought home the social impact that a payment processing company can have in the third world. Even though it's US only for now, this team has huge goals and the experience and vision to back it up.

Their goal is to abstract away the complexity of payments, especially internationally. I wish them luck, and can't wait to use it.

DanBlake 4 days ago 1 reply      
Does Stripe let us take our data with us if we want to leave for another processor? If I build a recurring revenue business on Stripe, am I screwed if they hike up their fees by not being able to move the credit card #'s elsewhere?
abcd_f 4 days ago 1 reply      
I was under the impression that if my website is asking for a credit card number that is later used for a transaction, then it needs to be PCI compliant. Perhaps, it is a Canadian specific, but this need for the PCI compliance is the major selling argument in favor of hosted payment services.

And on a related note - is Stripe available outside of the US?

(edit) Ah, found it.

  > Do I need to be in the United States to use Stripe?
> Yes.

Damn. Bummer.

robflynn 4 days ago 0 replies      
Congratulations on your official launch. I've been using Stripe for a while now and have chatted with several of you in the campfire room. You have always been extremely helpful, no matter what wildass time of the night I may decide to poke my head into the room.

I have nothing but good things to say about your service.

Thank you.

kylebragger 4 days ago 0 replies      
Been using them for a while now on Forrst and Tinyproj and they're downright awesome. Smart folks, super developer friendly product.
old-gregg 3 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome company, we're at Mailgun have been using them for a long time and couldn't be happier.
seanharper 4 days ago 0 replies      
Respect. Stripe is a very smart company solving a big problem.
destraynor 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is an incredible product built by a team of amazing developers, solving a serious problem.

I will enjoy watching their success.

alexcoomans 4 days ago 0 replies      
Been playing with the API as a beta tester and the docs truly were written by devs. Clean, concise, and gets straight to the point, and they have example code in multiple languages. Plus some really awesome customer support - overall Stripe really rocks.
smilliken 3 days ago 0 replies      
We've been using Stripe at MixRank, and refreshing how easy it was to set up. This is how easy accepting payments _should_ be. The team is excellent too; they've been extremely helpful so far.
david5342 4 days ago 1 reply      
Sounds nice, but the bottom line for me is that a typical $47 credit card sale, which always costs me $1.33 at PayPal, would cost me $1.66 at Stripe. Not much difference, true, but discouraging. I have no need of a fancy API, either--PayPal lets me specify the basics and fire off a simple Post from my PHP code. PayPal takes care of receiving financial information so I remain clean. Just my experience; yours may vary.
phzbOx 4 days ago 5 replies      
Wondering when it will work in Canada? Also, how does it work "without merchant account or gateway" ?
seanmccann 3 days ago 0 replies      
I got this awesome handwritten letter in the mail today from Stripe. https://p.twimg.com/AaoSX5BCQAAx4T9.jpg
frankdenbow 4 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome that the payouts are now much faster. That was the one thing keeping me on the fence but will be using it right away for StartupThreads.com
avree 4 days ago 1 reply      
Stripe looks awesome for small scale business. At large scale, Braintree still has cheaper pricing (http://www.braintreepayments.com/pricing) and the monthly cost is negligible.
debaserab2 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm guessing that the target audience is solo developers that don't qualify for the volume discounts that every other payments vendor/gateway offers.

As lovely as this API looks, not offering a volume discount is a complete dealbreaker for my business. There's no way I could justify eating an extra ~1% per transaction just so my API integration goes more smoothly and I don't have to deal with the headaches of a merchant account (and while I would call that process anything but smooth, I don't seem to have the awful experiences of some of the commenters here -- just chance, I guess).

The cost/benefit to a business that does any significant volume online just isn't there for this.

prayag 4 days ago 0 replies      
Stripe is simply amazing. We've been using them for many weeks now and things just work. Setting up payments was so much easier.
ednc 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is an amazing service. I've been researching all of this for a project I am advising on. Merchant Accounts, gateways, fee here,fee there, PCI - it can make your head explode.

It looks like these guys have done it right, and finally hidden the layers friction, banking (and open palms) for us.

Nice Work!

One Nit if anyone from Stripe is reading - it was a bit hard to find the answer to "How & When do I get paid". There is a small blurp on the pricing page (still doesn't say how), but nothing in the FAQ or Docs. Please spell this out a bit more.

megaman821 4 days ago 1 reply      
Can you fetch any meta data on a customer's saved card? For example if a single customer has four saved cards you might want to present it as:
* Visa ending in 1234
* MasterCard ending in 5678

Also, when a customer's card is expiring how are they prompted to enter an non-expiring card?

csallen 4 days ago 0 replies      
Been using Stripe for Taskforce for a few months now. Stellar API, stellar service.
jfruh 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not a developer, but I am considering selling things through my website and maybe also selling things in person outside any shop. Is there any particular reason I would pay a developer to build this into my site rather than just using Paypal (which I've used for years and had no big complaints with) and/or Square?
ww520 4 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting. Is there an end-to-end demo from the user's perspective? Do the users know they are storing the CC info on Stripe? Or they think my site handles everything and is responsible for everything (privacy, etc)?
BrandonDC 4 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like a great service. Too bad I can't use it, since I'm a Canadian.

It gets really tiring to see interesting new services launch that refuse to take my money because I live in a different country. I'm hoping that it's something non-trivial that is preventing them from operating in countries like Canada and the UK, and I look forward to using the service once they are able to offer it to me.

jules 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is awesome. The big question is: how are you going to deal with fraud? Fraud policies false positives is largely what makes people hate PayPal.
rick888 4 days ago 1 reply      
I have a problem with using merchant startups. If they go out of business, what happens to my clients? If I have thousands of clients, I would not want to be forced to get all of their credit card info again (since I wouldn't be storing any of that info).

Although I hate using the big guys, at least I know they will be around in 5+ years.

bherms 4 days ago 0 replies      
Quick suggestion... I tried to share on Facebook and didn't get an image. Set this in your <head> so it looks better when shared:

<link rel="image_src" type="image/png" href="PATH TO IMAGE" />

<link rel="image_src" type="image/jpg" href="PATH TO IMAGE" />

julian37 4 days ago 2 replies      
This looks amazing. @boucher, sounds like support for Canada and the UK is in the pipeline, how about other EU countries such as Germany?

In the meantime, can somebody recommend a (vaguely) similar service in/for Germany, or otherwise an old-fashioned payment processor that's less painful to deal with than others?

drtse4 4 days ago 0 replies      
Something that is really needed, looking forward to the availability outside the states.
city41 4 days ago 1 reply      
If a Stripe employee is reading this, tiny suggestion: I just shared the URL to stripe on both Facebook and G+. On G+, the nice little blueprint icon showed up as the thumbnail. But on Facebook, no icon at all making the post far less noticable in people's feeds. Just a tiny thing that will help the spreading of the word.
krosaen 4 days ago 1 reply      
looks great, though recurly has met my needs so far, not sure what would make me consider porting over to something new
Iv 4 days ago 0 replies      
Good to see an alternative to paypal, but instead of paying 3% to a transaction central, I'll still offer a 5% discount to anyone who pays me through bitcoin.
Bartlet 4 days ago 2 replies      
I operate in what the credit card processors consider to be a "high risk industry". It's nearly impossible for myself or my competitors to get a merchant account without a reserve. In other words, for every $1 we charge, the merchant bank holds X% in reserve (until we hit a certain threshold). Thus, if we tried to defraud customers by selling bad products and then "disappearing," the merchant bank could use the reserve to refund customers.

So, with that as a preface, how will Stripe deal with chargebacks? It seems like it would be very easy to set up a scam, e.g. a merchant sells phony inventory and then "disappears" when customers complain.

phatbyte 4 days ago 1 reply      
Stripe was like love at first sight, it was exactly what I was looking for a loooong time, but I can't use it for now apparently :(

Two questions: My company is an LLC and I have a valid SSN, however my bank account is in Portugal, can I still apply for stripe ?

If not, do you have plan to support EU countries like Portugal ? thanks

_corbett 4 days ago 0 replies      
echoing the excitement for the international expansion.
smoyer 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've been watching Stripe for a future project that is looking more and more likely ... but this looks so good, I might do the project just to have a reason to use Stripe! (j/k)

Can't wait to see how the international version works.

carsonm 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. Excited. After watching PintPay toy with my emotions, I'm glad someone did it up right. I hope they've got a viable model. The market is positively starving for something like this.
eoghan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Stripe is going to be huge. Theirs is a MASSIVE market, waiting too long to be disrupted. Can't wait to use the service.
mcantor 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is this real? Am I dreaming? This sounds too good to be true. Someone pinch me, please. (Is there an app for that?)
alexpogosyan 4 days ago 2 replies      
I was very excited reading their faq until I realized it's US only service.

Can't wait to see you guys expand internationally. Best of luck.

lvh 4 days ago 0 replies      
We're incorporated in Hong Kong. I'm beginning to think we should launch a US subsidiary just to take credit cards...
Kilimanjaro 4 days ago 0 replies      
Just curious, how does the gambling industry manage payments? I've been thinking about building a poker saloon and would like to know how to get players to put their money on the table, so to speak.
neovive 4 days ago 1 reply      
Stripe looks great and is definitely at the top of my list. Does anyone know what name shows up on the customers statement? Is it customizable to something that includes your company name (e.g. Stripeyour_name_here)?
neovive 4 days ago 1 reply      
Stripe looks great and is definitely at the top of my list. Does anyone know what name shows up on the customers statement? Is it customizable to something that includes your company nane (e.g. Stripeyour_name_here)?
mariust 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hope you go international as soon as possible there is a lot of good potential around this. I just hate the way paypal has recurring billing setup, the documentation is not 100% completed in paypal and I had to loose a couple of hours to ge around an error that was saying basically: " there are 1000 things that could go wrong ", the problem is that I was missing a field that I had to submit to them, the docs war not saying anything about it, but with the help of good old Google.
Go stripe
mschen 4 days ago 1 reply      
Not to take away from the product, which I think is pretty awesome, but I do foresee a rather sticky issue should the company blow up somewhere down the line; the logo is rather reminiscent of that of my former employer Deutsche Bank's, and I wouldn't put it past the multinational financial behemoth to take notice, with potential financial consequences, especially as Stripe pushes its product internationally. For reference:


rednaught 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is the TOS(Terms of Service) a work in progress? Currently "not found."


clistctrl 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you. Pay pal should be obsolete now.
chexton 4 days ago 1 reply      
Awesome. I have been waiting to have a better look at Stripe, it sounds so great.

I have a question for someone who might know: how can Stripe operate without requiring it's users to sign up for a merchant account? Do they hold what is known as a 'master merchant account'?

I am just curious as these sound notoriously difficult to get and might explain why it's US only for now, not to mention the AML considerations of letting users sign up and accept payments so simply.

This all just makes what they are doing even more impressive :).

mise 4 days ago 0 replies      
Can someone please explain to me how 2checkout couldn't do this? For example they claimed to be pushed by the card companies to become a "reseller", resulting in the fact that their checkout pages cannot be customized. What gives?
robjohnson 4 days ago 0 replies      
Goodbye recurly and chargify. You're no longer the prettiest girls at the dance.
MrMike 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't have anything to contribute other than a thank you to the folks behind Stripe for trying to fix this seriously broken system.
snorkel 4 days ago 1 reply      
Question for boucher: Can stripe be used for affiliate payments, perhaps by issuing credits?
wheelerwj 4 days ago 1 reply      
I tried stripe a couple months ago and I was unimpressed. Mostly it was the pricing ( i think at the time it was 3.9% + 30 cents ) because I was looking to do smaller transactions $4.99 a month subscription.

But I got into the beta anyways and started playing with it. Within 10 minutes a rep was emailing me trying to get more information and that I wasn't ready to give out.

I ended up going with Paypal's micro transaction processing.

gwoo 4 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent API and fast support. These guys are gonna go far.
thepumpkin1979 4 days ago 1 reply      
off-topic: Stripe looks really nice and I wish I could use it but sadly I'm outside USA. Does anyone knows a service like this that doesn't require a bank account? Let's say I want to charge people in USA but I don't have a bank account in USA, then I would transfer the money to Paypal or something. Any thoughts?
BadiPod 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is exactly what I have been looking for. I only wish you guys had a micropayments model as well. Any future plans of that?
blckcld 2 days ago 0 replies      
this looks amazing but i cant use this until you support european/canadian/australian payments. both of the e-commerce stores i run get international orders every week.
zealoushacker 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think that aside from the lack of support for marketplace, like https://www.wepay.com/developer/usecases/marketplace Stripe is awesome.

Any plans to add marketplace support in the near term?

Also are you guys PCI compliant yet?

brandong 4 days ago 1 reply      
I see the Getting Started developers intro, but I'm having trouble visualizing what this can look like purely from the customers side. Do you have any live implementations you can link to as an example of a Stripe integration?
showkhill 4 days ago 0 replies      
Well done lads! Just on their customer service - really great. I'm a novice developer hacking together my first webapp and the people I dealt with at stripe were excellent, very patient and helpful. Best of luck with it.
arisey 4 days ago 1 reply      
Will strip offer hosted page in the near future? We are currently using Spreedly's hosted page for customer to input their credit card info so that we don't have to worry about SSL and other security issues?
kilink 3 days ago 1 reply      
Any plans for supporting a DBA (doing business as) field as part of the API? Having only one identity associated with
the Stripe account wouldn't cut it for us.
peanutus 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a processing volume limit? Will Stripe be verifying customer orders?
llch 4 days ago 0 replies      
Having the sample code right there on the landing page is the most compelling thing for developers, when the customers are developers.
becomevocal 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you Stripe. We will become good friends.
BadiPod 4 days ago 0 replies      
Are you guys looking for investors?
geek777 4 days ago 0 replies      
Amazing product, just curious about which font was used in the stripe logo?
damir 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really wish I could use this in EU.
lsh123 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just make sure you still do your PCI compliance audit if you use Stripe.
theseanstewart 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm all over this as soon as Freshbooks supports it.
DistortedRhymes 4 days ago 0 replies      
Please come to Australia! We need you!
BryanB55 4 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone here use WHMCS? (Whmcs.com) I'm curious if Stripe will work with it since it doesn't send the CC# through the server.
tonio09 4 days ago 0 replies      
Bitcoin charges 0.01% @:)
kentf 4 days ago 0 replies      
kaushalc 4 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like the site is down??
rshm 4 days ago 0 replies      
2.9% and 7 days. if you are still using it, you are infant in this entire thing.
Bitbucket now rocks Git bitbucket.org
652 points by amitparikh  22 hours ago   161 comments top 28
johnthedebs 22 hours ago 6 replies      
This is great news, very exciting for people who need a nice place to stash all their private git repos but didn't want to upgrade their GitHub plans for not-that-important projects. Very interesting that they've decided to compete directly too.

I wonder if/how GitHub will respond. I strongly prefer their UI and already have a paid plan, but I find myself shuffling repos within the confines of that plan rather than stomaching the (admittedly not very big) upgrade cost since many of the projects aren't super important. I understand why they do it, but I just don't like that they place an arbitrary restriction on the number of private repos.

LeafStorm 22 hours ago  replies      
You know, I actually expected that the opposite would happen: GitHub would start offering Mercurial hosting.

Because Git isn't what attracts most people to GitHub. It's the sheer fact that GitHub is frickin' HUGE and has lots of people who will show up, fork your project, and send you a pull request. I love Bitbucket, but honestly if GitHub added Mercurial support I would probably move all the way to GitHub because of the size of the community.

GitHub is already pretty firmly entrenched in the Git community. I will say, however, that Bitbucket has one primary advantage over GitHub: Unlimited private repositories, with the cost being based on how many collaborators you have. If Bitbucket really promotes this angle, I could see a lot of small development teams moving to Bitbucket, and possibly taking their talent with them. So, if Bitbucket really pushes the "unlimited private repositories" angle, then they could begin taking back market share from GitHub.

ollysb 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Free unlimited private repos for up to 5 users; with competition like that maybe we'll see github improve it's pricing.
sosuke 22 hours ago 0 replies      
The only reason I went with Bitbucket over Github for my own source control was the availability of free private repositories that Github charges for. Now I've got the best of both source control solutions!
cheald 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm now a BitBucket user. I'll keep using GitHub for my open source stuff, but you betcha that my private repos are going on BitBucket. I'd love to see GitHub step up and compete here, but I'm really perfectly happy to use two products for two different use cases.
mushishi 22 hours ago 1 reply      
As a daily Bitbucket user, I appreciate their efforts. But unfortunately I don't see improvement on navigation. It's quite painful to browse source code via web. If I just want to quickly look at someone's repository, I will make a lot of browsing, and it's just way too slow.

Compare it to Github's slick UI: https://github.com/blog/760-the-tree-slider

But I am optimistic Bitbucket will change it for the better.

yesimahuman 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I use GitHub mainly for private repos. I think I will actually move my private repos over to Bitbucket.

I really like GitHub Issues though. Does Bitbucket have anything similar? I don't see it on their site.

dhimes 22 hours ago 1 reply      
store every line of code you've ever wrote in one place without paying a cent

Great news (and thanks)! However, please s/wrote/written/

EDIT: I see they fixed the copy.

zemanel 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Atlassian (which recently acquired Bitbucket) is well known forJira/Confluence.

Could it be that if they might use Bitbucket as an entry point to their products? Perhaps with more integration.

Triumvark 21 hours ago 3 replies      
This has probably been asked before, but is Bitbucket really unlimited?

If I encrypt my drive, convert it to ASCII, and upload it, will they host it?

dewiz 19 hours ago 0 replies      
perhaps they should update the web site:

Thank you for signing up for Bitbucket!

You are currently on the 5 Users plan. You can always upgrade your plan to add more collaborators.

We're excited that you're getting started with Mercurial, arguably the best distributed version control system around. We've put together some great resources to get you up and running quickly so that your team can focus on building great software faster.

The Atlassian Bitbucket team

kellishaver 19 hours ago 2 replies      
Definitely going to give this a go. I have a lot of repos I'd like to keep private, but they're mostly personal projects and not worth paying more money for at GitHub.

Quick question from someone new to Bitbucket:

I have to authenticate every time I push to the repo. I've added my SSH key to the account, but I assume there's some additional configuration, such as how github has you add values for github.user and github.token to your global git config, but I can't find any such info for what those variables need to be for Bitbucket - assuming that's the reason I'm still continually prompted for a password.

Has anyone sorted this out yet or got SSH authentication working with Git & Bitbucket?

flocial 14 hours ago 0 replies      
While this is great news, I really don't need an interface for sideprojects (yet). Codeplane's been great so far for private repos.

I just backed up my Github stuff using Github-backup and added them to Codeplane. Honestly surprised nobody challenged GitHub in pricing until recently. As far as social coding goes they are the Facebook of repo hosting (SourceForge is Friendster and Google Code is MySpace).



MatthewPhillips 21 hours ago 2 replies      
I just checked and none of my existing Bitbucket repos have a Git link, nor can I find a way to add Git support from the Admin screen. However when I go to add a new repo Git is an option.

Please tell me (frown face) that this feature isn't just for new repos....

6ren 9 hours ago 0 replies      
How is this justified, to stay free?

True, it preps users for other Atlassian products; and marginal cost of storage is near-zero these days.

uptown 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Great news! Wish I'd seen it before I finally took the leap and signed up for a paid GitHub account this morning.
drawkbox 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I love bitbucket for the pricing it turned out to be a more valuable tool for my private repos. Now it is even better with git.
tomblomfield 22 hours ago 3 replies      
I looked at this and thought "this is like Github, but not as good"

If you're even semi-serious about development, paying $7/month is nothing for the value they provide.

daemin 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I still use an installation of Gitosis on my VPS to host my small private git projects. As long as you have a unix-ey box then it's very easy to set it up. Though I would definitely upload public projects to Github, for the community and visibility aspect of it.
tyler_ball 21 hours ago 0 replies      
This is great news and I hope it helps do all that others are saying, like improve pricing.

I've had a Bitbucket account for a while and never used it, mainly because I'm more comfortable with git. But after poking around Bitbucket and importing some repos I'm seeing that you really get what you pay for.

GitHub completely trounces Bitbucket with their ease of use and toolset. I hope Bitbucket can step it up.

jaip 19 hours ago 0 replies      
They announced Git support in 2009 also, but that was an April Fool's joke. Link to that post: http://blog.bitbucket.org/2009/04/01/announcing-git-support/
amalag 21 hours ago 1 reply      
I was using unfuddle.com just to get a single private repository (didn't want to pay $10 a month for that on github). This is great news.
Rotor 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Great to see bitbucket expanding the offering.

A while back I had chosen bitbucket over GitHub because of the free private repository. And Git was not an absolute requirement, non-Git source control was absolutely fine.

GitHub still does not offer a private repo for free (currently private is $7/month), I imagine this may change at some point soon now.

heisenmink 22 hours ago 2 replies      
This is really good news.

The greatest strength they have over Github right now is unlimited private git repositories (github only allows 1 private repo for free accounts), free of charge.

dahlia 15 hours ago 1 reply      
I really love Bitbucket (over GitHub!), but it seems too late for me.
dirtyhand 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Hopefully this is a wakeup call for the Github guys and they start working on their business instead of just the product. This is a great start: http://fi.github.com/
mtogo 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Blog post by schacon trash talking bitbucket in 3... 2... 1...
rmc 22 hours ago 5 replies      
Bitbucket (a popular mercurial hosting site) has added git support.

Has any popular git hosting site added mercurial support?

This shows which DVCS is winning.

FeeFighters Loses BBB Accreditation Over Investigative Blog Post feefighters.com
441 points by LiveTheDream  19 hours ago   77 comments top 26
tptacek 18 hours ago 4 replies      
So tone deaf. A PR coup for FeeFighters. A total PR debacle for BBB. FeeFighters could in fact give a fuck about their actual accreditation, so they had nothing to lose. BBB meanwhile looks petty, out of touch, and defensive.

You didn't need to be a chess grandmaster to see how this will play out. You barely even need to see one move ahead. What moron at BBB OK'd this? How incompetent is the rest of their organization?

aresant 18 hours ago 6 replies      
In extensive conversion testing we've found that the BBB symbol is the MOST beneficial trust-symbol to incorporate into your website.

This data is across multiple markets / products and joining the BBB is one of the things that we recommend early on to conversion clients.

Consumers trust the brand immensely which is sad given the BBB's "protection money" business model.

rorrr 18 hours ago 4 replies      
The original report is extremely interesting too, I don't see how it's even legal what BBB does


    Xpay asked the BBB what they could do to fix the problem. 
It turned out that all they needed to do was grease the
wheels. The BBB noted that Xpay wasn't a member
organization, and by becoming a member organization the
BBB would “look into” those 11 complaints to see if they
were worthy of being wiped clean. Xpay paid the BBB a
fee of $760 (see fee schedule). Within a couple of days
the rating had changed from an F to a C. A few days later
and another phonecall, and the rating was changed to an A-.

That's extortion.

jarrett 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Just a friendly question to anyone at BBB who may be reading this thread:

Suppose someone on here happens to own a business with BBB accreditation, and that person posts a comment to this thread critical of BBB's handling of the FeeFighters situation. Would you consider that a violation of your terms?

For the record, I'm not criticizing or endorsing what happened with FeeFighters, since I don't necessarily know all the facts.

rkalla 18 hours ago 0 replies      
For anyone on the fence about the claims, 20/20 did an investigation[1] of the BBB and found exactly the same thing. They worked with companies with complaints against them and low ratings that were called by BBB representatives asking them to re-up their registrations.

Without much coaxing the BBB agents clarified that the ratings could be "reinstated" or "take care of" if the signup process was completed. Once the businesses did that, in every case, the scores were re-adjusted to A or A+ for those companies.

Conversely, companies that didn't re-up would have all their past complaints re-instated on their review page and scores drop to C/D/F levels.

Not unlike the Yelp stuff we saw going on last week or the week before here on HN.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo8kfV9kONw

lpolovets 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I think this will lead to a Streisand effect for the BBB. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect). By taking away a company's accreditation for a reason that has nothing to do with the company's business practices, the BBB is showing exactly how objective it is.
taylorbuley 18 hours ago 1 reply      
This sounds pretty scammy to me. The good news is that I found a company on the Internet that lets you report scams: https://www.bbb.org/scam/report-a-scam/
keltex 18 hours ago 0 replies      
If you do lose your BBB accreditation and want it back again, all you have to do is re-register (and pay the $600 or so) under a new name and you'll be back to square one. It sounds like a joke, but completely true.

One of my clients has a competitor who had an F rating due to numerous consumer complaints. They simply did the above and presto they were back to A- again.

mkopinsky 17 hours ago 1 reply      
While I am totally on the side of FF here, it's hard to call a blog post titled "The BBB is a F&#ing Scam" an investigative blog post. The BBB may indeed be a F&#ing Scam (I have gotten horribly burned in the past for reporting something to the BBB), you gotta admit that the language in the blog post is pretty incendiary.
jasonwatkinspdx 15 hours ago 0 replies      
The BBB is a racket. That should be clear to anyone who thinks about it even briefly.
Bud 16 hours ago 1 reply      
In a just world, there would be some sort of humorous regulatory body that would force the "Better" Business Bureau to rename themselves something more suitable in response to this story.

Lamer Business Bureau? Sycophantic Business Bureau? I leave the actual name as an exercise for the reader.

davidmurphy 6 hours ago 0 replies      
The LA Business Journal had an article on the Los Angeles Chapter of the BBB. Unfortunately, it's behind a paywall:


Scandal May Shut Business Bureau
L.A. chapter hurt by pay-for-play revelations. // By ALFRED LEE // Monday, July 25, 2011

Here's a LA Times article: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/08/business/la-fi-bbb-p...

jrockway 10 hours ago 0 replies      
This has caused them to gain the "jrockway certified excellence" accreditation, which is, in my opinion, infinitely more valuable than the BBB's accreditation. So, I think, it's a net win.

(What's that you say? The limit of 0 * x as x goes to infinity is still zero? Hmm...)

orblivion 16 hours ago 0 replies      
"If you're not paying, you're not the customer, you're the product that's being sold." comes to mind. Perhaps we need more Angie's List and Consumer Reports, and less Yelp and BBB.
eli 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Is the BBB even relevant?

My assumption was that its influence is quite low since the advent of the Internet. If I were looking to see for a plumber or a moving company, I'd check Yelp or Angie's List not BBB.

noonespecial 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Someone should make some sort of organization that objectively tracks sleazy businesses like this so consumers have a place to go to find out about it before committing to use them...
genieyclo 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Is that drop down in-your-face share menu a Wordpress plugin or something? Fantastic way to get your attention. I think I've seen it before, not sure where though.
spoiledtechie 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I find it wild at times that old fashioned companies like the BBB are so out of touch with the world today that they think a new company can not last long enough without their support.

It just goes to show that FeeFighters are shaking things up in both their technical field along with other business sectors. If you ask me, that is exactly what a start up should be doing!

Congrats FeeFighters for shaking things up.

AlexC04 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Sounds a lot like the Yelp.com criticisms I've read.
greengarstudios 15 hours ago 1 reply      
An organization that had goals similar to the BBB's would be very valuable for many consumers. What are some of the BBB's competitors? What's currently the best alternative?
innerphaze 17 hours ago 0 replies      
BBB is totally useless and corrupt. Used them before with a complaint and accomplished nothing but a waste of time and effort. Great job FeeFighters!
suking 17 hours ago 0 replies      
They are in bed with the FTC so nothing will happen to the BBB. Total bunch of scammers.
waivej 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I declined to pay BBB when I started my business, but recently worked with a business that made me rethink the decision. This article reminds me of the vibe I got from the salesperson years ago.
Drakeman 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Honestly, I don't know anyone who really seeks out BBB accreditation as a means of judging a business's credibility (I'm talking at the consumer level). In fact, the only times I've ever caught myself viewing any of their web content was for businesses I already knew sucked.
vsl2 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Maybe there's a market opportunity for a new business accreditation site. Though you have to wonder if anything short of a government entity or extremely well-funded nonprofit would be able to maintain its integrity.

Do I smell a Y Combinator success story in the future?

andjones 18 hours ago 1 reply      
On the one hand Fee Fighters is fighting the "noble" fight, but they lose points for being so ideological.

BBB is a business and their terms are well known. Fee Fighters knew them and was required to abide by them and chose not to.

I do like that Fee Fighters is bringing this issue to bear. I'm personally not a fan of BBB. Pay to play doesn't seem like the incentives are aligned correctly. That and I can't afford their accreditation process for my business.

"Algorithm" is not a four letter word jamisbuck.org
432 points by jashkenas  4 days ago   65 comments top 24
swannodette 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'd like point out something that isn't mentioned in the slides at all. The ideas behind the algorithm are not just games, not just exercises, not just methods of self improvement. I'm reminded of Feynman's story of the wobbling plate. They have very deep implications for how we design programs and how we design programming languages.

The notion of search (logic programming, constraint solving) is a woefully under appreciated topic - I would argue because our programming languages make it very difficult to apply this kind of beautiful knowledge back onto the programming language itself.

What is a type system if not a kind of maze solver? What happens when you apply machine learning like heuristics to a pattern match compiler? What happens if we can apply algorithm rules at the level of the method signature?

Yes learn some algorithms, then question why our programming languages limit how much we can put these great ideas into practice.

robobenjie 4 days ago 2 replies      
I like the visualizations for the maze generation a lot.

I actually used (yet another) maze generation algorithm for an xbox360 game I worked on as a school project. The constraints were slightly different because we wanted cycles and no dead ends.

You put all the cells in a list and take them out at random. If there are 3 or more walls, tear down walls until there are less than 3. When you are done you cannot have any dead ends because a dead end must have three walls. Of course you can have unconnected loops, so you have to go through and tear down walls to connect unconnected segments when you are done.

I don't know what my point is.

Mazes are neat.

kragen 4 days ago 2 replies      
There's some good stuff here, but a lot of the psychology is ill-founded. Flow, for example, is probably the most effective form of practice, and play often creates flow. Jamis recommends practicing constantly, but it's extremely well established that spacing your practice out gives you more bang for the buck, more improvement per hour of practice. (This is called "massed practice vs. spaced practice", and it's been known since before the dawn of cognitive psychology.)

(There's some pretty good evidence that you can fill the spaces in between your practice sessions by practicing something else " without losing the benefit of spacing.)

The maze generation algorithms, though, are awesome.

My favorite is still this one by Joe Allen:

    /*  jallen@ic.sunysb.edu  */     /* Amazing */     /* Joe Allen */
int a[1817];main(z,p,q,r){for(p=80;q+p-80;p-=2*a[p])for(z=9;z--;)q=3&(r=time(0)
]?a[p+=a[p+=q]=q]=q:0:0;for(;q++-1817;)printf(q%79?"%c":"%c\n"," #"[!a[q-1]]);}

barrkel 4 days ago 2 replies      
"Play" is boring if it isn't challenging. I completely disagree with the dichotomy presented at the start of this presentation. It seems to imply that improving is painful, and is something you need to force yourself to do.

(Furthermore, I've never found learning about new algorithms to be taxing, and certainly never regarded it as a four-letter word.)

jashkenas 4 days ago 0 replies      
For the curious, here's a link to Jamis' repository of Maze visualizations, implemented in CoffeeScript: https://github.com/jamis/csmazes
fl3tch 4 days ago 1 reply      
Another warning, for photosensitive epileptics: there are rapidly flashing lights in that demo. I have a mild form of it and I started to feel weird, so if you're highly sensitive, you'll want to skip running the maze on the slide labeled "aldous-broder-demo".

Here's a tip for UX people: don't make anything flash more than 2 times per second. Also, "in the United States, websites provided by federal agencies are governed by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Act says that pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and less than 55 Hz." So that's the official recommendation.

danso 4 days ago 2 replies      
Pretty. But I would love just a long single page version of it, particularly when it gets to definitions. The page already loads all the content and assets at the start.
AbyCodes 4 days ago 0 replies      
acquainting yourself with theory is acquainting yourself with new concepts. It gives you building blocks and labels that you can build on, and hang later concepts on. Without the scaffolding that theory gives you, you'll miss many opportunities for insight later.

So very true. The difference between the me one year back and the me now is that I know how and why certain things are the way they are. Understanding is enlightening.

Ultimately, it is that resistance you need to seek out. Look for things that will challenge you consistely (sic). Work at them until the resistance goes away, and then look for something new. That's how you'll grow your craft. That's what will make you better than you are today.


Permit 4 days ago 2 replies      
Personally I really enjoyed the short slide by slide format a lot. Perhaps it's a short attention span brought on by years in front of a computer, but I struggle with massive walls of text occasionally. At the very least I found it to be a nice changed on top of being an interesting subject.
dazbradbury 4 days ago 1 reply      
I feel I should point out that a lot of people would consider this bad advice.

"It is critical to remember that play is not exercise."

Focusing on what are you're good at (like algorithms for creating mazes), is in fact exercise. You're getting better at what you already consider yourself good at (assuming you don't stagnate - which I think the article is really getting at.)

Should you focus on weaknesses or strengths is a big debate, but strength finder (http://strengths.gallup.com/110440/About-StrengthsFinder-2.a...) seems like a popular camp.

ComputerGuru 4 days ago 4 replies      
Warning: severe pollution of "history" links in your browser ahead.
awolf 4 days ago 0 replies      
This site crashes my iPad's browser. iOS 5.0 beta 7. Anyone else?
Kafka 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wonderful slides! I hope there will be video further on.

I didn't like "It is critical to remember that play is not exercise." and to improve it I would like to add something like
"But it's totally fine if your exercise feels like play. If your exercise is fun it's so much easier to do".

kragniz 4 days ago 0 replies      
The articles on his blog (http://weblog.jamisbuck.org/) give more in-depth explanations for those who dislike the slides.
vanelsas 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the author did a great job and took quite some time to share his knowledge with us. Pity the average response on HN tends to be a compliment followed by a but....
I guess we feel we are always smarter than the next guy, he just happens to put in the effort :-)

Well done, loved it all the way!

savinos 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is remarkable. The # of ways to solve the same problem is great (ironically, I knew mostly Prim's and Kruskal's algorithms because they are more common), the visualization is great too. I liked the slide format, a bit too long maybe.

Also, since it's a computer science post :) I would have added time complexity, just for sake of completeness.

A big plus to the whole concept of "code kata".

Great stuff.

cycojesus 4 days ago 0 replies      
slightly off-topic but an inconvenient of this medium of presentation is that printing fails horribly.
tantalor 4 days ago 1 reply      
> This set of potential spanning trees is called a spanning forest.

A spanning forest is a graph, not a set.


jwrnz 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'd like to point out that on the first frame with text on it, the text runs off the screen. So i closed it. I don't even know what the slideshow was about :(
firefox 7.0.1
resolution 1280x1024

no text at all in 1024x768

capkutay 3 days ago 0 replies      
You know what they say...

You have a problem, so you suggest "I'll make an algorithm to solve it!"

...now you have 2 problems.

karinqe 3 days ago 0 replies      
Nice, but my browser (Firefox 6.0.2) hung up for a few moments on the last slide and it took me painfully long to close the tab.
ckeen 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is a nice presentation! Apart from the excellent content, what did you use to produce the html slides?
bojanbabic 4 days ago 0 replies      
Love the presentation! Can someone point me to similar presentations/resources on same topic?
ghempton 4 days ago 0 replies      
Algorithms for brogrammers.
Facebook claims it does not track users, but files patent to do same uncrunched.com
397 points by ColinWright  2 days ago   76 comments top 21
gyardley 1 day ago 2 replies      
It's perfectly possible for Facebook to not track users at the moment and simultaneously prepare for a future where this is not only acceptable, it's expected.

Facebook has placed a long-term bet that people will willingly share pretty much everything they do. When they file patents like this, they're skating where the puck is headed, not where it is now.

tybris 1 day ago 3 replies      
You don't patent something because you built it. You patent something because you think someone else might build it, or because you don't want someone else to prevent you from building it.
tokenadult 1 day ago 1 reply      
As Confucius said, in one of his most famous take-downs, "始吾-人也、聽...言而信...行、今吾-人也、聽...言而觀...行。At first in dealing with people, I would hear their words and trust their deeds, but now my way of dealing with people is to hear their words and observe their deeds."
damoncali 2 days ago 3 replies      
When you have less credibility than an investment banker on a cocaine bender, you've got some trust issues.

I'm still trying to figure out if anyone will care. My faith in humanity is being tested.

anfedorov 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the context is slightly different: when an employee says "we do not track users on other domains", he means that they don't record your loading of a page with a "Like" button, even though they could. The patent claim is for a system with facebook "receiving one or more communications from a third-party website [containing] an action taken by a user", which they then incorporate into their ad-serving wizardry.

This could be quite interesting, actually: imagine facebook launches a system where any third-party website can give it a stream of "actions" taken by facebook's users, and pay them based on how good the data are for predicting ad preference. Site owners would then have a financial incentive to report to facebook every single thing their users do.

Imagine if HN did this, reporting to facebook the literacy level of your comments, the speed at which you read the comments, what subjects you spend the most time reading, what you comment on, etc.

arcs 1 day ago 0 replies      
This feels like blatant sensationalism to me.

This particular patent describes the process for 3rd party sites to tell Facebook about something the user did (new Open Graph API, anyone?), which subsequently can be shown as an ad to the user's friends, i.e. "Your friend blah has bought something on This Service, do you want to do so too?" (some peer context for ads, which facebook already tries to do for things like fanning pages).

This is quite different from the meaning implied by this post, which the first 2 quotes were addressing, that Facebook tracks and correlates browsing patterns of users across the internet without their consent.

abailin 1 day ago 0 replies      
saturn7 2 days ago 4 replies      
Its getting to a point where I will have a dedicated virtual machine just to check Facebook.
orijing 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm not a patent lawyer, but I tried reading the patent application (http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sec...).

It sounds like Facebook Connect/open graph, where you can Like something on a third party domain, or read something, etc. Is it just saying "You will now have an activity feed for all your likes, etc on third party websites on your timeline"? The 9/22 F8 date seems to suggest that.

But HN is a lot more skeptical than I am. Are you just worried that it may mean different things in the future? What's the deal?

It also sounds like "Don't try this, Google. It's my turf"

paul9290 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wonder how many Facebook and HN readers are using Spotify along with FB's auto-publish feature?

I used it and forgot it was auto-publishing my tunes to FB. I went back to FB and was embarrassed to see it had published a song I wish no one knew I was listening to. Since then I updated Spotify and only listen in "Private Listening," mode.

Spotify is great, but automatically sharing everything I do/listen to is out of the norm. We as humans share when we want and been doing so since well forever.

click170 2 days ago 0 replies      
One can't help but wonder...
Did they just get that idea from us?

"Everyone thinks we track users"

"But we don't!"

"...Well, we're already getting the PR flak for it, maybe we should?"

Hayes 1 day ago 2 replies      
We could use this thread to give some feedback back to Facebook. They'll hear it and might even listen. Because this isn't black and white. All the web developers on here "track users" on their websites, it can be as mild as logging for AB testing. Facebook is now needing to do this across domains because their application extends across domains. Where do you draw the line?
binaryorganic 2 days ago 0 replies      
They can certainly say they're not using the data now, but store it and change their minds later, no?
chris_dcosta 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't get the anger here. Surely all of us has written code at some point that tracks what a user is doing, even if it's just to keep state.

What's the difference between that and what Facebook might (/must) be doing? The difference as far as I can see is that Fb has a public image tarnished by privacy issues, and it makes for a good story.

Of course it's a damned if you do damned if you don't situation for Fb. It's not lying, it's just what happens when PR spin and reality get caught in the same room.

mmwako 1 day ago 0 replies      
Not necessarily contradictory. Not enough context to conclude anything.

As far as I know, if this was Google, for sure everyone would argue "they patent this tracking system just to avoid other less reliable companies to do so".

(I still think that facebook is malign, though)

rat 2 days ago 1 reply      
They are obviously asking for the patent to prevent others from using this technique.
nomdeplume 1 day ago 1 reply      
After seeing what it was, part of me was thinking "is this a spoof site pretending to be real?" while another part was thinking "this is too well written to be a joke." I wonder why they chose to file for the patent right when they were getting bad press for it. Maybe they were hoping it would go unnoticed and filed after discovery so noone else could scoop it up?
jfb 1 day ago 0 replies      
There is no entailment relation from the second fact to the first. However, nothing Facebook does in service of their goal to own people's online identity and experience would shock me.
tlrobinson 2 days ago 1 reply      
Suspicious, sure, but filing a patent doesn't mean they're actually using it.
nh 1 day ago 0 replies      
Do as I say, not as I do..
dustingetz 1 day ago 0 replies      
patent registration is the nash equilibrium of the current US legal climate. patent collections are ammo in corporate wargames.

facebook does all sorts of evil like releasing full user history without a subpeona, but the OP's tone and these comments are FUD. bad.

“I hate almost all software” " Ryan Dahl google.com
392 points by robinhouston  4 days ago   291 comments top 64
ender7 4 days ago  replies      
I've been tempted to write rants like this before. Ryan's point seems particularly centered around Unix, which makes sense. My experience of trying to get stuff done in Unix has taught me that it is a really powerful, extremely well-thought-out way to waste my fucking time.

All of it. Down the fucking toilet, and for stuff I don't give a shit about. Every single goddamn thing I try to accomplish while setting up a server involves a minimum of 1 hour of googling and tinkering. Installing PHP? Did you install it the right way? Did you install the special packages that make it secure and not mastadon slow? You want to create a daemon process? Hope you found the right guide! Setting up a mail sever? Kill yourself.

For some people, this is not the case. They have spent multiple decades breathing in the Unix environment, and are quite good at guessing how the other guy probably designed his system. And they don't mind spending the majority of their productive hours tinkering with this stuff. But I don't have time. I don't care. I don't have time to read your 20-page manual/treatise on a utility that doesn't explain how to actually use the thing until page 17. I don't want to figure out why your project doesn't build on my machine because I'm missing some library that you need even though I have it installed but some bash variable isn't set and blah blah blah blah.

The problem with Unix is that it doesn't have a concept of a user. It was not designed that way. It was designed for the people who programmed it. Other pieces were designed for the people who programmed them. If you are using a piece that you built, then you are a user. Otherwise you are a troublesome interloper, and the system is simply waiting in a corner, wishing you would go away.

And yet...we put up with it. Because there isn't a better option. Because it's our job. Because we'd rather just bull through and get things done than spend an infinite amount of time fixing something that isn't fixable. Life sucks, but NodeJS is pretty cool.

stephenjudkins 4 days ago 6 replies      
On one hand, I agree with him. The software ecosystems we work in have a whole lot of needless and incidental complexity. I could go on and on about the insanely and overly complicated things that developers -- especially ones like Ryan Dahl -- have to deal with all the time.

On the other hand, it's arrogant for one to think that he or she could do it that much better than the next guy. Writing efficient, maintainable, and "simple" software requires adding layers of indirection and complexity. You have to use your best judgment to ask whether the new layer you're adding will make things ultimately cleaner and simpler for future generations of programmers, or will hang like a millstone around their necks for years to come.

Let's try a little thought experiment: go back a few decades to the early 80s. Propose to build node.js as a tool to make it much easier for developers to write real-time network applications. You'll need to design a prototype-based dynamic language, itself an extremely difficult (and dare I say complicated) task. The implementation will need a garbage-collector, a delicate, complicated, and cumbersome piece of code to write. To make it acceptably fast, you'll need to write a JIT, which traces and profiles running code, then hot-swaps out JITted routines without missing a beat. You'll need to write a library which abstracts away event-based IO, like the "libev" node.js uses. That will require kernel support.

Frankly, even forgetting about relative CPU power at the time, I think you'd be laughed out of the room for proposing this. All of these things, for production systems, were extremely speculative, "complicated" things at the time they were introduced. People can't predict the future, and they obviously have difficulty predicting what tools will become useful and simple, and which will become crufty tarpits of painful dependencies and incidental complexity. No one in 1988 could say "a dynamic, prototype-based, garbage-collected language paired with a simple event model will allow developers to create simple real-time network applications easily in 2011". Many of them probably had high hopes that C++ templates would deliver on the same vision by then. But, instead, we have Boost.

Further, it's extremely arrogant of Dahl to create a dichotomy between those who "just don't yet understand how utterly fucked the whole thing is" and those, like him, with the self-proclaimed power of clear vision to see what will help us tame and conquer this complexity. Who knows, maybe in 15 years we'll be saddled with tons of crufty, callback-soup, unreliable node.js applications we'll all have to maintain. I don't think James Gosling envisioned the mess that "enterprise Java" became when he designed the initial simple language. Most developers do many of the things he cites, like adding "unnecessary" hierarchies to their project, because they believe it will help them in conquering complexity, and leave something simple and powerful for others to use down the line.

Goladus 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is just raw pessimism, you could rant like this about anything.

I hate all cars, especially my own. I hate that heavy, dangerous, gas-guzzling honda civic with an over-sensitive brake pedal and enormous, completely pointless blind spots over both shoulders. I hate filling it up with gas, which is expensive, smelly, and bad for the environment. I hate the dishes that I have to wash every day after I use them. I hate my Aeron chair that I sit in all day long. I hate peeling grapefruit. I hate the sound of my central air conditioning fan powering up. I hate how I'm either sore from working out or depressed from not working out.

There's nothing wrong with a rant now and again but let's recognize it for what it is.

Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

barrkel 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is hopelessly naive. The reason that the whole stack of a solution isn't in proportion to the problem it solves is that we have more than one problem, and the only way to scale our manpower to all these problems is share some of the common bits in the solutions.

This sharing creates new abstraction boundaries, increases the number of concepts and moving parts, and there are lots of compromises involved in reusing a common part compared with crafting something small and simple specific to the task at hand. But if you didn't do this, you'd have lots of duplication of similar, but not quite identical work, like a pre-industrial society; a massively inefficient use of human labour.

tom_b 4 days ago 1 reply      
But isn't it neat how shit still works?

Never fails to amaze me what users will do with a software tool.

I've seen experienced devs and support staff run a C program written to parse some weird data against another data set in the vain hope that it would parse the new data set into something usable.

I've seen MBAs who could barely tell you what a variable is write visual basic macros in Excel to do hardcore data management.

Game devs who almost seemed to frickin' think in OpenGL.

It is a big ball of mud (turtles all the way down, eh?), but on a good day, I listen to a hacker talk about finally getting that little piece of code beat into submission and it's very satisfying just to see that gleam in their eye.

_sh 4 days ago 1 reply      
Hear hear! As a software developer, my trade is a ghetto awash with all manner of amateur-hour charlatans and language silos that are tantamount to pistol-whipped lock-in (I'm looking at you node.js). If you take a step back, the entire ecosystem of 'software development' is a chattering tower of Babel, all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Programming languages, their frameworks, their libraries, their petty concerns are a mere vanity folly, riddled with re-invention, abstraction arcana, and deus-ex-machina hoopla. We have lost our way, straying so far from the path of the UNIX philosophy such that I must now 'whole-stack' an application instead of using the pipe character. A pox on the whole damned lot of it!

Some days I just despair of all the time I've wasted bustling and jostling, crushed by the sweaty masses in the ghetto. But if I'm honest with myself, I must confess I love it too. I love my programming languages, my libraries, the eight different ways I know to full-text search, to regex, to parse, to lock, to async. I love the smell and heat of the coal-face, the futility of it all. Stockholm Syndrome indeed!

sciurus 4 days ago 3 replies      
Things Ryan Dahl hates:







volatile variables

prototypal inheritance






zombie processes

bash tab completion

dynamic linking

static linking


the details of programming languages

formatting source code

configuring window managers

configuring editors


directory hierarchies

praptak 4 days ago 0 replies      
'On the chosen day, the young and inexperienced programmer realizes that what he has constructed is simply a different collection of rubbish, mud and offal than that used by the previous tower.

7. Codethulu looks on, and says: "Now you have become one of us."'


corysama 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'd be interested in Dahl's (or your) opinion of Alan Kay's STEPS project in this context.

"For example, essentially all of the standard personal computing graphics can be created from scratch in the Nile language in a little more than 300 lines of code. Nile itself can be made in little over 100 lines of code in the OMeta metalanguage, and optimized to run acceptably in real-time (also in OMeta) in another 700 lines. OMeta can be made in itself and optimized in about 100 lines of code."


and, btw: https://github.com/tristanls/ometa-js-node

mkramlich 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think his rant is both brilliant and incredibly naive and confused. Let me explain.

He's right about the fight against unnecessary complexity. He's right about how ultimately the enduser's experience is king. But he's objecting to a lot of the complexity that lies behind that UX facade. Because that's exactly what that UX is: a facade. It's an abstraction. And one that sometimes leaks. The iPhone is loved because of it's UX. But inside, behind the screen, it's not a box of mostly empty air and perhaps a little magical fairy who blows kisses and VOILA! the UX is delivered. It doesn't work like that. There are moving parts, both physical and virtual, a lot of them, that must be complex because they have real world constraints they MUST satisfy which your own mental model or messy subconscious human desires don't have to satisfy. The little girl wants a pony and SHE WANTS IT RIGHT NOW, DADDY! But her father lives closer to reality. He can't just wave a magic wand and give her a pony. It takes time. It takes money. You have to find a pony. Get it. Where do you keep it? Who feeds it? Shelters it? Can we afford it? Or are we just going to let it starve after the little girl gets bored playing with it? These are all the niggling little details that lie around the edges and behind the scenes when trying to satisfying this little girl's desire for a pony immediately. It is good to satisfy and deliver a desired experience. It is dumb and naive to think it only takes the wave of a magic wand or the press of a button. Yes we can provide a button you can press to make that pony appear. We can. That's just straightforward engineering and entrepreneurship. But there's going to be a lot of complexity and ugly moving parts, some with sharp edges, or unpleasant chemical properties, or esoteric technical jargon, under the hood, to make that button press deliver.

mcantor 4 days ago 1 reply      
It would be ironic if the "just solve the fucking problem, damn the details" attitude espoused in this post is the reason everything is so fucking complicated.

(I honestly am not trying to imply that that is the case; I'm just musing.)

wickedchicken 4 days ago 1 reply      
Ever go through somebody's code, see some weird construct, go "this person is an idiot!," rewrite it, and find some edge case bug that the original code was written to handle? The original author had many of the same ambitions as you, and you relearned all the same lessons she did -- the hard way.

Recognizing and curtailing this impulse leads you toward enlightenment.

supersillyus 4 days ago 2 replies      
Something something Plan 9 something something.
tmsh 4 days ago 1 reply      
Increasingly, the key is to main orthogonality towards your problem solving (like an eagle) within the decaying confines of a semi-bloated (often mostly educational in terms of what not to do) ecosystem.

Which means rewriting crufty pieces of your stack when certain thresholds occur. 'There will come a point where the accumulated complexity of our existing systems is greater than the complexity of creating a new one' -- is something that happens in motion, iteratively, and which you do when you have time at all levels of the evolution that we call development.

Anyway, that's my two cents. Nice others are on the same wavelength, I think.

sausagefeet 4 days ago 3 replies      
I don't get it? If he really hates the situation so much, why did he choose a language that makes it notoriously difficult to write quality software in and chose a concurrency style that is notoriously difficult to reason about?
rbranson 4 days ago 1 reply      
Rich Hickey really nailed the definitions of "complex" and "easy" and "simple" so well in his Strange Loop talk this year. Too bad there's only notes available right now: http://blog.markwshead.com/1069/simple-made-easy-rich-hickey...
strmpnk 4 days ago 1 reply      
While I sympathize with the general frustration, this sort of rant gets us nowhere. It's sad to see such a brilliant mind lost in rage.

Systems programming has always been the code that most people won't tackle because the problems are ugly (thus the label systems programming). I really dislike autotools but I am not really up to resolving that problem, so I'll leave it to those that do. Pretty simple conclusion. When people with the guts to go in and replace these tools come around, I try to support them, but bashing others doesn't magically make that happen.

The claim that people who build on top of these systems are making problems worse. You could say the same thing about the users of that software then. There should be no hate for the act of construction. Destructive negativity is just a waste of time unless you want to lead people somewhere to construct again, and this post doesn't do much but hate. I'd favor suggestion over damnation. Don't hate people for building, encourage them to build something better!

akent 4 days ago 1 reply      
He had me until the last paragraph... "if you spend time configuring your window manager or editor..."

If you don't take the time to configure your editor properly I do not want to collaborate with you on anything. Ever.

KirinDave 4 days ago 2 replies      
This has all the signatures of a bad day barfed out as incoherent rage on a keyboard. I've been there, and I can day with the auhtority of experience:

Ryan Dahl will regret this post for years to come.

typicalrunt 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's nice to hear someone well-respected say this, as I've been saying this for years and yet I get frowns from senior managers and programmers.

I don't like magic in programming, yet nowadays there seems a move (especially in Ruby with the [over]use of method_missing) that encourages it.

charlieok 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think part of the problem is that many of these issues are left to "distributions" and "repositories".

Some guy releases a library or application, then it gets packaged one way into .debs, another way into .rpms, another into macports. Maybe the author does this work, maybe more likely distribution maintainers do it.

Or in the world of a specific programming language, there is a similar story with a language specific packaging system. Maybe it gets packaged as a gem, or a jar, or an egg, or a module, or maybe the new node package manager.

Often, installing a package involves spreading its contents around. Some of it goes in /var, some goes in /opt, some goes in /etc. Who knows where else?

Many of the reasons for the unix directory layout don't apply for most people today. How many people even know what those directories' purposes are? How many have actually read the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard document?

Typically, those directories were established so that sysadmins could save storage space by sharing files between sets of machines (the word "share" seems to have about a dozen different meanings in these discussions). So you slice it one way so that machines with different architectures can "share" the contents of /usr/share, and you slice it another way so that things that change can be backed up more often, so they get thrown together in /var (and then you can mount /usr read-only!)

Most of these considerations are not worth the effort for most people. I think they are outdated. We don't generally have these directories mounted on separate partitions. We just back up the whole damn hard drive when we need a backup.

Here's an idea: a package should be a directory tree that stays together. Each programming language should not have its own separate packaging system. A package should be known by the url where the author publishes it. That author should also declare his/her package's dependencies by referring to other packages by their urls. Then you don't need dependency resolution systems that function as islands unto themselves (one for debian, another for node etc).

Software is published on the web, in things like git or mercurial or subversion repositories. These have conventions for tagging each version. The conventions are gaining adoption (see semver.org for example) but not fast enough.

Some middle layers just add friction to the process: distributing tarfiles, distributing packages to places like rubygems or cpan or npmjs.org. Developers usually want the source straight from the source anyway -- users might as well use a setup that very closely mirrors developers'.

If you want to add a package into your system, the only piece of information you should need is the url for the project's main repository, with an identifier for the exact release you need. That's a naming system shared by the entire web. If there are issues, that information can go from the user directly to the author, with no layers in between.

Apple has a great install/uninstall process for many applications: you move them to the applications folder, or you drag them out of the applications folder into the trash. We need to strive for this level of simplicity. Deployed software should have the same structure as the package distributed by the developer, in almost all cases.

MortenK 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really wouldn't know about the specific Unix related points, but his frustration is easily recognized in my current work on MS enterprise applications.

The actual solution is a desktop client and a web application used for simple CRUD purposes, each with around 10 screens / pages.

We have a huge suite of tests. We have a large amount of different layers. Gigantic amounts of interfaces inheriting from interfaces, and being passed around as parameters. Partial classes, with implementation spread out all around the application. Everything grandly designed according to design patterns, and every piece of code positioned in the smallest possible unit. Everything in the front end is a user control.

In theory this gives us extreme extensibility, flexibility and code reuse. From an academics stand point, it's well designed according to best practice.

In reality, it is completely and utterly obfuscating the actual code that get things done. Adding another db field to the UI requres modification of data-access layer, business object layer, changes to 2-3 different types of interfaces, additional code to a type conversion class, initialization code in the front-end, additional display logic to a user control, extra custom validation logic etc etc.

I really feel with the author, and can unfortunately confirm it's often the same shit no matter what software you are dealing with.

sciurus 4 days ago 0 replies      
My interpretation of what Ryan is saying: Programming languages, libraries, and linux distributions are more complex than they should be. When you use them in your products, you contribute to the problem. When you're thinking about them, you're wasting your time because your users don't care about your tools. One day we'll decide it's easier to throw them all out and start over.

Overall, I don't agree with this.

Complexity arises because what we want to do is complicated. I don't think there's a way around that. Sometimes too much cruft builds up in an area, but that leads to redesigns of specific components. For example, client-side configuration of LDAP and Kerberos has been unreasonably complex for a long time. That didn't lead to people ditching them, that lead to https://fedorahosted.org/sssd/. It's likely that one day we will decide it's best to replace LDAP, just like was done with NIS. However, it won't mean we have to throw out all of linux.

The "users don't care" argument doesn't appeal to me. I don't care what tools the architects used when they designed my apartment building, but if learning some complex math and geeking out over slide rules enabled them do it, I'm all for it. Being told there's something wrong with me because I've changed the settings in my text editor is insulting.

jfb 4 days ago 6 replies      
I am struggling to think of a single piece of software that I interact with in my day-to-day life that brings me pleasure. I suppose Emacs comes closest, but it's a hideous pile of hacks and YHWH help you if you want to get into the internals to start paying back the massive amount of technical debt.

tsort. There we go. I don't hate tsort. pbcopy and pbpaste.

rubergly 4 days ago 1 reply      
I really don't understand how "configuring a text editor" implies that "you don't understand that the only thing that matters in software is the experience of the user". Good user experiences can only be written if you haven't customized your text editor to be more efficient?
william42 4 days ago 2 replies      
The problem is that the simple and quick solution has to be hacked around when the problem set changes and that's how we get all these hacks.
click170 4 days ago 1 reply      
This reads too much like a rant for my liking.

I get why complexity is disliked(/feared?) by some people, but unless you've got a better workable solution that you're ready for me to try out, your rant is just noise to me.

I've often found myself begrudged by the complexity of a piece of software, but that doesn't make me think we should throw the entire program out. How about we make it easier to use instead?

adabsurdo 4 days ago 1 reply      
as far as unix is concerned, i would say a huge part of the complexity of those systems comes from insisting that dependencies be installed, and shared, system-wide. This approach comes from a time when disk space was very expensive. Hence the need for those super-complex make/configure/install/apt stacks, LIBRARY_PATH, etc.

IMO you could simplify things a lot with a distro that only shared, say, the kernel/module/libc layer, plus a package management system. Beyond that, each packages would manage its dependencies, and install them under its own root directory - so you have only the package maintainer to blame if something is missing. This would give an application much more control in how to configure itself. It would also have the added benefit of super simple uninstall - just delete the app's directory, just like on osx.

jvehent 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is what happens when developers want to do sysadmin. Come on guys, we, sysadmin, spent as much time learning our job as your learned coding. If we would be trying to code, we would be lost and pissed off. That's why we don't do it.

The OS is not wrong, what is wrong is you imagining that every system should be as simple as "right click / start". If you want that, take the Heroku/<you PaaS here> route and you'll be happy. But the day you have 5000 customers connecting at the same second and your environment collapses because you don't have the flexibility to tune it, don't come crying.

knieveltech 4 days ago 1 reply      
Holy shit, it isn't just me! I've been muttering for years to coworkers, colleagues and random acquaintances that elegance cannot be obtained by adding an additional layer of complexity, yet modern developers seem absolutely enamored of the kind of vile unnecessary complexity that comes with layered abstractions.
kelnos 3 days ago 0 replies      
This pisses me off a bit, actually. Basically, he's ripping on every developer who ever wrote any code. Ok, I'm sure there are a few he'd be happy with, but his comments do sound all-encompassing.

And then he somehow tries to make it "better" by ripping on himself, too, saying he's a part of the problem. Um, no, being self-deprecating in the same way that you're insulting everyone else does not magically make it ok for you to insult everyone else.

I've been using Linux (and a couple UNIXes on and off) for a little over 10 years. So I can get around a UNIX-like system pretty well. A lot of things are easy, and a lot of things aren't. Saying that it's somehow someone's fault is ridiculous. Claiming that all software developers are collectively lazy or don't care about user experience just doesn't hold up.

The funny thing is that he works in a position that naturally involves some difficult stuff. Let's say my favorite language to write software in is called XYZ. Say it's super easy, intuitive, concise, performant, and the method for compiling/deploying/distributing the end result of your hard work is trivial. In all ways, this system is just beautiful to work with.

Great, but I'll bet you the guy who wrote all the development tools and runtime for XYZ had to do a lot of difficult work to make that possible. Dahl is building a runtime for web applications. Unless he's writing it in some high-level language, it's not going to be easy. Supporting every platform he wants to support isn't going to be easy. User interfaces should be as simple as they can be, but often that requires a lot of complexity under the hood.

Go down even farther. Let's think about our basic building blocks. Transistors. Hgih and low, ones and zeroes. It's a very simple interface. You construct logical operations by using NAND, NOR, NOT, etc. gates, which are built from transistors. Also simple. But the next step for our modern computer is... well... the microprocessor. And while it's made up of these incredibly simple building blocks, the combination of them is extraordinarily complex. So the interface into that mess is also not the most friendly thing to work with: a machine instruction set. So we build things on top of that to make it successively easier: assembly language, C, Ruby.

And the tools that come along with this are only as good as the technologies they're built on. Tradeoffs must be made to be portable. Yes, all this is a huge mess that "we" have collectively invented over the past 30-50 years or so, but it's simply not possible to go back to the 1970s, know exactly where we're going to be in the 2010s, and design the perfect system, even with foreknowledge. The current state of computing is a product of the evolution of our technology. Often that means doing the best you can today, and hoping for something better tomorrow.

robbles 4 days ago 1 reply      
To some degree, I can agree with Ryan here that a lot of software these days is unnecessarily complex. However, I also think that his view is biased because he works on a project that is responsible for a great deal of abstraction.

The average Javascript developer using node.js DOES NOT have to "deal with DBus and /usr/lib and Boost and ioctls and SMF and signals and volatile variables and prototypal inheritance and _C99_FEATURES_ and dpkg and autoconf", because Ryan and other node.js devs already have thought about it for them, and introduced a helpful and practical layer of abstraction on top of all this complexity.

As a result of having to think about it all day, every day however, it's understandable that Ryan would despise this kind of stuff. On the other hand, as a web developer that uses the result of his hard work, I am not affected by it at all, so the complexity of my work is substantially reduced.

statictype 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think I disagree with what he's saying here. When someone takes pride in their craft and craftmanship, that care and thoughtfulness tends to bubble up to the surface for users.

You can see the difference between a chair made by hand by a carpenter who wanted to make the perfect chair and one made by a carpenter who wanted to get it over with.

Now on the other hand, you have two extreme ends:

1) The 'architect' who creates 4 layers of class hierarchies and factory-factories

2) And the guy who doesn't indent his code and types all of it in notepad.exe

I guess the key is to take pride and put thoughtfulness into what you do without losing sight of the fact that there's a end-user at the end who needs to use your work.

Hisoka 3 days ago 0 replies      
Having just wasted a day trying to install ImageMagick (with no success), I have to agree. I just want to freaking resize images, I don't give a DAMN about installing prerequisites or dynamically linking so and so. I just want a simple API that I call to resize image with a width and height.
swah 4 days ago 2 replies      
I hate how concrete just doesn't dry instantaneously, and also how you have to mix the right proportions of each thing to get the stuff working.
Detrus 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is it because there are so many programmers?

Doesn't he hate that a 50,000 LOC VM linked to C++ libraries is more popular than a 8,000(?) LOC language that solves the same problems and more?

It doesn't matter for most end users but it sucks to be the one to deal with V8's GC, lack of continuations, design by committee language, etc. But there are more bodies in his corner, dealing with that complexity.

randall 4 days ago 1 reply      
Call it a noob mistake... but I recently wrote my own MVC framework on top of Express... and ended up never writing the app I originally intended to use it to write.

I think a few months ago, this wouldn't have made sense to me, but now I totally get what he's saying.

On my new app, I'm still using express to do most of the connect-ey stuff, but i've definitely decided that most MVC-ey frameworks are a premature optimization (for me). I'd rather just start with node + express, add in whatever DB I need (Redis / Mongo preferably) and build small and progressively.

My lesson learned... would love to hear other opinions.

peterwwillis 3 days ago 0 replies      
Unix software was created by developers, mainly for developers. They honestly don't care if it's hard to set up. I'm not justifying it, i'm just explaining it.

Operating Systems make all of this much simpler by setting it up for you. Try to use only what they give you and you will go a lot farther with less effort. Buck the system and you're in for a world of hurt.

There's a better way to go about it. It's called: PAY FOR YOUR SOFTWARE. Then you might get support too. You want it for free, you bet your ass it's going to be painful to use.

By the way, I don't know who this Ryan Dahl guy is, but it strikes me as very naive to consider that groking the entire inner-workings of the complete organization of an operating system - from the development tools to make it to the execution and use of its applications - should somehow be simple for anyone. I wonder if he'd bitch that the kernel is hard to modify without affecting another component, or that different versions of software may not have been written to be completely backwards compatible with one another?

This is the real world. This shit is complicated because it evolved that way. It's almost infinitely flexible and powerful and gives you everything you need to do what you have to do - and you complain that it's complex? Grow up.

grammaton 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think this rant is striking such a chord because it exploits a well known, if not widely acknowledged predisposition among developers - the breathtaking quickness with which we assume that the other guy is an idiot. Not that we don't understand the problem or that this solution addresses things we aren't aware of, but that the other guy is stupid and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a compiler. I can see Dahl doesn't like complexity, but has it ever occurred to him that software is complex because it solves complex problems?
ww520 4 days ago 0 replies      
Making things simple takes a lots of work. Things are complex because the problems are complicated. That's why you got paid the big bucks.
skrebbel 4 days ago 1 reply      
I can't relate to this at all. I hardly ever run into the problems he describes.

I usually just start Visual Studio, create a project, import some NuGet packages and off I go.

(No, that wasn't a "my framework/platform is better"-rant - JVM IDEs + Maven can do essentially the same thing)

Point is, I don't even know what autoconf is, and I like to keep it that way.

Only a tiny fraction of us have to make Node/Java/.NET/Ruby+Rails+Rack+etc. All the rest can just go and solve problems. These tools really do abstract away from accumulated platform complexity. They add a little on their own (like $NODE_PATH), but that's on the platform level too, the level i don't care about anyway. I have npm, you know.

johnwatson11218 3 days ago 0 replies      
One thing that would help me out would be if new documentation could point out which parts of a system are needlessly complicated and which parts are needed for the system to function. If a book or document could just say "This part of the tool is waaaay too complicated because the original developers envisioned this evolving differently. These are the good parts that you should spend time learning". I think Douglas Crockford called this "subsetting". A big challenge when approaching a new technology is deciding which parts to invest in.
parfe 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure why people expect software beyond Solitaire, Pidgin or Thunderbird to be any easier to configure or maintain than, say, changing the spark plugs in your car.

Or harder yet, diagnosing the issue as the spark plugs to begin with. Cars have been around for a hundred years and they can still present a challenge to even highly skilled and trained mechanics.

Manage your expectations when you try to do something you aren't an expert in and you won't be disappointed.

alok-g 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler" - Einstein.


>> There will come a point where the accumulated complexity of our existing systems is greater than the complexity of creating a new one. When that happens all of this shit will be trashed.

Amen! (Include with complexity above the complexities of real life like project schedules, time-to-market, ..., ultimately economics.)

Ryan claims that the systems are still complex, which suggests that the accumulated complexity (including project schedules) has NOT exceeded the complexities of creating a new one in general.

Having said this, what is Ryan really saying that tells us something we did not know before!

A tacit aspect of the whole argument is that the people are intelligent enough to judge complexity to make rational decisions, and would be able to find a simple solution when creating a new one when even with all the new understanding gained with experience, the new solution will still be very complex (just simpler than the existing one). This is to an extent analogous to the rational market hypothesis, and that I doubt to be true.

Next Ryan may propose a new system that will be written from scratch to satisfy his no-overly-complex goal. Only to find that the new software runs on the top of existing hardware which is immensely complex. Oh, then he thinks about developing hardware again too. Only to find that hardware development is immensely complex (EDA tools for example). Oh, then he thinks about developing them again too. He now concludes that the accumulated complexity hasn't yet become too high after all.

After taking all of that into account and if that is not complex by itself, find something intermediate level (say a programming language) that has less complexity at that level (going deeper would increase complexity) and build something on the top of it. But isn't this what all of us already do?

divtxt 4 days ago 0 replies      
[mild rant]

Usability discussions like this invariably fill me with rage because of how oblivious and dismissive some of the comments are.

They might as well say: No Wireless. Less Space Than A Nomad. Lame.

You'd think people would know better after 10 years & $350B in market cap!

chibea 4 days ago 0 replies      
Isn't he dismissing culture with his rant? Culture as the currently common way to do and describe things?

He seems to imply that there could be an easier, more straight-forward way to describe things in some more common language. And that while he doesn't give any evidence how the current ways are overly complex.

Of course, there is broken or outdated software, and some things were crap from the start. Of course, there are always concrete things to improve but you won't get anywhere by dismissing all of it and starting anew.

For me, understanding the current state as part of our culture and our humanity and improving gradually on it, has guided me well in the past.

kwamenum86 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for pointing out the elephant.
andos 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's only fair that we, developers, start suffering a little from the poor state of system software usability after inflicting so much pain on our users.
dtbx 3 days ago 0 replies      
But this is what we have, and I am Candid, so I believe that this is the best possible world.

What does the author of this essay wants? A mind-reading machine? I RTFM, so I don't complain. In my archlinux netbook there is plenty of room for creativity, and amazement, and fun.

I love what I have. Besides of that, is free, and I can hack it.

jon6 4 days ago 0 replies      
The real problem is that tools and libraries are incredibly unforgiving. Not only do you have to understand 10-15 different technologies to make your project work, but you need to understand them all extremely well which is a huge barrier to entry.

I don't know a whole lot about rails, so this is conjecture, but I imagine this is why ruby on rails is so popular: you don't need to know very much to get it going.

astrofinch 4 days ago 0 replies      
And yet nontrivial things can be built in 48 hours.

The results of modern software development speak for themselves. One of the biggest things I learned from reading a few chapters of The Mythical Man"Month was what software development used to be like.

rboyd 4 days ago 0 replies      
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
thewisedude 3 days ago 0 replies      
I dont think he hates software....he seems to hate the unnecessary steep learning curve that he is faced with when he is out to do something simple with an existing platform like unix.

I think this argument is perfectly sound. As a software developer, there are times when I wanted to do something simple using a particular framework, and I was faced with a steep learning curve to achieve it. Note here that I was not trying to use the fanciest features of the framework, but the most simplest of it.

david927 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm shocked that about 90% of comments are bashing Ry. If it's not obvious to you that writing software sucks, it's because you haven't swallowed the red pill. You are not enlightened. What he says disturbs you and discomforts you because you've built your life on the blue pill notion that writing software is supposed to look something like this -- that memorizing the minutiae is justified and even somehow noble.

You're tempted to criticize because someone told you growing up that you're a unique little snowflake and your opinion is worthwhile whether it's qualified or not. This is Ry. And his sentiment is echoed by the greats, like Alan Kay and others. Listen for a second (and you can't listen if you're already babbling your unintelligible knee-jerk response).

limeblack 4 days ago 0 replies      
Agreed software is often way to complicated, especially Linux at some parts.

Ultimately we are developing the software because of one simple thing.

The user.

emehrkay 4 days ago 0 replies      
I could imagine the hoops that he has to jump through to get things working correctly under both windows and *nix environments
gabi38 4 days ago 0 replies      
What he has against BOOST?if any, Boost helps eliminating deps. Without it one would need to use multiple libs from different places to achieve common things like shared pointers etc. Not to mention most of it is just header files.
brianshumate 4 days ago 0 replies      
When discussing this with a colleague, I was reminded of: http://neugierig.org/content/unix/
josiahq 4 days ago 0 replies      
"The only thing that matters in software is the experience of the user."


dramaticus3 2 days ago 0 replies      
GNU is Not Unix
abalone 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nice drunk post.
pyrotechnick 4 days ago 0 replies      
Somebody needs a hug...
roxtar 4 days ago 0 replies      
Complex BAD. Simple GOOD. Move on with your lives.
jQueryIsAwesome 4 days ago 1 reply      
This may be the right place to say it:
PHP... i love you!
Try Python, Ruby, Lua, Scheme, QBasic, Forth ... repl.it
377 points by amasad  4 days ago   77 comments top 27
pyre 3 days ago 1 reply      

  > import subprocess
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
File "/lib/python2.7/subprocess.py", line 429, in <module>
import select
ImportError: No module named select


  > os.name
=> 'posix'
> os.uname()
=> ('Emscripten', 'emscripten', '1.0', '#1', 'x86-JS')
> os.environ
=> {'LANG': 'en_US.UTF-8', 'PYTHONHOME': '/:/', 'PWD': '/',
'USER': 'root', 'HOME': '/', 'PATH': '/', '_': './this.program'}
> os.getcwd()
=> '/sandbox'
> os.chdir('/')
> os.getcwd()
=> '/'
> os.popen2('ls -l')
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
File "/lib/python2.7/os.py", line 667, in popen2
import subprocess
File "/lib/python2.7/subprocess.py", line 429, in <module>
import select
ImportError: No module named select
> os.popen('ls -l')
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
OSError: [Errno 24] Too many open files

* I liked the 'x86-JS' as the architecture.

* I know about os.listdir() but I wanted the permissions.

* I automatically did a ^W to delete a word and closed the tab. I don't feel like opening it again or I would probably have more.

* I realize that since this is a CPython -> JS converter that the REPL is running in my browser and no on a server (AFAIK) so it's not like this attempting to hack someone's server, but I found it interesting to probe the environment.

forbes 4 days ago 3 replies      
amasad: After a 5 minute play my first impressions are 'awesome!'. Some feedback:

I selected QBasic then changed my mind but couldn't immediately figure out how to get back to the list of the languages. Clicking the logo of a website usually takes you back to the 'home page', which in this case I consider to be the list of languages. You have buttons at the top right, with the lambda taking me back to the language chooser. Maybe button labels, even tooltips would help. But I would definitely make the logo the 'home' button. Even refreshing the page didn't take me back.

Anyway, a minor complaint. A super-cool effort. I will now go play with it some more.

arvinjoar 4 days ago 1 reply      
Doesn't work too well with my Swedish keyboard layout. If I want to use "[" or "]" I'd normally use Alt Gr+8 or Alt Gr+9, that doesn't work. This makes it almost impossible to code.
apl 4 days ago 1 reply      
Scheme runs nicely on an iPhone 3GS. The Emscripten-compiled stuff crashes before you get to a prompt. Still, good stuff!

EDIT: I take that back. Lua runs, Python and Ruby do not.

wbhart 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm unsure about the Scheme that is included. It claims to be R6RS which requires support for exact numerical operations including big integers and rationals. Currently it seems to use only double precision floating point instead of exact integer values!
epenn 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm getting a 330 ERR_CONTENT_DECODING_FAILED when I try to load up the site. If no one else is getting this then chances are it's my company's firewall interfering. If its rule set detects either "fun" and/or "potentially useful" the site is immediately banned.
derleth 3 days ago 1 reply      
Every time I try Python or Ruby, the interpreter loads almost fully and then freezes.

Lua and Scheme work fine. Also, good job on allowing me to close the tab after I managed to get QBasic locked in an infinite loop. :-) (Dual-core likely helped.)

Firefox 7.0, x86 (32-bit), running on Ubuntu 11.04, x86-64.

veyron 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is awesome! I see this replacing my normal pastebin/ideone workflows ...

One comment: in python, technically tabs are equivalent to 8 spaces, but in your REPL it is equivalent to 4 spaces. Is that a modification to the version of python you are using, or did you make a decision to match 4 spaces (BTW: I really like this, but it breaks some older code)

acpmasquerade 3 days ago 1 reply      
Nice to see QBasic there. These days its easier to write for modern High Level languages, as they are easily installed and available everywhere. But the classic and beautiful languages are hard to find and even talked about.

Good and nostalgic memories of Programming with the Basic.


simcop2387 2 days ago 1 reply      
the QBasic support actually makes me want to try to add Canvas support to it so that

CIRCLE (4, 3), 4, 4

and all the other stuff I used to have fun with years ago will actually work.

cbailey 4 days ago 0 replies      
Love it. This site is hella-fast and responsive compared to the other "Try [x]" web apps I've used before. Love the addition of LOLCODE.
Personally, it took me a second to figure out the lambda and eg buttons, but I didn't find it frustrating or difficult. Pretty smart if you ask me.
rhizome31 4 days ago 1 reply      
It's fun by itself, but what I believe could make it really useful would be to include interactive tutorials for each language. That's what I was expecting when I clicked the link.
dgottlieb 3 days ago 0 replies      
In Python:

Importing urllib hangs
zlib imports, but the compress and compressobj methods fail

> import zlib

> zlib.compress("askldas")

Internal error: ReferenceError: _deflateInit_ is not defined

gtani 4 days ago 0 replies      
try any language online (asymptotically speaking


andypants 3 days ago 1 reply      
What is Javascript.next?
Acorn 4 days ago 1 reply      
Would it be possible to implement user input via the REPL instead of the current javascript prompts? Would be much less clunky.

Also, at the moment something like this doesn't work at all (Python):

  while True:
user_input = raw_input()
if user_input is 'q':
print user_input

csomar 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why isn't the print function working in Qbasic? What restrictions are there in the compiler?
Bartlet 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great site. A trivial gripe: you should get rid of the text shadow on the "Select a Language" title. Grey CSS text shadows on grey backgrounds tend to look blurry, and this is no exception. Or, better yet, make it a white 1px shadow with no blur: http://goo.gl/BU0Hu
Legend 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hmm... Chrome gives me:

The webpage at http://repl.it/ might be temporarily down or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
Error 330 (net::ERR_CONTENT_DECODING_FAILED): Unknown error.


jstepien 3 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder whether Haskell is on their todo list. GHC's LLVM backend [1] might be helpful.

[1] http://hackage.haskell.org/trac/ghc/wiki/Commentary/Compiler...

esk 3 days ago 1 reply      
Ouch! Awesome apps like this are totally humbling. Congratulations, guys.

If you're still following this thread, amasad and max99x, I have a simple question: how many hours did you two put into this?

agentgt 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hitting that QBasic button was like Hot Tub Time Machine... and just as bad as the movie.
paufernandez 4 days ago 1 reply      
I am amazed, more so by the fact that you made the source code available (and also since it's made with node.js).

I will have a lot of fun either with the app itself or the source code. Thanks!

cfontes 4 days ago 1 reply      
Nice stuff... What about some SCALA ? mixed paradigm functional + object oriented with a lot of mojo !
rohit89 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is great stuff. A really good way to play with some languages without needing to install it.
castewart 4 days ago 1 reply      
Awesome work guys! Keep at it and I would love to play around with tutorials in the future.
fouadjeryes 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is KILLER!
Write your app in HTML5, upload it and get back app-store ready apps phonegap.com
323 points by geoffroy  4 days ago   93 comments top 24
adamjernst 3 days ago 8 replies      
I think PhoneGap is doing great work, they're obviously getting better, and I don't mean to diminish what others have poured so much effort into.

But, are there any successful apps made with PhoneGap? Writing apps in HTML5 is constantly hyped, but there isn't a single HTML app out of the dozens on my iPhone except Netflix. PhoneGap's app gallery doesn't have a single app I've heard of.

(The Netflix app isn't too pleasant, either, unfortunately.)

Urgo 3 days ago 2 replies      

"Since PhoneGap Build uses Apple's standard development process to build applications, you will need to sign up for their developer program to build iOS applications on PhoneGap Build. You will also need a Mac to configure your certificate and provisioning profile."


dendory 3 days ago 0 replies      
This site is awesome. To try it out, I made a quick one page app, uploaded it, made signing keys, and got it to the Android Marketplace, all inside of a few hours. My first mobile app ever.
Limes102 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm writing really a very large app for the company I work for. We're using PhoneGap with HTML and JavaScript and have many plugins.

What we are not having problems with is the fact that we only really have a single thread to do everything. All I can say is that I'm glad it wasn't my idea to build it this way.

pbreit 3 days ago 0 replies      
I started looking at PhoneGap but wasn't happy with Jquery Mobile for the UI. I am now trying out Titanium which offers a similar promise of ease for web/Javascript developers but with more native UI elements. So far so good but developing in Aptana/Eclipse-based Titanium Studio is a drag.

The more "consumer" your app the more likely it needs to be mobile. But I think there is probably a large class of apps where PhoneGap/Titanium make sense. Definitely in the internal business category where the audience is finite and the look-and-feel is secondary to the functionality and cost/ease of development and maintenance.

anothermachine 3 days ago 1 reply      
Nice, and I use PhoneGap for Android, but you lose all the niceties like access to hardware buttons (which means you convert limited screen space to menus) and keyboard and intents and whatnot.

I had to write some plugins to get my game working on Android (and there are still compatibility problems around opening intents), so PhoneGap apps definitely lose something in the usability department.

And of course animations are not successful in this environment.

Ads are a pain too, if that's important to you, with the Google Admob/Adwords migration happening and the mobile web vs app ambiguity.

PhoneGap seems helpful as a part of the app's main UI, but native chrome is still important to completing an app's functionality and usability. I don't see how Build solves that use case.

Still, it's a niche.

exratione 3 days ago 0 replies      
Speaking as someone writing a fairly major HTML5 iOS app using Jo and PhoneGap: this looks like a very helpful way to take the make-work out of the case where you have an app that uses no native functionality, and is not in any way optimized for best appearance.

That's not a knock - a lot of people have that use case, and spend a lot of time on their own systems for deploying to multiple platforms. Consider internal apps, for example, that don't have to be massively visually slick and polished.

But ... given the very large differences between even similar platforms, and even between versions of platforms, you're not going to be getting much from this if you are building ultra-slick apps in which you really do need consider, say, how hardware acceleration or browser quirks fit into the picture.

zerostar07 3 days ago 1 reply      
Wasn't there a time when apple rejected phonegap apps? (they did reject one of mine for sure).
Hisoka 3 days ago 2 replies      
I may be ignorant, but to write a complex app, don't you need HTML5 AND a mobile javascript framework like JQuery Mobile and Sencha? Or does HTML5 handle that too? If it does require a Javascript framework, that's when the quality deteoriates... I think imitating the look and feel of native apps is easy. Making the performance smooth on the other hand is hard.
ggoodale 3 days ago 1 reply      
Great service - I've used it to build a modest application or two for Android and iOS. One caveat: Phonegap plugins that include native components (for example, the Facebook plugin) can't be included in apps built with Phonegap Build (yet).
wavephorm 3 days ago 8 replies      
Upload your website, download a native app.

What is wrong with this picture? If you can build your app as a web app and don't require hardware access then I'd think twice whether a native app is required.

pmdan 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is my favorite example of an expertly-made PhoneGap app: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pCtD4GuAqE

So smooth.

vinhboy 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is there like a demo app with code I can look at? Thanks.
diamondhead 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is there any way to get an iOS development license using no Apple device?
ashrust 3 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe I'm missing something but given you write the app in HTML/JS it must be difficult to unit test your wrappers for the phonegap functions, as I assume you can't simply pull up your dev site from the phone's browser. I'm thinking particularly about things like the contacts or network status functions.
toblender 3 days ago 0 replies      
Funny I just released an application using this method yesterday. Too bad the Apple sales reporting site is down. I wanted to see how well HTML5 Apps sell.


gto16108 3 days ago 0 replies      
Phone Gap paired with sencha would make one seriously native-feeling iPhone application. And all HTML5? Beautiful.
forkrulassail 3 days ago 0 replies      
Beta code pretty please?
Rotor 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very curious to see how they implement this tool.

I would think there would have to be some type of "compiler hints" for particular app device builds.

czzarr 3 days ago 1 reply      
how different is this from strobe ?
designium 3 days ago 0 replies      
QUESTION: Is there a good tutorial about creating PhoneGap apps integrated to Rails apps?
nithinag 3 days ago 0 replies      
this looks cool!
ricardobeat 3 days ago 0 replies      
Am I back to 2010? Or am I reading Reddit?
infocaptor 3 days ago 1 reply      
How much effort needed to convert my single html with few javascript files to be app-store eligible. I think there is more to just using the phonegap
Promising HIV vaccine passes phase one human trials with 90% success rate gizmag.com
313 points by grannyg00se  4 days ago   97 comments top 9
joshklein 4 days ago  replies      
My father is an infectious disease specialist who has spent the last 30 or so years working on HIV in research, patient treatment, and education. The following thought comes from my casual conversations with him, and probably does not represent his professional opinion. It certainly does not reflect his specific thoughts in regards to this trial, as we haven't yet discussed it.

The progress in treating HIV since it first entered the popular psyche has been significant. It is no longer a death sentence in the developed world, and those infected with HIV - who get treatment and adhere to that treatment - can live long and relatively normal lives.

The real problem is in the developing world, and amongst populations in the developed world that cannot or will not seek/adhere to treatment. Treatment is sufficiently advanced that, while further developments of a vaccine are unbelievably exciting, they are not necessarily a game-changer in terms of worldwide infection. We have a long way to go in terms of beating this virus. Theoretically, we could follow the same route as with [edit: smallpox], unifying and mobilizing the world to isolate and then eradicate pockets of the disease, but this is a much larger effort than the one taking place in the lab, and is a question of government & administration, rather than medicine.

Edit: Bringing it up from a comment I made below, here is a relevant TED Talk on stopping pandemics: http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_brilliant_wants_to_stop_pande...

sgentle 4 days ago 3 replies      
Easy to miss: "The recent human trials involved 30 healthy volunteers, where 24 were treated with MVA-B, while the other 6 were treated with a placebo, carried out over a 48 week period."

This test was done on healthy volunteers, not ones with HIV. Although it's promising that 90% of the patients showed an immune response, we don't know how well that immune response translates into therapeutic benefit until it's trialled on HIV-positive patients.

eli 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't want to bum anyone out, but there have been quite a few potential vaccines that have made it through Phase 1 trials (several made it all the way to phase 3) only to be ultimately abandoned as ineffective or unsafe.

Phase 1 is generally a small trial that is primarily designed to test the safety of the drug, not its efficacy.

grannyg00se 4 days ago 5 replies      
"if this genetic cocktail passes Phase II and Phase III future clinic trials, and makes it into production, in the future HIV could be compared to herpes virus nowadays".

As far as I know there is no herpes vaccine and herpes stays with you for life resulting in recurring problems. Doesn't quite sound like a very flattering comparison to an effective vaccine solution.

deepakINdc 4 days ago 0 replies      
Several valid points already made here:

1. Phase 1 is for safety
2. 30 is a small number

But the big issue here is the reason HIV and even the common cold is hard to treat -- high turnover and high rates of mutation.

So, even if you have Ab's and/or helper T cells (cell that remember an infection) against one or more strains of HIV, the presentation of the strain that an individual may pick up later on in life may be different and thus might not mount an immune response. Also of interest -- Helper T-cell sare the primary target of HIV.

In order to really determine if or not this vaccine is effective, we will have to observe the responses in people who have been given the vaccine and then contracted HIV later in life. While this is promising and will add another barrier against HIV, its unlikely to eradicate the virus.

kingkawn 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a short presentation on clinical trial success rates: http://insidebioia.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/bio-ceo-biome...
appendix_a 4 days ago 2 replies      
how do you sign up people to be infected with HIV?
FameofLight 4 days ago 0 replies      
Finally we are in close stage to contain , one of the unknown virus in human history.
JVerstry 4 days ago 5 replies      
Many in the scientific community claim there is no evidence HIV is actually causing AIDS. Hence, even if this is a successful vaccine, there is no guarantee it will protect from AIDS.
Homemade GPS Receiver demon.co.uk
301 points by samlittlewood  1 day ago   13 comments top 7
samlittlewood 1 day ago 0 replies      
Also, this article references an older project that has (for me) the clearest description of the theory of GPS:


spitfire 20 hours ago 2 replies      
I wish I could upvote this several times over. This is hacker news a thousand times over, and makes up for all the dotcom, and ruby rubbish you have to wade through on this site.

Well done sir.

zb 18 hours ago 0 replies      
The L1 carrier is spread over a 2 MHz bandwidth and its strength at the Earth's surface is -130 dBm. Thermal noise power in the same bandwidth is -111 dBm, so a GPS signal at the receiving antenna is ~ 20 dB below the noise floor.

This is slightly misleading; the bandwidth of the entire signal is 2MHz (it's a 1MHz chip). The bandwidth of the carrier is much narrower - it is above the noise floor typically by somewhere between about 15 and 50dBHz (you can see this quite easily on a spectrum analyser). The spread-spectrum part of the signal is indeed well below the noise floor.

That minor quibble aside, this is a pretty awesome effort for one guy to do end-to-end.

jgrahamc 1 day ago 1 reply      
I guess this is what it takes to get round the CoCom limit: http://blog.jgc.org/2010/11/gaga-1-cocom-limit-for-gps.html
caf 1 day ago 1 reply      
Cold start to lock in 2.5 seconds is pretty damn good.
Duckpaddle2 1 day ago 1 reply      
Really cool project, seeing hackers who really understand the technology makes for great reading! Thanks for sharing this!
jeremyarussell 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Thought this was great, will be trying to make one myself I think. Keep up the awesome work, I'm keeping your site bookmarked now. (I saw a whole bunch of other cool stuff.)
How the FRA is Regulating Passenger Rail Out of Existence ebbc.org
297 points by Symmetry  3 days ago   107 comments top 16
Anechoic 2 days ago 3 replies      
(I worked on the environmental assessment of the Acela back in the 1990's and worked with testing the first two vehicles off the line in Pueblo and along the NEC NJ "race track in 2000. The firm I was working for back then also did the noise analysis behind the revised FRA horn noise rules)

This article keeps popping up on various geek sites over the years. In addition to the points kposehn brought up, I'll add the following: FRA isn't the reason why HSR sucks. The reason that HSR sucks is because we as a nation don't want to invest in the infrastructure to make a good HSR system. At a minimum that means exclusive ROW (grade-separated crossings) with relatively few stops and long straight sections where it can get up to speed.

As for the FTA buffering standards - it really doesn't matter. Yes, the Acela is heavier than the TGV. That extra weight isn't why Acela service sucks. The Acela is perfectly capable of maintaining 155+ mph speeds for extended periods (I witnessed this myself in Acela enduracing testing). The power cars are more than capable of handling the load - during the first few months of Acela operation, there was a problem with the network connection that linked the front and rear power cars. To get service running until the power could be sorted out, the trainsets were run with only one power car operating. Running with one power vs both power cars (and pulling the dead weight of the second power car) only increased DC to Boston run time by 5 minutes. As for cost, the price of an Acela trainset is within the range of most other popular HSR trainsets (TGV, ICE, Pendolino, etc) albiet at the higher end. The effect of the train weight on track wear is minimal as it's the unsprung mass of the train (essentially the wheels, axles, traction motors and brakes) that is proportional to wear, not the static train weight. And train weight has nothing to do with noise.

kposehn already commented on DMU but I'll add that the biggest impediment I saw to transit agencies adopting DMU's was that since no one else in the USA had them, transit agencies didn't know what to expect in terms of maintenance, operation, and environmental effects. In fact FRA and FTA were essentially begging transit agencies to try them, and it's only been recently that they've been operating in Vermont and other locations.

Finally, regarding FRA horn noise rules: first of all, the preemption of state horn rules originated with Congress who directed FRA to get involved with horn noise (Google "Swift Rail Development Act" for more information). But the reason those rules exist is because whenever there is a grade crossing fatality, inevitably the next of kin sue and all too ofter win in court. As a result, there is a tendency to do anything and everything in the name of "safety" on the part of RR operators, agencies and regulators. As long as this remains true, horns are going to be part of rail travel.

edit: btw we had this discussion at ArsTechnica back in 2008 (I'm Anechoic there as well): http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?p=2671067

kposehn 2 days ago 3 replies      
Ok, as someone who has long been very close to the rail industry, a few points:

1. "...the Long Island Commuter Railroad (LIRR) in New York City, which has no freight traffic" - Incorrect. The LIRR also is host to the New York & Atlantic railway, a freight line which does indeed operate on LIRR lines daily. Average train gross weight is about 1,200 tons for each freight on that line, not 100 tons.

2. "FRA staffers point out that it is unfair to compare US buffering standards with those in Europe because passenger rail in the US has to contend with more (and heavier) freight traffic." - They are quite right to do so. The US plays host to the highest density of freight rail traffic in the world with most trains exceeding 5,000 tons (some closer to 15,000).

3. "In both Europe and Japan, a competitive business exists in the DMU marketplace. But that market is off limits to US transit agencies because the FRA has effectively created a trade embargo." - Incorrect. In San Diego, the Sprinter lines use Siemens Desiro DMU's, a light design totally unadapted for the US Rail network as far as weight goes. The line also plays host to freight trains at night. How they got around the weight requirement, I do not know. Furthermore, the San Diego Trolley has the line from downtown to El Cajon by way of Lemon Grove. That line also plays host to freight at night - a streetcar line! The market is indeed open, but the trick agencies use to get around the requirement is a bigger question.

4. "The FRA proposed rule would only allow Quiet Zones exemptions at crossings that had been improved with "four-quadrant" gates and curb medians." - for good reason! Many fatalities happen at grade crossings and horns are one of the only really efficient ways to keep people off the tracks. Most other nations have few crossings, preferring grade-separated rights-of-way. However, in the US, drivers are often grossly idiotic and don't pay attention. Not how many grade crossing accidents you see on YouTube...

That said, it is indeed a major issue that the FRA rules apply to any rail line connected to the freight network that spans the nation. It would be far better if the regulations made clear exceptions for trains on passenger-only lines, hours of operation, etc.

For example, let's look at CalTrain. The main line up the peninsula only sees freight traffic at night. By setting operational rules that restrict speeds near freight trains, etc, this would allow much better equipment for CalTrain while continuing to let freight run at specific times.

The FRA very much needs to get with the program and allow better conditional standards.

blendergasket 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is really sad. I drove a long distance (maybe 60 miles?) for the first time in years yesterday because I'm staying with my mom in the suburbs that have 0 public transportation infrastructure.

First: It's impossible to have a life without a car here when the weather gets bad for biking (I'm outside of Seattle so that's a pretty good % of the year). People without a car are basically prisoners in this town with no culture, where the last bus from town leaves at 6:45. I can't go to work on days I can't bike because I usually work crazy long hours, til 10 or 11pm so I have to work from home if the weather's going to be prohibitive (I didn't bring my waterproof gear with me).

Second: My mind was blown at the mental space driving in a car for a long period of time put me in. Weird stuff like traffic lights gave me this feeling of helplessness. It's a blueprint for a system of arbitrary, total control. The fact that no decisions are really based on the situation at hand but on these lights that mindlessly blink from green to red to green to red and you never interact with anyone or anything except through this sheets of glass. Call me crazy but I really think one of the big influences that's creating the massive societal problems we have in the USA can be traced to the fact that between work, home, school, and whatever destinations we get to we interact with one another in this alienated and antagonistic way.

[edit] I know this rant is a little off topic, but it just highlights to me the need for a coherent public transportation network. It'd be interesting to look at this draconian regulation in relation to what was done to the rail network in the USA in the middle of the 20th century. GM and a bunch of other auto-related corporations formed a coalition, bought up and then dismantled lots of inner-city streetcar networks in order to replace them with buses that they would sell to the cities: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_streetcar_scanda... [/edit]

ams6110 2 days ago 6 replies      
The problem with government regulatory agencies is that once they solve the problem that instigated their creation, they can't stop. They keep looking for more problems to "fix" in a never ending loop of justifying their existence. Once they become typical bloated behemoth bureaucracies, common sense doesn't work anymore.
smokeyj 2 days ago 1 reply      
As an airliner, lobbying for tightened RR regulation seems like a handsome roi.

/takes off conspiracy hat

dpearson 2 days ago 0 replies      
Another failed government policy regarding rail: the requirement for cleaner locomotives. The vast majority of railroads in the US do not buy new locomotives, and in fact usually use locomotives from the 60s and 70s (bought secondhand). Yet, the federal government is requiring newly bought locomotives to have cleaner emissions. Given that most emissions are from yard switchers (again, old locomotives no longer used in long-haul service), this makes no sense...
keithpeter 2 days ago 3 replies      
Good luck: in the UK the worst train accidents with the largest number of fatalities have been due to poor track maintenance. The accidents have tended to occur on commuter trains with high passenger numbers and many people standing. Not sure what the French have seen as history on their much faster trains.
EGreg 2 days ago 1 reply      
The purpose of government should be to ensure that the minimum expectations of its citizens are met. These minimum expectations are a changing set of things, and I think that better feedback between government agencies and those which are affected by the rulings would be one of the best ways to solve the country's problems.

I think that http://data.gov and http://recovery.gov are a step in the right direction. Experts should analyze the data and blog about it, and the government agencies should be keeping an ear out to what experts are saying. Also the interested public can do the same.

The word "minimum" that I use is not accidental. The problem is that government rarely solves just the minimum set of problems. Once an agency exists, among the new employees there are always those who want to make their mark, and increase the amount of regulation. This is how government grows and grows. It's free for them to regulate but not free for those who have to implement it, and thus they don't feel the right incentives at the time. We need to figure out a way to incentivize government to stick as much as possible to only enforcing minimum regulations. Maybe it can be done by requiring them to get the citizenry to clamor for something before they implement it.

davesims 2 days ago 2 replies      
Those Trinity Rail Express cars are now used for the Denton-Dallas A-train commuter rail, soon to be replaced with new Swiss-made cars. I like the old ones actually, extremely comfortable and seats like a massive couch.


mahyarm 2 days ago 2 replies      
If Caltrain did a symbolic disconnect, cut off several feet from the track, put up a barrier, a few days work to do and undo. from the national rail network, would they still be subject to the FRA?
protomyth 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if they have regulatory authority over monorails or maglev?
georgieporgie 2 days ago 0 replies      
The honking is driving me nuts. They're required to hit the horn four times per crossing. Sometimes it's a series of quick blasts. Other times, they'll lay on that thing for -- I swear -- five full seconds per honk. Midnight, 2am, 3am, they don't care. I'm around a mile away from the track, and I can't imagine what life could possibly be like for those who live closer to the track.
jarek 2 days ago 1 reply      
Can we add "in the U.S." to the title?
kschults 2 days ago 0 replies      
The one issue this article doesn't address is what is being done about the FRA. Are there movements to change the regulations? Overhaul the FRA? Even something as small scale as what, if anything, the author is trying to do about it would have been nice to hear.
rmk 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think these numerous regulatory agencies are a way of circumventing popular will (read: write mandates handed out by interest groups). Whatever happened to Obama's promise that he would weed out regulations that harm small businesses (I think they would benefit the most from the increase in foot traffic that would result if public rail service were more prevalent).
stretchwithme 2 days ago 1 reply      
what strikes me as odd is that one of most cost-effective safety devices, the set built, is unavailable to most passengers on buses or trains.
VC Decries Airbnb's Recent Funding for Founder Control and Cashout allthingsd.com
287 points by sriramk  2 days ago   150 comments top 22
grellas 2 days ago  replies      
A few thoughts:

1. It is bad form for this sort of thing to be aired publicly. It may give us a voyeuristic fascination on something that is depicted as an internal intrigue within a prominent up-and-coming startup but this is fundamentally company confidential information that is not capable of being aired publicly without significant distortion. Who can answer the implied charges of impropriety? Those most directly affected by whatever is happening can't do so without violating duties of confidentiality. Yet what are they supposed to do? Sit by while people now start making invidious comparisons of their activities with, say, the increasingly notorious Groupon venture? Come out and declare "I am not a crook"? Start attacking the author of the email, who may have intended it as a confidential communication and not even have had a role in its being leaked? Or start to spread over the public record all sorts of confidential discussions in hopes of trying to defend their reputations? I don't know how this got leaked. But it amounts to an inherently unfair attack that is almost impossible to defend just by the nature of the case. In law, we learn early on that a one-sided story can almost always be made to sound compelling, while on a full airing it can just as easily be shown as just the opposite.

2. There is a long-time tension in the startup world between founders and VCs and, as someone who has worked closely with founders for nearly three decades, I can say unequivocally that it has not been the VCs who have tended to get the short end of the stick when the inequities arise. Now that fact does not justify founder abuse, if that is what happens in a given case (I say nothing about this case - we really don't know the facts). For decades, investors categorically refused to let founders take even a penny out of the company as they were urged to "swing for the fences" to ensure that the investors got their projected minimum 10-to-1 one return on investment. And when they missed, it was the investors who would force a merger or sale of the company, take out their liquidation preference to get a return on their money, and leave founders with a zero-equity return after perhaps years of working for little or no salary and putting in 20-hour workdays in the process. This value proposition may have paid in a big way for founders in select companies but it has also left large numbers of seriously harmed founders in its wake over the years. Today, this is changed somewhat and founders at times have opportunities to balance their risks along the way as they strike their bargains with the VCs. How, when, and to what extent they take any money out along the way is a completely legitimate issue to be fought for by founders and resisted by investors as circumstances dictate. But the overriding goal of letting founders spread some of their risk is completely bona fide. The details get resolved by the founders, the company, and the investors through private negotiation, not through a public airing. If investors choose to accept something that sounds aggressive to the rest of us, that is their calculated risk. Last I checked, they qualified as "sophisticated investors."

3. Is it good policy to have a dividend declared for the benefit of insiders and for founders to take significant cash out of a company in the early stages even while other employees may not have that opportunity? Maybe, maybe not. That is a legitimate question for debate and it should be cast as a policy debate, not as a perverse prying into the details of a particular company whose circumstances we do not really know. The traditional justification for requiring founders to ride it out to the bitter end with no prospect of any real return unless the company hit it big is that it is important that founders have "skin in the game," i.e., show a real commitment to the venture as opposed to making opportunistic short-term moves that further their immediate gain at the expense of the venture. That is a legitimate concern at all times in a startup but so too is the idea of fairness to founders. Why, when founders have the power to assert more control, should they voluntarily accede to a historic policy the keeps them in handcuffs and leaves them with basically an all-or-nothing proposition in whether they ever get anything significant out of the venture? This makes no sense and it is natural that founders would want to change this older pattern and practice. We can debate to our heart's content whether this is good for startups or not - that should be a policy debate (including over where exact lines ought to be drawn on cash take-outs), not an excuse to take what might amount to cheap shots at a founding team that certainly deserves better treatment than to have a one-sided debate carried on at its expense.

patio11 2 days ago  replies      
I must have missed the post where a VC said "Guys, sorry, love your company but I couldn't in good conscience participate in a round where the rich people get paid and the poor people are told to wait for an exit." I must have missed that post quite frequently, because that describes every VC round ever.

A $120 million investment round means that about $2.4 million in cash money just moved from the limited partners (universities, pension funds, wealthy families) into the pockets of the VC firm's partners. Not stock, not options: cash money. This is the way the system has always worked, since time immemorial. VCs get paid a management fee (about 2%) win or lose, and a percentage of the profits when they win.

Just something to keep in mind when someone mentions their strong principles in the course of a discussion over how dang expensive butter is these days.

[Edit to add: My description of management fees is slightly simplified and ignores salient things like the fact that they recur annually.]

cletus 2 days ago 3 replies      
Absolutely 100% agree.

Founders cashing out is a big red flag. I said it about Groupon. I've said it before. This really is taking it to the next level: cashing out with a dividend to retain control and ownership.

I absolutely agree that for any cash out it should be open way beyond the founders. In fact, this is a good way for larger startups to kick the 500-shareholder limit can just a bit further down the street.

I see Airbnb as a fundamentally risky business. At some point Airbnb will be large enough to warrant the attention of local and state authorities because many people offering places to stay are doing so illegally or in violation of their own lease agreements.

This woman who had her apartment wrecked is just the tip of the iceberg. It is only a matter of time before a headline about a serious physical assault or worse. Airbnb can count their lucky stars it was "only" a ransacking and vandalism.

0x12 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you don't like the terms of the deal, don't do the deal (he doesn't want to do the deal, see third and next to last paragraphs of the email).

A VC complaining about the terms under the pretense that 'the little guy is treated unfairly' is a bit like royalty complaining about the price of cake.

Nobody forces him to do this deal on these terms. He's just scared to miss out on a big hit, he'd like the ring side seats to be cheaper by keeping all the money in the company or by buying out some of the founder stock.

Too bad, you can't have it both ways.

He may have a point about early employees (a 'special dividend' that excludes certain shareholders is not very elegant) but it is not his to make, and the dividend in this case was to 'common stock' which seems to imply that anybody with vested shares participates in that dividend.

His 'concern' is about the unvested employees, but that's a nonsense argument, as long as your stock is unvested, you don't have any stock.

Options do not participate in dividends until you exercise them, they never do because they are not stock and that's a pretty clear-cut thing.

Pretty low-class to dump this email in the public domain, I think that people will remember this when dealing with this particular investor in the future.

gojomo 2 days ago 2 replies      
The special one-time-dividend to vested early stockholders seemed a little fishy when I noticed in Groupon's S-1... but maybe it's just an efficient way to reward existing value without larger dilution/valuation.

If employees with unexercised but vested options were given a heads-up that such an unusual early dividend was coming " so that they too could choose to qualify " that might address much of Palihapitiya's concern about fairness.

rdl 2 days ago 0 replies      
This looks like two issues:

1) Founders de-risking a successful but still growing company at a series b or later financing (or even a late series a). I really don't see a problem with founders diversifying their personal portfolios (otherwise, many have 100% in company stock AND debt from school, etc.). You don't want them to get distracted, but being short on cash doesn't help you make a successful product.

2) De-risking via a special dividend, vs. secondary sale of stock. Yes, it lets founders avoid selling some shares. If you're doing it at a $1b valuation, it doesn't seem like a major factor either way, but if there could be a precedent for people raising $20-50mm rounds, dividend vs. sale might be a better way to put $1-2mm in the pocket of each founder after a few years, so they can shoot for a >$1b exit.

I'm curious if this form was suggested by the AirBnB side (or their law firm) or the VCs.

shawnee_ 2 days ago 1 reply      
Separately, when you look at successful tech companies, it seems that dividends are an approach used by cash rich operations to distribute excess earnings " in fact, the most successful, cash rich tech company in the world, Apple, hasn't issued a dividend and they have more than $75B in cash!

The fact that companies can get away with something like this is absolutely ludicrous. It illustrates just how far the stock market has gone from its original purpose.

Back before companies had the ability to sweet-talk investors with bulging pockets, companies wanting capital had to raise it the good-old-fashioned-way: IPO. IPO used to have the ability to allow a company to access as much capital as it would reasonably need to grow. But with the preponderance of heavily privatized companies milking both the private AND the public side of the investment machine, the value-creating just cannot be accounted for properly. Something in the gears here needs to be tweaked.

A company like Apple with $75B cash (if that's true) should have a legal and an ethical obligation to pay out dividends to its shareholders. Tight-fisting cash doesn't do anything to the wealth-creating mechanism in our capitalistic society.

crazyfoo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Cross-posting from my Quora answer:


I have no knowledge of specifics outside of the ATD article mentioned, but my read says that the dividend will go to all common shareholders. So employees who have both vested and exercised shares will receive their pro-rated portion of the proceeds as well. It just seems that the founders must hold 93% of the vested shares (21/22.5), which is reasonable given that they started vesting years ago, when they were still in their cereal-selling phase.

Addressing the founders' decision to dividend-to-common instead of secondary selling some of their common shares:

In a typical venture financing, only preferred shares are sold, and there is a price per share that is set by the round's valuation. After closing, the price per share of the common shares/options is determined by external auditors in what is called a 409A valuation process. This process is a little bit of a game, whereby the company tries to come up with reasons (financial models, market comps, etc.) to depress the price of the common shares relative to preferred. This has the benefit of giving subsequent hires a lower exercise price on their options (and eventual higher profit upon exit.)

The price delta between the classes can be as high as 10:1, though it's usually closer to 3:1 and narrows as a company approaches IPO. However, were anyone (founders or employees) to sell common stock in the round, the common price per share would jump to exactly this new clearing price. Since Airbnb is a hot company, it's reasonable to think that buyers would be willing to pay a market price for common that's not far below preferred. And that would mean less upside for all future employees. A dividend-to-common avoids this.

Because Airbnb is so young and fast growing, they still need the allure of the upside of stock options to recruit and retain talent. Any sophisticated investor should understand this dynamic. And yet this dividend annoys them because it means there's a wealth transfer occurring that doesn't increase their ownership.

Let's assume for a second that I'm right and that all vested/exercised common shareholders will see some of the dividend. As food for thought, what if Airbnb had instead said they were going to spend $21M of their newly raised capital for cash bonuses for anyone who had worked for them more than a year -- distributed per employee via this equation: total hours worked * total value created... would the Valley's response have been less uproarious?

tworats 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's important to note that the VC is not objecting to the founders taking cash off the table. He's objecting to the method (dividends as opposed to a secondary sale). His arguments are convincing to me - and I'm a founder so my bias is naturally for the founders.
ispivey 2 days ago 0 replies      
The problem Chamath is highlighting is not that the founders are cashing out. Or that early employees are not getting cash -- everyone with vested common stock gets a proportional amount of the cash.

The big difference is that since the founders aren't selling stock, they aren't being diluted, so the employees with unvested stock don't get more of the company.

Basically, vested common gets paid, common doesn't get diluted at all, unvested common gets relatively screwed (they'd own more of the company if it were a secondary sale).

Of course, dividend vs secondary also affects the investors' price, but I can't see Chamath making such a stink about a simple matter of price.

Hitchhiker 2 days ago 0 replies      
The Vanity of Wealth and Honor

" If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. " - Ecclesiastes 5:8-12

kposehn 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a very interesting article! I do think that he makes a very good point that if you are already 90% vested, why be so concerned about dilution? I definitely think that, as founders, when we get liquidity we need to make sure the people that helped get us where we are get a slice as well.

After all, we aren't the only people that make a company succeed.

kloncks 2 days ago 0 replies      
How uncommon are dividends like these happening within a VC-round?
paulkoer 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think the interesting question here is who leaked this email to allthingsd. If the VC really wanted to give the Airbnbs a heads up (as he makes it sound in the email ... take care, let's keep in touch, etc) then I don't think there was any necessity to leak this and I am quite sure the Airbnbs wouldn't want it out in the open either.

And then... the Groupon comparison kind of sticks in your mind, doesn't it? I don't know, I get the feeling there is more behind this ...

bigohms 2 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps a rethink is needed of bringing the public sentiment into the equation by making this communique open. I appreciate that it does shed more light into the strong dilution resistant finance. However, the round particulars are private and the fair play would go privately to the guys with it.

Seems to be a lot of this going around these days.

gabaix 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why do the founders want to cash out?

It looks to me you can increase your salary to live a good life, while waiting for the big exit. I understood Groupon did this because they thought Groupon was at its peak. Is that the same thing for AirBnB? Am I missing something here?

NY_Entrepreneur 1 day ago 0 replies      
Ah, what a morality play -- secrecy, power, greed, collusion, dirty dealing, guilt, shame, etc.!

If HN can't outgrow the fascination with morality plays, then what hope is there for the rest of society and society as a whole?

We need a new Web site: VC_secret_confessions.com!

trim 2 days ago 1 reply      
Didn't Chamath make most of his money cashing out Facebook stock early? Does anyone remember the story about him from a few weeks ago?
pheaduch 2 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting that he brings up Apple as during their IPO, if it wasn't for Wozniak and his "Woz Plan" the majority of Apple employees and the former earlier employees would have been frozen out of the IPO. Jobs was very much against giving up his share of the pie.

To me, being greedy is hardly the worst trait to have as entrepreneur.

sek 2 days ago 6 replies      
A founder who believes in his business, will never cash out early. period.

He would always get more after an IPO or exit. So why would he?

I assume the founders are not stupid, they know their valuation is not justified.

An open letter to Stripe: please come to Europe handcraft.com
284 points by primigenus  1 day ago   93 comments top 33
pc 23 hours ago 4 replies      
Patrick from Stripe here. We know how important that is. I personally grew up in Europe (Ireland), and 5 of the 10 people at Stripe grew up outside of the US. It sucks that we're US-only right now.

We're actually working on supporting Europe right now. It's pretty complex, and won't happen overnight -- but it's one of our very highest priorities.

If you'd like to be notified when Stripe is available wherever you live, you can leave your name at https://stripe.com/help/global. We'll also announce news at twitter.com/stripe.

tomelders 1 day ago 5 replies      
Many people may not realise this, but Europe is the largest economy in the world according to the IMF, who know a thing or two about this stuff.

Since I saw Stripe last week, I've been wondering why no one in Europe has managed to put something similar together. We have the technical expertise and the world largest economy, so what's stopping us?

Sadly, it turns out that Europe is so fragmented and disparate when it comes to banking practices that the benefits of working in the worlds largest economy are completely obliterated by the difficulties of working with all the countries involved, many of which are so fundamentally corrupt (I'm looking at you Italy) that any sane legislation is unlikely to go through.

Stripe may well cobble together solutions for individual countries like Germany, France and the UK, where there's enough money flowing around to warrant it, but the return on investment quickly starts to diminish as you tackle the smaller countries, which is not really a great incentive for Stripe to "pull their finger out". I'm not saying they wont (they've already said they will), I'm saying the incentives aren't all that great. And they're even worse for anyone wanting to implement a homegrown solution because we don't have competitive advantage of the US economy to start from.

It would be nice if everyone in Europe had the Euro, and everyone in Europe also had the same banking practices, but if you rank that possibility on a scale of 1 to 10, the scale explodes.

One alternative I can see happening however is for some savvy EU state to make it ridiculously easy to open up business accounts, with multiple currencies that anyone in Europe (if not the world) can open and run their business through, with the easy transfer of cash from country to country. Other than bureaucracy, I don't see what's stopping them.

In fact, the commercial banks could well be eliminated from the equation. The value of the digital economy is important to any countries future growth that the central banks could plausibly take the initiative here.

LeafStorm 1 day ago 1 reply      
Guys, they're working on it. It's not something where if enough people write letters, they will magically be able to set up shop in Europe. Accepting payments in multiple countries is hard, and all the pain you had to go through to get your payments to set up, they're having to go through and more. So you don't need to remind them every forty-five minutes that you want them to come to Europe/Africa/Asia/wherever.
twidlit 1 day ago 0 replies      
Damn! i was in the middle of writing my "An open letter to Stripe: please come to Asia" post.

Looking forward to a post titled "An open letter to Stripe: please come to Africa" in some other blog any minute now. :)

Seriously, this is a hair on fire problem for non-US entrepreneurs.

Please become BFFs with HSBC since they are present EVERYWHERE.

illdave 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's amazing that in 2011, launching a simple and elegant payment processor is enough to pretty much disrupt the industry. I'm really hoping Stripe can make it to the UK - I'd be incredibly happy to give them my percentage.
duggan 1 day ago 2 replies      
It's not like Stripe don't want to come to Europe. In fact, they tried to start here:

  Actually, the first bank we ever talked to about @Stripe was Irish.
They did everything short of laugh.


kanwisher 1 day ago 0 replies      
When I was working on Gucci.com, Europe was always the biggest problem for payments, each region has different tax law, different payment gateways, shipping laws. Big opportunity to tie Europe together but I don't think its something a startup can do, more intercountry commerce laws need to be made to make it easier.
TamDenholm 1 day ago 2 replies      
I dont know why the author thinks the situation is any better in the UK. Its pretty bad here too. A common requirement of getting a merchant account is to have £50,000 sitting in an account doing NOTHING, "just in case". UK online payment processors aren't much better.
timcraft 1 day ago 0 replies      
They're working on it:


I suspect it's more of a legal/business challenge than a technical one.

5hoom 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Just a lone voice in the wind, but on the other side of the Earth Australia is in desperate need of rescue too!
thibaut_barrere 1 day ago 0 replies      
Two points would have to be covered for me (and others I know) to be interested:

- handle VAT like Recurly does it (http://docs.recurly.com/advanced/value-added-tax/)

- sign Safe Harbor (http://export.gov/safeharbor/)

wyuenho 1 day ago 1 reply      
Please come to Asia too. Start with Hong Kong/Tokyo/Singapore and then go from there.
d3x 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Stripe is really awesome. I started using it yesterday on i.crowdfunded.it and I have never had such an easy time w/ CC processing etc...
philipDS 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's sad that we live in 2011 and still have to use something like PayPal to do "easy" payment processing. Unless you process a reasonable amount of transactions, forget simple payments. Stripe, where art thou :(
okrasz 1 day ago 2 replies      
In Poland (Europe) there are plenty of Stripe-like services for several years now. They mostly integrate all online payments (online wire transfers, credit cards) but also offline, where you can pay in your local shop, post office or traditional bank transfer. Virtually all banks in the Polish marked are handled. Almost no e-shop will handle payments themselves, especially that integration modules to most of e-commerce software are provided. Therefore I wonder how can it be so different in other parts of Europe?

Some samples:
- http://dotpay.pl/index.php?content=&newlang=en
- http://serwis.platnosci.pl/home,462.html
- http://www.przelewy24.pl/en
- http://www.payu.pl/
- ... and many more

kashif 20 hours ago 0 replies      
If one looks at the latest FB and Google surveys one will find that one of the biggest untapped markets is India. Unfortunately, all these startups that really want to grow big aren't seeing the big picture - and I don't mean just the ones that have started recently. There are many that have been around for a really long time and haven't even tried capturing the upcoming markets.
armandososa 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Forget Europe. Come to Latin America. It's mostly e-commerce virgin.

And by Latin America I meant Mexico.

lvh 1 day ago 0 replies      
HK++, HSBC++. We're a HK company with HSBC/Hang Seng. HSBC is pretty much everywhere. I'm sure they would love your business...
revorad 1 day ago 2 replies      
Open letter to non-Americans: Build your own Stripes.
jamesmoss 1 day ago 1 reply      
At the moment you can only sign up with a US address. As a stop-gap solution could they enable European addresses but with the caveat that you'd only be able to take payments in USD? This would be fine for me.
colin8chSE 17 hours ago 1 reply      
If your non US based, you may be interested in Simplified Ecommerce.

We cover the entire payments stack- gateway, vault, PCI compliance, recurring subscription management and Affiliate Marketing. http://SimplifiedEcommerce.com

darylteo 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I am slowly waiting for Stripe to become a ubiquitous global CC processor. :) Don't let me down! (Australia here)
rayhano 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Hi Rahul,

I definitely agree with getting better technology here… but have you seen gocardless.com?

They seem to have a much better (read effective/innovative solution).

Let me know what you think in comparison to stripe.


brackin 1 day ago 0 replies      
I want Stripe for my startup. Paypal has caused huge problems for us, as we sell in 24 hour periods we get an influx in sales and our Paypal is constantly locked for a few days meaning we can't pay any merchants and it all becomes a lot of work for something which doesn't have too. There's a whole list of other reasons but Stripe seems much better. We're a UK startup though.
makira 1 day ago 2 replies      
What about Canada ? Should be much easier...
bvdbijl 1 day ago 1 reply      
Problem in the EU is that there are a lot of different payment systems, in the Netherlands we have iDeal for example which works great, but is only usable here. Dutch people also almost never pay with creditcard
james33 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Maybe I'm missing something, but the fees seem way too high for this to be a viable option for anything of scale. Even PayPal's fees are lower, and I get credit card fees of only 2.15% + $0.25 from a company offering a similar service. Yes, Stripe is beautifully designed and simple to use, but since I'm already setup somewhere else with significantly lower fees, I don't see the appeal. Are they specifically targeting small developers?
fastspring 22 hours ago 0 replies      
FastSpring and SaaSy work with developers as well and support payments in Euros, Pounds, USD, AUD, CAD, and Yen, have order pages that are translated into 18 languages, and handle global tax management for desktop and SaaS developers.
braindead_in 1 day ago 0 replies      
And India too.
pagehub 1 day ago 0 replies      
I really hope Stripe can make it happen in Europe, we are really crying out for a full stack service!
llch 23 hours ago 0 replies      
love this! now this is an awesome product/market validation.
msinghai 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Come to India. Please.
Iv 1 day ago 0 replies      
DEar fellow European, please help spread bitcoin's adoption.
Neal Stephenson: Innovation Starvation worldpolicy.org
252 points by jamesbritt  3 days ago   120 comments top 30
sgentle 3 days ago 4 replies      
Grr! I like Stephenson a lot but I find this argument highly disingenuous. In fact, I find most of the reactions I've seen to "the end of US spaceflight capability" sickeningly short-sighted and hyperbolic.

Read the goddamn budget announcement: "Orszag said that in addition to research and development, NASA's proposal invests in 'advance robotics and other steps that will help to inspire Americans and not just return a man or a woman to the Moon but undertake the longer range research that could succeed in human spaceflight to Mars.'" [1]

Yes, the US has gotten unambitious in spaceflight. Yes, there's been nothing more inspirational than repeating what happened in the 60s. Yes, yes yes. That's the whole point!

The shuttle was canceled because it's stupid to turn NASA into the federal "send shit into Low Earth Orbit" department. We've done that, we've been doing that for half a century now, it's no longer innovative. What NASA should be doing is what no private enterprise can do: highly unprofitable risky space pioneering that inspires the human race. Let's take away money from boring and put it into interesting! How can anybody be against this?

Honestly, this is the reason we have politicians. Can you imagine how long we'd be running expensive useless shuttle missions if it was decided by popular opinion?

[1] http://www.spacenews.com/civil/100201-white-house-confirms-c...

thaumaturgy 3 days ago  replies      
The fuckery is in the details.

I, too, wonder why so much of technological progress seems to have stalled. In a single century we went from the mass production of the automobile all the way to space; from telegraph to television; from typewriters to microcomputers. What an amazing period of technological development! There had been nothing like it in our history. Like the perhaps somewhat apocryphal Renaissance, we may not even realize the significance of this age for a very long time.

So, what happened? Software has not, really, improved very much in many years. Our computers and phones and other devices have mated and borne tiny little offspring. But, these still feel like iterative changes on revolutionary designs.

And, of course, there is the faltering space program.

...Except, Armadillo Aerospace and SpaceX and others are right around the corner, I hope.

I think I've noticed a pretty ubiquitous pattern in certain kinds of projects: the sorts of projects that are huge in scope, with immediate deadlines, and a clear focus, and full of talented people whose responsibility it is to figure out how to reach the project goals as quickly as possible.

They grab every available technology, and they make amazing advancements in combining it and putting it together, and in the end, if they reach their goal, they end up with something that works, but is inelegant. They build an enormous, amazing, beautiful ... hack.

After that, if the progress is to continue, it's up to an entirely different kind of approach: the fucking about with the details.

It's not enough just to put a human and some supplies in space; now the goal is to do it sustainably. Now we have to build reusable ships and things capable of lifting tremendous payloads into orbit while sipping their energy through a tiny straw and not costing anybody very much.

And that's where the development is going right now. It requires tons and myriad tiny little developments in a huge array of sciences: in energy production and management, and in materials science especially. Like Intel, our space program has had its "tock"; now it's time for a "tick".

At least, I hope that's what's happening. I'd hate to live in a world in which humans had given up on exploring and pushing against their boundaries.

Lagged2Death 2 days ago 1 reply      
I enjoy Stephenson's writing, and I think he must be a really smart guy. Which is why I'm puzzled by this reasoning:

1) Science and engineering aren't chasing anything audacious and world-changing anymore.

2) The blame lies partly with the fact that we're living in a world changed by pervasive, cheap communications and networking technology that would have seemed unthinkably audacious just a generation ago.

There is an irony here that I would have expected him to see through instantly, but he seems entirely oblivious to it.

Science fiction famously anticipated some real-world 20th century innovations like atomic power, communication satellites, waldos, etc. But it's had a much worse track record with communications. There are no cell phones (or cell-phone-like devices) in Neuromancer. Stephenson's own Snow Crash features an international computer network with a virtual-reality interface that seems incredibly cumbersome and inconvenient compared compared to the actual web.

I think it must be harder to imagine how any given piece of technology will interact with the larger society than it is to make predictions about what the development of a technology will make possible. A VR type interface to the web wouldn't be much of a challenge (technically) by now, but nobody wants one. Second Life is withering on the vine. The video telephone that has been so long predicted by SF is possible now, but it turns out to be more trouble than it's worth except in exceptional circumstances. And when you make it available to just anyone, it turns into a TV show about penises.

samgro 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm from a different generation than Neal Stephenson. I grew up inspired by my parents' old IBM XT. The Apple II at school. My TI-83 programmable graphing calculator. Not space flight. I continue to be inspired every year by the innovations in tech startups, and that's just the field I happen to live and work in - the biomedical field in the last 10 years has made orders of magnitude of progress understanding the human genome in ways that I can barely understand (despite having a college degree in Quantitative and Computational Biology).

Without Facebook I wouldn't have seen or spoken to lots of old friends until our 25th high school or college reunion.

Without Twitter I wouldn't have learned from and made connections with influential people in the tech world.

Without Google or Wikipedia or StackOverflow I would have to go to a library to learn anything new.

Without GitHub I would have to write my own software from scratch and spend a lot of time managing collaboration workflows.

Without AWS, Heroku, Ruby, Rails et al. I wouldn't have been able to launch my own startup without outside funding.

Without Zappos I wouldn't be able to buy size 15 shoes in whatever style or fit I want. I ordered shoes last week at 7pm and they arrived at 9:30am the next day. Seriously.

Without Kindle and my iPad I wouldn't be able to get any book in the world in 5 seconds for $10.

AirBNB, ZipCar, Apple, Dropbox, the list goes on, and this is in my (our) industry alone.

Neal Stephenson might not be able to fly to Mars in his lifetime, but I'm pretty excited about the innovations that will happen in the next 10 years; if they're half as good as the last 10, us geeks will be pretty satisfied.

wladimir 3 days ago 0 replies      
His "Galapagan isolation" / "large continent" hypothesis is interesting. I've noticed similar things.

Obviously, the continuous stream of data from the internet makes it harder to concentrate on one thing, I think we can all agree on that (which is why HN implements 'noprocast' and such)

But IMO something is also happening on a deeper level. The focus on 'social' these days also means being flooded with opinions by others (whether something is feasible or useful or not, for example) which might discourage you from continuing on big, bold projects.

Somehow one gets addicted to "validation" by others, which is easier to get if you keep close to the status quo. This is similar to what he describes with the shareholders of a public corporation. The immediate feedback cycle causes a lot of people to "judge" what you're doing and of course, there will always be some that don't believe in it (as there is no immediate payoff yet) and block it.

On the other hand, the internet is great because it allows communication and working together of people with similar mindsets, which otherwise would never have found each other. So it also might unite people to work on (open source etc) and/or finance (things like Kickstarter are a beginning...) big projects. A mixed blessing :)

zach 3 days ago 3 replies      
It seems tautologous to say that innovation happens in innovative areas, but that seems to be the substance of the problem expressed in the premise.

Not only does disruptive innovation not happen where we expect it to, it usually refuses to happen where we will it to. Not only solar (and fusion) power, but things like making the kind of artificial intelligence we wanted. It seems like they were just not solvable with any amount of cleverness. Maybe we picked the wrong build tree, but maybe we were just hand-waving when we extrapolated to flying cars.

I think part of the problem is not seeing sustaining innovation, like nearly all of the space program, as the mostly-linear kind of innovation it is. I mean, it sure seemed like we were creating new dimensions of technology when we increased the "number of men on the frickin' moon" statistic above zero. But how much of the innovation required to get there was really Freeman Dyson level stuff? To me, the 25-year line from V-2 to Apollo (with stops at satellites and ICBMs) seems pretty straightforward given the resources involved. Am I just too jaded by retrospective?

It seems the fault lies more in our expectations than in our imaginativeness.

pnathan 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's becoming frighteningly obvious in recent years that hardcore innovation is being stifled in the names of 'too risky', 'not enough ROI', 'politically incorrect', and $current_political_battleground. It's also frighteningly obvious that the status quo of new-flavor-of-entertainment-as-innovation has ardent defenders.

As a society, almost nothing in the scope of the Big Ideas of the 1900s-1950 era has come to pass in the last 30 years.
Our science fiction writers write of hideous futures we don't want to live in. Our movies present soap operas in space, in the name of science fiction. The education system of the pre-50s, maligned as it is, produced better innovators and more good ideas than what is alllowed today.

Wake up and smell the tomatoes. Things are bad, and not getting better. Drop the entertainment ideas, and work on something good for the world.

A few weeks ago, Khan Academy was hiring.

1092u34iojagj 3 days ago 2 replies      
Go back to the 90s with an iPad... see what they think of it.

We have artificial leaves that generate fuel by floating in sunlit water.

In a few short years most book stores (an industry centuries old) will have been closed and replaced with e-readers. You can get the next Harry Potter (or whatever replaces it) without leaving your couch.

We have 3d printers that will create a statue of your World of Warcraft character without a human ever touching a carving tool.

Aids is about to be a minor infection.

We live in a world of science fiction, but we refuse to acknowledge it because we make the miraculous into something mundane. Mostly we use our world to get porn and read Twilight, but that doesn't mean we're not making huge changes to the world.

digikata 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think that Stephenson is on a false trail blaming the dissemination of information for lack of big innovation. Most corporations run in fear of the unknown just a much as previous failures are shutout - if the accountants can't imagine the market, or if the market isn't a sure thing then it's also avoided.

This is also why actual direct competition is avoided in preference to non-innovative market/customer manipulation taking the form of techniques like customer lock-in plans, patent trolling, and planned obsolescence. Mostly narrow payoff innovation is pursued as the business community has focused around making short-term profit optimization the most accepted strategy.

gavanwoolery 3 days ago 0 replies      
The problem is competition (or lack thereof).

The space race was not fueled by just wanting to set foot on the moon. Keep in mind the Soviets were trying to advance their space program as well, and prior to all of the space treaties this was a war for claiming new ground. Old Soviet schematics actually show some crazy designs, like satellites with (freakin') laser beams mounted on them.

Now, it does not really matter who gets to Mars first - its certainly not a competition any one person or company wants to risk billions of dollars on.

Even if you grouped together some of the most prolific VCs, their cumulative budget would be fairly small for taking on large scale problems.

The problem is that money has to come from somewhere to take on big problems, and no one wants to shell out.

jeffdavis 2 days ago 1 reply      
I am only about halfway through the article, but the "failure of society to get big things done" thesis is falling flat.

What about cell phones, and the communication revolution in general? While I'm at the park in the US, I can call someone in Europe riding on a train. Or, I can take the same phone to Europe and call someone back home. That's pretty amazing, if you ask me.

What about free/open source software? Someone can start a business with almost no capital at all, and get an operating system, an office suite, a web browser, and sophisticated database management software. And they don't even need to tell anyone that they are doing it. And when they need something better, they can fix it themselves or hire someone to fix it; they don't need to deal with the original vendor. That's just the business side of things -- the educational aspects of free/open source software are just as compelling.

I guess the problem is that none of these things are as impressive to look at as a 500-ton rocket.

glimcat 3 days ago 1 reply      
I can sympathize with this. But I also think it's wrong on many points. Feynman's point that "there's plenty of room at the bottom" is extremely relevant to the modern age; most of our marvels are now Small Stuff rather than the Big Stuff that Neal calls for.

I'm crazy for space exploration, but unmanned exploration really is the stronger option at this point. I get excited over large trussed structures, but cheap handheld medical scanners which don't require an expert operator are going to do more to relieve human suffering. I'd love to see more innovation - but in spite of everything, there's more today than ever before.

It's hard to see sometimes because a lot of the big stuff is twenty years out or more. All it is today is a project in some academic lab, just a seed. But how else are you going to get your miracles?

AngryParsley 3 days ago 3 replies      
Neal makes some good points about western nations, but some of the more authoritarian governments aren't restricted by citizen initiatives or environmental laws. China is a poster-boy for this sort of growth. If they continue to increase prosperity faster than democratic western nations, their style of government might become the template for the future.

From http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/12/china-ascendant.html :

The world has emulated Western policies mainly because those nations were high status, not because their style of law or government was obviously more efficient. Chinese styles are likely similarly efficient, and if China becomes higher status, the world will emulate it instead.

A generation ago, people in China were starving. Now they're the second-largest economy in the world. Last week they launched a space station. Of course China has problems, but their government seems to know how to grow quickly, and that increases their citizens' quality of life.

nicpottier 3 days ago 1 reply      
Nice essay. Funny thing about the SF writers being inspiration.

I'm actually reading his latest book right now, "REAMDE", and although it is well written and entertaining, it certainly doesn't provide anywhere near the fun 'mind stretching' that some of his previous books have. (Snow Crash being the obvious one there)

Really, REAMDE is a bit boring from a SciFi point of view, more akin to any number of suspense / thrillers that get stamped out every year.

On his larger point, I do wonder whether the reason the rate of real 'physical' breakthroughs recently, like the kind he had in his childhood is more just us starting to bump into the limits of physics and resources.

IE, cracking the atom was a pretty insane step forward in power generation, it is really hard to do a lot better. Oil is miraculously awesome as a transportable source of energy, it isn't for a lack of trying that we haven't found a replacement. Computing and processors are starting to hit the limits of physics.

Anyways, a good thought piece no matter what.

jblow 3 days ago 2 replies      
I have been having similar lamentations recently.

One obvious example: the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The original bridge was built in 1933; it took them less than 3.5 years to build it.

Now, they are just trying to replace the eastern span (the bigger one, but hey, less than the full bridge), with technology from nearly a century later. They have been "working on it" for 9 years. It is currently scheduled to run another 2 years from now (if it somehow gets done on time) and is 6 times more expensive than originally projected.

For a bridge. That doesn't have any more traffic capacity than the bridge it is replacing.

molbioguy 3 days ago 0 replies      
In my opinion, Stephenson is focusing on "getting big stuff done" and, more pointedly, achieving large and perhaps lofty goals. He's not disparaging all the incremental advancements that add up to something really big. I think he's saying we've lost the will to aim really high, take real risks (loss of life included), to achieve something that seemed insurmountable. I think he's saying we've grown too fearful of risk and failure. We've prioritized safety over achievement. While his examples were space-based, I don't think that's what he's ultimately aiming at.

The current internet is revolutionary, but wasn't achieved on some master plan. It grew incrementally and somewhat organically. Creating a planet-wide super high speed communications network to every house within 10 years as a concerted project might be closer to what he's thinking. Something like what Google plays around with, but on a huge scale. Software and computer devices are also amazing, but they too were not part of a well-defined goal or vision. They grew from smaller innovations.

There will always be good rational arguments about things being too costly or too impractical or just not as important as feeding and clothing everyone, but that's the "valley" that he spoke of getting past or over. It's hard to fly if you remain too firmly grounded.

Goladus 2 days ago 0 replies      
I would say the most rapid and important technological advancements happening right now are in genetic sequencing and analysis. In his TEDxBoston talk, Richard Resnick even draws a parallel to the space race, pointing out that China is ahead the US in this area[1].

Energy is important too, and I think people are trying hard, but "energy" is an enormously difficult problem, and unfortunately the bar set by oil is very high. That is, if you want a viable alternative energy source it has to be as cheap, safe, portable, and effective as oil. Or else, government must ask everyone to begin making personal sacrifices in order to transition infrastructure away from gasoline and other oil consumption (the space race required comparatively little personal sacrifice).

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8bsCiq6hvM

polynomial 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised that on such a great and lively thread as this no one makes mention of the possibility that technological expansion follows a cycle of innovation and incorporation, and the possibility that Stephenson is lamenting that the latter doesn't measure up to the former.

This post leads me to wonder if Neal himself won't be surprised by what the next innovation phase has in store. Also, does the concern he expresses here have any parallels in Reamde?

rndmize 2 days ago 0 replies      
I find this piece to be a tad ridiculous. The "where's my space station?" feels like the magazine article I see every few years complaining "where's my flying car?". A space station is simply not very cost effective at the current time.

Further, I find that innovation is happening so rapidly now that people simply take it for granted. But this doesn't mean it isn't happening, or that the changes aren't as big as they were in the 1900s. Science fiction writers in the 1920s or 30s could take a reasonable stab at what the world might be like in the 70s or 80s; those a few decades later at the 90s. But given how fast things are changing now, I find it difficult to have a solid idea of what the world will be like in just 10 years. Biotech, nanotech and genetics seem to be advancing at great speed, pushed by the inexorable advance of computing. The way in which people interact and work has transformed, and continues to do so; software allows a single person or a small group to do things that would take entire departments 30 years ago.

Which brings me back to the point of efficiency; why bother going through the tremendous effort required to construct a human-habitable space station now, when in 20 or 30 years, we will likely have the ability to remodel ourselves to a high degree, giving us the capability to adapt ourselves to space, rather than having to engineer complex and expensive systems and equipment to cover our shortcomings? Or perhaps a decade or two after that, the ability to "back up" ourselves might become a reality, allowing us to take greater risks or have multiple bodies (Ghost in the Shell, Culture books); or have nanotech suits that serve as a second, adaptable skin for any environment (Hyperion Cantos, Culture books).

As for the idea that science fiction inspires scientists and engineers to create the future, and its currently mostly dystopian stuff we'd rather avoid, I'd agree. Because currently, the direction we're heading for that's not dystopian is boring. The Culture books emphasize this; there's nothing interesting when you write about a future where things are going pretty well, where disease is not a problem, or nanotech manufacturing/3D printing type tech has lead to a post-scarcity or nearly post-scarcity society, or human backups and body replacement tech make dying outdated, and so on.

vl 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't worry too much: our generation is going to experience singularity, and unlike cars and cell phones it's not going to be nice.
igorlev 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think it's starvation, it's just a big slow patch. Innovation, just like evolution doesn't work on a smooth continuum but in jumps and bursts of flowering. Neal Stephenson is being observant but unfortunately shortsighted himself by complaining about the natural cycles of innovation.

I agree with his observation that we've become more short-term oriented, I don't agree with his extrapolation of that tendency to the future or the causality. We're not building big stuff because we've become shortsighted, we've become shortsighted because we've built most of the big stuff that was cheap to build with current knowledge. As soon as new avenues open up we'll have another burst of invention.

Fusion reactors have been "a few decades away" for the last 75 years so it's understandable that we don't have as many people interested in that. But I'll bet you that when they're finally made workable enough you will have enough applications of that tech to figure out for the next 50 years.

Same thing with manufacturing. You already have people printing gun parts on 3D printers and trading designs on-line. Research being done at this very moment on metallising printable materials or making stronger composites printable is going to turn manufacturing completely upside down.

19th century was figuring out the applications of mechanical automation, early 20th - the applications of electricity, late 20th - of electronic automation. Who knows what the 21st will be, but I'm sure we'll get out of this slow patch eventually.

mark_l_watson 3 days ago 0 replies      
While I agree with the basic premise of the article on complacency and lack of risk taking in innovation, there is another side to this argument that is well covered in Eric Ries's new book "The Lean Startup" on making both innovation and learning what works more efficient.

We seem to live in an increasingly stratified society: much of the work force has obsolete skills and too often a lack of incentive to retrain while a smaller number of people are pushing the envelope on learning new ways of running businesses and new ways to develop tech.

radarsat1 3 days ago 1 reply      
I agree in principle, but it seems funny to me to read an article like this after watching a video of a surgical robot peeling a grape! Maybe the space program was the "big idea" of the 60s, but there are still some pretty fantastic innovations being developed, even if they are closer to home. But i agree that energy innovation is going to be the most important subject of the next decade.

I guess the reality is that things like globalization is making it impossible to ignore down-to-earth political-economic problems that we simply need solutions for, right now, more than we need other things. I have confidence that we are in a highly transitionary period of history, and eventually the pendulum will swing back te other way.

robryan 3 days ago 0 replies      
The problem is that the will isn't there currently, I'm sure NASA could replicate the past moon landings at a vastly cheaper rate than the originals now. With the right level of funding how hard would it be to conduct a heap of controlled landings taking things similar to ISS modules to the moon, and then use similar tech to apollo to ferry astronauts to put together a base.

Given the budget is there really any tech that needs to be invented to do something like that? Astronauts could stay no longer than ISS stays so you wouldn't even need to push into new longevity of space travel.

Granted the a Mars mission would be a big step up, which makes incremental improvement that seems to work best in tech progression harder. Still I think it's mostly about the budget and the will of people to want to achieve this stuff.

beambot 2 days ago 0 replies      
The comment about engineers and patent searches is pretty spot-on. I've seen many compelling efforts prematurely abandoned due to previous patents. Hearing this from Neal Stephenson strikes me as ironic given his employment at Intellectual Ventures.
_corbett 2 days ago 0 replies      
So I'm more optimistic; the basic conflict human vs. vacuum may yet be won as private companies rightly take interest in the final frontier-c.f. SpaceX and their amazing ambitions. Also, if the powers that be are listening: sign me up for the first trip to Mars.
spiritomb 2 days ago 1 reply      
sorry, i don't share his vision of technology grandeur.

- the moon and mars (let alone the other planets) are _not_ hospitable to humans. pure fantasy to consider fruitful colonization.

- the next stop outside of our solar system is lifetimes away, who would actually want to live in a moving space station? yuck

- more efficient energy and transportation systems - why? so we can cram even more people onto this planet? how many is enough (or too much)?

- more/better gadgets? games? sad - aim higher.

the big questions we need to solve are those pertaining to sustainable living (as a population). the only people giving this thought these days are crackpots.

we have significant peak-this-or-that issues staring us right in the face. if we don't stop farting around w/ 'golden age' SF fantasies, and start working on the real problems we face .. we'll be looking at another dark age rather than crying about not playing frisbee on Neptune.

aangjie 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very nostalgic article...Especially, since having grown up in india in the 80's my inspirations were similar. But given my history of being swayed by these type of articles, i am willing to suspend judgement/opinion about innovation for a couple of days and re-read the article..Maybe after re-reading http://lesswrong.com/lw/7e5/the_cognitive_science_of_rationa... :-)
wolfparade 3 days ago 1 reply      
I didn't read the whole article but all I saw was anecdotal evidence that there isn't as much innovation. Maybe it's hard to measure innovation, but at least try instead of saying "from my viewpoint as a 50 year old white man we aren't innovating." And then try to come up with theories why there isn't innovation when you haven't even come close to proving that there isn't.
tocomment 2 days ago 0 replies      
Site down. Mirror?
I Think Your App Should Be Free earbits.com
251 points by earbitscom  11 hours ago   157 comments top 34
davesims 8 hours ago 2 replies      
If musicians had nearly as much stake in their distributed product, from a percent standpoint, as a startup founder has in his/her business, or if the music industry were remotely as equitable, all things considered, as the software industry, then the essay's apparent allegory might ring a little more true to me. But the practical reality is musicians don't have a similar stake, or a similar chance at making a sustainable living, as software founders.

If I were to reverse The essay's tactic, by way of, for instance, rewriting a paragraph of another certain famous essay about the music industry (which is admittedly dated but still mostly relevant even in the age of iTunes), you could see the contrast pretty quickly. I doubt that anybody would agree that the software industry is this bad. Let's call this hypothetical essay "The Problem with Software" and see if you agree (with apologies to Steve Albini):

"Whenever I talk founders who are about to sign with a major startup incubator, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless Angel Investor at demo day holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed."

Let's say my hypothetical essay goes on to itemize point-by-point in a detailed and authoritative way how startup incubators and VCs virtually always end up screwing over founders and developers every time...well it couldn't because there are no such numbers, no similar data, because in general software startups don't operate that way. The dynamics in the two industries are entirely different and the analogy doesn't work, for various reasons not the least of which is that the average founder has a far higher chance of making money, according to the known risks, than the average musician relying on sales and downloads. VCs, in general are far more equitable (big assumption there but I'll stand by it anecdotely) than the average label, which operates on long-standing numbers-manipulation that rarely if ever compensate artists fairly or transparently. This doesn't make piracy right, it just makes attacking it relatively inconsequential to the artist.

The essay is right, albeit ironically so, about one thing. The music industry has indeed moved on. The future is much more than live events, though, it's innovative business models (like, say, for instance Earbits', which I'm intrigued by and really hope works) and creative manipulation of new media, as bands like Pomplamoose and OK Go have done. The music industry is a dinosaur, and piracy is only a small part of the problem. The main issue is that the music buying public is jaded, fragmented and far less easily manipulated into buying than in the past. The available music is vast in number and the average music fan can listen and partake in countless genres and acts, only a few of which might be shared by friends.

The essay's principles are in the right place -- defending the incomes of musicians, but the allegory ignores a chasm of differences between the two industries, the massive inequity of the music industry towards artists, and the simple truth that there's nothing anyone can do about it, certainly not through the old RIAA/ASCAP/etc. model.

kylec 10 hours ago  replies      
This is nothing more than a thinly-disguised allegory about piracy in the music industry. There are several big differences between the music and the software industry which I won't go into, except to say that: even taking this story at face value, for the developers to then start suing everyone downloading the fake copies of the app would still be a huge dick move.
TheCapn 6 minutes ago 0 replies      
I know this is only thinly related but I thought I'd post something that I heard from an investor that I met with a few months ago that we decided not to pursue a career with regarding app development for enterprise blackberry stuff... Disclaimer: I'm just posting his point of view and don't necessarily agree with it despite seeing his side of the argument.

My partner (at the time) and I met with him regarding an application we developed during our last year of University that had seen a lot of industry interest during our formal presentation. He wanted to meet with us and discuss helping us market the app because he was close friends with my friend's family and helped students like us previously.

His only real question to us regarding the app was our marketing plan. "Sell it" is not a very good pitch despite us not knowing what-so-ever what we wanted to do with it (or what we were capable of doing without shooing investors away). He brought up the point that whether we want to or not we should not be giving it away for free. Why?

His argument was that if we were to put a few months of effort into development of an app to give away for free we were essentially robbing ourselves. I myself am a strong avocate for OSS and had a hard time agreeing with him, I gave him a perplexing glace in favor of a "wtf". He continued by saying that if we were to dedicate that much time only to give it away we were robbing ourselves of those hours of labour we invested as well as preventing any other student/developer/whatever from being able to make a living from the product line. By us giving away something for free that had a real-world value we robbed others from entering the market to make a dollar.

His argument was that we must charge something for our work and if we don't want to make any money to give the proceeds away to charity. By doing that we could allow others to enter the market and make a dollar to fuel future efforts and development.

Its sort of a funny way to think of things and sometimes I find myself agreeing with him but I'm never certain... I felt the idea of "free software" preventing the developers from making their share of the effort is a good example of how his side of things can be right in many cases.

Again, not saying this is my viewpoint so don't get all "up in my grill" :)

decklin 9 hours ago 1 reply      
I pirated some music today[0]. I went to my usual shops to try to buy it, and for some reason the label had explicitly decided not to offer downloads of any sort. Just vinyl and CD. I wanted it now, and I couldn't really be arsed with those choices, so I stole it.

What would an honest Android-app allegory for this be? Perhaps a consumer is faced with these options:

1. An official shop, which accepts money (yay!), gives only some (boo!) of it to the artist, and offers:

a. The source code to build the app (i.e. a plastic disc that you have to rip yourself)

b. maybe, sometimes, a version of the app compiled for a 320x480 screen (acceptable lossy compressed files)

c. maybe, even fewer times, a version of the app compiled to use any screen size (lossless files, or high-quality lossy or whatever you like)

2. A dodgy (boo!) pirate site, which doesn't accept money (boo!), and offers all of the compiled versions.

Of course this is not even close to reality. No Android apps are compiled by normal end users. All paid Android apps offer 1c. Music piracy does not exist because of religious "information must be free" nuts like this article is talking about -- it exists because people's moral feeling about getting some money to the artist is not strong enough to overcome the inconvenience of 1a (or even 1b). Maybe we should conclude that the analogy has broken down.

Society does not "accept" this sort of piracy like it's a binary switch. The "morals" curve slides down, the "inconvenience" curve slides up, and at some point they pass each other. I see no reason why they can't trade places again -- if we actually try to do something about it instead of spinning clever allegories.

I suspect we need to look elsewhere to understand the motivations of app pirates (yes, I know this was not the point, but if you're going to be facetious...). The real thing is right there, for a few dollars. I've already given Google Checkout my credit card information. I cannot fathom what would make someone deal with sketchy sites (sketchy sites whose entire purpose is to install executable code on your device) to get the same thing they can just pay for. Maybe they are in fact just religious nuts.

[0] Honestly, I can't even be bothered to pirate most things these days. I'm culturally behind because filling in the gaps in what I can actually buy in FLAC would be a part-time job. If a record shop so much as rejects spaces in my credit card number I get bored and go listen to something I've already bought. This is a problem that could use some, as they say, disruptive innovation.

toyg 6 hours ago 1 reply      
If you look at the history of smartphone development, you'll find a better analogy.

You see, back in the '00s, it used to be common knowledge that "nobody pays for third-party smartphone apps". It was scientifically proved over and over again, on platforms like Symbian and Palm, by research after research. You see, back then getting hold of a mobile app was relatively hard; you had to go hunting for it online, find it in some sort of online directory, pay tens or hundreds to the directory (which was also trying to sell you some other crap like proprietary downloaders etc or spamming you or generally treating you -- and developers! --- like shit). The market was tiny and tech-savvy, and resented having to pay so much for small add-ons, often of dubious quality.

Then came the Apple AppStore, and lo, all of a sudden people were paying for apps! Why? Because the ease of purchase and lower prices dramatically enlarged the market to people who simply couldn't be bothered to jailbreak and pirate just to save a few quid, or wanted to support authors. The pirate market didn't disappear, but mobile developers flourished nonetheless.

Now replace apps for music, and good streaming services for the AppStore, and I think you can see where things are going: consumers wants a simple and immediate buying experience where they don't feel like they're being ripped off by third parties (even though he still is, by Apple) and with low prices. Give them that, and they're quite happy to pay; try to force them into digital slavery, and they'll resort to the black market.

Now, guess what the music industry tried to do for the last 15 years.

Triumvark 2 hours ago 0 replies      
The only argument for getting paid in this article is that sweat deserves a return.

That was Marx's labor theory of value. Marx was wrong.

You deserve a return only when you efficiently meet someone else's needs. The secret to economic success is not sweat, but creative sloth.

We measure value against the cost of substitutes, and other people already entertain me for free (without piracy).

Maybe entertainment just isn't a hard problem. Maybe the bottom 99% of entertainers are basically tagging cat pictures. Maybe we shouldn't encourage them.

I guess if you're an app dev, and want to learn one thing from the music industry, I'd find a way to connect with fans and give them a reason to buy: http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/12695

Then look for ways to be creatively lazy, and make sure your app can't be replaced by going for a walk on a spring day.

goodside 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I must be missing something really obvious here. I haven't used Earbits, but as a streaming service, why not enforce things like this server-side, rather than trying to suppress pirates from distributing the cracked client app?

(No victim-blaming or other moral subtext intended. Just curious.)

kalvin 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I didn't recognize it as an allegory until halfway through, because jailbroken iPhones already have a very comprehensive free-cracked-app store, and I can only assume Android users have way more options.

Is this one of the reasons games are all going free+in-app downloads? What's the actual state of mobile app piracy today? It seems like many mobile developers are already moving to alternative models not involving direct sales, whether that's a subscription, virtual goods, or pay-for-addons/upgrades.

lwhi 4 hours ago 1 reply      
The ideas inherent in selling any form of IP are not sustainable. Our economics are traditionally based on finite resources - and economics involving sale of intellectual property allows an infinite number of transactions.

In my opinion, we can not expect to make money from the straightforward sale of any form of IP for much longer. New models are being developed and services industries are adapting to offer the value that's traditionally been disseminated through IP sale .. this is where the future is heading.

The bleating, repetitive carrion-call of the old guard is becoming increasingly annoying. While their incentive seems obvious; the fact that these organisations are unable to innovate is even more blatant.

baddox 10 hours ago 0 replies      
From the tone, it seems that this is sarcasm and the author's point is against music piracy. Despite the seething tone of a few sentences, the points he make sarcastically are actually decent points. From sentence to sentence, I go from being convinced that he's trying to be against music piracy to being convinced of the opposite. When he says

> They tell you your business model is broken. You should make money some other way. Maybe you should sell t-shirts with your company's name on them, or put on events of some kind and charge for tickets. That's where the real money is. Paid apps are a thing of the past, they say.

I can't help but think, Yeah, I actually do think that. Like it or not, distribution of quality media was a big part of the value provided by the music industry before the digital age and the internet. I'm not making an argument for or against the ethics of the piracy itself, but I think music producers (both big studios and "little guys") are unwise to rely on legislation and lawsuits to protect their business.

glimcat 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I really don't care if teenagers with no money run a free copy of my stuff. They weren't going to buy it anyway - and now they're out there increasing its penetration. From a business perspective, it's often a win if you stop fallaciously calculating every illegitimate copy as a loss of the sticker price. From a strictly personal standpoint, I take it as a compliment that they like it enough to go to the trouble.
shabble 10 hours ago 3 replies      
For all the potential parallels with the music industry, I think there are quite a few significant differences.

Firstly, what are the current equivalents of a mobile App Store for (pirated) music? There are definitely a bunch of places you can find it if you look, but few of them are as "one-stop-shop" as current app stores.

Secondly, does pirated music often outrank the artists/album name/track titles in general internet searches? Most of the time you'll get the artist, maybe some unofficial fan sites, and some dodgy-SEO lyrics/"free if you pay for our questionable rapidshare style hosting" that probably doesn't even have the content.

If you consider piracy-specific search engines, like TPB or whatever napster/gnutella mutated into, then you're more likely to find real content, but that requires knowing where to look in the first place.

If you consider 'your VC' as an artists music label, then they've probably already got some kind of enforcement system going on. You probably won't have to do all the 'policing' yourself - it's their loss just as much as yours (if not more, due to some of the interesting accounting) if copies aren't getting paid for.

All in all, it seems like a fairly weak metaphor, although I can see how it could become more of a problem in the future.

Edit: I forgot to mention "They're doing the best they can, they say. Most of all, they're complying with the law, they say." - I can't imagine many people who download pirated music do so without realising that it's illegal and/or immoral. Legitimate looking services like streaming sites are harder to judge - they might have a license for the content, or they might not. Compare this to an official platform App Store, where consumers can reasonably expect some level of dilligence in ensuring ownership. And if it becomes necessary, there's some sort of accountability back to the person who uploaded the pirated content.

I imagine the author here chose android because it has a less tightly controlled app store, and it may be possible to create anonymous accounts if you're only dealing with free apps (compared to iOS where you need to have bought a dev license to get any signing keys, even for free apps, as I understand it).

jrockway 10 hours ago 4 replies      
What is the moral of this story? "I'm an App Developer, therefore I shouldn't pirate music"?

Ultimately, piracy breaks down to "people want your stuff, but you've priced it too highly". In the case of apps, that's all it is. In the case of music, it's a little different. Music is cheap, but it's rare that you can get it in a good format: everything is lossy, and for people with good audio kit and good hearing, that makes the music unusable. Therefore, people that both Want It Now and want full quality are going to download the FLAC torrent rather than buy lossy MP3s. (They won't buy the CD because it takes too long for the mailman to deliver it.)

The same goes for movies and TV. Nobody will sell you those things without DRM, so if you use Linux exclusively, you have no option but to pirate the content. Make every TV show a standard non-DRM'd HTTP download for a buck, and piracy (among people with money) evaporates instantly. But the content producers want a bogeyman to blame for all their problems, so they intentionally keep piracy alive.

(If there were no such thing as the ability to pirate movies, people still wouldn't have bought the 88th redo of Star Wars. We liked it the first time. But it's easier for Lucas to blame the evil greedy pirates than his evil greedy self.)

Tichy 7 hours ago 0 replies      
They should have done some research before creating the app and changed their business model accordingly (yes I know it is supposed to be a parody).

I think the way to approach the issue is to think what does the population want, because the population elects the government which then makes the law.

Since people are copying music, obviously they want free music. But they also want music. The question is, if copying was legal, would music go away (or decline)? I think for a lot of art forms it is obviously not so. People will create art no matter what, as has been shown over the centuries. Even today, getting rich probably should not be your first motivation when forming a band.

It becomes a problem with art that is very expensive to produce, like movies and computer games. I think part of the solution will be to move those things into Kickstarter mode, that is, make people pay in advance for their creation. In the same vein of course it should be easy to pay people after the creation. Already a lot of people seem to be willing to do so.

This I think also has some precedence in history, when artists typically had some sponsor.

Also of course technology will make those things cheaper to produce too - in the future it will be possible to simply add actors to your movie with a mouse click. Computers could simulate Tom Hanks, Marylin Monroe or whomever you desire them to simulate. Already today it is probably quite cheap to create the scenery in movies.

6ren 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Music or software, it's an interesting point. SaaS is one fix.

Bill Gates had problems with copying way back in 1976. It seems to have worked out OK for him. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_to_Hobbyists

vacri 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Who are these people that go to 132 different android app markets to find a free version of the software they see on google's market for $0.99? Are they really the kind of demographic you need to worry about?
ericflo 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Hint for everyone who has commented so far: this post is not really about apps.
alduler 9 minutes ago 0 replies      
Well I think you should work for free as well then.
michaelpinto 10 hours ago 2 replies      
From day one my gut has always told me that Android users are pretty much like Amiga users were back in the day -- the idea of paying for software (any software!) seems like a bad idea. That may be good news if you're Google or a carrier, but it's bad news if you're a developer.

To me fair if Android is part of the "Google way" and maybe the solution is to have advertising bring in revenue (which goes back to AdSense). On the other hand iOS reminds of the Mac back in the day: The users seem to be willing to pay for software -- however that software better be damn good.

So perhaps the solution is to really think of both platforms as being a very different play from each other. Most developers think of their program as something to port between platforms, but maybe that's not what this ecosystem is about? In the same way the games that you would build for Nintendo DS wouldn't even be aimed at the same audience as the Xbox.

Volpe 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Reading this, I sympathise completely with the developers (being a developer myself). And I also see the uncomfortable parallel with arguments I've seen/made about the music industry.


tomlin 1 hour ago 0 replies      
> After ranting endlessly on Hacker News and the like, finally the person who keeps stealing your app posts a reply.

In the entire time I've visited HN, I don't think this has ever happened. This is the equivalent to a politician visiting poor neighbourhoods dressed like 50 cent, hoping to "level" with the community. So contrived.

dools 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Is there not a way of giving your app away for free, and then encouraging users to setup some sort of subscription or purchase from within the app if they like it? People regularly provide voluntary financial support (tips, street performers)when it's easy and they see benefit.

Unless the ev1l pirat0rs actually compiled a different version of your app in order to give it away for free without those messages (which seems unlikely given there's absolutely no incentive for them to do so) you'd make a pretty penny through the sheer volume of users.

Imagin busking to an audience of 1 million people, all equidistant from your guitar case with one dollar in their hand?

The scale at which digital distribution allows piracy is the same thing that will make you money: you have free distribution to millions of people, just figure out a way for them to voluntarily give you money and you'll be sorted.

sosuke 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I must have missed the back story. Are people really able to just launch cracked versions of apps back to the Google App Store?
incub8or 3 hours ago 0 replies      
All content producers face the same problem: if their product gains traction, it will be pirated; if it does not gain traction, there will be no revenue.

We just finished a no budget feature film and knew we had to come up with a disruptive distribution strategy to get traction and avoid piracy. Our solution:

everyone who registers to download the movie will get to display a picture, logo or text of their choosing on a billboard in New York's Times Square.

Prices start from only $10 upwards. So for as little as $10 you can get any message / image / logo (as long as it's not obscene and you own the rights) up on a Times Square billboard.

Our strategy seems to be working.

I know this has been mentioned before but filmmakers, programmers, musicians, artists etc all need to think about how to engage an audience as a hook to the content. So by buying the content from the actual producers, they get much more value than just pirating it.

More info on our strategy: http://bit.ly/pgyGaR and on the movie http://bit.ly/n4XQG0 and http://on.fb.me/qcoACw

handelaar 7 hours ago 1 reply      
The main problem here is that in the situation described you would indeed pretty much be an idiot not to make your app free and get revenue from ads or other avenues.

Not as a capitulation to piracy, but because you'd make more money.

Iv 5 hours ago 0 replies      
> They tell you your business model is broken

And they have a point.

redxaxder 4 hours ago 1 reply      
At least two differences between software and music:

- no malware

- possible online updates or other interactions

As long as these differences persist, your distribution method can easily add more value than the pirate copy.

Triumvark 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Can't wait for the sequel: "I Think My Patents Should Never Expire"
samgro 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Before commenting about Android, read the article twice, look around the page, and if you still want to talk about Android, read one of the related posts.
pagejim 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I think Search engine services showed us the way, how one could provide an essential service as free and make money using more subtle ways .. Apps (developers) would have to go down that way eventually ..
alexwolfe 10 hours ago 0 replies      
The reality is that you do pay for stolen music, it just happens over a much longer period of time. The cost is the money you could have made in a society that supports paying for digital content or software.
esutton 10 hours ago 0 replies      
interesting read, though it wont change anyones mind on piracy one way or the other
barumrho 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Maybe app developers should now form a group like MPAA?
hwf829 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Mozilla's secure coding guidelines for web developers mozilla.org
239 points by girishmony  3 days ago   65 comments top 17
pornel 3 days ago 3 replies      

    Invalid login attempts (for any reason) should return the generic error message:
The username or password you entered is not valid

In practice, on any non-trivial website, it doesn't make a difference for security.

Registration form will show a specific error when you try to register username that is already taken. Password reminder form will show error when you request reminder for an unknown e-mail. Some websites even have AJAX APIs for checking validity of usernames/emails!

Because of that it's easy for an attacker to check whether username or password is invalid. Vague error messages make it only hard for the user.

nbpoole 3 days ago 2 replies      
One interesting/cool suggestion that I think is worth noting specifically: the use of HMAC+bcrypt instead of just bcrypt for secure password storage.


- The nonce for the hmac value is designed to be stored on the file system and not in the databases storing the password hashes. In the event of a compromise of hash values due to SQL injection, the nonce will still be an unknown value since it would not be compromised from the file system. This significantly increases the complexity of brute forcing the compromised hashes considering both bcrypt and a large unknown nonce value

- The hmac operation is simply used as a secondary defense in the event there is a design weakness with bcrypt that could leak information about the password or aid an attacker

georgefox 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great resource, but some of the input validation stuff doesn't sit well with me, for example:

> Examples of Good Input Validation Approaches... Firstname: Letters, single apostrophe, 1 to 30 characters

First, I'm not sure if I should interpret letters as [A-Za-z] or something more inclusive of non-Latin characters. But anyway, why restrict this so much? What about spaces, as in Mary Ellen; dots, as in P.J.? Heck, why can't I use a hyphen or a number? Just because you might not try to name your kid Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 doesn't mean nobody else will (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naming_law_in_Sweden#Protest_na...).

Perhaps I'm not seeing the forest for the trees here, but when it comes to restricting input, it always seems there's a risk of "We can not accept that last name" behavior (http://www.cooper.com/journal/2009/09/we_cannot_accept_that....). If you're properly sanitizing/escaping on the way out, why be so harsh on the way in?

yahelc 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ironically, immediately after reading these guidelines, I checked my email and had just received an email from Mozilla's mailing list service that contained my password in plaintext. Oops. (To be fair, it looks like they're just using Mailman http://www.list.org/)
Estragon 3 days ago 2 replies      

  Ensure that a robust escaping routine is in place to prevent the user
from adding additional characters that can be executed by the OS (
e.g. user appends | to the malicious data and then executes another OS
command). Remember to use a positive approach when constructing
escaping routinges.

Surprises me that they regard sending client content to the OS at all.
What is wrong with parametrized execution using using functions like
os.spawn*, which place arguments straight into the called function's argv

shabda 3 days ago 4 replies      
Whats the point of this?

> Email verification links should not provide the user with an authenticated session.

It always bugs me. The "forgot password" links only allows me to choose a new password, but does not log me, adding a extra step.

qjz 3 days ago 1 reply      
Passwords must be 8 characters or greater

Half of the top 50 cracked Gawker passwords were 8 characters (and longer passwords were not exposed, due to the nature of the vulnerability). Since 8 character passwords are vulnerable to a known common weakness (in DES), this should be revised to:

Passwords must be 9 characters or greater

This will prevent your users from using passwords that are vulnerable to the DES attack if they reuse them on other sites.

mgkimsal 2 days ago 0 replies      
OT but scary: http://michaelkimsal.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Scr...

This is a financial institution.

jtchang 2 days ago 1 reply      
A lot of people want to get into web development. One thing they have to understand as that while the barrier to entry is low there are a ton of nuances that separate a mediocre web developer from a great one.

These guidelines are a good example of what web developers have to deal with on a daily basis. Certainly not trivial.

wulczer 3 days ago 4 replies      

  Example A field accepts a username. A good regex would
be to verify that the data consists of the following
[0-9a-A-Z]{3,10}. The data is rejected if it doesn't

I guess then that pg won't be able to sign up for your service... Nor will donfernandovillaverde79.

darrikmazey 3 days ago 2 replies      
Ensure the "tweet this" or "like this" button does not generate a request to the 3rd party site simply by loading the Mozilla webpage the button is on (e.g. no requests to third party site without user's intent via clicking on the button).

Thank you for this.

rickdale 3 days ago 1 reply      
this is brilliant. I am wondering if there are other secure coding guidelines for web devs? I usually refer to stackoverflow for questions about security, but often wondered if there was a set standard.
rohit89 2 days ago 2 replies      
I have a question about the password policy.

    All sites should have the following base password policy:

Passwords must be 8 characters or greater
Passwords must require letters and numbers
Blacklisted passwords should be implemented (contact infrasec for the list)

Is it responsibility of the website to make sure that the passwords are strong for the general user ? Isn't it the user's responsibility to create a good password ? I would think that the site should let the user know about best practices but ultimately it should be up to the user whether to follow it or not.

tszming 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ruby on Rails also provide a guidelines for web security: http://guides.rubyonrails.org/security.html
mcoates-mozilla 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great feedback. I'm glad to see this guide was helpful and I've made a few enhancements/updates based on these thoughts.

-Michael (@_mwc)

jroseattle 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good security practices and ease-of-use are often at direct odds with each other.
mindhunter 2 days ago 0 replies      
I love the standardisation of generic answers. First thing coming to my mind as a non-nativ speaker: is there a way to provide translated versions of it inside the wiki?
Ryan Bates launches RailsCasts Pro railscasts.com
228 points by illdave  23 hours ago   56 comments top 23
jinushaun 19 hours ago 0 replies      
RailsCast is an amazing service and I don't know if I could've ever learned Rails (and the RoR ecosystem) without it. Definitely a service worth paying for. I'm glad he's keeping the free episodes because it would be a shame if newbies shied away from trying it out because episodes were no longer free.
johnnyg 22 hours ago 1 reply      
That was the easiest buying decision ever. Ryan, you are a mench. $9 a month for pro videos is a steal.
thehodge 22 hours ago 2 replies      
This is awesome but I'd rather pay $13 and have him split it with asciicasts
thibaut_barrere 22 hours ago 4 replies      
I think I'm going to subscribe just to say thanks for all his previous efforts.
melvinram 21 hours ago 0 replies      
All I can say is... What took you so long Ryan?
barrydahlberg 4 hours ago 2 replies      
RailsCasts gets recommended to beginners a lot but every time I go there I'm kind of overwhelmed and have no idea where to start. The archives go back to 2007 so starting at the beginning seems likely to cover outdated subjects now. On the front page I see Draper, Spork, Sorcery, Foreman, Pry... none of this means much to me.

Any suggestions on how to attack this for a relative newbie to rails?

cschep 21 hours ago 1 reply      
This feels like a response to destroyallsoftware.com. Which is AWESOME. I'm glad the "pro" market for screencasts is getting more attention.
happypeter 1 hour ago 0 replies      
RailsCasts is awesome, I owe so much more then $9 per month to it.

But here in China, many young students will still think it is too much...bad bad bad, anybody can do a less pro one, and make it free?

tsycho 12 hours ago 1 reply      
For some reason, RailsCasts.com is not loading up at all for me. Am I the only one seeing this?
If it helps, I am using Chrome 14.0.835.186 on a Mac OSX Snow Leopard.
desireco42 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Now this is a service from someone who contributed to community a lot. Unlike that textmate debacle where people would pledge money for nothing, this is the real deal and it is very reasonable. I could see how this could cost more, but I can see how with this he will probably get good following, provide for Ryan resources to continue his work.

I will be happy to subscribe to such service and to add, I would subscribe just to say thanks for years of awesome content.

tomblomfield 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I think we're all here saying the same thing!

Railscasts are amazing - I always felt I should be paying something for them

gabyar 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm glad to see an outstandingly helpful member of the rails community earn income from what has been a mostly altruistic task that must take a lot of time every week.
Omnipresent 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I kind of saw this coming when I got an email from Ryan that he is cutting down on moderators for Railscasts. I was one of the lazy ones :(

Anyways, I'm going to subscribe not just for future episodes but for all those episodes from which I've gained immense knowledge.

RegEx 21 hours ago 1 reply      
I'll definitely give this service a try. Does anyone know of any other premium rails screencast sites? I recall a link to a funny rails article on HN about a month ago that was created by a guy who does premium rails cast for $9/mo (the site has a really dark background). Wasn't able to dig that up after a weekend of searching.
jcapote 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Railscasts are cool, but if you want something more advanced, I cannot recommend destroyallsoftware.com enough
abyssknight 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Good for Ryan, this is a great way for him to monetize an already awesome service.
Omnipresent 20 hours ago 1 reply      
I wonder why Ryan is not blocking access to the source code for pro screencasts on github. Other pro screencasts such as peepcode protect the source code as well.
rsobers 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm so glad to see the outpouring of users who are downright happy to pay for this service. Ryan: you should add a payment option that lets people pay more than $9 per month. Let us specify the amount. I'd gladly pay more if it meant you could spend more time producing content.
matthodan 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Just got my Pro account-- no brainer.
mhoofman 20 hours ago 2 replies      
I would guess Ryan used https://stripe.com to set up reoccurring billing for Pro.

So will we be seeing an episode or maybe an advanced episode on how Ryan set up reoccurring billing for Railscasts?

grepper34 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Honestly, I wish he would charge more. I've gained so much value from this over the years that I would gladly pay a much higher monthly fee.
tomblomfield 22 hours ago 3 replies      
US-only billing arrghhh
hugacow 18 hours ago 5 replies      
Rails 3.x jumped the shark. It is getting too complicated for anyone new to come on easily. This is the reason that Scala, Clojure, Haskell, etc. will fail, too- complexity. I'm not a PhP guy, but it isn't hard to see why it is still wildly popular. Make it easy enough, and fun to use, and it will take hold.

So while he may make money on Rails geeks that continue on and with those that want to learn, there are fewer that are coming on and will come on now then there were.

If you like Rails, listen to Ryan. I've been doing RoR a while and really, really appreciate the Railscasts (and the Asciicasts of his Railscasts- thanks Eifion!). But if you are looking for a long-term framework to stand by, keep looking.

I own a domain that a big corporation wants to sue me into acquiring. Help reddit.com
225 points by pagliara  1 day ago   74 comments top 22
ajkessler 1 day ago 1 reply      
Ugh, it hurts to read this kind of advice. Sue! Punitive damages! You can get costs! (btw, you probably can't get punitive damages, at least from the little info you've provided, and costs =/= attorney fees)

The best advice in that thread was to seek out on-campus legal aid. At the law school I went to, there were clinics that dealt specifically with entrepreneurship and IP. Look around, I'm sure other schools run similar clinics. You generally don't even need to attend these schools to utilize their services.

At the very least, if you can't find something like that, or the deal you're working on is a little above their pay grade, some professor on campus can point you to somebody that does good pro bono work or is willing to work on contingency.

If it just turns into a negotiation, you could do this yourself, but, honestly, you're probably going to get taken to the cleaners, both financially and emotionally, if you end up negotiating against professionals. Get a lawyer. There's no shame in it. http://www.ajkesslerblog.com/hired-guns/

lacker 1 day ago 4 replies      
Their initial offer was $150. I said no, that I had put way too much money into it for that low of a price. They came back with $250.

Anyone who's bickering about $150 vs $250 to acquire a domain is not a "big corporation". The OP is being bluffed.

DaveChild 1 day ago 3 replies      
I have some experience of a similar situation, having at one point run a web dev blog at ilovejackdaniels.com, before the JD legal team contacted me ... and I'm on a new domain now.

The problem, as explained to me by a lawyer (I am not a lawyer, so don't go taking this as legal advice, as I'm paraphrasing what I was told), is that legal departments for really big corporations just care about winning. It doesn't really matter whether they are in the right or not. What's going to make it difficult for you is that they have a huge amount of resources that you don't.

It sounds in your case like they have no actual case for cybersquatting or similar. But that doesn't mean they won't sue you. And if you can't afford to be sued, then that's an automatic win for them.

You also need to evaluate what level of stress and trouble you're prepared to go to to protect the domain. It may suck, but there will be a point at which it would be better for your sanity and your health to let them have the domain and get as much as you can out of them for it.

If I were in your shoes (and I was) I would first visit a lawyer. Get some proper advice.

thinkcomp 1 day ago 0 replies      
You can always file a USPTO TTAB opposition to any of that company's registered trademarks. Or several. It's when you do several that they tend to get our their checkbook--each opposition can cost mid-five-figures for a big firm to defend, or in some cases even six.
veyron 1 day ago 2 replies      
Every time I see a story like this, I think about http://nissan.com/
larrys 23 hours ago 0 replies      
He states "They've already tried going through WIPO and lost. Now they are telling me that if I don't accept a ridiculously undervalued offer they are going to file litigation against me. I am a college student and can't afford a lawyer. Can anyone give me advice? What should I do?"

Something is a little fishy about this.
It doesn't make sense that he won the UDRP without an attorney but hasn't been able to figure out an attorney that can give him free legal advice on these issues. (Ref: reddit comments) (See http://www.esqwire.com who gives free advice and has probably won the most cases). In order to respond to the UDRP he would have had to do some research and would have turned up the obvious suspects in this industry (Berryhill, Goldberger etc.)

While people have won UDRP's without a response (I've seen it happen) it is pretty rare.

sudonim 1 day ago 2 replies      
On the converse of this, someone has been cybersquatting my last name for about 10 years. Any advice on how to get it?

Details: I own the .co.uk version, but not the .com. My dad has had a company registered (not in the US) with the name in it. The cybersquatter seems to have squatted a bunch of dutch last names and isn't associated with the name at all.

rickdale 1 day ago 0 replies      
I had a similar experience with Catepillar. They wanted to buy a domain I owned for over 10 years, but was just parked at the time. They offered me $1000 for the domain, I vehemently told them no. They threatened to sue me and we settled before they took action at $5,000. I always thought the domain was worth more, but at least its being used for something now.
staunch 1 day ago 0 replies      
Even going so far as entertaining an offer could screw him in court. He needs an IP lawyer familiar with this ASAP.
DiabloD3 1 day ago 1 reply      
The only mistake he made was asking Reddit instead of a lawyer who specializes in dealing with boneheaded corporate maneuvers.

Otherwise, I wish him luck.

tomcam 1 day ago 0 replies      
This site may provide some help. They sold licensed fabric items on eBay that contained Disney characters. Repeat, licensed. Disney tried to take them down using DMCA and other strongarm tactics. They won against Disney using DIY
techniques--no lawyers involved! I know it's not the same situation but you would be well advised to visit their site at http://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/Articles/Tabberone/Fight...
jackvalentine 1 day ago 1 reply      
This has just reminded me I need to put up a splash page with my contact information on my domain, which is myfirstmylast.com

Currently there is nothing there, but I use it for email every day - it'd be a shame to lose the domain because it looks like I'm not using it to outsiders.

0x12 1 day ago 0 replies      
The fact that they start with offering you money weakens their case considerably. That said, get yourself a really good lawyer if you want to hold on to it and you think you have a strong enough case, be prepared to pay them a lot of money.
wildmXranat 1 day ago 0 replies      
I hope he kicks their butt.
cynest 1 day ago 0 replies      
What constitutes cybersquatting or having the rights to a domain you purchased? When can someone who feels they could better use the domain sue?
epo 1 day ago 0 replies      
If they are trying to muscle you out of something which is not rightfully theirs then level the playing field. Get as much publicity as you can from the media, shame them into backing off or making a decent offer if it is something they really want.
pbreit 1 day ago 0 replies      
Hire a lawyer on contingency and get the biggest payout you can, for goodness sake. Then set up a new domain for yourself and count your blessings...winning the lottery is very rare.
meiji 1 day ago 0 replies      
There's some good advice on the reddit thread and some poor. Making a counter offer to the company could be construed as intent to make a buck on the sale and end up muddying the water and causing him problems. Best thing in these cases is to refuse offers.
opendomain 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have never sold a domain. I have given domains away for FREE to Open Source for 12 years, but I have been sued. It does not seem that the Big Corporation has any rights in your case, but they have Big Lawyers, who can sue you into the ground. Be VERY careful
rumcajz 1 day ago 1 reply      
Sell the domain name to their largest and/or most aggressive competitor.
md1515 1 day ago 0 replies      
Good luck to him!
tomelders 1 day ago 0 replies      
sounds like a job for 4chan.
Scaling GitHub's Employees zachholman.com
217 points by jonmaddox  4 days ago   39 comments top 13
SoftwareMaven 4 days ago 4 replies      
People work on what they want to work on. Product development is driven by whoever wants to drive product.

That is the surest way to reduce your startup's odds of survival. In this case, it would become a prototypical case study in survivor bias.

GitHub is lucky that they are building a product that is tailored for developers. It makes their survival rate doing this slightly higher because the developers are (only vaguely) similar to their customers. The further these two points are from each other, the worse this advice becomes.

A startup needs somebody who understands how to drive products into markets. Whether this is the CEO or a product manager hired off the street doesn't matter, but they need somebody doing it who has the real authority to turn those learnings into a product fit for a market.

FWIW, I've lived the flip side of this coin: building a tool for developers driven by what we thought would be cool to build instead of having a product guy hitting the street to understand the real customer. After burning through more than $20M, the lights got turned off.

rguzman 4 days ago 1 reply      
these series of posts about how they do stuff is great, i love it.

however, dreaming up the end result is a lot easier than figuring out what seeds to plant when you are a team of 1 or 2. after reading these i'm always left with the question "great, but what should i be doing now to be able to have this kind of process later?"

maybe the answer is in the article: figure out your core values and start applying them at whatever scale you are at. alas, that's not a list of actionable items.

apsurd 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've never heard of Graphite. Is this it? http://graphite.wikidot.com/start

If so, can anyone care to explain how it would be used to "graph application exceptions" as per this post? thanks!

masklinn 4 days ago 0 replies      
The more they explain, the more Github's organisation sounds like valve: very flat hierarchy, loose interest-based teams and ease of moving between them, etc...
eignerchris_ 4 days ago 3 replies      
Don't get me wrong, I love GitHub and I love the processes they are using - I wish we did more of it at my current employer. But all of this back-patting feels a bit premature. They've really only scaled a single order of magnitude. Growing from 4 developers to 40 developers is excellent, but hardly "scaling" at all. Would the same flow work at Amazon, Netflix, or Apple?
DanielRibeiro 4 days ago 1 reply      
some days our CEO ships more code than the rest of us do

Now that is impressive for a 40-people startup.

staunch 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'd be much more impressed if they don't "scale" their employees at all. Github can not possibly need 40 employees at this point. Nothing ensures eventual mediocrity like hiring masses of people.
iffius 3 days ago 0 replies      
Saying that automation "reduces institutional knowledge" seems a bit misleading in that the knowledge is still kept by the institution but is somewhat inaccessible because the information is held by only a few employees. Perhaps saying that automation "records institutional knowledge" would be more accurate.
alnayyir 4 days ago 1 reply      
These sorts of posts make me want to work at GitHub, which might very well be the objective. Taking a shot at a position there might even be worth learning Rails. (I have a primarily Python oriented background.)

Are there any other companies that have a culture/process like this?

brown9-2 4 days ago 1 reply      
God I wish my team had a Hubot.
dhm116 4 days ago 2 replies      
If only they could scale their sales department. We've received no response for 2 weeks using 3 different methods of contacting them.
captn3m0 4 days ago 2 replies      
What's the designer culture at github? Do you make them use git?
asofyan 4 days ago 0 replies      
I love the way you're running github.. deep appreciate. Please keep posting as it grows, so we can learn. Many thanks.
Flash Game Simulates Living on $9/hr. playspent.org
219 points by driftsumi-e  5 hours ago   150 comments top 36
jasonkester 4 hours ago  replies      
I find that I live a much more active life in this game than I ever have in real life. Back when I was making $9/hr, I can't remember a single week where my dog died, I got injured at work, the neighbor kid broke my window, I decided to see a therapist and one of my co-workers came down with a terminal condition.

I only made it to day 13, but already I've spent more in that game than I did in real life over the last month. I realize it's trying to make a point, but all it's really doing is making me suspect that it's fibbing a bit. More realism might turn out to be more convincing.

cookiecaper 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I like the concept a lot but the game is just too rigid to be realistic. It's essentially a propaganda piece and the choices it gives you are no-win by design (so that the game has opportunity to lecture you on the plight of low-wage workers). Real life is not so restrictive.

It seems a bit involved to get across what could have been an infographic.

I'd really like to see someone take a more serious and/or interesting approach to this concept. This game plays like an old "choose your own adventure"; you have "choices", but everything is pre-determined and there are only a handful of available story routes, which in this case are designed to make it difficult to complete the game while selecting any of the presented moral options and then to show that you'll only have a few dollars left in exchange for abandonment of all principles.

0x12 4 hours ago  replies      
This would be a lot better if it were more realistic, it banks on you not being able to make smart decisions to ram the various factoids down your throat. It would be a much better experience if the basics were spread out over multiple months with the occasional clustering of events.

This 'perfect storm' of trouble is just setting you up for failure, the deck is stacked against you much further than it is in real life. You are also not given the full picture up front, nor are you given the option on which services you subscribe to.

Also, if you can't afford a mobile phone you probably shouldn't have one, and if your landlord does something illegal an alternative option is to tell him to go f*ck off rather than to pay or move out. Good luck evicting me if I'm up to date on payments and the contract stipulates terms that I've lived up to.

That said, it's probably a useful tool to get people to put themselves in the shoes of someone that has it worse than they themselves do.

ique 4 hours ago 3 replies      
There are three things I find annoying by this game.

I shouldn't be driving a car if I don't have money for it. I should sell the car and always take bus, since later in the game it says I have that option.

I had to choose if I should stay with an hourly paycheck or work by the piece. I choose piece because then I thought I could put in some more work, but then it just said I couldn't work that much. Well if I had known that I would have stuck with an hourly check, that's math you can actually work out in real life before making that decision.

It says I have a college degree but that wont help me, and then it says I'm probably too uneducated to help out my children with math homework.

All in all some interesting facts about the american low-income society, but the choices and different aspects of it are very strange. You could do a lot more to save money as well as make more money than is presented here. Well basically, kind of annoyingly simplified.

ctdonath 1 hour ago 4 replies      
I played the game, and came out $199 ahead...and that when faced with absurdly limited options (say, the rowdy roommate would see a Mosin/Nagant ($29!) instead of the landlord when told to leave, so no extra $100 cost there). No risky sacrifices (medical bills paid, job attended to), no luxuries until affordable (and sentimentality is a luxury).

I should have taken copious notes (maybe I will on another pass) and comment how, instead of viewing it all as crushing poverty, it is indicative of living in a luxurious society. Opt for the $1 hamburger, and be told "that's why so many poor are overweight"? WTH? If it's got that many calories then cut it in half and eat it across two meals! If you're obese, you're not poor; talk to the half of the world's population which lives on less than $2/day.

So, coming out a couple hundred dollars ahead, I could run this "poverty" scenario for 4 months and have enough to buy a refurbished MacBook Air and join the Apple Developer's Program, with which I could bootstrap an iOS App-writing business. Seems some others played, came out over $1000 ahead, and could jump in to app-writing in one month flat.

Read between the lines in the game, and see the opportunities that abound. Sell the car and take the bus. Focus the kids on learning entrepreneuring instead of sports. Take in a decent paying roommate (and throw out the rowdy one bodily if need be). Use the library for education and internet businesses. Eat the $1 hamburgers featuring caloric abundance. Heck, save the $1 and make two 1.5lb loaves of great bread (coming to my blog soon!). Organize with other "poor" to leverage opportunities (carpooling, babysitting, etc.).

First-world problems indeed.

ETA: Downvoters, take a stand and tell me why this post is wrong.

joebo 16 minutes ago 0 replies      
Like many others, I also ended the game ahead at the end of the month with a fair amount to spare. It was't necessarily easy, I had to critically think about each decision. I also consider myself fairly 'financially fit' in making decisions. Many of us are problem solvers and entrepreneurs so the fact that we can 'beat' the game says nothing about the difficulty less educated have in real life.
efsavage 43 minutes ago 0 replies      
The game is actually fairly accurate in my experience. I came out with $350 left, without starving or killing my dog, making similar choices I made when I was in similarly dire financial straits in real life. My parents kept me healthy and safe growing up, but I did have to miss out on some things that "everyone else" was doing, and I think if anything I'm better for it, especially if things get bad again.
binarymax 3 hours ago 1 reply      
"Nickel and Dimed" was mentioned in one of the fact-bubbles. I highly recommend the book for anyone who wants to learn more about the decisions people face when in situations like this. I was spent for a time (about 10 months) being unemployed and lived on about $40 per week, skirting my rent, not having phone/internet, and getting my power cut (twice). Even though I ended up taking a job I didn't like, it payed well and I pulled myself out of that situation. Never Again.
Iv 2 hours ago 2 replies      
Time for an anti-American rant.
You buy premium healthcare but still need to pay the doctor ?
You don't have unemployment aids ?
You can get fired for talking to a union guy ? (if that happens to you in France, that is your way to wealth through court action)
elliottcarlson 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I saw this on fark.com about a week ago, and decided not to cross post it here because it's far too biased. I understand what it's trying to do, but I don't think it's successful in doing so. My biggest complaint is that it attempts to show that it's not only about making poor choices - but the choices that the character has obviously taken prior to getting to the point where I control it were poor choices, and now I am trying to deal with it. My second complaint is that the simulation should have been one day longer - so you would have to pay rent again - that's when the real issues start happening.

Even with the odds against me, I was able to finish the simulation a few times with over $1200 available (thus being able to pay the rent on the following day).

ctdonath 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This sort of sociopolitical whining is exactly why I created http://abuckaplate.blogspot.com - featuring $1 meals.
cantlin 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Great. Playful (asking you to solve a "train a travels at 70mph..." question when you say you can help your kids with their homework) and creatively designed (cute distance-from-work slider for picking where to live). Of course it's propaganda, but regardless of the realism it does do a good job of simulating the low-income mindset, where every decision ("The ice-cream truck rolls round. Can your kid have an ice-cream?") ends up about money.
TamDenholm 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Morgan Spurlock did an episode of his 30 Days with him and his girlfriend living on minimum wage, it also very well illustrates the same thing.
csomar 3 hours ago 1 reply      
This describes the life of around 50% (may be more) of Tunisians. The probability of bad things occurring to you is increased by the bad infrastructure, evil government, the general hardness of life and the chaos the country is living on.

So for me, this is completely realistic. Just drop the costs (and also the earnings) around 10 times (for poor people) to adjust for the living expenses.

dbingham 53 minutes ago 0 replies      
If you want to see another take on the whole problem, go to Netflix and watch the 30 Days episode called Minimum Wage. It's the same guy who did Supersize Me. He and his girlfriend try to work and live on minimum wage for a month. Doesn't go much better for them than it does for players of this game.
revorad 3 hours ago 2 replies      
This was a very interesting exercise, but some of the numbers don't seem very realistic. For example, is $600 really the cheapest rent a poor person has to pay? Even in a city like London, I've lived on $300 per month, including food, when times were tough for me.
sramam 2 hours ago 0 replies      
It's interesting that almost all comments thus far uniformly criticize the game for propaganda bias and that real-life is not this hard.

A special-ed teacher I work with has a dimmer view than most of the US education system - because she sees so many of its failures and that for a living.
I can easily see how the propaganda perception by an outsider is just the everyday reality in the eyes of http://www.umdurham.org/, one of the two game sponsers.

IMHO the game does a good job of creating a forcing function
to make decisions that atleast I haven't had to make in a long while, if ever.

Imagining myself as the game designer, suspect I too would favour inciting empathy to accurate "real-life"-ism.

agentultra 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I think this game is pretty interesting. It's not realistic by any stretch, but it does get your attention more than yet-another-infographic-with-statistics-on-it. It's a simulation in the very slightest sense of the word, but you probably would have ignored the infographic.
latch 3 hours ago 0 replies      
This flash game (ok, flash video) is a much more awesome way to show the same thing:


tylee78 15 minutes ago 0 replies      
in America you are still in a first world country!! have you ever lived in Calcutta??? Oh please come on, stop the whining!
pnathan 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I've lived on $7ish an hour.

It is very, very hard to break even. Any fluctuation in your hours can result in a savings decrease.

shawndumas 1 hour ago 0 replies      
"A definition for wealth is spending less than your income." --http://www.dynamicrange.org/2007/05/food_stamp_chal_6.html
Tichy 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of a game about trying to survive as a peasant in Haiti. Might have been this one: http://ayiti.globalkids.org/game/

Same problem that it had only options rigged for failure to chose from.

dkersten 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Made it through the month with $411 left, a root canal to pay for and apparently I owe a collection agency money for a car.

Wasn't terribly impressed with the choices I was given though, because I've been in similar situations in the past and, while it may be very different in the US, I have never had any significant problems. Also, why do bills like car registration cost more if I choose to pay them later? In real life I once had to pay my electricity bill a month late because I didn't have the money - I called them up and they deferred the payment by a month. They didn't suddenly charge me extra.

EDIT: Just played it again and made it through the month with $274, with no outstanding bills.

smoyer 2 hours ago 1 reply      
I sit at a keyboard all day typing and earn 100% of my living via the computer. Funny that I couldn't pass the typing test. I'm pretty sure the problem is that I don't have practice copying the text ... my time is spent typing words (and code) that's flowing from my brain.

Does anyone still take dictation? Are there really jobs like this? I had an AA at my last job and in the nine years I was there I don't remember ever having her type up notes, etc.

michaeldhopkins 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Quite a silly game, but it does a decent job of showing how all the options are not always considered by the people who most need to consider them. It's easy to say "I would make a fun homemade gift, take advantage of charitable dental programs, get a roommate," etc., but the people in hard situations often don't have the mindset to do this.
WA 5 hours ago 1 reply      
So I made it through the month with 3$ left. It has some interesting facts, but altogether it's a bit odd that everything breaks down in a single month.
bennesvig 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Not quite how I remember making $8/hr at an internship right out of college for 6 months.
driftsumi-e 5 hours ago 0 replies      
This one hits real close to home for aspiring entrepreneurs.
scotty79 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Too bad the game doesn't allow you to ditch the car. Car falling apart is huge money sink. First thing I'd do is to get rid of it.
fiesycal 4 hours ago 1 reply      
This game seems loaded as in the message behind it. That's fine but I think its slightly misleading. I paid off registration but later I still got charged 1.5k for my car not being registered. Also is it me or for the maths question no matter what you choose does it say you got it wrong? Despite having a college degree.
Hisoka 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I quit in the first scenario: "Find a Job" or "Quit".. Anything but a job!
rane 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Cool, but apparently I have a kid and a family pet. At what point did I make those decisions?
maximusprime 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Political propaganda disguised as a 'flash game' tops hacker news...

I'll bet the people behind it are laughing at their clever social engineering.

mnml_ 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Life isn't that depressive even with a 9$/hr job.
CGtM 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Someone needs to check their numbers. A little research suggests that 275$/month health insurance premium is really high. A good emergency coverage should be closer to 50$. 60$ for internet? I get mine, high-speed, for half that. 75$ phone bill? That's the average for -smart phones-, basic services should only cost 10$.

And I managed to finish with 1157$ anyways. Clearly low-income people need to learn to be frugal. :)

Web Designers should all be using this idea by now: Font Icons. somerandomdude.com
206 points by felipellrocha  5 days ago   76 comments top 37
Leynos 4 days ago 4 replies      
They missed one obvious disadvantage - it doesn't work where users force their browser to use a specific font. All I see are letters instead of icons.

That said, would it not also make more sense to use codepoints within the "Miscellaneous Symbols And Pictographs" range where possible (http://unicode.org/charts/PDF/U1F300.pdf), where you'll find things like volume icons, padlocks, pins, etc. These are missing from my font of choice too, of course, but this seems more in keeping to me with the idea of a semantic web page.

garrettdimon 4 days ago 5 replies      
I can't find the information, but my understanding is that this approach isn't good from an accessibility standpoint because a screenreader still interprets the icons as their corresponding character and reads that character. As a result, instead of ignoring a checkmark icon, it would try to pronounce it as a single letter.

UPDATE: Further digging seems to validate that most modern screen readers do ignore pseudo elements. So, there's no doubt that this solution is promising. However, as with anything, your user agent baseline should be considered before using it. Saying that everyone should be using this right now probably isn't a reliable blanket recommendation.

obeattie 4 days ago 2 replies      
I really don't see that this is a good idea. Icons are by definition graphical, they aren't textual. I can see the draw of having vector icons; but we have other technologies for that.

I know people are probably going to tell me an "SVG sprite" isn't possible, but I still maintain that abusing fonts and text like this is a bad idea, even if it does bag you cool CSS3 animations.

mrb 4 days ago 1 reply      
I like this idea, for simple icons. Standard Unicode code points for symbols could be used to even allow screen readers to read them!

Another alternative for pages with simple icons is to use the Data URI scheme:

  <img src="data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgANSUhE..."/>

This compresses very well with HTTP content encoding when the same icon is repeated in multiple places in the page:

zokier 4 days ago 0 replies      
This seems like a such an obvious thing to use SVG for, without needing to resort abusing fonts in a such hackish way.
glenngillen 4 days ago 0 replies      
Drew Wilson's Pictos Font is pretty awesome if you're looking for alternatives: http://store.drewwilson.com/pictos-font
jonathanmoore 4 days ago 1 reply      
I have been using this method for nearly a year on various projects and theme designs. The font icon method is incredibly useful when you want to give user the flexibility to change up the color of the icons. Plus, as mentioned using CSS pseudo elements with content should not effect modern screen readers.

One of the disadvantages mentioned in the article is the file size, but it can be drastically optimized. My favorite icon font is Pictos by Drew Wilson (http://pictos.drewwilson.com/). When I use it in a site design I will actually recreate the font file with just the few icons I need, usually 6-8 characters.

To reduce the font file size just load up the icon font in Font Squirrel's font-face generator (http://www.fontsquirrel.com/fontface/generator) and use custom subsetting to specify the needed characters.

Full Pictos Font
EOT (19 KB), WOFF (13 KB), TTF (18 KB), SVG (41 KB)
Total - 91 KB

Optimized Pictos Font (8 characters/icons required)
EOT (6 KB), WOFF (4 KB), TTF (5 KB), SVG (5 KB)
Total - 20 KB

alanh 4 days ago 1 reply      
The post acts as if the idea is really new (some article is said to have introduced the idea "one week ago") but I have seen this in practice at least months ago. It's not a new idea. But there are reasons it hasn't taken off like crazy.

There are still serious disadvantages to (ad least the obvious implementations of) the technique, as powerful as it is when it works right. Others on this page mention drawbacks. Not the least of which: It's not super easy to make a font with just-right glyphs; you cannot guarantee that no users don't see or hear letters instead of images or alt-text (ooh! anybody remember our blind/accessible users?).

So until I see a post that examines and solves all the potential issues with icon fonts, I have to stay away.

As pointed out below, this blog post is over a year old. Oops.

dreamdu5t 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a sloppy abuse of typefaces. You can already base64 your icons in CSS, and you can already package them in sprites automatically with tools like Compass.

This creates more problems than it solves. IE9 will have SVG and SVG support gets better every day.

tantalor 4 days ago 1 reply      
Disqus uses this technique to inherit the font color of the embedding page,

  To accommodate this wide range of design scenarios, we decided to use our own
custom web font via @font-face instead of traditional raster-based icons. This
provides us with the flexibility of inheriting font color and size from a site's
existing aesthetic at an incredibly small file size (5kb). Since font-faces are
vector-based, we are able to serve these icons at any size without consequence.


aw3c2 4 days ago 0 replies      
Terrible title to which I have to reply: Web Designers should all have learned to care about accessibility by now.
kevinpet 4 days ago 0 replies      
Always amused when I am unable to read an article about the new best practices in web design because the page renders with strange overlapping text. I think the table of short terms near the top is supposed to be an example of icons, but I see nothing in Linux Chrome.
typicalrunt 4 days ago 1 reply      
What about browser compatibility? The article doesn't mention how well font icons hold up against different versions of IE.

Does anyone know?

morpher 4 days ago 2 replies      
To me this seems like an ugly hack to get around flaws in the HTTP protocol. There was an article on HN yesterday about SPDY (http://www.chromium.org/spdy/spdy-whitepaper), a transfer protocol that allows multiple concurrent requests over a single TCP connection. This seems like the proper solution to the primary issue (requesting several small files is slower than requesting one large one). Also, as the design goals for SPDY state, this has the benefit of "avoid[ing] the need for any changes to content by website authors. The only changes required to support SPDY are in the client user agent and web server applications."
tomcreighton 4 days ago 0 replies      
Not to toot my own horn, but I created exactly this a few months back: http://tipogram.com/
chops 4 days ago 0 replies      
I like this muchly, buy it does not render the icons on my phone (motorola photon).
neoveller 4 days ago 0 replies      
I did this half a year ago on neovella.com. It seemed brilliant at first, but ultimately failed for two reasons: A) cross-browser compatibility for @font-face can be a real hassle when you're juggling a few different filetypes and trying to be compatible with everyone; B) filesize of the fonts themselves outweighed their aggregate image-counterparts.
flixic 4 days ago 1 reply      
It misses one huge disadvantage: lack of pixel-level control. There is no way to have really sharp and nice edges on TTF icons, they look all smudgy and just not up to good designer's standards, especially at small sizes.
fuzzythinker 4 days ago 0 replies      
As one of the post's commenter pointed out, Steve Souders has a detailed overview of the problems with @font-face: http://www.stevesouders.com/blog/2009/10/13/font-face-and-pe...
mey 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wouldn't an image strip of your icons (Google does this, 2D video games have been doing this since the dawn of bitmaps) solve one the complaints rather easily?

Personally not impressed by the random CSS3 based animations from a compatibility perspective.

BerislavLopac 4 days ago 1 reply      
There is another disadvantage of this approach: many times, icons carry no semantic information at all, just being a design thing. Therefore they are most often (and most correctly) implemented as a background image on a certain HTML element which does carry semantic meaning, like a link or a button.

This approach introduces icons within the semantic markup and/or content, unless they're added by some script, which kinda beats the purpose.

netghost 4 days ago 1 reply      
One nice bonus is that they can get text-shadows and any other styling your normal text could.
pepeto 4 days ago 0 replies      
Not switching that fast. The few advantages are size/load time as well as switching effortlessly color. But at the price of
... compatibility, accessibility, rendering (white on black background issue with fonts), single color icons, delayed loading(sometimes fonts load after the page)?

If you want fast loading use css+single image robust method as in:

joshfraser 4 days ago 0 replies      
Data URI's are probably a better solution for small images. You cut out the extra requests but don't have to worry about downloading massive font libraries.
ck2 4 days ago 0 replies      
Non-ttf compress very well (svg is practically plain text).

But serving font-face has other issues with even modern browsers - content flash, delayed loading, some need proper mime-types, etc. etc.

axefrog 4 days ago 1 reply      
I generally like to think that icon use should be handled as part of the CSS, as it's a design element and not part of the document semantics. Putting it in the markup means that if the design is updated, the markup is still stuck with the old icon, which means it's more work to update the site.
judofyr 4 days ago 0 replies      
So it's just like a sprite, but with font files?
voidr 4 days ago 1 reply      
You can do this with sprites too.
tintin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Make sure you add this in CSS via :before and :after.
When it's in the DOM it also gets indexed. A button labeled "go" can suddenly be index as "ago".
elisee 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't see this as more than a gimmick (a nice one, sure). You end up with mute, non-semantic icon names (single characters) in your CSS, single-color icons only. Vector graphics are nice, but then you might as well go for SVG.

The one valid use case for this is limiting the number of roundtrips & requests. But in the long term, there'll be SPDY (or some other similar protocol) for that. And SPDY fixes the problem for your whole app / page, not just icons.

reustle 4 days ago 0 replies      
This page crashes my Chrome on Ubuntu every time.
corroded 4 days ago 0 replies      

how about using the most common font? (arial) that should take out all your worries on @font-face

tagawa 4 days ago 0 replies      
This seems like a step backwards for accessibility. Screen-reading software would end up reading various individual letters to (probably confused) low-vision users.

There may be a good use-case somewhere but please use with caution.

VanceRefrig 4 days ago 0 replies      
All I have to say is that the lock and unlock icon look the exact same
codecaine 4 days ago 0 replies      
earlier today I was wondering whether someone already created a compilation of those, thanks a lot op!

I think these icons are great for protyping/design mockups.

Geee 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great idea and great icon set. I will be using this right away!
mannicken 4 days ago 0 replies      
Well, it's a great idea but it doesn't really work in FF 4.0.1 :(
Patent Troll: Anyone Using WiFi Infringes; Won't Sue Individuals 'At This Stage' techdirt.com
206 points by profitbaron  20 hours ago   89 comments top 21
noonespecial 17 hours ago 2 replies      
Hams have been doing packet radio since the 70's in earnest and it's been around far longer.


There is clearly prior art. When you make this big a nuisance of yourself, clearly exploiting the system at society's expense, you should be permanently disbarred. You are a clear and present danger to the continued operation of the justice system.

Edit: Might a flood of complaints to the bar association do some good here?

waterhouse 16 hours ago 2 replies      
The book "Against Intellectual Monopoly" is highly recommended reading for the question of patents (and other intellectual property). The authors make a mostly empirical survey of the effects of intellectual property laws and of their absence in a wide range of industries, and conclude that their effect is a stifling rather than an encouragement of innovation. I think it's especially appropriate because, while my own opinion on the issue comes from moral reasoning (and it's generally frustrating to try to argue that side), this book presents a wealth of stories and statistics that are just plain interesting to anyone who cares about the issue.


Bud 17 hours ago 3 replies      
Leeches. Someone should destroy these folks. Legally and peacefully, of course. But they must be destroyed.
diego_moita 19 hours ago 3 replies      
This is very nice!

Politicians will only solve a problem after it becomes a calamity. If the problem gets bad enough, they might start paying attention.

mrspandex 19 hours ago 1 reply      
I really hope they do start suing individuals. Congressmen, and judges specifically.
tlogan 10 hours ago 2 replies      
This is actually a very good development. This will help that even general public start understanding "patent troll" problem which, in turn, will get some ears in in Washington.

I hope that more and more opportunistic lawyers join the "patent troll" bandwagon. Eventually, some of them will not say "wont sue individuals" because they will understand that changes in IP laws are going to happen soon: make money now or never (very similar to what was happening just before the housing crash of 2008).
Then the politicians will act. Hopefully, giving bailouts and not doing reforms will not work for this issue.

Is there anything we can do to speed up this process?

mkjones 14 hours ago 0 replies      
It sounds like they're going after small business owners individually, so not necessarily "any old joe." Still, this gives me hope given how hot small businesses are in the current political climate. Perhaps targeting one or two of the wrong (read: noisy and politically-connected) owners will result in an outcome at least slightly positive for patent reform?
fleitz 19 hours ago 1 reply      
It's nice to see that Innovatio IP is focused democratizing the opportunity to license their patents. Patent trolling isn't just for the Fortune 500 anymore.
pavel_lishin 19 hours ago 1 reply      
> While its initial lawsuits against coffee shops and restaurants did focus on the central corporations, with the hotels, Innovatio appears to be focusing on individual franchisees. Yes, the small businesses who own individual hotels and probably have no idea how to deal with a patent infringement lawsuit -- all because they dared to offer WiFi somewhere in their hotels. To make it "easy" of course, Innovatio's lawyers will let them settle for between $2,300 and $5,000. In almost every case, that's going to be cheaper than hiring a lawyer to just get started dealing with this -- which I'm sure is exactly what Innovatio intends.

Isn't this precisely the sort of thing that can be forwarded to corporate? Someone who owns a Motel 6 would surely expect the corporation to help them with this, no?

colinhowe 18 hours ago 2 replies      
Does anyone know what these patents claim to cover? "wifi" seems a bit broad
sukuriant 18 hours ago 1 reply      
What is this patent actually for? I was looking up wifi, and the precursor to 802.11 came out in '91. That's well over 17 years ago.
felipemnoa 17 hours ago 1 reply      
After getting sued a good course of action would be to sue the manufacturer for loses incurred. At least that would get their attention. Somebody could start a class action lawsuit agains the manufacturer.
DanBC 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Someone needs to set up a Patent Troll company and patent a bunch of processes for political methods / action / campaigning / etc.

Then start trolling politicians.

octopus 18 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm not a lawyer, so my question is simple - say that you receive a citation from Innovation and you simply ignore this. What then ? They will actually take you to court ?
plink 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Do the descendants of Joseph Guillotin still hold the patent on his invention? I fancy a scenario unfolding in today's environment that might vastly enrich his heirs.
crizCraig 17 hours ago 1 reply      
The patent is from 2004. http://www.google.com/patents?id=zi8SAAAAEBAJ&printsec=a...

I hope their greed gets the best of them. Here's a poll I created to get general feedback on this subject. It's so infuriating to me, but a lot of people seem to be indifferent on the subject of patents: http://www.wepolls.com/p/3363896/

pyrotechnick 15 hours ago 1 reply      
It's about time the CSIRO (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_Scientific_and_Ind...) got some money for their invention.
SODaniel 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Good luck with that one Trolls.
Vivtek 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Surely this?
sliverstorm 17 hours ago 2 replies      
I wouldn't think they could ever win anything. One of the rules with patents is you can't just kick back and wait for your competitor's product to grow and sue 10 years later.

Considering WiFi is almost 20 years old, and has practically surpassed 'ubiquity', I'd say that ship sailed.

Try Ruby tryruby.org
205 points by chrisbaglieri  4 days ago   43 comments top 14
cppsnob 4 days ago 5 replies      
Serious question: has anyone gotten anything out of these browser-based language playgrounds? I just don't think it's hard to download the real thing to try it, so I thought I'd ask if anyone has really been inspired by it.
droithomme 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's some things I was happy to find with this page:

1. up/down arrows scroll through buffer history

2. ctrl-a goes to beginning of edit-buffer and ctrl-e goes to end of edit buffer

Nice attention to detail that makes it a pleasure rather than a chore.

TheDahv 4 days ago 1 reply      
I have never seen this before:

>> help

>> 2 + 6

<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>The page you were looking for doesn't exist (404)</title>
<style type="text/css">
body { background-color: #fff; color: #666; text-align: center; font
-family: arial, sans-serif; }
div.dialog {
width: 25em;
padding: 0 4em;
margin: 4em auto 0 auto;
border: 1px solid #ccc;
border-right-color: #999;
border-bottom-color: #999;
h1 { font-size: 100%; color: #f00; line-height: 1.5em; }

<!-- This file lives in public/404.html -->
<div class="dialog">
<h1>The page you were looking for doesn't exist.</h1>
<p>You may have mistyped the address or the page may have moved.</p>



petercooper 4 days ago 1 reply      
Hang on.. CodeSchool bought tryruby.org?
stfu 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have no Ruby skills at all, so I am probably within the "target group".
One suggestion I would have is: It would be cool if there were some kind of putting-it-all-together-yourself thing at the end of each level. Just before the summary comes a little level-challenge where one would have to apply all the steps from the level combined. This would most likely mean going back to look up certain functions from the challenge, but prep one more for later when actually doing some coding on my own.
danso 4 days ago 1 reply      
Errr....this is not quite right:

> [1,2,3].ea­ch{|v| puts v}
=> "123"

*edit: Assuming this is deployment/back-end related issues. I just tried the above again and got this:

[1,2,3].ea­­ch{|v| puts v}
=> #<SyntaxError: Invalid char "\xC2" in expression. near line 1: "\xADch{|v| puts v}">

rajpaul 4 days ago 0 replies      
i've never programmed ruby before, and i'm really enjoying the tutorial so far. i'm going to forward it to some non-programmer friends and see what they think.
madebylaw 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great looking redesign! It'd be cool if someone added harder challenges (like CS algorithms or something) that you could use for programming interviews.
tryke 4 days ago 1 reply      
Has it fallen down already? The rest of codeschool.com works but I get an "Application Error" when I go to Try Ruby.
abscondment 4 days ago 0 replies      
Spawn More Overlords!
kaichanvong 4 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone interested in working on a Python version?
berseroku 4 days ago 1 reply      
Nice work!, the chapter of the Popup.goto "http://google.com/ doesnt work for me, any requirements (try in chrome, Firefox) for this module to work?. Thanks
hristov 4 days ago 4 replies      
is ruby really that slow? The things has been trying to reverse my name for the last 5 min. And it is fake four letter name i gave it. I shudder to think what would happen if it were my real name.
wakaflokkaflame 4 days ago 1 reply      
This thing is ass-awful.

require 'sele­nium/clien­t'
=> #<NoMethodError: undefined method `require' for main:Object>
> a = []
=> []
> (1..999999­999).each {|i| a << i}
=> Danger! Danger! Your code took too long to run. It's like a turtle it's so slow.
> (1..999999­9).each {|i| a << i}
=> Once, when waiting for some code to finish running, 3 angels visited Chris Barker and asked him to stop picking his nose

Distrusting git benno.id.au
193 points by vu3rdd  2 days ago   129 comments top 26
gst 2 days ago  replies      
The real problem here is:

... "and I was getting ready to commit a series of important changes" ... Before doing so, I want to merge in the recent changes from the remote master, so I do the familiar git pull. ... "maybe I'm going slightly crazy after 3 days straight hacking" ...

Do I interpret this correctly as that the author has not commited any changes for 3 days?

With SVN there may be an excuse for this, but with Git the right way is to commit as often as possible, and then squash your commits before pushing them. With such a workflow the problem would have been a non-problem - just use git reflog and checkout your previous version.

Of course you wouldn't use a git pull then, but just rebase your local commits on top of master.

Learn how to use your tools, instead of complaining about them!

jmount 2 days ago 0 replies      
The article isn't as anti-git as the title might lead you to believe. I enjoyed the article for the research and up-voted it. I use and like git, but the ideas of silent data loss is scary (as it spreads).

Long story below.

However, if you want real fun try out what one centralized repository did for me once. I was (against my will) using Visual Source Safe in the 1990s (ick ick ick). Visual Source Safe at the time represented its data on a server with two RCS style history files (called a and b). When you committed both of these were updated (no idea why there were two) and then as a matter of policy Visual Source Safe re-wrote your local content from the repository. That is on a check-in: it wrote back over your stuff. Fast forward to the day the disk filled up on the server and a single check-in attempt corrupted a and b (so even if redundancy was the reason for 2 file, it didn't work) and the the server stayed enough up to force overwrite my local content. Everything lost for the files in question (no history, no latest version, no version left on my system, forget about even worrying about recent changes). Off to tape backups and polling colleagues to see if we could even approximate the lost source code.

silentbicycle 2 days ago 4 replies      
My ears perked up when I heard that it involved renames on OSX. I don't know about the exact issue he had, but I recently found out the hard way that OSX's HFS+ is a case-insensitive* filesystem. You can get subtle issues by importing multiple files with the same case (such as "README.txt" and "ReadMe.txt") into the same repository; this isn't specific to git.

I had a similar issue with Perforce on Windows - Perforce was case sensitive, Windows wasn't, and thanks to CamelCase, there were two files that had the same letters but different casing. (I don't remember the names.)

* Technically, "case-insensitive but case-preserving", which in practice seems to mean, "case-sensitive, except when you need it to be".

cheald 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Before doing so, I want to merge in the recent changes from the remote master, so I do the familiar git pull. It complained about some files that would be overwritten by the merge, so I saved a backup of my changes, then reverted my changes in those specific files, and proceeded.

Yikes. git stash / git stash apply. Pulling into a dirty working tree is asking for trouble.

git losing data is Very Very Bad (and massive kudos to the author for tracking down the bug rather than just bitching about it), but if you're following a proper git workflow (pull to clean working trees, save often), you shouldn't ever be in a position to trigger this bug. That's not an excuse for git to break like that, but the reason that it was likely never seen in the 16k Linux commits is that it's not the "right" way to do things.

garethsprice 2 days ago 3 replies      
"OK, so the bug never trigged in 16,000+ Linux kernel merges."

If your team is avoiding a tool with a 1 in 16,000 chance of failure then they'd probably also want to avoid flying (1 in 20,000 chance of death by failure), large bodies of water (1 in 8,942) and run terrified from cars (1 in 100) (source: http://www.livescience.com/3780-odds-dying.html.

The car stat seems rather high, and git won't kill you, but the general point is that a 1 in 16,000+ chance of losing a few hours of work is "s--t happens, find a workaround and get over it" odds.

fr0sty 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm really late to this party but I want to stress a. Point that doesn't get mentioned often enough:

Do not use "cp". Please.

Copying changes to save them and reapply later is nearly guaranteed to quietly lose changes, reintroduce removed code, or otherwise screw up your work.

If you want to move changes stash them or commit them and then apply them elsewhere. Using cp throws out all of git's ability to help you do what you mean and not what you say.

Also, the data corruption was caused by a bug, yes, but the cp based workflow being used will result in a nasty suprise sometime in the future.

yason 2 days ago 0 replies      
To quote: OK, so the bug never trigged in 16,000+ Linux kernel merges"kernel developers are probably sane people quite proficient in git so that's quite unlikely to happen. That's probably the reason the bug was out there for a year, nobody ever bumped into it. I would bet some money on none of them kernel developers ever having git-pulled into a dirty working tree. (Most of the newbies around the world who probably bumped into it didn't understand git was in error there"excluding the author.)

I can't explain why the opposite happens. Most of the people I know intuitively commit or stash their local changes before merging. They have this intuition even if git is relatively young piece of software. But then there are always a handful of people that I imagine who could do something like that. And I'm not quite sure why.

One possibility is that it could come down to the level of trust in computers. I don't think I could issue git-merge without git-stash/git-commit first"probably because I don't instictively trust programs to handle complex operations too well in the first place. Operations such as handling unsaved data or letting random commits from different place three-way merge themselves into a single branch. Or both.

This mechanism of distrust might be similar to how drivers who think they're bad drivers are, in fact, the best drivers. They underestimate their capabilities enough to assume everything won't always go right, and then they're a few steps ahead when something goes wrong.

biot 2 days ago 0 replies      
Even if you choose to keep three days worth of changes uncommitted, you're still doing local backups of your machine anyways, right? He'd be facing the same amount of information loss if his hard drive died.

If you're on OS X, Time Machine will get you back to where you were recently (except if your home directory is encrypted, then it backs up on logout). Or use Dropbox/SpiderOak/other to keep the last n versions of your changes.

jessedhillon 2 days ago 0 replies      
At first, it seemed that this was another rant about a misbehaving piece of software.

But I was impressed that, unlike so many others (myself included), the author went beyond just complaining. He actually made a real effort to identify the conditions under which the issue occurs. But I was blown away when he actually examined the source code and identified when the bug was introduced. Great work!

gwern 2 days ago 0 replies      
That's kind of an odd response to a bug - not adding a new test, but just noting that it didn't hit one particular project. Is Git's entire test-suite just 'the Linux kernel changelog'?
jder 2 days ago 0 replies      
For anyone that's interested, the version of git that fixes this issue (1.7.7) has just been released:

Download: http://code.google.com/p/git-core/downloads/list

Announcement: http://git.661346.n2.nabble.com/ANNOUNCE-Git-1-7-7-tc6849424...

mkramlich 2 days ago 0 replies      
Two lessons here:

1. don't do what that guy was doing. asking for trouble

2. upgrade to git 1.7.7+. just to be sure.

codenerdz 2 days ago 3 replies      
Its good to know that my 'feature development' git flow would make sure that this bug would be avoided or at the very least easily worked around.

My favorite git flow in 143 easy to remember steps

1) git checkout -b MyFeatureBranch # create a feature branch

2) Code/Hack/Fall Asleep on Keyboard

3) git commit -am "Wow finally done with this tiny feature"

4) Go back to to 2 if needed

5) git checkout master

6) git pull # get all the latest changes

7) git checkout MyFeatureBranch

8) git rebase -i # squash commit comments if neccessary

9) Fix merge conflicts, git add, then git rebase --continue

10) git checkout master

11) git merge MyFeatureBranch

12) git push

13) PROFIT!!!

This is borrowed from http://reinh.com/blog/2009/03/02/a-git-workflow-for-agile-te...

ldng 1 day ago 0 replies      
I admit I skimmed through the article, but, "git destroyed my data" .. hum ... how come ?

Git is a versioning system that doesn't free you of making backups of your central master. And by master I mean the global central reference repository or whatever you call it.

So you screw up your repository using an unconventional workflow and now you and your co-worker don't trust git anymore ?

Well maybe you shouldn't have blindly trusted it in the first place. It's a better tool than many but still is just a tool you should use with care. As any tool. It has bugs.

That said, I feel your pain. Finding bugs in other tool can be a very frustrating experience. Well, shit happens :-)

bcl 2 days ago 0 replies      
The way I avoid problems like this is:
1 - Always do new work in a branch off whatever branch you plan to commit to eventually.
2 - commit often
3 - Use rebase -i to squash commits when everything is looking good
4 - Use rebase parent-branch to replay your commits on top of whatever new stuff is in the parent and resolve any conflicts
5 - Only then go back and merge the working branch back into the parent-branch
ezyang 2 days ago 2 replies      
I suspect that certain types of people (including myself, at times), actually want continuous backups being taken on the state of their working copy prior to actually performing a commit. Bugs or not, Git doesn't do very well with unversioned changes: an accidental 'git reset --hard' can easily blow out lots of work (happened to me), even if that was exactly what the command was supposed to do. The correct thing to do is commit early and commit often (git commit -am "Wibble"; git reset HEAD~ works well for me) but from a user experience standpoint this ought to be automatic.
Vitaly 2 days ago 0 replies      
cool article about tracking down a bug in git.

But this is really a small corner case and I can see how it went unnoticed for a year.

I almost never use 'git pull' (I do git fetch and then "git merge" or "git rebase" depending on the results), but more importantly I never ever use pull when I have changes in my current working repository. I commit, and then I pull or pull --rebase etc. This way I'm really sure that my data is safe as git has a lot of safety features for committed stuff. all files are stored as objects and there is a reflog to help if you loose track of rebased branch etc.

Another thing that I sometimes do is 'git stash' before pull/merge/rebase etc. git apply later is also a very safe op.

kwamenum86 2 days ago 0 replies      
Git can be a beast conceptually speaking if you don't learn it the right way. This was undoubtedly a bug but the author's story surfaced some suboptimal git habits.
kayoone 2 days ago 1 reply      
have my working copies inside of dropbox. Of anything goes wrong with git, i can still go back to older versions of any file using dropbox.
leeoniya 2 days ago 0 replies      
have a habit of doing "git stash save" before any pulls if you have uncommitted changes. problem solved.
vog 2 days ago 2 replies      
The article has a serious character set issue. It contains stuff like "doesn’t" instead of "doesn't".
phzbOx 2 days ago 0 replies      
Personally, I always stash or commit my files before merging with another branch. I feel like not doing so is asking for trouble.
jarin 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well, at least thanks for the reminder to update git :)
nahname 2 days ago 0 replies      
The biggest issue here is not committing before pulling. Always commit all of your changes before updating your history (either through git pull, git fetch/merge or git pull --rebase).
grammaton 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's not cool that the guy lost some data, but as he points out - all software has bugs. This is just one more reason to make your commits as atomic as possible - which it sounds like he wasn't doing at all.
davvid 2 days ago 2 replies      
tl;dr: User still hasn't learned that committing early and often is a good idea. User blames tools for his ignorance.
Politician Violates His Own Two-Strikes Anti-Piracy Plan torrentfreak.com
188 points by nextparadigms  1 day ago   30 comments top 5
Bud 23 hours ago 1 reply      
This trend of laws which attempt to take away a person's Internet access is very scary. How is this to be enforced? By what logic is it considered a proportional or effective punishment?
steipete 1 day ago 4 replies      
This is just great. Here's an even better article in german about the whole story (from the german pirates) http://piratig.de/2011/09/30/kaudergate-2ndstrike-sehr-geehr....

Lucky for Kauder, as a politician he's immune to law, but its nevertheless absolutely embarrassing.

DanBC 1 day ago 1 reply      
Politician's blog: (http://www.siegfriedkauder.de/)

Copied photo: (http://www.vogtsbauernhof.org/content/view/full/213)

Pretty clumsy move, especially for a lawyer, especially for a lawyer who claims to want to protect copyright. He's not jsut kept the image in his private collection, but is serving it to whoever many people visit his site. I have no idea about Germany, but in England it's the sharing with other people that becomes a problem.

etherealG 1 day ago 2 replies      
they should insist his site be taken down, under his own policy any other site would have been for the initial infringement, irrelevant of the later change.
earbitscom 21 hours ago 3 replies      
Of all the comments here, @codeup is the most level-headed for the HN crowd. Most people in these forums typically rail the RIAA, tell musicians they should seek new business models, claim that piracy is not stealing, and defend unethical behavior as it pertains to copyright tooth and nail. Then, when a politician fighting for pro-copyright policy infringes, they want to see the policy not just upheld, but to quote @dlikhten "on all devices/all his locations? ...his office staff too..."

It just goes to show how weak the defense is for this side of the argument. "See! It's so difficult. Let's just forget about the whole argument, but punish this idiot first."

       cached 4 October 2011 15:11:01 GMT