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A Sister's Eulogy for Steve Jobs nytimes.com
1719 points by NaOH  6 days ago   120 comments top 43
rmason 6 days ago 5 replies      
It was a moving and powerful eulogy. Probably the most beautiful thing I've seen written about Jobs since his passing. One important takeaway for me was the quote:

“Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”

I've experienced this firsthand. I've been privileged to work with some great web designers. I've forced myself to wait a minimum of 24 hours before rejecting a design and it has always served me very well. Sometimes your first reaction is going to be negative but in a day or so it reverses. I am not certain why this is true but for me it's been a winning strategy.

MikeCapone 6 days ago 1 reply      
I cried like a baby while reading the last part of this eulogy. It brought me straight back to a hot hotel room where I saw my uncle - a second father to me - die from brain cancer.

Makes me want to donate more to medical research (my favorite foundation is SENS.org, but there are many good ones). I think it's okay to be sad, but we also have to do something to make things better.

blantonl 6 days ago 3 replies      
He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit.

It is scary to think what Steve could have accomplished if he lived into his 70's.

Gaussian 6 days ago 1 reply      
Extraordinary writing. Everybody should have such a talented sister at the lectern on the day they're remembered.
paraschopra 6 days ago 0 replies      
Absolutely beautiful. I couldn't get my eyes of the writing. What I REALLY like about the piece was portrayal of Jobs as a loving and affectionate human being which is what ultimately matters. Feels good to know that Jobs parted with such an expression of amazement...

Thanks for writing this, Mona.

mstroeck 6 days ago 2 replies      
1) This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

2) I finally realize what has always fascinated me about him. He was ALWAYS working, with every single breath he took. He seems to have found a way of taking the hazy concept of "work" as it is commonly understood, and elevating it to a more in-focus ideal form through which to understand and shape his life.

cheez 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm glad the stream of "Steve Jobs was an asshole/genius" articles is done. This one shows his real human side.
alexholehouse 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think that fact he was sketching x-ray machines, iPad holders etc. even in hospital is just fantastic. The man did what he loved.
drawkbox 6 days ago 0 replies      
This shows a good side of him, love. He put that in the products.

Great writing, his final words were striking.

HSO 6 days ago 0 replies      
Insanely moving.

The ending takes my breath away.

seanmccann 6 days ago 6 replies      

One can only wonder what he was referring to. Such a well written piece.

TWSS 6 days ago 0 replies      
It's obvious that his sister shares his genius. I'm so grateful she shared this intensely private experience with the world.

I have a half brother, ten years older. We didn't grow up together. Mona's story gives me hope that there are relationships we seek out later in life that are just as fulfilling, if not more so, than those we are given as children and take for granted.

RyLuke 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is a really beautiful piece of writing; it's quite a gift that Mona Simpson would deign to share such a personal eulogy with the world. The Jobs family certainly didn't owe any of us insight into his final time on earth.

From all popular accounts, Jobs was an intensely private man about his personal and family life; something refreshing in an age when celebrity is conflated with talent and young people like Mark Zuckerberg opine that privacy is an anachronistic social norm. Love him or loath him -- and there is certainly enough evidence to support both reactions -- the conversation is almost always about the work and Steve Jobs as a professional. As one who still values the notion of personal privacy, I've always been grateful for that.

Yet what makes this piece so potent is that Simpson reflects primarily on Steve Jobs as a person: a brother, father, and husband, not a boss, or showman. In so many ways, her eulogy could be applied to any person who has lived fully and loved their family deeply.

There's quite a sublimity in that contrast, something I suspect was not lost on Jobs and his family in the creation and dissemination of this eulogy and the Isaacson biography to the public.

And perhaps on that point, it's wonderfully surprising that Steve Jobs, widely considered an arbiter of taste and design curation, wasn't yet familiar with Mark Rothko -- one of the premier painters of the 20th century -- until the final year of his life.

gsk 5 days ago 0 replies      
Alongside Einstein's final hours (see
Einstein: A Life by Denis Brian), I found Steve Jobs final hours to be profoundly human and moving. Steve Jobs admired Einstein and in some ways he seems to have faced death as Einstein had: with calm dignity, love, and atop a mountain of great work on this pale blue dot of ours.
kloc 6 days ago 0 replies      
After reading several articles about Steve before and after his death and after reading his official biography,I always felt that nothing could yet capture the essence of how Steve actually was. This eulogy comes really really close. Beautiful piece of writing. Thank you.
simplegeek 6 days ago 0 replies      
Beautiful writing. Thank you. I always thought why people cried reading such stuff.....until now.
sandee 6 days ago 2 replies      
"He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. "

Instead of charity, if the billionaires or super smarts like gates, larry/sergey, bezos,pg etc can live in ordinary people situations for 2-3 days a year, their imagination will fuel creations that benefit all. Is this not tried already ?

antr 6 days ago 1 reply      
i've cried reading this article. god bless sj
jacquesm 6 days ago 0 replies      
Not a SJ fan, but man that hurts.
mikecaron 5 days ago 0 replies      
What I really find remarkable about Mr. Jobs is that he lived without extravagance. I am impressed by his desire to teach his kids to be "normal" and I am astonished that he was there for his family first and foremost, valuing love and fun in front of them. His kids (and wife) know a man who did not value success and money, but love and family. It is an impressive man who can ignore the pull of riches and embrace the pull of love.
alexwolfe 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think this Eulogy helped give many people closure on Steve's passing. Such a well written piece. I'm really appreciate that she publicly shared this very personal moments with the rest of us, touching.
mrb 6 days ago 2 replies      
Beautiful eulogy. However either it, or Jobs' biography, is erroneous about who called Mona to let her know she had a brother.

This eulogy claims a lawyer called Mona. But the biography, in chapter 20, claims it is Mona's mother, Joanne, who called:

[Joanne] had never told Mona that she had a brother, and that day she broke the news, or at least part of it, by telephone. "You have a brother, and he's wonderful, and he 's famoous, and I'm going to bring him to New York so you can meet him," she said.

S_A_P 6 days ago 0 replies      
that was an incredibly moving eulogy. I just so happen to be about a quarter the way through his biography, and its an interesting contrast to read about "young" ambitious steve vs steve in the sunset of his life. Mona really hit on something when she said we die in the middle of many stories. Im interested to read some of her work now.
HankMcCoy 6 days ago 2 replies      
Very well written, but I noticed that his parents are never mentioned, what happened to them? (Paul Jobs, Clara Jobs)
_corbett 6 days ago 0 replies      
very beautiful, felt voyeuristic reading it though"private Jobs public eulogy.
24pfilms 6 days ago 0 replies      
Having lost both of my older brilliant brothers to HIV AIDS this passing of SJ conjures up many many emotions. Life is fleeting, live it fully in all you do. For the reaper does come, always unexpectedly.
mikeleeorg 5 days ago 0 replies      
Intubated, when he couldn't talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit.

I hope someone takes his sketches and runs with that vision. He's been able to re-imagine other devices wonderfully. To think of what he could have done with hospital equipment is amazing (that at his core, at his most vulnerable, he resorts to creativity) and sad (that he won't be around to execute upon these visions).

latchkey 6 days ago 0 replies      
What is more amazing is how quickly someone registered his last words.com
erickhill 5 days ago 0 replies      
Steve Jobs had a daughter named Eve (as in she who bit the fabled apple)? I did not know that. How perfect.
js2 6 days ago 0 replies      
pknerd 6 days ago 0 replies      
Now I realize why most of his products are so poetic.
ghiculescu 5 days ago 0 replies      
Ad at the bottom of the article: http://i.imgur.com/sC0g8.png

I know it's automated, but still :/

manish_gill 6 days ago 0 replies      
That was extremely moving. Beautifully written.

"Oh Wow".

One can only wonder...

dhirajbajaj 5 days ago 0 replies      
"he didn't died he achieved it"
simply beautiful...
mixmastamyk 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad to hear he made some time for family.
jamesrom 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. Simply beautiful.
stevenj 6 days ago 0 replies      
notagain2 6 days ago 0 replies      
Beautifully written. I feel I have a lot to learn from Steve. He was so greatly misunderstood by so many. Steve was an incredibly smart man who knew exactly what he wanted, and wouldn't stop at anything to get that. I'm glad he spent his life doing what he loved. He will always be an inspiration to me.
edo 6 days ago 0 replies      
notagain2 6 days ago 0 replies      
Very moving, and a different side to the personality that we've been hearing about.
a1235813 5 days ago 0 replies      
so beautiful.
dilap 6 days ago 0 replies      
Fucking fantastic.
jfb 6 days ago 5 replies      
I always thought of him as a sociopath. It's nice to read an insider's take that isn't suffused with narcissism and loathing, although I always did figure him for a jerk for parking that Merc in the handicapped space every. goddamned. day.
My dad taught me cashflow with a soda machine thestartuptoolkit.com
1051 points by robfitz  8 days ago   101 comments top 29
DanielBMarkham 8 days ago 4 replies      
My 11-year-old daughter for Christmas last year asked for a bubble-gum vending machine. She got the idea from hearing stories about a family member who had over a hundred machines placed at one time.

I thought it was a great idea. She placed one machine, then another. Now she has four machines, but she has only placed 2 of them. Each machine makes about a buck a day gross, 70 cents or so net.

I'm purposely not doing any of the stuff this guy's dad did -- charge for gas, insist on doing the math, etc. For now all she has to do is buy the inventory. Once a month or so to pick up the "haul."

I think if you push these things then you lose track of the point. Right now it's something she enjoys -- who wouldn't want to take a trip each month and come back with tens of dollars? If we were to get into marketing, sales, cash flow, or any of that? I think it would turn it into a chore. After all, geesh, the kid is only 11. The only thing I've told her is that she has to save up if she wants another machine, and the more machines she has placed in good spots the more money she will make.

Looking back over the previous year, I think this Christmas gift might turn out to be one of the best presents we've ever given. It has the potential to teach so many lessons. The coolest part is that it is all driven by motivation on her side -- she was the one asking for the machine, she is the one picking out the product, she is the one saving up for new machines, she is the one responsible for scouting out new locations and making the pitch to store owners, etc. If she pushes a lot, she could make some real cash. If not, then she knows more about how these things work. It's a win either way.

Tyrannosaurs 8 days ago  replies      
Anyone else here think that kids should be allowed to spend their childhoods being, well, kids?

A lot of people seem to spend their time as parents trying to teach the things they think their kids should know, but too often these seem to be things that kids need to know to fulfil their parents aspirations for them. Sure cash flow is a useful lesson (though one that I'd suggest could be taught more efficiently) but this feels a bit like a parent pushing someone down a particular line.

Now I'm not saying that this is a bad story, and certainly not a bad parent, just that IMHO the absolute best bit of this story - by a country mile - is that it's something they did together, parent and child spending time with each other. If he learned about cash flow then that's great, but it's not nearly as great as him learning about his dad and his dad learning about him.

camtarn 8 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of a story of a similar family, posted on everything2.com a while ago after a long discussion of how to rip off soda machines by using coins stuck to fishing line or pouring salt water through them:


Lots of life lessons there.

gallamine 8 days ago 2 replies      
When I was 9 or 10 we'd go to Costco and purchase the big flats of large muffins. We'd sit around the dinner table and wrap them in cellophane and then send them with my dad to put in his office's kitchen. We sold those things for $50/each on the honor system and made a tidy profit. I hadn't thought of that in a while, but it definitely was a fun adventure.
Hitchhiker 8 days ago 0 replies      
The simplest lessons are often the most difficult to learn and internalize to the limit of it becoming second nature ( or intuition ). Brilliant dad. What a great story. Thank you kindly.

Fathers are so, so, so important.. here's an interesting excerpt from the recent Steve Jobs bio :

" It was important, his father said, to craft the backs of cabinets and fences properly, even though they were hidden. He loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn't see. "[1]

Connect the above with the speech Johnny Ive gave at the recent memorial :

" we shared a giddy excitement spending months and months on a part of a product that nobody would ever see, well not with their eyes. "[2]

[1] - http://www.amazon.com/Steve-Jobs-Exclusive-Biography-ebook/d...

[2] - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPUsuY8JZJI&t=2905

dimitar 8 days ago 0 replies      
This is amazing. Usually parents try to teach kinds about mature life by making them do chores or get higher marks in school. And yet what do you learn this way?

That life doesn't reward you for this no matter how many chores you do and how good marks you get.

achristoffersen 8 days ago 0 replies      
A beautiful story. I myself was raised by two academics in safe middle class public sector jobs their whole life. Only at my 30th year did I consider starting my own business. Looking back on friends who started on their own, I do not doubt that either being an entrepreneur is 1) in the bloodline (nature) and in the upbringing (nurture).

I had a wonderful childhood - but I think I would have started my own business much earlier, had I had a father like yours. And it just goes to show, that valuable life lessons does not need to be boring chores and stern rants from the elderly.

Thanks for an inspiring read.

wastedbrains 8 days ago 1 reply      
That is a great story. Shorter and simpler after mowing the lawn one dad. I told my dad I wanted to invest in stocks. He thought this was a great opportunity to teach me about money. So he loaned me money to invest in the stock market. Help me pick and buy stocks, track their values. Eventually to sell them and pay back the loan keeping profits for myself...

The only real issue was it was the start of tech bubble and I was a computer nerd. I bought all tech stocks which soared, my older brother buy shoe companies and the like...

I nearly tripled my investment while my brother lost 30ish% of his. Not sure it was quite as real world learning opportunity as he was hoping.

kingkilr 8 days ago 0 replies      
I can't say my parents had lessons this cool, but I did spend some of my time in my teenage years working at my cousins' vending machine warehouse, doing various tasks: counting the take (and filling out the spreadsheet), filing refill slips for the drivers, putting new inventory in the right place, trips to purchase new inventory, and even refilling a machine once. It's a pretty interesting business, and it's interesting to me to see how one can scale up the "levels of responsibility".
jmj4 8 days ago 0 replies      
Empowering people to figure stuff out on their own is the best way to teach. My Dad handed me the reins to out a small stock account with my own, my siblings and some of his money when I was 11. Man, can that motivate you to learn. I'd read 20 investing books by the time I got into high school. And fundamentally the most important thing it taught me was how to think about money. And its was so effortless on his part.

On a similar note, Warren Buffet made around $50,000 by the time he graduated high school by owning several vending machines, among other things.

steve8918 8 days ago 0 replies      
I had a huge smile on my face while reading this.

This has got to be one of the best stories I've read in a while, and a fantastic idea if I ever have kids. I love it. Especially the idea that the dad would slowly start introducing charges to the kid. It's actually a brilliant idea, and more real-world than giving a kid chores and allowance.

dsandrowitz 8 days ago 1 reply      
Great story. I'm always looking for new ideas on how to teach these concepts to my own children and I love this approach. Now, I just need to find a good place for a vending machine...
tagawa 8 days ago 0 replies      
"I get the impression kids are a bit slippery in that regard."

True. Come to think of it, I'm middle-aged and I'm still like that.

koalemos 8 days ago 0 replies      
this is great- good thing your dad didn't pick up a slot machine, you could've ended up in politics :)
prawn 8 days ago 2 replies      
Brings to mind two ideas.

Could a parent do all of this without actually renting a machine? Not ideal and a bit of a white lie, but would remove that cost. A father/mother could come home each night or report back at the end of the week. A bit like playing lemonade stand by proxy.

Could a simple app assist a parent in doing this and getting imaginative/realistic situations to keep the child interested? Or even a service renting physical vending machines specifically for parents and children to try this?

amuhtar 8 days ago 0 replies      
Great Story. I think one thing I am realizing with my little daughter is that kids - even at 1.5 years old - are curious and resourceful. My job as a parent is not to make her happy... but to help equip her to fullfil her purpose and passions to the fullest - that's when she'll be happiest.

That's perhaps why my parents stopped giving us an allowance early on.

My dad loves woodworking, and I remember at 5 years old, taking scraps, nailing parts together to make a very crude looking airplane and actually sold (yes, someone actually bought it) it to raise money for something - can't remember what it was. But I do remember the work, I remember getting paid, and I remember the satisfaction and fulfillment in a happy customer (even if he did buy it out of compassion).

If I wanted a toy (birthday/Christmas aside), I had to work for it (not the regular chores). It encouraged me to think... be creative... buy low, sell high. Robert Kiyosaki had similar experiences as a kid in his book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad". - As an aside the Cashflow game is really good and although it may be expensive, it is totally worth it. There is a kids version too.

I did the lemonade... I tried selling baseball cards... As I got older, so grew the ideas. In highschool video games were expensive. I started reviewing them through a couple of companies (now owned by IGN) and got my games for free to review them and write an HTML review page.

In university (ah, the advent of eBay), I started going to garage sales/thrift stores/pawn shops and buying selective items. I'd clean and test the items, put them up for sale. All my "toys" (games, computer parts, my Metcal Station, DVDs, etc) were bought through the sale of items on eBay.

Of course, this is all besides running a Computer Consulting/VAR company, creating applications, websites, and study/work.

Ah, the good old days. Forgive me for rambling... I got caught in the nostalgia.

RJaswa 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for writing this article. I really enjoyed it. When I was growing up, I was terrible with cash management. My parents continuously subsidized my various entrepreneurial endeavors (building and selling skateboard ramps, selling people's stuff on eBay, manual labor...). So, I grew up really excited about the upside potential of entrepreneurship, but learned little about what it takes to manage the extraordinarily limited resources that you have when you are building businesses in the real world.

Now I help invest in and build companies and work on projects of my own. Learning the trade offs between pricing/volume, technology/cost, etc., is so valuable and I'm only starting to understand them deeply now. I think I'll do something like this when I have kids, whenever that may be....

alexholehouse 8 days ago 0 replies      
Great story. I did a similar thing with Pokemon cards - I lived in one school region but actually attended school in another, so had access to two markets. I kept track of inconsistencies in demand and used it to my advantage, taking a plentiful card type from one area to the other and vice versa. Being a kid is serious biznuz!

Reminds me of Barry Silbert (of Second Market)'s introduction to trading - http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2699

DanBC 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'm curious if this kind of youthful money making is still possible. It tends to be much rarer in the UK anyway, but I'm pretty sure there are a gajillion petty bureaucracies that would stop it - working age laws; minimum wage laws; tax / benefit laws; insurance; health and safety; etc etc etc.

But, see also "The inexplicable war on lemonade stands" which is also happening in the US.


wwdevries 8 days ago 0 replies      
Brilliant story. This model is much better than giving allowance.
bgraves 8 days ago 1 reply      
Rob - how old were you when this started and how long did this venture last?
bomatson 8 days ago 1 reply      
I love this story. Awesome awesome

I made plush South Park characters and sold them to my mom's fitness/spinning clients. Learned a lot about pricing, investing, selling, creating at 10.

Highly encouraged to give children opportunities like this and not just have them do soccer

aklemm 8 days ago 1 reply      
This is great. By the time I was 9 or 10, I was frustrated that for all my playing with tools, reading, tinkering, etc., none of it was towards a practical goal. Finding a way to give kids real-life responsibilities in such an engaging way is awesome.

I wonder if script kiddies, for example, lean towards the nefarious because there are no industrious outlets nor mentors for them to work with.

Hyena 8 days ago 0 replies      
How did the $0.55 price turn out? Did you keep it?
zoey564 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great story Rob. Your Dad was an amazing person. He taught not only the 8 year old boy but the 20 something girl the same principles. He was truly an amazing man and I miss him every day.
zzygan 8 days ago 1 reply      
Very interesting idea. I need to figure out a way to teach my kids about money and cashflow using something like this method.
However, as cool as this story is, I swear I read it in one of Rich Dad Poor Dad books. Maybe this is the source of the books story. I'm not sure.
ttcbj 8 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome and delightful!
yonasb 8 days ago 0 replies      
Great example of why entrepreneurs don't need an MBA:)
dave167811 8 days ago 0 replies      
Now I see the downside of having a socialist father.
Don't Call Yourself a Programmer kalzumeus.com
977 points by jambo  8 days ago   267 comments top 67
mechanical_fish 8 days ago 2 replies      
Okay, I guess as someone with hard-won expertise I'm duty-bound to take slight exception to this line:

Put a backpack on and you can walk into any building at any university in the United States any time you want.

First, the nitpicking: Technically you can't get into Harvard's excellent libraries without actually (a) being a Harvard student, or (b) working for Harvard. (And if you're a programmer, I'm not sure which of those options is going to prove more expensive.) But, of course, the rest of Harvard is open to the backpack-wearer, and MIT even opens their libraries (I'm proud to routinely impersonate a graduate of MIT) so this isn't much of an objection.

On a slightly more serious note: They also won't let you into the labs with just a backpack. If you'd happily accept a sub-market wage to be taught laboratory research techniques, in a piecemeal and haphazard fashion, by sleep-deprived world experts equipped with state-of-the-artish equipment, engineering graduate school is the game for you. And I did kind of enjoy working in the lab, just not enough to keep that as a career. It's not that great a career; you have to love it to stick with it forever.

Now, having said that, I cannot re-emphasize this line enough:

After you've escaped the mind-warping miasma of academia, you might rightfully question whether Published In A Journal is really personally or societally significant as opposed to close approximations like Wrote A Blog Post And Showed It To Smart People.

All my journal publications mean nothing compared to the stuff I've scrawled in the margins here at HN.

credo 8 days ago 2 replies      
>>"Programmer" sounds like "anomalously high-cost peon who types some mumbo-jumbo into some other mumbo-jumbo." If you call yourself a programmer, someone is already working on a way to get you fired.

I call myself as a programmer because I enjoy programming and do a lot of programming as part of my job.

It is unlikely that I'll get fired because I run the (tiny) company I work for :). and customers seem to like the products we sell in the app stores.

Prior to starting this company, I was a Principal Development Manager,SDE Lead and Software Design Engineer at Microsoft. Describing myself as a programmer or a developer didn't hurt me there either.

This is not to say that Patio doesn't make a good case about the need to focus on value created. Regardless of profession, you have to focus on the value you create. A doctor saves lives, a construction worker builds homes, a pilot takes people home etc.

It is definitely possible for all of them to use MBA-speak mumbo-jumbo job-titles to describe what they do. Alternately, one could be a bit more of a plain-speaking, straight-talking person and just say that you're a doctor or a programmer or a pilot etc.

synnik 7 days ago 2 replies      
I love corporate, boring, "soul-crushing" work. Why? Because I can sit down, whip out a basic CRUD form with a small approval cycle in a day. It saves a company 100K over the year, I am loved by the customers, and because it is so simple, it normally requires no maintenance. Maybe we update the fields once a year or so.

At the end of the week, I've already saved the company more than my salary. After a year, I am a critical asset to the company.

After 3 years, I've optimized everything, the ROI slows down, and I move on.

This pattern is not a tragedy. It doesn't crush your soul. It makes you a prized commodity in the business world, with a chance to make a change in your life every few years.

I have usually alternated between 3 years doing this, then 2 years doing startup work. It has given me a much broader base of experience and skill than anyone who stick to one one side of the coin.
It also has given me years of experience in large industries (banking, energy, etc.) which I then use to find very real problems to which a startup can be applied.

I have led a very satisfying career, doing this for almost 20 years now.

m0th87 7 days ago  replies      
> If you really like the atmosphere at universities, that is cool. Put a backpack on and you can walk into any building at any university in the United States any time you want. Backpacks are a lot cheaper than working in academia. You can lead the life of the mind in industry, too " and enjoy less politics and better pay. You can even get published in journals, if that floats your boat. (After you've escaped the mind-warping miasma of academia, you might rightfully question whether Published In A Journal is really personally or societally significant as opposed to close approximations like Wrote A Blog Post And Showed It To Smart People.)

The degree of arrogance in this article is astounding. I've worked at Google, Microsoft, and IBM, and the work I've found most satisfying is in grad school.

To each his own. If you let something like this guide your life decisions, you have much bigger issues to deal with than finding a so-called "README.txt for your career as a young engineer".

sutro 7 days ago 2 replies      
Back in the day, John Carmack would micro-blog on the finger protocol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finger_protocol). finger johnc@idsoftware.com got you Carmack's .plan file, a well-written and, for a time, frequently-updated journal of whatever programming challenges he happened to be facing at the time. finger @idsoftware.com got you the id corporate directory, a simple list of about 20 names and titles. The only titles were CEO, designer, and programmer. In a tech world awash, even then, with countless software engineers, senior software engineers, senior members of technical staff, architects, chief architects, CTOs, rock stars, and ninjas, it was always refreshing for me to see Carmack's humble programmer listing.

All of my heroes in the field are programmers.

kamaal 8 days ago 2 replies      
One of the things that I see among hardworking smart people is they somehow tend to use 'difficult work' as a yardstick to measure 'good work'. Difficult work need not necessarily be good work. Unfortunately if you fall for this, you will end up wasting a lot of time, effort and energy over years and at the end wonder why you are not as rich as someone who does has half the difficult work as you do.

'Good work' or something that brings long term financial success and happiness is something that adds value to business you are serving to write software. There are also many academic kind of jobs which involve a lot of algorithms, math and precision science which won't deal with much of flavor business software has today. That's not wrong if you are a academician by profession, but that's a serious problem if you are doing software development for a living.

Much large of software development today, has got to deal with learning tools, knowing how to use a programming language to quickly turn idea to code, or fix a bug or add a feature. Apart from this you must also know how to quickly discover solutions to problems, even by searching on the internet. Being able to discover has become more important that being able to invent these days.

Additionally you must know how to push long hours, work late nights and may be on weekends. All this has fundamentally nothing to do with software.

All passion of working on something interesting, changing the world et al is perfectly acceptable in your early 20's when you relatively have lesser responsibilities. As we grow older our responsibilities will only increase, the bills and expenditure will grow up. For vast majority of people, thinking pragmatically in this case is important(I'm not saying this for everybody, some can. Not all will make it, those how will not have to take the most pragmatic way out).

That's probably why start up's are not for everyone. And that's why php et al is still alive. Anything that helps you make those first dollars will win.

This is the sad thing about the real world.

Learn, but use the most pragmatic tool at the moment to serve your business.

_delirium 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not too into gatekeepers, so I'd like this to be true:

you might rightfully question whether Published In A Journal is really personally or societally significant as opposed to close approximations like Wrote A Blog Post And Showed It To Smart People

But honestly I have never found a blog post that I could see as replacing journal articles, if your goal is to promote advancement of scientific knowledge. I like blogs, and read them often, but they aren't normally in-depth, with solid scientific evidence for their results, with discussion of how they relate to existing results, etc. The closest is probably in mathematics, where some of the mathematics blogging is quite high-level and results in actual new discoveries--- but those blog posts are mostly written by math professors (e.g. Terence Tao's blog), which doesn't seem to be what this article is proposing.

Where on the internet can I find blog posts of the same scientific standard that one finds in, say, http://jmlr.csail.mit.edu/ ? I read quite a few statistics, data-mining, and machine learning blogs, and while there is a lot of good content, I haven't found anything that I'd say replaces a journal article; it's more along the lines of tutorials and tips and tricks (which are also very valuable, but a different kind of contribution).

jambo 8 days ago 0 replies      
I spend a bit too much time on HN, as evidenced by the timing of this post, and one of the dangers I've noticed is that I can become so fascinated with the interesting things other hackers are doing that I lose perspective on how valuable & relatively rare my combination of skills are. I suspect this is true for others here.

Patrick gives insanely valuable advice for hackers who could be both create more value and capture more of it by being aware of the big picture & the motivations of others.

psykotic 8 days ago 4 replies      
> If you call yourself a programmer, someone is already working on a way to get you fired.

If you work at a place like that, I feel sorry for you.

Even the owner of my company lists himself on Twitter and his blog as just Programmer at RAD Game Tools. Besides being the sounding board for us when we have problems and ideas, he still writes more code than most of us can regularly muster.

rewind 8 days ago 3 replies      
"Want to get trained on Ruby at a .NET shop? Implement a one-off project in Ruby. Bam, you are now a professional Ruby programmer " you coded Ruby and you took money for it. (You laugh? I did this at a Java shop. The one-off Ruby project made the company $30,000. My boss was, predictably, quite happy and never even asked what produced the deliverable.)"

Unless an employee actually gets permission to do this, this makes him incredibly selfish, and is a good way to get fired (and deservedly so), no matter how good he is.

Goladus 7 days ago 0 replies      
The language stuff is only part true. It's true enough, perhaps, that it's not usually the most important thing to emphasize on a resume, especially if you're doing simple CRUD apps, but nevertheless programming languages and their implementations are varied and complex.

Yes, you can become productive in a new language after 6 months of using it, but most people will still have a long way to go before they can claim a reasonably high level of proficiency, especially if there's significant dissonance between the languages. Going from Java (or most languages, really) to Python isn't going to be too difficult, but a lot of that is because Python is a very easy language to get started with. But even with Python it will probably be a lot longer before you really understand some of its less obvious features, pitfalls, performance profile, and are comfortable writing idiomatic code. For a more complicated language, like Perl, or a more distant language, like Haskell, it'll probably be a lot longer.

statictype 8 days ago 0 replies      
Great read. Probably patio11's best yet (TLDR: A summary of pretty much all his comments here on HN).
reinhardt 7 days ago 1 reply      
71~94: Your equity grant is worth a lump sum of money which makes you about as much money as you gave up working for the startup, instead of working for a megacorp at a higher salary with better benefits.

Or phrased differently, you get to work for a startup you believe in and enjoy instead of a soul-crushing megacorp, with (almost) no cost.

This counts as a win in my book.

blumentopf 7 days ago 1 reply      
Many asked how to know what programming language or stack to study. It doesn't matter.

It does matter in so far products come and go and you don't want to accumulate knowledge on a product that's going to disappear from the market.

I worked with SGI IRIX from 1991-1996. The company has since gone bankrupt twice and IRIX has disappeared from the market. All the knowledge I accumulated on IRIX is worth nothing because it's no longer in demand. Practically noone still has IRIX machines in production.

In 1996, I switched to Linux. It had a vibrant community and you could feel it's growing rapidly. Turns out that knowledge is still valuable.

So it's really important for engineers to keep a close eye on the marketplace: If something's getting out of business or out of fashion, stop investing time in it. Instead, be on the lookout for stuff that's growing. In general, open source stuff has a longer lifetime because it can be forked if need be, wheras proprietary stuff is often problematic as companies change their mind on a whim. HP/WebOS is a recent example.

mattdeboard 8 days ago 0 replies      
>Many people already successfully employed as senior engineers cannot actually implement FizzBuzz. Just read it and weep. Key takeaway: you probably are good enough to work at that company you think you're not good enough for. They hire better mortals, but they still hire mortals.

This is one of the most important career lessons I've learned first-hand of late.

motters 7 days ago 2 replies      
Not very good advice. It's basically an accountants view of engineering, which can be summarized as follows:

- Only be interested in increasing profit or reducing cost

- Don't care about what you do unless it conflicts with the above

- Treat people you meet as commodities

- Produce cruddy code, because "good enough" is all that matters

- Good engineering is not a "profit center"

- Don't bother keeping up with new programming languages or new techniques

mk 8 days ago 0 replies      
This article has tons of gold in it besides the "don't call yourself a programmer" part. I actually thought the paragraphs past that were better, especially for the younger crowd. I want to send this post to every kid that's about to graduate college.
cool-RR 7 days ago 3 replies      
Thanks for this manifesto patio11! I read it a couple of times and thought how I could apply it to my career.

There are 2 parts in it that I have difficulties with, and I'd appreciate clarifications:


"In the real world, picking up a new language takes a few weeks of effort and after 6 to 12 months nobody will ever notice you haven't been doing that one for your entire career."

How can you say that? Sure, an experienced and intelligent programmer can learn to program in Language X in a few weeks, but do you think that after a year he will reach the same level of efficiency of a similarly experienced and intelligent programmer who has 8 years of experience programming?

Sure, you'd know most of the important things that the 8-year guy knows, but I was taught that the worth of programmers is exponential to their talents. Say that if you're at the 99% percentile of Language X developers, there are (say) about 1,000 people like you in the world. If you're in the 99.99% percentlie, there are now only 10 people like you worldwide. Wouldn't that result in a much bigger price that you could put on your services?


"Profit Centers are the part of an organization that bring in the bacon [...] Cost Centers are, well, everybody else. You really want to be attached to Profit Centers."

I don't understand this.

Let me see if I got the terms right: Profit Centers are "where the money comes in from", and Cost Center are "where the money comes out of". But of course, Cost Centers do not exist because CEOs are looking for ways to flush money down the tubes-- it's just that Cost Centers bring in money in indirect ways. For example, let's say that you're a CEO, and you have hired an expensive programmer to write a script that periodically checks that your backups are valid. That would qualify for a "Cost Center", right? And everyone would agree that this is a wise investment.

So what am I supposed to do if I'm hired to do this kind of job? Decline it because it's a Cost Cetner?

You also suggest to "engineer your transfer [from Cost Center to Profit Center] after joining the company". Wouldn't that be kinda douche-y? I mean, I'd be pretty pissed if I hired a guy to do Job X and then he was trying to engineer his way into Job Y because that's where the money is.


Thanks again for the post!

consultutah 8 days ago 1 reply      
I agree wholeheartedly. That's how I promote my consulting biz, "More money for your business."

It is amazing how devs think that dollar value should equal effort. It does not. And this doesn't just apply to software. It applies to anything and everything. The value of something is what someone is willing to pay for it in that one split second when they click "charge my card".

ajtaylor 7 days ago 1 reply      
Patrick has some great advice.

I'll add my own anecdote: earlier this year I had an interview which required taking a plane. I decided to wear my suit on the plane, and it was an entirely new experience. I can't put my finger on exactly what it was, but the people simply seemed nicer, more pleasant and accommodating. If you want people to think of you as a professional, dressing the part certainly helps.

gfodor 8 days ago 0 replies      
A little cynical, but overall mostly rings true. I also have found that focusing on business/product goals and good communications skills dwarfs the ability to hack when it comes to success.
tokenadult 7 days ago 1 reply      
Does this cause people to read "The Genius and Tragedy of Patrick McKenzie"


(posted last month by an observer of the author of the submitted post here) with a different reaction?

scottschulthess 8 days ago 2 replies      
Does anyone else think that this article is in poor form?

On the perils of describing yourself as a programmer: If you're hiring someone to provide a specific skill set (programmer) you want them to be good at programming. Would you hire an accountant if they didn't know accounting? Should lawyers not describe themselves as lawyers? Doctors as doctors?

On the perils of selling yourself as an expert in a certain technology: I spend a fair amount of my time learning about the specific technologies I use. I've been doing this for a while and I don't know everything about sql, postgres, mysql, mongodb, javascript, html, css, ruby, rails, unix, chef, capistrano. But I've put thousands of hours into these things and the tools themselves took thousands of hours to create. Either I'm really bad at learning, or there is a lot to learn there and that information makes me more valuable to potential/current companies. Sure, there is a baseline level of skill you can achieve in programming where you can not suck at most stuff but there is still a lot of valuable information that you don't know if you just half assed your way through a Beginning Ruby on Rails book.

Natsu 7 days ago 0 replies      
> Perceptive readers will note that 100 does not actually show up on a d100 or rand(100).

It also jumped out at me that the zero case is not handled (it occurs on the rand(100), if not the die).

He's got a great point about learning negotiation skills, too, but I've read a lot of things and feel that what I lack most is actual live practice. I think this is similar to the point about meeting people and shaking their hand and how different that is from meeting some person online.

ycapply2011 8 days ago 7 replies      
>> ”What is your previous salary?” is employer-speak for “Please give me reasons to pay you less money.” Answer appropriately.

What is the proper approach to answering this question?

bfrs 7 days ago 1 reply      
90% of programming jobs are in creating Line of Business software: Most software is not sold in boxes, available on the Internet, or downloaded from the App Store. Most software is boring one-off applications in corporations, under-girding every imaginable facet of the global economy. It tracks expenses, it optimizes shipping costs, it assists the accounting department in preparing projections, it helps design new widgets, it prices insurance policies, it flags orders for manual review by the fraud department, etc etc. Software solves business problems. Software often solves business problems despite being soul-crushingly boring and of minimal technical complexity.

Wasn't this precisely the insight of the founders of Infosys in the late 80s? Together, the Indian outsourcing giants, Infosys, TCS and Wipro have amassed huge armies of "programmers" to meet these needs. I stay away from CRUD stuff, because 1. I don't expect to be very successful competing with armies. 2. I don't like being a part of a huge army.

xarien 8 days ago 1 reply      
Fantastic post. I'd also recommend any "programmers" to invest a couple years in a systems integration engineering role as well. It's generally a great place for picking up some skills many programmers / engineers lack:

* Communicating with internal and external customers

* Understand systems from a broader (higher level) perspective

* Ability to translate wants and needs to technical requirements and specifications that are implementable

* Ability to sell yourself as well as the product / service

* Give constructive criticism as an internal customer to programmers / software engineers (great chance to view the role @ 180 degrees)

cloudhead 8 days ago 1 reply      
It seems like the author had a really hard time. If you're a software engineer, work at a software company if you want to be happy. Negotiation isn't what's going to get you the job either, programming is.
invalidOrTaken 7 days ago 0 replies      
One of the takeaways I get from this is that if you can't prove value, you can't demand payment for it. Proving usually involves measuring.

How does one go about measuring? They're not about to give a "mere programmer" access to the sales data or whatever.

kooshball 8 days ago 2 replies      
>Actual grooming is at least moderately important, too, because people are hilariously easy to hack by expedients such as dressing appropriately for the situation, maintaining a professional appearance, speaking in a confident tone of voice, etc. Your business suit will probably cost about as much as a computer monitor. You only need it once in a blue moon, but when you need it you'll be really, really, really glad that you have it. Take my word for it, if I wear everyday casual when I visit e.g. City Hall I get treated like a hapless awkward twenty-something, if I wear the suit I get treated like the CEO of a multinational company. I'm actually the awkward twenty-something CEO of a multinational company, but I get to pick which side to emphasize when I want favorable treatment from a bureaucrat.

is it really expected or even appropriate to wear a suit to an interview in the valley? i remember doing that during for my internship interview and i felt silly sitting next to my interviewer at lunch who was wearing shorts and flip flops.

freemarketteddy 8 days ago 5 replies      
I think Patrick is missing a niche segment of Hackers who have been making a lot of money in last few years.They are the independent Mobile App Developer(iOS/Android)

If you choose this path then you dont even have to start a company,all you need to do is make awesome apps.It might be a little hard to start but in a year you should be making good enough money to go independent and then sky is the limit.It is not only possible but probable that you will write better applications (using services like Parse) than entire megacorps.

mattmiller 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is the best OP has written yet. A lot of people in this thread are fighting with his b/c they make apps or run a small company.

Not living in the bay area I see what he is saying, most programmers are not selling apps, or selling small consumer applications. Most make internal apps, and many of those internal apps are more interesting than mobile apps or web apps.

gruseom 7 days ago 1 reply      
Is this article's claim about Google -- that the programmers closest to Adwords revenue have highest status (edit: and/or pay) -- true? It contradicts what I've heard.
rdl 7 days ago 2 replies      
I'm kind of terrified of "At the end of the day, your life happiness will not be dominated by your career." Hopefully he means that primarily for employees, not for startup founders, and even then, I know a lot of people who work in research, engineering, etc. where career is by far #1.
16s 7 days ago 1 reply      
My employer calls me a programmer. They print it in on my business cards and hang a sign on my door that reads "Senior Systems Programmer"... so I'm a programmer and I'm not ashamed to be called that.
fanboy123 8 days ago 4 replies      
Enjoyed the post. Do programmers really not know who Peter Drucker is?
prakash 7 days ago 0 replies      
I recently stumbled across a web-page from the guy whose professional bio is “wrote the backend billing code that 97% of Google's revenue passes through.” He's now an angel investor (a polite synonym for “rich”).

Any idea who this person is?

forensic 7 days ago 0 replies      
Patio is like a modern day Phillip Greenspun. Trying to turn childish programmer nerds into responsible engineering professionals.
xpose2000 7 days ago 4 replies      
I'm new to the startup game, and most of my hunches that Ive formed over the past 6+ months are proved true by this post. This is insanely good advice in this post, one of which involves modesty and confidence.

I'm never going to be modest from here on out and will act like a pompous douche when deemed necessary. I see people act this way ALL the time, and I figured people could see right through their bullshit. Apparently not, as it clearly does not matter if they are right - only if their bullshit is passable. Apparently being modest does not work to my advantage. I have no choice but to play the game.

namank 7 days ago 0 replies      
Well now I can honestly reward myself for picking the University of Waterloo. All of the points made by this article are well understood by second+ years of Waterloo Engineering.


The coop program i.e. the four month work then four month study program.

Except maybe for the startup stuff. That said, there are are overarching initiatives being undertaken by uWaterloo to infuse entrepreneurship and student success. The most popular one? http://velocity.uwaterloo.ca/

bkmontgomery 8 days ago 1 reply      
Personally, I think this is an interesting article, and I got two things out of it:

1. Effective communication with people from various backgrounds is important. This is incredibly hard, and it does require practice. Those that succeed typically communicate very well.

2. I mentally replaced the "don't call yourself a programmer" mantra for "tell people why you're doing what you do - what problem do you solve and how is it valuable". If you work for a business, you also need to have some basic understanding of business. Successful organizations probably have more people that really try to find their role in the "big picture" of the company, and they strive to use their place to create value.

cek 6 days ago 0 replies      
My favorite from this article: Networking: it isn't just for TCP packets.

Seriously, get out there and grow your network. Do it by getting over being shy and smile more. Ask how you can help others. And ask for nothing in return. You will be shocked (over time) by how much you actually get back.

mhartl 7 days ago 1 reply      
Strive to help people. It is the right people to do

A heads-up for patio11: There is lots of good stuff here, but it needs to be copyedited. There are a bunch of little errors like the one quoted above.

Ygor 6 days ago 0 replies      
sliverstorm 7 days ago 0 replies      
At the end of the day, your life happiness will not be dominated by your career.

That said, a crappy career can put a serious chokehold on life happiness. You spend close to half your waking hours at it, after all.

cageface 7 days ago 2 replies      
In the real world, picking up a new language takes a few weeks of effort and after 6 to 12 months nobody will ever notice you haven't been doing that one for your entire career.

I wish more HR/recruiting people understood this.

Fluxx 8 days ago 0 replies      
I don't agree with everything he said, but in terms of completeness about working as a software developer vs what you learn in school this is spot on.
randomdata 8 days ago 2 replies      
On the not calling yourself a programmer part: It may be a local thing, but the term engineer was usurped by government to essentially refer to someone who does things by the book. As such, engineer has come to mean someone who has trouble seeing the bigger picture and won't break some rules to deliver something amazing.

Obviously that is not true of many engineers, but the damage to the term is already done (again, perhaps only locally). I find it hard to take programmers who call themselves engineers seriously as a result, even if they are really good at what they do. My advice is not call yourself an engineer if you develop software. You want to use a title that makes people think you do amazing things.

cageface 7 days ago 0 replies      
For example, consider an internal travel expense reporting form. Across a company with 2,000 employees, that might save 5,000 man-hours a year (at an average fully-loaded cost of $50 an hour) versus handling expenses on paper, for a savings of $250,000 a year.

I should have demanded a bonus for the in-house purchase req system I wrote to replace the antiquated, pen & paper system we had been using for years. I feel better about the salary I was drawing with this in mind.

fduran 7 days ago 0 replies      
"Your GPA largely doesn't matter (modulo one high profile exception: a multinational advertising firm)."

Nice jab at Google.

7952 7 days ago 0 replies      
In most domains engineering is not the biggest challenge. The challenge is in a dozen intersecting domains that have little to do with engineering. Calling yourself a programmer is like a guitar make telling people he is a carpenter.
LVB 7 days ago 0 replies      
I did appreciate the section about programmer skill and not to underestimate yourself too much, simply because it was a feel-good paragraph. By regularly reading a variety of tech blogs and trying to keep up with software goings-on, I've put myself on a drip feed that constantly reinforces: "Holy crap... every programmer out there is developing mind blowing software in languages you've never heard of in the course of a weekend. Meanwhile, you're dribbling out a few dozen lines of C in a day."

Who knows where the truth lies, but for the next few minutes I'll just enjoy the slight buzz from the article.

jbwyme 7 days ago 0 replies      
I feel like this article takes a very pessimistic view. To be great or have success in any field, doing anything, you are going to be up against "bad odds". If the odds of success were in everyone's favor then it wouldn't be "success" anymore. If anything this is a very discouraging article for people who may be aspiring to accomplish something great which I feel like the HN community is all about.

Perhaps I've misunderstood the authors intentions? The parts about young people in start-ups, and how it becomes a downward spiral if you aren't in the lucky 10% is such a negative view it hurts. Specifically the "odds" of succeeding and the relative unimportance of the connections you make during that time because [paraphrased] "most of the connections you make in the start-up world are with other start-ups who are likely to fail as well". This is just such a losing mindset to have. If the only thing you are concerned about is not failing then you have no chance to do anything of importance. The choice is yours.

I apologize if I've missed the point here as I know there were a lot of other parts in the article about adding value to your career and understanding how corporate structures work. I do believe those are great things to understand but the tone of the whole thing really struck a nerve.

atomicdog 5 days ago 0 replies      
>If a Python shop was looking for somebody technical to make them a pile of money, the fact that I've never written a line of Python would not get held against me.

>Much of Fog Creek uses the Microsoft Stack. I can't even spell ASP.NET and they'd still hire me.

A bit presumptuous, perhaps?

untitledwiz 8 days ago 0 replies      
Best quote -- "He's now an angel investor (a polite synonym for “rich”)."
mynameishere 8 days ago 0 replies      
Is it okay with you if I call myself a programmer even if I become CEO?
swah 7 days ago 0 replies      
We must create bacon, not bring it :) Like that pg's rant.
Finbarr 8 days ago 0 replies      
This post touches on nearly everything. Some interesting snippets - well worth a read if you are a [insert appropriate spin on how you add value as a programmer].
Brajeshwar 6 days ago 0 replies      
You might like to read this too, "Are you a programmer or a coder?" http://brajeshwar.com/2007/are-you-a-programmer-or-a-coder/
sampsonjs 6 days ago 0 replies      
Excuse me, but the company decides what the titles for positions are, not the applicants. And I'm sure no one with "Software Engineer" in their title ever got laid off.
"But the article is really telling you to pick a job where you'll be considered King Shit!". Thanks for that great advice.
agentgt 8 days ago 1 reply      
Networking, networking, networking...
"The classic its not what you know but who you know". Also super confidence (even if your wrong).
I wish it was different but then again I'm not smart so maybe I'm glad :)
pixie_ 7 days ago 0 replies      
I have a degree in engineering, but when people ask me what I do, I say I'm a computer programmer because that's what I am and I'm proud of that.
Hrothgar15 7 days ago 0 replies      
"Producing beautiful software is not a goal." Speak for yourself! That is my goal; money is a mere byproduct enabling it.
atarian 8 days ago 0 replies      
This is definitely some of the best advice I've heard. Thank you very much for posting this.
ekanna 7 days ago 0 replies      
fantastic article...
matomesc 8 days ago 0 replies      
Good read, i totally agree with some of the points made.
daviddaviddavid 8 days ago 4 replies      
How jaded.

Sounds rather like a "Guide to Success in High School" written by the guy that graduated with perfect grades but got his ass kicked every day.

Well, not everybody gets their ass kicked every day.

I absolutely cringe at the idea of a bright-eyed young programmer becoming prematurely jaded based on somebody else's experiences.

"This post aspires to be README.txt for your career as a young engineer."

Definitely failed in that regard for this young engineer and I hope it fails similarly for my cohorts.

I swapped my MacBook for an iPad+Linode yieldthought.com
617 points by moconnor  3 days ago   337 comments top 61
raganwald 3 days ago  replies      

  One fateful day, VMWare and OS/X conspired to trash my
shared filesystem, losing several days of uncommitted
code in the process.

Several days of uncommitted code? We need to have a heart to heart talk about your process.

agentultra 3 days ago  replies      
This has to be the most ergonomically inefficient set-up ever!

I also cannot fathom how to work with < 2 big monitors (> 21" at least). And a tiling window manager. And a decent mechanical keyboard... ok ok..

Interesting setup. I'd be interested in knowing how it works out in the long term.

scott_s 3 days ago  replies      
For anyone who spends their day (or most of some days) in a terminal connected to a remote server, I can't recommend using GNU Screen enough (brief tutorial: http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/3/9/16838/14935).

I've worked almost exclusively on remote servers, using the command line and vim, for about eight years now. It's only been in the past year that I started using Screen, and I feel stupid for not using it sooner.

awolf 3 days ago 8 replies      
There are a lot of comments here from people acting as if not having two 24" monitors and a full mechanical keyboard would drastically diminish their productivity. This year I spent 4 months out of the country with only my 15" laptop while still working 8 hour days. I was surprised to find no change at all in how long it took to get shit done. I think we tend to kid ourselves about how much of a difference expensive equipment makes.
wes-exp 3 days ago 3 replies      
Imagine an "iPad Pro" that had similar battery life and even an integrated keyboard. In addition to supporting the SSH workflow, it can run traditional GUI applications if you really need them.

You don't have to wait: it's called the MacBook Air.

kayoone 3 days ago 2 replies      
You could actually do the same thing WITH a Macbook Air/Pro. The beauty of a cloud linux instance + gnu screen isnt limited to the ipad and so you could still have a bigger screen and the possibility to go back to GUI apps if you need them.
I like this for travelling on the go, but spending my normal workday in 1024 resolution ? Naaa.
nileshk 3 days ago 2 replies      
The last time I tried to use SSH under iOS with the Apple bluetooth keyboard (trying different SSH apps including iSSH and TouchTerm) I found that I could not comfortably use Emacs due to various key combinations not being transmitted (I guess Vim isn't as much of a problem). One of the SSH app developers said that they were not able to trap certain keystrokes that were iOS keyboard shortcuts. Looks like this may still be an issue, as moconnor says this:

> Ctrl-X is my screen's ‘hotkey'; it defaults to Ctrl-A but on a wireless keyboard that leaves unicode characters in the terminal - I assume this is related to Apple's support for some common Emacs key bindings in iOS.

Is the situation any better now? Any workarounds to make this work better (e.g. configure the shell on the remote end)? How is this on Android?

I was trying this on an iPhone, but I'd imagine it handles bluetooth keyboards the same as the iPad.

Another issue I had was latency of the cellular connection (AT&T 3G); there was a very noticeable delay between keystrokes and the server receiving them and transmitting back. I imagine if you're on wifi most of the time this isn't as much of a problem, though. Or maybe you just get used to the latency.

idspispopd 3 days ago 3 replies      
It's interesting to see that other people are noticing how poor the google web experience has become on iOS. It seems especially deliberate when I note that android & chrome use webkit.

I've even swapped the default search engine to bing because it provides a better layout, especially so for image searching which in my view is broken on iOS.

This from the company that just released tools to aid the transition to mobile web.

(and yes, I'm aware that they hate each other, but why should I be punished? reminds me of the MS from yesteryear.)

Also: there is general feedback that google's optional services are generally quite good, which makes it curious that the originally very good google search/image search was replaced with versions that aren't up to scratch.

jrockway 3 days ago 4 replies      
$800 gets you a pretty nice laptop. I don't see the advantage of this approach at all.
drivingmenuts 3 days ago 2 replies      
What's the solution for when "the cloud" loses your files and the ToS says "so sorry, we'll try harder next time - here's next month's bill"?

When I keep my files locally, the only person I have to blame for losing them is myself. Out in "the cloud", there's quite literally nothing that can be done to recover my data.

RexRollman 3 days ago 3 replies      
I am still amazed that Apple hasn't come up with a shortcut for app switching when using bluetooth keyboards.

By the way, Moconnor, have you given Panic's Prompt a try?

rapind 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very interesting. Did you ever consider the same setup but using a Chromebook? I've been thinking about doing that for a while now (I'm on an MBP currently).
mscrivo 3 days ago 1 reply      
If this guys thinks having a single 10" screen with no ability to switch between tasks easily and quickly is the wave of the future for developers, I don't want any part of that future.

You can pry my dual 24" monitors + high performance desktop from cold dead body.

jwallaceparker 3 days ago 1 reply      
It looks like the goal of the swap was to have a spartan, lightweight, cool (temperature) workspace.

It seems like a MacBook Air accomplishes this better than iPad, stand and keyboard.

The only difference I can grok from the article is that the MacBook Air is somehow more fragile. But is it?

6ren 2 days ago 1 reply      
Isn't the latency of vim on a remote server distracting? Or is your ping low enough to not be noticeable?

I've thought about this kind of setup, but I think I'd need vim to be running locally (but working on files from a remote filesystem - vim can do this).

navs 3 days ago 1 reply      
I actually attempted the same thing once but gave up after a day. I borrowed the iPad from work (clients absolutely love demos on this thing) and used iSSH to connect to my netbook running ubuntu.

First, I tried to create a simple mobile website with vim. I'm not a hardcore vim user so the frustration I felt using it on the iPad were mostly due to my level of inexperience with vim. Additionally, I didn't have an external keyboard. Using the software keyboard with my neck hunched forward gave me some serious cramps.

The second activity was writing a document. I used markdown and pandoc to create an rtf. googlecl for uploading to the google cloud.

Small screens bug some people but after using a 15" macbook pro and a 10" netbook, it normally doesn't bother me. In this case, using a software keyboard meant I had even less screen real estate which did bother me.

Overall, it was workable. If I ever took vacations, I could see myself taking an iPad (with keyboard) instead of a regular laptop and doing some emergency bug fixing but I wouldn't choose it over my netbook.

jsight 3 days ago 0 replies      
> Maybe it works better on an Android - no, wait, that'd be anti-competitive behavior and Google would never do something evil, right?

I don't see how releasing a full Android version would be anti-competitive in any meaningful sense.

Especially since the Android app and webapp support for Google Docs is unbelievably horrible. It amazes me that something as simple as editing a document (or simple spreadsheet) is almost completely impractical on Android tablets.

Ogre 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is partly a testament to what a great app iSSH is. I haven't used it as a daily work environment, but I've gotten some pretty great things done with it, even the iPhone version. My favorite was sitting in a crappy motel room with barely Edge, and still managing to build a GPX converter (not build as in write, build as in download and compile), convert some map routes to a format I needed for another phone app, and get them on my website where I could then get the app that needed them to download them.

It was not fast, and I wouldn't want to do it all the time, but it worked, and iSSH made it about as painless as I can imagine that process being.

dpapathanasiou 3 days ago 3 replies      
Can you really write code efficiently on such a small (9.7") screen?
TamDenholm 3 days ago 4 replies      
Anyone tried to do this as a web developer? I know theres an app or two geared towards being a web dev environment, the one good one i found (its called Gusto on the app store) i didnt get to test properly because it didnt support SFTP yet (due to apple requiring some permission from the gov or something, not technical limitation).
namank 3 days ago 1 reply      
What you have done here is an HCI study. On yourself.

You could formalize this with related models and write a paper on it if you wanted.

cmwright 3 days ago 3 replies      
Incredible that we seem to be moving back to powerful mainframe computers in a timesharing system. A 40 year cycle?
billpatrianakos 3 days ago 2 replies      
I can't deny that this is a cool setup but I can't see it being useful for long. I personally need to see multiples windows simultaneously as I work. Swiping over can't cut it for very long. But good for you, man. To each his own I suppose.
jiggy2011 3 days ago 1 reply      
Ouch, each to his own but not for me!

Combination of tiny screen , having to reach out and touch the screen rather than just put a hand on the mouse and the latency involved in using a remote machine would make this a nightmare for me!

Judging by the photo of the setup on the desk I would assume you have to lean quite far forward in order to see the screen (unless you have very good eyesight) and I have enough backpain as it is.

Using any graphical tools at all (unless there is an ipad version) must be a major pain on this setup!

I find working on a laptop bad enough but when I really need to be portable and can't take my dual monitors with me the combination of internet hosted source control + IMAP email + dropbox means that I can grab my laptop and just walk out the door without worrying about where my files are
so I'm not really sure what advantages you get from this setup.

Of course if your happy with your setup then that's totally cool, what worries me more is if the desktop market dissapears and it becomes necessary for everyone to use a setup like this, it would feel like a massive step backwards to me. I'm just too used to being able to lie back on my chair, have my keyboard within easy reach and clearly see everything I need to see right in front of me in big readable text.

As an aside I also don't really like widescreen monitors for doing work , especially programming as vertical screen estate is much more useful than horizontal when trying to look at allot of code and figure out where the bug is. But it seems almost impossible now to get a large square monitor that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

deanproxy 3 days ago 0 replies      
The lack of ability to look at documentation/stackoverflow/code examples in a browser while simultaneously coding out said example and making the changes I need would severely limit my productivity. "Just copy and paste!" you may say... Sure, that'll work. Only, wait, I forgot what that one line meant, is it needed? What did they say about changing this piece of code that was "really important?" Crap, back to the browser. Let's switch apps again. Crap, the page in the browser is having to reload because I had too many tabs open and memory got low, now I have to wait for it to reload. Where was I on the page? Cause when it reloaded the page, it put me back at the top. Wait, that wasn't the tab I wanted, it's that other tab. Great! It has to reload now too!

I typically work with a single external monitor connected to my Macbook and use the Macbook for holding my mail client, chat and a browser while my Terminal's and IDE are on the external monitor. This works best for me.

Now that spaces and expose are so tied together, working with even just one screen is much nicer. I have toyed with the idea of just using a single external monitor and use spaces extensively. Just a swipe and I'm at a new space. This is much faster and nicer than changing apps on iOS.

I think it's a neat trial idea, but for long term productivity, it certainly is more of a "hipster factor" than useful.

doki_pen 2 days ago 0 replies      
So Mac/VMWare/Linux failed and the solution was to move to iPad/Linode? Did you consider just installing a Linux distro? Why do people who develop on Linux all day need OSX? I don't get it. What is the killer app? It's more expensive and harder to use for Linux development. Is it really just because it's prettier?
powerslave12r 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the way of the future is a smaller powerful notebook, like a Thinkpad X220, and then using larger monitors and whatever cloud service you want.
reustle 3 days ago 0 replies      
I would do this, except for most of the day hook up the iPad to a 24" monitor with the HDMI cable. The only roadblock I see is not having chrome inspector.
dinedal 3 days ago 0 replies      
iSSH maps either alt to option or control to option, how do you have it set up to do both?

Prompt lets you use the control key for control, but the alt key is borked on apple's wireless keyboard.

Is there a set up with both these keys working at the same time, preferably on the keys labeled as such?

trebor 3 days ago 0 replies      
My first thought was, "Oh! no you didn't!"

Kudos for thinking of it. I think that it's a very viable solution for those who don't have a great need for a graphical IDE. But as a web developer I have to test across all major browsers, so I can't switch everything to an iPad. (Not that I wouldn't be interested in trying it.)

SoftwareMaven 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm in the process of deciding on a laptop upgrade. I can't decide between an 11" MacBook Air or a 15" MacBook Pro. If I could get a nice Thunderbolt 3D accelerator, the Air would win hands-down.

I'm really close to moving to remote work for almost everything development related, but I photoshop enough to worry about the Air being underpowered. Any good cloud answers for that?

davidjhall 3 days ago 1 reply      
I heartily agree -- once you add a wireless keyboard to an iPad, it stops being a toy. I use the keyboard and an iPad 1 to write my first drafts (both locally and google docs, if need be) and with VNC, I code on my remote servers as well.
tomkinstinch 3 days ago 1 reply      
I tried to code on an iPad, but just couldn't get used to it. I'm glad it is working for you.

It should be interesting when there are versatile graphical programming languages for touch devices (LabVIEW, etc.).

drivebyacct2 3 days ago 1 reply      
Random observation: Who uses an iPad + "the Cloud" + vim, and rips low quality DVDs?
zyfo 3 days ago 0 replies      
I use a Chromebook and its crosh to ssh into a Linode instance with tmux for web development. Works like a charm, apart from the lack of UTF-8 in chrosh.
pdenya 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised he didn't think it was worth going for a 3G ipad. I spend a decent amount of time working outside of my office on my laptop with a local environment. Impossible with this setup and no 3G. Maybe there's a tethering plan on his iphone to account for that.

Either way, this setup would be significantly less painful using a MBP to connect to linode instead of an ipad.

anthonyb 2 days ago 0 replies      
> The iPhone keyboard is somewhat painful to use, but for rm -rf /tmp/build-2011-* it suffices.

Is it just me, or does the thought of typing rm -rf on an iPhone keyboard sound a little... dangerous?

RyanCumley 3 days ago 2 replies      
That's good stuff! I just did the business version of this post


I haven't attempted anything for my normal Objective-C XCode work yet on an iPad.

Anyone out there have any hacks to do iPhone/iPad dev from the iPad?

bergie 3 days ago 1 reply      
Sounds very interesting. I think the major downside would be that you can't really do any development while offline. I've done some of my most productive programming during flights and train rides, so that would be a downside for me.

Maybe Android could give a little more of the "local productivity" option?

prg318 3 days ago 0 replies      
I find myself using SSH on my Google CR-48 netbook to develop and do work much more than my shiny Dell XPS laptop. SSH+Linode+VIM+screen is such a great combination as you can literally pick up exactly where you left off from any machine with SSH access. Gotta love it.
diamondhead 3 days ago 0 replies      
I put my throughout development environment on my linode for couple of years and think that it's a good for availability.

As an example, I developed MultiplayerChess.com is on my Linode server. I don't have an IPhone or IPad yet but I see that it's great to access a full utilized development environment from anywhere...

Let's turn this topic to a usesthis.com for CLI lovers.

CLI apps that I use are tmux (In addition to the previous comments not recommending Screen, I highly recommend Tmux), Emacs, VIM (I use Emacs as an IRC and Twitter client, an IDE and a self-organizer, VIM as a file editor), newsbeuter for RSS and links for browsing. My choice of distribution is Arch Linux.

if you wonder about my Emacs configuration, it's in my Github; github.com/azer/emacsfiles

pavel_lishin 3 days ago 1 reply      
> Frustrated by the inconsistent usage of ctrl/alt/option/arrow keys to jump words and screens and lines,

I'd really like to know what editor he was using.

zrgiu_ 3 days ago 0 replies      
I dream of the day when I would be able to work completely remote. Much like using a VNC now to connect to server and do the work.
Unfortunately.. the internet connection is not good enough for anything like that, and VNC is sub-optimal for this kind of things.

Imagine being able to work remotely, being able to "rent" a couple of more virtual processor when you need to compile something bigger, having as much RAM available as you need and paying only for what you use, and most of all, having the security that all your data is safely backed up with a 1-second delay at most. Virtually unlimited bandwidth (again, pay for what you use), as all the other resources. Just imagine ...

comm_it 3 days ago 0 replies      
Looking at the setup of the iPad on your table with the keyboard gave me neck ache. I can't imagine what that does to you on a daily basis.

Interesting experiment, I don't think I could ever move to doing something like that permanently.

deepGem 2 days ago 0 replies      
On a rather different note, a very comfortable setup can be achieved. Setup a neat iPad mount on a wall with a comfortable viewing distance and say goodbye to neck strain :).
bitwize 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hey, 1024x768, 8bpp is how I rolled back in 1995 rocking my first Linux box. Thanks for bringing that feeling of freedom back to my memory.
casca 3 days ago 5 replies      
I'm a big fan of tmux* and vim but there's a limit to the complexity of system that you can develop efficiently with vim. A good graphical IDE used by a skilled operator will be more likely to generate correct, consistent code faster.

If you're using vim and think you're developing as well and as fast as you can, you're probably wrong.

* 17 years of screen and I've finally switched over to tmux. None of the features were sufficiently compelling for me to change, but it's so much faster

jebblue 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you're going to try something like this, you couldn't ask for a better VPS provider than Linode. I think the choice of VPS provider is at least as important as the choice of client access tools.
bbwharris 2 days ago 0 replies      
I tried doing this, but it felt like I wanted to make this setup happen. It just wasn't there for me. The idea is elegant and simple, but the reality is that having a laptop is just more efficient. One day, this might be the nomadic developers toolbox.
moonboots 3 days ago 1 reply      
For anyone still using gnu screen, tmux.
sktrdie 3 days ago 1 reply      
I don't see the difference compared to owning a MacBook Air. Is it that the screen and keyboard are separated?
borism 2 days ago 0 replies      
what is VGA adapter used for?
mbq 3 days ago 1 reply      
In other words, yet another frustrated Mac user converted to Linux.
jamesu 3 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds great if you do work which can be done in the terminal or a slow 256-color vnc session. Otherwise i'll be sticking with my Macbook.
rayhano 3 days ago 0 replies      
If only a viable version of Office could be found for the iPad
VikingCoder 3 days ago 0 replies      
Do other people have this much trouble with Google Docs? I sure don't, and I consider myself a heavy user.
ypcxz 3 days ago 1 reply      
Sorry man, but I like to code from my sofa. I also have no problem keeping my Snow Leopard running perfectly. iPad is just way too limited and you will discover that very soon.
noveltyaccount 3 days ago 0 replies      
> More recently I've been scanning mails over IMAP with a python script instead.


prolepunk 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why can't just install linux on his macboc and sync everything using ssh/rsync/git without being such a hipster.
dramaticus3 3 days ago 0 replies      
OMG computers
suivix 3 days ago 0 replies      
You can also use SSH + screen with your MacBook... that's what I do with my MacBook Air since it's much more pleasant to deal with than the company IBM laptop.
Do a barrel roll - Google Search google.com
478 points by ot  2 days ago   103 comments top 36
ot 2 days ago 5 replies      
Note the bug: "do a barrel roll" skyrocketed at the top of the suggestion lists for "do a ".

So if you have Google Instant enabled, just typing "do a " will instant-search "do a barrel roll" and trigger the effect.

I'm sure this wasn't intended.

mekoka 2 days ago 3 replies      
I just realized that such popular memes, contribute in eating away at Internet Explorer's market when they don't work on it. People who for months could not be bothered to even just upgrade to IE7 or 8, are now more than willing to download and install another browser, just to see google "do a barrel roll".
ck2 2 days ago 0 replies      
revert to pre-2009 layout

drats it didn't work


lutorm 2 days ago 1 reply      
Nice. That's more of an aileron roll, though. A barrel roll has an accompanying corkscrew motion of your velocity vector along with the rotation.
antichaos 2 days ago 1 reply      
Also try "stationary" on Google. That easter egg works on all browsers.
johnnytee 2 days ago 0 replies      

search for "askew" does the same thing as "tilt"

mdda 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm assuming this is being noticed because of the recent ANA plane aerobatics : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aunUFwyxsF0 spoiler : plane landed safely).
hammock 2 days ago 0 replies      
hackernews 2 days ago 0 replies      
no such luck for "do the dougie".
Jeff_29 2 days ago 0 replies      
Coolest barrel roll in history http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vHiYA6Dmws

I know this isn't the original intent of the post, but this occured at a make or break time in Boeing's history and turned out to be a launching point for the company. If anything had gone wrong, Boeing would probably not exist today,

Interesting lesson in risk taking.

EwanToo 2 days ago 2 replies      
Only works in Chrome or Firefox, pretty fun :
hkmurakami 2 days ago 0 replies      
Happy to find that there's still a little humor left in the corporate world :)

It's probably a good publicity/user-karma boost that this has come out at this timing, right after the recent debacles with Gmail, Google Reader, and the iOS Gmail app. Definitely leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside!

TechStuff 2 days ago 0 replies      
a list of known Google Easter Eggs:
sampsonjs 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you haven't seen it already, this is relevant. And hilarious: http://www.collegehumor.com/video/5633958/star-fox-in-iraq
lanstein 2 days ago 1 reply      
Would be a good keyword to advertise on, startups!
thyrsus 2 days ago 1 reply      
Not working for me; I thought it might be https everwhere or the google https search option, but turning those off didn't produce the effect. Firefox 3.6.23 on Fedora 14.
moreorless 2 days ago 0 replies      
The attention that this is getting is absolutely ridiculous. Do we not have anything better to do? :(
kentf 2 days ago 0 replies      
why is this news.
roryokane 2 days ago 2 replies      
For those who aren't using a compatible browser: right after the page loads, a screenshot of your view of the page rotates 360° as if in a barrel roll. The page is then a normal, functioning Google results page.
moskie 2 days ago 0 replies      
This made me choke on my coffee.
bengl 2 days ago 0 replies      
You can make this happen on any arbitrary page, just for fun.


ojeffmo 2 days ago 0 replies      
for those of you looking for a video:


ColinWright 2 days ago 1 reply      
Not working for me: Firefox 3.6.23 on Ubuntu.
diamondhead 2 days ago 1 reply      
Google's new design is completely blocked to the users of non-popular web browsers. As a user of my own fork of a webkit based browser, I only see the old Google since Google thinks that my web browser is not modern.
bawigga 2 days ago 0 replies      
And wasn't there just a post about easter eggs being a thing of the past? Thanks Google for adding a little bit of fun to your product!
useflyer 2 days ago 0 replies      
This technology was demo'ed by SpotCapitan.com on HN a few months ago. So is Google ripping off cutting-edge front-end engingeering from startups now?
pcestrada 2 days ago 0 replies      
I was hoping 'do a loop' did something as well.
swah 2 days ago 2 replies      
No money for labs, but this...
entangledvyne 1 day ago 0 replies      
jasonlgrimes 2 days ago 0 replies      
Love it!
james-fend 2 days ago 0 replies      
Works on my iPhone.... niccceee
VanceRefrig 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thats super cool!
savrajsingh 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is this Google's response to Siri? :)
deano 2 days ago 1 reply      
gerrit 2 days ago 5 replies      
Nice, but I wonder how much money Google are losing delivering the animation code for this easteregg with every results page, on the off-chance that someone types this query.
I couldn't find any sign of dynamic code loading in a cursory glance in the web inspector.
Google Search's source code is otherwise ruthlessly optimised for bandwidth savings.
Stop motion video shot over 2 years with 288,000 jelly beans petapixel.com
468 points by swombat  2 days ago   96 comments top 18
pitdesi 2 days ago 5 replies      
This is the type of thing that you wouldn't have done 10 years ago because noone would have found out about it.

Reminds me of the Amazing Honda Accord commercial - the Cog... Rube Goldberg machine all done without CGI (5 months of pre-work, then 605 takes until they got to one that didn't screw up somewhere)
They did a lot of work that they could've avoided with CGI, but where would the fun be?
Making of video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh4zWeUDW-E

Another good one that is similar in the sense that they went through a whole lot of trouble is the Sony Bravia commercial
They did a lot of work that they could've avoided with CGI, but where would the fun be?

BTW, it seems Jelly Belly was in on the fun a little bit... http://www.jellybelly-uk.com/bean-world/page/?id=47
At the very least, I'd imagine that she didn't pay for the jelly beans

thom 2 days ago 1 reply      
As a cautionary tale about the waxing and waining relevance of various online properties, remember that Kina Grannis was more or less launched on Digg:


invisiblefunnel 2 days ago 2 replies      
The behind the scenes video shows details of the process. I found it fascinating: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIH4MJAC2Tg
hmigneron 2 days ago 1 reply      
The fact that they had to finish shooting the whole thing to have something worth showing makes this even more impressive. They couldn't just stop halfway through and say good enough.

For nearly two years they kept working on it and she couldn't really put on any weight, couldn't really age too much, etc. It really is dedication!

kpozin 2 days ago 2 replies      
Very impressive video.

The grammar nerd in me is also impressed how, for two years, no one managed to notice that the repeated phrase "we'll lay," although it rhymes in context, uses completely the wrong verb. (It should be "we'll lie.")

dholowiski 2 days ago 5 replies      
No MVP here - they went all the way the first time. Be sure to switch to 1080p and go full screen, it's breathtaking. But it makes me wonder, what is the ROI on this? Will they really make back the wages of 30 people for 22 months, and how long will it take?
joshfraser 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the beauty comes from the simplicity of it. To a casual viewer, it's just a cute music video. It's when you realize the amount of work and attention to detail that went into it, that you have the emotional reaction that says "wow, they really cared about this". It's the same reaction I have with many of Apple's products. They look simple from a distance, but when you zoom in, you see a team of 30 people hand placing jelly beans to make something beautiful.
grusk 1 day ago 1 reply      
See also:

Coldplay - Strawberry Swing (shot on sidewalk chalk)


Maxmaber Orkestar - Malinkovec Valzer (500 People in 100 Seconds - stop-motion video is a movie within a movie)


Clarika - Bien Mérité (French stop-motion video with photographs)


queensnake 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is what we'll be reduced to doing, post-Singularity.
MichaelApproved 2 days ago 1 reply      
"22 months, 1,357 hours, 30 people"

If you consider that big budget music videos can have ~100 people working on it (casting, production crew and post crew) each putting in at least 12-16 hours, this falls right in line with the amount of people hours that's typical for a music label.

jwcacces 1 day ago 1 reply      
I would have gotten a robotic pick and place machine and sped that up a bit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5eR0eHknZk&t=0m18s
georgieporgie 2 days ago 0 replies      

Not to detract from it, but is the 1,357 hours combined man-hours, or start-to-finish hours?

antirez 1 day ago 0 replies      
It does not look better to what an algorithm or alike could have done with a lot less efforts.
jquery 2 days ago 0 replies      
Came for the jelly beans, stayed for the song.
suivix 1 day ago 0 replies      
Two years of hard work to get about the equivalent page views of nudity. It must have felt rewarding for them though.
jaequery 2 days ago 1 reply      
2 years ... for this? and people are complaining about the economy?
freemarketteddy 2 days ago 3 replies      
See this post is a testament to Hacker News's decline.Not because I think that post doesnt have something interesting or intellectually arousing to say.It absolutely does.I create things too and I understand the importance of creation especially when it takes two years to make something.

The reason is because of how this post got on the front page of Hacker News.In normal circumstances I can bet that this post maybe would get like three votes in five hours.But in this case the poster is "swombat" who has a huge following on twitter and a lot of them are hnusers.I noticed an instant upsurge in votes after he posted this on his twitter page.

Another reason is because "swombat" himself is also one of the top Hacker News users and when people see his name there chances of upvoting increases significantly.This I think is actually fair and he probably deserves a little more attention than the average hnuser.But what I vehemently object to is the use of twitter to gain traction.

Here are some possible solutions that I can think of.

1) If a post gets a lot of traffic from twitter and other such social media websites ,it should work against it in the rank calculation algorithm.

2) Users be advised to not use their twitter or facebook following to gain traction on HackerNews.

ScottBurson 2 days ago 2 replies      
Technically, of course, this is time-lapse video, not stop-motion. Stop-motion slows things down (hence the name); time-lapse speeds them up, which is clearly what's happened here.

Terminological pickiness aside, this is very cool. I wasn't aware of Kina Grannis before, and probably would have stayed that way but for this video, so it seems to be accomplishing its purpose.

Edited to add: the song is pretty, too.

Android Orphans: Visualizing a Sad History of Support theunderstatement.com
445 points by estel  9 days ago   225 comments top 27
d_r 9 days ago  replies      
The current situation is somewhat unfair to the indiscrete / non-tech-savvy consumer since they might buy an Android phone without understanding the differences from the iOS ecosystem. At least several of my friends did. "They're about the same right? And this one was $30 cheaper!" And I genuinely feel bad every time this happens.

Note that I of course have no gripes with Android OS/concept itself -- it's a good contender to iOS. My gripe is with the current gouging of consumers by hardware manufacturers/cell phone companies, of the fragmented/poor/outdated hardware coverage in many models, lack of upgrades, et cetera. And don't forget the mandatory "crapware" that carriers pre-install.

This is quite different from buying, say, a Dell/HP PC vs. a Mac -- in both cases do you get a working, upgradeable machine.

SandB0x 9 days ago 1 reply      
There's a major point that can be added to the Why Don't Android Phones Get Updated? section: Third party skins and interfaces.

HTC's Sense, Motorola's Motoblur and co can only introduce an engineering overhead and delays in upgrading. I would much rather they concentrated on making awsome hardware and leaving the UI to Google, rather than attempting to differentiate themselves in this way.

juliano_q 9 days ago 3 replies      
I think that the fact that the chart stopped at June 2010 makes it looks much worse than it is now. Android is newer than iOS and works on a very different environment. Support 4 devices is much easier than 4 thousand.

If you extend this chart to 2011 you will notice that the platform is more mature and most of the phones will receive ICS (my wife Galaxy S is a relatively old device and will get it).

kalleboo 9 days ago 6 replies      
How many PC users are still using XP, a 10 year old OS? If the version of the OS you have still works, it still works.

The real issue here is security updates. Google need a way to update core OS component that aren't affected by the manufacturer's UI skinning.

jsz0 9 days ago 0 replies      
The lack of feature-updates is disappointing but they can get by forcing people to buy new phones for new features. It's the security side of this that could really blow up in their face. It's only a matter of time before these lingering security issues come home to roost. I wonder if Google has any plan to deal with the possibility of millions of Android phones and their associated user accounts being compromised? The risk is amplified by having all your eggs in the Google basket. What happens if your phone gets exploited and you just can't login to GMail tomorrow? (and you can't call Google for help) Unless you happen to be a high profile blogger or journalist you're going to have a hard time dealing with this type of thing.
ajanuary 9 days ago 2 replies      
Limiting it to 3 years masks the fact that lots of people still had iPhone 3G phones on 2 year contracts when Apple stopped offering updates for it.

That said, the fact even that's off the scale is worrying for Android.

joebadmo 9 days ago 1 reply      
1. Anyone who cares about OS updates would only have ever owned three or four of the phones on the chart.

2. Anyone who cares about OS updates doesn't keep a phone for longer than 2 years. Most spring for an early upgrade after 1.5. Many (like me) finagle a new one every year or so.

3. My wife has never updated the OS of any of the 3 iPhones she's owned. I believe she is representative.

zmmmmm 9 days ago 0 replies      
While it's definitely a problem for Android and extremely disappointing that devices under contract are not supported with new versions, looking at it on a device basis is somewhat unfair : the actual number of such handsets 3 versions behind in the real world are miniscule - according to the actual usage statistics, 84% of users are on 2.2 or better, and the functional differences between 2.2 and 2.3 are fairly small. The percentage of users on < 2.0 are down to ~2% at this point.

I'd much rather see the platform being pushed forward than spending great amounts of time trying to shoehorn it onto extremely old devices used by 2% of people.

degusta 9 days ago  replies      
I wrote the piece / did the research. Happy to answer any questions or comments people might have.
ricw 9 days ago 4 replies      
It's funny that these kind of long-term "features" don't get taken into consideration for any of the phone reviews. Its probably one of the most important features of a phone.

I'm currently torn apart between buying an iPhone 4s and the galaxy nexus, but given that I can expect the iphone to be supported and updated instantly and regulary for a long time, and not with any of the android phones (less than 2 years for the original nexus phone), I think iphone it will be.. despite prefering the openness of android.

methodin 9 days ago 0 replies      
So the point of the graphic has to be that most people don't really care, right?
Rabidgremlin 9 days ago 0 replies      
Whilst I agree that this is a problem (especially since it looks like my Nexus One won't get the the upgrade) a mitigating factor as an app developer is Android's backwards compatibility.

For instance is my app targets 2.1 it will run on all on 2.1 and above which is currently ~97% of all active devices.

Check out http://developer.android.com/resources/dashboard/platform-ve... for the active OS version stats collected by Google in the last 14 days.

gnubardt 9 days ago 0 replies      
From data we've collected[1] more iOS devices (the majority) are running the most recent version of the OS, compared to Android.

Even though they may have an update available (non-eligable devices excluded) not every user knows how or is able to update their device.


  [1] http://blog.brightcove.com/en/2011/10/brightcove-unveils-next-generation-video-cloud-smart-player

masklinn 9 days ago 2 replies      
The graph is debatable for the 3G: its last update was 4.2.1 released 28 months into the phone's lifecycle, but it did not get iOS 4.3 release in March 2011. Talking about "major version" sounds like a lie/cop-out in that case, since iOS receives pretty major updates in "minor" versions (4.3 included personal hotspots, ASLR, a JITed javascript engine, settings rearrangements and reworks, the ability to cancel an application update or remove an application being updated mid-download, ...)
RexRollman 9 days ago 1 reply      
To me, Android is a fragmented soup sandwich. I like the idea of having choices for hardware, but under Android:

- You can't assume what's going to be on the phone, software wise. Each maker evidently messes with it, sometimes even changing the interface itself. I've also read stories of bloatware being added.

- You can't be sure how software updates are going to be handled, because that varies depending on maker and carrier, meaning you might not get updates they same time others do (this is also a problem for Windows 7 Phone).

- Crappy cell provider logo plaques on the hardware (I detest that).

- Multiple/competing app stores.

I believe that Android has a lot of promise, but Google really needs to start exhibiting some control over what's going on.

dman 9 days ago 0 replies      
The android team needs to pick a leaf out of the Google Chromes book. Chrome makes updates seamless and I wish android was the same.
pasbesoin 9 days ago 0 replies      
I'm getting sick of Google's "see what sticks" and "let the end user fend for himself" attitude. I really wanted their various platforms to work, but now I'm just getting tired.
iaskwhy 9 days ago 3 replies      
How do buying apps works on Android and all its versions? I remember buying apps on my first generation iPhone that then wouldn't support iOS 3.x but the Store still let me buy it. Is it the same on Android (but worse since there are so many different versions around)?
gcb 9 days ago 1 reply      
Great graph.

and to think i switched from a series of Nokia phones (because they loose support every 6mo, to the point you can't even buy a working headset cable or extra charger for them) and bought a nexus one because i thought "spending $700 to buy an OPEN phone directly from google will get updated software for life and consistent use of cables and standards"

asmosoinio 8 days ago 0 replies      
Looking at the big picture from Android Market point-of-view, developer can easily ignore the 1.5/1.6 crowd, and 2.1 is a small part of the whole:

1.5/1.6: 2.5%
2.1: 11.7%
2.2: 45.3%
2.3.x: 38.7%
3.x: 1.9%


AlexV 9 days ago 0 replies      
I compare Google's Android ecosystem to a restaurant:
I ate once and received wonderful food and service. I go there again next week and the food is cold and the service is rude.

Android's inconsistency is as big problem for Google as it is to the restaurant - if it's inconsistent, I stop going.

I own several Android devices, with the SGS2 being the latest. If it is going to be inconsistent with the update & timing as the rest of them - next time I'm going to the competition, whoever it might be.

bpolania 9 days ago 4 replies      
It's an important omission not to mention that Android-based phones prices are declining at a much faster pace than iOS based phones. This is important because in many cases updating from one android to the next version (and sometimes to the next next version) is less expensive than buying a simple iPhone, rendering the need for further support unnecessary.
dsfasdfdfd 9 days ago 0 replies      
And this is one reason why Google bought Motorola Mobility.
ticks 9 days ago 0 replies      
This is why the phone gods gave us CyanogenMOD.
hamletdrc2 9 days ago 3 replies      
Am I misunderstanding this:

"7 of the 18 Android phones never ran a current version of the OS."
"12 of 18 only ran a current version of the OS for a matter of weeks or less."

That makes 19 out of 18 phones. That looks like an error. I wonder what other errors there are here?

Mordor 9 days ago 0 replies      
This guy is a hero :)
jellicle 9 days ago 1 reply      
Apples and oranges. An actually useful version of this graph would compare the Google phones to the Apple phones, and then in a separate table, compare the support for OS updates for other parties using the operating system (Apple would have no entries in that second chart, of course, but that's their choice).

In the first hypothetical chart, I believe Google's support for Google phones compares acceptably well with Apple's support for Apple phones.

Hacker News Needs Honeypots nashcoding.com
443 points by tansey  9 days ago   149 comments top 36
pg 9 days ago  replies      
"Nevertheless, I do believe that we are seeing a continuing trend downward in overall article quality on the front page."

I agree comment quality has decreased, but I'm not so sure about the frontpage. I created http://news.ycombinator.com/classic so I could detect frontpage decline. It shows what the frontpage would look like if we only counted votes of users who joined HN in the first year. Usually it looks the same as the frontpage, but with a time lag because there are fewer voters.

rkalla 8 days ago 0 replies      
I don't expect this comment to get read, it's likely buried under the 100+ already here, but here is my two cents on the subject...

Chasing spammers with greater and greater automated systems inevitably starts catching real people in the net. People that don't know they are in the net and people who otherwise contributed to the community, get enraged at the fact that their contributions are obviously being ignored.

Over time, the only people that get through the ever-growing net of automated spam blocking are smaller and smaller, eventually turning the site into an effort driven by a small group of users so highly rated that the spam algorithm simply doesn't look at them anymore. In Digg v3 parlance "super users".

Digg had one of the most advanced anti-spam algorithms in social news for 3.0 and they STILL couldn't control it as the site became dominated by a few select people that has escaped the initial watchful eye of the spam-algorithms.

Once their "rep" was high enough, they became impervious to getting knocked down by it.

Unfortunately for all the new users, there was no hope unless they played EXACTLY by the rules of this nebulous anti-spam algorithm that no one was able to tell if it was doing a good job or not... unless you had people manually review the spam submissions all day long which is impossible at this volume.

The net-net of these honey pot and highly advanced ideas is that you catch a lot of decent people in the net and they have no way of getting out.

That is a lot of time spent on fighting a battle that isn't really the right focal point.

The reality is as this sites popularity grows, submissions and comments are going to get more normalized. That is the nature of folding more and more people into the mix.

That isn't spam, that is human nature.

Create a group (of any kind, like organizing birthday parties) of 3 people and see how it performs and behaves. Now add 40 people to it... it will be significantly less efficient and more "spammy" with stupid email forwards and questions about international deserts being "appropriate".

This isn't spam, this is just the nature of a much larger group.

If you deploy a spam algorithm and start muting half those people, you might knock out some of the distracting emails (at least ones that the person writing the spam filter deems distracting) but you also piss off half the group that goes elsewhere to contribute.

Digg v4 took this to an extreme and we saw what happened with their community. Reddit still plays by their original rules even though they dominate the social news sector with traffic and they manage just fine.

If HN was crushed by pharma submissions and link bait I'd say we have a problem, but traffic seems to continue to grow and I haven't seen any obvious degradation in the last year.

I am sure that HN of today is much different than HN of 3 years ago, but that doesn't necessarily mean worse. If the people complaining about HN's quality really mean they just want a different type of elite site that isn't open to all this riff-raff (I consider myself riff-raff), that is a lot different problem than spam-blocking.

This idea that every submission should be amazing and every comment will make you cry because of its intelligence is not realistic.

The site is fine.

ryan-allen 9 days ago 2 replies      
We're assuming people are using the vote buttons to vote, and not save articles for later. What if a percentage of people said "that looks good, that looks good", vote for them so they can review them in their 'saved stories' at a later date?

What if HN would not allow people to vote on things unless they actually clicked on the link?

necro 9 days ago 0 replies      
The quality is relative. As HA has gotten more popular the level of experience of the average user has gone down, and they now dicate more what "quality" is. In the past you had a higher percentage of core "hackers", and they were posting things that they find of quality, but now you have much more varied submitters and voters.
More people equals lower lowest common denominator.

To fix you need segregation. A ultra code/tech area, a business/start up area, and a fanboy/fluff area.
You basically want to give high signal to noise ratio for the different groups of people. For example for me, I would just visit the code/tech area and not have to deal with all the noise of the other sections.

there 9 days ago 3 replies      
there's already enough junk on the /newest page that makes it difficult for legitimate articles to gain traction. adding fake articles to it is just going to make the problem worse.

i would rather see flagged articles get removed from /newest quicker, and have some mechanism for letting articles with at least 1 other upvote, or maybe those submitted by users with enough karma, to linger on /newest longer than they would otherwise.

eric-hu 8 days ago 1 reply      
Am I missing something with the second formula?

h = (f - v)/(s * t)

The perfect flagger would have v = 0 and f = s. His total flag score is t = s + x, where x is the number of non-honeypots flagged. His score would be:

h = s/(s * s + s * x) = 1/(s + x)

As s => infinity, h => 0. This score would actually punish a good flagger over time, no? A perfect veteran flagger with 100 for 100 honeypots flagged would have a lower honeypot ratio than a perfect newbie flagger who's 5 for 5 honeypots flagged.

rdl 8 days ago 1 reply      
The main feature I'd like is a killfile. USENET had this; too few websites do.

I'd like a way to 1) killfile comments by particular users and especially 2) killfile articles by keyword or submitter.

Joakal 9 days ago 1 reply      
Could go fully complicated path;

1) Public voting: revealing who votes for who on articles. If people want their votes public, they can mark themselves so (Hopefully opt-in to public votes).

2) Blacklisting voters; let people mark public voters as bad as a form of a blacklist. May lead to haunters who post but no one can see.

3) Whitelisting voters; only those who vote for articles are valued more or absolute. May lead to 'power voters' seeking votes but that happens already "Vote and add to the HN discussion here".

People seem to crave certain votes over others. I have no idea regarding comments. It's a mixed bag.

Mz 9 days ago 1 reply      
Let's so not do this. The worst possible way to educate people is by showing them all the things they shouldn't do. It's painful and slow compared to cutting to the chase and showing them what to do. I see no good coming of this. None whatsoever.
hugh3 8 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to me that instead of worrying about fancy ways to enforce the guidelines, perhaps the guidelines should be rewritten to be more explicit about what is and isn't on-topic.


Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon... If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic.

is pretty vague.

The worst threads are the ones straddling the line between "politics" and "economics", where a lot of people with bees in their bonnet get a chance to wheel out their favourite hobby horses (with apologies for mixing equine and apiaristic metaphors). These are the stories I'd like to see squashed, somehow.

droithomme 9 days ago 0 replies      
It seems this method works on the same sorts of psychology as when the Russian KGB would test people to see if they are loyal to the state by having agents make anti-government statements, and then see which citizens report them.
jeswin 8 days ago 0 replies      
Although not exactly the same, honeypots are similar to meta-moderation on slashdot. I am not sure if they still have it, or if it played any part in slowing a decline, but slashdot is very ordinary these days.

Personally, I would love to see more startup related articles. I don't care about the stuff I might pick up from elsewhere, such as Techcrunch articles, or Gruber's opinion,
or how A sells more than B, or Politics.

IMO, front page can do without:
1. Google denies requests to hand over data
2. Samsung overtakes Apple. Last week, Apple overtook someone else.
3. Gates to students, "....."
4. Righthaving, copyrights and piracy
5. Forrester's thoughts about supporting Macs in IT
6. Stallman v/s Steve Jobs.
7. Ripples visualization.

16s 8 days ago 0 replies      
What is link-bait? Seems open to interpretation. Some topics are highly controversial and bring passionate views out, but should they be banned because of that?

Honestly, I much prefer the pure coding articles or stories about code or coders than the "how I launched in 36 hours and had one million users" articles. In my opinion, the latter are link-bait and decrease the value of HN.

ck2 8 days ago 0 replies      
Can't the same problem be solved by giving additional qualified members the ability to downvote?
ehsanu1 9 days ago 1 reply      
If the h-ratio of a user is greater than an admin-specified threshold, we flag the user as detrimental to the overall quality of the site and their upvotes would either be discounted or ignored entirely.

Nit-picking here, but I suppose tansey meant "If the h-ratio is smaller", rather than "greater", since you'd want to ignore upvotes from those who upvote honeypots too much, rather than flag them too much.

jorangreef 8 days ago 1 reply      
You could try and trap with a honeypot.

Or you could educate and convert.

It may be that the decrease in comment quality is at least due to an increase in exposure of the wrong sort of entrepreneurial hacker motive "take VC, do whatever it takes, exit, be financially independent" as opposed to the right sort of entrepreneurial hacker motive "serve the community honorably at a profit", in the spirit of Packard, Hewlett, Bezos, Edison, Ford, Watson.

The arc of the startup has become more about 15 minutes of fame, and less about hundreds of years of employing thousands of people. More about not offending and not doing evil, and less about asserting truth and doing good. Culture has become more about free lunches and less about doing hard things and standing in the gap when it hurts. Some have forgotten what humility means, that "we are all grains of sand", that we exist "for others" not "for ourselves", to serve and not to take. And some no longer believe this is even possible.

If HN will begin to reward the others-centered motive, and rebuke the self-centered motive, then the ground will be prepared for the true startup spirit to again take root and flourish. If we can educate the next generation of hackers, and get the motivation right, the methods will follow, and there will be less and less need for honeypots.

To do this, there needs to be a Hacker Credo, and it needs to be at least as radical as the Johnson and Johnson credo, and as definitive and steadfast as Henry Ford's magnum opus "My Life and Work".

codex 8 days ago 0 replies      
If this proposal were implemented, I might only upvote comments and articles that I think the top HN users would like, not necessarily the ones I like, turning HN into a cliché of HN. "How to bootstrap your minimum viable product using Node.js". "Scala, Clojure, or Erlang?". "LISP for Bayesian A/B testing."

I'd much prefer a system which correlated my votes with other users and preferentially showed me articles and comments which matched my own tastes. Sure, if I only upvote to match my own biases, I'll get more biased articles. But if I also upvote good but contrarian opinions (and I would) I'll also get more good and contrarian opinions. Best of all, this encourages non-strategic voting--so, later on, if you find a good use for someone's voting record, you can trust the veracity of that record.

adulau 8 days ago 0 replies      
The idea is neat. Concerning the terminology, it might be more appropriate to call it a honeytoken ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeytoken ) than a honeypot.
yaix 9 days ago 0 replies      
Things tend to look better the further you move them into the past. Nostalgia. Things just aren't anymore what they never used to be.

HN was and is the same. IMHO the best place of its kind. While the article shows an interesting formula, I don't think there is a need for it on HN.

angelbob 9 days ago 1 reply      
This is deviously awful, yet highly effective. It makes for a desperate underclass of the automatically ignored, yet never lets them know that they are members of said class

Better yet, it accuses them of deserving it.

Ten Machiavelli points to you, sir.

three14 6 days ago 0 replies      
It might be more effective to simply have a page showing sample good comments, so people have a reference point when deciding to comment. I'm not sure how to pick a list of good comments, but it would be best if it specifically included examples of comments that went against HN groupthink.
ThaddeusQuay2 8 days ago 0 replies      
Article quality, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, quality assignment should be calculated specifically for a particular user, based on all available criteria, using a method selected by said user. Methodologies based on group-think or admin-think will always lead to a measure of quality which is "ugly" or "bad" for someone, at some point. So, center quality around what the user wants. In today's social networks, central management of data quality is an absurd notion left over from the early days of the Internet. It always leads to data deletion, user exclusion, or other forms of censorship. All data should remain, but should be filtered, for each user, based on what the user wants. To that end, the social network's job is to provide more selection criteria, for all users, and better methods to put that criteria to work, for each user.
pilooch 8 days ago 1 reply      
Another missing feature is the automated grouping of similar posts. Having five times the same (tech gossip) news on the first two pages is annoying, even sad, considering the state of the art of computer science these days. HN could definitely be a better flagship for hackerness IMO...
neworder 9 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe the article itself is a honeypot.
shasta 9 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think you need explicit honey pots. Just give a select few special up/down votes that mean "this should never be flagged" and "this should never be upvoted". Then use this labeling of the data to compute a metric for vote quality. (And I'd recommend these moderation type votes be retractable).
joshu 8 days ago 1 reply      
This is just supervised learning. No need to be so fancy about it.
nickknw 8 days ago 0 replies      
I think it is a really neat idea, and certainly couldn't do any harm.

It is targeted to solve a specific problem that DOES occur on HN. Not necessarily every single day, but often enough that it would be nice to have a countermeasure.

I do think that implicit honeypots are the way to go, rather than explicit.

DanBC 8 days ago 0 replies      
Honeypots would be great - they'd sort out lots of problems.

But there's still the problem of people submitting lousy articles; or submitting blogs / reports about an article instead of the original article. These aren't just new users either. Some of them are established long time users.

Some way of sorting those would be useful.

zerostar07 8 days ago 0 replies      
What about an initial burden-to-entry, of the sort of peer review that journals do (I.e review of links from the community before being up for voting). We ve been testing it on http://textchannels.com/
qeorge 8 days ago 0 replies      
Might it be simpler to penalize people who vote for an article which later becomes flagged/killed?

Maybe a temporary ding on their votes' impact.

AmazingBytecode 8 days ago 0 replies      
No one will upvote anything anymore. They'll move their cursors to the up arrow and pause for a moment.

What if this is the one? What if this link is the buried landmine that will explode and destroy my perfect Hacker News karma score. I can see the headlines now: "Respected Hacker News User Clicks on Obvious Flamebait" Think of the scandal.

And then they'll move their mouse cursor away, pining for a HN where they can express their opinions about articles without worrying about what the group will think.

pilooch 8 days ago 2 replies      
HN needs to grow a social graph in the background. Users often fall within the same threads and discussions without even noticing it. The graph should then be used to personalize results, on a group or individual basis. This a call for a fragmented view, but with a social touch, preserving the herds around multiple topics. A button could let you opt out the personalized view.
johnsonman 8 days ago 0 replies      
This discriminates against users who cannot flag and users who do not flag. Since the only way to improve one's h-value is to flag more honeypots, it basically means that someone who can't/doesn't flag will have at best an h-value of -1. So would the h-value not be counted for people with few/no flags?
mrcode925 8 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting. I've mostly been a consumer here and rarely submit or comment but even so I never realized there was a guidelines page. Honestly, unless I need to find a "contact us" link I rarely look at the footer or any website. Perhaps a little more visibility of its existence would go a long way.
swah 9 days ago 0 replies      
Since the decreased quality can only be perceived by a few (if everyone noticed it, there would be no problem, right?) perhaps those could be selected by the benevolent dictator to get 50-point votes or something? IOW, moderation.
raldi 9 days ago 1 reply      
Let's post some honeypot suggestions. I'll start with two potential honeypot comments:

"Fuck Republicans."

"Fuck Democrats."

Dave Winer: Why I stand up for Stallman scripting.com
413 points by guan  5 days ago   258 comments top 34
jrockway 5 days ago 2 replies      
I also stand up for Stallman. Yes, people think he is a weird guy. But we are all weird, and he's weird and has changed the world for the better. I don't see what there is to hate.

People worry that he might not be the best interface between Free Software and the rest of the world (because it's hard to relate to him), but who cares? If you can do a better job, do it. The only thing that's bad for the Free Software movement is worrying about who the leader is. It's you. Now get back to work and make us some awesome software.

kenjackson 5 days ago  replies      
I stand against Stallman. I'm no bully. I don't personally know or insult him. But I do disagree with his position on software (I agree with some of what he says, but I think we end up falling in opposing corners nevertheless).

But standing against someone and pointing out why you disagree I think is quite in the spirit of Stallman himself.

With that said, I don't know the extent of the abuse that Stallman has received from others, but its not obvious to an outsider what the abuse is. Some mocking over a rider? You should hear the abuse I've gotten over some of my haircuts.

I will say that while I disagree with RMS I do think his influence has been large and positive for most of his career. I don't think he's a particularly good spokesperson, but he makes up for it in other ways. I've even listed RMS as one I think is on the short list of potential Turing Award winners (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2305496).

I stand against Stallman, but I'm glad he's there to stand against.

parfe 5 days ago 3 replies      
tl;dr summary

1) I was a popular guy in school. Ridiculously popular.

2) Although I was popular (even if I didn't hang out with the other kids), I am still a good guy because I hung around the weird kid in school. He still acted weird, but I was a good guy so I stuck it out.

3) Did I mention he never stopped being weird? Did I mention I was popular even though I didn't hang out with all the other people?

4) I was popular in high school so I fully expected to be popular on the Internet. I blazed a path and these people didn't even care, or like me! Editors note: Note the lack of introspection. Perhaps they don't like you despite the path you blazed (or claim to have blazed)?

5) I released my life's work under the GPL and the internet ganged up on me for it. Even strangers in real life picked on me. Why aren't I still popular?

6) Kottle highlighted a single odd entry in RMS's rider which made me ill. I'll defend RMS by saying "YEAH, so he's weird!"

errata: Winer went to a high school which had recess.

raganwald 5 days ago 3 replies      
funkah 5 days ago 5 replies      
Kottke called Stallman's rider (the whole thing) "crazy and amazing". Then he quoted the parrot thing, probably because it tickled his fancy. I don't agree that that constitutes "ridicule", in Winer's words.
dustinupdyke 5 days ago 3 replies      
If you agree with Schopenhauer on "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." and if you accept that the space Dave operates is populated by hackers, entrepreneurs and lots of other people looking for the next big thing, then his point is particularly poignant:

  > Okay, you say it's weird. And I say weird is good. People 
who show originality openly, without fear, are people I
admire. And people I stand up for.

Well put Dave. I agree.

edit: Fixed grammatical error.

frou_dh 5 days ago 2 replies      
John Gruber is even more guilty of this.

Parrot / breakfast point and laugh:


Linking to a site set up purely to mock Stallman:


The latest episode of his podcast, about Stallman, is called "They Had to Burn the Sheets" (I haven't listened to it, but going by the title I think it's a safe assumption that it continues the theme):


Causification 5 days ago 2 replies      
It is a very common flaw in reasoning that one party assumes that the opposition disagrees because they are scared or secretly agree. Atheists are all secretly christians, homophobes are all secretly gay, liberals are scared of "the truth."

People who mock Stallman for taking his shoe off and eating things he picked off his foot in the middle of a presentation are not terrified of him shattering their paradigm. They just think it's gross.

davidhansen 5 days ago 5 replies      
Could someone more knowledgeable about internet community infighting explain what the hell Winer is talking about when he makes vague reference to being ostracized, persecuted, etc?

Was there some epic battle that is so well-known that Winer doesn't feel the need to explain or even give footnotes for?

Udo 5 days ago 1 reply      
The glaring mistake that Dave Winer makes here is a misjudgement of RMS' intentions:

> I looked at him, and asked him if he seriously was going to do this, in front of Stallman. Yeah, he kept at it. That's how pervasive this culture of disrespect is. To Stallman's credit, he not only stopped it, but dug in. He wanted to understand what was at the root of this. <

Dave, he didn't defend you because someone was being mean to you. He didn't jump in because the tone of the discussion was disrespectful. He defended the GPL, plain and simple. You as a person were entirely unsubstantial to him. RMS sees the entire world through a very narrow filter. You were just lucky that your idea was in alignment with that filter at the time. If the roles were reversed, Richard Stallman would not stand up for you as a person the way you just did for him. He only stands up for the GPL. I believe he wouldn't even stand up for himself. Yes, he's that single-minded.

parfe 5 days ago 1 reply      
From another post of his: "About open source and whether I have the standing to discuss it, I've made a huge contribution to open source with the 2004 release of Frontier under the GPL. I was releasing code long before the terms free software or open source existed. Even so, as you'll see, I don't believe in the boundaries, I think ideas should freely cross the boundaries, and they do." http://scripting.com/stories/2008/08/10/howViralIsGpl.html#p...

I had no idea what substantial contribution this guy provided. Turns out his company, UserLand, eventually GPL'd a content management system called Frontier


While I personally have not heard of it, the author believes quite strongly in its importance.

monochromatic 5 days ago 3 replies      
Did Kottke even read the link about the Van Halen brown M&M thing? Because it wasn't some crazy whim; it had a perfectly reasonable justification. Saying that Stallman's parrot thing is "right up there" with the brown M&Ms doesn't make sense, if you're trying to laugh at Stallman.
dhugiaskmak 5 days ago 0 replies      
Anyway, much later in life, I was treated like Sam

I had a hard time taking his post seriously after this. As someone who was the "weird kid" growing up this sentence is so insulting, and so far past egotistical, that I'm not even sure there's a word capable of describing it. It's like someone trying to sympathize with a famine victim by complaining that they missed lunch yesterday.

scott_s 5 days ago 0 replies      
I was actually heartened by the fact that most of the posts I read on HN about Stallman's rider had the same reaction I did: hey, all that sounds pretty reasonable.
teyc 5 days ago 1 reply      
For Dave Winer to stand up for Stallman, requires someone to pick on him and Stallman not being able to defend himself. I don't see either of it happening.

Stallman wasn't going to alter his behavior because of Kotte, and Kotte probabably isn't as affectionate with parrots - but that's OK with me.

There is no Pick-On-Stallman movement. He has his beliefs and it presents an alternate model for software cooperation. For some situation, it clearly works, while for others, not so much.

Of all the freedoms, the freedom to express an idea is one of the most important. As long as it is done in a manner that protects the weak. Stallman simply doesn't qualify. We recognize ad hominem for what it is, and Kotte's jibe is just that.

wyclif 5 days ago 5 replies      
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that any blog post by Dave Winer must reference how he "blazed a trail" or some variation thereof.
rcade 5 days ago 0 replies      
Richard Stallman is one of my heroes in tech. He's a deeply fascinating and amazingly obstinate thinker who should be Walter Isaacson's next book project.

But does he really need anyone's help fending off bullies? A guy who described Steve Jobs as being guilty of "evil" after his death would eat bullies for breakfast. If he ate breakfast. Which he doesn't. And don't ask him why.

kevinalexbrown 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not sure Stallman needs "standing up for." The Kottke post from Winer had a quote from Stallman's rider, and that's about it. http://kottke.org/11/10/richard-stallmans-rider .

Some people think Stallman's weird, but I'm certain he's decided his beliefs and attitudes are worth it. He made that decision on his own, as his own person, and I'm not sure he needs Winer to come save him from the big bad bullies.

Lagged2Death 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think Winer misunderstands Kottke's feelings about Van Halen.

There's a sentence you didn't think you'd read today. But seriously.

billpatrianakos 5 days ago 0 replies      
So basically you stand up for Stallman because he reminds you of a kid in high school who used to get bullied? Not such a great reason. If I like Stallman I'd stand up for him because I believe in his ideals, respect his work, and want him to continue doing good. But then I'd remember he isn't doing much good.

Stallman needs no defending. He's a big boy that leaves himself open to attack. Public figures always have to deal with that sort of thing but I'm sure they don't lose any sleep about it.

But whatever, that doesn't bother me. What bothers me is people equating weird, eccentric, odd behavior and different views as automatically good. Novelty isn't always good. Different for the sake of different isn't always good. I'm going to wear my pants on my head and you shouldn't make fun of me because I'm different and eccentric which should translate into you thinking I'm a genius, right? No! Not at all. Stallman is certainly different and very possibly completely wrong. It's fun to make fun of his quirks even though we shouldn't (I'd like to add I never have made fun of him for quirks, only for actions and ideas) but why are we jumping in to defend this guy because he's different? There are a ton of people who think differently but we can't be applauding people for being different as it isn't that hard to do.

skeptical 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure if 'stading up for Stallman' is what I do as I am insignificant in that context. I certainly agree with him in almost every matter he talks about.
I do not care to explain nor getting into discussions with those who either disagree with him or think their view is more sophisticated/moderated/reasonable/whatever.

Stallman has very clear views about the matters he talks about. Personally I think his contribution to the world is a great inspiration. But I fail to understand why we would need to stand up for him, those who do not understand him, or reject to try to view things from his point of view are the ones that are missing the most.

As for all the critics, eerr... you give credit to whomever you want. I don't care if every last celebrity 'bullies' him, I'll still give more importance to what he says BECAUSE OF WHAT HE SAYS.

kevinpacheco 5 days ago 0 replies      
I do respect everything I know about Dave Winer, except for one thing, his greatest perceivable flaw: He is too sensitive. Way too sensitive. He has blocked dozens of people on Twitter, including Kevin Marks(!). In his post he used phrases like "makes me feel ill," "here's what really pisses me off," and "I was so shaken to see." He strikes me as the kind of man around whom you'd have to walk on eggshells in person. That's not good.

Both he and Stallman have accomplished many great things. They've left (and continue to leave) their mark on the world. It's not a stretch to say that in the tech sphere, they are public figures. (Most of us here, I'd wager, don't even merit a Wikipedia biography). The more well-known you are, the more people talk about you and up goes the probability that some of it will be offensive. If you're Bill Gates, you might even take a pie to the face. It that sort of behavior acceptable? Of course not. But if you're going to put yourself out there, you need a thick skin. Stiff upper lip, Dave.

ojosilva 5 days ago 0 replies      
I just don't like when people resort to pity to get their point across. That's some cheap rhetoric stunt. And that's exactly what Dave Winer tries here: poor Sam in high school, poor Winer tortured by them trolls. Don't lower Stallman there. He's not some poor victim Sam from a broken home. He's a man with his beliefs who made his life choices. That's not something a lot of people out there can profess. He's not asking for nobody's mercy. He's no Sam. He's no winer. He needs no stunts.
mixmastamyk 5 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know anything about the author and found this piece lacking in a lot of important details. Such as what people are bullying him about? Without those details the piece read like it was authored by someone with a victim complex.

Edit: I see below some of the reasons.

jsz0 5 days ago 0 replies      
And if you disagree, have the self-respect to express it with dignity.

Someone should tell that to Stallman who often proclaims people who disagree with him are evil.

sequoia 4 days ago 0 replies      
Someone brings up RMS on a tech forum... http://i.imgur.com/xblF4.gif ;)
moeedm 5 days ago 0 replies      
I also stand up for Stallman but not when the temperature is above 72 fahrenheit. I find standing quite difficult.
absconditus 5 days ago 0 replies      
"Anyway, much later in life, I was treated like Sam, in the blogging community. From my point of view, I expected the newcomers to like me, because I had blazed a trail for them, and wasn't asking for anything in return."

Does Winer ever pass up a chance to promote and feel sorry for himself?

1point2 4 days ago 0 replies      
There is a lot to read in here - and it all looks like good stuff - but wouldn't be funny if his (RMS's) warning panned out - time will tell.
To those who say one has choice - to use or not to use - well maybe - I believe that one of our basic rights in the USA - to vote - to elect who will represent me at the highest levels - is tabulated using closed source soft/hardware - such a shame - sometimes there is no choice.
dreww 5 days ago 1 reply      
i guess the advanced high school was so advanced they still had recess...
Uchikoma 5 days ago 1 reply      
OT: Is there a way to remove all my comments from HN? I would like to give up.
miked 5 days ago 2 replies      

"dave winer" jerk --> 75,700
"dave winer" ass --> 248,000
"dave winer" asshole --> 9,440

For some strange reason, I find myself not interested in reading Dave Winer denouncing others for "bullying", all the while reminding you, sotto voce, of how wonderful Dave Winer is.

hugh3 5 days ago 1 reply      
Some folks miss the point. We only make fun of Stallman in an attempt to change his behaviour in a way that benefits both him and others. For instance, rms smells bad. If he could be persuaded to smell less bad, then everybody would benefit.

Ridicule is a valuable social mechanism for giving negative feedback to those who behave inappropriately. For those who say "but can't we give this feedback in a non-hurtful way?", the answer is no, for the same reason that your brain can't make pain non-painful -- some people are too damn stubborn to listen to non-painful feedback.

Here is a video of Richard Stallman, in the middle of a talk, eating something he's just picked off his foot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I25UeVXrEHQ

Tharkun 5 days ago 3 replies      
RMS is not a "weird guy", he's an obnoxious dickhead. If you disagree, you haven't been in a room with him for longer than 5 minutes. Sure, he's made very important contributions to FOSS, but -- I invoke Godwin's Law! -- Hitler made many important contributions as well, but I don't see many people standing up for him.
Why Is This Cargo Container Emitting So Much Radiation? wired.com
414 points by there  8 days ago   119 comments top 25
bh42222 8 days ago  replies      
If you enjoy reading long prose articles, with plenty of human content, do not let the following tl;dr: spoil this article for you:


A cylinder of cobalt, probably used in a medical instrument. Things like that are understandably very expensive to properly and legally dispose of. Somehow it ended up in a heap of scrap copper.

runningdogx 8 days ago 2 replies      
The capsule could have been from some industrial entity that should have protected the capsule until it was handed off to a recycler (one who knew what they were getting), but didn't (maybe to cut disposal costs, or by accident/laziness). Someone could then have sold the capsule to a Saudi Arabian scrapyard, and they packed it into a container to be melted down in Italy.

Another historical radiation incident caused by failure to protect a radiation source from scrap thieves:


If those thieves in the Goiania incident had just sold the the Cs source to a scrapyard immediately without breaking it open first, the two incidents might have been similar.

tectonic 8 days ago 1 reply      
"It was hardly the first fishy shipment to pass through Gioia Tauro. Famously, just six weeks after 9/11, workers there heard noises coming from inside a container being transshipped to Nova Scotia via Rotterdam. Inside, police found an Egyptian-born Canadian carrying a Canadian passport, a satellite phone, a cell phone, a laptop, cameras, maps, and security passes to airports in Canada, Thailand, and Egypt. The container's interior was outfitted with a bed, a water supply, a heater, and a toilet. Nicknamed Container Bob, the man posted bail in Italian court and was never seen again."
apaprocki 8 days ago 0 replies      
While reading this I was thinking it would be interesting to see an infographic which showed the relative size/mass you would need of various isotopes to detect, say, 500 msv/hr in open air at a fixed distance. Since most people never see radioactive substances, it could be interesting to compare them visually.
charliepark 8 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for posting the "entire article as one page". It's appreciated.
FuzzyDunlop 7 days ago 0 replies      
In comparison to their long form story on the Stuxnet virus, which was really boosted by the personal element, this one reads mostly as a tease with no satisfying pay-off.

As a story trying to build a narrative it frequently concerns itself too much with the technical detail, or 'setting the scene', with little to no consideration for closing the personal elements it opens up throughout. It's littered with incidental detail but not a great deal of substance.

For example: what happened to Montagna? He's the first person to be mentioned, is described as doing something pretty dangerous, and is forgotten about.

It then ends on such a note as to trivialise the entire article. All of this is only a problem because the article was written in such a way to make it one.

CurtHagenlocher 8 days ago 7 replies      
How can the number "307703" uniquely identify a container owned by a company that "owns more than 2.4 million boxes just like it"? (SSCC-18 codes are all-numeric.)
jerrya 8 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of a Daily Mail reports from February that an assistant port director in San Diego made a statement interpreted to mean that dirty bombs have been found shipped to, and within, the United States.


helipad 8 days ago 2 replies      
I love the bureaucracy. Not a plight against Italians, most would be the same, but "Woah, this is more radioactive than Fukushima and none of us will go within 250 yards of it!" - 12 months, $700,000 later, government and port authority decide it's probably worth opening up. Good job, everyone!
gravitronic 8 days ago 3 replies      
100 million dollars in US $100 bills have been shot with 9 slugs of cesium?
joejohnson 8 days ago 2 replies      
I know this article is long, but Wired writes such interesting and well-researched pieces. This story reads like an awesome thriller novel.
thebigshane 8 days ago 3 replies      
They never mention the intended destination. I am sure the intended recipient was investigated and all but it's a curious detail to omit in an otherwise, very thorough article.
c4urself 7 days ago 0 replies      
This struck me as security which makes you feel safe aot security that makes you safe.

“The radiation portals that were deployed in the aftermath of 9/11 are essentially fine, except for three problems: They won't find a nuclear bomb, they won't find highly enriched uranium, and they won't find a shielded dirty bomb,” says Stephen Flynn, a terrorism expert and president of the Center for National Policy. “Other than that, they're great pieces of equipment.”

clintboxe 8 days ago 1 reply      
I'm a BI Developer for a big logistics company and I immediately hit up our data warehouse to see if we had ever moved this container. Alas, we hadn't. Only it's near relatives. :)
yycom 8 days ago 1 reply      
It seems to me stupendously incompetent to scan for radiation without a plan.
tomeast 8 days ago 1 reply      
Someone needs to make a for-pay service that lets me submit quality long form articles like this and get back a (quality) audio file that I can listen to on my commute home.
jakeonthemove 8 days ago 1 reply      
How can someone just dump a highly radioactive (at short distances) source in a scrap yard? Gee, some people... I bet the guy who did it is dead now. This reminds me of this list: http://listverse.com/2011/08/07/10-more-cases-of-deadly-radi... and how most people should never be trusted with something that can affect thousands of other people...
mmaunder 8 days ago 2 replies      
4476 words. IMO this is badly written. The article stalls at "That mix of ubiquity and interchangeability makes the shipping container one of the most radical developments in global commerce since World War II. The first dedicated container ship was built in 1956, and virtually overnight the new logistical approach transformed the cargo business..."

I'd guess an intern took over at that point, fired up wikipedia and started filling in the other 4000 words.

tlrobinson 8 days ago 1 reply      
Why don't they just attach a radiation detector to each crane or something?
dbbo 8 days ago 0 replies      
My first thought was of the prologue level of Modern Warfare 1.
thewisedude 7 days ago 0 replies      
I am sure this was an interesting article. But I did NOT read the whole article. Let me reason that in a fair way. The internet has a plethora of interesting information. the style used here makes me spend 20 minutes on this article without knowing if what I find in the end would be worth my time.
I rather like a style where you get to the outcome soon( say in the first paragraph), and then get into more detail for those people who think that this article is relevant or interesting.

I remember reading an article on HN where there was a recommendation for a style of prose that might be useful in today's lifestyle.
The author recommended summarizing everything in the first paragraph, then having having a more detailed middle section ( few paragraphs), and then having even more detailed paragraphs in the end.
Depending on the interest level of the reader, if he stopped at the end of any paragraph, he would have still gotten the gist, only the finer details would be missing!

mariuolo 6 days ago 0 replies      
I find a bit disturbing that the Italian press never mentioned the story.
Anyway the 'ndrangheta explanation (cheap disposal of hospital waste) more credible than the international plot.
charliesome 8 days ago 1 reply      
I particularly enjoyed this part:

    bearing logos like Yang Ming, Hamburg S\0xFCd, ...

leanucci 8 days ago 0 replies      
nicwest 8 days ago 0 replies      
I was sad to see that 307703 was ripped to pieces and scrapped, it's like the companion cube all over again :(
Stop the E-Parasite Act whitehouse.gov
402 points by rprime  4 days ago   79 comments top 12
slowpoke 4 days ago  replies      
While I definitely support the notion of this petition, it's time that people realize that things like these won't do shit, to put it bluntly.

To stop this madness, we have to attack and bring down the people who cause this retardation - the content industries. They won't somehow come to their senses and stop pushing for insane laws and regulations.

It's a very dangerous illusion that petty petitions will change anything, at least on their own. Fight the real enemy, and fight it with all means necessary - may those be alternative licenses, spreading the word, piracy, or straight out aggression[1]. Until the content industries are either out of power or simply gone (and I doubt the former can be achieved without the latter), this war on freedom for the sake of corporate profits will continue.

[1]: I'm talking about stuff like Operation Payback and Anonymous in general. I dislike calling it "cyber warfare" because the term is retarded newspeak, but it's essentially what I mean.

SkyMarshal 4 days ago 1 reply      
>This bill is a direct assault on a free internet and a shameful attempt by copyright lobbyists to destroy net neutrality.

Shouldn't have used that term here. This petition just lost any Republican/Tea Party support it might have had. And though there may be some overlap, this isn't really about Net Neutrality vs. the telecoms anyway.

thomaslangston 4 days ago 1 reply      
The following link will take you to an EFF page. You can enter your address and get the contact info for your Congress members. It also lets you email them automatically about the other version of this bill, Protect IP, which is just as bad.


dhimes 4 days ago 7 replies      
Do these petitions do any good? That is, is it even worthwhile to sign it? Or is our time better spent elsewhere.
TruthElixirX 4 days ago 2 replies      
This will get ignored like the "Remove "under God" from the pledge" petition and the "tax Marijuana like alcohol and tobacco" petition.
Aloisius 4 days ago 0 replies      
Whoa, when did whitehouse.gov start doing petitions? That's pretty nice. And they have their own URL shortener? They've come a long way.
scythe 4 days ago 1 reply      
I had an account on whitehouse.gov the last time they did this petition thing and now I can't log in.

Not that it won't let me, but if I hit "sign in" there's no fields in which to enter a username and password. Like there's no sign in option there at all. What the fuck?

eschulte 4 days ago 0 replies      
Signed this petition, just like I filled out the EFF form a while back. If you want to be heard it is better to call your representatives as that way at least one of their staffers has to spend a couple of minutes getting you off the phone.
tensafefrogs 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm unable to log in. Being redirected to a 404 page and it's not logging me in, so I can't sign it.
altrego99 4 days ago 1 reply      
This whole thing is very screwed up. For once I am glad that I don't live in US.
delinquentme 4 days ago 0 replies      
can anyone else not log in to sign this?
lukejduncan 4 days ago 2 replies      
Is anyone talking about the concerns of having people store a password with the whitehouse? Most people use the same password everywhere. IANL but this could easily be a huge phishing scam...
Don't Give Your Users Shit Work zachholman.com
402 points by vijaydev  3 days ago   111 comments top 44
Pewpewarrows 3 days ago 2 replies      
He's right in that Facebook was helpful by auto-creating certain "groups" of friends for you based on profile information. Where this completely breaks down is once you move past the trivial task of auto-populating categories for your location, school, and work.

As I see it there are three modes of sharing:

The first is where my post is quite innocent and generic, so I just want to declare it to the world. This goes in public.

The second is where my post is pretty irrelevant to most of my friends, and is really only directed at a portion of them. So to prevent clogging the feeds of the rest of my friends, I submit it to a specific group like "Biking Buddies." Facebook can't learn this or automatically set it up. On the other hand, I rarely care enough to only post to a group instead of public.

The third situation is the opposite of the second: there is a very specific group of people that I don't want to see what I'm about to post. Planning a surprise party or uploading party photos from the night before fall here. In that circumstance I only choose to post to a specific group of close friends. Again, something that Facebook can't deduce from my profile.

You can't get around #3 without doing shit work, except by not posting it to begin with. As a developer you can't avoid this: sometimes manual labor really is the only solution to a problem. Until we invent mind-reading, of course.

danso 3 days ago 1 reply      
The author seems to be missing a gigantic point of order here. The reason why Facebook is algorithmically able to determine groups for you is because you, the user, have already entered in fields for Work, School, Location, etc. So the user has had to do a small amount of shit work for Facebook to do its magic.

Of course, that's a very small amount of work relative to manually placing friends into circles. But G+ does not (yet) have the same kind of parsed personal/profile information, which would require the same mechanism that FB has (deciding who to reveal what parts of your profile to)...and which, as far as I can tell, is not trivial to implement, or to graft on to the existing Google Account structure.

Of course, Google can ALREADY do this for you. No doubt they have mined enough information about each user, including locations of IP addresses, to fill out most of your boilerplate profile info. It doesn't take the EFF to realize the privacy implications of auto-filling your circles with people who don't realize that Google's algorithm has correctly guessed their location, age, school and workplace and is now implicitly exposing such information.

joebadmo 3 days ago 1 reply      
Griping about an optional feature? Really?

Circles have great utility for me for two reasons.

1. Like Twitter lists (which I use, thanks Tweetdeck), I want to see information from certain groups of people for different things.

2. I want to disseminate different types of information to different groups of people.

If you don't find either of these use-cases compelling, there is nothing stopping you from ignoring them completely.

I will never ever ever trust an algorithm to get this right, except for the most trivial cases, and if the case is that trivial, I will default to public.

I think ultimately the problem is that these features are trying to replicate offline social context, but only getting halfway there. I've written more about this: http://blog.byjoemoon.com/post/11670022371/intimacy-is-perfo...

dasil003 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's funny because I was sort of nodding along through the beginning. I am one of the very people he mentioned with a bunch of stillborn Twitter lists. But then he went on to reference a Merlin Mann article:

> His main point is that adding an assortment of labels, tags, and priorities to your email inbox only serves to give you the illusion of getting work done.

Which I understand, because Mann has a tendency to get into the fiddly bits, and so do I, but what's missing is that these things do potentially have utility. Case in point: I get dozens, sometimes hundreds, of non-spam emails a day. I used to use Apple Mail until it couldn't really handle the volume very well, then I switched to Gmail and learned the keyboard shortcuts. Eventually I got into labels. The UI makes it super easy to apply labels, and I label every important email. This could be considered "shit work", but it provides a solid ROI because it allows me to browse through project summaries, and makes it much less likely for things to slip through the cracks. It's amenable to automation in that I can create rules, but mostly it relies on my ability to tag every single email. It sounds like a lot of work, but once the system is in place it doesn't actually take any time to hit 'l' and autocomplete a label or two.

Meanwhile, Google's attempt to improve productivity without shit work"Priority Inbox"actually provides me negative value. It doesn't matter how good it is because if it's less than perfect I can't trust it, and it can't ever be perfect because countless externalities affect my idea of priorities. In the end, the assigned ratings become more noise that I have to deal with.

So while the point about not letting busy-work make you feel productive is a valid warning, it doesn't follow that if it can't be automated it isn't useful. It's all about ROI. I think the problem with Twitter and Google+ is that they just aren't useful enough to sink that much time into unless there is a direct professional purpose.

henryprecheur 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sometime shitwork can be a very good way to find new possibilities. A lot of people do shitwork that's immensely useful, like editors on Wikipedia, moderators on reddit and forums, people who enter all the data into imdb. I don't see how those people could be replaced by algorithms with what we know now.

Sometime shitwork needs to be done because you can't simplify. I'm doubtful that Facebook's auto-group feature would work for me. Maybe me doing shitwork on Google+ is what work for me, because I value my freedom to control my information online.

drblast 2 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe I'm getting old, but I don't understand the compulsion to post potentially embarassing information about yourself on the Internet.

I can't believe people are arguing about the right way to do this.

Twenty years ago, it was rare for someone to call everyone they ever knew and scream into the phone how drunk they were. I might have done that only once or twice in my life. (If I called you by mistake and woke you up at 2AM, I apologize.)

But today, if you can't provide a web-based service that not only allows you to do that very thing but protects you from the consequences of it, people will complain.

seigenblues 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'd really love for a social network to correctly anticipate all the people i'd like to share something with, and to automagically categorize stuff like that. It'd be sweet.
But it seems like the worst-case scenario if it gets it wrong could be pretty terrible.

He's absolutely right, though, that a key problem with circles and lists and other shit work is that it's very rarely well integrated into the clients.

(I also want disagree with the claim that "no one wants to do shit work". I believe the entire genre of MMORPGs -- even, dare i say, RTS' -- stand as testament against. They also suggest how high peoples tolerance of shit work is if it is well integrated into a client ;)

Permit 3 days ago 0 replies      
When Google+ released, I remember being somewhat confused that they opted for user defined Circles rather than using user relations as a gauge for friend "closeness". As the author of this blog post points out, users almost never want to get stuck placing hundreds of people in groups that could change at any time.

In fact, one Google Research paper[1] opens with the line:
"Although users of online communication tools rarely categorize their contacts into groups such as "family", coworkers", or "jogging buddies", they nonetheless implicitly cluster contacts, by virtue of their interactions with them, forming implicit groups."

I'm curious what the eleven authors of this paper thought as they saw their Google co-workers developing a system they knew couldn't work.

[1]Suggesting (More) Friends Using the Implicit Social Graph (http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrust...)

pud 3 days ago 0 replies      
The problem is that the cost/benefit of creating lists & circles isn't high enough.

Many developers obsess over the edge-case of "how do I post secret information that is only shown to the correct list?"

When in fact, normal people just want to post "Going to Aunt Edna's tomorrow!" to their family list, because it's irrelevant to non-family.

It seems Facebook agrees, with their loosey-goosey smart lists.

drivebyacct2 3 days ago 4 replies      
Don't like Lists? Don't use them. I have almost a dozen lists on Facebook and I use them extensively (as if they're Circles basically). The only annoying thing is that Facebook decides to change my default publication privacy every time I publish to a specific list.

I don't understand, are the features themselves bad? Who's forcing you to use Twitter lists, or Facebook lists, or even Circles?

michaelchisari 3 days ago 0 replies      
The problem is that, anecdotally, no one seems to use Lists

That anecdote is not really worth much. Especially because those lists are probably very important for those who do use them.

Most people won't care about filtering their social relationships, until they do care. At that point, you want them to have the option.

lukev 3 days ago 3 replies      
But, but... I like putting my friends into Venn diagrams.

Seriously. The 1 click it takes to put someone is a circle isn't really "work", and if it saves me awkward calls from my mom because she read a post intended for my drinking buddies, then it was well worth it.

eftpotrm 2 days ago 1 reply      
Ah, this argument again. Simplicity rules.

I disagree. I like being able to set filters and granularity. I like having the option to give me the information I want, in the way I want it. I'm prepared to do the extra up-front setup to get the better end experience; I have hundreds of filters set up on my email, for example.

Don't give me forced simplicity; give me the option to tune it to my needs and give it the power to make it actually useful.

nl 3 days ago 0 replies      
Circles is a great marketing feature.

By pushing the privacy aspect of Google+ it allowed Google to differentiate themselves compared to Facebook. That message has persisted.

Users say they care heavily about privacy, but in practice they don't[1]. Circles isn't a bad solution to that, except for the small minority of people who feel the pressure try to build themselves a compete categorisation of everyone they know.

[1] Occasionally people do care - picture sharing is one case where people are somewhat careful. Circles caters to that case quite well.

dos1 3 days ago 4 replies      
For one, I don't really feel like the expletive in the title helped his cause at all. A better title would have been "Facebook suggests groupings of your friends for you!"

I also thought his example was contrived. I mean, is there anyone who's so worried about their social networks that they will hem and haw over whether someone is a coworker or drinking buddy or whatever? And if there is someone like that, well thank goodness Google+ supports their neuroses!

jsavimbi 3 days ago 0 replies      
The main reason that drove me to delete my G+ account was the way circles were managed. I had done pretty well so far with 300+ people in my circles but then made the mistake of importing some shared lists into pre-configured lists and ended up with a bunch of grannies posting in my Node.js circle. To comb through, curate and modify a 600+ user circle proved to be way too much shit work than I was willing to do, so I just went ahead and deleted the account.

And I didn't even begin to address the amount of shit content replicated across all of my social media accounts by the same people.

petercooper 3 days ago 0 replies      
Agreed. This is the primary reason I don't use Google+. I haven't got the time or inclination to split people into groups or even figure out what those groups might be. I did try but found it a taxing process.

Automatically coming up with criteria to filter by is a great solution. I'd love if I could send a tweet just to my UK followers or to those who tweet about "Ruby" a lot. This is all easily solved by machines and doesn't require me to do anything by hand.

tomlin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Absolutely right. I am finding that, especially with mobile, you have to really think about the design so that shit work is cut to a minimum. For example, I am in the process of making an iOS app, but it interfaces with an external appliance. I don't want to ask the user to input host, port, etc., so instead I'd much rather do the extra leg work and implement uPnP detection and then ask the user as a last resort. Apple has figured this out. 70% is in your face while the rest is within hands reach.

As an analogy, Circles is driving users to a brick wall hoping they will climb over to see what is the big deal is. Assuming they care. Assuming they aren't in the middle of something when they get the invite.

Which makes me think about the "Find My Friends" App on iOS. If Apple flipped the "social" switch, they would have creatively acquired a power which no other social network would be able to grasp without huge privacy backlash - knowledge of where you and all of your friends are at any given time. Here's the sell: You already have the app. How does this relate to shit work? Well, you'd be apart of a social network where you, your friends are already members, your latest photos are already there (iCloud), you know where your friends are and what they are doing - and you did very little work.

pyrhho 3 days ago 0 replies      
And yet I still have to explicitly click the 'Mark all notifications as read' button after reading, and closing a pull request on github...

Edit: That probably came across more snarky than I intended. The point was that this is easily said, but hard to do right.

eric-hu 3 days ago 0 replies      
> Some people still like shit work. They can spend an hour moving Twitter accounts to special Lists, and then at the end of it look back and say “Boy, I spent an hour doing this. I really accomplished a lot today!” You didn't. You did shit work.

This made me laugh.

I half-agree with the post. There is an element of "shit work" that actually makes users feel engaged. For instance, my iGoogle homepage has feeds set up with sites I've had to hunt down an RSS for and manually enter. I've had to invest time into rearranging the layout to my priorities.

It's 'shit work' in that it's manual and somewhat trial-and-error, but it leaves me feeling more invested in the product if I'm ultimately more satisfied with the end result.

Disclaimer: I am a PC/ubuntu guy, so I understand that mine may not be the mainstream opinion.

steve8918 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is similar to the problem that Picasa has. Their facial recognition technology is really cool, but the work that I need to go through is so immensely tedious that I stopped bothering. Having to approve tens of thousands of faces just doesn't work. And then if you move the photo directory, you lose everything.
nplusone 3 days ago 1 reply      
Still, it would be nice to be able to create groups to watch and filter repositories and users on GitHub.
drcube 2 days ago 1 reply      
Funny, how soon we forget that shit work is what Myspace was all about. That was the use case. Typing in a giant, unstructured list of your favorite artists or installing some way-too-busy image as your profile background in order to impress your friends was the highlight of the "social network" as it existed in 2004.

People, mostly women in my experience, loved that "shit work" the same way they loved putting on makeup or shopping for uncomfortable clothes.

Some work is enjoyable. People do it for fun. Like gardening, or knitting, or cooking. I believe social networks are kind of like that, for at least some subset of the population. Privacy probably shouldn't be that way, but sadly, I think we all know how scarce people are who actually care about their privacy.

scott_s 3 days ago 0 replies      
I agree. Something I said a few months ago:

I think most people have relatively clear friend/work boundaries, but even then I encountered a few "Hmmm" moments when putting people in circles. I suspect that most people don't actually want to group the people in their social network - it can take a surprising amount of introspection. Time will tell if that's true.

tszming 2 days ago 0 replies      
(Sorry for hijacking)

In the new GitHub project page (e.g. https://github.com/cocos2d/cocos2d-iphone), it really took me some times to figure out where is the DOWNLOAD button..Please put the download button back to the top right area (next to the watch/fork buttons), and don't give your users shit work... Thank you!

(Btw, I agree what you said in your article!)

mightybyte 3 days ago 1 reply      
Totally disagree. First, if you don't want to categorize, then don't--use one big circle. I actually want to have fine-grained control over who I publish to, and Facebook's auto-discovered groups touted in the article don't do it for me. The whole "Don't embrace the shit work" is not relevant either because you can't judge the value of a product by people who don't use it productively. BTW, Most time spent on Facebook period isn't REAL work. This is precisely why I don't have a Facebook account and don't spend tons of time on Google+. But circles are crucial to my use of Google+, and Facebook's lack of a good implementation of the idea is the reason I never used it.
ajpatel 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think there are 2 camps of users - I'd rather organize my own lists than trust Facebook to do it for me. I honestly don't trust Facebook to do it...

The author of the article hasn't completely thought this through though. He's saying it's shit work which Facebook automates for you but then he goes on to say relationships are complicated and some people are in overlapping "circles."

He shoots himself in the foot right there. Facebook's auto-populated groups can't figure out the complicated nature of our relationships with people. I have many shades of friends and people who have varied interests even within those shades of friends. It's too hard for an algorithm to be able to deduce this very human aspect of relationships.

punkassjim 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is why I don't have any interest in buying an Android phone: everyone I know who has one, all the excitement I hear about is their fancy keyboard replacement, or the aftermarket launcher they found to replace the sluggish stock one. Now, I do understand the appeal, if that's what you want to tinker with. I tinker with Volkswagens " I know they're not the finest car I could get my hands on. But when it comes to a smartphone, I'd rather buy the best thing in the store. Even if you're excited that your platform gives you the "freedom" to replace its crappy stock components, that doesn't negate the fact that it's just the freedom to do shit work. So, y'know, flame away.
ghc 3 days ago 0 replies      
Is organizing your bookshelf in iBooks shit work? After reading the article, I'm sure the author would classify it as such. But Apple is smart enough to figure this stuff out. In fact, they're experts at it. What's Apple's reasoning?
EGreg 2 days ago 0 replies      
it's all in the sell, as Tom Sawyer realized.

Our app "Groups" is praised by people who can use it to ... organize their contacts :)

Guess what's next ... a social network.


gizzlon 2 days ago 0 replies      
Alittle OT, but the thing that struck me while reading is that organizing should be a means to and end and not the end itself.

If you organize to speed up your "real work" great. If you organize to organize, that's shit work.

I'm not sure what category g+ circles are in though..

dprice1 3 days ago 1 reply      
I use twitter lists, in part because Tweetdeck makes them easy to view. I like to follow the various food trucks around town, but usually I am only interested in them when hungry. Having them collected in a list keeps them out of my main feed.

They are a pain to maintain, however.

Igor_Bratnikov 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just bc some people are lazy it doesn't mean that there isn't a sub of people that equally value the outcome of their so called shit work and would seek an alternative to the product if it didn't have the features.

Motivation is a big factor as well. G+ the motivation is vague, what benefit do you really gain? I know a bunch of people that jumped on Facebook's lists bc of privacy concerns and desire to limit dissemination of their content to unwanted people. For them their privacy >> a base amount of "shit work"... so author not quite right

mrclark411 3 days ago 0 replies      
Or at least make it fun (game).

Or make it more valuable. If being on specific Twitter lists drove more followers or was perceived to be important then getting people to put you on specific lists would be important.

But it isn't. Now.

taariqlewis 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the list scope and features differ with respect to the nature of the type of followers. Twitter is a broadcast medium. Thus, Twitter lists are very different than Google+ Circles which are asynchronous sharing vs. asynchronous follow. There are also 2 types of shit work:

1. List Creation

2. List Maintenance

These are two different activities that in different networks require varying attention and utility out of the effort.

marze 3 days ago 0 replies      
To summarize: don't forget people are lazy.
gvr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Peter Drucker said something along the lines of "there's no greater form of waste than doing that which shouldn't be done at all with great efficiency."

Google Circles is an elegant solution to the wrong problem.

23u7890s7df 2 days ago 0 replies      
This article makes no sense... You are rightly pointing out that it takes some effort to maintain your privacy and think about managing your circles of friends on G+ and then you compare it with nothing that provides that ability on Facebook. Yes, thinking is hard. If you are ok with saying everything to everybody then you don't have to do it. But Facebook making a few broad automated groups for you solves none of the problems you describe... How does Facebook know who you want to share your drinking stories with? At least Google puts it up front and makes it part of the whole fabric of their product... you always think about circles... just like in freaking real life.
cmasontaylor 1 day ago 0 replies      
Twitter Lists may not be popular, for exactly the reasons you describe, but they're really useful for two purposes: if you follow a LOT of people (for whatever reason), you can use Twitter for 'people whose posts I actually want to read' and if you use it for news consumption, you can make lists for that. I use it especially for the latter; being someone who follows iOS jail breaking, 99% of the time, Twitter is the original source for all of the news related to that.
im3w1l 3 days ago 0 replies      
Having people manually set up circles is an O(n^2) solution. Having people join circles, is an O(n) solution.

Not exploiting that circles are (approximately) equivalence classes is borderline criminal

AznHisoka 3 days ago 0 replies      
Google+ doesn't tap into any of the 7 seven sins. Facebook does. Case closed. I'm willing to do shit work if it taps into my desire for vanity.
psweber 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great point. Terrible positive example.
vladsanchez 3 days ago 0 replies      
This guy is becoming my "hero"! =D
miles_matthias 3 days ago 0 replies      
Completely agree.
       cached 6 November 2011 04:11:01 GMT