hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    17 Nov 2011 Best
home   ask   best   7 years ago   
Zynga to employees: Give back our stock or you'll be fired cnet.com
1090 points by rbanffy  6 days ago   370 comments top 82
mmaunder 6 days ago  replies      
Sometimes you just have to sue to enforce a contract and your rights. Many employees either don't realize this or they don't have the stomach for it. If you find yourself in this position, my advice is to play the game and see it through.

1. Don't resign, don't capitulate and hire a good lawyer immediately. If you don't have the cashflow, but are defending a huge pile of stock about to IPO you'll probably find a lawyer that will defer payment.

2. Start documenting everything including making timestamped notes of what was said to you verbally.

Then play it out. Read all documentation the company has given you and fully understand it. They usually have to fire you for cause for you to lose your options, so figure out what the angle is they're using and make sure they don't have cause. Be 100% professional and non-confrontational, but ask the hard questions when you need to. DO NOT treat the company's staff (including your boss) or their legal team as your own legal counsel. They will try to give you "good advice" or intimidate you. They will claim things are "standard". Get your own info and use your own lawyer.

Often simply retaining counsel lets the opposing team know you're serious and professional, and worst case it will up any settlement.

PS: I'm an exec, not an employee, so technically I'm the guy on the other side of the org chart that Micah (see below) is describing. But assuming the report is accurate, this is unacceptable behavior and I'd like to see more employees who take a risk on startups getting what they deserve and enforcing their rights.

danilocampos 6 days ago 3 replies      
Wait a minute.

What just a damn minute, here.

Are you telling me that a company that cheerfully built itself on shady shit like un-removable browser toolbars might continue screwing anyone it wants in the furtherance of its leaders' avarice?

I am shocked.

Look, it's endearing when people have scrappy stories about their origins. We all act out of desperate vigor when we're up against the wall and far from our goals. But there's a difference between being scrappy and being a swindler. Scrappiness transmutes into strength and informs your company's values. Swindling, on the other hand, is almost always forever, and informs values in a much more negative way.

A swindler will knife you at the first lucrative opportunity. Avoid them. Do not work with them or for them. They are Aesop's scorpion. Deal with honest men and women instead. Perhaps their purses are marginally smaller " but that's because they won't go rummaging through yours when your back is turned.

MicahWedemeyer 6 days ago 1 reply      
In order to determine which employees would be asked to give stock back, Pincus and his executives tried to pinpoint workers whose contributions to Zynga--in the execs' eyes--didn't necessarily justify the potential cash windfall they could receive when the company went public

I'm going to take a wild stab here and guess that none of their own names were on the list they came up with.

Whenever crap like this happens, pull out an org chart. You'll pretty much be able to draw a straight line that divides who shits and who eats shit.

redthrowaway 6 days ago 0 replies      
Never work for unethical people. If they lack ethics in their dealings with customers, they will inevitably lack ethics in their dealings with employees.

Zynga's product does not provide a worthwhile service, nor does it improve people's lives. It creates no value. Rather, it (cleverly and cynically) capitalizes on weaknesses of the human psyche to relieve people of their money, one dollar at a time. This is an inherently unethical position for a company to be in. As such, regardless of the compensation offered, any prospective employee of the company should ask themselves whether the ethical foundation such a company displays in relation to its customers will extend to employees.

A CEO who is comfortable fleecing customers will feel similarly comfortable fleecing employees. I learned this lesson the hard way in the trades, working for people who would jack up prices and sell material and services that the customer did not need. They would shirk responsibility for deficiencies, and usually try to do jobs for cash so as to avoid paying taxes. Invariably, this lack of professional ethics extended to myself and my coworkers. Cheques would be short, overtime would not be paid, and promises would not be kept.

The best indicator that an employer will rip you off is their willingness to rip off customers. When you see it, start lining up interviews immediately.

cheald 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is really, really sleazy.

The bottom line here is "You don't get to be a part of the IPO windfall." Given that the employees that are getting stung like this have accepted the risk of working at a startup, and likely have accepted lower salaries in exchange for the promise of stock options, this is morally equivalent to theft of services.

Stock as a compensation structure only works when people use it in good faith. Scummy moves like this are only going to make it harder for startups to attract talent unless they can pay full market rate right out of the gate.

jacquesm 6 days ago 3 replies      
Regret has never been a good enough reason in the eyes of a judge to annul a contract.

If Zynga agreed to the terms as described they haven't got a leg to stand on. The time to negotiate a contract is before it is signed, not retroactively. If they use the threat of termination then they will lose even more, not only will they not get their stock back, they will also have to pay excessive severance pay due to wrongful termination and they lose their best employees (those that have options).

Prior to an IPO you make sure you don't 'rock the boat' and you make sure that your management team is seen as competent and playing by the rules.

This is neither and I really wonder who is advising them to take these steps. They are hurting themselves in just about every way that I can think of, they look incompetent and sleazy, neither of which is the kind of company that you'd want to invest in.

The IPO cake should be large enough for everybody to share, there is absolutely no need for stupid tactics like these.

wavephorm 6 days ago 3 replies      

  With the unvested shares, the executives believed they could 
attract more top talent with the promise of stock.

Not anymore they won't.

mtkd 6 days ago 1 reply      
Stories like this reduce the value of stock for all companies who issue it - most with good intentions - and leave our community morally poorer.

So what if a chef in an early stage team made out with $20M later - an army marches on it's stomach - he probably contributed more to delivery than some of the management team at the time.

wpietri 6 days ago 2 replies      
I am entirely in favor of this. Mainly because I'm four blocks away and am trying to hire engineers.

Seriously, it's bullshit. It makes me mad not just for the people getting screwed, but for the whole industry. The whole point of giving somebody early equity is that it's a gamble. Sometimes it's worth nothing; sometimes tons. If companies start doing it in a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose fashion, then that really reduces the value of the equity as an incentive.

Zynga isn't just hurting their employees; they're hurting every early-stage startup that comes after them.

saalweachter 6 days ago 4 replies      
I wonder if any early Google employees begrudge Charlie (he's the "early Google chef", right?) his millions.

An army travels on its stomach. Google's chefs helped make Google the company it is today. Why is it so wrong that they be rewarded?

justin_vanw 6 days ago 3 replies      
What if Pincus he had just fired them, with the reason being that they were not earning their compensation? It seems reasonable to fire someone if they are not pulling their weight? Giving them a choice seems unfair, but how is it worse than just being fired?

I think this is just Pincus being a nerd and over rationalizing the situation, instead of just decisively 'pulling the trigger'.

On the other hand, these people were given an offer of X% of the company in exchange for taking lots of risk early on. They took the risk, and now that the value of the company is greater, Pincus is taking the incentive back. So Pincus offloaded personal risk (paying lower salaries + stock instead of just paying market salaries) and then when the risk was gone he is canceling his agreement. I would never trust this man.

funkah 6 days ago 1 reply      
Working for a startup (or hell, founding one) seems like an enterprise in which a person can get screwed 8 million different ways, and I only understand about four of them.
api 6 days ago 0 replies      
What a bunch of assholes. Seriously.
cageface 6 days ago  replies      
Is it just me or is tech particularly sleazy right now?
johngalt 6 days ago 2 replies      
Zynga is aiming squarely at their feet and firing a cannon.

Would you invest in a company where management is obviously looking for a short term cashout at the expense of the future success of the company? The future success is precisely what the investor is buying. It's like buying a car while the seller is actively pulling parts out of it.

The results of this will be reduced share values combined with lawsuits eating up any potential gains.

a5seo 6 days ago 1 reply      
I love that if a company implodes, the employees who took options over cash can't go back and say, "hey, I worked way harder and gave up way more than I should have, so I need to take some cash out of the founder's pocket," yet Pincus thinks it's perfectly OK to do the inverse... "Woa eh, you've made way more money than we thought, so we need to take some of your equity back."

I hope Pincus, and anything he touches, is dead to anyone with the slightest amount of common sense going forward.

It's like this guy can't help but be evil.

tzs 6 days ago 0 replies      
So a company whose business model is based on the notion of ripping off actual game companies is also unethical with its own employees? What a completely unshocking development.
bitops 6 days ago 0 replies      
I was given some advice recently by someone more senior than me: "in the Valley, equity nowadays is worthless. Show me the money!".

That's played itself out as true so many times it's basically become a rule. Equity means absolutely zero for most people - salary, vacation time, health benefits - these are now the selling points for companies in my eyes.

Stuff like this just proves that equity is way too unreliable unless you're a founder or exec. And Zynga runs a slave ship to boot.

lukejduncan 6 days ago 1 reply      
"Although Zynga's decision might be met with some criticism, the firm's executives reportedly justified their strategy by saying it was best for the company. With the unvested shares, the executives believed they could attract more top talent with the promise of stock."
typicalrunt 6 days ago 2 replies      
Company stock is basically ownership, and there's a dollar value attached to it.

So is does Zynga's request run into the practice of extortion? It's another way of saying, give us your money or else something bad will happen.

run4yourlives 6 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting to note that in Canada, this would fall under "constructive dismissal" and would mean that Zynga would be liable to pay the same severance as they would if they just decided to lay people off. Legally - 1 week's pay for every year of service, plus whatever the court thinks is fair.

Altering an existing contract and threatening to terminate said contract if the new terms aren't agreed to is a really assholish thing to do, to be honest.

If Zynga employees were smart, they'd band together and threaten to quit - immediately, with no notice - en masse. You need to negotiate from whatever positions of strength you can obtain.

Either way though the company has now been poisoned beyond repair... good luck attracting any top talent from this point forward.

exit 6 days ago 2 replies      
developers should blacklist companies like this. sort of an informal union.

with the right personalities behind it we could do serious damage to the sleazy conniving wheeler-dealers who pull this shit.

timdellinger 6 days ago 1 reply      
I know that no one ever gets credit for "I told you so", but last year I pegged the 4-year vesting schedule as risky, and wondered why we didn't see a lot more people being fired just to recapture their stock options: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1733107

To me the riskiest part is that you never know how a business is going to pivot, who might end up owning it, etc., so the idea that you'll still be working there in four years is in many ways kind of silly. It always seemed worthwhile to me to negotiate other incentive. Hopefully stories like this will help change the culture a bit so that other forms of incentive become the norm.

benmathes 6 days ago 0 replies      
ethically: equity compensation for a lower-than-market-rate salary is effectively an investment by the employee. They give up potential funds for equity. This includes unvested equity in the investment since, in the beginning, it's _all_ unvested.

If you take back some of that equity with no commensurate repayment, then fuck you.

gm 6 days ago 1 reply      
Old news, see here for comments: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3218774
ojbyrne 6 days ago 1 reply      
So I'm curious why they didn't follow the standard Valley way of dealing with this - issue enough new shares and grant them to everyone but the people on the "hit list."
pavel_lishin 6 days ago 0 replies      
> With the unvested shares, the executives believed they could attract more top talent with the promise of stock.

What sort of top talent will have not read this story and decided that surely, THIS TIME, Zynga won't screw their employees?

muzz 6 days ago 1 reply      
How did several employees have equity of more than 1% of the company??

Even in a heavily equity-based compensation package in an early stage startup, anything over 1% is usually reserved for VP-level if not C-level executives, as the entire employee pool is usually only 20-25%

Per WSJ: '"Some of these people were sitting on over $200 million and close to 1% of the company" when fully vested, said one person familiar with the list that was compiled.'


maeon3 6 days ago 0 replies      
Get people to work like hell having given them stock options... Then take it away from all but the top 20% or face termination?

the manager who came up with that idea is no doubt getting a huge bonus.

prostoalex 6 days ago 3 replies      
Important to note this applies only to unvested stock.

I'm not defending the move, but in reality the company could terminate the employees (at-will employment in California), which would terminate their further vesting anyways.

This is not the clawback scenario that Silver Lake executed with Skype.

unreal37 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think one thing that is being overlooked is that the assumption is that these employees are "underperforming". And many ask, why not just fire them if they are.

I bet they are not underperforming in the "fire them" sense. I think the better word is "undeserving". The story quotes the Google Chef examples. I bet those early Googlers did not think the Chef was "underperforming", but clearly Pinkus thinks the chef is undeserving of $20 million from the Google IPO.

So some IT worker, who started early with the company, whose main job is to install new desktops, and fix the printers, and keep the network secure is "undeserving" of $20 million from the Zynga IPO, compared to the lead game designer who designed Cafe World, who Pinkus thinks IS deserving of the same amount.

It's more about thinking certain people (janitor, secretary, HR, finance, etc.) are not as valuable to the company as the lead developer or creative director or someone whose work is public facing.

And it is despicable.

tjcrowley 6 days ago 0 replies      
I worked for Pincus at tribe.net when he was letting it circle the drain, The users petitioned me to create a subscription system to save the site and the first month it raised $30,000. Of course, that all disappeared and a short while later Zynga put out their first game. What do you think happened there? It's continually flabbergasted me that anyone would invest in his company when he has a long long history of ripping people off. Nowadays he's got multiple mansions, multiple private aircraft, and multiple high priced lawyers. Our only hope is that some of these Russian investors are actually mobsters that will kneecap him when the IPO flops.
fragsworth 6 days ago 0 replies      
News like this damages the startup community, especially in game development. Lots of potential employees already have a sense that stock is "worthless paper" and this Zynga stunt just exacerbates the problem.

This could end up like what happened with Activision and the CoD guys.

ggchappell 6 days ago 1 reply      
One of the paragraphs in this article is mysterious:

> The Journal cited two employees--one who has left Zynga and another that still works with the company--who hired attorneys to reach a settlement that saw them give up some, but not all, of the unvested shares.

Why would a former employee give up shares? Current employees were threatened with firing. But I don't see what hold Zynga has over this person. Why not just keep all the shares?

kamaal 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is probably one the hidden chess moves any start up can make once they've used you up like tissues(to use and throw). Of course once they have sufficient money and sales oriented CEO and senior executive staff, in the name of that's better for the company they can do anything they want.

This is one of the things that scares me about working at a start up. Remember the early employee is spending his time and compromising on his salary for that stock. And pretty obviously he works his heart out to make the company successful. Dumping them just like that, once you've squeezed the juice out of them seems a very unethical thing to me. And this is one of the things that actually prevents some good folks from working at a start up.

The worry that you will used like a work horse during the tough days of the company and then later dumped when the CEO sees a he can add another million to his account by dumping you is a major worry for any good person to work at a start up.

One thing that needs to be realized that not every body in the start up area is in for passion for software or changing the world thing. You have to be careful before deciding to work at some place. Doing a little back ground check on the founders will help.

Nelson69 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wouldn't there be other ways to pull this scam off? Perhaps less outwardly visible ways?

Assuming the board is on board with the plan, why not do some sort of stock dilution and re-issue preferred shares or something like that? Conventional wisdom would dictate that the last thing you want going in to an IPO or M and A is some goofy accounting on the books but the last few years make me think Goldman and company are really really good at deciphering that and more than accepting of the practices.

With all the things I've heard about game companies in general and then Zynga itself, it's a wonder that the game industry keeps moving forward. There is always fresh meat though.

To the Zynga folks... I don't know that you'll be able to lawyer up and fix it, I just don't think the laws will be on your side and there are too many loopholes. However, possibly building a coalition and contacting Communication Workers of America or something similar might make a larger impact, assuming you can build a coalition... Distasteful as I think it is, I think it might be your best option.

tghw 6 days ago 0 replies      
"I have altered the deal, pray I don't alter it any further."


Timothee 6 days ago 0 replies      
I know that employment is at-will in California, but you can still sue for wrongful termination in some cases.

Could this be happening in this case?

I read the beginning of this page (http://www.ca-employment-lawyers.com/Wrongful-Termination.ht...) and it seems to depend highly on the contracts and employee handbook that Zynga have.

In any case, you would think that this should make hiring talents more difficult…

thesz 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is so stupid it jusst hilarious.

So Zynga takes away shares from some people they considered top talent. It lets situation to became public. Then after all that moves it hopes to attract more top talent.

I cannot help myself laughing.

This really made my day. ;)

kls 6 days ago 0 replies      
the executives believed they could attract more top talent with the promise of stock

Not now, I would not take it, it would be an all cash deal for me after those shenanigans. Even if they don't go throw with it, they have shown their hand.

tzury 5 days ago 0 replies      
This story brought up to memory the scam-ville post by arrington from 2 years ago http://techcrunch.com/2009/11/06/zynga-scamville-mark-pinkus...
NHQ 6 days ago 0 replies      
Boss: Give me money or be fired.

Employee: Peace out sucka!


Bosses: How do we attract and keep top talent?

byrneseyeview 6 days ago 0 replies      

This is a very relevant alternative view. Money quote:

At Zynga, however, Mark Pincus apparently likes to do things a bit differently. Rather than simply firing under-performing employees and handing unvested options over to the replacement, Pincus often likes to find another position within Zynga where the employee might still be able to contribute. But because that new position was often lower down the corporate totem poll, Pincus basically wanted to cut the person's compensation by reducing his or her number of unvested options (vested options were not touched).

jlars 5 days ago 1 reply      
Pincus and his financial backers were looking for ways to maximize their own wallets without having the Skype fallout of firing people before the IPO. This was simply the reason for the clawback.

If he just fired the people there would have been a big blowback like what we heard happen when Skype fired a group of employees before the Microsoft acquisition was a done deal.

Pincus is a ruthless and shrewd businessman. From the co-opted game designs of others to cutting out some employees from the IPO's rewards, he is definitely not someone who can totally be trusted. He will do what's best for him.

Skype, Groupon, and Zynga are showing a more cutthroat way of doing business in SV. The high valuations that their investors entered into these deals are demanding ways to squeeze out as much of return as possible.

Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the old guard were all about maximizing both investor and employee shareholder value. Now it seems its mostly about the investors and some "worthy" "chosen" few.

Be careful!

UPDATE - Come to find out that Silver Lake, the guys behind the SKYPE firing fiasco, are also investors of Zynga. Please blackball working with any of their portfolio companies http://www.silverlake.com/partners/content.php?page=team-par...

Jim Davidson Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Menlo Park
Glenn Hutchins Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive New York
David Roux Co-Founder and Chairman Menlo Park
Alan Austin Managing Director Menlo Park
Mike Bingle Managing Director New York
Eric Chen Managing Director Hong Kong, Shanghai
Egon Durban Managing Director Menlo Park
Charles Giancarlo Managing Director and Head of Value Creation Menlo Park
Kenneth Hao Managing Director Menlo Park and Hong Kong
Christian Lucas Managing Director London
Greg Mondre Managing Director New York
Joe Osnoss Managing Director London
Sean Delehanty Director New York
Stephen Evans Director London
Tony Ling Director Menlo Park
Todd Morgenfeld Director Menlo Park
Simon Patterson Director London
Zheng Wang Director Hong Kong
Masao Yoshikawa Director Tokyo
Joerg Adams Principal Menlo Park
Jonathan Durham Principal London
John Flynn Principal London
Adam Karol Principal New York
Karol Niewiadomski Principal London
Jason White Principal Menlo Park
Lee Wittlinger Principal Menlo Park
Phillip Wood-Smith Principal New York
Jason Young Principal

alexwolfe 6 days ago 0 replies      
Bad experiences with stock options happen a lot in the tech world. I believe it's one reason that working for a startup doesn't have the allure it once had. Many are busting there butts and just collecting a paycheck because their shares have been diluted or rescinded. Starting early with a company now doesn't mean nearly as much.
Karunamon 6 days ago 0 replies      
How is this not extortion?
sdh 6 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe the employees of Zynga who weren't offered this deal should sue Zynga for too little compensation for the value they've created. The hammer should swing both ways.
drivingmenuts 6 days ago 0 replies      
Can I just say: fuck everything about that?
sabat 6 days ago 0 replies      
With the unvested shares, the executives believed they could attract more top talent with the promise of stock.

Not if the new hires find out about this previous action, and realize that the company may very well demand the stock back.

quattrofan 6 days ago 1 reply      
Seriosly do these execs realise what a bunch of utter douchebags they look like? I guess they don't care. Personally though I would think twice about going to work for them, whatever they offer apparently is worthless because they can change their mind and take it back off you again later.
netcan 5 days ago 0 replies      
Zynga executives were especially concerned with not creating a "Google chef" scenario.

That reference relates to Google's 2004 IPO when one of the company's chefs, who was hired in the firm's early days, walked away with $20 million worth of stock after the shares went public.

This is something to take note of. You might be able to see the reality of a chance to make $X being worth a small fraction of X, but don't expect everyone else to see it after the fact. If you are relying on executives, judges or anyone else to see that you were compensated with a lottery ticket worth $1000 and lucked into $20m rather then that you were just somehow compensated $20m especially if they have an interest in seeing it the latter way, you need to take into account that they might not.

shareme 6 days ago 0 replies      
Its called Mafia Wars for a reason..now we know the reason..capice
thegorgon 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is par for the course for Zynga who have made a successful company by stealing the lunches of creative companies and developers.

Don't be surprised when an evil company acts evil. Just don't work for evil companies.

apechai 6 days ago 0 replies      
Let's give them a taste of their own medicine. They grew off exploiting the Facebook feed and twitter.

I started #boycottZynga on twitter. Please retweet. If we get the message out and convince people to stop playing before IPO, we can hurt their valuation.

Then they'll realize they can't just bully normal people.

apu 6 days ago 0 replies      
How much power/influence do a company's VCs have to prevent this sort of behavior? It seems like this reflects badly on all of Zynga's investors as well, most prominently Union Square Ventures, and I can't imagine that they would condone this kind of behavior.
VladRussian 6 days ago 0 replies      
opening the next card the casino dealer sees that a person's bet is going to win a lot, so right before placing the card on the table the dealer asks security to remove the person until the person agrees to share the winning amount.
netcan 5 days ago 0 replies      
The outcome here may become a clarification of what vested shares means. If I'm not mistaken, vested shares evolved out of the practice of just giving shares to employees at the start in order to guarantee that they wouldn't just take the shares and run.

If this is deemed legal it will probably eventually become standard and vested shares will become negotiable. If this happens, what are vested shares anyway? What would be the difference between vested shares and just issuing shares (or options) periodically?

Angostura 5 days ago 0 replies      
From the article: "the firm's executives reportedly justified their strategy by saying it was best for the company. With the unvested shares, the executives believed they could attract more top talent with the promise of stock."

The answer is simple then - the executive who originally miscalculated how much stock to give away should be the person who is penalised by having their options reduced to make up the shortfall.

You know ... for the good of the company.

nodata 5 days ago 0 replies      
Give back our stock? Interesting phrasing. It's their stock. Give back our stock. Phrased like the employees took something that wasn't rightfully theirs.
shad0wfax 6 days ago 0 replies      
Pathetic. Very disappointed to see this. This is the cancer that sets the stage for other startups as well.

How is one supposed to decide which startup to work for and at what stage in the startup to join? I liked the 37Signals principles when and IF they ever go IPO/cash out. I think the VC community needs to push for such a clean and transparent model (Wishful thinking).

utefan001 6 days ago 1 reply      
Any lawyers care to explain the legal possibility of keeping the stock after being fired?
celticjames 6 days ago 0 replies      
I suspect that none of those employees were planning to stick around after the IPO anyway.It's sounds like a terrible place to work.
Tichy 6 days ago 0 replies      
"With the unvested shares, the executives believed they could attract more top talent with the promise of stock"

I suppose that would be "top programming talent" but not so much "top economics and common sense talent".

benjaminRRR 6 days ago 0 replies      
It is incredibly sad, and often repeated. Greed makes people do really short-sighted, horrible things. You can't take all that cash with you when you die, but you can leave a legacy. Do you really want to be known as the guy who wasn't happy with his lazy $1.8B and needed to squeeze the little guy to find a couple million dollars. People take a risk on startups, and we should be celebrating the "google chef" phenomenon. If the chef is walking away with 8 figures then things are going very well indeed.
akeck 6 days ago 1 reply      
We have two option clawback stories in six months or so. These actions erode the trust relationship between entrepreneurs and the technical talent on which they depend. The expectation that startups will honor the options they give to the talent they hire is part of the social contract of the community. Reneging on that expectation will make talent wary of taking on the immense risk of working for or founding startups.
neckbeard 6 days ago 0 replies      
Zynga's latest release is called Mafia Wars: Shakedown. Seems somewhat apt.
dsimms 5 days ago 0 replies      
I have to agree that the reporting was really unclear if the ask was to forgo unvested options, forgo unexercised but vested options, or give back stock from already vested options. I assume it's the unvested options under consideration, since the latter two seem impossible.

Then I've seen no discussion of AMT anywhere. Say you have vested but exercised options but for currently illiquid stock, and that someone threatens you with dismissal. You can exercise but then owe a bunch on AMT that you might not have the resources to cover. Does that make you more likely to go along?

This makes it seem like an even more hardball move to me.

joe24pack 6 days ago 0 replies      
Is Zynga's company motto "B.O.H.I.C.A." ? There is some potential rhyming there. Surely this could be turned into a lively limerick or a biting haiku.
sdizdar 6 days ago 1 reply      
They can just fire non-performers with stock options? Correct?

Meaning you hire somebody and gave him/her a bunch of stock options, latter on you figure out he/she is not so good, so you fire. Simple.

Why this shenanigan?

noncents 5 days ago 2 replies      
The thing that is not clear to me is why nobody has seen fit to call Fred Wilson out on this. For all of the "scruples beyond reproach" of what I think I know about Fred (and what I still hope to be true, despite this evidence), this one flies in the face of reasonable behavior. I doubt that something like this could (or should) be done so close to IPO that the board didn't know about it. I'm certain that Fred can't say anything today, due to the sensitivity of the timing, but that should not prevent people from asking the question - "where was the board in all this?".

Good God Fred, is this what a reasonably responsible company would do?

Powells 6 days ago 0 replies      
I heard a similar thing over at airbnb
scott_meyer 5 days ago 0 replies      
Stock options have always been valued at the discretion of the board. Zynga is perhaps guilty of coming up in "innovative" ways of manipulating value but the end result: optionees get less money than they thought, is the same.

Choose your employer carefully because the treatment you will receive is a pure test of professional ethics: how someone with power treats someone without.

JGailor 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a little surprised I haven't seen this on TechCrunch yet.
adrianscott 6 days ago 0 replies      
Somebody forgot to water their crops... For those of you asking about pre-purchasing your stock, you can exercise options prior to full vesting, but the stock is still subject to vesting, so you can lose them through termination etc., afaik...
jlars 5 days ago 0 replies      
Pincus and his financial backers were looking for ways to maximize their own wallets without having the Skype fallout of firing people before the IPO. This was simply the reason for the clawback.

If he just fired the people there would have been a big blowback like what we heard happen when Skype fired a group of employees before the Microsoft acquisition was a done deal.

Pincus is a ruthless and shrewd businessman. From the co-opted game designs of others to cutting out some employees from the IPO's rewards, he is definitely not someone who can totally be trusted. He will do what's best for him.

Skype, Groupon, and Zynga are showing a more cutthroat way of doing business in SV. The high valuations that their investors entered into these deals are demanding ways to squeeze out as much of return as possible.

Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the old guard were all about maximizing both investor and employee shareholder value. Now it seems its mostly about the investors and some "worthy" "chosen" few.

Be careful!

HiroshiSan 6 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like they've been reading into Steve Jobs' biography a little too much.
mzuvella 6 days ago 0 replies      
Come work for ngmoco, we don't do that shit.
zerostar07 6 days ago 0 replies      
Someone takes Mafia Wars too seriously in there...
beachgeek 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is unreal. If the employees weren't "adding as much value" why not just fire them? California is an at-will employment state anyway.
dustineichler 6 days ago 2 replies      
Isn't there a way to buy your stock pre-vesting? I'm pretty sure there is.
samikc 6 days ago 0 replies      
it shows how greedy people can be. i cannot think of anything like this can be done by a tech company. bunch of douche bag. how the hell are going to decide what contribution is important or which one is not? This is pure greed man... I am posting this in FB let Zynga games go to hell..
nickpinkston 6 days ago 1 reply      
Scumbag Zynga?

Make money pressuring users to pay for virtual goods. Pressure employees to give stock for virtual jobs...

In defense of the Google chef rondam.blogspot.com
973 points by lisper  5 days ago   187 comments top 45
mmaunder 5 days ago  replies      
My sister's a french trained chef and I've been writing software most of my life. She works probably 3X harder than any geek I know including me. It's brutal. She arrives 8am to prep and leaves 11pm after service, 6 days a week when she was working for someone else. 7 now that she's opening her own place. She's on her feet all day. The job is both time critical and requires constant teamwork. If you or anyone else drops the ball the angry customer is right there, including the angry wait staff and angry team mates. It's very high pressure.

She's now busy opening her own restaurant and it's a far cry from writing software once and kicking back while each incremental copy sold costs you zero effort or money. Every incremental product a chef sells is hand-made and has to have its raw ingredients bought without any certainty it'll actually get sold. What's worse is many ingredients have a shelf life of mere days.

Every product is hand made to a customer's specifications and delivered in real-time with immediate feedback. If a product is rejected, it's expected to be replaced immediately without interrupting the flow of products heading out to new customers. And of course the tools of the trade are not a keyboard, but sharp knives and open flames.

So yeah, the "google chef scenario" comment bugged me too.

goodside 5 days ago 3 replies      
It's ludicrous that it's even necessary to paint the archetypical "Google chef" as someone who daringly sacrifices for their scrappy company for them to be worthy of windfall profits. If you compensate employees with options, they deserve whatever they end up being worth. Period. That's the whole point of options. If there were an asterisk attached that said, "...but only if people agree in retrospect that you deserve the money," nobody would accept them as payment.
pg 5 days ago 2 replies      
It's not about cooks vs hackers. This is the critical point:

  Charlie didn't make $20M for cooking, he made 
$20M for taking the risk

The money that founders and early employees make from startups they make as investors. They're getting compensated for risk, not simply for the work they do. Startups are volatile, which is why investors like them. Like other startup investors, early employees sometimes get really lucky. But that is not the same thing as being overpaid.

I can't say much for sure about this particular case because I don't know the details, but I don't like the sound of it. It seems so shortsighted. The amounts of stock involved must be small, and the damage done not just to Zynga but the whole startup world could be big.

kamaal 5 days ago 3 replies      
Its not about chef or a Janitor or whatever. Why are these people acting as though only a few have the right to be rich?

Why can't a Janitor be rich? Why can't a chef be rich? What really is so wrong with it? This attitude is so despicable! So anybody who doesn't go to a big Ivy league, or some one who doesn't have an MBA next to his name or hasn't worked at a investment bank can't be rich?

Which in case, what this really turns out to be is alternate form of slavery where a selected few have to resign themselves to a lesser standard of life to serve the remaining self chosen elite and act in every way such that the elite are benefiting.

If you want some job to be done and you are ready to pay for it, money/stock or whatever. And you promise and the contract so. You just need to pay up. That's it, it ends there.

You don't get the work done, squeeze the juice out of the employees. Then one fine day realize that what you promised is now worth a lot of money. So you suddenly dump them, loot all the money yourself and say that they don't deserve it.

You had promised that it was worth paying something for some one from some work. So now when it is time to pay up. Just pay.

wisty 5 days ago 2 replies      
"Charlie didn't make $20M for cooking, he made $20M for taking the risk that the company he was joining would fail"

Maybe. Or how about this:

Charlie didn't make $20M for cooking. He effectively made a normal chef's salary, some of which he effectively invested into Google shares.

What's the issue? That a chef (unlike a banker or programmer) helps fund a company, and gets shares for it?

andywood 5 days ago 1 reply      
Begrudging the 'Google chef' is taking the effects of market forces that influence the relative pay of chefs and software developers, and trying to apply them by sheer assertion to the stock option lottery. The mechanics that influence pay are completely separate from the mechanics that make early employees rich. If a CEO honestly believed that certain workers should not have any chance of getting rich, the consistent thing would be not to offer them options in the first place.

This issue also reeks of the Just-World Fallacy. Individual early employees of wildly successful companies don't get rich because it's fair, even if it sort of works out that way on average. They get rich because someone gave them options, and then the stock skyrocketed. Efforts to explain it in terms of justice are mostly post-hoc rationalization.

kls 5 days ago 2 replies      
I'm not usually a get out the E-Pitchfork type guy, but this subject has really gotten under my skin. I got stiffed on an exit so you can take my view as biased if you would like. It most likely is given my irritation at the subject, I generally don't get worked up over stuff so it has certainly hit a nerve.

But the part that really gets me is it has absolutely nothing to do with the role these people played and every bit to do with the longer hours, reduced compensation risk and how long a person takes that risk for. If they came in on the ground floor then have been riding the roller-coaster and getting paid dirt for longer then they deserve those early and current options, I just cannot understand the attitude that is being displayed where the CEO feels that later employees that are "now" more strategic to the company (read executives) are more deserving of that equity given their worth to the current goals of the company. That is such a warped perspective, it has nothing to do with the future and everything to do with how much risk and how long those early employes took that risk for.

davesims 5 days ago 0 replies      
The real problem Zynga has created is summed up nicely is this comment from the OP's blog:

"Pincus has violated the basic tenant of start up economics and, thus made start ups vastly more risky for people to join. In short he's just ups the cost of hiring at start ups by 10-15%."

I suspect long-term it will be much more than that. Whatever the reality behind the scenes, Zynga has created a new startup narrative to replace the "Google Chef" narrative that was precisely the story that made it possible to hire premium talent willing to risk a few years and hard work on the chance of a big payout. Zynga has quickly and fairly decisively dealt a near death-blow to that idea.

Between Zynga and the stories coming out of the Skype acquisition a few months ago, I expect startups will find it increasingly difficult to trade stock options in lieu of compensation early on.

Unless and until some legal device is created to re-establish that trust, I expect we'll be looking back on this incident in years to come as the moment when startups lost one of the essential strategies to hiring top talent early. Everyone will be skittish over this for quite some time.

tlrobinson 5 days ago 1 reply      
Also, if I were Mark Pincus or another Zynga executive I'd probably avoid the Zynga cafeteria for awhile...
jfruh 5 days ago  replies      
The thing that most bugs me about this is that the Google chef somehow needs to have his rights defended. He was made a promise when he was hired and Google cheerfully fulfilled its obligation to follow through with that. Ditto on whoever is being screwed at Zynga. "Unvested" does not mean "maybe you will get this at a later date, who can say."
alexwolfe 5 days ago 2 replies      
Who determines who is actually worthy 20 million or a billion? In every case there is a tremendous amount of good fortune, luck, and incredible timing.

Anyone who thinks they deserve that much more money than someone else because they are just a better human being needs to get a reality check. Its really about being fortunate. The Chef certainly has just as much right to his 20 mil as all the other guys that cashed out. Again, its not about just talent or brains, its about luck.

ck2 5 days ago 1 reply      
I wouldn't have a problem with a startup janitor taking home $20M in a stock payout.

A rising tide should lift all boats, not the boats they specifically select with hindsight.

paul 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is a good example of why Google became a great company: they understood the big picture. Zynga apparently does not.
danbmil99 5 days ago 1 reply      
All I can say is Ayer's restaurant serves really amazing food at an affordable price. So he's giving something back to the community. He's hiring people and building a business. Is he less of a contributor to Google's success than the worst programmer who made $20M on their IPO?

What I don't get is the zero-sum thinking here. They're worried that someone in their organization might get rich, and maybe they didn't deserve to get so rich. So what? They should worry about their company, not be squabbling over percentages.

Reminds me of the end of "Treasure of the Sierra Madre." The prospect of real money seems to drive some people insane.

dylangs1030 5 days ago 3 replies      
Just the fact that Ayers was stylized as a "Google chef" and not by his name is demoralizing. It just gets worse when they speak of his success as something a company should avoid if at all possible. It's manipulative to hire someone, offer them stock options, then decide they're not worth it later on. Just don't offer them in the first place!
suprgeek 5 days ago 0 replies      
What really stinks about "not creating a Google chef" scenario is the implicit belief that the chef should not become rich and should not be able to participate in the success of your company. Why the arrogance? If an employee (Chef, Janitor, Developer or CEO) played a part in the success, exactly why is it that they should not participate in the payoff
davesims 5 days ago 0 replies      
For all of you trying to parse this on a purely business level and justify Zynga on some ethical or legal distinction between 'vested' and 'unvested', etc., understand this: The take-away lesson, from the standpoint of an experienced developer being offered stock options in lieu of compensation is, from now on, a simple story, and it's the one you will have to overcome for the foreseeable future, thanks to Pincus:

Once upon a time the "Google Chef" could become a millionare.

Now he can't.

The End

oacgnol 5 days ago 0 replies      
Zynga and Groupon just seem to have shot themselves in the foot right before their IPOs for stupid reasons. It's a shame how greed and stupidity in leadership have negatively impacted the payout for the people who toiled to make the dream possible.
OoTheNigerian 5 days ago 2 replies      
This Zynga position is the reason why most Nigerian politicians have second wives.

A poor young man finds a woman wo will marry him a starter in life, poor with fair education.

20 years down the line after the woman has bore him kids, supported his career, this man becomes a Governor. Then aha! He realizes his mid aged wife is not really educated, not fit for the position of a first lady.

He does not want the situation of a high school educated first lady.

OoTheNigerian 5 days ago 0 replies      
How about just keeping agreements?

Does it matter if the money allotted to the barber down the road becomes worth $100m?

If he kept his part of the deal, you should.

andrewfelix 5 days ago 0 replies      
"Charlie didn't make $20M for cooking, he made $20M for taking the risk that the company he was joining would fail" This succinct sentence sums it up for me perfectly. His ability and contribution aside, a gamble was made and it paid off.
dasil003 5 days ago 0 replies      
It's laughable to think Pincus is worried about a "Google Chef" scenario. There will be no Google-anything scenario at Zynga.
jackgavigan 5 days ago 1 reply      
If these people were underperforming, then why didn't Pincus address the issue before now? Why do it now, when Zynga appears to be preparing to IPO?

This strikes me as pure greed. Pincus offered people shares as part of a package to persuade them to come work at his risky startup. He made a deal and now he wants to go back on it.

Say what you like about Bill Gates but he was perfectly comfortable with early Microsoft employees like Andrea Lewis growing rich from their share options.

PS: Lots of people talk about the greed on Wall Street but it strikes me that the prospect of riches is causing greed to rear its ugly head in the startup scene too. What's more, people seem to turn a blind eye to it if the perpetrator has been successful. It's disappointing and I think it bodes ill for the entire sector.

kaze 5 days ago 0 replies      

There was a chef of similar capabilities at my first company. Ten years later, me and my ex-colleagues still rave about his food and the inspiration it gave us.

EVERY employee counts.

webwright 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not sure I agree with earbitscom (commented a few times here), but I upvoted him because I think he's boiled it down to the important point. But for the people downvoting his "options are future compensation" argument, here's an interesting thought exercise:

Say you joined a young/really hot startup that was heading straight up. You negotiate a good options package, but it's lean-- they aren't super eager to part with these (obviously valuable) shares.

Then, the world explodes. The company gets sued, the market crashes, the users revolt. But the company manages to emerge from the carnage beaten-but-alive. It's no longer a sure thing. In fact, it looks risky as hell. But you believe in the vision and the management, so you want to stick it out.

You're 1.5 years in. New hires are getting packages that reflect the (newfound) risk in the stock. Your stock package looks small in comparison. Given the new information, would it be wrong to negotiate for more stock?

MaysonL 5 days ago 1 reply      
At this point the only question worth asking about this situation is whether anybody on Zynga's board has the balls and integrity to tell Pincus to go fuck himself.
Tichy 5 days ago 2 replies      
Also the food comes up pretty high on the list of incentives for working at Google. Who knows how many talented people now work at Google because of their chefs.

Also consider opportunity cost. The chef could have opened a restaurant instead and perhaps also earn a lot of money that way.

kschua 5 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone who joins a startup be it a chef or masseuse (Bonnie Brown) who take a risk by joining a startup deserves to be compensated accordingly if the startup succeeds. Just because they are not developers doesn't mean they didn't contribute to Google's success.

Glad that I am not alone in thinking that the "Google Chef" deserves what he gets.

fauldsh 5 days ago 0 replies      
Are there no laws in the US protecting employees from this kind of scenario? Something like Unfair Dismissal in the UK.

As others have said, the first employees took the risk of working for a startup, any-one who joined later can't possibly deserve more because they "contributed more" because the company wouldn't exist without the original employees.

gwern 5 days ago 0 replies      
> Feeding a few hundred people in a professional setting is not just taking the process of preparing a home-cooked meal and multiplying. If a software engineer screws up, the site goes down. But if a chef screws up, people get sick. In extreme cases, they die.

Wow, hyperbole much? A chef only gets people sick or kills if he epically screws up.

A thought experiment: figure how many restaurants and fast-food chains there are in the US; multiply by how many people they serve a day; multiply by 365.25; divide by number of annual deaths. Ponder this upper bound on risk. Ponder whether the base-rate risk is greater or lesser than the risk of walking across the street or driving to work. Finally, ponder on whether this base-rate ought to be adjusted upwards or downwards for a trained corporate chef working in a controlled environment with good facilities (as opposed to a newbie teen or immigrant working for minimum wage in a kitchen somewhere).

HarrietTubgirl 4 days ago 0 replies      
I interned at Google back in the day, and when I came back to school, I can only remember raving about one thing -- the food. It was absolutely fucking amazing. I gained 10 pounds that summer (starting at 145, this probably wasn't a bad thing).

There was a lot I could have raved about. The fact that around my area in ads there was probably a 20% chance that an individual had his own Wikipedia page. The debugging tools I got to work with and the MapReduces I got to write. All of the geeky stuff that makes Google a cool place to work at.

But when I got back to school, the food is really what stuck out about the experience. I would argue that those cafeterias are one of Google's most marketable benefits.

A bad programmer who is overcompensated just blends in, a great chef gets singled out.

No matter what, equity distributions are going to look insane in retrospect. Probably the most glaring ones are not even going to be the under-performers who plodded along or folks in less-important roles that were hired early, but the crappy execs that were hired well after the risk was decreased, but got a huge stock grant anyway. Start with those guys.

Let's be honest here -- how hard someone works isn't directly relevant to the discussion, it's how much value they end up adding. But to that point, I'm pretty sure Charlie added a lot more value to the company than many software engineers there had.

doki_pen 5 days ago 0 replies      
To argue that he deserved it is to cede the point. It was what he signed up for and google was right to respect that agreement.
rhizome 5 days ago 0 replies      
Ooh, I think thinking twice about the Google chef is to accept Zynga's "pray I don't alter your option plan any further," take on things, i.e. the argument's already lost.
DodgyEggplant 5 days ago 0 replies      
Conduit famously gave options to the cleaning ladies
JulianMiller520 5 days ago 0 replies      
Couldn't agree more. I'd expect a comment/attitude like this from people on wall street but not in the world of tech. It's sad that they could even pervert the phrase "Google Chef" into something negative or something that should be avoided.
martian 5 days ago 0 replies      
My startup has an in-house chef. It is the best investment we have made. Employees are happy, morale is high, we eat healthy food, and stay late to have a family-style dinner. When we make it big, I'm going to be stoked to share profits with her. :-)

One of my colleagues takes pictures of our food and puts them up here: http://thumbtackfood.tumblr.com/

code_duck 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is a pointless rebuttal, because it's not about who contributed what, or how hard a chef worked, or whether their job was worth it. If you make a deal with someone for x amount of stock, or whatever, they get it. You don't try to strong arm them into giving it back later on - that's dishonest. It doesn't matter if it's worth 20 million or 20 cents.
linuxhansl 5 days ago 0 replies      
I do not understand this entire discussion. He joined Google, got early stock options that ended up being worth a lot. Good for him. Where is the problem? The system worked.
justinhj 5 days ago 0 replies      
being a chef is a hard job for sure but the real point here is that being on board for a succesful ipo is like a lottery win for all early employees. let them have it and enjoy it. don't make them feel like shit by telling them they don't deserve it. i don't see any win for zynga here
missy 3 days ago 0 replies      
I know in stocks you can sell futures. So you say, the shares are worth 1$ today as a fresh start up, in 2 years we will buy them back of you for 20 $, if the share is worth over 20$.

If your are Zynga and you are confident that they could go above that its a good buy and the worker feels a bit more secure but wont earn these too high returns that Zynga may not like .

Sorry if my application of basic futures to Zynga are bit off, hope explains more or less what I mean, my memory is flaky here.

balsam 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know, man. I would rather give shares to someone who can keep my teammates and I on the brink of starvation. Does nobody remember the motto "stay hungry, stay foolish"?
petegrif 5 days ago 0 replies      
If the Zynga story is as reported it is beyond despicable.
smackfu 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if the chef was hired at typical chef wages, or at "startup" chef wages?
whacker 5 days ago 0 replies      
Why is this even being debated?

How is the chef, or any other employee, any different from an early stage investor?

grandalf 5 days ago 7 replies      
This is essentially a Trolley problem that people are getting quite indignant about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

Here's an oversimplified example that mirrors the classic Trolley problem:

Suppose the company consists of three people: The founder, the engineer and the chef. The founder can't raise more money from investors and she realizes that if she fires the chef it'll free up 200K ISOs which can be used to recruit a sysadmin. Without a sysadmin the startup will fail. If the founder gives up her own shares, she loses control of the company to one of the investors, who she knows will sell the company to cash out immediately. If she stays in control, the founder aspires to grow the business to 20x its current size. Should the founder fire the chef?

What small detail would have to change in order to quell the ire of all of the people claiming that Pincus is acting unethically?

Stop SOPA, save the Internet boingboing.net
861 points by CodeMage  2 days ago   130 comments top 28
jxcole 2 days ago 3 replies      
Do you remember when the Italians shut down Italian wikipedia because the Italian government was going to pass something stupid? Since this legislation would make it possible to sue wikipedia in the united states, it would make sense for wikipedia to shut down in the US in protest to this bill.
asolove 2 days ago  replies      
Ok, you've convinced me. Now what? I have time and money, so give me a call to action dammit.
simius_ 2 days ago 2 replies      
Response from Maria Cantwell:

Thank you for contacting me about the internet streaming of copyrighted material. I appreciate hearing from you on this issue, and sincerely regret the delayed response.

On May 12, 2011, Senator Leahy (D-VT) introduced S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act. Under current federal law, U.S. law enforcement officials and holders of copyrights, trademarks, and patents, have limited legal remedies available to combat internet websites that are registered in foreign countries but operate in the United States by selling products, services, and/or content that violates U.S. intellectual property law. If enacted, the proposed legislation would create an expedited process for the Department of Justice and intellectual property rights holders to shut down through a court order these websites by targeting, the owners and operators of the Internet site, if known, or the domain name registrant associated with the Internet site.

The proposed legislation would require the Department of Justice to demonstrate to the Court that the Internet site accessed by the domain name is "dedicated to infringing activities." Such a website would have no other significant use other than engaging in, enabling, or facilitating infringing activities. Once a court order is issued, domestic operators of domain name servers would be required to effectively prevent online users from accessing the infringing Internet site. Providers of online information location tools would be required to take technically feasible and reasonable measures to remove or disable access to such an Internet site, including not providing a hypertext link. Finally, financial institutions involved in online transactions and Internet advertising companies would be prohibited from doing business with any Internet site subject to a Court order under the legislation. Intellectual property rights holders can take Internet payment and advertising companies to court if they believe these companies are not complying with the law. This legislation was reported out of the Judiciary Committee on July 22, 2011, and is awaiting action by the full Senate.

While I am supportive of the goals of the bill, I am deeply concerned that the definitions and the means by which the legislation seeks to accomplish these goals will hurt innovation and threaten online speech. Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind should I have the opportunity to vote on this or similar legislation regarding intellectual property rights.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. You may also be interested in signing up for periodic updates for Washington State residents. If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

jmtame 2 days ago 2 replies      
"On September 22, 2011, a letter signed by greater than 350 businesses and organizations " including names such as NBCUniversal, Pfizer, Ford Motor Company, Revlon, NBA, and Macmillan " was sent to Congress encouraging the passage of infringing website censorship legislation this year."

"Opponents of the bill include tech giants such as Google, Yahoo!, and eBay, as well as human rights organizations such as Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Human Rights Watch." [1]

I've lost respect for the companies in the first paragraph, and have gained some for the companies in the second.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act

jrockway 2 days ago 6 replies      
I'm looking forward to this bill passing. As soon as we drive normal internet activity underground, there will no longer be any stigma to being underground. Everything will be encrypted and hidden to people that don't "know the key", and Hollywood and the government will be the last people to know the key. Reading BoingBoing and downloading the latest Hollywood crap will look exactly the same to everyone monitoring the Internet except the person actually doing the downloading, ushering in a new era of freedom.

Just like there are no laws regulating the sale of illegal drugs (and the market is flourishing), soon we will have an Internet that the government can't censor. Illegal is the new legal.

sycren 2 days ago 1 reply      
So.. The great firewall of America, Seems only 2 years ago when Obama was defending the freedom of the internet.

I'm surprised that there isn't a huge rally on sites like 4chan and reddit which would be hit the most..

marquis 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not a US resident but I've donated to the EFF. U.S. policy dictates what happens for many other countries and
it's not acceptable to have such policies become mainstream. http://eff.org
dhimes 2 days ago 0 replies      
In case anybody is interested, this looks like the bill [pdf]

EDIT: Here's the TOC:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

Sec. 2. Savings and severability clauses.


Sec. 101. Definitions.

Sec. 102. Action by Attorney General to protect U.S.
customers and prevent U.S. support of foreign infringing sites.

Sec. 103. Market-based system to protect U.S. customers and prevent U.S. funding of sites dedicated to theft of U.S. property.

Sec. 104. Immunity for taking voluntary action against sites dedicated to theft of U.S. property.

Sec. 105. Immunity for taking voluntary action against sites that endanger public health.

Sec. 106. Guidelines and study.

Sec. 107. Denying U.S. capital to notorious foreign infringers.


Sec. 201. Streaming of copyrighted works in violation of criminal law.

Sec. 202. Trafficking in inherently dangerous goods or services.

Sec. 203. Protecting U.S. businesses from foreign and economic espionage.

Sec. 204. Amendments to sentencing guidelines.

Sec. 205. Defending intellectual property rights abroad.

keeptrying 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why isnt there a crowdsourced lobbying startup? Essentially everyone votes on a particular topic and also donates money for that cause. If the cause collects enough money its sent to a non profit which actually has some lobbying clout to fight the battle on Capitol hill.

Teh startup can take a small %age and ensure that people can quickly swarm together and effectively beat shit bills like this.

Is there a problem with this idea?

fragsworth 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't expect this bill to pass as it is. Enough large, powerful corporations should be against it (most Internet companies).

Much more likely: the major provisions will be added as riders to a bill that passes in haste, to get a few congressional votes.

keeptrying 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you are a US citizen, you can take action right here:


babarock 2 days ago 4 replies      
I'm not a US citizen.

1) To what extent am I really going to get affected by such a bill?

2) Is there anything I can do to prevent it?

darkane 2 days ago 4 replies      
I wouldn't argue against contacting your representative, but I'm curious: Has there ever been a documented occasion where a politician actually switched their stance based on e-mails, letters, phone calls, or anything other than a significant amount of money? I've never received a response from my local or state representatives that wasn't a convoluted and cordial "fuck you."
sneak 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Internet != USA. If America wants to shoot itself in the foot w/r/t one of their only competitive advantages in the global marketplace, I say:

Let them.

Think of how fast that will accelerate the solution!

fredleblanc 2 days ago 1 reply      
So this bill seems to target any link on your website. Let's say that you have a blog that allows for people to post things as comments using a service like DISQUS. Could one request essentially take down the entire DISQUS service? Same with Facebook comments that are becoming more and more popular: could one request take down something like Facebook?
ck2 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you thought bogus, automated, DMCA takedowns on youtube were bad, you haven't seen anything yet if this passes.
megamark16 2 days ago 0 replies      
I just emailed my representative and senators. I also called my representative and left a message with a very confused sounding secretary/intern/lackey. You should too. Do it. Do it now.
russell 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wondering , who the hell are these people who write such laws, I Googled John Conyers. In the results was a story that his wife had been sentenced to Federal prison for bribery. I hope this is the nadir and the only way forward is up, but I'm not hugely optimistic.
Macha 2 days ago 1 reply      
I reckon people here are the most likely to know, so sorry for the slight derailment, but..

I am Irish, with a .com site hosted on servers in the UK. How does this affect me? I'm sure the US still claims a lot of influence over .com so it probably does some way.

toshiblue 2 days ago 0 replies      
You can go to OpenCongress.org and "vote". They'll help you find your congressional district representatives and draft/email a letter to each for you.


seagreen 2 days ago 0 replies      
Someone should make a short list of "best practices" for contacting your representatives. For instance, is there an easy way to set up a second google voice number so you don't end up getting called a million times during election season? And does anyone have apps to recommend for finding your representatives phone numbers, such as songrabbit's below?
DenisM 2 days ago 0 replies      
Get involved by writing your representative and making sure your facebook friends know about this:


Garbage 2 days ago 0 replies      
This might not be the best way to say, but whenever I see the patent and IP situation in US, I fell very happy that I live in India.
HilbertSpace 2 days ago 0 replies      
Who are the Congressmen and Senators for the bill?

What is the WH position?

What are the chances of passage and signing?

artursapek 2 days ago 0 replies      
Are there enough lawyers and courthouses to take on this potential mass of extra stupid lawsuits?
therandomguy 2 days ago 0 replies      
1. Can Google pay $1mn to each senator and buy them out?
2. Can/will Obama veto this?
wyck 2 days ago 0 replies      
In all honesty at this point I don't care. It's part of the evolutionary cycle of the internet, the laws cannot keep up with both the demand and the technology, close one door and several others open up.
A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design worrydream.com
809 points by tbassetto  8 days ago   150 comments top 37
aphyr 8 days ago  replies      
The article focuses on "everyday object" manipulation, but he's right about technology too: there are a wealth of common HCI tools that glass cannot accommodate.

- The textual keyboard remains one of the fastest methods of text entry. It can be used without looking, offers high bandwidth, affords both serial and chorded inputs, and works well for precise navigation in discrete spaces, like text, spreadsheets, sets of objects like forms, layers, flowcharts, etc.

- MIDI keyboards are comparable, but trade discrete bandwidth for the expressiveness of pressure modulation.

- The joystick (and associated interfaces like wheels, pedals, etc) are excellent tools for orienting. They can also offer precise haptic feedback through vibration and resistance.

- The stylus is an unparalleled instrument for HCI operations involving continuous two dimensional spaces. It takes advantage of fine dexterity in a way that mice cannot, offering position, pressure (or simply contact), altitude, angle, and tip discrimination.

- Trackballs and mice are excellent tools for analogue positional input with widely varying velocities. You can seek both finely and rapidly, taking advantage of varying grips. Trackballs offer the added tactile benefits of inertia and operating on an infinite substrate.

- Dials, wheels. A well-made dial is almost always faster and more precise than up-down digital controls. They offer instant visual feedback, precise tuning, spatial discrimination, variable velocities, can be used without looking, and can be adapted for multiple resolutions.

- Sliders. Offers many of the advantages of dials--smooth control with feedback, usable without looking--but in a linear space. Trades an infinite domain for linear manipulation/display, easier layout and use in flat or crowded orientations.

And these are just some of the popular ones. You've got VR headsets for immersive 3d audio and video, haptic gloves or suits, sometimes with cabling for precise pressure and force vector feedback, variable-attitude simulators, etc. There are weirder options as well--implanted magnets or electrode arrays to simulate vision, hearing, heat, taste, etc...

Dedicated interfaces can perform far better at specific tasks, but glass interfaces offer reconfigurability at low cost. That's why sound engineers have physical mixer boards, writers are using pens or keyboards, artists are using Wacom tablets, nuclear physicists are staring at fine-tuning knobs, and motorcyclists are steering with bars, grips, and body positioning; but everyday people are enjoying using their ipad to perform similar tasks.

Glass isn't going to wipe out physical interfaces; it's just a flexible tool in an expanding space of interaction techniques. More and more devices, I predict, will incorporate multitouch displays along dedicated hardware to solve problems in a balanced way.

mrshoe 8 days ago 4 replies      
I can't help but think that the success of the iPhone and iPad has caused a big step back in usability among devices that try to copy them.

Two similar examples:

Garmin's newer aircraft GPS units have touch screens instead of knobs and buttons. The iPad has proven very popular among pilots. I can see why Garmin would decide that "touch is the future." But, while I'm flying an airplane, for my money I'd rather have knobs to grab and twist, and buttons to push and feel.

Tesla's new Model S uses one huge touch screen for its in-dash interface. Surely, if you want to change your music's volume or turn on air conditioning while driving, it's harder to hit touch targets that are Pictures Under Glass than to grab and twist a knob.

feral 8 days ago 6 replies      
I just watched the video, and typed my reactions, as I had them; no idea if this will be of interest.

* * *

People still travel for meetings?
By plane?

Wait, someone is driving the car?
Thats not very productive.

There are bellhops?
Why are there still bellhops in the future?
What do they do?

Why is the screen so small?
Why have a screen, if you have those perfect augmented reality glasses?

'Creating reply interface'? We still have to wait for computers?

There's still global poverty, and benefit concerts? When these people have all that fancy tech?
Damn it.

Copy and Paste is still around?

Kids are still taught long division? Why? Why do they use a pencil?

Also, won't the future be one of neural interfaces? Isn't there something wrong with interfacing two electrical signal processing machines (brain + computer) via all these muscles and optical sensors and so on?
I know there's a lot of science to be solved first; but surely the future of interfaces is that they are invisible, and built in to us?

zach 8 days ago 1 reply      
When you rescale the human body in proportion to how much of the brain is concerned with each part, you end up with this:


The hands are huge because so much of your brain is devoted to skillfully moving and precisely sensing things with your hands.

Your hands are basically the focus of the human body in interacting with the environment around it.

This explains how moving from buttons and sensors to a touch-sensitive experience is a major and hard-to-explain qualitative difference.

It also underscores the great point made here, that we can make devices far more suited still to the primary way we're designed to interact with the world.

mattiask 8 days ago 3 replies      
Oki doki, so given plausible future technology let's try to brainstorm a solution that addresses the issue of tactility in interaction, I give you the ... drumroll KinBall (Kinectic ball). The Kinball would essentially be a wireless ball, like a small juggling sack (the smaller ones) that you could interact with to control devices.

So the Kinball would have the following features

* Gyroscope/acceleratometer so it knows which side is up and how fast it's being moved and where it is.

* Sensors so it can feel where it's being squeezed/pressed and how hard

* Some kind of detecting mechanism for when two balls (cough) are touching each other.
* Ability to vibrate in different frequencies and also only partially on different parts of the ball

So with a device like that you now would have to come up with a gesture language, some ideas

* If the future allows it, ability to change color

* Holding the ball and moving the thumb over it is "cursor mode, pressing in that mode would be clicking (and you could "click" and hold for submenus )

* Similarily swiping your tumb over the ball would be the swipe gesture

* Pinch-squeeze could be a specific gesture, perhaps combined with a gesture (like spritzing cookies :)

* If you hold the ball in the whole hand and move it from your chest and forward you could simulate resistance by varying the frequency of the vibrating to "feel" interface element

* you could roll the ball in your hand forwards and backwards, for instance for scrolling

* Double the balls, double the fun. With two balls you could perhaps do interesting things with the distance between them and again simulate resistance by vibrating the balls as you bring them closer to each other

* Social balling, you could touch someone elses ball (ahem) to transfer info, files etc

* You could have the ball on your desk and it could change color or pulse in different colors for different notifications.

This kind of interface would have some interesting features. You get tactile feedback and most gestures are pretty natural. You don't have to get smudge marks on your screens. The ball is pretty discrete and hardly visible in your hand. Heck with a headset (for getting information, like reading smss) you could just get away with a ball and the headset and skip the device altogether for some scenarios.

On the other hand it's another accessory you can lose and a ball in your pants might not be the best form factor.

Anyways, if Apple introduces the iBall you know where you read it first

ender7 8 days ago 0 replies      
This used to be a computer's model of a human being: http://librairie.immateriel.fr/fr/read_book/9780596518394/ch...

The iPad is really, really awesome. But. All that's really changed is that they've added an extra finger. (sure there are three- and four-finger gestures but those just boil down to a different kind of single-finger gesture)

Sadly, we're probably going to have to wait for the advent of supersubstances that can dynamically reconfigure their physical characteristics before we get beyond the finger-and-eye, which I doubt will happen in my lifetime (tears).

msutherl 8 days ago 1 reply      
Another major problem with "research visions" like this is that they portray a thoroughly "bourgeois" future. We know already that in order for every human on this planet to have basic needs taken care of, highly consumptive 1st world lifestyles like the one portrayed in the video will need to be replaced. If you've ever built anything, you'll know that it takes an immense amount of resources to obtain that kind of polish. I know that some designers like clean, shiny things, but perpetuating the meme that the future won't be characterized by rough-edges is escapist if not simply irresponsible. If we don't imagine a future for ourselves that involves patterns of behavior that are conducive to conservation of resources and supply-chain+community resilience, then I'm afraid that the only people using tools other than shovels and guns will be a super-elite living in fortified micro-cities (so perhaps it's accurate after all).

Some more silly videos:

- Nokia (w/ AR goggles): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4pDf7m2UPE

- Cisco Songdo City: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1x9qU-Sav8 this one's real!)

For those sympathetic to the argument of the OP, you may be interested in Bill Buxton's papers on bi-manual interaction. Bill is a huge (and early) proponent of this point of view (that computer interfaces should make full use of the capabilities of the human body): http://www.billbuxton.com/papers.html#anchor1442822

xpaulbettsx 8 days ago 1 reply      
Disclaimer: I used to work in the group that produced this video.

You have to remember, that while the "wow" factor (to some folks) is the screens and form factors, this video is made by a group in Office - the things they're really researching and trying to demonstrate is the vision of how your personal information and your "work" information (i.e. your social circles, your coworkers, your job) interact with each other.

How can context really be used effectively with productivity in an office setting? Context is this huge term here - device form factor, the people you're with, the things you're doing, where you're at; there is a ton of information available to apps / services now about who you are, what you're doing, etc - what are scenarios in which that information is actually combined and put to good use?

They really should've made the Director's Commentary to go along with this, there's a lot of research and data behind this video along with the special effects.

joebadmo 8 days ago 4 replies      
This was similar to my own reaction [0], that these concept videos don't look far enough forward.

And, maybe because I'm just a born contrarian, as the world moves toward touch-based direct-manipulation paradigms, I've personally been moving toward a more tactile, indirect paradigm. I recently bought a mechanical-switch keyboard, for example, that I'm growing more and more fond of every day. I've also started looking for a mouse that feels better in the hand, with a better weight, and better tactility to the button clicks.

The lack of tactility in touch screen keyboards has always been especially annoying to me. There's just so much information there between my fingers and the keys. I mean, there's an entire state -- the reassuring feeling of fingers resting on keys -- that's completely missing.

I accept the compromise in a phone, something that needs to fit in my pocket so I can carry it around all the time. But this makes me lament the rise of tablet computing. This is the sort of place that I refer to when I talk about tablets privileging consumption over production.

I don't think the problem is relegated to UI hardware, though. I think part of what's holding back a lot richer and more meaningful social interaction online is the fact that current social networking paradigms map better to data than to human psychology. It's the parallel problem of fitting the tool to the problem, but not the user.[1]

I'm not sure I agree with the direction he points to (if I understand him correctly). Making our digital tools act and feel more like real, physical objects is akin to 3D skeuomorphism. It's like making a device to drive nails that looks like a human fist, but bigger and harder. Better, I think, to figure out new ways to take advantage of the full potential of our senses and bodies to manipulate digital objects in ways that aren't possible with physical objects. And, please, Minority Report is not it.

[0]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3184216

[1]: More here: http://blog.byjoemoon.com/post/11670022371/intimacy-is-perfo... and here: http://blog.byjoemoon.com/post/12261287667/in-defense-of-the...

losvedir 8 days ago 1 reply      
Man, Bret Victor seems to have some of the most consistently interesting and inspiring articles I've seen.

I suppose he's just pointing out one area of the future to think about, but I wish he'd mentioned other ideas. I think voice and language, in particular, have some of the most room to grow to make interfaces more intuitive.

edit to add: Along this line, I've often wondered if it'd be worth learning Lojban to interact with the computer more easily. Supposedly the language is perfectly regular and well suited to that sort of thing, but I don't know for sure.

It could be easier to teach humans Lojban than computers English (or however many other languages).

Gormo 7 days ago 1 reply      
The author makes a very valid point, and it would be quite interesting to see what kinds of tactile UI designs might be achieved. But I think there's an important distinction to be made in how we build tools to solve physical problems and how we build tools to solve conceptual ones.

Apart from purely remediative technologies such as Braille, I can't think of any technology from any era of human history in which conceptual information has ever been conveyed via the tactile sense. There have never been tactile clocks, tactile books, or any kind of tactile language. When human minds attempt to import ideas from the outside word, they use the eyes and ears, not the hands.

There's certainly a real problem with the UIs presented in the MS video, but it's not that they're visually-oriented. It's that they're designed to appeal to the eyes themselves, and fail to encode information in a way that's optimally suited to the mind. The aesthetics of the UIs in that video are stunningly beautiful, but I have no idea from looking at them how I would use them as tools; each notification, dialog box, and prompt for input seems fine in isolation, but when I try to conceptually 'zoom out' and understand how each function integrates into a workflow that allows me to apply my capabilities toward fulfilling my needs, I'm completely at a loss.

There seems to be an unfortunate trend toward pure visual aesthetics in the software industry today - perhaps a cargo-cult attempt to emulate some of Apple's successes - and MS seems to be suffering from it almost as badly as the Ubuntu and Gnome folks.

notatoad 8 days ago 5 replies      
the problem with revolutionary user interfaces is that nobody knows how to use them. when you see a "picture under glass" of a piano keyboard, you know that in order to make noise you tap the keys. if your interface is a minor incremental change from the status quo, it doesn't require education.

this vision of the future isn't just cool, it's relatable. anybody can look at the products displayed there and think "hey, i know how to use that". if you dream up some amazing new tactile user experience, it might be revolutionary but will people understand it?

joe_the_user 8 days ago 0 replies      
I see the article as pointing to incremental improvements by advocating fine motor manipulations with feedback over touching-glass-and-seeing-the-result (which is in ways harder than hitting a keyboard and at least getting some kinesthetic feedback). But I think we need to consider things in greater generality:

1) Interface designers seem universally fixated on designs that are visually and touch/kinesthetically oriented. What's missing in this is language. In a lot of ways this winds-up with interfaces which indeed look and feel great on first blush but which become pretty crappy over time given that most sophisticated human work is tied up with using language.

2) Even the touch part of interaction seldom considers what's ergonomically sustainable. Pointing with your index finder are fabulously intuitive to start with but is something you'd get really annoyed at doing constantly. There are lots of fine motor manipulations will get hard time as well.

WiseWeasel 8 days ago 0 replies      
Another avenue for substantial progress in interface design, in the same vein as the article's proposition, is tactile feedback, available today from vendors such as Senseg:


This technology has the capacity to bring us beyond "pictures under glass", and seems ready for integration in today's devices, with proper OS and API support.

I could see combining an e-ink display with this kind of tactile feedback surface to replace the user-exposed lower half of a laptop with a device capable of contextual interfaces. Something like this would offer great potential benefits to the user, with no apparent drawbacks.

jerf 8 days ago 2 replies      
I would submit that part of the problem is that nobody really has a clue how to use your hands. Are we going to have a thingy for every subtask that we want to do? Are our computer workstations going to resemble carpenter workbenches? Probably not, if for no other reason that lack of cost effectiveness. We've got something like the Wiimote as pretty much the epitome of hand-based interaction, but it's not very precise for anything that isn't a game.

I don't mean this as a criticism of the post, I mean it as a stab at an explanation. It is a good point and I've been complaining about the primitive point and grunt interfaces[1] we've had for a while, but it's not even remotely clear where to go from here without (touchscreens are only an incremental point & grunt improvement over mice, you get a couple more gestures at the c another huge leap in processing power and hardware, at the minimum encompassing some sort of 3D glasses overlay for augmented reality or something.

[1]: The mouse is point & grunt. You get one point of focus and 1 - 5 buttons (including the mousewheel as up, down, and click). For as excited as some people have been about touchscreens, they're only a marginal improvement if they're even that; you still have only a couple kinds of "clicks", and you lose a lot on the precision of your pointing. Interfaces have papered that over by being designed for your even-more-amorphous-than-usual grunting, but when you look for it you realize that touchscreens are a huge step back on precision. They'll probably have a place in our lives for a long time but they are hardly the final answer to all problems, and trying to remove the touchscreen and read vague gestures directly has even bigger precision problems.

kirillzubovsky 8 days ago 1 reply      
Love the effort put into the presentation of this blog post.

Although I personally love all the shiny finger gestures, must agree that this "vision" is only a sexy marketing trick and contains very little actual innovation, and probably even less actual innovation that Microsoft will actually build in the near future, or the long future.

As per the abundance of motors skills that we have, it would indeed be lovely to have those utilized in the future, along with voice and vision, all combined in some complexly simple and elegant way of interacting. Baby steps at a time?

dirtyaura 8 days ago 2 replies      
Great post.

Has there been any interaction research done on using something like a stress ball as an interaction device for digital environment? In my imagination a ball would have standard accelerometers and gyroscopes, but in addition fine-grained sensing capabilities to sense different kind of grips. It could also provide tactile feedback.

Dysiode 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'm actually surprised no one has mentioned Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge yet. He actually presents a vision of a very natural, expressive near future UI.

While he doesn't go into technical details about everything, he does describe interacting with "Ubiquity" through small gestures throughout the body, whether small shrugs or interacting with hands. Further, he touches on the issues surrounding flat interfaces and even the virtual 3D interfaces.

And that's just the UI side of the novel.

Semiapies 8 days ago 0 replies      
I've read many versions of this rant, written under many different authors' names over the last thirty or more years.

I'm waiting for the iteration of this rant - or even the actual UI some engineer's put together or some designer's rastubated - that shows that anyone involved has spent a single, solitary moment thinking about how a disabled person could use these interfaces. The next one will be the first one.

The more of the range of human ability an interface requires, the more human disability becomes a barrier to use it. What's so exciting about a future that shuts out people because they don't have the full range of action that some twit thought would be cool to make gratuitous use of?

No, contra Victor's ignorance, every human being does not in fact have hands or feet or normally-capable versions thereof.

RyLuke 8 days ago 1 reply      
The OP is rehashing the concepts around pervasive or ubiquitous computing: the notion that computing will expand out to meet us in tangible products, as opposed to being solely accessed on dedicated computing devices.

There's been much more than "a smattering" of work in this area. Lots of really smart industrial designers and engineers have been working on these ideas for quite some time. I personally based my Industrial Design degree thesis around these concepts almost 12 years ago. Hiroshi Ishii's Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab comes to mind. The Ambient Devices Orb was a well-covered, if early and underdeveloped, attempt to bring a consumer pervasive computing device to market.

These products are here today and will continue to emerge. A recent example would be the thermostat from Nest Labs, a device that beautifully marries the industrial design of Henry Dreyfuss' Honeywell round thermostat with a digital display, the tangible and intangible interfaces working seamlessly in concert.

csomar 7 days ago 0 replies      
Well, this is supposed to be a video about the future of interaction design and not the future in general. But I have two points that I want to say:

- The future technology should help the man kind be independent. It doesn't need to make you rich, but just do your own thing. I don't like that someone is driving my car or waiting me in the airport. I'll prefer that they play music or baseball.

- We don't need high tech gadget and assistance. Get out of your computer and go see the world. There are hundred of millions of people that are diabetic around the world. Go and solve that, billions and may be trillions of $$ are there.

Brief, we don't need touch screens everywhere in the future. We don't need valets, actually having them is worse for the man kind. There are huge scales problems like disease and famine and joblessness that need to be solved.

nchlswu 7 days ago 0 replies      
The long standing mantra has been 'form follows function.' This is predicated on a particular product or object having a form (that reflects its purpose) to begin with. As items become increasingly 'form-less'I've always wondered what this means for design. There are a lot more considerations that must be made.

I know it's been mentioned in the documentary 'Objectified,' but has anyone seen any other commentary?

Volpe 8 days ago 2 replies      
I think I disagree with the rant.

It's a little inconsistant as well. On the one hand, he argues that Pictures behind glass isn't where we should be heading, and instead we should come up with better visions, as an example he uses the someone who came up with the original idea for a "goddamn ipad"...

But wait, didn't he just say pictures behind glass was a bad model to work towards?

Personally I think if we could implement a fraction of the things in that vision video, the world would be a better place for it. If some of the things don't work, or the interaction feels wrong... we can always change the vision.

The Apple Knowledge Navigator doesn't resemble the iPhone at all... But it was/is a good vision to work towards.

gliese1337 8 days ago 0 replies      
I feel like I have just undergone a major epiphany. And just after the epiphany, I realized that pretty much the exact same content is hiding as one of those relatively insignificant background world-building details baked into Neal Stephenson's _Anathem_.

And in the non-fiction realm, Wii-mote and Kinect devices. We've totally got the beginnings of tactile, full-body interface technology that's just as reconfigurable and programmable as pictures under glass.

daemin 8 days ago 0 replies      
One input method that a colleague discussed with me recently was in using a webcam to determine where keyboard input should go. The computer would track your eyes and where your focus went, and then make the application you're looking at have focus. So that it wouldn't matter where your mouse was, but when you typed the application you're looking at would get the input.
jeswin 8 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is the problem with TED-talk style Interaction Design. More in line with hollywood, than grounded in reality. We all know its nice to hold stuff, but that technology just isn't ready yet.
nchuhoai 8 days ago 2 replies      
Excellent Post. More of that please.

I think some sort of HUD in glasses will be the future. Doesnt take up much space (presumably) and allows for rich gesture interaction (like whats already possible with Kinect)

togasystems 8 days ago 1 reply      
What about the rest of our capabilities using our other senses (sound, smell, taste)? Does anybody think that we will incorporate them into future interfaces more?
tuxidomasx 8 days ago 0 replies      
I agree that we need more vision to expand our capabilities.

But I would add that all of our senses are ripe for innovations in interaction. There are things we have yet to accomplish in terms of audio and sight, and even smell. Our fingers get in the way when we use a touch screen-- will there be a system powerful enough to track my eye position to the point where it can assist navigation?

jayfuerstenberg 8 days ago 0 replies      
Great article!

I'm not too worried because I think voice manipulation (Siri, others) is as natural as hand manipulation and one at which digital devices will become more adept in the coming years.

Voice control and speaking interfaces, backed up by visual ones would completely overcome the concerns raised here.

lightcatcher 8 days ago 1 reply      
I've never considered the richness of normal interaction in comparison to the "picture behind glass" model. Very eye opening read. However,

"Do you know what it's called when you lose all sense of touch? It's called paralysis, and they push you around in a wheelchair while you calculate black hole radiation."

isn't cool at all.

deepkut 8 days ago 0 replies      
"Rant" may not have been the best word choice for the article title. I got the impression that designers shouldn't be so closed minded in futuristic thinking that may or may not be that far away. And I agree with him. Nor did I realize this until reading this excellent post.

Thanks for a great read.

tcarnell 7 days ago 0 replies      
Fantastic article - thanks for writing this - it is exactly how I feel about UI and the dissapointment that generally follows anything these days that is claimed to be "innovative".
Hrundi 8 days ago 0 replies      
I always said to my peers that I find myself uneasy when touching a smartphone, and that the feeling would disappear when they come up with a texture that feels like a pretty lady's skin :)

I definitely agree with the article. Pictures under glass do feel weird.

gourneau 8 days ago 0 replies      
"There is no 'technology', there is no 'design', there is only a vision of how mankind should be, and the relentless resolve to make it so. This is the way that I teach."

I have committed this to memory Brad, it is my mantra.

spyder 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure how he can tell from the video that there is no tactile feedback.
chadlundgren 8 days ago 1 reply      
This post would make a lot stronger case if it didn't use an eye-bleeding, small gray font.
Diaspora Co-Founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy Passes Away At 21 techcrunch.com
744 points by brackin  3 days ago   226 comments top 47
edw519 3 days ago  replies      
Horrible. This news is so tragic I really can't focus on anything else now. Which is probably the way it should be.

Our community stresses the importance of achievement, success, and technology so much that it's easy to forget what's really most important: each other. Sometimes it takes terrible news like this to jerk us back to that reality.

I never knew Ilya, but if any of his friends of family visits this forum, please know that many thoughts and prayers are with you.

I have no idea what was behind this, so just a few (possibly related) thoughts:

- Let's never forget that everything we do is for other people. They outrank all the ones and zeros. Go hug someone important to you.

- If you ever believe the possibility of something like happening is > .00001, do something, anything. If you don't know what to do, contact me (see my profile) and I'll help in any way I can. Nothing can be more important.

- This was the ultimate failure. I'm so sorry to hear this and hope that Ilya's family and friends somehow find peace.

DevX101 3 days ago  replies      
The founders of Diaspora were in a really unenviable position. They started off with a wave of national press as well as solid financial support from grassroot users. As time went on, it became increasingly clear that they would not be able to accomplish the goal they originally set out to do. They had failed. Publicly. This can be very devastating psychologically to someone who has always 'succeeded' in life.

I'm not saying this was the case for Ilya, or had any part in his death, but I know for me it would have been hard to swallow. There are many silent founders out there that gave up everything for an unrealized dream in the path to startup success and it has a real toll on psyches.

Best wishes to his family & friends.

EDIT: This appears to be a very controversial comment. The vote count seems to be oscillating up and down very rapidly. I don't want to make this out to be a discussion about Diaspora, so I won't comment further on that point. But the mental health of founders is a real issue and rarely discussed. Maybe there should be a more open discussion about this issue.

ig1 3 days ago 6 replies      
The death of the founder of any well-known startup merits mention here. The startup community is a close knit global one, we don't just meet each other at professional networking events, we share our lives with each other.

Perhaps unlike any other profession we have a closeness that binds us, we socialize, we date, we make lifelong friends from within the startup community.

Even if we don't know the startup founder directly we know of their work, their successes and their failures, their contribution to the story of the startup world.

Speculation suggests that it may have been self-inflicted, even if it's not true, it's worth stepping back and appreciating the fact that startup founders often find themselves under immense pressure and often keep it quiet.

When's the last time you asked someone how their startup was doing to get a reply "not so good", founders are expected to be eternal optimists and this expectation can make it harder for those struggling or suffering to ask for help from their friends (who are often from the startup world themselves).

Maybe we need a Startups Anonymous to give founders a place where they can drop their public persona and be honest about the worries that are keeping them up at night.

clarkevans 3 days ago 0 replies      
On a flight from San Francisco to New York I had the good fortune to run into this gentleman. He was kind, thoughtful, and had a very deep sense of commitment to those who had donated funds and had put their hopes into Diaspora. His picture is one I expected to see again, just not like this.
oomkiller 3 days ago 2 replies      
There are rumors that his death was self-inflicted, which is quite sad. Every time we see a young smart kid die like this, it should remind us to remember others as we go through our lives. Too often we ignore other peoples feelings, and then something like this happens. Take a moment to talk to the people you love to make sure something like this doesn't happen to them.

(If it turns out this is inaccurate, please excuse the speculation, but I still think this is important.)

goo 3 days ago 1 reply      
Fuck everything about this piece of news. I knew him. I can't believe I'm finding this out by logging into HN. Fuck.
jtchang 3 days ago 0 replies      
I just met Ilya a few weeks ago at Noisebridge.

As a community we rarely talk about the darker side of a startup. We make it seem like ancient Roman warriors on the quest to glory. In reality it can be a dark, depressing road. Depression is real and can hit harder than anything you've ever experienced.

How many people talk about how depression? How at times things will seem so hopeless that you won't have anywhere to turn? It is certainly not the most popular topic.

yeison 3 days ago 2 replies      
Ilya was an incredible person. His heart was truly driven by bringing about positive change in this world. Diaspora was only the beginning.

He was genuinely one of the kindest people I've ever met. Along with that, one of the most driven and intelligent peers I've ever encountered. Any time I ever had a chance to converse with him, it was always a very pleasant experience. He was someone I felt I had truly connected with. I only wish I could tell him that now.

Take care buddy. Thank you for enlightening me.

Legion 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Zhitomirskiy committed suicide, a source close to the company confirmed to CNNMoney."


tibbon 3 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. I never met Ilya in person, but I spoke with him several times via a private mailing list of people doing social network research. This is incredibly unfortunate. In my limited interactions with him he was always incredibly intelligent and willing to help out others.
d3x 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is really sad. My condolences to his friends and family.
newobj 3 days ago 2 replies      
Holding out hope here... but this whole ball started rolling with one tweet like 14 hours ago. I haven't seen a single source confirm anything yet. Any chance the net is getting punk'd right now?
zmanji 3 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone passing at such a young age is simply a massive tragedy.
ggwicz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why don't we wait for official comment before speculating on the cause of his death. The last thing his family/friends/coworkers need is false rumors. Not saying they're necessarily false or correct, I just think we should wait out of courtesy. I know I'd hope people do that if I died...
Geekette 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is too sad. Only 21 for goodness sake; his life was just beginning. Even without having known him, this feels painful and I cannot imagine what his family and friends are going through. I'm reminded of a Yoruba (West African language) saying to "kill someone alive", i.e. effect of something so painful on a person such that although technically alive, for all intents and purposes, he/she is dead. How does one possibly (if ever) recover from losing a child/sibling/friend in this way?

My condolences to all who knew him.

adrianwaj 3 days ago 3 replies      
Vitamin D levels affect state of mind, and if you're coding through the night and sleeping through the day, you're probably low on Vit D levels - or rather, you could be a lot higher if you wanted to.
ksharp 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm reminded of Gene Kan, but I am unsure if the circumstances are similar:


The similarities are that there was considerable press coverage of Diaspora and that they seemed, at least to me, destined to fail mostly just because it was a hard thing to do given their structure. It is a true shame that this individual took the failure personally as it wasn't at all his fault, again it was primarily structural in my opinion. Gene Kan I understand was somewhat susceptible for other reasons to depression.

Newky 3 days ago 0 replies      
Things like this often give me pause for thought. Often this community, and indeed myself, drive myself to attain better results, and generally push towards a wealthy career, so often we can forget what is truly important.

I'm a religious person, so often this translates to worrying about how I'm prepared should I also meet an early grave, but its important that in times like this that we also see the importance of others in our lives, our family, relationships etc.

Easy to forget that the thing we work so hard for can be wiped away in a split second.

My deepest sympathies to all involved.

samgranger 2 days ago 0 replies      
I find it very saddening that so many people here are speculating that Ilya committed suicide. It's disrespectful to speculate, especially in such a case. Get a life.
MediaSquirrel 3 days ago 1 reply      
How did he die?
chefsurfing 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am touched by the loss of Ilya.

Kipling's "IF" seems an appropriate addition to the discussion thread tonight.

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Thank you Ilya.

resnamen 3 days ago 0 replies      
Much too young. The poor guy.
robertk 3 days ago 0 replies      
"We shall have to work faster."


Even if it was suicide, this too we will overcome.

Tycho 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is now the top story on the front page of Yahoo UK, with a large picture of Ilya. I'm not sure what to make of that.

I suppose one thing we can learn here is to be more sensitive about other peoples' work. Sometimes tech-related articles/comments/rants take a very harsh tone, and even though it might be valid criticism, it's easy to forget that some developer might have poured his/her heart and soul into what you're dismissing (or even ridiculing).

parfe 3 days ago  replies      
What purpose do stories like this serve? People consider asking for details to be rude. Other than tabloid style storytelling drama, why else should strangers care?

This man died young, but so did the local 19 year old young woman killed just after midnight by a driver just after she rescued an injured dog from the road.

You can already see someone saying the cause of death does not matter, but why does this death announcement matter?

edit: Poster removed his admonishment regarding questions about the cause of death.

People close to this person obviously will suffer due to their loss, but his death announcement gets posted here in some sort of limbo where no one (or very few) knew him. But we must respond with condolences to people we don't know about a person we only know though his involvement in a web application.

edit2: Twitter messages directed at the deceased indicate suicide.

starpilot 3 days ago 0 replies      
Considering loneliness is often associated with depression and suicide, it's interesting that his project was pure social networking.
evanprodromou 2 days ago 0 replies      
So sorry to hear that Ilya's gone. I only had a chance to meet him a few times, but I found him intelligent, thoughtful and friendly.

I don't know the circumstances of his death, but I do hope that his family and colleagues get to see what an impact it's had on the hacker community.

I look forward to hearing ways that they'd like us to honour his passing; until then I'm going to do it the way I know best -- keep hacking.

click170 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very sad news indeed.

I hope the passing of a co-founder doesn't result in the passing of the project as well.

alecco 3 days ago 0 replies      
If rumors are true, my finger is pointing to the get-rich-easy self-promotion advocates like [you know who]. There are many kids in the coming generation who took their nonsense too seriously, sometimes like a cult. Just to make a few bucks selling books. No harm done, right?
k-mcgrady 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very sad to hear. My sincere condolences.
mekarpeles 3 days ago 0 replies      
We'll miss you, Ilya. Thanks for your guidance and friendship.
tripzilch 2 days ago 0 replies      
In case the other thread won't bubble to the front page (though I expect it will):

CNN confirmed it was suicide: http://money.cnn.com/2011/11/14/technology/diaspora_cofounde...

hsparikh 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very sad news. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
tomelders 2 days ago 0 replies      
22 years. That's no time at all, not on this planet.
TomGullen 3 days ago 0 replies      
Poor man. I've been through some of what he must have experienced to come to his conclusion and it's very unpleasant. I hope his family and friends are all OK.
josscrowcroft 3 days ago 0 replies      
RIP. So young :/ not that it makes much of a difference now, but I hope it was peaceful.
_THE_PLAGUE 2 days ago 0 replies      
Baruch dayan H'emet. This is very tragic. Nothing else to say. Rest in peace.
Praveens 2 days ago 0 replies      
Extremely sad over the untimely death at a very young age. May his soul RIP. Prayers and condolences to all his near and dear ones.
spencerfry 3 days ago 0 replies      
Rest in peace.
rooshdi 3 days ago 0 replies      
Rest in peace.
ggwicz 3 days ago 0 replies      
So sad. Rest in peace.
xtoxikx 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is extremely shocking! He was much too young! :(
alle 3 days ago 0 replies      
so sad :(
jaequery 3 days ago 1 reply      
this somehow reminds me of the movie "Antitrust" ...
jhuni 3 days ago 0 replies      
Who let people start dying this fall!!?!
vaksel 3 days ago 2 replies      
what a senseless death
Nessuss 3 days ago 3 replies      
I hope he had a cryonics contract.


In reading the above, some people might think it insensitive to 'peddle' this here, and I almost censored myself because of that.

But that's not helpful at all.

People are dying unnecessarily because they don't understand physics, cognitive neuroscience, and the possibilities the future allows.

May he live again conditional on him being cryo-preserved. Otherwise, it is sad news that yet another human has been annihilated.

Mozilla urges its users to raise their voice against SOPA mozilla.org
617 points by Indyan  17 hours ago   37 comments top 13
kpozin 15 hours ago 3 replies      
If only Google or Facebook would use their homepage status to get the word out to the majority of the population. A blacked-out Google Doodle or a notification at the top of the Facebook newsfeed would go a very long way.
Indyan 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Mozilla is rotating this call to action on its browser homepage (about:home), which is heavily trafficked.
subpixel 13 hours ago 0 replies      
To explain this to friends & family, tell them to watch this video: http://vimeo.com/31100268 - or just the part from 1:08-2:31
zerostar07 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Coincidentally, "Sopa" in Greek means "Silence!" [or "shut up!"]
law 13 hours ago 1 reply      
For all those who are interested, http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/hear_11162011.html is the link to the hearing's webcast, which began at 10 a.m. EST.
VladRussian 9 hours ago 1 reply      
the more government oppression applied to the Internet - the sooner a government oppressure resistant alternative would emerge. The current Internet is a great thing, yet it is fundamentally flawed by being that vulnerable to any whimse of concentrated political and economical interest.

While it can't be presicely described how the future free Internet would look, it is possble to imagine some modern implementation of something like the old Fido network with a set of satellites and cables/floats in the international space and waters and the next generation WiFi that will have on the scale of couple orders of magnitude greater range.

rcthompson 8 hours ago 1 reply      
If someone asks you what SOPA stands for, you can tell them it's the "Stop Online Privacy Act".

It's only a Hamming distance of 3 from the real name.

scubaguy 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I can't wait for someone to post a link to the Pirate Bay in the comments, thereby providing legal justification for taking down sites that criticize SOPA.
sabret00the 15 hours ago 2 replies      
I wish they would've done the same thing for the Digital Economy Bill in the UK.
mrchess 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Is it too late to do any sort of petition since the hearing is today?
silentific 11 hours ago 0 replies      

"The service is not available. Please try again later."


NanoWar 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Are there online petitions in the US?
yuioooo 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Adobe ceases development on mobile browser Flash, refocuses efforts on HTML5 zdnet.com
591 points by latch  7 days ago   154 comments top 33
cowpewter 7 days ago  replies      
This makes me a little sad. For all that people complain about Flash, and any problems the Flash Player runtime has, it's really a fun environment to code for. I like AS3, I like the Flash API, and I greatly enjoyed writing Flex back when that was most of my job.

I don't have nearly as much fun writing HTML/JS as I did writing AS3. I liked the (optional) strict typing. I liked writing for a single target and knowing it would just work. I liked having the power to say, "Render this thing in just this spot," and having it do what I wanted rather than spending hours fiddling CSS.

So as much as the decline of Flash is generally heralded as a good thing (and I agree that Adobe really never managed to fulfill their promises/goals with Flash on mobile devices), I'm still going to miss it when it's gone.

Edit: Just want to note that I'm speaking from the perspective of writing large, complex webapps in AS3/Flex, not just websites. Use the right tool for the job, etc etc.

thought_alarm 7 days ago 4 replies      
Did Adobe ever put a serious effort into mobile Flash development? It seems they were more interested in blaming Apple for the lack of mobile Flash than actually doing the work required to make Flash a remotely viable option for mobile devices.

I wonder, what was the catalyst that caused Adobe to admit what everyone else already knew? Perhaps they saw the 5 year anniversary of the iPhone on horizon and figured enough BS is enough.

barrkel 7 days ago 5 replies      
One of the nicer things about Flash is that it's easy to block en masse, which cuts out on so many visually distracting animated things.

One of my worries with HTML5 is that we won't have a good heuristic for preventing animation and video.

As it is, YouTube occasionally serves me up their HTML5 video player, and it's a significantly worse experience than the Flash one, for the simple reason that it autoplays, whereas FlashBlock will stop Flash autoplay. I can't tell you how many times I've been listening to a video, wondering why it sounds so awful, and then figuring out there's another video autoplaying in a background tab.

So we (or at least I) will need some way of killing / freezing HTML5 canvas, video etc. elements until the user assents to their animation.

kinofcain 7 days ago 1 reply      
This is the end of flash. Mobile is the future of computing and if Adobe is giving up on flash for the mobile web, then they're giving up on flash for the entire web. The statement that they're shifting focus to air apps is to save face. The only reason people want to build AIR apps is because they already know flash from working with it on the web.

And you know what? That's awesome. What the interactive web needs, flash, canvas or HTML5, is creative tools that people like adobe used to be really good at producing.

joelthelion 7 days ago 0 replies      
I never thought I'd say this, but thanks, Apple.
shaggyfrog 7 days ago 1 reply      
Flash has been dead tech walking on mobile ever since Apple passed on it after years of vapourware promises and getting nowhere fast with performance issues -- ones that still persist today on the devices that actually have a Flash player.

Jobs especially was roundly criticized for his public stance on this, but in the end, he was proved right: Adobe never could get Flash working properly on a low-powered device.

protomyth 7 days ago 0 replies      
Given how bad Flash is on Linux and OS X, it was no real surprise that they couldn't get it right on mobile. The two platforms on the desktop that they put few resources into became the basis for the biggest mobile marketshare.

Adobe spent so much effort on punditry on their blogs about how everyone else was wrong and reviewers and Apple were so unfair. This is going to be a bigger PR problem then it should of been.

Samuel_Michon 7 days ago 2 replies      
If true, I believe it would be healthy for the mobile web.

There are still developers out there who believe that Adobe will come up with a decent mobile Flash experience, even though it has failed to deliver on those promises for the better part of a decade. If Adobe just comes out says "Not gonna happen", we can all move on and invest our time and energy in technologies that actually have a future.

melling 7 days ago 1 reply      
This is going to do a lot of harm to Flash on the web. Now we know for sure that any Flash web pages will never work on mobile devices. Mobile apps are great but I still think the majority of people will use their devices as web browsing devices.

Finally, it really destroys your trust in Adobe. Will they discontinue their mobile AIR tools if they have a few more bad quarters?

nirvana 7 days ago 1 reply      
It's very nice to see Adobe embracing open standards. I look forward to the day when I can completely give up Flash (for Hulu) and Silverlight (for Netflix) completely.[1] They are the source of almost all the issues and browser crashes I've experienced.

I never would have guessed it in the 1990s, but in this day and age, native applications and open web standards are the way to go. Java held such promise for time, as did flash, etc.

I wonder if their declines are due to their essentially proprietary nature, or due to poor technical choices made by their stewards. (though the latter could be called an example of the former.)

[1] In fact, since Hulu is doing so much better than netflix these days I think we'll be giving up netflix completely before too long. I would have thought the ads would be an issue, but Hulu has streaming down solid, and Netflix for whatever reason is more flakey.

bphogan 7 days ago 0 replies      
I seriously wonder what this means for Flash on the desktop.

The responsive design movement keeps throwing these Morgan Stanley and other reports out there that predict that by 2015, people will be using mobile devices more than desktop devices. What incentive does Adobe have to continue develppig Flash for the browser?

Their statement eludes to nearly ubiquitous support for HTML5 on mobile devices. When IE10 comes out, will that level out the desktop market?

I always hear Flash developers saying that Flash does so many things better than HTML5. But if nobody's able to view the content because nobody wants to develop a Flash player for the target platforms, what does it matter?

I'm not saying I think Flash on the desktop is dead, but I could certainly see Adobe moving that direction. They're turning Flash into a platform like Titanium or PhoneGap, where it generates mobile apps, mobile web apps, or desktop apps. They're already doing that now. If that works, and I suspect it will work quite nicely, then I'd see even less incentive for them to support building "applets".

j45 7 days ago 0 replies      
Flash in some ways delivered what Java promised to. Truly one code base on multiple devices. Supporting many devices and OS' is what Flash conquered. I kind of chuckled at the iOS statements about Flash, but it seems to run OK on every mobile device I ever got to try it on.

Potato, Potatoe.

If browsers are the new Universal Interface to conquer and standardize, there's a new problem. We now have variety in implementation of standards, making those standards tough to use.

Where Flash was when it was 2-3 years old isn't much different than where HTML5 is for those of us who have been around long enough... except there's a lot more browsers out there than there were Operating systems.

Flash could control how efficient it was, or wasn't.. but who will make sure all the browsers process HTML5 efficiently?

Are we really aware of how much we're going to get ahead, and how soon?

How much time will I spend recreating what Flash, or something else could do for me already today, so I'm not just trading some great HTML5 features for spending my time coding stuff Flash has?

I don't use a ton of Flash or HTML5 right now and don't foresee it. When it's the best tool, I use it. Where it's not a complete tool, I'll think twice.

This is one area though, where Adobe's expertise might be second to none -- making it work identically everywhere as best as possible with gracefully degrading libraries.

I hope their recent acquisitions serve as fuel for solving a problem really needing solving.. by them or someone.

Should be interesting to see what happens when we get what we wished for, the devil we don't know vs the devil we kind of did.. :)

michaelpinto 7 days ago 2 replies      
The idea of Adobe focusing on using Flash to create native apps is a great idea -- and I'll think they'll do well with it. There's an army of folks who know ActionScript who don't want to learn Objective-C, and there are tons of apps which are created for ad agnecies where development speed matters.
dylangs1030 7 days ago 3 replies      
Disappointing as it may be, it's realistic. I could never see mobile devices being capable of loading and running flash based games or web environments consistently or seamlessly. It just requires too much power the device doesn't have. Even the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 dual core technology aren't up to the task, and I believe that's the closest mobile ever came to supporting flash.

But even mini laptops can just barely handle flash websites with glitzy introductions and interface. A phone can't handle that, it's outdated and inefficient for smaller modules of power.

cormullion 7 days ago 0 replies      
Also, 750 jobs lost. Isnt that a lot? That is sadder than the loss of a plug-in. Adobe seem to lay people off quite frequently, or is it my selective recall?
Macsenour 7 days ago 1 reply      
As a game producer, my understanding and limited experience is that HTML5 for games isn't robust enough to handle Flash-like gaming. In particular I'm thinking of sound issues.

Am I correct?

Tichy 7 days ago 0 replies      
The problem is, right now it is easy to circumvent a lot of annoying ads by blocking Flash. If everything goes JavaScript, not so easy.
yason 7 days ago 0 replies      
Finally they came to their senses. They had good authoring tools but not-so-great flash runtime. Retain the former but use highly competitive HTML5 browsers as a standards based runtime instead.
walropodes 7 days ago 1 reply      
Flash in mobile web browsers always felt awkward and sluggish to me. I'm glad that they'll be focusing their mobile efforts towards polishing AIR
mishkovski 7 days ago 1 reply      
I guess next step towards HTML5 is moving off from mobile native development(iOS, Android, Windows Phone).
bigbango 7 days ago 0 replies      
Good riddance!
Riverbed 7 days ago 2 replies      
I really hope Adobe can make the transition to a standards-based world fast enough for them to remain a significant player. It is so hard for a mega-company to wean itself from the fat margins of a proprietary world they created.
st3fan 7 days ago 3 replies      
What does that mean for RIM and the PlayBook?
mbq 7 days ago 0 replies      
Flash was how it was, but it was quite one -- HTML has never managed to be consistent and predictable technology, and I doubt HTML5 could change anything...
teyc 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think it is not because the Flash runtime lost, but because WebKit has achieved ubiquity. Think about it, the reason we needed these runtimes in the first place is because web browsers have their own quirks.

However, with WP7 languishing with less than 2 digit market share, what's left in the smartphone markets are essentially webkit-based browsers on Safari and Android.

headhuntermdk 7 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe devs will start to realize it is less/not about them and all about their target audience/user
artursapek 7 days ago 0 replies      
I had honestly forgotten about Flash.
faizanaziz 7 days ago 0 replies      
Some loved it, some hated it. Others didn't play with it :
drawkbox 7 days ago 0 replies      
The hardware just wasn't there to do software rendering and won't be yet for a couple to few years on mobile, by then it may be too late. Hardware acceleration is needed on devices.
magicalhobo 7 days ago 1 reply      
Why does an entry titled "Adobe ceases development on mobile browser Flash" link to an article that starts "Our future work with Flash on mobile..."?
37prime 7 days ago 0 replies      
My colleague will be meeting one of Adobe Senior VP's in a few weeks. For sure I'll send him a few questions to ask. A lot about HTML5.
dogfu 7 days ago 0 replies      
Apple wins! Jobs always wanted developers in a "exclusivity" arrangement. Adobe busted out and supported Windows as Apple floundered. Jobs always wanted to set an example to those who leave the village. Looks like Apple's refusal to allow flash on mobile will teach all the villagers a lesson. Who is number one? Apple is!
marcamillion 7 days ago 0 replies      
It sure is a shame that they never did this before Steve died.

Would have been a nice going away present.


Watch Me Make Mistakes paulgraham.com
584 points by llambda  7 days ago   116 comments top 62
ShabbyDoo 7 days ago 1 reply      
Thank you for making your process public. In almost any endeavor where one compares his own process only to the observable outcome of another's process, he can believe erroneously that his (possibly superior) results are the fruit of inefficient labor and near incompetence. While I must edit repeatedly to produce reasonable prose, PG can just dash off a brilliant essay. Few know how may takes were required for a screen actor to nail a particularly difficult scene -- we just see the near-perfect result. Obviously, the same phenomenon occurs in software development. Look at how brilliantly Kevin Bourrillion (et. al., of course) designed the Guava API! [One of my favorite APIs from a design perspective] How many discussions over beverages with Josh Bloch were actually required, and to how many internal iterations at Google were we never privy?

It is only by adjusting our perceptions of the processes by which others produce quality work that we can feel good about our own abilities.

PaulJoslin 7 days ago 1 reply      
At first, I enjoyed watching this, it allowed me to see a glimpse of pg writing one of these famous essays.

However, after the initial 'wow' factor, I realized a slight flaw in this idea of learning by solely watching others (in replay). You see, without any context of changes or explanations for the mistakes that have been made and corrected, I as a viewer may as well just wait for the final product - as the learning is limited.

If this was with programming (a potential target use) for example, I may be none the wiser why the person writing the code suddenly deleted a chunk of code and replaced it with something else, unless of course some annotation / narration was provided to accompany the replay.

Don't take this as a negative point, the idea is great, but I think it could be far more useful with this added feature.

DavidChouinard 7 days ago 1 reply      
For those looking for it, the final essay: http://www.paulgraham.com/13sentences.html
euccastro 7 days ago 0 replies      
FWIW[+], two-and-a-half suggestions for playback mode:

- mark the current edit point more prominently,

- automatically scroll to where the edits are taking place (obvious if you test this on a small screen),

- if you implement the former suggestion, signal big jumps prominently in a way that helps viewers keep track of where they are in the overall document.

[+] I know this is an early proof-of-concept for playback mode, and my suggestions are probably obvious, but it can't hurt.

forensic 7 days ago 0 replies      
This gave me a completely new look at pg. It really lets you get inside his head.

What I learned: pg is an extremely literal and logical person by nature but in hindsight will tone down his own literalism in favor of a simple, goal-directed, aesthetic.

brudgers 7 days ago 2 replies      
<Minor Argh!> I went to bookmark Stypi, and it had commandeered CTRL-D...On the one hand, I get it. But it's still a webpage in MY browser.
chalst 7 days ago 1 reply      
That's a pretty clean writing style: In the first 80% of the edit, pg's re-editing is mostly to find better ways of saying what he just wrote, but -at least compared to mine- pretty light in terms of correcting mechanical issues of text formation: most of his mechanical corrections are deleting the typo-ridden last word and rewriting it.

I note also that pg's rephrasing most often consists of deleting the end of the paragraph back to where he was last happy with it and rewriting (we can call this the clean-slate approach), rather than editing the section to transform just those parts of text that should change (the conservative approach I use). I think the conservative approach is faster, but it introduces more errors. I guess the overall cleanliness of pg's writing style is related to this. I wonder if I should try to change to a more clean-slate writing technique.

mm_alex 7 days ago 0 replies      
it would be interesting to use a colour gradient (say from yellow to red) to indicate how long something survived, before it got deleted. so you could see immediately the different kinds of mistake - transitory ones, or stuff that took you a while to realise.
Lukeas14 7 days ago 1 reply      
Even though it would be extremely frustrating to read everything in this format I feel like I got twice as much value from it. With every sentence I watched him make the same point in 2-3 different ways. So if I didn't quite understand some concept he was trying to convey the first try, by the final edit I had formed a complete picture. Reading comprehension win!
plinkplonk 6 days ago 0 replies      
The "final version" was published in February 2009.


phzbOx 7 days ago 1 reply      
Nice features. In what does it make it a "company" rather than a cool side-project? (Don't take it the harsh way, I'm really interested in the answer :)
georgieporgie 7 days ago 1 reply      
Ooh, watching that caused me too much fremdschämen. Neat concept, though.
ajessup 7 days ago 3 replies      
I'd love to see the pitch Stypi gave to get accepted into YC. It looks like a great product - but I'd be interested to know what market of users Stypi will be making happy that aren't already serviced by Google Docs, etherpad, Apache Wave etc.
memset 7 days ago 0 replies      
Interestingly (refreshingly?) pg's succinctness doesn't come naturally. Early iterations of sentences are riddled with filler words - "that", "immediately", "very" - which are culled. So the trick is to go back and specifically look for words which can be deleted.

It looks like pg tends to refine sentences before moving to the next one. Consider the "I'm not claiming that you only need..." line near the beginning, which went through a ton of revision before being nixed. And at the end of the essay, everything was revised again. This contrasts with how I sometimes wrote essays in school: grid out lots of paragraphs, meet my word length requirement, and then go back and revise. Kinda like a waterfall method.

This would be a neat feature for, say, HN comments. April Fool's day or something. It'd be fun to see the history of a given comment. Or the thought process behind it. It might even yield interesting metrics: maybe a heavily-edited comment would indicate a higher quality than one which was dashed off, regardless of length.

justlearning 7 days ago 1 reply      

The last time you did this was using etherpad. It was interesting to see
your write up( http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=557191). It was a learning experience for an amateur like me. I haven't spoken to you, but It felt like I did just that -whilst you were writing.

So, would there be a way to save this write up? Etherpad is dead and so is the link you shared earlier.
Is there an archive to dig into to see that version again for comparison?

raquo 7 days ago 1 reply      
Don't you dare to take away Cmd+L from me, Stypi. This one is sacred.
r4vik 7 days ago 1 reply      
monetization idea -> sell as a background service on say HR application forms (or any text area on a form) so that they can watch back exactly how somebody filled in their application.
metachris 7 days ago 1 reply      
Stypi looks like a neat tool! Visiting the website it instantly presents a collaborative document with a link such as http://www.stypi.com/7e4op8ww

Don't know if I'll ever need the playback feature, and the name feels a bit awkward. Will be interesting to see where they want to take this as a startup.

macmac 7 days ago 1 reply      
What does the [xfs] placeholder stand for?
mattiask 7 days ago 2 replies      
For anyone who writes (and these days who doesn't?) I highly recommend the classic "Elements of Style" by William Strunk. If you only read one book about writing this should be it.


Btw, I think it's more efficent to first write a "braindump" and then start editing, rather than reiterating a sentence a time. You'll remove and rework a lot of what you write but it's easier to get in the flow and just "get things done" before you start rewriting it.

aneth 7 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for showing us that clarity and brilliance isn't always as easy as the final product makes it appear.
abecedarius 7 days ago 0 replies      
Much of this playback reminded me of watching my metrical-verse generator run: a backtracking search editing just the end of the text (or the paragraph anyway), getting stuck for a while on a difficult rhyme before backtracking further, etc. Neat. (Of course this human wasn't limited to that one style of composition.)
AlexeyMK 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'd love to have this 'during playback, show me things that survived the editing process' feature to be able to better reflect on my own writing. The feature may convince me to switch from to Stypi from Google Docs.
wgx 7 days ago 1 reply      
The Stypi link crashes my Safari, iOS 5 on iPhone 4.
llambda 7 days ago 1 reply      
It's really fascinating to see the thought process unfold like this. I wonder how much variance there is between writers? No doubt everyone has slightly different style and method, but this gives clear way to visualize it.
antimora 7 days ago 2 replies      
Wow it crashes safari on my iPad. Does it happen to anyone else?
mark_l_watson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just great - reading these comments got me to go install etherpad again, I noticed etherpad-lite, paused to install it as a private service on one of my servers, now looking at the client JQuery API for embedding in other web apps. Yes, reading HN can be a time sink!
dave1619 7 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, watching this allowed me to get 3x more value than just reading the article because it allowed me to see PG's thought process more clearly. But it was also 5x more difficult and painful to read than just a regular article.
alexpogosyan 7 days ago 0 replies      
Now I want to see how pg wrote arc, from start to what it is today, all in stypi, of course.

Actually I think this is a better way to learn other people's code. Is there any plugin for emacs that can record your editing?

alabut 7 days ago 0 replies      
What was interesting to me was not the subtraction of mistakes but the addition of tone. You wouldn't mistake PG's writing style for John Gruber's, for example.

PG's essays have always struck me as similar to Ernest Hemingway's, who had a terse minimalist style of writing that dispensed with flowery adjectives. So it was heartening to see that PG's initial writing style was more conversational and seemed like something I might read on a typical blog post, before getting tighter and more formal by the final version.

ssebro 7 days ago 0 replies      
It would be awesome if the system gave a rating (read:score) based on how many revisions someone puts into a document, so people have an idea of how hard they worked on it.
saurabh 7 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome. Just awesome.

I think writers would find it as an indispensable tool to find out where they make mistakes. It can function as a kind of a feedback loop which helps you refine your skill.

rdl 7 days ago 0 replies      
I remember the days of using "talk" (ntalk, usually) on local unix systems for character by character online chat, vs. linemode IM like current IM systems and IRC.

Watching someone think character by character is far more illustrative.

miniatureape 7 days ago 1 reply      
Imagine if you could see the process of someone writing a HN comment, or see stats such as how long they took to write it or how many edits they made. I made a simple little visualization a while back when I was interested in this: http://justindonato.com/static/demos/sprezzatura/

(If its not ok to post self links, let me know and I'll delete)

stralep 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is extremely cool.

Only one thing I would suggest really - width of linked Stypi page should have some reasonable maximum width, something close to 80 chars. Otherwise, it is really hard to see where all changes are made when browser is maximized.

jvehent 7 days ago 0 replies      
"Writing is very easy. All you do is sit in front of a type-writer keyboard until little drops of blood appear on your forehead"

Walter W "Red" Smith

Alex3917 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is neat, although reading it in pg's voice in real time is kind of weird. Especially since the sentence structure and tropes are so distinctive.
dylangs1030 7 days ago 0 replies      
The potential academic implementations (like in a classroom setting) are promising. Groups of students can collaborate on any projects they want, or even with the teacher present. Commercial implementations could be launched by Stypi to accompany popular academic suites like Blackboard for online assignments.
scorpion032 1 day ago 0 replies      
Crashes on Safari on my iPad with iOS5
pnathan 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is really cool. No Common Lisp love though in the syntax highlighting! /sadface

edit: amusingly, I had to go edit the comment. I find that very reflective of the original article.

goblin89 7 days ago 1 reply      
> I asked the founders to make something special for me: a version of playback that shows text that will ultimately be deleted in yellow.

Now a killer feature would be highlighting text that will be deleted immediately, not just in retrospect. =)

I guess, some super-smart NLP algorithm could be developed to make that possible"once enough data on what gets eventually deleted is collected.

malbs 7 days ago 2 replies      
"it's better to make a few people really happy than make a lot of people kind of happy"

that's a gem.

mrich 7 days ago 0 replies      
Watching this gives me much more confidence in my writing abilities. I thought I was the only one who proofreads and changes things again and again until they are perfect :)
jacobquick 7 days ago 0 replies      
That's awesome to watch. If you start with an outline of statements you want to make, you spend less time picking through little clauses around the things you want to say. You have half an outline there to start with: your list of things to tell startups. There are other things it's clear you want to say: the quote from Paul Buchheit, mentioning this came from a conversation with a reporter, etc.

If you nested the list of things as one bit of the outline and then had the key phrase items of the intro as another, just don't worry about adjectives or adverbs or punctuation or flow or anything for the first pass, you may find you get faster overall, especially for longer pieces.

pw 7 days ago 0 replies      
Is this feature available for anyone besides pg?
CamperBob 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is wonderful -- it should be left running on a large (but cheap) monitor in every small company's breakroom.
kinnth 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think it just shows you that everything you ever do is built piece by piece and that never be afraid of changing or swapping any of the pieces. Your only goal is to put the pieces together better.
TheCowboy 7 days ago 0 replies      
I like that that the font actually adjusts appropriately when using zoom-in/zoom-out, but it would be nice if the width of the playback div would also narrow to stay within the browser's width zooming in.

I would also appreciate if you used a heavier font weight, or permitted changing the font easily. It's a bit thin-looking and not easily taken in, at least for my eyes.

This could also have applications in tutoring and teaching writing.

scottdw2 6 days ago 0 replies      
I like the last sentence... It has a very lispy feel to it.

    > And there are awkward or unnecessary words and sentences, most of which I catch in successive passes near the end. It's interesting how often the last sentence of a paragraph can simply be deleted.

chollida1 7 days ago 1 reply      
After watching this, the thing that surprises me the most is the lack of spelling mistakes.

I guess growing up with computers and not being able to spell are not synonymous.

clu3 6 days ago 0 replies      
I tried to register an account and when I saw the registration box with no openId/oauth login, I stopped and left. They should seriously support login with at least google, twitter, and facebook
jQueryIsAwesome 7 days ago 0 replies      
Make an option to add sound (select an mp3 or microphone) and you have the most amazing learning tool for programing; it would be like a videotutorial where you can directly copy the code!

edit: redaction

dkkarthik 7 days ago 0 replies      
It might be interesting to have different levels of abstraction, especially for code. Many times, I'm more interested in looking at how the overall design/interfaces of a module change rather than the code inside a method. I might think of analogies to text in terms of organizing thoughts as sections.
raheemm 7 days ago 0 replies      
Writing is work, most often a lot of work.
Keyframe 7 days ago 0 replies      
Stick-slip. Interesting how similar writing process is to video editing.
jguimont 7 days ago 0 replies      
Would be nice to see where the cursor is. I completely lost track of some edits as
1. the cursor was not shown
2. it did not scroll correctly
3. speed... i am pretty sure you do not type this fast:)
grandalf 7 days ago 0 replies      
Fascinating. I'd love to see it generate a "brain signature" to identify people with similar writing/creation/deletion styles.
8cmj7A 7 days ago 0 replies      
"....It's interesting how often the last sentence of a paragraph can simply be deleted."

well done

twfarland 6 days ago 0 replies      
Fascinating. Makes me think of the original meaning of the word 'essay' - 'to attempt.'
thewisedude 7 days ago 0 replies      
I am trying to think of applications of such a product? Can anybody help me here?
satoimo 7 days ago 1 reply      
Crashes MobileSafari (iOS5, iPad2) every time.
Tell congress to stop SOPA with a physical letter sendwrite.com
561 points by colevscode  1 day ago   92 comments top 43
wallawe 1 day ago 7 replies      
Although I applaud the efforts here, as a former staffer and intern for a congressman, I hate to be the bearer of bad news...

The truth is my job as an intern, as was the job of all other interns that I met while in DC, was to take constituent calls and also open constituent mail. However, no information was ever actually relayed to the congressmen. We had a formatted response to each and every issue that the House could possibly vote on. Everything from internet poker, to any issue you could imagine. We would print out (and alter if necessary) the response to tailor it to the individual that called, emailed, or wrote a physical letter. The congressman's signature was stamped at the bottom of the letter and sent back to the constituent, giving the allusion of due diligence on the congressman's part.

I was extremely surprised and disappointed at the same time at how commonplace this was. Pretty much every intern I asked about it went through the same drill. It's just another thing about our government and "representative democracy" that really irked me. So whenever I see ads urging people to call or write their congressman, I think back to this and realize further how powerless we really are.

The best way to exert influence over your congressman is to donate lots of money and become a memorable name that can get in contact with the actual representative him/herself. Hell, that's how I got the internship. This is one of the reasons I sympathize with the OWS movement.

danielsoneg 1 day ago 2 replies      
I was briefly skeptical, but on reflection, I like this for three reasons:

First, email just doesn't work for contacting Congress. They get entirely too much, and it's entirely too easy to get lost in the pile. It's the preferred means of communication for most of us on HN, but it's just not effective outside our industry. Phone is better, but there's nothing quite like flooding someone's office with paper to convey the will of the electorate.

Second, SendWrite is one of the companies that would be hurt by the bill - being able to generate volume like this shows the reach and effectiveness of their lobbying efforts. Sacks of cash are the backup currency of Congress - Votes are still the coin of the realm.

Finally, you guys are putting your cash on the line for this - that's a powerful statement, and I applaud you for doing so.

epi0Bauqu 1 day ago 2 replies      
I'd love to send people to this site, but I worry people who have never heard of the bill won't know what is going on. Can you embed the explanation video or point to or something?

Edit: I see you just did. Thx! I just linked to it on DuckDuckGo as well as donated and sent my letter. Thanks again.

possibilistic 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I know this doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of happening, but I wager if Google, Facebook, etc. were to shut down their websites for an entire day--or even part of a day--that congress would get the picture. Give the entire Internet a blank page stating simply and concisely what is at stake. Just imagine the deluge of calls.
ubasu 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is great action on the part of SendWrite.

One suggestion: since you ask for the sender's home address anyway, why not use that to scrape the contactcongress website to automatically fill in their representatives?

dylangs1030 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a great idea. I'm sending in mail through this. Not everyone has the luxury of literally stopping by in person, but this is a fantastic alternative.

I love this, though I've held back on commenting on SOPA until now. One of the frequent comments on SOPA I see is that the original founders behind the internet believed it should be free and unregulated. While I agree, once you introduce capitalism to the internet, as most companies have, you cannot let it be entirely unregulated. What is happening in the internet now is the same process that occurred directly after the industrial revolution - first there were completely unregulated, grievous abuses in the industry. The entertainment industry is attempting to regulate the flow of information and "capital" in the same way the government had to go "trust buster" on the industrial sectors in the last two centuries.

However, while this is all good and well, as the side video explains, they already have protocols for doing this. They don't need any more methods of stopping piracy and the like. They should shift their attention to different ways of raising capital and earning revenue. The system they have isn't working, but erring on the side of regulation instead of erring on the side of libertarianism is still erring. There needs to be a comfortable balance, and SOPA does not make such a balance - it tips the scales in favor of the entertainment industry, and that is the last sector of the United States the internet should be supervised and moderated by.

steauengeglase 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Just a bit of advice from back when I was sending letters over the DMCA.

If your congressman is supporting the bill, don't bother. My Senator at the time was Fritz Hollings; came from a poor district, so he was dependent on a lot of outside contributions. I recall Disney being one of his largest contributors. I received a response 3 months after it passed that more or less told me I was a enemy of commerce. I won't lie, I was a little shocked to get back such a pointed letter when I was as courteous and respectful as possible.

I learned my lesson from that one. You can send a letter to anyone and generally it is a great idea, but if they get a dime from your position's opposition, it is just pissing in the wind. It's just business.

billpatrianakos 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm impressed. SendWrite is doing good while promoting themselves and it makes an awesome first impression. I never thought of using them before. I never even visited the site, just heard of them and generally got the idea of what they do. I think I may use them now! I'm actually looking for an excuse!
padobson 18 hours ago 0 replies      

From my letter:

H.R.3261, the 'Stop Online Piracy Act', is going to be the Volstead Act of the 21st Century. Like Prohibition, creating draconian laws like these to stop online piracy is going to do two things: 1) destroy respectable businesses that thrive on user-generated content and 2) drastically increase the number of pirates online by expanding its definition, and in doing so, massively expand online piracy. SOPA will literally create a generation of internet bootleggers.

riordan 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here's the problem: after the 2001 anthrax scare, all mail sent to Congress has become incredibly delayed (on the order of weeks) while it gets tested and radiated. What some lobbying campaigns have done to get around this is send mass faxes to congressional offices overnight. It's like having access to someone else's office printer and that person has 1/538th of control over the federal government.

The takeaway is, unless these letters are hand delivered, I doubt theyll reach their intended recipients in time.

pizza_lover 16 hours ago 0 replies      
hi all,
as a chinese, let me explain what's the situation in China. maybe you already know we have a similar censorship system called GFW(the Great FireWall of China).

when the government don't want we to see the truth of something, or something may be a threat to them,they will ban it incruely, sometimes they even do it in the name of "for the children" or "for the harmony society" or give their version of totally-bullshit “truth”.

besides the baning of website, they also have some people take salaries from government and speak for the government in every forum when scandals of government officials burn out.and when scandals burns out government also send orders to every website, every press to stop talk and publishing on the scandals, the reason they give is "for the harmony of society" or "don't be mislead by the media in US and Euro" :D

what's more almost every big website/application in china has employees either hired by government or hired by website/software-company to censor the users' activities, including QQ(biggest IM in china, just like MSN), Youku & Tudou(biggest two video site, like youtube), renren(biggest SNS in china, like facebook), baidu(biggest search engine in china, like google).if you said something bad to the government, your words must be deleted, what was worse, there used to be 2 men chatting using QQ, and the owner of QQ--Tencent Compang--give their chats record to the police ACTIVELY, and the result is the 2 men was sent to prison.

so if you allow your congress to pass SOPA, you know what would happen to you all.

chrischen 1 day ago 3 replies      
Really nice of you to have made this free. I would have paid! I wouldn't have sent this if not for sendwrite, just because the cost for me to type, print, stamp, and mail an envelope is too high.
mschwar99 1 day ago 0 replies      
Its really great of you guys to offer this service on your own dime - thank you. Its also very shrewd marketing, and I hope it pays off for you.
sev 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great idea! I hope everyone uses this service as soon as possible.
daguar 1 day ago 1 reply      
Does any advocacy group (EFF, etc) have info on who the key swing/undecided/"marginal" votes are?

Knowing that we could try and focus dissemination of this to people in those districts.

curiousepic 1 day ago 0 replies      
alexholehouse 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is great. What's the cashflow situation here - how many donations will you/do you need (I'm aware this is obviously demand dependent, but I'm just intrigued about the general situation)
dschobel 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nice work guys. Thank you for doing this.
bpowah 1 day ago 1 reply      
I absolutely love the idea. I cant remember where I read it or heard it, but physical letters do get much more attention. Nothing against SendWrite, but I think even more attention can be gained via distinctive-looking enveloped letters that need to be cut open and unfolded. A stack of similar-looking postcards will have an impact in terms of volume, but will likely be sorted into a bin and never read. If you have the time and have extra company logo-ed envelopes, please consider sending one by hand as well.
prawn 1 day ago 0 replies      
Have always wondered if an online service for political mailings like this couldn't introduce some randomness to the opening, key statements and closing (Sincerely, Regards, etc) and varying the layout and style so they don't look too much like they were cranked out with the push of a button.
jneal 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks for this. I wrote my letter and probably wouldn't have done so without the help of this website. This is one of the first times that a bill has come up that I feel so strongly against. If this thing becomes law, we'll all refer to the internet "before" and "after" this moment. I certainly hope it never comes to be.
kschults 1 day ago 1 reply      
Thanks for a great tool.

A suggestion: I'd like to be able to send a letter to all of my representatives and senators at once, instead of having to fill out the form multiple times.

gourneau 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks guys! I donated a small amount, hopefully it will pay for my letters.
mceachen 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I just submitted my letters to my representatives (and donated, thanks Cole!)

To hit up your reps with different communication channels, http://www.contactingthecongress.org has voice, fax, and web forms.

lukejduncan 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Is this a one off website or based on some framework? This seems like a very powerfully general purpose advocacy tool.
gus_massa 1 day ago 0 replies      
The names in the DropDownList Control are invisible in IE8: http://imgur.com/7UIbT
101000101 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you are really serious about taking a stand on this bill, then the most impact will achieved by going to the source of it, not Congress... unless you have more to offer Congress' incumbents and the nation's economy than the industry source does.

They are a very important constituent.

If a large number of consumers stopped purchasing a certain entertainment company's products for one day, would it have a noticeable impact on their revenues? How about a week? A month?

The industry claims it's losing business to pirates. While it's probably true to some extent, it is speculative and nearly impossible to measure accurately. How many of the consumers of pirated content were never consumers of paid content to begin with?

The products this industry sells are not life necessities.

In summary, a branded entertainment "hunger strike" by actual existing, paid customers. This would cause real loss.
And, if it's a noticeable loss, it would send a very strong message.

Good luck.

lflux 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Looks great, but I can't set an international return address without a state. I'm a registered voter in the US, but haven't been a resident for a long time.

Guess I'll just email my rep.

alecbenzer 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Don't know who is your local representative?

I believe that should read "Don't know who your local representative is?", no?

yoshyosh 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Perhaps someone can change the facebook link at the top to a share or a recommend link. Those show up in feeds whereas likes only show up on your wall.
jjacobson 1 day ago 0 replies      
Donated, tweeted, emailed, sent the letter, etc. Cole is a baller.
MBlume 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks for this =)
shmeeps 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Filled out one for each of my representatives and senators, and also made a small donation. I may not be able to do much, but I'll be damned if I don't do anything.
coreyrecvlohe 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great idea, just sent letters to both of my Senators.
traldan 1 day ago 0 replies      
Not that I don't want to support you guys for doing something awesome like this, but I wish the "Like" button showed appropriate meta-content on my facebook wall, instead of just a generic description of SendWrite. Also, donated. :)
jeremyarussell 1 day ago 0 replies      
I sent mine off a bit ago, thanks a ton for doing this. Here's to making a difference.
yeison 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is awesome, but the bill will be on the House floor tomorrow.
sehugg 1 day ago 0 replies      
There's also Apple's new Cards app. I'm going through my cat pictures now.
switz 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Very great for sendwrite to do this. Not only will it protect their business, but it's a great marketing tool.
dev1n 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thank you for making this a free letter.
flexterra 1 day ago 0 replies      
nomdeplume 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is this when they slip in another bill that does something even worse? While we are inundated with the news of this bill?
sscheper 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just completed/sent a letter via your link and donated afterwords (and I rarely donate). Nice work.
Spark github.com
551 points by lrvick  1 day ago   93 comments top 26
DanielN 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is pretty cool. Unfortunately it's coupled with some of the more obnoxious documentation I have seen recently. While the docs aren't very long, I had to read through a third of it to figure out simply what Spark is.

I'm all for being cute, but it shouldn't come at the cost of a basic understanding of what the program actually does and is useful for.

Mgccl 1 day ago 7 replies      
Just did a Haskell version of spark.
It supports in 9 lines of code (exclude comment + empty line)
Double instead of just Int.
Negative numbers.


jmah 1 day ago 1 reply      
Ah, as inspired by Edward ttyfte.
premchai21 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm curious: is there a reason U+2584 LOWER HALF BLOCK is missing from the character set, which otherwise contains the progression from U+2581 to U+2587?

Edit: U+2588 seems like an obvious candidate as well.

raphman 1 day ago 1 reply      
Nice: found a sparkline generator at http://sandbox.kidstrythisathome.com/louis/ :


scottyallen 1 day ago 4 replies      
Hmm, I get the following:

  [scotty@Scotty-Allens-MacBook-Air ~/bin]$ spark 1,2,3,4,5

I suspect this has something to do with my terminal settings, but I'm not sure quite what...

Nifty idea, regardless.

etanol 1 day ago 2 replies      
The script is not a proper POSIX bourne shell script, as it uses arrays.

For starters, it won't work in dash (Debian and Ubuntu /bin/sh implementation). So the shebang line should be changed to #!/bin/bash (not sure if it would work in Zsh either).

spektom 1 day ago 2 replies      
This reminds me of another useful utility from the childhood:

alias updick='/usr/bin/uptime | perl -ne "/(\d+) d/;print 8,q(=)x\$1,\"D\n\""'

bch 1 day ago 1 reply      
I've quickly looked at the link, read the reviews here, and there's actually no description of what spark _is_. I gather is an UTF-8 graph generator.
kablamo 1 day ago 1 reply      
Cool. I also like that he set up a wiki where people can contribute interesting spark one liners:


adaml_623 1 day ago 1 reply      
Sparklines are cool. This is just a bar graph and not nearly as useful.
zx2c4 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I rewrote it in C, so it's faster and can work more efficiently on different data sets. It also uses a prettier algorithm for determining heights. Have fun:


    $ git clone http://git.zx2c4.com/spark
$ cd spark
$ make
$ ./spark 1 4 2 8 14
$ curl -s http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/catalogs/eqs1day-M1.txt | cut -d, -f9 | ./spark

yycom 1 day ago 0 replies      
a bit more efficient, and without the comma requirement


mfukar 1 day ago 4 replies      
What would be really interesting is finding out which decent programming fonts can show block elements. I mean, beyond the DejaVu Sans Mono fiasco.
jvoorhis 1 day ago 0 replies      
I hooked this up to my homebrew cohort-analysis script and saw a gratifying terminal hockeystick :D
yycom 1 day ago 1 reply      
craigkerstiens 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here's a port of it to Python already live:


philjackson 1 day ago 2 replies      
I would rather it took a number, one per line from stdin. Great idea though.
jcfrei 1 day ago 0 replies      
had basically the same idea a while back - but would have used standard ascii characters and written it in c... still cool though!
jongraehl 1 day ago 1 reply      
cool, but:

$ spark 3,4,9


ieure 1 day ago 1 reply      
Because I want my shell prompt to be a giant graph.


Ship it.

hasantayyar 1 day ago 0 replies      
this should be utf-8 supported.
thechut 1 day ago 0 replies      
Holman never fails to impress
skeletonjelly 1 day ago 0 replies      
Blogs on swearing are so last week. This week is Holman week.

Just an observation.

sktrdie 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is sort of useless. Giving visual meaning to a bunch of numbers means nothing. It's just a bunch of numbers.
Cracking Siri applidium.com
514 points by nolanbrown23  2 days ago   101 comments top 21
Xuzz 2 days ago 0 replies      
Using an almost amazingly simple procedure a few weeks ago, I worked a bit with @tmm1 on figuring most of this out. We actually got custom commands working via both proxy and on-device interposing based methods: http://mobile.twitter.com/tmm1/status/131520489049960449
pflats 2 days ago 0 replies      
A little googling shows some interesting info about the ACE request/header. From skimming, it looks like a header compression method for VOIP on cell/lossy connections.

Slide deck: http://www-rn.informatik.uni-bremen.de/ietf/rohc/ace-033100-...

Whitepaper: http://w3.ualg.pt/~bamine/B3.pdf

leoh 2 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like guzzoni.apple.com is named after Didier Guzzoni (http://www.ai.sri.com/~guzzoni/), an employee at SRI.

He's also listed on an interesting Apple patent that was only filed a few weeks ago, "INTELLIGENT AUTOMATED ASSISTANT"(http://www.wipo.int/patentscope/search/en/WO2011088053).

Some very interesting implementation details there.

LeafStorm 2 days ago 3 replies      
I'm kinda wondering why Apple bothered using HTTP for something that really doesn't use anything recognizable as proper HTTP. Was it just for HTTPS?
jentulman 2 days ago 3 replies      
The question that springs to my mind is not 'how can I play with this?' but 'Are Apple bringing Siri to the desktop?', seeing as it appears there's nothing specific to the 4S hardware in how this works.

I'd quite like to be able to add calendar entries or tweet without moving to another application.

tamersalama 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder how Apple is taking all of this? Is Applidium risking their developer license?
cjoh 2 days ago 2 replies      
It'd be interesting to see whether or not Apple changed the Siri protocol since the acquisition. Was this originally how Siri worked when it was independent?

Because Siri has roots in government contracting (it's named after SRI International, and was originally funded by DARPA) I wonder if the roots of the obfuscation start there rather than at Apple.

MatthewPhillips 2 days ago 0 replies      
Cannot upvote this enough. Stuff like this is the reason I read HN.
achompas 1 day ago 1 reply      
I would LOVE to backward-engineer Siri's speech-analysis algorithms. Confidence scores help, but it doesn't look like any other modeling data is available?
spraveen80 2 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't see anything in this article that mentions that the natural language understanding is done in the cloud. May be I am missing something, but I don't understand why everyone is jumping to the conclusion that the NLU is also done in the cloud and downvoting other's comments that said so.

From what I've seen, Siri sends compressed audio to the cloud which translates that to text. What happens to the text and how does that translate to action? Where is this being handled? Is there any proof that this is done in the cloud?

pdenya 2 days ago 1 reply      
Really interesting. I'm curious what their tools look like but the github repository the article links to is currently empty.
signa11 2 days ago 0 replies      
can the server-side be a watson like computer cluster ? just curious...
mirkules 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a possibility to craft a Siri server reply with malicious code? Shouldn't be too hard for the applidium guys to attempt (maybe even use a fuzzer?)
jasonkolb 1 day ago 0 replies      
I love reading investigative coding stories. Always fun to take a peek into secret--especially high-profile--code.


jakubw 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if there are any characteristics about the microphone in Apple devices that the servers could check the audio against to prevent this sort of a thing. There should be a way to somewhat distinguish the device used to record a stream given Apple's control over the devices on which Siri runs and overcoming that would be hard enough for anyone to bother.
victoknight 2 days ago 3 replies      
<spolier> guess who doesn't verify the root CA.
Think of all the fun to be had with a Siri man-in-the-middle
mbq 2 days ago 1 reply      
Anyway, this is a proof that siri is a pure cloud service and as such may work even on 5-yo Sagem...
aritraghosh007 1 day ago 0 replies      
The remote server is located at apple-compu.car1.charlotte1.level3.net.
baconhigh 2 days ago 1 reply      
down for me :(
hc5 2 days ago 3 replies      
> The iPhone 4S sends identifiers everywhere.

So if I'm reading this right, Apple is sending UDIDs over HTTP?

Volpe 2 days ago 5 replies      
No one is at all concerned that this is a hack?

I know it's interesting stuff, but I'm curious what "rights" Applidium have in publishing this information.

With this information, (if I'm not wrong) it wouldn't take long to simply DDoS Siri...

Or port Siri to Android (effectively stealing IP).

(I have no bias either way, just pointing out, if someone figured out how to reverse engineer dropbox, so you could use their space, without a dropbox account, would we all be going "wow, this is so cool!" or would we be crying out "this is such an irresponsible hack!")

Tim O'Reilly: I am really starting to hate Mac OS X. google.com
481 points by antidaily  4 days ago   443 comments top 66
js2 4 days ago  replies      
Re: "maximize" button that is being complained about in this thread. It's not a maximize button, it's a zoom button, and while I don't like its behavior, it's always been this way in OS X. From the current HIG:

Your application determines the initial size and position of a window, which is called the standard state. If the user changes a window's size or location by at least 7 points, the new size and location is the called the user state. The user can toggle between the standard state and the user state by clicking the zoom button in the title bar. Follow the guidelines in this section so that users can have the zoom experience they expect.

Choose a standard state that is best suited for the tasks your app enables. A document window, for example, should show as much as possible of the document's content. Don't assume that the standard state should be as large as the current display permits; instead, determine a size that makes it convenient for users to use your app. If appropriate, you can allow users to take some app windows full screen if they want more space.

Adjust the standard state when appropriate. The user can't change the standard state that defines a window's initial position and size, but your app can do so, based on other settings. For example, a word processor might define a standard that accommodates the display of a document whose width is specified in the Page Setup dialog.

Respond appropriately when the user zooms. When the user zooms a window that is in the user state, your app should make sure that size defined by the standard state is appropriate in the current context. Specifically, move the window as little as possible to make it the standard size, while at the same time keeping the entire window on the screen. The zoom button should not cause the window to fill the entire screen unless that was the last state the user set.

If the user zooms a window in a multidisplay system, the standard state should be on the display that contains the largest portion of the window, not necessarily on the display that contains the menu bar. This means that if the user moves a window between displays, the window's position in the standard state could be on different displays at different times. The standard state for any window must always be fully contained on a single display.

Don't allow a zoomed window to overlap the Dock. You always want to make sure that users have full use of both your windows and the Dock. For more information about the Dock, see “The Dock.”


megamark16 4 days ago  replies      
I came from a windows background, tinkered with Linux for a few years on and off, and when I started my current job I was given a Macbook Pro. After a few months of using it I as so frustrated, and found myself spending more and more time in my Ubuntu virtual machine, that when they were ordering new MBPs for the design team I offered to give mine up to a designer and buy a ThinkPad, thus saving the company over $1,000. I've been running Ubuntu (and recently Linux Mint) full time for both work and personal use for a year and a half.

In OSX you can only resize a window in the bottom right corner, in Ubuntu I can resize from any corner, or I can hold Alt and middle click anywhere near a corner of a window to start resizing it. No more hunting for the resize sweetspot.

When I click the Maximize button on OSX, it doesn't actually maximize the window 99% of the time, it just picks a seemingly random size. I saw an app a while ago that would let you control how your OSX apps are resized when you maximize them, but if I have to buy an app just to make my OS do what it should do anyway, there's something wrong.

I need 10 different apps on a Mac just to do what I can do out of the box in Ubuntu. Nautilus can access Windows network shares, SSH/SFTP/FTP access, and can mount NTFS, HFS, and pretty much any other filesystem type there is.

On a new linux machine I can apt-get most anything, but if I do need to compile something I just apt-get build-essentials and I'm ready to go, on OSX you have to download a DVD just to be able to compile stuff from source.

I just want to see hidden files in Finder, why is that so hard? Why do I have to google it and use a 3+ key combination to enable showing hidden files? I'm all for keyboard shortcuts, I'm a keyboard man, but until I learn and memorize them, you should put them in the menu where I can find them with a little hunting.

And that reminds me, why can't I type a path in Finder? I prefer an address bar, where I can type a path to a directory I want to view, but noooo, I have to click around, and if it's a really deep folder I'm trying to get to I'm screwed.

I like Home and End keys. Where are they?

In the default Terminal app, there are no shortcuts (at least none that I could figure out) for moving around the text I'm typing quickly, like going forward and back a whole word, or going Home or End, you have to hold down the left or right arrows for a while.

Maybe for some people this locked down, dumbed down environment works for them. Maybe some people love learning the myriad of keyboard shortcuts needed to get stuff done on a Mac, but I prefer Ubuntu, I can get stuff done a lot faster and without wanting to kill myself.

tptacek 4 days ago 3 replies      
I prefer Lion to Snow Leopard.

I find myself appreciating the more controversial changes, like reversed scrolling and hidden scrollers. I followed Gruber's advice and suppressed the impulse to switch the defaults back to Snowpard behaviors and find that I'm less happy when I have to use Snowpard now.


* Mail.app under Lion is the best mail UX they've ever shipped. It's not a small improvement over Snowpard; it has a more reasonable layout now that makes Smart Folders make more sense, and search seems to have been completely rebuilt and actually works now.

* I find myself liking Mission Control enough not to mind not having vertical virtual desktop arrangements.

* Preview can sign documents now!

* The Filevault fix is huge for me (Filevault is now a bona fide block level FDE), since it means I don't have to use PGP WDE, which was a debacle.

My sense of it is, there is zero opportunity for someone to compete with Apple and Microsoft on conventional desktop operating systems, and the problems O'Reilly has with OS X are not generally going to be shared by people like my dad, who are (a) the only people Apple really cares about because (b) they're where all the money is.

hackoder 4 days ago  replies      
For those criticizing- He has given one example of what he thinks is wrong. Not all posts are meant to be essays...

Briefly though, (as another user who switched from Mac OS X), I can certainly give examples of what he says:

Not all of these are specific to OS X, its the overall hardware and software that is getting frustrating.

More user-hostile

- If you replace your SuperDrive with another drive, you CAN NOT boot any operating system (other than Apple's) off usb drives or even external DVD drives plugged into usb slots. So with two hard drives, you can not install Windows or Linux. [1]

- Batteries are not considered user-swappable anymore. [2]

More buggy

- Battery life degradation when moving from SL to Lion. Apple forums are full of examples. [3] (78 page thread, no confirmation or fix from Apple).

- We all know how annoying the switch to Mission Control was, right?

[1] http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1125135

[2] http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1756

[3] https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3194235?start=0&tst...

[Edit: formatting]

Lewisham 4 days ago 2 replies      
Having had a "I really am starting to dislike Mac OS X, but Windows 8 looks pretty good!" revelation, I started to use Windows 7. I came back after about a week and told Mac OS X I'd never leave it again. I reinstalled Windows 7 about 2 or 3 times, lots of weird, inexplicable errors, one of which required a Microsoft FixIt program to run as there were some "corrupt registry keys". Gosh, it was not good.

That said, I agree that Mac OS X is not getting better. It needs to change. Everything since about 10.3 to today has been fairly incremental, and OS X is showing its age (ever wonder why Apple never changed to OS XI? It's because they're all the same...).

It's also showing that it doesn't have any real push at Cupertino to get better. No-one is driving OS X. Hardware is being driven by Johny Ive, software was arguably being pushed by Jobs, but it's clear that he was only interested in iOS for years. I'd note that iOS is going the same way as Mac OS X: stagnating in the face of competition that is doing more interesting things (amazingly, that competition is Microsoft!).

I feel like Apple is a company that rests on its laurels until the market practically forces it to change. The change that's coming for Mac OS X is that it will go away altogether. I think Steve hated it, and was waiting for the time when they could sell you iOS only. The only reason they keep Mac OS X around is for developers, and Apple aren't exactly known for making them happy.

Microsoft's dual-paradigm Windows 8 shows it's not that crazy. I think Mac OS X has an expiry date of about 5 years from now.

js2 4 days ago 1 reply      
FWIW, if he wants to back up his mail before deleting it, the supported way to do it would be to select the mailbox in Mail.app itself and select Export Mailbox…

By hiding the Library folder, Apple isn't trying to be hostile: most users never need to access anything in this folder. Users who are advanced enough to be grubbing around inside the Library should also be advanced enough to know that you can easily get to it via command-shift-g "~/Library". Obviously it also shows up in the Terminal. Apple's merely hidden it from view inside the Finder.

shadowfiend 4 days ago 2 replies      
There may be a good point hiding there, but I don't think he made it particularly well. He argues that OS X is getting worse.

His specific complaint was that he couldn't find the Library folder to delete his mail. Two things to keep in mind: first off, people who set up Mail extremely rarely will want to delete their email. So on the list of use cases to optimize for, that one lives near the bottom of the ladder. Secondly, the Library folder is, for all intents and purposes, something that should have been hidden to begin with. The kind of stuff that goes into a Library folder goes into hidden directories on other OSes anyway (think Application Settings on Windows, or .config, .gnome2, .kde on Linux). The fact that Apple only just now got around to hiding a folder that did nothing but clutter up the home directory for most users is significantly more surprising than the fact that it's hidden.

There was another complaint, which was that upon putting the relevant files in the Trash, attempting to empty it yielded file in use errors. That is indeed a problem, but he complains that he can't skip all of them, and that this is an old issue. So how this is related to OS X getting worse is unclear. It's definitely extremely annoying, but then I also don't think people find themselves deleting thousands of files of which several are in use very often. That said, one wonders what was using those files (unless he'd forgotten to quit Mail, but I doubt that).

Basically, “the latest frustration”, his leading example of something that is “worse in Lion than in Snow Leopard”, seems to not be a very good example at all. What's missing are the ”so many [other] things”. I want to hear them, because I haven't found too many, and I think it would be interesting to see what others genuinely think is worse. Some disagree with the changes in Spaces, for example, which is understandable. What else?

overgard 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm somewhat of a new mac user, so I can't speak historically, but I will say that lion was quite a downgrade. It broke things that were previously working fine (my network drivers and my dev tools), removed useful features (rosetta), and really didn't add anything new that I care about. I never use the app store; I dislike mission control; really the only thing I actually like is the better window resizing.
super_mario 4 days ago 4 replies      
I currently use OS X for all my work and for personal/home use. But I have to agree with the sentiment. I have had nothing but praise for Apple and OS X up until Lion release. But this year has been a major turning point. End of XServe, end of Apple java, talk of end of Mac Pro and the whole post PC world thing, turning OS X into fisher price phone OS. Honestly, at this point I have to re-think my future and make a platform switch. I have invested well over $30,000 into Apple so far, but going forward I will most likely end up with Linux for software development and Windows for Photoshop and video editing (personal use).

I'm really just waiting to see what post-Lion OS X looks like, and if they keep moving towards iOS/iPhone, then I really don't want anything to do with Apple. I don't need a computer/OS from a phone company.

fauigerzigerk 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm using OS X right now but I really hate all OSs at this point.

OS X is a usability nightmare for me, slowing me down even after many years of using it and trying to adapt to its ways. Lion is buggy on top of that (never ending wifi troubles).

Linux has huge driver issues and the package managers make me think like a data center sysadmin rather than the sole user of a dev workstation that I am.

And Windows is horrible as a development platform unless you stay slavishly within Microsoft's overpriced ecosystem.

But ranting about this is probably pointless. There will not be a new OS any time soon. It's just too difficult even for the largest corporations to start from scratch.

llambda 4 days ago 0 replies      
Don't really see why this is big news. First I don't agree that the progressive versions of OS X are getting worse, but this is entirely subjective (for you they might be getting worse, I can't say). Second, based on the fact that this is largely a subjective opinion, given your workflow is not my workflow, does it really matter what Tim thinks about OS X? This is nothing but a rant. A very sparse rant at that.
DanBC 4 days ago 0 replies      
These threads follow a common pattern. Someone makes a list of things they dislike about an OS. That's not interesting, so they'll include a bit of a rant. Other people will agree, and add their own annoyances.

Then a bunch of people will pop up and explain how to achieve most of the things that are complained about; or explain that they're not problems but features. (The green pseudo-maximise being my most frustrating example.)

What people seem to miss is that discoverability is lousy in OSs. HN isn't read by stupid people who are un-used to tech. So why are what should be simple features either hard to find, or not present? Why do HN readers struggle with simple aspects of modern OSs? Apple (rightly, IMO) gets a lot of praise for usability. MS spent a lot of money on usability testing. Both of them have some awful awful things going on.

My example of a hard to find feature: In windows XP when you copy many files from one directory into another directory you'll get a dialog saying "The folder already contains" etc, with 4 options, [YES][YES TO ALL][NO][CANCEL]. There was a secret option of [NO TO ALL] if you held shift and clicked no.

pkamb 4 days ago 1 reply      
I haven't upgraded to Lion, and likely never will, because they removed the single best feature of OS X, "all-windows" Expose with no stacking into app bundles.

Default Expose was terrible in Snow Leopard too (strict grid layout vs. the old natural spatial layout) but at least then there was a hack to get the old version back:

Dejital 4 days ago 2 replies      
Tim has issues with one application, but blames the entire operating system. Is this fair? Further, the trash bin problem of not having an "Ignore All" button has always been around. That does not mean the operating system is becoming worse, just that an age old frustration (albeit a very obscure one) is still around.

I have some issues with Lion, but they are grounded primarily in my complete satisfaction with Snow Leopard and lack of desire to change (if it ain't broke, don't fix it).

When Tim says "there were many things worse in Snow Leopard than in Leopard," I cannot recall a single one. In fact, the Snow Leopard release was undoubtedly a very well received one.

Tloewald 4 days ago 1 reply      
An odd rant. I will say that lion has been the buggiest version of macos x ever, but I suspect it's because they futzed with the file save APIs which touch everything. If it's still this flaky at the dot 4 release I might start whining.
phamilton 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'll continue to use the only operating system where I can both develop with unix tools and watch Netflix.
bdr 4 days ago 0 replies      
Two programs that make my life on OSX way better:

Zooom/2, which lets me move and resize windows with my positioned anywhere on the window, activated with customizable key combinations. http://coderage-software.com/zooom/index_green/index.html

SizeUp, which lets me position and resize the activate window with customizable keyboard shortcuts. One common use case is to make one window take up the left half of the screen, and another the right half, if I'm working on something that needs information from both. http://irradiatedsoftware.com/sizeup/

dasil003 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think Tim is on crack. Snow Leopard was specifically about refactoring and bug fixes"huge under the hood improvements. It's true that Lion has some annoying bugs, but so did previous versions, I wouldn't say it's buggier on the whole (I certainly see far fewer kernel panics than I used to see circa 10.3/10.4). Lion is ambitious, so there are definitely some annoying UI changes, but there are a lot of meaty changes that offer huge improvements.

Some of my favorites are: mission control is much better than exposé + spaces which I could never really put to great use. Fullscreen mode is very cool (although it sucks with multi-monitors, hopefully they'll fix that). Finally the ability to resize windows from every corner. Autosave. Remembering open windows. New gestures are great once you internalize them. What Apple is doing with sandboxing is really a revolution in PC security even if the costs are high to user and developer freedom.

I'm pretty concerned about the App Store model and the future implications, but so far Apple is still doing amazing UX work. I imagine at some point I will have to go Linux if Apple keeps tightening their grip, but that day is not yet here.

rickdale 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah, macs have some annoying properties that don't do exactly what you want. But, all that 'gloss' that O'Reilly refers to is the reason he purchased the Mac. Furthermore, OS X is still leaps and bounds better than other OS's for most users. The conveniences that most people would fail to notice is part of the beauty of the OS.
dextorious 4 days ago 1 reply      
Well, I am really starting to hate Tim O' Reilly, too.

I remember a time when O'Reilly books were the golden standard for things like Perl, Python et al. Nowadays it seems like they are producing crap, half-written books by the ton.

Oreillynet was also, one time, one of the best places to go for nice, informative articles and tutorials. Nowadays it's just an assortment of lame blog entries and book promotions.

And don't let me get started on "Safari books online", a sub par reading experience if I ever saw one.

omfg 4 days ago 0 replies      
Makes sense. They should totally start over because he can't figure out the way to delete mail. Or how to use Terminal to fix if after he messed it up.

Link bait.

pat2man 4 days ago 1 reply      
When Apple release System 7 in 1991 people everywhere started complaining about the new changes and how it was worse than System 6. For instance it required a hard drive and couldn't boot off a floppy.

Meanwhile the end users adopted it imediately and never looked back. Most of the complaints in the article are about features that we as developers love but that end users could care less about.

As a developer I love getting in to my Library folder and changing stuff around. I love backing my computer up manually and not using Time Machine. I love having complete control of my windows and applications.

But most users don't care. Most users never touch their Library folder and don't need to. Thats why its hidden. Most users don't need to back up their mail because its all on Gmail. Most users love the app store where they don't have to search all over the internet for a simple app.

Mac OS is an end user centric operating system and it always has been. Developers and hackers will have to make some tweaks to the basic OS to make it work the way they want. Honestly looking up a few keyboard shortcuts, enabling hidden folders and installing homebrew isn't that hard.

pixie_ 4 days ago 1 reply      
I use Windows as my primary UI, but also use ubuntu and OSX daily in virtual machines. I switch between visual studio, eclipse, and XCode constantly.

I still prefer the windows UI to the others. Ubuntu, especially Unity feels always like a step behind the windows UI. In the latest release the taskbar won't stick, they took away the start menu, and menus are stuck at the top of the screen like osx.

I like in windows how I can drag the window to the side or the screen and it expands to fill just the half. Of if I drag the border to the top it will auto-expand the window vertically.

In OSX the max/minimize buttons are too small. And the task bar seems more visually appealing than practical (in windows it fills the whole bottom.) Also the download/install software process, it feels weird. Download a file, have it come up in some jump list, then mount it to the desktop where's there's usually 2 icons one saying to drag the other somewhere. Package management seems more straight forward in windows vs osx/linux. I do like XCode 4 though, I think how it works with tabs is much better.

andrewcooke 4 days ago 0 replies      
i realise that people who are unhappy with osx are encouraged to move to ubuntu, while those who are happy with ubuntu seem to be moving to mint. but i just wanted to add that opensuse is still as solid as it ever was, and a new release (12) is due out in 3 more days. it supports kde and gnome (you choose on install via a single checkbox) and i have never understood why it's not more popular in the states - it seems (to me) to hit the sweet spot of minimal maintenance and maximum flexibility.
dredmorbius 4 days ago 0 replies      
For an old (but still largely relevant) laundry list of things on Mac that drive Linux fans nuts (and generally, back to Linux), there's a 2006 ORA DevCenter article by Chromatic, "Switching Back". Both the column and comments are still highly germane.


slig 4 days ago  replies      
What about a paid GNU/Linux distro that runs perfectly on recent Apple hardware? No drivers bullshit, just works?
idspispopd 4 days ago 0 replies      
I find it hard to take these sorts of rants seriously. It's a user who wants to do things their own way, but not bother learning how exactly that is done. I call this mixed-level behaviour - e.g. users who won't use the built-in functionality, but not understand or correctly use the alternative more technical methods.

Take the mail example, Mail.app already lets him export his mail box, delete his mail etc. He never needed to rifle through ~/Library to get at it. However if he's tech savvy enough to want to do it the manual way, then he should know how to fire up the terminal to access ~/Library, or more simply by holding the option key and choosing "Library" from the go menu. I don't this is breaking osx.

While I can't vouch for why he has a magnitude of locked files, given the mail example I have a fair idea of how he's gotten in that situation. While os x does give him the option to gloss past certain locked files. He's likely seeing the error because he's removed files which are "spoken for" (i.e in use), these are often located in ~/Library and it's kind of the point of why ~/Library is hidden. Again, if he wants to be tech-savvy, he should just rm the files, or rm the contents of the trash folder. (Or if it was mail.app responsible, just originally remove the mail from inside Mail.app)

OSX certainly has some way to go in addressing this kind of mixed level behaviour, but it's not going to stop you from shooting yourself in the foot.

About the other features: while I don't appreciate the iOS-ificiation of mac os, it's trivial to turn these learning-curve reducing features off, and on laptops I find they make more sense than they do when using a mouse + keyboard.

vegai 4 days ago 0 replies      
There has already been a vastly simpler system that predates OS X: Linux or BSD combined with X11 and an arbitrary window manager. Just stay away from anything that calls itself a "desktop environment" and you should be fine.

Personal recommendation: http://www.archlinux.org & http://awesome.naquadah.org/ -- a nice compromise between easy configurability and the "suckless" simplicity mentality.

uptown 4 days ago 0 replies      
For me, the only problem I've encountered since installing Lion has been that Tweetdeck is no longer usable. I experience some strange window-focus issue where while that app is running, doing something entirely unrelated like typing a URL in Chrome's address bar will cause a random application to jump to the foreground. I've tried re-installing AIR, Tweetdeck ... though not Lion. I have no idea how to solve this. It worked fine prior to the Lion install.
dylangs1030 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have to be honest, I really just don't agree. I use Mac OS X Snow Leopard (I'd upgrade to Lion, but it's not a priority right now). I can see why things like the windows not maximizing, etc. would be annoying. Here's a perspective, though:

1. That issue of windows not resizing is generally a complaint made by native Windows users who are already used to that property. I'm not saying this makes it an invalid complaint, just putting it in context.

2. Compared with Linux, Mac OS X has more support (this doesn't mean it's superior). Compared with Windows, Mac OS X (at least in my experience) is more sensitive to power users and coders, and people who know what they're doing more. Now, I've used different distributions of Linux, and ideally, I love Linux most. But it just doesn't have as much support as Mac OS X because proprietary backing breeds rapid progress (in the sense of universal or near universal support at least). Sometimes you have to fork your own solution when you're confronted with a problem in Linux. This also happens in OS X, but often times, there's more trouble shooting advice or solutions freely available and accessible. Just a perspective.

astrodust 2 days ago 0 replies      
Someone should send him a copy of bash for beginners so he can learn how to use the open command and rm -rf effectively.

When you use rm it does not put things in the trash, but removes them directly. The open command can open anything, even "hidden" things.

nchlswu 2 days ago 0 replies      
To me, Lion really cemented the fact that the end goal of Mac OS is to make an invisible OS that requires zero tinkering just like iOS. Everyone should be able to use it and no one should have to access the file system.

This transitional period poses a huge problem for Apple and looks to be the cause of most complaints I've seen. What are they going to do about the power users who were their early adopters? Is an 'admin' or 'power user' mode appropriate?

grandalf 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the issue with Lion and also with Ubuntu 11.1 is that the GUIs are experimenting with various tablet concepts which significantly alter some of the behavior. It's pretty confusing at first but I adapted to Lion after about 4 or 5 days. I still don't quite understand Unity but expect to soon.

I think most anyone who is willing to accept that the world is undergoing a transition into a world where tablets coexist with laptops, etc., will embrace this time as a period of experimentation, rapid change, and creativity.

safeer 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think Tim O'Reilly's argument is pretty silly actually. Here's my response: http://bit.ly/v6Adhu re-printed below).

I understand what Tim is saying, but I disagree that it's time to start over.

With Mac OS X, Apple definitely seems to have begun heavily focusing on feature development over refining existing UX. But the claim that successive releases of OS X become more user-hostile and encourages more lock-in is a bit of a stretch.

Apple has never developed for the power user, and they never should -- this is part of what makes their products so great; their unrelenting focus on the common case. In fact, complaining about a hidden library file for Mail.app misses this point entirely. It's actually a wonderful feature, since the common user is more likely to mess up their own mail library than to have a need to move it between disks.

+Tim O'Reilly's second point is valid, though, the UX for emptying the trash can definitely be improved. But again, is the common case deleting 400,000 files? Is the "delete whatever you can checkbox" too odd for a normal user to understand? Let's take the mom example; if your mom emptied the trash after deleting a file, would she want to know if it couldn't be emptied, or would she be OK with it being emptied without her recently deleted file actually being removed?

People can yell for a OS do-over all they want. The fact remains though: Apple focuses on UX more than any other company I know. If that UX doesn't cater to your particular needs and you'd rather have power-user flexibility and features, even if it means less polish and more annoyances when dealing with common tasks, use Linux or Windows. Or, better yet, just learn to use the Terminal and you can have the best of both worlds.

splicer 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think I'm going to go back to Snow Leopard tomorrow. I've been running Lion for many months now, and I still can't stand it. The only reason I'm sticking with OS X (rather than using Linux exclusively) is that I've purchased tons of pricey software over the years (e.g. Logic Studio and Adobe CS4). I hope 10.8 ditches most of the retarded "features" Lion introduced, and reverts back to the wicked HCI that Snow Leopard has.
botker 4 days ago 0 replies      
What a waste of time it is to complain about the way someone else configured your system. You're the one who chose to use a window manager that doesn't offer custom keybindings. If you can't live with it, then either write your own window manager or switch to a OS that doesn't impose its dogma on you.

OSX is a non-contender in my book because of its complete disregard for the standard Unix directory structure, its use of registry files, its ancient BSD utilities last updated in the '90s, and its lack of a package manager that actually integrates with the rest of the system. Of course the window manager sucks too, but that's only if you judge according to functionality. To be a Mac aficionado, you've got to judge only according to how slick the UI looks. Right?

ashishgandhi 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just to add, holding down the Option key while pressing it alters it behavior to be a maximize button in most apps. Some apps (like Chrome) use the Shift key to get this behavior instead.

I would like things to be more consistent. In fact, if I were in charge, I would want this button to be a maximize button by default, while using the Option (i.e. Alt) key should alter the behavior to the second option which is to resize to the best fit for window content.

But this may need debate since now we have fullscreen mode for apps in Lion.

saint-loup 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm quite happy with Mac OS X, but there's one thing that really annoys me: keyboard shortcuts. There's (almost) always one for what I want to do, but it's often to complicated for the frequency of the task.

For instance, checking emails in mail.app is shift+command+N. Or changing the presentation mode in iTunes or Preview is alt+command+[3-6]. Because of my Azerty keyboard, it's actually shift+alt+command+[3-6].

Isn't one modifier key enough?

bitstream 4 days ago 0 replies      
As a developer, my decade long honeymoon with OSX may be waning. On the other hand there is still nothing that comes close to OSX for my nontechnical friends. And no... they cannot use Ubuntu. (I have scientifically-worthless empirical evidence
todsul 4 days ago 0 replies      
At first I thought the same. But I'm slowly coming around. I'd still prefer Snow Leopard with Lion's full-screen and mission control, but I trust Lion will improve with age.

That said, I have my most productive dev environment now on Lion. The speed with which I can move between apps write code, compile, test, etc, is actually starting to push my laptop.

rickmb 4 days ago 0 replies      
Rants about OS X, but only bitches about the email client like a clueless 90's Windows-user. Is there any reason to take this seriously?
code_duck 4 days ago 1 reply      
I started using OSX every day last year, after 12 years of Linux mixed with 5% Windows. Verdict: it's nice, but I'm not blown away and I miss Linux for some things.
ZipCordManiac 4 days ago 1 reply      
Apple should at least give people the option to put an older operating system on a newer system. Similar to how PC vendors offer XP or W7. I tried to install my Leopard family pack on a computer that shipped with snow leopard - no dice. With the way things are, I'll never buy a new Mac, as I refuse to "upgrade" to Lion.
ljf 3 days ago 0 replies      
For any 'non-geek' friends (or just non-geek hacker news readers like me) try JoliOS from www.jolicloud.com - it's Ubunto with a friendly HTML5 skin.

Easy install of apps, auto update of the OS, really easy to use, sync across loads of computers, runs on any laptop or pc that can run XP, and is FAST.

I have it on a netbook and also as a dual boot on y pc, and I now rarely boot to Windows.

alanh 4 days ago 0 replies      
"each successive release ... buggier"

Snow Leopard was more solid than Leopard. Lion followed Snow Leopard and does admittedly have more bugs. A "streak" of one isn't a streak at all.

jsz0 4 days ago 0 replies      
People throw the word hate around a bit lightly these days. These things seem like minor annoyances.
johnny6 4 days ago 0 replies      
Apple has become a zombie!


1. They have lost their Zen design philosophy - it has come to the point of ridiculousness with the new features in Lion; features for the sake of features. Since Steve is gone, there is probably no way back.

2. They have lost their perceived moral superiority - system closedness, App Store censorship, sueing people left and right, don't seem to care one bit about chinese labour conditions; they are worse than Microsoft or IBM ever were.

3. They have lost their coolness - the cool kids dig free, independent software; they are not the "Think different." company anymore, they attract people who desperately seek to belong to the masses. They attract sheeple who buy an iPad to tell their friends that they, too, have an iPad.

Summary: The Apple of today is a heartless consumer electronics giant, just like and worse than any other out there. It still sucks the last drops of blood out of the spirit it used to have in the past.

suivix 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've used Windows most of my life, use Linux for work, but I LOVE my MacBook Air.
pnathan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty much everything I've read about Lion (and, ok, Windows 8) suggests theuy is taking a hard right towards non-techies.

Meh. Give me Linux. In a few years, I'll be 100% Linux I figure.

conradev 4 days ago 1 reply      
If you want something fixed, changed, or added, simply file a bug radar.

Apple does certain things for a reason. If you disagree with Apple's reasoning behind something specific and want to change it, then change it yourself. Most commenters complaining about OS X can count the number of grievances they have with their fingers.

miles_matthias 4 days ago 0 replies      
Deleting files and the GUI complaining that it's still in use has always been a frustrating thing. Why hasn't anyone at least taken the next step of showing what the user can do to delete the files? I've always resorted to opening Terminal and using some sudo's and some -f's.

In regards to his question about future OSes, anyone think about a browser/cloud based OS like ChromeOS or JoliCloud being able to save him? These are the future of OSes so it would seem natural to look to them to create that simpleness he's complaining about.

brindle 3 days ago 0 replies      
This isn't news, its just a random rant. I agree that as OS X adds complex features we lose flexibility in other areas. Many of these are are not frequently visited but its still annoying and unacceptable. Fortunately, if Tim knows where to find these files and really wants to delete them, an "rm -rf" from the offending directory would do the trick - I'd like to think that 99% of the people reading this forum know this. Ditching mail.app for GMail? Seriously??
ronnier 4 days ago 2 replies      
People who are feverishly pro Android and Mac OS X users are in a weird situation. They are so anti iPhone that they are starting to turn on Mac OS X.
mattyohe 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'll repost a comment I left:

Your first problem is that you started deleting stuff from a folder that Apple now deems wise to hide. With all due respect, why on earth would you start from the ~/Library folder? Why not delete these from the Mail client?

You can even "backup" from inside Mail.app. (Right click a folder > Export)
Also, if you really want the Library folder, you can just go to Finder > Go > (Hold option) Library

There are real criticisms to be aired, this is not one of them.

daniel_iversen 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't really know why people are so upset. I was a hardcore windows user and I've been a Mac user now for 11 months and I love it! I don't think I will ever go back to windows and to say that Mac is going off track and turning into windows because of something this small is just crazy.. Short of something like the iPad, OS X more than Windows is A step in the right direction of how personal computing should be, it "just works"..
adrianscott 2 days ago 0 replies      
I primarily use whatever O/S my customers, users and site members predominantly use. Not a bad rule of thumb.
nomdeplume 4 days ago 0 replies      
I first admired OSX because of its simplicity and the way it kind of just knew what I wanted to do and started me on the journey that way. Lion was a step backward. defaults were no longer what I would find convenient. Constantly asking me if I want to open windows upon logon even though I always uncheck the box so it should know by now. The reverse scrolling which makes it a pain to use any other system after getting used to reverse direction. I'm starting to like Linux Mint more and more.
Jakob 4 days ago 1 reply      
If you don't like MacOS zooming and maximizing behavior, i recommend divvy [0] it has a heavy price tag but fixes those issues completely.

[0] http://mizage.com/#macdivvy

dilap 4 days ago 0 replies      
To all of y'all complainging about zoom button behavior, I agree it is pretty terrible, but! --there's an app for that. It's called "RightZoom". Works well.
gbog 4 days ago 0 replies      
tl;dr enormous thread fight about shortcuts, most useless one I've seen here.
tobylane 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is it really called the maximise button? I was expecting the same as Windows the first week, but I learnt it wasn't (meant to be) called maximise, I stopped using it. A fill-screen button would be nice, but you just do it once manually and it remembers.

Tim says the Library folder is hidden (power users would quickly change this, and several other things), and that the trashing system (or any copying/moving) is not as good as Windows. I do like W7's copy dialog, but it's very wordy, nothing in OSX would be that wordy.

jphackworth 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just wish you could speed up the animation for switching between workspaces. Being used to Gnome some of the whizzier OS X animations just seem like a waste of time.
emehrkay 4 days ago 1 reply      
His complaint does seem minor as does mine for Windows, can you scroll non-active windows yet?
zeynalov 3 days ago 0 replies      
My iPad and iPhone won't open the page. It makes them crashed. Only from PC it can be read. Anyone with the same problem?
bretthellman 4 days ago 0 replies      
I remember when a ticket to the movies was 5 cents.
hmart 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think is THE golden opportunity for Linux on the desktop. But the best candidate - Ubuntu - also made terrible mistakes - Unity -.
How I Made $19,000 on the App Store While Learning to Code nathanbarry.com
476 points by nathanbarry  1 day ago   136 comments top 30
newobj 1 day ago  replies      
Reminds me, I should write my own story of how I made $190 on the App Store while exercising 15 years of coding experience.
Breefield 1 day ago 2 replies      
Whoa, Nathan Barry was my first boss. He was 19 and designing websites"I was 14-15 writing PHP CMSs. We worked in an incredibly hot 2nd story office above a bike shop in Boise Idaho. Good times.

Glad to see you've found success in the iOS realm, while helping improve people's lives in a real tangible way.

inuhj 1 day ago 1 reply      
Amazing. I'm so glad someone coded this. The price is a bit high for our institution(a struggling community hospital with 10 ICU beds) but hopefully I can get IT to consider it in our budget. The machine we use is a one-off and rarely works properly. I'm embarrassed to say that most of the time we avoid communicating with patients that are intubated. Coding a replacement has been on my to-do list for the last 2 months and I'm happy to strike it off.
dangero 1 day ago 1 reply      
Good job. I think one of the most important things you did is you knew who your customer was before you started your application. It seems obvious, but most apps in the app store have no target customer.
rokhayakebe 1 day ago 1 reply      
I want to see you super-succeed, and in a lot of ways you already have succeeded.

The most important part is not that you made $19,000 while teaching yourself how to code, but that you are actually making the world a better place. I would angel fund this idea (if I had the money) the minute I would read gives a voice to anyone who cannot speak. I would venture fund your product that minute I would read replaces a $7,000+ medical device that is bulky and difficult to use.

Torn 1 day ago 5 replies      
What made you decide on the $199 price point?

Additionally, do you think the $199 price point might it out of reach for a lot of people who would benefit from the app but who have tights budgets?

codesink 1 day ago 3 replies      
A good designer can score on the Appstore even if he is a novice programmer.

Unfortunately that's not true for good programmers that suck at design.

erikb 19 hours ago 1 reply      
This kind of story always reads like a financial fail. He should pay himself a normal programmers salary (something around 50k/year for a beginner might be fine, also he is not a beginner, because he knows a lot about presentation and UX design) and THEN calculate his profits. Probably this App is way in the minus.
Also you must consider that he just has around 1k customers and all of them on the same plattform. Also these customers only paid him once and not regularily. That are 4 big risks: low number of customers, no guaranty to get any dollar next month and a high dependence on one plattform and high dependence on the success of this one app.
Another risk, I nearly forgot about, is that the core feature of his app, the speach engine, is not even his own. What if Acapela decides they make their own App in this direction.

Concluding everything I think he has a low income, unprofitable, high risk business. Not the position I want to be in, when I quit my dayjob.

edit I just now see that you posted the link yourself, Nathan. Please read all "he"s as "you". ;-)

JoeAltmaier 1 day ago 2 replies      
This storey shows its not necessary to sell a million to make an app worthwhile.

How many other niche apps are out there? Anything where you carry a computer or clipboard around is eligible. Specific to a task, or a general fill-in-a-spreadsheet-and-email-it app would fit the bill.

larrys 1 day ago 2 replies      
Here's what I would do.

1) Get a copy of it in the hands of special ed departments at schools (for free). And the people who oversee the IEP's, counselors etc. You will then get referrals to sell the full priced product after people see a demo.

2) Lower the price of your product so it's a no brainer for parents.

Having the price so high is going to invite competition that will sell the same app at a lower price. While that can still happen with a lower price it is more likely at the price point you are at because people will be more motivated to compete (and anyway you will sell more at the lower price..)

3) Come up with a different name or buy onevoice.com. If the product is recommended you need people to be able to easily find your website. Not only don't you own the domain name onevoice.com but you don't come up (now) in any search results.

Edit: "search results" - as in when someone hears about it and they google it not the app store.

billpatrianakos 1 day ago 0 replies      
A lot of people will focus on the money and come away wondering if they can make a quick buck too. Hopefully people don't miss the point. You made a cool app for a really niche market that had a huge need for this inexpensive tool. And you helped some people really needed it. Kudos, man.

You learned to code for iOS, helped people in need, and made a buck off it. Awesome.

markazevedo 1 day ago 1 reply      
Money aside, it's great you've created an awesome product for a group that really could use more assistance. Thanks for building something to better the human condition, and showing others they don't need to sacrifice everything to do it!
phil 1 day ago 0 replies      
Cool. I've been noticing more of these apps (that virtualize an expensive custom device) lately.

Here's another example, an app that replaces whatever gadget piano tuners used to carry:

cantbecool 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nathan, that's a great market to develop applications in. There's a general need for your application, and you're helping society at the same time.

I recently saw a short segment on 60 minutes, "Apps for Autism", which demonstrated and explained applications in your applications field, autistic children. Here's the video URL: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7385686n&tag=cont...

code_duck 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Great story, and nice work! This happened because you decided to push ahead and make something you saw the need for clearly.

Sometime soon I might share the story of how I made $100,000 on the (... what to call it?) browser while learning to code.

martinshen 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is fantastic. I hadn't heard of many apps that target this niche specifically. What are you planning in terms of marketing?

PS. I love the UI I see in the screens... and would love to play with it. I wonder what type of animations you're using etc. Also, beautiful and simple website.

eliben 21 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a really great and inspiring story, IMO. Shows how modern technology can truly change people's lives. Sure, this kicks some speciality device companies out of the market (like I'm sure was done many times now by smartphone & tablet apps), but who cares about that?
orky56 1 day ago 3 replies      
I have a similar non-technical background (UX/design) and was curious how you were able to not get frustrated and outsource the development work rather than doing it yourself. If I was in the same position, I would get too restless and want it built right away.

Any advice on how you got through that situation? Thanks.

ajb 1 day ago 1 reply      
So, why is it better than Proloqu2go? (My relatives have already bought that for their nonverbal son, so this we are unlikely to be a sale unless you're really convincing).
zeratul 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thank you, Nathan. I'm glad to see an application for pediatric patients. Hopefully, the price will go down in a future. You could try to advertise it among neurologists:


rythie 1 day ago 2 replies      
He's actually disrupting the market for the $7000+ device, I wonder how many the $7000+ people sell, presumably he could take most/all of their sales + a load on top who couldn't afford it in the first place.

I assume at this point the $7000+ device people think they have some better features that make it worthwhile and are reluctant to do their own iPad app. (Innovators Dilemma).

kschua 1 day ago 0 replies      
Very impressive Nathan.

I like that it is not just another one of those app products that is targeted at the masses.

Instead, you found a niche, talk to customers and found a nice selling price, which from the user's perspective is a bargain.


pkamb 1 day ago 1 reply      
Very inspiring. Do you use AdWords or any other forms of advertising? What percentage of your sales are to people you contact personally?
16s 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great story. You might market some to colleges and universities that have speech pathology areas. They would love this sort of app.
gawker 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congratulations Nathan! I'm extremely encouraged to hear about your success - especially since it's an application that addresses a real need and helps create value in society. I'm really inspired that you can do good in this world and make some money at the same time. Thanks so much!
nivertech 1 day ago 1 reply      
Please give us list of companies making these overpriced $7K+ devices. Any of them public?
evoltix 1 day ago 1 reply      
Great job.

Although, I'm particularly interested in how you made the decision to quit your full-time job and create a startup based on one-time sales? Is there a service behind this startup?

postscapes1 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Does this work well for people who have suffered strokes as well?
ohhmaar 1 day ago 0 replies      
Seems very inspiring. Thanks.
yonasb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Google releases full Android 4.0.1 source code, includes Honeycomb too google.com
470 points by patrickaljord  2 days ago   113 comments top 21
pingswept 2 days ago  replies      
In the past, I've spent a fair bit of time criticizing Google for calling Android "open source", but not releasing the source. Now that it appears that they are actually doing it, let me be the first to say that this is great.

Well done, Google.

imurray 2 days ago 2 replies      
[dead] comment by cdibona:
"Please don't sync yet, it's currently in a mixed state. The 'repo for-all git push' is still running and will take some time to complete, so if you sync now you'll get some parts with Gingerbread and some parts with ICS."

(If you accidentally post something twice, be careful about deleting one. The other one may be automatically killed, but you don't see it when your posts are killed.)

decklin 2 days ago 0 replies      
There are two links to this post on the front page right now. This one, https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/android-building/T4X... , loads fine on my computer and comes up in the "new" Google visual design. It completely fails on my phone (Android 2.3), displaying "Loading..." for a while and then bumping me to the front page of Google Groups with a little message saying I am now logged in (I tried several times). The other link, https://groups.google.com/group/android-building/msg/c0e01b4... , just works, everywhere, but shows the old Groups interface.

This is a really sad state of affairs. If Google can't guarantee that their fancy new Javascript-dependent links won't work everywhere, they should not be used as permalinks.

I really don't care about any arguments people might want to make about the visual redesign, or how to properly implement #! paths, or the extra effort involved in generating resilient URLs, or Google paying special attention to how the Android browser handles pages, or what evil things my phone company might be doing my my data stream, and how that's not their fault, or whatever. Permalinks should work. Everywhere. Period.

rst 2 days ago 2 replies      
Not _quite_ full source code --- some proprietary graphics drivers are supplied in binary-only form. It won't matter much for most uses of the source code, but purists will be displeased.


cppsnob 1 day ago 1 reply      
Related: how's Apple's "open" FaceTime specification coming along? Still waiting on just the specification here. Not even code.
pasbesoin 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why is Chris DiBona's comment in this thread dead? What he said is "from the horse's mouth", i.e. Google Open Source.

Comment: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3235947

Profile: http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=cdibona

Personal site (includes mention of his job): http://www.dibona.com/

P.S. Chris, you have http://dibona.com in your HN profile, but it just redirects.

juliano_q 2 days ago 1 reply      
Google releases every source code except Honeycomb. I think the code was really ugly, released urgently to support tablets. I cant blame Google, we who works with software in big companies know how pressure and strict timelines can be a pain, but I am glad that things are back on track.
melling 2 days ago 2 replies      
Now the only thing missing is a winning strategy for desktops/laptops. :-)

Seems like Chrome OS should be folded into Android and many people would be comfortable using it at home. Same apps could run and sync on all devices.

thristian 1 day ago 2 replies      
So, the Android website is packed full of information about how to clone the Android repository and build it from scratch, but I just want to browse it online. Is there some official "gitweb" site or something that I can poke at?
shn 2 days ago 1 reply      
while I found the opportunity that many commenting and interested in this topic, let me ask a question. Can one upgrade any android phone by himself? (I do not own one), or one need to wait for the carrier and or manufacturer need to do it?
blantonl 2 days ago 3 replies      
I've heard so many complaints from developers about the delayed source release, however I've never known Google to withhold source code for Android.

Could the slight delay in release simply be due to legal issues such as scrubbing patent issues and verification that OSS code isn't infringing?

xxiao 2 days ago 0 replies      
I criticized google for holding back honeycomb, now it's finally releasing the code again. Great! Thanks Google.
bri3d 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why don't they just tag all of Honeycomb?

If the reason is that there's no combination of project commits that can create a building Honeycomb, they should just admit to it and explain why.

The current approach seems like a weird attempt to snow something over - I understand that Honeycomb was a rushed, trashy Android release, and that there's some pride involved, but supposedly all of the rushed, trashy code is in the tree now, and hence there's no going back. The first thing everyone on xda-developers is going to do is go hunting for bad Honeycomb code anyway.

cnxsoft 2 days ago 0 replies      
That source tree is huge. Over 6GB of data and it takes several hours to sync on my machine (not done yet).
tomlin 1 day ago 0 replies      
Meanwhile at Daring Fireball

crickets http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8E_zMLCRNg

DonnyV 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'v never seen so many people BITCHING about getting free code. No less an entire OS that runs on hundreds of devices. Maaahhhh you didn't release it fast enough. Stop whining!!
Srirangan 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well done Google!
zobzu 2 days ago 0 replies      
'bout time !
ErikRogneby 2 days ago 3 replies      
Only the Honeycomb GPL modules are available. The entire platform source is not available. see here: http://source.android.com/source/build-numbers.html
drivebyacct2 2 days ago 0 replies      
Flash has nothing to do with Google's reasons for not open sourcing Honeycomb.
vog 1 day ago 1 reply      
Many thanks to http://gpl-violations.org/! Without their pressure this would have taken considerably longer. (Or wouldn't have happened at all?)
InstaCSS: the CSS docs you always wish you had instacss.com
441 points by idan  2 days ago   91 comments top 34
rgarcia 2 days ago 4 replies      
Hey there, creator of instacss here. Thanks for all the feedback! I posted this as a Show HN last week, but it's nice to see that someone has re-discovered it: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3222253.

Since then I've added a few features, one of which being the ability to have permalinks so that you could use it as a google chrome search. This is why I push to the url bar as you type. I'm really open to feedback on how to do this without screwing with people's back buttons, since I agree that's pretty bad.

makmanalp 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hey, pretty cool but you should have a delay between when the user types something and when the url gets updated and a query gets made. i.e. some sort of definition of "user stopped typing". This improves usability by a ton.

Second is, maybe you should have a sidebar on the right that shows you clickable / keyboard navigatable titles of all the search results so I don't have to scroll down browsing.

tomlin 2 days ago 1 reply      
Love it. One thought - have standardized CSS listed first. I type in "background" and get "-webkit-background-composite" as a first result. I'd probably want to see just "background" come up, followed by declarations less popular. Regardless of this minor issue, I'll be using this regularly. Thanks for this!
snorkel 2 days ago 3 replies      
Nice, but a few UX nitpicks:

* Default to sort by relevence: Put the more relevant matching properties at the top. For example, I type "backg" instead the highest result being the obscure "-webkit-background-composite" ... actually most relevant result "background" which should be the first result instead of the third.

* Default results list to condensed format: Instead of showing the full verbose docs for every matching result instead show a sparse summary of each result with a option to expand it. If there's only one matching result then show the complete doc for it

* Nice example palette for standard colors. How about an example palette for the standard font families?

mike-cardwell 2 days ago 0 replies      
My immediate thought when I saw this was:

Takes regular expressions as user input. Probably DOS'able.

After looking at it for a few seconds, I realised that it's doing the regex matching on the client side, so it's ok.

If you ever accept arbitrary regular expressions as user input, be very careful: https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Regular_expression_Denial_of...

jasonkester 2 days ago 5 replies      
Nice. To avoid the annoying type-to-search feature, just search for "a" and get the whole document at once:


Edit: ugh, that doesn't actually work. It only gives you p-z. Hey instacss! Please provide us with a link to the actual document. Preferably in plain HTML so we can download it. Alternately, anybody care to scrape this thing and post it in full?

estel 2 days ago 5 replies      
The first thing I searched for (background-color) wasn't found. Uhh...
uptown 2 days ago 0 replies      
The creator should really put the search field in the persistent top-bar.
antidaily 2 days ago 1 reply      
Rad. Lose this "gimmeh teh CSS docs." to get taken seriously.
initself 2 days ago 0 replies      
This design breaks the back button pretty badly.
highace 2 days ago 2 replies      
It filled my back button up with mess :(
joeshaw 2 days ago 0 replies      
One minor bug: I notice the anchor (and results!) changing as I type and backspace, but if I backspace all the way to an empty it is stuck on the single-letter anchor. Would be nice if it cleared out entirely and took me back to the empty front page.
donbronson 2 days ago 0 replies      
This site would be even better if they included compatibility. Maybe there could be an API call to http://caniuse.com/ ?
tlb 2 days ago 1 reply      
Nice! It's great that it has detailed version support info, like:

  *Support for multiple, comma-separated, background images was added in Gecko 1.9.2.*

but I wish it showed what fraction of web users that represents. Maybe with a little green/red fuel gauge icon.

rmoriz 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think your DNS for www.instacss.com is broken:

www.instacss.com. 300 IN CNAME http://morning-warrior-3377.herokuapp.com/.

CNAME accepts only hostnames or (depends on your RFC-acceptance-level) a FQDN. No URI/URL

perlgeek 2 days ago 0 replies      
It would be nice to show something more useful on the front page before the user types anything into the search box. Like an index or a table of contents or so.
alexhaefner 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't say these are the css docks I wish I always had. see I want better presentation. I don't really want to scroll through the actual CSS docs from W3C, I want to get some quick view of what my search query returned (property, {values}, notes). After that I could click on the entry for that property and read it's docs. It's just information overload. Nice work though, but that's my suggestions.
thushan 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can't take this seriously when it beings like this: "gimmeh teh CSS docs."
jlongster 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've found MDN to be the best resource: https://developer.mozilla.org/en/CSS
maw 2 days ago 0 replies      
I searched for "layout" and found nothing. These are not docs I always wish I had.
oinksoft 2 days ago 0 replies      
In addition to the complaints about this flooding history, I expect the "background" style to appear first once I've typed "bac", and even with "background" there's some webkit thing first.
mikedougherty 2 days ago 0 replies      
Any chance of getting it to apply the filter on page load as well? It appears that it's not possible to link to a result set. i.e., if I send someone a link to http://instacss.com/#background in order for results to be shown they must perform a keypress of some sort in the search field.

edit: Apparently if you've searched something before it does display it on page load (after a brief delay)? So it seems this link might not be a good example URL. But hopefully you can just edit the URL and submit it directly to see what I'm talking about.

csomar 2 days ago 0 replies      
I typed "^color$" and it wreaked havoc on my page history. Usually, I open the story in the same window then hit the back button to see the comments. This time it took me handful clicks before I get to my previous page.
phzbOx 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hell yeah, thank you. I've been so tired of googling up "css background" and click 2-3 website and hope they'd show what I want.
balac 2 days ago 1 reply      
Really, nice resource. I would love some quick links after a search to save on scrolling.
ianmassey 2 days ago 0 replies      
some things aren't meant for automatic submission as you type. this is a good example. it's annoying.

also - the automatic URL hashing of the query breaks the back button to a ridiculous degree.

cool content, bad design.

Antelope 2 days ago 1 reply      
The link is broken for me.
ErikRogneby 2 days ago 0 replies      
searching for cursor yielded some nice content. A few proprietary things I didn't know about. Thanks!
evilpie 2 days ago 0 replies      
Some linking love to MDN and highlighting the wiki property would be nice.
tijs 2 days ago 0 replies      
It would be nice if it sorted by relevance; i.e. a search for background would give you the definition of the background property first instead of the -webkit-background-composite property which is almost certainly less relevant (worse match, less used).
lovskogen 2 days ago 0 replies      
What, no azimuth?!
baby 2 days ago 1 reply      
how is it better than google -> check the first result?
sedev 2 days ago 7 replies      
Oh look, it's another site that loads nothing with JavaScript off. What is wrong with you? Progressively enhance, or gracefully degrade, or display something other than a completely blank page to non-JavaScript visitors. I harbor many doubts re: your competence in the realm of usability.
The Social Graph is Neither blog.pinboard.in
420 points by conesus  8 days ago   60 comments top 17
feral 8 days ago 3 replies      
Lots of good, interesting ideas in that post.

A few comments:
In general, what data you capture, always depends on what you want to do with the data.
Any data model is an abstraction, which discards a lot of information. This simplification is what makes the data model useful.

Of course, storing social relations as an undirected, graph with a single type of edge, as is done in Facebook, is a gross simplification of real social structure. Everyone knows that; Facebook know that; but the fact is that you can build a lot of useful stuff, with even such a simple model. Is it perfect? No - I'm sure we will do better in future - but you've got to admit its amazingly successful, for such a simple representation.

So, we aren't going to be able to define a format for the social graph that is so rich, that it will capture all possible uses with it - but I don't see why we couldn't define a format that captures enough detail to do many a great many of the things we might want to.

Next point: graphs are amazingly flexible data structures; if you have a multigraph or hypergraph representation, or a set of graphs, you can represent an awful lot of rich information. Don't knock graphs too much. You could build an awful lot of cool communication functionality, if you had really any rich social graph representation, not necessarily the 'perfect' one.

The author also writes: "In other domains, a big graph would be good for recommendations, but friendship is not transitive. There's just no way to tell if you'll get along with someone in my social circle, no matter how many friends we have in common." Of course, friendship isn't strictly transitive; otherwise the giant connected component of a social graph, would be one big clique; but friendship is highly transitive. That's why recommendation works so well in Facebook. If A is friends with B, and A is friends with C, then there is a vastly higher chance that B is friends with C, than with some other random person. Sociologists have called this 'triadic closure' and studied it for years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triadic_closure

So, while the recommendations won't be perfect, as things like friendship aren't perfectly transitive, they'll potentially be very good. But what recommendation engine is perfect, anyway?

Finally, the author refers to the problem of finding an adequate model as 'AI-hard' - well, as I've said, any model - even the most perfect one (unless we go and make a copy of the entire state of the world) - is going to sacrifice something. So I see why coming up with a perfect model is impossible. But as to coming up with a model that is adequate for a great many of the possible things we might want to build; well, I'd say 'AI-hard' is an exaggeration.

pak 8 days ago 1 reply      
This is a superb post. Social networks, starting especially from the era of the Facebook era, have foisted increasing amounts of doublethink on their users, and it's often difficult to make people realize this and explain the reasons for it being that way. This essay not only lays out good examples of that nagging cognitive dissonance, but then goes on to explain its necessity at both the technical and business levels.
juddlyon 8 days ago 2 replies      
Two things struck me:

- the quality of thinking displayed in this post

- what is in the world is it doing on the delicious clone I signed up for?

This is the same guy that writes about scaling hardware, no? Keep it coming.

Alex3917 8 days ago 1 reply      
Social networks aren't really social networks either. If you read Bowling Alone, it should be readily apparent that Facebook et al. fulfill few of the functions of an actual social network.
lukejduncan 8 days ago 0 replies      
"Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers - that's the social graph."

That's the best quote in the whole post. I can't articulate it, but that resonated strongly with me.

araneae 7 days ago 2 replies      
Ugh, I hate titles like these.

It's not a graph? Of COURSE it's a graph. It's just a very complex one. Just because you could make many such graphs representing the same relationships doesn't mean it's not a graph.

And it's not social because you're missing someone's crush? Uh, no. It's still social, just incomplete.

A better title for this would have been "The Social Graph is incomplete and complex."

joe_the_user 7 days ago 0 replies      

I seems like the post is saying "The Social Graph" isn't a graph 'cause it is a multi-graph with different kinds of connections. That part seems obvious.

But the "it's not social part" is more saying "it's not something to publicly mess with", ie, take the question of signaling interest seriously. That's true but the thing remains a social graph.

I would put it another way. The social graph exists, touching it can be dynamite, yes, can breach some boundaries, yes, publishing a connect is further social act, yet. But technology is about breaching boundaries. Facebook doesn't allow the touchy, fine-grained quality of real world friendships - and there are advantages to this. It has created a lot of connections which wouldn't exist before it. Sure, further refinements may make things more nuanced as in the real world. But the crude, glad-handing Internet world is now also the real social world and won't be going away. There are ways that this is quite good.

joebadmo 8 days ago 0 replies      
I agree that the graph is an incorrect representation. Because people don't think that way. But that doesn't mean organic, activity/interest based communities are the only ones possible, or even desirable.

I want a way to be able to communicate with all of my different offline groups without having to be in their physical presence. I also want this on a broad spectrum of public-private.

I think adequately (not perfectly) modelling social context is a solvable problem. It's a matter of UI and metaphor. Here's my take on it: http://blog.byjoemoon.com/post/7072771434/a-new-metaphor-for...

radagaisus 8 days ago 0 replies      
When you publish content on the internet and it has a relation to your online identity you are just saying: look how awesome I am.

I uploaded a bubble sort in prolog and a b-tree in Haskell ("I'm an enlightened far-reaching hipster hacker").

I quoted Allen Ginsberg on facebook. "Look at me I'm smart and read poetry".

MySpace collapsed and Facebook's clean UI won because most people don't have that much identity.

nroman 8 days ago 1 reply      
One of the main points in this article is that any social graph found in a service such as Facebook, Twitter, or G+ can't possible model all of the nuance of real life relationships. That's obvious. However, the author takes it a step further. Suggesting that because of this these services have no value.

That's pretty big logical leap.

An imperfect approximation of the social graph still has a lot of value.

redemade 8 days ago 4 replies      
> Asking computer nerds to design social software is a little bit like hiring a Mormon bartender.


PaulHoule 8 days ago 4 replies      
rdf technology is coming on strong in late 2011; the tools are getting better fast -- we will be able to represent the social graph in more detail, and correlate it with the 'semantic graph' that shared human experience is coded in.

yes, RDF has taken a while to mature, but look at the time lag between Codd's paper and the commercial release of Oracle. 1000 flowers have been blooming for years and we know a lot about what works and what doesn't.

the trouble with foaf and other 'distributed social graph' is that muggles like Facebook the way it is... they don't care about data portability or privacy; unless a distributed system can provide a better user experience, it's got no hope.

wiscoDude 7 days ago 1 reply      
I put my thoughts on this article in a blog post. Too long for a comment.

"The Social Graph is Both"


gcb 7 days ago 0 replies      
Right now the social networking sites occupy a similar position to CompuServe, Prodigy, or AOL in the mid 90's. At that time each company was trying to figure out how to become a mass-market gateway to the Internet. Looking back now, their early attempts look ridiculous and doomed to failure, for we have seen the Web, and we have tasted of the blogroll and the lolcat and found that they were good.

i've been saying this for ages but this guys puts it so much simpler i'm ashamed.

guscost 7 days ago 0 replies      
Well said. The ideal "social graph" is just an advertiser's wet dream, and they forget to consider whether it would be useful to the user. Or even possible.
RusAlexander 7 days ago 0 replies      
Russian guys on the photo
food 8 days ago 0 replies      
US Bill Creating the Great Firewall of America theagilepanda.com
421 points by stupandaus  1 day ago   73 comments top 20
mmaunder 1 day ago 4 replies      
I'm worried that the approach I'm seeing to stopping this bill gives the impression that it's supporters are simply "protesters" who support online piracy.

The article on agilepanda is well written but the site at http://americancensorship.org/ focuses on website blocking, jail time if you "stream a copyrighted work" and the very general threat of "Chaos for the Internet". It's the wrong approach IMO.

The decision makers, or our target market for this if you'd prefer, are congress, the senate and the president. There's an election coming up and we have real power we can wield. So here's my suggestion:

1. Make it crystal clear that replacing the DMCA with SOPA will kill many of the job creation machines coming out of Silicon Valley and the rest of the USA. It will prevent the creation of new businesses like Facebook that can only exist through user generated content and who generate billions in tax revenue and jobs for the US economy. If a representative supports this bill they are making it clear they don't support job creation in the USA.

2. Make it clear that this is not about online piracy, but about government control of a free communications medium. It is tantamount to the US government taking control of the country's newspapers and having the ability to selectively block the publication of editions they don't approve of.

3. Call your local congressman and senator and let them know that if they support SOPA, they don't support job creation in the USA and they oppose freedom of communication. Let them know two things: If they support SOPA you will not vote for them and you will encourage everyone you know to do the same. Secondly, let them know you will contact every major political donor in the area and make them aware of the representatives stance on the issue and how it endangers American business and innovation.

If we simply "protest" by shutting down our websites or sitting in the street, we risk getting lumped with the Occupy movement. However you may feel about that, what our politicians are most afraid of is losing their jobs and losing their funding. So lets hit them where it really hurts and take the power back.

domador 1 day ago 2 replies      
Here's one form of protest I'd like to see:

Assuming Google wants to take a significant stance against this bill, they're in a unique position to raise people's awareness of its awfulness. They could put some text on the Google homepage and/or a link to a protest page informing Americans about this threat. (Google might need to set up their own page, to avoid overwhelming an external site with traffic.) Other creative possibilities come to mind:

- Changing the "I'm feeling lucky" button to "I'm feeling very unlucky" and linking to the protest page

- Posting a terrifying, yet appealing Google Doodle that links and lures users to the protest page

- Announcing and then holding a scheduled, minute-long search outage, where all search traffic is redirected to the protest page (which would include an explanation of why searches were temporarily redirected)

Technically savvy users might be aware of SOPA and the threat it poses, yet the "average" American is probably unaware of what their elected representatives are doing to their digital future. They need to know, and hold their representatives accountable.


Disclaimer: I am not an American, but feel a need to speak up, given the huge effect U.S. law has on the whole Internet.

Tichy 1 day ago 4 replies      
I am very pessimistic, because it seems governments just won't stop trying to pass such laws (the same thing is going on in Germany where I live). If this time it fails, they will just try again, until eventually they succeed.

In Germany the law is pushed under the pretense of fighting child pornography. Some people who are against it are now being described in media as people who are against fighting child pornography - even by tech magazines that should have a better understanding.

jerfelix 1 day ago 4 replies      
It's great to see the EFF, the Free Software Foundation, and other big freedom fighters opposing this bill. (See http://americancensorship.org/ ).

But are any of the big corporations fighting it? Google / YouTube? Microsoft? Apple? Come on guys! Step up! (or am I just missing their statements on this bad bill?)

I think a "Stop Censorship" black banner across the Google logo tomorrow would go a long way toward defeating this.

Aloisius 1 day ago 0 replies      
I know everyone here is busy, but call your Representatives on the phone. http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

Protesting is fine. Donating money to the EFF is fine. But truly angry phone calls by constituents are extremely powerful.

zobzu 1 day ago 0 replies      
You know, they are trying to pass the same bill in France at the same time. I wouldn't doubt other countries are concerned as well.

Pretty much a censorship worldwide effort going on.

philfreo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just a friendly reminder to donate to the EFF:


shahidhussain 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's intensely disappointing to see politics conforming to its stereotype, and making short-sighted decisions about this. It's wonderful to see calls across the net, led by the EFF and others, to stop this craziness.

That said - I feel like we've been here before. Bills that blindly support control of ideas and technologies seem to waft their way into Washington on a regular basis, and each time we're angry and afraid and annoyed.

What can we do to stop this happening again?

bambax 1 day ago 1 reply      
> On October 26, 2011, the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) was introduced in the House of Representatives...

Mmm, no. That may be the ultimate result (or maybe privacy died long ago) but SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, not Privacy...

jneal 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm not against trying to eliminate piracy, but I don't understand how any politicians can back this with a clear conscience. A bill that does things without having to be found guilty is an obvious anti-constitutional bill and should be destroyed immediately. We are innocent until proven guilty in this country, or so we are led to believe.
cHalgan 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the only way how this can be fixed it that they pass SOPA since western democracies seems to be broken beyond repair.

This bill will severely affect the very last growth engine in the US (that is internet) and the US (and the rest of the world) will sunk into even deeper recession. In other words, this bill will slow down or even prevent "paradigm shift in the economy" which is needed to start recovery of the global economy.

And this prolonged deep recession will fuel occupy WallStreet and similar movements and eventually, after a lot bad things (wars, riots, etc.), the new version of democracy will arise: the democracy were the constituents are people and not corporations.

This is my pessimistic view but history seems to be on my side :(

Andrew_Quentin 9 hours ago 0 replies      
It seems that what happened to wikileaks has become a blue print on how to deal with dissent. The demos allowed such monopolistic organisations such as visa and mastercard and the demos allowed the rest of what happened to wikileaks. We, the people, are to be blamed for not being willing to fight to retain our powers.
mw63214 1 day ago 0 replies      
why not make a "one vote, one cause, one day" type of widget that can be easily added to any website( configurable to square, horizontal rectangle, vertical rectangle, etc...). Similar to the HN forum, you can create a 'cause' thread, design a logo/message for that cause, and the cause can be voted on. The highest ranked cause of that particular day is displayed for 24 hours, then reset back to 0 votes to even the playing field for other causes. Is anyone else starting to see my vision for this? Does this already exist?
strickjb9 1 day ago 1 reply      
Google didn't help China censor the internet (as stated in the 1st paragraph). It makes it very hard to read the rest of the article after seeing this. In fact, Google pulled its services out of China because it wouldn't succumb to censorship requests. Google this --> "google pulls out of china"
einhverfr 1 day ago 0 replies      
The fundamental problem is that this is a part of a larger shift towards what is IMO an Unconstitutional government of prosecutors instead of a government of laws. These include mandatory sentencing guidelines, reductions in the discretion judges have in other areas, and the like. The idea is that the powers get shifted gradually onto prosecutors so they can go after bad guys, but that means eventually all of us can be prosecuted too.

In addition to the real problems with this act, try reading "Three Felonies A Day" by Harvey Silverglate (EFF and ACLU veterine, co-founder of FIRE)

wavephorm 1 day ago 0 replies      
It is truly frightening to see how far-reaching authoritarian legislation like this can get fast-tracked into law. The same thing happened with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Patriot Act, and the Department of Homeland Security.

I can confidently predict this legislation will not be stopped.

entrepreneur123 1 day ago 0 replies      
A lot of great comments. No action. When it comes to issues of a vote (like this), im sorry to report - we've lost our say in the matter.

Some would say "that's why we elect people, to do this for us" don't you get it? Politicians aren't out to help you. They have their own agenda. Unless your padding their campaign coiffer, your falling on def ears.

maeon3 1 day ago 1 reply      
Enter stage right the mellinum of the copyproof bit. Delete those words citizen before I taze you.
twoodfin 1 day ago 1 reply      
> SOPA puts in provisions that allows the US to control the internet the same way that the PRC does in China.

I'm against SOPA, but the idea that it would permit the U.S. government, should it so desire, to set up Chinese-style censorship of the internet is nonsense on stilts. You can take any power of the government and theorize about what could happen if it ran unchecked: "What if they define talking about Occupy Wall Street to be piracy‽" "What if President Obama declared you an enemy combatant‽"

Our laws don't work that way. For one, when it ends up in the courts, they're going to read it as narrowly as needed to accomplish its purpose (obviously, in this case, copyright enforcement). If the law is stupidly written in such an over-broad way that it can't be balanced against other rights and interests, it will be thrown out. For another, we don't live in a one-party autocracy: We have deep cultural norms favoring rights and freedoms. That permeates not just the electorate, but the people elected and appointed to execute the laws. Obviously we disagree from time to time about the trade-offs to be made, but those very disagreements make it harder for some rogue executive to go off the rails; there's always someone else ready to take his place after the next election.

This is a long way of saying that hyperbole like this is never going to win you a policy argument.

stupandaus 1 day ago 1 reply      
Wow. I did not expect this blog post to blow up like this. I wish it was under less auspicious circumstances.

On a slightly related note, does anyone know how to fix the e-mail subscription widget in WordPress? I'm getting complaints that it is giving 'invalid e-mail' errors when people are adding valid e-mails.

This 28-Year-Old Is Making Sure Credit Cards Won't Exist In The Next Few Years sfgate.com
414 points by olegious  1 day ago   251 comments top 32
pitdesi 1 day ago  replies      
This is interesting. I really like Dwolla as a company and the ambition, and think the are executing well, but there are some things you should know.

1) Most Americans use credit cards because they need the credit. That is something that won't be solved. Many of us also like the benefit of rewards (miles, dollars, whatever). To get payers on board, you need credit, rewards, and exclusivity (i.e. is this the only payment method available at somewhere where I want to shop). The last 2 meaningful companies were paypal and discover card. PayPal had millions of Ebay sellers using PayPal AND they initially paid people to become members. Discover card started the cashback movement and was the only electronic payment option at Sears (largest retailer in the world at the time).

2) Due to the Durbin amendment (which went into effect October 1st of this year), debit card cost to a FeeFighters merchant for the average transaction in the US is about $0.25. (http://feefighters.com/durbin). They now cost 22 cents plus 0.05% of the transaction. The reason that I mentioned a FeeFighters merchant is that most processors do NOT pass through the savings to the customer, you only get that with interchange-plus billing (which only about 10% of merchants are on, mostly big merchants).

3) Doing some quick math, that $350 million in transaction volume gets them to $175,000 in revenue per year
($350M/$500 transaction size)*$0.25 = $175,000.

Still, they have a fantastic opportunity and I for one am rooting for them. Ben has the same roots as FeeFighters (had another company, was pissed off at how much he was paying in processing fees). He chose to tackle it a different way, one that is probably harder to execute on but can make more change in the long-run. Having met him, I bet that he didn't quite say the words in that headline.

thinkcomp 1 day ago  replies      
This article was posted a few days ago. I'm a competitor.

Having built the same kind of company from the ground up, I have good reason to suspect that most of Dwolla's transaction volume does not come from mobile payments, if the $350 million / year number is accurate in the first place. Some revenue comes from Bitcoin transactions, which the article doesn't mention, creating the false impression that Dwolla is already a mobile payments juggernaut. It isn't.

Dwolla does not integrate with any point of sale systems to the best of my knowledge, which means that the title of this article is basically fantasy.

Dwolla is also breaking California law by operating in a manner that allows California users to use the service without a money transmission license. (Having an investor that processes transactions for banks does not make Dwolla exempt. Anyone who doubts this should read the list of exemptions: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=fin.... If Dwolla were considered a bank it wouldn't need a money transmission license in Iowa, which it has.)

I'm not a fan of that law, so as of yesterday I've sued the State of California over it.


kayoone 1 day ago 6 replies      
In Germany (and most of europe) credit cards arent used very much. I can wire transfer money inside the country for free, i can pay in alot of Online Shops by direct debit who get the money directly from my bank account. In stores i use a card associated with my bank account (not a credit card) to pay which also lets the merchant get the money directly from my bank account.
I am suprised that the US doesnt have a similar system, no wonder everyone uses credit cards there. Thats also why i think Square wouldnt be very successfull over here.
kahawe 1 day ago 0 replies      
While it sounds great that someone is taking a stab at making transferring money easier and cheaper, they are clearly missing a few crucial points.

First, they are complaining credit card companies charge them for their service - on the other hand, those companies do have costs for building and maintaining their systems and all costs that come with it. We will leave the question whether their prices are reasonable or fair aside for now.

Another benefit I get from CC transactions: when I send money to the wrong person or got scammed, I can just have VISA cancel it and I get my money back. In the good 10 years I have been using my own CC(s) I needed to do that maybe 2 or 3 times and it worked absolutely flawlessly. You cannot just cancel a bank transaction and get your money back like that.

Also, wiring money abroad is going to be a much bigger problem for them.

But there is a far more fundamental flaw in their logic:

> "We think, in the long term, sending money should be as easy and effortless as finding a friend on Facebook."

The reason anything money-related is so over-regulated and cumbersome and full of regulations and bureaucracy is not just "the man keepin' ya down, bro" and neither is it only stupid people who only try to come up with empty regulations to bill you.
All that is in place to fight against money laundry and help make it more difficult for worldwide organized crime to make easy use of their illegal cash. The very reason you can not just send money as easily and effortlessly as friending someone on facebook is: if you could, your first customers would be organized crime. They cannot wait for new possibilities to launder money easier and faster.

I am wondering how they can be moving 50 million a week without all sorts of agencies cracking down on them? This has got to be heaven for small and big time drug (or weapons, humans) sellers as of now.

So ultimately, it makes me sad this doesn't look like a promising replacement for the paypal overlords.

Aloisius 1 day ago  replies      
Credit cards exist because people need a line of credit and debit cards seem to offer the same benefits as Dwolla, at a lower interchange rate for the merchant. The P2P feature is nice, ACH generally isn't used directly by individuals and wire transfers/EFTs can be quite expensive.

I wish someone would make a real alternative credit processing network, but there are so may laws and regulations, I wonder if it is even possible to ever have something like a simple 1% transaction charge.

vsl2 1 day ago 2 replies      
I wish him well on his endeavor because I'm not a fan of CC fees, but from a consumer standpoint, I don't see any benefits. CCs provide (i) a line of credit, (ii) fraud protection, and (iii) rewards/bonuses. All of these can be incredibly valuable, particularly (ii) - you never appreciate the no-liability fraud protection of a CC until you discover how difficult it is to deal with situations in which your bank account is affected.

If credit cards were not already the dominant electronic payment mechanism (i.e. VISA/MC were just starting like Dwolla is), Dwolla could possibly win out because businesses could refuse CC's. Not going to happen now, at least with regards to business-to-consumers. And I don't think most B2B transactions were conducted through CC's anyways.

They seem to be doing okay now, but I don't see any secret sauce that's going to make them anything more than a fringe player in the payments industry.

suivix 1 day ago 3 replies      
My parents put $2000 in a Dwolla account, did nothing with it, and two months later decided to withdraw it. Dwolla put a hold on it for over a week without any notification, and my father finally decided to call. On the phone they said 'well you know, $2000 is a lot of money'. My parents had to send over scanned photo identification just to get their money out.

Anyways, what I learned is that Dwolla's customer service is terrible. I don't recommend it to anybody.

powertower 1 day ago 3 replies      
At 40MM/month, with average transaction of $500, and a $0.25 fee for each transaction, they make $20,000 per month revenue... After you pay employees (12 people), other costs (including legal), and take a hit from fraud, I can't imagine there is a great upside to this business unless they start doing at least 100x more volume. Concidering the nature of the business, I don't see this happening.
tlrobinson 1 day ago 1 reply      
I did a double take when reading this line...

"The only fee would be if someone paid you. We take a quarter. We really want that quarter. It's all we want!"

He should probably say "25 cents" instead of "a quarter".

ricardobeat 1 day ago 0 replies      
There's a lot of talk here on how credit cards trump every other form of payment, on credit lines and rewards. Americans love their cards:

* 1.4 billion credit cards held by U.S. consumers

* Average credit card debt per household with credit card debt: $15,799

* Total U.S. consumer debt: 800 billion (down from ~1 trillion in 2008)

Yeap, look at that debt, credit cards are amazing.

Let me put my f___ the system hat:

1. $2 trillion in transactions per year.

2. Merchants pay between 2-4% in fees for every transaction

Many people seem to forget about the second - "I'm not paying any fees" :/.

That means around $40 billion in fees per year. A few billion short of the national budget for the US Department of Education. I really, really doubt it's costing all this money to send and track (mostly virtual) money around. And we haven't taken into account the late fees (around $20b/year), overcharge fees, annual fees, banking fees and others.

Credit cards are just money harvesting machines.

Why exactly do we need a third-party to handle our payments? Banks own our data and most of the infrastructure. Electronic payments should be part of the basic account package. "Reward" cards are just another marketing gimmick to get you to use more cards.

/hat off

Cutting myself short, I'm extremely excited with what Dwolla/Square and others are doing. It's 2011, I want to make payments with my eyes!

wmf 1 day ago 0 replies      
lhnn 1 day ago 0 replies      
>Can users only send money to Dwolla members?

No, you can send money to anyone. Only the person sending it has to have a Dwolla account to initiate the transaction. The person receiving it will have to sign up for an account....


In other words, you must have an account to receive money. Technically different, but that is some lawyerspeak if I've ever heard it.

yason 20 hours ago 0 replies      
In Finland, account-to-account wire transfers are practically free and there are two internet buying options in general use that rely on them alone.

First, most internet shops can do what the mail order companies have done for decades: they send you the product along with a bill that you can pay with a wire transfer. These days it means you go to you internet banking site and issue the transfer directly from your account to the merchant's account.

Second, a majority of big merchants provide "internet banking payment" where the merchant's site is linked with the top ten major banks' internet services. From the merchant's site you choose your own bank and they will redirect you to the online banking services of that bank, along with the amount they want to charge and some other metadata. Now, your bank will ask you to login to your own internet banking account and use it to authorize a wire transfer for the given amount. After that's done (securely, on the bank's own website), the bank will redirect you back to the merchant's site, again with a token that the merchant's software can use to verify that the transaction went through.

Also debit cards are in high use: they are usually free to obtain as well and it costs a merchant much less to charge a debit card than a credit card. This is sort of related because debit card transactions are practically just wire transfers. Some of them, such as Visa Electron, will actually require an online connection to your bank so that the balance can be checked prior to the wire transfer.

It all comes down to the fact that Finland's banks have been historically well interconnected and they also have a long history of electronic inter-bank transactions. Wire transfers have been a commonly supported and cheap way to transfer money since the 80's: also private individuals can use them to move money to each other free of charge. Further, wire transfers are immediate between accounts in the same bank; between two different banks it takes one night to get them cleared.

underwater 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'd never written a cheque until I moved to the US; I was pretty shocked at how backwards money transfer is here. In Australia, BPAY (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BPAY) is pretty much how all utilities and services are paid for. Transactions between individuals are usually via standard wire transfer and are free, and often instant.
stereo 1 day ago  replies      
Looks like he just reinvented the wire transfer. In Europe, a lot of money is transferred like this; I can even make transfers from my phone.
davidcollantes 17 hours ago 0 replies      
When I use my credit card to pay what I normally have to pay for each month (groceries, utilities, etc) I get money back (yes, a check in the mail). Dwolla can't beat that.

When I buy electronics with my credit card, I get an extra year of warranty, and buying protection. Dwolla can't beat that.

When I travel, or rent a car, I get insurance coverage with my credit card. Dwolla can't beat that.

When I buy anything with my credit card, and something goes wrong, I lose no money. None at all. Dwolla can't beat that.

Long live, Credit Cards!

latch 17 hours ago 0 replies      
"Our generation actually understands that when you buy sh*t, it comes out of your bank account and you have to pay for that."

Money quote. Makes me want to work there. This is our generations equivalent of Jobs' universe quote.

rmc 1 day ago 2 replies      
Where we've seen a ton of transactions right now is with people paying monthly rent.

I don't understand this. Perhaps it's an American thing, but here in EU, I just put my landlord's account numbers into my online banking and I can transfer them money for essentially free. I even set up a standing order so it'll pay the same amount at a fixed day per month. I don't have to worry about paying rent. How does a landlord accept money via their credit card?

nl 1 day ago 0 replies      
Only the person sending it has to have a Dwolla account to initiate the transaction. The person receiving it will have to sign up for an account, but we've been surprised at the conversion there

"been surprised at the conversion" when someone is sending you money?! I think that's pretty much the ultimate dream - one customer paying another person to sign up!

igrekel 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't know about in the US but I regularly transfer money througgh email with an ING Direct canadian account. I know other financial institutions here have similar functionality.
mcv 1 day ago 2 replies      
I love these kind of projects. We desperately need independence from the Visa/Mastercard monopoly over international transactions.
miles_matthias 1 day ago 0 replies      
I got the opportunity to listen to Ben speak at Startup Weekend Des Moines and I have to say I'm really impressed with him. Regardless of Dwolla's future (personally I think they will transform the industry), Ben is a shining example of working hard and being a successful entrepreneur in a place that really isn't very supportive of people who think differently. There are now a few legitimate VCs, college courses, and frequent startup events in the Des Moines area and every single person I've talked to gives a lot of credit to Ben for helping that grow. Des Moines even just recently launched one of their first incubator programs (Startup City) and is seen as a legit player in the Silicon Prairie. My team at Startup Weekend Des Moines (Fundle.co) revolved does group payment systems and Ben brought his team from Dwolla to meet us and offer their expertise for coding the backend payment processing part of it. Even if they don't kill the credit card, Dwolla deserves a lot of respect for helping to jump start the entrepreneur community there.
kin 1 day ago 0 replies      
As a customer, I prefer: http://venmo.com
Lets me easily pay my friends and vice versa, 100% free, no transaction charges.
Funds get pulled out of my credit card like a regular purchase (OR out of debit card or checking if preferred)
Funds paid to me get automatically deposited into my checking account.

Usage is effortless.

They make money by charging a percentage on transactions that businesses receive.

feralchimp 1 day ago 1 reply      
The 28-year-old in the story is a sympathetic protagonist, and gives the venture plenty of indie cred, but let's all take a moment to reflect on the fact that he's only being allowed to do this because one of his primaries is an entrenched inside player. He managed to pitch someone one layer deeper inside the onion of oligarchy, and those folks decided the glass slipper fit.

Anyway, well played, sir.

EREFUNDO 1 day ago 0 replies      
Maybe the current downturn (bankruptcy filings, closing of CC accounts)is forcing people to start using cash instead of credit. I am a cash person myself, but asking people direct access to their bank accounts would be a hard sell, at least with credit cards there are many situations where they would allow chargebacks. They will have a niche market of cash based merchants, that is for certain. But it is way too early to say that their system can make credit cards obsolete within the next few years. Credit cards are just becoming popular in emerging markets where eCommerce is relatively nascent. The real issue now is securing cross border and long distance payments, being able to provide an unprecedented level of security demanded by the globalizing peer-to-peer and business-to-business transactions.
ck2 1 day ago 1 reply      
So why do ACH transfers take 4-5 days in 2011 anyway?
rcraft 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm using Chase QuickPay to pay my rent. No fees for either of us and it works great, I don't even have a Chase bank account, but quickly set up an account and linked it to my BofA account. Only problem is I believe the daily limit for payments is $2,000.

From this example, clearly some banks are figuring out how to sidestep the credit card companies and provide value. How would this and other similar products like the ING product not be serious threats to Dwolla?

bryze 1 day ago 2 replies      
It really surprises me how many nay-sayers have posted negative comments, here. Bottom line is that, because of the popularity of paying with credit cards, merchants have to pass on the cost of transaction fees to consumers. Consumers pay. Will your reward points make up for the increased prices that you unwittingly pay? I doubt it. Even if Dwolla isn't the one to do it, toppling credit card profits is in everyone else's interest.
jaggederest 1 day ago 0 replies      
I just want to find his PR agent/agency. I've seen this story in 8 different outlets and forums over the last little while.
Ezku 1 day ago 0 replies      
Link to TFA on one page without the fluff: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/11/10/...
rcraft 1 day ago 1 reply      
Anyone out there paying their rent with a credit card while maintaining no fees for the landlord?

I played around with Venmo in the past and thought this would be perfect for this use case. Been a while, but I believe you can accept credit cards directly and pay no fees. Seems crazy, but I think the only downside is the amount limits.

Would be awesome to collect cc rewards on rent payments every month.

eduardordm 1 day ago 0 replies      
Well, dwolla is a credit card company. I'm a CTO (and co-owner) of a medium-sized credit firm in Brazil (full stack: processing, credit, gateway, etc). We offer plastic cards, iOS & android apps, NFC, IVR calls, web app, e-CPF (Brazilian electronic "social security" card) as form of payment methods. Guess what? Most people WANT the damn card. We would LOVE not to spend 1.4 U$ on every card we have to manufacture. I don't see Dwolla as the future of payments, they offer a limited solution. My company is planning for a future where there will be many ways to make a payment, fit for every social class and/or preference. In brazil, it takes 3 minimum payments to buy a smartphone. In the US, 49 million citizens are poor. Let's not deny the economic reality we are living in right now.
Internet giants place full-page anti-SOPA ad in NYT boingboing.net
414 points by andrewdumont  8 hours ago   83 comments top 20
protomyth 6 hours ago 3 replies      
The tech industry has enough money to buy 10x more lobbyists than the entertainment industry. This would be a wiser investment than the ads.
thematt 6 hours ago 4 replies      
If Google was serious they'd put something on their front page. The readership of the New York Times is nothing compared to Google's traffic.
ck2 7 hours ago 2 replies      
Where is the url in there for more information/followup? Wasted opportunity.

I don't mean to diminish this effort but just imagine this kind of response every time we decided to declare war somewhere far far away. I'd be impressed. Certainly sending people to be maimed or killed is just as critical?

jamiequint 7 hours ago 0 replies      
There was also a full page ad in today's Wall Street Journal, same letter. http://pic.twitter.com/jisFPt4s
mikemoka 7 hours ago 3 replies      
Web companies should know how to write a readable text, it's pity they could just come up with something like that.

This text is not coincise, it doesn't draw the attention of the reader to any specific point and it shows several other shortcomings, if the message ever comes across I am pretty sure this page won't help.

damoncali 5 hours ago 5 replies      
Am I the only one that did a double-take when I saw Zynga on there?
grandalf 5 hours ago 1 reply      
If you're in the tech industry and you realize how stupid this proposed law is, realize that it's no more stupid than the vast majority of laws passed by congress, you're just better equipped to judge it.
bobbles 6 hours ago 1 reply      
95% of people would look at that wall of text and turn the page.. they really needed something that would actually draw in peoples attention if they want it to get noticed
muppetman 5 hours ago 2 replies      
This is great. It's just a shame the last time anyone picked up a paper was about 10 years ago. Can't argue with the sentiment though.
natch 3 hours ago 1 reply      
A TLDR skim of this ad by the average NYT reader will see only this: We support the bill.

Yes, I omitted the words "goals of the" [edit: 's stated goals] but I'm talking about what the average reader will get out of the ad before they flip to the next page.

Not good, imho. And yes, they do care about the average reader. If they were trying to reach people other than the average reader, there are better ways to do that.

dmboyd 3 hours ago 1 reply      
> We support the bills' stated goals "providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign "rogue" websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting"...

Why doesn't anyone just call bullshit on the whole concept of the US extending its law to apply to the rest of the world?

therandomguy 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder if we can start a site called PoliticiansAgainstInternet.org, get it a lot of publicity and sway the votes away from them. It should be so popular that politicians will dread getting on that list. Maybe Anon can dig up more dirt and expose it on there?
jpdoctor 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Full page ad? Big deal. Obviously they screwed up by not buying a bunch of senators and congressman.


d0mine 6 hours ago 1 reply      
The irony. The giants of Internet advertising spread their message via dead-tree paper ads.
artursapek 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Very nice. It's a nice touch that the logos at the bottom are in alphabetical order. I want a copy of this
baby 6 hours ago 1 reply      
What is also impressive is the presence of Zynga in the internet giants club.
roxtar 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Did anyone notice the missing Godzilla-head in Mozilla's logo?
swasheck 8 hours ago 4 replies      
Well played, MS and Apple.
sidwyn 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Besides the gist of the ad, I noticed that Facebook did not use their logo without a background (AOL too).
Igor_Bratnikov 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Glad to see a public stance by the internet community
SEO tricks from Patio11 melmiranda.com
399 points by dikbrouwer  7 days ago   117 comments top 21
nikcub 7 days ago 5 replies      
At Techcrunch when we removed the share buttons average traffic to each post dropped 20-25%. We saw no jump in number of blog links, or tumblr's, or anything else.

The buttons suck - we knew that a lot of users hated them (it adds 4 * 20 additional HTTP requests to the main page), but they were worth too much traffic to do away with. Social network referrals likely surpass search engine referrals for a lot of blogs and web sites. They have steadily become an important web traffic navigator.

If somebody can figure out how to make those share buttons prettier and more efficient there is probably a product in that. I would guess that most blogs would love to drop the grid of share buttons that can be found on every post.

Otherwise I totally agree with not going for subdomains. We setup each property on a separate domain and initially had some on subdomains. The subdomains didn't rank at all and didn't help our PR or SEO. As soon as we switched each property to a separate domain our search referrals rocketed. For eg. you can now find a crunchbase link within the first 5 results for the name of a startup, while similar records for posts that lived on subdomains wouldn't rank at all. We had around a dozen different domains and frequently linked between them (for eg. each post would have multiple crunchbase links), and it worked really well for search ranking (search engines are ~40% of crunchbase traffic, IIRC) It shouldn't be like that, but it is.

mechanical_fish 7 days ago 4 replies      
Ooh, look, an on-topic location to ask Patrick questions. ;)

So, about that whole "subdomain" thing, as mentioned in this article. The problem in SEO is that separate subdomains accrue separate Google scores, correct? So if I was to serve my whole site from a third-tier domain, like "www.example.com", that would be okay? Provided I were not foolish enough to also put stuff on "example.com" and "other.example.com" and expect links to that content to contribute to the reputation of "www.example.com"?

Basically I'm looking for confirmation that the classic old "www" prefix is okay, if used carefully. (Lots of people hate it for aesthetic reasons, and I used to agree with them, and then I had to dig into the rules for DNS CNAMEs, and the terrifying results have made me fall in love with "www" again. Unless you tell me it's bad, in which case I guess I'll just have to take to drink.)

blauwbilgorgel 7 days ago 2 replies      
>> Twitter links has no SEO juice

Besides using Twitter to:

- build your network and following,

- Twitter can aid in brand/product mentions

- Some reason to believe Twitter links are followed by the search engines, so help with indexation and discovery.[1]

- Some reason to believe Author/Agent/Identity rank of social profiles will start playing a role.[2]

- Finally, there are sites who add Twitterfeeds to the author profiles. Not all these feeds have the "nofollow" property.

The last one is also relevant to the statement: "Wikipedia doesn't matter for link juice". There are many copies of Wikipedia on university domains, where they don't employ nofollow (For study about web crawling or natural language processing). Or people rewriting Wikipedia articles and adding the references without nofollow. A nofollow link can transform into a dofollow link.

>> Don't use the keyword meta tag.

Exactly, but do use its fine on-page alternative: Microdata keywords: http://schema.org/WebPage

If only for internal usage: Writing down the keywords for a page, keeps you focussed. If you don't mind giving this information to your competitors (there are tools to find out these keywords anyway, if not already obvious), do experiment with microdata keywords.

[1] http://www.seomoz.org/blog/using-twitter-for-increased-index...

[2] http://www.seobythesea.com/2011/11/agent-rank-or-google-plus...

eps 7 days ago  replies      
> Design Matters. A lot.

This is a common sense, but I have hard time reconciling patio11 saying that with an actual appearance of his projects. Preaching without practicing takes away a lot credibility from a preacher even if the advice is reasonable.

a5seo 7 days ago 3 replies      
I agree with all these points, except with respect to Twitter. There is one case where I have seen Twitter impact SEO and that's in getting a new URL indexed fast, and in local SEO... Lots of tweets about a local-related page from people whose (legit) accounts are located in the same region seem to help for local keywords.
ghayes 7 days ago 1 reply      
"Github, Slideshare, Tumblr are fantastic, but don't give them your link juice. Put your content on your own domain. "

Love this. There's no reason you can't host the write-up for your github projects / gems on your own domain, and make a much prettier and more intuitive documentation for your code than what you can do with markdown and no pictures. As an example, look how nice VowsJS (http://vowsjs.org/) does this. It makes me excited to clone their module and use it in my project. More people should be doing this!

kevinburke 7 days ago 1 reply      

    Use Google Adword's keyword tool to come up with keywords and write pages that 
speak to those topics.
If you're a productivity app, write a page for
“increases productivity in Healthcare”, another for “increases productivity in
Education”, “lowers cost in Healthcare”, and so on. Rather than automating it or having the CEO
or head marketing guy write everything,
you want to define a process such that a freelancer
or team member can create content
responsive to those keywords with a consistent level of quality.

This is really cutting it close to violating the Google Webmaster Guidelines for quality and originality on each page.

iaskwhy 7 days ago 0 replies      
On the subdomains topic, on one of my sites I went the subdomain way for languages. Example: www is for english, de is for german, fr is for french and so on. The reason I did this is because I wanted Google to index the sites properly, in the right language. So if you go to google.fr and search for some of its keywords you would see the french version and not the english one. I'm just not sure how Google behaves but my feeling is that if all your languages are on the same domain (without any difference on the URL) then it will always display the english one by default (assuming it's the default one, obviously). Can anyone enlighten me?

It's been working for me but I notice the english version (which is the default one, www, but not the one with most visits) is not working as good as the other languages so I'd say juice is not shared between subdomains, like Patrick said. Still trying to figure out what's the best solution...

melissamiranda 7 days ago 1 reply      
Seriously Patrick, it was awesome to have you here. You were voted as the most helpful speaker at 500 we've had so far in the batch. Thanks!
hugorodgerbrown 7 days ago 3 replies      
Am I alone in finding the following quote profoundly depressing: "It cost Patrick $8.95 to buy [halloweengiftcards], $100 for a writer to make 5 pages of content, and he made thousands in sales."

Ditto "If you're a productivity app, write a page for “increases productivity in Healthcare”, another for “increases productivity in Education”, “lowers cost in Healthcare”, and so on."

This kind of seo-engineering just seems so desparate, as if SEO is the be-all and end-all of running an online business.

Whatever happened to having a site that obeys all the normal 'rules', and provides valuable information / services / products to your target audience. They'll find it.

wmf 7 days ago 3 replies      
This part sounds like cargo cult black magic: "This works for .com (.edu, .org) domains, but not for non-US TLDs like .co or .ly." Does Google really discriminate based on TLDs?
xpose2000 7 days ago 2 replies      
This is pretty sound and basic SEO if you want to spend your time making dozens of very basic wordpress blogs about particular topics to grab some easy money.

Nothing wrong with this if you have time on the weekends, heck this could even be a fulltime job as the income will slowly climb.

However, this 'trick' is quite old, but probably new to some people...

macoughl 6 days ago 1 reply      
As someone who has been in the SEO industry a long time I can tell you that some of this is terrible/spammy advice...

Buy KW rich domains and pay some copywriter to crank out 4-5 pages?! Are you serious?

Twitter has no SEO Value?...just so you know...the SE's came out and said that authoritative tweets absolutely have value....While they don't pass "juice", they can help you in the SERPs

I'd hold off on that hug if I were you...

danmaz74 7 days ago 1 reply      
Unfortunately, I have to agree on much of the advice.

Especially, I just hate how much google gives credit to the terms which are in the domain name. Why is having been able to register a "good" domain first such an important signal about site relevance? On many searches the first page is full of "keyword.com" "keyword.net" "keyword.it" websites that were only made for SEO and Adwords and have no usefulness.

arthurgibson 7 days ago 1 reply      
People should realize he is just telling you how to build a good website, remove any mention of SEO from this article and you will see my point.
frankacter 7 days ago 1 reply      
@dikbrouwer: Was the talk recorded, if so is there a youtube link?

@patio11: could you make your presentation / slide deck available for those of us who were not fortunate enough to attend in person.

JeffL 7 days ago 1 reply      
Where is a good place to hire someone to write 5 pages of content for $100?
joshu 7 days ago 1 reply      
Whoa, patio11 is in Mountain View? Want to get lunch?
debasish83 7 days ago 1 reply      
Nice article
renraw 7 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome! Thanks :)
tchae 7 days ago 0 replies      
Patio11, thanks for coming!!!
"I've isolated the bug to a database query" thedailywtf.com
387 points by dmarinoc  7 days ago   165 comments top 29
kabdib 7 days ago  replies      
One company I was at did a merger with another startup, and most of the other company's engineers quit. Amongst the piles of Visual Basic we found a stored procedure that was about 5 pages long. It took about 18 hours to run; its job was to do a daily report.

I hate being afraid of code. I spent a day with it, got to understand it, then rewrote it as a couple of queries and some Java code, whereupon it took about five minutes to run.

[... then there was the guy who implemented bitwise AND and OR by precomputing some 65536 entry tables. Wow. Why do I find all the really howling bad stuff so close to databases?]

DanielBMarkham 7 days ago 3 replies      
Just so folks know, there are tools that will decompose queries and make nice little pictures out of them. With something like this, you'd have to use it just to get started.

Once you've visually decomposed it, you'd physically decompose it by splitting it inside-out. Then proceed to understand and debug inside-outwards.

Not fun, but not impossible. Just a huge pain in the ass. Making it more fun would be a database with bad RI, nulls, and duplicate data all over the place. Don't get me wrong -- from looking at the image it definitely looks like aspirin will be required. :)

dos1 7 days ago 3 replies      
While we're sharing horror stories...

I once encountered a stored procedure that returned HTML in a result set. It literally created the UI of a webpage. It returned several columns of HTML that the app would place in strategic parts of the page. Well, as years went by, the app required a more innovative and web 2.0 UI. Rather than remove the HTML from the sproc, more columns were returned with more HTML, Javascript and the like. One time I had to fix some Javascript that rendered on the page. When I finally found where the errant JS was coming from, I realized I had to file a database change ticket to fix the UI :)

pilif 7 days ago 1 reply      
When I've seen this article back in my RSS reader, it reminded me of one particular query that was generated in the application I'm maintaining. My irrational fear of sending too many queries to the database (I've outgrown that in the last 6 years) caused a single query to be generated which was 4KB in size.

Which of course is much less than the one in the picture, but still very, very bad.

Some so we've refactored the beast. Now it's 2-3 smaller queries (which are much easier to optimize for PostgreSQL and, above all, individually cacheable) which lead to a nearly 100% speedup for common cases. Also, the code is infinitely more readable which means that it's much easier to extend it.

I'm incredibly happy that we've seen the light and fixed it before it grew to proportions like the ones on the original article shudder

protomyth 7 days ago 1 reply      
A lot of the problems I have seen with queries (other than DBA issues) is the conflict between application developers and report writers. A lot of databases are designed for transactions and resources are not often available to do a proper reporting database or at least summary data.

I have a very simple rule for myself - "if a user of the application is concerned about a certain attribute or state an element (e.g. person, truck, plane) is in, then a report will be required showing all elements with that attribute or state."

If your database design cannot support that rule, then trouble will happen and you will have serious performance problems.

To give a simple example, suppose you are running a group of storage garages. You have a table with all your customers, a table with all your storage units, an assoc table joining customer and units with active flag + date of start, and a table with all your payments. Good enough to do transactions and figure out for a unit if they are payed up.

On the other hand, writing the report to tell who hasn't paid is going to be kind of a pain. It is a simple example, but not much different from what you find in large systems.

jcromartie 7 days ago 2 replies      
People in that thread are bragging about their 10-page queries with 20 joins or 8 unions.

I'm looking at a query here that is 37 printed pages, with 92 joins over 25 unions.

MattBearman 7 days ago 3 replies      
I once worked on a site where the original developer clearly didn't know joins existed, so if he wanted data from two related tables, he'd get all the required results from table one, then loop through them, one by one, querying table two for the corresponding record. Sometimes this went 3 or 4 tables deep, the site would take nearly a minute to load a table of products.
bmf 7 days ago 2 replies      
I'm currently reading "Mastering Relational Database Querying and Analysis" by John Carlis, which posits that SQL is inherently flawed for several reasons. To paraphrase from the text:

First, both the syntax and the way querying is generally presented in textbooks, lead you to think that your task when querying is to display one unnamed table. The author objects to each of those four words.

Second, many people have found querying with SQL terribly difficult. Even experts find SQL hard to create and read. Do not be surprised if an analyst struggles to understand his/her own SQL. It is impossible for users to understand any but the simplest SQL.

Third, SQL practice suffers from the notion of a "correlated query" -- which has a monolithic subquery that is executed repeatedly via looping, once for each value of a candidate row picked by an outside SELECT.

The book has much more to say on the topic of SQL before going on offer relational algebra (built on top of SQL) as a n alternative.

pork 7 days ago 1 reply      
Reading the comments below, I get the impression that all the "good" DB people hang out on HN, not like those "other" incompetent nits out there who don't know what a join is. Hubris, people.
topbanana 7 days ago 0 replies      
My first assignment in my first ever job working for a 'proper consultancy' was to babysit an overnight process which was a SQL Server stored procedure. Back in those days they had a 64k limit, so it was split into 3 or 4 sections. It took around 12 hours to run.

I'd like to say I rewrote it, but I didn't. I just left.

harryh 7 days ago 0 replies      
The original version of foursquare.com contained a lot of stuff like this (though not as epicly bad). It was a very small amount of poorly written PHP code surrounding a bunch of unreadable SQL statements. It's amazing that it worked at all.

Dens is a great guy, but I hope I never have to rewrite his code again.

jswinghammer 7 days ago 0 replies      
I've seen and had to debug longer stored procedures for sure but never a single query. I can't see the last page so maybe this is a stored procedure. It's hard to tell.
kleiba 7 days ago 2 replies      
Please forgive me, this is OT: can anyone here recommend a good online resource for learning SQL "the hard way"?
mwexler 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'm pleased that most of the commenters recognize that SQL has a need and is it's own language, for good and bad. I really expected to find a troll popping out "NoSQL rulez" type comments, and the level of understanding of how and where SQL can help is very encouraging.
protomyth 7 days ago 0 replies      
I will say, Ingres was not my favorite database, but its query plan display should be used to explain how a database query works. It showed a tree of operations for each query. If you saw FSM (full sort merge) or Cartesian Product you better mean them or re-write the query.
mgl 7 days ago 0 replies      
Really nasty piece of SQL code, definitely not for human-based processing. What do you think about tools that may decipher and visualize such complex queries in a more structured way, like DBClarity (http://www.microgen.com/dbclarity/)? Have you been using something similar recently?

(disclaimer: I work for mcgn)

bialecki 7 days ago 0 replies      
I worked for a company where there were queries somewhat like this, however they were obscured because they would create views on the fly. So a query would look deceptively simple only to realize (not exaggerating here) there were four levels of views underneath it. Bugs were a pain, but the worst was trying to optimize those queries. Just untangling what the actual query was made life really difficult.
nithinbekal 6 days ago 0 replies      
I was just trying to figure out a stored procedure that queries one table, loops over the rows, and within the loop queries another table using the values from the first query. Now, looping over these rows, it has a third query and a corresponding loop over those rows.

And all that for inserting the values taken from the three tables into a 4th table. This could have been done with a simple 3-table join query. Hell, it could even have been done with a single insert statement! I wonder how people fail to recognize an N+1 selects problem when it's staring them in the face.

Well, to be fair, this problem I described isn't exactly an N+1 problem is it? More like an N(M(L+1)+1)+1 selects problem. ;-) (Unless I've got my math all wrong there?)

How I hate working with PL/SQL stored procedures! :(

philjackson 7 days ago 0 replies      
A place I used to work at used an ORM which gradually constructed SQL throughout the flow of a request. One of the calls we generated was probably a couple of pages long.
OiNutter 7 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of the stock update system for one of our major clients at my first job. The predecessor of myself and my colleague had thought it a brilliant idea to build a clothing ecommerce site, with a complete list of all stock going back to the year dot with ASP and Access (that's Classic ASP, not .NET). Towards the end the stock update would take pretty much an entire afternoon to run.

Eventually we got the approval to change to MySQL for the database. When they ran the first stock update with the new version they rang us up to check it had worked because it was near instantaneous.

The moral of the story: Access is BAD! VERY BAD!

acangiano 7 days ago 1 reply      
I'd love to see an EXPLAIN on that. ;)
jakejake 7 days ago 0 replies      
I've seen SQL that looked like this but didn't wind up being very complicated. I've also seen seemingly simple queries that were actually very tricky!

I can't read much of the query, but at least a few lines are checking for null values. I wouldn't be surprised if 80-90% of the query is simply output formatting. Depending on the DB platform, some formatting and null-check statements are fairly verbose.

LarryMade 7 days ago 2 replies      
People can write queries that large without formatting? or was that the result of some query generation application?
jpadilla_ 6 days ago 0 replies      
Soooo... what is it supposed to do? Looks like a million sub-selects and joins! Already have a headache just with looking at it. I'd probably right it all over again from scratch.
atsaloli 7 days ago 0 replies      
htsql (www.htsql.org) is a business reporting language -- one line in htsql can generate 5 or 6 lines of SQL.

This query could be condensed considerably if rewritten in htsql.

(htsql automatically generates SQL code that covers all corner cases and executes faster than hand-crafted SQL.)

emehrkay 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is kinda impressive.
bni 7 days ago 0 replies      
Im sure 12 pages of Java code doing this procedurally instead is much more maintainable.
hackermom 7 days ago 0 replies      
See, this kind of crap is what happens when you have the programmers sit on the bench and let the "engineers" take charge. Why do you hate society, you Luddites?!
yuvadam 7 days ago 7 replies      
Sorry, I call BS.

I might have just been lucky enough to always work at professional companies and startups where this kind of stuff can never happen.

But something tells me there is no reasonable way an SQL query can grow to these proportions.

Steam loses user database icrontic.com
378 points by taylorbuley  6 days ago   170 comments top 28
danilocampos 6 days ago  replies      
I admire the absolute hell out of Valve and have for a long time. Gabe Newell is, for my money, the biggest mensch in tech. Let's take a moment and look at how this was handled:

The message communicates exactly what happened in clear terms that don't try to cover anyone's ass. They explain which data was compromised and the potential implications. No double-talk. This could be an email you got from a friend or colleague.

The message conveys Valve's hope that the credit cards are secure but makes clear that users should be nonetheless vigilant about watching for suspicious activity. Just in case.

The message is signed by the head honcho of the company. Not some communications or PR weasel. It's in your inbox, not on some obscure blog.

Finally, it closes with:

"I am truly sorry this happened, and I apologize for the inconvenience."

Accepting responsibility, acknowledging that it's a fuckup, and showing some empathy for the fact that this completely sucks for their customers.

Sony, Adobe and their ilk could learn a lot from this company.

callmevlad 6 days ago 1 reply      
The title seems to be very misleading. There is a big difference between losing a user database (all user info gone, no backups, can't log in, etc) and database information being compromised (information leaked, fraudulent activity, etc).
theDoug 6 days ago 11 replies      
I'm a Steam user, Steam forums user, and Valve customer and have received no email or notification. This story may not be as all-encompassing as it appears.
cheald 6 days ago 2 replies      
> "While there is no evidence that passwords and credit card information have been compromised, with the state of encryption cracking, it should only be a matter of time (and horsepower)."

Um. What? Assuming that a PCI-compliant level of encryption was used, "matter of time" is "heat death of the universe" if you don't have the encryption keys.

onosendai 6 days ago 4 replies      
For the last 7 years or so of making payments online I've had an iron clad rule which I have yet to break: only use one time credit card numbers with a low spending limit which are provided on demand by my bank. It's a service tailored specifically for working around the problem of having your CC details stored indefinitely on poorly secured databases of every two-bit company out there.

And with each major (and minor) data breach I'm more happy I use it.

Margh 6 days ago 0 replies      
Am I the only one who thinks that "Steam loses user database" isn't quite the same as "Steam database of salted data compromised"?

For a moment there I thought all my Steam purchases were, you know, lost.

starnix17 6 days ago 0 replies      
At least they're honest about it, compare this to the PS3 compromise.
defen 6 days ago 2 replies      
Just yesterday I received a notification from Facebook that my account had been accessed from a suspicious location and was locked as a security precaution. I had no idea how this could have happened, but I did have the same email address + password for Steam and Facebook. Hardly proof, but certainly a plausible theory.
jcapote 6 days ago 2 replies      
Confirmed by Gabe here: http://au.pc.ign.com/articles/121/1212201p1.html

All passwords are salted and hashed (hope they are using bcrypt), and all CC's are encrypted.

EDIT: updated comment to clarify what I meant with the bcrypt

tjoff 5 days ago 1 reply      
I get the impression that credit card information is stored in the same database as login information etc.


My first thought is that it should be stored on, and never leave, a completely separate system where you have a very limited number of interactions available (reducing the attack vector and making it much easier to spot suspicious activity).

I.e. Charge customer x with y for game z. Refund customer for purchase i (only valid within the refund-period). Add(overwrite)/delete customer data. Where all interactions must be signed.

And nothing more.

Anything less than that and I'm skeptical as to whether you could be considered careful of you customers data. Storing credit card information in the same database as all other user data for a service like steam should be a crime and if it's closely coupled with the forum it's even worse (not that I know if that's the case).

Disclaimer: I don't know any details about this incident more than that Valve seems to be open about it taking place (great!).

dvdhsu 6 days ago 2 replies      
I've spent the last half hour trying to find my billing information on the Steam site. I just can't find it.

It's great that Steam is letting me know that their database has been hacked. It's not so great when I can't even see if my billing information or credit card number (I obviously only want the last four digits) that Steam currently has on file for me. If I knew which credit card I had used with Steam, I could probably watch out for fraudulent charges. As it stands, there is no way for me to figure out what information I've given to Steam in the past.


Hrundi 6 days ago 3 replies      
How could they get to the [salted|hashed|whatever] payment data from hacking the forum? Why is the payment data even remotely linked to the forum software?

Ok, the forum may need data from the account for validation, display name or else. You can still implement it securely.
This is a big human oversight over what seems to be an insecure implementation. I just can't believe this.

I would have guessed they learned the lesson from when Gabe was hacked through an Outlook vulnerability (with the HL2 code leak afterwards). It should have made a paranoid out of him.

I think having chosen Paypal as a payment method was perhaps helpful for me.

PS: I do own a lot of games and I very much like the platform. I definitely don't have anything against them. They presented a good notice, their high level of responsibility over this incident is irrefutable.
Also, props for them for having an encryption for their preloaded games that wasn't broken so far.

edit: formatting

tuacker 5 days ago 0 replies      
It's worth noting that as far as I know Steam Guard is active for any user who didn't disable it. Meaning, if someone tries to log in to your Steam account on a device that isn't yours (both via the client and on the website) he'll get a prompt to enter a 4 char long code which is sent to your authorized email address.

So your Steam account is save. Your email address probably isn't a secret anyway. The password is changed in a second.

Which leaves your payment (encrypted) and billing info. Personally I use Click&Buy which requires a separate authorization from me and I'm actually not sure if I have any billing address associated with Steam. So for me this whole thing is just a minor annoyance in changing my password.

Obviously I might treat the obtained user data different from other people.

estel 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'd find it reassuring in times like this if company's could post details of how securely they hash and salt user passwords. It'd be good to know...
elliottcarlson 6 days ago 0 replies      
"While we only know of a few forum accounts that have been compromised, all forum users will be required to change their passwords the next time they login."

I am assuming here that this means certain passwords were cracked at that point - does this mean that the nonce/salt in their password storage was discovered? And how long until they have a cracked user/password file?

jccodez 6 days ago 0 replies      
You are loosely using the term lose. I lose things when I can no longer find them.
jamesgeck0 5 days ago 0 replies      
One nice thing about the Steam client software (and store website) is that it uses two factor authentication. The first time you log in on an unfamiliar machine, you have to input a code which is emailed to you.

Even if your Steam client and forum passwords were the same, your client account still secure as long as your email password is different.

orblivion 6 days ago 3 replies      
Wait, why would I change my Gmail password?
shocks 6 days ago 0 replies      
I am a Steam user, I did not receive an email.

If you are a Steam user I would recommend using the two-step verification process they have. It uses a password sent to your email to verify you when logging in using a new computer. Hopefully you're Steam and associated email passwords are not the same.

This is, of course, no replacement to changing your password - you should definitely do that - but allows us to relax a bit in case something similar happens again.

giulivo 5 days ago 0 replies      
It wouldn't have been a big issue, but they should have never ever save the credit card informations on a db. I don't know what makes people so confident they can save others credit card on a db.

I would rather prefer to repost the needed details for every purchase.

brunnsbe 5 days ago 0 replies      
It wluld be interesting to find out how they noticed that someone had stole the data. I guess there must be lot of aggacks that don't get caught.
machinespit 6 days ago 0 replies      
no email, but the forum page shows the message: http://forums.steampowered.com
ktusznio 6 days ago 1 reply      
I am finding it pretty difficult to change my Steam password. Where the hell do you do it?
dabit 6 days ago 2 replies      
Wait, how do you change your Steam password?
Aqwis 6 days ago 1 reply      
I have not received a mail.
primesuspect 6 days ago 1 reply      
And suddenly it's a bad day at Valve :(
xyzzyz 6 days ago 0 replies      
I am gay.
Karunamon 6 days ago 0 replies      
:( Very sad.. but I suppose it was just a matter of time. At least the CC and passwords were protected correctly.
Airport full-body X-ray scanners banned across Europe as unsafe geek.com
353 points by ukdm  16 hours ago   107 comments top 16
wbhart 11 hours ago 2 replies      
Now that the rotten things have been banned, I can tell my story without fear of being locked up. I went through a body scanner on a trip within Europe about a year or two ago. There was no random selection, they were just forcing everyone through the machine (I assume it was an x-ray but didn't actually have time to check). This machine was of the variety that did not have an operator viewing the images in a private room, but the operator standing at the machine had a display mounted on the machine itself (some parts of Europe are much less fussy about nudity). When I went through, the image was indistinct but showed "concealments" all over me (I was also permitted to see the image). The guy looked concerned and started to pat me down so he could figure out what these "concealments" were. After twenty seconds or so it was clear to him that I had no concealments and he confidently pronounced that the machines actually don't work if you are sweaty. Hilariously, a full bottle of water went through the (bag) X-ray machine unnoticed in my backpack. I pointed it out and they were kind enough to accept that I had left it in my bag accidentally and let me have it confiscated instead of what ever else it is they do with someone who has bottles of dangerous liquids like water in their bags. Since that humiliating experience I have travelled by plane in Europe as little as possible, taking the Eurostar train wherever practical. I do not travel to the US any more for any reason. I am delighted the machines are unsafe and have been banned, but naturally I believe they should have been banned on grounds of them being ineffective and an unnecessary invasion of personal privacy.

Edit: I reviewed the information here: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/1/5/163631/3181/travel/Ful...
and I do not know which type of machine it was. Frankly, it doesn't match the description of either. There were no rotating walls, it did not take 40s, yet it was not a vertical wall. Unfortunate. It would have been nice to know.

tallanvor 15 hours ago  replies      
While I'm happy to see them banned for any reason, I'd much rather they were banned on the basis that they constitute an unacceptable violation of peoples' privacy.
jashkenas 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Read the original reporting at ProPublica instead: http://www.propublica.org/article/europe-bans-x-ray-body-sca...
mmcconnell1618 15 hours ago 9 replies      
Keep in mind that there are 2 types of machines in common use. 1) Backscatter (X-Ray) and 2) Millimeter Wave (Radio) and they operate very differently.

Based on what I've read I'm comfortable with the millimeter wave system and have some concerns about the backscatter x-ray system. However, if the backscatter system operates correctly then the amount of radiation exposure is really quite small compared to the amount you'd receive on the actual flight. I still think I'd opt-out of the backscatter system until long term effects and performance are studied.

Tip: Millimeter wave looks like a circular telephone booth, Backscatter x-ray looks like a big rectangular wall you stand in front of.


ck2 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I think we need to start handing dosimeters to anyone working around the machines.

They aren't allowed to have them and will get fired, problem solved and I have zero pity.

danssig 14 hours ago 2 replies      
A reddit user on the real reason the US is buying these scanners:


Spearchucker 13 hours ago 1 reply      
The part that annoys me is that the security clearance process at airports is invasive. It serves no purpose other than to provide the perception of security.

Policy dictates that passengers are not allowed to carry any weapons onto airplanes. The scanners and other mechanisms are used to detect firearms, knives with blades longer than 6cm, and so on and so forth.

The ridiculous part is that you clear security, go into duty free, and buy a bottle of whiskey which you're allowed to take onto the airplane.

If you're so inclined, once on the airplane break the bottle and threaten a passenger or the airhostess with it.

That makes the whole process (at huge cost to the tax payer) a complete farce.

There are other crazy things we're paying for, like finger printing, and forgoing the right not to have our laptops and phones searched. Anyone who wants to get around these measures can. It defies belief.

rmc 12 hours ago 0 replies      
prawn 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Just back from the US. Saw what I assumed to be these machines in use in LAX but couldn't understand the point as it was trivial to just pick the security lines that had the normal "doorway" scanners. I was pretty blatant in changing lines too once I'd seen the larger scanners ahead, and no one seemed to pay any attention.
techiferous 5 hours ago 0 replies      
> plus the fact 300+ “dangerous and illegal items” have been detected by employing the body scanners.

300+? Needs more context. What's the percentage of false positives and false negatives? And what's the cost compared to other alternatives?

noduerme 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't think I'll be donating to the ACA or the ACLU to help out the TSA cancer victims who stood next to the machines...
vizzah 14 hours ago 2 replies      
I couldn't remember seeing many (if any) x-ray scanners in European airports - it's almost always regular metal detector gates.
X-rays do cause cancer and must not be used in airports. Enough using terrorists as an excuse, there are much easier targets - but it's been quiet for a while and hopefully continues that way.
wedesoft 5 hours ago 0 replies      
As far as I know the full body scanners are terahertz scanners. They do not use X-rays. An X-ray scan would show your bones!
Also if you really want to reduce your exposure to radiation, you should avoid flying itself.

That said, if there is a significant increase in cancer among TSA workers, that should be a cause for concern.

jamgraham 11 hours ago 0 replies      
The opt-out process is very easy in America. For example: When I fly out of SFO and am in line for the body scanner I simply ask for an opt-out and they quickly take me over for a pad down. No big deal, all you have to do is ask.
nobody31415926 11 hours ago 0 replies      
That's because the Europeans have never had a problem with terrorism and so don't know how to respond.

(It turns out that the IRA and ETA are just cultural groups misunderstood by the British and Spanish imperialist oppressors and Baader-Meinhof is too hard to spell so doesn't count.)

bauchidgw 13 hours ago 0 replies      
visit geek.com with your ipad, its such a classic example of a redicret loop. (swipeware sucks)
List of freely available programming books stackoverflow.com
350 points by parallel  3 days ago   28 comments top 14
tryitnow 3 days ago 2 replies      
There are several lists like this floating around, but this one is just amazingly comprehensive. Reading a subset of these books (and actually building stuff with the knowledge gained) will most likely provide one with a better education than all but the top-tier computer sci programs.

And the cost is $0. Now one might argue that a college cuts down on the time it takes to select courses, find and work with other students, get access to mentors, etc. But I doubt it. Whatever learning inefficiencies colleges address, other inefficiencies more than counteract those gains.

Consider that colleges also force you to spend more time on classes you could complete more quickly on your on, plus all the required coursework that might be completely unnecessary for your goals.

scscsc 2 days ago 5 replies      
Whenever I see lists like this, I think:

- why doesn't it read "list of good programming books"? (the more the merrier, but how about quality?)

- how can such a huge list help anyone? Certainly no-one will read a significant percentage of them.

I'm all for free quality content, but these lists seems to be just for collectors.

zacharypinter 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sigh... I guessed even before clicking the stackoverflow link that the topic would be locked/closed. It seems like every time I find something really interesting on stackoverflow I can count on it being closed.

I realize the moderators are trying to restrict things to specific questions with specific answers, but it's damn frustrating. Why can't they find a way to take advantage of the open-ended questions that you really want a community of programmers to answer?

gfodor 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Mining of Massive Datasets" and "Introduction to Information Retrieval" are both excellent college-level texts to their respective subjects.

Also, the machine learning book is available for free, "Elements of Statistical Learning":


hexagonc 3 days ago 1 reply      
One free book that I like is "The Z Notation: A Reference Manual" by Spivey. You can get a pdf version for free at http://spivey.oriel.ox.ac.uk/~mike/zrm/zrm.pdf. I would say that learning Z Notation had a bigger impact on my ability to understand and model software than anything else. It isn't exactly programming but it will teach you how to be a better software engineer. I never used it to prove program correctness or refinement but rather to express the relationships between the parts of a software system. It made me better at object oriented modeling.
dylangs1030 3 days ago 0 replies      
In the spirit of freely available learning material, here's this http://hackety-hack.com/.
It's a good guide for people who want to learn with a visual aid in real time, as opposed to reading rote literature off a screen. In that sense, it's good for rudimentary basics a beginning programming student would need to understand before they could visualize what's being said in the literature in more complicated manuals, without the visual aid. It's recent, so there aren't many lessons available yet, but the authors are updating more in the future.
Thanks for this parallel. Very useful for learning other languages.
mugsydean 3 days ago 1 reply      
Our educational system is so antiquated. If they could only teach kids how to be self motivated. I know when I was young, I didn't care about making grades, but to have the power to write video games was prety damn cool. Videogames 101, robotics 101, those should be a high school electives, kids would love it.
mark_l_watson 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great list. My office bookshelves are overflowing, with 4 large stacks also on the floor - about half are technical books. I would like to see which of my physical books I can toss because they are available online.
jorgecastillo 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a lifesaver, just what I was looking for. I tried google searching for something similar, but some how I never found this list, and only found useless links. Thanks.
jim_lawless 2 days ago 0 replies      
ggwicz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Brilliant! Scalable and modular CSS is a great read. Some good practices for anything where you're structuring files period, not even just CSS. Great list.
jwallaceparker 3 days ago 1 reply      
ale55andro 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a nice compilation. Thanks!
Barnes & Noble Exposes Microsoft's Trivial Patents and Strategy Against Android groklaw.net
341 points by nextparadigms  2 days ago   94 comments top 17
nextparadigms 2 days ago  replies      
So let me get this straight. Not only does Microsoft have useless/trivial patents, but they shouldn't have gotten them in the first place because of prior art. Plus, with those patents they get to claim a license fee as large as the license fee for their whole OS - WP7. On top of that with those useless patents they get to act as if they owned the whole of Android, and get to dictate manufacturers how to make their Android phones?

I have no words for Microsoft, they're simply despicable and I don't know how anyone could support such a company that has proven time and time again they will adopt such tactics to destroy their competition. They've probably done a lot of this behind the scenes with Linux and other browsers before. We just didn't find out about most of it. And we almost didn't find out about this, either, if it wasn't for B&N.

But what I don't understand how could HTC, Samsung and all the others agree to this so easily? HTC has grown 3x every year for the past 2 years because of Android, and Samsung has become the largest smartphone manufacturer surpassing both Nokia and Apple thanks to Android, and they say nothing against Microsoft or try to protect the ecosystem that's been feeding them?

Shame on them for not standing up to Microsoft, and kudos to B&N, which wasn't even a manufacturer not too long ago, for having the guts to stand up Microsoft and protect the Android ecosystem.

brlewis 2 days ago 1 reply      
As always, if you shouldn't look at patents, don't click to read the rest of the article.

Groklaw is right to write that. If you write software that will ever be in the public eye, you shouldn't look at software patents because they make you more liable for damages in infringement cases.

The constitution authorized congress to create a system "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" by publishing information that innovators would want to look at. The system we have now hinders progress, not just in corner cases but across the entire software field.

Can you imagine anyone writing that sentence if we had a patent system that worked as intended? I can't. If the patent system promoted progress, innovators would constantly be reading patents.

3am 2 days ago 1 reply      
They are a known, serial monopolist and at this point MSFT deserves the corporate death penalty. They should go ahead and force the company to split into consumer software, enterprise software, Windows, and hardware companies like the should have done more than a decade ago.

EDIT: A well reasoned rebuttal is worth a thousand downvotes. But my fault for getting involved in religious wars...

EDIT: I also want to note that whoever is doing this is not content to downvote this comment, but is also looking up my comment history and downvoting old comment of mine (fair warning to anyone posting in this thread)

recoiledsnake 2 days ago 2 replies      
From B&N's filing:

>Microsoft has shown its intent to drive out other open source software using overaggressive patent enforcement. The Microsoft dominated MPEG-LA consortium recently sent out a request for patents that would cover Google's VP8 video codec, and one company has already filed a private antitrust complaint against MPEG-LA for this behavior.3 MPEG-LA is a patent pool organized to collect and license patents on the H.264/MPEG video codec, a method of digitally encoding video files and decoding them for playback. Google is attempting to introduce its own codec, the VP8 codec, to compete with the MPEG codec. Once again, by seeking non-essential patents to assert offensively rather than defensively, Microsoft intends to drive out competition from open source developers.

Is MPEG-LA really dominated by MS in any sense of the word? Just curious.

MS seems to be actually paying them more for licenses in the end than what they get for a few patents they have in the pool. Not sure about Apple.

In any case, they're supporting VP8/WebM via user installed plugins in IE and have stated that they're not shipping it with the OS because they're afraid of patent trolls suing them for very high damages because they would be liable for hundreds of millions of Windows licenses.

Igor_Bratnikov 2 days ago 3 replies      
As someone that has been on the defending side (legal representative) of a patent troll attack which is essentially the role MS is playing here it saddens you to see how low people can go with using the patent system. One of the case I analyzed was a patent that literally did not cover the technology and only a very loosely interpreting judge could interpret it as so. But the cost (at least 0.5 - 1 million dollars until a judge will even see your argument) are so staggering that we in fact encourage parties to throw around bs patents to racketeer money from parties that actually contribute positively to society by creating innovative products. Of course this also fuels the market for filing and selling/buying up bs patents.

The only way I can describe it is that its like a artery of someone that keeps eating bacon long after their doctor advised them to stop. The space keeps getting blocked up more and more. It is inevitable that serious problems are bound to occur and cause ever greater friction to innovation.

Bud 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's pretty sad that Microsoft has sunk this low: a company that is so afraid of its ability to compete honestly in the market that it becomes a multi-billion-dollar patent troll.
monochromatic 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is a court filing by a litigant. It's hardly an unbiased source. The assertions of an interested party should not be an excuse to avoid critical thinking.

But hey, it's in line with what most of HN thinks about patents, so we're all willing to take it at face value.

jongraehl 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a legal denial of service attack (assuming B+N's story is substantially accurate). I wonder what kind of penalties are for that behavior - I assume being ordered to pay the other side's legal bills is a possibility.
kenjackson 2 days ago 2 replies      
MS has no obligation to license their patents at a reasonable price or even at all. You may say the patents should be overturned, but that's a question for the USPTO and the courts. Their job is to maximize profits using their patents.

It's still very unclear to me what MS is doing that is illegal. They have no mobile monopoly. And "demanding" design guidelines certainly isn't illegal.

BN can sue because MS isn't nice to them, but that's about all I see.

vijayr 1 day ago 0 replies      
If I want to sue someone for my (alleged) patents, why not make me pay the legal costs for both sides, as the case goes to court (not after), until the case is decided one way or the other? that way, if a big fat ass company sues a small guy, the small guy can at least try to fight in court. May be he'll lose, but he'll at least have a chance to fight - it'll also make these big guys think a bit before suing for patents?
fpgeek 2 days ago 0 replies      
I love that B&N's lawyers cited Netscape Navigator 2.0b3 as prior art (with respect to background image loading in a web browser). I wish HTC and Samsung's lawyers were as clever with respect to Apple's bogus "Linkify" patent ("Live URLs" from 2.0b1 in that case).
scotty79 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'd very much liked if someone called bullsh*t on the Microsoft's patents and then prepared joint lawsuit of all companies against Microsoft's "agreements". They look more like racketeering than cooperation.
civilian 2 days ago 0 replies      
Cool! I'm going to try to do more Xmas shopping at B&N this season.
Senthee 1 day ago 0 replies      
M$ needed to use all their ammo to counter Android. It already crossed 52% marketshare http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1848514. I am able to see their (M$) desperation but it never going to help them.
ianstormtaylor 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good luck finding developers for WP7...
newgrad 2 days ago 1 reply      
tl;dr, anyone?
cooldeal 2 days ago 1 reply      
Groklaw used to be good a while ago, but now seems to have degenerated into extreme bias against Microsoft. We do not see such articles written by PJ on Apple, for example. While they're still interesting, they need to be taken with a large dose of salt.
How to work from home without going insane (purple monkey dishwasher) davidtate.org
341 points by tate  6 days ago   99 comments top 36
jroseattle 6 days ago 6 replies      
I've worked from my home office for the past few years, and I've figured out it's the ideal solution for my work pattern.

I have a good work ethic, and stay very productive (better than when I'm in a client's offices.) And IM is a life-saver with the teams I'm on.

The biggest challenge to transitioning to WFH was not the kids. They respect my office as a workspace and really go out of their way not to interrupt me.

No, the biggest challenge was my wife. It took over a year -- a YEAR -- for her to recognize that I was working. For the longest time, I was "playing on my computer" or "surfing the Internet" or whatever the daily description might entail.

One day, she emotionally finally reached a conclusion: "I simply cannot count on you as being available to take care of things here at home while you're working." Bingo!

And that was the crux of it -- working at home didn't mean working while living life at home, it meant physically working from home. I explained how I was mentally at work, and not at home. As soon as she accepted the fact that I was earning a living while still being in our home, everything fell into place.

user24 6 days ago 0 replies      
Been working from home for two years solidly now. A lot of what's in this article is true. I used to have whole days when I don't leave my chair, let alone the house. Now I make an effort to at least walk around the block before work.

The points about planning are very well made; it's vital to keep yourself aware of what you're doing.

But you do need to work hard at not losing it. I've lost days to multiplayer 8 ball pool on miniclip (I'm like a sniper on that thing). Right now I've been wearing these clothes all week (but I did have a shower yesterday!). It's difficult when there are other people around - my wife used to get in from work at 5 and start chatting to me and I had to continually remind her that I don't finish till 5.30. I miss fresh air, and I miss talking to people, even though I'm something of a recluse.

It can be hugely fun though! You get a massive amount of control over your workflow, and you get as big a desk as you can fit in your room. Right now I have a shelf unit filled with toy robots in front of me! I voice-skype with my boss almost every day, and we chat on skype all the time. I don't have to worry about taking a few minutes off to pop to the post office or whatever. I save time by not having any traveling time, and I get to make the joke that I walk to work every day!

So in terms of the effects on you personally, yes it can be depressing, but it can also be fun, especially if you manage yourself.

In terms of how it affects your work, we have found that we miss the little 'pondering' conversations by the proverbial water cooler. If I have a problem I'm working on and it gets too much and I want to take a break, I sit at my desk, at home, either tweeting or just thinking to myself. If was at work I might wander over to my boss's desk and start chatting about that product idea we had last week, so it's worth trying to build in some mechanisms to replace those kind of chats between you and your co-workers.

GBKS 6 days ago 0 replies      
Just like moving out of your parents house, working from home is a big step towards autonomy. Less externally imposed structures and rules, and people to keep you (un)focused means you need to create your own system that works for your personality, goals and context. Definitely something to get used to.

Monthly/weekly/daily goals across some main areas of work (planning, production, strategy, promotion, etc) has been a super big help for me.

The biggest help for me is to have very specific overall goals to achieve. Being laser-focused on those makes a big difference towards making the small decisions that take you forward and keep you focused.

holdenc 6 days ago 0 replies      
Working from home in a foreign country for two years now. Biggest takeaways:

- Working from home on my own projects is much more fulfilling than working on someone else's.

- No matter how much money you earn, most people assume that people working from are barely scraping by, or somehow non-ambitious.

king_magic 6 days ago 8 replies      
I've personally found that I do not enjoy working from home. I think he hits the nail on the head with the "Crippling Depression" part. As a software engineer, I do my best work alone, in my head, but I need real-life interaction with my team for my work to feel meaningful.
cageface 6 days ago 2 replies      
I've been working from hotels in Europe and Asia for almost a year now. The freedom is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The best days are those when I somehow manage to write something in a day that would have taken me weeks of wading through office politics. The worst days are those when I feel like I haven't accomplished anything and can't stop thinking that nobody's holding a paycheck out for me at the end of the month.
tucaz 6 days ago 2 replies      
I have been doing this for almost 3 years now and I surely agree that work from home is at the same time the best and worst in the world.

Its very nice because, as you said, you control everything.
However it is also very bad because you do not have enough contact with other humans.

And I'm not saying this because there no one to chit-chat, but because there is no one to talk about work. As a developer, getting input from others, even if they tell you that what you are doing sucks or does not worth it, is very important because a) In case they say bad things it can help you improve it and b) If they are wrong, it reassures you of what you are doing, giving you confidence. When you do not have anyone to share work with, you can get stuck for hours even if you are writing the best code of your life.

Regarding interruptions I think I learned how to deal with them. I try not to fight myself so if I want to go watch some series or do some other stuff, I just do it. When I need to deliver something my brain naturally does not make me want do other stuff than work so I gave up trying to control this. Instead I use the energy that I get from not fighting my body in work when I really need to do it.

OstiaAntica 6 days ago 2 replies      
I have a dog, which is great. Dogs are pretty good company, and it forces you to go for walks every 4 hours or so.
maximusprime 6 days ago 2 replies      
I've worked from home on and off for the last 10 years. The best bit for me is definitely the freedom and watching your kids grow up.

I'm currently working on the sofa, dog curled up by my feet, watching TV :) Most days I take a bath at 2pm. Rock n roll!

(Funny sketch about working from home. Don't click if you get easily offended http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=co_DNpTMKXk )

bencpeters 6 days ago 1 reply      
I've been working from home for about 6 months now, and relate to a lot of what's in this article. The scheduling can be super tough - it's way to easy to get distracted on the internet and blow an entire morning doing absolutely nothing.

Overall, the thing that I think has kept me both productive and sane is working hard to have external passions. For me, it's outdoor sports like rock climbing and mountain biking, and if you just decide that you're going to get out for a few hours every day and do some non-work thing that you love, then you have a justification for being productive during the portion of the day that you are actually working. I also find that doing these sports brings me into contact with other people beyond my girlfriend and house mate, which is definitely a very appreciated bonus after being cooped up in the house by yourself for so many hours a week.

jiggy2011 6 days ago 0 replies      
I work from home mainly and the freedom is a big plus as well as the saved money on commutes.

If anyone else is thinking of doing this though I would recommend making sure you have a room somewhere that you can use almost exclusively for work.

I live in a small house and share with people who are unemployed and since my bedroom is not big enough to fit a desk and a computer I end up having to work in what is basically a communal area of the house and also on the path to the kitchen.

We have a sort of agreement that they will try and give me some space but having people walking to and fro behind me whenever they need to get to the kitchen or coming through 'just to quickly ask me something' is cancer to productivity since they will always interrupt you when your in 'the zone', they don't really understand that 10 seconds of disturbance probably costs me 20 minutes of work on average.

This can also put stresses on your personal relationships since it's easy to be pretty short with people when they disturb you.

DEinspanjer 6 days ago 0 replies      
I've found that being in IRC with teammates and attending meetings using a video conference solution are key components to my mental health while working from home.

I work on the east coast for a west coast company, and that means that scheduling is a constant problem for me. Some people in the office are most productive in the last couple of hours of the core work day (i.e. 3 to 5) and that is tough for me because I'm trying to have dinner with my family and get kids ready for bed.

The wife and kids all understand that when I am in my office I am "at work" and interruptions are considered just as if they were asking me to take time from the office and come back home.

The biggest challenge for me when I was shifting into this method of work is the fact that work is always just a few steps away. When you are passionate about your work and job, your brain doesn't stop working just because you aren't at your desk anymore. When a great idea comes to you or you remember something that you really need to schedule or write down, it is very easy to say, "I'll be right back" and suddenly lose an hour or two of your free time. I won't say I have conquered this challenge yet (my wife would scoff so loud I think HN might actually pick it up and post it as a reply), but being aware of it is the critical part. When you are about to say, "I'll be right back", think about what the ramifications would be if you were gone for over an hour.

massarog 6 days ago 0 replies      
I've been working from home for the past 2 years. It's always funny how friends say "you're so lucky you get to work from home while I have to go to work". Truth is, most would never be able to make it through the 'work at home' life because they would become so distracted and bored with the freedom that it gives you. The one thing that keeps me on task is this: Exercise. I usually work anywhere from 10am-530pm, then I get up and go to the gym for 1.5 hours. I'll then come home, eat dinner, shower, and relax on the couch while casually working. If you work from home, be sure to get out every once in a while or you're going to quickly hate it.
freemarketteddy 6 days ago 1 reply      
Well I plan to spend a lifetime working from home....Here are my ideas.

a) First and foremost....I will make it a point to go to places where I meet people....Some such places can be gym,yoga classes,bars/clubs if I am single.

b) I will travel as much as possible....How I see it,there is actually some productivity to be gained from working on your friends couch in miami for a month.

c) Be much much more efficient.The shackles of bureaucracy are not holding me back anymore.There is no reason I should not be able to produce 10 times as much than some average kid at xyz corp.10 times is actually a pretty modest goal.

d) Music,Adderall and daily exercise to increase focus.

e) Occasional mary jane sessions with stoner friends to increase creativity.

But then maybe its easier said than done!...Any comments from people who are already working from home independently?

nodata 5 days ago 0 replies      
In case anyone is wondering why the words "Purple monkey dishwasher" is in the title, it's apparently from The Simpsons:

Bart: [walking up] Now for Operation Strike-Make-Go-Longer. [to teacher] You know, I heard Skinner say the teachers will crack any minute.

[the teachers whisper it forward through the line]

Teacher: [to Edna] Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute purple monkey dishwasher.

Edna: Well! We'll show him, especially for that "purple monkey dishwasher" remark.

[everyone shouts their assent]

Caballera 6 days ago 0 replies      
I love working from home, I'm only in the office one week out of every 3 the rest of the time I'm at home working. My fellow employees and I actually find ways we can work from home when we're 'suppose' to be in the office.

I love being able to use my own equipment, being comfortable, not being interrupted by the constant office noises and being able to do whatever I want. Plus the time saved on not having to commute I can work overtime and make more money.

In the office I have to use their desk, their chair, their shitty monitor. At home I can use all my own equipment, everything is there and everything works. I can take breaks at my leisure and because I'm more productive I can play games, or watch some TV, or go out for a 20 minute walk.

I also save 4 hours a day on commuting while working from home. Time which can then be spent either working extra, for more money, doing things around my apartment, hanging out with my wife.

After 3 1/2 years of working from home my wife doesn't bother me, or at the very least, she knows when I can be bothered. It's about setting boundaries. I also work with a partner who's also working at home who I can talk to and get assistance from.

I'm sure it all depends on what kind of job you are doing, I provide tech support to customers all around the world. Somedays it can be really busy and some days it can be extremely slow.

mountaineer 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm 4 months into my second working from home experience. First time I was in a room on the main floor with french doors right by the front door and in constant view of wife and kids. This time I'm in a basement, out of view, so that's helped maintain separation.

If you have kids, I came up with "Ticket Time" to help assuage the guilt over not hanging out with your kids while working and give them something to look forward to so they don't wander downstairs on a whim. It works best in the summer when they're not in school.

The kids get a playing card in the morning and they can use it to come down and spend 5 minutes with me. We'll throw or kick a ball around, play a quick game of UNO or something like that. They love it and its fun for me to have some time with them that I wouldn't have in the office.

ed209 6 days ago 1 reply      
I've worked from home since 2003. I really enjoy it, especially now that I have a little girl.

Unfortunately, the added focus you get from working in an office is lost to possibility of being able to do anything anytime. And what's bad about that, is that you tell yourself on certain tasks that "you can do it anytime, and I'll just post to HN now".

An ordered todo list is the most important tool you have when working from home.

Also, a gratuitous link to an image of my home office http://bit.ly/sItzcW

dsr_ 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm more productive when I work from home. I am more responsive to my coworkers when I work in the office. Both of these things are valuable.

I could probably be about as productive as I am at home if I shut the door to my office. I suspect I wouldn't get much more responsive than I am at home, though.

leeHS 6 days ago 0 replies      
Purple Monkey Dishwasher!!!! I've said these words to the most die-hard Simpson fans and they look at me like I'm from outer-space! It's my favourite line, but this is the first time I've ever seen anyone quote it besides myself.

Sorry, I realize this doesn't really advance the discussion.

ofca 6 days ago 0 replies      
A piece of advice that works for me - when you can, change things up by changing your workplace. Once or twice a week, grab your laptop and go working somewhere outside your normal, work environment (like library or college campus) and work from there. Even if you stay as little as few hours, youll be amazed at how refreshing that is and how your creativity and productivity will increase.
alexwolfe 6 days ago 1 reply      
Btw, I've been using this app for my mac to implement the Pomodoro technique (didn't know it was called that though)


dennish00a 6 days ago 4 replies      
It is interesting...I had never heard of the Pomodoro technique but independently developed a method in which each "work unit" is: 25 minutes. I wonder how many others have also concluded that 25 minutes is short enough not to be scary (if you have to force yourself to do it) but long enough to get something done.
gcb 6 days ago 0 replies      
rule #0, never assume you can spend one weekend working on your car or bike if you work from home.

it will drag over the week for sure, and will seem way too much more fun/important than work.

my stories are from a younger me, but include:

taking the engine of a motorcycle (a vintage honda trail) out to take it to a shop to redo some threads and get rid of an oil leak... ended up dismantling the entire bike to re-paint it.

taking one sunday to fix the horn of a car (a vintage bmw e34)... ended up dismantling the dashboard and rear firewall of engine compartment to fix/clean all the A/C components

bought an old bicycle on craigslist (bike had some 12yr) to get in shape while biking to work... ended up dismantling the whole thing and restoring it to brand new state. I even opened up the derailleurs and freewheel to properly restore it with original components.

johnnyjustice 6 days ago 4 replies      
Yay for the mention of the Pomodoro Method, it is quite effective and has gotten me through college.

Your reasoning however for learning to be interrupted in our life, is something I am not necesarily sure about. Are humans just simply bad at long stretches of focus? I am not sure but i am and thats why I use the pomodoro.

cmars 6 days ago 0 replies      
I work from home now, I could go take a walk - right now!
I work from home now, I could ride a bike - right now!

Then freaking do it and return to your work with new vigor.

Stop feeling guilty about it. This always makes you more productive. If you were stuck in a cube you'd just be miserable and reading reddit anyway, or you'd walk around the campus. No different.

luke_osu 6 days ago 0 replies      
I have worked from home since early this year, and it has definitely been up and down for me. I can relate to the author with the wife and kids situation, but I have learned to cope with that pretty well. My wife generally respects my space and the kids are getting better. One downside to being home all the time is that my kids think I work all the time now, even tho I am always around. Out of sight, out of mind.

For me the social piece was the hardest part. Luckily for me there are a couple of co-working places that I hit up once or twice a week. I try to schedule coffee or lunch as much as possible with people I know, and don't know. I also do the occasional coffee shop session, but I can't stay there too long b/c their chairs usually suck.

So I would recommend that people try to network more. Get out of the house. Go do some co-working. You will find that you are not alone on an island, and that really helps.

iamben 6 days ago 0 replies      
Without sounding completely mental, Twitter has been my work from home saviour this time around.

I worked from home a fair few years back, and by the time my housemate came home, I was bouncing off the walls with the excitement of someone to talk to. He, who had been in the office all day, just wanted to watch TV and talk to no-one.

I started working from home again earlier this year, this time with Twitter in my life. Twitter/Tweetdeck provides the perfect office banter for me. My friends chat, I join in if I want to. Industry contacts and peers discuss worky stuff - not only do I get to interact with them, but it also means I don't fall behind with what's happening.

I do still find I need to pencil 'go outside' into my diary every day, though...

alexwolfe 6 days ago 0 replies      
A lot of truths in this article. Thanks for sharing, at the very least it makes me feel sane for feeling like I'm going to go insane working at home all the time. Cheers.
diamondhead 6 days ago 0 replies      
I highly recommend working at a shared office such as Nextspace. I worked at the SF office of Nextspace for 3 months to improve MultiplayerChess.com. It's quite nice to be in an office with no co-workers or boss.
robyates 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why working from home is both awesome and horrible: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/working_home
dad 5 days ago 0 replies      
been working from home for most of the last 22 years. This was a good post and much of it resonated. Wrote up a few "tips" and thoughts based on my experiences working at home: http://geekanddad.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/working-at-home-s...
hn_reader 6 days ago 0 replies      
I work from home part time and while I appreciate having that option, I do find there are negatives. Other than missing basic human interaction, there's something to be said about the chance encounter with a co-workers in the hallway that leads to an idea or being able to pop by someone's office to discuss a problem. I also find that face-to-face communication is a higher bandwidth medium than phone/IM chat.
markusn 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just wanted to mention one thing: it is important to train your partner to let you work. It is equally or even more important to get out of work mode at certain times. I had to realize for myself that on days where my perceived productivity wasn't great or nonexistent at all, I reacted unnecessarily harsh to requests to help at ANY given time, because you know I wasn't finished with my work, I already made dinner, so my family duties are met, etc. The thing is, we never are done, right? Letting the financial pressure of working independently combined with the stress of feeling not having achieved anything that day sip into your relationship can be very stressful to it
jockc 6 days ago 4 replies      
How did all you people find jobs that allow you to work from home? I would love to try it, I just don't see many programmer jobs that allow this.
Axsuul 6 days ago 0 replies      
The "please just go take a shower" hit home HARD
Nassim Taleb: End Bonuses For Bankers nytimes.com
321 points by saturdaysaint  8 days ago   235 comments top 34
Dbkasia 8 days ago  replies      
As a former banker with 18 years experience, this article is 100% on the ball. Having worked as a senior executive during the times of Global Crossing and Enron I saw how the system was gamed!.

Working at this large institution I saw how the bonus system, made the supposedly senior bankers act like a group of Mary Kay cosmetic sales girls, seeing how they could optimize their bonuses by playing the game, and how they got the lower levels of the pyramid to play along because of the partial subjectivity and discretionary aspect of the bonus system. Because of this discretionary aspect, lower levels of the pyramid, we're unlikely to question the creation of complex and funky new products specifically designed to overcome impediments to maximize that short term bonus.

When this giant "ponzi" scheme began to collapse, I saw how those same greedy senior executives proceeded to panic and destroy significant strategic parts of the business solely to stop the leakage of their bonus pool and try and cosmetically dress up the banks short term results to justify and maintain those 6-8 figure bonuses they had thought they were going to receive.

Many of these executives later "resigned" or were "retired" by their boards who should have been accountable for the damage reaped by these masters of gaming. Most of them(I think all of them!) retained huge bonuses all at the expense of the shareholders and employees. Writing off 100's of millions of $ of shareholder and depositor value. With middle class retail shareholders, depositors, and employees paying the price of this borderline criminal behavior.

Most galling to me is that one of these executive used some of his "hard owned bonus" to have a faculty/ building at my alma mater named after him. I believe this was probably more driven by ego than guilt!

Nassim is 100% on the ball. Nothing has really changed and history repeats itself, and unless government starts to listen then I fear the outcome will either be financial collapse or revolution (#occupywallstreet?).

RyanMcGreal 8 days ago 4 replies      
Or the US could simply re-regulate financial institutions the way it did during the period from the 1930s through the 1990s.
ihodes 8 days ago 5 replies      
This is absurd. Regulating private companies' compensation? Instead, the government should either make sure companies don't get "too big to fail", or make it very clear that banks don't have the Geithner Put option.

Simple and unobtrusive.

wtvanhest 8 days ago 6 replies      
I love hacker news for discussions about business and about learning about how the smartest programmers in the world think about programming.

When articles that deal with the world outside of startup finance appear on Hacker News, the articles and comments usually have so little knowledge behind them they are practically unreadable.

It would be nice if this community could keep the articles they post based on VC funding, angel funding, debt funding for start ups, option pools, etc.

The comments here are more representative of political ideals and not based on facts.

(Also, I understand that is not entirely true as some comments are actually quit interesting, but I have to wade through so much garbage to find them that it isn't worth it.)

rdl 8 days ago 1 reply      
Another option is for banking (of the high risk investment banking kind) to be conducted by partnerships, with only natural persons as members, rather than corporations. One's ownership would be long-term, and actions could claw back previous upside.

Goldman Sachs was a partnership until its IPO in 1999. A lot of finance houses were closely held partnerships until the late 20th century.

jcampbell1 8 days ago  replies      
I think a better solution for "too big to fail" banks would be to require bonuses are paid in restricted stock. That way if the bank needs a bailout, then bonuses would be automatically clawed back. The bigger the bank, the larger the portion that is required to be RSUs. This would give a recruitment advantage to smaller banks, thus serve as an automatic limiter to bank size.
OllieJones 7 days ago 1 reply      
Nassim Taleb is making an argument about the structure of the banking system's risk management schemes. This is an attractive article for us to comment on because, doh, we'd like to punish somebody for the 2005-2008 Collateralized-debt-obligation and Credit-default-swap Cluster-f* (I'll call that the C3F from here on). And, surely it would be good to hold somebody accountable for what happened. Not that they'll be able to fix it. But still, it will feel like justice.

But that's not Mr. Taleb's point.

The real C3F problem is of TREMENDOUS professional interest to creative software folks. Most of us work on systems that can aggregate lots of measurements to try to get a big picture of the system. Some of us look at video and audio signals. Others of us look at web server logs. Today, I'm trying to troubleshoot slow DBMS performance. Our brothers and sisters in banking and trading look at measures of risk.

And we all know what we do to make sense of these measures. We average them. We sometimes throw out the outliers. We measure their standard deviations, or maybe their quintiles if we're sophisticated. And then we track the averages and other aggregates, assuming that it's sound to do so.

My boss asked me today, "is the average query time going up?" I responded, "wrong question! we need to look at the outliers."

This approach to averaging measurements feels like something we got from our mothers' milk as infants. But it's based on Gauss's Central Value Theorem, which shows that independent (repeat INDEPENDENT) measurements tend to have a normal bell curve distribution. (We call that a Gaussian distribution in honor of the Central Value Theorem).

So, what the heck, let's sell mortgages to poor folks, and huge mortgages to rich folks. They can't ALL fail to pay, can they? The ones who fail to pay will be the outliers, won't they? The Central Value Theorem teaches us that the average person will pay up. So we can manage the two-sigma risk by buying a credit default swap (you have AIG's phone number, call them!), and all is well.

Except for one thing. Mortgage defaults aren't independent of each other. When one property on the block goes into default, it becomes harder to sell the others or refinance them. So the Central Value Theorem's premise of INDEPENDENT measurements fails. Big time. Lo and behold, C3F.

Mr. Taleb's point is that in the real world of risk management, things aren't Gaussian. The events he calls black swans are long-tail events (that is, their probability curve falls off far slower than the Central Value Theorem predicts).

Why is this relevant to HN? Because we can easily deceive ourselves by ignoring outliers (black swans) in our fields of work. Hopefully it won't be as catastrophic as C3F, but we should beware.

Seriously, if you haven't read Mr. Taleb's book The Black Swan, it's worth your trouble.

Aloisius 8 days ago 1 reply      
There are plenty of fine ways of reducing risk for companies which pose a systemic threat the US economy, eliminating bonuses is probably not one of them.

The most obvious is, if a company ever becomes Too Big To Fail, you simply force them to break up. We do this with monopolies because they could harm competition. We have plenty of experience with it. Surely we could do it with companies that represent a massive threat to our economy.

The second one I see is to force any Too Big To Fail company to hold a very large percentage of their value in a bond they hold with the government. Now, they could be a standard federal bond or a special insurance bond, but it would basically mean that if the sh*t hit the fan, there would be enough company assets in safe holding to fail in a more controlled manner.

wsetchell 8 days ago 4 replies      
This sounds like we're tackling a symptom not the disease. Instead of figuring out how to stop bankers from being paid so much in bonuses, we should answer ask why a few times.

"Why can banks pay their employees so much?" - because they make so much money, and have so few employees.

"Why can banks make so much money?" - I'm not sure but it seems like banks can take risks, but pass off the real risk to others.

"Why can banks take risks, but not have to worry about the downside of those risks" - ...

I think if you follow that train of thinking you'll get to some structural problem in our current system. It doesn't seem like there is an easy fix here.

HSO 7 days ago 0 replies      
Mixed feelings about this article.

> The potency of my solution lies in the idea that people do not consciously wish to harm themselves; I feel much safer on a plane because the pilot, and not a drone, is at the controls.

What about myopia, self-delusion, panic, sheer intellectual dishonesty or even disability, and all the other assorted biases that afflict human judgment? Humans hurt themselves all the time. In fact, there are instances when putting more pressure or increasing the (financial) incentives hurts performance and increases risk.

> I believe that “less is more” " simple heuristics are necessary for complex problems. So instead of thousands of pages of regulation, we should enforce a basic principle: Bonuses and bailouts should never mix.

Having said that, I'm still all for the use and (re?)discovery of heuristics in regulation, combined with judgment on the part of the enforcer. It's high time we moved past the game of who can outlawyer who. There is a reason that posts like yesterday's knife maker capture the attention of many people these days and why firms like Apple or Leica are so successful these days. Life is becoming so complex, we can't write every contingency into a law; so much is becoming possible today that we need more and more conscious, i.e. editorial constraint.

T_S_ 8 days ago 1 reply      
This fails because it ignores the root cause. All banking crises are informational in nature. Circulating more of the right kind of information is nearly all the regulation you need. What information? Positions, live or daily, in detail. No more too big to fail, and many other problems simply disappear.

In contrast, most regulatory proposals betray a belief in installing a tough cop of some kind to combat 'evildoers'. Guess what, the evildoers are just people doing their jobs. We need to tweak the system to stabilize it, and for a regulated industry like banking the government has all the power it needs to do so.

jwallaceparker 8 days ago 3 replies      
>> I HAVE a solution for the problem of bankers who take risks that threaten the general public: Eliminate bonuses.

I'm sorry but that's not the solution.

The solution is for the government to stop bailing out private institutions, regardless of whether they are deemed "too big to fail."

There are some incredibly elegant natural laws built into the fabric of the universe, one of which is expressed through economic systems in which corrupt, reckless institutions are eliminated because they go broke.

The only way corrupt, reckless institutions are allowed to persist are when they are propped up by taxpayer money.

gallerytungsten 8 days ago 0 replies      
The problem that Taleb unfortunately doesn't address is that the bankers have captured the political system. For this reason his solution unlikely to transpire.
pkaler 8 days ago 1 reply      
The real solution is to either disintermediate the banks or eat away at their profits. LendingClub, Covestor, SecondMarket, Simple, Square, WePay, and Mint come to mind.
brown9-2 8 days ago 0 replies      
Instead, it's time for a fundamental reform: Any person who works for a company that, regardless of its current financial health, would require a taxpayer-financed bailout if it failed should not get a bonus, ever. In fact, all pay at systemically important financial institutions " big banks, but also some insurance companies and even huge hedge funds " should be strictly regulated.

I'd really like to see someone attempt to express such a condition in the type of legalese that appears in legislation.

How do you ban something based on a hypothetical possibility? How do you write this condition down?

kahawe 7 days ago 0 replies      
What people seem to often forget is... during the financial crisis following the housing crash governments (especially in the USA) passed out significant amounts of bailout money for all those banks but completely failed to get them under control - so banks just used that bailout money to temporarily guarantee their vital liquidity and once things were looking up again a few months later, they just kicked them out and went right back to their old business, including bonuses and everything.

There were even farce attempts to "get them under control" and the banks themselves would have votes in these decisions HOW they were going to be controlled and regulated. Excuse me??? That is like putting the mafia on trial and making their family the grand jury.

"Too big to fail" has proven time and again to be the absolutely best way of gaming the system almost any way you want. We even bent the very rules of capitalism and free market backwards multiple times to accommodate for these behemoth institutions and to this day, justice hasn't happened and nobody has ever been responsible for this mess.

endtime 8 days ago 6 replies      
>The asymmetric nature of the bonus (an incentive for success without a corresponding disincentive for failure) causes hidden risks to accumulate in the financial system and become a catalyst for disaster.

I think this claim contains a pretty elementary mistake. No bonus is a disincentive, because base salaries can be relatively low; not receiving a bonus is a large opportunity cost. If I could get a 400k salary, but I instead opt for a 200k salary with a 400k expected bonus, then if I don't get my bonus I'm 200k behind where I could have been if I just took the salary.

mbesto 8 days ago 0 replies      
In order to understand why bankers get such massive bonuses it would probably be good to read this first:

Michael Lewis - Liar's Poker


uwe 8 days ago 0 replies      
I like the general idea of linking the consequences of some actions to the actors involved to prevent cheating and bad behavior. The examples from Babylon and Rome were probably much more effective in this than cutting the bonus of a banker (ie they paid with their lives).

I had a similar thought when I started reading about fracking (http://www.propublica.org/series/fracking). A simple solution there for the pollution caused by the wastewater is to force the executives and their families from the companies doing fracking to live in the communities they affect and use/drink the water they claim is safe.

mey 8 days ago 0 replies      
Bonuses are incentives. What they are giving bonuses for is wrong. Not the bonus concept itself. Eliminate the bailouts, require a certain percentage liquidity, force assets to be marked to market on a certain interval. Suddenly the bank's finance sheet to it's investors won't be so rosy, investors will demand change, change will happen.
bandushrew 8 days ago 0 replies      
You cannot control payment to employees like that, companies just find a way around those kinds of laws.

Better to regulate the institutions themselves so that they dont get 'to big to fail', don't get to combine access to cheap money with access to the financial markets, don't get to insure themselves and so forth.

MKT 8 days ago 0 replies      
If you don't pay bonuses, do you give a managing director at a bank a 1 million dollar salary independent of performance? How is that a good thing? And if you tried to pay her very little, the bank would just turn itself into a shadow bank and proceed as before. Remember, GM was not a bank, at least nominally, and it was bailed out
jprobert 8 days ago 0 replies      
How about structuring bonuses more like an earn out. When companies are acquired an earn out is typically included so that the owner of the acquired company has an incentive to run the company in the most profitable way. If bankers bonuses were based on earn outs that are paid over 3-4-5 years then they will reconsider risk since compensation is deferred.
3d3mon 8 days ago 0 replies      
I think strict regulation is the way to go. Banking in a modern economy is really a utility like gas, electric, and water.

Another solution that is more long term oriented and market based: create rival capital-formation pools outside of Wall and Broad, say in the Midwest, South, and West Coast. That way if one pool blows up, we can let them fail and it won't take out the whole economy. It also removes single points of failure from the system. I think the crowdsourcing bill floating in Congress is a great start as it decentralizes capital-raising.

geogra4 8 days ago 0 replies      
Taleb is an excellent writer and not (as someone here has stated) someone completely delusional. He, in fact, worked in the financial industry for many years and I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book "The Black Swan"[1] about how we've basically all been duped by large banks that expose us to risk and keep the profits for themselves.


zanny 8 days ago 0 replies      
The fundamental problem is that when a corporation has so much money they can throw tons of it at the upper management and executive, and not go out of business because they are undercut by a competitor that doesn't waste money like that, then something is wrong with capitalism at that point. That is the problem you try to fix, you don't just throw more regulation on the banks that will backfire like software patents.
radikalus 8 days ago 1 reply      
Not everyone who works at a bank is a "banker" -- going after bonus structure holistically without regard to station/role seems impractical bordering on impossible.

Beyond even that, one might imagine that if US banking regulations get extremely prohibitive, banks will just move offshore. (And still be too big to fail with regard to the US economy)

I think that a little divide-and-conquer is needed to fix some of the smaller sub problems...

fennecfoxen 8 days ago 0 replies      
A debate with some merit, but not "hacker news". I say flag it.
spacefungus 8 days ago 1 reply      
Taleb rocks. The funniest thing is that he hates the NYT but is able to recognize the chance for a big audience.
anonanon123 8 days ago 0 replies      
End Bonuses For Software Engineers!
shareme 8 days ago 1 reply      
The problem is what we are attempting to regulate culture wise does not view at as a problem..to change that culture requires some heavy duty court convictions and jail time...if Obama get his 2nd term some of those court cases in fact come to trial via the DOJ and SEC, etc.
pyoung 8 days ago 0 replies      
I like the decimation idea. Before they can be bailed out, capital punishment should be randomly applied to one-tenth of the bankers of the failed institution. The lottery can be weighted based on bonus size, to ensure that the big wigs are fairly represented in the sample.
MaxHop 8 days ago 1 reply      
The author of the article and the people who advocate his opinion are delusional! Giving bonuses is how banks work these days.
marze 8 days ago 1 reply      
In a Ponzi scheme, you give money to the Ponzi operator, the operator does "complicated" things with it, those who withdraw early do well but at some point there is no money.

How is this different from the bailed-out banks, or an over leveraged banking system in general?

       cached 17 November 2011 05:11:01 GMT