hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    26 Nov 2011 Best
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1
The Sugru story sugru.com
633 points by aqrashik  4 days ago   85 comments top 29
1
ColinWright 4 days ago 1 reply      
Such a familiar story: great idea, hundreds if not thousands of hours invested, clearly a strong market, no investor interested.

Get some sales, suddenly investors come out of the woodwork expressing "passion" and "belief".

Been there. Bankers will lend you an umbrella when you don't need it and demand it back when it starts raining. So many investors are similar.

But not all. The good ones are better than brilliant.

Well done Sugru - I hope you go from strength to strength.

2
oz 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm not a particularly emotional guy, but something about this story just got to me - especially the part where they launch and it's sold out in 6 hours. After so much....so much slog...finally.

Ok. Time to man up.

BTW, notice how the story follows the classic startup curve?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/caseorganic/6247592885/

3
jrmg 4 days ago 0 replies      
I fixed a cheap plastic key fob that was snapping apart with Sugru at their stand at the Maker Faire in Newcastle in 2010. Just yesterday, after jangling around continuously in my pockets for a year and a half, and becoming a substantially worn down and different keyring, it finally broke completely.

The Sugrued part, however, is still in perfect shape, and still attached to the key ring.

4
yanowitz 4 days ago 2 replies      
Their customer support has also been great. I ordered an early batch, they discovered it had some problems and proactively notified me, explained they were manufacturing replacement batches and then sent me the bug fixed version. And I hadn't yet noticed the problem.

How I wish all companies were like that.

5
lambada 4 days ago 2 replies      
Sounds fantastic, although given some of the examples (child-proof camera, and dishwasher repair) the fact it's not certified as being food or child safe is slightly disturbing.

I'd play down those two examples if it was me, until it did get certification from a reputable source.

6
maguay 4 days ago 1 reply      
That may be the quickest a site has ever sold me on something ... I'd never heard of it before this, and just ordered a pack to Thailand, and the shipping was only £1.91 to Thailand. Now that's awesome.
7
marcusf 4 days ago 3 replies      
This is slightly OT, but if someone from Sugru is reading, the page looks weird in Chrome. The background is very jittery when you scroll (Chrome 15.0.874.121). It stays fixed in Safari and scrolls down in Firefox, and both look fine, but Chrome looks a bit weird.
8
DanielN 4 days ago 3 replies      
God, why are physical product startups so terrible. I understand it's the nature of the beast. But still, it's been at least 25 years since the advent of carrier shipping and the proliferation of make-piece manufacturing throughout Asia.

I suspect there is a billion dollars in it for someone with supply chain experience who wants to make the Amazon of manufacturing.

9
dekz 4 days ago 0 replies      
Having "I have a voucher code" on your payment page is just a reminder that I may not be getting an awesome deal and leads to me leaving the page to quickly search, often forgetting about an impulse buy in the process.

Lovely story and marketing of the community though.

10
bialecki 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a such a great story. It's valuable for a lot of reasons, but I like it simply because it's a story of success from having a passion, working hard and persevering. Kind of the same way I don't think I could never watch too many inspirational movies (Remember the Titans, Miracle, Rudy, etc. come to mind), I don't think I could ever read too many stories like this.

You can't read stories like this all day (at some point you have to work on changing your corner of the world), but having something like this once a week is super motivating.

11
niklas_a 4 days ago 1 reply      
Seems like an excellent use for Kickstarter. Too bad that didn't exist when they got started!
12
nirvana 4 days ago 4 replies      
Imagine if patents had been eliminated. They would have died once a big company like 3M got a sample back to their lab.

This company exists because they were able to patent their invention.

People say that patents are bad because everything relies on previous efforts. Well, they didn't invent silicon rubber. They didn't invent the volatile compound that allows their rubber to cure overnight. But they did invent a new thing.

Pretty analogous to software patents and combinations software-hardware patents like the iPhone's multi-touch.

13
InfinityX0 4 days ago 0 replies      
Lost within the story is the amazing, powerful way they delivered the message of how they came to be. Subtle, unique storytelling that is quite unlike anything I've seen before in the way it was presented. Clearly, there's a whole heaping of talented people in there - and not just an amazing product.
14
nodata 4 days ago 0 replies      
Shipping to Europe: £0.96. That's service!

(but please monitor+scale your buying page - it's often down)

15
ajays 4 days ago 1 reply      
What an amazing story!

It is interesting how much they mention "community". I have a feeling that forming such a community of early adopters and treating them well is the future of marketing. The days of "build a better mousetrap" may be numbered; now you not only need a better mousetrap, you also need a community of people who will use it and support you.

16
danmaz74 4 days ago 0 replies      
If someone from sugru is reading; from the about page: once it has been removed the it's packaging
17
jamesgagan 4 days ago 2 replies      
I knew I'd seen this stuff before! https://www.buymightyputtynow.com
18
danso 4 days ago 1 reply      
I read the origin page and then immediately went to the purchase page in case the HN rush brings their site down.
19
jsilence 4 days ago 0 replies      
Well done Sugruonians!

Fixed the broken side brushes of my Deebot yesterday. With Sugru of course. Very nice material, easy to handle, good results. Recommend it.

-jsl

20
sp332 4 days ago 0 replies      
Just checked, it's already on Hacker Things http://hackerthings.com/product/sugru-silicone-rubber-100109
21
BadiPod 3 days ago 0 replies      
Totally cool. But I am looking for a video that shows you trying to pry two items apart. I want to see how strong the bond is.

The video of the stack of items isn't enough to see how strong the bond truly is.

22
Zirro 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sweet story. A part fell of my earphones a few days ago, exposing the water-sensitive internals. I think I'll order a pack of Sugru and see if I can fix them myself :)
23
zeruch 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's a compelling story and its well presented here. I'm a fan, as I've found Sugru works really well for extending the life of the Vibram shoes I use trail running (although it took some practice to apply it in a way that didn't leave me with a lumpy foot). They have a pretty neat product and service it well.

Good for them.

24
senthil_rajasek 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why is this better than duct tape? I use duct tape for a lot of these things.
25
giddas 4 days ago 0 replies      
Never heard of this stuff before - ordering my first pack now!

Will be getting some for friends for Xmas.

26
ortatherox 4 days ago 0 replies      
I bought some the moment it appeared in boingboing, I still get asked about it now
27
darkstar999 4 days ago 1 reply      
Can someone tell me the difference between Sugru and products like InstaMorph (polycaprolactone)?
28
iand 4 days ago 0 replies      
Really inspiring story
29
gnosis 4 days ago 0 replies      
2
Doom 3 source released github.com
614 points by padenot  3 days ago   100 comments top 25
1
dgallagher 3 days ago 2 replies      

    $ sudo perl cloc-1.55.pl --unicode doom3.gpl/
2014 text files.
1907 unique files.
476 files ignored.

http://cloc.sourceforge.net v 1.55 T=40.0 s (36.6 files/s, 22123.3 lines/s)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Language files blank comment code
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
C++ 517 87051 113094 366423
C/C++ Header 615 29640 26891 110991
C 170 11407 15566 53520
Bourne Shell 36 4529 5476 33717
m4 10 1079 232 9025
HTML 55 391 76 4142
Objective C++ 6 709 654 2605
Perl 10 523 411 2380
yacc 1 95 97 912
Python 10 108 182 895
Objective C 1 145 20 768
make 22 160 253 579
DOS Batch 5 0 0 61
Teamcenter def 4 3 0 51
Lisp 1 5 20 25
awk 1 2 1 17
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SUM: 1464 135847 162973 586111
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2
gcv 3 days ago 5 replies      
Any advice on how to dive into reading this codebase?
3
afhof 3 days ago 4 replies      
I was under the impression that most large projects end up having to write a custom memory allocator, but after a few random probes into the source I didn't see anything that stood out. Did I just miss it, or did they use the built in one?
4
metachris 3 days ago 2 replies      
The source for the physics engine (https://github.com/TTimo/doom3.gpl/tree/master/neo/game/phys...) looks rather interesting. Might contain valuable additions for other physics engines to pick up.
5
jc-denton 2 days ago 1 reply      
Installed Doom3 using the CDs and updated to the latest release. Then opened the sln file in VS 2010 and changed the command line args for debugging to point to the data of the game installed from the cd (instead of steam).

Now what is the matter with default.cfg and what about "Unknown command 'vid_restart'"? I am not familiar with the structure of idgames.

  ------ Initializing File System ------
Current search path:
C:\Program Files (x86)\DOOM 3\base/base
game DLL: 0x0 in pak: 0x0
Addon pk4s:
file system initialized.
--------------------------------------
Unknown command 'vid_restart'
idRenderSystem::Shutdown()
Shutting down OpenGL subsystem
...shutting down QGL
Couldn't load default.cfg

6
metashurick 3 days ago 3 replies      
I wonder why the depth fail shadow rendering algorithm had been explicitly excluded from the open source release. It's been around for years now, after all.
7
exDM69 2 days ago 3 replies      
This seems to be pretty hard wired to build 32 bit binaries only, I'm having a little trouble build on Ubuntu w/ amd64. First you need to install multilibs and 32 bit gcc/g++. But I got stuck when I'd need some other libs in 32 bit versions (zlib, curl and probably openal and others). Ubuntu doesn't seem to ship with 32 bit versions of some libraries as some other distros do (like Arch, for example). Or am I wrong, what packages and what repositories I need to get e.g. zlib 32 bit binaries?

Has anyone had success building this on a 64 bit machine?

Is my only option to set up a virtual machine with a 32 bit distro?

8
goodweeds 3 days ago 4 replies      
I can't seem to find references to this anymore, but I seem to remember that the doom3 source code was stolen and released in like '03 or '04. So if that's true then my response to this article is, "Again?".
9
kitsune_ 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm impressed by the cleanliness of the code base, very readable. From my experience, this is not the case with many C++ open source projects.
10
zeratul 3 days ago 1 reply      
196 clones, 171 watchers, 23 forks; that's just in the first hour from release. Not bad, not bad at all.

EDIT: Doom 1 source code seems dirty when compared to Doom 3.

11
dbbo 3 days ago 0 replies      
I hope this means that there will be an actual Doom package for Debian in the near future.
12
shocks 3 days ago 1 reply      
Only took 8 minutes and 22 seconds to compile this, I was quite surprised. Going to have some fun over the next few days that's for sure! Thanks Carmack, heh.
13
kunqiana 1 day ago 0 replies      
Anyone got this error?

  DOOM 1.3.1.1304-debug linux-x86 Nov 24 2011 00:27:04
found interface lo - loopback
found interface eth0 - 10.0.0.19/255.255.255.0
------ Initializing File System ------
Current search path:
/home/xx/.doom3/base
/home/xx/doom3.gpl/neo/base
game DLL: 0x0 in pak: 0x0
Addon pk4s:
file system initialized.
--------------------------------------
----- Initializing Decls -----
------------------------------
------- Initializing renderSystem --------
idRenderSystem::Shutdown()
Sys_Error: _default material not found

14
bengl3rt 3 days ago 1 reply      
Hmm... Looks like this is an Xcode 3 project file. I can still get Xcode 3 from Apple's developer downloads, but it looks like it only includes the older iOS SDKs, not the OS X 10.5 SDK required to build this.
15
smackfu 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's kind of sad to see the expressions of surprise that it actually builds and runs. Implying that most source code releases fail test case #1.
16
ortatherox 3 days ago 2 replies      
git clone https://github.com/TTimo/doom3.gpl.git

and just browse around locally in your favourite editor.

17
huskyr 2 days ago 0 replies      
It will only be a matter of time before somebody converts this to Javascript :)
18
kunqiana 1 day ago 1 reply      
I am getting the error, "scons: * [build/debug/core/sys/scons/doom] Source `/usr/lib/libz.a' not found, needed by target `build/debug/core/sys/scons/doom'.
scons: building terminated because of errors." Anyone knows what I should install?
19
hiena03 2 days ago 1 reply      
How do I compile the map editor in linux? I guess it's in neo/tools/radiant but I haven't found a way to build it.
20
admg 2 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone else having trouble trying to run it? got the assets in place, get to the menu fine, hit new game then get a black screen with an empty box in the middle. Suspect its the copy protection?
21
maranas 2 days ago 1 reply      
thanks for this. i haven't even fully gone through quake 3's source yet.
22
jigs_up 3 days ago 0 replies      
Are there any parts of the quake source code in here?
23
MtrL 2 days ago 0 replies      
Heard that the experimental render path with more advanced features is included in the source.

Can anyone here confirm/deny that?

24
baby 3 days ago 2 replies      
Does that mean we don't have to pay to get the game now? Compile the source and playable?
25
JonnieCache 3 days ago 0 replies      
Any gambling types fancy a little wager? Which will come first, a stable JVM port of doom 3, or a stable build of Textmate 2? The only problem is, I really can't think which side I'd come down on.

NOTE: For those primed to accuse me of hating: this is as much a compliment to certain hackers and their fixated attitude towards porting iD code dumps, as it is a snide reference to textmate2's status as vaporware.

3
What's the one Linux command you wish you knew years ago? reddit.com
510 points by roadnottaken  5 days ago   212 comments top 43
1
mmaunder 5 days ago 4 replies      
Actually the new top comment blew me away. I'm in the 20 year veteran category and was also oblivious. Quoted:

disown - bash built in.

You know how you always start that mega long rsync in an ssh session from your laptop and then realize you have to go offline halfway through? You forgot to start it in screen or nohup, didn't you? You can pause it (ctrl+z), background it (bg), and then disown it so it is protected from SIGHUP when you quit your ssh session. Bash (and, to be fair, zsh and others have copied much of this) has some wonderful job control features most people are completely oblivious of - even veterans of 20 years.

2
mmaunder 5 days ago 6 replies      
100% agree with CTRL-R. It changed my life. Others that I love:

screen, pdsh,

perl -pi -e 's/find/replace/g' *.txt

redis-cli's new ability to have piped in data be the last argument of a command.

vim -o file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt (opening multiple files with vim)

Using vim instead of less as a pager: cat file.txt | vim -

3
dkubb 5 days ago 0 replies      
pv - very useful to put in the middle of a series of piped commands to provide feedback on what, if anything, is happening.

I could've used this many times to catch cases where the amount of work being performed didn't match my expectations; usually an indication of an incorrect assumption or mistake I had made. Instead I sat there waiting for something way longer than I should've, only because I had a bad feedback loop.

4
mrb 5 days ago 2 replies      
Nobody knows this: the bash extension <(cmd) to pass the output of a command, as if it was a file, to another command. Example to diff the list of files in 2 directories (a and b) without using temporary files:

  $ diff -u <(cd a && find . | sort) <(cd b && find . | sort)

Internally, bash creates a pipe and passes /dev/fd/XXX to the main command.

5
scrrr 5 days ago 1 reply      
My method to learn Linux/OSX command line.

Step 1: Think "I wish I could do X."

Step 2: Google/duckduckgo "How to do X in bash"

Step 3: Delight that a simple solution already exists.

This method is successful in 95% of all cases.

6
ludwigvan 5 days ago 2 replies      
emacs --daemon

(or after you start emacs, M-x server-start). This starts up the emacs server, so that it preserves your open files, and you can start new emacs instances immediately with emacsclient. (I actually symlink emacsclient to vi since it loads as fast as vi, which was one of the weakest points of emacs for me.)

Very useful if you are using a remote box (like a vps) as your dev environment.

7
diiq 5 days ago  replies      
That reddit thread is delightful, because it is full of wonderful commands that I didn't know, or rarely use, or had forgotten.

But it's also terrifying, because it exposes how many people will post questions before using man.

8
chimeracoder 5 days ago 2 replies      
I'm not sure why, but it was a while before I ran across du -h. Not sure how I ever did without it!

Oh, and "sudo !!". Definitely key, along with "& disown".

9
PascalW 5 days ago 3 replies      
Not really a command but this:

  mv /path/to/some/file.{jpg,png}

Has been a huge timesaver. It's the same as

  mv /path/to/some/file.jpg /path/to/some/file.png

But saves you the typing/copy pasting the path for the second argument. Can also be used with cp etc.

10
tikhonj 5 days ago 8 replies      
For me it was definitely find. I went through a ton of contortions to replicate its behavior several times before somebody knowledgeable clued me in.

Also, `` and $(). Find combined with one of these is great. One of my favorite one-liners (I even figured it out myself :)) is:

    cat `find . --name *.java` | wc -l

11
antimora 5 days ago 1 reply      
these are great ones!

But here is mine that I recently learned:

  sort -h 

compare human readable numbers (e.g., 2K 1G)

12
sirn 5 days ago 0 replies      
For me, netcat. I mostly use it for

* Copying files across machines (`cat file| nc -l port` and `nc host port`)

* Remote pasteboard (on OSX w/ pbcopy, `while true; do nc -l port| pbcopy; done`)

Not a life changing, but I wish I know it earlier.

Only if there's a way to make "remote $EDITOR" with Netcat...

13
gregable 5 days ago 1 reply      
Awk. Actually a full programming language but i usually use it for quick one liners: http://gregable.com/2010/09/why-you-should-know-just-little-...
14
ethank 5 days ago 0 replies      
lsof comes in handy to match pid to socket and thus things like apache proc to running MySQL process.
15
Maven911 5 days ago 2 replies      
watch for not having to repeatdly type a comnand, usually for an sw app
stat for checking when a files been accessed

tee piping to a log file with tee, while still seeing normal stdout on screen

16
veyron 5 days ago 0 replies      
The way uniq should have been implemented:

    awk '!x[$1]++'

17
buster 5 days ago 1 reply      
Quitting SSH connections that hang: ~.

If you frequently connect through VPNs to other hosts, often enough the SSH connection times out and just siits there, taking no commands. Hitting ~ and . will kill the session (it's an openssh feature).

Other frequently used tools: awk, sort, uniq, tail, find, grep.. they alone make the shell a really powerful tool

18
brown9-2 5 days ago 0 replies      
19
ryan-allen 5 days ago 0 replies      
strace - for looking a bit deeper into what's going on with live processes when things go awry.
20
matheusalmeida 5 days ago 4 replies      
It's not a command but it is still useful. When you are typing a long command and you realize that you need to do other command or set of commands first, usually you type ctrl + c to cancel it. By default it does not save in the history. If you put # (comment the command) in front of the command (you can do it quickly with Ctrl + a #) and then you can use Ctrl + r to get it back. I'm sure there are other ways to save the command in the history but it is a simple way to have the same effect.
21
Aissen 5 days ago 1 reply      
!$ (short for !!:$)

Passes last argument on the command line. In general, the whole paragraph on HISTORY EXPANSION in the bash manual is a must read.

A few ones from the moreutils package:

- vipe : manually edit the data in the middle of a pipe.

- vidir : treat a directory and its files as a text file. Does renames and deletions.

- sponge : when you're doing modification on a file in a pipe, and want the output to be to this file (file will be scrambled without sponge).

It has others, very useful tools, but I won't spoil them all.

22
helper 5 days ago 1 reply      
#proxy from port 80 to port 3001

socat TCP-LISTEN:80,fork TCP:localhost:3001

23
gbog 5 days ago 1 reply      
uptime. I had a phone screening itw with Google and it was the answer to one question. I answered sar, which is much more powerful, and top, but caller wasn't tech and I probably missed a checkbox.
24
philjackson 5 days ago 1 reply      
The "^[." (esc-.) keybinding. In zsh it maps to insert-last-word which allows you to do this:

    echo hi > /tmp/blah.txt
ls -l <esc-.>

There's a bunch of complementary commands to go with it too.

25
samuel 5 days ago 0 replies      
set -o vi
26
rhizome31 5 days ago 1 reply      
Most of those commands are not specific to GNU/Linux and will work with *BSD, OS X, etc.
27
djKianoosh 5 days ago 0 replies      
zless, zgrep, zcat... Only recently found out about these and now I love them
28
phzbOx 5 days ago 1 reply      
For me, it was using 'cd' without argument. (It takes you back to your ~). Also, learning the various options of grep (-v, -i, -A, -B) made its use really more powerful.
29
Tichy 4 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder, how do you remember all the command line options?

Recently I had this thought: maybe those people who can remember the options actually are autistic (don't know the proper word, that thing many geeks are deemed to be), and I am not. Remembering command line options might be like knowing large prime numbers within seconds.

But I am also interested in memory techniques like the Loki method. Perhaps some good system for memorizing command line arguments could be devised...

30
pvg 5 days ago 1 reply      
slabtop
31
t_hozumi 5 days ago 1 reply      
du -sh ./D*

  872K	./Desktop
78M ./Documents
3.2G ./Downloads

32
MPSimmons 5 days ago 1 reply      
I wish I would have known about dmidecode long before I found out about it.
33
geekytenny 5 days ago 4 replies      
This is useful for finding and killing a process.

ps -A | grep some text in program name

upon getting the pid

kill -9 pid

34
jasiek 4 days ago 0 replies      
python -m json.tool < unformatted.json > formatted.json

edit: requires simplejson

35
sarnowski 5 days ago 1 reply      
ctrl+d was an amazing improvement when my boss showed it to me years ago. Now I discover that a lot of people don't know it.
36
1point2 5 days ago 0 replies      
The one that starts the system up - still forget what it is - but I know it lives in /boot.
37
jasiek 5 days ago 1 reply      
pushd / popd
38
wackfordjf3 5 days ago 0 replies      
In bash: cp /dir/dir/dir/dir/filename !#:^:h/newfilename (Applies to more than cp) Strips cp & repeats previous dir tree minus /filename, plus /newfilename.

This can be mimicked by brace expansion:
cp /dir/dir/dir/dir/{filename,newfilename}

39
Pelayo 5 days ago 0 replies      
screen

Saved my work on remote servers too many times to count. :)

40
1010010101 5 days ago 0 replies      
sed -n '/./{ /beg/,/end/p;}'
41
Jim_Neath 5 days ago 0 replies      
mytop
42
cema 5 days ago 0 replies      
dd
43
yewtree 5 days ago 0 replies      
tree
4
The Government's $200,000 Useless Android Application gun.io
492 points by Mizza  3 days ago   158 comments top 46
1
jellicle 3 days ago  replies      
Fine. "6 hours maximum", says the author, for an app translated into English and Spanish that interfaces with a remote database and performs some user-initiated calculations, and also has a bunch of static pages. Before starting you must consult with at least a dozen people who know very little about Android and succinctly describe the capabilities of the smartphone and what sorts of applications are even possible. Finally you must provide documentation.

Ready? Go! Keep track of your hours...

I installed the app. It works fine. Responsive, fast, no problems. I have two minor quibbles with the design, but they are minor. Does what it says on the box. Not an exciting piece of software, but... Has even one person commenting on this thread installed it except me? No? Didn't think so. "It's a piece of crap" says a highly self-interested blogger, and Hacker News jumps on that like starving dogs on Alpo.

2
DanielBMarkham 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is definitely hacker-bait. Cue up all the folks complaining about wasteful government, then cue up the hotshot programmer folks who will tell us they can code this in 2 hours while drunk, then cue up the FOIA folks, then the folks who feel any critique at all of government is indicative of right-wing extremism, and so on.

I remember when the IRS spent 4 Billion on a new computer system and had nothing to show for it. The joke I used for a week was "Hell, they could have paid me $2 Billion and still not had anything to show for it -- and saved half their money."

The problem those of us with lots of internal government experience is that most "normal" folks have literally no idea how much waste there is. Yes, it's like a big university. Yes, it's like BigCorp. But no, it's so far beyond those concepts that if that's the only frame of reference you have, you've missed it.

I love my country and love paying taxes for it to do useful things. But there simply is no system in place for shutting things down. It just keeps growing. In the private sector the measurement is "does it do something that folks will pay us for?" because if it doesn't, folks eventually stop paying, and the company goes away (although it might take decades). In the public sector the metric is "does it make a politician look bad?"

There's a reason Congress delegates all these powers to all these agencies. It's the same reason we have so many "Tsars". Nobody is directly accountable. It's all set up so that if there is a problem, some poor schmuck gets hauled before an investigative committee to get the riot act read to them. That way the guys who are supposed to be really responsible -- the Congressmen -- get to play the part of the person looking to fix things. Politics. It's a beautiful thing.

So at the end of the day I'm not really sure this is newsworthy. I could tell similar stories involving tens of millions of dollars, and I bet we could come up with a list of hundreds of these things. Anybody remember the FBI case file system? This is just way small peanuts. Perhaps the "Android app" part of it is enough to be newsworthy, but in my mind that's a benefit: today there are a lot of people pleading to move away from COBOL systems in some government agency -- and losing. I feel really sorry for those guys.

3
GiraffeNecktie 3 days ago 3 replies      
In the government agency where I work, $200k would actually be considered very reasonable for a steaming pile of shit. We've paid many times that amount and sometimes the shit wasn't even lukewarm, let alone steaming. Believe it or not, we often spend $150 to $200k or more just to make the decision about whether or not we're going to invest in a particular pile of shit.
4
aresant 3 days ago 2 replies      
Outstanding piece of marketing on Gun.io's part with a clear "here's how my biz solves this" at the end.

#1 on Hacker News is a feat, but this thing has legs on every political and general fluff channel - HuffPo, FoxNews, Conservative Radio, CNN, wire services, etc.

I learned from our own blogging efforts when you have a winner, take it to the bank.

EG - Hit every PR angle you can think of to get redistribution while you've got the momentum.

Any PR gurus out there that would comment on the top handful of ways to fan the flames on PR for a story like this?

I'd love to understand the process when you've got this ripe of content.

5
gte910h 3 days ago 4 replies      
The problem with the government trying to do something is that anyone who's really really qualified will find the paperwork, compliance, and bidding procedures way too complicated for the sums of money involved.

The Android app cost 106k btw. So looking at this guys hourly rate, it would take approximately 6 months of 40 hour weeks for him to cost that much to do the app.

So if he:

Learned out to submit the forms that got him into the bidding

Made changes to his company required to make it seem a valid bid target

Filed the correct forms to put in his bid

Factored in correctly the amount of oversight and travel that would be required to get even a simple app done according to the whims of the people hired to get it made

Used server technologies compliant with government desires, including ones he may never really willingly touch with a 10 foot pole

Then MAYBE, just MAYBE, he'd be able to go as low as say, 60k or so. And that's for a small indie dev. Now look at a bigger company doing this app (as the government likes support, unlike a single freelancer can necessarily provide), and you easily hit the 106k range.

Does it not work well? Sounds like it works like crap. But complicated crap still can be expensive to make.

6
quanticle 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have worked for one of these "green energy"/"smart grid" companies. My conclusion about that company (after about six months of working there) was that its core competency wasn't writing software. The software was a shoddy pile of half-working crap written in a proprietary programming language made by another company that didn't exist any more. No, their core competency was 1) navigating government bureaucracy and 2) filling out government forms. These two competencies ensured that there was never a need to actually produce good software because few competitors would have the time and contacts to even bid on the contract, much less secure it and write good software.
7
jsight 3 days ago 5 replies      
I'm curious if this really surprises anyone here that the entire process for the government purchasing three mobile applications (Android, iOS, and BB) was ~200k. This seems pretty ordinary/normal to me.
8
pavlov 3 days ago 2 replies      
In the European Union, governments are legally required to open public works and supplying contracts to competition through an open tendering process. I'm surprised that this doesn't happen in the US.

There's a fair bit of criticism levelled against the EU tendering processes, though. Many feel that the process emphasizes price at the expense of quality, resulting in a "race to the bottom" as another poster mentioned.

Public contracts currently open in the EU can be found on a website:
http://ted.europa.eu

Looking quickly through the site, the contracts seem to have a huge range -- everything from large architectural projects to supplying a small Swedish town with photocopier paper...

9
rgarcia 3 days ago 1 reply      
The code was actually released November 2nd: http://www.muckrock.com/foi/view/united-states-of-america/so...
10
feralchimp 3 days ago 0 replies      
These guys are clearly elite:

<code>
- (float)getHeatIndex:(float)temp:(float)humidity {

    NSLog(@"[getHeatIndex] temp: %f, humidity: %f", temp, humidity);

float hIndex =
-42.379 + 2.04901523 * temp
+ 10.14333127 * humidity
- 0.22475541 * temp * humidity
- 6.83783 * pow(10, -3) * temp * temp
- 5.481717 * pow(10, -2) * humidity * humidity
+ 1.22874 * pow(10, -3) * temp * temp * humidity
+ 8.5282 * pow(10, -4) * temp * humidity * humidity
- 1.99 * pow(10, -6) * temp * temp * humidity * humidity;

//hIndex = round(hIndex);
NSLog(@"-Heat Index: %f", hIndex);
return hIndex;

}
</code>

11
mcknz 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is this really much different than outsourced projects for huge corporations? Seems like large organizations get charged a premium for the same amount of work.

Government can hire technical people who can do the work in house, or who are qualified to evaluate the work. But because of the pressure to keep government small, qualified tech people go to the private sector and overcharge the government. Seems like one can't win here.

12
matdwyer 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've dealt with some Government agencies before in a few different capacities, and they actually WANT To spend their money. The actual cost doesn't really matter, as they are trying to get as close to their budgets as possible, as to not have them decreased the next year.

This is especially true in the last 30 or 60 days - to the point where you invoice and are paid before the job is done just because it "has" to be in the billing period.

13
jwallaceparker 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am not the least surprised.

My girlfriend works for the Health Department in my home state. They paid two consultants $100,000 to convert paper documents to digital form. The contract lasted one week.

The consultants literally put documents into a scanner and converted them to PDF. At the end of the week they took their money and left, leaving the bulk of the documents unscanned.

An intern could've done this work for $10 an hour. And he/she would've actually finished the job.

14
nextparadigms 3 days ago 0 replies      
The title should be edited. It's 200,000 for all versions Android, iPhone and Blackberry. The Android one was 100,000.
15
yahelc 3 days ago 0 replies      
There's probably a good startup to be had in managing the government procurement bidding process for small developers, and thus lowering the barrier to bidding, and reducing the likelihood that contracts will go to folks like this.
16
suprgeek 2 days ago 0 replies      
Please get this off the front page:

1) $200K is for Android +iOS + BB apps

2) Source code is available

3) App works as advertised and does not Crash (installed)

4) Selling to big Gov. is expensive (not 10X but surely 2-3X)

5) The poster wildly underestimates the total project cost and puts in some arbitrary coding estimate

Linkbaity title + Misleading facts + Moral outrage at big Gov != HNews Frontpage

17
kevinalexbrown 3 days ago 0 replies      
Whoever runs ERG is getting very rich by making crap that doesn't even work. It's like a negative programmer. Except we're all paying for it.

And this is the 'obvious' case, in which it's easy to tell it's crap. What about those times when I'm relying on the experts at these agencies to find solutions to difficult problems without a clear indicator of success? I'm not anti-government by any stretch, but man. The legalese sounded so good: "critical, real-time hot weather information"...

Sure, I know that's BS, but what about when I'm not qualified to judge it (i.e. military decisions in Afghanistan based on intel that I'm not privy to).

18
Omnipresent 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've been on a govt project for the last four years and can't begin to tell you how much money is wasted on IT projects during the entire year. Hearing in the News that the administration is trying to save money by cutting on office supplies makes me laugh! The "Supercommittee" could have at least put a dent in the savings by literally just reviewing the IT projects that the Govt contracts out and the process they follow to manage those contracts.

In the agency I work in, there are 9 IT systems that go to production twice in a year. For the entire year the total development time provided (when environments are open for programmers to develop) is about 2 months. Yet the govt is paying the developers and complete IT teams for the entire year.

It really is ridiculous. Big boys like BAH, SAIC, CSC, CACI etc. etc. are milking the system and taking advantage of incompetent and gullible govt employees.

19
danso 3 days ago 1 reply      
Brilliant article. Couple of key takeaways:

1. "The shocking part about this isn't even that it happened, but rather that it is incredibly routine. This is just one FOIA request to one tiny department for one tiny, single use application that will perhaps be used by, at most, five hundred people.. and it cost as much as a house. You can imagine what the waste must be like in other government run sectors..."

2. "The other issue is the source code. In my opinion, since we taxpayers paid for the development of this piece of shit, we should at least be able to modify and redistrubute the code. Apparently though, the Government doesn't have to supply any information which it considers to be a "trade secret," and OSHA has determined that this crappy source code is somehow a privileged secret. "

I wonder if the denial of showing source code was because they really DO think it is a trade secret. Or they are too embarrassed to show it?

20
niels_olson 3 days ago 1 reply      
I would like to point out that SAIC more or less stole VisTA source code from the VA under FOIA and then sold the same code to the Department of Defense for billions. We still can't get the source code they've modified. Why is it that if a government employee writes the software, it's FOIA'ble, but if the government pays someone else for it, it's not? The government is just stuck with some crappy binaries?
21
cdk 3 days ago 2 replies      
The $200k price tag is unsurprising if you factor in the cost of non-coding work like requirements gathering, travels, expenses, benefits, etc. This seems like a simple app but when you have a design by committee, approvals, etc it can be quite manpower intensive.

The OSHA document is not rendering for me so I can't tell if there's a cost breakdown.

22
canterburry 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the author is also forgetting that any programming work done for the government/state is always contractually bound by a multi-year code guarantee. This means that if any bugs are uncovered within that time period, the vendor must at no cost to the government fix them. That leads to drawn out negotiations over if something is a bug or enhancement. These code guarantees typically range between 2 - 5 years during which you can't charge a dime for anything related to fixing actual bugs.
23
nazgulnarsil 3 days ago 0 replies      
I strongly recommend Yes, Minister.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_Minister
24
davedx 3 days ago 4 replies      
The problems with opening up big government contracts to multiple bidders is there is then a race to the bottom. However, outsourcing it one component at a time is definitely an interesting idea. Deliverables!
25
Omnipresent 3 days ago 0 replies      
Check out this RFI from IRS for JAVA Open Source. It makes no sense why they would want a team to consolidate all the open source libraries they want rather than just going out and getting those libraries.

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id...

26
5teev 2 days ago 1 reply      
So it's been more than 6 hours since this was posted. There must be a few clones of the Android version by now. Links, anyone?
27
philipashlock 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's also worth noting that Congress is threatening to cut the budget for the project that tracks overspending on IT projects - the IT Dashboard. While the IT Dashboard tool was properly open sourced and the codebase is doing well out in the wild, the continued use of it for the Federal Government isn't totally free, but the very small budget required to keep something like this running can prevent spending hundreds of millions of dollars on excessive IT projects.

For more info on budget cuts that could effect projects like the IT Dashboard, see:
http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2011/11/16/crunch-time-in...

For information on the open source IT Dashboard project, see:
http://civiccommons.org/2011/05/it-dashboard-six-weeks-in/

28
cleaver 3 days ago 0 replies      
In my experience (over a decade consulting to government in Canada), not charging enough can sometime put you at a competitive disadvantage. The purchasing decisions are often made by someone who doesn't understand the technology and their prime concern is risk. They don't want to be "the guy who chose the vendor who screwed up". In government, as often as not, you may not get promoted for doing something great so much as by not doing anything bad.

A lot of cost can be added through management of non-technical aspects. The wording may have to go through rounds of approval, goals and features may shift, etc. The cost of writing endless detailed RFP's and the long sales cycles increase the cost.

That said, there are also a lot of "consultants" who really are just crap. It made me embarrassed to be in the same business and that is part of the reason I don't work for government clients anymore.

29
jiggy2011 3 days ago 0 replies      
I agree with his point regarding source code.
Often I have interacted with web applications supplied by parts of the UK Civil service and they have obvious bugs that I often feel should be fairly easy fixes.

I often feel that I would happily fix them for free as a public service in a fairly short time period, but no doubt it takes months and lots of $ before they are addressed.

30
absconditus 3 days ago 0 replies      
Years ago my employer was given a much larger grant from NASA to throw a few web pages on a Windows tablet computer and use Dragon Naturally Speaking to navigate between them. We received this grant because of political connections.
31
sumukh1 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've looked at the source code for the application (which is available), the claim that this can be done in 6 hours is absolutely right.

Another thing. It seems like the company outsourced the development as well to these guys pixelbitcreative. The entire application contains ~1400 lines of code. I wonder how the money got eaten as we went up the chart.

32
philipashlock 3 days ago 0 replies      
We hope the traditional procurement story will be improved with the help of Civic Commons, an organization which is very much aimed at leveling the playing field for government software. We want to make it easier for more developers and smart spry development shops to work on software projects for government. We want to give open source the same exposure as proprietary software and generally facilitate software co-creation and reuse across government to make sure things don't get paid for more times than they need to. You can learn more about us at http://civiccommons.org

The Civic Commons marketplace is currently still in closed beta, but it will be opening up very soon. Please sign-up:
http://marketplace.civiccommon...

33
kennethologist 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for the info on MuckRock! Never knew about the site. hopefully one day my country will pass the freedom of information act and we the citizenry can request this kind of information.
34
taylorbuley 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great FOIA work. Putting all the re-blogging "journalists" to shame.
35
101001010111 3 days ago 2 replies      
"broken proprietary software which the public isn't even allowed to fix."

This is recurring theme that traces back at least as early as the 1990's.

What's different now is that there is historical evidence that open source projects can produce higher quality software than proprietary ones.

36
kaze 2 days ago 0 replies      
Apart from bureaucratic tangles, process overheads and bidding issues, is it possible the artists' fees for illustrations and health related research and verification played a role in the bloat up?
37
hat1 3 days ago 0 replies      
Amidst all of the government-bashing comments, I note that no one has remarked on a few things:

  * we don't have any actual evidence to support the author's claim that this sort of bloat is routine  (remember, plural of anecdote isn't data)

* we don't know what kind of wasted money gets tossed around in major corporations (assumptions about how corporations must be lean do not constitute actual evidence)

* we don't even have a way to find out what sort of bloat and waste takes place in corporate america - the government at least lets us find out

so it maybe doesn't make a lot of sense, in an observable-evidence sort of way, to make with the government-bashing..

38
Jacquass12321 3 days ago 0 replies      
I can't help but get warm fuzzy job security feelings when I see something like this, someone actually paid money for that. Well specifically I paid money for that, warm fuzzies taken care of.
39
ullrich 3 days ago 0 replies      
There's a Thumbs.db file in the iOS Sources... scared
40
adnam 3 days ago 0 replies      
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock

The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss

41
npaquin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Govt = epic fail.
42
apage8 2 days ago 0 replies      
I guess none of us should be surprised by this...But the real question is how do I get a government contract? What a joke...
43
mkramlich 3 days ago 2 replies      
This kind of nauseus bloat is a big factor why I'm trying to stay away from iOS and Android development. So many projects out there could be much more quickly, cheaply and freedomly (my word) done as a simple web app or even as pure static HTML website in some cases. So much foolishness, hype and hipstering going on.
44
ck2 3 days ago 0 replies      
What's really sad is the money went to a foreign company (aeat.co.uk)

It didn't even stay in the American economy which should be a minimum requirement these days if a US solution is available.

45
jxcole 3 days ago 0 replies      
And people wonder why the US has a deficit problem.
46
maxharris 3 days ago 1 reply      
How does this further the proper mission of the government, which is to protect individual rights?

I can't fathom a way that this could have anything to do with the government doing the one essential job it actually has to do! It's not just that it's a badly made app. I think the entire fact that the government making apps like this is absurd.

Given what the government actually is (the only agency with the legitimate, legal monopoly on the use of force), it is no wonder that it fails so miserably at doing stuff like this.

6
Welcome to the new web. whatwg.org
474 points by dkulchenko  4 days ago   110 comments top 24
1
nirvana 4 days ago  replies      
I'm a member of a forum for graduates of one of the schools I went to. In 2007 it was a vibrant and active forum, growing steadily, and straining its hosting account, which constantly had to be expanded.

At some point, around 2009, most of the members of this forum got Facebook accounts. That forum is now completely dead.

Facebook took all the oxygen out of the site, and it seems like a lot of other sites.

Now very mainstream people seem to think of Facebook as "the internet" and they just hang out there. Some of the bigger sites are doing ok, still, of course.

But at least for that forum, its audience is gone.

To a person, the members of the audience say they love it, and many of them say they hate facebook because "its so impersonal." On the forum they were able to share more private things with closer friends.

I think they would rather hang out on the forum, but there isn't the critical mass anymore... simply because Facebook is more addictive.

It has gotten into some sort of a gamification, or addiction loop, in these peoples heads, it seems.

I think the web is going to undergo a radical change in the next 5 or so years.

2
gbog 3 days ago 2 replies      
I agree with the claim in this forum post. It is annoying to have all pages javascript generated, clicks hijacked to make some special sauce, and content popping in, up, down or out whenever you hover something. It is a growing mess that will have it "let's rollback and clean this crap out" time, like Google did with its famous blank home page.

Another example: trello.com is a very nice and free card tool for small projects, but because they wanted to avoid having an "edit" button on editable text, they hijack my clicks, so it makes it painful to select text, and quite impossible to use "middle-click as paste".

But, there is a more positive perspective liked to Google+. In fact, I think the midterm result of Google entering in the SNS arena could (and should) be to force open Facebook. I mean, right now G+ is not open, it doesn't have all the needed APIs, and this is probably OK because they they need a critical mass before opening, and one should not bash them for testing, pondering, adjusting a bit more before releasing some important changes. Time is on their side anyway.

But in the end, they will go, I hope, the full good-old Google way, which means:

- Read/write APIs for posts, followers, followees, etc.

- Ability to dump all data and go away

- RSS or similar subscribing hooks

These tools will allow a much higher interoperability for social content, similar to interoperability of emails today. Users will not really care if the comments on their baby pics are written using Facebook, G+ or any other Social Content Manager, they will read and respond to them in the SNS of their choice, like we do today with emails. (I wrote a bit more ion this topic there: https://plus.google.com/104035200377885758362/posts/A9r7twSD...)

3
zdw 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds just like the old web, if you were blind and went to a Flash fullscreen website.

As much as I like the ways that sites like G+ are trying to push the envelope, if you're handling data that was created by or belongs to others it's more important to fit into the greater data ecosystem than to stand out...

4
tgrass 3 days ago 1 reply      
As I write this there are two comments that have been downvoted to the bottom for expressing how difficult the post is to read. They draw attention to the post's textual interface, albeit perhaps sarcastically ("Is the new web better at UX than this? That was painful to look at.").

Not only is theirs a serious concern, but it speaks to the main issue of the post, for it reminds us that like web interfaces, even text has accreted arbitrary rules to interpret it. Take the apostrophe for example, it is for most purposes superflous as one can tell from context whether a word is plural, possessive or a contraction. Well, I can tell the difference, cant you?

The original post is saturated with consistent, but by no means universal and certainly not empirically-derived, pre-conceived rules for communicating textual content: the date posted is in italics; the site name is bracketed and bold; the post name is bold; links which serve a sorting function are colored, underlined and bracketed; a presumably copied email prefaces the actual post in italics with each line itself prefaced with a less-than-sign; and most importantly much of the post is composed of incomplete sentences ("A web where...").

We allow ourselves to bend the rules of grammar. And as we bend them, we adapt to the new general rule.

We are all familiar with the english teacher's common correction of a misplaced object: "It's 'He and I went to the store', not 'Me and him went to the store'". This "rule" has been so often repeated, that most days I hear college-educated individuals perform the inverse, substituting the nominative for the objective case, as in "Bob critiqued the web page with Jack and I." What is interesting to me is apparently the act of replacing the nominative with the objective also occured in the Latin language around 200 AD (and it's a common act in children). So, if we create our rules for grammar empirically and not not arbitrarily, we can look at saying "Me and Jack did something" as acceptable because it has a natural precedent.

Which is all just to say that communication as a web form or in paragraphs is subjective and organic. Differences in type should be no more surprising than differences in human ethnicity.

5
16s 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's ironic that ten years ago many people (average consumers) thought that AOL was the Internet. Now they think Facebook and Google are. Ten years from now, it'll be something else and HN type people will still be doing their own thing as usual.
6
pgroves 3 days ago 2 replies      
As much as I wish the innovations of g+ and Facebook were centered around RSS and email, this is just the way new technologies evolve. Identity management and permissions management for who can see a user's content just don't have a good standard yet. Therefore private companies are rolling their own proprietary solutions and competing with each other.

At some point, the standard techniques for dealing with these issues will become Standards. This is a well worn path. Html was a standardization of the previous 10 years of work on markup languages, plenty of them proprietary. There are other examples... ODF standardizing on XML and cloning established MS Office functionality... etc.

Real Standards that could address the article's concerns are only reasonable when NO innovation is necessary, merely choosing a methodology that has already been built and proven to work in practice. IMO, Java more or less committed suicide when it started a standards-first innovation process, which resulted in many multi-year projects doing design-by-committee of an api before anyone tried to build an implementation or an actual product on top of it.

As long as G+ is introducing features not available elsewhere, the fact that it's a currently closed system just isn't a reasonable criticism.

7
tambourine_man 3 days ago 3 replies      
Listen to this guy. Nils Dagsson Moskopp, what a great post.

We are giving the web away because people can't handle email, address book and a blog.

8
nbpoole 3 days ago 0 replies      
> A web you
cannot easily read without JavaScript because somewhere in the page
header there is a „<style> body { visibility: hidden; } </style>” later
getting unset by a script that the platform owners want you to run.

To be fair to Google, that sounds like a fairly standard clickjacking prevention mechanism. It's necessary to provide protection to browsers that don't support X-Frame-Options.

9
ms123 3 days ago 1 reply      
To me the difference between "old-web" and "new-web" is a lot like the one between "program" and "application.

Old-web was just text and markup. A lot like the output of command line programs that could then be used by other programs to perform what we want.

New-web is about application. Programs made for the end-user. Apps aren't thought to be pipelined with other apps. Thus for a web-app, the browser is often designed to be the only supported plateform. Thus the extensive use of JS.

10
earnubs 3 days ago 0 replies      
We need a better, open, ways of connecting people on the 'old' web.
11
lowglow 3 days ago 1 reply      
The only power the "new web" has is the power we give it.
12
zalew 3 days ago 0 replies      
it's a bit sad that in the most decentralized media, people tend to stick to the most centralized utilities to communicate with each other (I use them too). but:

> With less sarcasm: What use is this if one already reads the blog?

none. if you don't want to use it - don't. move on.

giving users another subscription channel is not a problem. a problem appears when someone uses these closed platforms as their only communication channel, f.ex. it's impossible to move a fanpage with it's community out of facebook. when people and organization treat it just as another feed broadcast (as whatwg did), everything is fine.

13
sxtxixtxcxh 3 days ago 2 replies      
i remember the old web, a web without RSS or ATOM feeds.
14
steilpass 3 days ago 3 replies      
So what are we going to do about it? There must be a business opportunity here.
15
ma2rten 3 days ago 1 reply      
In the grant scheme of thing, do people really think it is a big deal if a page shows you a 404 error, even if the content you are looking for actually exists? I think it's very tempting to get lost in tiny details like that.
16
harrylove 3 days ago 0 replies      
The correct response to hyperbole is always, "We'll see."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tbsx_vZTcNI

17
zqfm 3 days ago 0 replies      
And don't forget: "This content not authorized for mobile devices."
18
nomdeplume 3 days ago 0 replies      
19
hm2k 3 days ago 3 replies      
Google tried it the other way via Google Wave and unfortunately nobody bought into it.
20
evertonfuller 3 days ago 3 replies      
Someone call the UX police. Cannot read that. Looks like it got lost from 1995.
21
Gigablah 4 days ago 0 replies      
And apparently the old web is filled with sarcasm and spite.
22
ChrisArchitect 4 days ago 0 replies      
daark. I get the uncertainty and fear of the 'seedy' nature of G+ and rise of the corporate platforms...but seems like more of us trying things out, learning, so we can maybe direct change/influence the evolution of the platforms....
23
zobzu 3 days ago 0 replies      
this was quite insighful actually.
24
wmeredith 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is the new web better at UX than this? That was painful to look at.
7
Open Source (Almost) Everything preston-werner.com
423 points by mojombo  3 days ago   83 comments top 18
1
sogrady 3 days ago 3 replies      
This is another datapoint that generational attitudes towards the value of software have shifted.

In the early days of software, it was an afterthought: what made it possible for IBM and others to sell the more valuable hardware asset.

Microsoft (founded 1975) perceived the economic opportunity attached to volume distribution of user facing machines, and helped usher in an age where the value shifted from the hardware to the software.

Google (1998), by contrast, derived effectively zero revenue from software directly. Instead, they leveraged open source and commodity hardware to control their costs and were able to scale more effectively than existing search alternatives. While they didn't sell software, however, they continued to perceive it as a competitive advantage, and thus a minority of their overall development was shared via public repositories.

For Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006) and GitHub (2008), like Google, software is the means to an end rather than the end itself. Unlike Google, however, most do not behave as if code itself is a competitive advantage. You can argue about what their actual product is - a critical mass of users, the data they generate or both - but you can't build the case that it is primarily the software.

And if the software doesn't represent a competitive advantage, the follow on benefits of releasing it as open source software - whether it's general goodwill, amortizing development costs, greater efficiencies in hiring and recruitment, etc - are believed to outweigh the costs.

Hence Cassandra, FlockDB, Hip Hop, Hive, Jekyll, Resque, Storm, Thrift and so on.

None of these entities open source the entirety of their infrastructure, but it is increasingly common to see open source as the default rather than the exception.

Software has and will continue to have value. But in an increasing number of cases it will not represent a competitive advantage, and therefore assuming the burden of maintaining it internally will become less attractive.

2
pnathan 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've generally come to the conclusion that open sourcing tangential software is a good cultural/social practice. Adopted broadly, it represents a gigantic time-savings for our industry, allowing us to collectively push forward to other more interesting problems than writing company-specific ci server/build system/source control system, etc.

+1, GitHub.

3
chubot 3 days ago 1 reply      
One of the strongest arguments is modularity. It's definitely true that you prevent your code from rotting and acquiring random dependencies if you think about how you can export it as a useful open source library.
4
baddox 3 days ago 6 replies      
The article begins by discussing their choice to open source an integral part of their product. The article ends with an admonition: "Don't open source anything that represents core business value." It seems like Grit certainly represented core business value, yet they open sourced it.

I'm guessing that what they really mean is that you should open source almost everything that represents core business value, but one piece should always be left out. Or, perhaps they're saying that their web interface is the core value they provide, and so they open source everything but that.

5
kiba 3 days ago 3 replies      
Sometime I wonder if it is possible to open source everything without becoming some sort of service company, like Redhat.

The only example I can think of is makerbot industries in which their core technologies are open source.

6
SeanLuke 3 days ago 3 replies      
The MIT license has no patent release. I think this alone should eliminate it for all but the most basic of projects. Yet the author doesn't even seem to realize this.
7
programminggeek 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've started open sourcing more things lately, mostly in the realm of things that solve a problem I have that might solve someone else's problem. Sometimes I build tech for tech's sake that improves my software or apps, but it isn't a product in itself. Frameworks, libraries, templates, and tools all tend to fall into this category I think and github is a great example is open sourcing these things.

You shouldn't open source your product itself unless you want to be a service company. I personally don't care to become a service company, so I keep the "product" and the data behind it closed, but the frameworks, tools, etc. can and should when possible be open source.

8
tomp 3 days ago 4 replies      
I have a question for the OP... Why the MIT licence, and not putting your code in the public domain? Is it the liability issues, or the attribution, or something else?

I mainly pose this question because I am choosing a licence for my projects, either the MIT/Apache licence, or public domain.

9
king_magic 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't necessarily agree with the author that "it is the right thing to do". He may believe we are morally obligated to give back to the community, and that is his belief, and that's fine, but I do not share his belief.

I'll contribute back to the community happily. I do so because I want to. But I do not feel that I am morally obligated to do so. I'm sorry, I simply don't.

The author makes the point that one should give back, for example, simply because one "used the internet". It is one thing to say that you should open source your code and give it back to the community if it is derived in some way from another open source project. It is quite another to say that just because you use open source, you are now morally obligated to give back to the community.

All of you out there using an Android phone - do you feel morally obligated to open source your work simply because you use a phone that is built predominantly on open source code?

10
peterbe 3 days ago 1 reply      
Reason for working on a PRIVATE repo?: Committing code to side-projects during work hours.
11
StatHacking 3 days ago  replies      
Tom,

I agree with everything but the "core business" stuff and the MIT License.

The same principles apply to your core business - independent of what it is (not only GitHub).

By opensourcing all of your business, you will gain all the synergy you mentioned (i.e. libgit2) within your core.

Your competitors will benefit from it, but they won't be a challenge to you as long as they don't have the passion and insights from your team. If they can find a way to do better than you with that knowledge (expressed as software), then your position in the market is based on imperfect information (and therefore, monopolization power).

Although you may have everything to start a DVCS frontend, it is not an easy task which doesn't rely only on software: you need the ability to understand the infrastructure needed for the problem and maintain it at a reasonable speed - armies of proficient developers extending and fixing bugs, armies of sysdamins, coordinate them, decide adequate directions, etc.

Besides that, you need passion about what to do in order to keep kicking asses. Without it, it is not sustainable in the long run. Think about Launchpad, I think they add extra functionality to bzr than GitHub to git, yet people still sticks to GitHub. Why?

Also if you opensource your "core", people will need also customizations, so your competitors can become your clients where you provide developing to them - they may target other niche that you can't or your are not interesting.

This is where the license comes in: the best way of achieving this is by using AGPL3.

With AGPL3, you make sure that everything you gave it won't be restricted to others - as you haven't restricted anyone by opensourcing it.

You are not restricting others' freedoms, they can do whatever they want with the software. When someone closes the source, it's restricting others freedom, not his. What you can't do with AGPL is taking away others' freedom and right to know what they are using.

If someone improves it, then it will come back to you, and you will be able to improve from others as they improved from you.

The MIT license is good, but it doesn't close the loop and may have leaks, :D heheh!

A hug from Uruguay,
Rodrigo

12
pm90 3 days ago 0 replies      
Another company that i think does very well in open sourcing is Kitware. All their projects are open-sourced; and I know from personal experience that these are very good pieces of code that they just give out for free. Apparently, their strategy is that their flagship product (vtk) is so big that there is more benefit for a small company to have lots of other people looking at the code, using it and sometimes improving and committing back the changes; also, that there are just too many cool things that one can do with it, leaving Kitware enough opportunities to create customized products for a fee(of course, they also provide paid support services as well). For me personally, it meant that my monetary constraints (grad student here) were not a hurdle in my research.
13
jamesu 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm currently debating whether to release the source to one of my dead projects, so the reasoning in this article is quite intriguing.
14
cpeterso 3 days ago 0 replies      
The GNU Project has extensive commentary on a variety of open-source licenses. They recommend the Expat or FreeBSD license over the MIT license, because MIT has released code under numerous licenses so the term "MIT license" may be legally ambiguous.

https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html

15
elliotanderson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Another company that came to mind while reading the article is Shopify. While their core business is eCommerce, they have open sourced some of the major components of their system while still keeping the app that glues them together proprietary.

Some notable mentions:
Active Merchant (payment processing library)
Active Fulfillment (external fulfillment for Amazon/Shipwire/Webgistix)
Active Shipping (shipping carrier integration)
Delayed Job (job queue)

Obviously there is a lot more work that goes into making a product as polished as Shopify, but they have released a large amount of core domain knowledge for other people to use and improve upon. While someone might be able to come along and use the same components to create a competitor, they still win in the end by having more people contribute.

16
secoif 2 days ago 2 replies      
I like to imagine how awesome github's potential UX could be be if they decoupled, open-sourced and allowed contributions to their front-end.

Something along the lines of stable and opt-in unstable UI branches with frequent releases.

17
cmurtagh 2 days ago 1 reply      
"the GPL is too restrictive and dogmatic to be usable in many cases"

Does anyone else see the total irony in this? Considering that both Ruby and Git (two of the core technologies GitHub runs on) are both GPL. People can use whatever OSS license they want, I certainly have no gripe with him using the MIT license, but I could do without the dogma.

18
ptman 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is the github subversion server (backed by git repos) open sourced?
9
New Arrested Development will appear exclusively on Netflix Streaming netflixstreaming.blogspot.com
381 points by amandle  7 days ago   144 comments top 20
1
ansy 6 days ago 3 replies      
This is great that Netflix is being bold. Netflix needs to be bold. The networks own the studios that produce all of the content and will continue to use that to keep Netflix under heel.

Arrested Development certainly has risk though. It's impossible to pick up where the show left off six years ago.

Hopefully if this succeeds Netflix will consider following up by reviving Better Off Ted. A similar, critically acclaimed, and more recent show with actors that seem generally available.

2
SwellJoe 6 days ago 1 reply      
I predicted this would happen when Starz pulled their programming. Given how much Netflix is paying for content, they can produce several pretty high end shows, which makes them a direct competitor to HBO, Showtime, etc. But, they have a much better delivery method, from the consumer perspective. This was a no-brainer, and good on Netflix for recognizing the opportunity that Arrested Development presents for them. It's relatively cheap to produce, has huge marketing value, and has a cult-like following that will sign up for Netflix specifically for access to these new episodes.
3
modeless 7 days ago 1 reply      
And for the first time, people will actually care about breaking Netflix Streaming's DRM. Anyone want to guess how long it'll last? I'm thinking it'll be up on the Pirate Bay the day of release.
4
chrismsnz 6 days ago 2 replies      
Looks like those outside US are reduced, yet again, to grey-market solutions.
5
angli 7 days ago  replies      
I loved Arrested Development, and I'm glad that it's coming back, but I'm not sure this is a good move for Netflix. If this idea picks up steam, Netflix becomes a competitor to the networks and their relationships get worse. Heaven knows they're tense enough already. It seems likely that others may pull their content, as Starz recently did, lessening Netflix's appeal. So yes, in the short run they'll gain subscribers, but I don't think this outweighs the major risks this poses in the long run.
6
tomkinstinch 7 days ago 3 replies      
This bodes well for Netflix and their new business model.

I hope that the programs they produce will be free of advertising.

7
bherms 7 days ago 0 replies      
Bold move, but also a crucial blow to cable television.
8
jackvalentine 7 days ago 1 reply      
I hope Netflix licences this out in countries they don't serve.
9
tomsaffell 7 days ago 2 replies      
p(viewer loves Arrest Development | viewer has netflix) > p(viewer loves Arrest Development) ?
10
joejohnson 7 days ago 1 reply      
I hope there will be an easy conduit for these episodes to appear on torrent trackers.
11
marquis 6 days ago 0 replies      
What is stopping Netflix from offering content internationally? I'm sure there are several layers of bureaucracy here, from Hollywood requirements, syndication etc. It would be interesting to know what steps/changes need to be taken to open this service up for the rest of us.
12
eogas 6 days ago 0 replies      
The source article appears to have been modified to imply that it will not be exclusive to Netflix.

EDIT: Other sources seem to be indicating that it will indeed be exclusive.

13
jasomill 6 days ago 1 reply      
Hopefully they'll buck current trends and offer episodic content for $1 or so per episode to non-subscribers. Content available "exclusively" to subscribers is a customer-hostile model, as, e.g., Apple and Amazon seem to realize.
14
serge2k 4 days ago 0 replies      
The whole "US Member" thing has me nervous.

Might end up just downloading it. Not waiting if they decide to screw over Canada.

15
teyc 5 days ago 0 replies      
This isn't a good deal for the show though. By doing an exclusive it is going to kill their long term audience, leaving Netflix free to poach another show.
16
plasma 6 days ago 1 reply      
How will I get to watch this from Australia?

We can't get Netflix here.

17
awolf 6 days ago 1 reply      
Deadwood, anyone?
18
ptrn 6 days ago 0 replies      
If the new Attested Development really takes off, Netflix will have a syndication opportunity to trade with the networks. It reminds me of the patent wars; build up your collection so you can horse-trade when necessary...
19
MrEnigma 7 days ago 0 replies      
Well havin just cancelled Netflix, I may have to get it again, at least for a month.
20
quinndupont 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'll be sure to watch it on pirate streaming/BitTorrent once it comes out.
10
http://(Type any keyword here).jpg.to jpg.to
340 points by folkster  6 days ago   121 comments top 53
1
korussian 6 days ago 4 replies      
I teach EFL, and this would be fantastically useful in class for matching up vocab with pictures on the fly.

The only issue is: I need a much larger rez image to put up on the big projector. Since this is doing Google Image Search... any chance for a:

http://keyword.jpg.to/large

http://keyword.jpg.to/medium

[plus]

http://keyword.jpg.to/photo

http://keyword.jpg.to/clipart

[plus]

http://keyword.jpg.to/red

http://keyword.jpg.to/green

http://keyword.jpg.to/white

2
garethsprice 6 days ago 2 replies      
Cute. Needs a method to return the URL as a 301 redirect so it could be used as a placeholder image. This could be in the image filename.

For example: http://kittens.jpg.to/301.jpg

Another feature could be to return a random result for that image search.

For example: http://ass.jpg.to/random.jpg

3
ck2 6 days ago 2 replies      
This is the "I'm feeling lucky" of google images eh?

http://gigawatt.jpg.to/

4
kristopolous 6 days ago 0 replies      
I started with http://hello.jpg.to/ and was delighted by the results, thinking that the web app translated my phrase into a variety of languages and then made a stylish motif. Eagerly, I typed in http://goodbye.jpg.to/ to see, again, what looked like a totally custom image based on random text that I put in. I have to admit, I found this to be http://totallyawesome.jpg.to/ at this point, pressing F5 and hoping for other stylized generations.

After not seeing any, I decided to just try my name ... and found a football player.

5
revorad 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is nice. It will be more fun if you show a different image on each reload.
6
Nican 5 days ago 1 reply      
jpg.to does not seem to be a complete metric space. The Cauchy sequence of Pi does seem to converge to Pi.
http://jpg.to/
http://3.jpg.to/
http://3.1.jpg.to/
http://3.14.jpg.to/
http://3.141.jpg.to/
http://3.1415.jpg.to/
http://3.14159.jpg.to/
http://3.141592.jpg.to/
http://3.14159265.jpg.to/
http://3.141592653.jpg.to/
http://3.1415926535.jpg.to/
The number of references to pi seems to decrease as the precision increases.
7
pluies 6 days ago 0 replies      
That's awesome :)

And it's not even limited to jpg, cf. http://drumroll.jpg.to/

8
edd 5 days ago 2 replies      
As 'cute' as this is please find a different API to use or at least find a way to attribute where you are _stealing_ the images from and ensure that the owners of the images are happy with you using the images.

Just because an image is on the internet does not mean you can reproduce it. I ran a couple of words I knew return copyrighted images and sure enough they come up.

9
MetalMASK 6 days ago 2 replies      
It is the first image result on google image search. The previous comments on different keywords verified this. To amaze yourself, try "sex" and "male"

behind-the-scene technical aspect are not difficult to realize (either google image API, which is deprecated, or parse the result of http://www.google.com/search?tbm=isch&hl=en&source=h... and get the first image url after a predefined string anchor, say <span class=rg_ctlv>), but the idea to simplify input and output is brilliant.

To deal with not-so-good image search result:
since google image search is presenting the result in a thumbnail group, it might be worthwhile to look into their ranking scheme for the result. It might be that the first one (on the top left) is not the most relevant result. It won't shock me if google ranked the relevance of result from center to peripheral. In the end that's how we look at a pile of images--we tend to start from the middle. Try a few examples, from the ones I tried the middle row middle column image is much more relevant than the top left result.

just my two cents.

10
hammock 6 days ago 1 reply      
Note that you can put in spaces by using dots or %2b

http://large.gorilla.eating.a.taco.jpg.to/

http://baby%2belephant.jpg.to/

12
kgermino 6 days ago 1 reply      
Very cool.

Top result in Google Images? Looks like it anyway.

Thanks for giving me something to pay with while waiting on the slowest server in the world at work :)

13
kloncks 6 days ago 1 reply      
Not working for me? I keep getting this: Sorry, image not found. Please try other keywords.
14
civilian 6 days ago 0 replies      
15
program 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is a little bookmarklet for you. Select some text in a page then run it. It will open a new window {selected text}.jpg.to.

   javascript:(function(){var A='';if(window.getSelection) A=window.getSelection().toString();else if(document.getSelection) A=document.getSelection().toString();else if(document.selection) A=document.selection.createRange().text;A=A.replace(/\s+/,'-');if(A===''||!/^[a-z0-9_\-]+$/i.test(A))A='try-again';window.open('http://'+encodeURIComponent(A.toLowerCase())+'.jpg.to');}());

not tested at all.

16
madiator 5 days ago 1 reply      
I thought this was pretty cool and so shared the link with my friend, who asked me - 'so whats the point?'. And then I was like http://notsure.jpg.to
17
jrockway 5 days ago 1 reply      
http://toonces.jpg.to/ works as expected.
18
Zirro 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'm going to be "that" guy this time and tell you that the IMG-element is a single tag, and should be used without a "</img>" at the end :)

Other than that, I'm liking this and looking forward to the extra parameters.

20
sanxiyn 5 days ago 0 replies      
21
johnbatch 6 days ago 1 reply      
getting an error on http://facebook.jpg.to/
22
ggwicz 6 days ago 1 reply      
I like this a lot. Placehold.it features would be nice, too. so like, if I wanted just a picture of Bruce Willis: http://bruce_wilis.jpg.to/

But then if I needed a 500x500 picture of Bruce Willis, because who doesn't, I could go to http://bruce_wilis.jpg.to/500x500

Fun little app. Nice work.

23
wicknicks 6 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool stuff. Interesting progression:

http://1.jpg.to/

http://11.jpg.to/

http://111.jpg.to/

http://1111.jpg.to/

http://11111.jpg.to/

http://111111.jpg.to/ I was hoping to get something related to November/11/2011 here).

24
dylangs1030 6 days ago 1 reply      
I like the idea, and it works. Here's two constructive concerns:

1. Can you make this faster to type than a browser extension that searches from the address bar (or in Chrome's case, omnibox)?

2. How do you account for false positives, like a picture that doesn't match the word?

25
alpb 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'd rather prefer it to directly stream the image, not an <img src='...'/> to somewhere else. This version is not useful for anybody.
26
tikhonj 6 days ago 1 reply      
Very simple and very amusing. Or maybe I'm just easily entertained. It got my gravatar picture when I entered my full name, which was cool.

hn.jpg.to, on the other hand, is probably not related to hacker news :)

27
speedemin 6 days ago 1 reply      
http://crazy.jpg.to/ doesn't work for some reason.
28
liedra 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is a cute service but doesn't handle images that are 404 :( Perhaps it should test for 500 status before displaying?
29
codejoust 6 days ago 0 replies      
Winning: http://chattanooga.jpg.to/
It works pretty well, although there are some oddball results.
30
guscost 6 days ago 0 replies      
Unbelievably, you probably want to turn off SafeSearch before letting kids explore the site...

http://vagina.jpg.to/

31
henshinger 5 days ago 1 reply      
http://meme.jpg.to/(I don't have any idea what this meme is.)
Also, I want to see the source code. I think it uses the I'm Feeling Lucky page of Google Image API, but I'm a noob, so it would be nice if I could have an idea of how you made that site.
33
diamondhead 5 days ago 1 reply      
Is there any way to flag a photo? I just made a search for a dog type and found an inappropriate photo unfortunately...
34
solokumba 6 days ago 1 reply      
35
tzs 6 days ago 2 replies      
36
tathagatadg 6 days ago 0 replies      
anybody tried "hahahah" or "lala"? ... those were the first two I tried and it gave a totally wrong impression of what the service is all about :D
37
Wazzup12 5 days ago 0 replies      
Imsy (www.imsy.com) offers this same feature in a slightly different way. It lets you send the image as an attachment in iMessage
38
gumba 4 days ago 0 replies      
Duqu author caught red handed.
http://duqu.jpg.to/
39
ThePinion 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wrote my first and last name (no spaces) and it showed a picture of my cat. I was thoroughly pleased :
40
christos 5 days ago 1 reply      
Is this using Google Image Search? Isn't it against the terms of use to access it from an interface other than Googles?
41
awlo 5 days ago 1 reply      
Fun! It would be nice if the source of the image was given, so credit can be given to the author, if possible.
42
dschoon 6 days ago 0 replies      
43
mikeflynn 5 days ago 0 replies      
Cool idea. I immediately tried "boobs" and was not disappointed.
44
suyash 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is also very handy that I plan to use: http://www.sencha.com/learn/how-to-use-src-sencha-io/
45
aawc 6 days ago 0 replies      
I see changes coming in as I try more things. Good job folkster!
46
rewiter2011 6 days ago 1 reply      
looks like a catchall apache url rewrite rule with some rewriting voodoo to corresponding google image hits, pretty lame imho

also the dns is not setup corectly to handle spaces in domains mentioned here

47
Neodudeman 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think http://ethan.jpg.to/ is my favorite.
48
Calamitous 6 days ago 0 replies      
Very, very nice. :)
49
wahwah 6 days ago 0 replies      
50
leak 6 days ago 1 reply      
I typed my name "dani" and it turns out I'm a hot chic! I knew it!
51
folkster 6 days ago 0 replies      
e.g. apple.jpg.to
52
dicroce 6 days ago 0 replies      
hot.jpg.to
53
grobo 6 days ago 0 replies      
ha..i like it. it just searches the internet for images with that search term.
11
Steve Jobs brainstorms with the NeXT team thenextweb.com
337 points by shivkapoor  5 days ago   52 comments top 16
1
AlexMuir 5 days ago 5 replies      
I recognised his trademark passionate speech (02:43) about using technology to improve education. Laden with superlatives, it's just like every Apple product launch since the iPod.

It's a great pity that education hasn't actually changed a bit in the intervening time. Computers are pretty much just used for teaching computers, as electronic typewriters and libraries, and to cut down on admin. They really are not used as learning aids, as 'simulated learning environments' or anything similar.

There's still a huge way to go in using IT in education. I think the Khan Academy is one step, the opening up of journals is probably another. We're a long way off what Jobs visualised even back in the late eighties.

2
Bud 5 days ago 3 replies      
Great to see this old NeXT stuff.

I still have my NeXTStation Turbo Color, and shockingly, it still runs! Other than my current iMac, it's easily my favorite computer ever. To be using a NeXT in the early 1990s truly was like being 15 years ahead of what everyone else had.

3
murz 5 days ago 1 reply      
The original youtube link was posted on HN three times in the past day...

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3257547

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3258750

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3258731

Apparently reading HN is all it takes to be a breaking tech news blogger theses days =P

4
bignoggins 5 days ago 3 replies      
11:00 in the video is a fascinating example of someone standing up to Jobs' reality distortion field.
5
alexwolfe 5 days ago 0 replies      
Oh man the 80's were really something. This is some seriously nerdy (but great) footage. One thing they weren't short on was vision, seems like that was in abundance (along with hair) back then.
6
mmaunder 4 days ago 0 replies      
Go to 16:50. If you ever feel like you're scrounging for pennies in the couch: everyone does it and it's part of business at any level. It's typical for startups to spend a huge amount of cash when they get funded and pay full price for everything as word gets out they're flush with cash. It takes a while to develop a culture of being cheap.

e.g. the last time I worked in someone else's startup (6 years ago) I remember looking around the room and thinking that every one of the $2000 desks that were bought from a local artist is a server we could have bought.

7
antimora 5 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for posting, watched every video on it and found it fascinating indeed.

A few new revelation from them: Jobs' businessman side, NeXT's email client is far more advanced and sophisticated/simple than our current email clients, and Spinning Disk Wait Cursor has originated in NeXT.

8
augustl 4 days ago 0 replies      
I want to know more about NeXT. Particularly interested in the details surrounding the fact that the goal was spring 1987, but actual release was fall 1988.

Perhaps the Isaacson biography covers it? Any other literature I could refer to?

9
jc123 4 days ago 0 replies      
Jobs had a lot of uncertainty about what NeXT should build: very interesting part is around 15:52 where he says it isn't his job. He basically says that someone has to define it. It seems that he was just telling people to figure it out themselves and not providing much leadership. Would have been fascinating to see how it was resolved and Jobs's role: how much input comes from him versus his role as a facilitator.
10
brc 4 days ago 3 replies      
I see a bit more stuff about NeXT getting posted around, I suspect this is because of Jobs' passing.

It got me wondering : although a commercial failure, this computer made a big impact. I wonder if, in 20 years time, all the cool kids will have an old NeXT on prominent display in their home? What other bits of hardware/software combos are going to be classics?

11
teyc 5 days ago 3 replies      
"Take a really expensive technology and pull it down to a price point that is affordable". That's what he did with the iPad too.
12
niels_olson 5 days ago 1 reply      
The author's assertion that this is better than Isaacson's coverage of the same topic rings hollow. Isaacson definitely addresses the hallucinatory '87 deadline, Joanna's resistance, the "honeymoon is over" intro to the second Pebble Beach meeting. I wouldn't be surprised if Isaacson had access to this video as a source.

That said, it's a different perspective, which is nice. I just disagree with Panzarino's implicit assertion that a) Isaacson's biography missed this, and b) this gem of a video fills that purported void.

13
statictype 5 days ago 1 reply      
Is the guy skeptical about the software delivery Rubenstein (who later went to Palm)?

Looks a bit like him.

14
leak 5 days ago 0 replies      
I love how the "boss" is sitting on the floor while most everyone is seated on the couch.

"...and if we can't do that, then we outta go broke"

15
yardie 4 days ago 2 replies      
Wow, in the 4th video, where he's showing off NextStep mail application, the definition of smooth scrolling has definitely changed over the decades.
16
jwcacces 4 days ago 1 reply      
Fascinating. I'd also love to see the Lotus 1-2-3 segment. Anyone know where that is?
12
The price of a messy codebase: No LaTeX on the iPad vallettaventures.tumblr.com
321 points by steeleduncan  3 days ago   240 comments top 54
1
atakan_gurkan 3 days ago  replies      
The price of a LaTeX rewrite would be even higher: incompatibility. If one tries to rewrite TeX, the problem gets much much worse, since TeX is, for all intents and purposes, bug-free. A new implementation will certainly not be. Joel Spolsky said it very well
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000069.html

I disagree that the current situation is LaTeX developers' fault. TeX and LaTeX are complex pieces of software, that are developed over time. They were extended as the capabilities of their platforms increased, to take advantage of those capabilities. This requires full access to the OS utilities, and naturally LaTeX environment does that. If anything, this is Apple's fault. For whatever reason, they cannot allow applications to use the existing capabilities of the underlying OS. This goes against the Unix mindset; of course there will be unpleasant consequences, but one cannot hold Unix mindset responsible for these.

2
patrickg 3 days ago 3 replies      
* First of all, the OP mixes up LaTeX and TeX. TeX is written in a very portable language and has been ported to more platforms than most other software, including PDP-10 and others.

* LaTeX is working on the iPad, see for example: http://meeting.contextgarden.net/2010/talks/2010-09-14-arthu...

* LuaTeX (http://luatex.org) is written in C, not WEB.

* You only need one binary to work with TeX. Either PDFTeX or LuaTeX. All other binaries are just glue code (for example to generate missing Metafont fonts, but who wants them these days anyway?

3
jen_h 3 days ago 4 replies      
One real issue is that most users' LaTeX environments are highly customized and tweaked to our own liking. Even if it weren't absolutely nuts to put every-package-and-extension-known-to-man inside a iOS binary, it still wouldn't be right. Like, what if I want LaTeX2HTML (I've never not had to highly tweak this)? What about my snazzy custom fonts? That bibliography style that only one journal accepts and requires these crufty old stys from 2.09?

If I needed LaTeX on a daily, here's what I would do:

1. Install DropBox on my mobile device and a designated "build" box--maybe just your home computer or an EC2 micro.

2. Set up Jenkins on a box that's got your favorite LaTeX environment and create a job that takes your LaTeX source files, builds and outputs your desired formats and pops them into an output folder you created on DropBox.

3. Set a build trigger that runs a build every time you touch a specific "ready to build" file.

4. Edit and write LaTeX source files on your mobile device using an app that syncs with DropBox like PlainText.

5. Increment something in your "build trigger" file.

6. Et voila, check the DropBox app on your mobile device for output and log files. :)

4
rmc 3 days ago 1 reply      
I don't think this is a problem with LaTeX & "messy codebase", I think this is a problem with restrictions on iOS from Apple.

The crux of the problems with porting it seem to be that everything has to be in 1 executable, that there can be no scripts, and it must be in an approved language. That's merely a problem from Apple.

A correct title would be "The price of restriction on apps: No LaTeX on iPad"

The author also thinks it's be easy to just switch licence to GPL. Unless LaTex & TeX required copyright assignment, you cannot switch to GPL without getting every contributor to agree. The author is also under the believe that you cannot have commerical software that's GPL. It's DRM software you cannot have with GPL, and that's why Apple doesn't allow it.

5
microtherion 3 days ago 0 replies      
Having ported a TeX distribution to MacOS classic some 15 years ago, I feel that the author overstates some of the difficulties. In particular, it's not all that hard to get kpathsea to work without callouts to bash scripts (it's not like Mac OS classic supported system() or anything like it). Basically, kpathsea is an API, and the implementation can be switched out (e.g. I implemented a dbm based file name cache).

Admittedly, getting everything linked into a single binary might be fairly hard.

6
Loic 3 days ago 3 replies      
I don't know, maybe the author is trying to do something with the iPad which is simply not supposed to do. The iPad is beautiful, pleasant to use etc. but writing a book on the iPad is maybe not the things one does.

I use my tablet to write " quite a lot " way slower than on my regular keyboard, but with time to think. Everything is in text files, synced to my desktop where the typesetting is really performed.

Writing publications or books is a long process where basically the final rendering is taken care at the end because the quality of the wording is more important.

So, just a text editor with hard work on the words, sentences, ideas are where 99% of the time is spent.

Maybe the author can provide an extremely pleasant way to write on the iPad and on the Mac with syncing of the work to have the feeling that the work is never lost, that one can always update a bit of the manuscript and just run "make" on the Mac some times to times. Everything in a smooth workflow.

7
ivan_ah 3 days ago 1 reply      
In this paper[1], they say that much of the latex running time is eaten up in the startup and shutdown of the program
and the actual typesetting time is in the microseconds.

A long-running process (daemon) is therefore a much more efficient way to run (La)TeX.

[1] www.tug.org/TUGboat/tb27-0/fine.pdf

"""
On my current 800 MHz PC, the command

  $ tex story \\end

takes about 0.137 seconds, while

  $ tex \\end

takes 0.133 seconds. The first command typesets a small page of material; the second does nothing but start TEX and then exit. Thus, typesetting the small page takes about 0.004 seconds.
"""

8
gamble 3 days ago 8 replies      
I was agog when I downloaded the LaTeX binary install for my new Mac a few years ago and discovered how massive it was. LaTeX is almost as big as the entire operating system disk!

What on earth is in there?

9
gphil 3 days ago 4 replies      
Wouldn't it be possible to just write a front end for the iPad, and run a LaTeX service in the cloud? I think this would be by far the easiest way to do it, and I don't think it's really optimal to do all the LaTeX stuff client-side on limited hardware and battery anyway.
10
abrahamsen 3 days ago 0 replies      
Is there some problem with the MacOS port of (Live) TeX?

A two page LaTeX test document on my old Dell Optiplex (Q6700 cpu) with Ubuntu 10.4 takes 0.033s, two orders of magnitudes less than he experiences.

The 539 page reference manual for the project I'm working on takes 3 seconds to format.

11
nhoss2 3 days ago 5 replies      
how about making an app that just stores the .tex files, and to convert them to pdf or something, the .tex file gets sent to a server
12
duncan_bayne 3 days ago 0 replies      
This has nothing to do with a 'messy codebase'; a minimalist LaTeX installation would run perfectly well on iOS if it wasn't for the arbitrary rules that Apple imposes upon iOS.

If you want to use a 'walled garden' device like an iPad, you can't really complain when you run into artificial limitations.

13
retrogradeorbit 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is a total 'Bed of Procrustes' argument. In order to deal with the problem of this ONE device and in particular the App Store guidelines, you want to cut off the legs of the source code.
14
gst 3 days ago 0 replies      
"I can see no choice other than starting from scratch."

Then good luck! Please post again once you've finished the rewrite.

15
jsilence 3 days ago 6 replies      
"iPad is the most beautiful platform out there"

Sorry, but I fail to understand, why any serious TeX-Head would say that. The platform is crippled and your problem shows it. You are ranting in the wrong direction.

-jsl

16
einhverfr 3 days ago 2 replies      
LaTeX can't be 4GB. I think it is being confused with TexLive? You don't need all of TexLive to make LaTeX documents....
17
praptak 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'd rather go with a rewrite that also redesigns the typesetting language. It feels like C++ of typesetting to me, although of course maybe I'm just not familiar enough with the language to see its key concepts clearly.

Maybe the Lout system will pick enough traction one day.

18
lukeschlather 3 days ago 1 reply      
Has Apple started allowing non-trivial Turing complete languages into the App store now? Unless I'm mistaken LaTeX would be rejected out of hand no matter how much you clean it up because it is an interpreter.
19
cullenking 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think the salient question here is why would you want to work with LaTeX on a tablet?
20
tibbon 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think we're going to see this as a more common problem as we move into the future of non-desktop computing systems and the want for older tools on them. Unfortunately, what LaTex has done is use much of the core unix philosophy which I generally agree with (using small programs that you can pipe text in and out of to make a larger program). When you find that you can't port 20 sub-apps due to each of them being written in various language, etc you'll hit problems.
21
ajarmst 3 days ago 1 reply      
Wait a sec. "No LaTeX on the iPad" conflates "editing a LaTeX document" and "rendering and compiling LaTex to a final document.". Editing LaTeX on the iPad is already perfectly easy and really quite pleasant, especially with a bluetooth keyboard -- I do it most days (currently, Textastic is my preferred platform, supports syntax higlighting, DropBox and MobileMe).

Rendering to DVI or PDF is something else entirely. While other comments here indicate its doable, I have to ask why? I render my documents on another machine (I actually have a script that monitors dropbox and periodically re-pdflatex's if the timestamp changes -- redirecting error messages to a file is trivial if you need to troubleshoot remotely). If you're attempting to do LaTeX with a WYSIAYG interface or (worse) doing the edit-a-line-rerender-repeat cycle, I'd have to say that you're doing it wrong. The assertion that "doing LaTeX" (or, frankly, any platform that supports simple text editing) requires the native presence of the entire LaTex codebase is just misinformed.

Finally, the author of the post apparently started his project without knowing that the original TeX distribution was written using literate programming, what kpathsea was, or that there were other implementations of LaTeX. Perhaps they weren't quite prepared/qualified for the undertaking? This smells like a classic case of "this isn't how I would do it/use the tool, so it must be broken".

22
magice 3 days ago 2 replies      
This article is a proof of the stupidity, ignorance, and general jerkiness of an Apple user. It's like, the world must resolve around some standards set by Apple because it fails to deliver a system that actually works. Oh, and never mind that the stupid guy never understands the reason why the code base is set up as it is.

All in all, here is my opinion: who ever upvote this should feel ashame of yourself for wasting everyone's real-estate on this stupid rant.

23
jka 3 days ago 0 replies      
This article seems to advocate a huge amount of work to an existing, open, and highly stable software product - all to allow it to work on a proprietary device with heavy restrictions on software availability and installation.

Should we do all this work - mandated by business-driven 'app store guidelines' - simply to allow known good software to continue to work?

24
nnythm 3 days ago 2 replies      
the idea that LaTeX has a messy codebase is almost mindboggling to me--I had assumed that TeX--practically the only code that's published as a book (see: The TeX Book) would be clean. I guess the complaint is mostly about the Pascal + C that's code-generated by TANGLE.
25
super_mario 3 days ago 2 replies      
I question the basic premise here. iPad is not meant for content creating or document typesetting, it's meant for content consumption.

If you want to do anything that looks remotely like work you don't want to use iDevice for it.

26
bitcracker 3 days ago 0 replies      
Don't use an entertainment toy for TeX. iPad is a very nice piece of hardware but it is only a consumer (gamer) device - not a full featured Computer. Its good for games and ebooks but I would never use it as a developer engine.

Why do you want to hurt yourself typing TeX on a virtual keyboard? If you consider to add a real keyboard to your ipad then you should better get serious and use a Macbook, Linux or Windows.

27
thefre 3 days ago 0 replies      
> This dream lasted a few days until we discovered that TeX, the typesetting engine underlying LaTeX, isn't written in C. TeX is written in WEB, Donald Knuth's “literate” programming language.

Seriously, they discovered that after starting the project???

28
tehwalrus 3 days ago 2 replies      
has anyone thought of just having a bunch of cloud servers with LaTeX built there, and then writing a front-end which uploads your docs, compiles them and downloads the resulting PDF? with fast enough servers and good enough data speeds, this might even rival the estimated 10 seconds for a fully ported LaTeX app.

I'm assuming it's been ruled out for other reasons though.

EDIT: this would also make it trivial to use it on android/blackberry, without any extra effort. apparently, also, http://www.scribtex.com/

29
tomrod 3 days ago 1 reply      
Does no one use ScribTeX? Check it out: http://www.scribtex.com/
30
mgualt 3 days ago 1 reply      
Hear, hear! This post provides a perfect example of the utter failure of software engineering in the real world. I am reminded of it every time I try to install software, with all the ridiculous dependencies and multiple versions. Instead of addressing the serious foundational issues facing software development and architecture, the geniuses are busy inventing the latest, greatest programming language, creating even more problems.

Computer science and engineering departments should use these situations to train their students.

31
jallmann 3 days ago 2 replies      
The iPad is made for content consumption, not creation. Trying to write TeX (or any kind of markup) with a virtual keyboard sounds horrific.
32
gcb 3 days ago 0 replies      
ironically, it could work super easily on a $99 touchpad. since you have all the UNIX stack to play with, and no corporate control-freak limiting what you can do with your device.
33
nixy 3 days ago 1 reply      
What about a LaTeX cloud service with a thin iPad client?
34
feralchimp 3 days ago 0 replies      
For the record, I have no interest in running a TeX rendering process on an iPad.

What I would like to run on the iPad, on the other hand, is a TeX-syntax-aware, document-validating editor that knows how to consume a rendering web service that runs on a Real Computer.

35
tzury 3 days ago 2 replies      
Perhaps LaTeX creation system should move to the cloud, think of a google-docs like service which will offer a rich, reliable and simple set of tools to create, publish and collaboratively work on documents.
36
coliveira 3 days ago 0 replies      
The size of the distribution has nothing to do with TeX itself, but with the huge amount of fonts, style files, and other configuration files used to typeset modern documents on desktop systems. TeX itself is very self contained and already runs on most architectures you can think of. The author's problem is that he is trying to port to a mobile device a distribution that was created for UNIX systems.
37
radarsat1 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder how hard it would be to modify TeX (or kpathsea, whatever) to load its libraries out of a single compressed tarball or fast database of some kind. Seeing as TeX libraries are text files, I do find it surprising that they don't compress better. Is it mostly the fonts and documentation taking up all that space?
38
kickingvegas 3 days ago 0 replies      
2 cent take: While it may have been an epic build story to get LaTeX running on an iPad, I guess I gotta ask why not just install an iPad ssh client (iSSH, Prompt, etc.) and run LaTeX remotely? Or if you really insist on building a native client, why not one that talks to daemon on a system with LaTeX installed?

Viewing the output would be trivial: convert the output to PDF. For the ssh client case, push the PDF to a cloud file service like Dropbox. In the native client case, have the daemon push back the PDF for native client to render.

39
jff 3 days ago 0 replies      
If anyone is interested in a simple, no-nonsense version of TeX, check out Thierry Laronde's KerTeX (http://www.kergis.com/en/kertex.html). The whole thing comes in at a bit under 10 MB, and it can run on Linux, *BSD, and even Plan 9! I compiled it on Plan 9, built LaTeX as per his instructions in the README, and have been happily generating LaTeX documents since then :)
40
hollerith 3 days ago 1 reply      
The iPad way is probably to run the messy LaTex codebase on a server that interacts with UI code on the ipad.
41
john2x 3 days ago 0 replies      
How about a service to render the LaTeX files? i.e. an app where users just write in LaTeX, there's a render button which sends the file to some server which renders it and sends it back.
42
berntb 3 days ago 1 reply      
What am I missing?

Why have no one suggested to split LaTeX into two parts like the Emacs server, or something?

With a client and a server to run on your desktop/laptop/etc.

43
_mrc 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think literate programming is obsolete, nor has it been superseded by "modern source code documentation".

LP means treating a program as a piece of literature. A literate program is free from the structure of conventional source code layout; this is different to simply documenting source code.

I don't claim LP is a hot topic, but I think to say it's obsolete is to misunderstand the concept.

44
noahl 3 days ago 1 reply      
This rewrite has already been done. See http://www.texmacs.org/
45
Rajiv_N 3 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe we should let LaTex be the way it is now and focus instead on generating better HTML authoring tools. With eBooks becoming more popular, there is certainly a need for such tools. While I understand HTML is no match for the power of LaTex currently, we need to think ahead and maybe help to create a platform for the future rather than getting bogged down by technologies of the past.
46
zerostar07 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why don't they setup a remote server and do the latex processing remotely.
47
bootload 3 days ago 0 replies      
"... A 4GB TeX distribution dependant on over 100 binaries is not acceptable on the iPad. It is incapable of delivering the slick user experience that the iOS platform's adherents expect and love ..."

Xterm (iSSH) to linux box? ~ http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=280730

48
jakobe 3 days ago 0 replies      
Since I have just spent several hours unsuccessfully debugging a problem with a Journal template, a missing font, and my TeX distribution, I understand why the author thinks Latex is messy.
49
astrodust 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure LaTeX makes beautiful documents, that seems like a real stretch, but it does make creating good documents very easy.
50
101001010111 3 days ago 1 reply      
The price of using an iPad: No LaTex.
51
bobowzki 2 days ago 0 replies      
Create an app that uses a web service to compile the latex..
52
dfc 3 days ago 0 replies      
What about luatex?
53
texlion 2 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps there is a market for a LaTeX rendering web service.
54
HnNoPassMailer 3 days ago 2 replies      
I thought Latex was dead? It's a system I see no one ever use. With right, as it's as horrible as a doc system can get.
13
Don't. Waste. Time. humbledmba.com
314 points by malomalo  5 days ago   71 comments top 21
1
edw519 5 days ago  replies      
When it comes to efficiency/effectiveness, I prefer to focus on "Do" instead of "Don't".

Richard Hamming (from "You and Your Research"):

  1. What are the most important problems in your field?
2. Are you working on one of them?
3. Why not?

http://www.paulgraham.com/hamming.html

Paul Graham's (from "Good and Bad Procrastination") generalization of Richard Hamming:

What's the best thing you could be working on, and why aren't you?

http://www.paulgraham.com/procrastination.html

edw519's generalization of Paul Graham:

Work on the most important thing until it's not the most important thing any more.

I have developed this excellent/horrible habit of not being able to focus on very much of anything if there was something more important hanging over my head.

Excellent in keeping me from trivial pursuits. Horrible at meal time, bed time, other people time. I'm still a work in progress.

2
hrabago 5 days ago 0 replies      
The key is to identify how you can best contribute, so you know whether or not you're wasting your time. If you're a small team, everyone's time might be best spent coding to deliver the product. A slightly bigger team might mean your time is best coordinating. The overhead of a "meeting" might be worth making sure everyone's aware of the design instead of creating isolated pieces of great code that doesn't work well with each other.

I might be wasting time writing code when I can best contribute by taking care of 'overhead' so my team isn't blocked - there's an anecdote here somewhere of the PM who would buy coffee for the team so the team can focus on producing code - or i might be wasting time taking care of 'overhead' that doesn't matter yet (planning the optimum office layout) when I can best contribute by writing code.

To know whether or not you're wasting time, you have to know what makes one work "fake" and the other "good", and my list may be vastly different from yours.

3
zacharycohn 5 days ago 2 replies      
Opened up HN. Saw this headline at #1. Posted this comment. Now I'm closing HN and going back to work.
4
earbitscom 5 days ago 0 replies      
There is some truth to this but doing things like paperwork quickly can lead to a lot of trouble. Read Anything You Want by CD Baby founder Derek Sivers. He recommends not worrying about having Terms and Conditions on your website, and all kinds of other "formalities". Then he says breezing through some paperwork on a loan from his father accidentally cost him, I think, $2 Million. Letting his employees handle their stock option plan resulted in a profit sharing plan that gave every dollar to the employees. When he rescinded it, they hated him moving forward.
5
nirvana 5 days ago 1 reply      
Here's a calculator for founder equity split:
http://foundrs.com/calculator/index.php

(I think its faster than reading the whole QA session linked to in the original post.)

6
jpdoctor 5 days ago 0 replies      
Most blogs on time-management pale in comparison to The Ultimate Productivity Blog: http://productiveblog.tumblr.com/
7
leak 5 days ago 2 replies      
Good article. "Outsource all over the place" is so important. Pay some expert for a few hours of work that would take you a week (ie: healthcare).

The one thing that I do think is important though is business cards. We got business cards before we even got 1 line of code written. It just seems like an established way to exchange info at events more so than using "bump", I think.

8
blacksmythe 5 days ago 0 replies      

  >> Founder equity splits

The time to do founder equity splits is before you make a product that delights customers. If you think that is something you can work out after, you don't understand human nature.

Also, if you have problems working out founder equity splits, you probably have the wrong team.

9
marquis 5 days ago 0 replies      
Great tips. I've had the fortune of working with enough diverse freelancers over the years that most things that we don't have time for (design, for example), we can get done quickly and cost-efficiently. I really recommend sending small jobs out to people you can establish long-term relationships with over time, who will work with your budget. It pays off immensely.
10
dvdhsu 5 days ago 1 reply      
He mentions that one shouldn't care much about business cards: I disagree. The small details, after you ship your major product, are the most important. They're what truly delight your users after the first 'wow'.

I would suggest a startup to, yes, first focus on the product. Once the product is done though, they should focus on the small, "trivial", details.

11
billpatrianakos 5 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds like common sense but you'd be amazed by how many people don't get it! I'm working with 2 startup organizations (my own business and I'm on the board of a charity) and I've seen a ton of time wasted on meta meetings (meetings about the next meeting), and getting paperwork exactly right when it just needs to be okay, etc.

Through my experience in my business I've been able to point them in the direction this article suggests. Basically, we only spend time on things that clearly get a goal achieved. The rest we just leave until we absolutely need it. There are things that need to be finished correctly right now that don't have an obvious impact on later success but those things are far fewer than one might think.

12
suivix 5 days ago 1 reply      
Why can't I learn what 42 floors is without putting in my email? Really annoying.
13
jessedhillon 5 days ago 0 replies      
Read his link about Series F stock; in order to implement such a plan it seems that you would have to disregard his advice to just pick simple defaults when incorporating.
14
wmougayar 5 days ago 0 replies      
Another useful thing: Stick to deadlines. Otherwise, there is a tendency to take as much time as time is available. Don't assume that time is infinite. Give yourself short deadlines all day long and you'll get a lot more things done.
15
unreal37 5 days ago 1 reply      
Where does "blogging" and "submitting your own writing to HN" fall on the wasting time list?
16
lifeformed 5 days ago 0 replies      
What I take from this is that time is more important than money; exchange money for time whenever possible. In many situations you have the option to exchange X dollars for Y hours of freed time - it's important to think about these situations in these terms, because it doesn't always look that way.
17
burnstek 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just to touch on the essence of this article for interested parties: this concept is also known by the Japanese as "Gemba" and was popularized in industry (among many other lean principles) by Toyota's production system.
18
evolution 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think lean methodology goes best with this. What matters in initial stages is working prototype, validation and then MVP. Most of the initial time is supposed to be dedicated to this than spending it with operations.
19
omarThanawalla 5 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for this article. I coincidently read this quote earlier today and I think it relates really well:

"Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing"
-Thomas Edison

20
shivang 5 days ago 1 reply      
Great article. The other most important thing which should be avoided in the startups is "Premature Optimization"
21
tribeofone 4 days ago 0 replies      
This article was a waste of my time.
16
Is SpaceX changing the rocket equation? airspacemag.com
285 points by bfe  5 days ago   87 comments top 25
1
amirmansour 4 days ago 2 replies      
I've been an avionics intern at SpaceX for the past two years, and I can tell you for sure that if anyone is gonna take humans to Mars it will be SpaceX. The same goes for propulsive landing of a rocket for reusability: http://www.spacex.com/multimedia/videos.php?id=0&cat=rec...

Everything at SpaceX is designed with reusability in mind, and every system is highly redundant. And to top it off, they have some of the best, most talented, and most experienced engineers out there.

With all that said, the reason why SpaceX will succeed is their culture. Most of the company's employees are young and highly motivated (including myself I guess). When I started my work at SpaceX, one of the engineers told me to prepare to shed some blood and tears as well as prepare for the most stressful yet rewarding work of your life. He was right. There were times where I did not go home for 4 days straight (this was not recommended). They did not asked me to do this. I just wanted to do it. The thing that is cool about SpaceX is that you will do REAL work on you first day, and you will have a significant impact right away. Even if you are an intern.

I know a lot people on Hacker News are essentially web programmers (Me too actually. Django FTW). If you guys are looking for a job, they are always hiring. One way to get hired is to start out as an intern (if you are at an intern stage in your life). If you want to actually program the rocket, and got some ROCK SOLID C++ programming skills, then you are exactly what SpaceX wants. So please apply. Space exploration is hands down one of the important pursuits we can have as civilization, so the best need to work on this challenge in my view.

Let me tell you, there is no feeling to see something that you designed and built actually entered outer space. I can't describe it. You just have to experience it for yourself. So if you're bored on your current job, look into SpaceX. Plus having Elon Musk as a boss is pretty bad ass. The guys is simply defines legitness!

2
alex_c 5 days ago 1 reply      
Talking about a city on Mars by the middle of this century"even as SpaceX has yet to fly its first cargo mission to Earth orbit"is one of the reasons space professionals are skeptical about Musk's claims.

And yet, it's this kind of completely unrealistic goals that really pushes things forward. Even if SpaceX only gets... dunno, 25% of the way to that goal, chances are they'll have accomplished more than anyone else is trying.

3
MikeCapone 5 days ago 3 replies      
And prices are expected to rise significantly in the next few years, according to defense department officials. Why? Musk says a lot of the answer is in the government's traditional “cost-plus” contracting system, which ensures that manufacturers make a profit even if they exceed their advertised prices. “If you were sitting at a n executive meeting at Boeing and Lockheed and you came up with some brilliant idea to reduce the cost of Atlas or Delta, you'd be fired,” he says. “Because you've got to go report to your shareholders why you made less money. So their incentive is to maximize the cost of a vehicle, right up to the threshold of cancellation.”

I can't help but think of all the other places where that kind of system operates and makes costs much higher than they should be... How much better would the world be if fewer resources were wasted thus?

4
6ren 5 days ago 1 reply      
I think this is an answer to people who are "too smart to succeed" because they optimize the product only. It's just a matter of optimizing across domains, (e.g. trade-off cost and performance), which takes a certain adaptability and flexibility of mind. It's a kind of lateral intelligence and reframing which is useful in solving everything but textbook problems.

> Simplicity enables both reliability and low cost.

As Woz said - though Woz also mentioned the advantage of making it simple enough to fully hold in his head. (http://www.foundersatwork.com/steve-wozniak.html). So, in a back-handed way, a limited working memory can be a gift (though I'm not suggesting that Woz's working memory was limited). http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3258655

one page (works) http://www.printthis.clickability.com/pt/cpt?expire=&tit...

5
ph0rque 5 days ago 1 reply      
“It's very common to do component and system-level testing…. That's very typical in aerospace, ” says Alan Lindenmoyer of Houston's Johnson Space Center, who has been working with SpaceX since 2005 as manager of the agency's Commercial Crew and Cargo program. “But to actually put a vehicle together and do system-level testing of the rocket is not. That's a level of rigor you don't typically see.”

So they do unit and integration tests? Sounds thorough...

6
bfe 5 days ago 0 replies      
This article discusses how SpaceX seems to be able to get things done faster, for less expense, and with better performance, than any of its competitors -- partly because they care more about the end result of being able to send stuff and people into space and to Mars instead of just selling launches.
7
burgerbrain 5 days ago 0 replies      
It is no exaggeration to say that SpaceX gives me hope for the future of humanity.

Godspeed Elon Musk.

8
erikpukinskis 4 days ago 2 replies      
Watching the rocket re-use video, I realized that Elon Musk is not just building a space commerce empire, he's actually putting himself in a position where he could be the world's first true supervillain.

Not that I think that's what he's up to, but if he has a lair on Mars, and controls the galaxy's only fleet of interplanetary missiles.... he could ask for quite a ransom. The parallels to Ozymandias are a little scary.

Just sayin'.

9
Joakal 4 days ago 1 reply      
As long ITAR exists, the rest of the world will eventually overshadow USA [0] for peaceful ventures into space. Also, SpaceX is competing against very entrenched corporations that resorts to many tactics [1]. For SpaceX to advance USA's space technology, they'd have to submit to military expensive contracts too, militarising space. I really wish I could support American space companies.

[0] http://www.reddit.com/r/tothemoon/comments/jca8h/itar_is_a_t...

[1] http://www.space.com/1701-spacex-sues-boeing-lockheed-martin...

Edit: Why am I being downvoted? That ITAR makes USA alone in space travel?

10
MikeCapone 5 days ago 1 reply      
It's a Linux-powered rocket too!

The Falcon 9 was designed from the beginning to be human-rated, meaning an increased focus on reliability. The rocket's avionics and controls are triple-redundant (as will be some sensors in the human-rated version of the Atlas V), and the flight computers, which run on Linux, will “issue the right commands even if there's severe damage to the system,” Musk says.

11
bobwaycott 5 days ago 0 replies      
I love space and programming more than anything. This article just filled my head with a bajillion ideas and made me wonder why on earth I haven't thought before about chasing both in my career choices.

A very inspiring read, complete with such nice asides about how operating as a startup with a mission can get so much fun and work accomplished, and shows that serving the interests of shareholders and profits first can utterly derail accomplishing your mission.

12
kore 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm inspired by this man's dreams and the way he's striving for it, even though the end goal is decades off.

Musk makes no secret of the end goal: Create a new civilization on Mars. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in September, he outlined the business plan"if that's the right term for something that looks decades into the future. “If you can reduce the cost of moving to Mars to around the cost of a middle class home in California"maybe to around half a million dollars"then I think enough people would buy a ticket and move to Mars,” he said. “You obviously have to have quite an appetite for risk and adventure. But there are seven billion people on Earth now, and there'll be probably eight billion by the midpoint of the century. So even if one in a million people decided to do that, that's still eight thousand people. And I think probably more than one in a million people will decide to do that.”

13
bcl 5 days ago 0 replies      
Clearly they are. They have shown what can be done when you take proven designs and techniques and skip the bureaucratic BS that is inherent in being a NASA, Boeing, etc.
14
amirmansour 3 days ago 1 reply      
UPDATE: I'm posting this comment to address some of the questions you guys asked.

I'm actually an Computer Science guy stuck in the body of an Electrical Engineer. I mostly design hardware, however in my first year I did a good amount of highly optimized embedded systems programming. I wish I could go into more detail but that's against company policy.

However, my high school (the good old days) robotics mentors that also work at SpaceX are the top developers of the avionics software. What they mostly do is program the flight computer. Also the code that just brings every little sensor data together. Again I would really love to sit here and talk to you guys about the technical details, but I'm simply not allowed. So sorry for the broad sentences.

Regarding the type of people that get hired. As I said SpaceX hires the BEST. As an intern, KEN BOWERSOX, an amazing astronaut sat 2 desks away from me. I could have walked up to the guy at anytime and ask him how it was like in space. Look at this list of people running the company: http://www.spacex.com/company.php
After reading that you see how top notch these people are. The same goes for their employees.

SpaceX hires from everywhere, but it seems they are really into the stereotypical TOP engineering schools. It felt like everyone was from Stanford. A lot of people from University of Michigan, Carnegie Melon, and MIT. The company is in California, but it felt like that a huge chunk of the company was recruited from outside the state. Just go into the parking lot, and you can see license plates from every state (I saw one from Maine...long ass drive). There were few interns from the University of California system (like myself).

If you guys want to apply, I want to not just tell you all the good stuff. There is also the not so pretty side. Be prepared to give the job your everything. Specially if you are a young engineer because you mostly likely don't have any experience under your belt to make you an irreplaceable asset. Also people forget that SpaceX is a STARTUP. Yes they have 1500 employees. But this is not some little photo sharing iPhone app company (no offense guys, you really need stop with those). It's an aerospace startup, which means 1500 employees is pretty much a small amount of people. Also Elon Musk has this philosophy where a small amount of people can achieve BIG things. With that said they are hiring like crazy last time I checked (which was like 2 months ago).

Since it is a startup, job security is not good. Since the people they hire are very good, they mostly don't get fired. But at the same time the deadlines, and goals can sometimes seem like a fantasy. This sometimes leads to people getting fired. This happened a lot during my stay.

With all that said, from working at Jet Propulsion Lab, and now SpaceX my goal is turn my current graduate research into a startup. I've learned that I'm simply not the type of person that can work for others for the rest of my life. Graduating with an engineering degree and doing 9 to 5 stressful job will get old very fast. After my stay at SpaceX I already feel burned out (I worked on some high priority projects). However, I am really passionate about my current project (I can't stop thinking about it), and my goal is to turn that into a company. Unfortunately, I might have to say goodbye to SpaceX to pursue this dream.

15
brc 5 days ago 2 replies      
It's interesting how they attribute so much of their success to Apollo program information. So much data must have been created during that program - I wonder how much of it is sitting on dusty shelves unused?

I've often wondered what type of improvements you could make if you built a Saturn V type rocket with modern technology and materials. It looks like we're probably going to find out over the next ten years.

16
ethanpil 5 days ago 1 reply      
The greatest point of the article: Patents have become bullshit.

Here is the quote:
They don't even file patents, Musk says, because “we try not to provide a recipe by which China can copy us and we find our inventions coming right back at us.”

17
tzury 5 days ago 0 replies      
Single Page version (+ Readability)

http://www.readability.com/articles/2pzowoyw

18
kiba 5 days ago 1 reply      
Hmm, if they can get rocket cheap, they can make their rocket safer over time, because you can test more and more of them.
19
martythemaniak 4 days ago 0 replies      
"On the flight home, he recalls, “I was trying to understand why rockets were so expensive. Obviously the lowest cost you can make anything for is the spot value of the material constituents. And that's if you had a magic wand and could rearrange the atoms. So there's just a question of how efficient you can be about getting the atoms from raw material state to rocket shape.”

Brilliant.

20
dantheman 5 days ago 1 reply      
I loved this article, very inspiring. It's great to see good news reported. I want to go to Mars.
21
johnyzee 4 days ago 0 replies      
SpaceX claims to be able to manufacture cheaper than China while being more thorough than NASA, all the while developing and building their components in-house. I would love for all this to be true but would have to remain sceptical for the time being.
22
RobPfeifer 4 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone have any idea how to figure out what their "energy per Pound to orbit" is and how it might compare to their competition? Would be curious as their relative efficiencies.
23
dirtyaura 4 days ago 1 reply      
If you are, like me, interested to learn more about Space X, watch Musk's AIAA 2011 Keynote. Q&A session covers a few interesting technical problems. He talks about costs, reusability, vertical launch, nuclear propulsion etc.

Part 1 is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTpZEKDShWM, but Q&A starts at 5 mins into part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjzMs4nvfcc

24
FrojoS 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really wish there was a good way for non-americans to contribute to SpaceX.
While their spare use of external suppliers seems to make sense, it makes it even harder to contribute. I find it sad that the potentially biggest undertaking of mankind is once again an USA only party - run by a foreigner (Musk).

Well at least everyone will be able to buy SpaceX shares once they have an IPO.

25
mprovost 4 days ago 0 replies      
But can you buy insurance for their launches?

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2011/0...

17
Traveling, Writing and Programming alexmaccaw.co.uk
276 points by maccman  3 days ago   114 comments top 34
1
edw519 3 days ago  replies      
The peculiar thing about programmers is that they're the one profession that can easily work remotely and travel, and yet they're the one profession that doesn't.

I believe that the ease with which one "can easily work remotely and travel" is affected far more by life situation than by profession. Modern technology has made it just as easy for non-programming electronic workers to do this, too.

"Life situation" is another matter. Just a few of the things that make it difficult for some people to do this:

  - marriage
- children
- spouse's job
- pets
- caring for elderly parents/others
- community commitments
- financial responsibilities (mortgage, etc.)

As one who is tethered to his home and family, I thank you, Alex, for allowing me to live vicariously through your year for the past 5 minutes. The stories were interesting and the pictures were beautiful.

</BackToRegressionTestNumber127BeforeThePhoneRingsAgainAndTheCatNeedsFed>

2
acabal 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've been traveling the world and running my site, Scribophile, for a few years now. I just spent 3 months in Germany living with my girlfriend, and now that my EU visa is up I'm in Colombia for a few months enjoying the warm weather in Cali.

Whenever I tell people about my lifestyle, they 1) are shocked and awed, 2) enthuse about how jealous they are, and 3) assume I'm a millionaire. I wish I could just grab people by their collars to shake them and say, "We live in a marvelous time! With internet access everywhere, you too can do what I do! Plus, you don't have to be rich to do it--I probably make much less money than you do at your desk job!"

Nobody believes me, and if they do, they don't want to take the risk. (To be fair not everyone is able to do so, even if they wanted to.) So they stay jealous. It always makes me a little sad that people stay stuck in their situations often because they can't even envision an alternative, and a little happy that I somehow managed to make it happen myself.

3
patio11 3 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe it is just the crowd I hang out with, but I know a lot of technically inclined people who didn't quite get the memo when people were told to a) work for a big megacorp b) close to where they went to college.

There are a variety of ways to do it. They really do work. Plenty of normal, sane, well-adjusted people take advantage of them. There are avenues forward from them to either standard middle class career paths at home or continued success abroad, for a variety of values of "success."

4
billpatrianakos 3 days ago 0 replies      
Oh. My. God. This is the best thing I've seen on HN since I first discovered it!

I'm in my first year of business and after reading your post I see that I've made one huge mistake. I'm not working to reach a goal like you did. I'm working for the sake of working. It doesn't matter how successful I am because in the end all my work will still have been for nothing.

I think you make a great point (maybe you don't realize you made this point) about how we should be working to live and not living to work.

This has inspired me and touched me so deeply I cannot even describe it. This is going to sound lame and cheesy but your post hit a nerve with me and from this moment on I am going to set out to make a goal to live. Find what I love besides my work and go out and live. I'm going to work my ass of because I love my job but after the work day is done I must be able to tell myself that this work day has brought me just one bit closer to being able to go out and live. No more working 12 hour days so I can wake up and work another 12 hour day and pretend like work in and of itself is an end. It's just a means to an end. I'll always program and love it and I'm sure others are the same but im also sure that all of us also have other external motivations that make us human, not just our work. Just thank you for this. Thank you for reminding me why I'm doing what I'm doing. I feel like I sound like an over emotional... person. You're younger than I am by a few years and seeing you do this and the sentiment behind it really just lit a fire under my ass.

Thank you so much for this post. I hope everyone here can one day write a blog post along these lines. You are truly living. Congratulations and I wish you continued success.

5
larrykubin 3 days ago 1 reply      
I spent the summer road-tripping with my wife and have been working remotely. While we didn't travel around the world, we saw so much beauty in America. We bought an $80 annual national park pass, got a copy of the book "National Parks of the American West", and took off. So if you aren't quite ready for the round-the-world trip, try going to Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Arches/Canyonlands, Crater Lake etc.
6
lpolovets 3 days ago 2 replies      
+1 for traveling and working remotely.

I was lucky enough to spend 2 months in Australia and Africa this year, and a lot of that time was 1/2 work and 1/2 fun. It's a great combo: working stimulates the body and exploring new places stimulates the spirit. (Ugh, that sounds way cornier than I hoped.)

I have a ~50 hour/week job, and I was I was surprised by how effective and pleasant it was to go do outdoorsy things from 8am until 2 or 3pm, and then work until 10 or 11 at night.

On a completely unrelated note: Alex, I'm really curious, how did you manage to get a book deal with O'Reilly at the age of 20?

7
stdbrouw 3 days ago 2 replies      
Lovely post. The only thing I don't buy is the implied sentiment that if you're not traveling, you're a dummy. Call me jaded, but I can think of many more interesting, fun things to do with my life than visiting one pretty artifact after another. Live your dream, yes, as long as it's your own dream.
8
noduerme 3 days ago 2 replies      
"The peculiar thing about programmers is that they're the one profession that can easily work remotely and travel, and yet they're the one profession that doesn't."

Not true! My gf and I have been doing it for 5 solid years (she's the designer). So far we've lived in Argentina & Uruguay for a year, New Zealand & Australia for a year, Thailand, Vietnam, France and Spain. I have met a few others on my travels. We never plan to go back; there's no point settling down when there's so much to see and experience. Yes, a lot of people get angry or jealous and say it's the dream life, but it's also hard work -- not just coding and keeping in touch with clients 24/7, but also travel itself. It's exhausting. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

9
nikcub 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Javascript Web Applications" is a must-read for all web developers. I have recommended or sent the book to dozens of people.

I hope there is a second edition.

And there is something about developers/hackers and being on the road. I spent 10 years from '00 till last year living out of a suitcase on 4 different continents and 7 different countries (living in fulltime, visited over 50). Loved it, brilliant experience and I can't wait to get on the road again.

10
petercooper 3 days ago 0 replies      
Planning on doing a post about the O-1 visa at all, Alex? If not, you should. There's not a great deal of info about them from a developer's perspective (I know DHH got one back in the day) and it'd be interesting to hear how the process works.
11
spxdcz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Mine is a similar story; spent 10 years building a web agency in the UK, burnt out, then went traveling for a year and wrote a Web App book - http://www.fivesimplesteps.com/products/web-app-success - during the process. I wrote a little about it here - http://atrampabroad.com/the-trials-and-tribulations-of-writi...

Everything turned out well for us too - my wife was headhunted by Facebook (thanks to the Content Strategy work we started doing freelance during our trip), so I'm now in San Francisco, creating apps for myself.

If you have the chance, do it.

12
ghurlman 3 days ago 1 reply      
This doesn't help me at all at this point in my life, but I think I'll print it to PDF and save it for my son when he gets older (he's 8 now).
13
sturadnidge 3 days ago 1 reply      
Awesome post. And you can kind of do this even working for Megacorps - in fact if you are working for a Megacorp, have a desire to see more of the world, and are _not_ taking full advantage of the ability to internally xfr to another country while remaining in full employment... well you're missing a trick.

And it's never too late - I did the above from Sydney to London at the ripe old age of 33, and have seen tons of Europe and the Nordics over the past few years - with 5 weeks corp leave, 2 weeks public holidays and weekends, you can do lots of travel if you plan it a little. Sure it's not quite the same, but it's a bloody good compromise if you're more tied down / risk averse than an intrepid 21yo ;)

14
grecy 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure if "me too" comments are welcome here...

I'm a Software Engineer in my late 20s and just spent 2 years driving from Alaska to Argentina, purely because I wanted to. Along the way I continued to develop / create which helped supplement my bank account immensely. Keeping an up-to-date blog helped keep me focused and my head in the game. (theroadchoseme.com)
I'm back working a desk job right now, to rest and recuperate and bolster the bank account enough until I can set off again.

If you want to do something like this, you totally can.

15
tryitnow 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think this is awesome. I've bookmarked and I will share it all the young people I know.

One thing that bothered me a bit: "My message to fellow programmers is stop making excuses, man up and do it."

I am in a tiny minority here, but I just don't care to travel. I know in the day and age of Tim "Superman" Feriss we're all supposed to be pumped up supermen bouncing around the world with a supermodel in each arm. But honestly, I really enjoy the things I do where I live: reading, enjoying time with friends, working (yes I don't view work as something to be avoided - dare I speak heresy against the cult of the 4HWW?).

In summary I just wanted to offer a counterpoint to this author (and others in the "travel at all costs" cult) that some people simply don't enjoy travel compared to what else they could be doing. Sometimes it's not about "manning" up and doing it, it's just about doing what you enjoy regardless of what bloggers and bestselling authors recommend.

16
pinaceae 2 days ago 1 reply      
This lifestyle is ok for writers, not programmers. As the author states, he was writing a book, which is not a collaborative effort.

Typical programming is team work, with milestones and deadlines. Deadlines which are set in one time zone.

So, while I applaud this young man for doing what he did, it really is normal travel porn. If you have no obligations, great, do it. I bet in most cases you'll be under 30 if you can pull it off.

17
clueless123 3 days ago 2 replies      
Whil etalking about traveling on Peru you wrote;

"The picture below is of one of the Colca Canyon's fabled Peregrine Falcons, taken whilst I was climbing down the canyon, the world's deepest."

it looks like a Condor to me.

18
fendale 3 days ago 1 reply      
What is the best way for someone who has been in a reasonably successful corporate job for about 10 years to get into this 'on the road' sort of consultancy. I'd love to do it, but the idea of just quitting work scares me - I've no doubt I am good enough to be a consultant in my area of expertise (which is Oracle databases), but knowing where to start is the issue. I do blog a bit, and have experimented with a few app ideas, but haven't managed to get anything serious off the ground as yet!
19
gurkendoktor 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for charging my battery a little. I've tried it for the last year and failed so many times with all sorts of projects and clients. Do you other working travellers actually find your clients online, or is it really all about having enough friends who stay at home and are happy & well-integrated there?

If things go by my new plan, I'll spend the next year in Taiwan, China, Russia, Korea and some other places :)

20
Mizza 3 days ago 2 replies      
Been doing something similar myself - Germany, China, North Korea, drove across America and launched a startup.. loving life!

Great post!

21
barkingcat 3 days ago 0 replies      
To the OP - thanks for that post! It's a very humble post and I hope people won't take it as self-aggrandisement. It's hard to make choices because we all only have one life. Make the best of it and I hope you use the perspective you gained in your travels to make twitter a better place for us users.
22
georgieporgie 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great writeup, and fantastic adventure.

Do I understand correctly that the story currently ends by working on location at Twitter?

23
Arro 3 days ago 2 replies      
Hey man. I'm a programmer who's done a similar thing twice, both times sticking to just Europe. I didn't go the "write a book" route but rather just programmed here and there while CouchSurfing, hosteling, seeing new places, had a couple flings with gorgeous European girls, etc.

I, also, never ran into another programmer doing this. I live in SF now (moved from the midwestern USA) and work for a startup. Let's grab a beer sometime! Or maybe I'll see you at one of the weekly CouchSurfing meetups. They're pretty big here- 50 people a week is not unusual.

24
mattvot 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is exactly what I want to be doing in my placement year starting june!

Traveling and programming. How did you afford the trip Alex? Savings or working on the go? If you don't mind, how much did it cost too?

Thanks

25
volandovengo 3 days ago 2 replies      
Nice post! How much did the around the world ticket cost?
26
ricardobeat 3 days ago 1 reply      
Not everyone has a job that pays in dollars/euros/pounds...

I'll do this some day anyway :)

27
bluekite2000 3 days ago 1 reply      
He was travelling writing, programming and having the best time of his life. Now he is just programming....Is that supposed to be a happy ending or sad ending? I couldn't tell from reading his post.
28
ggwicz 2 days ago 0 replies      
One of the most attractive things about being a dev/designer to me is the ability to work pretty much wherever there's an Internet connection. Great Article!
29
simondlr 3 days ago 0 replies      
When you are in South Africa again, drop by Stellenbosch (40km from Cape Town)! Would love to hear some more stories.

EDIT:

I also travelled from Singapore to Bangkok (not all the way to Hanoi) this year. Great trip. Took the train. Beautiful countryside.

30
volandovengo 2 days ago 0 replies      
To all those thinking about doing something like this, I would encourage you to give it a try. Honestly working and travelling isn't that hard and it's incredibly cheap to live in many places in the world. I have personally been doing this while working on artsumo.com for the last 8 months.
31
eaurouge 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'll just chime in, albeit two days late, to say that:
Africa is a continent of 53 (54?) countries, experiences vary.
32
bosie 2 days ago 0 replies      
Could you tell us what gear your where schlepping around? backpack, electronical equipment (cam, laptop, batteries,...)

what did you actually do about health insurance, if you don't mind me asking?

33
markive 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've been seriously considering this for ages.. I wonder what his setup for travel working is? I'm thinking a 17" Macbook would be too much of a pain / risk to travel round Asia with? A follow-up post on the logistics of the work side would be amazing!
34
taskstrike 2 days ago 1 reply      
This man has lived.
18
Progress against SOPA mattcutts.com
276 points by sathishmanohar  4 days ago   62 comments top 12
1
slowpoke 4 days ago  replies      
>So if we can make it through the next 20-25 years, the people in power will protect technology for us, not fear it.

No, they won't. They will be the same corporate sellouts as they are today because we keep thinking like this. That mentality needs to die.

We cannot rely on those in power to "protect technology for us" - or anything else, for that matter. We have to do it ourselves. The situation won't magically fix itself just because we sheepishly wait for two or three decades.

People have to realize that most, if not all authority is naturally opposed to progress. Authority depends on the status quo, and will try everything in its power to preserve that. The internet is probably the largest threat to authority in the history of mankind. The recoil against it therefore was not only predictable, but inevitable.

The internet as it is today is the largest functioning system of anarchy that has ever existed - and on a planetary scale, no less. That's scary to some people, if not utterly terrifying. But it's the way forward. Authority trying to preserve itself by all means possible is nothing new. It's to be expected, and must likewise be resisted with every available countermeasure - atterete dominatum.

2
mquander 4 days ago 3 replies      
So if we can make it through the next 20-25 years, the people in power will protect technology for us, not fear it.

Remind me how well this has worked out for the War on Drugs.

3
redthrowaway 4 days ago 2 replies      
So it looks like we're headed for a temporary reprieve, and that's great, but as long as Big Content continues to lobby as heavily as it does, we will continue to face these attacks on the Internet. What are companies like Google doing to ensure that the Internet is not run by Hollywood? At some point, the tech industry is going to have to hold its nose and get into the lobbying game in a serious way if we want to prevent future attacks like SOPA. We are in no way helped by the fact that a lot of software companies lobbied in support of it. How are we going to counteract that, if not with increased lobbying efforts?
4
oldstrangers 4 days ago 1 reply      
Off topic, but the large 'Stop Censorship' banner on Matt's site makes it look like 'Stop Censorship and SEO'. Too funny.

Screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/aXST6.jpg

5
swalkergibson 4 days ago 2 replies      
It seems to me that if Google, Facebook, etc. really wanted to effect change, just redirect their homepages to a message about SOPA and why this legislation is detrimental to the economy, etc. That would be better than any lobbying money spent in Congress. It could be the "emergency broadcast system" of sorts. I suspect that the inundation of phone calls from constituents unable to search for Thanksgiving recipes utilizing their favorite search engine would make my vote awfully easy.
6
nopinsight 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am not a US citizen, but looking at the graph, I really wonder...given that the stake is quite high and their collective cash hoard is huge, why don't the Internet companies spend more on lobbying?

I understand it's not their nature to do so, but the practical considerations certainly encourage that, right? Or are there other non-obvious factors involved?

7
jhancock 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the graph speaks for itself && its title is misleading. The largest chunk in the "Entertainment" graph is from "U.S. Chamber". Only a small part of their interests involve entertainment, its mostly about large scale global trade...pushing labor to countries with lower costs, and easily corruptible regulatory oversight. SOPA is an attempt to ratchet up intellectual property protections so large U.S. companies that have devolved into mostly brands and outsource all the dirty work can protect themselves from real competition.
8
jeffreymcmanus 3 days ago 0 replies      
It is freaking crazy that a progress report concerning a piece of public legislation should have to contain a bar graph comparing which side has spent more money.

When money influences the outcome, something other than democracy is at work.

9
pdx 4 days ago 1 reply      

    - Republican Representative Darrell Issa and Democratic
Representative Nancy Pelosi came out against the bill.

I wonder if there was, perhaps, a much more well known Republican Representative that came out against the bill at the same time Issa did, and if so, why he wasn't mentioned?

10
snowwrestler 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't think the fight is really "Hollywood vs. Internet" since there are some tech companies who are big on the Internet, who have not come out against the bill--like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, etc. I'm guessing that it is more of a fight between business models--distributing "pro" content vs. aggregating user-generated content.

There are some fine lines being walked in the tech industry. Microsoft hates piracy of their package software, but Bing would face all the same legal issues under SOPA that Google would.

Google wants to maximize freedom for Search and YouTube, but they are also trying to buddy up to big content for products like Google TV and the new music service.

11
sanderson1 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's good to see that at least some people in power hear the voice of reason over the voices of lobbyists.
12
sir_charles804 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome everybody should follow the links at the bottom of the page to help out!
19
90% Good parts of jQuery - at only 13% of the size github.com
272 points by mythz  6 days ago   93 comments top 14
1
nikcub 6 days ago 1 reply      
the jQuery project has started doing this[1].

It was at risk of ending up like PHP (in more ways than one). the core team recognizes that the API needs a trim. I also no longer use jQuery and haven't in a while because of the bloat.

but I think the way they are approaching it is wrong. They want to trim the API by 10% for the next -1.8- (edit: 1.7) release. This would break semantic versioning[2].

I think they should fork the code now with a new 'jQuery 2' branch and not break any backwards compatibility in the 1.x branch. The 2.x branch should be a complete re-org with browser support as modules (for eg. if you want to support IE 6.0 you enable a module, etc.)

For now, the jQuery light branch should be optional in 1.x. There are analogies in this approach with what PHP did between 4 and 5, and what Python did between 2 and 3. jQuery shouldn't be stripping out API functions in point releases, but it definitely, definitely needs a trim (and I would rather this work is done on the mainline jQuery project rather than in forks. I think a lot of devs at the moment have forks of Zepto/jQuery they run (i do)).

this project may be the perfect starting point for a jQuery2 branch. i'd definitely be interested in working on that project, and bringing in features from all the various forks and cleaning it up.

[1] http://blog.jquery.com/2011/11/08/building-a-slimmer-jquery/

[2] http://semver.org/

Edit: the deprecated API functions are planned for v1.7, not v1.8 - which means soon. I think it will cause a mess for people who auto-upgrade.

2
pamelafox 6 days ago 6 replies      
After measuring the loading performance of my PhoneGap app and seeing that jQuery took 800ms to load (even when cached), I spent the last few days porting from jQuery to Zepto, which boasts a similar API but loads in only 300ms. You can see the load times here:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aq_a4WNAMuCEdDd...
(You can see how I did the measurements in this post:
http://www.everyday.im/learning/phonegap-loading-performance...)

While porting 6 jQuery plugins over, I encountered various differences in the APIs and it was a bit of a headache to sort through them (especially the very subtle differences), but it was worth it.I'm writing a blog post currently on my porting experience, as I imagine others might take on the task and encounter similar issues.

For people comparing Zepto to this offering, keep in mind that Zepto also offers mobile-specific events, so if your reason for porting is mobile latency, Zepto's a good bet.

3
mmaunder 5 days ago 3 replies      
jQuery 1.7.0 is 94K.

jQuery 1.7.0 gzipped is 33K.

I'm performance obsessed since if our biz serves an additional 2K on our widgets it's an extra 1.86TB of transfer/month.

However for most on-site content, 33K is the size of a large image. Most delay loading a web page is caused by latency. Latency in the three way handshake to establish TCP connections and latency for each additional HTTP request even with keepalive enabled. Payload is not as big an issue because it needs fast throughput, not fast round-trip times which are impossible to achieve if you're far away from the server.

Smaller and faster are always good and always worth striving for (in coding). So I don't want to take away from this, especially since it means more eyes on jQuery. I think it's great work. But keep in mind that the speed increase is not going to be enormous and the cost is running a non-standard jQuery that lacks .css(), .ajax() and $(function()).

4
kemayo 6 days ago 3 replies      
"Events passed to your event handers are the 'real' browser DOM events."

This is a real deal-breaker for me. One of the absolute best things about jQuery is how it normalizes events, so you don't have to care that, e.g., the source element is event.target in some browsers and event.srcElement in others.

5
lunaru 6 days ago 1 reply      
The README for this desperately needs the blacklist, not the whitelist. I care a lot more about the 10% that's missing.

Unfortunately, the "limitations" sections reads fairly cryptically. I'm probably just a little slow today. Can anyone explain what's actually not included? For example are "Valid Examples" examples of what's allowed or not allowed?

6
mambodog 6 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps this could be jQuery's Merb, encouraging the jQuery developers to reexamine the current monolithic package. I'd appreciate a modular version that can still be built as full-size jQuery for situations in which it is convenient.
7
ryan-allen 6 days ago 2 replies      
The 'competitive advantage' JQuery has over the competition is the fact it's been so thoroughly tested in so many browsers for its plethora of features.

I hope this library gains some traction, as I'd love to see a JQuery clone that could be modified to pass in targets as named parameters instead of the over-reliance of 'this'.

Every tech seems to have an annoying something. PHP it's the order of arguments in stdlib functions, in Rails it's indirect code ruining your day, in JQuery it's 'what does this refer to again in this context?', and 'var that = this', ugh!

8
numlocked 6 days ago 4 replies      
Don't most apps reference jQuery from a CDN source (like Google)? In those cases jQuery is probably served from the browser cache. And if "those cases" are "most cases", is having a smaller version of a similar library particularly valuable?
9
dextorious 5 days ago 0 replies      
What he has done is nice, but hardly what he says he achieved.

90% good parts of jQuery? I don't think so. The omissions, like .css, abstracted events, etc make this unfit for the majority of jQuery using projects out there.

So it's more like "90% of what the author wants, YMMV" that "90% period".

10
fooyc 6 days ago 2 replies      
I would love to be able to require() jQuery features:

    require(['jQuery.ajax', 'jQuery.events'], function() {
// code using ajax and events here
});

Much easier than to manage script tags.

(hint: CommonJS / AMD)

11
pacomerh 5 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know of an app/tool to detect only the used parts of jQuery and trim the unused?.
12
orthecreedence 4 days ago 0 replies      
I like that mootools lets you do this on your own. The builder lets you choose exactly that you want. IMO the only detriment to using Mootools over jQuery is that less people use Moo, therefor less libraries are available.
13
moonboots 5 days ago 1 reply      
The google closure tools provides this modularity automatically. The compiler removes unused functions in the google closure library.
14
pistoriusp 5 days ago 1 reply      
ender.js is trying to solve this problem: http://ender.no.de/
20
Facebook is gaslighting the web. We can fix it. dashes.com
271 points by slig  4 days ago   89 comments top 21
1
lbrandy 4 days ago 7 replies      
I work on the team that generated the warning that seems to be the crux of this post. I am pretty convinced that it is a bug.

His central theme, though, is a bit misguided. I don't understand why 1) using opengraph, or 2) using a like button implies facebook should trust your link and whitelist it. Even pages with those integrations can be malicious.

In this actual case though, the notification link (generated from the commenting widget) seems to malformed and causing it to trip a security check. I've pinged a bunch of people about figuring out what is happening and getting it fixed. The guy sitting next to me is currently trying to repro.

As for convincing Google/Microsoft to warn users when visiting facebook.com because of security false-positives, I'll leave that discussion for you guys.

2
ChuckMcM 4 days ago 2 replies      
Cache link is essential, of course the term 'gaslighting' [1] may be common in some groups, it was new to me. The general theme is that Facebook is making changes which make the service benefit Facebook more and is less user friendly. I'm not sure it rises to the level of abuse implied by the term but that is clearly subjective. The 'answer' of course is to leave.

I know, I know, "But all my friends are there!" or "Nothing else has the reach of Facebook!" or "I've invested thousands of hours in Facebook!". At the end of the day, Facebook is on the road to becoming a 'public' company, and they are making choices which are in Facebook's interest (mostly about the whole Open Graph stuff which they will sell for money to advertisers for revenue.

The 'good' Facebook you are looking for has to charge its users for accounts because that is the only way to pay the bills without selling you off to less purient interests.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting warning Wikipedia link)

3
tlrobinson 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm usually pretty tolerant of Facebook's more aggressive initiatives, but I've started blocking all of the "frictionless sharing" apps. The user interface they present is ridiculous.

1. I see a friend read an article that looks interesting. I click it.

2. Every time I click one of these I'm asked to add the application before I'm allowed to view the link.

3. My options are "ok" and "cancel". The first few times I assumed I couldn't read the article without clicking ok so I just hit the back button. It turns out "cancel" really means "don't add the app, just take me to the link".

Without that confirmation dialog (which most people probably blindly click through) this is exactly how social media worms work.

Perhaps alert users will click "cancel" the first 5 or 10 times, but eventually they're going to accidentally click "ok" or just give in. Not cool.

Plus, why would I want to see articles that friends read, but didn't think were worthy of manually posting about in the first place?

4
paganel 4 days ago 3 replies      
If you believe FB is out-there trying to conquer and destroy the web then please don't use FB comments on your website.
5
mnutt 4 days ago 1 reply      
Regarding "Web sites are deemed unsafe, even if Facebook monitors them", wouldn't it be worse if Facebook deemed websites that it monitored 'safe'? Then Facebook would be saying: "use Facebook services on your site, or we'll scare all of your users with an interstitial message"
6
natrius 4 days ago 1 reply      
Point 3 ("WEB SITES ARE DEEMED UNSAFE, EVEN IF FACEBOOK MONITORS THEM") has been addressed. Here are the other two.

"YOU CANNOT BRING YOUR CONTENT IN TO FACEBOOK"

False. Facebook's API allows all sorts of external content to enter Facebook. They're just shutting down their app that does that automatically. There are plenty of third party apps that already solve this problem.

"PUBLISHERS WHOSE CONTENT IS CAPTIVE ARE PRIVILEGED"

False. The Washington Post has chosen to embed their stories within the Facebook canvas pages, but that's not a requirement. The other popular news sites on Facebook, The Guardian and Yahoo, do not do this.

This entire post is woefully misinformed.

7
droithomme 4 days ago 1 reply      
People who use Facebook are silly people. No this is not a flame, it's AOL all over again. The walled garden, except the garden is a dystopian big brother state.

I don't mind people being in the dystopia of their own choosing at all. I enjoy going for walks outside the cyberdome. It's quiet and peaceful out here and people are not monitoring and trying to manipulate and control me.

Those who enjoy being a cog in a machine I am sure lead happy fulfilling lives inside The Facebook.

8
ck2 4 days ago 1 reply      
The only thing that will "fix" facebook is the next thing to popup to diminish their influence.

Of course shooting themselves in the foot wouldn't hurt either.

Remember MySpace? How about Digg?

9
steve8918 4 days ago 0 replies      
This sounds pretty similar to the complaints from SEO gamers whenever Google changes their algorithms and removes them from the top ranks for a search. I don't agree that any of the examples used by the author is anything particularly harmful.
10
aj700 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am no great fan of facebook. The timeline sucks.

I think the warnings fb use are necessary, there's so many worms and spam wall postings. You can debate the wording and motive. Many users need paternalism.

You can AUTOMATICALLY have posterous post a link on your wall every time you write a blog post. It doesn't use the notes system at all. It sounds like fb are stopping people using notes for something they weren't designed for.

If he's saying every dumb aol/xp/ie6 user will be too scared to ever leave fb for the rest of the web, wouldn't that be the end of the Eternal September, which some would welcome?

11
anildash 4 days ago 0 replies      
Apologies for the server flakiness; Trying to address it now. Please feel free to repost/share -- everything is CC licensed.
13
mark_l_watson 4 days ago 1 reply      
I like to login to FB for several minutes once or twice a week - a quick way to see what some friends are doing. However, I logout as soon as I am done. I also went through and disabled all FB apps, except for my own test app.

Given these simple precautions, is there really anything wrong with FB? Am I missing something?

14
mikeklaas 4 days ago 0 replies      
Aside: I really like the typography of your title/subheads. I mistook the font for Gill Sans Light initially, though.
15
bct 4 days ago 0 replies      
Disappointing. "We can beg other powers to intervene" is not "we can fix it".
16
derekreed 4 days ago 0 replies      
I agree completely.

Well thought out and sound reasoning.

And the effort is probably hopeless, but maybe it will at least draw some attention to facebook's abhorrent practices. But they get plenty of negative press already, doesn't seem to slow them down.

I figure it's going to take a lot more efforts like this, to stop the abuses when portals gain monopoly power on user's attention.

User's will put up with it, (and probably put up with much worse), there is no alternative to facebook for what facebook does and is. Chickens and eggs ...

17
chimeracoder 4 days ago 2 replies      
How ironic that this blog's own comment system relies on Facebook.
18
bsimpson 4 days ago 1 reply      
Good luck with that. Imagine all the YouTube-quality comments that would flood crbug:

    PLZ FIX TEH FACEBOOK LOGIN SCREEN!!


We can have discussions all we like about whether or not Facebook is a net-positive or a net-negative for the Web, but there's no way Google, Microsoft, or Apple is going to blacklist them.

19
nomdeplume 4 days ago 1 reply      
I applaud the author's use of detailed documentation and the ability and willingness to dig deeper into the technical side of what he believes to be the problem. As soon as I had installed the Firefox addon Noscript I began to notice the facebook scripts put in place on many sites having nothing to do with Facebook. Their real interest is not in being nice by providing you with a free service, but in using data aggregated by its large user base in order to find patterns - and to sell that information to the highest bidder. Pretty soon advertisers and governments will know more about you than you do yourself.
20
iamandrus 4 days ago 1 reply      
The only way to stop Facebook is to protest and boycott it. It worked in 2006 and 2007 (News Feed and Beacon, but Beacon might have been 2008) and it'll work again.
21
royaltenenbaum 4 days ago 0 replies      
The walls are closing in on Facebook. It's only a matter of time for it's business model. People eventually wake up. Better squeeze that IPO for all it's worth.
21
"Invisible Electrostatic Wall" at 3M adhesive tape plant (1996) amasci.com
268 points by alvivar  1 day ago   46 comments top 15
1
ChuckMcM 1 day ago 1 reply      
We did this experiment in physics back in college. If you get sufficient charge you repelled by charge of the same polarity. I would speculate that the charge on people was the same as the charge being created in the spooling area (it is a giant Van DeGraff generator type apparatus after all). That would also correlate with the humidity component as the humid air would have a lower dielectric effect and you would get a lower max charge due to leakage into the surrounding environment.

The edge of that electric field would feel to you exactly like you were a magnet of the same pole trying to move into it.

Per some other comments here the biggest risk would no doubt be creating a conductive path for the charge to dissipate. At those levels it can and does ionize air and create lightning.

Would be great to get a picture of the factory setup. I bet you could trace the charge sources. In physics 101 we had to compute how much charge you would have to have on your body to levitate off the ground. It was a lot less then you might imagine, the challenge of course was keeping it on your body and not zapping things nearby in the occasional ionizing discharge. I was busily thinking up high K clothing concepts for a while to try to solve that issue but alas, nothing came of it.

2
yread 1 day ago 1 reply      
There is some more info from David Swenson:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?s=b06561cd9...

key quote:

> I think the best explanation has to do with the film being at or vaery near the theoretical charge density limit and just the right combination of resistance between the person and floor. With the electric field at its maximum at the center of the tent formed by the film, the conductive body (person) approaching the center was actually pinned to the floor. Had the floor been more conductive, the person would have been closer to ground and probably would have received a massive shock from a propagating brush discharge. But being isolated from ground, no charge separation occured resulting in the electrostatic "pinning" effect.

3
seats 1 day ago 2 replies      
15 year old discussion, unfortunately. Makes it pretty likely this didn't stand up to scrutiny.
4
viraptor 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's time to look for MythBusters suggestions email, I guess... If anyone has a budget to replicate that setup as a one-time funny activity, it's going to be them ;
5
jakeonthemove 1 day ago 2 replies      
Isn't this "invisible wall" basically a force field like they show on various Sci-Fi shows? Can it be replicated and used on a spacecraft to protect it from radiation and more importantly, small meteorites? That would be really cool...
6
cfontes 1 day ago 2 replies      
Ah Ok, why isn't anybody trying to replicate and sell this ? it would be worth more than gold, and it's sitting there in an old maillist ? come on...
7
tectonic 1 day ago 0 replies      
I remember http://amasci.com/ from over 10 years ago. A fun website. The hand-drawn holograms, for example, are great.
8
Hacktivist 1 day ago 2 replies      
Here is some more information on the phenomenon that causes this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triboluminescence

The most interesting section is how UCLA researchers created such powerful results that they were able to x-ray fingers.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9613962...

There are also a couple of videos on Youtube that show the effect in action.

9
jeggers5 1 day ago 0 replies      
This happens because of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coulomb%27s_law.

Mythbusters should definitely try this!

10
unabridged 1 day ago 0 replies      
If this actually happened, don't you think 3M engineers would be aware of the effect before it was making a wall the size of a room that could stop a human? They didn't notice small parts and dust being repelled? And they couldn't capitalize on it even just by making a small public display of hovering objects?
11
astangl 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is one of a couple tantalizing stories I've seen on that site over the years, something that sounds really promising but then leads nowhere, calling the whole story into question. The other one is the lawnmower engine retrofitted with a magnetron in place of the spark plug, turning the engine into a type of steam engine running on water. Poster acted like it was no big deal, and apparently moved on to more interesting things.
12
goombastic 1 day ago 2 replies      
If this effect were real, this would be ideal for scramjets and re-entry vehicles to reduce friction related heat.
13
cantbecool 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wish smart phones were prevalent back in 96'. It would have been fascinating to view a video of the phenomenon described in this story, but I probably would have been skeptical thinking it was simply special effects.
14
tawm 1 day ago 3 replies      
So this is the kind of thing that's going to make our hovercars hover?
15
ifewalter 1 day ago 0 replies      
selling tickets might be nice....how i love product managers (even better sales managers) :)
22
Please let this not be the future of reading on the web elezea.com
268 points by pascal07  2 days ago   118 comments top 28
1
edw519 2 days ago 5 replies      
edw519's simple rules for reading on the internet:

That's a Back Button

(to the cadence of "That's a Paddlin'" from "The Simpsons")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFgR0m-9FmM

  Login button below the fold? That's a back button.
Animated ads? That's a back button.
Shifting content? That's a back button.
More than 2 pages? That's a back button.
Need to be logged in to Facebook. That's a back button.
Unexpected video? That's a back button.
Unexpected sound? That's a back button.
Overlapping ads & text in my browser? That's a back button.
Overlapping ads & text at 800 x 600? That's a back button.
No horizontal scroll bar to get beyond right fold? That's a back button.
Flash? That's a back button.
pdf? That's a back button.
Slideshow? Oooh, you better believe that's a back button.
Freezes my computer? That's a battery removal.

It's a wonder I find anything readable any more.

2
citricsquid 2 days ago 2 replies      
"...Ad networks like The Deck come to mind..." everytime someone says this I just switch off. The Deck and other hipster brand ad networks are not a workable solution for 99.99% of bloggers, please stop using them as an example of how advertising can be "good"; they're an example of why it can't.
3
ChuckMcM 2 days ago 2 replies      
"... as well as the growing number of sites that offer memberships (like The Loop and Daring Fireball)."

So there is a concept, that you can't tell people about, they have to experience it, then they "get it."

Small anecdote, when I left Sun in 1995 I went to a startup called "GolfWeb" which was publishing an online magazine about Golf. I saw the web as the new world of publishing (I was waaaaaaaaay early :-)) and had plans for a micropayments type Java wallet applet that would allow you read articles and consume content like you did with a regular magazine only better since you only paid for the articles you read, and you didn't have to store back issues they were always online. There were three problems with this vision:

1) Technical users of the time were chanting "information wants to be free" and were rabidly opposed to paying for content.

2) Nearly nobody had Java in their browser yet, so supporting this meant a very small market to work from.

3) DigiCash and David Chaum had a bunch of patents on electronic versions of cash transactions and they didn't have a clue about 'reasonable' licensing.

[Trust me, in 2015 after all that crap expires, we're going to have some really useful tools available.]

So Golfweb, like others, turned to putting banner ads on the pages and using that to pay the bills.

Information has value. This may seem obvious but for a number of people it is not. The question is how do you convert 'demand' type value into something fungible like cash.

The easiest way has been selling people who want to contact people who would want to consume this particular information, an opportunity to make their case. Sort of like giving lions a seat at the watering hole where gazelles come to drink. The lions pay more for seats near a good quality watering hole. But the nature of watering holes is that the gazelles, despite their thirst, will not frequent watering holes that are saturated with lions. No gazelles, and the lions lose interest. That is the value transaction of most web sites, selling your 'demographic' to advertisers for a spot on the page. And like our eponymous watering hole, you can screw it up by over doing it. So at the tipping point, the value of the information is higher to the reader, than having access to the reader is to the advertiser. So you switch from selling access to lions to selling gazelles access to a fenced watering hole where there are no lions.

To date however that switch has been limited by our gazelles ability to express a preference. Some sites are experimenting with memberships, others like Kachingle are providing a way to pay authors of good sites (less reliable income that advertising). What is needed will be something which is part payment system, part rights clearinghouse, and part web framework.

I of course bowed out of this particular game until 2015 :-) but its going to come to pass. I pay $12/yr to get a magazine, why not $1/month to a web site to access the new content there? Especially if it means the ad farms are tapered down to something less egregious than the examples given in OP's article. Because it isn't that advertisements are bad 'per se' (I used to get BYTE magazine in part for the advertisements), it is the egregious nature in which publishers try to force them into your face which changes the value proposition negative for the reader. So some content publisher growth, some additional understanding in the advertising world what to expect, and voila we'll have moved off paper for this kind of stuff.

4
EwanToo 2 days ago 4 replies      
The future of reading on the web is easy to change, all we need to do is pay some money for each article we want to read without adverts...

Unfortunately, the primary impact of putting up a paywall for premium content seems to be to raise huge arguments about why "information wants to be free", not the reality of what happens without one.

5
qjz 2 days ago 0 replies      
I dislike the trend towards light grey text on a white background. Unfortunately, the article itself is guilty of this. It's fine for timestamps and other page noise, but why dim a blockquote?
6
DanielBMarkham 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is driving me crazy. I feel the author's pain.

It's gotten so bad I've created a web site that gives me plain headlines of all the tech, science, world, sports, and political stories I might want to read. Phase 2 is walking the links and using something like Readability to make those readable as well. http://newspaper23.com

I didn't do this as a for-profit startup kind of thing -- it's for my own sanity. Everywhere you go folks are screwing with you instead of just giving you content. I wanted a place I could go to just catch up quickly on the opinion of the day. No bullshit.

I also feel like it is a mistake to blame this on SEO. SEO has nothing to do with it. I have a few sites optimized for SEO myself, and the only thing I want to do is present plain, simple, easy-to-understand text. How else would people easily consume it and recommend it to others?

Nope, the problem is stickiness. Everybody wants their site to be sticky and entertaining -- to the point of popping up email sign-ups, ads, social crap, you name it. SEO just means getting people to visit. Believe me, the last thing you want to do is annoy them. It's the folks who already have large audiences that are crapping all over the net. And they're not doing that for new eyeballs, they're doing that to keep the eyeballs they already have -- it's called engagement. Content providers make a clear and decisive design statement when they decide to screw over readability for stickiness. (Yes, some small-traffic sites do this, but only because they could care less about the audience in the first place. Any visitor for them is a mark. These are the guys who are never going to grow and stay big and simply don't care.)

7
jimbobimbo 2 days ago 0 replies      
My "favorite" "feature" is when you arrive on the web page for the first time in your life and you are being prompted with a popup to take a survey on the web site you never seen before...
8
jrabone 2 days ago 0 replies      
This has been the future of reading on the web for about the last 10 years. It's now so bad that my default browser setup (the one I use for sites I've never visited before / known offenders, as opposed to my online bank) is Firefox + AdBlock + RequestPolicy + NoScript + FlashBlock. Yes, I know some of these overlap. Yes, I probably want to look at Ghostery too. I also run a fairly aggressive filtering proxy on another server on the LAN and all LAN HTTP/HTTPS traffic goes through that by default (with exemptions for some sites that fail to cope). I don't care about your ad dollars. The chances are I don't actually care about your content either, but it's something to do to pass the time. If you want to throw up a paywall, knock yourself out - if the content is good enough, I will pay.

Around this time of year, every dickhead with a WordPress install seems to discover the same crappy JavaScript snow plugin, so that gets a special regexp all to itself in my filtering proxy. I didn't pay for a fast quad core CPU so you can animate snowflakes / leaves / puppies in the most inefficient way possible.

Amusingly the mobile experience is actually better in some ways - a double tap to zoom often fits the actual content postage-stamp-sized region to the screen, and I don't see the rest of the page...

9
tallanvor 2 days ago 4 replies      
Well, which would we prefer? Seeing the ads, or having to pay for access to each site?

Personally, as annoying as ads are, I still prefer them being there to the content not being available at all.

10
CodeMage 2 days ago 2 replies      
I find it ironic that I had to disable AdBlock Plus to see the images in the post.
11
InfinityX0 2 days ago 0 replies      
This:

"The question for reddit isn't whether or not people enjoy it and want to spend time on it, but whether or not the owners can make money selling those people's attention. The traffic to reddit - while admirably large - is relatively unattractive to most advertisers.

"Reach" (impressions/eyeballs) are only important insofar as you're talking to someone who might buy what you're selling (see "relevancy"). The sub-reddit system could theoretically segment the audience in interesting ways, but other than r/gaming, there aren't many natural industry fits amongst popular sub-reddits.

Anecdotally, the audience would also seem to be advertisement-averse. An advertiser should be willing to pay network prices for the audience (i.e. pennies CPM), which makes it a nice living for a small group of folks living off their passion, but pretty useless to a Condé Nast trying to run a media empire.

I think the business model in a reddit-like site could be selling curated content in other media, e.g. a meme-series of coffee table books. Think Harry Potter, not Oprah.
If you're in the content game, your business's value is in having the attention of a group of people. Your first attempt to monetize that asset needn't be to sell your audience's attention to someone else, in this case undermining your ability to keep their attention. Instead, you should focus on bringing things your audience wants - and would pay for - to them. Sometimes that means you need to make the things they want to buy instead of shilling them for someone else, because no one sells what your people want.

Condé Nast isn't built to do this."

Via - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2966628

12
wavephorm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Q: Do you want to pay for reading content on the web?

A: No.

Q: Do you want to see ads while reading content on the web?

A: No.

Q: Do you want everything to be free all the time but maintain a capitalistic society?

A: Yes.

13
franze 2 days ago 2 replies      
the biggest thread for reading on the web is - in my humble opinion - the swipeware deployed on multiple small and big sites (i.e.: all *.wordpress.com blogs) for mobile devices like the iPad. swipeware has a horrific user experience, adds nothing of value to the page or the article and makes it impossible to read an article from start to finish.

out of curiosity: is there anybody out-there who thinks swipeware on blogs is a great idea/experience?

14
AndrewDucker 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is why I use Adblock on my desktop, and ReadItLater to extract the text on mobile. Without these the web would be pretty unusable.
15
jvdh 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think that Daring Fireball is a good example for a membership based blog. Gruber made all feeds freely available in August 2007. The membership button is still there, but besides a T-shirt, it doesn't provide you with anything new.

AFAIK he gets a lot more from the weekly feed-sponsorships, The Deck ads, and Amazon referrals.

16
jiggy2011 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think I have mentioned this in the past on other articles about advertising. The overall game of creating aggressive advertising has not changed, they just now have more tools to do it.

If your going to force me to have a fullscreen ad before reading your content then at least allow me to dismiss it easily with a single click on the ad and not having to hunt for a close button (if there even is one).
The amount of times I've had a fullscreen ad completely block a page with no way to remove it..

Regards content, I think this is partly just a function of so many people now reading stuff online.
With more people reading things on smartphones/tablets on their way to work on the bus etc there is a market for more "tabloid" style writing that can be consumed quickly.

There are still plenty of people writing high quality content and lots of it gets linked to here on HN.

People will just be more discerning about the content portals they use.

17
ivanzhao 2 days ago 0 replies      
The problem is not the poor state of the reading experience -- that's the symptom -- the problem is the per-page-view model of the online advertising, which breaks an article into pages, sharing buttons in your face... etc.

A better paradigm has to come.

18
efsavage 2 days ago 0 replies      
I use, (and pay for), Readability, and I don't really see this as a extra work or a hack or a a necessary evil on my part.

Even if these interstitials weren't there, I'd much rather hit tilde without even thinking, than have to read a page that's even 90% as nice as Readability is with my consistent settings. I do it all the time on blogs without ads or pages that are already very readable like bostonglobe.com.

It's like an office coffee pot, nobody complains that the coffee isn't already sweetened or creamed, they're fine doing the little extra step so that everyone has it the way they want it.

(The one-click send-to-kindle is a time/productivity saver that offsets the cost of that extra click, as it isn't even an option on most sites, and certainly not without hoops to jump through.)

19
nicksergeant 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why don't we start by trying to raise the quality and therefore effectiveness of ads on the Internet? A fundamental shift in how ads work and what they're trying to do needs to be done.

The ads you see on websites right now are remnants from the newspaper, nearly identical to their print counterparts.

Creating a "prettier ad network" or "other way to be profitable" is only patchwork. We need to completely rework the execution of "I have something to sell and I'd like to tell your readers / customers about it".

Solving this requires something larger.

20
funkah 2 days ago 2 replies      
Readable sweeps all that shit away and puts the plain text on a plain background. Use it and you'll stop caring what lightboxes and other crap web sites festoon their pages with. Safari's reader is nice as well, it even auto fetches all the pages in a multi page article.
21
jetz 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is just the beginning guys! Big web properties are becoming more like a TV Network. They interrupt you with an ad because they think that if their name is not some power of 10 then they have to use this TV-like experience. Maybe they're right but if this "platformization" thing catches on then you will _not_ have option to block them out!

I don't know the solution but I'm (we're) trying with our startup.

22
scriptproof 2 days ago 2 replies      
There was a statement of Matt Cutts at PubCon saying Google will penalyze pages with too much ads above the fold. Expect to see that.
23
rythie 2 days ago 0 replies      
Publishers are clearly struggling to make money from their sites and decline in the quality and increase in annoyance of the adverts is the result. I wrote this a while ago (though not much has changed):

http://posterous.richardcunningham.co.uk/the-problem-with-on...

24
monkeypizza 2 days ago 0 replies      
AutoPager is a great browser add-on that preloads the next page of nytimes, reddit, tumblr etc. It takes care of a lot of the annoying pagination.

It took a long time before I was convinced to try it - but it's sweet.

25
paulnelligan 2 days ago 1 reply      
I would argue that once you dismiss ads and scroll down the page that content is entirely readable. The internet has given us an expectation that everything should be free and immediate, and we can't tolerate anything less.

In the old days you paid for a newspaper or magazine with money, now you pay for it with advertising (or you pay money to remove the advertising) - nothing new there, nothing surprising, good content is still good content, and the shit is still there in abundance also ...

26
ClintonWu 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is exactly the problem we're trying to solve at Skim.Me (http://skim.me), except we're not focused solely on article text reading. Even reading my bank account info on the web is terrible.
27
zobzu 2 days ago 0 replies      
Use ghostery. :-)
28
deepakgupta1 2 days ago 1 reply      
Evernote Clearly, anyone?
24
For Thanksgiving, give your parents a treat: upgrade their browser arstechnica.com
267 points by evo_9  1 day ago   96 comments top 26
1
charleso 1 day ago  replies      
"Well, everything worked fine until you installed that [Chrome | Firefox | Opera] thing on my computer."

Doing free tech support for non-technical people is a wonderful thought, but it can also provide a harsh lesson in the dangers of unlimited liability for open-ended, no-fee, no-contract work.

2
jgroome 1 day ago 7 replies      
I hope nobody minds but I'd like to share what happened to me recently:

My father called me a few months ago to ask if I could go on our bank's online banking site and tell him if I noticed anything unusual. At the time, HSBC's online banking had the following flow: Enter your user ID as the first step, enter your DOB as the second, and finally enter three specified digits from your 6-figure security PIN.

It all seemed OK to me, nothing out of the ordinary, but he was telling me that when he was prompted to enter his security PIN, the site asked for the full number. This was a big no-no.

"So I thought I'd better call you before I do that, because it doesn't sound right and you know about this stuff."

I went to their house the next weekend to check it out. He fired up the ol' IE7, went to the HSBC page, completed the first step of logging in, and there it was, clear as day. A mysterious third box prompting the user to enter their full PIN.

I don't know exactly what put that input box there, and successive Googling has yielded nothing specific. I assumed the damn thing had picked up some nasty spyware, or some other malicious code with the potential to cost a lot of people an awful lot of money. I installed Chrome, deleted the "Internet" icon from the desktop, imported old bookmarks and the like, and let him have a go on his new browser.

I really think we, as the more technically-minded people in our families, have an obligation to do this for the people we care about, in a way that extends far beyond those clever CSS animations or native video support. I'm lucky enough that my folks know to keep their eyes open to anything fishy online, but I had no idea he was still using IE7. The idea of him (or indeed anyone) inadvertently giving their complete bank details to some cyber-criminals out of completely innocent ignorance terrifies me.

3
w1ntermute 1 day ago 1 reply      
My parents are running Linux now, but when they were on Windows, I just changed the Firefox shortcut's icon to be the IE icon. I didn't change anything else (not even the text below the icon from "Mozilla Firefox" to "Internet Explorer"), but my parents of course didn't notice.
4
algoshift 1 day ago 0 replies      
Every visit:

1- Bring the system drive you cloned last year after doing a clean install

2- Swap system drives

3- Data is on separate drive, no issues there

4- Install updates/upgrades as needed

5- Create new system drive image

6- Clone to the old drive

7- Swap system drives again so you always keep the drive with the least run time as backup

8- Create and save new data drive image if desired

10- Ensure that user account has no administrative privileges

11- Let them know that some of the cheese moved, for the better.

Do this on an yearly basis.

It's easy.

Everyone will get used to it.

You'll sleep well at night.

5
pacomerh 1 day ago 6 replies      
I tried doing that a couple of times and they end up looking for the blue "e". Somehow that's their symbol for "the internet".
So what I did next was not uninstall but hide the icon and leave the chrome & FF visible. Now my dad uses Firefox and he calls it "the mozilla" hehe. And my mom somehow figured out a way to find IE, I guess she couldn't live without it.

That was my case at least.

6
pgbovine 1 day ago 0 replies      
good idea, but must be done tactfully, or else you run the risk of being labeled as that geeky kid who always insists on disrupting the status quo. remember, for a lot of people, web browsers are interchangeable, so if they're happy with X and you switch them to Y, then they'll be strictly more mad. however, if they're fed up with how X is too slow or buggy and you show them Y, then they're more likely to be appreciative.
7
code_duck 1 day ago 0 replies      
Browser? Why stop there! I just installed Ubuntu 11.10 on my mother's netbook. It runs about 5 times as fast as Windows 7 was going on that machine and provides 100% of the software she wants to use and 0% of what she doesn't (stable OS, choice of the latest Opera/FF/Chrome, photo management... and no malware).
8
davedx 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about 'give your corporation's internal IT devs a treat' and upgrade from IE6? Individual users aren't the problem... :)
9
vaksel 1 day ago 0 replies      
with all the virus makers out there and pure hate for IE, you'd think by now, someone would devise one that would automatically upgrade all browsers on the infected machine.
10
suivix 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've had my parents running Google Chrome inside of Sandboxie for over half a year. No issues so far.
11
crudx 1 day ago 3 replies      
Also, delete all those toolbars.
12
dhughes 1 day ago 0 replies      
Forget my parents want my workplace to get rid of IE6!
13
Tichy 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's also a great lesson in humility. Every developer should support some noobs from time to time. It's surprising how difficult some computer tasks really are.
14
corroded 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I remember the day I bought my mom and dad a PC. I only taught my mom how to check her email and a few weeks later, she's already installed a dozen Yahoo! and Popcap games in it.

A few more weeks later and as expected, the PC succumbed to a bunch of viruses and I had to "fix" them. To cut the story short, I installed FIrefox, hid the IE icon and told them to use it as it's "just the same, they only look different". I then left and never had to fix any virus problem whatsoever.

Now, they're doing great with Firefox(I think my dad even uses Chrome now).

Lesson learned:
1. Let them suffer from virus infections caused by old browsers cough IE6
2. "Cure" said virus and introduce antibody - new browsers
3. ???
4. PROFIT!

15
davidcuddeback 1 day ago 0 replies      
How'd they know I was going to be reading this from my mom's laptop? Actually, I was pleasantly surprised today to find out that my mom is already using Chrome. No browser upgrade needed.
16
citricsquid 1 day ago 1 reply      
The idea is cute, but seems unlikely to happen. If someone's parents are the sort to let their children upgrade their browser, they're also the sort that probably had their computer set up by their children which means it's probably already updated. If they're the sort that are in control of their own computer usage they probably aren't comfortable with their children changing the way their computer works.
17
squidsoup 1 day ago 0 replies      
Or better yet, buy them an iPad.
18
x0ner 1 day ago 1 reply      
Funny seeing this just after I got done spending 2 hours waiting for Windows to apply all the updates.

Windows, check.
Adobe, check.
Java, check.
All browsers (with Chrome default), check.

Success.

19
fasouto 1 day ago 3 replies      
Pro tip: dont insist, 99% of them will never change the browser, instead install Chrome Frame
20
arkitaip 1 day ago 1 reply      
This should be a non-issue but on Windows XP [1] silent application upgrades often fail because they require admin privileges.

[1] Win XP still has a third of the OS market share http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_system...

21
algoshift 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you install Chrome on your parent's computer and make it the default browser you are making a serious mistake:

All of their logins and passwords are now available in plain text with a few button clicks. If they ever ask someone else for help or take the computer to a store their entire lives can be up-ended in an instant.

I use Chrome almost exclusively. I can deal with this issue. My guess is that 99% of the public has no clue.

I don't understand why Google refuses to fix this.

22
mcarrano 12 hours ago 0 replies      
I upgraded my parents browser but only after I upgraded them to Windows 7. Bye bye XP and all of your issues you have given us over the years.
23
billboebel 1 day ago 0 replies      
I did one better 3 yrs ago and replaced my mom's virus ridden Windows w/ Ubuntu. Best move ever, because it drastically reduced the amount of tech support I do for her. Shit just works. Today I upgraded her to Oneiric Ocelot (Ubuntu 11.10), doubled her RAM and moved her 10,000+ photos to an ext4 partition. Now she'll be good for another 3 years as a Linux mom.
24
gebloom39 1 day ago 1 reply      
Least my son could do, after all those years of editing the ROM BIOS serial port interrupts so he could play Warcraft against his friends; editing config.sys files so he could play Final Fantasy VII or FPS Football Pro '95. He's now got a CS degree and is a web app developer -- and he's usually an OS version or two behind me.
25
samuel1604 1 day ago 0 replies      
at least that's one advantage being an orphan, not having to do tech support!
26
SonicSoul 1 day ago 1 reply      
everything has been just toasty since i got them off IE.. 6 years ago..
25
How automatic transmission almost made sperm whales extinct shkrobius.livejournal.com
261 points by mike_esspe  4 days ago   96 comments top 19
1
srean 4 days ago 7 replies      
Sperm whales are incredibly interesting animals. Amongst their multiple records is their ability to dive deep, fast and long.

They are the deepest diving warm blooded animal, they go close to 25 times deeper than their other equally famous and endangered cousin the blue whale. To give an idea of how deep they dive, here is an infographic http://i.imgur.com/ESp2j.jpg The jpg needs to be magnified to get the perspective. From the biological point view what is interesting is not only how they manage to hold their breath for so long but also how they manage to avoid/survive the bends (decompression sickness).

2
DanielBMarkham 4 days ago 2 replies      
I expect we'll see a similar process with using animals for food. As our scientific knowledge increases, and as our needs increase, synthetic meats will become more and more attractive, eventually leaving us all meat-eaters who do not harvest animals.

Complex systems remind me of a theater set up for a complex play. Hundreds of ropes hang down from the ceiling. Somebody is always pleading us with us to pull rope A to make B happen.

Very rarely does pulling rope A actually make B happen (and nothing else) But we still like thinking things are simple like that.

3
tomkinstinch 4 days ago 0 replies      
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, candles made from spermaceti were used as standard photometric illuminants. They burned more brightly than even today's paraffin candles, and could be made in a reproducible way [1].

NASA used spermaceti as a binder for joining iron particles to acetate for longer-lasting data storage tapes [2], and one author indicates that it was used more recently as a lubricant on the Voyager probe and the Hubble Space Telescope[3].

It's a sad story about our (over) exploitation of the seas, but very interesting history.

I wonder if any research has been done on producing cetyl palmitate via recombinant DNA synthesis. Imagine having a vat of E. coli or yeast producing it.

As the article mentions, jojoba oil is a decent substitute. I use jojoba around the house to fix squeaky hinges, etc.

1. http://books.google.com/books?id=DI4AAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA183&#...

2. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/327/5971/1322.full

3. http://books.google.com/books?id=y2zXTivayCQC&pg=PA344#v...

4
rsanchez1 4 days ago 4 replies      
It boggles the mind why the car companies lobbied to keep whale hunting when their numbers were already so low. They wanted a few more years of automatic transmission working at then-current levels, and then what? The same mass transmission failures that happened, only without anymore whales left. Poachers are similarly mind boggling. Instead of leaving a viable population to harvest more animal parts (not saying it's OK, just for the sake of argument), they hunt down every last animal then move on to other animals.

Oh, and if automatic transmission had never been invented, maybe people would actually know how to drive.

5
VMG 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sadly science can't beat the stupidity of Traditional Chinese Medicine: http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/globalmarkets/wildlifetrad...
6
jdietrich 4 days ago 0 replies      
Whale-oil related trivia: A huge number of recordings have been lost due to the whale oil ban. Magnetic audio tape was made using whale oil as a binder, to help adhere the magnetisable oxide particles to the tape. The first non-whale binders turned out to have very poor long-term durability, causing the oxide to fall off in clumps. Most archivists 'bake' these tapes at low temperatures, to improve the oxide adhesion for just long enough to make a copy.
7
feralchimp 4 days ago 0 replies      
In case you didn't, spare a few minutes and read through the comments on the original article. Excellent stuff in there, particularly from the OP.
8
pbhjpbhj 4 days ago 1 reply      
Conclusion:

"The reason why so many whales were killed in the 20th century was the distant ramifications of replacement of whale oil by petroleum. It took another 100 years to find solutions to these ramifications, and only then it became possible to save the whales. Ecological activism did not play significant role in all of these developments; neither did the numerous well-meaning international treaties, moratoriums, and other chest beating displays."

"A chemist who saved the whales has not merited a Wikipedia entry. His name was P. S. Landis and he was a researcher at Mobile Oil."

A really interesting piece IMO.

9
cq 4 days ago  replies      
Sad how there's no discussion of the economy that enables stuff like this to happen. "Why were people so cruel and evil?" is a stupid question; it's not about cruelty or being "evil". It's about money. Don't expect people to be moral in this economic system. Morality is a weakness in a capitalist society, and you'll go out of business if you bring morality into a competitive business ecosystem. This is why we need to change the rules of our economic system, if you care about morality.

Moreover, sure P. S. Landis "saved the whales", but he didn't do it to save the whales, he did it to generate an enormous amount of profit for Mobile Oil, and was paid for it handsomely.

10
JoachimSchipper 4 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting, but gives too little credit to the anti-whaling campaigns: it certainly was no accident that whaling was forbidden as soon as that became economically feasible.
11
tyng 4 days ago 2 replies      
Someone should create a wikipedia entry for P. S. Landis as "inventor and the man who saved Sperm Whales"
12
owensmartin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great piece of history. I think the author's conclusions are flawed though. He writes:

> Ecological activism did not play significant role in all of these developments; neither did the numerous well-meaning international treaties, moratoriums, and other chest beating displays.

That may be true for the whales themselves, but there were indeed regulations passed on automobiles in the 1970s due to the oil shock:

> In the 1970s, the car companies were required to develop engines working at higher temperatures to comply with lower emissions and improved efficiency and that changed the regime for the tranny fluids. Suddenly, the car companies did not need to lobby any more.

So it was government action regarding auto emissions that wound up propagating into saving the whales. Perhaps that was not among the intended consequences, but we also can't claim that the change was simply due to "market forces."

13
shoesfullofdust 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nixon's bold stance(?!) predates P.S. Lang's invention of a synthetic replacement by a number of years.

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=3731

Of course, he could never use the term "sperm whale". But this is what led to the Endangered Species Act that granted the whales a reprieve. Lang's invention was only a reaction to this. It's still a good read.

14
1010010111 4 days ago 0 replies      
The automatic transmission does not cause a species' extinction. People's actions cause extinctions. The title is perhaps revealing about how we think and how we rationalise or justify our actions.
15
ScottBurson 4 days ago 0 replies      
by the 1950s automatics were the preferred transmission

Feh. Never owned one of the contraptions, myself.

16
sliverstorm 4 days ago 1 reply      
That's a sharp irony, to think the anti-whaling community of the 60's and 70's was driving around with whale oil in their cars! I wonder if they had any idea?
17
guard-of-terra 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is humiliating to us as a race of sentient species.

If we still badly need sperm oil, why don't we work to inject the relevant genes into some bacteria and get our oil in any quantities we want to? Or reproduce the process in any other way (synthesis, cell culture).

18
joejohnson 4 days ago 0 replies      
tl;dr

The reason why so many whales were killed in the 20th century was the distant ramifications of replacement of whale oil by petroleum. It took another 100 years to find solutions to these ramifications, and only then it became possible to save the whales. Ecological activism did not play significant role in all of these developments; neither did the numerous well-meaning international treaties, moratoriums, and other chest beating displays.

19
_THE_PLAGUE 4 days ago 4 replies      
Whaling needs to be brought back. Sperm whales are prevalent once again, so controlled harvesting of them should be possible just like hunting deer or anything else. This creates jobs, and contributes to finding renewable energy sources. Furthermore, because without whaling sperm whales have no predators they are getting abundant and taking up too much of the marine ecosystem's food supply. We need to limit their numbers for our own survival. Jobs. Energy. Marine food supply. For all these reasons we need to restore whaling, and we need to do it now.
26
Why do humans procrastinate? reddit.com
247 points by ankeshk  1 day ago   71 comments top 25
1
ramanujan 1 day ago 8 replies      
There was a recent highly cited paper describing the concept of willpower as a measurable, physiological, depletable quantity, strongly affected by glucose levels:

http://www.fed.cuhk.edu.hk/~lchang/material/Evolutionary/Bra...

And there was a very interesting Metafilter thread from a few years ago that found that a small amount of alcohol overcame procrastination:

http://ask.metafilter.com/22924/Why-does-alcohol-overcome-my...

It's probably time to start studying these kinds of things as genuinely biological phenomena.

2
erikb 1 day ago 3 replies      
Hm. I never saw this as a bad attribute nor can I accept it as the reason for procrastination. Yes, sure. People work more for goals that are closer in time then for goals that are further away. But that is not irrational, nor is it the reason for procastination. First let me explain how I see the procastination thing and then let me say a word or two about why I think that temporal discounting is something rational and useful.

Procrastination often has no reward at all. If it has a reward, why call it procrastionation? You actually do something useful, if it has a reward. The thing is, that "not procrastinating" is considered work, thus related with stress, concentration and energydepletion. So "not procrastinating" has a cost, which humans overestimate. There is some research (that I can't quote right now, but psychological material here on HN often cites some good sources about that) that people value a cost of an objective value X around 2 or 3 times higher then a reward of the same objective value (so losing $100 might feel as bad, as winning $200 might feel good). So most humans prefer instinctively to avoid or minimize costs before they maximize the (stochastic) expected value of an action. Doesn't avoiding cost (stress, "work") seem much more reasonable then missevaluating the reward for procastination? Well, what the truth is can nobody know, because the science also doesn't know yet. But for me it sounds way more reasonable, especially because I know how much I like to not work and to have no stress compared to getting anything done.

So, now why do I think that temporal discounting even is a good thing? Time can change the reward we gain from an object. An object might increase or decrease in value over time. With money we can even be sure that it decreases over time. Also our preferences might change according to our changing situation. Whatever we do now, we can be sure that our situation will be very different one year in the future. And last but not least, the risk increases drastically, that we don't get any reward at all. Dying in a car accident is a very unlikely thing if you sit at home in front of your comuter now. But if you think about that risk again for this point in time + one year it is not that unlikely anymore. All risks increase with a bigger time frame. All this leads to a situation in which gaining something now makes it much more rewarding then gaining it somewhere far in the future.

I think the big problem about that article is that it mixes truth with false assumptions. For example saying humans act irrational is true. It is also true that humans discount rewards over time. But both doesn't mean time discounting is something irrational. This article shows clearly that having some right arguments doesn't make your assumption correct. (this might also be correct to say about my arguments)

3
stdbrouw 1 day ago 1 reply      
What that comment doesn't get is the anguish that sometimes accompanies procrastination. I don't want to start real work, often for a reason I can't quite fathom, so I go play Skyrim, and while I'm playing it I feel really really bad for not working even though I can't quite force myself to quit playing either. There's no joy in this particular kind of procrastination, and so it can't be explained by the lure of immediate gratification.

It is or should be any hacker's goal in life to do something that you love, not to accept drudgery for some supposed long-term benefit. Which means that any procrastination that remains is likely to be of the kind that I describe here, which must have different origins. I like the "procrastination as a function of faith in a decision" theory.

4
fauigerzigerk 20 hours ago 1 reply      
This theory makes very little sense to me. First of all, I don't believe that it is rational to ignore time or impact on your life.

Would you take 1 dollar today or 10 in a year? I think what matters more than the actual answer is that the choice has zero impact on your life either way. Would you take 1 billion today or 10 billion in a year? Is that even the same question? In terms of supposedly "rational" financial accounting it is, but I think it would be totally irrational for an average person not to think about these choices in completely different terms.

At some point a quantitative difference becomes a qualitative difference and it would not be rational to act as if this leap didn't exist just because the original quantitative model is unsuitable to account for it. I believe nonlinearity in things like these is the core of what we call intelligence and calling it irrational is nonsense. (Not sure if that theory does that, but it sounds like it might)

The other example they give, studying for an exam earlier or keep playing a game is a different matter altogether. It's a multi factor optimization and there is no way to transform it to a single factor problem (unlike the financial example). Is the pleasure gained from playing the game worth more or less than reducing stress and risk ahead of the exam? On what scale should that be determined?

5
arketyp 1 day ago 2 replies      
How does cases of workaholism suit into this? That is, specifically, persons focusing too much on their career for big parts of their lives and then later regretting never having spent time with their family, enjoying a slow day etc. Isn't this almost reverse procrastination? Somehow you have deluded yourself that the future reward is worth the short term costs. And I guess in the end the habit would be so hard to break that it is indeed a sort of short-term procrastination kind of deal once again. You keep working all days because it is the easiest choice to deal with. Stepping down is such a drastic choice and a big commitment and scary and so on.

I guess I also want to point out that these things are really complicated dynamics. How do I know how much I should deny myself the instant rewards? What do I really know about the worth of this task I have setup for myself and its benefits? Why do we procrastinate? Well, because we don't know, because we're uncertain, because we doubt.

6
ggwicz 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Procrastination is the soul rebelling against entrapment." - Nassim Taleb

People procrastinate because they're doing something they don't like.

I procrastinate when I'm doing homework. But wouldn't you know, I always get motivated when hacking on an open source project or when working on a freelance project.

7
funkah 1 day ago 1 reply      
Simple, scorn of the abstract. The hour spent watching tv is valued more highly, right now, than the consequences that come some point in the future. The tv-watching hour presses the brain's reward buttons harder than the abstract notion of having your work done ahead of time.

Taleb's "The Black Swan" has a nice discussion of scorn of the abstract, though not in the context of procrastination.

8
DenisM 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think this simplistic explanation does not do justice to the complex subject which is procrastination. If it were that simple, we wouldn't be having those problems, would we?

For a more rounded perspective on the subject of procrastination I suggest reading someone who observed a few hundreds of cases and helped in fixing most of them:

http://www.amazon.com/Now-Habit-Overcoming-Procrastination-G...

9
rkalla 1 day ago 0 replies      
In addition to the temporal aspect of decision making given in the top reply, there was a study recently (posted on HN maybe 8 months ago) that found procrastination was a function of confidence in a decision.

I think the temporal aspect of decision making is a red herring and the real issue is the confidence in the decision; which is harder to gauge the farther out it is.

Some people have a great sense of confidence in their decisions and subsequently may procrastination less as their lack of faith in their decisions are not impacted by temporal locality.

This explanation happened to fit my tendency to procrastination to a T, as opposed to decisions simply being farther out on a timeline.

10
andre3k1 1 day ago 2 replies      
It is worth noting that Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky are the fathers of modern-day behavioral economics. Their biggest contribution is called Prospect Theory. It goes against everything they teach you in Econ 101 -- the expected utility theory is wrong.

Kahneman won a noble prize in Economics for his work. Sadly, Tversky passed away in 1996 before he could be awarded.

Prospect Theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prospect_theory

11
jakeonthemove 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I find that generalizing in anything related to human intelligence is a mistake - there's just too many variables.

If I had to choose between 1 dollar now and 10 a year later, I'd choose $1 now. If the choice stood between $1 now and $10 a week later, I'd take the $10, since I wouldn't be waiting long and getting $1.40 for each day of waiting. I'm also one of those people who think days and weeks go by too damn fast (I know people who think time is flowing too slow and weeks are like ages to them).

Also, there are a lot of people who'll take Skyrim AND the ice cream NOW, simply because they can or because getting an A is not a priority (and any passing grade would do). I can't decide if that's a choice or just an impulsive action...

12
ma2rten 1 day ago 0 replies      
For those who, didn't see it three month back. There was a great threat about procrastination:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2886187

13
dusing 1 day ago 0 replies      
Sometimes (not often) procrastination saves me from making a bad decision because my during my delay something plays out that would have negated or been worsened by my planned action.
14
vanni 1 day ago 0 replies      
> (...) human motivation is heavily influenced by expectations of how imminent the reward is perceived to be.

Think to startup solopreneurs: their reward is far in time and uncertain. So they often and periodically have motivation drops.

This is why I'm working on a productivity-focused community for startup founders and would-be ones, full of mechanisms that will try to leverage human cognition weaknesses:

http://asaclock.com

15
tryitnow 1 day ago 1 reply      
It is unsurprising that this gets so many upvotes since HN is where many go to procrastinate (myself included).
16
lightcatcher 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Before reading the content behind this link, I thought for a few minutes about why people procrastinate. I came up with a few reasons:

1. Fewer context switches. A true procrastinator only works on the single next thing they have to get done, so they don't have to switch between tasks as often. Imagine the simplicity of popping tasks off of a priority queue compared to some sort of coroutine setup.

2. Saves work. Occasionally, the things that people have to do get cancelled. The procrastinator never has to do these things that got cancelled at the last minute, while the person who works ahead does.

3. Some kinds of work are easier later. Particularly in collaborative environments, getting things done is much easier when other people have already done some/most of the hard works. Examples of this include my problem sets for school. However, there is less reward for doing things after others. For instance, there is less intrinsic reward for being aided by others than for just doing everything myself on my problem sets, and it is much easier (and much less valuable) to do something like building a light bulb now than it was 100 years ago.

17
hvass 19 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised nobody has given this link from LessWrong: How to Beat Procrastination: http://lesswrong.com/lw/3w3/how_to_beat_procrastination/

I highly recommend it!

18
bjoernbu 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Is the very first example really true? Would most people really take a dollar now over 10 dollars in a year? I wouldn't (except I need the money right now because otherwise I'd have to turn around, look for an ATM and come back later - which I don't thinks is implied here).

Apart form that I really like the post and the conclusion of the research. Still, I dislike the example and can't imagine this is true for a majority of people.

19
shawndrost 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Another thing that gives you "high level executive functionality": meditation.
20
jconnop 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Why do humans procrastinate?"... with a link to reddit.com

How fitting :)

21
TGJ 1 day ago 0 replies      
I could die any minute. I should enjoy myself now.
22
mih 1 day ago 1 reply      
An interesting video on procrastination from a chapter of the book 'You are not so smart'

http://youtu.be/DJ2T4-rUUcs

23
corroded 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I could provide a one sentence answer to this that will enlighten you all, but I'll do it later after I finish reading all the articles in the front page.
24
captainaj 1 day ago 0 replies      
Lack of motivation to do what's important? or lack of priority list.
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junto 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Because I'm reading HN!
27
What's In A GIF matthewflickinger.com
238 points by ch0wn  1 day ago   35 comments top 8
1
ChuckMcM 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is an excellent document for visual thinkers. I wish there were more of them. It reminds me of my dog eared copy of TCP/IP Illustrated. Now that the patents have all lapsed on GIF images it would seem to be a candidate for coming back but of course the PNG standard has made great progress in the mean time.

For a long time, and perhaps today, GIF was the most reliable way to have a diagram in a web page that would display like you expected. I keep hoping that SVG support will rise to the level that GIF support had in its hey day then I can have a web page that goes from phone to 24" display and the drawings still look nice.

2
micheljansen 1 day ago 0 replies      
Good read. I just noted that Wikipedia also has quite an elaborate description of the GIF format:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GIF#Example_GIF_file

as well as for PNG:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_Network_Graphics#Techn...

3
nudded 1 day ago 1 reply      
I have recently implemented a basic GIF parser and writer in Haskell for a school project. The code can be found here: https://bitbucket.org/nudded/gif-parser/src/

I think it shows how easy it is to write parsers in Haskell. Don't bother to look at the LZW decode and encode, it's rather dirty.

4
enneff 1 day ago 0 replies      
Related: Rob Pike's article on GIF decoding with Go: http://blog.golang.org/2011/05/gif-decoder-exercise-in-go-in...
5
rojabuck 1 day ago 2 replies      
A clear & approachable piece of documentation. What a fantastic resource a library of such documents, for numerous major data formats, would be.
6
wladimir 1 day ago 4 replies      
Nice and clear overview!

But GIF? Is that format even still used?

I'd love to see this for webp, I really don't get that format yet and AFAIK there is no overview of the format that is not a spec (i.e., horribly detailed).

7
antirez 1 day ago 0 replies      
generating GIF in pure Tcl (2004) https://github.com/antirez/gif-pure-tcl

I remember that when I was playing with this code I was pretty shocked by the elegance of LZW.

8
pkrumins 1 day ago 0 replies      
I once wrote node-gif (https://github.com/pkrumins/node-gif), a node.js library for creating animated gifs. (Note: it only works with the old node 0.2.x.)
28
The Hushed Dangers of Startup Depression betabeat.com
232 points by bproper  3 days ago   102 comments top 20
1
edw519 3 days ago  replies      
I know nothing about depression and even less about the "startup community", but I still think that this might be a good thread to throw in some of my thoughts, for what they're worth:

First, a little background...

In March, 2008, I attended my first Startup School. Even though I had been programming for many years, it was my first in-person exposure to the "startup community". It was incredible! For the first time in my life, I felt like I was immersed into the group of people with whom I belong. (The closest feeling I had before that was here at Hacker News.) Two great days talking about passionate things with like minded people! Then I got on the plane home and sat with 2 girls reading "People Magazine". All I could think was, "Welcome back to the real world."

Fast forward to today...

Sorry to say, I'm having trouble distinguishing our "community" from the "community" of those 2 girls. Sure, they were probably interested in celebrities while we're interested in technology & business, but the similarities are still striking: We're both often caught up in the latest fads, the "cool" stuff, what the fanboys are interested in, who got funded, who met with whom, who knows whom, where everyone's hanging out, etc., etc., etc. There are days when I come to Hacker News and have trouble finding a single reference to the most important thing: our customers.

I became interested in building digital things because it was such an incredibly cool way to provide for others. I still feel that way.

Whenever I start thinking about the "startup community" and all the details we mistake for issues, it's no wonder people get depressed. Sometimes we just lose our way.

But whenever I start thinking about my customers, what they need, why they need it, and how cool it is to help them get it, it's almost impossible to get depressed.

If you think you're getting depressed because of all the distracting details, find someone who needs something, focus on them instead of yourself, and build something.

Just a thought from an unqualified observer too busy and having too much fun to get depressed.

2
wheels 3 days ago 1 reply      
So, being pedantic, is Diaspora even a startup? I've thought of it more as an open source project. And even if we're willing to label it a startup, why jump to the conclusion that doing a startup was the trigger? Couldn't it just as easily be a breakup, family problems, various emotional issues, etcetera? Why do we assume that the incidence of depression and suicide is higher among founders than non-founders?

I don't mean to trivialize the interplay, often strong, between emotions and work, but we're making a lot of assumptions here that as far as I'm aware are unfounded.

3
benl 3 days ago  replies      
Just as broken bones are a danger inherent in riding a motorbike, depression is one of the dangers inherent in trying to start a company.

Understanding this leads to two helpful realizations:

1. It's nothing to be ashamed of and should not be stigmatised

2. You would be wise to take precautions to protect against the danger (just like you would wear a helmet when riding).

The danger is particularly strong for solo founders, simply because of the lifestyle some have to live. Long periods of time spent on your own, slow progress toward your goals -- these are signals that the depression-triggering algorithms in your mind will latch onto.

Some things that may work to counter those signals:

* Socialise with friends, family or new people every day. If you can't socialise on a particular day, spend some time making plans with people to socialise in the near future.

* Be having sex, and regularly. Seriously, this is a very strong signal.

* Exercise a lot. Run, swim, work out -- even just walk around the neighbourhood.

* Plan your work to have near-term achievable milestones.

* Eat healthily and avoid alcohol. A weak immune system leads to frequent illness, which leads to slower progress.

4
dangero 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think what's happening is that all the positive spin about why you should make a startup are just drowning out the negatives, and this makes sense. I work for a company that makes over 100 million a year and one of the founders told me that if he knew how much work starting the company would be, he wouldn't have done it. There is a part of being an entrepreneur that is about ignoring the negatives. It's a very Han Solo, "Never tell me the odds" kind of thing.

I spent the first 3 years post college using all my free time in a new city trying to bootstrap my startup by myself at home in front of a computer almost every night and weekend after my day job. Luckily I met my now wife along the way which helped keep me motivated and gave me someone to talk to. I didn't really feel I had time to make any other friends. My business succeeded and survived, but depression was probably the biggest obstacle. It will absolutely crush your motivation, and when you get unmotivated, you see the project stagnate which pushes you even deeper into a lack of motivation, burnout, and depression. I felt I was really all alone in it. My now wife even stopped being supportive after a couple years of no profits. She's not really someone who has the same passion for entrepreneurship, so she just saw me spending all my time on something that had gone nowhere, getting depressed, having no social life. She was right to be concerned. This probably has something to do with why co-founders are recommended. If someone would have been on the journey along with me it would have made it so much easier, but I went it alone because at the start I didn't feel I had enough skills to offer anyone legitimate as a co-founder, and at the same time, I didn't want to partner up with a friend who wasn't really interested in sticking it out through years of after-work bootstrapping and no profits while we learned.

Right now I'm embarking on a new startup, but I'm doing many things differently. It's important to understand yourself. The last 2 years I've worked hard at making close friends in the area where I live. I need to keep those friendships healthy even if it means less time working on the startup. Secondly, I work out at least twice a week. Again, both of these take away from my startup since I still have a day job too, but they are absolutely crucial and I've come to realize that 4 hours of healthy motivated time is better than 16 of depressed unmotivated time.

5
leelin 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'll admit I'm never a huge fan of other founders asking me how my startup is going as a conversation starter. There are often three scenarios:

1.) Nothing new or exciting has happened since last time, in which case I feel pretty crappy.

2.) Something cool has happened, but I don't feel particularly boastful nor do I want to get into a long discussion of why that thing is cool.

3.) Something very amazing has happened, but I'm actually not allowed to talk about it.

I do notice when I return the question, I almost always hear the answer this article suggests ("awesome, best month ever, crushing it"). I guess that's why people always gave me funny looks when I used to give an honest assessment.

Now I just always answer, "Good good, we're pretty close to (some lofty feature or pseudo-pivot that is months away)". It's a convenient way to change the subject. Keep in mind this primarily applies to casual meetups with people I see regularly every 1-3 months but don't consider close friends.

6
tsunamifury 3 days ago 1 reply      
I work a full time job and am a small time weekend entrepreneur. I work with one other partner at a distance and developers half way around the world.

I find it is very easy to slip into crippling depressions for a few reasons:

1) Working after you get home from work is exciting at first, then very quickly becomes grueling and exhausting

2) Every time you take time off after work you begin to feel guilty and start assigning all free time guilt because you should be working on your startup

3) You are constantly aware that when you work alone, or mostly alone, your work can easily trail in scope and head in a useless direction. There is no one to check this for you.

4) You have to be everything, your own marketer, designer, UX/UI dev, product testing, QA not to mention planing and ideation for product features.

These all add up to really, biting off more than I can chew, which in itself is probably the cause of a lot of depression -- the sense of an insurmountable task.

Not sure the best way to combat that.

7
dextorious 3 days ago 1 reply      
Well, depression in this context doesn't surprise me.

I think of the "Let's build a company to sell and retire" startup as an attempt, in desperation, to avoid the rat race, by working your ass and some of your best years away, with extreme pressure and slim chances of success.

We only get to here the success stories, 99% of the time, though, which makes it seem much more glamorous.

I much prefer the building of a sustainable business a la "37 Signals", or failing that a series of good paying / sensible time jobs working in interesting problems.

Come to think of it, most of the hackers I respect most weren't at all "entrepreneurial", some were in academia and others worked in companies, from Brian & Richie, to JWZ, to Knuth, to Guido, etc.

And I don't have much respect for the "successes" in the startup sense, like Zuckenberg et al, nor I think Facebook, or Groupon, or Spotify (or whatever the flavor of the day is) as "changing the world". Tim Berners Lee changed the world from a small office at CERN. Mosaic/Mozilla also changed the world. The IBM PC and the Mac changed the world.

Overhyped IPOs and social networks? Not so much. (And don't get me started on the overselling of western media of the supposed role Twitter et al played in Middle Eastern riots/revolutions).

8
tptacek 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is an article whose lede is about a 22 year old killing himself, with a lolcat title ("U CANT HAZ SADZ"). I stopped reading right there. Can anyone summarize?
9
tmugavero 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems like the bigger problem may be denial. I don't think depression is unique to entrepreneurs. Just living in NYC brings an exceptional set of challenges for someone to overcome (The article tells stories from NYC). For start-ups though, constantly having to put on a pretty face for everyone (employees, investors, clients, customers, friends and family) and deny the fact that you're a total mess on the inside technology-wise, business-wise and personally is the root of the problem. It creates incredible pressure, and if you can't live up to all the beauty you say you have, it makes you feel sad, angry, frustrated, and lost. Throw in not eating properly, not exercising, and not getting enough sleep and you have a recipe for depression. If we could just talk about how messed up everything is, we might find that we aren't the only ones and feel better about it. I'm a founder in NYC, so if anyone wants to talk, hit me up!
10
borski 3 days ago 0 replies      
Honestly, the hardest thing about running a company is that you have to be a cynical bastard and a rosy-cheeked optimist at the same time. Juggling those two paradigms of viewing the world is harder than anything else I've ever done.

Improving your product almost requires cynicism, since you have to view what isn't good enough; but you have to be able to stay optimistic and know you're going to get "there" someday. Otherwise, you get depressed and feel massively alone.

That is the dichotomy.

11
DanBC 3 days ago 0 replies      
Talking about mental health problems is important. Some of them commonly start around the early twenties; stress[1] can be a trigger; having "rainy day action plans" can be immensely helpful making any times of illness much less disruptive to the sufferer.

Knowledge helps people around the person too -- knowing that pulling someone aside and just talking to them about their feelings is a good, helpful, thing could save lives. Knowing that this person has a disorder that makes them incredibly effective for a few months but that comes with a risk of "crashing" allows them to put support in and encourage taking of meds or contct with professionals.

In the UK employers are not allowed[2] to discriminate against people with mental health problems, so knowledge is again really useful.

[1] "Stress" means slightly different things to different people. I tend to use it for unhealthy harmful stress, and "pressure" for the stuff that people enjoy and thrive on. Pressure for one person could be stress for another.

[2] I guess there's some exceptions.

12
marquis 3 days ago 4 replies      
Is this particularly endemic to start-up culture? University was also extremely demanding and brought many people to their knees. And while on the one hand, you may work harder than you ever had in your life, you are working for yourself, your own goals. There is a liberation in that (I can certainly speak for myself - to be reminded that every drop of effort I'm putting in is for my own forward movement keeps it going).

I hope those who are young and just learning how hard they can push themselves have a mentor. I owe mine a million thanks a thousand times over.

13
ams6110 3 days ago 1 reply      
Likely some useful insight to be found in the military. The "loneliness of command" is not exactly a new phenomenon.
14
andrewingram 2 days ago 0 replies      
Speaking from my own own experiences, I wouldn't class depression as a disease, but as a disorder (wikipedia seems to agree).

I would describe it as having a heavy inertia towards negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. It's totally possible to have moments of happiness, be cheerful etc, but these moments are fleeting because they take such considerable effort to maintain. It's even more effort to force yourself into a good mood, and part of the problem is that you don't actually want to.

Whilst I'm skeptical about the efficacy of anti-depressants, I would say the effect I've (subjectively) noticed is to decrease this inertia to the extent that it's easier to have good moments. They don't actually make you happier, they just make it easier for other methods to work, eg CBT or Meditation.

With regards to startup depression. I'd be very surprised if it's something that affects everyone, but there are certainly people who aren't currently depressed whom have character traits that would trigger depression in a startup environment. These people are typically over-invested in outcomes, or tie their ego up with their successes.

My advice to anyone considering joining a startup would be to honestly assess themselves and work out whether they have some of the traits that would put them at risk of depression. Then tackle them before getting involved, almost all the lessons I've learned from books and therapists are applicable in some way to everyone, not just those with depression.

15
coopr 3 days ago 0 replies      
One thing that exacerbates my startup depression (yep, I've got it too) is the fiscal pressure of being a founder - even if I stick with founding startups for many years, and do so many times, the odds are that I'll end up with significantly less wealth than if I just got a "real job".

The #1 reason for this is that investors require that founders "stay hungry" (aka get paid less than market compensation). Couple that with the periods of getting paid nothing (before you raised money, and when you are in-between startups) and the very low likelihood of a significant exit (thus all those founders shares are usually worth $0) and the result is one more thing to be depressed about; the fact that you are working your ass off, and being mostly miserable, without getting paid for it.

16
tryitnow 2 days ago 0 replies      
I treat mental illness like I treat, race, gender, and other "sensitive" issues. Honestly, outside of my personal experience, I don't understand and probably won't ever understand the subjective experience of another.

So I try my best to listen. I don't always succeed, but I do understand that listening is the first step.

17
nikcub 3 days ago 0 replies      
we should bring this up at the next startup community meeting
18
zackattack 3 days ago 0 replies      
These sorts of pressures are the reason that I made http://www.CompassionPit.com - a site where you can chat anonymously, 1-1, with someone who will listen to you. Just join as a venter. Or, if you're feeling charitable, join as a listener. "Get it off your chest without it biting you in the ass".
19
EREFUNDO 3 days ago 0 replies      
you'll be surprised how much exercise, sports, meditation, or spending a little bit of time doing something unrelated to your project can help a lot. Unless it's really clinically severe anyone should do their best to avoid anti-depressants.
20
krausejj 3 days ago 0 replies      
great article. founders need to read this - launching something new is such an emotional rollercoaster and the incredible highs can be matched by devastating lows.

any startup involves visualizing a future that doesn't yet exist, and the path to trying to reach that version of the future is always more difficult than it seems. most startups fail and this is depressing for the people who invest their lives into them... we should step away from being cerebral coders sometimes and just accept the emotional stress we come under when we try to change the world!

29
New Stanford class on Cryptography crypto-class.org
234 points by robdoherty2  6 days ago   58 comments top 15
1
tptacek 6 days ago 2 replies      
Dan Boneh is bad ass. That's all I have to say about this.
2
innocentques 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, does anyone know what is the system here? Has stanford just said to their faculty that this is something they can do in their spare time but stanford will not actively support it? Or is there some other arrangement going on?

Also why are they not shifting away from CS classes (except for entrepreneurship). Things like signal processing and basic controllers can be taught with such a class. I would specially love the signal processing class since there are 3 classes (don't exactly remember the name) which are considered holy perfecta of signal processing.

3
theshadow 6 days ago 1 reply      
Any chance that they might do a compilers class too? The compilers class at my school got cancelled for the fall term and I don't think I'll have a chance to take it in a future term.
4
_corbett 6 days ago 2 replies      
awesome, I'm reading Applied Cryptography and this will be a good supplement. The MIT OCW course doesn't have a lot of resources http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-comput...

Does anyone know from the AI course the quality of the lectures & videos?

5
tristanstraub 6 days ago 6 replies      
doing these courses next to full time work is tough, but its just so tempting.
6
geekytenny 6 days ago 0 replies      
Way to go Stanford. You guys just keep blowing our minds. After all the stuff i learned for free in just 4 weeks of the current classes, i am filled with gratitude! I highly recommend these classes..
7
Omnipresent 6 days ago 5 replies      
This question might be tangent from the intended purpose of these awesome free classes but can anyone share if some certification or acknowledgement of some sort is received upon completion?
8
pbreit 6 days ago 2 replies      
Why do these classes all have unique URLs?
9
patricklynch 6 days ago 0 replies      
Are the course videos online somewhere?

I know the database class was basically an organized walkthrough with extra assignments for videos that were mostly already public.

10
feralchimp 6 days ago 1 reply      
Forgive the stupid question, but: Is this free? And if so, are the assignments graded?
11
cop359 6 days ago 4 replies      
I prefer the MIT model of just having video lectures online. You can do things at your own pace.

Whats the advantage of this sign-up and do assignment that get graded by a computer model?

12
rmnoon 6 days ago 2 replies      
This class blew my mind. Don't take it if you're even a little bit paranoid already. =)
13
Ecio78 6 days ago 0 replies      
That's really interesting and it seems, according to ml-class videos already online, that there are also subtitles available (it surely helps people like me that are not native english speaker)
14
molecularbutter 6 days ago 0 replies      
There are 10 total, scroll to the bottom of that page.
15
dataphyte 6 days ago 0 replies      
all the classes have their own domains? GoDaddy is happy.
30
Image Ad Blending Works Really, Really Well kalzumeus.com
228 points by tghw  2 days ago   198 comments top 43
1
teej 2 days ago  replies      
I'm going to come out in defense of patio11 here. Not because the ad isn't deceptive - it undoubtedly is. But because he fell into the dark side of a grey area and it's worth discussing HOW good people end up there.

From a rationalist perspecive, the ad is justified. He is effectively capturing the majority of the market possible through adwords. So what's next? It makes sense to take your know-how in one market and apply it to another. The problem is that the other markets are filled with sharks. Sharks that will stop at nothing to generate leads for scammy, high-value businesses (for-profit ed, weight loss, etc)

As a moralist, one would turn their nose up at these shark-filled waters at the start. If scammy people advertise through it, why should I?

Personally, I think it's really important to dive in deep to the grey area. Not because you can make more money, but to better understand the inner-workings of the "dark" side of the business. Most of the successful players there use a slathering of evil techniques combined with a wealth of direct marketing experience that whitehat marketers use every day.

It's important to test -everything-, learn as much as you can from empirical data, and then move forward with both your knowledge and moral compass in mind.

I often say I have the full Zynga playbook at my disposal and the judgement to know when not to use it.

2
richcollins 2 days ago 5 replies      
Is This Evil Or Just Evil Genius?

Once upon a time I was an engineer totally scornful of effective marketing, but I have gradually gotten over it. After thinking it over, this is aggressive but within my comfort envelope. The ad is honest about being an ad, makes a straightforward commercial proposition (“Sign up for a free trial”) to an audience that I think will respond well to that, and is pretty true by the standards of marketing copy. It is designed to catch clicks only from people interested in signing up for a free trial of Bingo Card Creator, and sends them straight to a landing page where they can do just that.

I wish there was a way to dynamically generate the image such that I could provide a more exact star valuation, but in the context of a sponsored placement, “Rated 5 starts by lots” is both non-specific and true. Lots of people have used BCC, and when I ask for star ratings in internal surveys I get something like 4.8 on a volume of hundreds or thousands. I think this compares favorably with “9 out of 10 dentists agree” and other pretty banal marketing copy.

Your ad is obviously designed to deceive the user into thinking that it is an organic listing. Evil.

3
blahedo 2 days ago 2 replies      
This reminds me of those newspaper ads that are crafted to look exactly like a newspaper article (columns of copy, headline, etc) but only set out with an "Advertisement" in very small print at the top of their enclosing box. I usually can pick them out because the font isn't a perfect match, but once in a while I don't notice until like a third of the way through the "article" when I'm going, "wtf? What was the editor thinking?"

And that's the real problem here, and the reason I complain to the editor about those newspaper ads: when they are made to look like a regular article (or in this case, organic results), then they implicitly carry the imprimatur of editorial approval. Someone at this newspaper (/website) has vetted this factually, edited it, and I can put the same trust in this item that I put in any other thing I read here (which might not be 100% but is often reasonably high for edited content on a paper/site I'm familiar with).

Ads that are faking their way in violate this assumption and this trust. As a user of that site I'd be annoyed; as an editor of that site I would be furious.

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ErrantX 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think where the ad "crosses the line" here is the faux star rating; the other (unpaid) listings have been user rated/ranked and Patrick's ad is misusing the trust that users of the site potentially put into the ratings.

I think that if the stars were removed, or, say, greyed out with the "Rated by lots" on top that would be absolutely fine.

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ig1 2 days ago 2 replies      
Warning: This type of behaviour may be illegal.

For the US see the FTC guidance:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/20635261/FTC-Guides-Concerning-the...

(the FTC has bought prosecutions on this topic recently)

It's also illegal in the UK and presumably a lot of Europe.

You can't make an ad look like an legitimate endorsement, it's as simple as that. In this case the small "sponsored placement" text could easily be taken to be about the following ad which looks like an ad.

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chaosmachine 2 days ago 1 reply      
I watched that Mixergy video too, and was inspired to try something similar :)

BSA is great, but if you need more inventory, you can get this strategy working on Google AdWords, too. You just need to create a new ad group, and use "managed placements" to specify the sites you want to target.

Since you probably don't want 100 ad groups, you have to get a bit more generic with your ads, but there are plenty of ways to do that and still get the "this is useful information, not some off-topic ad" effect.

Here's another tip: Once you have an ad that exceeds about 0.2% CTR, you'll often get much lower cost-per-click by switching the campaign to CPM bidding.

For example, if you're bidding $1 CPM, and getting a 2% CTR, your effective CPC is only $0.05! In CPC mode, you'd often have to bid $0.30 CPC just to show up.

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TylerE 2 days ago 3 replies      
Look, I'm normally pretty easy going, but it's just like to say it's people like YOU that are ruining the internet. I really wish all the SEO-cretins would just go find something else to do with their time.
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alexhawket 2 days ago 1 reply      
Patrick is falling into what, I call, the marketing trap. I like some of Patrick's advice, but I wouldn't follow this... ever.

Patrick has a nice little niche business but that's all it is, a niche. Niches, by definition are really small, focused and low in demand.

In a niche, the stream of new customers eventually dries up and the temptation is to move further and further over to the marketing dark side to keep the ship afloat.

Deceptive marketing tactics work, but they shouldn't be necessary. If that's where this is headed, then just go full darkside into scamming and call it a day.

Grey and black hat techniques are a bad as crappy products, terrible service, bad systems and stolen ideas. If you wouldn't think of using any of those, then don't use scammy marketing.

If you find yourself pursuing deceptive tricks, it's a sign your niche is not big enough and your product is not high enough in demand.

This is the most common trap analytic/scientific minded business owners fall into.

Many people on HN have voiced concerns that the current crop of startups are increasingly using deceptive practices to boost their businesses.

A well planned business should not have to do this.

It's one thing to decide to be purposefully evil, but rationalizing it as necessary is amoral and possibly illegal.

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CodeMage 1 day ago 0 replies      
As a user, I really, really dislike this sort of deceptive advertising. I'd like to explain why.

The defense I've seen so far starts by "Well, Google does that too, so by your definition they're also evil." Here's the first problem with that defense: appeal to authority. Do you really expect anyone to say, "Oh, Google does it too? Shucks, then, I retract what I said, because we all know Google isn't evil."

Second, there are significant differences between how Google "blends" their ads and Patrick's example. The background color distinguishes the ad from the rest of the search results. You might argue that some users have crappy screens or poor vision, but the fact is that the background color is different. The intent was to distinguish the ad clearly. In Patrick's example, there is no such intent.

Another thing that has been downplayed is the "Ad - Why this ad?" text. On its own, it probably would have been less noticeable. But when you spot the different background, you automatically look for other differences. The "Why this ad" text is one of those differences and it's prominent not by virtue of its size, but position: it's separated from the rest of the information in the ad.

But really, it's not just about the background and the "Ad - Why this ad?" text. It's also about the fact that Google always puts this stuff as the first result, whereas in Patrick's example the ad was snuck into the results.

The fake rating is another problem. People try to defend it by saying "It's not fake, it was based on real data." Nobody said the data was fake. The rating is fake, because for every other result the rating was computed by the site, based on the data the site has, while here it was supplied by the advertiser. By the way, if I'm wrong about this, if it is also generated by the site, please let me know.

Finally, I'm perfectly happy to adapt to the way Google presents their ads: they're sort of my "doorway" to the rest of the Internet. I'm not as happy to have to research and adapt to every site's unique way of "blending" ads. But this is really a minor point for me. The most important point remains the fact that Google has made at least some effort to distinguish their ads from the content, whereas in Patrick's example the effort was invested in doing the opposite.

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badclient 2 days ago 2 replies      
Another trick that works: break your website.

When I ran a somewhat large music site(100K uniques/day), we'd make significantly more money from adsense when our streaming server went down.

Why? Because when hitting the play button on the player didn't work, people start clicking on the ads.

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lhnn 2 days ago 1 reply      
Typically, when a site pulls that kind of thing, I cease to use the site. I'm not interested in buying anything, and by distracting my eyes from legitimate content with your "get a foot in the door" ads, you earn a big red X from me.
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Timothee 2 days ago 0 replies      
Have you thought about trying the yellow background as well based on your comment about how some people think it's the best result?

I have to admit I'm split on the ad. On one hand, I feel that it's deceptive, because I expect ads to look like ads. When they start to blend too much, I feel it's "cheating". Similar in a way to how I feel when a crafted-to-become-viral video ends up being an ad for something.

On the other hand, I'm thinking "why not?". The site allowed you to have such an ad and people are looking for a product similar to yours, so…

It's definitely skirting the line…

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jfager 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think the most jarring part of this ad is something that isn't patio11's fault: it's juxtaposed against an ad that completely stands out as an ad, which makes the 'blending' that much more 'blendy'. Without that other ad in the adjoining slot, I think the visual difference between patio11's ad and regular site content would be more stark, putting it at about the same shade of moral gray as a Google search ad.
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mrcharles 2 days ago 2 replies      
Irony of ironies... all the images on his page are blocked by adblock.
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iamjustlooking 2 days ago 0 replies      
Love the fake 5 stars. All that's missing is mimicking the scammy copy those ads always have: "See this weird trick a mom learned about bingo cards"
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mikeklaas 2 days ago 1 reply      
There is a clear distinction between what Google is doing and what Patrick is doing. Respect diminished.
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extension 2 days ago 3 replies      
I thought about where exactly patio11 crossed the line into evil territory, and I realized that there is no line.

All ads are deceptive, because they are all trying to steal your attention by showing up when you are looking for something else. That we've developed the ability to ignore most of them doesn't change the basic principle. But the degree of deception can certainly vary.

By running ads, you are pawning off the user value of your site. The more effective the ads, the more value they are losing. It's a zero-sum game.

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dendory 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is the kind of attitude that's bad for the Internet overall. Take someone like me, I probably spend more online than most 'casual' users. Yet I use noscript and adblock, so I don't see any ads or SEO crap. I spend money wisely on sites that deserve it by providing good content. The SEO people lose out on the bigger share of the pie, and instead they all go 'dark side' over trying to get as much of the tiny slice as they can.
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patio11 2 days ago 0 replies      
1) I'm uncertain as to their thought process. Typically, when people sell me stuff at a particular price, my mentally model is "Hmm, they couldn't sell that same stuff to somebody else for more money." Just for a comparable, I generally advertise on remnant inventory at CPCs below a dime, not at a quarter, so I think it is possible that BusyTeacher understands their unit economics a bit better than your guesstimate does.

2) Ask a simple question, get a simple answer: Alexa is clearly wrong.

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philjackson 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is this just a ruse to get us all to disable AdBlock for his site? :)
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xd 2 days ago 0 replies      
Tactics like this are utterly immoral. I hope browser plugins like adblocker become massively mainstream and people start to learn to actively oppose this kind of rubbish. People that spend their "careers" advertising; contribute FUCK ALL to humanity.
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kakuri 2 days ago 0 replies      
In related news, AdBlock Works Really, Really Well.
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csomar 2 days ago 0 replies      
He is comparing to Google, but I think there is a huge difference. It's not an Ad blended like a content. It's an Ad faked in a content style. He is copying the exact same style, the same kind of content (title, description, category, photo, rating) and not even mentioning it. There is no way to find out if it's an ad or a real post.
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nicpottier 1 day ago 0 replies      
My vote is evil, not evil genius.

There's a million ways of tricking customers, and a million ways to rationalize it. But if you have ethics you won't go down that path.

If you care about money more than your character, then by all means though.

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jongraehl 2 days ago 0 replies      
Scammy. This could fool me if I were in a rush and adblock didn't filter it.

Since it works, I'd consider using it (in venues where users aren't as likely to be outraged+vindicitive about being tricked, or even notice being tricked).

Thanks for sharing.

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storborg 2 days ago 0 replies      
Do you have any solutions for dealing with slight browser rendering differences? E.g. antialiasing on one browser but not another, slight font size / padding differences, etc. What browser are you "targeting" with the image?
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tagawa 2 days ago 0 replies      
I always appreciate Patrick's willingness to share information, but won't be using this deceptive tactic. Sad to see it voted to the top of HN.
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FJB 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ads that look like content work well.

FB's sponsored stories, Twitter's sponsored tweets, Adwords, brand sponsored content on demand media's properties -- it's all the same shit.

Let's not jump on our high horse here.

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revorad 2 days ago 0 replies      
So why does image blending for ads work better than contrasting ads, but contrasting (usually red) sign up buttons convert better than blending buttons?
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three14 2 days ago 0 replies      
Funny. I didn't realize that I had Adblock Plus installed until the I noticed the images in the blog post were missing.

(Apparently, Chrome syncing will actually install Adblock for you when you switch computers(!), but will leave the default lists set. I had it on without any lists, and just blocked the egregious stuff... except now I suddenly blocked everything.)

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md1515 2 days ago 0 replies      
No wrong done here in my opinion.

The content of your post has brought up a topic I have been thinking about recently, which is intensely devoted sponsorship advertising. For example, if you (Patrick) want to write this piece about your positive experience with BuySellAds, then you could write the entire blog post with heavy mention of the product that YOU TRULY LIKE AND PROMOTE.

The trust factor will go a long way in helping you. I have watched "This Week In Startups" on Youtube and noticed they use a similar approach. They stop the broadcast so that Mark Suster could talk about how X product has helped him.

Most of that is off-topic, but your blog post got me thinking...which it is supposed to do, right? :)

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cool-RR 2 days ago 2 replies      
Images don't load in this post.
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chrisduesing 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think a fairly important point is that BuySellAds requires the site owner to approve the advertiser. So in effect, the person providing content on the site has agreed that Bingo Card Creator is not so reprehensible that they cannot accept money for what is then essentially a paid/guest listing on their site.

OTOH were this Google adwords instead, and there was no human approval, I have to say it would be pretty sketchy.

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raghavsethi 1 day ago 0 replies      
No it doesn't. It's an awful, deceptive move.

You know why? It's because Google makes it easy to spot the sponsored link if you spend more than half a second on it before clicking. A yellow background and text that says 'Sponsored Link' is way less deceiving than the lack of a 'like' button.

The devil is in the details. And the significant amount of justification you do in your post shows that you're trying to convince yourself as much as us that it's OK.

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viveksec 2 days ago 0 replies      
How else can you pull this off unless you design to image to be as close to organic results as possible ? But I wonder what happens if the site owner decides to change the styles, the image would then foolishly look fake.

The rating stars however are a different story and are definitely in the dark gray area (say at #333). The "rated by lots" will make users draw a comparison with the other unpaid listings without realizing it is fake, atleast in the sense the other stars arent fake.

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tycho77 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's actually kinda crazy that I looked at this image

http://images2.bingocardcreator.com/blog-images/ad-blending/...

for about thirty seconds and literally did not see the ad, at all. I am now impressed/scared of my mind's ability to completely disregard probably unimportant information.

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jacquesm 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you want to see the ad 'in real life' you can find it here:

http://busyteacher.org/classroom_activities-vocabulary-works...

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bambax 2 days ago 5 replies      
I don't understand who still sees ads. It's apparently a huge majority of Internet users, but I don't understand where they come from.

I often set up computers for family and friends and installing AdBlock is one of the first things I do.

Who is computer-savvy enough to buy and install their own computer, and yet not computer-savvy enough to get AdBlock?

Or do (most) people actually like ads?

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epaga 1 day ago 0 replies      
Definitely a darker shade of grey IMHO. Reminds me of the SourceForge ads shown on the download pages that have a big green "download" button. The ads usually display before the actual download button appears, and more than once I have accidentally clicked on it.

I end up angry and remembering NOT to deal with whoever was responsible for the ad.

However the difference I see to patio11's tactic is that in his case, people are searching for something educationally related and he gives them something related. That's different than me expecting to download a Java library and getting an anti-virus software page. So, still deception and therefore dark-grey, but not as blatant of deception as the ads on SourceForge.

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7952 2 days ago 0 replies      
just try looking at the subtle colouring on a slightly tilted laptop display. It just looks white!
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asmosoinio 1 day ago 0 replies      
Random note: AdBlock blocked the images in the blog post. Screenshots of ads.
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AndyJPartridge 2 days ago 0 replies      
<PickyMode>
Head link looks slightly bolder, and a couple of pixels to the left of where it should be.

Stars are 1/4th-1/5th of a star to the left.

Text seems slightly lighter.

Have to admire the concept!

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danielhodgins 2 days ago 1 reply      
So let me get this straight. Critics of this tactic want to get rich doing their own startup, while using the very techniques they just renounced to generate traffic and conversions? Seems a bit hypocritical to me. Wake up folks - business success can be 'seedy' sometimes. As long as your product creates more value than customers are charged, then it's a win-win for everyone.

What if these so-called 'seedy' techniques represented the difference between success and failure for your own startup? I'll bet your position on the white/grey/black hat continuum would shift quite promptly.

Well done Patrick, and thanks for sharing the details about another valuable marketing tactic that people can try.

       cached 26 November 2011 05:11:01 GMT