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Dear Internet: It's no Longer OK Not to Know How Congress Works informationdiet.com
662 points by cjoh  2 days ago   154 comments top 33
1
JonnieCache 2 days ago  replies      
American geeks: if you want to fix your congress using your preexisting l33t hacker skillz rather than getting directly involved in politics (and who could blame you,) then here is my best advice:

Force your legislature to start using version control.

* No more sneaking revisions through in the middle of the night without anyone noticing.

* Being able to do `git blame` style operations to resolve individual clauses down to individual lawmakers, then back to lobbyists.

* Simple diffing would prevent deliberate obfuscation tactics like burying provisions deep inside piles of irrelevant stuff.

* You could build a sweet github-style outward facing interface allowing the public to track the progress of bills in real time, increasing democratic awareness and participation.

* Legally mandated commit messages accompanying each change justifying and explaining it; force them to write these in simple english. This alone would spin 'em around so hard they wouldn't know what day it is.

* Use your imagination. I'm sure you can think of 100 reasons why this would be awesome.

Build it, open source it, then start your own lobbying/PR machine to demand that they use it. Constantly ask for justifications as to why they are not willing to use it, given the massive, obvious benefits it would bring. Ask what they have to fear from the extra scrutiny and accountability it would bring. Surely the "social media generation" can out-lobby the lobbyists? That sounds like it should be the kind of thing we're good at.

Or just forget about that entirely and try to think of some way to decimate the lobbying industry in the same way that hackers are destroying the content distribution industries and all that other stuff.

2
jaysonelliot 2 days ago 4 replies      
I sat and stared at that screenshot of Internet Quorum for about five minutes with a mixture of shock and despair.

I'm a user experience designer. I started my career in the mid '90s, trying to turn green-screen DOS applications into GUIs without letting things like Internet Quorum be the result. I've been fighting the good fight for fifteen years.

With that one screenshot, I felt like the whole thing had been for naught. I literally got a chill up my spine as I sat there, thinking about the stifling, bureaucratic, inflexible DMV mindset that led to an abomination like that, and realizing that even at the highest levels of government, that's what it's like.

Our entire government, from municipal planning offices up to the top levels of the Pentagon, Congress, or even the White House, lives in this world of We've Always Done It This Way and You'll Need The Proper Authorization For That.

I mean, I knew this all along, but somehow seeing that screenshot - http://www.intranetquorum.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/featu... - it hit me in a visceral way I hadn't thought about in a long time.

All these years in corporate and startup America put me in a world where the need to move faster and compete has led me to believe that things had changed since the beginning of my career. In the world I live in, they have. But I had forgotten that in many places, things haven't changed much at all.

Of course I'm upset and fuming at the massive bloated waste that is our government, and I wish we could just put on our Guy Fawkes masks and wipe it clean in one easy swoop.

Clay Johnson is right, though. We need to learn how Congress works, make better tools, get our own lobbyists to educate the dinosaurs that are there now, and get new people into office who know more about the world we live in.

It's a daunting proposition.

3
rasur 2 days ago 2 replies      
With respect, "The Internet" also exists beyond the borders of the United States of America, so while we outside of the US can look on at this spectacle with a mixture of amusement and dread, it's just a little galling to be told to understand something we have little control over.

I'm not meaning to sound disrespectful, I'm just trying to explain this slow-moving car-crash of a situation has effects outside of your own continent..

4
rickmb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Been there, done that, and guess what: they really don't want to hear from their constituents. Period. (And this was on a local level in the Netherlands, which I'm pretty confident is considerable more accessible and less corrupt than US Congress.)

This is about power, holding on to it and increasing it. Nothing else. Absolutely nothing else matters these people, no matter how nice, intelligent and understanding they sometimes seem appear to be. Being a politician has become a career path with no goal that has anything to do with representing the will of the people. "Ill will or spite" doesn't come into it: it's just business.

And the people have nothing to offer them in that respect except votes and obedience. As long as they get both despite everything, no strategy will give us any more access because there is simply no need for them to give it to us.

The only way this will change is if it no longer pays to ignore the people.

5
TheCapn 2 days ago 3 replies      
I wrote a post about this last week saying why this sort of thought is wrong. In summary it is basically this:

As people of power in a position to make important decisions it is their PROFESSIONAL. ETHICAL. DUTY. to know all the facts that pertain to the situation. At no point is it our fault to not understand their system in its entirety but it IS their fault to be making conscious decisions that effect people and systems they do not entirely understand.

As an engineer it boggles my mind to see someone weighing in on an issue they haven't rightfully studied before attempting to tackle. If there is a project I'm asked to assist on and I'm not confident I can work with my current level of knowledge> I tell my employer and I either get reassigned or scheduled for training. There is no faking it in my industry, why should they be allowed to fuck everything up because they were willfully ignorant.

It goes past that though. They HAVE experts talking to them, or at least trying. The engineers, architects and experts that practically founded the internet have weighed in on how this is a bad idea and yet THEY'RE IGNORED! Don't pretend like this level of ignorance and pure negligence is acceptable for one minute because it just shows how complacent people have become with their representatives.

/rant

6
tomelders 1 day ago 3 replies      
Who wants to sign up as the first ever crowd funded, open source lobbyist? I'd do it myself, but I'm not American.

I will pay you £5 though. Get another 100,000 like me and you're making a cool £500,000 gross. Just be sure to properly document what you're doing and what you intend to do.

I'll also give you £5 worth of slush money to grease palms and what not.

And if you meet certain objectives and milestones, I may even give you a £5 bonus at the end of the year.

Hell, I'll even give you £1 to give to every member of congress you secure, and £2 for every president you get!! (serving presidents only).

All these numbers are in Pounds Sterling. Do the math.

7
mdemare 1 day ago 1 reply      
Hear hear! Finally an article placing the blame where it belongs - on our shoulders. It is naive to expect Congress to figure out what laws are best for the nation. Instead we should be forcing the laws we want down their throats.

All that the MPAA/RIAA can offer to congress is money, but we have something they want much more: votes. When the NRA or the AARP cough, congressmen sit up and listen. The reason? They have millions of members.

Now what about the organization representing our interests? Pro startup, pro contractors, pro net neutrality, anti censorship, anti patent? Why isn't there such an organization with a million members?

We hackers are smart, we're prosperous, there's no excuse for being so damn unorganized.

https://www.eff.org/

8
gasull 2 days ago 3 replies      
This is an invitation to play the lobby game. To me it reads like "we should bribe Congress too".

But can we do that? Large corporations will have disproportionally much more economic power to bribe Congress. They can throw money at the problem repeatedly until they have exactly the law they want.

If Congress cannot work, then Congress should write the laws but not vote them. Citizens should vote the laws, like in California or Switzerland.

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ggwicz 2 days ago 1 reply      
"I don't complain about politicians because everyone does. This politician sucks, that politician is a fucking idiot. Yeah, we'll guess what asshole? YOU KEEP VOTING FOR THESE MORONS! You keep arguing about democrat vs. republican, you keep asking for things from the government, you keep on voting for the people you complain about. You legitimize the bullshit. This is what you get for wanting to be led like little children."

- George Carlin

I have this from an .mp3 I got from some weird torrent, but I haven't been able to find it on YouTube or on iTunes. I'll try to get it up on the web if I can...

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jameskilton 2 days ago 6 replies      
No, we are all very aware of how Congress works. Whoever has the most money to pay them (why it's not called a bribe, I'll never know) is the person who gets their ideas put into law. Congress hasn't been about the needs of the people they represent for some time now.
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OoTheNigerian 2 days ago 0 replies      
And then the USG insists 'democracy' is the only right way for people to be governed. The reality is, it is money, not the 'right thing' that determines what laws are passed and how it is enfored. And who is elected to make thise laws.

It is sad. Really.

12
illamint 2 days ago 2 replies      
You'd think that tech companies involved would have a stronger lobbying arm. Every one of those extremely wealthy individuals that signed onto that "open letter" to congress should be funding lobbyists in combination with Google, ISPs, etc. and every provider out there who stands to lose from the passage of SOPA.

Seriously, look at it. The IP lobby is spending millions to buy out Congress and we've got the billionaires and corporations that are significantly larger, richer and more powerful than the IP lobby writing fucking letters?

13
SoftwareMaven 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am reminded of the way the media handled the vaccination scare: they always had both sides represented, even though one side was rational science and the other was misguided if not openly fraudulant. I saw a lot of complaining on the Internet about journalists giving equal footing to "crazy" viewpoints. Of course we don't want that, either in journalists or legislators.

The question is how to determine what is the "rational" view and what is the "crazy" view. If we can address that in some way, we may be closer to a solution.

In government, it seems like following the money is a good start. The deeper the pockets of the original source of the money, the more crazy the source seems to be. If an idea is coming in being funded by a lot of individuals, it is probably more rational (where rationality is defined as the true will of the people).

I agree with TFA that you have to work inside the system to change it (short of open revolt). It reminds me of a friend who wanted to get rid of highway billboards. His idea was simple: Raise money to buy a handful. Sell ads and use the profits to buy other billboards. Once they control all the billboards, take them all down.

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boredguy8 1 day ago 1 reply      
Attempting to post this link to facebook breaks it.

  http://www.informationdiet.com/blog/read/dear-internet-its-no-longer-ok-to-not-know-how-congress-works-

deletes the trailing hyphen and becomes

  http://www.informationdiet.com/blog/read/dear-internet-its-no-longer-ok-to-not-know-how-congress-works

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atsaloli 22 hours ago 0 replies      
http://www.DownsizeDC.org/

Mission: We believe the federal government has grown too centralized, too intrusive, and too expensive. We believe in constitutional limits, smaller government, civil liberties, federalism, and low taxes. We want to end laws and programs that don't work, cause harm, and violate the Constitution. We want to restore the full force of the 9th and 10th amendments, which reserve most social functions to the people and the states.

Technology:

Our proprietary “Educate the Powerful System”SM (EPS) is not sending an email on your behalf. Usually, our system fills out the web forms located at the Congressperson's website. Our system gives your letter a more personalized feel " even increases the odds that it will be read.

(I copied the above from their website.)

So - you fill out a simple web form, personalize with your comments if you like, and DownsizeDC will deliver it to all your Senate and House representatives using their own Congressional web sites and web forms. All you have to provide is your address and DownsizeDC will figure out who your reps are.

It makes it much easier for public to communicate with their representatives, which allows for the communication to occur more frequently and in greater volume.

This is a cool hack and I use it several times a week every week to express my disapproval of the erosion of civil liberties in the USA attendant to the War on Terror.

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praptak 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is how congress works: http://www.thenation.com/article/how-get-our-democracy-back

TLDR: They do not want to be educated, their goal is to obtain money.

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SnowShadow 15 hours ago 0 replies      
This article made me think of the cool startup https://www.popvox.com/ They are working to provide a two way bridge between Congress and Constituents. They won the Social Media Tech award in the SXSW Accelerator this year and Tim O'Reilly is a founding advisor. I think they're the kind of company that would love help from open sourcing l33t haxxors such as yourselves.
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x3c 1 day ago 0 replies      
Logical recourse requires constant vigilance and discipline. Logic requires an environment where being illogical is detrimental to one's goals.

Take the community of Hacker News for example. Any constructive and rational chain of thought is positively reinforced by the community and any name-calling or irrational rant fades away into oblivion. Such environment keeps every participant in the honest.

The environment in politics is toxic. Not just in US but in almost all democracies. A representative, once elected, gets immersed in the political environment. He quickly adapts to the environment because its so much easier. When the time comes to be re-elected, they dont have to prove that they are competent but that they're not as bad as their competitor (or that their party is not as bad as the one they're competing against).

To effect any change, the environment needs to change. And it will not change as long as seasoned and career politicians, cynical and jaded by the political climate, keep getting re-elected. Obama is a good example of this phenomenon. I'm not a from US but I closely followed the 2008 US elections. And I bought the idea of hope. But once Obama was elected, he was submersed in the political climate
and he adapted.

So, while educating congress is a step in the right direction, as the blog suggests; infusing new blood in politics is also crucial. Creating a healthy environment in the Capital (not just of US, but every country) can go a long way to affect the changes that are long way due in the political process.

19
RyanMcGreal 1 day ago 0 replies      
The big problem with this, of course, is that word "educate" which the author encloses in quotes. The people who influence Congress "educate" representatives not with informative presentations but with money, and lots of it.
20
ck2 2 days ago 1 reply      
lobbyist spent a long time [...] educating members of Congress

This is exactly, EXACTLY why lobbyists must be banned.

It's not education, it's propaganda.

The country is run by people whose knowledge is solely based on propaganda?

21
charlieok 1 day ago 0 replies      
To the extent that power over the internet is in the hands of a controlling few, we engineers haven't done a good enough job of engineering.

Sure, educating congress is a good idea. But there is a lot of room for improvement on the engineering too. The more decentralized our creations, the less opportunity for congress to get their grubby hands on them.

22
jlind 2 days ago 0 replies      
In regards to the infographic How Our Laws Are Made[1], where does SOPA and/or PIPA stand currently?

[1] http://www.mikewirthart.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/howla...

23
JamisonM 2 days ago 1 reply      
All the freaking out about SOPA reveals something very interesting about the technology crowd in general I think. Whatever happened to all those people who were always crowing about how legislation would never keep up to technology? Are there experts going in front of the committee explaining how technology will make circumventing these restrictions seamless for end users? Or are we admitting that this legislation has caught up and that technology and innovation has been defeated.

Is not the way to defeat SOPA and anything remotely resembling it just to let it become law and then kick its ass in the real world. Congress would never take it up again once it has failed and a system put in place to ensure it can not be regulated in the future.

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NiceOneBrah 1 day ago 0 replies      
This illustrates the folly of big government. The politicians in congress are not lacking intelligence, but are simply trying to do too much. It would be impossible for these 535 men and women to each have a thorough understanding of all the industries they attempt to regulate. Although the tech community is up in arms over SOPA right now, how many equally bad laws have been passed that affect other industries? The government is the entity that enables corporations to violate the rights of the people.
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zackzackzack 2 days ago 2 replies      
Where is google/facebook in all of this? They are the dictators of the internet. Why aren't they educating the crap out of our representatives?
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jderick 1 day ago 0 replies      
rootstrikers.org is trying to get money out of politics. I think that would go a long way.
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curveship 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Let's lobby for a rules change that allows our members to use the software they want to use."

What could possibly go wrong? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_White_House_email_controve...

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aquanext 21 hours ago 0 replies      
giant technology union. that's the only way we're ever going to have the type of cash necessary to lobby congress to do anything.
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beefman 1 day ago 0 replies      
No no no, a thousand times no. It is the job of the Congress to understand the things it regulates! They employ thousands of "expert" staffers and are supposed to be drawn from among the best and brightest of the citizenry. It may be hard to believe, but details actually matter when you're screwing around with a $15T/yr socioeconomic machine.
30
lucian303 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congress doesn't work. That's what the Internet doesn't know.
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jhuni 2 days ago 0 replies      
tl;dr I stopped at "our democracy."
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remyroy 2 days ago 2 replies      
All you need to know, is that they take your money and force you to do things you do not want to.
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iterationx 2 days ago 0 replies      
Dear Internet, Its called The New World Order. They're not uneducated, its a conspiracy.

Oh, look! our Congress is sooooo dumb, they decided to do away with the Bill of Rights on the 222nd anniversary of its signing, and declare that disagrees with them is a terrorist and that "terrorists" can be held indefinitely without recourse.

From childhood we are told that we are smart and politicians are stupid. But maybe, just maybe, the average netizen is so prideful he believes that he cannot be manipulated by a powerful combine of men, pretending to act stupidly, but in truth acting maliciously.

3
In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949"2011 vanityfair.com
662 points by tieistoowhite  5 days ago   220 comments top 37
1
TomOfTTB 5 days ago  replies      
Hitchens was essentially a Marxist (by his own admission) who was also in favor of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the foreign policy it represented. So there was very little I agreed with him on.

But I'm terribly upset about this and I'll tell you why.

Because of his willingness to debate. I'd literally scan right wing talk radio schedules for his name because you just knew it would be a great show. In a world where so many people in our modern society hide in their little cliques I think a smart person who is willing to have their ideas challenged is the most valuable person of all.

Losing a voice like that is a true tragedy.

So, with all due respect, I hope he is wrong in his beliefs about the after life because if there is a heaven he's surely earned his place in it.

Edit: On that note this is awesome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4JJqXISBiI though skip the first 4 minutes of the host self aggrandizement)

2
davesims 5 days ago 1 reply      
As a person of long-held religious conviction I am deeply saddened to see this worthy adversary go. He had an uncanny ability to go straight for your mostly deeply held beliefs with the most trenchant rhetoric and yet somehow made you like him anyway.

I think it's because with Hitchens, you knew he spoke from the integrity of his own convictions. He was nobody's man, on no one's bandwagon, carrying water for no political agenda other than his own desire to see the world become a better place. His libertarianism or Marxism was just a function of where his own intellect led him, and he never compromised for fashion or acceptance. That gave him gravitas, ethos. How else could you go after Mother Theresa and not get run out of...the World on a rail?

Only Hitchens. He was often compared to Orwell and H.L. Mencken, and he was one of the few writers for whom the comparison was as a peer rather than a distant echo of a greater time. Who will pick up his mantle? Who has the intellect, wit or courage of their convictions that compares with Hitchens?

At the moment I simply can't think of anyone.

3
pessimist 5 days ago 0 replies      
The first time I read Christopher Hitchens was his takedown of Mother Teresa - "The Missionary Position". It was emblematic of his writing - shocking, irreverent, but beautifully written and argued. The most intellectually honest pundit I have ever read - even when I disagreed with him. Sad to see him go.
4
pflats 5 days ago 0 replies      
Above all, I really respect him for his piece on waterboarding. For those of you who didn't see it/hear about it, he wanted to try to settle the debate on whether waterboarding is torture or not.

So he let himself be waterboarded.

VF Article (site's getting hit hard): http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/08/hitchens...

Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7u-Wk1aU-E

The title of the article? "Believe Me, It's Torture".

5
zalew 5 days ago 1 reply      
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/dec/16/christopher-hitc...

Hitchens gave short shrift to the "insulting" suggestion that cancer might persuade him to change his position where reason had not, arguing that to ditch principles "held for a lifetime, in the hope of gaining favour at the last minute" would be a "hucksterish choice", and urging those who had taken it upon themselves to pray for him not to "trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries".

6
bravura 5 days ago 1 reply      
Christoper Hitchens. Rest in Peace. One of the most articulate people, always incisive, even when I disagreed with him.

I saw Hitchens speak at the New York Public Library, as part of their Live! series. Everyone retired to the garden afterwards, to take drinks.

I spoke with Hitchens briefly. He called Mother Theresa "a bitch". I criticized his diction and argued that bitch was the wrong epithet. I don't recall my exact argument, but he conceded my point. I was elated, given that I considered (and still consider) Hitchens one of the most eloquent orators of our generation. In deference to him and his passing, I have mulled my choice of language in this comment.

I am still grateful that I had the chance to engage this great polemicist.

7
martythemaniak 5 days ago 1 reply      
There was a Munk Debate last year where Hitchens debated Tony Blair on whether religion was a force for good in the world. I highly recommend it: http://www.munkdebates.com/debates/Religion

Everyone knew Hitchens didn't have much time left, so it was great to see him doing what he does best against someone as high-profile as Blair.

8
andywood 5 days ago 0 replies      
I knew he didn't have long, but this still feels so sudden. I got so much out of his way of framing things. I'm grateful that he wrote and spoke so much while he was here.
9
Jach 5 days ago 1 reply      
"God is Not Great" is trending on Twitter right now... (Hilarious material too.) Too bad Hitchens missed it.
10
Vivtek 5 days ago 1 reply      
I first learned of Christopher Hitchens in the run-up to Iraq, which he espoused. I chalked him up as a Bad Guy, and moved my limited attention span on down the pike. Only recently had I realized that he was a lot deeper than I'd given him credit for - and now he's dead.

Life stinks.

11
tptacek 5 days ago 1 reply      
Ah, shit.
12
mturmon 5 days ago 0 replies      
Such a sharp thinker, with unbelievable wit and depth of memory.

You can get a sense of his political style from his fascination with the remark from Israeli peace activist Israel Shahak, "there are beginning to be some encouraging signs of polarization". Meaning that usually, well almost always, you have to choose sides. Draw the line between the sides yourself if necessary.

It's Hitchens' writings that introduced me to the early, dry, humorous works of Evelyn Waugh (best known is "Scoop", but also Decline and Fall, and the Sword of Honour trilogy). Some of Hitchens' best writing was literary appreciation, not polemics.

13
arepb 5 days ago 0 replies      
A good landing page from VF is an excellent starter for those who are tiptoeing into Hitchens for the first time. http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/christopher-hitchens
14
robertk 5 days ago 1 reply      
We shall have to work faster.

http://yudkowsky.net/other/yehuda

15
dreamux 5 days ago 0 replies      
He was my favourite thinker and orator, I'm very sad to see him go.
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soitgoes 5 days ago 0 replies      
It would be nice if HN could put up the black bar at the top of the page today for Hitch.
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serverdude 5 days ago 0 replies      
One of the foremost intellectuals - I disagreed with him on Iraq but scoured youtube to watch his debates - mostly against religious rabbis. There really was no one like him.

"“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence."
- Christopher Hitchens

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staunch 5 days ago 1 reply      
Too short, but he won at life.
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valgaze 5 days ago 0 replies      
Astroid: http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2011/12/Asteroid-Name...

"An astroid...has been named after Vanity Fair contributing editor Christopher Hitchens. The asteroid orbits Mars, Jupiter, and Earth. It's an ironic but fitting honor for an iconoclast who has spent much of his life shaking his fist at the heavens and the deities they may or may not host."

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dmerfield 5 days ago 0 replies      
My favourite Hitchens moment:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=BP51NnoVErA

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Nelson69 5 days ago 0 replies      
I saw him on Morning Joe about 18 months ago. I like the idea of what they are trying to do with that show, I like that they have both sides on it, but it has more than enough grab ass (it's 2 hours too long every day..) Anyhow, they were getting ready to engage him in a serious conversation but it was a grab-ass session between segments, I can't remember the subject but they were goading folks to make some statement on something really absurd (it was sexist or Jersey Shore or something, I wish I could remember it) but Mika (the news reader lady) tried to get him to voice an opinion and he very eloquently said "pass" it was a bit flowery though and had just a hint of an insult back for even being asked to talk about it.

I don't know if anyone had ever done that before, they clearly weren't prepared for it. He was there for something serious and he kept to it, regardless of views, much respect to the guy. In a pop-media bubble gum bullshit news and entertainment world he had a mission and kept to it. A tragic loss we need more of him and more like him.

22
arjn 5 days ago 0 replies      
Not unexpected, he's been ill for a while. I will miss his razor wit and intellect. The clarity of his thought, writing and speech was a breath of cool fresh air amidst the unfortunate smog that is modern media, especially television. Am currently reading Hitch-22, have already read "God is not Great" and would recommend it.
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thomasgerbe 5 days ago 0 replies      
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veidr 5 days ago 1 reply      
Hitchens was wrong about a lot in my view, but for many atheists he was an important figure.

He eloquently made the case for our faith in empirical evidence and the scientific knowing of reality, and he didn't pussy out at the end. Knowing he was dying, and soon on his way into that void, still looked that motherfucker in the face, and stayed frosty.

Wish he could have died from old age, though.

25
markwherry 5 days ago 0 replies      
Hitch asked us to think, to question, and to appreciate. There is surely no better embodiment of a hacker ethic than someone like Christopher Hitchens: a unique voice who challenged the world not to accept the status quo.
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chjj 5 days ago 1 reply      
dammit. hitchens barely got his trousers off.
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mattyohe 5 days ago 1 reply      
#GodIsNotGreat is trending worldwide. It's quite entertaining to see the live timeline of people freaking out: http://twitter.com/#!/search/realtime/%23GodIsNotGreat
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andyl 5 days ago 0 replies      
He was a straight up debater who could discuss ideas on their merits, and seemed to make up his own mind on issues. Gone too soon.
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tdfx 5 days ago 0 replies      
For anyone looking for a quick way to get a handle on who he was search YouTube for "hitchslap".
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Benares 5 days ago 1 reply      
He's in a better place, now.

http://explosm.net/comics/2645/

31
siculars 5 days ago 0 replies      
Damn. Miss you.
32
zotz 4 days ago 0 replies      
Not to be blunt, but I never understood why a drunken advocate of a murderous war gets such props no matter what his facility with words may have been.
33
robbrown451 5 days ago 0 replies      
He and his family are in my....well, in my sincere thoughts that I say in my head directed towards a nonspecific metaphorical anthropomorphic being.
34
randdythea 5 days ago 0 replies      
test
35
ddw 5 days ago 1 reply      
A lot of people are making this joke in these first minutes and it's ok. I upvoted you.

But I'd like to make the point that he stared death in the face and didn't finally profess his love of god and all things mighty like some wanted him to and I'll always respect for that. One of the good ones.

36
RomanAClef 5 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, right after America gave up the ghost in Iraq too.

From http://whoisioz.blogspot.com/2011/11/oser-dire.html:

" Why does it also not delight me that the extent of the allegations against him, at least on some showings, is “unwanted advances”? It might be argued, by the cynical or the naive, that all “advances” begin that way. True, a period of a matter of months is specified, but don't I seem to recall, in President Obama's jaunty account of his courtship, that it took him a certain amount of time to “wear down” his intended target? I dare say that many of us could say the same, while reminiscing among friends, and still hope to avoid getting too many sidelong looks. But in the present circumstances there seems to be a danger of a straight-out politicization of the sexual harassment issue, with many people deciding it in advance on the simple basis of campaign calculations, or"to put it more crudely"of whose ox is being gored. This appears to represent a general coarsening by silence, and yet another crude element in a depressing campaign. "

-Hitchens

I have always suspected that Christopher Hitchens is really a child of Indianapolis or Topeka who spent a year in London while an undergraduate at the North Dakota State Technical and Agricultural Community College or some such and returned with an accent and a ubiquitous unopened umbrella so thoroughly does his Englishness come off as an affect. And, to crib from our friends across the pond, he comes off as a real tosser. "I dare say"? It's as if, sensing his own impending demise, he's angling to be played by Maggie Smith in the biopic.

Any man willing to gratuitously fondle the mother tongue as Hitch does above is obviously going to be an apologist for molestation. If you're a liberal, then you'll find it particularly appalling that Hitch first made his conservative bones, you'll pardon the expression, not by cheering for the death of a million Iraqis, but by stroking feverishly over Monica and Kathleen Willey. This was evidence of Clinton's despicable character, whereas here we are in grave danger of "politicizing . . . the sexual harassment issue," as if chalking it up as an issue has not by fucking default cast it into the baleful form of politics.

37
numair 5 days ago 6 replies      
Okay, really.

With all due respect to the passing of a fellow human, this story has absolutely nothing to do with hackers, with software development, with the startup business... I know people are going to reply to this with some reference to "but it is of intellectual interest!" -- but really, there are lots of different places on the Internet (thousands, maybe millions!) to discuss lots of different things. If you have begun to look at Hacker News as your sole source of news and information in the world -- of which such stories and their upvoting may be a sign -- you really need to diversify your life. It will be better for your health, and for your work.

It would be great if we could allow this place remain a silo of thought on technical and business matters, and seek out other places and people for other sorts of information and discourse.

4
Microsoft decides to automatically update Internet Explorer for everyone geek.com
616 points by ukdm  6 days ago   171 comments top 34
1
mmcconnell1618 6 days ago  replies      
The article points out that MS will still provide blocking tools for companies. Corporations are the major source of IE6 browsers and I'm not sure this will have any impact on them. The best we can hope for is that high consumer adoption rates will force many more sites to drop IE6 support which might spur companies to finally test and upgrade.
2
bgarbiak 5 days ago 0 replies      
It's a great change not because of IE6 (which, most likely, won't be affected at all) but because of future versions of Internet Explorer. These are now supposed to be released annually, which could be a curse for developers if there was no automatic upgrade mechanism (see: http://paulirish.com/2011/browser-market-pollution-iex-is-th...). Today's decision of Microsoft means it will be a blessing. Basically, all of client side web-technologies will iterate a lot faster and in 2-3 years the vast majority of users will sport the newest version of a browser by default.
3
dazbradbury 6 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic, but this has just made my christmas and new year. If this has a genuine impact, and means people are running IE8 in the worst case, then I will be a very a happy dev.

Patiently waits to see browser usage trends once this rolls out...

4
apaprocki 6 days ago 1 reply      
One thing I've noticed is another niche that doesn't quite fit into the "corporation blocking updates" bucket. VMs. I've used a few services at work that run on auto-started VM images and IE8 is installed on those images. It isn't that someone is blocking updates necessarily, it is just that it takes a human to actually go and update the main VM image and update the browser on it. This seems to make it persist longer than it should because VMs are either updated on some long time horizon or there is not a push to proactively change it if the current situation "just works".
5
RyanMcGreal 6 days ago 3 replies      
Good news, but XP users still won't be able to upgrade past IE8.
6
TheCoreh 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is great news: It means IE8 won't be the next IE6. Of course there are a lot of users still restricted to Windows XP, but their market share is dropping fairly quickly. Of course there will always be large corporate environments where updates are much slower, but I would say these are under 10%, perhaps?
7
ma2rten 6 days ago 1 reply      
Finally! I have been waiting for this news for a very long time. I wish Microsoft would also push something like Chrome Tab to those users who opt out of the update, so a website can set some special http header/meta tag and then the website gets rendered with lasted version of the rendering engine.
8
dr_ 5 days ago 1 reply      
Unfortunately our hospital EMR software, which I access from my office, does not work on IE9. I had to downgrade to IE8 to get it working.
9
melling 6 days ago 0 replies      
It also means all IE9 users will get IE10. So by this time next year, 80-85% of users will be on a very modern html5 browser.
10
andrewheins 6 days ago 1 reply      
I applaud Microsoft for finally taking the step, but I wonder how much this will actually change the stats around browser market share. My understanding was that most IE6 users, even in the developing world, were admin-imposed.

Either way, it's good to finally see them moving forward.

11
BonoboBoner 6 days ago 0 replies      
"You'll simply be bumped to the most current version available for your version of Windows (IE9 on Vista and Windows 7, IE8 on Windows XP)."

I was so hoping for IE9 on XP as part of this process...

12
JoeAltmaier 6 days ago 5 replies      
I'm not a fan, and I don't understand the gushing. As developers, I suppose folks are glad to reduce their support matrix?

But as users, creators of highly customized workstations and rabid fans of particular development environments, doesn't it bother anybody but me, that the browser choice has been hijacked?

Sure, its just stupid Windows users, they don't care. Is that it?

Every IE UI is different, and they seem to be spiralling down is usability. I'm particular about optimizing my own time and changing UI to suit Microsoft's agenda is definitely going to piss me off.

13
robbrown451 5 days ago 1 reply      
What I don't understand is why doesn't Microsoft provide an upgrade that actually allows IE6 (and possibly other versions) to run as they did, on a site specific basis. This way corporations that need some IE6 only app can run them forever, but their employees can still use the rest of the web unhampered by this. Having it possible to run multiple "virtual browsers" within a single browser would also thrill web developers who want to test their sites on all the browsers without having to have multiple machines.

Yes it would be a bit bloated, but the default install would probably be the one that just ran the latest version.

14
dmbaggett 6 days ago 1 reply      
Great! Now they just need to switch their entire browser codebase over to Webkit and sanity will be restored to the web.
15
hkarthik 4 days ago 0 replies      
The more I see Microsoft bend over backwards for big corps to retard the web, the more I think that maybe big corps should just stay off the web.

Perhaps staying on proprietary, native platforms that don't change as often is their best course in the future.

16
hendrik-xdest 6 days ago 3 replies      
And here I thought that all non-updated IE versions were installed in environments where Sysadmins blocked the updates (and will in the future). It would be interesting to see a number of how many installations this change could really target. Like, how many IE 6 to 8 are actually in the wild. Can't be that much, imho.
17
zeeed 5 days ago 0 replies      
Microsoft once more does a fully automated update? What could POSSIBLY go wrong?!

On the same note, it literally pisses me off how companies decide to intervene with my software installation. Allowing an "opt-out" is worth as much as Google allowing me to opt out of mapping my access point by renaming it.

We are observing a notable shift where personal(!) computers and devices are being turned into consumer devices that we have no control over. Not to speak about the privacy related side effects.

Please, please, please let there soon be a pro-version of Linux on the desktop before the support cycle of Snow Leopard runs out.

18
hkarthik 6 days ago 0 replies      
Finally. They should have done this a really long time ago.
19
noblethrasher 5 days ago 0 replies      
Interestingly (or perhaps ironically), this probably means that the IE chrome won't get updated lest it alarm the users.
20
miles_matthias 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is slightly making me think about adding a specific version of IE to my Crap Browser Notifier:

https://github.com/milesmatthias/Crap-Browser-Notifier

Maybe IE10 and up. Maybe.

21
dhkl 5 days ago 2 replies      
Perhaps one of the reason why people are still capable of getting an acceptable Internet experience from IE 6 and 7 is because Flash 10 (and 11 for IE 7) supports them.

Thank goodness that there is a strong traction behind HTML5 stack, and the industry as a whole is less reliant on Flash to deliver good UX.

Without Flash, the capability of these older browsers will be reduced, and I'm sure they will get abandoned at an even higher rate.

22
shapeshed 5 days ago 0 replies      
still seeing 20% IE6 usage in my Corporate clients in the UK. I have spoken with IT administrators and they give the reason of internal tools needing IE6 to run. Some kind of backwards compatibility might help but until hardware is upgraded and there is an OS upgrade from XP IE6 will be around for a while IMHO.
23
nbclark 5 days ago 0 replies      
Honestly, it is about time that they did this. I worked ont he IE team for a few years, and could never understand (aside from the enterprise argument) why users were not being auto-upgraded. "Hey here's a great new security model to replace the insecure previous version...but no rush on upgrading..."
24
obtu 6 days ago 0 replies      
Great that they abandoned the “intranet apps still depend on IE6” talking point. XP still won't move past IE8, however.
25
WayneDB 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if it will keep replacing the shortcuts that I've removed.
26
Brajeshwar 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is one hell of a bloody awesome news. I say the best ever for everyone on the Internet.
27
Hikari 6 days ago 0 replies      
great news but a little bit too late in my opinion.
28
kgc 3 days ago 0 replies      
Web designers around the world rejoice.
29
jrwn 6 days ago 0 replies      
So is this separate from the normal updates and installs regardless of your update preferences or is it part of the normal updates?
30
ajo11 6 days ago 0 replies      
Santa is real!
31
superyeah 6 days ago 0 replies      
hallelujah!!!
32
muchonada 6 days ago 0 replies      
<= Happy
33
olaf 5 days ago 0 replies      
Welcome to the 21st century.
34
tomjen3 5 days ago 0 replies      
No they don't.

You can still opt out.

Of course if you do that, we may end up pushing Chrome Frame on you, through an exploit (I would, if it wasn't illegal).

Fuck MS for forcing us to deal with their crap.

5
The Secret History of Kim Jung Il -- written by one of his high school teachers foreignpolicy.com
606 points by cynest  1 day ago   149 comments top 18
1
vnorby 1 day ago 5 replies      
"Even today, long after becoming the sole supreme leader of North Korea, Kim refuses to allow graduates of the Namsan School in his inner circle. After all, those who have known Kim Jong Il since youth are bound to see him as human -- not the center of a god-like cult of personality."

In the new Steve Jobs biography, Walter Isaacson quotes Steve on why he didn't let his parents come to his school's campus: "I didn't want anyone to know I had parents. I wanted to be like an orphan who had bummed around the country on trains and just arrived out of nowhere, with no roots, no connections, no background."

Interesting how powerful people manipulate the story of how they got to be where they are. Speaking of which, I was raised by wolves.

2
findm 1 day ago 4 replies      
I found the article to be an interesting read but I wish that someone could talk about the psychology, history behind why the country became that way instead of just finger pointing on how terrible the conditions were. While its difficult to feel any empathy towards a manipulative, despotic, authoritarian regime, I also think that most westerners misunderstand and underestimate the people and their situation.

The NK brand of communism is just a thin veil for the old dynastic feudal caste society that Korea traditionally was. This is just how the country was for over 2 millennia. The north, especially due to its easily defensible mountainous terrain, has always played a pivotal role in keeping larger more powerful threats from absorbing the whole. Considering its history it sheds some light into understanding their extreme xenophobia.

Westerners always raise the question, why don't the people rise up against the injustice? This is a culture steeped in confucianism, the patriarch is supreme and group cohesion and harmony is of higher importance than the needs of an individual. Even linguistically, social order is embedded into the language with many different levels of honorifics for different rank and class.

A little off-topic but just my 2 cents.

The Caste System:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Korean_caste_system

3
michaelbuckbee 1 day ago 3 replies      
If you found this at all interesting, I would highly recommend watching the Vice Guide to North Korea - http://www.vice.com/the-vice-guide-to-travel/vice-guide-to-n...
4
ck2 1 day ago 0 replies      
That guy strikes me as "Bridge on the River Kwai" - happens to be rarely well educated in a crippling environment and knows the "leader" is not a good person but to hell with that he is going to do his job as good as possible even if it means his own destruction and furtherment of the enemy standing right in front of him.

Evil dictators are evil - so are all the people that do their little part to help him because they cannot find anything wrong with doing their little job as best they can.

But so is a mindless military in ANY country who sign on to take directions to kill other people at the behest of a single leader that they aren't supposed to question.

5
irahul 1 day ago 3 replies      
That's an interesting and a well-written story. But yet, I find his "I pray for Kim Jong", "I don't want him to meet a tragic end" et al. a bit strange.

I don't know, it seems like denial and rationalization. A dictator got his family killed(possibly tortured before killing them), there is nothing he can do about it, so he is trying to find solace by believing he doesn't want Kim Jong Il hurt; and to justify why he thinks so, he is imagining good and innocence, when none exists.

He is well aware of things Kim Jong Il did to his family and common masses, and yet he is trying to imagine good in him - I can't find a rational explanation for his line of reasoning.

6
refurb 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Here is a (long) story about an American who lived in SK who got a chance to go to NK. It's an incredible read and well worth the time. His interactions with NK citizens and his gov't minder are really eye opening.

http://www.1stopkorea.com/index.htm?nk-trip1.htm~mainframe

I don't know about you guys, but reading his story is really sad. It's like a whole country, with limitless human potential, is developmentally frozen.

7
jrubinovitz 1 day ago 2 replies      
As a computer science student, I don't really have time to read as much material unrelated to Computer Science as I would like, so this was quite a treat. Thanks for bravely humanizing Kim Jung Il and North Korea, and reminding us why we need to change the world, Mr. Kim Hyun Sik (author).
8
fufulabs 1 day ago  replies      
It boggles my mind how little anyone, inside or outside, has done to change North Korea.

Maybe i am just ignorant of how difficult it is or the attempts done.

9
drumdance 1 day ago 0 replies      
I found this graphic novel by a French cartoonist who worked in North Korea to be fascinating:

http://www.amazon.com/Pyongyang-Journey-North-Guy-Delisle/dp...

10
yogrish 1 day ago 1 reply      
Touching story. But,author never mentioned why he changed so much and became ruthless...not even sparing his teachers family.
11
gcb 10 hours ago 0 replies      
So, the dictator forbid people from his high school to join high ranks, but this former professor boast of a dozen former students that are now in high ranks from that same school?

pick one.

12
rrrazdan 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Its a political post so my politically loaded question should be forgiven. Wouldn't it have been acceptable, if United States had liberated North Korea instead of Iraq?
13
bitops 1 day ago 1 reply      
14
mattparlane 1 day ago 4 replies      
little hint:

javascript:$('body').css('margin', '0 200px');

15
SystemOut 1 day ago 0 replies      
Could someone edit the link and remove the "print" query parameter? It's pretty annoying that the page pops up the print option on chrome upon loading.
17
rokhayakebe 1 day ago 5 replies      
You have to wonder. Millions of people living under the dictatorship of one man ( with the help of a few dozens leaders). I feel terrible for the young women, and kids. However the rest of the population can get up and fight. Hundreds of thousands will die, but someone has to be willing to die for the sake of the liberty of others.
18
harryf 1 day ago 4 replies      
Much as it's a fascinating story my BS alarm is flashing. Is there anyone at Georg Mason University who can confirm Professor Kim Hyun Sik actually exists?
6
The nightmarish SOPA hearings washingtonpost.com
578 points by elliottcarlson  5 days ago   166 comments top 30
1
nirvana 5 days ago  replies      
I think the heart surgery analogy is excellent. I would never, unless it were an extremely dire situation with no doctors, attempt any kind of surgery on someone. Nor would I ever start dictating to doctors how the perform their procedures.

Yet that is what government does, day in and day out. They regulate industries which work in ways they don't understand, and they do it primarily for political motivations.

The MPAA may want tools to fight piracy, but to politicians, who don't really care about piracy, this is an opportunity to have something to campaign on, and it gives the government more power.

More power means more prestige and more money for them, if not now, in their post career lives when they lobby, etc.

More regulations gives them more control over industry- the power to threaten to make the regulations even worse, or the threat that their opponent will do that if they don't get re-elected (so please give generously!)

I don't think these people are "well intentioned". They don't actually want to help anybody. Theft is already against the law. SOPA won't change that, it won't stop piracy, and its not criminalizing piracy.

No, they're politicians. And they're not even corrupt politicians. This is simply the nature of what they do. They pass laws, they shake down industry, and they get paid for passing ever more laws without regard for the impact of those laws.

Hell, when those laws cause massive destruction to the economy, what do they do? They turn around and say "Well, If we'd been able to pass the law I proposed, this wouldn't have happened! Here, we need to rush into force even more regulations to make sure this never happens again!"

There's a famous(?) libertarian author by the name of L. Neil Smith who's got a saying that's very applicable here:

"Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure."

I hope we stop SOPA. But the lesson I would hope a lot of you take away from this is that SOPA is not an isolated incident, it is one of thousands of incidents, most of which go by completely unmentioned each year, where the system works to undermine human rights and make people's lives worse. These guys aren't corrupt, the system is corrupt.

The constitution, in the enumeration clause and in the Bill of Rights, attempted to prevent this. The enumeration clause limits the powers of the federal government to only those enumerated in the constitution.

Regulation of the internet, or communications of any kind, is not an enumerated power of the Federal Government. This means that when the federal government does this, it is doing it without authorization. Further, the Bill of Rights forbids congress from engaging in censorship. SOPA clearly authorizes censorship so they're also in violation of the Bill of Rights.

These words in the constitution, in this day and age have very little teeth. The PATRIOT act runs afoul of them as well, but nobody has succeeded in getting it overturned.

The situation will continue to get worse. Even if SOPA is defeated-- this isn't the first attempt-- it will come back in a few years.

I think that the only possible solution is a technological one. I think that the only way to to fight them is with technology and disobedience to the very idea that they have the right to restrain speech or control the internet.

The courts will not help us, and they certainly won't, and every election is so stage managed that nobody who actually knows the difference between a domain name and an IP address will ever get elected.

Help us with technology, its our only hope!

2
jacques_chester 5 days ago 6 replies      
For some time now it's been clear to me that as society grows ever more technical, it's leaving legislators behind.

At the same time, the background of lawmakers has increasingly narrowed.

In Australia, for example, it used to be commonplace for the Parliament to contain people whose first careers were as teachers, farmers, train drivers, engineers, small businessmen and so forth.

Not any more. Today it's an almost wall-to-wall collection of law students who were all groomed by party machines. Go to uni, join political club, graduate and work in minister's office/a union/a politically-connected law firm, get pre-selected at the local branch, elected to Parliament.

At no point has this person a) studied something other than law or b) held down an ordinary job or run a small business. I imagine the pattern is similar elsewhere.

And so our law making bodies are filled with folk whose main skill is forensic disputation. This is problematic when technical debates are held because politicians are often mistrustful of experts outside their circle of loyalty -- because for any expert I can procure, someone else can get an expert to say the opposite.

Having experts inside the circle of trust is golden. The classic example is the banning of CFCs. Margaret Thatcher's undergraduate degree was in chemistry and so she understood the mechanisms. In turn she was able to assure Regan that the phenomenon was real and serious and the rest is history.

I have for some time toyed with the idea of forming a non-partisan organisation whose purpose is helping STEM professionals to get elected. Please contact me by email (check my profile) if you are interested.

3
msluyter 5 days ago 3 replies      
Nice post from Felix Salmon on the topic:

http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/12/15/do-any-real...

He makes the point that virtually no average citizens support this (either they're against it or they don't know anything about it.) People often worry that congress fails when they can't agree on anything, but this makes me think that the time to really worry is when they do agree. When they disagree, they're at least probably mirroring the electorate.

4
noonespecial 5 days ago 6 replies      
Just remember to add "in the United States" to the end of each dire prediction. Try it:

SOPA will cause rampant censorship of the internet... in the United States.

I am a US citizen, currently living in the US, and I hate this, but even so, it makes me feel better to remember that there's a big, big world outside our borders. If the US flies off the rails on this, I fully expect the rest of the world to shrug and move on. The internet and the Americans have been closely intertwined since the beginning but I don't expect it will always be that way. The America that created the internet is more or less gone now. Its time for the rest of the world to step up.

5
Timothee 5 days ago 1 reply      
I've listened to the hearings a little bit today and in particular I heard the amendment about not removing the ability to target IP addresses. Listening to him, it just made sense: one address can be the front of multiple websites, one website can have multiple IP addresses, addresses are moved around dynamically, etc. We all know that and his explanations were very clear.

So I was a bit confused when later on I was hearing a lot of "No"s. Had I missed the vote for that amendment and they were voting on something else? Nope. They were just denying common sense.

I'm not even sure how they would do it on a per domain basis. What about subdomains? One guy posts something on his Tumblr and all the Tumblr's go down? I'm sure they have no idea what that means and would just say "take down all the sites!"

On another note, though I don't mind the term generally, I was annoyed by them referring over and over to "nerds". "I'm not a nerd", "Bring in the nerds"… It's fine in some contexts but in the context of discussing a law, I think "technical experts", "people who have a clue" is more appropriate.

6
mbesto 5 days ago 4 replies      
I watched roughly 2-3 hours of the hearing. I could be wrong, but I thought in general there was actually a bi-partisan agreement that they needed experts in on the conversation. Unfortunately it didn't mean much when it came to voting on amendments (as most were shot down).

Where it got interesting is when Mel Watt came out and said "We all know that everyone in this room on both sides has enough resources to pull in experts that will aid their side of the argument equally, so we're going to get into the same mess we did when we talk about derivatives being the most evil things on earth by one party and the saving grace by another". Good point, but the difference here is that not all parties that are for SOPA have purely financial incentives as the banks did.

7
zotz 5 days ago 0 replies      
I greatly enjoyed reading this thread and peoples' well-expounded opinions on history and the Constitution. I can't add much but this quote seemed apropos. The author was a US Senator from South Dakota during the critical period of the late 19th-early 20th century.

"Two per cent of the people of the United States own sixty per cent of the property of the United States. Yet they produced none of it. By legislation, by craft and cunning, by control of Congress and the courts, they took to themselves what others produced. Sixty-six per cent of the people of the United States own five per cent of the property of the United States. Yet they produced all of the wealth and have none of it. Why do not the producers of this wealth have what they produce? Because the making of the laws and the control of the courts is in the hands of those who do not work, and this has been true from the beginning of the Government. The convention which framed the Constitution of the United States was composed of fifty-five members. A majority were lawyers"not one farmer, mechanic or laborer. Forty owned Revolutionary Scrip. Fourteen were land speculators. Twenty-four were money-lenders. Eleven were merchants. Fifteen were slave-holders. They made a Constitution to protect the rights of property and not the rights of man, and, ever since, Congress has been controlled by the property owner, and has framed laws in their interests and their interests only, and always refused to frame any laws in the interest of those who produce all the wealth and have none of it."

TRIUMPHANT PLUTOCRACY
by Senator Richard F. Pettigrew, 1921
pg.407

8
eegilbert 5 days ago 2 replies      
SOPA is horrifying. No doubt about it. But it's funny how many people I meet who share this view, yet think Congress is perfectly capable of regulating just about everything else. Because Congress understands that stuff. Like economies. Those things are simple. </LibertarianThursdays>
9
ajtaylor 5 days ago 2 replies      
I tried watching the hearings but I couldn't stay awake through the reading of the bill. My heart goes out to the poor clerk who had to read it out!

"There ought to be a law, I think, that in order to regulate something you have to have some understanding of it."

Ne'er were truer words written. Why on earth do we allow people who have no real understanding of technology to regulate it so closely? It's a train wreck in the making, one you'll be hard pressed to avoid should this bill get approved.

10
zmmmmm 5 days ago 1 reply      
What is it about technology that makes people proud to announce they know nothing about it while simultaneously assuming positions of authority and power over it? At least in other domains people put up a pretense of having knowledge about areas they are taking crucial decisions on. Something about technology and especially the internet seems to evoke this phenomenon.
11
ck2 5 days ago 1 reply      
I am not sure if you see the same ads as I've seen on TV lately from SOPA sponsors but it's pretty darn obvious that the only reason this bill exists is that the lobbyists simply paid for it to be created.

Like the "Patriot" Act they have no clue what exactly they are voting on, and I don't think they care, they are doing what they are bribed to do. The hearing is just theater, it's meaningless, they've already decided to get in on the take.

12
masonhensley 5 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone have a list of where each representative is leaning on SOPA?

Edit:
some reps against sopa, for an open internet:

@RepJohnCampbell

@jasoninthehouse

@RepLloydDoggett

@USRepMikeDoyle

@RepAnnaEshoo

@RepZoeLofgren

@jaredpolis

13
mattvot 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've been watching all of this for the last 3-4 hours.

I am amazed at how most of the committee do not want to hear from experts, and ignore the facts with a quick dismissal like "Oh, I'm not a nerd, I don't understand, but what I do know is that piracy is theft and we must stop it.".

How can they not listen to the experts?

EDIT: Here's a livestream http://www.justin.tv/unearthed365#/w/2249527504

14
rorrr 5 days ago 3 replies      
I'm voting against every fucker in my district who supports it. That's the only non-violent way.
15
firefoxman1 5 days ago 1 reply      
My local congressman, also a co-sponsor and co-author of the SOPA bill, held a public phone conference the other night. You could press 0 to enter a queue to ask a question, so I did, but after 2 hours I was tired of waiting and I had a term paper to write so I gave up. I kind of regret it now, because I wanted everyone to hear just how little he, a co-author, knew about the subject. He's not one for listening to his constituents. I had already written him a letter and tried to call his office and no reply for either.
16
nyellin 5 days ago 0 replies      
"We have had no hearings and no testimonies on the technical issues"

- Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, 20:15 (http://www.justin.tv/unearthed365/b/302702510?)

17
balloot 5 days ago 1 reply      
I highly recommend contacting your Representatives/Senators immediately. It amazes me that both of the California Senators are cosponsors of this turd. I would think they are among those who can be swayed.
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jrwoodruff 5 days ago 1 reply      
Can someone who is following this more closely than myself (as in actually watching this on CSPAN) please post the names of all the senators, representatives and other elected officials who are blithering idiots in support of this.

I would like to vote any of them that may be in my district out of office as soon as possible.

Thank you.

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antihero 5 days ago 0 replies      
It's weird, it seems like there's an amendment suggested, with lots of reason behind it, but fuck it we're going to say no anyway. WTF.
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bprater 5 days ago 2 replies      
I haven't listened to the hearing, so I'm curious (and slightly facetious) -- when the RIAA inevitably flags videos on YouTube that are using copyrighted music -- will it be legally fairly simple for the industry to request a DNS take-down of the whole site? Will site owners have any recourse or will they just wake up in the morning and be completely out of business?
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TheCapn 5 days ago 1 reply      
I've sort of viewed the entire circus in a defeated light. If SOPA goes down another version will crawl up either on its own or stapled to the "think of the children" act of 2012, 2014, or whenever they get enough campaign funding to draft it.

But what does that mean for Hackers? I think with enough work we could make a network off of the regulated lines. I live in a rather sparse city and even now I can throw a ball far enough to hit the next techy over. Push comes to shove we could have a mini network several blocks wide that doesn't touch a single www link.

Wireless is almost ready, security is probably the biggest issue right now but the technology is available, just not affordable. But what about the tech giants against the SOPA? If "push comes to shove" would they fund a new network that has less control?

Then at what point is the government allowed to intervene? If a sizable network was built from the ground up separate from the internet are they allowed to slap down regulations? I want to say no because they didn't fund it, but then at the same time what's really stopping them? If they're able to throw SOPA through, convincing these dweebs that a private uncontrolled network is not worthy of SOPA2.0 would not be difficult to do.

Can I get some hacker-friendly input? I know a lot of us here are software oriented but I'm certain I'm not the only one that lurks this site with background in network provisioning.

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VonLipwig 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is a really good analysis of what is going on in Washington. I have always found it worrying when politicians walk into a field which they have little knowledge about and try to pass laws. Anyone can become an elected official and the power they yield over things they have no background in is scary. In the UK a person can effectively go from University >> Elected Official >> Misc Support Roles >> Secretary of State. Or... Student >> MP with 1 or 2 staff >> An advisor to someone >> Budget of billions, hundreds of thousands of employees.

In business you would work your way up. Employee >> Supervisor of Employees >> Manager with budgets >> Area Manager >> Country Manger >> CEO. You gain responsibility as you go. MP's do not have this. They fall into a job which they are almost never qualified for. Some do OK. However.. if you look closely at the majority you will see mistakes that anywhere else would see them fired.

In the states these dubiously qualified MP's are now looking to legislate an global network as a single nation... I am sure that some of them cannot even comprehend what the Internet is.

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dreamdu5t 5 days ago 0 replies      
Thank God for government regulation. I'm so glad we have progressives like the Democrats and Republicans in office to curb the evils of industry.

Without regulation the Internet would be monopolized by big business and criminals will prey on your children.

Good thing the State is there to protect us. Don't forget to pay your taxes, and have a happy holidays!

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Shenglong 5 days ago 1 reply      
Too bad we don't have some sort of upper age limit on electing officials.
25
evoxed 5 days ago 2 replies      
Has anyone seen the TV ad? "Illegal downloads on foreign websites, stealing AMERICAN jobs......"

It was frighteningly manipulative.

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tomkinstinch 5 days ago 1 reply      
What will it take to elect technical people to public office?
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kylek 5 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like a big joke to some people in the room!

https://twitter.com/#!/SteveKingIA/status/147371129177255936

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jderick 4 days ago 0 replies      
The real issue here is corruption. That's why you keep get these ridiculous bills. Lessig explained the issue in a recent post:

http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/13119510676/me-mia-on-the-sopa...

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gcb 5 days ago 0 replies      
Why is everyone so worried about SOPA?

patriot act has already passed.

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BrandonM 5 days ago 1 reply      
It's rather interesting to see members here proclaim in one breath that legislators are money-grubbing old-fashioned idiots who are just out to make a bunch of laws, and in another remark complain of them calling people "nerds". Other groups garnering mentions are corporate, capitalist monsters and economy-destroying bankers.

As I see it, the biggest problem gripping our country right now is a refusal to understand someone else's point of view and come to a reasonable solution that is pretty good for everyone. All we seem to have are multiple sides shouting over each other, simultaneously ignoring everyone else and complaining that no one is listening to them. It is as though somewhere along the way we forgot how to be reasonable adults and have normal conversations. People cease to be caricatures when you understand their concerns and motivations.

I agree that some of the SOPA proposals are way out of line, and I also agree that people passing laws without a full understanding of the ramifications are not helping matters. But we also are not helping matters by trying to oversimplify everything and fit everyone and everything into neat little boxes. That's simply not how the world works.

There's no fundamental reason why Google can't provide media companies and luxury goods manufacturers with easy tools to report issues of copyright and counterfeit goods. Sure, it will cost development money that should be borne by those who stand to gain from the tools, but those are details. The point is, working together we actually have a chance to solve problems. Shouting past each other and appealing to authority (read: lobbying Congress) is never going to solve anything.

So let's try to understand the problems and work together to solve them. It's ludicrous to expect that kind of behavior from our politicians but not to exhibit it ourselves.

10
The Bomb That Changed My Life swombat.com
453 points by shadowsun7  2 days ago   79 comments top 18
1
cstross 2 days ago  replies      
Fascinating account of post-7/7 behavioural trauma, and how hard it was to do the right thing; it shows up both in Daniel's reaction and those of other commenters who've been in similar situations. It's not just bombs ...

Accounts I've read of what happens immediately after a [survivable] plane crash are similar. Many physically uninjured passengers will just continue to sit in their seats, waiting to be told what to do, even if the plane's on fire. Another sizeable minority act through their roles as if the plane had made a successful landing; stand up to grab their carry-on luggage, then form an orderly queue. Only around 10-20% actually behave appropriately (that is, follow the emergency evacuation drill, without guidance: pop the emergency hatches and get the hell out of the danger zone without encumbering themselves).

We are creatures of habit; we have great difficulty accepting the existence of an immediate and potentially lethal threat to our existence, so some of us behave as if it simply isn't there. (Which is why it takes training to instill the right reflexes for dealing with abnormal situations.) And even among those who unfreeze and start moving again, the impulse to revert to "normal" behaviour can be overwhelming.

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idan 2 days ago 3 replies      
An eloquent description which captures the essence of one possible reaction. Mine was different (I live in Israel, had a similar encounter) but the core experience is similar.

It seems cliche, but there is a fundamental truth to the fact that most westerners are simply unaware of what the "I fear for my bodily integrity" sensation is and does to your life. OP's newly-discovered appreciation of how crowded buses present a potential security threat is a great example. It isn't that you suddenly see your life in a whole new light, it's that you regard various mundane things with a new, orthogonal parameter: is this situation more likely to result in harm to me?

Like all things, eventually you become inured and looking at a situation from a security perspective becomes a routine thought passing through your head along with "shit, I forgot to pay the gas bill." Without getting into Israel/Palestine, this is a slice of what living in Israeli society is roughly like.

3
kokey 2 days ago 1 reply      
Thanks for that. My girlfriend at the time, got off at Euston when they evacuated the station and decided to try take a bus to get to work. While waiting for her bus, a bus exploded not far from where she was standing. Her reaction was to walk through the city to work, asking for directions along the way, walking even past my office. I couldn't reach her because the mobile network went out of action. She didn't want to come to my office because she knew I traveled in early to make it to a meeting and didn't want to disturb me (the meeting obviously got canceled). It's been hard for me to understand the thought process that made her want to take a bus when the station was being evacuated, and made her want to walk to work after that. I think it's been a case of the initial evacuation making her worry about getting to work on time and even though she didn't know about any explosions at that point she was already reacting in a panic. With the trauma of being near a blast, it must have anchored that thought process into becoming the most important mission for her to accomplish.

I was on a train when they started evacuating a station, and I was praying to myself that the train leaves the station quickly in case the evacuation was for a bomb. Little did I know the bombs were on the trains themselves and not in the station, but my initial reaction was to get out of that station and to get out of the train network and away from public places and crowds as quickly as possible. This article helps explaining this thought process to me.

4
joncooper 1 day ago 2 replies      
Thanks for posting that. It brought my awareness to something important.

I worked in 1 WTC and was about to get into the elevator when the first plane hit on 9/11. I was outside on the corner when the second plane hit.

When my head started to clear some time later--a week? two?--the clearest thought I had was: if my last act as a human had been connecting a data input form to a database table, it would have been a tremendous waste of my life.

Shortly thereafter I entered a new career and a new trajectory through life. The last 10 years have been amazing.

Living with the visceral awareness that sudden death is possible has changed me in many ways. Mostly for the better.

I do have some symptoms of PTSD. Low-flying planes freak me out intensely, as do sudden loud noises and low vibrations strong enough to shake things.

On balance, though, it has catalyzed tremendously positive change in my life. I'm glad that you've been able to make the same of it.

Cheers to being alive.

(Bizarrely, I was also in London on 7/7. A bomb squad truck nearly ran me over (on my bike) going the wrong way down the road near Liverpool St. station, and my wife was very nearly on the Hackney Wick bus.)

5
hopeless 2 days ago 1 reply      
Very well written.

I had a similar experience with the tricks the mind can play after a bad car accident a few years ago. Although I didn't know it at the time, I had broken almost everything except my left arm and neck. But I could quite plainly see that my right femur bent in an unnatural curve like a floppy puppet's leg. Yet still I insisted that the rescuers couldn't phone my wife because she was 7mths pregnant and had gone back to bed that morning after feeling sick.

Subconciously, my brain was thinking I shouldn't bother her with this and I'd be patched up and home for dinner. I just couldn't process the obvious inputs like a normal rational person.

Also, although I remained concious throughout, I don't remember much of the incident and had no idea how they got me out of the car until I saw the police photos. The mind is a strange thing.

6
nosequel 2 days ago 0 replies      
Amazing writing, thanks for taking the time out to lay out every detail. It is hard to put yourself into an event like this when you at home sitting on your couch watching it on TV. I watch and see numbers (56 dead) and it is hard to really get emotionally involved with people who you most likely don't know when you have such generic details. Reading this, I feel like I was there, even for a moment.

Thanks again for putting something horrible like a bombing in perspective. I'm glad to hear you came out of it stronger on the other end.

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bootload 1 day ago 0 replies      
'I should be 1 of those people who can help others in this situation, not just a passive, helpless observer. I can help'

Kudos Dan.

I've noticed first hand as both a first-responder & bystander the different ways people react. It's broadly in 2 categories, those paralysed by the automatic Fear/Flight/Freeze response and those Individuals who shape the instinctual response with a trained response, overriding the Survival Stress Reaction [0] most people exhibit. You see 2 groups of people: those frozen by instinct and others who run towards trouble. People who are trained to respond run towards trouble.

The story Dan has written is a natural human story telling response to traumatic events. Re-telling the story(s) lets you make sense of what has happened and re-gain control over their own destiny. Safety is also being sought here. Control, safety & the knowledge you won't die.

Which brings me to my next point. Not everyone wakes up thinking, today's the day I'm going to be injured or killed then watch other people get injured or killed? Police, Ambo's, firemen, soldiers are exposed to this threat every day. They train hard and have the necessary support structures (sort-of) to survive. Civilians don't, so Scar stories of survival fulfil an important role.

People who have been in situations such as @swombat as a civvie or @mattdeboard in the military or @idan living in a potentially dangerous environment, the key thing they are striving for is to feel and be safe. Being safe is something you don't know you have until it's not there.

[0] SSR or Survival Stress Reaction is where "a state where a ‘perceived' high threat stimulus automatically engages the sympathetic nervous system.", Siddle.,B. "Sharpening the Warriors Edge: The Psychology & Science of Training"
http://www.amazon.com/Sharpening-Warriors-Edge-Psychology-Tr...

8
josscrowcroft 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is really great writing. Brings back very vivid memories from that day, which in retrospect I can't believe I never wrote down.

I was playing hooky from school, in a flat in Kings Cross, with my then-girlfriend, after a very late night. I was alerted to what had happened around 10am, when I answered the phone on perhaps the 7th ring, figuring I was in trouble for sciving.

I think my mum had already started planning my funeral by that stage. There's probably a decent chance that, had I gone to school, given my lateness, I might have been a bit closer to the action - the moral of which I take to be "skipping school saved my life"

Looking back now, I remember how the sense of relief I felt very quickly turned to a sense of despair and numbness, as more and more pictures came on the TV and more details emerged. The entire city was bleeding, but in a very strange way, much like what the writer of this post describes, a kind of zombie-like state where everything feels disconnected.

9
corin_ 2 days ago 3 replies      
Daniel, do you still think that following the driver's advice to not look right was a good decision?

I ask because I don't think, in the same situation, I would have been able to resist it, and I honestly have no idea what effect that sight might have.

When you do feel fear on public travel now (and I guess it was even worse in the past), what goes on in your mind? Is it one of those things where you know really that your worry is foolish but you can't help yourself, or is your entire brain telling you that you could be in trouble?

10
tlear 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very well written thank you for sharing, very few people can put this into words. What changed my life about 3 years ago was getting hit by a car (was my fault ran across a street to catch a streetcar). I clearly remember the whole thing, rolling over the hood, having the foot broken by the wheel. Lying on the pavement with people around me. Changed my life for the better.

Funny thing, I was carrying a sandwich I just bought and got pretty upset when paramedic stepped on the bag where the sandwich was!

11
krig 2 days ago 0 replies      
I was in the tube that day (but at a station far from the actual bombs) and probably because of that plus travelling the next day, I saw almost nothing of the coverage or what actually happened. I only noticed that something had happened after exiting the tube and getting stopped when trying to get back down at Piccadilly. It's a strange thought to look back and know that only through random chance did I happen to be on a train that wasn't involved.
12
flannell 1 day ago 0 replies      
My wife worked in the city for one of the big banks. A chap who worked there was in a similar situation. He missed the train that had the bombers on board, but he decided to grab a bus to work instead. This also had one of the bombers upstairs which moments later detonated killing most of the people on the bus.
What made it even worse is that everyone who died that day was taken to a makeshift morgue on Moorgate which is overlooked by the people who worked in his team. A really shocking day.
13
alexholehouse 2 days ago 0 replies      
Captivatingly written. I know what the author means regarding taking, "paralyzed by fear" as something figurative, not literal, until it actually happens to you.

I remember a few years ago (2006) seeing two very large military transport aircraft flying incredibly close together, very low, and directly towards the building I was in (on the 10th floor). I literally stopped mid sentence - they obviously turned away and went on to the nearby RAF base but for a while my brain just seemed to freeze. After the event, I felt a bit of a fraud and worried people might think I'd done it for dramatic effect, but it was totally involuntary - I just sat, motionless looking out the window for about 5 seconds.

14
heimidal 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for writing about this experience. I'm sure it must not be easy to relate something so traumatic and intimate to thousands of strangers, even six years later.

Many people who experience something like this never find the lesson from these experiences as you have, instead ending up with PTSD or similar; I hope that our governments can begin to respond more humanely to tragedies like this and help those who aren't able to find their own path out of fear with counseling and other assistance.

Our response to terrorism over the years has largely been one of fighting the threat (and understandably so). We should add to it a response of compassion for those who, through misfortune, find themselves harmed mentally in a way that most of society cannot understand.

15
spiffistan 2 days ago 0 replies      
Incredibly powerful writing, even more so when combined with that track.
16
richthegeek 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for sharing this - I was 17 and away from home (and news) when this happened and it never really struck home what happened that day.
17
padolsey 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for posting this. A poignant reminder.
18
Maro 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well written by a regular HN contributor, but not hacker news. If somebody is interested in Daniel's writings, they can just subscribe to his RSS.
12
Where's Waldo? stackoverflow.com
404 points by bkaid  2 days ago   30 comments top 12
1
sergeyk 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is a toy example of the kind of problem that the field of Computer Vision is actively working on: object detection. In a (tiny) nutshell, our best answer for general images and objects is:

1) Instead of using the full color pixel image, use an "edge image" with some simple additional normalizations. If color is important, do this per color channel.

2) Create a dataset with as many cropped examples of the target object as you can find (mechanical turk is useful for annotating large datasets); every other crop of every image is a negative example.

3) Train a classifier (SVM if you want it to work, neural network if you're so inclined) using this dataset.

4) Apply the classifier to all subwindows of a new image to generate hypotheses of the target object location. This can be sped up in various ways, but this is the basic idea.

5) Post-process the hypotheses using context (can be as simple as simply finding the most confident hypotheses within a neighborhood).

If you're interested in object detection, an excellent recent summary of the recent decade of research is due to Kristen Grauman and Bastian Leibe: http://www.morganclaypool.com/doi/abs/10.2200/S00332ED1V01Y2... (do some googling if you don't have access to this particular PDF).

A cool paper from a few months ago that should be mentioned when commenting on a post called "Where's Waldo?" is http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/rahul/data/WheresWaldo.ht...

2
TamDenholm 2 days ago 1 reply      
Something unrelated but perhaps interesting to some people, "Waldo" is actually a localised name for the USA and Canada, his original name is Wally.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Where%27s_Wally%3F

3
6ren 2 days ago 1 reply      
Are there other examples of it working? (if there were links, I couldn't see them).

There's a danger of overfitting, where a technique works for one instance (or a subset of instances), but not in general. Detecting stripes could work in general, but as a SO commenter noted, "Where's Wally" images often include spurious stripes to undermine this detection strategy for humans.

4
rgarcia 2 days ago 0 replies      
I had to play around a little with the level. If the level is too high, too many false positives are picked out.

I was impressed until I read that--the guy is basically fitting the model/procedure to the training set (of size 1). I'd wait for a more general approach before accepting the answer.

5
kevinalexbrown 2 days ago 0 replies      
Cool. I've done some work on things like this before. Some of the things I do to make it work on multiple images:

Template matching is your friend in this case, because most Waldos look similar. You already tried this in a basic way by searching for the stripes of a given color. You can make it more powerful by making the template include more properties, and work in more contexts. For instance: what if Waldo's a different size?

The other option is to pretend you don't know what Waldo looks like, find him in a bunch of images, label the subimages as "waldo" candidates, measure certain properties of those subimages, and find which of coordinates of feature space have similar properties. Then use these properties as your template.

Finally, you could train a classifier on subwindows like sergeyk suggested. This has some difficulty because where's waldo images are difficult to subdivide into subwindows on the scale of a single person. Do you move pixel by pixel? Do you divide it into a grid? Each grid will contain weird parts of people in each box. Etc. If you do find a way to divide the image into "people" -- perhaps by doing a preliminary "person"-template sweep that identifies locations of people in the image -- then you can use a supervised learning algorithm to say "yes, this person is waldo" or "nope, FRWONG!", based on the image properties in the subwindow around that person.

6
dice 2 days ago 0 replies      
The algorithm described by Heike is essentially just looking for striped red and white shirts. Anyone who's done more than a couple of "Where's Waldo?" games knows that striped shirts are often thrown in to draw one's eye. In fact, in this very example there is another striped shirt (lower left corner, just above the wall) which could very well have been Waldo that this algorithm did not highlight. Without being able to recognize Waldo's human characteristics (thin, glasses, strong chin) the approach described will inevitably fail.
7
ofca 2 days ago 1 reply      
Programming potential never ceases to amaze me. I want to learn more. NOW!
8
viscanti 2 days ago 1 reply      
This needs to be an augmented reality mobile app. The problem on the AI side of things is that a good algorithm that reliably "learns" what Waldo looks like would need a substantial number of examples.

A good solution to this would get close, then calculate the probabilities of every "maybe-waldo" and then display the one with the highest probability of being Waldo. An augmented reality app that highlighted Waldo on every page would be awesome.

9
re 2 days ago 1 reply      
10
brianbreslin 2 days ago 0 replies      
interesting problem. i'd like to then apply this concept of finding a needle in a haystack to satellite imagery. Using super-computing + giant image data sets, you could theoretically find some pretty obscure stuff if you knew what you were looking for (hidden treasures???).
11
danso 2 days ago 1 reply      
Amusing application, but I'd like to see the version that finds Waldo on the page in which everyone is wearing striped shirts
12
jastr 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is undoubtedly a data point on the path to the singularity.
13
I'm starting to think LEGO is evil sinker.tumblr.com
391 points by Sukotto  5 days ago   283 comments top 67
1
nostromo 5 days ago  replies      
When I see these stories taking companies to task over why they sell what they do, I always wonder why nobody holds consumers to task.

For example: why doesn't Lego sell to girls? Why doesn't Barbie have more realistic features? Why don't car manufacturers offer an electric vehicle? Why doesn't McDonalds sell salads instead of fries? Why do record labels offer such crappy music?

It's easy to blame the companies -- but in reality it's very hard for a single company to change the macro culture that informs their product decisions. If you want to find the root cause, look at the users and ask why they demand the products they do. In this case: "why are so few parents buying Legos for their girls?" or "why do girls feel a stigma about playing with Legos?"

2
ericabiz 5 days ago  replies      
As a girl geek who grew up on Legos, this makes me really, really sad.

From the NPR article linked to from the article above: "Lego also consciously aimed for boy customers when it embarked on its stunning turnaround. Boys were easier to sell to than girls."

headsmash

"The new Lego girl minifigures have names like Stephanie, Olivia, and Emma, and the building sets include a veterinary clinic, a hairdressing salon, a horse academy and a clinic."

We need more women scientists, girl geeks, etc. And for every person who loves to say "But boys and girls are just different!", there's a stunning example of sexist stereotypes embedded in the very things we buy our kids because our generation cherished them too...

(By the way, if you ever want a conclusive argument that girls being raised to love pink and hate math is societal, not genetic, read "Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference". It's pretty eye-opening, and has plenty of proof to back up its assertions.)

3
cstross 5 days ago 3 replies      
s/LEGO/toy manufacturers/

(There, I fixed it for you!)

The trend towards highly gendered media-tie in toys that are designed to generate follow-on sales opportunities for accessories rather than to encourage kids to develop their imagination through semi-structured but open-ended play nauseates me. I am doubtless betraying my personal bias here, but the corporate discovery that the quickest way to a parent's wallet is through their offspring is a bleakly exploitative example of market amorality; it may be legal, but is it decent?

4
bryanlarsen 5 days ago 3 replies      
I'm having trouble understanding the backlash against the new Lego for girls initiative. As the father of a couple of pre-school girls, I'm loving the new initiative.

It appears to consist of 3 things:

- realistic looking minifigs. Not square and not oversexed.

- additional brick colors, and not just pink.

- sets not based on movie tie-ins, but in real-world locations like an inventor's workshop, a café, an animal hospital and a beauty salon

These look like the perfect toys for young girls -- they encourage both creativity and role-playing. And as the latest science-based parenting books (Welcome to Your Child's Brain, etc) tell you, role-playing is the best way to develop self-control, which is the most valuable skill that can be imparted into a pre-schooler by a parent.

Sure, they're girly. So what? I want my girls to grow up proud to be girls, and aware that they can be whatever they want to be.

But to my mind, they seem better than most of the "boy" Lego sets out there, which appear to be much less repurposable, and are blatant commercial tie-ins or weapons of war.

5
javanix 5 days ago 7 replies      
Look: I will fully admit that these sets are really, really cool. My son is getting a gigantic Millenium Falcon set from Santa this year (DON'T TELL) and both my wife and I are excited to play with it too.

But it's a model kit. We will put it together once and we will play with it a lot and that will be that. It won't get remixed, won't get hacked. Eventually it'll come apart and be put away and not rebuilt because 1000 pieces is a pain in the ass.

This doesn't make any sense to me. Why on earth wouldn't you mix those pieces in with the rest of the pieces you already have from sets you've already disassembled? Sure, the marketing is a little much these days but unless I am sadly mistaken all the pieces still fit together like they did 30 years ago.

6
kellishaver 5 days ago 0 replies      
The top items on my daughter's (she's 9) Christmas list this year are the LEGO Space Center and LEGO Space Shuttle, both from the City collection. Other items on the list included some of the Alien Conquest sets.

The kid's got a ton of LEGO. The last thing she needs is more LEGO, but it's hands-down her favorite toy. She builds the sets and will play with/admire them for a while, then eventually all of the pieces get dumped into the Giant Bucket of LEGO, which is a huge 30gal bucket overflowing with bricks from sets we've bought her, and from my childhood and my husband's childhood (though oddly lacking in wheels). That's the beauty of LEGO and that huge mish-mash of a dozen sets works for any gender.

Maybe it's the fact that I already have a geek child who's into geek things (She's also getting a D&D red box this Christmas, per her request), but the marketing doesn't seem to have any effect on her. She just sees sets that she thinks looks cool and wants to buy them. I don't think that list would include veterinary clinics and pet spas from this new pinkification effort, either.... but even if it does, so what? You still end up with a bucket of mixed pieces for hours of endless, free-form creativity and building.

I do think that there are more sets available these days that are targeted toward boys, but I don't know that it's come at the expense of other options. You can still buy basic brick sets. There are still several items in the City series that aren't "cops and robbers" and things like the Mars Mission and Pharaoh's sets, or even the Harry Potter sets are no more boy-centric than the old LEGO space stuff used to be.

7
acabal 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've actually had similar thoughts about Lego in the past. When I was younger I used to love playing with the generic "space" Legos or the generic "castle" legos. Looking back, it was great because those sets where generic enough that you could imagine your own story for them. You wouldn't just be building sets, you'd be building universes.

Much of that is lost with movie-themed Legos. If a kid sees Star Wars and then goes to get the Star Wars Lego set, then the Luke Skywalker figure will always be Luke Skywalker, and the Vader figure will always be Vader, and you'll always need a Millenium Falcon around to join the party. Media tie-ins seem to greatly restrict (though of course not totally destroy) the potential for a kid to make up his own adventure. The universe is already imagined for you; in a sense, you become a participant, not a creator.

8
ahi 5 days ago 0 replies      
Got one of the castle themed products for a friend. The LEGO approved story:
"The Dragon Knights have captured the fair princess and locked her in their tower. The King's brave Knight sets forth to rescue her, but the tower is heavily fortified and well defended. Can he break through the iron gate and past the catapult to free her?"

I think my friend decided to retheme as an S&M brothel.

9
mhartl 5 days ago 0 replies      
A bit OT, but a fun exercise: every time you see the word "millennium", count how many "n"s there are. The answer is "one" an astonishing amount of the time, even in professionally edited copy. In fact, as of this writing the Google search for "Millennium Falcon" brings up an Amazon ad for"you guessed it"a "Lego Millenium [sic] Falcon". (Full confession: Around 2000, I was mortified to discover that I, a card-carrying spelling Nazi, had been misspelling it for years.)

N.B. You can remember the right spelling by recalling that a millennium is a thousand (mille) years (anni).

10
bad_user 5 days ago 1 reply      
It's simple - universal construction kits don't do well in commercials targeted at children.

The very ad he's mentioning targets parents not children. Marketing for toys used to be targeted at parents.

But not anymore - there are cartoon TV stations airing all day, filled with commercials for shitty toys. Then the child sees these toys in stores and starts crying. Parent gives up and buys them. End of story.

11
neovive 5 days ago 1 reply      
Here are some HN perspectives from 2009 (when Lego announced a large increase in profits (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=768093). The article is no longer available on Yahoo Finance, but can be found here (http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/news9940.html).

Branded, themed Lego sets simply sell really well and Lego is responding to the demand with increased capacity and more focus on these markets.

Here is a scenario of why it works:
Visualize a parent and child walking down the toy aisle at a typical large retailer (e.g. Target, WalMart, ToysRUs, etc.). The shelves are full of dozens of single-focus, low cost, electronic toys that are flashy and are very appealing to kids. A big box of Lego bricks just doesn't provide the same instant gratification as a talking toy with a "demo" button. Although, the long-term value of the box of Lego bricks is clearly much higher, explaining that to a 4 year-old is very difficult as they are concurrently making a strong appeal for, an even cheaper, talking doll.

Lego has responded with purchasing shelf space in retailers for branded sets that offer instant gratification while also satisfying the parents need for a more creative toy. Regardless, most of the pieces from the branded sets end of in the "big box" of Legos :).

12
jrockway 5 days ago 1 reply      
I think the key is to remind you kids that once you've built something according to the instructions and you're bored, it's time to take it apart and build something else. I remember playing with a lot of LEGO kits when I was a kid, and I always did this. It's true that, like coloring books, building from kits discourages creativity. But that's easy to fix with something called parenting. Let the instructions be an inspiration, not a prescription.

(And, it's not a bad skill to be able to follow instructions. I hear people on forums like HN complaining about how difficult it is to build IKEA furniture. If they played with LEGO when they were a kid, they'd probably be able to build their bookshelf too :)

13
jacquesm 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm an equal-opportunity lego distributor. Girls as well as Boys get just one kind of toy from me: Lego. Duplo for the urchins, 'regular' for 4 to 8's and technic for the older ones. Never seen a kid turn it down, whatever age or gender. For a lark I gave a bunch of it to some adults, claiming that I'd forgotten their birth dates. They ended up being at least as happy as the kids.

I've never given any 'themed' lego, just the plain stuff, no minifigs or other non constructive bits.

Lego is what made me see the power of building using re-usable blocks, the best possible primer for becoming a programmer that I am aware of outside of maths (and you typically don't start math beyond counting when you're a toddler).

14
amirmc 5 days ago 2 replies      
It's not Lego that's "highly-problematic". They're simply trying to give the kids(parents?) of today what they want.

If you follow the NPR article linked in the article, you'll see that Lego clearly did their homework before embarking on this new line. In light of this, I think it's odd for them to be accused of reinforcing stereotypes when their research showed that this is how (most) girls like to play.

I do think it's sad that we now have 'boy-lego' and 'girl-lego', but (for the moment), that appears to be appropriate for the world we live in. Maybe some of those girls will want to do more than just play with handbrushes and handbags and check out the Technics or Mindstorms. Who knows.

NPR article: http://www.npr.org/2011/12/15/143724644/ith-new-toys-lego-ho...

LEGO product lines: http://www.lego.com/en-us/products/default.aspx

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firefoxman1 5 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think they're evil so much as just catering to modern society. Legos are from an era where way more people built, fixed, and tinkered with things. Nowadays what do you do when your computer, phone, dishwashers, tv, etc. breaks? Take it to get repaired or get a new one. No tinkering, no opening it up to see how it works before you throw it away, none of that. So rather than thinking Lego is to blame for this attitude, I think Lego is just following their market. And can you really blame a company for wanting to stay afloat instead of following a shrinking breed of people and a idealistic mindset into the grave?
16
tomjen3 5 days ago 0 replies      
Before you complain, you can still get a big bag of Lego:

http://shop.lego.com/en-DK/LEGO-Basic-Bricks-Large-5623

I say still, because it is a family business and it seems those who would have gone on to run it have left the family tradition and are now much more interested in enjoying their wealth (which is considerable, in that they are one of the richest families in Denmark).

They would be the fourth generation, so I guess it was bound to happen. At least my children should be able to cut their teeth on Legos.

17
oz 5 days ago 3 replies      
" But if they've become toys marketed to a single gender, then we're just reproducing the already awful gender imbalance in STEM education and employment."

Why is it we never hear anyone decrying the 'awful gender imbalance' in Human Resources, Nursing and Teaching?

18
blhack 5 days ago 1 reply      
Just stop buying lego and start buying K-nex instead.

They are almost infinitely better. They are incredibly open ended, and can be used to build some very complex stuff.

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toast76 5 days ago 1 reply      
I don't get it.

You complain that a 5000 piece lego set is movie themed, when the only thing movie themed are the minifigs and the box it came in.

As kids every single lego set we had was built into the "model" precisely once, and then dumped in with the rest of the lego. We kept the instructions, but would never rebuild the original set. That's hardly the point of Lego.

As an adult I have a huge collection of Star Wars lego sets, including the Imperial Star Destroyer and Death Star. When my son is old enough (he's not yet 3), they'll get dismantled and put in a bucket all together. From that day on they WILL be generic lego pieces. The fact that they came in a Star Wars box is then irrelevant.

20
samstave 5 days ago 1 reply      
Whomever decided to kill Space Legos needs to be shot into orbit.

The model kits all suck. I went and bought $15 tubs of the wall of bricks recently and my kids get far more use from those random pieces than they do kits.

21
tristan_louis 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is, unfortunately, part of a trend against "make" culture. While it does impact LEGO (the tie-in stuff is pretty useless and the LEGO city sets still have more wholesome brick sets that can be used in more than one fashion), it is going on across many facet of toy manufacturing.

Those of us who are parents of young children now may remember the days in school when they taught us basic programming as part of computer training (either logo or basic, for example) which put us on the path to learning how to get the computer to do stuff we wanted it to do instead of consuming pre-made stuff on it. In today's world, a large amount of what's offered to kids is stuff that tied in to TV shows or movies, with little interest in helping develop the next generation of makers.

Sadly, LEGO's initial downfall was because it try to keep on focusing on the makers and its resurgence was on the back of pre-made, pre-imagined tools: when a kid is given a star wars or harry potter set, he/she is now letting his/her imagination run wild but is constrained by the pre-established story lines set in place by Hollywood (because let's face it, the tie-ins are to movies, not books).

The sad part is that the long term impact of this may be that it creates grown-ups further down the line who will feel that laws like SOPA are OK.

22
ugh 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is not a new development. Lego has had sets loudly targeting girls (or better: stereotypes about girls) since 1991. Lego Paradisa set where sold all through the 90s. Here is the Poolside Paradiese from 1992: http://www.brickset.com/detail/?Set=6416-1

The Lego Belville sets are similar and are still sold today. Here is the Pony Trekking set from 1997: http://www.brickset.com/detail/?Set=5854-1

It's possible to go even further back in time for more stunning displays of sexism. In 1971 many sets had photos of kids on them. There was a boy pushing a truck or putting together a car. Now guess what the only sets with girls on them were. A kitchen and a living room: http://www.brickset.com/detail/?Set=261-4

All that does't make it better. Yes, this is a problem that has to be remedied. But it is not a recent development.

In general I have to say that Lego improved massively since the dark ages (late 90s and early 2000s). I was just looking at some new Lego Creator sets and blown away by them. You couldn't get cool stuff like that during my (late) childhood (i.e. late 90s and early 2000s). I still loved the heck out of Lego during my childhood but today's sets are just cooler.

23
pkamb 5 days ago 1 reply      
That cops-and-robbers LEGO advent calendar is pretty weird.

I still have this guy hanging on my tree:
http://www.1000steine.com/brickset/images/1627-1.jpg

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hugs 5 days ago 0 replies      
LEGO is very closed source. I'm fixing that with my http://bitbeam.org project. It's an open source hardware Lego Technic compatible building toy that you can manufacture yourself. (I lasercut my bitbeams at TechShop in San Francisco.) My long term plan is to make a bitbeam-based CNC milling machine that can make more beams. I won't just sell the "bricks", I'll open source and sell the machines that make the bricks. Opening up the manufacturing process is something I suspect LEGO would never do. Also, I'd like to see a fully open source equivalent to Mindstorms - Arduino for the electronics and Bitbeam for the mechanics.
25
vacri 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is not new. When I was growing up with lego in the early 80s, there was a line of lego marketed at girls which were sets of lego that you made jewelery with.

Also, what nonsense is this that you won't make anything with the millenium falcon because 1000 pieces is too many? What garbage. How can lego possibly fix the issue that you refuse to make anything else with a set with lots of pieces?

Anyway, lego sets aren't atomic - buy a lego set, play with it, then mix it with your other stuff. You've just waxed lyrical about an ad where you can 'just make stuff', right after refusing to do so with a large set, with no real reason given.

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maximusprime 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is really really really boring.

Yes LEGO make LEGO "sets" that make a specific model. They also make a ton of generic building sets which teach you a ton of stuff. They even have walls of bricks in the shops where you can pick and choose which individual bricks you need.

If you don't like the specific building sets, don't buy those ones.

Every so often some people start moaning about how Lego is not the same as it was in their day. Stop whining.

(I've been a massive Lego fan for the last 30 years).

Oh and AWESOME NEWS! New DC sets coming in January! Now we can have Batman Lego sets again!!!!!

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billpatrianakos 5 days ago 0 replies      
Eh, they don't make 'me like they used to, right? I hardly think LEGO is promoting gender stereotypes. The new girl products and what they sell to boys aren't the problem but a symptom of a larger disease. Gender stereotypes are created within cultures and companies like LEGO don't really have an agenda like people would try to have us think. Instead they market what sells. The culture at large has put boys and girls into their respective roles and companies simply ride the trends. If boys were supposed to be in flowers and wear underwear on their heads then they'd make little Lego flower kits that came with little Lego men with underwear as hats. Companies have to look out for their share holders. If gender stereotypes are the norm then that's what they'll sell. If we, as a culture, change those stereotypes the companies will follow. It's great to be able to commend a company for taking the lead on such issues but we can hardly expect it. That change has to come from families first.
28
tlrobinson 5 days ago 1 reply      
I was also dismayed by their focus on movie tie-ins and set-specific pieces, but I really like the LEGO landmark/architecture series:

http://architecture.lego.com/en-us/products/

They're built with pretty much all standard pieces (though not necessarily standard colors).

29
MikeMacMan 5 days ago 0 replies      
I don't besmirch LEGO for doing what is an entirely rational for them: design products whose pieces, like puzzle pieces, don't have much versatility outside the context of that playset, leading children to tire of them quickly and want a new set.

Of course, LEGO still sells the general-purpose sets with instruction books to show you how to construct dozens of different buildings/vehicles/etc. My son prefers those, but every kid is different.

The No Girls Allowed theme is pretty easy to explain: mass-market films of the type that will have product tie-ins are almost universally aimed at boys, and LEGO is simply downstream from that trend.

There are toys that give kids' imaginations some exercise, and there are those that, like video games and Harry Potter LEGO sets, don't deliver quite the same workout. It's up to you to cultivate in your child a healthy appetite for the former.

EDIT: I would add that the Toy Story movies do a good job of echoing the nostalgia that adults feel for those older, simpler toys. My son and my affection for those movies has in some way conditioned us to stretch our imaginations and breathe new life into old toys.

30
duke_sam 5 days ago 0 replies      
I just bought a couple of the Builders of Tomorrow Set #6177. All regular pieces, no tie-in or specialist parts. Expand with a couple of specific sets for the minifigs or custom pieces and you are set. If you are lucky enough to live near a Lego store you can also expand the collection using the wall of bricks.

I've never liked the Lego kits (even as a kid) for the reasons already mentioned. You build them once and then the (building) creativity is gone. Give me a pile of 4x2 bricks any day.

31
mkramlich 5 days ago 0 replies      
two reactions:

1. yes and after you buy that specific-model-guns-ships set you can (b) build anything you want with it; (b) build model put on shelf never touch (or play with it); (c) build model then tear it apart and use pieces to make something from your imagination, etc. there are no rules. there are both generic brick-like pieces and special-purpose pieces and they can be put together in literally millions of ways, and now you can even see and share photos on the web, both for ideas and showing off.

2. girls really are different from boys, overall, and in the general case; I've lost track of the number of males I've known that like/liked LEGO and the number of girls/women that were like, "meh"; and I've seen first-hand, with my own eyes, over and over again, that my young nieces LOVE to play with dolls and dresses and princesses and jewelry, whereas LEGO's and guns? meh

LEGO is like a shining beacon in a sea of sludge and noise, in terms of educational value for kids and long-term replayability into adulthood, compared to most other toys. Criticizing LEGO is a bit like criticizing Michael Jordan for missing some shots in a game. It's Michael Jordan, mmkay?

Instructions show you how to build what's on the box. You are not required to do that, nor are you even required to buy LEGO at all.

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commieneko 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've been a Lego fan for, what, 45, 50 years? I've never in that time bought a single "kit" from them. You buy bricks. And other parts. But kits? Why would I want to build someone else's design. The whole idea behind Lego, as I've understood since I was 5 years old, is that you make your own cool stuff.

I've built space ships and air planes and monsters. I think I even built a Starship Enterprise once. But designing the things yourself is part of the process.

When my nieces were prime Lego age, at the advice of their mother, I did look at some kits, but was horrified at the prices. The bricks are pricy enough. I converted my money into tubs of bulk bricks. You can never have enough bricks.

(Now I did make some Tinker-Toy machines from company plans, but only enough to understand the principle. I then adapted them to my own nefarious purposes. I did the same with balsa wood flying model airplanes later.)

33
RyanMcGreal 5 days ago 0 replies      
> We will put it together once and we will play with it a lot and that will be that. It won't get remixed, won't get hacked.

My kids have gotten their share of Star Wars and Harry Potter themed Lego over the years, and in every case the original set was eventually taken apart - usually bit by bit in a kind of salvage operation for needed parts - and incorporated into the Lego bin. Once the pieces go into general circulation, they're used to build an arbitrary collection of original ships, buildings and so on.

34
veyron 5 days ago 0 replies      
I disagree. I think, with many of the new sets, a whole class of new pieces were explored.

As a kid, the only cars I really remember were the ones with the small base (3x4 with an elevated segment for the tiny wheels). When I rediscovered legos, I noticed that many sets have larger base plates (for larger vehicles) -- width 6 stubs.

And the pick-a-brick are surprisingly deep in terms of shapes and sizes (I definitely don't remember the curved translucent pieces designed to emulate glass).

35
joelhooks 5 days ago 1 reply      
The BrikCrate has changed how my kids approach Lego. It was completely "build the set, forget about it" prior to installing it. Now they build like crazy in free form. http://www.brikcrate.com/

Our daughter enjoys building too.

36
shin_lao 5 days ago 1 reply      
I think he forgot you can now order whatever LEGO piece you are looking for online.

So basically LEGO tries to sell to people who will not hack on the LEGO with very cool models but provides formidable tools if you want to hack your own LEGO.

You can even submit your own models if I'm correct.

37
gus_massa 5 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know how to fix this for the whole society, but it is possible to fix this for your daughter: Go and buy a generic Lego set, for example http://www.amazon.com/b/ref=amb_link_355233462_11?ie=UTF8...

The same rule applies for yours nieces. And for the (female) friends of your children (If you really want to look more normal, you can buy the "pink" box.).

My 9 years old daughter has:

* Her own chemistry set

* An "X-100" microscopy (It is really of my wife.)

* A Meccano-like metalic cosnstruction set.

* A Snap Circuits Jr electronic Set.

And this year, one of her "Christmas" present is an Arduinos Sparkfun Professional Inventor's Kit, because she wants to make a robot, but she didn't want a robot kit. (I still don't know we will complete the robot, but the idea is to start with something simple and iterate.)

If you think that it is important to give your daughter a good scientific formation (or if you think that it is the only sensible way to raise a children), you can fight back.

To see another example, go to the Sylvia's Super-Awesome Maker Show! : http://sylviashow.com/

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RexRollman 5 days ago 0 replies      
Am I the only one who would love to have a real, life-size set of Legos, big enough to build an actual dwelling? That would be a dream come true.
39
harryf 5 days ago 1 reply      
Side note but the ultimate evil present for parents of small kids is to buy the kid a Playmobil Castle for Christmas - http://www.amazon.com/Lion-Knights-Castle-by-Playmobil/dp/B0...

As a parent that spent over 16 hours assembling one last Christmas then watching it disintegrate again, the "joy" this gift brings cannot be described. A great present if you have a brother or sister with kids you feel compelled to annoy.

40
jkeel 5 days ago 1 reply      
My daughter loves legos and seems to really love the Harry Potter legos. I do agree that getting generic legos instead of boy centric seems more challenging but they are out there.

What I really connected with more in this article was the advent calendar with the cops and robbers. My wife told me a while back, "I got this cool lego advent calendar online". I was like, "cool!". Then I saw this cops and robbers theme and I told her, "Is this really what Christmas is about in the US now? <santa voice>Hey kids! Be careful out there as there are people that want to break into your house and steal your stuff!</santa voice>"

I know, I know... If I don't like it then don't buy it. I agree. I still think it's a strange advent calendar even though my son actually likes it.

41
ja27 5 days ago 0 replies      
My daughter grew up with LEGO and still plays with them. She doesn't need pink or purple blocks or over-sized female figures. All she wants different is a few female minifigs once in a while. I don't think there is a single one in either advent calendar. There are almost none anymore except Hermione in the Harry Potter licensed sets. Somewhat ironically, one of the few we have is the female doctor from last season's FIRST LEGO League competition set.
42
code_duck 5 days ago 1 reply      
While I vastly prefer the open-ended building blocks to the themed sets, I did like the semi-generic Lego space theme as a child. Also very cool were Tente, a Spanish space themed building kit series... they were very futurist and stylish: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tente_(Toys)

The more open ended toys clearly have an advantage in terms of creativity, and most children have creativity to spare.

43
betageek 5 days ago 0 replies      
Lego's patent on the basic block design has run out so it's actually a pretty smart strategy of Lego to move to licensed properties over the last decade - what else could they do? I've already seen some Hello Kitty "minifigs" with Lego compatible blocks, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

http://boingboing.net/2011/10/21/expired-patent-of-the-day-l...

44
trout 5 days ago 0 replies      
They've also got the 'Creator' line which is more of what I traditionally think of Lego.

So, when I bought a set that's the one I chose. Now, I did have to wade through the other 30 brands to find it, but I was happy they still had at least one choice.

Now more people should buy these if the market wants it - but I'll agree these aren't marketed enough.

45
kin 5 days ago 0 replies      
So I played the Lego board game series Heroica recently and at first I thought it was brilliant. It's pretty much a simplified version of D&D where you build the map with Legos. Then at the end I realized that the game-play pieces were set specific and you couldn't do what I thought was the point.

What I thought was that you could use any lego piece you want and add it to the set and use any lego figure and add it to the set and simply follow the same gameplay mechanics to a map limited only by your imagination. Let's play Heroica with Harry Potter pieces. Nope can't do that. You have to purchase their overpriced sets and only play what the sets let you do.

Looks like they're just looking for cash based off of numbers. Bummer.

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sceaj 5 days ago 0 replies      
My daughter is 4. She loves LEGOs. She also loves bugs, snakes, sharks, dinosaurs, Star Wars, her train set, Barbies, princesses, fairies, puppies, and sneaking into her grandma's makeup.

My son is 11 months old. He's taken a liking to cars and balls, but he also loves his sister's Barbies. Particularly, he likes to pull their hair, but I think he's drawn to the (ahem, slight) humanness they possess. They look friendly.

Separating "boys' toys" from "girls' toys" is pretty much nonsense. Of course, older boys aren't going to want to play with Barbies. Not necessarily because they wouldn't enjoy it, but because they are marketed to girls, and, most importantly, they would get made fun of for doing so. Were it socially acceptable for boys to play with Barbies, I promise they would.

Realize that when we're shopping for toys for my daughter, the toy store is twice as big for her, because she's not aware that she isn't supposed to like action figures and rc cars.

I think the genderizing of colors is just crazy. What makes pink a "girl's color" and blue a "boy's color" ? I'm convinced it's just marking influence. Most girls' clothes are pinks and purples, and similar "girly" colors. With that, most of what my daughter wears is pink or purple. Of course she loves the colors; we drape her in them daily. She chose blue, green, and red for her bedroom, and we let her do that, instead of saying "No, no, those colors are for boys."

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zyb09 5 days ago 0 replies      
Buy the right thing for your daughter, that you think will influence her in the right way? How come the responsibility to raise a child lies not in the parents anymore, but rather in companys and what they want to sell to them. Nothing is stopping you from dumping a big pile of mixed LEGO pieces in her room for christmas.
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batiudrami 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think you're confusing 'evil' with 'takes reasonable actions to ensure that it, as a company, is as profitable as possible'.
49
rglover 5 days ago 0 replies      
“With New Toys, Lego Hopes To Build Girls Market.”

That, right there, is the problem. The people making the toys don't find value in making children happy or inspiring them to be creative/innovative; when all is said and done, girls are just another market.

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gavanwoolery 5 days ago 1 reply      
<sarcasm> Wait...a toy that is oriented primarily towards boys? It must be evil! </sarcasm> In that case, Barbie is evil, GI Joe is evil, Transformers are evil, My Little Pony is evil, etc...
51
emp_ 5 days ago 0 replies      
I buy legos 1-2 a year for my four girls, I never get anything with themes tho.

Only basic blocks and let their skills do the rest, you'd be amazed what they can do.

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gibsonf1 5 days ago 0 replies      
For the most amazing building toy with great hackability, I highly recommend Uberstix - you can build planes that fly, boats that sail, robots, buildings, dynamic systems, catapults etc etc: http://www.uberstix.com/
53
seagreen 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to make a point that applies to some (but by no means all) of the comments above. Outrage isn't a very useful emotion. It's become the default emotion for things like this because politicians like to keep people in a state of frothy indignation. That's carried over to the rest of our culture but it's not a good thing.

Resolve is a much better emotion than outrage. What can I do to encourage better behavior? Buying good LEGO sets as presents for children and evangelizing about LEGO to friends spring immediately to mind. Or maybe getting involved with the 3D printing movement.

In summary, I'm suspicious that alternating between "intellectual curiosity" and "resolving to take action" is a much better way of reading articles on the internet than the alternate strategy of alternating intellectual curiosity and outrage.

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alanh 5 days ago 0 replies      
I Made Things with LEGO blocks growing up. I loved the kits and the space themes. But I would always end up creating my own spaceship.

My young sisters build… but they mostly just build very simple props and then play with the LEGO people like dolls, inventing dramas and friendships and the like.

It's the same set of LEGO bricks I used.

Is it evil to recognize this?

55
djhworld 5 days ago 0 replies      
What I'm struggling to understand is, why are they releasing these new style girly minifigs?

I always thought Lego was supposed to be gender agnostic

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jacobr 5 days ago 0 replies      
If you want random bricks or just don't care to spend a fortune, look for used Lego and Duplo (big Legos) and just run it through the dish washer.
57
wgrover 5 days ago 0 replies      
LEGO's "Creationary" game always gives me pause. I suppose it's 3D "Pictionary" but the name makes me think it'll be about disproving evolution...

http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Creationary-3844

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kghose 5 days ago 0 replies      
Oh, BTW, I just had to share this guy's work:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/marshal-banana/

Especially his sand crawler. I really liked that

http://www.flickr.com/photos/marshal-banana/sets/72157626809...

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rokhayakebe 5 days ago 3 replies      
Does LEGO have some sort of patent on "legos"? In other words are other companies allowed to build similar kits?
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codergirl 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is offensive, I will just have to stick with my computer engineer barbie instead: http://gizmodo.com/5470587/computer-engineer-barbie-has-a-ph...
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joejohnson 5 days ago 0 replies      
There are LEGO advent calendars!? That is so cool. I'm definitely getting one next year.
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tombell 5 days ago 1 reply      
I feel the need to point out the obvious. It's LEGO not LEGOS or legos.
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littlenag 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've been extremely sad the past 5 years with lego. I graduated college in 2006 and when I got a real job I thought that for Christmas I would be getting my niece and nephew legos. I loved them growing up (technic for the win!) and wanted to get them started on this obsession as well. But try as I might the trend that I saw start when I was 10 or 12 has continued to almost completely corrupt what I recall lego as being. No longer is it a where you get to imagine and design, and then play, all the "work" of design and imagination has been removed leaving only the "play". That's all kids want right, to play? Aw well, at least I got to have some good times.
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ajuc 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if rep-rap can print good enough lego pieces?
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twodayslate 5 days ago 1 reply      
What is wrong with Nerf? I love the new stuff they put out. I would have loved a Nerf Sword when I was a kid!
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brain5ide 5 days ago 0 replies      
LEGO used to be a brand. Now it's more of a platform.
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draggnar 5 days ago 0 replies      
in america this is called having a niche
15
Dear Congress, It's No Longer OK To Not Know How The Internet Works vice.com
382 points by nextparadigms  4 days ago   77 comments top 24
1
meric 4 days ago 3 replies      
We're talking amongst ourselves, agreeing with each other. This letter is targeted at us, not congressmen.

I am almost certain every letter any MPAA lobbyist sends to any congressman does not call the congressman a "jack-ass" in the second paragraph. Or any paragraph at all. I tentatively suggest we might have more success if we do the same.

What do congressmen want? Influence, votes and praise. What are we doing? Criticising ("stupid", "jackass", "corrupt", "ignorant") and telling them how to do their jobs. ("They should X, they should Y"). Naturally any congressman will feel defensive as soon as they read our "internet engineer" writing.

I propose a three point plan, to ensure the long-term security of our internet:

1. Tell congressman how important they are, because our personal freedoms and privacy are at risk, and they are the only ones who can protect us.

(Rather than important because they protect content owners from piracy, or being important because of some potential job at Universal when they retire)

2. Offer congressman the choice of being "Defender of personal freedom/privacy" vs "Distributor's stooge".

(Rather than champion of artists' rights vs protector of pirates)

3. Educate public of SOPA and tell congressman how many votes they are going to get by defending the public against the SOPA law that cracks down on small businesses on the internet, many of which are operated by your everyday man.

I'm sure every congressman, when first elected, thought to themselves about how they are going to change the way the government works and always represent the best interests of the people. I suggest we re-ignite this vision that exists in every congressman.

EDIT: I just realised I'm republican, with all my talk of "freedom", "privacy" and "small businesses". :)

2
noonespecial 4 days ago 2 replies      
I just wish they'd stop thinking of it as a funny, cute, or self-deprecating bit of humor to stand up and say "I'm no tech wizard, I can't even set my (vcr|alarm clock|mobilePhone).

Its not funny.

It should be as shameful and troubling as getting up and saying "I'm no 'student' and I don't know how to do this 'reading' thing, but here's what I think about books."

3
GigabyteCoin 4 days ago 4 replies      
In all fairness, "knowing how the internet works" is a gargantuan task. I doubt even many HN members could comment without making a mistake at the SOPA hearings as well.

The fact remains that something like congress (a group of people to vote on literally everything we do) is required in a democracy, and "a group of people" is never going to know everything there is to know about everything.

There are probably a million farmers out there as well who strongly believe that congress should understand the genetic modification of seeds, for example.

4
shingen 4 days ago 3 replies      
Quite frankly they don't even know how a normal economy works, how manufacturing works, what generates real middle class job growth, how wealth is created (hint: not from insider deals via political connections). They're like captains of a ship that know nothing about how a ship is built or what makes it float.
5
tlb 4 days ago 3 replies      
From a sufficiently conservative point of view, SOPA outlaws piracy. Of course they're not interested in the pirates explaining technical details of pirating. They know it when they see it.
6
GuiA 4 days ago 1 reply      
Most of us perceive this huge aberration because we are in tech, but the average person is completely oblivious to that and probably thinks that legislators know what they are reasoning about.

The scary part is when you realize that they are statistically just as uneducated in many other areas that they take decisions in (especially those that might touch on scientific issues and require rigorous analysis: ecology, medecine, etc.) and there's not much done to prevent that.

7
einhverfr 4 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder how far we should take this. TCP/IP training for all Congressmen? How about including detailed briefings of how MPLS works as well?

Actually the tubes metaphor is closer (particularly regarding MPLS backbones) than people are willing to accept both because of the pipe metaphor (a socket being two pipes) and the use of label switching (which acts logically as a big series of pipes).

And along these lines, bandwidth was originally a technical term in plumbing.....

8
JoshTriplett 4 days ago 1 reply      
Actually, I have no problem with Congress lacking knowledge about how the Internet works, as long as they keep their hands off of it.
9
suprgeek 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yes Congress it is perfectly OK to not know how the Internet works.

If congressmen/women can pass all manner of legislation without knowing how Medicine or Medical care works, How Car manufacturing works, How basic economics works, How Basic Science Research works, How Global climate works, etc, etc - Why should the Internet be a special case?

Face it Median Age at which Senators take office is 51* years (with a few exceptions) Ignoring all the special interests, Politics, etc etc - How many 51+ year olds (non -IT) are really comfortable with the Web?

[*]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_United_States_S...

10
jen_h 4 days ago 0 replies      
Dear Congress, it may be okay to not know how the Internet works. "Math is hard!" and all that. However, your oath of office dictates that you uphold the Constitution, including and especially the Fifth Amendment.
11
ggchappell 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't agree.

It's quite acceptable to me for Congress not to know how technical stuff works. But they do need to pay attention to the input of their constituents and experts in the field. They also need to make sure constituents get enough information, in a timely manner, to allow them to advise Congress appropriately.

P.S. Why the endless mockery of the late Ted "Series of Tubes" Stevens? (Because he said "tube" instead of "pipe"?)

12
dcaldwell 4 days ago 1 reply      
I understand the author's frustration that Congress does not understand how the internet works. But does anyone know of any simple article or books that would be able to teach non-tech savvy Congressmen how the internet works? The material would probably need to be short enough for them to digest in 1 full day at a maximum. If anyone has any great suggestions, I would be happy to pass them along to my Congressman.
13
vaksel 4 days ago 2 replies      
Frankly, it's about time Google gets into politics, and starts throwing their weight(and money) around.

Google makes more money than the entire opposition combined. Create a internet freedom pac, fill it with a few hundred million, hire a few lobbyists, and buy back the government.

14
cmcewen 4 days ago 0 replies      
Dear Congress,

It's no longer okay (and never has been) to listen to people who are paid to convince you to pass a law that benefits only them. Instead, you should listen to the people who know what they are talking about and aren't being paid.

15
aj700 4 days ago 0 replies      
rather than post lists of ip addresses somwhere (which, btw, won't work on virtual servers that have multiple sites on one ip) we need something the rest of the world can link to if we expect Americans to use the links on our site, so we can write for example href="

      http://uncensoredsite.de/redirect?siteiwant=thepiratebay.org

which returns http-equiv refresh; url=194.71.107.15

-- essentially a web-based, but trustworthy dns service.

there are sites like

http://baremetal.com/cgi-bin/dnsip?target=thepiratebay.org

but they're presumably just doing a lookup on a us-based nameserver, we need a site that uses an uncensored server and that provides an http redirect.

Is there to be direct blocking of ip addresses at all? Will everyone nerdy in America just be able to change their OS DNS settings to something outside the US?

16
SODaniel 3 days ago 1 reply      
Actually, it's 100% OK to not know how the Internet works. What is NOT OK is to have no idea, but still vote on Internet exclusive issues.

THAT is just outright stupid!

17
megablast 4 days ago 4 replies      
I don't agree with this. Congress can only know so much, and I would prefer them to understand how health care works, how wars work, and how spending money works way before they understand the internet. In fact, there are dozens of things they should know before the internet.

Actually, if they just outlawed lobbyists that would be a big start.

18
meow 4 days ago 0 replies      
"well meaning"

I don't think we can assume that any more. Not with every amendment being shot down with glee and contempt.

19
radarsat1 3 days ago 0 replies      
Not that this would solve _all_ the issues raised by this bill, but it's really way past time for a decentralised replacement technology for DNS.
20
nsomaru 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is what happens when you let companies contribute to the campaigns (i.e. ability to rise to power) of politicians.

The American system is broken, get with the program.

21
yuhong 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have been thinking about dividing Congress/Parliament into working groups focused on a specific topic instead of political parties focusing on a specific ideology for a while now.
22
chrisbennet 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really doubt that they are hell bent on passing this (just) because they are ignorant of how the internet works. I imagine they need to pass this in order to justify certain campaign donors.
23
drunkenmasta 4 days ago 1 reply      
I know that this is slightly off topic, but can someone tell me what the site is built with? I looked at the source did not figure it out. Back on topic, I agree that no law should be passed in ignorance and with no intention of expert testimony. The way it is done now makes it seem as if they already made up their mind but they want and go through the motions to make it look like they are debating.
24
meanJim 4 days ago 0 replies      
"This used to be funny, but now it's really just terrifying. We're dealing with legislation that will completely change the face of the internet and free speech for years to come. Yet here we are, still at the mercy of underachieving Congressional know-nothings that have more in common with the slacker students sitting in the back of math class than elected representatives. The fact that some of the people charged with representing us must be dragged kicking and screaming out of their complacency on such matters is no longer endearing " it's just pathetic and sad."

THISSSSSSS

16
Desingineer " the mythical person every startup is looking for brajeshwar.com
347 points by Brajeshwar  1 day ago   196 comments top 79
1
sbisker 22 hours ago 9 replies      
About six years ago, I decided to become a "desingineer", by accident. Here's how it went down:

After getting a BS and M.Eng in Computer Science, everyone was pleased as punched to let me code for them. But I wanted to code and design interfaces as well. What a strange idea - a programmer also making the interfaces.

Well, it turned out no one would take me seriously unless I had designed interfaces in a professional environment before. I needed someone that would take a chance on me, to actually let me design their UIs while hiding me away in their software team. (I managed to find one job that would, and for that I'm forever grateful.)

Once I picked up some experience designing UIs, the top companies wouldn't would take me seriously until I had some formal design training and credentials. So, I went back for a degree in Interaction Design.

Once I finished my degree, the top companies wouldn't take me seriously until I shipped some code that had my own designs in it. So I did that for a while, in a few hybrid dev/designer positions.

Once I shipped my code, the top companies wouldn't take me seriously until I had shipped a design of my own creation that was also my own (so, owning the UI, UX, code and business strategy). So I got back into entrepreneurship (something I'd largely given up with my pure CS focus), and started creating and shipping my own designs.

Now, as an entrepreneur, interaction designer and computer scientist, the top companies won't take me seriously until I start shipping designs of my own creation that are also visually stunning. Working on it. :)

--------------------

Only now, six years later, do I realize that no one will ever take you seriously unless they can define you.
Programmers can be understood, and slotted. They have real, respected career paths. Designers can be understood, and slotted. They have real, respected career paths as well. Even Interaction Designers are slowly becoming understood.

Being a desingineer, while bringing me incredible amounts of joy, also feels absolutely terrible - because people are constantly coming along with ideas of what you can or should bring to an organization. The limits of the position are such unknowns, in fact, that sometimes people feel desingineers should be everything to everyone.

Sometimes that comes out of with a sense of greed - after all, it's on the desingineer to prove they shouldn't have to do all of those things, right? And, in fact, they feel entitled to everything. Early-stage startups are particularly bad about this, I've noticed - their "first designer hire" posts often forget that everyone starts somewhere. (Sorry, but it's true.)

But other times people simply misunderstand how long it takes to become good at each of the individual skill sets involved. And other times companies are still sorting out what skill sets their companies actually need in the same person.

-------------------

Is there anything we can do, as a community, to bring some clarity and definition to "desingineering" - so kids coming out of school don't have to go through what I have gone through? It's obvious that this is a position that companies need, but it's not one that will be treated with respect until its own practioners - a fair number of whom seem to be on HN - actively come together to help define it.

2
asolove 1 day ago 10 replies      
I think the problem is not that one person can't have both of these skills, but that it is hard to play both roles on the same project unless you have a lot of discipline.

The engineering mindset and the UX design mindset optimize for different things. Even if you are excellent at both, it helps to have someone else forcing you to get the UX right when you're doing the engineering work, and to make the engineering possible when doing the design work.

The people who can do both at the same time don't differ in having both skills -- lots of people have them -- but in having the discipline to optimize for both in alternation.

3
tibbon 22 hours ago 4 replies      
I am a designineer. The problem is that it doesn't make you an expert of all skills. Jack of all trades, master of none.

While I took AP CS in high school, I can't rattle off the to O-notation of most algorithms. While I took plenty of art and design classes over the years, I'm no Jony Ives.

But, its not about what I can't do in my mind, but what I can do. I learn most things very quickly. I'm decent in Ruby and can get stuff done. I can get around Photoshop decently. I'm good at understanding what the customer wants and the product needs. I know how the pieces glue together. I don't mind meeting with VCs, talking to customers or interviewing people.

Yet contrary to popular belief, I don't find people bashing down my door. I don't have the sexiest Github account. The startups I've worked for aren't huge. When I'm asked what I do I reply, "Coding, marketing, product and design". Then they ask if I'm a Java or Ruby coder with 4-7 years of solid experience and a CS background.

Maybe the difference is I don't see myself as being a "full stack" guy, but a "full company" guy. I understand what everyone needs to be doing, and I have (often good) ideas of how a problem might be approached better.

I personally see myself as a huge asset to any company. I often end up doing the productivity of 2-3 people with more traditional backgrounds, but its a really hard sell honestly. I could try selling myself as a manager I suppose, but I'm not sure.

4
tedkimble 22 hours ago 3 replies      
Engineering and designing are much more similar than they are different.

I recently completed a four-year graduate design degree (architecture) after a lifetime of math, physics and not a whip of art or design experience. Here's my take on this issue.

Engineering and design are both fundamentally processes of creation. While both creations must meet one or more objectives, the types of those objectives often differ. Engineers tend to optimize for quantitative objectives and criteria; designers tend to optimize for qualitative objectives and criteria.

I think this difference has two significant consequences:

1. The solution space for designers (or anything with qualitative criteria) is much larger than for engineers.
2. There are many more opportunities for mediocre design than there are for mediocre engineering.

By point 2., I mean that not only is the solution space of design much larger, but there are also many more "attractors" of solutions. In engineering, the attractors have a strong pull and are more recognizable as such. And, because the solution space is more quantifiable, the relations between those solutions are more well understood and comparable.

In design, the attractors are more fuzzy and their locations in the solution space are often unknown. This allows anyone who can find a mediocre design solution (especially those who find "pretty" visual ones) to become a "designer". But good designers must do much more. They must understand the design space enough so that, from any starting point, they can justifiably navigate towards that same design solution.

This involves crossing certain thresholds -- bifurcations -- in which the nature of the design solution changes. Recognizing when to cross these thresholds is, in my opinion, a task perfectly suited for analytical thinkers. You don't need to be able to create visually pleasing designs to find the best design solutions. Visual aesthetics are simply one component of optimizing the already discovered design solution.

So my advice to engineers is this: forget about visuals. Design analytically, question the existence of design components and their relationships. If you cannot justify their existences and relationships, you need to somehow change their nature (bifurcate the design) until you can justify it. Often starting from the bottom-up is the best way to accomplish this.

Once a design solution is in sight, optimizing its visual aesthetics is much easier -- you've already framed its problem so well!

Finally, I must note the three tasks which are essential to the design process: research, experimentation and documentation. Surely these tasks are also vital to engineers, or anyone else involved in processes of creation.

---

(PS If anyone would like to talk about how many of the concepts of dynamical systems theory can be used in the design process (and the design itself!), I'd love to hear form you!)

5
pg 21 hours ago 1 reply      
They're not entirely mythical. I was this person for Viaweb, and YC has funded several founders who are both hackers and designers.
6
aspir 1 day ago 2 replies      
Every freelancer in my area is, by this definition, a "Desingineer." I'm in the midwest, so there's almost no other way to get work other than go full stack. Obviously, some are better at the back end and some are better designers, but they have to do it all.

Honestly, this reinforces the issue that startups do a poor job of recruiting outside of their 20 mile radius. For example, its early in the office, and I still see 5 people who have pushed high level applications, good front ends, and the occasional mobile app.

7
brianchesky 22 hours ago 0 replies      
When I worked as an industrial design, we had a similar person on staff that sat at the intersection of design and engineering - we call this person a design engineer.

We have this role at Airbnb.

8
evlapix 23 hours ago 1 reply      
I recently applied at a YC funded startup. Their job description had the most random combination of front-end/back-end technologies that exactly matched my recent focuses, and said absolutely nothing about design. I considered myself extremely qualified.

I received a call the following day and was told I was a top candidate. As the interviews progressed with each founder (3 of them), I started to get the impression that they also wanted a designer. I was super careful about managing their expectations and let them know I wouldn't count on my design skills for anything more than "not ugly".

I didn't get an offer.

This is the second time in my very remote, limited experience I've speculated a startup hiring stereotype that has later been echoed in the community. I've convinced myself that both indicate the lack of experience that startup founders have in hiring. Yet another reason I suspect founders can't find talent. After all, what kind of established, motivated and passionate, developer/designer would want to bet their livelihood on a startup that doesn't pay well, isn't clear about its expectations, and shows signs of inexperience?

9
bigohms 23 hours ago 2 replies      
I have about 14 years into my career as a web guy who can code (front to back), design killer UI and create, execute and grow business strategy.

What that being set! "being" a generalist is not for everyone.

There are some things to note:

1. Keeping up with all three is a LOT of work. Understanding the latest javascript libraries, deployment tech, UI tools and successful business models take a ton of time. I roughly spend 15-30 hrs a week trying new things our, designing or running spreadsheets not to mention the meetups and whatnot.

2. Every startup is looking for this person because they can enable so many parts of the success equation in one, self-contained shot. They add more value per square inch at critical phases of business growth that is a considerable asset. As a startup grows, this is personality turns into an optimal product lead, who can drive major decisions and participate in meaningful discussions with teams, investors and press.

3. Large corporations are not tuned to need or understand your services, unless you are accomplished in mid- to senior-level management positions.

4. You can visualize and eval business ideas quickly, then be able to communicate them to specialists with ease. I can't tell you the number of times being able to verbalized the need for a linked list or onHover whatever has made communcation easier with people who I bring to help me execute. This makes you a better implementer who is respected by counterparts and team members. Business folk quickly grasp CLV and burn margins when deciding to invest or advise.

4. You don't necessarily become an expert in everything. In fact, it's near impossible. I've had to focus of two or three major activities and fine tune my skills. This could mean I will be specializing in the future.

5. You don't get rest. The world is moving quickly, technology even faster. There are millions of able and hungry people willing to execute on their great ideas every single day. That means I have to keep moving or lose my flow. I can probably point to 7 or so ideas that were launched in the time I was evaluating the opportunity with 3 that have gone onto real growth.

10
davesims 21 hours ago 1 reply      
I do all of those, and I am definitely not a genius. Nor all that rare. Most of the projects I've worked on in the last 5 years have had several devs who could go end-to-end, and the ones that weren't were working towards that goal.

It's really not rocket surgery, it's just a matter of applying yourself over time and every few months acquire new skills in an essential area. CSS, JS, Ruby, TCP/IP, HTTP/REST, UI/UX, SQL, design patterns, on and on. Set em up and knock em down. Be a generalist, but be a very good one.

It's not that hard to accomplish over time and it keeps you engaged longer. Heck, it's just more fun. I'm an 'older' coder and taking that approach I think has kept me from getting bored, kept me sharp and also kept me from feeling like all these young'uns is passin me by. Hey! Get off my lawn...

11
geekfactor 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is wrong. Everyone knows that modern startups are looking for a Desingineerketer.
12
thinker 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm a desingineer - ux, visual design, solid on front-end and okay on backend. Just wanted to point out its not all a bed of roses.

For the last month I've been interviewing at some really amazing startups. What I've found is that I have no problem getting interviews at some of the best startups (>50% response rate) because well everyone wants someone who can code and design . The problem is that I have to fight an uphill battle to prove that I'm not just a designer that writes HTML/CSS. There is ALWAYS the question of "so...how good are your frontend skills?" with an intonation of doubt. No one actually bothers to ask or determine about the level of your design skills. Another question is "which one do you prefer?". I really hate that question because it shows you don't understand what a product focused engineer is.

Positive response really depends on the stage of a startup. I'm finding that teams between 5-20 are looking more for specialists in design and engineering. Any smaller or bigger and a desingineer becomes a very valuable role to fill. So feeling I'm missing out on opportunities at some great startups cause of this phenomenon. Would e interested to know if anyone else has experienced this?

It's definitely causing me to think about my career path. Do I focus on one or the other? I know I am not great at both and that is because I have to spread myself thin in both areas and dont know the best tools and practices as well as I should.

Being a desingineer makes it really easy to start your own thing be it a startup or side project - I've done it a few times myself. However, sometimes you need financial stability, or are waiting for a significant idea, or just want to work with other really smart people on an idea with traction to gain more experience.

So we aren't unicorns and it's definitely not a double-rainbow life.

13
ntomkin 1 hour ago 0 replies      
It's funny that this is a thing now. In the early days of the web, being a Designineer was a necessity to get anything done in most web-type companies.

Some will say, "well, you probably aren't on level with a rockstar coder." This is probably true, although my clients are very happy. I can wireframe, design and code a large-scale web app without having to consult a single person (other than the client, of course).

I am starting my own web company now and I am finding that the Designineer badge helps me in great ways. For example, I wanted to quickly create a prototype to show a potential client a better way to go with their website. Normally, in a web company of 5-10 people, this would require consulting a coder, designer and whomever else is involved in the drafting of a project. This could potentially tie up 2/3rds of the company for the possibility of landing a new client. For me, this was all handled inside of a few hours and it makes the company appear more staffed than it actually is.

14
sp4rki 21 hours ago 0 replies      
In my case I'm a designeer because of the circumstances of my interests at diverse times and the way I learned such interests. I started to get acquainted with linux when I was 7 or 8. I was coding C when I was 13 and then at 15 I was really interested in everything design. I ended up doing Web Design at 17. At 19 I opened a company making web applications. I then moved on to corporate software where I was in charge of coding commerce and enterprise applications. At 23 I was doing full sys admin work. I'm now 28 and I'm working doing UX, Design, Web Dev, Backend Dev, and little Sys Admin stuff. I'm rusty in the Sys Admin area, but I'm definitely more productive than the average CompSci graduate with a few years experience.

I'm pretty sure there MUST be a person better than me in all those areas, but not because I'm not a master of my skills, but because there is just always someone better. Becoming a Designeer happens only if you have the time (a decade?), and the inclination (interests in the right fields and skill sets at the right intervals in time) to learn the things you need to learn to do the job. Of course, there's also the fact that you need to be lucky enough to have people to hire you to do those things so as to get enough quality experience performing the tasks you need to perform.

Interestingly enough, I'm in the office right now... and this is the list of stuff I've done today:
1) Finished coding a Windows service that acts as a data bridge between an two applications and three types of databases.
2) Worked a UX prototype for an IPad app (made in Keynote) that integrates with an in house product.
3) Finished a redesign for another in house app (this one is a ERP type WebApp).
4) Modified a series of E-cards the in house designers made because they where not optimized for email and had some alignment, whitespace, and typography mishaps.
5) Worked on integration of commerce hardware with 'special printers'.
6) I'm currently designing the visual aspect of an interface for yet another of our in house products.

BONUS: Yesterday I spent 3 hours securing the web servers for our website and a ticketing tool that our customers use.

I am by no means the best programmer, sys admin, designer, or UX architect, but I find all those roles are second nature for me and I have no problem getting a job (I literally get a call every couple of days by recruiters or companies offering me positions), and I only work in places I know I'll be having loads of fun and interesting challenging work. Designeers are not hard to get because they don't exist. They're hard to get because they want to make their own rules and work in things they actually want to work in. Offer them this and you'll invariably be able to score someone that will fill this often looked for but generally not realistic position.

15
lhnz 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't think generalist's are as rare as this article makes out; I think most people are born like this. However I'm certain that when we go to work we are incentivised into becoming specialists. My assumption is that at scale businesses will consider any variance in employees more trouble than it is worth. As a result of this, if somebody wishes to market themselves to the majority of the employment market they are more successful if they find a niche to excel in. (Presumably once you've done this you start to think of yourself as a specialist and forget your underlying potential to learn multiple ways of thinking.)

Startups almost certainly would do well by hiring generalists but I doubt it's often that they seek them. The demand for specialists will have altered the supply of generalists in a way that probably makes searching for them costly.

I am a generalist although not a "Desingineer" as I haven't picked up very many design-related skills. I personally disagree with many people in this thread on what being a generalist means. Being a generalist does not mean you have several discrete skills, and it does not mean you are a good a programmer as a "programmer" or as good a marketer as a "marketer", etc. I think this separation is a projection of a formal education. Instead I would describe generalism as about having one big formless ability accrued from every discipline you have studied. This is a potent skill as it gives you a broader understanding of how things work and sometimes the cross-pollination of ideas allows you to make much better decisions, and act in a way that others consider wildly creative.

Of course, that's not to say that being a generalist is somehow better than being a specialist. Unless you're a genius [1], specialists will often outperform you in their area of expertise. It can also be a little depressing. Sometimes it feels like you've taken 100 steps in a 100 directions and ended up very close to where you started. However, it definitely has its pros -- for me, it satisfies a thirst for all kinds of knowledge.

Ultimately the rigid distinction between specialist and generalist is artificial. Few are pure generalists and few are pure specialists. I don't worry that I will be held back by other's difficulty in fitting me into a role. I might have multiple abilities but like most of you I have some which I am slightly better at. I doubt that even the most fervent self-proclaimed generalists can avoid becoming a little specialist at something. ;)

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

16
ck2 23 hours ago 2 replies      
Anyone that talented is probably starting their own startup.
17
moocow01 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I would guess this has become a trend based on the following...

1) Entrance of lower quality, inexperienced founders who want an end product and only know about the buzzwords that supposedly go into building that product. They don't have an expert grasp on the development process so they naively think the process is to collect a group of people with all skills.

2) The advances in work process efficiencies make it easier to do different jobs in tech. Consequently, this makes it much more possible for 1 person to wear many hats somewhat more effectively. 10 to 20 years ago, these sort of job descriptions would be 100% insane because it took so much more out of the different disciplines to put software together. It would be like a hospital posting a job opening for a doctor who can also drive the ambulance.

On the 2nd point it makes me wonder if eventually at some point in the future the startup team along with the need for venture capital will be obsolete. If we follow the current trajectory, I could see building tech startups being more and more the domain of one to a couple people with slim to none capital requirements.

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geebee 21 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm coming a little late to this discussion, but I do think that as much as startups want "desingineers", the hiring process makes it very unlikely that they will ever get one.

I remember reading Scott Adams's advice on how to get into the top 1% (well, reallu the top .0..1%). One way is to be incredibly good at one thing - like Roger Federer. The other way is to keep combining interesting and related things until you're there - ie., someone in the top 10% at coding, design, sales, biology, and construction.

Here's the thing - recently, we've been discussing the willingness of companies trying to hire to accept "false negatives" because the impact of a bad hire is so detrimental to a team. But I think a lot of "false negatives" may be coders who do pretty well in the interview but not quite well enough to get past the filter. The interview process almost never gets at their other skills. So the company fails to hire someone with exceptional domain experience and good design skills because he or she struggled a bit finding cycles in a linked list.

There are solutions for people like this. One is to be a founder - get an idea, start coding and designing, create an initial app, and see what kind of traction you can get. The other is very similar - you'll managed to get hired somewhere eventually, and you can start proposing projects. Eventually, you'll get to run with one, and you can be entrepreneurial about it (well less upside but at least you'll have a salary).

It's much easier to do this on your own or once you're established with a company. It's tough to get this across in an interview process.

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_delirium 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I suppose it's a bit of a lost battle in the web space, but I find it weird when the jobs are broken into "programmer/engineer", who does implementation, and "designer", who does UI/frontend stuff. In other areas of engineering, a lot of things other than the final aesthetics, or even just the UI, are called "design"; when you "design" a power plant, that's not purely implementation, but is heavily tied to the engineering. Surely any nontrivial webapp also has that kind of design as well, something more like product design? And it seems like you do want engineers who are also able to do that.
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micheljansen 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Mythical and wanted as may be, it is also one of the most misunderstood kind of roles. Bigger companies are simply not used to combine design and engineering in one role and try to push you into one (oh, you can code?). As a jack of all trades, master of none, you are often not taken seriously by either side and have to work twice as hard to prove yourself.

Once you do make it into the right places though, it is an incredibly fun and diverse job. I take most of my satisfaction from the notion that I can go from concept to (prototype) implementation on my own if I have to. It is one of the most empowering feelings in the world.

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droithomme 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Reasonable article, this is fairly well known as an issue, but definitely does good to bring it up again since a lot of places just don't get it.

Also goes without saying that the companies looking for this person also will typically be requiring mastery of cross-platform application design simultaneously targeting most every known desktop and mobile operating system; a long, specific list of diverse technologies at very particular version numbers; they should be willing to relocate at their own cost, with remote work and telecommuting unacceptable; and of course they should be willing to work for less than market rate for a practitioner of even one of the skills they are supposed to be masters of, which should be no problem since there is a low cost of living in the obscure one horse town they will be moving to but which features lots of outdoor activities and family values as long as you don't mind the rampant small town corruption, house break ins, ATV, copper wire and catalytic converter theft, weekly stabbings over a girl, and pandemic meth addiction.

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Homunculiheaded 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I was discussing this issue with a friend the other day. I think the real 'why' is there is no motivator to become good at both design and development. Both skills take people who are passionate about what they do, usually to the point where they hone their skills in their free time. I actually think most (good) devs and designers have slight inclinations towards each others work, but it is a serious effort to go from "that does look cool/useful" to professional proficiency. The few people who are currently 'designineers' are mostly likely completely passionate about both (which is their motivator). However for the rest why put in the effort? My understanding is that the pay isn't much different (in fact this sounds a lot like, "wouldn't it be great if I could get 2 for the price of 1"). Easier to find a job? Perhaps, but right now I think good designers and developers are having no trouble finding work. Additionally your skill set is now the target of tons of people looking to get something for nothing, or have one person doing 10 jobs
23
badclient 1 day ago 3 replies      
you should try splitting it into (i) a designer who does HTML, CSS (ii) a programmer and (iii) perhaps even a separate Javascript coder.

This is how the company I work for right now does it and it is EXTREMELY inefficient. I've been advocating them to go back to one person to do html/css/js/php.

I can see the above work for large orgs. But with a 3-4 person tech team, super specialization has not worked at all

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creativeembassy 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been working hard at being this guy. HTML+CSS+JS(coffee!)+Ruby, years of professional experience doing UX and website design on whiteboards and Photoshop and Illustrator, successfully launching brand-new projects.

I also know a few guys I've worked with that are very strong in the same areas. It's more pleasurable to work with a team where every member will do well in all areas, even if we have a core area that we would prefer to be an expert in. I don't believe those people are mythical or hard to find.

The myth is that startups want those people, but don't have enough money to afford them. They want desingineers that are cheap. I'm personally tired of seeing "stock options" in startups that don't have a product yet.

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ookblah 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Honestly, being a desingineer sucks at times.

The advantages of the "desingineer" is that you cut out a lot of red tape and inefficiencies in the early stages. You can implement things much much faster if you know both front/back and how they come together. IMO, this is crucially important in the MVP/early stages of a startup where you don't have a lot of resources and need to move quickly.

The downside to this (and what I'm slowly figuring out), is that there are limits. It involves a lot of context switching. Someone else mentioned it but it's true... you only have so many hours a day and it's insanely hard trying to become proficient at design, ui/ux, and programming.

What ends up happening is that you "feel" like you're mediocre at everything, and when your startup is growing that feeling SUCKS. I would much rather have a small team where we each specialize (with some overlap of course) in what we can be excellent at.

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amix 23 hours ago 0 replies      
The real issue is that mastering something takes an awful long time - 10.000 hours or 10 years from what I have read (Malcolm Gladwell, Peter Norvig, various research). Most people aren't willing to put in this effort and most people aren't willing to suck at something for years, therefore they focus on the thing they are good at.

Maybe we could become awesome at multiple things if we are willing to invest 10 years into learning something instead of investing a few weeks.

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mmcconnell1618 1 day ago 1 reply      
As a desingineer I'm always looking for the mythical startup that has cool technology, awesome people and a good chance to rocket to the moon. Probably as hard to find as desingineers.
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rajesh_vadakara 1 hour ago 1 reply      
But I have seen a few persons with multiple skills in my career.
Sharing the portfolio of such a guy http://idiode.in . Its really awesome.
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rglover 22 hours ago 0 replies      
As a designer, I personally prefer taking any design straight to code (mainly because making iterations to Photoshop designs is a nightmare and frankly a waste of time). I think the thing that helped me most was that I started learning design by coding (i.e. I started writing XHTML/CSS alongside learning design principles). Being about four years in now, it's great to be able to get a project and say "yeah, I can code that." It really just takes time and patience. While my coding experience is mainly focused around front-end development, what I've learned from the front-end has helped me to feel comfortable with Wordpress and PHP. I think the best way to become a "Desingineer" is to constantly have some project that challenges you, whether paid or not (preferably not as there is less pressure to get things right).
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samwillis 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I think I must fit into some super set of this somewhere.

My day job is as a physical product design engineer for a consultancy and have a degree in Industrial Design. So I would do the mechanical and aesthetic design of a product including Injection Moulding, Sheet metal, machining ect. which is not to dissimilar to someone doing the user interface and back-end of the software/web product.

What makes me a little different is that I spend my evenings doing web development and although I have never done it "professionally" I think I am probably allot better than most at the front end development using html, css and javascript (I do like a dash of coffee script). I also have a fair bit of experience with Python on the back end mostly using Django but have also more recently been experimenting with Gevent and web-sockets to do some interesting live updating stuff.

So I suppose I'm a bit of an odd ball, I can't work out how to get both the physical product design and all my interest in web development (front and back end) into one job. I think I will just have to invent a job for myself that does...

EDIT:
I guess I'm a web-mech-prod-desingineer...

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jsiarto 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Ok, first of all--if you're a designer and your primary area of design is for the web--you damn well better be able to hand-code HTML and CSS. If not, you push pixels in Photoshop--and that's not design.

Designing for the web requires that you understand the limitations of HTML and CSS and not push our crap from Photoshop that would be a nightmare to implement.

When we're talking about "desingeers" are we talking about designers that can write markup and style or designers that can code out a great Rails backend?

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radagaisus 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Tip: don't read Web Design for Developers from the Pragmatic Programmers. It was a good read, with a lot of basic stuff about color theory and typography, but that's the final project: http://www.yourfoodbox.com/

I think websites in 1994 looked better.

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malandrew 23 hours ago 1 reply      
I would think that the type of person that is a designgineer is likely to be informally trained, usually starting as a design person and becoming increasingly more technical over time.

Because of this, I reckon they would do poorly at a lot of the types of technical interviews that are in fashion today, such as puzzle interviews and data structure/algorithm questions that you'd probably only do well with if you had a computer science background.

"Tell me how you would go about building an efficient maze generator" is the wrong kind of question for these people. "How would you go about building token-field interface from scratch in javascript" would be a better question.

Sites like InterviewStreet and CodeSprint don't optimize for hiring this kind of person.

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dfischer 8 hours ago 0 replies      
My role is exactly this. I find it more the case because I like to be a "jack of all trades" and understand the entire spectrum.

My true expertise lands in the front-end development side of things but I can do it all. I prefer not to though. It's a job for multiple people. However, having the ability to understand all the layers is a big plus when managing/leading a team.

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namank 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Anyone on here have any insights on HOW to get there?

IME, you need certain attitudes towards life to get good at both.

You need to be a visionary AND an engineer. Usually people are one or the other and prefer it because they suck less at it. Hence, they eventually get great at it. But this means the other suffers. To be in the designer+engineer category, you first need to figure out what you are good at (essentially what you spend a large chunk of your time on - dreaming or coding) and then what you are weak at.

Then practice doing the weak thing for a couple of years.

Pretty soon, you are a designeer.

Problem is, in the startup world, I still can't figure out WHY you should be both when you can hire people to complement your weakness. Steve Jobs was obviously only a visionary and he, through practice, became great at it. Dennis Ritchie, an engineer.

Unless, of course, startup is not your endgame. Unless your goal is self-improvement powered by a zesty thirst for knowledge. In my limited knowledge, though Learnado Da Vinci fell into the designeer category, he was still very much an idea person (visionary) than an engineer - mainly because he procrastinated like crazy with his projects (for years, at times). This shows that he preferred conceptualizing the project and loved cultivating the vision rather than actually implement it.

Thoughts? Please give me some feedback, this stuff is important.

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nhangen 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Amazing how many people are tooting their own horns in here. IMO, if you are one, you don't claim it, people know by looking at your work. But anyway...

This has been my problem breaking into the industry. A few years ago I didn't understand a lick of HTML/CSS and changed that by digging in and learning it. Now I can build WP themes from scratch (not the most semantic, but I can still do it), and write functions/code in PHP. Now I'm working on js and jQuery, while also trying to learn the rest of the LAMP stack.

Still, it seems like every time I teach myself something new, a new skill is added to the startup rockstar job requirement list. I get that startups want to fill big holes, and that many pay accordingly, but this is why so many junior level people decide to build their own companies instead of asking permission to learn a little on the job.

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mikeklaas 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Just find a former technical founder that was by necessity forced to learn all these skills.

That's how I became solid (but not expert-level) in distributed systems, machine learning, web development, UX/UI design, and app dev.

Even for large teams, having people who have a deep understanding of all areas of work is underrated.

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ahoyhere 16 hours ago 0 replies      
The HN comments have way more substance than the original post. But I'll echo others: it doesn't take a genius to be both. On the other hand, a skill for spotting and studying and applying underlying patterns is a must.

There are just as many patterns and underlying systems in design as codecraft, and vice versa. And they're not that dissimilar.

Design isn't "art" -- it's a type of making things fit for purpose. You can have purely functional design that meets the purpose without soul. You can have purely functional code that meets the purpose without soul.

The best design is crafted with soul. But so is the best code.

As somebody who does both, I speak from experience - they're just not that different. Superficially yes, but not at heart.

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wpietri 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I think the mistake is in structuring the company so that people have to be awesome on both axes. Either that, or so they're forbidden to become good at both.

Every developer is a designer. (You can't make something without thinking about it at least a little.) Every designer can be a developer if they want. Both skills take plenty of practice.

Nobody is likely to be 100% amazing at both, but that doesn't matter: a lot of day-to-day work is pretty mundane, so nobody has to be amazing all the time. As long as you have somebody great that you collaborate with frequently, you can still get a great product, and everybody gets to up their game over time.

Skill-based division of labor is fine for assembly-line products, but for iterative, creative work (which is what all startups are), I think you need intense collaboration, which requires broad skills. That's why IDEO, a design powerhouse, looks for what they call t-shaped people: http://chiefexecutive.net/ideo-ceo-tim-brown-t-shaped-stars-...

It's a cheesy name, but I think the idea's spot on.

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danielmason 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I might be considered a larval Designineer. I started off as a visual designer, then learned HTML and CSS, then Javascript, then out of necessity began maintaining an old ASP Classic codebase. As soon as I started to understand the code I was reading, things got easier. Then I built a small data-backed web app and I was totally hooked. In the last two years, I've learned to build nontrivial web apps from the ground up. SQL, MVC, Backbone, UI, design. I'm pretty proficient at each level of the stack, but only insofar as it's related to the web. Eg. I know C#, but I wouldn't have the first clue about how to write a native Windows application. So I end up feeling like my knowledge is the proverbial mile wide and inch deep.

I'm looking for jobs right now, and it's been an exercise in frustration. The coding jobs require CS degrees, 5 years of experience, tech interviews with big-O notation and data structures (trying to teach myself basic CS theory, but need a job now). The UI and design jobs require a smidge of front-end knowledge, but are mostly mocking and wireframing. I want to be able to employ all of my tools, but I feel like the hiring market makes me pick between being a front-end or a back-end guy, and I don't currently have enough specialization at either to get a reasonably good job.

How can I find companies that could use someone like me, when their job descriptions are specialized? Any thoughts or advice?

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phzbOx 23 hours ago 0 replies      
And be wary of people who say they are great coders and designers. In most cases, it's more half designer and half engineer; meaning you'll have an ugly design and a messy code.
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kapilkale 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't think startups want a desingineer, but rather an expert at one skill (product UI/UX, engineering, marketing) with a pretty decent understanding of a secondary skill area.

For example, I do a fair amount of design work in photoshop etc. I can implement simple front-end stuff. But my co-founder can get complex front-end engineering stuff done 5-10x faster if I just help him pair program it. If I didn't understand code, we'd be unable to do that. Something similar probably to be said about his sense of design since he often ends up giving me really good feedback in the middle of building the page out.

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pbiggar 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I think a lot of this depends on what you mean by "backend". Personally, I need a designer who can write the frontend. That means HTML/CSS, but it also means JS (because what is a web app without JS these days). More importantly, it means being able to work directly on the app without hand-holding - for example, knowing where the CSS goes in a Rails project and being able to work on it directly.

I wouldn't expect my designer to write a sorting algorithm, or a web crawler, or anything that's more code-y, but HTML/CSS/JS and the frameworks which hold them are part of the toolset.

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alexwolfe 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been working for startups a long time (over ten years) and I have only met one person that I would consider a great designer and developer. I don't think it is because others aren't capable but rather aren't interested or forced to. This type of person is definitely a rare breed which is good. I think a lot of people say they would like to fall into this position but in reality probably not so much.

Please keep in mind that I have met quite a few people that dabble in everything but a true professional at both is quite rare.

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its_so_on 20 hours ago 0 replies      
the key to this post is here:

"They're doing something on their own, are already kicking ass and are not available."

It's not that they can't use an extra $10k per month. They most certainly are available.

They're not available at 'speculative, "startup" wages' with unknown prospects even if you get them on board with a token amount of equity and even if you get funding.

They can do it all, and are doing it successfully. They don't need you.

So what? I don't need Google, I don't need Microsoft, I don't need IBM. These companies would hire me by putting some money on the table.

The key to the 'desingineer' is that, you know, they don't really need you. One of your skills (the person looking for a desingineer) is putting the pieces together, finding the people and getting them on board, none of whom can singly do everything. So, they need you.

THe desingineer doesn't need you. If you want them on board, you're going to have to actually open your pocketbook. Imagine that.

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j_baker 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I suppose one could break this issue down into one of breadth vs depth. You probably can find someone who can do both designing and engineering, but unless you find one of those mythic geniuses, you're not going to get someone who goes very deep in either one. I suppose this might be preferable to certain businesses that just don't have that many deep, involved problems. Of course, as a business grows more complex, you need some specialization. You just can't beat having someone who knows a problem inside and out.

Regardless, I think most startups who hire this way are trying to have their cake and eat it too. It's probably part of the reason why some startups find recruiting so difficult.

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commieneko 15 hours ago 0 replies      
It's often a good idea to have all these specialties be different people for the same reason that writer, editor, and proofreader are optimally different people. Now it doesn't hurt for all involved to have abilities and training in all the above, but responsibility and focus can be enhanced by some creative segregation.
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danso 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd say the closest anyone has come to this was Steve Wozniak. He of course built the first two Apples but also wrote the BASIC for ][ that would be used for its thriving game ecosystem...and he wrote a few games himself.

I know the article in question is talking about front-end/back-end design...but I'd argue that software and hardware engineering are just as peripherally-related-yet-substantially-differentiated enough.

So, just find yourself another Steve Woz...

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kreek 23 hours ago 1 reply      
They exist, but engineering pays so much more, while still filling the need to create so 'Desingineers' choose development over design.
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epynonymous 15 hours ago 0 replies      
i am proficient in html/html5, css/css2/css3, javascript, jquery, python, mysql, nosql, but design is a whole different ball game. i know what looks good, but i can't be bothered to create icons, banners, logos, color palletes, and such in photoshop (?), provide guidance on margins, padding, font, layout, etc. given a set of wireframes, colors, images, icons, font family, i can go to town on a website, so i still believe in the need for a pure designer.

as for being able to add input into simplifying user experience, reducing clicks, using certain jquery widgets over html elements, etc, i can provide ample input. so it's really the visual piece that i lack. maybe it's time i picked up a phtoshop or illustrator book for myself :)

anyone hiring?

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gcb 14 hours ago 0 replies      
having worked with engineers who claims to not 'get' visual stuff...

...and designers who, when pointed out why he forgot something obvious like logoff links, just claims they do not fit the design...

...all i can say is that both are slackers and lazy.

the Engineer is just avoiding painful tedious work.

the Designer is just avoiding painful tedious work.

I not even a good coder nor a good designer. But heck i can identify slackers using only common sense.

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mrjasonroy 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I read these unicorn articles and at first think, hey, I'm one of those guys, meaning it can't be that hard. I am no genius, just a decently hard working individual that tends that likes to do things right. I feel comfortable in both worlds, I lead a design team and also lead the direction of some of the engineering efforts of a decent size team (20+).

That being said, it's hard to do both at scale or really well. One is going to suffer as soon as the project gets to a decent size, I notice this every time I try and do it myself. So, props to people who can produce extremely high quality code and designs, that takes a serious focus.

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funthree 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I am a `desingineer` I guess. I'm working on a startup that is taking on big web analytics. A lot of the reusable code is being released as free and open source so that I can focus on the UI. I built the initial front and backend application (now leading a team), the UI, the product plan, and the marketing plan.

https://github.com/analytics-machine

Contact me: tblobaum@gmail.com

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emp_ 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I have 15,000+ hours on each. My opinion is that good taste and intuition play great value on code, best practices and testing do the same to UI/UX and so on.

The funny drawbacks are usually that you can hardly win a discussion with people that don't know you well since they will usually corner you on your other 'personality' such as "says the interior decorator" when talking about CQRS or REST etc.

I currently work on 'Evil Enterprise Contractor' building web-based products but I too get to switch context all the time, from conception to live.

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spullara 22 hours ago 0 replies      
My cofounder at http://bagcheck.com had the perfect mix of skills. He is a designer that also deeply understands HTML and CSS. He has some experience in coding, but knows that he shouldn't focus on it and uses those tools only as much as it helps him understand his medium. If you have have the chance to work with @lukew, I highly recommend him.
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astrofinch 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't see anyone explaining why it's such a big win to combine both skills in a single person, which is what I'm curious about. Can anyone explain this to me?
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bamazizi 23 hours ago 0 replies      
i'm a designer/engineer and trust me there isn't anything mythical or special about it.

i've been a web/graphics designer for 9-10 years and coder for 3.5 (python at first, but this year i started ruby/rails)

from personal experience i can say almost all creative/visual people are scared of logical/geekish computer stuff ... i was scared and lost at first too but then i realized i'm quite good at architecture and once i put my focus on becoming a better at it things weren't scary any more. my designs improved, my love of internet expanded and i can't imagine doing anything else!

the most important mistake designer make is that they think they need to become REAL "software engineers" like building compilers or even worse thinking they have to master java or C++! (nothing against java, it's just that designer shouldn't start with java or similar programming languages)

for all you designers first learn html5, css3, a bit of javascript and then start with python/ruby (django/rails) and go from there. it's not a 1 night journey, it will take couple of years but it's worth it!

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wyck 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Something not mentioned, people who are desingineers often gravitate to a comfort zone with regards to money and ability. Let's face it, design is subject to the whims of opinion and can take a really, really long time, code on the other hand usually just works or doesn't.

Dealing with clients on design projects compared to code is like night and day.

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brezina 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I've got 2. They exist. They make great co-founder and founding team members
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tzm 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Yay, i'm a designineer. :D But.. i've been in the closet. I don't talk about it much. In fact i've actually hidden the fact from others, masking my role by making up imaginary coworkers to beef up the credibility of my one man shop.

No, I'm serious. That is not a joke. And it works.

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ropman76 23 hours ago 0 replies      
There are some out there that can do both but I find it to be very rare (and thus should be highly paid). I have worked with some very artistic people in the past who couldn't code to save their life. I always tell them "you make it look good and I will make it work."
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sp4rki 1 day ago 0 replies      
Shit this means that I should be asking for raise then?
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dm8 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Finding designers who can do front-end stuff (CSS, HTML, jQuery/JS) itself is hard. And add the complexity of backend coding. These type of people are rare. Quora had an interesting discussion on the topic of designers implementing their own designs where lot of top guys in design have voiced their opinions - http://qr.ae/7vD
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c4urself 21 hours ago 0 replies      
since when does a designer do html/css/js? or am i confusing a designer with a front-end dev?
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sandieman 1 day ago 1 reply      
Come on, they don't exist. If so, who are some well known designineers?
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rguzman 1 day ago 2 replies      
i don't think designers, per se, are that valuable.

this line of thought just stems from the conflation of graphic design and interface design. the skill in demand is the latter. to be good at it one needs to be able to be proficient in html, css, javascript, and have basic abilities in whatever server-side technologies are in use.

so, yes, these folks will be hard to find. just like any other good engineer, they'll either have a job, be kicking ass, or doing their own thing. c'est la vie. try offering a wage they can't refuse.

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tcarnell 22 hours ago 1 reply      
but I'm no myth! http://tomcarnell.com And as it happens, I'm looking for a new project for 2012... :-
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agilebyte 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Don't see a problem with becoming a generalizing specialist that sees the whole picture from many facets - from marketing, business, coding, design (product, pixel...).
A startup needs people being willing to fill these roles and if a said venture is successful (and becomes a business), you can afford specialists, until then, I would expect people to have many roles.
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itmag 23 hours ago 1 reply      
I thought the word was "devigner".

What are some good books/resources for a code dude to learn som design and UX? I feel lost with this stuff....

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dennyferra 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I wonder how a progsysadmin would compare to the desingineer. I'd imagine it's easier to find a progsysadmin just from my own experience. I've had a few jobs where I was responsible for both the programming and system administration, in small companies of course.
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macca321 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I dunno, we're looking for that guy who will send 200 emails a day promoting the damn thing.
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heyrhett 22 hours ago 0 replies      
every Startups are haz more desingineer?
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schraeds 23 hours ago 4 replies      
I am proficient in: Photoshop, Illustrator, Expression Blend, Sencha, HTML/CSS/Java, WPF, ExtJS.

I possess: Taste, attention to detail and aesthetics, an understanding of human factors as they relate to computer interaction.

What does that make me? :)

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sjsk 22 hours ago 0 replies      
“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it's this veneer " that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!' That's not what we think design is. It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” " Steve Jobs
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nnann 19 hours ago 0 replies      
What salary should a desingineer expect in one of the big cities?
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scrozier 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Given a scale of 1-10 for design skills and programming skills, it's my experience that individuals significantly over 10 are rare indeed. In fact, If you find one of Spinal Taps' mythical 11s, hire him or her now.

I myself am an 8 + 4, at least in my mind.

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swah 23 hours ago 0 replies      
What is the most evolved form of this Pokemon?
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chalgo 1 day ago 1 reply      
I consider myself a Designineer.
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thesash 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I think it's a good point that
       cached 21 December 2011 16:11:01 GMT