hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    23 Dec 2011 Best
home   ask   best   7 years ago   
GoDaddy supports SOPA, redditor proposes "Move your Domain Day" reddit.com
837 points by duiker101  11 hours ago   227 comments top 40
pg 8 hours ago  replies      
Even if domains are just a loss leader for GoDaddy, they surely look at their numbers, so this is a way to send them a message they'll hear.

Maybe it will work, maybe it won't, but no one who still has a domain at GoDaddy will be entitled to complain about SOPA if it passes.

freejack 10 hours ago  replies      
This blog post from their lead lobbyist defending their support is absolutely grating.


"Most of what we are seeing is either 1) rhetoric, 2) regurgitated lobbying spin, 3) criticism of language we have already fixed, or 4) retweets by people who like to steal music and buy fake, but cheap, goods."


(oBDisclaimer: I work for a registrar that unequivocally supports the Open Internet."

citricsquid 11 hours ago 5 replies      
To put it frankly, godaddy don't give a shit. Their domain business exists as a way to get people into their other products, hosting, whois privacy etc. the ones that actually make money (nobody makes money on domains nowadays, savvy customers use coupons which godaddy provides a lot of). This won't do anything to Godaddy as a business, they'll be losing customers they don't care about -- unless people shutting off their other services too -- but if it makes people feel good then yay! This would be like walmart losing customers who do extreme couponing and only buy the products that serve as loss leaders.

You could go as far as suggesting these people are helping godaddy. If you take away 120 domains (as one redditor is doing) that godaddy are losing money on and you're only using them because they're cheap... that's a win for godaddy surely, unless the scale at which people do this makes a dent in godaddy's total customer/domain figures, which are a marketing point, but that would require millions to leave.

seles 10 hours ago 2 replies      
I have been using GoDaddy for years. I'm just using it for a simple webpage+domain hosting and email. It works but I'm probably being overcharged since I don't bother with coupons. I have always been annoyed about the privacy complaints I've seen about them, but never cared enough to switch. Now I do care enough to switch, thanks.
nextparadigms 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I think going after the supporters of SOPA one by one is a pretty effective method, if enough time. First let's go after the representatives who support it, and then after all the companies, and either terminate your account with them if applicable or at least e-mail them to express your feelings about them supporting SOPA.
bad_user 10 hours ago 3 replies      
On one cheap Linode VPS instance I already have 5 websites hosted, plus a personal email server, plus several private git repositories, all for ~ $20 per month. I get my domains from other services, like namecheap.com; and good/cheap hosting for PHP stuff (and even Rails) can be found on DreamHost.com.

There really isn't any reason for anybody to use GoDaddy anymore, unless you're hunting for their coupons, but in this instance you really get what you pay for.

RexRollman 10 hours ago 2 replies      
Godaddy has to be one of the least trustworthy domain registrars I have heard of and I am surprised that people still use them. I guess their crass commercials must be drawing in the customers.
X-Istence 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I moved my personal 25+ domains away from GoDaddy to name.com and gandi.net. Best move I have ever done. I don't get shitty advertisements emailed to me anymore, I don't have to jump through hundreds of hoops to purchase renewals where I get bombarded with advertisements for various other services.

And name.com is a small company here in Colorado, so I am supporting local while I am at it.

moocow01 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I would expect that SOPA on the whole would discourage domain registration and the general development of web properties amongst the masses so I'm a bit surprised GoDaddy supports it just from a business perspective.

Anyone care to enlighten me about what I'm missing here?

MattBearman 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I thought it would be interesting to see how many domains are moved away because of this, so I just knocked together this quick site - http://stopsopa.mattbearman.co.uk/

It would be awesome if anyone who is transferring domains away from go daddy could add their to the list

lambda 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Why is anyone who pays any attention still on GoDaddy anyhow?

They're a scummy company that have no respect for their customers, obnoxious advertising, and a clunky, annoying web interface. Why would you use them when you could use any of hundreds of other name registrars and web hosts?

danso 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I try to avoid helping anyone who needs help with their GoDaddy-hosted website. Not only is the interface atrocious (at least compared to DreamHost), I hate logging in and seeing Dana Patrick splayed out...if I want people around me thinking that I'm browsing Maxim magazine, I'll buy a Maxim magazine.
pardner 10 hours ago 0 replies      
If you decide to move your domains from Godaddy, and if your DNS is hosted there too, and if you have enough DNS records to not want to recreate them, there's an undocumented way to export the nameserver records from Godaddy to another DNS provider such as Zerigo. In a nutshell (1) upgrade to Godaddy Premium DNS ($35 but refundable within 5 days) (2) Export each domain's DNS settings (3) Cancel Godaddy Premium DNS. Now you can quickly import your DNS settings at your new registrar or DNS host if they handle importing of bind files. Not everyone imports nicely, but Zerigo worked for me. Details here http://pardner.com/2011/11/how-to-switch-dns-painlessly-from...
lincolnwebs 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I already moved all my domains after their CEO's elephant hunting earlier this year. That company is a pit of depravity.
zbuc 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I sent an email:


I am writing to you to inform you that because of GoDaddy's continued support of SOPA I am transferring my domains to a different registrar as soon as I can(they were renewed recently so I have to wait).

I read your press release today and I felt that you didn't actually respond to a bulk of the criticism of SOPA, that is that takedown requests can be filed by private parties and the respondent is legally required to remove the content before even considering challenging the takedown request. This obviously presents a large challenge to sites based on user-created content.

A world with SOPA is one in which businesses can't run websites with user-generated content without having a legal team on hand.

SOPA is bad for the open internet and if GoDaddy refuses to look into the issue and actually give a reasoned, intelligent response(as opposed to the "well, we have to stop piracy!" argument your press release made -- yes, something should be done about piracy but SOPA is NOT the answer) then GoDaddy, too, must be considered bad for the open internet and I will stop hosting my domains with you and stop recommending my clients host domains with you.



wes-exp 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Any recommendations on alternative services?
gravitronic 11 hours ago 3 replies      
alternate: use godaddy, but only their loss-leading coupons when they appear.

For example, I registered a domain last week using a code that got me $1.00 domain registration.

The code expired last week unfortunately so posting it would be irrelevant.

dmerfield 10 hours ago 8 replies      
Serious question: Has anyone in the HN community actually bought anything from GoDaddy?

I find it difficult to imagine that any HN reader would. Was there ever an era when GoDaddy's reputation and service were respectable?

richtaur 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Here's a helpful article I used to move my domains off of GoDaddy:


tyrelb 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Transferring my domains to https://dnsimple.com/ :) A little more expensive than the cheap registrars... but Anthony who runs the company is amazing! Shameless plug: he did some development work from the back in the day, and is one of the best RoR programmers in the world!
mrcalzone 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been thinking of moving away from GoDaddy for a long time, and this was the last drop. It is crazy how they design the webpages to make it as hard as possible to cancel anything. In the email I got, there were two (identical) links telling me how I could cancel the transfer-request, but no link to accept it. It took me a couple of minutes of poking around in my account before I figured it out.
sixQuarks 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been preaching about the evils of GoDaddy for many years now. The founder is a war-mongering, ultra right-wing POS.
l0c0b0x 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Yet another reason to move away from GoDaddy. They're making it way too easy now!
clark-kent 7 hours ago 0 replies      
GoDaddy always rubbed me the wrong way. Their support of SOPA is about the 50th reason to stay away of GoDaddy.
bronson 9 hours ago 1 reply      
There's no need to move all your domains today (that can be a HUGE job). Just pledge to not give GoDaddy another cent and move your domains as they expire. In five years, problem solved.
krogsgard 11 hours ago 3 replies      
I don't like GoDaddy any more than most others here, I'm sure. And I certainly hate the idea of SOPA. But don't a lot of big companies support it?

In a quick Google search, I found this post referencing support by the Business Software Alliance, which includes Microsoft, Apple, and many others:

maeon3 11 hours ago 3 replies      
Ive been using bluehost.com for 3 years to host 3 websites. I could list them but I dont want to spam. They have everything I need and I have seen no significant outages or price increases.

Anyone here use Godaddy? How are their prices and service?

emehrkay 10 hours ago 3 replies      
I have a few go daddy domains. Where should I move my .it domains to?
plasma 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I've transferred about 10 domains from GoDaddy now, thanks for the step-by-step guide.
kenamarit 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Embarrassed to still be on Godaddy when I vowed to move away a few years ago. And timing is unfortunate. I just paid them lots of $$ to renew everything.

Still, biting the bullet and (finally) transferring everything over now.

noomerikal 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I wish I could participate but I moved my domains to namecheap and pledged not to use gd when Parsons went on that elephant hunt.
tuananh 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Hover offers promo code for transferring too. 10% off
kevinburke 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Just trasferred all of my domains out of Godaddy a few days ago into Namecheap. The timing couldn't have been better.
intenex 4 hours ago 0 replies      
And let's not forget: GoDaddy is evil to begin with. You're not just fighting SOPA, you're fighting the very forces of evil themselves.
iamdave 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Move your Domain Day?

Something tells me the affiliates are about to have a very wonderful christmas.

frabcus 8 hours ago 0 replies      
This doesn't feel aggressive enough.

How about blocking any domain registered with GoDaddy from a certain date? Do it on DNS servers Hacker News techies control.

Extreme I know, but less extreme than what SOPA will do!

mindprince 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Doesn't Google have a partnership with GoDaddy for registering Google Apps domains? Conflict of interests?
flatline 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I know, there is already an entire site for discussing reddit posts, it's called reddit. Why not just repost the source article here? I don't think that a bunch of redditors moving their domain names is particularly newsworthy, but the Godaddy issue is.
spenvo 9 hours ago 0 replies      
For those interested in switching, Dreamhost offers an affiliate program, and I have created a discount code with the maximum discount of 5 free domain registrations (a 75$ value). Simply use the discount code REDDIT5FREE when joining!

"SCREW GODADDY" is on a loop in my head right now.

maximusprime 10 hours ago 6 replies      
Please can we at least try to ensure HN doesn't go the way of Reddit?

I'm against SOPA as much as the next guy, but it's a moot issue. Browsers will just release new versions that use alternate DNS systems or get past any 'blocks'.

There's nothing uglier than an internet hate/protest mob.

An Indian Inventor Disrupts The Period Industry fastcoexist.com
689 points by wallflower  3 days ago   145 comments top 20
algoshift 3 days ago  replies      
Wait a minute...

According to the article and his website the machine costs $2,500 each, can produce 2 napkins per minute and requires 746W of power. Each machine employs a crew of four people.

A full scale industrial machine is claimed to cost $500K and, from a quick bit of google-ing can produce 350 napkins per minute and requires about 80KW of power. Each machine seems to be operable by a small team of five or so, but let's double that to ten people.

In order to match the production rate of a single industrial machine you would need:

Machines: 175

Cost: $437,500

Power: 131KW

Workers: 700

According to this (http://mahadiscom.com/emagazine/jan06/india1%5B1%5D.pdf) electricity cost in India runs around 1.5 rupees per KWh for residential and 3.5 rupees per KWh for industrial applications. Assuming ten hours per day (for easy math) the power costs compare as follows (converted to USD):

175 low cost machines @131KWh in household settings: USD $37 per day.

Industrial machine @80KWh in industrial setting: USD $52.87 per day.

The industrial machine cost a little more to run (power) but it produces 175 times more product per machine. Put a different way, around USD $0.03 of power is required per napkin with the household machine. The industrial machine --even at more than double the electricity cost-- only requires USD $0.0003 per napkin in power.

In terms of labor costs --assuming $1 per hour-- the household machine would cost about $0.033 per napkin while the industrial machine runs $0.0005 per napkin.

According to the linked statistic the TAM (Total Addressable Market) is around 300 million women:


If his dream to "make India a 100% napkin-using country" is fully realized you would need to produce a minimum of 1500 million napkins per month (assuming five pads used per period). The solutions compare as follows:

Assuming that the machines are run 24 hours per day for 30 days.

- Household solution

Machines: 17362

Cost: $43,405,000

Power: 12MW

Labor cost per 30 days: $25,001,280

- Industrial Solution:

Machines: 100

Cost: $50,000,000

Power: 8MW

Labor cost per 30 days: $90,000

Unless my numbers are grossly wrong (please check, I threw them together quickly) this is not as good a solution as it has been made out to be. In fact, it looks like a really bad solution to a large scale problem. The costs are staggering. Power consumption is at least 50% greater. I'll bet that product quality and consistency also suffers a great deal. And, of course, we haven't even covered maintenance costs and MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) of 18,000 low-cost machines versus 100 industrial grade machines.

Good job. Lots of work. But I'd invest in a used industrial machine out of China over making thousands of these low cost household devices.

solutionyogi 3 days ago 2 replies      
What an inspiring story.

I grew up in a lower middle class family and I have two sisters. I know that my sisters and mom could not afford to use napkins because paying for the school fees was more important. As the story mentions, my sisters will take time off from school during those days.

His price of 12 rupees (25 cents) for 8 napkins is unbelievably cheap. That means a napkin costs 1.5 rupees which is less than a cup of tea you can buy at a road side stall in India. And I think 75%+ of his target market should be able to afford it.

BTW, you should visit the company's website, they have more details there:


urbanjunkie 3 days ago 5 replies      
This is both inspiring and depressing.

Female medical students not wishing to talk to a man about menstruation.

The fatalistic, egotistical and selfish attitude epitomised by women being unconcerned about losing their uterus. And of course, if you don't care about your own uterus, you're unlikely to care about litter, the environment, or pretty much anything.

(ps, as someone who has spent a lot of time in India and whose parenta are Indian, this fatalistic selfishness isn't a gender based issue. It is, however, one of the corrosive elements of Indian culture that worries me).

tantalor 3 days ago 3 replies      
I applaud the inventor's drive to lower the cost of production, but sanitary napkins aren't necessarily the best solution.

For instance, a menstrual cup is generally more cost efficient and certainly more environmentally friendly. And it can be manufactured with simple equipment (rubber injection mold).


jackityquack 3 days ago  replies      
Good story, but a strange guy. Also, he could probably do more good for his country by selling his product. He would actually disrupt the industry, instead of creating yet another charity project.
The way to fight poverty isn't to give poor people poor solution. The way to think about it is that you need to level the playing field, so even Indians would laugh at making their own napkins. If you told a white American do make their own napkin, they'd laugh if your face. But we seem to think it's reasonable for an Indian to do it. That's absurd.
If he creates a better industry, he can keep the profits in India. He can then employ persons who will be rich enough to afford to not make their own napkins. That money will trickle out in to the economy and create a richer India. The only solution to poverty is economics. And you can't become an economic super power on charity.

You can stop reading if you get the point, the rest is a rant:
Another example that everyone loves of agriculture. Have you ever heard of a success story through teaching farmers to use non-industrial machinery? Hell NO! You can't win that way. You need to find a way for farmers to compete in the real world, not coddle them. Microfinance them or something. Maybe teach them to partner with a company with the money to buy all the right supplies (tractor, fertilizer, etc) that can actually turn his land in to profit. Then he isn't charity, he's a businessman. Charity is not the solution for people like me (by which I mean a healthy person that can work, since there's no difference between me and another 23 year old in any country in the world).

lizzard 3 days ago 2 replies      
I love that this guy figured out how to make and re-sell a cheaper manufacturing machine!

I have some questions though.

One is about the suggestion in the article that not using disposable napkins results in reproductive tract infections. That seems unlikely.

Another is that while good, cheap, reliable period-managing supplies are useful and liberating for women, there are movements to use menstrual cups and washable, reusable cloths as an alternative to disposable stuff. "Rags" sounds negative but "reusable cloth pads" less so.

So while this is great, maybe there is still more opportunity for disruption in this market!

shabda 3 days ago 6 replies      
Not sure if someone noticed but the women workers are wearing the cloth-mask so as not to be identified in the photo. Interesting, weird and depressing that its embarrassing to be working building sanitary napkins.
jasonshen 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm going to send this article to anyone who complains about how entrepreneurs only make "trivial apps" instead of solving serious "real-world problems". I love what this man has done, but to say that people unwilling to add to the stress/difficulty/risk of starting a startup by tackling a market/problem like this one is inappropriate. Yes, let's encourage entrepreneurship on all levels, but don't pretend that it's just as hard as building and selling a mobile app.
paulhauggis 3 days ago 2 replies      
I really admire this guy. It's sad that his wife left him over it though..
evmar 3 days ago 1 reply      
I am sad to say when I read this I worried whether the manufacturers' samples would come back to bite him in the form of some sort of patent lawsuit. I guess it could be considered a benefit that he isn't making money, as it makes him a smaller target.
vamsee 3 days ago 0 replies      
I heard this guy tell his story to a live audience in Chennai a while ago. He's an electrifying speaker. You should see his passion for his project. He is an inspiration, reminded me of Dr. Varaprasad Reddy of Shantha Biotechnics, who also has a great story to tell.
pardner 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thoroughly brilliant example of relentless execution of a vision with a higher purpose.
danhodgins 2 days ago 1 reply      
Brilliant example of the design thinking process in action.

This man has certainly practiced the 'design thinking' process outlined by Tim Brown in "Change By Design" - a book about the process of innovation. The Design Thinking process involves lots of ethnographic research, and developing empathy for the user - the same tenets as user centered (UCD) or human centered design (HCD).

In this case, the inventor developed empathy by going so far as wearing a fake uterus that emitted goats blood!

I find this story and others like it to be very inspiring. However, knowing that the world can be changed for the better or worse by people who believe strongly enough about something is both reassuring and frightening at the same time.

rachelbythebay 3 days ago 1 reply      
The world needs more people with empathy who are willing to put themselves in the shoes of others. Brilliant story. Thank you for posting it.
mynameishere 3 days ago 1 reply      
Why not just buy bulk medical gauze and fold it up? That's got to be cheap as hell, and if it's good enough for bullet holes...
yalogin 3 days ago 3 replies      
I am really glad to see that he did not jump to "profit" at the end. Hope he gets enough support.
radicalcakes 3 days ago 0 replies      
Inspirational! This is a great example of the only barrier for not achieving something great...is yourself.
cezar_sl 3 days ago 0 replies      
I only saw "wife came back when he became famous (and presumably rich)"
stfp 2 days ago 0 replies      
the. period. industry.
pressurefree 3 days ago 0 replies      
I believe my invention will disrupt the wind power industry...

send wampum.

Dear Internet: It's no Longer OK Not to Know How Congress Works informationdiet.com
666 points by cjoh  3 days ago   156 comments top 34
JonnieCache 3 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.

jaysonelliot 3 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.

rasur 3 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..

rickmb 3 days 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.

TheCapn 3 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.


tomelders 3 days 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.

mdemare 3 days 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.


gasull 3 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.

ggwicz 3 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...

secretwhistle 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I was going to upvote this but it was at 666 points.

So I just took a screenshot and forwarded it to the more religious of our representatives as proof that SOPA is indeed evil.

jameskilton 3 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.
OoTheNigerian 3 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.

illamint 3 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?

SoftwareMaven 3 days 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.

boredguy8 3 days ago 1 reply      
Attempting to post this link to facebook breaks it.


deletes the trailing hyphen and becomes


praptak 2 days 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.

atsaloli 2 days ago 0 replies      

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.


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.

x3c 3 days 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.

ck2 3 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?

RyanMcGreal 3 days 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.
jlind 3 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...

charlieok 3 days 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.

SnowShadow 2 days 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.
JamisonM 3 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.

NiceOneBrah 3 days 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.
zackzackzack 3 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?
jderick 3 days ago 0 replies      
rootstrikers.org is trying to get money out of politics. I think that would go a long way.
curveship 3 days 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...

beefman 3 days 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.
lucian303 2 days ago 0 replies      
Congress doesn't work. That's what the Internet doesn't know.
aquanext 2 days 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.
jhuni 3 days ago 0 replies      
tl;dr I stopped at "our democracy."
remyroy 3 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.
iterationx 3 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.

In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949"2011 vanityfair.com
662 points by tieistoowhite  6 days ago   220 comments top 37
TomOfTTB 6 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)

davesims 6 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.

pessimist 6 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.
pflats 6 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".

zalew 6 days ago 1 reply      

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".

bravura 6 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.

martythemaniak 6 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.

andywood 6 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.
Jach 6 days ago 1 reply      
"God is Not Great" is trending on Twitter right now... (Hilarious material too.) Too bad Hitchens missed it.
Vivtek 6 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.

tptacek 6 days ago 1 reply      
Ah, shit.
mturmon 6 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.

arepb 6 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
robertk 6 days ago 1 reply      
We shall have to work faster.


dreamux 6 days ago 0 replies      
He was my favourite thinker and orator, I'm very sad to see him go.
soitgoes 6 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.
serverdude 6 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

valgaze 6 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."

staunch 6 days ago 1 reply      
Too short, but he won at life.
dmerfield 6 days ago 0 replies      
My favourite Hitchens moment:


arjn 6 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.
Nelson69 6 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.

thomasgerbe 6 days ago 0 replies      
veidr 6 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.

markwherry 6 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.
chjj 6 days ago 1 reply      
dammit. hitchens barely got his trousers off.
mattyohe 6 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
andyl 6 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.
tdfx 6 days ago 0 replies      
For anyone looking for a quick way to get a handle on who he was search YouTube for "hitchslap".
Benares 6 days ago 1 reply      
He's in a better place, now.


siculars 6 days ago 0 replies      
Damn. Miss you.
robbrown451 6 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.
zotz 5 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.
randdythea 6 days ago 0 replies      
ddw 6 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.

RomanAClef 6 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. "


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.

numair 6 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.

The Secret History of Kim Jung Il -- written by one of his high school teachers foreignpolicy.com
618 points by cynest  2 days ago   153 comments top 18
vnorby 2 days 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.

findm 2 days 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:

michaelbuckbee 2 days 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...
ck2 2 days 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.

irahul 2 days 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.

jrubinovitz 2 days 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).
refurb 2 days 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.


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.

fufulabs 2 days 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.

drumdance 2 days ago 0 replies      
I found this graphic novel by a French cartoonist who worked in North Korea to be fascinating:


yogrish 2 days ago 1 reply      
Touching story. But,author never mentioned why he changed so much and became ruthless...not even sparing his teachers family.
bitops 2 days ago 1 reply      
rrrazdan 2 days 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?
mattparlane 2 days ago 4 replies      
little hint:

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

SystemOut 2 days 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.
gcb 1 day 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.

rokhayakebe 2 days 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.
harryf 2 days 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?
Microsoft decides to automatically update Internet Explorer for everyone geek.com
616 points by ukdm  7 days ago   171 comments top 34
mmcconnell1618 7 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.
bgarbiak 7 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.
dazbradbury 7 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...

apaprocki 7 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".
RyanMcGreal 7 days ago 3 replies      
Good news, but XP users still won't be able to upgrade past IE8.
TheCoreh 7 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?
ma2rten 7 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.
dr_ 7 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.
melling 7 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.
andrewheins 7 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.

BonoboBoner 7 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...

JoeAltmaier 7 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.

robbrown451 7 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.

dmbaggett 7 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.
hkarthik 6 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.

hendrik-xdest 7 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.
zeeed 6 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.

hkarthik 7 days ago 0 replies      
Finally. They should have done this a really long time ago.
noblethrasher 7 days ago 0 replies      
Interestingly (or perhaps ironically), this probably means that the IE chrome won't get updated lest it alarm the users.
miles_matthias 7 days ago 1 reply      
This is slightly making me think about adding a specific version of IE to my Crap Browser Notifier:


Maybe IE10 and up. Maybe.

dhkl 7 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.

shapeshed 7 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.
nbclark 7 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..."
obtu 7 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.
WayneDB 7 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if it will keep replacing the shortcuts that I've removed.
Brajeshwar 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is one hell of a bloody awesome news. I say the best ever for everyone on the Internet.
Hikari 7 days ago 0 replies      
great news but a little bit too late in my opinion.
kgc 5 days ago 0 replies      
Web designers around the world rejoice.
jrwn 7 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?
ajo11 7 days ago 0 replies      
Santa is real!
superyeah 7 days ago 0 replies      
muchonada 7 days ago 0 replies      
<= Happy
olaf 7 days ago 0 replies      
Welcome to the 21st century.
tomjen3 7 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.

The nightmarish SOPA hearings washingtonpost.com
579 points by elliottcarlson  7 days ago   166 comments top 30
nirvana 7 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!

jacques_chester 7 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.

msluyter 7 days ago 3 replies      
Nice post from Felix Salmon on the topic:


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.

noonespecial 7 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.

Timothee 7 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.

mbesto 7 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.

zotz 6 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."

by Senator Richard F. Pettigrew, 1921

eegilbert 7 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>
ajtaylor 7 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.

zmmmmm 7 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.
ck2 7 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.

masonhensley 7 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone have a list of where each representative is leaning on SOPA?

some reps against sopa, for an open internet:








mattvot 7 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

rorrr 7 days ago 3 replies      
I'm voting against every fucker in my district who supports it. That's the only non-violent way.
firefoxman1 7 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.
nyellin 6 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?)

balloot 7 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.
jrwoodruff 6 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.

antihero 7 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.
bprater 7 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?
TheCapn 6 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.

VonLipwig 6 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.

Shenglong 7 days ago 1 reply      
Too bad we don't have some sort of upper age limit on electing officials.
dreamdu5t 7 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!

evoxed 7 days ago 2 replies      
Has anyone seen the TV ad? "Illegal downloads on foreign websites, stealing AMERICAN jobs......"

It was frighteningly manipulative.

tomkinstinch 7 days ago 1 reply      
What will it take to elect technical people to public office?
kylek 7 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like a big joke to some people in the room!


jderick 6 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:


gcb 6 days ago 0 replies      
Why is everyone so worried about SOPA?

patriot act has already passed.

BrandonM 6 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.

Dropping a Magnet Through a Copper Pipe makezine.com
558 points by jashmenn  2 days ago   107 comments top 24
jacquesm 2 days ago 3 replies      
I've played around with some pretty bad ass magnets during the time that I was building wind turbines and one of the more interesting effects was that if you dropped one near anything made of steel you were actually in danger of getting shrapnel embedded in your body.

They move so fast it is scary, sometimes they explode on impact. This makes you pretty nervous about dropping them.

Then, one day one got dropped over a chunk of solid aluminum. It floated gently to the metal landing with a soft 'click'. Besides the initial surprise (I realized the eddy currents induced a magnet field of opposing polarity in the aluminum) what struck me most was the force of that opposing magnet. If you tried to force the magnet close to the aluminum at speed it would resist so strongly that you never managed to smash it into it with any kind of effectiveness. Always just that soft 'click'.

I still have a bunch of 3"x2"x1" neos waiting for some project, and whenever someone visits that's interested in technology I show them what those things can do, if you have tried to pry one of those from a chunk of solid steel (or if you're unlucky, another magnet) you know what I mean when I say I have a lot of respect for those little golden blocks.

swombat 2 days ago 0 replies      
Most of the other "zen magnet" videos linked as "related videos" are pretty damn awesome. I strongly recommend watching them all, right now. Really, there's nothing more important for you to do at this point in time.

Exploding zen magnet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=q...

140-sided zen magnet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRiMexbocBI&feature=relmf...

Interlaced dodecahedron: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2qfCn3gclQ&feature=relmf...

"Hell's Diamond": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OF2i8eG7KhA&feature=relmf...

jtchang 2 days ago 1 reply      
Imagine an amusement park ride where they put you in a suit full of magnets and then drop you down a copper tube.

That would be one hell of an experience.

presidentender 2 days ago 2 replies      
It is not often that something runs so strongly against my intuition. Today, I am reminded just how little I know.
tzs 2 days ago 3 replies      
"I could do this all day. It's so cool".

Am I correct in assuming that if he did it all day, it would not actually be so cool, as the copper tube would be heated up by the induced currents?

CognitiveLens 2 days ago 2 replies      
I was fascinated by this demonstration in my high school physics class. The teacher went further and dropped the same magnet through another copper pipe of the same diameter that had a slit cut along its length - the magnet dropped straight through the slit pipe without slowing down. This provided an important "counterexample" demonstrating that the induced currents were circular around the circumference of the solid pipe - breaking the circle eliminated the braking force.
nyellin 1 day ago 0 replies      
Back in high school, I lost 1st place in the Weizmann Safe Cracking Physics Contest over this. You had to build a safe that anyone with a sufficiently advanced knowledge of physics could open. The winning team had placed a magnetic switch in the middle of a long tube inside their safe. You could toggle the switch if a magnet fell down the tube slowly enough, but it never worked no matter how you dropped it. The solution was to first insert a roll of tinfoil inside the tube.

They also used a gauss cannon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coilgun



Jun8 1 day ago 0 replies      
Couldn't resist this Hitchhiker's Guide quote on the subject of eddies:

  "I have detected," he said, "disturbances in the wash." …
"The wash?" said Arthur.
"The space-time wash," said Ford. …
Arthur nodded, and then cleared his throat.
"Are we talking about," he asked cautiously, "some sort of Vogon laundromat,
or what are we talking about?"
"Eddies," said Ford, "in the space-time continuum."
"Ah," nodded Arthur, "is he? Is he?"
He pushed his hands into the pocket of his dressing gown
and looked knowledgeably into the distance.
"What?" said Ford.
"Er, who," said Arthur, "is Eddy, then, exactly, then?"

mrb 1 day ago 2 replies      
I accidentally discovered eddy currents not too long ago, while mindlessly playing with a copper CPU heatsink and an HDD magnet (geeky, right?) I expected copper to be ferromagnetic, but was surprised when I felt this dragging force that neither repulsed nor attracted the magnet. Curious about this discovery, it took me a few minutes of googling to eventually learn about eddy currents... I am surprised I never learned about them at school.
jtreminio 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is amazing to me as I've never seen or heard of it before.

Question: If this same thing were to be done in a circular copper pipe that feeds into itself (ie a hoola hoop made of copper), and that hoop were rotated at the correct speed, would the magnet in effect never actually move and just hover in mid air?

felipemnoa 2 days ago 1 reply      
So in a nutshell what seems to be happening is that the moving magnetic field is causing the electrons in the copper to move, this electrons then give rise to a magnetic field which repulses the original magnetic field which is why the magnet slows down.
digitalsushi 2 days ago 0 replies      
Admit you're doing the right hand rule right now. And that you just googled what was going on, and for 2 minutes you felt like the young geek that forged your path here, whatever the discipline. (Ok, the physicists are not doing the right hand rule, they are rolling their eyes
michaelf 2 days ago 1 reply      
This video made me curious about what a magnet factory would look like and I found a really great video that goes step by step through the process at a neodymium magnet manufacturer in Shanghai:


I was sort of hoping that the factory would look like that plexiglass prison in the X-Men movie that was designed to prevent Magneto from using his powers.

Alas, it's nothing like that, but it's an interesting video nonetheless.

petercooper 2 days ago 4 replies      
At the time of writing, the linked site is down, but I found what I suspect is a similar demonstration at http://www.bbc.co.uk/bang/handson/magneticcopper.shtml
MaggieL 2 days ago 1 reply      
At the Franklin Institute Science Museum years ago, they had a huge (2 foot diameter? More?) copper disk attached to a crank suspended in the gap of a big-ass electromagnet. The idea was you spun the crank, and then operated a foot pedal that applied current to the electromagnet, which braked the wheel with eddy currents.

The disk had slotted sectors, so you could tell that the braking effect was less when those sectors were in the gap.

I don't know if the exhibit survived the themparkification of fi.edu... I hope so but somehow I doubt it.

drstrangevibes 17 hours ago 0 replies      
i wonder what would happen if you had strips of steel interlaced with copper , youd create a push-me pull-me effect i would expect.
zafka 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is pretty funny. I just did this demo two weeks ago at work. We had two motors that were neck and neck for a project, then when we put them both in am aluminum housing, one drew 50% more current at full speed idle. I found both this demo, and the demo of dropping a big magnet on to an aluminum sheet. I for sure need to play more with magnets, In fact I am lusting for the big magnet that
jacquesm talked about.
jurre 2 days ago 1 reply      
So tempted to go and buy a magnet and copper pipe now!
untog 2 days ago 0 replies      
I cannot shake my perception that this video was, in fact, created and narrated by Zack Galifianakis.

"Just weird stuff. Eddy currents."

joejohnson 2 days ago 1 reply      
Here is a really easy to understand explanation of eddy currents and Lenz's Law http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&...
jamgraham 2 days ago 0 replies      
I need a magnet suit and a big pipe
wicknicks 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've read about eddy currents in textbooks. But seeing them work is simply fascinating.

Maybe one day space rockets can land on planets using this principle.

ineedtogroove 2 days ago 2 replies      
Have you guys ever seen a magnetic vortex?


Please explain to me how this works, I will buy you a donut

testuser113 1 day ago 0 replies      
We have weird gravity here in Rockford Illinois. The neodymium magnets are super powerful and even though they are not attracted to the copper, they still produce eddy currents that buffer the fall as seen in the video. Lenz's Law make a great experiment for kids to adult. Also, great at parties when conversation goes stale.
Whitehouse.gov petition to veto SOPA whitehouse.gov
490 points by orbenn  4 days ago   81 comments top 22
wdewind 4 days ago 4 replies      
I was on a conference call w/ Zoe Lofgren (CA congress woman who is on the Judiciary fighting the hell out of this bill) and a bunch of NYC tech companies last weekend and she said petitions are essentially ignored, and instead to make phone calls to your reps and directly into the capital.

This isn't to say don't sign this, but if you are really concerned, the absolute bottom line is phone calls. Anything you can do to funnel phone calls in is what counts.

Edit: Let me add this, which makes it absurdly easy: http://fightforthefuture.org/

vectorpush 4 days ago 3 replies      
I don't understand this fascination with internet petitions. Hasn't it been demonstrated to the point of absurdity that our government does not care?

Before anyone claims "OH, so we should just do nothing instead????". Posting a dubious e-signature to an internet petition does nothing. There are people out in the streets sleeping in parks getting pepper sprayed and arrested because the government can't simply ignore it (unlike every single internet petition).

Filling out a whitehouse petition is like getting punched in the face by your boss then slipping a folded piece of paper into the complaint box he put in the break-room next to the donuts.

orthecreedence 4 days ago 2 replies      
Every time I've voted on a whitehouse.gov petition, I've gotten an email 6 months later saying why the petition will be completely ignored, answering none of the points the petition brought up.

The petition system is an ineffectual smokescreen.

akavlie 4 days ago 2 replies      
I expect that this petition will be just as effective as all the others.
msluyter 4 days ago 3 replies      
I created an account in order to sign this, but when I try to sign in I get a 404 -- using Chrome. Anyone else get that?
rorrr 4 days ago 0 replies      
Our government showed us many times that they don't give a shit about these petitions.
orbenn 4 days ago 0 replies      
What is SOPA and why should you care about it?

Short serious video:

Long sarcastic video with a British accent:

waffle_ss 4 days ago 0 replies      
The WH petition system is to political activism what Twitter is to people's social commentary... effectively redirect everything to /dev/null and make them think they've made their voices heard (although I think that this particular one is quite clever).
anrope 4 days ago 0 replies      
Everyone is mentioning how petitions don't work, which I agree with.

(Sidenote: I think it is an extra step worse that the government put up a website for petitions, and still ignores their own system. Random petitions (e.g. "\signed" forum posts) are one thing, but this is more like toying with people.)

That said, I think this petition has something important that other whitehouse.gov petitions don't: in that, under SOPA, there is actually technically a possibility that the government would censor itself (via whitehouse.gov), which is pretty funny if you think about it.

Edit: I suppose I mean "funny" in a darker sense.

Joakal 3 days ago 0 replies      
I disagree, although I'll sign it. A petition should be created to not only stop SOPA but demand INTERNET FREEDOM laws. This will make it impossible to present any SOPA without repealing the law as there's a direct conflict.

Otherwise there'll be another attempt at SOPA after outrage fatigue. And there had been many before.

TheCapn 3 days ago 0 replies      
I like the tactic the petition used by even if they took the time to treat it seriously this is the only 2 outcomes...

1) The petition gets removed for containing infringing content

or worse...

2) The government moves towards removing imgur.com because it is doing the hosting of the infringing content

I know, I know its absurd, but who really believes that that link can bring down whitehouse.gov?

joshuahedlund 4 days ago 0 replies      
For all the discussion about worthless Internet petitions, it should be noted that the White House form is specifically set up to at least elicit a response if a certain threshold is reached. The threshold was originally 5,000 signatures but was raised to 25,000 after the White House responded to pleas for information about extraterrestrials. If they gave a response to that arguably silly request, it is reasonable to think they will at least respond to this one.

See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45176460/ns/technology_and_scien...

nestlequ1k 3 days ago 0 replies      
Not a chance. Election is coming up and we're talking about 100s of millions of dollars of contributions from the entertainment industry. He'll sign it.

On the other hand, if he veto's maybe we can make up the difference. I'd be happy to contribute to a president who is a proven proponent of internet liberty. I just don't have the bankroll of the hollywood execs. Maybe some of the recent internet billionaires can fill in the gaps.

omouse 4 days ago 0 replies      
Petitions don't work. The Founding Fathers knew that...
lukejduncan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Every time I've tried logging in with an existing account to sign anything I've always gotten a 404 after.
ComputerGuru 3 days ago 0 replies      
Guys, the link doesn't load properly if you have Ghostery enabled. I'm not sure what WH.gov is doing to load that petition from another domain via JS, but disabling Ghostery makes things work OK.
neilparikh 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm in Canada, and I've realized that SOPA would damage me too, since the domain would be removed from the DNS.
People here are suggesting calling their representatives, but which one should I call? Would they even bother listening to someone, who ate the end of the day, is not going affect their chance of reelection?
I'd still like to be able to do something since SOPA and Protect IP are quite horrible laws.
dlikhten 3 days ago 0 replies      
I received another letter from the white house. I am going to say it now. whitehouse.gov is BS. It is complete and utter bs. You are lucky if an intern looks at it, probably just a pre-canned response to any media whatever. All these petitions say is "bla bla bla write me some bs"

We need a better methodology.

pud 4 days ago 1 reply      
I didn't realize that anyone could create petitions on WhiteHouse.gov. Were it not for the casual writing style, I might have thought this was an official petition from the White House.


twainer 4 days ago 0 replies      
Something shady going on with this petition? I logged in - first time every looking at it - and it says "You've already signed this petition."


dmauro 4 days ago 2 replies      
Can't sign in or register in Chrome 15 ?
kodisha 4 days ago 2 replies      
8k votes... that is just sad...
The Bomb That Changed My Life swombat.com
454 points by shadowsun7  3 days ago   83 comments top 18
cstross 3 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.

idan 3 days ago  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.

kokey 3 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.

joncooper 3 days 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.)

hopeless 3 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.

nosequel 3 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.

bootload 2 days 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"

josscrowcroft 3 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.

corin_ 3 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?

tlear 3 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!

krig 3 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.
alexholehouse 3 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.

flannell 2 days 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.
heimidal 3 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.

spiffistan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Incredibly powerful writing, even more so when combined with that track.
richthegeek 3 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.
padolsey 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for posting this. A poignant reminder.
Maro 3 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.
GoDaddy's SOPA Support Sparks Calls for Boycotts and Domain Transfers readwriteweb.com
455 points by johnpaultitlow  8 hours ago   33 comments top 6
brandnewlow 7 hours ago 3 replies      
What's the best way to see what my local rep has said about SOPA?
DilipJ 4 hours ago 2 replies      
it's weird that it's because of SOPA that people want to transfer away from GoDaddy. Their incredibly misogynistic ads should have been enough...
slyspyderspy07 30 minutes ago 0 replies      
Transfer complete.
arriu 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I am not using GoDaddy again and will encourage my friends and family to stay away as well.
jamesbritt 1 hour ago 0 replies      
They provide other services besides domain hosting.

For example, domain registration.

bradleyland 7 hours ago 5 replies      
This is a company that runs Super Bowl advertisements. Your mom's uncle's, half-brother's, cousin uses them to register domains, and she's never heard of ReadWriteWeb, HackerNews, or Reddit.

Not trying to be Debbie Downer here, but effort is a finite resource, and it seems to me that the anti-GoDaddy folks just hooked their cart up to the anti-SOPA horse. I don't have any domains with GoDaddy because they suck. I'd venture that anyone who is capable enough to move their domains on their own has already moved away from GoDaddy. Anyone not capable would have to pay someone else to do it for them. That's the fight the GoDaddy boycott folks are picking.

And so the question must be asked, will this effort have a good return on investment? Will GoDaddy be swayed? If they are, what will the impact be?

When I ask myself these questions, I come away with the impression that GoDaddy is the last thing anyone should be focused on. Congressmen need to feel the pressure from their constituents. Talk to your friends, and don't couch your language with domain registrar topics. It'll get you nowhere fast.

Reddit admin: "If SOPA passes it would almost certainly mean the end of reddit" reddit.com
422 points by gasull  4 days ago   150 comments top 18
astrodust 4 days ago  replies      
If you wanted to implement something like this, regardless of merit, then DNS blocking is by far the worst way to go about doing it.

Anyone with an interest in using pirate sites will simply switch to alternate DNS providers, there will always be a way, and legitimate users will be subject to rampant and arbitrary censorship in the name of "stopping piracy".

You can't stop piracy. It's a supply and demand problem. It's a perception problem.

How can you convince someone that the TV show that is broadcast for free over the air is legal, but downloading exactly the same show at a later time is illegal?

Companies have all the tools they need to reduce piracy but they refuse to use them, instead trying to extort money from people through more conventional means. They'd rather have ten sales at $20 than thousands at $1.

wavephorm 4 days ago 3 replies      
The real problem is it's not just SOPA. This authoritarian trend has been going on since 9/11. The Patriot Act, Homeland Security, the Secure Fence Act, and recently NDAA, and PIPA. Each one is a clever euphemism design to conceal its true dystopian purpose. The American regime is strengthening itself to unprecedented levels... for what?

Generally countries do not strip its citizens of so many civil liberties unless there is a clear goal ahead. We will probably find out in the next few years.

sehugg 4 days ago 3 replies      
This reminds me of a story about the first atomic bomb test. Not too long before the first detonation was to occur, some scientists voiced a concern that there was a slim chance that the blast would be strong enough to ignite the atmosphere and pretty much destroy the world. These voices were in the minority, and disproved through calculation and common sense -- but the official paper disproving it did not arrive until a year later. So the first atomic bomb was detonated with a few lingering doubts about whether it would instantly destroy the world.

This is what the SOPA debate feels like to me, except there are no reasoned arguments disproving its opponents' worst fears, just pat dismissals of the opposition.

zotz 4 days ago 0 replies      
"The nature of law is to maintain justice. This is so much the case that, in the minds of the people, law and justice are one and the same thing. There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are 'just' because law makes them so." -Fredric Bastiat
Qz 4 days ago 5 replies      
I'm getting certificate errors -- is this part of the point or something else?
gasull 4 days ago 1 reply      
If SOPA passes, every user-generated content website is going to have tremendous costs, in many cases prohibitive. I think only Facebook and a few players would have the resources to police their content. This is going to be really bad for Silicon Valley and the startup community.
blantonl 4 days ago 0 replies      
Considering HN is all user generated content, does pg have a perspective on SOPA's potential impact on HN?
mkramlich 4 days ago 3 replies      
it's interesting to me that the same folks who wanted Citzens United because it was supposedly pro free speech are also in favor of SOPA which is pretty clearly anti free speech. what they have in common is both favor large corporations at the expense of individuals and the non-rich. more freedom for the former and less for the latter. not a good trend in a country historically and ostensibly founded on individual liberty and non-aristocracy.
paulhauggis 4 days ago 2 replies      
People care so much about SOPA, but not as much about the Internet Tax Bill, which means every small e-commerce site will be forced to collect taxes for every jurisdiction in the US.

I seriously doubt all of them have the manpower or money to properly collect sales tax.

mhartl 4 days ago 0 replies      
HN admin: please s/https/http/ in the story link.
plasma 3 days ago 1 reply      
If the bill passes, would people band together and try and invoke the bill on the very people that wanted it in?

Like the government website, record labels, etc, on the very frivolous grounds they are trying to ignore right now to get it approved.

I wonder how quickly it would be changed then?

vonskippy 4 days ago 5 replies      
One shining note to remember before everyone turns doom and gloom, in the States (if I remember what the citizenship pamphlet said when I got my green card), it's not really "law" until it stands up to a test case in a court of law.

Since the congress critters are lining their pockets left and right from the lobbyists for this bill, it's not in their personal interest to turn it down, even if they know it won't stand up in court.

And if it passes, it's almost guaranteed to be tested (and overturned) in court - as it's been mentioned many many times, Youtube, Google, Bing, etc etc have way too much to lose to let it go unchallenged.

Seems like it's just status quo here in the States with the new "pay-n-pass" government.

redthrowaway 4 days ago 0 replies      
FWIW, Erik's the GM of reddit, not just an admin.
lkx 3 days ago 0 replies      
The point of maximum leverage for SOPA seems to be lobbyists, and those who instruct them, not the congressmen who they buy. Right now they seem to be well hidden, and the decks are stacked in their favor, with protests and letter writing campaigns to Congress seemingly ignored.

Maybe the time has come for those who are pushing for this act to be fully exposed, and subject directly to public outrage. A handful of Big Content execs should be a lot easier to influence, than 485 members of Congress.

billpatrianakos 3 days ago 2 replies      
Reddit admin engages in scare tactics, fear mongering, and the worst kind of hyperbole.

Guys, the Internet isn't going to shut off is SOPA passes so please chill out and try to be rational. All anyone is doing is talking about a workaround to a Gret Firewall that doesn't even exist and pissng their pants over the US becoming fascist.

Panic never helps anyone. While everyone is busy hiding under the bed waiting for SOPA to be over I wonder what else isnt being talked about? I'm sure it's far more important than this distraction.

pire 4 days ago 2 replies      
Just come to Spain guys :)
joelmichael 4 days ago 4 replies      
I'll believe it when I see it. I just don't believe the US government wants to shut down Reddit, Wikipedia, YouTube, and all of the other major sites the alarmists are claiming.
Where's Waldo? stackoverflow.com
404 points by bkaid  4 days ago   30 comments top 12
sergeyk 4 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...

TamDenholm 4 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.


6ren 4 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.

rgarcia 3 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.

kevinalexbrown 3 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.

dice 3 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.
ofca 4 days ago 1 reply      
Programming potential never ceases to amaze me. I want to learn more. NOW!
viscanti 3 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.

re 3 days ago 1 reply      
brianbreslin 4 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???).
danso 4 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
jastr 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is undoubtedly a data point on the path to the singularity.
I'm starting to think LEGO is evil sinker.tumblr.com
391 points by Sukotto  7 days ago   283 comments top 67
nostromo 7 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?"

ericabiz 7 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."


"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.)

cstross 7 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?

bryanlarsen 7 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.

javanix 7 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.

kellishaver 7 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.

acabal 7 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.

ahi 7 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.

mhartl 7 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).

bad_user 7 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.

neovive 7 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 :).

jrockway 7 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 :)

jacquesm 7 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).

amirmc 7 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

firefoxman1 7 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?
tomjen3 7 days ago 0 replies      
Before you complain, you can still get a big bag of Lego:


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.

oz 7 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?

blhack 7 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.

toast76 7 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.

tristan_louis 7 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.

ugh 7 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.

pkamb 7 days ago 1 reply      
That cops-and-robbers LEGO advent calendar is pretty weird.

I still have this guy hanging on my tree:

maximusprime 7 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!!!!!

vacri 7 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.

hugs 7 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.
tlrobinson 7 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:


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

MikeMacMan 7 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.

billpatrianakos 7 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.
duke_sam 7 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.

commieneko 7 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.)

mkramlich 7 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.

samstave 7 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.

RyanMcGreal 6 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.

veyron 7 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).

joelhooks 7 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.

shin_lao 7 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.

gus_massa 7 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/

harryf 7 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.

RexRollman 7 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.
jkeel 7 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.

ja27 7 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.
code_duck 7 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.

betageek 7 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.


trout 6 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.

kin 7 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.

sceaj 6 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."

zyb09 7 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.
batiudrami 7 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'.
rglover 7 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.

gavanwoolery 7 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...
emp_ 7 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.

seagreen 7 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.

gibsonf1 6 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/
alanh 7 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?

djhworld 6 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

jacobr 7 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.
wgrover 7 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...


kghose 7 days ago 0 replies      
Oh, BTW, I just had to share this guy's work:


Especially his sand crawler. I really liked that


rokhayakebe 7 days ago 3 replies      
Does LEGO have some sort of patent on "legos"? In other words are other companies allowed to build similar kits?
codergirl 7 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...
joejohnson 7 days ago 0 replies      
There are LEGO advent calendars!? That is so cool. I'm definitely getting one next year.
tombell 7 days ago 1 reply      
I feel the need to point out the obvious. It's LEGO not LEGOS or legos.
littlenag 7 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.
ajuc 6 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if rep-rap can print good enough lego pieces?
twodayslate 7 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!
brain5ide 6 days ago 0 replies      
LEGO used to be a brand. Now it's more of a platform.
draggnar 7 days ago 0 replies      
in america this is called having a niche
Dear Congress, It's No Longer OK To Not Know How The Internet Works vice.com
384 points by nextparadigms  6 days ago   77 comments top 24
meric 5 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". :)

noonespecial 5 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."

GigabyteCoin 5 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.

shingen 6 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.
tlb 6 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.
GuiA 6 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.

JoshTriplett 5 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.
einhverfr 5 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.....

suprgeek 4 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?


jen_h 5 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.
ggchappell 5 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"?)

dcaldwell 5 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.
vaksel 5 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.

cmcewen 5 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.

aj700 5 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="


which returns http-equiv refresh; url=

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

there are sites like


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?

SODaniel 5 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!

megablast 6 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.

meow 5 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.

radarsat1 5 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.
nsomaru 5 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.

yuhong 4 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.
chrisbennet 5 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.
drunkenmasta 6 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.
meanJim 5 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."


Trolls (2008) paulgraham.com
350 points by evo_9  8 days ago   303 comments top 63
edw519 8 days ago 3 replies      
Discussions like this remind me of my favorite scene from "Roadhouse", the best bad movie ever. Discussion forums are kinda like bars and hackers are kinda like coolers...

  All you have to do is follow three simple rules.
One: never underestimate your opponent.
Expect the unexpected.
Two: take it outside.
Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary.
And three: be nice.
Come on.
If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker, I want you to be nice.
Ask him to walk, be nice.
If he won't walk, walk him. But be nice.
If you can't walk him, one of the others will help you.
And you'll both be nice.
I want you to remember that it's a job.
- It's nothing personal. - Uh-huh.
Being called a cocksucker isn't personal?
No. It's two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response.
What if somebody calls my mama a whore?
Is she?
I want you to be nice...
..until it's time to not be nice.
Well, how're we supposed to know when that is?
You won't. I'll let you know.

Sometimes we hackers work too hard to make things more complicated than they need to be.

Be nice.

(Oh, and by the way, I'm letting you know now when it's time to not be nice here: never.)

zedshaw 8 days ago  replies      
I normally find that, unless an essay is about mathematics, if it is based on a binary argument then it's just false because it's too simplistic to be based in reality. In this case saying there's only "trolls" and "super awesome people!" is childish. There's a much more interesting spectrum of human behavior online that doesn't fit into these convenient categories. To then say there's only two types of "trolls" is again to reduce the argument to just two boolean options.

For example: I know for a fact that the various people who run HN use it to selectively market what they want, but maintain that it is some trust worthy news source for hackers. Since there's no way to distinguish between the astroturfed "top stories" advertising for YC companies and a real news story the entire forum becomes suspect. I consider this just as bad as trolling, except the leadership does it so people don't comment on it.

I've also seen huge double standards on here, again because people in charge can do whatever they want. They'll yell about ad hominem attacks and then do them two comments down. They'll post one-liner attack comments and call that "enlightened discourse", then call someone else's similar comment a "troll". Shit, people on here have outright called me a cocksucker and posted whole presentations vilifying me personally and nobody bats a wee little eyelash at it.

All of you are heavily manipulated on this forum and yet, here you are complaining about trolls? At least trolls can't hellban you to defend their little astroturf empire.

DanielBMarkham 8 days ago 2 replies      
One might worry this would prevent people from expressing controversial ideas, but empirically that doesn't seem to be what happens. When people say something substantial that gets modded down, they stubbornly leave it up. What people delete are wisecracks, because they have less invested in them.

I am not seeing this any more on HN.

This is the second time I read this essay, and my concerns are still the same: people who have minority opinions might not be able to express them in such a polite way as to be considered "thoughtful" by the majority.

I'm a bit of a contrarian commenter. That's because forums such as this one naturally gravitate to extremes. The programmer who lost his dog, and suddenly everybody is looking for him. The news story that causes us to be concerned about an intrusive government, and suddenly everybody sees Nazis everywhere.

People in groups naturally gravitate towards extremes. Whether they are right or wrong, other people may choose to try to persuade them of their error (and most times, the crowd is wrong because it takes things too far). In a highly-emotional discussion, it is almost impossible to convince the crowd that they might be wrong, no matter how you phrase it. People who try this are called trolls by the definition I see here, and they don't belong in the same category as folks who aren't part of the group but drop in to throw rhetorical hand-grenades at the rest of us. Quick test: if there were topic on HN titled "Final proof that the Earth is Still Flat" that linked to a reputable source and all the commenters were in agreement (stretch your imagination a bit) could you comment in such a fashion to show thoughtful consideration of the majority's opinion yet ask for people to really think this over? If you can follow along in my thought experiment, you'll find this is not a very easy thing to do at all. Most folks would just throw out a snarky rejoinder.

In my opinion a bit of nuance is required in this essay which is not present. EDIT: J.S. Mill, is on the money here: "...He argued that even if an opinion is false, the truth can be better understood by refuting the error..." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stuart_Mill#Views_on_freed... Note the conflict between how the real world has to act, and how the online community is desired to act by the site owner (and the majority opinion) The short-term interest of the site, perhaps "a happy majority pushing forward to a new understanding in a specific field of study" and the strategic interest of a well-functioning society are very much in conflict here. This is a hugely important point, and in my opinion PG does not recognize this except in passing.

interlagos 8 days ago  replies      
I've been hellbanned here on HN on at least three different IP addresses and accounts...that I am aware of. Probably more.

In each case nothing I'd ever said would be considered trolling by any rational observer. Here on HN, however, as with most communities where you start to recognize the regulars (tptacek, raganwald, etc), "trolling" is redefined to simply mean "going against the grain".

There was one discussion that I participated where I predicted that Apple would see declining profit margins due to increased competition. Remarkably this completely benign, seemingly obvious observation saw me declared a troll, and shortly thereafter yet another account was hellbanned from HN (whatever the mechanism -- is this the verdict of a bored PG, or has he anointed some particularly under-employed members to apply it? -- it is horribly broken).

Troll is, more often than not, a term used to circle the wagons.

pg 8 days ago 1 reply      
"But we still only have about 8,000 uniques a day."

Wow, now it's more like 120,000. If I was already worried about the problem then (which I must have been if I took the time to write about it), I'm surprised the site is even usable now.

angersock 8 days ago  replies      
Good post, but as someone who dabbles in trolling as a hobby, I'd like to suggest the following:

Trolls are important.

Trolling, especially as seen on places like slashdot/4chan/somethingawful/etc., can oftentimes be a mechanism of critique for ideas and rhetorical styles.

One of the best things about the 'net is that, frankly, none of this really matters. None of it. It's a big joke. My twitters and my wikis and my posts don't mean anything. They're bits in the stream. My karma is an int on a server somewhere, incremented and decremented by the whims of my fellow users.

Trolls can help remind all of us that hey, this is all light-hearted. They say outrageous things, they stir up trouble, they cause annoyance, they sully the pristine conditions of these high-minded realms of discourse.

In short, folks, they keep us all honest. They call us on our bullshit. And when a community takes itself so seriously that it becomes a habitat for trolls, it usually is a sign that that community needs to be dispersed, cleaned, and reformed elsewhere.

HN is a pretty cool place, and I hope it lasts a long while before ossifying and becoming infested with trolls.

rjd 8 days ago 2 replies      
There is a couple more cases which add to the mix.

1) Devils advocate. People that interject with an opposing view, even one they don't believe. I often do this one myself cause another poster to go into deeper description. Often just asking for an deeper response will be ignored, but opposing a view will always bring out an argument.

2) Denial and Righteousness. Essentially nasty fan boys. People who have brought into a belief and refuse to acknowledge any second point of view at all. I had this explained at a trolling seminar at a hacking conference quite well and they picked on the audience themselves to explain how to manipulate IT people.

With most IT people they have the myers-briggs archetype finishing with --TJ. This means they are thinkers and judgmental. They will look at a problem, find the evidence, evaluate it, and make a judgmental decision on what is correct. The facts don't lie.

However the facts can be like quantum variables, you chang angles and then entire structure changes. Making judgmental calls leads to obvious one set of true factual analysis being completely wrong in another setting.

Challenging a judgmental person is challenging there core makeup. Saying they are wrong undermines there very basic personality, drawing on the opposing variable to "thinking" on the myers-briggs scale "feeling". So intelligent people do not react with intelligence first.

Instead of reacting with an "oh ok I didn't realize that was the case in your area" they respond with a protective "I don't think so Tim" and things go down hill from there, especially if the second person is also judgmental.

3) Tribalism. This is the us vs them mentality. Either you are with us or against us. A non ordained view/comment against a group of people who maybe self validating can be seen as a extremely contrasting. Becomes the group has created a false sense of security it can draw out primal responses (like feeling over thinking mentioned above) when that sense of security is threatened.

Many groups become polarising and when confronted with opposing views become more and more fundamental, close ranks. This often forms tight knit groups but also leads to a side effect of making everyone an enemy, including people with in the group who aren't are right as they should be, or people with neutral opinions.

There was an article I read a week or two go about how to talk skeptically to people. If I can find it I'll post it. It addresses how to oppose a view and avoid the bottom two responses.

boredguy8 8 days ago 3 replies      
I think one particular line got me thinking:

  Graffiti happens at the intersection of ambition and incompetence: people want 
to make their mark on the world, but have no other way to do it than literally
making a mark on the world.

Paul Graham has to make a caveat because it's too easy for someone to say, "WELL, sir, you have clearly missed that some graffiti is amazing. Banksy!" But there's a very important filter that should kick in: "Can I trivially amend his point in such a way that his argument still holds?" It turns out that I can, and PG should never have need to caveat his statement.

Let me propose, for what it's worth, that a "Banksy!" reply to a statement like the one above is the sort of accidental troll that invites the slow degradation into real trolls. Whether or not Banksy is graffiti or whether or not graffiti is art: these aren't the question of the submission. This isn't to say that tangents are always bad. It's rather that these sorts of discussions quickly turn in to "what color should we paint the dog house?"* That is: lots of firmly-held beliefs with little that can dissuade someone.

So: when posting why someone is wrong, first see if there's a small or trivial way in which you can 'fix' their point. If you can, their point wasn't really broken in the first place.

*I've long been trying to find the original 'why meetings go bad when you're talking about something everyone has an opinion on', but I can't. If anyone can help me out: much appreciated.

hooande 8 days ago 1 reply      
I think the reason that troll behavior seems so much worse online is because most of us spend our time in environments where trolls are self-selected out. Assuming that most of us don't regularly deal with assholes in our work and home life, the place we're most likely to interact with them is online forums.

I'm not sure that anonymity or distance are the driving factors in online trolling. Most of the assholes I know have no problem saying mean spirited things when they're standing right next to me. I think the bigger issue is that it's easy for me to avoid those assholes in real life. In an online setting, I can't see them coming and they are Legion...for every one that we vote down, two more will rise up to take its place.

I understand Paul's frustration, but I don't know if we'll be able to find a technical solution. I think this is just one of the drawbacks (balanced by many benefits) of unfiltered communication.

scrrr 8 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting post.

I find unsubstantial / uninteresting / obvious / superfluous comments (like "I love it!" <send>) worse than very controversial or insulting comments. As long as the general information in the forum stay interesting and enjoyable.

Also isn't the "naughtiness" (some pg essay used that word I think) part of what some of the best contributors here have in common? And aren't entrepreneurs trolls, too, according to the OP's definition?

They disagree with something, they choose a path that is more fun than an ordinary life, they want to leave a mark.

mindstab 8 days ago 2 replies      
Do we have any more recent stats about the viewership of HN now for 2011? How big is it, and more subjectively, how do people feel we are doing with trolls?

I for one think on the whole conversation is still good and worthwhile checking out :)

mixmax 8 days ago 0 replies      
Technical tweaks may also help. On Reddit, votes on your comments don't affect your karma score, but they do on News.YC. And it does seem to influence people when they can see their reputation in the eyes of their peers drain away after making an asshole remark.

After points stopped being shown on comments this point seems ironically moot.

Any chance of getting them back? Personally I think it's the worst decision in the history of HN.

mcrittenden 8 days ago 0 replies      
OP, you might want to change the title to show that this article is from 2008. That was confusing to me, and a few other people in this thread.
chrishenn 8 days ago 1 reply      
I hope that trolling can be kept out of HN by the simple goodwill of the people using the site. I can't think of many forum systems that can effectively remove the incentive to troll.

I put up a forum online for people in my journalism class. They're nice people, but something about the fact that the conversation was online turned the discussion into something pretty dumb.

My hope is that people who grow up with the internet their whole lives will realize that you still have to be civil online. It's no different than real life, yet no one is teaching you manners online.

jvandenbroeck 8 days ago 1 reply      
Well because down voting influences karma I'm probably posting 70% less than I would. I see HN more like a news site in which I sometimes share my view on something but not to comment or to discuss something (sadly).

First I saw HN as something to have an intelligent discussion, but after a few "controversial" posts, and having negative karma, I don't bother. I only post something when I think it's "safe" to post, or when I have time to write a detailed essay.

I think some people can have an intelligent discussion on HN, not for me, maybe because of my dyslexia I'm bad with words. But then again, maybe that's the price to pay to keep the trolls away.

daenz 8 days ago 0 replies      
The fact that official moderators (read: people with super-user powers) are needed on a forum indicates that the regulating powers are broken by design.

Back in late 2009 I built a forum that allowed every user to temporarily ban any other user. There were restrictions... bans lengths were temporary (and voted on democratically), expiring after the voted time limit, you could only ban a person you replied to, and everyone would be able to see that you were the person who banned the parent post. Other than that, the forum was completely anonymous, and it was able to regulate large numbers of trolls (mostly from 4chan). They seemed to appreciate the equality and the natural regulation.

Sukotto 8 days ago 2 replies      
My go-to commentary on this general topic is the classic penny-arcade comic "John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory"

(Normal Person) + (Anonymity) + (Audience) = (Total Fuckwad)


antirez 7 days ago 0 replies      
There are much better trolls than the one described here, that are guys using trolling to show a point about a controversial subject. For instance the flying spaghetti monster thing is a form of trolling, and it is a good one.

I think that in programming forums the biggest source of trolling is due to clueless people that still want to say something... in the real world they would be put at the door, but you can't do this in a forum, and even after a ban it is too simple to re-enter.

The simplest form of protection about this is to associate a cost to username creation in a forum. Even 5$ is enough. This time the ban is a real cost for the troller that will likely stop after the first 5$ rounds.

Another widely used form of "cost" is badges, that is, you start with an account that can do very little and it takes time (and a good comportment) to grow in features. However there is the risk of trolls opening N accounts in parallel just to have reserves of usernames, so it is also very important to penalize non used accounts.

tripzilch 7 days ago 0 replies      
This article sounds like someone that doesn't understand trolls, trolling, or how to deal with them. Which is strange because he does mention the origins of trolling on Usenet in his footnote.

Anyway, he's wrong on several accounts:

> Trolling tends to be particularly bad in forums related to computers

This really makes me wonder what other forums that aren't related to computers PG frequented, probably not very many. Let's see, there's forums related to wicca, libertarians (the nutty kind), religion/spirituality, failed startups, "magick", seduction, conspiracy freaks ... all those topics attract significantly more trolls than computer related forums. Both of the "broader" definition ("assholes") and the sports trolling type.

> There's a sort of Gresham's Law of trolls: trolls are willing to use a forum with a lot of thoughtful people in it, but thoughtful people aren't willing to use a forum with a lot of trolls in it.

This is just false. Of all the forums I've seen, the two most thoughtful and intelligent communities just happened to be largely made up of trolls and people very familiar with trolling. It's because they won't stand bullshit and call people on it. Regular forums or forums that can't really deal with trolls always tend to plateau on a certain level of intelligence and thoughtfulness, which can be high, but limited. This is not at all a rule btw, most trolls anyone is going to find will be forums filled with screaming kids, obscenities and bug porn.

I just mean to say this "Gresham's Law" thing is false, sometimes the trolls are the thoughtful people and the ones that get driven away are good riddance.

phzbOx 8 days ago 2 replies      
There is a difference between trolling, making a funny statement and saying a contrived opinion. On HN, all of these get down-voted equally.

Often time, I find something funny, say it as a comment, and get down-voted. It's not a stupid joke or something inappropriate, just a comment that'd make the reader smile. And I know it's hard to judge because I keep saying the score of these comments oscillating (I.e. people upvote it because it's funny, and people downvote it because it's funny (or they don't find it funny.))

About contrived opinion, that one is sad. There's a difference between something wrong and saying your opinion. For instance, someone saying "I don't like Backbone.js because x, y, z" will get on average a really small or negative score. Why? People who agree with this statement in small minority +x, people who disagree with this statement but agree that it was some good arguments and points: +y, majority of people who disagree with the statement -z. It just so happen that z>(x+y) with controversial statements.

Lastly, trolling is more about searching for trouble or pissing of people. For instance, they'll say "Wtf, stop wasting your time with perl. It's a DEAD LANGUAGE, WAKE UP". This kind of posts should just get deleted and the user warned and then banned from HN imo. Note that there're a couple of wrong things with this statement. First, it's extremely aggressive and provocative. Personally, I hate this but some well known people act like that and are really appreciated so I won't judge. Secondly, there's no argument or fact.. it's just trash talking without ground to base yourself on. Lastly, there's usually lots of words in caps and 'wtf' 'lol' 'trololol' which make it look unprofessional for readers of HN used to read well written text. (Ironically, I know this current text isn't well written but it's because english is not my main language, not because I'm trying to skip words or be unprofessional).

Anyway, what I'd suggest is to have a way to differentiate between theses.
1- A 'flag as spam/troll/non-respectful'.
2- A +1 (like what we have) to say this is an interesting post/comment.
3- A Agree/Disagree button to express your opinion.

So basically, someone saying "You guys are fucking stupid; 1+1=2" would be flagged as unrespectful but could still be valid and agreed by the majority.

But in the end, is it worth it? As they say in engineering, it it works, don't fix it. HN is not perfect, but I still enjoy reading the comments and I learn quite a lot.. is it worth trying to fix it for a minority of trolls or disrespectful people?

zerostar07 8 days ago 0 replies      
Downvoting is a sort of trolling too. People don't like unconventional opinions here. Say something bad about the late S. Jobs and you re certain to be buried. Even scientifically proven facts get buried sometimes. The problem is not solved. Let's try something radical, like, ban all adjectives.
zobzu 8 days ago 1 reply      
The issue with votes is that they don't fix all that much.
People often downvote other people they simply disagree with. In fact, most often do that.

So it does not just shut off the "trolls" as in the "assholes". It also shuts off any unpopular opinion.

That is sad, because unpopular opinions are generally interesting by nature, and sometimes insightful. That is because popular ones are well-known, thus cannot be "interesting".

For example, if you bash a popular company by saying what they do is wrong (whichever it is, Google, Apple, you name it), you will get down voted a lot. No matter how insightful and righteous you were.

TomGullen 8 days ago 0 replies      
I'm quite a big fan of a well placed witty troll. It's one of the most delicate, subtle and hilarious forms of humour. That's when it's done well however, not all trolls are like that.

Some of the heartiest laughs I've ever had are sourced from trolls.

My troll spotting ability is falling at the wayside though. I used to be really good at spotting trolls, nowadays I come across something every now and think, "Is he trolling?". And that's the beauty of the best trolls, they border on insanity but keep it just within the realms of believability.

cwilson 8 days ago 0 replies      
I'm curious if anyone else is seeing a trend of passive aggressive, or light hearted, "trolling" on social networks with family and friends.

For example, on Facebook, a troll might play out like this:

Sarah posts "Having the worst day ever, ugh!"

David "likes" this post.

Link baiting, tagging people places they are not actually at, and other forms of this exist as well. At least in a few of my friend circles they do. In fact, at one point, one of my friends and co-founders created a Facebook group called "Operation Troll Cullen". He invited around 20 of our mutual friends, and the idea was to respond to anything I said or posted with extremely positive messages. "You're doing so great Cullen! Well done!" or "This was the MOST insightful, amazing, article I have ever read. Thank you so much for sharing Cullen, you're amazing!" would be two examples.

I of course had no idea this was going on, but suspected something was amiss. It was quite the week for me, to say the least (and I did find it quite funny, after the fact).

hansy 8 days ago 1 reply      
This is an interesting article that sort of answers a question I've had for a while: would the quality of Hacker News remain the same without the novelty of individual karma points?

PG mentions that people seeing "...their reputation in the eyes of their peers drain away..." is motivation enough to keep delivering high-quality content.

robbrown451 8 days ago 1 reply      
I think the fact that you don't allow downvoting posts contributes to this. I get that you want to keep things positive. But when you don't provide an outlet for people who want to simply disagree without forcing them to come out of the woodwork and defend their position, it is inevitable that some people will come out with a lot of ugliness.

I think there are a whole lot of reasons internet forums are different than real life communication. I think there are technical solutions that can change the balance. We all know there is a big difference between, say, the comments on YouTube and the comments on Slashdot. Do you think it is all "culture"? I don't. I think it is mostly that Slashdot has technical solutions that discourage trolling (and substanceless posts, etc), while YouTube doesn't. If the culture is different, it mostly because of the karma system (or lack thereof).

DiabloD3 8 days ago 1 reply      
Being a recent "victim"[1] of trolling here on HN, I understand pg's sentiment. However, the question is, has HN (since 2008, anyways) fallen into the pit with the trolls?

For example, recently there was the thing with Rob Malda's resume. The entire thread on that was rather derailed into either sucking up to Rob, or saying Slashdot is full of trolls.

Or rather, it had a rather unfavorable signal to noise ratio. I tried to vote comments accordingly, but it didn't really seem to help.

[1] Tried to stick up for FOSS and expose Microsoft/Mono for what it really is, got downvoted for doing the right thing. Oh well, the trolls got me, not really a big deal.

VonGuard 8 days ago 0 replies      
I dunno guys, there seems to be a big worry here about HN degrading, or trolling being more prevalent and mods banning non-troll entities...

If you've been to Reddit recently and tried to engage that community, you might not be so worried about things here at HN. It's like hot and cold running compassion/rape over there. They either flood you with love, or ransack your house and ruin your life. Dangerous stuff, that Reddit Hive Mind.

It's just something that happens on the Internet: more people = more trolls and perceived-but-not-really tolls. I wonder if someone could do a paper on the average parts per million for trolls in any mass of words on the Internet.

oscilloscope 8 days ago 6 replies      
That's 8,000 unique visitors per day? Didn't realize HN readership was so small. I catch people in San Francisco scanning new articles, but it must be location bias.


Edit: That number was from 2008

firefoxman1 8 days ago 0 replies      
I was thinking along the same lines yesterday about why there are so many negative comments online and not offline. I think one of the main reasons (that PG didn't cover) is that in the real world, people associate together in groups.

Nobody wants to be around a negative person, so not only does the negative person have a minimal negative impact on the people around him (since no one will listen), but the main problem arises when he gets online. Not only is this troll frustrated that no real people will listen to his negativity, but when he jumps online he's equal to everyone else. There are no groups. Nobody looks at his username like they would his face in the real-world and says "oh he's an ass, don't listen to him." I think it's partially because faces are easier to remember than usernames, and partially because we associate a whole personality with a face so we can avoid this person next time.

When everyone's equal they each have the same impact. This would be a beautiful system if there was 0 negativity online because the new guy with great ideas would be heard just as well as a 10-year online veteran. But in the online social world its strength seems to be its weakness. How am I supposed to know if the person commenting is a really cynical person or a constructive criticism-type person until I've fully read his comment, and by then he's already made his impact on me.

I don't think modern social networks have this problem as much though. I only socialize with my real friends on FB, Twitter, and G+.

metachris 8 days ago 1 reply      
Which means that once trolling takes hold, it tends to become the dominant culture. That had already happened to Slashdot and Digg by the time I paid attention to comment threads there, but I watched it happen to Reddit.

Reddit actually has a fascinating, rich culture. Trolling is just a part of it, but the community seems to be managing.

sambeau 8 days ago 4 replies      
I wonder how much worse road etiquette would be if we had no license plates? I suspect there is a reasonable argument against net anonymity hidden in the history of the motor car.

Does anyone know what the tipping point for license plates was?

int3rnaut 8 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if there's an age and cultural divide when assessing trolls on the internet.

I say this in that reading the post, and then the comments from you all-- I see a bit of disparity between philosophies. I mean, for the most part I think from it's very root, trolls are trouble makers, and we can all sort of agree on that. But, there are people here who revel in that, see a symbiotic nature (good needs evil), people who think trolls are important, and that they keep things interesting--people who've even been trolls (full disclosure, when I was younger and immature I partook in such acts...nothing malicious, but acts none the less). When I read things like this I wonder where and at what time these people were introduced to the internet and forums and the like. A lot of younger people (at least the ones I know) are familiar with the trolling culture, and share many of the same previously mentioned opinions, however when I think of my Dad who was introduced to things much earlier when the internet was much more "pure", he loathes such things, "there's no place for that".

As a non-formal study, purely for my curiousity would anyone interested write down their age, the time when they were introduced (ballpark it) to the internet and forums, and their stance on trolls.

billpatrianakos 8 days ago 2 replies      
I like the measures HN has in place to combat trolling. Karma, up/down votes, the downvote threshold, dead links, etc. are all really good and seem to work. The biggest thing though is just making sure everyone understands the kind of unspoken spirit of the site. I'd also argue that we want to keep this place kind of hushed as not to attract too broad of an audience.

What I don't like that I have seen a lot of, is what I like to call "karma police". People who abuse the downvote button to silence perfectly valid comments that they just happen to disagree with. That's a problem. I think we need to be more judicious about the up and down votes. It's easy to just up vote something with a title we agree with but does it really call for it? I liken it to how easy it is to press the Facebook like button everywhere. As for downvotes, that button should be reserved for off-topic, vulgar, or otherwise obvious trolling cases and not just because "I didn't like what he said, he's stupid, or whatever".

_pius 8 days ago 0 replies      
Please add (2008) to the headline.
nodesocket 8 days ago 0 replies      
Love what Ryan Dahl has to say about being humble. http://youtu.be/SAc0vQCC6UQ?t=55m58s Honestly, happens almost daily, especially in SF. We meet awesome developers, but they are frankly arrogant assholes. This sort of entitlement results in those people trolling and flaming. Be humble, there are many smart people in the world; you're not that awesome.
biznickman 8 days ago 2 replies      
Really only 8,000 a day? I've received 10,000 visitors from a single post on hacker news ... am I missing something? I definitely do agree however that the conversation on this site is top notch.
sytelus 8 days ago 0 replies      
Currency in the economy of trolls is attention. When forums are small, trolling is much less rewarding and vice versa. Troll economy also feeds on to itself and upvoting/downvoting/karma mechanisms would be less and less effective as forum membership grows. To boost the attention economy, trolls would resort to upvote each other more frequently eventually outweighing votes of others.

From theoretical perspective this is very similar problem to links and webpages. A troll is equivalent to a spammy web page. Upvotes/downvotes are equivalent to traffic you get on your web page. When UserA upvotes UserB, a link is created between two. The goal of a troll is to get as much traffic as possible. They are incentivised to give each other upvotes in the hope of return favor, or in other words, create as many links to each other as possible. It would be mistake to think that few "good guys" can be used as gate keeper to protect the system against these trolls. In nutshell that is the hope and approach many early search engines had and they failed as the size grew out of their hands. The solution has to be technical and automated. Algorithms like PageRank or machine learning models is highly applicable to trolling issue. For instance, the real value of karma should not be a naïve count of upvotes (in the same way that real important of the page is not how many other pages points to it) but rather who has upvoted it. I think algorithms like PageRank can be easily applied to calculate the value of karma. If trolls upvotes each other 1000 times, their net karma would be much less than 1000 de- incentivising them for putting in the efforts for upvoting. Of course, there are many ways to fool PageRank and but I think algos like this should be sufficient for forums were you don't have to deal with more sophisticated folks like search marketers.

guscost 8 days ago 0 replies      
There are few feelings on this Internet better than the one you get while "spending" points on something that needs to be said.
angus77 8 days ago 0 replies      
I hate it when I don't know why I'm being downvoted---did I make some kind of error? did I word things wrong? or do people just disagree with me?

What if there were a separate "flag" that people could click for trolls and spam, but when you downvoted someone, you were forced to post a reply explaining why?

sukuriant 8 days ago 1 reply      
Personally, I "troll" in real life. It's usually among friends and just taunting them, lying to them, etc, for the purpose of teasing them. They're trolls too, and it's a bit of a game between us.

Really, in communities I frequent, there are so many trolls, we troll them back. Perhaps we're using the term differently from how pg is?

eric-hu 8 days ago 0 replies      
Almost every day I use HN, I wonder why it hasn't implemented collapse-able comments, comment sorting by rank, and auto-collapsing comments.

I understand this could introduce agreement bias, but I feel like that's something that could be fixed by tweaking the numbers (i.e. only auto-collapse comments with -20 votes).

As it is now, it's easy to game the comments thread by piggybacking off the top comment of a post. This can be abused for trolling or just plain discussion visibility (unfairly, IMO).

wpeterson 8 days ago 1 reply      
Trolling is the spice or salt that keeps things interesting.

Too much can definitely turn everything brackish.

But seeing some humor/sarcasm even if it's pointed mixed in with all of the serious discourse keeps it all manageable.

kin 8 days ago 0 replies      
I definitely feel like the term isn't used correctly in the context of the article but in any case there is definitely a certain attitude of nastiness on HN that I experience all the time. I always find myself carefully choosing words and being incredibly specific because any amount of vagueness can lead to flags on my comment. Sometimes I just delete everything and say "I agree" or "Congrats!" or "Good work" and I get a few points. Toss in a "but..." and I get flagged. How about reply to my comment and ask my why I said what I said? And actually most of the time I say something I say why I say it and I still get a backlash.

Anyway, it doesn't happen all the time but it's definitely out there.

peter_l_downs 8 days ago 0 replies      
Top sentence according to bookshrink [1]:

> There's a sort of Gresham's Law of trolls: trolls are willing to use a forum with a lot of thoughtful people in it, but thoughtful people aren't willing to use a forum with a lot of trolls in it.

I think that pretty much sums it up. Trolls are attracted to the forums with the most interesting/intelligent users (the "best" forums). I think that news.yc has been very successful in terms of the amount of trolling that takes place, especially since:

> The core users of News.YC are mostly refugees from other sites that were overrun by trolls.

[1] http://bookshrink.com

alexcharlie 8 days ago 0 replies      
Facebook has an interesting solution to the content quality problem, and trolling is a very specific type of content quality problem. Positively reinforce good content and HIDE everything else. The "Like" button accomplishes this well.

If you've used facebook for a few years, you might remember the introduction of the "Like" button. Facebook before the "Like" button was very different from a UGC perspective. People did a lot more bitching and moaning. People posted much more inane ramblings about what they ate for lunch lunch or random happenings in their day. The "Like" button created a positive reinforcement loop and consciously or not people started to try to post content that would get more likes. Someone being emo about their shitty boyfriend or girlfriend is probably not going to get likes, probably wont get surfaced in the news feed and will never be heard. Eventually when people stop seeing those posts they are less compelled to post those things themselves. Facebook describes this as the virtuous cycle of sharing. Someone posts something, they get patted on the back. YOU see their post and their pats on the back and you tend to want to do the same thing. If you have friends on twitter and friends on facebook, just put the two feeds up next to eachother. You'll see a HUGE difference in the types of updates that people post.

anonymoustrolol 8 days ago 0 replies      
With the recent adoption of voting systems in forums (like this one) we are seeing troll comments often buried, and this will perhaps continue to discourage that behavior. On a bigger note, articles that draw clicks with bold conclusions or headlines (like that nerd baiting article we saw on Gizmodo) are still grabbing eyeball share and thus will continue to propagate instead of real news/information. How that fight for eyeballs is resolved is one that I don't really see a solution to yet.
efsavage 8 days ago 0 replies      
"The conversations on Reddit were good when it was that small."

When reddit was small, it was full of, and dominated by, crackpots. It was barely even at the level of being entertaining, and I'd hesitate to call it a community at all. Intentional trolls generally don't mess with crackpots, for some reason. I don't know if it's because it's too easy or unsatisfying, but the trolls usually come with mainstreaming.

(There are still lots of crackpots there, but it's gelled to a far more coherent community that is much more fun to incite).

oacgnol 8 days ago 1 reply      
When it comes down to it, many trolls feel the need to bash another language, OS, etc. because it's a form of self-validation: your choice says something about you. You'll see the same kind of thing with the "wars" over PC/Mac, Xbox/PS3, Emacs/vim, etc., even if the person doesn't really understand the differences: picking sides just seems to be natural.

Unfortunately, as the article says, the anonymity of the Internet allows these thoughts to rapidly bubble to the surface, where in most cases there's little repercussions for posting whatever the hell you want. I've encountered very little of this attitude when it comes to meeting people in real life. For most people, it's hard to be a dick in front of a real life person.

adnam 8 days ago 2 replies      
I used to be able to "flag" posts on HN, but a few weeks ago that right appears to have been revoked. No idea what I may have done wrong; perhaps I'm a "troll" and I don't know it?
pvillega 7 days ago 1 reply      
Someone should send the first part to stephen colebourne, as an explanation on why spreading Scala FUD and acting like a victim will only spread hate about his behaviour.

Yes, I should write this, but I'm not smart enought to stop myself to type it. After reading the definition my mind instantly draw his face...

cq 7 days ago 0 replies      
Trolls are an important part of anonymous communities. They prevent people from having their heads so far up their asses that the community becomes an echo chamber. Too much moderation will contribute to echo chambers, as well.
joejohnson 8 days ago 1 reply      
>> I've thought a lot over the last couple years about the problem of trolls. It's an old one, as old as forums, but we're still just learning what the causes are and how to address them.

That's crazy. We still don't know what causes Trolls?

realschool 7 days ago 0 replies      
There is something about the hacker news community, people here are a little less 'cordial' sometimes. It probably has something to do with the way people who are technological have to deal with regular people (when it comes to technology) and then how they feel they can deal with people who are peers.

This is good when it allows honest feedback about an idea and products, but can also come across as coarse sometimes.

scottmcleod 8 days ago 0 replies      
Trolls can play an important role in discussion but often only when they play devils advocate. I think 75% of trolling is bruised ego's lashing out.
rjurney 8 days ago 0 replies      
Hacker News lacks a feature that would 'close entire thread,' and so the top troll comment is disproportionately rewarded with attention.

You could fix this with a simple feature.

baby 7 days ago 0 replies      
I feel like some people here are going to say that it went downhills. I personally find HN to be the one of the most civilized and the most interesting (in terms of discussions generated) place I visit.
chris_gogreen 8 days ago 0 replies      
Sometimes the trollish comments on articles/threads/posts are more entertaining and enjoyable that the content itself.
TechboyUK 8 days ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the Gardening Trolls of Pennadomo, Italy


switz 8 days ago 1 reply      
HN is great because you can say controversial things and still get voted up. Most comment voting systems are often: agree (vote up) or disagree (vote down). HN seems to be more along the lines of: Does this comment make empirical sense or is this person talking out of their ass.
theviciousfish 7 days ago 0 replies      
chris_gogreen 8 days ago 0 replies      
Does PG see trolls today in the same light as he did in '98?
tle9 7 days ago 0 replies      
I love reading Graham's essays. Wealth and Why to not not start a start up
Jurors Need to Know That They Can Say No nytimes.com
342 points by ddlatham  1 day ago   133 comments top 20
cynicalkane 1 day ago 5 replies      
Jury nullification is typically portrayed as a defense against unjust laws, and some judicial thinkers see it that way.

But it's important to point out the dominant view and the current view of jurisprudence views jury nullification as kind of an unfortunate edge case. Here's the Fourth Circuit from 1969:

"We recognize, as appellants urge, the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by the judge, and contrary to the evidence. This is a power that must exist as long as we adhere to the general verdict in criminal cases, for the courts cannot search the minds of the jurors to find the basis upon which they judge. If the jury feels that the law under which the defendant is accused, is unjust, or that exigent circumstances justified the actions of the accused, or for any reason which appeals to their logic or passion, the jury has the power to acquit, and the courts must abide by that decision."

In other words, jury nullification is not a defense against injustice, but a side effect of having trials by an independent jury of ordinary citizens.

tzs 1 day ago  replies      
Suppose just 5% of the potential jurors believe, say, that it should not be illegal to kill an abortion doctor, or to beat up someone who dares to be homosexual in public, or to beat up someone who dares to flirt with a white woman while being black, and so on.

If you have a jury of 12 and require a unanimous verdict for conviction, then 46% of randomly chosen juries will not convict people for the aforementioned crimes no matter what the evidence, because they will include at least one person who believes those acts should not be criminal.

That spits in the face of the notion of equal justice for all. You and I commit a crime together, but have separate trials. The evidence is the same for both of us, but one of us is convicted and one not, because one of us happened to get one of those 5% who thinks stomping blacks or gays who get out line is OK.


Another big problem is that once you tell jurors they can ignore the law in order to acquit, they will figure out they can also ignore the law in order to convict. Bogus convictions won't be as frequent as bogus acquittals, but there will be some. (And you can't count on the judge throwing out the conviction in those cases, because the judge won't be able to distinguish those convictions from those where the jury simply believed the prosecution's evidence and witnesses over the defendant's evidence and witnesses).

Our system is designed around checks and balances. How do you provide checks and balances for the nullification power? The only one that anyone has been able to come up with is to not tell the jury about it. That way, it only gets used in cases where some juror recognizes that not only would there be an injustice in applying the law to the case at hand, but that there has been a breakdown of the system making it so that this injustice will not be addressed elsewhere, so that the juror decides that even though he has sworn to uphold the law, he must break that oath.

Nullification is almost never appropriate for a marijuana case. Even though I think marijuana should be legal, and I know all about nullification, I would never use it there at this time, simply because the system has NOT broken down in this area. Want to stop people from getting convicted of marijuana crimes? Then elect legislators who will decriminalize marijuana.

unoti 1 day ago 3 replies      
When the shabby old man is put on trial for jury tampering, shouldn't a jury of his peers find him not guilty? The deliberation on that trial could be very interesting. Or very difficult because the judge won't let the defendant's counsel say anything. Or both.
impendia 1 day ago 2 replies      
I served as a juror on a ten week murder trial, and one thing I learned (to my extreme exasperation) is that you can't ask questions. I mean, you can ask, but every time I asked anything the judge gave some roundabout non-answer, and it was obvious that she was required to do so.

In particular, the verdict hinged on some technicalities, and we got about 40 pages explaining the law. I attempted to clarify the exact meaning, but in the end eleven others and I were forced to decide for ourselves.

dreeves 1 day ago 2 replies      
Ooh, I got kicked off a grand jury a couple years ago for telling my fellow jurors about jury nullification. I pointed them to this etherpad -- http://padm.us/jury -- where I was researching the question. I wasn't even sure at the time what the right answer was.

I'm now very much pro-nullification.

colanderman 1 day ago  replies      
"Last year, Montana prosecutors were forced to offer a defendant in a marijuana case a favorable plea bargain after so many potential jurors said they would nullify that the judge didn't think he could find enough jurors to hear the case."

I don't get it; jurors are selected based on how they claim will decide? That's all kinds of messed up.

tvon 1 day ago 0 replies      
> But nullification is like any other democratic power; some people may try to misuse it, but that does not mean it should be taken away from everyone else.

It has been my impression that we increasingly live in a world where rights can be taken away from the many to deter abuse by the few.

patrickgzill 1 day ago 0 replies      
Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: "The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both the law and the facts."

John Jay (first Chief Justice): "The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy."

Justice Byron White: "Those who wrote our constitutions knew from history and experience that it was necessary to protect against unfounded criminal charges brought to eliminate enemies and against judges too responsive to the voice of higher authority."

Thought these quotes should be in here ...

squozzer 1 day ago 1 reply      
I would suggest to anyone interested in the topic to read The Trial of John Peter Zenger. It represents an extreme case of judicial process manipulation that would have been very difficult to defeat without the help of a sympathetic jury.

As the Joe Fridays of the world are very eager to point out, nullification DOES subvert the rule of law. So I don't support its' use for every situation. But bad laws and rigged justice also undermine the rule of law -- we still have bad laws (drug offenses, generally) and rigged justice (the Duke lacrosse team case, more of an attempt at rigged justice) even today.

That said, nullification is not that powerful of a threat to the system, because the system has ways of dealing with partiality such as voir dire, change of venue, rules of evidence.

The lengths NY state is going to silence free speech and enforce the "blinders of fact" principle seem a little extreme.

Just remember -- the law is meant to serve the people, not the other way around.

nottwo 1 day ago 0 replies      
I kept waiting for the author to mention the Fully Informed Jury Association. I somehow stumbled upon their website over ten years ago and first heard of jury nullification. It's awesome they're still at it.


_corbett 14 hours ago 0 replies      
my high school american studies teacher would recommend stating "I firmly believe in the right of jury nullification" to get out of jury duty"he was of the opinion that jurors who voiced their awareness of this right were almost never selected. I'd be curious to know if this was actually true
ChuckMcM 1 day ago 0 replies      
coolestuk 11 hours ago 0 replies      
In Britain jurors can ask questions of witnesses and the accused. At the end of a trial day, the judge will ask if the jury has any questions. When I was on a 3 week trial, I had a page-full of questions every day. I identified issues that both the judge and prosecuting counsel missed.
Qo 1 day ago 3 replies      
I'm a little disappointed that the article doesn't mention a serious practical impediment to nullification - the "voir dire" process of juror selection. They ask you a series of questions, one of them usually being "Will you apply the law as I explain it to you?" You are 100% within your rights to answer no - they'll excuse you from the jury. If you say "yes", however, but you mean "no", then you have committed perjury. You won't get caught if you're crafty about it, but it's still a relevant detail. A more accurate title might have been: "People can do whatever they want as long as they're OK going to jail if they get caught"
brohee 16 hours ago 0 replies      
http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2011/11/fr... on the same subject. I did post it here at the time but it didn't pick up steam...
anamax 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Every objection to jury nullification also applies to prosecutorial discretion yet none of the folks objecting to JN object to PD.
estevez 1 day ago 0 replies      
This article makes me want to take a trip to Kinkos.
wkral 1 day ago 0 replies      
Does anyone know if there is a similar law about jury nullification in Canada?

I hear about a lot of these little known facts about the law but they're usually US centric.

tsotha 1 day ago 3 replies      
I understand why people wouldn't want to be part of the system that punishes people for something the juror doesn't think should be illegal. But it isn't your job, as a juror, to write the laws. The honorable thing to do is to answer truthfully when they ask you if you can apply the law in the case you've been assigned.

Having said that, let me say I think prosecuting a guy for handing out nullification leaflets is a gross abuse of power.

healsdata 1 day ago 3 replies      
I mean this in the nicest way possible, but did you read the article before commenting? Your exact example is mentioned in the article and the author gives their opinion; they would rather we have jury nullification with the potential downfalls than not have it.
Why is Windows so slow? greggman.com
332 points by kristianp  3 days ago   151 comments top 27
evmar 3 days ago  replies      
I don't know this poster, but I am pretty familiar with the problem he's encountering, as I am the person most responsible for the Chrome build for Linux.

I (and others) have put a lot of effort into making the Linux Chrome build fast. Some examples are multiple new implementations of the build system ( http://neugierig.org/software/chromium/notes/2011/02/ninja.h... ), experimentation with the gold linker (e.g. measuring and adjusting the still off-by-default thread flags https://groups.google.com/a/chromium.org/group/chromium-dev/... ) as well as digging into bugs in it, and other underdocumented things like 'thin' ar archives.

But it's also true that people who are more of Windows wizards than I am a Linux apprentice have worked on Chrome's Windows build. If you asked me the original question, I'd say the underlying problem is that on Windows all you have is what Microsoft gives you and you can't typically do better than that. For example, migrating the Chrome build off of Visual Studio would be a large undertaking, large enough that it's rarely considered. (Another way of phrasing this is it's the IDE problem: you get all of the IDE or you get nothing.)

When addressing the poor Windows performance people first bought SSDs, something that never even occurred to me ("your system has enough RAM that the kernel cache of the file system should be in memory anyway!"). But for whatever reason on the Linux side some Googlers saw it fit to rewrite the Linux linker to make it twice as fast (this effort predated Chrome), and all Linux developers now get to benefit from that. Perhaps the difference is that when people write awesome tools for Windows or Mac they try to sell them rather than give them away.

Including new versions of Visual Studio, for that matter. I know that Chrome (and Firefox) use older versions of the Visual Studio suite (for technical reasons I don't quite understand, though I know people on the Chrome side have talked with Microsoft about the problems we've had with newer versions), and perhaps newer versions are better in some of these metrics.

But with all of that said, as best as I can tell Windows really is just really slow for file system operations, which especially kills file-system-heavy operations like recursive directory listings and git, even when you turn off all the AV crap. I don't know why; every time I look deeply into Windows I get more afraid ( http://neugierig.org/software/chromium/notes/2011/08/windows... ).

portman 3 days ago 4 replies      
I'm disappointed HN! There is a lot of pontificating, but not much science here.

It takes all of 2 minutes to try this experiment yourself (plus ~8 minutes for the download).

1. Download chromium http://chromium-browser-source.commondatastorage.googleapis....

2. Unzip to a directory

3. Create this batch file in the src directory, I called mine "test.bat"

    echo start: %time% >> timing.txt
dir /s > list.txt
echo end: %time% >> timing

4. Run test.bat from a command prompt, twice.

Paste your output in this thread. Here is mine:

    start: 12:00:41.30 
end: 12:00:41.94
start: 12:00:50.66
end: 12:00:51.31

First pass: 640ms; Second pass: 650ms

I can't replicate the OP's claim of 40000ms directory seek, even though I have WORSE hardware. Would be interested in other people's results. Like I said, it only takes 2 minutes.

hristov 3 days ago 4 replies      
Interestingly enough Joel Spolsky mentioned something related to the directory listing problem more than 10 years ago. See:


In Joel's opinion it is an algorithm problem. He thinks that there is an O(n^2) algorithm in there somewhere causing trouble. And since one does not notice the O(n^2) unless there are hundreds of files in a directory it has not been fixed.

I believe that is probably the problem with Windows in general. Perhaps there are a lot of bad algorithms hidden in the enormous and incredibly complex Windows code base and they are not getting fixed because Microsoft has not devoted resources to fixing them.

Linux on the other hand benefits from the "many eyes" phenomenon of open source and when anyone smart enough notices slowness in Linux they can simply look in the code and find and remove any obviously slow algorithms. I am not sure all open source software benefits from this but if any open source software does, it must certainly be Linux as it is one of the most widely used and discussed pieces of OS software.

Now this is total guesswork on my part but it seems the most logical conclusion. And by the way, I am dual booting Windows and Linux and keep noticing all kinds weird slowness in Windows. Windows keeps writing to disk all the time even though my 6 GB of RAM should be sufficient, while in Linux I barely hear the sound of the hard drive.

tankenmate 3 days ago 0 replies      
The problem as I understand it is that Windows's file metadata cache is broken. I remember reading many years ago a posting by Linus about this but I can't find it at the moment.

According to this document (http://i-web.i.u-tokyo.ac.jp/edu/training/ss/lecture/new-doc...) it would appear that directory entries have one extra level of indirection and share space with the page cache and hence can be pathologically evicted if you read in a large number of files; compiling/reading lots of files for example.

On Linux however the directory entry cache is a separate entity and is less likely to be evicted under readahead memory pressure. Also it should be noted is that Linus has spent a largish amount of effort to make sure that the directory entry cache is fast. Linux's inode cache has similar resistance to page cache memory pressure. Obviously if you have real memory pressure from user pages then things will slow down considerably.

I suspect that if Windows implemented a similar system with file meta data cache that was separate from the rest of the page cache it would similarly speed up.

Edit: I should note, this probably wouldn't affect linking as much as it would affect git performance; git is heavily reliant on a speedy and reliable directory entry cache.

shin_lao 3 days ago 2 replies      
NTFS is a slower file system, that's probably the main reason why. Also console I/O is much better on Linux than Windows.

Our software builds everyday on FreeBSD, Linux and Windows on servers that are identical.

The windows build takes 14 minutes. The FreeBSD and Linux build take 10 minutes (they run at almost identical speed).

Check out is more than twice slower on Windows (we use git).

Debug build time is comparable 5 minutes for Windows, 4 minutes 35 on Linux.

Release build time is almost 7 minutes on Windows and half that on Linux.

VS compiles more slowly than gcc but overall it's a better compiler. It handles static variables better and is not super demanding about typenames like gcc is. Also gcc is extremely demanding in terms of memory. gcc is a 64-bit executable, Visual Studio is still a 32-bit execuable. We hope Microsoft will fix that in Visual Studio 2011.

Its easier to parallelize gmake than Visual Studio, which also explains the better Linux build time. Visual Studio has got some weird "double level" mulithreading which is eventually less efficient than just running the make steps in parallel as you go through your make file.

However our tests run at comparable speed on Linux and Windows and the Windows builds the archive ten times faster than Linux.

blinkingled 3 days ago 0 replies      
1) Windows FS operations are slower than Linux in general but when you add 'Realtime' Antivirus on top it gets worse.

2) Linux forks significantly faster than anything else I know. For something like Chromium the compiler is forked bazillion times and so is the linker and nmake and so on so forth.

3) Linux, the kernel, is heavily optimized for building stuff as that's what the kernel developers do day in and day out - there are threads on LKML that I can't be bothered to dig out right now but lot of effort goes in to optimizing for kernel build workload - may be that helps.

3) Linker - stock one is slower and did not do the more costly optimizations until now so it might be faster because of doing lesser than the MS linker that does incremental linking, WPO and what not. Gold is even faster and I may be wrong but I don't think it does what the MS linker does either.

4) Layers - Don't know if Cygwin tools are involved but they add their own slowness.

prewett 3 days ago 4 replies      
I suspect it has something to do with NTFS updating access times by default. So every time you do anything with a file, it gets its access time updated (not modification time, access time). I don't have windows to test on, but you could try the suggestions [1][2] below.

[1] http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms940846(v=winembedd...

[2] http://oreilly.com/pub/a/windows/2005/02/08/NTFS_Hacks.html (#8)

etfb 3 days ago 5 replies      
Someone posted the question on StackOverflow and it got closed as "not constructive". Is there a way to browse the "not constructive" questions on SO? They seem to be all the best ones.
niyazpk 3 days ago 1 reply      
Here is a link from the comments:

NTFS Performance Hacks - http://oreilly.com/pub/a/windows/2005/02/08/NTFS_Hacks.html

barrkel 3 days ago 0 replies      
Probably a big reason for him seeing slowdowns in incremental builds with MSVC is because of link-time code generation. What seems to be link time is actually code generation time, and it's delayed because intra-procedural optimizations can be run. This kills off a lot of the benefit of incremental building - you're basically only saving parsing and type analysis - and redoing a lot of code generation work for every modification.

NTFS also fragments very badly when free space is fragmented. If you don't liberally use SetFilePointer / SetEndOfFile, it's very common to see large files created incrementally to have thousands, or tens of thousands, of fragments. Lookup (rather than listing) on massive directories can be fairly good though - btrees are used behind the scenes - presuming that the backing storage is not fragmented, again not a trivial assumption without continuously running a semi-decent defragmenter, like Diskeeper.

WayneDB 3 days ago 1 reply      
I run Windows 7 in Boot Camp every day and it easily outperforms OS X on the same exact hardware for most common tasks (browsing files, the web, starting up apps, etc).

The Windows desktop GUI system is more stable than anything else out there (meaning that it's not going to change drastically AND that it's a solid piece of software that just works) and it's as flexible as I need it to be, so that's why I stick with Windows. With virtual machines, WinSCP, Cygwin and other similar utilities, I have all the access to *nix that I need.

ervvynlwwe 3 days ago 1 reply      
The author doesn't mention whether he is using cygwin git, or msys git. msys is faster. But even with msys, UAC virtualization is a common cause of slowness with git:

More details here: http://code.google.com/p/msysgit/issues/detail?id=320

johnx123-up 3 days ago 2 replies      
FWIW, try disabling your AV
markokocic 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not sure if it is related, but the fact is that file system operation on windows are much slower that on Linux. I remembering that copying large ISO image from one windows partition to another windows partition using Total Commander under Wine on Linux was faster that doing it directly on Windows.

I also remember that I was able to create file copy utility in assembly as a homework assignment that was couple times faster than windows/dos copy command.

The only two reasons I can think of that explain this are:
1 - noone cares about windows fileystem performance.
2 - someone decided that it shouldn't be too fast.

idspispopd 3 days ago 0 replies      
separate point:

while photoshop isn't on linux, there are plenty of replacements for that unless he's doing print work, which I don't think is the case, as photoshop isn't the beginning and end for print. (actually, TBH, photoshop is pretty shit for pixel work.)

Also maya is available for linux, autodesk just doesn't offer a free trial like they do with windows/mac os. (Including the 2012 edition.)

With no offence intended to the 3dsmax crew, as it has it's merits, but a sufficiently competent maya user won't find much use for 3dsmax.

jcromartie 3 days ago 1 reply      
Don't forget forking.

To benchmark the maximum shell script performance (in terms of calls to other tools per second), try this micro-benchmark:

    while true; do date; done | uniq -c

Unix shells under Windows (with cygwin, etc.) run about 25 times slower than OS X.

frooxie 3 days ago 1 reply      
What I can't wrap my head around is the amazingly slow file search (I'm using Vista). Searching for a filename I know exists in a small directory (say, 100 files) often leads to Windows searching for several minutes and then NOT FINDING THE FILE. How can that happen when Windows is able to list the contents of the directory (including the file I'm looking for) instantly?
malkia 2 days ago 0 replies      
A possible faster way to read directories with one (okay, few at most kernel calls) is to use GetFileInformationByHandleEx.

Here is some example:


false 3 days ago 0 replies      
Git under cygwin is so painfully slow, and gets exponentially slower as number of tracked files grow. Even SSD can't fully smooth out the difference :(
tintin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe this has something to do with the file indexer? 2 years ago I heard a lot of XP users complain that Windows was suddenly getting very slow. After some digging around I noticed that they turned on the file indexer by default after an update.
Since then I always turn it of (properties of your disk) and shut down the service (Indexing Service).
peterwwillis 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm pretty sure the "dir" takes longer than "ls" because "dir /s c:\list.txt" sorts the entire c:\ drive before looking for "list.txt". "ls -R c:\list.txt" first checks if "list.txt" exists, and fails if it doesn't. Just take out the "list.txt" and run both commands again.
chris_gogreen 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hard drive swap file usage, my windows machines always have a huge swap file going, my Linux and OS X machines almost never do.
nikcub 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is a comparison of file systems, not operating systems.
jstclair 3 days ago 3 replies      
Wow, so if you want to test file system speeds, you do it by listing files - I know this just an example, but perhaps it has something to do with the speed of the terminal?

There are a plethora of disk benchmarking tools - I doubt that they consistently show 40x differences.

Hooves -> horses, and all that.

vmmenon 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Why is Windows so slow?
I'm a fan of Windows, specifically Windows 7."


brudgers 3 days ago 0 replies      
Overall, the author's argument is somewhat dependent on a premise that Windows 7 should be optimized for edge cases such as compiling code written for multiplatform implementation (e.g. Chrome) rather than using the managed code model around which Microsoft's development of Windows has been centered for many years.

If one were optimizing Windows performance, none of the specific areas used as examples would receive much attention given user demographics. What percentage of Windows users use the command line, much less compile C programs, never mind using "cmd" shells to do so?

Windows command line gurus will be using Powershell these days, not the legacy encumbered "cmd" - elsewise they are not gurus.

iradik 3 days ago 2 replies      
Hmm.. I've had an opposite experience on an atom netbook. Tried Windows Vista and Ubuntu on a netbook. The Windows netbook worked great while Ubuntu regularly would crash. Ubuntu on the netbook was unusable. Now probably I did something wrong? But just installed the latest version with default settings. Anyway I returned the netbook.
I'm turning 30 and I've produced no amazing art. spking.com
330 points by spking  5 days ago   151 comments top 80
nhashem 5 days ago 4 replies      
I turn 30 in 5 months and can completely identify with how you've felt. I too have the dozens of domain names for long-abandoned web applications for some idea that I thought was a radical spike of insight at the time.

It's a vicious cycle. I get the idea. I register the domain name, already imagining a brilliant fully-featured yet astonishingly-easy-to-use product. I start cranking out code. But it takes some time. I realized some problems I thought were easy are harder. That takes more time. I realize a certain problem is exceptionally hard and will take me longer than I thought, so I hack together something that works for now. I realize yet another problem will take me longer than I thought, and a few weeks pass and I begin to feel my web application is just a series of hacks. If we're using the art analogy, rather than the beautiful and crisp design I envisioned, my canvas is filled with ugly smears and smudges that doesn't look anything like what's in my mind.

And it's always a lot easier to just throw out the canvas and start something new, than to tediously work out improving those smears and smudges.

So, perhaps one hopeful anecdote I can share: earlier this year I did start a project that I've finally been able to focus on. The only difference with this one vs. the others
is that I saw a tangible return relatively early on. Two months after I worked on it, I made $72. That's basically a laughable number, except it's the first tangible return on the dozens of web applications I've started and abandoned for the past 5 years. From then on, there's been a mostly-positive correlation between "hours put into project" and "dollars earned," which has completely shifted my mentality.

I've begun to take pride in those smears and smudges, knowing I'm already succeeding to some degree and it could be especially rewarding if I continue. I have no idea if this would work for you, or anyone else, but like others have said, this is a process. Everyone designs and creates at their own pace, and age seemed pretty meaningless to me. In fact it's now that I'm older, instead of 5 years ago, that I can begin to appreciate my limitations and have the patience to work with them, instead of ignoring the fact that they exist.

And above all, be proud that in a world where many are content to maintain and manage (literally and figuratively), you have the desire and the ability to create and produce. Best of luck.

msutherl 5 days ago 3 replies      
I believe that this sort of sentiment is a symptom of not having answered for yourself the question: "what makes a good life good". spking is likely operating on a temporary definition imparted by his upbringing that goes something like this:

  "a good life is a life which, when seen from afar, appears to include a string 
of successful and well-respected achievements, each one better than the last".

This perspective is, according to some of my friends from other continents, very "American".

An alternative definition that is more conducive to well-being and productivity is one in which your subjective experience of life is considered more important than your life as seen and judged from afar (i.e. by others). To build such a definition, you must first analyze and become aware of how most decisions that you make are made with respect to how they are perceived from afar. Once you see this, you must realize that you are simply mistaken in privileging this perspective. How other people (and systems) judge what you do should only be of consequence to you to the extent that it impacts your life concretely. These judgements have no intrinsic meaning. For instance, spking's post is lamenting a self-inflicted anxiety about how his life appears from an external perspective. He does not mention how his failure concretely impacts his life, only how it impacts his feelings (which are based on his unconsidered and ultimately mislead beliefs).

Following the recognition of this, you can then begin to make sense of the question: "what makes a good life good?" A good life is not a life that appears good, it is a life that, to you, feels good (i.e., you may remark "life is good"). So, to answer this question, you can begin by finding out what activities, situations and dispositions lead you to this sort of feeling (i.e. things you enjoy). You can then re-structure your life so as to maximize these things (rather than structuring it around only externally visible achievements).

(A quick hint: more than 50% of these things have to do with your past, your friends, your family, significant others, significant locations, food, music, art, etc. You have a career and you do projects in large part to support these things. Taking a vacation and doing psychedelic drugs are two great ways to remind yourself of this.)

That said, spking's projects are failing for a simple reason. What he truly desires is not for his projects to succeed, but to connect with people through his projects. The solution to this problem is to first focus on making a connection as soon as possible. A successful idea is one which takes a life of its own before you get bored of it. In the case of websites, people must begin using your project before you feel the desire to give up. Given this insight, it is best to start with a simple idea that can be deployed in a useful form quickly. Once a platform has been established " ideally with money coming in " more complex projects can be executed within that framework (if you're lucky, with the help of friends and investors)!

huxley 5 days ago 2 replies      
Amazing art is rare at any age. It is better and healthier to focus on improving your eye and your craft.

I find encouragement in the quote by the painter of "The Great Wave off Kanagawa", Katsushika Hokusai:


"From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life.

I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention.

At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow.

If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature.

At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive.

May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie."

jaysonelliot 5 days ago 0 replies      
This really hits home for me.

I could have written this, except that I can already see 30 a ways back there in the rear view mirror.

I have just two things that I think are very important to say about this.

1) Don't worry about the fact that you're 30. That line about artists in their 30s or 40s is BS. There is no magical age at which you have to have produced your magnum opus. Never let the desire to "do something great" prevent you from doing the work. In fact, that's most likely what is keeping you FROM doing your great work. As someone who suffers from the same "idea addiction," I can say that one of the reasons people like us always chase new ideas is that we are trying to have our great moment, and are always afraid that if we buckle down and commit to one of our ideas, it might not be that Great Work, and we'll end up missing the next great idea when it comes along. So, we are always looking for the Best Possible Thing, and we don't get down to the work that really has to happen.

2) Even superstars have to do the dishes. We hear so much about the famous artists, businessmen, inventors, musicians, whatever, but all we hear about are their glories. It's boring to talk about all the days of the long grind, just plugging away to make the donuts. For every eureka moment, there are hundreds of hours of everyday work.
I'm 40 years old, and I've produced, in my estimation, one "amazing art." It's a magazine I started and ran for eight years. In retrospect, I feel like it was a non-stop party, but if I really think about it, the only reason it succeeded was that I had no choice but to slug it out and put in the 90-hour weeks of boring copy editing, ad sales, bookkeeping, etc. It's because at the time, it was the ONLY IDEA I HAD.
Now that I have dozens of ideas at any given time, ironically, I get none of them done.
Don't try to create a Great Work. Pick something you enjoy and have fun making, and just make the hell out of it. If you're lucky, it might even be "amazing art."

city41 5 days ago 2 replies      
I feel like the internet creates a distortion here. Sites like HN make us feel like everyone is out there creating like crazy and doing all this amazing stuff. The reality is a very small minority of people are doing this.

Most people don't create much of anything. At least, anything they could have a major break through on. Most people have day jobs and will always have day jobs. Most people come home from work and watch TV.

It takes serious discipline to take an idea through to success. If I had to guess, discipline is a very important trait for startup success. Maybe you'll never be that disciplined, or maybe it's something you can work on. I can say for sure I am much more disciplined now (at the ripe age of 34) than in my 20s. Yet I still question if I have what it takes to truly do a startup.

To the OP: I think you should just relax and enjoy yourself, let nature take over. Not every idea has to be worth a million dollars. My current project and the one just before it basically have no chance of ever making me any money. I did them because I enjoyed them. I think that is more important and more likely to lead you in a direction you want to go.

peteforde 4 days ago 0 replies      
Lots of opinions and advice here already. Some of it is good, but I felt strongly compelled to post a dissenting view based on my practical experience as both an "ideas guy" and as a successful founder of several companies.

It's true that ideas are worthless without execution, but I get bent out of shape every time someone spouts this mantra because it's only half of the story. A bad idea well executed is still a bad idea. You can waste a huge amount of time, money and energy throwing your passion into a bad idea.

Some of the most toxic advice is that you should just "pick one or two of your ideas and turn the volume up to 11 on them for a few years, no matter what!" aka "just start, you can always pivot". That's totally bullshit in the real world. Reputations get tarnished, and every opportunity you take costs all of the other opportunities you didn't take.

Now, that also doesn't mean that you should curl up in the fetal position and hope the world stops asking hard questions. It's possible that one of your ideas is the next Facebook, but the realistic truth is that statistically you will never dream up the next Facebook.

And that's okay. In fact, it's great. You can start forgiving yourself now.

My feeling is that it's perfectly fine to be addicted to having ideas and suppressing your excitement long enough to analyze the ideas for flaws. This isn't time wasted not executing, it's time invested in two valuable activities: practising the skill of spotting deadly flaws and rolling the dice on another idea. This is a much more pragmatic opportunity cost than believing that the world is counting on you to deliver the next major cultural wave, and soon.

Let's say that you realize none of your ideas (so far) are the next WWW or automobile. Nobody is going to be disappointed in you for teaming up with another person to build their idea. Insisting on building your own idea to feel validated is like refusing to adopt kids with a different skin color " it doesn't hold up to unbiased scrutiny. So my advice is that you should stop beating yourself up and be open to opportunities that originate amongst your self-selected, startup-inclined friends.

diego 5 days ago 1 reply      
Just because Steve Jobs said it, it shouldn't scare you. Steve Jobs himself did his best work in his 40s and 50s. If it's true that it's rare that older people produce "less amazing stuff" (big if), then it's probably because they simply lose the desire to do it. Family, boredom or health issues get in the way.

I'm 42 and I'm as productive as I've ever been.

bpm140 4 days ago 1 reply      
At 30 I was miserable because I hadn't done anything massive either. Then I sold a company for $12M when I was 34, started a company at 35 that is now (three years later) at a $1M monthly run rate and was an advisor to a billion-dollar public company.

It's a marathon, not a sprint. You never know what's coming up just over the next hill.

softbuilder 5 days ago 6 replies      
The "30 freakout" is one of the great undiscussed traumas in our society. I don't know if this is just an American thing, or a product of western culture, or if this is universal. It needs to be addressed, and I wished people started talking about this to kids in high school. I believe this is a more significant problem than the mid-life crisis.

For whatever reason (base 10 maybe?) we latch on to 30 as the time by which we should have some proof that we are on the right track. You can always beat yourself up at any age by comparing yourself to others. If you're in college, look at a Galois or a Joan of Arc and you're already a complete failure.

Breefield 5 days ago 2 replies      
Hah, I'm 19 and relate to this sentiment far too well, except just thinking back on the last 4-5 years.

I just spent the last 3 months away from the internet, and it was ridiculously mind-clearing. Burning Man turned into chasing a girl around the West Coast, turned into coming back to NYC and quitting my job so I can do more of what I want.

I still haven't really gotten back into Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook like I was before I left.

I'm not sure how I feel that mental clarity and this 'new idea ADD' are related. But I definitely feel more centered now. Reflection is key, and you're doing that. I think that's the first step toward doing what you want to do.

[edit] I think what I'm trying to say is, eliminate distractions, reflect, and follow your gut.

blhack 5 days ago 0 replies      
Alan watts has something important to say about this...


You haven't been failing, you've been dancing. This is the point. Enjoy it and stop waiting for the payoff.

alexkearns 4 days ago 0 replies      
My advice on completing projects:

Developing a big web project can be a bit like running a marathon badly. You put on a giant chicken outfit. Run around trying to trip over celebrities for the cameras. And nearly die of a heart attack. Okay, maybe that's just me. No, seriously, let me start again. Developing a big... bit like... running a marathon. You are full of energy at the start and set off at a frantic pace. Before you know it, you have the concept design and prototype done. Then you begin to start on the database hierarchy, the sign up forms. This is tiring work and soon your pace begins to slow. But you are still excited by the project so you push on.

There comes a point however on most large projects - usually around two-thirds to completion - when your enthusiasm begins to wane. You look into the distance and cannot see the end in sight. There is so much work to do and this work is the boring detailed stuff rather than fun conceptual work. You begin to wonder if the project is any good. You begin to get distracted by Facebook, Hacker News, flash backs of the mangled dying Action Man you threw out of the window with only a paper bag as a parachute when you were a kid (Okay, that's just me again). In short, you are flagging and unless you pick yourself up soon you will be retiring from this race.

This is usually when a good manager will step in and give his team of developers a good motivational talk (or a kick up the butt). But when you are working on your own projects as part of a startup, when you ARE your own manager, inviting yourself into your own office for a motivational talk does not usually do much good and could easily get you taken away by men in white coats (for me, writing this from Bradlington Mental Asylum, this is no longer a problem). It is easy to give up at this stage. So how do you motivate yourself in such a situation? How do you pick yourself up from the road, and crawl, if necessary, crawl, crawl, until bloodied and weeping, you inch over the finishing line on your stomach, a slimey trail of your inards in your wake (sorry, more flashbacks. My teddy this time. Tug of war with sis. Big Ted never was the same again). Yes, how do you do this...

Stop looking at me. Like, I have the slightest clue. What, you were expecting - because you had invested the time to read this far - that I magically would have the answer to one of the most intractable questions in software development - nay, in human psychology: how to motivate yourself and others. Or maybe, if you hadn't quite got the gist of this article, you were wondering how I could help you finish a marathon when, two thirds of the way through, your legs are buckling like a soldier who has taken one direct to the head. To the latter, I've heard that energy drinks are pretty good. Else, take a bus - nobody will probably notice and the money is only going to charity anyway. Later, you might want to invest in some smart drugs...

As for the former, get out of here - there's only one way you are going to finish your project, and that is by doing it. So stop reading frivilous articles like this, and get down to some serious coding.

keiferski 5 days ago 1 reply      
Luckily, business isn't a field where only the young make an impact: Colonel Sanders started KFC at 65, Henry Ford started Ford Motor Company at 34...most entrepreneurs aren't 25.

Also, consider architecture: most architects don't hit their prime until 50. But yeah, life is short, so don't waste too much time.

mathgladiator 5 days ago 3 replies      
I turned 30 today, and I've find myself with a followed trail of crap. I spent 8 years while in high-school/college/grad school working on a game engine that I threw away. I spent a year working endlessly during graduate studies on a computer algebra system for college algebra students to provide step by step instructions. I spent a couple of years in a mathematics graduate program only to drop out and do a start-up. I was homeless for about a year while studying math (living in the CS department). When the start-up turned profitable, I got bored and left.

Now, I look back at all the crap I've made, and I look forward to the things I'm going to make. The things I make each year get better. They get faster, more scalable, better, more beautiful.

The key (I hope) is that no matter what, you don't give up on what you want to do. As I age, I'm getting more comfortable with that.

ctdonath 5 days ago 2 replies      
I'm 44 today. I'm both sympathetic and dismissal of the author's plight.

Comes down to one thing: PICK SOMETHING AND DO IT.

And don't put off marriage.

OoTheNigerian 4 days ago 0 replies      
I turn 29 in a few weeks. When I turned 27 I wrote a post similar to yours http://oonwoye.com/2010/01/12/a-birthday-rant-why-i-feel-too.... I planned to go full throttle with my startup that year. However, some circumstances made me leave the startup. I am just getting back on track.

Here is what has made me move so fast and stay focused in the past 2 months. I struck myself a deal. If I do not launch anything, I will not blog, Tweet or Facebook. Things I loved doing but gave me room for distraction. I suggest you do same.

Next year is my last year at doing something great "in my twenties" it is so symbolic for me. So I hope that my efforts will pay off this coming year.

I leave you with this quote.

"The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is NOW"

toddmorey 4 days ago 1 reply      
"If you hear a voice within you saying, 'You are not a painter,' then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced." -- Vincent Van Gogh
philjackson 5 days ago 1 reply      
Have you thought about finding a co-founder?

edit: I'm being voted down? I was dead serious, a co-founder could help keep him on track, as could he them.

andrewfelix 4 days ago 0 replies      
My Father didn't get his degree until he was thirty. That was over 20 years ago.

Today he gets an invitation to travel overseas every two weeks to help teachers teach English. He educates, runs a multi-million dollar business, has 3 successful children and 2 healthy grand children.

You have a lot more to look forward to. Enjoy the first day of the rest of your life.

felipemnoa 5 days ago 0 replies      
>>Today I need to get serious. No, drastic. Like a heroin addict going to rehab. This is my intervention. No more new ideas, no more domain names, no more client work, no more hypotheticals, no more I'll do it tomorrow, no more wasted time. ”By the way, what have you ever done that's so great?” I'll have to get back to you.

You can still have lots of new ideas but no matter how many ideas you have you should have one and only one project that you are committed to at a time and make sure you finish it no matter how long it takes.

One must realize that most ideas have a very similar chance of succeeding (slim to none) no matter how great they may seem at first and that one of the best ways to increase the chances for an idea to succeed is to commit to it.

Meanwhile, while you are working on your main idea you will probably realize that a lot of the pieces you are building (at least in software) you will be able to re-use for some of your other ideas.

kenjackson 5 days ago 0 replies      
There's been reserach looking at the age of which great science occurs and in more established fields it happens later in life.

At age 30 you're just getting started.


kevinalexbrown 5 days ago 0 replies      
Most nobel prize winners, even in theoretical physics, do their nobel-winning work after 40[1] So don't worry about that.

Also: focus on doing what you love, not doing great things. Trying to do things just because everyone else thinks they're great just makes you a real-life karma whore.

[1] http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=age...

billpatrianakos 4 days ago 0 replies      
As a recovering heroin addict (3 years sober) and a programmer I can say his metaphor is right on. I'm approaching 30 soon too and I get what he's saying. You buy some domain and a VPS for some awesome idea you're going to launch and then between your client work and running your own business all of the sudden everything falls apart.

I think the problem is working on too many projects at once. It can be close to impossible to keep track of your clients and 5 of your own projects all at once. I know that when I start a project I need to focus on it all the way or I lose steam. You get in the zone, you're familiar with all the inner workings and you're able to be productive. If you try to switch to a different project, especially if it's a half finished one, you have a hard time getting comfortable again. You end up having to relearn the code (in a way) and get into that different flow the other project had.

Also, every project has a personality. At least in my mind. It's hard to switch between projects with different "personalities" because there a lot of mental strain involved in making that transition to, say, a straight laced organization web app and a fun and exciting social network for just you and your friends.

Then there's always that temptation to learn some new technology, rent a dedicated server or get a VPS so you can be in total control and that's just sexy. I know I get a nerd boner whenever I get a new Linode and start setting it up exactly how I like it. The decisions that come with all of this setup and execution can lead to analysis paralysis.

dbattaglia 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm turning 32 in March and I gotta say it's been all uphill the last 2 years. Trust me it really means nothing, don't let a number scare you.

When I was in my late teens/20s I was way into the electronica act Underworld. I remember reading how their 20s/30s were spent doing a failed synth pop act (Fruer I think the name was). I son't think they wrote that classic Trainspoyting track "Born Slippy") until they were in their 40s. Maybe it sounds silly but that always stuck with me. I think the current tech startup scene puts an emphasis on youth that is turning into vanity a little. Don't let it get you down.. negative thoughts and fear are infinitely more crippling than any birthday. Keep it up and focus!

egypturnash 4 days ago 0 replies      
Frank Herbert was born in 1920. It took him five years to research and write his second published novel; it was first published as a serial in 1963.

That book was called "Dune".

You do the math.


When I was 25 I moved out to California to attend animation school. When I was 30 I'd been a part of the first wave of dotcom boom funded Internet cartoons, watched some of my colleagues go in to TV work, and burnt out. When I was 36 I drew a Tarot deck[1]. The year I hit 40, it got published internationally. I think it's adequate. Some people react to it a lot more strongly than that.

Success at 25 is the exception, not the rule. Very few people are that driven. Many more labor under others for a time, slowly honing their craft until they make something amazing. Learning to identify the ideas worth focusing on for a whole year is an important, subtle skill.

[1] http://egypt.urnash.com/tarot/

wensing 4 days ago 1 reply      
I got married at 21, had my first child (of 4) at 21, and had the idea for Stormpulse at 23. I've now worked on it for 7 years and turned 30 last month. I feel like I've accomplished a lot in terms of having a very full home life and a very interesting project, but I still feel a lack in terms of having things "solved"--Stormpulse is just now finding its legs and I'm nowhere near being the father or husband I hope to become. I think I assumed I'd have these things more figured out by now, so I can relate. But I remain confident that each year holds better things than the last.
paulhauggis 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've had this same problem and I finally put a stop to it this year. I actually took one of my abandoned projects and used the code for a new venture.

I always had this problem when I worked a corporate job. Mostly because I wasn't hungry for success. I always had that steady paycheck coming in and I could abandon my new project when I ran into the slightest difficulty.

I quit last year with 2+ years salary and I've been working on the same two projects since.

freshlog 5 days ago 1 reply      
May I suggest that you try approaching your ideas from a slightly different perspective: pick those that stem from a personal pain point, that way, you'll be personally vested.

Whilst it's exciting to come up with novel ideas, nothing's more spurring than fixing and making your own life better.

To illustrate, here are some projects that I've embarked on, which scratched a personal pain point and went on to be incidentally well liked by others enough to even pay for:


I had to submit bug reports with attached screenshots in Basecamp (later Pivotal Tracker and Fogbugz), which involves many steps, so I made this.


Customers were frequently asking how to do something and nothing beats sharing a webpage with step-by-step screenshots. Later I found Dropbox to be a great medium so I integrated with that.


I felt that Facebook was a little too noisy and public to share personal links with my family and friends, so I made this.


Whilst reading long articles, I'd want to select some text, mark it out and jump back between them easily.

Whilst these are not runway successes with millions of dollars of profit, it certainly helps you build up the stamina to successfully ship and launch projects.

alexwolfe 5 days ago 0 replies      
You don't need to do something unbelievable to be great. Don't let yourself get into this mindset that you need to keep up with the Joneses. Do something that makes you happy, that is the real measure of success.

The reality is that no matter what you do, even if you do it great there will always be someone better. So you have to do something because you get enjoyment out of it not because your peers approve or because it might garner some praise for a few minutes.

You're young. Yes you are. 30 is a great place to be and for most people the real beginning of their careers.

If you have your heart set on building something cool/useful/etc then you just need to focus (don't beat yourself up), just focus. Look at the list of things you have and pick 1. Don't do any other projects (other than work of course) until you finish. You'll find that in a year from now you'll have plenty to be proud of and that's not bad for a 31 year old.

Good luck.

PS. I found this article very helpful when I've had these same thoughts: http://techcrunch.com/2011/12/03/how-entrepreneurs-can-incre...

there 5 days ago 0 replies      
at least for me, an idea dies quicker when i never tell anyone about it. if i show a working example to someone or even just talk about the idea, there's a sense of wanting to complete it just to show that person even if he or she never asks me about it again. if i keep ideas to myself and they stall out halfway through, i won't look like i never finished them because nobody knew i started. i realized this years ago and is unfortunately why i rarely tell people about my ideas now until i at least have something to show.

there are a lot of "show hn" posts on the /newest page that never even get an upvote and then roll off the page without any discussion. even if they make the front page, they stick around for a day and then we never hear about them again.

maybe if there were a dedicated place to post those early-stage ideas, whether they are just paragraphs explaining the ideas or links to fully-functioning websites, and they were visible for longer than a day, it would provide motivation for others to complete their projects. like forrst.com but less focused on design projects. perhaps this would be better suited as a forum, where one can maintain one long-running thread per idea and update it over time, allowing others to give feedback on it. i've seen this on car forums where someone will have a thread spanning over a year, updating it every week as they build a new car or something. the navigation would need some improvement over a standard forum, but it could work.

i'd be happy to build and host such a thing.

tsunamifury 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the author is conflating two issues here

1 A sense that he does not finish things

2 That he should be further along in life

The second is nonsense as there is no set point where anyone should 'be' in life. Some contribute early, some late, some after they are dead!

The first is a real problem, one I've struggled with. The way I've attempted to overcome it is, when I got my next idea I wanted to try out I told myself the goal wasn't to be successful, rather it was to finish. I wanted to see something done and launched no matter how terrible I felt it was.

I found that overcoming the initial abandonment period required two things

1 a partner

2 skin in the game

With your next great idea, I'd advise you prioritize finishing it and invest in the above two points to get you there.

waterlesscloud 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm 43. I've produced nothing great. But I'm still working at it. And I'm having a lot of fun along the way.

I'll get there or I won't, but I'm enjoying the ride.

ChuckMcM 4 days ago 0 replies      
The sad thing is, you tell someone "Someday you're going to suddenly wake up and realize that 10 years of your life has gone by and you've not done anything you wanted to do." And at the front side of those 10 years its really hard for them to hear, at the back side its catastrophically depressing for some.

It is the essence of the mantra "You are going to be dead a year from now, so put your affairs in order." kind of motivation that folks use to force them to finish things they start. Life is the journey, at some unpredictable time the journey stops.

foxylad 4 days ago 0 replies      
Get real. I'm going to sound harsh, but if you're choosing to spend time angsting about this, you're probably better working for someone else than yourself. You aren't making good decisions on how to spend your time, which means you will be badly handicapped in any venture that you control.

If you want to prove me wrong, get hungry. Put all your money less enough to pay rent, expenses and ramen for six months into a long term savings account that you can't touch for a year. So in six months, you are going to be starving, out on the street, and your smartphone will be repossessed... unless you perform.

Whoa... OK, lets analyse all these amazing ideas. Ask female friends which ones have legs, work out which one is most likely to start earning you enough money to keep you off the street in six months. Forget trying to raise venture capital - if you can't show revenue they won't be interested, if you can show revenue you don't need them anyway.

Then get to it. By now you only have 5.5 months left to build this darn thing, 5.5 months before you starve. Design, code, network all hours of the day and night. Phone every new customer and ask them what they like and don't like about the product. Every thing you do, you ask "is this helping me build revenue?" before you spend a second doing it. Lying in bed before you go to sleep, you're figuring out how to do some A/B testing to improve signup rates, not worrying about whether you're too old to produce amazing art.

Then six months is up. You have enough revenue coming in to pay for the next month's rent, expenses and ramen - congratulations. Or you've learned that even with your best idea and effort, you couldn't make ends meet. You get regular job, and make a difference to the world that way.

Good luck to you, and if anything I've said helps at all, let me know how you go.

AznHisoka 5 days ago 0 replies      
For your next idea, follow the lean startup principle. It not only works in terms of results, but it works from a morale point of view. When you got people telling you they can't wait for the app to be released, it gives you motivation to push forward. It's an antidote against self doubt, and wondering whether you're just crazy. Start a mailing list, and immediately get email addresses of people who want to hear when the app will be released. Hire a designer, and have him/her design the homepage so you got something impressive to look at. Something you can point at and say.. "This is what my idea is gonna look like".
dasil003 5 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe it's all true, but there are many ways to look at things in life, and I think the OA is just being too hard on himself.

Look around. Most people never create much of anything. It's easy to focus on "great art" that the Internet shoves in front of us and be demoralized. Our brains just aren't designed for the kind of sensory overload that we experience today, and even the greatest artist would feel belittled by the scope of what is at our fingertips today.

But if your goal is to create great art, then first you must dedicate yourself to just creating art. It doesn't matter if these attempts are abortive, so long as you keep doing it. Just keep honing your craft. This is the only hope of ever creating anything great. It's not a guarantee, but if you give it your all then you should be proud. Reflecting honestly on the past is useful for course correction, but beating yourself up never helps.

uptown 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just turned 35, and have a very similar story. One thing I've found that helps is to start talking about your ideas with others. Not only does it give you insight into how others perceive your ideas and potentially help improve the concept, but it also gives you a certain amount peer motivation from friends and family to follow up on your progress. If they won't naturally do this, ask them to ... tell em it'll help you stay motivated, and ask whether you can follow up in a few weeks/months/whatever to show them what you've accomplished.

Ultimately, the message I needed to get into my own head was that nobody was going to build my idea for me ... so if I wanted to see it as something more than a Photoshop mockup, I just needed to break it into pieces, and start knocking them down.

zotz 5 days ago 3 replies      
Being an artist and musician, I'm a little disturbed at businessmen thinking they're producing art.
x3c 4 days ago 0 replies      
I dont know how much this applies to the author but I often feel like it hits home for me:

“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.”
-Henry Wadsworth

By that, I dont mean that you should have no ambitions, just dont get troubled by it. What I mean is, dont postpone your today's work for what you may want to work on tomorrow. Finish the small things before dreaming of the next big thing. Small things like your current job, your social obligations, your relaxation time and the time to hone your skills.

Manage your time better, every minute you can spare, invest it in your future. You won't have to go looking for inspiration, mundane things can be a great catalyst for radical/new ideas. You'll have your moment, just gain enough discipline and build a secure nest egg; so when your moment comes, you'll be prepared to take the leap.

All the best.

[Edit: pretty printing]

peterwwillis 4 days ago 0 replies      
Stop trying to force yourself to come up with ideas and just live your life. Nothing in life is so serious that you should be sweating yourself over it, save maybe an incurable disease (which you can't cure so again, don't sweat it).
jscore 4 days ago 0 replies      
32 here.

1. You finished this blog post, so you know how to finish things.

2. Turn off all mindless distractions for a month or more (fb, twitter, forums, even hn) so you can figure out something important that you can focus on. You've read enough and don't need to keep reading more motivational material.

3. Start a small project and finish it. This would help you to convince yourself that you can complete shit.

4. Use that feedback loop to continue building bigger projects.

5. Life IS really that short so learn to live in the moment (I've been there but am getting a bit better with this).

j45 5 days ago 0 replies      
That's 99.99999% of the world too. It's okay. Create. Create. Create. Paint for the love of painting. An artist creates art for art's sake. Keep creating and FINISHING.

P.S. I counted the 9's :)

plasma 3 days ago 0 replies      
I find myself constantly writing down ideas in a notepad/phone/document.

Many of them are simple, one liners to remember the idea.

Others have expanded (even on my phone) into multi-page ideas, features, things to consider.

That helps me write down things to work on at a later date.

I let the idea bake for a moment and when I'm really passionate about it I will give it a go.

Each failure though helps me realise what to look out for next time.

For example, like you, I also run out of momentum.

You need to pick projects that are _achievable_ in a few months (especially when you're putting in after-hours work, and it isn't your day job) to avoid picking up a project too big for the amount of time you can afford.

I still write down those huge ideas, who knows if I will ever do them, but I don't pick them up (or totally forget them, either) because they are too much work to do right now.

Pick the projects that sound good (and cut feature's you don't really need for launch), do it incrementally, even with a friend if that helps you stay on track, and make sure it's something you can do in a reasonably short amount of time.

tlammens 5 days ago 0 replies      
Now try to do something for your friends/family, make them happy. Maybe that matters more in the end.
sporkologist 5 days ago 0 replies      
Carl Friedrich Gauss and Richard Feynman both did great stuff until they were old. I knew from an early age that I would probably not even know what would be my career until I was at least 40, and learned the basics of art, math, computers, and music from about 10 to the present day, to be prepared (didn't know what for exactly). So now I'm 47 and making sax mouthpieces (I'm in the very center of my target market). I'm not sure what my point is with all this, but I guess what I'm saying is, just try a lot of stuff and eventually you will find that there is a demand for what you love to do. And make sure you maintain food and shelter.
ivan_ah 5 days ago 0 replies      
Ze Frank said: ideas = "brain crack"


ccarpenterg 5 days ago 0 replies      
The probability of success (ie: creating a startup and selling it for 100 millions) is conditioned by two major factors: (a) a good idea (and the right implementation) and (b) the preparation of yourself.

So rather than trying to get the next big idea instead work on solving interesting problems and improve your skills and capacities. And take some risk!

nashequilibrium 4 days ago 0 replies      
" I read stuff like “it's rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing” from Steve Jobs, and it has the uncomfortable effect of simultaneously depressing me and jolting me with a sense of panic."

I tend to disagree a bit with this quote. This article called 'late bloomers' explains most of my reasoning: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/10/20/081020fa_fact_...

yungchin 5 days ago 0 replies      
"No more new ideas, no more domain names, ..."

That sounds counter-productive. If you need good ideas, you better allow yourself to keep the ideas flowing (I suppose I believe there's something random about the quality of ideas, so to have a good one, you need to allow lots of 'em).

What might be interesting is to look into something called "mental contrasting": it says you shouldn't just revel in a new idea, because envisioning the outcome gives you a good part of the gratification of actually achieving it. Instead, you should still allow yourself the envisioning, but afterwards contrast that with how far you are now.

jeffool 5 days ago 0 replies      
I know the feeling. I'm 31 and beyond the middleground of fruitless endeavors to the point that so many things that I've felt should've been "what I put my life into" have turned out bad. And I'm not even a developer! (That was one of them, hello student loan.) But, you got to keep going. What else are you going to do, y'know?

Best of luck to you, sir.

philwelch 4 days ago 0 replies      
Web apps aren't art. Startups aren't art. Almost no one under 30 starts a successful business, and almost no one over 30 starts a successful business either, though the >30 group does have an advantage. So use it.
halayli 5 days ago 0 replies      
Here's my take:

1. Instead of focusing on the idea, focus on the execution.

2. Pick a niche that has a relatively easy entry, and create something better and/or cheaper. Perfect your execution so that your product becomes the obvious choice in the market.

3. Get into an already proven market instead of trying to prove your idea and chase it.

4. Don't expect you'll be alone in any market, you always have competitors. Wherever there is money, there is a competitor.

5. Stay away from highly competitive markets.

6. Whatever you choose, make sure to answer these questions first: "Who's my audience?", and more importantly "How can I reach them". Because whatever you create, if it's hard to reach your audience then your audience won't know about you. Personally, I'd pick a market where I can reach its audience via online advertising, this way my success is not dependent on the media talking about my product and spreading the word.

7. Stay away from ideas/markets that requires virility. Those markets are very difficult to enter.

gavanwoolery 4 days ago 1 reply      
In all seriousness, there is a slim chance that you have bipolar disorder.


Or not. Never try to self-diagnose or self-medicate - seek professional help if you think this is the case.

I am the same way - I have many (failed) ideas, and an obsession with creating new ones, although fortunately I do not carry the aforementioned disorder :)

spking 4 days ago 0 replies      
OP here. I want to express my gratitude for all of the great comments. There's a lot of wisdom and insight here, and it's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who feels (or has felt) this way.
politician 4 days ago 0 replies      
Rather than agreeing with everyone else in this thread (I do), let me ask a serious question. Does anyone think Adderall would help? Focus on one idea, that is. I find myself thinking it would.
buro9 4 days ago 0 replies      
The difference between 29 and 30 is one day.

If one day is all the difference in the world and the source of so much personal stress about what you've achieved, then ask yourself:

What did you do today?

If every day you do something, then one day you will find that you have achieved things that once seemed like a leap, but viewed from day by day were never more than the smallest increments over the day before.

erichocean 4 days ago 0 replies      
The drive that compelled you to write this blog post is the same drive that will, when the time comes, kick you off your ass to actually get stuff done.

And it'll be awesome.

tl;dr You're doing it right.

tmroyal 4 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me of that article by Malcolm Gladwell about Cézanne and Picasso. Picasso is depicted as the visionary who revolutionizes artistic expression in his teens and Cézanne is a painter who struggles his entire life and doesn't achieve a breakthrough until he is much older. It might provide context to a discussion like this:


Yet, I wonder if achievement is evenly distributed across the range of all ages, and what is not evenly distributed are mentions of the achiever's age when mentioning her or his achievement. If artist A revolutionizes the art world at the age of 23 and artist B does so at the age of 60, would it not be more likely to see when the respective artists achievements are mentioned? i.e.:

Artist A revolutionized the art world and he did so at the age of 23

Artist B revolutionized the art world.

Anyway, the statement "I'm 30 and haven't done anything, so I won't" is based on a number normative assumptions. Not everyone is 30 finds herself in the same set of circumstances. Further, normativity is antithetical to creation, so a sentiment behind this post is contradictory.

Ultimately, the answer is to have ideas that are easy to follow through but are not obvious. That's how you look like a prodigy, i think.

jfoster 5 days ago 0 replies      
I used to have this affliction, but it's reasonably easy to overcome once you realize that you've got it. You just have to pick an idea and not shift attention to anything else until you've followed it through to some kind of conclusion.
mkr-hn 5 days ago 0 replies      
People who say they've never seen anyone do y after x didn't look hard enough. You'll live longer if you stop stressing over arbitrary points on an imaginary curve and focus on the long journey ahead of you and all the potential it offers.
riledhel 4 days ago 0 replies      
This has turned to be one of the most interesting conversations on HN in the past month, at least for me. It made my day and I wanted to thank everyone for sharing their two cents. As someone approaching 30 in a couple of years this reflected some of my feelings about work and life. Gladly I walk out today having learned something about life.
nikcub 5 days ago 0 replies      
let all the domain names go so that other people can use them (same of anybody else who is hoarding domain names)

setup a site to give them away or to sell them (theres an idea!)

kloc 4 days ago 0 replies      
I turned 30 today and this is the top post on HN (wow).Everything the OP says applies to me too.Its high time we become doers from thinkers.
dariencrane 4 days ago 0 replies      
Realize that the amount of "art" you've created is altogether meaningless if you have a shallow experience of life. Let your self-esteem become unhinged from what you perceive as success, and just enjoy your time. If you have a single creative bone in your body you will create something amazing in due time. I recommend reading Siddhartha again and then getting back to work!
pacomerh 4 days ago 0 replies      
One common problem developers have is that they try to do everything themselves and they have too many projects in their head, so just make an effort and forget about the other ones that won't happen anyways. Get one good project and divide it in really really easy tasks, and when you finish each part enjoy the success and move on slowly, it's better to move slow and fnish than moving fast and not go anywhere. My grandmother used to tell me
"Don't rush, I'm in a hurry", wise words.
danielcrenna 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wrote a little response for you, which I hope will help in some small way. You're a really brave dude, and you're clearly not alone. (http://danielcrenna.com/post/14394588037/code-soloist-19-int...
Spearchucker 4 days ago 0 replies      
I find this thread fascinating. In over 20 years in the formal IT sector I've had one idea, and have stuck with that single idea for seven years.

It started with frustration at a piece of software I was using on my phone at the time (a Nokia 9210 Communicator), and has since been influenced by books I've read and other apps I've used. I quit my job at Microsoft in September last year to work on it full time.

Granted, over the years I've had a few more ideas - most of them spin-offs of the framework I created, but all have been put on hold until I can ship v.1 of the current idea.

I guess it's just another example my tendency to assume that eveyone else thinks like I do.

larve 5 days ago 0 replies      
i think that the personal value of art is making it and the importance it has to you. you can't hand down the judgment of how "good" your art is to somebody else, or in fact judge it at all. the only thing it will lead to is making yourself feel bad. the beauty is in making, not wanting.
ww520 5 days ago 0 replies      
This has struck a chord with me. New ideas are so addictive, but getting down to business to get one done takes a lot of effort. Sigh.
theviciousfish 4 days ago 0 replies      
art has nothing to do with money. The only thing you can do, is find what you love. Once you do that, you practice. You practice every day until your hands bleed, but you don't care, because you love it. Loving something is not instantaneous, it is a combination of chance itself, and a decision to make a commitment to being better at what you do than anyone else. Once you have enough practice, inspiration is inevitable. The problem is, if you are focused on money, you are likely to give up on practice for the sake of practice, and you will be too busy trying to make a buck that true inspiration will pass you by.

Inspiration is a subtle force, and retreats in the face of greed.

lucidrains 5 days ago 0 replies      
Ambition isn't everything to life. Being kind to others, surrounding yourself with friends and family, and seeking out new and fun experiences are all important and more permanent for your happiness.

However, if you have truly figured yourself out and creating something is vital to your happiness (which is probably true given you are on ycombinator), by golly, understand yourself and reengineer your environment so that you can realize your full potential.

Our society is kind of structured so you are thrown into a pipeline to water and tend to dreams that have already taken root; so if you want to realize your own dream, you need to really step outside the box and plant your own seeds.

My 2 cents...

zobzu 4 days ago 0 replies      
Like million of humans. Congrats.
It.does.not.matter. :-)
CrazyInu 4 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe people don't produce art after 30 of 40, but there are hundreds of millionaires and billionaires who made their riches in their 50s, 60s, and 70s.
ofca 4 days ago 0 replies      
hell. I have the same feeling and I am only 23...
hpexin 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think being involved or attached in such an inspiring community is really important. True, too many people out there have never ever dreamed of creating anything. However, here, after reading so many articles about the passion to invent, I am too influenced to do something.
1point2 4 days ago 0 replies      
This seems applicable for the 30 year old person to read:
jimmyxt 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great to read its not just me!

There is hope, I'm now 4 months into a startup which is my best commitment yet. The key difference for me: Involve other people. Firstly working in a team makes me more accountable. Second, having users sign up and use it really motivates me.

Not that its easy, its still hard at times. Which is fantastic because it means Im outside my comfort zone and getting some much needed personal growth.

DodgyEggplant 5 days ago 0 replies      
yeah, well make sure that you will not repeat this statement turning 31. go go go.
adrianbye 5 days ago 0 replies      
this isn't a big deal. just study project management and get really good at it. you'll learn how to execute well on projects and find yourself getting things completed
njharman 4 days ago 0 replies      
That is ok.
N. Korean leader Kim Jong Il dies bbc.co.uk
322 points by josscrowcroft  4 days ago   83 comments top 20
Tsagadai 3 days ago 4 replies      
I've lived in South Korea for two years and this is the most I've ever heard people talk about Kim Jong Il or North Korea. Even the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 didn't generate this much talk. This is also the first time I've ever heard anyone tell a joke about North Korea. People are telling jokes in the street right now.
Murkin 3 days ago 2 replies      
Talk about good timing.

With the political climate of change in afrika and middle east, this might be a great reason for the goverment to tear itself apart as various factions try to take over 'in the name of the people'

We do live in exciting times

andrewfelix 3 days ago 1 reply      
"died on Saturday of physical and mental over-work."
His propaganda machine is still alive and well.
yahelc 3 days ago 2 replies      
Is there an algorithmic reason this post isn't higher on the front page? It has more upvotes and is newer than everything but 1 or 2 things ahead of it. Here's a screenshot: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/397675/Screen%20Shot%202011-12-18%20...
saturn 3 days ago 2 replies      
Wanted: Hegemony of International Elites looking for despicable candidates for Two Minutes Hate media roles. Slightly senile, doddering old men preferred. Work remote!
zmanji 3 days ago 3 replies      
I wonder if his son's violent statements toward SK will turn into violent actions.
robryan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Will be interesting to see if his son and chosen successor is able to retain power and persure a similar governing style. Seems like the perfect opportunity for change in North Korea.
wilzy 3 days ago 2 replies      
andrewljohnson 3 days ago 1 reply      
How about a black banner, pg?
tomflack 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if his son is prepared for the massive power play that will come from the military brass over the next few months.
joshuahedlund 3 days ago 3 replies      
Saddam Hussein: dead at 69.
Gaddafi: dead at 69.
Kim Jong-Il: dead at 69.

How did Fidel Castro get out of this?

diamondhead 3 days ago 3 replies      
Another article that shows HN turned into a regular American newspaper.
kumarm 3 days ago 0 replies      
2011 certainly is a disastrous year for Terrorists and Dictators around the world :)
diamondhead 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm patiently waiting for the submissions about Angelina Jolie.
zeruch 3 days ago 0 replies      
The surface will probably be quiet for a bit, while the internal political machine of the DPRK roils. There are certainly a lot of possibilities (both good or bad) that can happen depending on who actually takes over control. Even if the regime collapsed non-violently, the ensuing chaotic human crisis would still be immense. My belief is that it will continue largely unchanged for the short to mid term.
swah 3 days ago 0 replies      
Please can we have two HNs.
linbsd21 3 days ago 0 replies      
North Korean Authorities suspect Fair Play.
andrewfelix 3 days ago 0 replies      
What is the black bar policy out of interest?
codyrobbins 3 days ago 1 reply      
Thank god.
maeon3 3 days ago 1 reply      
After his death, Kim Il-sung was declared the country's Eternal President.

Could it be possible to take control of North Korea by getting a plant in there, killing Kim II Sung and his family and then using his power to work behind the signs and use the totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship to morph the country into a free capitalistic republic? Sounds like something the special forces could do in a few weeks, it just has to be a surprise so the military doesn't get a chance to respond.

Not doing anything seems cruel and unusual punishment. We may be born there in your next lives, wouldn't you want someone to do something about it?

Facebook machine learning technology improves; Redditors alaramed. reddit.com
315 points by zackattack  1 day ago   155 comments top 41
DanielBMarkham 1 day ago 3 replies      
Years ago I worked with a guy who used to sell computer equipment to businesses.

He told me that when he went to different divisions in each company, they all had org/structure charts somewhere around the office. And in every one of them, their section was in the middle and everybody else was serviced by them. No matter what you did, you were the center of the universe to you.

Likewise, I've had experience building and working on many computer systems for businesses. Each of them, if successful, wants to handle not just their thing but everything for their customers. No matter what they did, they wanted to be the center of the universe for their customers.

You can laugh at these examples, and we all know most software companies have much great ambition than they do traction, but Facebook and Google are actually doing this. They are becoming the center of the information universe to their customers.

This is not a good thing.

JonnieCache 1 day ago 11 replies      
The important thing to take away from this:

If they can make guesses this accurate about your photos, imagine they guesses they're making behind the scenes about your life, your personality and your innermost thoughts.

If there was a page on fb where it showed all the inferences they had made about you, sexuality, income, religion, philosophical viewpoints, mental health, etc. then people would run screaming. Of course, a lot of people have already told fb that info voluntarily, and that's why its possible to guess it for everyone else.

Also potentially terrifying: a facebook fortune telling engine. I bet they can predict your future with frightening accuracy, or they will be able to after another decade or so of data anyway.

brlewis 1 day ago 2 replies      
This was just answered on Quora: http://www.quora.com/How-does-Facebook-predict-my-photo-albu...

Henry F. Bridge, Product Manager, Facebook

Photo albums on Facebook have long had a text input field for location, but until recently, there was no way to put in structured data in this field (like a Facebook page). We added that ability earlier this year, and the "add a location" feature just performs a search on whatever text the album owner put in originally (ranked by place popularity etc) and suggests the first result as the location of the album.

jhferris3 1 day ago 0 replies      
(Disclosure: FB employee, but nowhere near the photos/locations teams, just personal experience)

In all likelihood, there's no magic. Its just comparing 'dumb' manual album labels with places pages and trying to match them up.

I've had similar experiences with the location-suggestion feature where I was totally bewildered by how it was getting the data to recognize the locations. As it turns out, all of the albums they've done this for were pre-location tagging and so I'd manually put in a location (like 'Bowery Ballroom'). So there wasn't any particular magic in how they seem to be doing it. This would also explain one of the other comments on here about the location suggestions being England, Arkansas (if she just labeled the album England and the location suggester goofed). I also had it goof when I had an album labeled "Rhode Island and Massachusetts" and it tried to suggest a real estate agency with that in its name.

drats 1 day ago 6 replies      

Facebook almost certainly has more photo information than TinEye or Flickr, and of indoor environments probably more than Google (which has reverse image search too). Across any given bar or hospital Facebook would have maybe 5-10 other people with albums tagged with the name/gps/check-in. They'd only need one other album though.

SIFT more or less turns every image into a bag-of-words. Your single photo, even at different angles, is going to have a heavy match with photos they have. If you upload a whole album they are going to have tons of matches and they can be more or less certain of the location. To say nothing of adding even the most basic geoip-to-city lookups that would narrow you down to at least five cities that you and your social network inhabit. But the extra information they have is besides the point, SIFT is enough; hospital rooms look alike to us, to SIFT they don't.

freedompeace 1 day ago 3 replies      
How could Facebook do this (technologically)?

According to a redditor,


- It's not IP address. Facebook successfully identified a number of specific locations (bars, theaters, etc) even though I had uploaded the photos from my home

- It's not geo-tagging. All of my photos were taken with a camera that does not geo-tag (Nikon d700).

- It's not contextual tagging. There were no people tagged in the photos, no comments in a lot of them, no words or phrases or names in the captions that could have given clues

- It's not image recognition. One set of photos was taken at Cafe du Nord in SF, CA and every single shot was of the performer onstage, with no identifying characteristics or clues to be had.


I would really like to know as this is very interesting and none of the reddit comments (as of now, 12 hours after submission) really answer this question. What technology or methods are they using to suggest (accurate?) locations where pictures have been taken from?

Even more strangely, I have never used my mobile phone with Facebook, but when I uploaded a photo just now of a place from my childhood to which I haven't ever been since using Facebook, Facebook correctly suggested the location.

What the heck?!

phpnode 1 day ago 4 replies      
Here's my guess at how it's done:

Redditor has facebook app installed on their smartphone (or just uses the website), sets status to "OMG wife is going into labour, at the hospital now". Facebook now knows roughly where redditor was at the specified time based on the ip, they can narrow this down further by looking at keywords in the status message and check it against a list of addresses in the local area and select the best match.

When the redditor comes to upload their photos days or weeks later, facebook just checks the photo timestamp against the user's location +/- X hours and makes a guess at where the photos were taken.

darklajid 1 day ago 2 replies      
Immature, but I really loved this comment/idea and wonder about the feasibility of such attacks:

"You know what this means:

Time to rewrite your EXIF info and location bomb the hell out of popular attractions. Eiffel Tower in Paris? Nope, it's in Iowa ..." [1]

Possible? Google bomb with a twist?

1: http://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/nkktm/facebook_is_reall...

ChaitanyaSai 1 day ago 0 replies      
Highly unlikely that there is anything sophisticated here. It would be too many computing cycles thrown at something with very small RoI. Most likely some straightforward text, date, and location matching.
Many of the previous commenters are assuming you need sophisticated pattern sifting to get any good insights. Not true. Large numbers of facebook users are including this data voluntarily or with their unexpurgated photos. Going after the sliver who don't is just not a worthy investment -- yet.
uptown 1 day ago 1 reply      
Since Facebook knows your social connections, isn't it also possible they check the location of the people to whom you're connected, and use their location as a guide as to where your photos may have been taken? If a cousin checked Facebook on a phone near a hospital while you posted a hospital photo, they know there's a chance the cousin was visiting you and that's where your photo was taken. They use your social grid for everything ... why wouldn't they use it for this too?
jagira 1 day ago 1 reply      
Just checked this.

I took some pics on a regular digital camera (no GPS) in Indore. I uploaded them from New Delhi a few weeks later. And now FB is asking me "Were these pics taken in Indore?". Crazy shit.

Update - I dug through my FB updates. Just before leaving for airport, I updated my status to "Off to Indore" and after coming back to New Delhi, I had some status updates about my office and a local park. Facebook is probably using the the timestamps from image and relating it to locations using some heuristics like status updates, IP addresses, image recognition etc.

nbm 1 day ago 0 replies      
Karan from the locations team at Facebook posted a response on Reddit. He said:

I am an engineer at Facebook working on the Locations team. We use the text entered in the location field of the album by the album owner and match it to the best guess for an existing Facebook Page using text matching. The popularity of the place is also used to rank the suggested places.


(I work at Facebook, not on locations/photos.)

grifaton 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's not perfect yet -- Facebook knows that I went to university in Cambridge (UK) but keeps asking me if photos from my undergraduate years were taken in Cambridge (Massachusetts).
archangel_one 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've seen both extremes on my photos. One set it suggested the nearby town, which was creepily accurate; another it asked "were these taken in England, Arkansas" which was a hilariously poor guess. Weirdly, they managed the difficult part (figuring out the photos were taken in "England" without any obvious clues) but then failed to sensibly geolocate it.
zombielifestyle 1 day ago 1 reply      
I've tried it. i don't use fb for pics. i don't use wifi on my smartphone and i had the fb app only briefly installed. i also weren't on any trips outside my city.

I've uploaded 4 screenshot-ed landscape (including one building) pics from flicker with absolutely no metadata. at least 2 of them should be very recognizable. the only thing that fb suggested was the single check-in that i had, minimum of 500km off.

i'm pretty sure that there is only minimal (if any) intelligence on image recognition and that they guess locations by information that "leak" from you and your hardware.

sondh 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't think this is machine learning.

I have Facebook suggested a few albums today (2 hours ago). Some of them are from 2+ years ago, others are recent ones. The suggestion is quite accurate (89%, 8 out of 9 albums). With the incorrect album, Facebook suggested another city with the same name but from another country!

So Facebook probably just combine as much data as possible and when the matching rate is larger than some threshold, it will temporary tag the album and confirm with users. Data may include:

1. Album info (yeah, most of my album includes the place in it's name or description)

2. Comments group. 3 of my albums have a large number of comments, they are all from my highschool friends (I grouped them all in the same group) so it's quite accurate I guess. Also, if Facebook use the information in their smart lists, that makes sense too.

3. EXIF data. Some people says Facebook can read the data and cross-check the date with its database of check-in. This doesn't happen to me but I think it's possible. And of course, if the EXIF has geo-tagged, that info can be picked up.


simondlr 1 day ago 0 replies      
Facebook has suggested twice accurately places I've visited, but I pretty much specified it in the album (Singapre and Australia).

There is an album now with random photos, with the location "Plekke" (which is afrikaans for "places"). They are suggesting "Plekke, San Juan, Puerto Rico". So, currently I wouldn't suggest machine learning, although it is not entirely dismissible. They have the largest photo db in the world, they could eventually learn and then seed it with stuff like checkins, status updates, etc.

EDIT: I have another album called "Kuala Lumpur and Thailand", which have pretty iconic pictures in it (Wat Pho, KL Towers, Batu Caves, etc) and they haven't asked me about that album at all.

dhx 1 day ago 2 replies      
LinkedIn appears to build "social graphs" based on profile views. If person A visits the profile of person B and C it is quite likely that some form of relationship exists (perhaps an inverse relationship too). It doesn't just have to be profile views -- LinkedIn most likely keeps track of search terms too. If a random unknown visitor comes along and searches for both "Person A" and "Person C" then it is likely that a connection exists between these two persons.

It would be easy to train this system by displaying a "guess" (a friendship recommendation for person A) to persons B and C. If person B or C show interest in the recommendation then perhaps a relationship exists. Guesses could also be formed by comparing keywords/metadata found on profiles in two different social circles.

The reason I mentioned LinkedIn is that I think they do a better job of recommending/guessing who your acquaintances are than Facebook.

barrkel 1 day ago 0 replies      
Maybe it infers from the locations of your friends. It looks like more than one technique is used, though; probability-weighted heuristics.
ErrantX 1 day ago 0 replies      
I first got these notices about... oh, best part of 2 months ago. I assumed it was everywhere but perhaps not!
nodata 1 day ago 0 replies      
I vote cell tower info.

I have a Nokia phone with no GPS. Many programs uses the cell tower info added by the phone to determine where the photo was taken.

sliverstorm 1 day ago 0 replies      
I dunno about everybody else, but I'm pretty impressed. It guessed some obvious ones- but I also had an album of photos of a car at a dealership. All you could see was the car and the service bay, but it knew what dealership it was.
tlrobinson 1 day ago 0 replies      
The outrage expressed by some of the commenters on Reddit and here is curious. Clearly Facebook and other companies have the technology to make these connections. Would you rather they keep it hidden to sell to advertisers and other potentially unscrupulous buyers, or expose it to you so that you can either make use of the features, or decide it's not worth playing their game?
sajidnizami 21 hours ago 0 replies      
There was an old vision that machines would do the stuff for you somewhere back in the day.

Sad that we've got to a point where we can make this possible but won't because we can't trust pie in the sky.

Torn between the two options and can't decide!

shalmanese 1 day ago 0 replies      
I asked this question on Quora a few days ago: http://www.quora.com/Facebook-1/Why-is-the-new-Facebook-Add-... but did not get any responses.
ananthrk 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yup. I had a similar experience couple of days back when FB listed three of my albums and correctly predicted the place names for confirmation. I was shocked when it _correctly_ predicted the location of one of my private albums which is an obscure town in southern India.

Given that most of my pictures were taken with cameras with no geo identification mechanism, I can only conclude that they identify the location based on any comments and similar photos available in _my_ network.

yread 1 day ago 0 replies      
I just tried to upload some photos that facebook hasn't seen yet with or without EXIF info (obviously no or invalid geotagging) and tried geo-tagging some photos I already have uploaded and Facebook hasn't made any suggestion whatsoever. Perhaps I found a way to switch it off but I've just checked the settings and none of the options seems to be concerned with suggestions for geotagging
brown9-2 1 day ago 3 replies      
Ignoring the how of this new feature, what is the upside to me as a user of confirming to Facebook the hospital in which my child was born?

Why do they think people would generally be interested in clicking "Yes" on these suggestions? That they are helpfully filling in the blanks on photos I "forgot" to location-tag?

steve8918 1 day ago 0 replies      
I noticed this yesterday as well. I have photos uploaded from a Canon camera from 2007. There is simply not enough information to determine the location, but they correction identified the bar that the photos were taken at. I have no idea how they did it, but it really does bother me.
Turing_Machine 1 day ago 0 replies      
It keeps asking me if some screenshots from a virtual world that I'd location-tagged with "Cyberspace" were taken in some net cafe with that name in British Columbia. I'm really tempted to answer yes.
jfoster 1 day ago 1 reply      
A test that might fool this. You will need:
1. A facebook status update/checkin/access from a particular location.
2. A photo taken without EXIF data at around the same time as the update/checkin/access above, but from a completely different location.

Upload the photo using your facebook account. Check whether they get the location right. If yes, the mystery continues. If no, but the location is somewhere other than where you updated your status/checked in from, the mystery deepens. Else, they're pairing the times together.

chinmoy 1 day ago 0 replies      
I googled Zooey Deschanel several hours ago. I was logged into facebook at that time. I log into facebook again and Zooey Deschanel in now on my 'People to Subscribe To' list. I came to hacker news to post an ask hn thread about if fb tracks my browsing history..and bummer I find this thread.
berberous 1 day ago 0 replies      
This had been freaking me out for months!

But I think I finally figured it out in my case. I had used Picasa to upload the pics years ago. In Picasa, I had entered a caption with enough detail for Facebook to guess the location. The caption had never been uploaded (i.e. set as the photo's caption on Facebook), but I'm guessing they did somehow capture that info on upload.

mhartl 1 day ago 0 replies      
s/alaramed/alarmed/ in the article title
silentscope 1 day ago 0 replies      
I actually think fb needs to own up to how they do it. If it's geolocation with a correlated timestamp I'd like to know.

If it's just album name suggestions, I still don't like it, but I suppose I'll live with it.

This is creepy.

paraschopra 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was freaked out too, but I had relevant names for those albums like Turkey, Shillong, etc.
richardburton 1 day ago 0 replies      
Eventually someone evil will do something truly monstrous on Facebook and it will make this WTF look like a drop in the ocean. I fear for my friends who are still Facehooked.
idunno246 1 day ago 0 replies      
Anyone else find it amusing he is complaining about Facebook knowing the location of a photo by posting it to a more public place and confirming the location?
randysavage25 1 day ago 0 replies      
Encouragement for the creation of a facebook replacement
yogrish 1 day ago 1 reply      
Wow! A serious competitor to SIRI in place. My guess is they are using combination of techniques - Semantics of your Status as phpnode mentioned with example(heard they have plans to get into semantic search to beat google), EXIF info, IP address and also your friends replies - when is the due? which hospital or Gynic? If hospital name is not mentioned then Gynics details and her hospital location. Do you think all this is used just to make a SUGGESTION?? Its a Billion$?
giulivo 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think it's just GPS positioning by the smart phone. I wouldn't be fooled by a liar.
Famous Last Words by Bosses I've Had edweissman.com
305 points by edw519  6 days ago   182 comments top 43
edw519 6 days ago 2 replies      
OP here. I just threw this together to have a little fun on a Friday morning. I knew I wasn't alone, but it's still nice when you guys remind me how much I'm not. It seems like there are two worlds for programmers these days: never having enough time to crank out that which must be built and dealing with alternate human reality in some institution.

These were just the tip of the iceberg. I'll probably have a bunch more next week.

Some specific feedback:

georgemcbay: When different stakeholders don't agree, I've learned 3 things: 1. You rarely make progress. 2. The only way to get them to agree is to put them in a room together and don't leave until they do agree (That's one time when you DO need a meeting). 3. My boss rarely understood (1) or (2). He was just worrying about his personal likes/dislikes. It's tough enough to convey this in a serious piece, but obviously a lot tougher in a light piece. Thanks for the feedback.

RyanMcGreal: I enjoyed Dilbert until the stories started striking too close to home. They became too real to be funny. Sad but true.

veyron: Actually, this company used 6 digit Ticket numbers. I shortened them for clarity. Remember it's a sequential numbering system, so that's the number of tickets since the beginning of time, not currently open tickets. Sadly, a typical meeting:

  Joe: How are we doing on 112182?
Fred: I don't have that Ticket.
Joe: Oh, maybe it should be 112128.
Mary: No, that's in Ron's group.
Fred: I must have written it down wrong. I mean the MJC Project.
John: The MJC Project is on hold.
Joe: Sorry, the MCJ Project.
Mary: Who brought a laptop?
Sue: I did. I'll search for MCJ.
Fred: No, you'll get 500 tickets. Search for Joe Smith, open.
Sue: OK, here it is. Ticket #118128.
edw519: Kill me now.

EDIT: I am NOT making this up. Five minutes ago:

  Customer: I called you 10 minutes ago but you didn't answer.
Me: I was here. Sometimes the IP phone doesn't ring.
Customer: Why? Is it raining there?

jonnathanson 6 days ago 2 replies      
Oh man, these almost hit too close to home to be funny. True story below.

Me: So, just to remind you, I'm going in for surgery on Saturday. They're removing a gland from the side of my neck, so the recovery time will probably be three or four days.

Boss: Will you be back in the office on Monday?

Me: Probably not. Like I said--

Boss: --When will you be back?

Me: The recovery time is three or four days, so hopefully Tuesday or Wednesday.

Boss: Will you be taking any meetings on Monday?

Me: I will probably be bed-ridden, and I won't be able to speak.

Boss: That's not what I asked.

georgemcbay 6 days ago 4 replies      
"Me: You've been invited to a meeting with 3 department heads to hash out their differences on Project 249.

Boss: I hate meetings."

A couple of the boss responses listed here are totally reasonable and their head-scratch-inducing inclusion weakens the piece.

Meetings are a (sometimes) necessary evil, but I'm pretty skeptical of anyone who doesn't, at some level, hate them.

I mean, fuck, who wouldn't hate the idea of going to a meeting of 3 department heads to hash out differences? Sounds DREADFUL.

jroseattle 6 days ago 2 replies      
Here's my favorite personal story. I was a consultant, brought in on a project on-site at a client's location. This is my first day, and I'm meeting the VP of Marketing.

  VP: We need to get these Cognos reports up and running.
Me: Hmm, ok. What can you tell me about these reports?
VP: Mostly that we need them up and running.
Me: Who uses these reports?
VP: Not sure. Ask so-and-so.
Me: What information is on these reports?
VP: Look, let's not get buried in details. We just need these reports up and running, mmm-kay?

babebridou 6 days ago 3 replies      
This quote from the OP hit home.

    Me:   The program was written with 3 SQL selects 
inside a loop. It ran OK when we had 500 parts.
Now that we have 10,000 parts, it runs real slow.
Boss: I don't understand.

I could say "true story" here... with a twist. Saying "I don't understand" is basic social engineering & management 101. The boss actually understood every single word and implication in that statement, he just wants to buy some time to decide silently on the best answer. Saying "I don't understand" puts the pressure on the dev who is lead to believe it's his fault and needs to think of a better description, maybe less technical and more to the point to express the problem. While the dev reformulates, the boss has finished thinking of an answer and can give it instantly. In the end, the dev has managed to express a problem with "simple" words, and the boss has proved he has great skills at solving problems once they are reported in the correct form.

I hated my boss when he did it to me, but I have to admit I used this in turn countless times when I became "the boss", to the point it's become a private joke in my former company, anyone saying "I don't understand", whatever their position, instantly got thrown balls or clips in their face.

mattmanser 6 days ago 2 replies      
Hang on a sec.

Not liking mornings or meetings.

Or forgetting what you'd prioritized someone to do.

Or being spam CCed by 'useful' emails.

I think when you look at a lot of these from the boss perspective and change the words slightly, they're totally normal human responses.

Periodic 6 days ago 3 replies      
This really happened to me in the last month. I was contracted with a company that has a contract to build a company for a bigger client with customers.

PM: We need you to fix a bug. One of our client's customers couldn't complete the form.
Me: What error did they get?
PM: I don't know, but it's very important we fix this.
Me: Do we have steps to reproduce it?
PM: No, can't you just fix it?
Me: Did they retry the submission process?
PM: I don't know.
Me: Does it happen often?
PM: Just this one customer as far as we know.
Me: Well, do we at least know when it happened so I can find it in the logs?
PM: Sometime last week. Look, this is really important to the client, can you just make this top priority? We want it fixed ASAP.

The "bug" has not been fixed because the devs still don't even know what the error is. We had another high-priority bug shortly before this because the client didn't understand that something wasn't allowed according to the access rules in the spec they (theoretically) helped write.

monochromatic 6 days ago 1 reply      
Boss (via email): Email me the results as soon as this thing is finished.

Me (replying to email within less than a minute): It's already done. Here you go.

    [Hours pass.]

Boss (via telephone): You're still not done with this?

Me: I finished hours ago. I replied to your email right away.

Boss: Oh, I didn't read your response. I thought the results would come via a separate email with a different subject line.

Me: ...

hkarthik 6 days ago 2 replies      
Me: This vendor software you purchased is not going to scale well on EC2, it needs physical hardware to work well.
Boss: Well, we don't have time to go purchase physical hardware and get it racked. That'll take 3 months.

...3 months later...

Boss: This stuff isn't scaling, we need to all come in over the weekend to work out the kinks with the production servers.
Me: Purchase some hardware and get it racked. EC2 just isn't working out.
Boss: I can't. I already sold our executive team on the cloud and we don't have room in our budget for hardware.

...Another 3 months go by...
Boss is gone.

elliottcarlson 6 days ago 2 replies      

    Boss: You did great this year. I'm giving you a 2% increase.
Me: I hate you. I quit.
Boss: Then I'll give you a 4% increase.
Me: I still hate you. I still quit.

Had the same situation years ago - fought tooth and nail to even get a review - by the time they gave me one I was accepting a position elsewhere and the 2% they offered was a joke.

orbitingpluto 6 days ago 2 replies      
Boss: How long will it take for you to make the program? We're running low on other work.

Me: 30 seconds.

Boss: That's too long. #### could have it done in... wait, what did you say?

Me: Well that sheds some light on your style of management.

phzbOx 6 days ago 4 replies      

  One month ago: 

me: Hey, everything is alright with project X?
boss: Yep, perfect.

Next monday, employee call me.
employee: Can you walk me through the code.
* me explains everything*
employee: Ok, just to let you know you are fire.
me: :-/ Why?
employee: Boss will call you
me: ok

next day, boss don't call
I write an e-mail
No answer
Another email 6-7 hours later
Boss: Sorry, I'm really busy. Calling you tomorrow

no call
*next day, for a week*
no call.

I go to the office to talk to him.
boss: I have a meeting, I have to run. I'll call you when I get back.

And he still haven't call me back, and I have no idea why I got fired.

bartonfink 6 days ago 4 replies      
"Foreign keys don't buy you anything - I leave them out. If we program right, we'll never have inconsistent data anyway."

"Superclasses don't buy you anything - you should just copy the code everywhere that might need it."

"Unit tests are nice, but we should be able to write code that works and not need to rely on tests to tell us that."

No, I'm not there anymore.

16s 6 days ago 1 reply      
The best compliment I got from a boss once:

"Normally, fuck-ups like this take three guys a week to fix. One guy fixed your fuck-up in two hours. You don't fuck-up as well as most."

ary 6 days ago 0 replies      
On 99% of the projects I've been involved with:

Boss: So you can do <anything> in two weeks then?

Me: No, what I just talked about is a multi-month endeavor.

The reasoning behind this is probably formed from a multitude of influences. Executive desire, manager's attempts to look good, and a complete lack of comprehension of what building software is about all rank high on the list. The one I, for the life of me, cannot understand is why programmers insist on pushing the "I can hack that together in 48 hours" mythology. Surely it has had an effect on the management psyche and influenced the mental math used to conclude that the maximum time it should take any feature to be developed is fourteen days.

clawrencewenham 6 days ago 0 replies      
Boss: "This new feature is similar to one that's already in another program, so you can just copy that code. You can do that in a couple of hours, right?"

Me (coining a metaphor): "The fuel distributor in a Pratt & Whitney Turbojet engine will not work in a Norelco Electric Shaver, even though both can be used to cut grass."

When you combine gross underestimation of effort with the re-prioritization cycle, you get a monster that probably destroys millions of hours of productivity every year around the world. As soon as it becomes clear that the project won't get done as early as expected, the boss re-assigns you to a new priority. What would have taken 4 weeks to do 3 projects now takes 4 months and only results in the completion of one.

singular 6 days ago 0 replies      
"You're just doing X, how can that take Y days?!"

Where X is something seemingly simple. What makes it more frustrating is that it is often very difficult to precisely describe why it is that X involves so much unintuitive complexity.


"The users don't care about how it's developed"

Except that code quality defines the readability, maintainability, and often-times performance (deeply coupled code can make optimisations very difficult, for example) of an application both during development and afterwards.

drumdance 6 days ago 0 replies      
My favorite. Back in the mid-90s I consulted on a Lotus Notes project at a major company. We built a prototype and started showing it various VPs who would be using it.

One of the VPs was really terribly with a mouse. The tutorial was as much about the basics of navigating a GUI as the application itself.

Afterwards I asked the project manager "What does that guy do? He doesn't seem to know anything about computers."

"He's the VP of Technology." (!)

badclient 6 days ago 1 reply      
Boss: Do you know excel? I need to make this graph look better

Me: Okay, what do you wanna change?

Boss: Well I want them to show things going up, especially towards the end so it shows us really growing to the VCs

Me: How is that possible?

Boss: It's definitely possible. I just don't know Excel.

coenhyde 5 days ago 0 replies      
Here's one. I ended up hating this place. I stuck around way too long.

Jim: We need to be first search result on Google by Monday.

Me: It doesn't really work like that. We can buy ads on google though.

Jim: No I don't want to spend any money. What do we need to do to get to the top of google by Monday?

Me: Well we can implementing some of the SEO improvements we have been suggesting for the last year. But we won't get to the top of Google by Monday.

Jim: We need to be first search result on Google by Monday. What do we have to do to be the first result on Google by Monday?


Conversation repeats its self 3 times, while I patiently explain how google works.


Me: You really have to stop asking that question, it doesn't work like that.


I was a partner at this place. I left after many repeats of similar discussions.

Oh god this place gave me nose bleeds. I have to stop thinking about it now.

ArbitraryLimits 6 days ago 0 replies      
Some of these are like Yogi Berra's sayings - they're both stupid and brilliant at the same time. Compare

""You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and f that isn't enough in the second half you give what's left."


"No, I meant, 'How do we fix this with software?'"

Zarathust 6 days ago 0 replies      
Monday : Ticket 453 is your top priority, fix it asap.

Tuesday : Ticket 923 is your new top priority, fix it asap.

Wenesday : Client xyz needs ticket 1921 to be resolved, this is your new top priority, fix it asap.

Thursday : ...

You get the pattern. Running around with duck tape makes awesome products in the long run

kellishaver 5 days ago 1 reply      
My own "never have I been so glad to leave a job" story:

Me: I think it's time for me to move on. To be quite honest, I see no potential for advancement here and I'm being expected to work dozens of hours of unpaid overtime each month. As we've discussed previously, my hourly rate is already low compared to industry standards and my experience level, and you've told me that the funds simply aren't available to rectify that. I sympathize with your position, and I wish everyone here nothing but the best, but that still doesn't change the fact that this job simply isn't paying well enough to cover my expenses.

Boss: I wish I could talk you out of it, but if that's really what you want to do, I can't stop you... but honestly, I don't think you're good enough to make it anywhere else.

RyanMcGreal 6 days ago 1 reply      
Are you sure you didn't just transcribe some back-issues of Dilbert?
xpose2000 6 days ago 2 replies      
This was one of many reasons why I had to quit my last job:

ME: According to the newsletter stats, more people have opted out than actually clicked on any links last week.

BOSS: We need to increase subscribers to the newsletter.

kephra 6 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder why 'famous last words':

- Did someone fire the boss for those?
- Did you quit your job and started a new one?

imho, famous last words should sound like: "I will not leave it nor depart it until I am buried in the ground." (rough translation) Mubarak 10th of Feb on TV.

PS: The most famous last word to quit a job in Germany is: "Ich habe fertig", you should note the wrong grammar here.

cafard 6 days ago 2 replies      
Cute. But unless a boss describes himself as technically capable, why should I expect him to understand about 3 SELECT statements inside a loop?
matwood 5 days ago 0 replies      

Mgmt: We need to replace this system ASAP!
Me: What does it do?
Mgmt: We don't know.
Me: Who knows?
Mgmt: Maybe this girl.
Girl: I'm too busy to talk, but make sure nothing breaks.

I did end up writing a replacement system. What I found out was all the people who were 'too busy' to talk or email me back with information suddenly responded when I took down their part of the system as I worked to replace it. I've never had to do a worse project and I'm happy it's over.

zem 6 days ago 0 replies      
i can really empathise with the "start the year off right" commenter - my last boss (ceo of the company) once insisted on several long phone conferences during the christmas break, so we could "hit the ground running" when we returned. he was a firm believer in permanent-crisis mode.
chrislomax 6 days ago 2 replies      
Do you really work at a place where everything is so impersonable that it is all referenced by project number or was that used to obfuscate your clients in this example?

None of the comments surprise me to be honest, I find that managers have come from no background to instruct people on a technological level and are taken on for simply their management ability.

akg 6 days ago 0 replies      
Boss: We have too many customer support calls. Can you work on fixing the open tickets so that these issues go away.

Me: Sure thing.

Boss (2 hrs later): Why aren't you answering the phone for our customer support calls!?

yuvipanda 6 days ago 0 replies      
You get to the point when you no longer believe a word of what they say.

And then you quit.

SeanLuke 6 days ago 0 replies      
Is it me or has this guy quit from an awful lot of jobs? I'm not sure I'd hire someone so transient.
Hominem 6 days ago 0 replies      
One Sunday I got a call from a help desk guy involving an application I had worked on. This was the first call I had ever gotten about this app. I am pretty sure I was last on the contact list
PM calls me 10 minutes later and says we need to discuss my level of commitment, Says I have been shirking my duty and letting everyone else handle support.
All I could say is that it was the first call I had ever gotten, maybe bump me up on the call list.
He didn't know there was a call list they followed in sequence, still I should have been doing more.

I made sure this guy never PMed me again.

doktrin 5 days ago 1 reply      
Humorous, however the following is actually a semi pet peeve of mine :

Boss: I'm really upset that no one has updated me on Project 127.
Me: I cc'd you on all 9 Project 127 emails I sent this week.
Boss: I haven't had time to get caught up on my email.

Depending on the scale and structure of the company / department, getting "caught up on emails" can range from "completely reasonable" to "fundamentally impossible".

For example, at a previous job we received no less than 250 work emails daily and often more. Needless to say, simply being CC'd was not a guarantee the recipient would be up to speed on the contents of said email string.

veyron 6 days ago 3 replies      
I'm impressed that there are places that have 432 projects ...
16s 6 days ago 0 replies      
I had a boss once who thought IPv6 had something to do with car engines. I kid you not.
chrisdroukas 6 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty funny list, but this seems like a case of poor management of expectations. It shouldn't be your job to explain why things matter (as in 'Boss: What difference does that make?'), but sometimes that's reality.

Here's a set of slides on taking control of poor communication situations and learning to efficiently keep managers in the feedback loop. Sometimes it doesn't work out ('Boss: I haven't had time to get caught up on my email.'), though it's certainly a start.


AznHisoka 6 days ago 0 replies      
At first I thought these were last words by bosses that died afterwards
cosmez 6 days ago 0 replies      
"You're Fired"

that one is pretty famous

dsolomon 6 days ago 0 replies      
You work for the government don't you?
dawsdesign 6 days ago 1 reply      
A bunch of babies. Start your own company then.
OoTheNigerian 6 days ago 1 reply      
Me: The server crashed. IT Services is working to bring it back up.

Boss: Don't confuse me with all these technical details.

I bet your boss among those deciding on SOPA.

The real reason you can't hire developers....
305 points by up_and_up  8 days ago   266 comments top 61
nirvana 8 days ago  replies      
I think the fundamental problem is that companies want a "Sr. Software Engineer" with >7 years of development and >4 years of development in their particular language, who also is young enough to think that "Nerf guns" and "xbox's" [sic] are an appealing "Benefit" and that aren't going to ask anywhere near $115k a year. (a totally reasonable salary, by the way, but I think you lose edge in negotiations by putting that up front. What if they think you're worth $125k? They're now going to offer $110k and let you talk them up to $115k.)

Basically, companies want the impossible, and they are driven by a culture that is very out of touch with the market.

For instance, this is also why they're not so keen on telecommuting.

There are exceptions, of course. But when they can't hire according to their plan, they're going to tell reporters "there's a shortage of good engineers!" where "Good" means "recent college graduates with 7 years industry experience 4 years ruby experience who will work for $60k and nerf bullets."

I see posts like yours and think its a damn shame. You're missing out, and at least some of those 50 companies are missing out... its a lose-lose situation.

jemfinch 8 days ago  replies      
I'm going to say it because it seems no one else is. I apologize ahead of time for my brutal honesty.

You need to consider the possibility that you're not as competent as you believe yourself to be. Dunning-Kruger[0] is real, and your post doesn't demonstrate the self-awareness the best developers seem to possess.

Your writing is sprinkled with emoticons and rife with reduplicated punctuation, both of which (especially the exclamation points) are common signs of immaturity. Reading this diatribe--and assuming your 50 emails were written similarly--I am forced to accept one of two conclusions: either you're not aware that your writing is unprofessional, or you're aware that it's unprofessional and unconcerned. Either option does not reflect well on you. To put it bluntly, if I received an email from you in this style, I would archive it without response, assuming it was from someone who lacked the requisite introspective capability I expect from the people I want to work with.

I found it particularly telling that you claim that all five of your phone screens went "very well" but marveled that only three companies tried to set up an onsite interview with you. Unless both the two companies that stopped at the phone screen simultaneously filled the position immediately after your phone screen, you really need to recognize that at least those two phone screens did not go well. I do interviews at a large Internet company, and one of my goals--one of the goals that I've been trained to seek--is to ensure that the candidate, no matter how bad, walks away from the interview feeling good about himself/herself and the company. If you're doing really poorly in an interview, I'll toss you some easier questions than I normally give, because I have all the information I need, and I don't want you to have a negative experience with my company. You may have felt good about the phone screens, but the most likely explanation for the two companies that didn't bring you onsite is that you didn't actually do well enough to justify additional interviews. These people want to hire someone, and if you were someone they wanted to hire, they certainly would have continued to interview you.

I think your experiment was less valid than you think it was because you're less competent than you think you are.

EDIT: I should add that whatever the case, whether I'm right or wrong about you, the best response to the situation you're in is to seek to improve yourself, not to embark on a quixotic venture to change others. Read CS theory books, create and modify open source projects, solve fun programming puzzles: sharpen your skills and--no matter what your level of competency--your prospects will improve.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

Pewpewarrows 8 days ago 1 reply      
This post pretty much reflects my observations back when I was job hunting a year or so ago. I had a good amount of experience, was willing to relocate, wasn't looking for a telecommuting position, and was very flexible on salary. I advertised myself to several high-profile companies, many of which have affiliations with YC. None of them were through recruiters, and a few were even direct contacts with some core developers happening to advertise the company on twitter: cough Disqus cough.

The number of responses I received even acknowledging that they got my personalized cover letter and resume? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

I ended up getting a job by being referred through a friend to a company completely outside of the whole startup/valley/YC culture. The absolute worst thing you can do is have your job search and advertisements become a black hole.

So every company reading this comment: get your shit together.

patio11 8 days ago 4 replies      
People trying to hire developers through Dice/Monster are demonstrably clueless. Get introductions direct to the decisionmaker. You won't be in a pile of 200 resumes from people who list "Computers: Expert, especially with MsWord" and apply to developer positions. You'll also be dealt with in more reasonable timeframes.

Job sites are job hunting for people who enjoy unemployment.

goodweeds 8 days ago 2 replies      
<sarcasm> 1998 called and they want their resume blasts back. </sarcasm>

I find work (contracts) by looking for interesting companies whose money I would like to take, then I look them up on LinkedIN to see how connected I am to them. Sometimes I ask my friends to connect me to them, sometimes I just google stalk them to find the appropriate hiring manager's twitter address or email address, then I email them, whether or not they're hiring, and whether or not they're open to contractors. I pitch my value proposition and tell (not ask, tell) them to meet me for coffee or lunch, my treat, and offer three dates that work for me. In 15 years, be it a VC, a VP of a bank, an unfunded founder, or an incredibly busy CTO at a high growth start-up, nobody has ever turned me down for a free lunch.

Then I close them.

waterlesscloud 8 days ago 3 replies      
A lot of comments here miss the point.

80% did not respond at all . They did not acknowledge his contact attempt in any way whatsoever. Not a canned response confirming contact, nothing. Nothing.

I'm willing to bet very heavily on this representing complete incompetence at the organizations contacted.

jrockway 8 days ago 2 replies      
The reason companies can't hire good people is because good people already have good jobs, and many of these companies suffer from "sticker shock" when they see how much money good developers are already making.

I recently interviewed at a major online retailer and cloud computing provider (heh). The person interviewing me said, "wow, you're the best person of the last 50 we've interviewed". They followed up by making me a shit offer. If you want me to move to a different state to work for you, I want a 25% raise and an extra week of vacation. Not a salary match and two fewer weeks of vacation. Their justification was "it wouldn't be fair if you negotiated a better offer than other people on your team".

That's why you can't hire people.

compay 8 days ago 1 reply      
After many years I was back in the job market earlier this year. I ended up writing to 6 carefully-chosen companies. I got responses back from 5 of them, interviewed at 4, and got job offers from all of them.

The fact that you applied at 50 places is a bit of a deceptive statistic, because first of all, there's no way you carefully crafted your initial contact to each one.

At each of the places I contacted during my job search, my initial email was very carefully worded. I spent about 3 hours writing and revising one fairly short email, to make sure it conveyed exactly what I wanted.

If you just send a generic form letter to a company, they're going to give you the same consideration you have given them: very little.

Even if you did tailor the email to each company, there's no way you as a candidate are going to appeal to more than a handful of the companies, because they all have their own quirks and cultures. NOBODY is a viable candidate for 50 different Ruby-oriented companies.

Also, no offense but I have to concur with other comments here that your writing may have had something to do with it. If what you sent them was worded at all like what you've posted here, then you probably lost a lot of potential responses because of that.

If you want to get your foot in the door at a company, the first impression you make is everything. Sending a poorly worded email is a surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot.

gatlin 8 days ago 3 replies      
I applied to a kind-of sinking ship in Palo Alto last year. Got through a few interviews, answered all the questions right, and was gently let down. It was a stab in the dark.

My friend who worked there (and, in fact, recommended me) told me the developer doing the interviews has never actually recommended a single candidate and is no longer allowed to do interviews.

This could still mean that I'm stupid and incompetent but it seems like they missed out on a lot of talent because of the egotism of a single dev they had hiring.

Also I did a fair amount of the interview on a rooftop, trying to quietly and safely get down without a ladder. Fun times.

pg 8 days ago 4 replies      
Ability to relocate: Open to idea, can't right away

That's why few were interested.

rcavezza 8 days ago 2 replies      
I don't think this is why companies can't find good developers.

To sum up your email: Hi, You've never met me before, but I like your company. I expect to get paid $115K to lead a team as a senior developer, but don't want to relocate in order to be with the team.

I feel this type of email should get a response; however, I'm not surprised no one hired you. I'm sorry none of these companies replied. If hiring is as tough as everyone says it is, they should at least be willing to followup - they might find a diamond in the rough that way.

80% of jobs are filled informally, especially senior positions. If you know someone on the team, or if the team knows of your work and respects it, you should be able to find a position faster.

byoung2 8 days ago 3 replies      
I had a similar experience. I just left ClearChannel last month to go work at a startup, and though I went through a recruiter to find my new job, I also applied to a handful of job postings at YC-funded startups (through the jobs link at the top of HN). I believe there were 5 total, and 2 of them had puzzles that I completed correctly. I have an impressive resume, and I was willing to relocate (I live in Los Angeles, so SF isn't too big a change). Not one response, even to say we got your email, thanks for doing the puzzle. Through the recruiter, I was interviewed and hired within a week, at a 37.5% salary increase. Go figure
robotresearcher 8 days ago 0 replies      
It's just ordinary courtesy for a company to acknowledge your application, and then send you a "thanks, but no" letter after a human has reviewed it.

But if you want unusual arrangements like remote working, you are going to have a hard time going through the blind CV channel. What works in these cases is either personal contacts, even over several hops, and/or establishing an online reputation that creates a virtual contact network. Your github projects, blog, JS experiments, history of patches to TeX [1] will make you stand out. Even a little contribution to an Open Source project will get you a CV line and maybe a reference from someone with name recognition.

You are a grown up with kids, so you don't have time to waste. You can't hack demos all day like an undergrad. But a little time spent this way might pay dividends in career development.

The point is not to be a CV in the pile. Get noticed some other way, and don't expect your CV to glow like Charlie's Golden Ticket. The more senior you get, the more important this stuff is. A few years out of school and you should forget about CVs until someone asks you for one, so they can tell their colleagues about you.

[1] Joke.

jqueryin 8 days ago 1 reply      

    If you want to steal some of the best talent in the
industry, open yourself up to the idea of letting them
telecommute or work remotely.

Offer up a 3 month introductory period to ensure there's
a mutual fit and they actually do the work as promised.

Don't make them shitty offers because they aren't on
site; there is fudge room depending on their cost of

If you're in the valley, get your head out of your ass.
Talent is everywhere. We don't all need to move to the
valley to prove anything.

We likely DO love your team and product; that's why
we applied in the first place. Devs are a funny beast,
most of us apply to things that interest us.

Loving your team is not necessarily justification to
up and leave everything we've grown to know and love.
We're not all recent college graduates with no ties to a

Open yourselves up to change and boundary pushing.
Consider opening satellite offices in different large
cities for your remote devs to work at, together.

::end rant::

shadowfiend 8 days ago 5 replies      
Specifically in response to the time gaps: it's true that time gaps are bad, but keep in mind these are startups, which means they're juggling about twenty thousand different things at the same time. I think in that domain in particular, some slack may be in order as compared to a 20,000-strong corporation with a dedicated HR department.

Re: weird extra steps: the idea isn't that they're cool. The idea is that if you are willing to attempt it and solve it successfully, it says something about your problem-solving skills. It's not the be-all end-all, but it seems like a decent first-pass filter.

Re: cultural mismatch: if it's a cultural mismatch, you probably shouldn't apply anyway. The thing about a startup is, there are five or ten of you. This isn't just another job. You generally don't just come in at 9, work work work, maybe take lunch with your teammates, and trip it out at 5. You don't just attend the company Christmas party. A startup is typically very much like a family, because everything is riding on everyone. When someone quits IBM, the teammates write it off as a “whatever”. When someone quits at a startup, you spend some serious time looking around to make sure there's nothing scaring them off, because every individual counts a great deal.

In short, culture is critical, and even as a married father of two, signing up for a startup is signing up for a culture and a tight-knit group of friends as much as it is signing up for a job.

euroclydon 8 days ago 0 replies      
If you're being paid 115K, working from home, and defining architecture, the biggest thing that sticks out to me about that is, you have a lot of control.

Are companies that post developer positions to job boards really looking for someone to delegate a lot of control to, or do they already have that person? How much room is there at the top? If you got that architect job, would you turn around and hire another architect-y person?

Many of these positions are heads-down, in the office and managed. And of course you've got to be a super coding wizard who is more concerned with nerf battles and ping-pong than dirty lucre, jeez!

Companies that hire many intelligent, mature, well-paid peers, are rare, I think. So you either have to go network and find someone who will give you that position of power, and then, how will you hire? Or, start a company. Or, become a consultant, which requires more networking than option one. Or hold out for a job with someone like Mozilla -- they seem to treat developers like adults.

fuzzythinker 8 days ago 1 reply      
Counter data:

semi-active search time span: ~4-5 weeks

where: just craigslist & python.org

what: sr. level web frontend or backend

companies: all small/startups, but none are well known in HN

emails sent: I'm quite choosy actually, only applied to ~4 positions a week, which equates to ~20 sent.

results: ~75-80% replied,

out of those replied:
~50-60% replied within a day or two, 2 took more than a week to get back to me, which strangely enough, followed thru with deeper phone interviews.

no on-site interviews (although ~25% I applied are remotes) until one of those turned out to be a recruiter.

Note: I wanted to avoid recruiters since didn't have good experience with them before. But this time it turned out pretty good, got to interview a few companies and landed a decent gig. But since this thread is about no response from direct emails, I did not include these data points from recruiter in my results.

jfno67 8 days ago 0 replies      
At one company I was working the career section was listing open position and we were actually doing cost cutting layoffs. Not listing position on your company website is seen as a bad signal to send to the public and your investors. Sometimes, it's more a marketing statement than anything.
synnik 8 days ago 2 replies      
If you complete phone screens on 1 out of every 10 inquiries you send, you are doing very well in my opinion.

If those phone screens do not turn into full interviews or offers, that is a statement on how they went, not on company responsiveness.

Frankly, I don't think your stats show a lack of response at all. I think they are very reasonable, as some level of non-responsiveness is natural, when you account for the fact that you gave them enough information to summarily dismiss you from consideration if you don't match their needs or culture.

josephmoniz 8 days ago 0 replies      
I wish i could agree. However, my experiences in getting jobs as a software engineer have been vastly different. I've never spent longer then a week seeking a job in the software industry. This might be some what biased because i haven't been working in the industry all that long (just 2 years now). I'm a self educated hacker/programmer that has been writing hobbyist code for myself for 8 years and have never attended a day of college in my life. My average salary for the past 2 years i've been programming has been 90k-100k and my first job was a full time employee for a multi-million dollar corporation in Pleasanton CA and now i work for a startup in San Francisco thats in the alexa top 300 sites.

When i set out to get my first job as a software engineer i was currently working as a system administrator for a conference center in Redwood City. It was the first job i landed when i got back from my first tour of duty in Iraq as a light infantryman. I was still young at the time, 20 years old, still not legally able to consume alcohol yet old enough where most of my friends were already halfway through college. Discontent with going back to college to study computer science with a bunch of people younger then me and knowing that my work as a systems administrator is not what i'd need to be doing on my path to achieve happiness in life i set out to apply to companies seeking software engineers on craigslist.

I spent maybe an entire day sending my resume out over email directly to companies seeking software engineers. I remember being somewhat selective, i'd say i had to have sent my resume out to less then 10 companies that entire day. Although i don't precisely recall the amount of responses i got, i did get a decent amount of responses and almost all of them came in the next day (yes this was 2 years ago). This shocked the crap out of me, i had no previous software experience on my resume, my only previous work experiences were as follows: a warehouse clerk, light infantry and systems administrator. Never the less, i was doing phone screens (and killing them btw) and setting up in person interviews. The very first interview i went to lasted 2 hours and was the first time in my life where i was ever asked to write code on a white board (idk, maybe this is an academia thing). It was a group of engineers interviewing me so that also spiked up the intensity a bit. However, when the interview ended and the HR person came in, she extended me an offer right then and there and said that this is something she's never had to do before. So i went back to my systems administrator gig the next day, turned in my two weeks notice and two weeks later i was officially a software engineer.

My second job seeking experience was very different and also very recent. Having put up enough with the offshore teams crappy code and a horde of rushed employment contractors that couldn't code their way through fizz buzz, it was time for me to look for a new job.
So instead of doing any direct applies immediately i just put my resume up on dice.com. That same day my phone was getting barraged with voicemails from technical recruiters. This was going on during work too so i had to turn my phone off for the day. When i got home that night i did do one direct apply and that was to Yelp. I responded to one of the technical recruiters and she set me up with some options and some phone interviews. The next day i got a call from the technical recruiter at yelp to do a quick prescreen and to set me up with a more in depth phone screen with an engineer so i did that. At the same time the contacts from the recruiter were all doing the same thing, calling me and setting up phone screenings that is. The current company i work for right now was moving slightly faster then everyone else though. I did both phone screenings with Yelp and where i work and they both sent me programming challenges to complete and send in. I did them but where i work got back to me faster and set up an in person interview first. So i went and it was a 3 hour interview this time. This time i left without a job offer after the interview but the technical recruiter ensured me that things were looking good. He called me back later that day and gave me an offer over the phone. That was that.

jarek 8 days ago 0 replies      
Reading some of the comments here, I think the real reason companies are having problems hiring might be that they're unwilling to pay someone with 7/4 years of experience 25% more than a bigco will pay an undergrad straight out of school.
wavephorm 8 days ago 1 reply      
A lot of companies have a permenant jobs page just to have the appearance of growth, but aren't really hiring.
mgkimsal 8 days ago 1 reply      

I tend to agree with the OPs thoughts - companies often don't respond, even when, in general, the industry (and perhaps some of those same companies) publicly moan about not being able to find people.

When did having 7 years of experience make someone a sr level developer? I don't think I started using that level for myself until I had 10 years experience. I guess to each his own. Just like everyone's a "founder" these days, everyone else is a "sr level developer"???

What's a "CTO of a side project" look like? I understand it shows a lot of initiative, but depending on the types of companies applied at, it wouldn't come close to what they expect of a "sr level developer".

I guess I'm just old (sorry, senior) and grumpy this morning. :)

aiurtourist 8 days ago 1 reply      
LESSON: riddle/puzzles/challenges might seem cool to you but might just seem like another hoop to me.

I understand this sentiment, but pre-interview homework (provided that it's reasonable) is one of the best indicators of enthusiasm, attention to detail, creativity, and ballpark of coding skill. Most importantly it reveals how you will react to solving one of our problems which, if hired, is what you'll be doing most of the time.

tlogan 8 days ago 0 replies      
Yap - 80% will not even reply. When I was doing "market discovery" for my startup I sent resumes (real one - no fake things) to all these potential competitor to see how competent they are.

I narrowed down to two competitors and amazingly these two companies did end up leading the entire market.

In order words, the first contact with the company tells you much more about company than any other things. So if somebody does not answer on your email with resume you probably should assume they will not be around for long.

gallerytungsten 8 days ago 0 replies      
I think part of the problem you've identified is that many companies are constantly in "resume trawling mode" even if they have no intention of hiring immediately.

HR people like to keep lots of resumes on file, the fresher the better, so that when they're tasked with filling a seat immediately, they're not starting from zero.

The fact that this practice sucks for the job-seeker is of little concern; they've optimized their process according to their own needs.

mrchess 8 days ago 0 replies      
It took me 2.5 months to interview start to finish with a several mil backed startup, and I had to constantly bother them to set up my interviews despite they had a person recruiting full time. Compare this with an top company in the valley I interviewed with and the process was streamlined and only 1 month. Both included on-site interviews.

I think the problem is every startup is making up their own hiring formula/process, and until it is internally figured out, anyone who tries to interview will get delayed. Product is being developed PLUS they have to figure out their perfect hiring process... That being said, luck with timing is also important in interviewing for a startup IMO.

polyfractal 8 days ago 0 replies      
I'm going to call shenanagins. I've been contacting startups recently for my job listing newsletter and have been getting excellent replies. To be fair, I'm asking if they want to be interviewed and have their job position sent to the email list, not asking to be hired.

But people are reading incoming emails and are interested in hiring. Maybe they just didn't like your email/tone?

SeoxyS 8 days ago 3 replies      
For what it's worth, I'm involved in the hiring process at chartboost.com. (Company tripled in employee size the past couple months!) When we get a resume / inquiry from somebody who wants to work remotely, it's instant rejection. Telecommuting is a long debate whose scope is outside of this discussion, but for a lot of companies that's a tough sell. Especially at 115k.
matwood 8 days ago 0 replies      
Number 1 reason is your lack of ability to relocate right now. It's hard for companies to hire someone remotely and give them a lot of control without knowing more about them.

I do agree with some of your points though. Anytime I hear the "we have xboxes" I immediately translate that to we pay crap and hope the kids we hire don't notice in between games of CoD. The other day a guy was giving me a pitch to come work at his startup and kept talking about the xbox and the office location. Note to companies pitching to potential employees. Idea, equity cut, and salary in that order are way more important than having Aeron chairs.

guynamedloren 8 days ago 1 reply      
You're not trying hard enough.

www.lorenburton.com - Airbnb flew me from CHI to SF less than 24 hours after I put the site up, with absolutely no existing connections or contacts.

mikeocool 8 days ago 1 reply      
Did you customize your email at all for each company?

As someone on the receiving end, I'm way more likely to send you a personal response if you've sent me a personal email, regardless of whether you seem like a good fit for the job. Even if you don't know the recipients, include a sentence about why you're interested in working on their product or space.

If it's clear you're just blasting out your resume, and you don't seem a 100% perfect fit, I'm probably not going to take the time to send you a personal response. I'd like to reply to every applicant, I just don't have time.

Am I missing out on qualified candidates? Maybe. But interviewing and hiring takes a lot of time and resources away from building product. And I've found that applicants who have done their due diligence on our company and product are way more likely to be solid candidates and get all the way through the interview process, making the time spent 100% worth it.

T_S_ 8 days ago 0 replies      
3. Weird extra steps...riddle/puzzles/challenges might seem cool to you but might just seem like another hoop to me.

I can't wait until this business fad is over.

nodata 8 days ago 4 replies      
Wild card: the reason is that tech companies want an excuse to hire cheap immigrants.
jroseattle 8 days ago 0 replies      
What this really reflects: how bad people are at hiring. Not at hiring poor performers, just the execution of a hiring process.

Hiring is not easy, and doing it well requires a lot of practice. Most people in the position of hiring for many startups are doing it for the very first time. And they usually suck at it.

Mostly, those companies get out of it what they put into it.

WilhelmJ 8 days ago 0 replies      
I want to add something from my own experience.

One particular company I was interested in had few puzzles on their website. I once worked the whole weekend to solve them as good as I can. Spent lot of time writing a custom cover letter, resume and attached the C++ solutions to the puzzles.

Its been several months and I am still waiting for the damn reply!

alinajaf 8 days ago 0 replies      
I think that if you're really keen to get a position, it's worth following up. People are busy, you get the wrong email address, there are a dozen reasons why your application may not have got to the person it needs to for the hiring process to begin.

Every job I've applied to directly has had at the very least one email and one call, potentially a follow up if they drag their heels. I've rarely failed to get an interview (though to be fair, I've only applied to 10-20 companies at a time, not the 50 the OP has).

I agree though that with all this 'lack of talent' the companies should be chasing us at the merest whiff of interest. Unfortunately people don't always act rationally in there own self interest, so we sometimes have to take the initiative.

kamaal 7 days ago 0 replies      
Some things from your post are spot on! Especially the riddles. Seriously, you got to tell me how many people deal with riddles in your day to day programming jobs? Do you pick up blank sheets of paper and work on puzzles a considerable part of the day.

Even if you were, I would personally never want to work at a place which has this kind of a culture. I am out looking for a job where good business problems get solved in the most practical way. Which helps both the business and me make money.

Second kind of questions are asking the candidate arcane and rare facts that can be known only through rote memorization. Like asking him to work on some concept/data structure/algorithm from a CS text book taught in semester 3 on page 345 of a text book 2000 pages big.

There is nothing great about knowing an algorithm, inventing a new algorithm is special but not knowing one. Worse case anybody can know what you know by searching.

Asking irrelevant questions to the job, gives you a very high rate of false negatives. You are missing out on some very good and productive people.

This is exactly what happens, you ask some irrelevant questions and consider the guy useless. The same guy goes works at some php shop which is solving some business problems which get him and the company good money. And here you are searching and filtering candidate as per your requirements. Meanwhile you see, your start up failing and the average guy there winning. Suddenly you shout out 'Worse is better'.

You've got be brutally honest and practical in software engineering. If you are academics its a different game.

Remember your fantasy elitism in building a dream product and plans to hire rock stars to do it is nothing if it fails. The average guy still ends up winning even if he has 1/10 decent the product of your dreams, if he has a product to sell now.

jyothi 8 days ago 0 replies      
3. Weird extra steps
It is not really that weird. Puzzles or math problems are just a faster and highly probable measure of one's aptitude not just for the silly puzzle but how sharp you are even in business decisions. The mind has to be sharp. Trust me this is as important as knowing if you did multi-threaded cluster based algorithm blah blah.

Puzzles as a selection criteria - there will be false positives but too few false negatives.

Recently I was hiring for an online marketing position where being sharp with math actually matters, a lot. The candidate of 2 yr experience refused to take a screening test on aptitude. Very well, rejected as we have no data points of how sharp he was.

thinkingthomas 8 days ago 2 replies      
You didn't post your full resume, but as a hiring manager I can tell you that the telecommuting preference and the previous listed experience as CTO might have disqualified you from a number of companies, even if they are presumably open to distributed development and multiple levels of talent.

On the other hand, the fact you didn't receive a response at all from so many (we typically send a note to every applicant who makes the effort to contact us) is surprising. Many companies use a tracking system of some sort to classify and manage recruiting workflow - most of these are utter tripe.

kfcm 8 days ago 0 replies      
Here's some news for you: the vast majority of companies don't respond, and it cuts across all economic sectors and positions (tech, non-tech). Myself, friends and colleagues have determined companies which do respond are the (rare) exceptions.

Rack this up to such a large influx of resumes for each announced position that responses just aren't feasible, to HR folks who can't be bothered to lift a finger after seizing hiring control away from the managers.

To me, this is just indicative of how a company treats its employees.

cloudhead 8 days ago 0 replies      
I have always gotten replies from job applications, but where this hits home for me, is the delay. I've had recruiters take a month to reply, at which point I've probably already accepted an offer from another company.

The companies I ended up strongly considering are those which replied the day after, they are the ones actually interested.

xrd 8 days ago 0 replies      
I think the most important part of your research is that there is a myth that you have to hire young people who like playing video games. You reap what you sow when those are your hiring goals. Many talented senior developers are completely turned off by that type of ad.
daly 8 days ago 1 reply      
I agree. I have been on the interview trail for 10 months
and do not get responses to either emails or phone calls.
I have a masters degree, loads of experience, and a strong
work ethic. I have a patent, have published cited papers,
and have 4 commercial languages I co-authored. I am a lead
developer on 3 open source projects, one of which contains
about a million lines of code. All I see are "ninja/super/god-like" developer ads. Something is broken somewhere.
billpatrianakos 8 days ago 0 replies      
I agree and disagree.

I agree that we don't check emails. Im guilty of that myself. Very guilty. No contest guilty. But then again I think a lot of companies are looking to hire but end up getting recommendations from people they trust. I know I'll hire a person that was recommended by a friend over someone who sends me a resume using the contact form or other official means of applying. It isn't always right but when you run a company there are so many things to juggle that we often do without a lot of times and neglect the "jobs@" inbox even though we could use a hand.

On the other hand I'd say that maybe you overestimate your qualifications. It's usually the people who think they're the greatest that are the worst. I don't know you personally but it could be the case.

So all in all, I think you're right that we may not be checking the applicant inbox as often as we should. But I also think that just because you think you should have been considered as competent as you claim to be it just doesn't make it so.

rickmb 8 days ago 0 replies      
Boilerplate applications that show now interest whatsoever in who we are as a company will be go straight to /dev/null along with all the other spam. We deliberately write our job postings so that's it's easy to check if an applicant is actually interested in working for us.

People who don't have the ability to understand and communicate with the people they will be working for (clients, users) and with (us), or who simply can't be arsed to make the effort are not what we need.

Serious applicants are usually invited within 24 hours, but we will never, ever respond to boilerplate CV-spam.

jgarmon 8 days ago 0 replies      
I expect that telecommuting and/or salary are the dealbreakers here.

These auto-resume sites apply pretty dumb filters right off the bat, and you probably got kicked out of the responder queue the second you ask for a six-figure pay rate and/or the option to telecommute.

ig1 8 days ago 0 replies      
A lot of them probably chose not to reply because there were other candidates that were a better match or you didn't meet their minimum criteria.

Generally at most companies you have to be significantly better than the other candidates to be worth considering as a remote candidate.

I don't think they chose not to respond after deciding that you were a suitable candidate.

triviatise 3 days ago 0 replies      
I would be interested in seeing your resume and the actual emails you are sending. Perhaps you should be doing some more formal A/B testing with variations on your resume/cover letter.

This could be an interesting startup opportunity :)

pclark 8 days ago 0 replies      
What is your nationality?

In my experience startups are terrible at operationally executing hiring processes, and developers are terrible at selling themselves.

padi_n 8 days ago 0 replies      
The statistic of 80% of companies not responding is pretty stark. I'm curious if you applied exclusively to start ups. I think the "resume black hole" complaint is a pretty common one, no matter the size of the potential employer. If you're applying online, to relatively larger companies, there might be more feedback available to you than you might think.

Here's my 2 cents:

I'm part of a start-up (StartWire) created by former HR professionals, aimed at dealing with the pain point of not hearing back from employers. We work with the resume submission platforms used by most major companies to provide feedback to applicants - from confirmation that your resume was received, to notice that you've been disqualified or that the job is no longer posted. This isn't going to make you like a potential employer who couldn't find the time to get in touch with you personally any better, but it could give you some valuable feedback as what is going on when you don't hear anything. Maybe something about your resume has gotten you frequently disqualified before a person ever sees it. Hopefully it can be a helpful idea to those who are frustrated by the current process.

mynameishere 8 days ago 4 replies      
Most companies are going to put it right in the bin at 115K. Not sure if you understand that.
ivankirigin 8 days ago 0 replies      
The single biggest reason it is hard to hire is that good people most often aren't looking for work. They are embedded in other companies or starting their own.
giltotherescue 8 days ago 2 replies      
Your salary expectations are awful high for a telecommute position. Next time you could consider letting them warm up to you before throwing that out. Also, how can you have expertise in "a bunch of other stuff"? The point of expertise is focus.

Maybe the 40/50 are reading your email. How do you know they are not deciding up front that you're not the right fit?

jayzalowitz 8 days ago 0 replies      
I applied to YC a few times ago with something to the ends of "In order to apply, you have to rate 3 other resumes for this position" Does anyone else think this is a good idea? I feel like there are too many people applying that suck, and it would be better to know where you stand/get feedback from other seekers?
hnwh 8 days ago 0 replies      
You are soooo right on the money on this.. I've got 3 years of Rails experience, and had the same result when applying to several companies. I also come from a top 3 school, and have alot of degrees..
Terretta 8 days ago 1 reply      
The plural of API is APIs.


When hiring devs, I definitely look for language skill and attention to detail in syntax. A buggy cover letter or resume suggests buggy code.

up_and_up 8 days ago 0 replies      
Some take-home points/assumptions based on comments and further thoughts etc (not saying I agree with these at all):

1. Remote < In house. Remote developers should not ask for market rate.

2. Putting a CTO role on your resume (even for side project) disqualifies you from consideration for Sr. Developer positions.

3. Positions advertised as "remote friendly" probably aren't.

codef0rmer 7 days ago 0 replies      
I have also faced the same problem with Yahoo India. An HR used to call me about the interview schedule everyday but the interviewer would not be calling on time. This happened for 2 consecutive weeks and then the HR stopped replying my emails and calls. Totally Ridiculous!!!
bearzilla 7 days ago 0 replies      
Reading through some of the comments and have come to the conclusion that A LOT of people have no sense of humor. I read this post and chuckled a few times with the understanding that this was not how you actually composed your emails. I cannot believe that someone read this seriously thinking it was similar to what was submitted to companies. Let's hope that the "pretentious arse" learns to take a joke on the future. Thank you for sharing your experiment in a humorous way.
corkill 8 days ago 1 reply      
Make a 3 minutes video of yourself on webcam talking through your resume and past projects, or even just stuff you like to do not work related.

Many candidates don't get past the subject line of the email. It's nice to think that someone sits there and reads every resume then makes an informed decision, just isn't the reality though.

Remember that person has a million other things to do and probably an already overflowing inbox.

You could use something like Tout app to work out if your email is even getting opened and if people are clicking on your resume link.

Nvidia Opens CUDA Platform, Releases Compiler Source Code nvidia.com
298 points by Garbage  8 days ago   28 comments top 9
srean 7 days ago 0 replies      
There have been few comments about using specialized code generators, for example Theano[1] written in Python and as mentioned in a comment quda. I do not have the background to understand them well, but I find them very interesting.

One question that I have is whether anyone has looked at adapting or using the IF2 backend of the Sisal programming language [2] for these. I ask because some of the optimization that Theano does reminds me of things that IF2 is supposed to be doing too. Sisal was written with the old school vector machines and supercomputers in mind but has a backend that depends only on the availability of pthreads. I suspect that it might be possible to add support for SSE and its ilk.

[1] http://deeplearning.net/software/theano/

[2] http://sourceforge.net/projects/sisal/

japaget 8 days ago 0 replies      
The title of this post is slightly misleading. The actual article does not state that Nvidia has released the source code yet, but only that they are planning to do so in the near future. A signup form is provided so that you can be sent an e-mail when Nvidia actually does release the source code.
melonakos 8 days ago 2 replies      
IMO, open sourcing their GPU libraries would be a much bigger deal than only open sourcing the compiler. I would like to see CUBLAS, CUFFT, CUSPARSE, CURAND, etc all get opened up to the community.

The pain is not in compiling GPU code; rather, the pain is in writing good GPU code. The major difference between NVIDIA and AMD (and the major edge NVIDIA has over AMD) is not as much the compiler as it is the libraries.

Of course, I'm biased, because I work at AccelerEyes and we do GPU consulting with our freely available, but not open source, ArrayFire GPU library, which has both CUDA and OpenCL versions.

danieldk 8 days ago 1 reply      
Unfortunately, it does not say what license will be used, which is probably relevant if they want to create an ecosystem around the compiler.
justincormack 8 days ago 3 replies      
we just need documentation to understand what the generated code does then, as AFAIK the output is code for undocumented hardware.
varelse 8 days ago 0 replies      
This answers the #1 objection to using CUDA instead of OpenCL: vendor lock.

What it doesn't answer is who's going to write the compilers and if they will ever happen.

But it does prove NVIDIA is still a player in the many-core game and that there are still a few more rounds to go before there's a winner.

binarycrusader 8 days ago 0 replies      
Key wording to observe here -- they said they'd release the source code, not that it would be under an open source license.

They're "opening the platform". We'll see what they actually do.

DiabloD3 8 days ago 0 replies      
Until Mesa/Gallium implements a CUDA stack, I see no point in caring what Nvidia does or doesn't do with their source code.

And, most likely, CUDA will never be done by Mesa/Gallium unless quite a few people porting legacy CUDA get together and make it happen.

OpenCL is a multi-vendor supported actual standard, even Nvidia is part of the Khronos OpenCL group, slightly implying that even Nvidia has admitted defeat.

adrianscott 8 days ago 1 reply      
This sounds very exciting! I guess it's not totally related, but I hope VLC Player will get better Nvidia hardware acceleration soon...!
       cached 23 December 2011 03:11:01 GMT