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Time to end the war on drugs virgin.com
889 points by DanielRibeiro  4 days ago   205 comments top 31
DanielBMarkham 4 days ago  replies      
Great article. I would like to further suggest we end the use of the word "war" in contexts that do not involve mandatory conscription and the deaths of large numbers of combatants until one side totally surrenders. (This implies there is a "side" to be able to surrender.) Politicians have so destroyed the word "war" that it's impossible to have a reasonable discussion about any use of violence by the state. Perhaps that was the goal. Don't know.

Drug use is a health-related issue, whether it is a doctor prescribing medications, a patient taking meds off-label, a person self-medicating, an addict, or some kind experimentation. All of these situations are much more personal health concerns than public safety concerns. Yes, addiction is a terrible tragedy and sometimes danger for the rest of us -- but it's a personal disaster a long time before it affects any of us. I'd argue that in the aggregate most addicts suffer a lot more personally than any damage they inflict on society.

We have a caricatured view of the drug addict -- the unwashed, illiterate, toothless junkie hiding out in a crack house. Yes, addiction ends up that way for some, but by and large addicts are middle-class, educated, and live in houses with their friends or families. Hollywood and moralists have done us a great disservice by putting these horrible outlier pictures in people's heads when they think of drug use. Take for instance the word "addict", which like the word "war" is such a broad term that it doesn't have much meaning on it's own without further clarification. One side wants you to believe that all drug use consists of PhDs smoking pot while talking astronomy. The other side wants you to believe that all drug use ends in addiction and death. People need to stop with the histrionics.

I support legalization, although I am extremely cautious personally when it comes to drug use. I might support criminalization of dealing hard drugs. I'd have to think about it a bit. But declaring "war" on our own population is a pretty idiotic way to spend our social resources if you ask me. Just like the "war on poverty," the "war on illiteracy," the "war on obesity," and the "culture war," enough with the wars already.

subwindow 4 days ago 3 replies      
There seems to be a lot of confusion on this thread about exactly what Portugal did, and the ramifications for the U.S. in terms of time-frame and difficulty.

What Portugal did was decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs. They did not legalize them. There is a huge difference. Decriminalization essentially means that possession of small amounts of drugs is no longer an offense that warrants an arrest and jail time. In a decriminalized system an officer can still stop someone for drugs, but they can only write them a ticket- similar to speeding, jaywalking or illegal parking.

This makes a huge difference for a number of reasons. First, it's easier to implement politically because the substances are still illegal. Second, it's less costly because people caught with small amounts are not caught up in the justice system for years, and only pay a small fine. Third, it decreases the adversarial nature of the "war on drugs" because being caught with drugs is no longer a life-changing event.

Marijuana possession is already decriminalized in many states in the U.S. (California, Colorado, New York and Oregon off the top of my head). It is clearly not an impossibility to implement politically, and in fact the trend in the U.S. is already on its way. An important hurdle is that we do not have any states that have yet decriminalized "harder" drugs like heroin and cocaine, but it is simply a matter of time. Pressure on lawmakers in the form of education, money and votes will in fact work. It just takes time.

TheAmazingIdiot 4 days ago  replies      
One has to remember that Portugal did not completely legalize drugs. Possession of small amounts and usage were legalized.

Dealing is still a big crime there, due to the citizens of Portugal not wanting to be akin the worlds drug den. The different viewpoint of legalizing usage was that it is a medical problem, and not a evil crime. Even that said, Portugal also made their problems less severe by bringing them out in the open instead of draconian punishments forcing users to hide.

The biggest hurdle for Portugal's idea to work in the USA is that we do not have any sort of socialized or national healthcare in which to attach a "fund substance abuse as medical problem" freely as Portugal does already. I can imagine that issue alone taking 10+ years in Congress, if any action is done at all.

Note: iPod farted earlier leading only posting the first character of this post: "O".

torrenegra 4 days ago 2 replies      
The Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos (also an entrepreneur), recently called for the legalization of many drugs, including cocaine: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/13/colombia-juan-sa...

I'm a NYC-based, Colombian entrepreneur. My step-brother died piloting a Black Hawk helicopter in Colombia that crashed while executing an anti-narcotics operation. The helicopter was "donated" by the US as part of "Plan Colombia" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plan_Colombia ). Plan Colombia is a periodic subsidy sent by the US to Colombia to help with the war on drugs. The program is lobbied in part by Sikorsky and Monsanto. The subsidy includes some cash, but it also comes in the form of helicopters (built by Sikorsky), glyphosate (banned in the US but used in Colombia to destroy coca plantations), and weapons.

You can say that the "war on drugs" allowed my brother to realize his dream (flying a helicopter), but it also killed him.

I may be emotionally charged with the topic and may not exercise good reason about it, but I've seen enough to realize that the "war on drugs" is just a big mess that won't be won, no matter what.

tomwalker 3 days ago 1 reply      
I am a doctor in a Scottish hospital.

For every productive member of society using drugs there must be at least 2 -3 that drain from society

I rarely see anyone use methadone long term and rehabilitate themselves back to productive members of society. They end up being permanently high. My opinion is not isolated amongst my colleagues.

Spend a couple of hours in a hospital that provides free health care and see the devastation caused by all drugs.

Alcohol and smoking cause the largest volume of problems but many of the users have jobs.

Heroin produces real life zombies!

swombat 4 days ago 5 replies      
Even coming from a respectable industry leader like Richard Branson, this will almost certainly be ignored.

Here's an interesting question: what would end the war on drugs? Is it something that can be made to happen by sane, enterprising individuals?

davidw 4 days ago 1 reply      
I have the karma to burn to come out and say this should be on another site. Not only has it already been discussed all over the internet, it's been discussed here to death, and in any event, yet another drugs debate here isn't going to accomplish anything.
tokenadult 4 days ago 3 replies      
A friend shared this link on Facebook, and I read through the article. I was very interested to note that Richard Branson bases much of his argument on the reduction in drug use in Portugal since the policy change decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use and referring users to medical treatment. Is this the societal consensus in other countries? Are most advocates of ending "the war on drugs" trying to achieve reduced use? Is the worldwide experience (Branson also refers to the Netherlands and to the European Union generally) that fewer criminal penalties for drug use results in consistently lower overall use in the general population? How many drug legalization campaigns around the world make this the major point of the campaign, to reduce use of the drugs that are now illegal?
gerggerg 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is always a fun page to look at when pondering The Land of the Free™


And keep in mind, much of the prison system is privatized, many of those inmates work hard labor for far less than minimum wage, they have access to almost no real rehabilitation programs, and can't vote once they serve their time.

linuxhansl 4 days ago 0 replies      
Never going to happen. The "war on drugs" has not been about drugs for a long time.

Large parts of law enforcement funding are due to this "war", and whole prison industry sprung up around this.

Everybody knows that the "war on drugs" is ineffective and will never reach its stated goal!

Conversely by creating artificial scarcity, the price for drugs are driven up (because demand is more or less constant) and this guarantees huge profits for illegal activities providing these drugs.

davidmathers 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Cato paper that Branson references was written by salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald and is available to read online at Cato's website: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10080
felipe 4 days ago 1 reply      
Former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso made this issue his "post-presidency" flag. There's an excellent documentary called "Breaking the Taboo" [1] that follows him examining successful efforts around the world (including Portugal)

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1951090/

mannicken 2 days ago 0 replies      
The whole war on drugs thing is a hysteria created by certain aspects of drug-use being artificially blown out of the proportion. Many of the risks associated with drug use (like overdose or addiction) are actually created by the legal system.

Here's how it works. If you overdose, and you go to ER you're forced to admit you did something illegal. Many people would rather die than face a life of humility that's unfairly associated with being a junkie. Not to mention overdoses would be less likely if everything was legal and properly labeled.

Same thing with addiction. Removing stigma and legal consequences associated with being a drug-addict will help many people seek help if they need it. How many people do you think are too afraid to go the doctor and admit they have problems, considering drug use is illegal and stigmatized? A lot.

I think it's a matter of creating a minority and punishing the fuck out of that minority. Being a drug-addict right now is like being gay or black hundreds of years ago.

Being an addict is not a fucking choice. It's a grueling mental torture accompanied by physical torture that's relieved with a consumption of a particular substance.

When you're addicted to opiates and you use, it's not because you want to rebel against the world. At that point it's about PLEASE STOP THE FUCKING PAIN. Mental and physical pain, violent diahrrea, puking, being unable to sleep for days.. basically all your natural painkillers are gone and everything is pain. All of that can be ceased with a hit.

The fact that anyone thinks it's okay to throw these people in jail sickens the fuck out of me. And you know what, I don't fucking care. Some of the best minds used heroin, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain. Wanna throw them in jail or fuck with them to the point of suicide (as with Cobain)? Go ahead. "Drug warriors" are like a grown-up version of bullies punching a sick kid.

powertower 4 days ago 2 replies      
Without the war on drugs this would happen:

1. Half the law enforcement, out of the job.

2. Half the lawyers and the judges, out of the job.

3. Half the privatized prison system, out of the job.

4. A few million other jobs that support and/or depend on the above, done away with.

It's pointless to even try this in the USA... No one is going to be willing to give up the ongoing and ever-giving spoils of the war on drugs.

TobiasCassell 4 days ago 1 reply      
If drugs are legalized the United States will be forced to dream up and create other reasons to keep its military outposts in hundreds of countries. This is why we maintain a war on drugs. A war that is impossible to win. The United States will never legalize drugs.

PS I'm with richard Branson, but he is being naive or he is not mentioning these elements on purpose as a strategy.

Edit; Forgot to mention the United States Prison-Industrial Complex- that is even more anti-legalize momentum that would have to be addressed.

tete 4 days ago 0 replies      
Another thing that will at least take a very long time to finally happen. I don't take drugs, not even legal ones, but it's logical.

Most people seem to start taking drugs, because others do it and simply because it's cool or rebellious (in fact I smoked for a while in my childhood because of that). I think most people wouldn't start and get hooked, if it was legal. To most people it's ugly the first time anyways.

Hmm, when making things illegal leads to consumption then we should maybe make vegetables and stuff illegal. :D

chris123 4 days ago 0 replies      
The "war" on "anything" is a sign that people (usually politicians and the business interests that support them) are using propaganda techniques to "shape" (they love that word) public opinion and legislation that will defend their status quo cash-cow and/or or channel new dollars their way. The "War on Terror" and "War on Drugs" are the biggies that come to mind.
bitops 4 days ago 1 reply      
For an excellent perspective on the damage the drug war causes internationally, read "The Politics of Heroin" by Alfred McCoy. It's dense but illuminating.
jcfrei 4 days ago 1 reply      
the fact that the US (and many other countries) still pursue a war on drugs is to me a display of a fundamental flaw in politics. even though every sane person has to acknowledge that legalizing drugs in part is more effective than enforcing more rigid controls, only very few politicians would support such a motion. mostly because they become victim to a more conservative rhetoric and thus will be less likely reelected.
ilitirit 2 days ago 0 replies      
My previous comment the last time this was posted:

Anyone have any more info?

praptak 4 days ago 0 replies      
I believe that the dominant policy is based on the "it is immoral, so it should be punished severely and to heck with the collateral damage" reasoning. It's irrational. Arguments based on reason will not work here. Yes, I'm a pessimist.
Zakharov 4 days ago 0 replies      
While I agree with Branson's arguments in general, the statistics he uses to support them seem very suspicious to me. He appears to be picking and choosing particular statistics that support his claims while ignoring others. For example, he talks about low marijuana use after saying that Portugal had a relatively high rate of use of hard drugs, which to some extent compete with marijuana for use.
asdkl234890 3 days ago 2 replies      
How many people under the age of baby boomers are for the war on drugs?

Do any of you think we can end the war on drugs before enough of the baby boomers are... pardon me... dead?

crozo 4 days ago 0 replies      
The parallels between the current war on drugs and the prohibition in the early XX century are staggering. Can we learn from that experience? The cost in USD and lives ruined that the war itself creates is greater than the cost of taking the profits a way from a few and running educational campaigns so people can take responsibility of what they do.
For those of us living in countries where the front line of this war is being fought, is clear we are loosing a war that is not ours, neither worth fighting. But we keep on doing it because the US "pays" for it.
Someday a future generation will look back and ask themselves how come they didn't realize it was a stupid war? were they less intelligent in those simpler times? And they will probably be right.
Serentiynow 4 days ago 0 replies      
To whose benefit?
People who benefit from the war on drugs:
-The military complex, weapon producers. Terrorist need drug money to fight wars. Weapon producers need wars to make money.
-Pharmaceutical companies.
-Alcohol producers.
-Anti drug agency personnel, cops.
-For profit jails.
The list goes on...
dawkins 4 days ago 0 replies      
I live in Spain and I think in Portugal is the same as here. Drug use is not a crime but it is still an "Administrative Offense". If the police caught's you with a small amount of drugs, they will confiscate them and usually impose a fine, about 300€.
johntyree 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is literally copy-paste from Time magazine 2009.


Excellent work, Dick.

mixmastamyk 4 days ago 0 replies      
The time was twenty years ago!
valuegram 4 days ago 0 replies      
Couldn't agree more. The only way to "win" the war on drugs is to legalize, commercialize, and tax the production. It's a simple matter of economics that as long as demand for these substances is present, there will be producers.
swah 4 days ago 6 replies      
I don't understand how a world where making/selling something is a crime but consuming is not could work.
opendomain 4 days ago 5 replies      
I have a feeling that the people that are promoting the end of the "war" are casual users or would like to be. Has any REAL experience with Drugs? I have - my family was ripped apart by drug abuse.
Drugs alter your brain - addiction is VERY powerful. If some drugs were legal, MORE people would become addicted and crime will go up for people to feed their habits.
GoDaddy: A glimpse of the Internet under SOPA david.weebly.com
684 points by drusenko  4 days ago   38 comments top 11
JeremyBanks 4 days ago 1 reply      
A similar story is when GoDaddy shut down seclists.org at the request of MySpace because of a single post out of hundreds of thousands: http://seclists.org/nmap-hackers/2007/0
suhail 4 days ago 7 replies      
Out of curiosity, what made many of you even use GoDaddy? I've always felt it was a bit sketch due to its:

- Commercials

- And it's shady ability to add $60 worth of crap to your cart when you want to buy a $9 domain.

I found Namecheap and never found anything simpler and less sketch. Even looking for domains on Namecheap 3-4 years ago was much simpler.

Was it just the registrar you had heard of first?

forgotAgain 4 days ago 1 reply      
Gives a glimmer of why GoDaddy would want to support SOPA. It would instantly create a market for premium DNS services where you are protected from this sort of thing.
charlieok 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's ironic that Go Daddy started off their super bowl ad campaign a few years ago by thumbing their nose at mock “censorship hearings”


ohashi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sadly, I know this story isn't an isolated incident. It's also why I don't believe their 'change of heart' in the slightest. This type of behavior and belief is ingrained into the company's culture. On top of that, the whois issues, GoDaddy is also known for messing with their whois (forcing you to go to their site and fill out a captcha instead of giving full info from the whois server directly).
ericgearhart 3 days ago 0 replies      
SOPA is but a battle in a war. The "war" is the corruption in the US Congress. Go check out what Larry Lessig is doing nowadays... he's trying to fight the war, not the battle.

His comments on why he's "MIA" in the SOPA battle (despite being an open source software and copyleft activist) shed light on this. I'm with Larry... SOPA, the USA PATRIOT Act, DMCA, all that BS are just symptoms of a disease. I'm not saying we "netizens" shouldn't fight SOPA tooth and nail, but some effort should be put into the 'war' as well, to avoid only seeing one or two trees and not the forest.


gregable 3 days ago 0 replies      
FWIW, this was the post that made me move my domains out from godaddy. Seems like it shows clearly that Godaddy's product is not high quality rather than just their company's stand on SOPA.

I don't generally feel that I can sanely make all of my product decisions based on the political/moral/etc positions of the companies involved. Not that I wouldn't love to, but it just doesn't seem manageable.

Gigablah 4 days ago 0 replies      
I had a similar experience when Dyn.com suspended my DNS hosting after a complaint from Amazon about a "phishing" link on my site (it was actually a legitimate Amazon affiliate link). My site was inaccessible while I scrambled to move my DNS entries elsewhere. Even though I have a premium account with Dyn, I was never given any sort of notification beforehand, and it took 5 days of pestering for them to finally reinstate it. Meanwhile, all I got from Amazon was a half-hearted apology from their affiliate customer service rep.

Really, who needs SOPA when companies can shut down websites just like that?

GigabyteCoin 3 days ago 0 replies      
I was perhaps a bit too liberal with my SEO ventures once... I received one single complaint to GoDaddy about a domain name that I owned with them (and admittedly was doing a bit of backlinking with)... One email and a ~$75 "fine" later I was back in business. But this is absurd.

The complaint was along the lines of "Somebody posted a link to this website X and I think it's spam."

GoDaddy immediately placed my domain on hold (same abuse department call that weebly received) and was told I would have to pay the fine to proceed or I could just forfeit the domain to them.

It seemed incredibly heavy handed for a stray blog comment.

maeon3 4 days ago 2 replies      
If sopa passes maybe there is a way we can get all .gov sites blacklisted with everyone scrambling and wondering why nobody in the world can reach these sites. we need to start programming some weapons into the internet so the people can fight censorship after it becomes law. In the land of spear and sword, the rifleman makes policy.
altrego99 2 days ago 0 replies      
Doesn't look good. I have decided to move prior to any mishap like this. What alternatives are you guys moving to?
Bullshit marco.org
635 points by brianwillis  1 day ago   223 comments top 36
edw519 1 day ago 5 replies      
You forgot the biggest bullshit of all, Marco.

Hacker News users:

I'm so mad that the government is doing <xyz>!

I'm so mad that big business is doing <xyz>!

I'm so mad that venture capitalists are doing <xyz>!

I'm so mad that angel investors are doing <xyz>!

I'm so mad that <xyz> got funding!

I'm so mad that language <abc> doesn't do <xyz>!

I'm so mad that I can't jailbreak <xyz>!

I'm so mad that I'm actually expected to pay for <xyz>!

I'm so mad that more people don't visit my blog!

I'm so mad that so many people visit blog <xyz>!

I'm so mad that person <xyz> is a jerk!

So what did you build today?

Nothing. I can't focus.

nostromo 1 day ago  replies      
With Apple, I'm the customer, not a marketer. This makes me comfortable with our relationship. I don't really care about Ping or app store approval policies, so, meh...

With Google, I can see their ability to become a shady company pretty easily, but it is just too damn easy to switch search engines. Bing isn't so bad you know.

But Facebook knows so much about me, and the network effects are so strong -- this is the company I feel most unpleasantly stuck to. Not "Comcast stuck" mind you, but still, more "stuck" than I'd like. It's like my friends keep having parties at a bar I'm not super fond of... and I keep going.

blinkingled 1 day ago  replies      
Marco, Gruber, MG have their own BS :

  *Android is NOT open

It gets stated as absolute fact only by Apple and its hardcore followers (Steve Jobs said Windows is open not Android first, DF, MG and MA have been religiously snarking out on any chance to declare Android not open.)

It is BS because all 3 of them do this only to promote what they subscribe to - i.e. they have no consequence from Android not being open (they use and promote iOS which is epitome of closed which in turn means they don't really care about open - they only care about pointing it out in an attempt to nullify the claimed Android advantage against iOS - hey it's not really open anyways, so get in on our team. Which to me is a obnoxious or even a little evil, cotradictory and self-promoting reason to complain about not being open.)

arctangent 1 day ago 3 replies      
> Facebook: "Our users want to interact with brands."

As distasteful as the hacker crowd may find it, this is probably a true statement.

A significant number of people (in the developed world) really do construct a large part of their personal identity by buying branded products from companies in order to signal something about themselves.

There's a section on this on the Wikipedia page for "Brand":


jacoblyles 1 day ago 5 replies      
When I think of something being "bullshit", I think it is totally false. But many of these points are part-truths, not complete falsehoods.

For example, Google tracks lots of personal data to make their products better. So the sentence "We solicit all of your personal information and track everything you do to make things better for you" is partially true. Of course, something is in it for Google too. When they add new features to a product driven by personal data mining, they seek to grow market share. They also use your personal data to target ads at you better. And they may be using it for further research projects that you don't know about.

But the statement has a lot of truth to it. That's not the normal definition of "bullshit".

armandososa 1 day ago 0 replies      
I always, always, always find what I want from Google. So whatever they are doing is, in some way, for my benefit.

And even if I was ready to pay for every website/service I use (which I'm not), ads are not going away. So when they do whatever they are doing to show me better ads I'd say that's on my benefit too.

I'm not a Google unconditional fan (I hate Android, love iOS) and certainly they can do better. But implying they don't benefit the end user is what I find bullshit-y.

And I think that's a very poorly written article, btw. Marco can do a lot better.

rmoriz 1 day ago 1 reply      
There was a very good talk at 28c3 that should remember everyone, that Apple and Google are not working for the public interest (as some fans still believe)

Partly NSFW:




vacri 1 day ago 1 reply      
Devoid of anything new or insightful, this article sounds like a teen being 'edgy'.
Angostura 17 hours ago 0 replies      
And my personal favourite:

"A single word expletive as a headline isn't just a way of getting cheap pageviews"

brador 1 day ago 0 replies      
I know this guy is one of the HN celebrity set, but can we please modify that title to something more meaningful?

Something like:

"Bullshit - what companies really mean?"

smackfu 1 day ago 2 replies      
Did marco make his blog much more link-baity, or has it always been like this? It seems like he is playing to the crowd now.
rickmb 1 day ago 1 reply      
Apple's bullshit is strictly business. Google's and Facebook's bullshits affects peoples privacy, and, if they live in a country that values privacy, actually violates their fundamental rights.

Facebook and Google are engaged in open warfare against social values and legal restrictions that are prevalent in most of the world (especially outside the US), and the lies they tell about it can not simply be categorized as "bullshit" you can decide to tolerate on a individual basis.

zobzu 1 day ago 3 replies      
Deeply agree on that list.

But there are some o at least one company that I'd actually trust more than others, and support, and that's Mozilla. Because there's no share holders. Because it's owned by non-profit. And because their track record is perfect so far. Everything's open. All the development is in the open, not just the code.

Everything's made for our best interest actually.

sneak 1 day ago 0 replies      
Does Apple actually claim that their app review process is in _everyone's_ best interests, or just their customers (which is frequently at 180-degree odds with sketchy devs)?
jsavimbi 1 day ago 1 reply      
You'd be surprised at the number of people who use Twitter for the sole purpose of following their favorite chelebrities, ergo interacting with brands. I'm going to put my toe in the water and assume the same applies to Facebook.
droithomme 1 day ago 1 reply      
Yes, it's true the things listed are bullshit. Yes, I guess we can take it or leave it.

Sometimes the "take it or leave it" position ends up being presented in a way that it is framed that those of us who choose not to partake in the rape of our liberties are backwards luddites (non-facebook member here, also got their domains blocked to kill their insidious tracking). I hope that criticism of those who say "no" is not where this article series (if that's what it is) is headed.

antirez 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you focus on the news title itself, without clicking, it suddenly starts to make sense:

Bullshit (marco.org)

angus77 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Bullshit" is a lack of concern over whether what you've said was true or not.

"We're not tracking you when you're logged out" was a straight up lie.

jballanc 1 day ago 0 replies      
Only one I really take issue with is:

> Nobody wants a [popular new product category that Apple doesn't make yet].

To be honest, when you hear that from an executive at Apple, I believe they are being sincere. You have to understand that Apple does not think of the iPhone as "a cell phone that plays music" or the iPad as "a tablet computer" or the MacBook Air as "a netbook". Yes, this is parsing things rather finely, but if you think that doing so is somehow irrelevant, then I would assert that you don't understand Apple and the way they do things.

dragons 1 day ago 1 reply      
Microsoft must be ticked off that they were left out of the list.
razzaj 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can think of this as well.

an "IT security company" :
1 - We secure your network
2 - Our site is down for maintenance

alpb 1 day ago 1 reply      
Just wondering, why are we valuing this blog post that talks about a first world problem and brings no solution or anything critic or productive? Are we biased against Marco.org?
smokinn 1 day ago 3 replies      
I would like to see a list of Amazon's bullshit.
dewiz 1 day ago 0 replies      
Marco why don't you transform the post in a poll ? ;)
aangjie 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Am beginning to go with google nowadays...:-P
ellie42 1 day ago 1 reply      
Microsoft: "Next generation web is coming"

Hacker News: "We don't read it"

linker3000 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wot, no Twitter?
citadrianne 1 day ago 0 replies      
And another one from Google: There's no reason to delete things, ever.
orionlogic 1 day ago 0 replies      
New to realities of capitalism? Good morning America.
JoyxBen 1 day ago 0 replies      
Brilliant. Now for an interesting theory of why there is so much bullshit see Harry Frankfurt's essay "On Bullshit" (Google it) :)
halfbrown 1 day ago 0 replies      
Well said! We choose to take the bad with the good... Though sometimes companies make it tough for us to appreciate the good.
ychung 1 day ago 0 replies      
On that list, I think FB has the worst "bullshits".
portentint 1 day ago 0 replies      
At, [insert airline name here], we care about you.
jeremysalwen 1 day ago 0 replies      
-Spokesman has poor personal hygiene.
p0wn3d 1 day ago 0 replies      
Remember back in the 70's and 80's before cable TV? We only had channels 3,6, and 7. We loved TV but couldn't stand the commercials every 5 minutes. The internet has turned into one big TV commercial. Websites are now 10% content and 90% ads. It is so sad that we let this get out of control. Don't get me started on social networking and how they exist to be the big TV commercial to make boatloads of cash.
muyuu 1 day ago 1 reply      
I disagree about the last line, not "everyone" has their bullshit. These 3 do have and spread massive amounts of bullshit, however.
Namecheap to Donate $1 to EFF for Every Domain Transfer on December 29th namecheap.com
557 points by flueedo  3 days ago   94 comments top 20
nextparadigms 3 days ago 2 replies      
Namecheap is really taking advantage of Godaddy's misstep. I say good for them! Godaddy deserves whatever is coming at them right now.
dmarble 3 days ago 2 replies      
I've been with Namecheap for most of my domains for a couple years now. One of the surprisingly awesome extras:

Dynamic DNS

No more need for DynDNS or another third-party DNS service for this simple but useful feature! Once enabled for a domain, you can simply use an update client to regularly update the IP Namecheap servers point to.

See Namecheap's knowledgebase articles to enable and use it: http://www.namecheap.com/support/knowledgebase/category.aspx...

Update clients:

ddclient (unixy) - http://sourceforge.net/apps/trac/ddclient

inadyn (unixy) - http://www.inatech.eu/inadyn/

Namecheap's DNS update client (Windows) - http://www.namecheap.com/support/knowledgebase/article.aspx/...

danieldk 3 days ago 4 replies      
That's nice, but it remains to be seen if this is not just cheap (no pun intended) exploitation of sentiments. Some registrars, such as Gandi have always supported various causes (such as EFF, Creative Commons, Debian, etc.). How much does Namecheap donate of regular domain registrations, etc.? What have they done in the past for digital rights?

Also, as some people said before. This attack on Godaddy maybe a godsent diversion for SOPA supporters.

ck2 3 days ago 3 replies      
Just keep in mind if you transfer to NameCheap - make sure you are happy with their full price for renewals - because you will NEVER get a discount for renewing. They only give new transfers in special pricing.

Ironically you'll be able to transfer back to GoDaddy in a year when they make some kind of "come back to us" offer for a few dollars to transfer in.

nickpinkston 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've used NameCheap ever since I found out how horrid GoDaddy's service and slimy policies were. NameCheap has always answered my noob questions with haste, and I've never had any issues with them. I have no connections with them other than being a happy customer. If I didn't already have all my domains through them, I'd switch them over.
juddlyon 3 days ago 0 replies      
This incident will in a public relations textbook as a case study in ten years.
jamesbritt 3 days ago 2 replies      
I couldn't be bothered waiting. I've some domains due for renewal at the end of the year and decided to beat the holiday rush and just move then all over to namecheap.com.

I started the process yesterday afternoon. Still haven't seen anything on the GoDaddy side indicating any pending transfers. I imagine this sort of delay will only be worse come the 29th.

Update: just got a slew of form mail from namecheap. Apparently every EPP/authorization key code I entered, taken from the list generated by GoDaddy, is wrong. Now I have to re-do every transfer.

jeff18 3 days ago 2 replies      
I wish you could just give namecheap your GoDaddy credentials and have them move your domains properly for you. I am definitely not looking forward to figuring out GoDaddy's UI for all my domains.
abcd_f 3 days ago 2 replies      
Can anyone explain why would one want to transfer a domain from one US-based registrar to another given that all recent domain-related issues are US-centered?
Samuel_Michon 2 days ago 0 replies      
I just transferred 20 general TLDs from GoDaddy to Namecheap. I did so based on the positive reviews here on HN, but also because Namecheap has been very verbal during this SOPA ordeal. The SOPAsucks coupon was a nice perk. Too bad Namecheap doesn't do transfers for ccTLDs like .nl and .es.

Can anyone suggest a good, affordable registrar with broad ccTLD support and a decent mobile site/app? Preferably an independent company with phone support in the US. (I looked into Hover, but they're owned by Tucows. I also looked into Gandi, but they're based in France.)

jgeralnik 3 days ago 0 replies      
They are being very careful not to mention any specific domain registrars. I wonder who they are talking about...
aiurtourist 3 days ago 9 replies      
I'd like to switch to !GoDaddy, and Namecheap seems popular. Are there any useful pro/cons I should know about Namecheap before switching?
Tloewald 3 days ago 0 replies      
And as a bonus they get to stress test their servers ;-)
dspillett 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised no other registrars seem to have jumped on this in quite the way NameCheap have. Is it that they feel too small to take the risk of rocking the boat?
arthurgibson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why doesn't NameCheap donate a $1 for every domain moved since 12/22 or last week when all the SOPA issues with Godaddy were presented?
Shorel 3 days ago 0 replies      
I transfered from Namecheap to SpeedySparrow a couple of months ago.

Just consolidating vendors (domain and hosting) to simplify management.

shawnz 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to point out that name.com (my current registrar) has been an EFF donor for some time already -- but I don't know to what extent.
gospelwut 3 days ago 1 reply      
I recall reading that namecheap stores passwords in plaintext? I'd be interested if this was refuted. In any case, I'd be a bit wary to go along with the bandwagon to this particular registrar without further investigation.
openmosix 3 days ago 0 replies      
A similar initiative: fightsopa.org will donate 5$ to EFF for each developer solving one coding puzzle
My uncle's factorization algorithms github.com
403 points by daoudc  3 days ago   49 comments top 12
wbhart 3 days ago 3 replies      
This is very interesting. Thank you for devoting your time to putting this on the web. Otherwise it might have rotted in your attic!

It's unclear to me whether there is anything theoretically new in here yet. The algorithms are all familiar to me except for the P^2 + 1 and P^2 + P + 1 algorithms. But don't read too much into that. They are probably well known.

What I can tell you is that there is an extraordinary amount of work in implementing all those algorithms. I do this stuff for a living and it is a tremendously impressive feat for a single individual over any span of time.

I'd be interested in hearing how fast the MPQS is. The state of the art for factoring a number like 840931001586212064794450601167289569811131781103613687750579 on a single core is probably around 6s or so on a modern 2GHz x86 processor.

UBASIC already had a 32 bit x86 assembly optimised MPQS in it, and it performed pretty well actually. So it would be interesting if your uncle improved on that, especially if he had theoretical improvements.

The state of the art for the number field sieve should factor the 79 digit number here: http://www.loria.fr/~zimmerma/records/rsa.html in around 10-20 minutes on a single core, though in general the GNFS is for much larger integers. It seems unlikely that a little UBASIC program could manage those, however.

Having said that, I am still in shock that your uncle actually implemented the GNFS. That is a staggering accomplishment and is something to be genuinely impressed by.

I don't know if you have a gold mine there or the cutting edge life's work of someone from yesteryear.

muyuu 3 days ago 2 replies      
We are finally coming to the era when the first amateurs who grew up with Personal Computers are starting to die of old age.

Stuff in BASIC coded by somebody in the anonymity of the pre-Internet. Maybe something truly novel in its time or even now. There's something extremely romantic to this, like a rescued roll from the Library of Alexandria.

Naturally, most of that anonymous work will be lost forever. Heck, most of my 8-bit era stuff stored in tapes and 5 1/4 floppies must be dead by now. I had some original Sountracker mod files from Amiga times and when I tried recovering those it was too late.

anuml 3 days ago 1 reply      
The prime numbers group on yahoo is quite good. You might be able to entice someone to explore what your uncle has done.


The group contains experts in this field that manage to do a commendable job of responding to questions at many levels.

It's a shame that your uncle didn't have a chance to connect with them.

Good luck.

zackzackzack 3 days ago 1 reply      
This feels like the modern day equivalent of the secret to alchemy being found in some musty trunk in the attic. Does any of this actually advance the field?
GuiA 3 days ago 0 replies      
>Sadly, he was never able to benefit from this work himself, although he tried many times to sell the software developed here. Instead, he entrusted his work to me as his death neared, and he told me that he wanted it to benefit his family. Since there is little hope of me succeeding in selling this, instead, I hope that by releasing it under the GPL it may benefit mankind. I only ask that if you use it, you use it for good, not evil, to liberate and not oppress, and to educate and not to spread ignorance.

Thank you so much for this.

aurelianito 3 days ago 1 reply      
I would love to have an uncle whom I could talk about cryptography with. You were very lucky!
rokhayakebe 2 days ago 1 reply      
Daoud, did you add this In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. or did your uncle?
seanp2k2 3 days ago 1 reply      
...and somewhere out there, right now, P(=|!=)NP is probably solved on some 5 1/2" floppy, rotting away in an attic...
lell 2 days ago 0 replies      
Language files blank comment code
Fortran 90 224 50999 8235 315981
ubasic 248 ? ? 107383
ronnier 3 days ago 1 reply      
My fear is that this contains some sort of mathematical break through which is then copied and claimed by another person as their own work. Didn't something like this happen to Grigori Perelman where another man attempted to claim Perelman's work? This is really amazing, I hope something comes from it.
Cyph0n 3 days ago 0 replies      
I can't be of much help, but I'm extremely interested in how this all unfolds. Good luck.
josephkern 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is brilliant. Thank you.
Update on GoDaddy Transfer Issues namecheap.com
390 points by PStamatiou  4 days ago   74 comments top 19
jarin 4 days ago 6 replies      
I also ran into a problem with GoDaddy when trying to transfer a domain name that was protected by Domains by Proxy. I first got a notification that I needed to enter into a new agreement, so I did. Then I got a notification that I needed to cancel my private registration, so I did. Then I got this:

    "The transfer of MYDOMAIN.ME from Go Daddy to another 
registrar could not be completed for the following

Express written objection to the transfer from the
Transfer Contact. (e.g. - email, fax, paper document or
other processes by which the Transfer Contact has
expressly and voluntarily objected through opt-in

So it looks like they're auto-rejecting domain transfers if you're using Domains by Proxy?

samlev 4 days ago 4 replies      
Devil's advocate here: The idea that godaddy appears to be intentionally stalling transfers is pure speculation. Not saying that they're incapable of doing it, but that whole "don't attribute to malice" thing.

Let's not turn this into another ugly internet lynch-mob. Just move your domains, and be done with it. Namecheap (and others) look like they're more than happy to help out all their new customers.

Sami_Lehtinen 4 days ago 2 replies      
Yup, same issue here. Transfer has been hanging over 24 hours now.
Edit: Transfer in Process - Acquiring Current Whois for Transfer Verification
colmmacc 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just to add data to the discussion;

I kicked off migration of my only 3 GoDaddy domains to namecheap last night. One .net, one .com and one .cc domain. None had any kind of whois protection or anonymisation.

The .net and .com migrations went very quickly and smoothly. Within two hours I had the confirmation e-mails from both namecheap and GoDaddy, and within 4 hours the migration was complete.

The .cc domain took a little longer, as when I started the move with namecheap it didn't seem to want an EPP code for a .cc domain, but then later changed its mind and asked me to enter one. I entered the code within 2 hours, and 8 hours later the migration was complete.

GoDaddy's goodbye was actually pretty professional;


Dear Colm MacCarthaigh,

We're sorry you transferred your domain name(s) away from GoDaddy.com.
We are committed to providing quality services and products and hope
that we met your needs.

If you feel your transfer was in error, or if you have changed your
mind, please contact our 24/7 sales department at (480) 505-8877.
They'll assist you in transferring your domain name(s) back to us.*
Keep in mind that we continue to offer low prices and $7.49 transfer
rates on some domains.

Go Daddy

P.S. Visit GoDaddy.com (http://www.godaddy.com/default.aspx?prog_id=GoDaddy&isc=gdbba1365)
and SAVE 15%* off your order of $50 or more. Just use source code
gdbba1365 when you check out to get your special savings. Start
shopping now at GoDaddy.com or order by phone at (480) 505-8821.

*Please note that ICANN's Transfer Policy may prevent you from
transferring your domain name within 60-days of a transfer.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
*Not applicable to ICANN fees, taxes, shipping and handling, sale
priced domains and transfers, bulk domains and transfers, premium
domains, Sunrise/Landrush domain registrations and pre-registrations,
memberships or maintenance plans, additional disk space and bandwidth
renewals, additional email addresses, Search Engine Visibility
advertising budget, Managed Hosting, custom page layouts, brand identity
services, Go Daddy branded merchandise or gift cards. Discount
reflected in your shopping cart - cannot be used in conjunction
with any other offer, discount or promotion, or in connection with
special partnership discount programs. After the initial purchase term,
discounted products purchased with special offer discounts will renew
at the then-current renewal list price.

Copyright (C) 2011 Go Daddy All rights reserved.

spauka 3 days ago 0 replies      
GoDaddy has responded to the allegations from namecheap at TechChrunch, saying that the blocks were part of standard practice to limit the volume of Whois queries from a single IP, which is apparently common practice, unless the registrar is notified that there may be a large number of queries. [1]

If this is indeed true, then it seems namecheap are trying to score cheap PR points, although they have responded saying they attempted to reach out to GoDaddy.[2]

I'm inclined to believe that namecheap did try to reach them, although I'm not sure that they are above trying to slam more bad press onto GoDaddy....



freejack 4 days ago 1 reply      
NC is an enom reseller, so I'd guess that all of enom would be affected as well. Nothing on the eNom status page, so not sure... http://www.enom.com/registrynews.asp
JS_startup 4 days ago 1 reply      
Some definitive, unbiased proof of this needs to be seen before I can join the lynch mob. I have no doubt that GoDaddy is desperate and/or inept enough to do something like this but I also can't take their competitor's word for it.
Aloisius 4 days ago 0 replies      
I moved all my domains from GoDaddy and one of them had trouble doing the whois information. I did it myself and it in fact did look different from my others. It could have just been the difference between a .org and a .com, but I entered in the epp auth code with the transfers and it helped it along.
iSloth 4 days ago 0 replies      
Well that explains why my transfer is taking so long...
overshard 4 days ago 0 replies      
I finally was able to get my domains transferred to Namecheap today. It's one of those "I never liked GoDaddy anyways" kind of things and the entire SOPA ordeal finally pushed me to it.
j_camarena 4 days ago 0 replies      
I use godaddy to buy .com.mx and .mx domains .. PLEASE, start selling this domains.

I really hate to give money to godaddy .. i feel like a dollar for them is a dollar for killing-elephants-for-joy safari.

smcnally 3 days ago 0 replies      
If the (alleged) issue is that GoDaddy is throttling WHOIS lookups, does using [http://help.godaddy.com/article/3681](GoDaddys Export Lists tool) and including WHOIS info help? Or are the "real-time" lookups required by a new registrar?
pbreit 4 days ago 0 replies      
This doesn't strike me as one of the classier communications. Does it resonate well with other people?
johnpowell 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just got the e-mail from GoDaddy to ask if I wanted to allow or decline the transfer. I'm glad that got resolved. That was my one to test that I was doing things correctly before I moved about 20 other domains off GoDaddy.
aaronpk 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks. I noticed this too.
smackfu 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't exactly be calling my employees in over Christmas to make it easier for customers to leave.
g3orge 4 days ago 1 reply      
did you know that EA games and Sony also support SOPA?
laironald 4 days ago 0 replies      
I bet namecheap's investors are smiling right about now.
compay 4 days ago 1 reply      
A bunch of my transfers appear to have been delayed because Namecheap themselves have not generated the initial authorization email to begin the tranfer process. The ones for which they did generate the email (about 1/4 of my transfers) went through fine with no delays from Godaddy. Not sure what's going on (I sent an email to support about 4 hours ago but have no response yet), but so far I'm a little underwhelmed by their service.
The Dumbest Idea In The World: Maximizing Shareholder Value forbes.com
365 points by DanielRibeiro  5 days ago   134 comments top 26
mhartl 4 days ago  replies      

  There is only one valid definition of a business purpose:
to create a customer.

No. The one valid definition of a business purpose is this: A business should do what the owners want it to do. Otherwise, the notion of ownership loses meaning.

If the owners want to create lots of customers, they do that. If they would rather have a smaller number of highly profitable customers, they do that. If they want to create a nice side business so that they can surf in the summer and snowboard in the winter, they do that.

Scottish philosopher David Hume drew an essential distinction between factual matters"is"and moral matters"ought. Asking "What should a business do?" looks like a Humean ought, but it's actually a Humean is. A business is a vehicle for achieving the ends of its owners. How then can we make sense of the maxim "a business should maximize shareholder value"? In certain kinds of businesses"especialy those owned by a large number of shareholders"the interests of the owners may generally conflict, but they can usually agree on one thing: maximize the value of the company. This describes virtually all publicly traded companies and many family businesses as well. It doesn't describe, e.g., my present business (the Ruby on Rails Tutorial), which I created as a 4-Hour Work Week"style product company to let me relax for a while, travel the world in style, and have the financial freedom to develop longer-range plans for world domination. Its purpose is definitely not to maximize shareholder value; I'm the only shareholder, so it does whatever I damn well tell it to do.

Let the owners worry about what a company ought to do. Unless you're an owner, it's none of your business.

1gor 4 days ago 3 replies      
The statement 'maximizing shareholders value' is meaningless without the timeframe. The correct phrasing is to 'maximize shareholders value in the long term'. The 'long term' bit is crucial, and it is not reflected in today's management incentives.

The choice that managers of public companies are facing is the well known "Consume vs. Invest". Or, in the terms of an evolutionary fitness landscape, "Exploit vs. explore".

If a manager wants to maximize his next quarter's earnings, he could stop new product development, shut down customer service and equipment maintenance departments and sell, sell, sell. He could have a short short-term spike in profitability, but in the long term the company won't survive. He has exploited his current position but has failed to explore, to look to the new opportunities and threats, and to provide for the future.

(Note: the manager could also buy a portfolio of high-yielding/high risk securities hoping that the crash will not happen before his next bonus is due. This is the same thing -- maximising short-term gains at the expense of the long-term prospects of the company).

The manager could also overexplore, that is to overinvest in customer and product development, purchase the newest equipment and end up with a croud of excited customers and an exciting new technology/product, but no liquidity left in the bank to live to see it taking over the market.

"Maximizing shareholders value" idea got a bad press, because it has become associated with the 'exploit' approach. Managers endanger the long-term prospects of the company because they can be paid well for achiving relatively short-term goals.

But the working definition should be "Maximizing shareholders value in the long term"

Let's make the law that the managers' options can only be excersized after 10 years. That'll do the trick.

forensic 4 days ago  replies      
Shareholder value is just the latest politically correct justification.

Our society used to be based on concepts like honor.

Honor was something you had to earn and something you could lose. To maintain your honor you had to demonstrate certain qualities: truthfulness, earnestness, fairness, politeness, genuine service toward shared superordinate goals (e.g. the country, humanity, the community).

At some point, our society decided that lying is no longer dihonorable as long as you are doing it to maximize shareholder value or to sell your product. We no longer publically shame and dishonor those caught in bald-faced lies.

Inordinately selfish people always justify their behaviour using socially acceptable statements. What has changed is that our society now lets them get away with it.

ANY lies are now OK as long as they say "I was maximizing shareholder value." They will not be socially ostracized, will not be publicly shamed, and often will not even be criticized. People will, in fact, apologize for them.

People see Wall Street crash-creators testifying at Congress answering "I do not recall" to 100% of the questions. Instead of dishonoring those liars as the liars that they obviously are... our society just does nothing. It's okay that they lied. It's just business you know. We expect our business leaders to be dishonorable.

"It's not the CEOs fault that he knowingly polluted the entire river for 20 years. He was just maximizing shareholder value, discharging his fiduciary duty, we can't hold him personally responsible. It is wrong to shame him and his family, it is wrong to ostracize him from decent company, it is wrong to even criticize him publicly in the newspapers."

Either this mentality changes in a hurry, or the entire country is going to go the way of Detroit.

acslater00 4 days ago 3 replies      
"Meanwhile real performance was declining. From 1933 to 1976, real compound annual return on the S&P 500 was 7.5 percent. Since 1976, Martin writes, the total real return on the S&P 500 was 6.5 percent (compound annual)."

Hmm...where have I seen those numbers before. Oh right! He's measuring his control period from the bottom of the great depression. Sounds legitimate to me!

This is so hacky it makes me laugh. You can argue that a focus on short-term shareholder value is bad for various reasons, but a focus on long-term shareholder value is incontrovertibly good for shareholders, long-term. In practice, it is also basically equivalent to the author's other view of focusing on "customers", whatever the hell that means. Or focusing on "real performance" metrics like profit, as though you can do one without doing the other.

If CEO pay is tied to long-term stock performance, the problem of gaming the short term earning expectations goes away. Full stop.

My new years resolution is to not click on link-bait anymore.

chrismealy 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's called Enronitis. If you expect managers to be ruthless about shareholder value you'll wind up with managers who are ruthless about benefitting themselves.

The Enron problem is ... the predictable result of too strong of a share-centered view of the public corporation... Corporate law demands that managers simultaneously be selfless servants and selfish masters. On the one hand, it directs managers to be faithful agents, setting aside their own interests entirely in order to act only on behalf of their principals, the shares. On the other hand, in the service of this extreme altruism, they must ruthlessly exploit everyone around them, projecting on to the shares an extreme selfishness that takes no account of any interests but the shares themselves. Having maximally exploited their fellow human corporate participants, managers are then expected to selflessly hand over their gains...

Altruism and rationally self-interested exploitation are extreme and radically opposed positions, psychologically and politically. ... For managers, one easy resolution of these tensions is a simple, cynical selfishness in which managers see themselves as entitled, and perhaps even required, to exploit shareholders as ruthlessly as they understand the law to require them to exploit everyone else. ...

Internally, the share-centered paradigm is just as self-destructive. Corporations succeed because they are not markets and do not follow market norms of behavior. Rather, they operate under fiduciary norms as a matter of law and team norms as a matter of sociology. However, the share-centered paradigm of corporate law teaches managers to treat employees as outsiders and tools to corporate ends with no intrinsic value. Just as managers are unlikely to learn simultaneously to be selfish maximizers and selfless altruists, they are unlikely to be simultaneously cooperative team players and self-interested defectors. Thus, the share-centered view undermines the prerequisite to operating the firm in the interests of shareholders. ...

Managers constructing the firm as a tool to the end of share value maximization treat the people with whom they work as means, not ends. ...they learn as part of their ordinary life to break ordinary social solidarity. Learning to exploit ruthlessly is surprisingly difficult. ... But cynicism can be learned, and managers subjected to the powerful incentives of the share value maximization principle do eventually learn it. ... This training, however, surely creates cynics, not faithful agents. ... A manager whose lived experience is a pretense of selflessness (with respect to employees, customers and business partners) covering real disinterested exploitation (on behalf of shares) is unlikely to suddenly see himself as “in a position in which thought of self was to be renounced, however hard the abnegation” and voluntarily hand over these hard-won gains of competitive practice to his principal. If you can properly lie to your subordinates, why not lie to your superior as well? ... In the end, the cynicism of the share value maximization view must eat itself alive.

-- http://slackwire.blogspot.com/2011/04/selfish-masters-selfle...

mixmax 5 days ago 1 reply      
"In today's paradoxical world of maximizing shareholder value, which Jack Welch himself has called the dumbest idea in the world, the situation is the reverse. CEOs and their top managers have massive incentives to focus most of their attentions on the expectations market, rather than the real job of running the company producing real products and services."

Maybe the real genius of Steve Jobs was to actually spend his time running Apple, creating real products and services instead of playing the expectations game with investors and shareholders.

mmaunder 4 days ago 1 reply      
Another example of a company in addition to J&J and P&G that the article mentions who focuses on customers is Amazon. Bezos recently was punished via a 30% drop in Amazon stock price because he is ploughing all his net income into the Kindle Fire, even though Amazon's revenue growth is exponential and has been for a decade.

Shareholders in the public market right now are focused on "value stocks" in the Buffet and Ben Graham sense and if you don't match value stock heuristics with a dividend and growing net income, you will be punished even if you're 100% focused on creating new customers.

tokenadult 4 days ago 0 replies      
First I slogged through the submitted article. It had some interesting anecdotes about betting on professional football in the early 1960s in the United States, which the author takes as an analogy to the current stock market. I searched back through the list of earlier Steve Denning articles on Forbes to try to find one previously posted to HN that I remember for its silliness and lack of connection with reality. On my part, I can't see I disagree a lot with the idea that publicly traded joint-stock companies do well to attend to the needs of customers, to build long-term value, but the author seems to embroider that claim with a lot of hysteria about the future of capitalism. Precisely because he can point to successful examples (Johnson and Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Apple), it seems to me that what he identifies as an idea that leads companies astray can be responded to as a market opportunity for other companies to achieve the goal of maximizing shareholder value (over the long term) by the instrumental means of attending to customer needs. I'm not sure that the author has added any new insight here that isn't well known to owners and operators of businesses. (Has the author ever owned any business in the real economy besides promoting his own writing?)
Hominem 4 days ago 1 reply      
Yep, it is easier to increase profit by cutting costs, so that is what people will do to hit their numbers.In the long term, it is akin to burning your clothes to stay warm.
Sniffnoy 4 days ago 1 reply      
This wouldn't be so much a problem if "shareholder value" were taken to mean "the value one can get by holding a share" (i.e. profits) rather than "the value one can get by selling a share"...
cbr 5 days ago 1 reply      
This argues against maximizing the stock price in the short term. Nothing about shareholder value beimg the wrong metric.
dhx 4 days ago 0 replies      

  The actions flowed from the company credo which is engraved in granite
at the entry to company headquarters, which makes crystal clear that
customers are first, then employees, and shareholders absolutely last.

Why do businesses attempt to create hierarchical order where order doesn't exist? A business with extremely happy customers, happy employees and low return on investment (including other non-monetary value) for shareholders is a failed venture. Ranking stakeholders by their importance makes it easy to create harmful (and often implicit) rules and practices that fail to address the needs of all stakeholders.

Companies should instead encourage employees to think about decisions from a wide range of perspectives including customer satisfaction, employee morale and business profitability. Creating a new procedure or rule that employees must adhere to could greatly please customers. However it may create extra menial and unappealing work for employees, lowering morale to harmful levels. It could cost the company a lot of resources that would be better spent elsewhere.

nonsequ 3 days ago 0 replies      
Roger L. Martin, the author of the book hawked in this article, is also a director at RIM. Maximizing shareholder value indeed!

That said, Roger is correct (incidentally or not) in my book to criticize the short-term casino nature of the public equity market buyers and sellers. Too often they forget that as shareholders of a stock they are part-owners in the enterprise; rather they only desire to see the price tag on their stock certificate go up in the next minute so they can sell for a profit. That kind of thinking can poison a company.

The lesson I draw from this is that it matters who your investors are. Once you've sold part of the company, you must take into account the desires of your new partners, even if they are a teeming mass of the investing public. After all, you make the choice of whom you sell to. Some corporate leaders attempt to 'manage' their way out of this by massaging earnings the way Jack Welch did. I personally think the best way to handle this is by open education. Warren Buffett writes an elegant and informative letter each year and answers questions alongside Charlie Munger for four or five hours straight at the Berkshire meeting. If your business is too volatile, too secretive, or too sensitive to be explained to the public, you probably shouldn't be doing an IPO in the first place.

It occurs to me that Roger's best hope is to change the minds of RIM shareholders declaring open season on the board. It is naive of Roger Martin to think that his book and Denning's sensationalist hawking of it will do anything to soften the ire of RIM's shareholders. By the same token, it was naive of RIM's leaders not to take into account the fact that once they sold shares to the public, it became the public's company.

fmkamchatka 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not familiar with football betting but it seems to me that the initial example is not a very good analogy. In the case of shareholders, someone initially lent money to the company in exchange for shares (owning part of the company) from which the company benefits. On the other hand, betting on a football team's success doesn't increase its odds of winning, hence it wouldn't make sense for the team to comment or apologize on the outcome of the bet.
prewett 3 days ago 0 replies      
A lot of what the author complains about has been around for years. Short term gains at the expense of long term growth? Yup. Executives manipulating something to make their company look good? Yup.

Read "The Intelligent Investor" or "Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits", which give examples of things companies did 50 and 30 years ago.

Vitaly 4 days ago 0 replies      
He misses the point. Focusing on the customer IS maximizing shareholder value. Its just its focusing on a much longer timeframe. If you want the most money this year - you play the stock market or accounting games. If you want the most money the company will earn this century... well, you focus on very very different things. And customer's loyalty is one of the top.
pge 4 days ago 2 replies      
I agree with the overall viewpoint of the article, so just adding an observation on how we got here. Tying management compensation to shareholder value is a good idea; the problem is in the measurement of shareholder value. If the public markets were efficient, and market cap was an accurate reflection of value, the system would not be as broken as it is.
The public markets have become a casino, where investors are often playing a game, not investing in companies they truly understand, and whose value they have analyzed. Market cap is no longer strongly correlated with company performance (revenue, net income, cash flow, customers, etc).

A return to a rational market would realign incentives, and stock-based compensation would work, but that's a lot to ask...

rayiner 4 days ago 0 replies      
Coincidentally, I just read about this in "Animal Spirits" a recent book on behavioral economics and the market. It mentions Welch's view and analyzes a lot of similar situations.
josh33 4 days ago 0 replies      
Each of the following words opens up the door for semantic debate:
"Maximizing" - when? In the short term or long term?
"Shareholder" - who? People who own actual shares or the broader definition of stakeholders who have a vested interest in the company (employees, the community around the business, owners, etc.)?
"Value" - what? Dollar value? Happiness? Customer satisfaction? Employee satisfaction?
valuegram 4 days ago 0 replies      
While I understand the idea behind this article, it was hard to get beyond the initial metaphor, which I find highly misplaced.

In sports, for the most part, the only fact that matters is a win. with the exception of rare subjective ranking systems (such as coaches polls in college football), the quality of a win doesn't matter. Of course if a coach is playing in these systems, and not doing enough to meet the expectations of the fan base, there will definitely be repercussions.

In the business world, a profit of $0.01 is very different from a profit of $1.00. Of course there are numerous valuation models, but the amount of profit/revenue/etc almost always matters, as opposed to sports which use a binary valuation system (win or loss).

I appreciate the overall message, and believe that the market is willing to embrace this sort of logic. Jeff Bezos is a great example of a leader focusing on long term performance and being rewarded for it.

TheFuture 4 days ago 0 replies      
Another egghead uni prof who's spent his life getting a paycheck from the gov telling us what's wrong with capitalism that he's never participated in.

If shareholders (ie owners) want short term leadership, that's what they get. No one is forcing you to sell your shares every time the stock price moves. Buy and hold.

pmuhar 4 days ago 0 replies      
Even though I know exactly what the article is about, I wish it wasnt written in relation to football/gambling terms as a lot of people are not football fans or avid gamblers, myself included.
scotty79 4 days ago 0 replies      
What is a write-down that is being referred to in this article?
xianshou 4 days ago 2 replies      
I notice Steve Jobs is consistently mentioned in the present tense...did the author write this a while ago and forget to run it by his editor, or did he simply miss all of October?
anantzoid 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wish I could understand this.
GrowMap 4 days ago 0 replies      
What a marvelous discussion because it encourages the inherently self-absorbed to reveal their belief systems which nearly always include the worship of self, money, and power as their only true gods.

I highly recommend they all watch the Canadian Documentary 'The Corporation' which clearly illustrates why corporations ARE like psychopaths - and generally run by people who also meet the definition. The movie is available free online.

Corporations as they currently exist are inherently unethical and unsustainable because by focusing on short term gain and stock values they are destroying the real value they once had.

Either social responsibility and long term goals must be injected back into corporations or they need to be boycotted by everyone with a conscience or ideally have their corporate charters revoked.

What future space combat would really look like spacebattles.com
327 points by dikarel  3 days ago   228 comments top 32
ohyes 3 days ago  replies      
Space combat seems pointless to me.

What exactly would they be fighting over?

Presumably you want to reach space for resources, so asteroids, planets and moons with minerals, stuff like that. You might also want planets/asteroids/moons that are 'good' for colonization (easily terra formed or already life sustaining).

You probably wouldn't see many fights where you are firing at the resource itself. No one with the money to fire at earth, will actually fire at earth, because it is more valuable as an inhabitable planet. If each side can obliterate whatever is being fought over, you basically have an instant MAD scenario.

Similar with moons/asteroids. I'm not going to fire a massive kinetic weapon at a moon or asteroid (and blow it to pieces) if my objective is obtain that object to profit from it. More likely I'll pay people very well to infiltrate and sabotage it, repeatedly. I wouldn't even bother trying to invade.

Why not an invasion force?
Well, you could send an invasion force, but that would be fairly pointless. It is easy to defend an entrenched position that your enemy does not want to shoot at (sabotaging just the defenses might be too obvious, and i think would have too high a possibility of failure). On top of this they can use massive force to repel you, and you cannot (you don't want to obliterate your objective). So an invasion fleet is probably not likely.

A far more likely scenario would be to simply drive your competitor out of business. If they keep getting sabotaged, it becomes unprofitable for them to operate (it becomes a 'cursed' outpost, wages go up, you have to make repairs). Then you can easily take their stuff (or buy it on the cheap when they are going out of business).

This gets you into interesting things, you would end up with extensive background and history checks, genetic tests to prove that you really are who you say you are, mental/psychological screening, mind-reading, brainwashing, complex hacking of the computers that do background checks, genetic 'doping' to make a person pass as someone else, brainwashing.

Your competitors will also likely try to assassinate you if they every figure out that you are the one ordering the destruction of their outposts (it should be easy to figure out, as there will be few entities with resources to profit from this).

jasonkester 3 days ago 2 replies      
I think Banks' The Algabraist got it about right.

In fact, that whole book is crammed full of good "things we currently believe to be true about physics extrapolated as far as theoretically possible" ideas:

  "How do you navigate this thing?"
"Yes, point. It's all about having enough power.
Fiddling around with calculations about DeltaV is really
just a sign that you don't have enough power."

amalcon 3 days ago  replies      
There are three fundamental problems I see here:

1) Why put humans on warships at all? Algorithms are probably better at it. Computers would obviously do the heavy lifting anyway (calculating burn times). An algorithm knows no fear, shows no mercy, and does not flee or surrender unless programmed to do so. The only thing left is target selection, and it doesn't seem worth bringing a human along just for that.

2) If you don't need to put humans on warships, then you quickly realize you don't need a warship at all. Just send a bunch of missiles from wherever the warship would have launched. It's harder to take them all out at once with a "mine" or something. You also get to build more missiles if you don't need to build the warship. Sure, you might attach a collective nuclear rocket "booster" to many missiles to build that initial velocity. There's no need for that rocket to be anything more than an engine temporarily attached to the missiles. It's also not really required to begin with.

3) If you're sending lots of missiles, there's no reason for them to be any larger than the smallest size permitted by design and manufacturing practicalities. For something that amounts to a liquid-fueled rocket, that smallest size is preposterously small. A liquid-fueled rocket can be fit into an object the size of a soda can with current technology. This makes the notion of point defense completely laughable: divert ten thousand missiles out of one hundred thousand, and you've reduced the incoming energy by 10%.

cletus 3 days ago 1 reply      
If you're interested in "realistic" (meaning: no FTL) space battles read Alastair Reynolds' Redemption Ark (and read Revelation Space and Chasm City before that).

It includes a chase between star systems that goes on for years and "close" (ie within a few light-seconds) combat that involves a lot of interpolation of enemy position, movement and actions.

Personally I still have serious doubts about the viability of any kind of prolonged manned presence in space. Its simply too expensive and the distances involved in interstellar travel are so vast that even perfect mass to energy transformation would make the process prohibitive in terms of cost and time.

But it's fun to muse about.

johngalt 3 days ago 1 reply      
The author underestimates guns while overestimating "kinetic missiles". Speed imparts a lot of energy, but it wont transmit all of that energy to the target. You'll have a <missile diameter> hole in the ship.

Your ships are closing at 1000km/s and your cloud of missiles have a 10km/s Delta? A cloud of slugs would be almost the same, and you could put up a lot more of them. Of course a hybrid approach is likely, with shrapnel filled missiles. Better to impact like a shotgun than a needle.

Edit: Also gets it wrong on point defense. If you have enough energy weapons to mount an effective defense you'd make yourself such a large/vulnerable target that you'd be impossible to miss. Once again putting a cloud of slugs in the path of an inbound missile would be easier and more effective. With the speeds/distances involved all of the missiles would be approaching from a very narrow cone, and a small deflection would mean a miss.

quanticle 3 days ago  replies      
This essay isn't all that realistic. I found this one [1] to have a far more realistic view of what space war would look like.

Tl;dr: it's much cheaper and much more effective to lob comets at your enemy's homeworld than it is to fight with ships.

[1] http://www.gwern.net/Colder%20Wars

electromagnetic 3 days ago 1 reply      
The OPs problem here is that in the attempt to change the analogy from naval combat to aerial warfare is that he fails to grasp the medium again.

Space is big, space is empty. FTA this means everything is easily trackable, not only are thrusters visible from across the solar system (except perhaps if you're headed directly for someone, but the thrust required there would be insane), but even every object in the solar system is glowing in infrared energy and thats background objects, not to mention you've strapped nuclear power plants, life support and whatever other heat producing apparatus onto your ship to make it glow even brighter.

The problem with being visible from a distance means it favours those who can hide. Basically, it favours mines. It's simple strap a laser onto a small rock, bury capacitors inside it and have them charged by solar panels. Why? Because the aim is to one-shot your target somewhere important. The mine is disposable, if it one shots the target you might get lucky enough to use it twice. If not you'll have dozens of others waiting. You've got 3 targets: Power supply (nuclear reactor/capacitor bank/whatever), main engine (you cripple their thrust and they're a sitting duck) and control centre (heck, you're likely able to nail all habitable space in one shot as a space ship is more likely to have a vastly expanded cockpit rather than a whole ship of habitable space)

The other problem with space combat is heat. Before you'd even fire a missile or a bullet, you're going to be aiming infrared lasers on your targets from light minutes away. If a ship is habitated then you only need to get it to the point where the life support can't shift enough heat to keep the air temperature below 40C. In uncrewed ships you're talking hot enough to make processors malfunction, which isn't considerably hotter than people can tolerate. These might cope better as cooling can be dedicated to very small areas.

The problem with space is that objects can get very hot, very fast and unless you bring a lot of material to heat sink and dump, you've got problems.

Space will be a war predominated with mines and heat. There are currently about 25,000 objects in space. If only 1% of these are ship-killer mines, would you attack Earth? Well, you'd need more than 250 ships, assuming you're able to kill all the mines in a very short time before they can refire.

Want to attack a mining base in the asteroid field? Find the rock without the massive laser hiding in it! Furthermore, try to wage an effective assault when you're pulverizing everything within a million kilometers of you, and still have the weapons/energy/heat sink capability to fight your target that has a massive rock of shielding and heat sinking, versus your ship.

What about launching asteroids or comets at your target? Well 1 if it's viable to nudge an asteroid from hitting earth, then it's viable to nudge the asteroid your in so that it's missed.

Tloewald 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's an interesting topic for discussion, but the writer makes lots of "realistic" assumptions whil ignoring many others. Assuming this level of "realism" -- I.e. no unforeseen technologies -- we basically don't get enormously high delta-v for most kinds of useful ship, so the very high sustained accelerations (e.g. 4G) aren't going to happen. The discussion of perfect intelligence is good but fails to mention that most plausible spacecraft would be detectable at enormous ranges even with their engines OFF. Clearly almost everything will be automated and networked.

I think the writer starts out with the a priori assumption that there will be spaceships with a crew at one end and an engine at the other and works from there. I suspect you'll just have a swarm of networked drones. Why put so many eggs in one basket?

(We're already seeing this approach being experimented with on nuclear hunter killer subs, where firing at an enemy gives away your position, and giving your position away gets you killed -- the US Navy has been working on submarines tha launch drone firing platforms.)

stcredzero 3 days ago 1 reply      
Against space piracy:

First, it requires that FTL ships be cheap enough that criminals can acquire them. This is another area in which the analogy between the age of sail and the space age breaks down. Sailing ships were skill-intensive but materially cheap. You had to have people with the right skills, but once you did all you needed was wood, rope, and cloth. But spacecraft are going to follow a post-industrial revolution paradigm of being materially expensive as well as skill-intensive. They are likely to require sophisticated, precision-manufactured components and expensive fuels like helium 3, fissionables, or antimatter. Imagine Captain Jack Sparrow commanding a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and you'll get an idea of the kind of difference we're talking about.

If technological trends continue, the degree of technology available to the average citizen and the average criminal will continue to increase. As an individual, I have access to more media distribution than Queen Elizabeth could even imagine. As an individual, I can build a device like a CNC machine or a 3D printer from off the shelf parts.

Skillfully crafted wood, rope, and cloth would seem like miracle items to someone from the stone age. A CNC laser cutter would represent miraculous technological savvy and princely embodied wealth to someone from the 1400's. The equivalent to an Orion ship might well be within the rech of rogue elements of the late 21st century.

That said, space piracy probably won't happen, or at least won't resemble piracy from old movies in the least, but the technology being out of reach won't be the reason why.

dustingetz 3 days ago 0 replies      
my takeaway: there will be no space battles, because whichever side has more money will always have vastly superior weapons, and they will take what they want. violence will happen in key strategic plays, like political assassinations. it's not like today's earth-combat where we're all mostly equal and everyone has time to launch their nukes and we all die. this is all assuming that one side doesn't simply exterminate the other like a termite infestation.
gerggerg 3 days ago 2 replies      
Why would space war ships be manned when we're already flying unmanned vehicles on earth? I think we've touched on a reality of intelligent species coexisting in the universe. Space war would consist of staying hidden and probably nothing else.

Plus, certainly people would be fighting over the planets or the technology (or maybe the amulet of Endor) so simply throwing comets and obliterating things wouldn't make much sense except maybe defensively or to help with a gennocide.

Terrestrial battles to take over usable land would probably continue to be the name of the game. Followed with setting up tonnes of drones and sensors for defense.

51Cards 3 days ago 1 reply      
Still only part way through and though I don't entirely agree with all the conclusions the thought experiment is proving to be fun.

This however is my favourite point so far as I had never really thought about it this way when watching popularized SciFi.

Another thing about motion in space is that changing your ship's orientation does nothing to your speed and vector unless it is accompanied by firing your main engine, because there is no friction. This means that all those space dogfights where one fighter gets behind the other and the other one has to try and shake it like in air combat are very unrealistic. There's no comprehensible reason why the pursued pilot can't just turn his fighter around and blast the bugger.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series has just been ruined for me. Wait, no, it still had Wilma Deering, so all is not lost.

j_baker 3 days ago 2 replies      
I admit to skimming this, but there are a couple of things I see wrong with this.

1. You can see a spaceship from the next solar system for sure. But it would take years for you to see it.

2. I doubt the future of combat will involve humans. I envision giant fleets of spaceships that are too big for humans to control. Thus, I forsee space combat as being driven by complex algorithms.

philwelch 3 days ago 1 reply      
I don't think space combat is even going to happen. Any combatant with the necessary wealth and technology to develop any space-combat capability is going to have significant terrestrial interests and nuclear weapons already, at which point they're already subject to MAD and won't engage in direct combat anyway. At the very minimum, you would need economically and politically independent Moon/Mars colonies, and even they would be so dependent upon Earth trade that they would either not want to start a war or, even if they did, would have Earthbound allies who are significantly more vulnerable than they are, and no less essential to their survival.

The closest we'll ever get is probably the development of ASAT weapons, and even those aren't likely to see much use.

ew 3 days ago 3 replies      
It was definitely an interesting read, however, I feel that fundamentally, for humans to reach the point where space combat is even feasible we will have solved so many more important problems that there won't be a need for fighting in the cosmos. Earth, in general, is at peace. We are largely struggling against terrorism, radical groups, and internal genocide rather than full scale, nation-on-nation wars.

No two democracies have gone to war, ever, and that's an important indicator of our future. Don't get me wrong, we have A TON of human rights, poverty, and equality problems, but things are rapidly improving directly proportional to our technical capabilities.

By the time we can even construct two ships capable of having a realistic fight in space we're more likely to send them exploring rather than duke it out. All current governments even capable of dreaming of getting in to space work together on the problem, sharing resources and knowledge.

To recap, we'll never go to war in space. I also doubt any other intelligent life with the capabilities to do so will need to attack us because they've solved any problems requiring them to do so.

yock 3 days ago 2 replies      
On the subject of privateers, why is the author so insistent on the danger of crashing ships into planets? What does the math look like when space craft like he describes hits the upper reaches of our atmosphere? At those speeds, could a space craft really penetrate far enough to cause terrestrial damage?
brmj 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a thought I've had in the past after encountering a document of this type: Stealth in space is trivial is what you are trying to keep hidden doesn't need to accelerate, support human life or do anything much that generates significant heat, especially if it can stay far away from what it is hiding from. Space is big and hard to hide things in, but it is full of all kinds of smallish debris in the vicinity of a solar system. If you have something of about the right size, orbit, albedo, radar reflectivity and temperature, it ought to be hard to distinguish it from a stray bit of rock or ice too small for anyone to have paid attention to it in the past.

Bearing this in mind, suppose that you built a small, camouflaged satellite which would just sit there at ambient temperature until it received instructions, upon which it would point itself at a given patch of sky, do the finest bits of the aiming using its own passive sensors and then fire a nuclear bomb-pumped x-ray laser at whatever has the misfortune to be there. With something like this, one could probably swat any reasonable craft out of the sky before it had time to respond. You could perhaps also use such things offensively by putting them on orbits that will take them within their effective range of whatever you want them to shoot, though they would stand out a bit more that way.

The only real countermeasure to these I can think of would be to move your spacecraft rapidly back and forth at all times, which is probably infeasible given the amount of reaction mass it would take.

I'm not sure what the implications of all of this are, but I suspect they would be interesting.

Splines 3 days ago 1 reply      
As mentioned in the post, David Weber's Honor Harrington series operates very much like this. I've read a few of them and enjoyed it. Nuances in space combat in his stories tend to be important.


Also, it's worth watching this scene from Mass Effect 2. It's amusing :)


Avshalom 3 days ago 1 reply      
for all your back of the envelope needs.
stcredzero 2 days ago 1 reply      
This whole thing about "stealth will be impossible, because everyone will have dispersed observation platforms," seems very handwavy to me. If detection is so easy across vast distances, then ultimately observation platforms shouldn't be able to survive unless they have stealth. Otherwise, no matter how cheap you can make your observation platform, you can make something else that will destroy it for much less.

I imagine space warfare to be a complex "cold war" of vast distances, with robot missile and detection ships tightly beaming waste heat and information in carefully chosen directions. There will be complex games of deception and counter-deception. It will be a matter of tricking the enemy into critical errors about what you know and don't know about the disposition of their forces.

The situation where everybody is using torchships, and everybody knows where everybody is at all times is similar to the Surface to Air Missile dominated era of aerial warfare of the 70's. There will be tremendous incentives to someone to develop workable stealth of some form.

elmindreda 3 days ago 1 reply      
My favourite space combat scene is the one on the way to Home in Protector.
berntb 3 days ago 0 replies      
Would it be feasible to use a nuclear device as a shotgun?

That is, most of the kinetic energy of the bomb is directed (like discussions for the bombs in the Orion project). The bomb would be optimised to send tungsten bullets off at X km/s.

Then put that as the payload of a missile.

Edit: Fragmentation bombs was discussed in the second page of the article. Hmm... this would need a very tight spread of the heavy pellets, which is probably not possible with a nuclear weapon?

Edit 2: Add a 2nd level of explosive drive to the fragments? They disperse a bit (to make them hard targets) but know where the target will be and when. More like submunitions, I guess.

Edit 3: Rail guns to send (small) kinetic missiles at a high initial speed? These could potentially run in stealth mode for quite some time, before doing final course corrections.

meric 3 days ago 1 reply      
"there's no stealth in space, but there most certainly is stealth in an atmosphere."

It would allow for ambushes, and fake-ambushes.

A lone-ship running from a fleet, carrying a local governor, running past an uninhabited planet, away from a chasing enemy fleet. The lone-ship passes right next to the planet and keeps going. The enemy fleet follows. When the fleet is passing next to the planet, will there be an ambush waiting? Will missiles hidden in the moon orbiting the planet emerge and fire in a cloud of <"thunder" replacement>?

The algorithm deems the chance of an ambush springing from the planet atmosphere as "possible", and the fleet retreats.

doku 2 days ago 0 replies      
Those monitoring platforms if they emit any signals they can be detected and destroyed. During the early days of Iraq war, Iraq had a GPS disruption device that floods the wavelength with their own GPS signals. The first thing US did was to send a missile that use disruptor's own signal to track it down and destroy it. Establishing enemy's fog of war would be first priority.

It is very unlikely battle's will occur in open space if both sides knows each other's capability. The side with slight disadvantage will seek to level the playing field by heading towards asteroid field or unmonitored planets.

Once they arrived at the planet, one strategy for the orbital battle field is to go into an extreme elliptical orbit. The more skilled pilot will be able to calculate the opponent's possible orbit and tries to outwit his opponent. As the pilot approach the perigee of the orbit, the cinematographic tense scene panes to the pilot's face as the ship slows to the escape velocity in the upper atmosphere. Only to escape tattered and draught, and approaching the enemy hidden by the planet horizon.

orenmazor 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think Hamilton nailed it when he talked about kinetic weapons and 'wasps' (aka small bots that can move in ways a human occupied ship can't)
majmun 2 days ago 0 replies      
I imagine, that this space warfare as described in article will only be preceding the real war. once this unmanned missiles are exhausted . if invading force has won. it will try to land on the resource that it is fought for, (planet, moon, asteroid, space station). and once they are landed it will be more classical warfare. (so don't worry there will still be blood). so this is very much like trench warfare.

All this is valid for current technology . and same species war (humans vs humans) , but war between aliens and humans will most likely be war between Von Neumann probes. if you lose you got terraformed or planetXformed. all will be very quick and precalculated. so if you are not prepared in advance for all possible situations. you will probably lose. (or not be able to terraform). pretty much all you can do to protect you r self from alien Von Neumann probes is find it first in space or early stages of development and try to reverse engineer it.

JDulin 3 days ago 0 replies      
A fascinating read and good outline for what space battles require, but not a predication of what future space combat will look like. By limiting the discussion to only technology that we could build today, the exact scenarios in here will never play out.

Large scale space combat will play out only when humans can build these weapons cheaply, and have an incentive to build them at all. That is decades from now. By the time a human society decides to construct the ridiculously expensive space warships and defenses the author talks about, we will have much more advanced technology (that is probably a lot cheaper to.)

learc83 3 days ago 0 replies      
Do any other hacker news readers check out spacebattles.com? I'm glad to see it on the front page, I've been a member there since '01
kevinalexbrown 3 days ago 1 reply      
What if you launch a surprise attack by launching a missile at relativistic speeds?
whyme 2 days ago 0 replies      
hmmm... so the author is using today's understanding of technology to substantiate future outcomes. No can do - I say!
zmj 3 days ago 2 replies      
What's the difference between a spaceship and a missile once you remove the human passengers and pilots?
maeon3 3 days ago 0 replies      
Information and stealth are the biggest assets in space war so maybe that is why we dont see aliens chit chatting all over.  A species wins a war by making the enemy think it has won, while hiding out at a new home base to build up weapons.I see earth as an extension and continuation of that war.  We don't know where our allies are, So that when they discover our position and interrogate us they won't find the rest of the hive.  the winners of war will be the species that hides the best.
3.3 million e-mails between the most powerful men are about to be released. reddit.com
304 points by sathishmanohar  2 days ago   137 comments top 14
DevX101 2 days ago  replies      
900 upvotes and 92 comments on the reddit thread, yet not one comment that is critical of this action.

To release the emails of private individuals and firms without any a priori evidence that they have committed any sort of crime is distasteful to me. It would be unethical if the tables were turned and ordinary citizens were getting their emails released. And its unethical in this case as well, regardless of whether the victims are powerful or not.

I supported the wikileaks 'collateral damage' video leak, because I think its important that our government be transparent and its citizen understand the ramifications of going to war. But this, I can't support it.

akamaka 2 days ago 0 replies      
I subscribed to Stratfor for a while and I thought I'd explain what the site is for anyone who's wondering. (And yes, my info was part of the leak, unfortunately)

It's basically a subscription news site ($100/year) that delivers focused international news. They usually stay away from trendy topics and party politics, which is pretty nice.

Despite their claims of having sources around the world, it's quite obvious that most of their information comes from other newspapers and just Googling around. It's infrequent that they would mention getting information from a source, and when they did, it was never anything more than an aside or a rumor. Certainly nothing of value.

That's why I seriously doubt that anything explosive will come from this email leak. People who have access to sensitive information leak it for two reasons: to spread their message to a wide audience (think Watergate and the Washington Post, or Bradley Manning and Wikileaks), or to swap it with other insider groups, in exchange for other information. Stratfor, with its small audience and utter lack of people on the ground, has neither.

Finally, I probably sound kind of negative about Stratfor, and while I no longer subscribe, they did have some really great, unique articles that you wouldn't find in any newspaper. Here's one example:

russellallen 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well done, Anonymous. You've hacked into an independent online news service, destroyed their business, probably permanently shut them down, stole money from their readers and will now release all their correspondence with their sources. Fuck you. I was a subscriber - I suppose I should now go back to getting all my news from Murdoch.

This is a blow against the freedom of the press and a blow against a free and open society. There is a reason why we should as a society respect journalists and their sources. I hope the perpetrators are prosecuted and jailed.

forensic 2 days ago 0 replies      
Stratfor is not much more than a small news organization. Why would a news company have secret intelligence from the "world's most powerful men"?

They are in the business of publishing everything they know -- that's how they get paid! Their info is not secret. Anyone who emails them is trying to get info RELEASED, not hide it!

They certainly have secret informants, but why do you want to compromise informants who are willing to work with the press? What does that solve?

Dick Cheney does not send emails to Stratfor. He's not stupid!

This whole operation is just another demonstration that Anonymous only targets low hanging fruit. They tried hacking the NYT but their security was too good. They tried hacking the Pentagon but hopelessly failed. So they decided to hack a small (high-quality) news company with 70 employees, that reports exclusively on global affairs.

Now they are going to reveal Stratfor's sources and get people killed, just like they did in the Mexico affair.

This isn't an achievement, it's just showing off. I doubt they are going to find much and the victims of this release are not going to be anyone in powerful positions. Rather it will be informants like Gaddafi's Butler who will have their lives ruined.

For the record, I would support Anonymous if they actually bothered to hack the government and release those files. I would even support them if they hacked known bad guys like Halliburton or known propaganda networks like FOX.

But Anonymous is just picking low-hanging fruit and hyping it up to make themselves look good. The "top secret client list" is nothing more than a marketing strategy by Stratfor. Their client list is: people interested in global politics.

peterwwillis 2 days ago 0 replies      

Why does the title say 3.3 million e-mails? The pastebin claims 2.7 million.

Why did they feel the need to announce this before the wiki had all the data? Barrett just had to get extra PR time?

Why do all these releases sound like they're written by kids in tree forts with bed sheet capes on? Then again all self-righteous announcements kind of read the same way to me.

What's with their wiki? What is this shit?

This whole thing is a big Anonymous waste of fucking time. Please flag this.

rufibarbatus 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've been in the financial consulting business for a while and I'm still sometimes stunned by the kinds of things clients will send me as unencrypted email.

What's the legal status of email? Is it treated as if it were "just like snail mail"?

My point being: wouldn't it actually be better in terms of fostering awareness and better processes if cleartext email bore no presumed privacy whatsoever?

Then, say, a couple standards might get updated, and companies might need to update their internal processes in order to comply.

EDIT: Rearranged some paragraphs. Taking the opportunity to acknowledge the alternative to my "simply stop legally blessing people's treating email as if it were snail mail": to regulate the internet further and try to impose "Intel takedowns" and/or stricter protocols than the ones that outline email today.

officemonkey 2 days ago 1 reply      
Not to be a pedant, but it should be "among", not "between."
asdfurtedfgs 1 day ago 1 reply      
I have higher hopes for hacker news. There is more to this than the morality of publishing emails.


Specifically, of interest (at least to me), as the post claims that Stratfor themselves said this (I haven't actually checked/found external verification, please post URL if you do):
"In the past month Stratfor has drawn attention to a carefully assembled open-source report that asserted that last month's attack on Iraq wasn't intended just to punish Saddam Hussein for blowing off U.N. weapons inspectors. By sorting through thousands of pieces of publicly available data--from Middle East newspapers to Iraqi-dissident news--Stratfor analysts developed a theory that the attacks were actually designed to mask a failed U.S.-backed coup. In two striking, contrarian intelligence briefs released on the Internet on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, Stratfor argued that Saddam's lightning restructuring of the Iraqi military, followed by executions of the army's Third Corps commanders, was evidence that the coup had been suppressed. Predictably, U.S. officials said the report was wrong."

Is everyone here happy with the claim that Anonymous hacked in and copied emails; is it too hard to imagine that it's a false flag op? Neither side can prove themselves, that is true, but there should be more trepidation before making claims or assuming we are being handed the truth.

Also, take a look at http://anonanalytics.com/ if you haven't, the PDF they published recently is a pretty good read. That's a faction of Anon that I have high hopes for.

jonhendry 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah, nobody messes with Doctors Without Borders.

In any case, I expect the emails to be a lot of subscriber list maintenance, back issues, UNSUBSCRIBE messages, maybe PDFs of scans of material that was either public at the time or became public since, that were sent in by contacts or sources.

mike-cardwell 2 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe he's using a pseudonym and Tor? It's easy enough to publish anonymously on the Internet...
hessenwolf 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wonder how many marriages will be in tatters...
thisismyname 1 day ago 0 replies      
When are these getting released?
donky_cong 2 days ago 1 reply      
Where is WikiLeaks when its needed
Ask HN: Best book you read in 2011
301 points by kia  3 days ago   291 comments top 163
davidw 3 days ago 3 replies      
Let's see... in no particular order:

* Thinking, Fast and Slow: http://amzn.to/sXQGSR - probably makes my list because I just finished it, and as he says "what you see is all there is" - we're biased towards things that come to mind easily. Actually, it is a pretty good book even looking through all the others I've read.

* 1491: http://amzn.to/uaR0yf - about the Americas prior to the arrival of "Cristoforo Colombo".

* Built to sell: http://amzn.to/ukmyNP - how to create a business that is something that you can sell because it can exist without you. Not quite so relevant to startups working on a product, but some good concepts nonetheless. A good summary is probably just as good as reading the book, as the core concepts are fairly simple.

* Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World: http://amzn.to/tVvltK the history of the world as seen through languages.

* The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East: http://amzn.to/spQCF7 - a look at how the legal systems of 'the west' and the middle east differed and the results those systems led to.

And of course, if you haven't read this one, I think it's a great read:

Start Small, Stay Small: http://amzn.to/v2DHyx - a great guide full of practical advice on "startups for the rest of us".

What I haven't read:

Lean Startups by Eric Ries. Does it contain much practical advice? I get the impression it's a bit on the 'strategic' side without giving you concrete ideas about how to go about doing things.

The Steve Jobs biography. It looks to be so pervasive and widespread that I'm wondering if I can absorb most of the good parts from other people who have read it. I may get it anyway; we'll see.

FWIW, all links contain a referral code to help fuel my reading habit.

bambax 3 days ago 3 replies      
I'd like to mention two books because I can't decide which is greatest (they're very different):

- The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (often quoted here, and rightly so; it's short and really really great)

- How to Live, or A life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell (a fantastic take on Montaigne's essays by a contemporary scholar with a refreshing take on everything).

Aramgutang 3 days ago 5 replies      
"The 4-Hour Body", by Tim Ferriss.

Because of that book, within 3 months I went from running completely out of breath after 2 minutes of running, to finishing a half-marathon in 2 hours. And during the prior 3 months, I had lost 15 kilos by following the "slow-carb diet" described in the book.

Reading it seemed to flip a switch in my brain: before, I would think of my body as something I had little control over, while after, I saw it as not only something I had full control over, but as something I could hack. I've also followed up on quite a few of the product recommendations in the book (e.g. Inov-8 trainers, Aqua Sphere goggles, etc), and have yet to be disappointed.

That said, the book does come with a heavy dose of Tim's pointless boasting, half-assed chapters (e.g. the polyphasic sleep or the baseball batting ones), and far more conjecture than a book of that sort should have.

diego 3 days ago 0 replies      
* Thinking Fast, Slow by Daniel Kahneman

* Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

* Slack, by Tom DeMarco (also re-read Peopleware). Both of these books are fundamental to anyone developing software within an organization.

* Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh. It's not fantastic but it's helpful if you are trying to build a business.

* Tribal Leadership - recommended by the above. Not great but interesting.

* Rework - short read, worth the time.

* Managing Humans by Rands - very entertaining, useful if you manage people.

Other stuff I read is not worth mentioning in a "best books" list.

davidwparker 3 days ago 1 reply      
For me, I had a few that I really liked:

* The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell. Probably one of the best books I've read, even for people who don't want to make games, it was really good.

* Business Model Generation by Osterwalder and Pigneur. One of the better business books I've read through. Also one of the most creative.

And I finally read:

* The C Programming Language by K&R. 'nuff said.

nyellin 3 days ago 3 replies      
It isn't a proper book, but Eliezer Yudkowsky's Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality was incredible. Don't judge it by the fact that it is a fanfic.
jswinghammer 3 days ago 0 replies      
For me they were:

"An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought" by Murray Rothbard

This was great because of the history lesson packed into a book that's mostly about economics. I didn't realize how libertarian the economic thought of the east was until I read this book. I also appreciated the focus on economics before Adam Smith since I knew only about Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas's contributions prior to reading the book. Rothbard's take-down of Marx was both thorough and satisfying.

"City of God" by Augustine of Hippo

The history lesson here was helpful as was the perspective on how the church should view the state though I should have invested more money in a better version for Kindle. The version I had was filled with grammatical mistakes due to the poor translation to the Kindle format.

Sukotto 3 days ago 2 replies      
lawn 3 days ago 3 replies      
I can't really decide, but here are a few of my favorites.

* Song of Ice and Fire series. I never really liked fantasy but this series is wonderful. The TV-series (Game of Thrones) is okay but a far cry from the books.

* The Pragmatic Programmer. The best programming book I've seen. A must read for programmers I'd say.

* Introduction to Algorithms. Haven't really gone through it but so far it's been great.

lkozma 3 days ago 2 replies      
Best books I read in 2011:

* "Salonica, City of Ghosts" by M.Mazower. Tells the history of Thessaloniki, informative, entertaining, at times nostalgic.

* "The Cauchy-Schwarz Master Class" by J.M.Steele. A guided tour of mathematical inequalities. Very entertaining and readable (for a math book) and extremely well written.

* "Indiscrete Thoughts" by G-C.Rota. Irreverent anecdotes about mathematicians.

* "Black Swan" by N.N.Taleb. Maybe overhyped and at times annoying and pompous, but extremely insightful nevertheless.

AngryParsley 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's not tech-related, but my favorite book this year was Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. The book is a collection of stories from North Korean defectors, combined with some history and background info. It's a quick but satisfying read.
michaelochurch 3 days ago 0 replies      
Best book is hard. Best technical book is either:

Concepts, Techniques, and Models of Computer Programming: http://www.amzn.com/0262220695


Programming in Scala: http://www.amzn.com/0981531644

alinajaf 3 days ago 1 reply      
I had a fantastic reading year, too much to choose from:

"Cosmos" - Carl Sagan

"Hyperion" + "Fall of Hyperion" - Dan Simmons

"Red Mars" - Kim Stanley Robinson

"The Prince" - Niccolo Machiavelli

mcphilip 3 days ago 0 replies      
Prime Obsession : http://amzn.com/0309085497 - a great introduction to the Riemann hypothesis with chapters alternating between the history and impact of the claim, and a dive into the mathematics behind the claim. I have a mediocre background in math (i.e. up through Calculus III in college) but I had no trouble following the chapters explaining the maths behind the hypothesis.

The Undiscovered Self : http://amzn.com/0451217322 - A distillation of much of Carl Jung's lifetime of research in psychology into a short book. The blurb on the book jacket sums it up best: 'In his classic, provocative work, Dr. Carl Jung-one of psychiatry's greatest minds-argues that the future depends on our ability to resist society's mass movements. Only by understanding our unconscious inner nature-"the undiscovered self"-can we gain the self-knowledge that is antithetical to ideological fanaticism.'

wyclif 3 days ago 1 reply      
The Civilization Of The Renaissance In Italy by Jacob Burckhardt:


Pioneering Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt saw the Italian Renaissance as no less than the beginning of the modern world. In this hugely influential work he argues that the Renaissance's creativity, competitiveness, dynasties, great city-states and even its vicious rulers sowed the seeds of a new era. Great book for entrepreneurs, scientists, thinkers, inventors, coders, radicals, and visionaries.

cafard 3 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps best, certainly most depressing (and 20 pages or so to go, but there's time left yet): Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder, http://www.powells.com/s?kw=bloodlands

Very good, long: China Marches West: The Quing Conquest of Central Eurasia by Peter C. Perdue, http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780674057432-0

Odd, interesting, relatively short: Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues by George Berkeley, http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780674057432-0

Techie: Effective Perl Programming by Joseph Hall, http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780321496942-0

jasondrowley 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm going to be on the receiving end of a great deal of vitriol for saying The Bible and the Koran, but sitting down and reading those two books"for the first time in my 21-year existence"was a really interesting experience.

I'm not going to turn this into a personal essay. I realized"after reading both books with a critical eye"that there are a lot of trumped-up claims made about each books' contents that ultimately fail to bear themselves out. But there's a great deal to learn from each, and I say this as a nontheist.

drewblaisdell 3 days ago 0 replies      
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman

It made me feel like I'm not thinking enough about everything around me.

zavulon 3 days ago 0 replies      
E-Myth revisited


I've read it early in the year, and it made me think about my business in a totally new way. Way too many parts me had me nodding sadly "yes, this happens to me too". A must for any business owners

soitgoes 3 days ago 1 reply      
Always on the lookout for a good read. Thanks for posting the question. Through HN I discovered:

"A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy"

Which I enjoyed very much.

metachris 3 days ago 0 replies      
I thoroughly enjoyed Iain M. Banks 'Culture' novels [1] (sci-fi), in particular 'Surface Detail', 'Matter' and 'The Player of Games'.

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

powertower 3 days ago 0 replies      
Someone once said that 100s of thousands of books have been written to try to express the inexpressible, but only 1 has succeeded... The Book of Mirdad.

> Logic is immaturity weaving its nets of gossamer wherewith it aims to catch the behemoth of knowledge. Logic is a crutch for the cripple; but a burden for the swift of foot; and a greater burden for the winged.

Most people will read two pages of this book and hand it back. But that's their failure, not the books'.

If you read the above quote, and don't get its true meaning, don't get this book, it will read as pure nonsense.

The true meaning is that we (the cripple, all of us) use logic (a tool, the crutch) to help us (which is good), but at some point in time (after you've mastered logic) you reach an understand that there is no right or wrong, no point in progress or success, that the universe does not care about any of this, and that logic now holds you back (from enlightenment).

Using logic, you can be a scholar, even a philosopher, but you'll never reach enlightenment.

Now watch the truly crippled downvote this away.

donw 3 days ago 2 replies      
I was so incredibly tempted to put 'Twilight' down and wait for the lynch mob, but then realized that the Reddit color scheme is different.

This year was solely devoted to pleasure reading.

Neal Stephenson's REAMDE was quite good, although I imagine everybody on HN has read it, as Neal is practically a Valley institution.

The original 'Starship Troopers' by Ray Bradbury was also a good read, and easy to miss if you're into more modern science fiction.

retroafroman 3 days ago 0 replies      
Shop Class as Soulcraft - Matthew B. Crawford (2009) Non-fiction

This will resonate well with people who enjoy working with their hands. It also has some pretty entertaining anecdotes from the author's personal life, but it's not overly autobiographical. I personally found this one interesting because I've had some similar experiences in life-working on (and driving) an old Volkswagen as a first car, working in the trades, going to college, getting a desk job, and now, thinking perhaps that a desk job isn't for me, as he realized.

armandososa 3 days ago 0 replies      
This year I read again '100 years of solitude' (in spanish, of course) and I enjoyed every bit of it.
chriseidhof 3 days ago 1 reply      
Status Anxiety - Alain de Botton

It's about how we have come to live in a meritocracy, where your status depends on what you have achieved. Very insightful and readable work by the contemporary philosopher/writer.

codypo 3 days ago 0 replies      
On the fiction side, I absolutely loved Shogun by Clavell. I didn't know what to expect, and I found an epic that was captivating in many ways. I also started Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. I realize I'm about 10 years behind everyone else, and I've found it most deserving of all of the hubbub.

With respect to nonfiction, I enjoyed Schroeder's recent biography of Warren Buffett, entitled the Snowball. It was much less of a hagiography than much of what you read on him. He's a fascinating, complex man.

nonrecursive 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Bridge of Birds" by Barry Hughart was great. It's a hilarious "detective" novel set in a fictional ancient China. One of the two main characters is an 80 year old sage with a drinking problem and the ability to con almost anybody. The pace never slows and it always has you wondering what'll happen next.

Technically, I'd say "Land of Lisp" has been the most fun and the most rewarding.

abhaga 3 days ago 2 replies      
"To Kill a Mocking Bird", "Logicomix" in English.

A play called "Andha Yug" (The Age of Darkness) in Hindi. English translation is also available for those interested. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0198065221/

erikpukinskis 3 days ago 0 replies      
"The Dispossessed" by Ursula K. Le Guin. It really challenged many of my beliefs about the underpinnings of society. Quite relevant in the year of Occupy Wall Street as well. Feminist Science Fiction for the win.
pinaceae 3 days ago 0 replies      
Politics: The Gamble by Thomas E. Ricks

Economics: How Markets Fail by John Cassidy

Fiction: read through the works of Jo Nesbo, Dennis Lehane, Don Winslow and Stieg Larrsson - all of them recommendable

sathishmanohar 3 days ago 0 replies      
I started listening to audio books very recently, so some of these books might be old to you.

* Predictably Irrational - How Humans behave and why.

* 4 hour work week - About how to earn money to live not live to earn money

* Made to stick - How to convey ideas in a way others will remember

* Lean Startup - How to build products using continuous innovation

* Guerrilla Marketing - Basic Marketing principles in 30 days

* Rework - Myth Buster for Internet/Tech companies

* Outsider Edge - Condensed History and reasoning for success of self-made billionaires

* Linus Torvalds - Just for Fun - About Linus Torvalds

Ebooks ( haven't finished reading yet, but they are great so far )

* Getting thing Done - Management principle for knowledge workers by David Allen

* Agile Development - Building Rails apps using agile methodology

I can't believe I've finished 8 books in 2011, long live audio books.

pplante 3 days ago 1 reply      
Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

A scary tale about the collapse of the various markets across the globe. I constantly had to keep checking to see if the book was from the fiction section. The stories are so far out there it seemed unreal.

wr1472 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've read a lot of books this year, some have already been mentioned (eg. Gawande, Gombrich). I've been devouring the Game of Thrones books since summer, and as no one has mentioned it yet, I'll point it out.
pauljonas 3 days ago 0 replies      
* The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States by Gordon Wood " an outstanding collection of essays on the creation of America. They range in chronology from the 1960s until the present time and explore themes like Roman (founders all big devotees and disciples of Cato, Cicero, etc.… able to recite lines and relished in theater enactments) influence on the founders, the "radicalism" of Paine and Jefferson, the American brew of Enlightenment, monarchy v. democracy (democracy simply had no historical precedent, except for the brief, crude and flawed Athenian model thousands of years earlier), democracy v. republic, etc.…

* Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig

* Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives by David Wilson Sloan " …jargon is toned down for a universal audience, and appeal is made that evolution should be broadly applied, and not just confined to the biology domain. 36 chapters, after a gentle introduction, tilt from specific path carving experiments to general queries on religion, morals, human nature.

* Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber " Anthropologist shreds sacred classical "economics" cows on markets, debt, capitalism, etc.… …hard not to see things after taking in this fantastic research.

* Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos " Christian anarchism has been around for at least as long as “secular” anarchism. The existing literature cites Leo Tolstoy as its most famous (sometimes even as the only) proponent, but there are many others, such as Jacques Ellul, Vernard Eller, Dave Andrews or the people associated with the Catholic Worker movement. Both individually and collectively, these Christian anarchists offer a compelling critique of the state, the church and the economy based on numerous passages from the New Testament. Yet despite the relevance and growth of this literature, no generic study bringing together these different thinkers or reflecting on their contribution has been published to date, because such work involves meticulous searching, compiling and structuring of countless different texts and sources, not all of which are easily accessed. This book, however, provides precisely such a study, and thereby presents Christian anarchism to both the wider public and the wider academic community.

* To Know as We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey by Parker Palmer " …an eloquent inquiry into "obedience of truth", what it means to educate and to be educated, that to love is "to know" and "to know" is to love. That it is about asking questions and inciting an inner fire, not about authoritarian objectivism or subjective "everyone has their own truth" relativism.

tlammens 3 days ago 1 reply      
Born to run by Christopher McDougall

Read it in the beginning of this year when I was starting to run, very inspiring. And look, I'm still running!

pencilcode 3 days ago 1 reply      
Code by Charles Petzold. It's made me think about computers in another light. AND to be amazed at how simple things (input/output, on/off) can add up to really big and complex systems.
juanre 3 days ago 2 replies      
Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow". It's a great account of things we know about how the mind works, with amazing insights.
bherms 3 days ago 1 reply      
Not tech related, but I loved Devil in the White City by Larson and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pirsig.

Also, I reread Rework about 3 times this year. Always a good and quick read.

yock 3 days ago 1 reply      
Re-read a classic fiction, Treasure Island by Stephenson.

Of the non-fiction I read, and completed, this year, Endurance: Shackelton's Incredible Voyage by Lansing.

Cardinal 3 days ago 0 replies      
It has to be Java Concurrency in Practice. Even though it has Java in its name I think every programmer should read this.

Other books I absolutely loved are Effective Java 2 and Programming Interviews Exposed. I'm waiting for Amazon to ship me the second edition of the latter.

Hackers and Painters is a classic I default to whenever I'm looking for inspiration.

iamandrus 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It's a really good book for starting entrepreneurs.
alrex021 3 days ago 0 replies      
Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

Peter Singer introduced and popularized the term "speciesism" in the book that is often referred to as the bible of the animal rights movement.

mindcrime 3 days ago 1 reply      
Hmm... there have been a few, and I'd have to look through my "read books stack" to remind myself exactly which ones fell into 2011 and not prior years... but offhand, I'd mention:


Mona Lisa Overdrive - William Gibson

Zero History - William Gibson

11/22/63 - Stephen King

The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss


Ghost in the Wires - Kevin Mitnick

The Elegant Universe - Brian Greene

The Trouble With Physics - Lee Smolin

Not Even Wrong - Peter Woit

The Lean Startup - Eric Ries

Blue Ocean Strategy - W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Built To Last - Jim Collins

Business Model Generation - Alexander Osterwalder

Started, but unfinished, may yet make the list:

Simulacra and Simulation - Jean Baudrillard

Reamde - Neal Stephenson

The Fabric of the Cosmos - Brian Greene

Nick_C 1 day ago 0 replies      
Anathem - Neal Stephenson. Recommended here last year, it blew my mind in a similar way to Name of the Rose but with a sci-fi theme.

Dr Zhivago - Boris Pasternak. If you have not read any of the Russians, give this a go. Initially it is not easy, like all Russian literature, but the wonderfully poetic images and lyricism keep drawing you back. Easily my favourite for the year.

Confusion 3 days ago 0 replies      
Professionally, The Art of Project Management did the most for me.

Privately, general-fiction-wise, The Wind-up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami did the most for me.

Privately, SF-wise, three books by Kurt Vonnegut: Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-five and The Sirens of Titan

dudurocha 3 days ago 0 replies      
Nice thread! My favorite books this year were:

The power of Less: http://amzn.to/t4umWo . It discuss how you can simplify your life. It give many practical advices, and is good for all kinds of people. The message in the book is " be aware and simplify".

Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky. By Sarah Lacy, former writer fo techcrunch. http://amzn.to/vMJwhR. It show how the entrepreneurship and startups are going around the world. As a brazilian reader, I find the picture of brazil very accurate, so the rest of the world must be accurate too. It's a good resource for anyone wanting to understand and know the startup community in countries like India, China, Brazil, Indonesia and others.

If you want to write, by brenda Ueland ,http://amzn.to/w5gQyz: It's a nice book about the craftsmanship of writing. It's a bit 'philosophic' book, but also give a little practical advice. It's and old book, don't be amazed when it refer to the typewriter. And it's very cheap, only 3,99.

And to finish, time warrior, by steve chandler. http://amzn.to/vNBawK If you want a book to beat procrastination, and other modern plagues, this is the book. very practical advice, the book has more then 100 tips. Every should read it.

Thats my favorite books of this year, apart of the ones everyone has talked about, like Steve Jobs bio, Lean Startup, and others startup world books.

ElliotH 3 days ago 0 replies      
It took me 2010 as well as 2011, but I really enjoyed Godel, Escher Bach now I've finally got through it. It's hard going, but I can't think of a book that chnaged what I think about the world as much as that book has.
veidr 3 days ago 0 replies      
My choice is Spin, a novel by Robert Charles Wilson (2005).

This is IMO the very best kind of sci-fi: a plausible, scientifically grounded story about interesting people experiencing some fascinating shit.

Wilson is a great writer, too; I hadn't heard of him previously, but have since read a bunch of his works.

(As an aside, there has never been a year in my life where the best book of the year for me was a nonfiction title. Am I weird?)


motxilo 3 days ago 1 reply      
"A little history of the world" by E.H. Gombrich. I've never been too enthusiastic about History in general, but I couldn't put this book down until finished.
CoffeeDregs 3 days ago 0 replies      
Best book every year since I read it every year: The Tree of Knowledge. Given how grounded I am in computers, it's important to know what it is to be human. The book starts with simple micro biology and ends by explaining the biological foundation of love. it's the only book I've read that literally changed the way I see the works (and if you read the book you'll know that I mean "literally" in the most literal sense).

It's a difficult book, but some excellent reading guides exist do I highly recommend giving it a read.

babebridou 3 days ago 0 replies      
I often got back to Playing to Win by David Sirlin - http://www.sirlin.net/ptw/

Though it's certainly aimed at competitive gaming, I also use it at times as an inspiration for my business. It helps whenever I need to take a second look and play the devil's advocate about my own decisions. Reading it also earned me an extremely effective weapon against procrastination.

joshz 3 days ago 0 replies      
The one I've enjoyed the most, was probably "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" but additionally read a couple that kept being mentioned on here:

* A Random Walk Down Wall Street

* Predictably Irrational

* Black Swan

* Blink

and enjoyed those too. I've also read "How To Make Friends and Influence People" and started "Lords of Finance" but never finished.

meow 3 days ago 1 reply      
I read "Wheel of time" series by Robert Jordan this year. The books in this series are just so addictive.. wasn't able to stop till I read all thirteen books :)
jvandenbroeck 3 days ago 1 reply      
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, old but definitely worth the read. Changes the way you look at things.
beagle3 3 days ago 1 reply      
"Left in the dark" - a theory about how our mind works. It is either crackpot or one of the most amazing discoveries of the last few decades. Hard to tell which, but it is a very interesting read regardless.


lvillani 3 days ago 0 replies      
- "Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship" by Robert C. Martin

- "Physics for Future Presidents" by Richard Muller

Not really a book but I found the "MIT Guide to Lock Picking" an interesting read.

bumbledraven 3 days ago 0 replies      
Quite possibly the best book I ever read in my life came out in 2011: The Beginning of Infinity by quantum physicist David Deutsch. http://amzn.to/mSTNCn

It talks about the kinds of ideas that lead to progress in human societies and those that lead to stagnation. I believe Deutsch is, in this book, the first philosopher to actually explain why science works as well as it does. I wish I could do justice to this book in a short review, but instead I can only urge everyone reading this to give it a shot. Read the first chapter, and you'll know you have to read the rest.

kd5bjo 3 days ago 0 replies      
* The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

* Dune, by Frank Herbert

rhizome31 3 days ago 1 reply      
Tech: Code by Charles Petzold

Novel: Invisible by Paul Auster

Essay: Après la démocratie (French) by Emmanuel Todd

rahulrg 3 days ago 1 reply      
I enjoyed James Gleick's The Information. Wonderful book from one of the best science writers around.
bmcleod 3 days ago 1 reply      
Poor Economics - Changed my views on some areas of how to combat poverty and poor education. As well as relating a huge amount a detail regarding the unexpected ways people with different backgrounds behave.
libraryatnight 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick -- Fascinating to have some insight into Dick's thinking and attempts to understand his experiences. The book isn't really something to just sit down and read cover to cover, but more to explore and move around in, but if you love Philip K. Dick it's awesome.
gwern 3 days ago 0 replies      
Pinker's _Better Angels_. Mind-blowingly detailed and thorough.
dejv 3 days ago 1 reply      
Speaking of business books: Growing a business (old but still valid and great) and Setting the Table.

Speaking of fiction I want to recommend Neil Gainman The Graveyard Book

bogdand 3 days ago 2 replies      
Victor Hugo ~ Les Misérables
Maro 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Art of Readable Code

Best book on software engineering in a good while.

chad_oliver 3 days ago 1 reply      
I just finished reading "The Origin of Political Order", which was recommended by Venkatesh Rao. It's refreshing to read an overview of world history that doesn't focus on kings and kingdoms, but rather on the underlying causes. This book covers some dense material, but remains readable at all times. Highly recommended.
nodemaker 3 days ago 0 replies      
The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind - Julian Jaynes

Very Powerful Read!

yannickt 3 days ago 0 replies      
Solar Trillions, by Tony Seba. The book makes a strong case for seven market opportunities for solar energy. A great read that got me interested in clean tech.
maeon3 3 days ago 0 replies      
Audio book for Tim Sanders, the Likeability Factor.


I listened to this twice, and applied everything he said to do in my life. I went from a lonely programmer to an extrovert in 18 months. He put Extroversion into words a programmer can understand, as lists of instructions. Now i have so many friends I have to prioritize time with them.

train_robber 3 days ago 0 replies      
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
bulte-rs 3 days ago 0 replies      
Best read for me is actually a non-tech book; the Dutch "Hoe hoort het eigenlijk" (roughly translated as: "how it should be done") which is considered "the Dutch Etiquette Bible". There is not enough courtesy and etiquette in this world.

That, and I really liked SICP (finally got off the shelf).

sandal 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Penguin and the Leviathan. It is an interesting mix of science and anecdotal evidence which hints that most people, most of the time, would actually benefit more from cooperative behavior than they would from competitive behavior.


szcukg 3 days ago 2 replies      
A song of Ice and Fire series
adnam 3 days ago 0 replies      
I enjoyed "Debt: The First 5,000 Years" by David Graeber, an anthropoligical look at the history of money, morality and the nature of debt.
jlarocco 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm guessing most HN readers won't be too interested in this list, but here goes:

Instant Karma: The Heart & Soul of a Ski Bum

Wild Snow: 54 Classic Ski and Snowboard Descents of North America

Roof of the Rockies: A History of Colorado Mountaineering

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

Computational Geometry: Algorithms and Applications

jberryman 3 days ago 0 replies      
Everything and More - David Foster Wallace

It's a book on the history of math, focused around the story of math's struggle to deal with infinity. There's really nothing like it. (okay, technically I still haven't finished it, but it's still 2011)

zachwill 3 days ago 0 replies      
I thought Designers Don't Read was great (don't let the name fool you). It's basically an art director's take on advertising and design with bits of history and insights thrown in: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1581156650
serverdude 3 days ago 0 replies      
"The Moral Landscape" (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/143917122X/) by Sam Harris

The book discusses how science can be used to deal with questions on morality.

miles_matthias 3 days ago 0 replies      
Rework. Also, "The Long Run" by Matt Long. Mr. Long wrote a book about his experience as a NYC firefighter who, a few days after qualifying for the Boston marathon, got run over by a bus while riding his bike and literally got split in half up to his chest. Almost two years later, he ran the New York City marathon and went on to do the ironman. Insanely great story and the book is a good read. His story was inspiring to never give up.
anatoly 3 days ago 1 reply      

  * Anne Tyler, Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant
* Gene Wolfe, Peace
* Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

mashmac2 3 days ago 0 replies      
Man's Search For Meaning by Victor Frankel.

It was recommended by several friends, and I finally got around to reading it. Helped, along with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to work through my personal thought process. Highly recommended.

hello_moto 3 days ago 0 replies      
Personally for me The Bible is and has always been. I'm not a religious fanatics but The Bible has taught me how to live life no matter how hard life is so that's good enough for me.

Lately I've been reading old books as well from Og Mandino. Ditto with technical books: books from the 70's, 80's, 90's are quite good. The rest are... "OK".

tyohn 3 days ago 0 replies      
What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly - I highly recommend reading this book. The title describes what the book is about ~ as a hacker it might just make you rethink everything you do.
yurylifshits 3 days ago 0 replies      
Onward by Howard Schultz

Howard has returned to CEO post at Starbucks just before the crisis of 2008. A great story about turnaround effort.

jasondrowley 3 days ago 0 replies      
Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers
It's about a "resident humanist" at a research institution who makes an improbable bet with a computer scientist/AI researcher. For people in tech, it's a fantastic read.
emil0r 11 hours ago 0 replies      
The Exodus Case
wqfeng 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is it necessary to be books published in 2011? If not, Calculus Made Easy is the best book I read in 2011.
freshfey 3 days ago 1 reply      
"Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger" by Peter Bevelin. Excellent read.
mickeyben 3 days ago 0 replies      
Night train to lisbon - Pascal Mercier

It's about a professor who quits his job and his country to explore the life of an author he just discovered.

dimmuborgir 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography" by Julian Young.
MengYuanLong 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am loving this thread. There are so many wonderful suggestions.

My personal additions (though I know they are not obscure):

Down and Out in Disneyland - Cory Doctorow (This was gifted by a friend and really inspired me to make some significant changes in my life. That includes the decision to learn to code and escape the user end of the spectrum.)

Procrastination- Jane B. Burka , Lenora M. Yuen (This book has fundamentally altered my introspective conclusions. That is to say, I am now more aware of times when I am procrastinating and the impact it has on my life.)

This year was a great year for reading and I hope to read even more next year.

nickhould 3 days ago 0 replies      
1. Founders At Work. Biographical - "Entrepreneurship stories at it's best"
2. Rework. Business-Book - "Think your business different"
3. Into Thin Air. Biographical . "An Everest Expedition Turn Wrong"
4. I Was Blind But Now I see. Biographical. "Leave Your Job, Start Your Business. Make Your Money Work For You, Don't Work For Your Money"
5. Anything You Want. Biographical. "Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what's not working. "
alisey 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Picturing the Uncertain World" by Howard Wainer.

- World record improves linearly for over 50 years, for how long will the trend continue?

- Is it OK not to rescore erroneously high SAT scores?

- Why among examinees who get the same SAT score White examinees do better on easy items, whereas Black examinees do better on hard items?

- How comes that areas with the lowest and the highest kidney cancer death rate are rural areas?

drumdance 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you're a self-consciously hip music snob like me, two works of fiction you will enjoy are:

Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

rasmus4200 3 days ago 0 replies      
The War of Art

Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles.

Many books mentioned here are good, this is the only I haven't seen referenced. But this one book really helped me deal with resistance and get stuff done. Seth Godin is a big fan and references it a lot in his material.

Steven Pressfield also wrote 'The Legend of Bagger Vance' and Gates of Fire (Spartan 300 kind of book but way deeper).

aba_sababa 3 days ago 0 replies      
Consider the Lobster - essays by DFW

Startup Nation - discourse on startups in Israel

Tempo - narrative strategy by Venkatesh Rao - REALLY good read, distilled and full of gold

ntkachov 3 days ago 0 replies      
Design for Hackers by David Kadavy. Besides being informative it was really really interesting to read. Really opened my eyes to a lot of the things designers do deliberately and not just because "its pretty".
fduran 3 days ago 0 replies      
"The snowball: Warren Buffett and the business of life"

"The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin"

"The toilet paper entrepreneur"

"The lean startup"

"Anything you want"

svec 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Accelerando" by Charles Stross. I think this was the third time I read it. There will be a 4th, and a 5th, ...

It's a very interesting idea of how "The Singularity" might look.

rimantas 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Lila" (http://www.amazon.com/Lila-Inquiry-Morals-Robert-Pirsig/dp/0... ) gave me most food for thought this year.
xn--ls8h 3 days ago 1 reply      
"Go the F--k to Sleep", by Adam Mansbach. It's a great book that's helped me much in my personal life. I used to have trouble falling asleep at night, often finding myself worrying about issues that had come up during the day, and being unable to put work away when I needed to sleep. Since reading it, I've found that I can put away these fears and problems far better than I could before. I highly recommend it to anyone who has trouble sleeping from time to time.
schnaars 3 days ago 0 replies      
In no order:
- Word Catcher - http://amzn.to/s1Ykku
- The Postmortal - http://amzn.to/rpaQyL
- Moonwalking with Einstein - http://amzn.to/tDkRkY
- The Post American World - http://amzn.to/4ex38B
davee 3 days ago 0 replies      
Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
momo-reina 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
Orion series by Ben Bova
Stranger in a Stange Land, Farnham's Freehold by Robert Heinlein
tmeasday 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hey guys, just made a little Bindle of some of the choices you've made, for those of you who like a more visual perspective: http://bindle.me/bindles/298.

My contribution:

"Devices and Desires" by KJ Parker: An interesting fantasy book that is centered around an engineer---his unique take on complex human situations might appeal to the more analytical amongst us.

vm 3 days ago 2 replies      
* Steve Jobs biography. I couldn't put it down and I'm shocked there aren't more fans on HN

For those who liked Malkiel's Random Walk, read:

* Ben Graham's Intelligent Investor

* Philip Fisher's Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits
They counter Malkiel's thesis (yup, he's wrong) and Warren Buffet credits both men for teaching him how to invest. True classics.

christiangenco 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Incognito - The Secret Lives of the Brain" (http://amzn.com/0307377334) blew me away. Very interesting read on the current understanding of how the brain/consciousness work and the implications of these models on free will, etc.

I've now given it as a present no less than 4 times and counting.

teja1990 3 days ago 1 reply      
Mine are :

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, I just love this book!

Greatest Trade Ever by Gregory Zuckerman.

And I read manga , so include One Piece as well :D

mcdowall 3 days ago 0 replies      
The 33 by Jonathan Franklin, but aside from that, most of the recommendations by Derek Sivers.
pilap82 3 days ago 0 replies      
Open Services Innovation from Henry Chesbrough
cpt1138 3 days ago 0 replies      
Lean Startup, got it for X-MAS.
zooz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Incognito: The Secret Lives of The Brain - David Eagleman.

A much recommended read.


navan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Wheelan, Charles

Economics explained in the most intuitive way.

On a related note I started an account at goodreads.com at the start of this year. It is great for keeping track of what you read and to find books for future reading.

fcardinaux 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Enchantment", by Guy Kawasaki

"Rework", by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

"Web Design for Developers", by Brian P. Hogan

"Scalability Rules", by Martin L. Abbott and Michael T. Fisher

david927 3 days ago 0 replies      
Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"
obtu 3 days ago 0 replies      
Declare, by Tim Powers. Very well-written and convincing, considering the subject matter (a spy thriller with elements of horror).
g3orge 3 days ago 0 replies      
Linux in a nutshell.
Best book for Linux noobs and pros.
bolu 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Emperor of All Maladies - spectacular journey into the history of the disease. Filled with great human stories of discovery, and also taught me a ton about the currently understood biology of cancer.
makatiguy 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd have to recommend "Holy War" by Nigel Cliff.

Great read about how one little tiny country (Portugal)in Europe ended being the first colonial power through their dominance of the seas, spice trade and their desire to see Islam vanquished.

naithemilkman 3 days ago 1 reply      
a bit late to the party but ender's game for fiction, gantz for manga, founders at work for non fiction
kgosser 3 days ago 0 replies      
"The Information" by James Gleick
vilts 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength" by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.

Really good book about willpower, mental fatigue, dieting, working etc. Lots of nice examples and tips to improve different aspects of your life.

markkat 2 days ago 0 replies      
Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August.
ptabatt 3 days ago 0 replies      
"The God Delusion" - Dawkins

Very blunt and mean. But also convincing...

mikecsh 3 days ago 0 replies      
On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins
pardner 3 days ago 0 replies      
Game Theory At work by James Miller is a great non-mathematical description of key game theory and how to apply it in real life. I consider it to be a must-read for any entrepreneur.
rcamera 3 days ago 0 replies      
Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. Highly recommended for anyone who has discipline problems, it is really inspiring, one of the top 3 books I've read. It tells the history of the real samurai named Miyamoto Musashi.
daniel_iversen 3 days ago 0 replies      
In no particular order, the best ones I read this year on top of my mind are:
- enchantment by guy kawasaki
- rework by 37signals
- the prince (machiavelli?)
- the 4 hour work week (ferris?)
SanjeevSharma 3 days ago 0 replies      
I posted my list in this recent blog post: http://dundat.com/blog/2011/11/30/a-wannabe-founder/
alexanderberman 3 days ago 0 replies      
In no particular order:

* Boomerang by Michael Lewis

* Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

* The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

* The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

ljy 3 days ago 0 replies      
- The 4 Hours Work Week (Tim Ferriss)
- The Lean Startup (Eric Ries)
Santas 3 days ago 1 reply      
The Art of War - Sun Tzu
aestetix_ 3 days ago 0 replies      
Tied between "The Once and Future King" by T. H. White and "The Baroque Cycle" (yes, all three volumes) by Neal Stephenson.
sdoering 3 days ago 1 reply      
Two (fiction) Books, I really read in one piece:

Deamon & Freedom from Daniel Suarez

Non Fiction:

Black Swan - N.N. Taleb
Anything you want - Derek Sivers

ncarroll 3 days ago 0 replies      
Fiction: The Poisionwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Non-Fiction: Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up, by Patricia Ryan Madison.

Edited for formatting

capkutay 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd say it's a tie between 2 books by Jonathan Safran Foer:

"Everything is Illuminated" and "Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close".

samaraga 1 day ago 0 replies      
Godel,Escher,Bach by Douglas Hofstadter.
pknerd 3 days ago 0 replies      
Eat That Frog by Brain Tracy. An excellent read to get rid of procrastination.
laironald 3 days ago 0 replies      
"No Higher Honor" - Condoleeza Rice. An amazingly accomplished person that is humble enough to analyze her own thinking process.
pradheap 2 days ago 0 replies      
'The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer' by Siddhartha Mukherjee
mosjeff 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.

Completely changed the way I think about success and my future.

bleakgadfly 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftmanship" by Uncle Bob.
arank 3 days ago 0 replies      
Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (1986) from Carl Sagan.
studiomohawk 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hardboiled Web Design by Andy Clarke.
linuxrulz 3 days ago 1 reply      
API Design for C++ - Martin Reddy
brettweaverio 3 days ago 0 replies      
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

The Lean Startup - Eric Reis

Rework - 37signals

autumn_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised I'm not seeing more 1Q84 here.
martinvanaken 3 days ago 0 replies      
For work : Rework, from 37signals. Fresh, opinionated and funny.

For leisure : A Dance with Dragons, from Georges R.R. Martin "Game of Thrones" series (the HBO version is superb, but do not miss the books either).

vishaldpatel 2 days ago 0 replies      
Chapterhouse Dune.
james-fend 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Fast Lane by MJ Demarco

You won't regret it.

alanav 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Physics of the Impossible" by Michio Kaku
amrnt 3 days ago 0 replies      
forkrulassail 3 days ago 0 replies      
Neuropath - R Scott Bakker.
mtimur 3 days ago 0 replies      
Tangled Web by Michal Zalewski.
dkberktas 3 days ago 0 replies      
"How We Decide" from John Lehrer
djb10401 3 days ago 0 replies      
I read a lot this year. Catch-22 was hilarious, insightful, and my personal favorite.
deStab 2 days ago 0 replies      
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
kurtvarner 3 days ago 0 replies      
Second the Lean Startup
largepuma 3 days ago 0 replies      
My choice is "Hackers and Painters" in Chinese edition, though it is first pressed in 2004.
omarchowdhury 3 days ago 0 replies      
Rene Guenon's Man and His Becoming according to the Vedanta

Bhagavad Gita - Recension by William Quan Judge

Ron Paul speaks against SOPA torrentfreak.com
277 points by pawn  16 hours ago   278 comments top 17
jaysonelliot 14 hours ago  replies      
I could come up with a list of things that I don't like about Ron Paul personally, and a few things that worry me politically.

But none of that really matters.

He's the only candidate that I feel I could actually trust to stick by his campaign rhetoric, and the only one I would trust to actually defend the constitution.

Ironic, given that we have a constitutional scholar in the White House and a historian running for the GOP nomination.

Ron Paul is wrong on some things I care about, but so is Obama, and certainly so is Newt or Romney. I think I'll vote for the lesser of a dozen evils, and go with Paul.

wycats 11 hours ago 3 replies      
It's not surprising that Ron Paul would be against SOPA.

That said, libertarians like Paul would have been against funding the projects that led to the Internet, and are today against funding similar government projects that might lead to future innovations.

In many cases, innovations are bootstrapped by government funding or research, and then handed off to an appropriate role by the free market. Libertarians are usually against regulating the private market once the handoff has occurred (for good in many cases, and definitely in this case), but they are usually against the initial government bootstrapping.

It's easy to imagine attacking the initial ARPA work on privacy, anti-military, or anti-elitism grounds, and I could easily imagine it losing its funding today, decried as a boondoggle that was useless for regular Americans, who of course would never have access to a computer, with taxpayers footing the bill.

MattBearman 13 hours ago 2 replies      
The actual article is titled "Presidential Candidate Ron Paul Slams SOPA", which I think is a better title, especially for us non-US residents.

As while I'm hugely interested in the whole SOPA story, being from the UK, I had no idea who Ron Paul was, let alone that he was a presidential candidate.

Now that I know who he is, his stance against SOPA is much more interesting. Just a thought.

jliechti1 12 hours ago 1 reply      
The censorship of Ron Paul really is pretty incredible. The Daily Show clip was already mentioned in this thread - here's another example I noticed the other day in the Chicago Tribune:

I just pulled out three random stories:

Notice how every candidate name mentioned in the article (for the first time) is also a hyperlink, except Ron Paul.

dkhenry 15 hours ago  replies      
What is great about Ron Paul's stance is that I am confident based on his continual display of principled politics that if elected he would stand by this. Who cares what the other candidates are tickling our ears with. Paul is the only one who I feel would actually stand up to the Movie Industry.
rosariom 14 hours ago 2 replies      
Ron Paul message resonates with people because he is talking about something none of the other candidates are talking about: returning freedoms and sanity to America. It would be hard to rollback all the damage done by the likes of Obama and his predecessors but I think it can be achieved gradually and with some culture changes in America. This is a great country and I hope to see its freedoms preserved and reinstated otherwise we will head down the road to god knows what and never come back. Freedom begets greatness and innovation.

The media needs to stop its blackout of Paul and the smear campaign and cover the issues he is highlighting which are of the utmost importance.

naz 15 hours ago  replies      
This is unsurprising. Ron Paul is generally against new legislation.
narag 15 hours ago 6 replies      
Ron Paul currently leads the majority of Iowa polls.

IIRC Mr. Paul was a minoritary candidate in last elections. Please, people from the USA, Could you tell what has changed? Or is Iowa special?

pawn 16 hours ago 0 replies      
This morning I woke up with an idea to find out what the different presidential hopefuls have said about SOPA. Sadly, this one was the only one I could find...the only one I thought I could guess his stance on.
TallGuyShort 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Good on Ron Paul! I've expressed this sentiment on here before, but it still bothers me that so much of what I read in opposition to SOPA is linked to actual piracy. Sure, I think that DRM is ridiculous and counter-productive, but piracy only serves to legitimize the claims of SOPA supporters, and undermine the claims of it's opponents that it would do no good. Please, if you oppose SOPA, stop using rhetoric from sites that appear to condone piracy.
stcredzero 9 hours ago 0 replies      
TLDR for your non net-savvy friends and relatives:

SOPA = takedown of websites without due process = censorship for those (corporations) who can afford big legal teams

Restriction of where you can link to = restricting dissemination of information = censorship for commercial interest over free speech.

Simple as that.

brentashley 14 hours ago 1 reply      
I have to say it's jarring to hear Ron Paul referring to "6000 years of human history" as though that is the totality of human history. While I still support him fully because everything he has to say wrt government and foreign policy is sound and principled, it's really difficult for me to reconcile this one thing.
webista 9 hours ago 0 replies      
It should have been more convincing for me if he instead made this statement before the goDaddy boycott, and net giants public opposition against SOPA, not a few days before the election circus.

Politics is still politics, and this kind of rhetorical display and timing have long been around for centuries as politicians' device that pander to the media to get the favor from the people. I do not question his principles and previous acts, it's the timing that's fishy.

dubfan 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Good work getting a political article up to the front page.
efader 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Political pandering; I would not trust this.
j2labs 14 hours ago 2 replies      
The economist has a great write-up of Ron Paul: http://www.economist.com/node/21542199/
jsavimbi 13 hours ago 0 replies      
The thing I like most about Ron Paul is that he's unelectable as a national candidate, he knows it, yet has fun on Reddit and the national stage every four years.

The thing I like the least about Ron Paul is that some of his ideas are easily comprehended and adopted by people who I would otherwise consider intelligent and educated. It breaks my heart that for all intents and purposes, they are insane.

edit: had an extra "and" in there.

Avenger controller company pisses off gaming community with bad customer support penny-arcade.com
267 points by jamesmoss  3 days ago   90 comments top 22
manuscreationis 3 days ago 10 replies      
At the risk of taking a potentially unpopular opinion on the subject, I don't think either one of those people come out looking too good.

I'm all for doing the whole "CC your formal complaint letter to several outlets in hopes that someone will take notice" approach; My brother taught me about doing this when I was a little kid. He would write letters (this was before the advent of the internet) and note on the bottom that they had been CCd to various local news outlets, as well as the better business bureau (regardless of whether or not he actually sent those additional letters). And almost always, it worked.

But I would be absolutely embarrassed to have my name attached to his complaint that got sent around. He is understandably, and in some cases justifiably, upset by the companies lack of communication and flippant nature, but this is no time to get into a pissing match. He chose to stoop to the guys level with name calling and taunting: Welcome to the internet bitch? Thats how I roll? It sounds like something you'd see on a meme, not something you want to end a complaint letter with.

That said, the guy on Oceans end is clearly the winner when it comes to idiotic behavior, as he further digs his own grave down the line. I just can't cut the customer any slack on stooping to Oceans level, however. He comes off sounding like almost as big of an idiot as the guy at Ocean.

Just my 2 cents, I'm sure others will see it differently

glimcat 3 days ago 4 replies      
From about five seconds of Google, it looks like the actual product was made by David Kotkin and is considered to be rather significant for disabled users.


Paul Christoforo is just some schmuck at the contracted marketing company, because the product was put together by an art teacher trying to make small-quantity disability aids and not someone trying to launch a major business.

Due diligence regarding fact-checking has apparently slipped below the threshold of "punch it into Google."

frou_dh 3 days ago 3 replies      
The takeaway seems to be don't let a raging idiot near customers in the first place.

There's a second documented encounter with the guy from 6 months ago: http://www.natesnetwork.com/Poor-customer-service

elliottcarlson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Both IGN and Engadget have tweeted about this:

.@OceanMarketting Please refrain from referring to me or IGN as support for you, your company or your clients. You do not have it.



Hominem 3 days ago 2 replies      
Yeah, the inventor David Kotkin is/was a teacher and inventor in Miami Florida, he was actually on local news demoing it. It seems it is being sold by a company called iNcontrol Enterprises LLC.

Interestingly, all the press releases up until march 2011 for iNcontrol were done by a florida operation called The HAND Media who seem slightly more legit than Ocean Marketing.

Ocean marketing seems to be mainly interested in promoting his ebay auctions on Twitter.

Someone needs to get in touch with Kotkin and let him know the situation, that his marketing firm seems to have fallen down on the job.

FuzzyDunlop 3 days ago 1 reply      
The guy must fancy himself as a bit of a mob boss/gangster. Maybe got too into The Sopranos? There's a point where you can start reading it all in Chris Moltisanti's voice.

The fella making the complaint was hardly better, but seeing as the guy he was talking to was being unprofessional (at the very least) right off the bat, his only fault is letting his frustration get the better of him.

vaksel 3 days ago 1 reply      
I like how the guy is completely clueless about who he is talking to.

He is in marketing, and didn't know someone like that?

And this whole thing could have just been avoided with a measly $10 coupon.

dlss 3 days ago 3 replies      
Sigh. This may actually be good PR :(

I had never heard of this controller until this story. It looks really cool. How other many people is that true for?

edit/update: this story is #2 on the vanilla reddit front page.

jschuur 3 days ago 1 reply      
Note the guy's Twitter account: @OceanMarketting (with two Ts!).
MichaelJW 3 days ago 1 reply      
New update from Gabe: http://penny-arcade.com/2011/12/26/an-update1

"When these assholes threaten me or Penny Arcade I just laugh. I will personally burn everything I've made to the fucking ground if I think I can catch them in the flames."

fedxc 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here is the Google since it looks down right now:


ropman76 3 days ago 0 replies      
Agreed neither came off very well. But for the PR guy this should have been a walk in the park to deal with. I used to do customer service at an oversized health insurance company this would have been considered a mild case. You make a note in your outlook (or whatever you use) to check on the situation every once in awhile, send a nicely worded email saying you are personally following the situation and when it is done thanks them for their patience. Sure customers are not always happy but let's face it the company broke its promise. Instead this PR guy gets his ego on and for that he should be fired. He was unprofessional when he should have known better.
hkarthik 3 days ago 0 replies      
The whole thing seems too incredulous to be true and feels like a PR stunt.

If it is true, and it makes this guy's products even more popular, then I fear for fate of humanity.

lallysingh 3 days ago 2 replies      
What happened to talking to your customers in complete sentences?
aeontech 2 days ago 0 replies      
Unfortunately firing Ocean Marketing may still be too little too late. Amazon ratings for the product[1] are already in the dumps because of this debacle, and I doubt many of those reviewers will go back and change their reviews as the situation goes along.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005CMZJL6/

SRSimko 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ok this will sound completely naive but whatever happened to the customer is always right? Ok yes, I agree that is a bit overstated but in this case he was right and Gabe came out all puffed up and aggressive from the start and continued and continued (I actually like at the end when he realizes who he is emailing back and forth to). Maybe I'm just naive but I believe the smart businessman (woman) puts the customers first.
scottshea 3 days ago 0 replies      
Surprisingly Paul Christoforo has also been in Health Care & Realty and has a degree in Culinary Arts... according to his LinkedIn page: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/paul-christoforo/1/295/835
JayNeely 3 days ago 0 replies      
shearn89 3 days ago 1 reply      
I love the part where he tries to get back on Mike (Krahulik's) better side: "Did I feed into his emails a little bit too much yeah ok . But it's one person dude for real. No disrespect intended for you , My name is good in this industry and I know a lot of people."

But then goes off on one when Mike posts a slightly glib "take me off this mailing list"!

I agree with FuzzyDunlop, definitely been watching waaay too much Sopranos.

EDIT: The dude seriously needs to learn to punctuate sentences better, some of those could definitely use some commas!

CosmicShadow 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just love how some people's default is to be a dick instead of just simply saying sorry, we tried and things didn't work out.
powertower 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is it just me, or does the customer come off as a bit of an asshole that's creating/feeding about 50% of the dramma he is complaining about.
ycomb 3 days ago 1 reply      
I am not pissed off at Ocean Marketing. In fact I love the put downs in their emails. Of course it was awful customer support. But damn. Mike K of Penny Arcade tries to flex his muscle saying he runs Pax. The Ocean Marketing rep did not give a damn, and took the piss out of him too. LMAO!
Why (and how) we've switched away from Google Maps nestoria.co.uk
270 points by freyfogle  4 days ago   98 comments top 19
untog 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's nice to promote open data, etc. but lets be honest- it's all about the money. And Google charging for Google Maps usage is going to result in a lot of people doing this.

I'd advise that everyone at least explores the possibilities out there, though. I'm making a mobile app right now that uses roadmaps, and have ended up generating my own map tiles using TileMill and open data. It's surprisingly easy to do, and makes things like offline caching (not possible with the Google Maps license) possible.

officemonkey 4 days ago 2 replies      
According to the article, the Google "sales force" seems to leave much to desire. They don't keep appointments, they can't explain their product, they don't understand their client, and they overprice their product.

It does not surprise me in the least that savvy users will find other arrangements.

mixmastamyk 4 days ago 1 reply      
Another warning about mapstraction... I use it on my site and am not that happy with it. It doesn't support (seemingly) exotic features like z-index for markers and other things I ran into which I can't remember off the top of my head. When asked on the mailing list, devs stated they want to keep the library small. Sounds great but I've got an application to write that needs more than lowest common denom. So you end up hacking the google objects underneath directly to access many features (which you'll think are standard in 2011).

So now I have two libraries to support and users to download, much less documentation to rely on, and am not completely abstracted.

hazov 4 days ago 2 replies      
There's much to be done in the web mapping yet, Google Maps initially brought a renaissance to the field but the problem is that now everyone try to beat Google by emulating Google Maps (just like some companies loves to emulate Apple products). For example, Google buys the majority of surveying data that it uses in building it's maps, everyone can buys and use the same data.

OpenStreetMaps has its own data but it is provided by a community that does not have as much momentum as Wikipedia, even New York City data is pretty much incomplete[1]

Part of the problem is that people really do not know anything about cartography or how a dynamic maps must behave, even worse the majority of people do not even know how a web mapping service is implemented.

By the way, you can use OpenLayers with many tiles, including Google: http://openlayers.org/dev/examples/google.html

[1]: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/New_York_City

mythz 4 days ago 1 reply      
I suspect #3 Google introduced charging for map usage - was the catalyst over noble points 1 & 2.
mmwako 4 days ago 4 replies      
I read the post and it's mentioned many times that OSM is as good as Google Maps. Others argue "its just about the money". Why would someone want to pay for a service that you have to pay for and its just as good as the alternatives?

I think the key factor here is something Google does very, very well: UI. There is just something about google maps that makes it more appealing to the eye. And that's crucial to create a great service. I saw a post long ago (i couldn't find :/) that compared the graphic style of Maps, Bing and others. Google just nails layout, ease of understanding and other factors. I believe it is this key factor that makes the difference.

Vvector 4 days ago 6 replies      
I just checked my home address on OSM. My whole subdivision and the major 4 lane road that goes past it was all build 6+ years ago. None of it exists in OSM. This is a well populated suburb of Atlanta.
PaulHoule 4 days ago 2 replies      
I wouldn't use "Mapstraction" the amount of Javascript to see OSM through Mapstraction is about 20 greater than Google Maps. Visitors to your site will definitely experience longer loading times.
dmitrykoval 3 days ago 0 replies      
In addition to the map tiles, OSM has an unbeatable advantage over any proprietery solution - you can take advantage of raw data and do whatever you can think of. For example, you can write your own route finding solution, tweak it whatever you like and potentially find new unexplored ways to existing problems (which I did for social based routing project in Eastern Europe). Needles to say - none of that is possible with the proprietary providers like Google.
mbeswetherick 3 days ago 0 replies      
Other than the Google logo in the bottom left hand corner, Google has done a great job of taking the back seat on development. You can pretty much make a map that looks like it's completely void of the Google family.

When creating a mapping application, it's extremely important to stay away from that. There's no point to creating an application that's just a styled Google map. There has to be a point to having your application centered around a map. I think a drawback of using Google maps (or any of the mapping services) is that it's so familiar to people. A lot of people might assume that the application your building is just a Google growth. Fortunately, Google has a good deal of features built into the API to keep that from happening. You can pretty much design what your map will look like down to the most seemingly superfluous of details.

Mapping applications are so awesome because of how interactive and driven by visual exploration they are. I think there will be a lot more of them doing things that we don't expect to see in the future.

One last note: Any TileMill developers out there? What would your advice be for someone who is making a mapping application/considering moving over from gmap?

cullenking 3 days ago 0 replies      
I just recently assembled a tile server using mapnik, OSM data and modtile. Data is importing on our new geocoding server, against using OSM data and Nominatim. We will be switching our routing service over to pgrouting, but I have to wait for a massive hardware budget to make sure it can equal gmaps in routing performance.

Going completely over to OSM takes alot of work when building your own hardware stack, but our alternative (with relatively low traffic), is paying google maps $40k next year, and who know what the following...

a_a_r_o_n 4 days ago 2 replies      
My US address can't be found. I live on a major metropolitan regional grid system.
aubergene 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really like the Open Street Map project. I think it's shameful of Google to create Map Maker, which essentially copies the functionality of Open Street Map, however Google don't release the user contributed data under a reusable license, although I believe they do in some poorer countries.
GFKjunior 4 days ago 1 reply      
OpenStreetMap does not work in my city and I live in a very large US metropolis.
FigBug 4 days ago 0 replies      
Other than open street maps, Map Quest and CloudMade (pay) are there any map Apis that let you download the tiles in a desktop application?
valuegram 4 days ago 0 replies      
I definitely agree about the Google deficiency in sales/customer service. Their technical products and expertise are excellent, but have you ever tried to get anyone from google on the phone?

As they deploy more enterprise solutions, they will certainly need to provide better sales/support systems around those, or they risk losing market share like this.

JS_startup 4 days ago 0 replies      
The article has a very ingratiating tone towards Google. The summarized version is: Google started charging for Maps usage, their sales team sucks and their pricing is too high. All of that could have been said without the unctuous praise of Google's work on geo technology.
JacobIrwin 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is an interesting discussion..

I was watching a YouTube demo made by the 3d mapping company Apple recently bought. During, I caught on to some new developments that are quite astonishing (e.g. social embedding).

You can read the HN post here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3393011

politician 4 days ago 2 replies      
Should a startup which uses so much of Google Maps that it needs to pay be complaining that about poor salesmanship when it can't afford to pay? It sounds to me that both companies have monetization issues.
A man, a mop, a year, and an app thestartuptoolkit.com
247 points by robfitz  2 days ago   26 comments top 9
bdunn 2 days ago 2 replies      
Disclaimer: I own the development company that built Aeir Talk for equity.

If there's anyone who can be labeled a "hustler", it's Joe Hill.

First, he had to sell us on the idea - we get a ton of people who want us to take equity stakes in lieu of cash, and we almost always turn them away. But not Joe. He had tapped the few investors in our area (Hampton Roads, Virginia) and came up short. Our area is pretty conservative, and investing usually is restricted to real estate and other safe bets. But we heard him out and realized that even though he had no business background, no history of successful exits, or any other factors that mitigate risk, he had passion and an amazing story (along with board positions in a few autism societies).

He partnered with EVMS, a local medical school, along with a few speech pathologists with one goal: to bring Apple-like simplicity to medical products. He took the graveyard shift at a local Marriott, and managed to support his wife and two special-needs children WHILE working out of our office during the day.

He launched his app last month at Start Norfolk, a regional startup weekend we put together. If you really want to be inspired, check out the launch video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2WLc1LszZ0&list=UUdXCw6_...

aculver 2 days ago 0 replies      
Pleasant surprise waking up to see this as the top story on HN. I work with We Are Titans (the company that developed Aeir Talk in exchange for equity) and did most of the technical development (along with @nickmjones) on what became the final product. Feel free to ask or reach out if you've got any questions about that side of things.
bio_logic 2 days ago 2 replies      
Disclaimer: I am the founder of Aeir Talk.
Thanks to all who have read the article so far. It's a great joy to see Aeir Talk be so well received and see that it helping a lot of people. Feel free to reach out if you want more information, also the app is at aeirtalk.com if you want to see it. Thanks again everyone.
andygcook 2 days ago 2 replies      
This actually seems like a much bigger market than just autistic children. I would imagine that many parents that have iPad-crazed kids would would gladly give their kids an app to learn new words instead of Angry Birds. A child would probably be more interested and learn faster if it was Mom's voice talking instead of a robot.

Another interesting case that comes to mind is how Clay Christiansen, author of Innovator's Dilemma, used Rosetta Stone to practice speaking again after having a stroke.

I would imagine too that you could scale pretty quickly by allowing users to create Flashcard sets, and then other users can buy the flash card sets and rate them. This could turn into a crowdsourced Rosetta Stone pretty quickly.

robfitz 2 days ago 0 replies      
Regarding the site slowness: A while back, I changed the blog from a subdomain to a directory and didn't update the caching. It was caching pages at the wrong URL and thus being entirely useless.

It's fixed now -- sorry for the annoyance to anyone who got held up.

rada 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is invaluable for anyone trying to raise a bilingual child. Big, big thanks to the developers!
fehrbehr 2 days ago 0 replies      
As an cofounder of a startup and an aunt of a autistic nephew, I am inspired. Thanks for a great way to start may day smiling and motivated.
datashaman 1 day ago 0 replies      
Bump! This is awesome!
timb0ss 2 days ago 1 reply      
Am I the only one to have read/noticed:
"My background is in bible theology. I went to school to be basically a history teacher."
and instantly tensed up??
Adventures in Aeron Chair Arbitrage priceonomics.com
243 points by omarish  3 days ago   106 comments top 22
callmeed 3 days ago  replies      
Did you really think arbitrage of used goods could be a business? I think the best thing these types of experiments do is expose pain points and inefficiencies that you can make businesses out of.

When I was in my ramen phase of startup life (and newly married), I used to (among other things) buy clothes at local thrift stores and resell them on eBay for a decent margin. You quickly learn what brands/items sell and occasionally I'd hit gold and find a vintage Hawaiian shirt that fetches $200 (and cost $2).

In the end though, you realize it's just a way to make some extra money. It's not a "business" IMO"and definitely not a scalable business. But you learn what sucks (like dealing with shipping & getting photos from a camera to eBay pre-Smartphone) and realize other people also feel that pain. That's where your business is.

UPDATE: Downvotes, seriously? Read my reply down this thread. Some people on here are, frankly, ridiculous and have no clue how to engage in a meaningful discussion.

binarysolo 3 days ago 1 reply      
As a fellow data scientist and former Craigslist/eBay item flipper and deal site (SlickDeals, FatWallet) hobbyist, my tidbit of experience and Sidebusiness 101: profit comes when sellers don't care to maximize due to circumstance.

Those circumstances include lack of product knowledge, urgency to move item, and value for their own time/convenience.

For the first problem, people have tackled it with eBay/Craigslist listing misspeller searches or just manually emailing for more info. I once bought a new sealed copy of a collector's game, Panzer Dragoon Saga (eBay price ~$500+ back then) for $20 from a seller who was liquidating an old stash of games and listed the item as "Panzer Dragoon Saturn" and couldn't get any hits.

The problem of illiquidity has some fun implications assuming you're willing to take some product risk. Back when I was in grad school in the Bay Area, I was flipping Fujiiryoki massage chairs (MSRP 5k, buying around 1-1.5k, flipping around 2.5-3k) and there are plenty more items out there. This requires either good product knowledge (tons of old Chinese people who I knew wanted these) or a data-driven way of identifying high-price-point items without much/any historical pricing data. This is a rather solvable problem that hasn't been tackled (that I know of) and can be a value point for your site I'd think.

As for buying liquid items low, subscribing to CL RSS feeds with the right search terms can do the trick, though I neither confirm nor deny that I may have once written a CL page refresher to buy Burning Man tickets at cost (instead of from scalpers who were charging hundreds more). Back when I didn't really value my time, offering to pick up at a time of their location/convenience and pay cash.

Misc selling tips as an enthusiast: and legit work/school email or Googlestalk-able email establishes you as a "real" person. A phone number is almost a must-provide these days too. Pay low(er) and always in cash (or cert. check at bank) but assure the buyer that you'll be there and make the transaction convenient and easy.

It's an addictive hobby, I know... :/

dotBen 3 days ago 0 replies      
Right now eBay is already sitting on this data. In addition to the sale/non-sale price data, recently they've began to encourage (and sometimes force) you to very specifically categorize the item you are selling.

Combine with geolocation data for the buyer and the seller and they probably have a greater trove of data then you could get even with a biz dev deal with Craigslist -- main issue is that you have no idea whether an item in a given post was actually sold, and if so for how much.

I fear Priceconomics.com, as interesting as it is, will just work hard to prove a business model for this data that if successful will just be exploited by some engineers working at eBay who spin up a product to compete.

codenerdz 3 days ago 4 replies      
I still dont get what priceonomics provides that craigslist or ebay doesnt.


* Listings have "ASKING" prices and can easily negotiated down 5-20%. So even if you provide a historical information of "Asking Prices", its still not a 1-1 relationship to how much you expect to sell your item for or its "BUYING" price

* I do question the value of historical information on CL: Its never been available, therefore neither buyer nor seller expect it and their view of the marketplace is limited to the time they hit search. And it is this view that they will use to determine a good price for an item.
When I need to buy something that I need NOW, I try to choose the nearest, cheapest item, satisfying my requirements that is CURRENTLY available. Historical information doesnt come into play.


* Since I already have access to historical information(completed items) and I can use it to figure out how much to sell my stuff for, I dont see what Priceonomics bring to the table here.

Again Im trying to figure out where you guys are going with this. From technology standpoint, all this content scraping, indexing and searching is interesting, but what problem are you solving and how do you plan to make money with it(short of arbitrage of aerons)

brador 3 days ago 2 replies      
Any news from craigslist RE:bot policy update?

That low altitude you're flying at can only keep you off radar for so long and you're building your entire business on shaky ground.

nomadomatic 3 days ago 3 replies      
It's unlikely Priceonomics could build a massively successful business arbitraging used goods if we have to take possession of them.

Did you consider letting the buyers and sellers do the leg work?

Setup a distribution center. Sellers who want to offload stuff scan the items and their details to you and you give them instant, fair quotes. If they like your offer, they bring the items to your center, and you check to make sure everything is as it was stated.

You put the items, their details and their new prices (with your margin markup) online for buyers to peruse. If interested, they'll come by and pick up whatever they want.

Like an online pawn store w/ local centers, except there's no pawning, just selling & buying.

rohin 3 days ago 1 reply      
One additional point not mentioned in the post (written by me). If you buy a used Aeron chair, it's very likely you can sell it for the same price a couple of years later. Essentially you can lease the chair for free.
kenjackson 3 days ago 0 replies      
My roommate in grad school did this. He'd buy toys on clearance from local toystores, and then sell them on EBay for twice the price. He wasn't selective at all w/ respect to the actual toy. Just looked for large markdowns.

He made decent money, but said that putting stuff in boxes and going to the post office was a hassle. He eventually stopped -- he was finishing med school at the time.

wycats 3 days ago 4 replies      
It's worth noting that $300 for a day of manual work is considered a good salary in many parts of the country (and even in San Francisco).
jroseattle 3 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe an interesting exercise, although the acquired "learning" of difficulty/challenges in shuttling large bulky items around without owning transportation...seems like maybe you should have seen that one coming?
lambtron 3 days ago 1 reply      
there have been stories of people who scavenge for used/old/rare books and resell them for an exhorbitant mark up (http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2010/10/confes...)

some arbitrage of used goods can be a business; but it ultimately depends on the effort required and sustainable the income generated.

ew 3 days ago 0 replies      
You do realize that by having your buyer PayPal you the money you basically lost $50 on PayPal deposit transactions. I would have had him send me a corrected cheque instead.
mkag 1 day ago 0 replies      
The variance you are exploiting in this arbitrage setup is a result of the inherent variance in information about the chairs, i.e. uncertainty. Since they are used, there is lemon's principle at work. You can argue that Aeron's don't really depreciate in quality that much though over time so that variance in unjustified and in fact there should be some exact market price (perhaps as a function of time used, or more simply just dependent whether its used or new). But the thing is, more likely than not, that variance IS justified. Some of the chairs may be less broken than others. Some of the sellers may be less dependable than others. You can of course condition on this stuff - pick the low price chairs and mark them up by being the most dependable supplier, vouch for the chairs, become an expert in the chairs and be better at out the lemon's, but those things all add cost, so NOT doing all that work is already priced into the market. But cool experiment nonetheless! I have also found that I can buy a used Aeron, use it for a few years, and sell it back for like the same price. Not really a quickly depreciating asset .... maybe better than the stock market the last few years ...
fookyong 3 days ago 1 reply      
Great post. I think this is one of the fundamental lessons that all startups going through an incubator should learn: have a product, find a customer.

The most basic, lowest-common-denominator example of this is arbitrage. Buy one product for X and sell it for X + 10%. If you can't do that with one product successfully that you know there is already a market demand for (e.g. chairs) then how on earth are you going to do it for your startup?

abhimir 2 days ago 0 replies      
While making a sweeping statement about such business models not working, I guess the op failed to take notice of Gazelle.com, which has been in operation for 3 years now, has raised $46.4M in total with the last round being a series D of $22M. And guess what their business model is, arbitrage on used electronic products. So safe to say, such models can and do work.

I also believe that these models will increasingly become more mainstream, because they save people 'time', time which is increasingly becoming the most precious resource that we have. You save 2 hours of time for someone, and pay him $40-50 dollars less than craiglist or ebay, and I am sure you can find a large percentage of people for whom the opportunity cost of 1 hours is more than $20-25, and voila, you have customers.

jpiasetz 3 days ago 0 replies      
I see two problems with estimating price off craigslist.

1. List price is not the same as selling price
2. The averaging is being moved by "accessory items" i.e. http://priceonomics.com/computers/apple/macbook-air/ shows a lot of things that aren't MacBook Airs in the low price bracket. Maybe tossing out anything that is a few SD away from the average would fix that.

the_cat_kittles 3 days ago 0 replies      
The most fun I've had doing this sort of thing is going to goodwill outlets (aka "the bins" ...of crap) and looking for stuff to flip. You pay by the pound, and the more you buy, the better the per pound rate. And your helping out goodwill with landfill costs. And your reusing something that would otherwise be trash. Everyone wins!

You would be astounded at what you can find there... things worth well over 100 dollars show up regularly.

kev009 3 days ago 1 reply      
I can't tell if this is a joke or not? Some frail guys can't hack lugging chairs around so it's not a viable business model for anyone? This is a very viable business that you guys feel too entitled for.

Open your eyes and guess what a pawn shop, antique store, used office furniture dealer, or IT equipment reseller do. It's not far off from this, but they aren't bitching about it and plugging a silly website.

omegant 2 days ago 0 replies      
Are you scanning craig list manually?. If done with a crawler, how you mannage to keep your site unbanned?
leoalmighty 2 days ago 0 replies      
You could combine priceonomics data + taskrabbit work force to scale the arbitrage business on high value items. ;)
jrvarela56 3 days ago 2 replies      
How did this make it to the top of the page?
ImaBauss 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just out of curiosity what language is priceonomics written in?
Dot-dash-diss: The gentleman hacker's 1903 lulz newscientist.com
235 points by p4bl0  2 days ago   23 comments top 8
redthrowaway 2 days ago 0 replies      
A mischievous hacker who justifies his hacking by claiming the exposed security holes would have endangered the public, and who was originally mad that he could not market his own innovations due to his victim's overly-broad patents?

The more things change...

keithpeter 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Someone, Blok reasoned, was beaming powerful wireless pulses into the theatre and they were strong enough to interfere with the projector's electric arc discharge lamp."

Serious power! Remember this was before tuned circuits became common (google 'syntony oliver lodge'). Even allowing for the sensitivity of a balanced carbon spark gap, you need to move a carbon rod or have a magnetic field strong enough to change the position of the discharge. He must have been in the same building...

mml 2 days ago 0 replies      
109 years ago. Mind boggling.
andrewflnr 2 days ago 1 reply      
This article paints Marconi in a really bad light. It seems like he was either not that bright or a liar to claim that people couldn't listen in to his specially tuned signals.
akdetrick 2 days ago 0 replies      
I recall reading about this event in Erik Larsons "Thunderstruck". The book includes a pretty interesting account of the fits and starts of wireless technology, if not overly embellished.

The tuning issue is one of many snags that Marconi ran into, and with a government contract on the line, he made no small effort to keep the technological troubles under wraps until solutions could be found.

orenmazor 2 days ago 2 replies      
I really want the word 'lulz' to go away.
ropman76 2 days ago 0 replies      
and this is why I love reading history.
What Makes Android Revolutionary osnews.com
235 points by thomholwerda  1 day ago   142 comments top 31
moocow01 1 day ago 5 replies      
"The iPhone is heralded as the most revolutionary mobile phone in human history, but the cold and harsh truth is that for all the cheering and punditry, the iPhone's impact on the world is negligible."

Don't care for Android vs. iPhone arguments but lets at least admit that iPhone was a significant catalyst that moved forward the smartphone movement initially at the least. Androids would probably still exist if Apple never put out the iPhone but the iPhone has certainly been one of the biggest influences on Android's development not to mention the entire mobile industry. In that regard I see the author's statement as pretty narrow. Its like saying Unix had no impact on computing because Microsoft had the lion's share.

richardburton 1 day ago 3 replies      
For the first time, a smartphone operating system is going to impact more than rich people in the US and Europe, and that is pretty darn revolutionary.

Simply and powerfully put. As third-world countries come online they are going to be starting and staying with the mobile web. You can already see this at work in a number of African countries where mobile payments have proliferated and matured at an astonishing rate. That is just an early signal of the tectonic shift occurring.

cbs 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is an interesting take on the long view of the smartphone market. I think the linked google plus comment is more insightful than the article itself, if you skipped it the first time go back and give it a read.

Apple is building a luxury device.
Google is turning what was once luxury into a commodity.

It makes sense too. The difference in revenue streams boils down to, Apple makes cash from the upgrade train, Google makes cash when people use the web. Getting the web in everyones hands is a plus for google, but a huge plus for humankind. I'm glad that their interests so closely line up with the big picture in this situation.

Not specific to phones, I just love it when things get commoditized. It means that the next round of new and exciting things built upon it can finally gain some steam.

jballanc 1 day ago 5 replies      
It is interesting to note that the term "Open Source" was coined as a counterpart/in opposition to "Free Software" by those who were interested in sharing code but who did not ascribe to some of the more extreme aspects of Stallman's philosophy. It is interesting, because really, what has Android being "Open Source" really done? Are customers less beholden to telecoms for their devices? Have prices dropped or competition increased? What percent of Android device owners have compiled their own kernel? Have read the Android source?

> In ten to fifteen years' time, we will look back and regard Android as the technology that enabled even the poorest people in this world to have access to the web (and thus, knowledge), just like we regard Nokia as the company that put the mobile phone in every corner of the globe.

...and just like we regard Microsoft as the company that put computers into every home.

notatoad 1 day ago 2 replies      
can we please stop responding to MG Seigler? I don't read his blog so i don't know if he actually does post intelligent thought sometimes, but every single thing the blogs have picked up from him is pure fanboy trollbait.
awolf 1 day ago 2 replies      
For the author revolutionary seems to mean "reaches the most people". My definition is closer to "radically new or innovative".

The iPhone drastically redefined the smartphone market including the competitors that followed it. Hard for me to swallow that its effect on the world has been negligible.

Yhippa 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think the iPhone set the bar for user experience and helped pull everybody out of the dark ages of jamming scaled-down desktop experiences on a tiny screen.

I really agree with the post though. One day enough people with time on their hands will be able to adapt Android to all sorts of cheap hardware which might scale greatly for the developing world.

aforty 1 day ago 0 replies      
Sure, Rubin's definition of open ("mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make") would still apply today without the iPhone but let's be real: Android, without the iPhone, would at best be a Blackberry clone. One could argue the market would have ignored it because it would have offered very little new. It had wide adoption among hardware manufacturers were desperate because they needed to compete against the iPhone. Would the same have been true if they were still competing against Blackberry, a Blackberry clone and whatever Microsoft would eventually come out with?

Android is what it is today because of Apple and the iPhone.

cageface 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here in Vietnam where the yearly average income is still under $2000 USD everybody wants an iPhone. Perfectly capable Android phones are widely available but the iPhone is the public status signal everybody is chasing. Maybe this is a cultural thing but if people in other developing countries are similarly willing to buy such an extravagantly expensive device just to keep up with the Joneses next door the value proposition of cheaper Android phones may not be so strong. By all accounts Apple still has a lot of room to cut prices but stay in the black too.
runjake 1 day ago 3 replies      
I disagree with most of the article, but the one point I'll make regard his comments about the iPhone being for rich people/countries.

First, I have to assume he's talking about contract prices, because the cheapest Android devices are a little under $250 off-contract, which is cost-prohibitive for "non-rich"countries.

So, how is this valid, when I can get an iPhone 3GS for free (on contract) and an iPhone 4 for $99? This is on close price parity with Android devices -- from the free/cheap prepaid LG Optimus Android devices to the Galaxy Nexus.

Edit: If you're going to downvote this into oblivion, at least do me the favor of explaining where my thinking is incorrect?

Ihavenoname 1 day ago 2 replies      
You can talk up your favorite team, principle or country without a point by point attack on your rivals. Apple has had some great successes and failures that open source can learn from and can stand on their shoulders to make an even better product. Characterizing Apple and Jobs as some one dimensional boogy man doent really contribute to growth. No need for flame ware rehash.

tl;dr Dont waste your time on this article.

da_n 1 day ago 2 replies      
I was unfortunate enough to own one of the first Android devices, the HTC Magic (aka MyTouch3G). This was prior to, and also one of the first victims of, Android fragmentation. The process of discovering who was responsible for updates was the least open and opaque process I could have imagined. I had to resort to seeking out the information from other users on the Vodafone forum to discover that basically, no one actually cared. I had already bought the device so HTC had their money and didn't care, I was signed up to a 2 year contract so Vodafone had their money and didn't care, and Google got to license the phone as a Google Experience one, selling their app suite as well as me using their services. Google maybe cared a little, but they do not provide support or after care really unless talking to a perl script counts as support.

The underlying OS might be revolutionary in some ways, but the update process (at least the one sanctioned by Google) is so far away from revolutionary I find it hard to fathom the Android Reality Distortion Field I sometimes hear about this. It sucks. It gives the user next to no after care, it is all about the upfront purchase to the handset maker, the vampire like carrier fees, and the services provided by Google including all the advertising on the devices. I think people are evangelising this beyond what is rational.

AlisdairO 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think the wrangling over Apple's sold/shipped devices is a little over the top - unlike some of the unreliable figures released for adroid tablets, for example, I don't think anyone is seriously claiming that Apple doesn't sell the large majority of the devices it ships.
Apocryphon 1 day ago 0 replies      
Maybe webOS will have its chance to play the same role. Android is getting hit hard by the patent wars. webOS is soon to be open, has a strong community of tinkerers already, and to develop for it all you need to know are HTML/CSS/JS - much like developing for the mobile web. If HP plays their cards right, and Android as a platform is enervated enough by the companies that have an interest in it muddling it up with suits and countersuits, perhaps webOS will get its chance to shine.
Eeko 1 day ago 0 replies      
Smartphone-proliferation requires a strong network capable of moving bytes in much larger scale than currently feasible or economical in most 3rd world networks. Hell, many 1st world countries struggle with growing data.

The OS of the phone is much irrelevant (Windows, linux, meego, webos etc. are "cheap and good enough" if you really have the demand of billion such devices. Having open source OS helps, but I'd say it's more about who can sell the network cheap enough to suit the smartphones.

snowwrestler 1 day ago 0 replies      
"I'm even more excited about seeing a $25 mobile device that has access to a killer web browser and endless mobile apps, and watching that device appear in the hands of a billion school children over the next 10 years."

I would be excited to see that too. Can anyone point me towards such a device?

"What Nokia did for the mobile phone, Android is doing for the smartphone."

I don't see how, because Nokia is a hardware manufacturer who actually makes phones, and Android is just an operating system. It seems to me the hard part of getting to the $25 unlocked price point is the hardware, not the OS. Android is not even the only open-source phone operating system--how about Meego, created by (aptly) Nokia, and hosted by the nonprofit Linux Foundation?

Android is a cool product, but I have a hard time swallowing the self-congratulatory posturing. So far Android has not done a single thing for the 3rd world poor. As far as I can tell, so far all it has done is provided the skeleton for a bunch of proprietary implementations by first-world hardware manufacturers and mobile operators.

eigenvector 1 day ago 0 replies      
People keep fixating on the fact that Android is not Free Software. It doesn't matter.

Android is giving us the option to use an open source OS on arbitrary commoditized hardware without paying any license fees or asking anyone for permission. The Android OS can and has been ported to all manner of devices without any first-party support.

When the only other comparably advanced mobile OS is totally proprietary AND only available on proprietary hardware made by the OS manufacturer, the existence of Android is a massive leap forward for openness and choice.

iOS is great, I love it. But it will be forever locked to Apple's hardware, and you will only ever have access to that technology in the forms that make good business sense for Apple. That is not true of Android.

atirip 1 day ago 0 replies      
"I'm even more excited about seeing a $25 mobile device that has access to a killer web browser and endless mobile apps, and watching that device appear in the hands of a billion school children over the next 10 years."

All those billion kids who did got Android or Blackberry instead of iPhone for Christmas are currently crying over Twitter about how they hate their parents...

adpowers 1 day ago 1 reply      
My major take away from the MG Sieler post was that Rubin deleted a tweeted, which makes it look like he's trying to hide something, regardless of the true reason for deleting it. Why does he need to delete a tweet that whose commands no longer work? A tweet is a point in time snapshot that represents a thought or opinion at a certain point in time. They aren't wikis that need to be constantly updated and maintained. If someone tried the command and it didn't work, they could always search for the up to date instructions. I'm not sure how this became a platform flame war.
buff-a 1 day ago 0 replies      
the definition of open: "mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make"

>make install.


Senthee 1 day ago 0 replies      
It is one of the best futuristic statements about Android and I certainly agree and I am seeing that happen in Second and Third world.
albb0920 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm wondering why all the credits goes to iPhone/Android rather than Windows Mobile(Pocket PC) which is a great mobile os in it's time.
battaile 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm not seeing why this is rated so highly, its just some android blogger making snarky comments about an iOS blogger and reposting a bunch of hyperbole from a google+ comment.
rd108 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thank you for cutting through the bullshit. Especially in developing (not fully industrialized) economies, the power of the web on everyone's phone will change our world.
desireco42 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nothing... I have android phone.
denzil_correa 1 day ago 0 replies      
Also the fact that they steal.
happyman 1 day ago 1 reply      
Very much true.
listening 1 day ago 1 reply      
Why couldn't they have used the Inferno OS for their VM?

Code reuse at Google is huge.

So what were their reasons for not choosing it?

Apologies if this has been asked and answered.

bluekeybox 1 day ago 0 replies      
Another troll/crowd-pleasing post from Thom Holwerda.
peterwwillis 1 day ago 1 reply      
Re-edit: I am annoyed that this device is so buggy, and am getting rid of it. Google, please provide better testing for your revolutionary devices so I don't have to suffer through endless crashing and freezing up of stock apps.

I would agree with the whole "This is the new S60" idea, except I don't remember S60 ever being as fragmented and broken as Android is. Also S60 always had priority on the phone and lock functions so even if an app was having problems I could still receive a phone call - please implement this, Android team.

drivebyacct2 1 day ago 1 reply      
I can already see how much of this thread is going to play out. Before we get into a fight about whether Android is "open" enough or not, can we defer to the thread about Macro's post? There have already been dozens of comments about the subject today.
Salman Khan of Khan Academy AMA on reddit reddit.com
229 points by michael_nielsen  2 days ago   23 comments top 7
spicyj 2 days ago 3 replies      
Just wanted to mention that if any of this sounds interesting, Khan Academy is hiring both for full-time devs and interns. Here's the job post:

  Mountain View - Khan Academy (full-timers and interns welcome year-round)

Our mission is to provide a world-class education to anyone, anywhere. We
already have millions of students learning every month, and we're growing

Our students answer over 1.2 million math exercise problems per day, all
generated by our open source exercise generation framework

(http://github.com/khan/khan-exercises, http://ejohn.org/blog/khan-exercise-rewrite/)

  and Sal's videos have been viewed over 99 million times. We're just getting
started feeding this data we're collecting back into the product to help our
users learn more. If you're interested in data, analytics, and education,
this is a dream gig.

Plus, it's one of the highest educational impact positions you can imagine.

We're hiring all types of devs -- mobile, frontend, backend, whatever you
want to call yourself. Big plans ahead.


abiekatz 2 days ago 1 reply      
My favorite answer:

‎"In the ideal world, the Khan Academy [or another online learning solution] will progress to the point that you can get a deep understanding of most topics independently and "school" will be a physical place and support network that helps you explore and apply what you know (build robots, start businesses, write a book)"

bostonvaulter2 2 days ago 0 replies      
He's also answering many questions in a 30+ min video


instakill 2 days ago 1 reply      
I asked over at Reddit but he won't see my question. What's the software he uses to scribble out his calculations?
long 2 days ago 1 reply      
Man, the odds of getting a question answered are really slim.
webwanderings 2 days ago 4 replies      
Not sure what kind of AMA is this, I don't see any answer from salman_khan_
jgfu 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've watched his stuff on Roku. Appreciate all of his work, but he needs production help. It is really rough. Really rough. But, hats off to him. Great bloke.
Scientists' proposed calendar synchronizes dates with days cnn.com
228 points by tokenadult  2 days ago   158 comments top 49
lambda 1 day ago  replies      
Have they come up with any estimate of the global cost of the switch, and compared that to the benefit of the new calendar? It seems to change a bunch of stuff, and add a complicated new "leap week", for no particularly good reason. Yeah, it might reduce the cost of printing calendars slightly, though a lot of people use new calendars yearly so they can write on them, and a lot more just use their computer.

The cost of the transition would not be insignificant. In the Western world, we've had two major calendar changes in the past 2200 years or so. The most recent one, the transition from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, lasted for about 400 years, as different countries transitioned at different times, with, I'm sure, plenty of friction caused by the lack of synchronization. Is it really necessary to go through all of that again?

Also, while this proposal would make holidays based on the solar calendar fall on the same day every year, it would do nothing for the holidays based on the lunar calendar. They would still drift around.

Reading their proposal on cato.org linked to from the article, it seems that a large part of their motivation is the synchronization of calendars for various financial instruments. But that doesn't require changing everyone's calendar; you can fix just the financial instruments, which already don't follow the ordinary calendar, without wreaking havoc on every other use of the calendar.

And I'm not sure how this extra week in December ever few years is supposed to help solve the problems with financial instruments. Under the current system, you need to deal with the fact that months may differ in length by up to 3 days, and that needs to be dealt with every month; in the new system, months would regularly vary by 1 day, but suddenly vary by another 7 days once every 5 years or so.

I think one of the reasons we've gotten ourselves into this mess is that we keep on trying to fit together different cycles of arbitrary length such that they match up exactly, which is impossible, so we add hacks on top of hacks to try to fix the problem. We try to make the cycle of days match the cycles of years, we try to make the cycle of months match the cycle of days (and years), and this proposal tries to shoehorn the cycle of weeks into that too, with a hack that adds an extra week every 5 or 6 years seemingly at random (while there is a regular rule for it, it's not as easily remembered as the Gregorian "leap year every 4 years, except for years divisible by 100, but an exception to that exception for years divisible by 400").

Instead of trying to do hacks to get all of these cycles to line up, why not move in the other direction and take the approach of having regular cycles at different frequencies that do not line up? You can have a financial calendar of 30 solar days (or whatever period is most convenient for you), a lunar calendar of one lunar month, the 7 solar day week, the tropical year that aligns with the seasons, the sidereal year that aligns with the orbit of the earth around the sun (which differs from the tropical year due to precession of the earth's axis). We have computers that can keep track of how all of these things line up when we care these days; instead of trying to simplify everything to fit together discretely with hacks added to fix it up, just let the computers deal with the precise details and allow each cycle to be simple and independent.

Now, moving to a single worldwide time standard (just use UTC for everyone for everyday use) seems to make a little more sense. While I understand the desire to make the hours line up with the solar day in a reasonably uniform way around the world, timezones (and daylight savings time) are an ugly hack that add a lot of cost and give you only a very rough approximation of what you are trying to achieve.

tokenadult 2 days ago 2 replies      
From another point of view, a given date gradually occurring on every day of the week is a feature, not a bug. I see that the proposed calendar puts my birthday on a weekend, every year year after year, but I kind of like my birthday (and my wedding anniversary, and other important dates) occurring on a new day of the week each year, for variety.

I note too that the calendar would not "make it easy to plan annual activities" for any of the dates in the "extra week" proposed for the calendar, if by annual activities we mean activities that occur in every calendar year. The extra week occurs "at the end of December every five or six years," and the new memory load everyone would have to bear is remembering which years--2015, 2020, 2026, 2032, 2037, 2043, 2048, 2054, 2060, 2065, 2071, 2076, 2082, 2088, 2093, 2099, 2105, "et cetera" are the extra week years.

jimrandomh 2 days ago 4 replies      
I like this idea. Unfortunately, it can't coexist with the Gregorian calendar in its current form; if a small fraction of the world switched to it, they'd always have to wonder which calendar someone writing "Jan 1" was referring to.

When a date is written down, it needs to be immediately obvious which calendar it's referring to. It needs a special notation that doesn't overlap with any of the currently-used notations for dates, so that it will be unambiguous (and so that the old calendar will remain unambiguous). I propose doing this by giving each month a letter, A-L, and writing dates like this:

  2012-A01 = New calendar, first day of first month of 2012  
2012-L30 = New calendar, thirtieth day of twelfth month of 2012
2012-01-01 = Gregorian calendar, first day of first month of 2012
C30 = New calendar, thirtieth day of third month of whatever year this is

With the notations neatly separated, you could then print calendars with the two schemes side by side, and let people convert back and forth for awhile while the new system is adopted. We could give the months fanciful names, too, as long as they start with the right letters. But the important thing is, the two schemes must be unambiguous and distinct.

wavephorm 1 day ago 4 replies      
A more simple solution is to have 13 months of exactly 28 days, plus one day for new years day. That's even better because every month is exactly the same number of days which means semi-monthly and bi-weekly billing systems are the same thing. And because there's the same number of days anything billed per month can be easily prorated per day, and any billing cycle will match up with every other billing cycle... so basically everything imaginable becomes considerably easier.

The only real problem is coming up with a name for a new 13th month and where to insert it.

scythe 1 day ago 2 replies      
Why preserve the seven-day week? The appropriate factorization of 365 is 73*5.


Plus, the Discordian calendar has the advantage of already being implemented in Linux!

Swizec 2 days ago 5 replies      
Here's a revolutionary thought - the calendar is already fixed. Sporting events (etc.) don't have to happen on the same weekday, they can just always happen on the same date. Voila, predictable time planning that doesn't have to be redone every year.

And I love the idea of eliminating timezones, especially the example that pilots already use UTC. Ever considered this might be because the concept of "day" doesn't really apply when you change 10 timezones in 10 hours?

Personally I think eliminating timezones would make relating to people internationally very difficult. It's already weird enough that Australians think of December as a summer month. Consider half the world thinking of 20:00 (8PM) as the morning. How does "everywhere is the same hour" even remotely fix the fact people sleep at night and work at day anyway?

And what do you do with an extra week "every five or six years"?

yaix 2 days ago 2 replies      
The scientific part is simple, its just a little maths.

The difficult part is to get 8 billion people to agree to pull in the same direction. And my guess is, that it will never happen, unfortunately.

Navarr 1 day ago 3 replies      
I just pointed this out to a friend and she gladly brought up the Shire calendar from Tolkien's works, which according to her has 12 months, 30 days a month, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with the date of each month staying the same weekday due to the separation of the five other days as holidays that are separate from the months (including leap-day, which doesn't belong to any day of the week).

Which actually solves the exact same problem in a much cleaner fashion than this proposal.

zhyder 2 days ago 1 reply      
Agreed with the general proposal: the only time periods that are important to preserve are the day (coz of morning/night), the week (coz of work-week and religious days), and the year (coz of seasons). The month is pretty arbitrary.

They propose a 364-day year with 8x 30-day months and 4x 31-day months. If they're okay with a 364-day year, wouldn't it be better to have 8x 28-day months and 4x 35-day months. Or you could have 13x 28-day months. That way the day-of-week would be even more predictable.

js2 1 day ago 0 replies      
Lovely, the Esperanto of calendars. It's bad enough my birthday falls on Christmas Eve, now it's forever to be on the Sabbath too? No thanks.
tylerneylon 1 day ago 1 reply      
I've been using an independent calendar for my own records for over a decade now - it's the day-of-year, written base 7. It fits in with weeks; if we reset weeks every year (why not? we do worse things already with leap days and seconds) then dates become equivalent with weekdays. One number expresses the day-of-year, day-of-week, week-of-year, and month-of-year, using a 49-day month.


I don't really expect many other people to use this, despite being a better designed system. I think hardcore math/cs people would like it, though. I've written some small pieces of code that work with this system, if anyone's interested.

uiri 1 day ago 1 reply      
All I can think of is xkcd 927 ( http://xkcd.com/927/ )

There are already lots of calendars if one cares to look. Why bother with a 7 day week other than the biblical mandate? Why not use a lunar calendar? It would certainly simplify 'calculating' Easter. Having a leap day is a lot less intrusive than a leap week and does anyone actually bother to memorize the Metonic cycle? Is it because lunisolar calendars are uncommon or because they're a pain or both?

I think having timezones benefits us in the sense that we can say "It is lunch in city A when it is dinner in city B". Knowing when people are likely to be sleeping/working/playing in different places helps more than having One Timezone. Pilots use UTC because they're between timezones too much for them to follow a 'standard' schedule according to our approximations of the Sun's movements.

shimon_e 1 day ago 1 reply      
So in a matter of a few thousand years we have gone from Emperors (Caesar) dictating calendars to scientists proposing new ones. :)

These type of reforms were quiet popular in the beginning of the 20th century. E.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_Calendar

Had this proposal been suggested a century ago. I would have a good feeling it would have been made a reality since it doesn't interfere with a 7 day work weak.

Today with computers, it isn't really necessary. Anyone is able to check when July 1st will be in 2500 without calculating. So it is not likely to gain to much interest except in by theorists.

This proposal introduces an artificial calendar that is neither solar or lunar but realigns every few years. It is quiet a novel idea.

The Jews did similar engineering in their calendar system. The rabbis did not want some holidays to fall out on certain days of the week because of varied reasons. So they engineered rules for the leap years and new months to happen in a pattern to prevent this.

The Jewish calendar is lunar but realigns itself with the solar calendar. It need to be certain Jewish holidays always accure in the same season.

k-mcgrady 2 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting but it won't happen. It would have to be adopted throughout the world (especially where religious days are affected) and there would never be agreement on which holidays fall on which day (NYE on Friday or Saturday?).

I don't fully understand the other point in the article about ridding the world of time zones to improve business and trade. How would that work? Do they expect certain countries to agree to work while the sun is down?

vacri 1 day ago 0 replies      
They would drop the quadrennial 366-day leap years entirely in favor of an extra week at the end of December every five or six years.


The two men also propose eliminating time zones and adopting a universal time around the world to streamline international business.

indicate that there are some fundamental things they don't understand about business.

mbreese 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'd like to know how much extra complexity these leap weeks add to the calculations that would supposedly be easier... I would imagine that it is non-trivial.

Am I the only one that likes the fact that dates occur on different days? This way everyone's birthday will occur over a weekend every few years.

shirro 2 days ago 1 reply      
Brought to you from a country that has not adopted SI units.
wiradikusuma 1 day ago 3 replies      
In Malaysia, if holiday falls on Sunday, it'll be "carried forward" to Monday (you still celebrate on Sunday, but Monday will be extra holiday).

And in some companies, if holiday falls on Saturday, you get extra 1 day leave entitlement.

Now, you can see conflicting interest here, especially between employees and employers :)

wtvanhest 2 days ago 0 replies      
As long as my birthday is on a Saturday it works for me.

(seriously though, imagine how mad people will get when a particular event happens on the "wrong day" every year)

I like it though. I'd even take a Tuesday birthday to make it happen.

hogu 1 day ago 1 reply      
what if your birthday is on that leap week that occurs every 5-6 yrs?
deerpig 2 days ago 2 replies      
Wow, after reading the comments it's amazing how difficult it is for most people to understand that eliminating time zones doesn't mean that anyone will change when they work. You will just have a different number for the time you do things than in than other parts of the world. In England you might start at 09:00, but on the other side of the world they would start at 20:00 which would be morning for them.
ScottBurson 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yuck. The solstices and equinoxes would be on different dates from year to year.

And as far as making time calculations simpler for financiers -- that extra week "every five or six years" will be just as hard to deal with as leap years are now.

vorg 1 day ago 2 replies      
Some people, groups, or governments could change over on a case-by-case basis to a week-based system, without a sudden change to the worldwide date system. Just label the weeks with numbers, e.g. 1-Wednesday, 27-Monday, or 52-Sunday for Christmas this year.

It seems Chinese people generally don't remember the time of week so much as the Month and date. Whenever someone in China tells me "this is happening on the 28 November", in my mind I have to work out what day of week it is before I can internalize it in my memory. Chinese seem to just remember the month and date. Schools often say "Monday's and Tuesday's timetable will be shifted to the previous Saturday and Sunday, respectively".

And of course their idea is Western-centric. Chinese and Muslims both have their own calendars for festivals.

Navarr 1 day ago 0 replies      
I love this idea, but there are a few things that aren't covered in the comments that I want to know about.

1) How does this calendar align to the phases of the moon? How many moons are there per-year? Is this variable? This is important due to archaic calendar systems and dates that are based on solar-lunar calendars (e.g. China & Japan)

2) Is there a quick and easy algorithm for re-mapping dates? My birthday was on Mar 30, 1991 - for example. Would I simply keep the old date, or adopt a new one? I assume keep the old since its still on the calendar, but what about people born January 31st?

3) How do seasons align and fluctuate along these new datelines? And how does this floating week influence it?

kellenfujimoto 1 day ago 1 reply      
The whole "everybody should adopt UTC" business makes no sense to me. If a business needs to use UTC because of time zones or whatnot, they already are. It'd be weird having the day of the week change in the middle of the day in Japan, too.
codex 1 day ago 1 reply      
I am still typing on a QWERTY keyboard, and that standard only a hundred years old. The modern calendar is two thousand years old. We will see the singularity before we see a new calendar.
6ren 2 days ago 3 replies      
Seems unlikely, yet, Europe switched to the euro.

If we get better at software integration, different calendars might not be such a problem.
We already convert between currencies, times and date formats.

Is this really that much different to a new date-format, just with deeper syntactic changes? (rhetorical)

teja1990 1 day ago 0 replies      
I dont like this. All the people who have b'days on 29,30 and 31 are screwed. And its really hard to get whole of the world onto it. No country can force another country to follow something.
ams6110 2 days ago 0 replies      
Classic academic waste-of-time project to solve a problem that doesn't exist. I hope they didn't have any federal grant funding for this (have skimmed half a dozen web postings about this and none really address this question).
clvv 1 day ago 0 replies      
People can accomplish the same thing after learning a mental algorithm to calculate the day of the week. Doomsday rule, invented by Mathematician John Conway, is one of the easier ones to remember.
vorg 1 day ago 0 replies      
> "You have a whole area in the mathematics of finance that could be cleared up, and lots of confusion, lots of error, done away with by going to this calendar," he said. People don't realize the time they're wasting simply because of the variable calendar, Hanke said.

Most economic and political activity in Western countries is to give people something to do so they'll conform, be it accounting and tax rules, legal requirements, or ICT interfaces. The actual labor required to mine resources, manufacture things, and grow and distribute food is some small percentage of overall economic activity. Taking away this complexity would put people out of work, more likely to question governments or occupy Wall Street.

dustingetz 2 days ago 0 replies      
And yet, the US still isnt on metric.
lancefisher 2 days ago 0 replies      
Imagine the cost of changing all the software in the world to use a new calendar system. This will never happen.
waterlesscloud 2 days ago 1 reply      
Happy Thermidor!
Sorpigal 1 day ago 1 reply      
For people who are apparently enlightened enough to realize that no calendar, however rational and perfect, will be accepted if it violates a certain religious rule (the sabbath), they are apparently quite ignorant in their advocacy of UTC for all purposes.

It's all well and good to eliminate time zones as such and have each region operate on a fixed clock, but to suggest that people will simply stop paying attention to the sun is insane. If you want wide adoption you can't expect people to make radical change in their lives. Most people prefer to wake with the sun and sleep when it's dark; some studies suggest that we are biologically predisposed to want or need this. Whether it's 05:00 when I wake or 16:00 when I wake is immaterial to me (that's just a number, just what you call it) but whether it's daylight when I'm out and about just plain matters.

In effect you'll probably always need a way to divide the world by when the sun is up, even if the clock doesn't change.

JoeAltmaier 1 day ago 0 replies      
Imagine living on a space ark. Any calendar would work, since there would be no incentive to line up with the motion of any particular planetary body.

Now, imagine we stopped caring about that anyway. Ok, leave days, but the rest? Superfluous. How about decimal time? 100,000 seconds in a day, count days and be done with it. When is Xmas? In 300 days.

kschua 2 days ago 0 replies      
This proposal doesn't have my vote.

The present system is good enough in that every one has an equal chance for special events in their lives to fall on a weekend.

fullsailor 1 day ago 0 replies      
What would happen with birthdays that occur on days that were cut out of the new calendar? Jan 31, May 31, Jul 31, Aug 31, and Oct 31.

Also, that extra week business seems more confusing than leap years. "Every 5 or 6 years" seems indefinite.

bumbledraven 1 day ago 0 replies      
So the dates of the first "extra week" would be Dec 32-38, 2015?
xoxa 1 day ago 0 replies      
I saw something along these lines recently: a calendar-clock. http://clackcolander.tumblr.com/
jstclair 1 day ago 0 replies      
Could someeone who is advocating for no time zones please explain how a normal work "day" that crossed actual days work in practice? So you want to wake up at 8 Utc and some else wakes up at 20 Utc. Ok, then they start work on Friday at 21 Utc and work until Sat 4:30. I'd imagine that you'd have to redefine weekend to mean Sun-Mon?
artursapek 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if calendar companies would lobby against this. I imagine people would still buy a new calendar every year or so, since they get worn/written on.
ww520 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is interesting but the leap weeks are kind of fussy, 5 or 6 years.
mrpollo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Will this be somehow comparable to the Y2K bug if we switch? a bunch of software broken?
tersiag 1 day ago 0 replies      
My bday would always fall on a Monday on this calendar system and that is not fun
jaequery 2 days ago 1 reply      
sounds like a typical startup idea
dawilster 2 days ago 1 reply      
Good luck convincing the rest of the world to convert to a scientifically optimized calender.
tuananh 2 days ago 0 replies      
No don't do this. My birthday is on 31st 0_o
tapsboy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Whose in re-writing lot of software?

I am not :)

6 month read-through/discussion of Gödel, Escher, Bach starting 1/17 on Reddit reddit.com
225 points by qrush  2 days ago   80 comments top 15
mmaunder 2 days ago 1 reply      
How do you know someone's read GEB? They tell you.
presidentender 2 days ago 4 replies      
I loved GEB, but since reading it (and jumping in and re-reading parts here and there when it strikes my fancy) I've come to the conclusion that it's a perfectly laid Dunning-Kruger trap which specifically ensnares people like me. I am not as smart as Hofstadter, and I know it, and so I'll never be sure I've actually understood the meat of the message.

I think I get strange loops, recursion, self-reference and the metaphor of the anthill. I still think I'm missing something with breaking the record players, but based on my understanding it's a metaphor for incompleteness.

tseabrooks 2 days ago 1 reply      
This seems like one of the first great "Social" ideas I've ever heard. For me, personally of course, facebook, foursquare, social shopping, etc all solve problems I don't have.

However a sort of online book group is something that I might like and would solve a real problem I do have. It may be to niche to make a company out of. That said, what sorts of things would a site (platform?) need in order to be successful at creating guided, curated, experiences such as a book group.

DanielBMarkham 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've been meaning to review GEB on http://hn-books.com -- great, once-in-a-lifetime book. Kind of a cross between a college course, a game, a puzzle, and the work of a madman.
brianwillis 2 days ago 7 replies      
It's such a shame there isn't a Kindle/ePub/PDF version. I guess I'm off to kill another tree.
martinkallstrom 2 days ago 0 replies      
This was the last book my grandfather gave me before he passed away a few years ago, in translation to Swedish. Back then I was completely unaware that it is regarded as seminal work.

He was an engineer just as I am, but I always admired that his bookshelf was brim full of knowledge from completely different areas, spanning psychology, biology, medicine, art and music.

bch 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sweet, sweet, sweet. I know I'm not the only one who's "read it", but hasn't actually finished it.
rhodin 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's the kind of book you can spend a few days reading or a life time, just like "Zen and the art of motorcycle repair".

I've read half of it in 8 years, so maybe it's time to redo the whole process from beginning to end.

oz 2 days ago 0 replies      
I got a copy a few months ago, but I've only read some of the new foreword so far. This is great news.
zalthor 2 days ago 0 replies      
Brilliant way to start the year off. I first got my hand on this book when I was in high school and was bit overwhelmed. I read it again in college, but again, I don't think I really "got it". Getting into a group read/discussion on this book would by simply PERFECT!
SonicSoul 2 days ago 0 replies      
hah.. GEB has been staring me down from my top shelf for 5 years now. I wasn't expecting to crack it open until retirement time (20 years from now?) but hey.. maybe i'll speed this up.
MarkPNeyer 2 days ago 1 reply      
careful; some ideas in this book will fuck with you:


ISloop 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. GEB has been sitting on my bookshelf for about a year but I never got around to reading it. I'll give it a shot, and it's great to know there's a community out there available for help.
JoyxBen 2 days ago 1 reply      
If someone wants to start one for Hofstadter's most recent mega-book, Le Ton Beau De Marot, count me in.
WhatsHisName 2 days ago 3 replies      
This is such a awful book. Pure hipster material.
The legacy of Srinivasa Ramanujan thehindu.com
231 points by rehack  4 days ago   23 comments top 6
signa11 4 days ago 1 reply      
robert-kanigel's book, "the man who knew infinity" is an excellent chronicle into his life, and cambridge's culture during 20th century. it was hardy who created a rising scale of mathematical abilities as follows:

  g.h.hardy - 25
littlewood - 30
hilbert - 80
ramanujan - 100

hardy once described the formulas in ramanujan's first letters as "these must be true, if they are not, nobody would have the audacity to invent it."

rehack 4 days ago 1 reply      
"Ramanujan cultivated his love for mathematics singlehandedly and in total isolation" ...

"At the age of 12, he borrowed from a friend a copy of Loney's book on Plane Trigonometry, published by Cambridge University Press in 1894"...

"It is not a remarkable book, and Ramanujan's use of it to propel himself to the centre stage of 20th century mathematics, has made the book remarkable. It was largely used by students of Carr who were preparing for the entrance examination in mathematics at Cambridge University. Ramanujan used the book to master all of 18th and 19th century mathematics. He set about to demonstrate each of the assertions of the book, using only his slate to do the calculations. He would jot down the formula to be proved, and then erase it with his elbow, and then continue to jot down some more formulas. In this way, he worked through the entire book. People used to speak of his “bruised elbow.” Sadly, he took Carr's book as a model for mathematical writing and left behind his famous notebooks containing many formulas but practically no proofs."

impendia 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ramanujan's second letter to Hardy [1]:

"Dear Sir, I am very much gratified on perusing your letter of the 8th February 1913. I was expecting a reply from you similar to the one which a Mathematics Professor at London wrote asking me to study carefully Bromwich's Infinite Series and not fall into the pitfalls of divergent series. … I told him that the sum of an infinite number of terms of the series: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + ... = '1/12 under my theory. If I tell you this you will at once point out to me the lunatic asylum as my goal. I dilate on this simply to convince you that you will not be able to follow my methods of proof if I indicate the lines on which I proceed in a single letter. ..."

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_%2B_2_%2B_3_%2B_4

medius 4 days ago 0 replies      
Whenever I think about Ramanujan, I cannot help but wonder how many Ramanujans are out there that are just not visible and struggling with poverty.
jeswin 4 days ago 4 replies      
Maybe it is just me, but overstating anyone's impact to this extent is disrespectful to that person.

"....wealth of ideas that have transformed and reshaped 20th century mathematics"

"His work has had a fundamental role in the development of 20th century mathematics"

Maybe someone who has delved deeper into math can shine some light here.

rhizome 4 days ago 0 replies      
I believe there are at least several previouslies for this guy.
Stanford Free Classes " A review from a Stanford Student pennyhacks.com
206 points by brudolph  2 days ago   101 comments top 28
gfodor 2 days ago 3 replies      
There are two goals with learning ML:

- Applying known ML algorithms to a real world task

- Coming up with new ML algorithms and research

It turns out (ahem) that the first goal, applying ML, is not only much, much higher in demand than the second goal, but is also much, much easier to teach than the content required to pursue the second. This dichotomy is the reason the split between CS229a and CS229 in both content and audience works so well. The demand for CS229 is low and the rigor is high (so it should be priced high), and the demand for CS229a is high and the rigor is low (so it should be priced low.) The author signed up for the wrong class. I think Stanford is teasing out subfields of CS that have this quality, and there sure are many.

CurtHagenlocher 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's been over twenty years since I finished college. Last year I did a "certificate in quantitative finance" at UW which -- like the Stanford classes -- were both online and seemingly aimed at working professionals. It's interesting to compare these on three fronts:

1) The amount of rigor and work required for the Stanford classes was significantly less than the UW classes. I spent as much as 10 hours per week on the UW homework in addition to the 3-4 hours of video lectures. That's against about an hour for the Stanford homework and another 60-90 minutes for the lectures. I agree with the OP's description of the ML homework as starting out at a decent level of difficulty and quickly becoming trivially easy.

2) I found the format of the Stanford lectures considerably easier to follow. By making a canned recording, there's a huge amount of dead time which can simply be edited out of the lecture. That plus the ability to watch at 1.5x speed meant that I was rarely tempted to do something else at the same time as watching the lecture -- something which frequently caused me trouble with the UW classes.

3) The UW classes were something like $3500/course. If my employer hadn't been willing to reimburse me, I wouldn't have taken them.

All-in-all, I think the Stanford classes are great experiments in which I'm happy to participate. I'm planning to take five of them in Jan-Mar.

restofus 2 days ago 5 replies      
tldr; The experts make it look impossible but the masters make it look easy and actually teach you

Just ranting out here so feel free to ignore :-)

This is not really aimed at the author but towards the "elite" group. There was another elite commentator in one of the other thread who said he dropped out of ML class because This course included gems such as "if you don't know what a derivative is, that is fine" and he thought math was important in ML. Before the ML class I could not even argue with these guys because I did not know squat about AI and talking to these experts their advice was to take a year off and learn math and then start learning AI which in my case was not possible. Today after a couple of months of online classes I am actually using ML in my daily work and its not magic that only the elite with deep profound math knowledge can use. Another programmer who is working in khan academy actually had a blog post about how he implemented ML by learning from Prof Andrew's class now that is real world impact. I may be missing something but can one of you experts please explain why you need deep math knowledge when the professor who has been doing a lot of research in this field a lot more than you does not think so ?. The professor in his classes keeps reassuring that even after using it for so many years he has difficulty in the subject but I'm guessing these experts know it all :-).

This is the reason in my opinion even though wall street is full of smart people they do not care about the rest of the population or the general masses the attitude is we are smart and we can do what we want you guys are dumb and deserve what you get and if someone outside of their elite group starts talking their language they do not like it.

On a similar note when you look at the people complaining about khan academy most of them are these so called smart people.

Let me talk about my background I have been working as a programmer for around 11 years , no math background though thought myself math by using Khan academy and before my layoff (now am working on my own startup ) used to make 90K (in a southern state).

So guys you are not the center of the world we are crashing into your fraternity you are no longer the only experts who can talk about ML , the guys at stanford are smarter than you and know what they are doing and FYI they don't need you its the other way around. Another interesting thing is that mostly the current students seem to agree with the author, If you are smart you should probably take the effort to learn more rather than asking them to tailor the classes to what you think matters .
Also ask yourself this question if you were the Professor what do you think is more satisfying teaching 40 full time students or 20000 who are in the field already and make more impact in the field ?.

chl 2 days ago 0 replies      
My impression was that the course was designed to give someone with little or no background in machine learning a maximally useful amount of practically relevant information given a multitude of constraints (ergo the focus on Andrew Ng's favourite implementation tricks of the trade, learning curves &c.; each of dozens of such nuggets having the potential to save days, weeks or even months in real projects).

If that was indeed the goal, the endeavour should, in my opinion, be considered an amazing success.

An easy way to make the assignments harder (and maybe more fulfilling), if you have the time, might be to ignore much of the handholding (e.g. by porting everything to a very different programming environment).

Ideally, online courses like that would be "infinite" and personalized, giving everyone as much depth (and breadth!) as desired (with a "baseline" approximately equal to the 2011 class) and taking existing knowledge into account.

Eventually, we'll all get our Primer!

diiq 2 days ago 4 replies      
My degree is in Fine Art, and I thought the class was pointlessly easy. Fix the class in two easy steps:

Lecture live, record the lectures. EVERY speaker is more effective when they have the feedback of their audience's faces.

Expect the members of the public to meet the class' standard, don't shrivel the curriculum to match the public. An applied CS course that doesn't demand programming is bizarre. Flunk everyone if you have to. Grades should perhaps reflect understanding?

johnohara 2 days ago 2 replies      
Put down the pen. MIT, Stanford, et.al. have already done the math on this.

20,000 "certification" exams @ $99.00 each is not insignificant. It's just shy of 40 full-time students @ $50,000 per year.

Heats a lot of buildings.

andrewparker 2 days ago 0 replies      
For those who tldr;

The author should have taken CS 229, but instead took CS 229a and was disappointed. He then overgeneralizing from his 229a experience about the future of Stanford CS education.

acslater00 2 days ago 1 reply      
As a stanford CS grad myself, I basically concur. I took this class as a refresher for things I learned back in school. It was perfect for that. But the rigor and difficulty of the class was clearly tailored towards someone like me, who wanted to watch lecture videos over dinner for a few hours a week, rather than a full-time student.

I actually wasn't aware that the online class was being offered for credit in the CS department until reading this. It surprises me that they're doing so.

Jun8 2 days ago 2 replies      
He says:

"Stanford “free” classes aren't free. Stanford students have to pay for them. The fact that I'm paying for them doesn't bother me, the fact that people who aren't paying for them have changed the class more than the ones who have, does."

which does seem to be a forceful point. However, checking the FAQ (http://see.stanford.edu/see/faq.aspx#aboutq2) we find that they are funded completely from outside sources. So this guy didn't even bother to do some basic Google checking.

kenjackson 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's unclear to me if this guy didn't learn enough or if it just wasn't hard enough. I do personally think that some courses are hard for the sake of being hard. If he learned the material stated in the syllabus and it was easy, then that's a really great thing and a tribute to the teaching.
tlammens 2 days ago 2 replies      
According to the website http://cs229a.stanford.edu/ there are class meetings, according to the blogpost everything is done solitary?

Another difference with the course offered to the public is that there is an open ended project.

If he really wanted a harder class, why not take CS229 and not CS229A...

If you want something to be harder, to get more out of something you should pursue it yourself, not depend on others.

I see (online) education as a guide, not as the only source of input. Selfstudy and initiative is the most important thing.

juanre 2 days ago 0 replies      
I took the AI class, and I also saw a degradation of the difficulty. At the beginning it was great. I even undusted my old 48SX, and had lots of fun: they actually made me think. But some of the lessons towards the end were almost a joke: I sure don't need to spend time applying a trivial formula back and forth, as we did in the computer vision lessons (deriving it would have been a slightly more interesting exercise.) I don't know if Stanford students were paying for this, but I'd not be very happy if I had.

On the other hand, I am very happy that they are doing it, and I intend to take as many as my time will allow. And I wish they'll figure out a way to charge a small fee for having "Stanford" in the title in some manner, so that they don't have to spend about half of the certificate of accomplishment making sure that everybody understands that this is _not_ an actual Stanford certificate.

laibert 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure I understand how opening up classes to the online world would would affect the coursework of Stanford students. If the author felt that CS229a was not rigorous enough, he should have just taken CS229 whose problem sets could double as full-time jobs.

Morever, a good chunk of stanford CS classes are already offered online through SCPD (the professional development system) and as far as I know, the structure of those classes remain unchanged.

jmares 2 days ago 0 replies      
I took CS229 at Stanford.

ml-class.org does a phenomenal job in equipping you with the practical knowledge needed to apply the tools of machine learning to real problems.

There is no reason why learning to use these tools should be hard. If you want a challenge, there are plenty of problems in the world amenable to solution via machine learning, especially in today's data deluge.

If you want a deep mathematical appreciation of the algorithms and their derivation, you should do CS229, not CS229a.

Hyena 2 days ago 1 reply      
This post needs a comparison with CS229a prior to the online courses. Was the course harder before online classes and then got significantly dumbed down? Or was the course easy enough that it was a good candidate for the project?
lekanwang 2 days ago 0 replies      
I was MS CS at Stanford, and I agree with Ben's sentiment. I took CS221, and checked out ai-class for fun, and knew several people taking the on-campus version of CS221 this quarter. The short of it is that the online version is essentially the same as the on-campus version, and both fail to adequately prepare a student for further study in AI. It's great that Norvig and Thrun are willing to present this survey class to the public, but not at the expense of students who are actually in the classroom at Stanford and also footing the bill for this grand experiment.

Yes, the class was a fun introduction to AI. But no, it did not offer a deep and thorough theoretical foundation that I would expect from a Stanford class.

swalsh 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think there's a great opportunity to take online classes to the masses without sacrificing the quality of a brick and mortar education. These classes don't need to be offered free, just cheap. If they charged $10 for the whole class (a steal really!) they'd make $1,000,000 a semester per class. That should pay for the bandwidth, and teacher, and material. Scale that to less niche classes, you have a real business! I'd personally pay $10 for a class, even if it did not qualify for credit.
clavalle 2 days ago 1 reply      
There is no reason that there could not be a graduated difficulty for these classes.

Example: The 'level 1' or 'core' videos and assignments can be a base and offered for free and be of a similar duration and difficulty as the class now...

'Level 2' would either replace or augment the 'level 1' and would be more advanced and require some knowledge of pre-requisites and more 'synthesis' or 'critical' style assignments and less hand holding. Maybe they could charge for access to this level...

'Level 3 etc' could go deeper into the topic and perhaps offer more mathematical rigor or dive into more advanced topics or expose students to related current research etc.
The assignments could also be tougher and more free form. Depending on how much human interaction is needed on the assignments and whatnot, they could justify a much higher price...

I would be very interested in a program that had this kind of format.

It would allow for exploration without too much commitment but a deep dive on topics that are interesting and perhaps a window into a community of people exploring the same topics...

If I were paying Stanford level tuition for the class as it stands now, I'd be a bit disappointed too.

16s 2 days ago 0 replies      
I signed-up for the crypto class next semester. I'm looking forward to it. I code a bit of crypto and am interested to see what they'll cover. On a separate note, I don't think the full-time Standford students need to be concerned about the free Internet classes. Guys like me (state A&M college degrees) who take online Standford classes won't devalue his Standford degree one bit. Two totally different things as he is enrolled as a degree-seeking Standford student and I (and those like me) are not.
phodo 1 day ago 0 replies      
I took both, the AI and the ML class, and completed them to the end. All this with a very demanding work schedule at a startup in the valley. I've also been a PM for a large scale ML product that is in production and used by millions of people. I say all this because the courses were perfectly geared to someone like me. I thought the courses were excellent and pragmatic. (of course, like anything, there can be improvements).

I think the issue here is what we are witnessing, aside from the awesomeness of open courseware, is the evolution and continued maturity of Computer Science as a discipline, as it takes more and more mathematical concepts into its fold.

Machine Learning is growing up as a foundational pattern / algorithm that has evolved from research to applied to basic-building-blocks-everyone-should-know. Yes, it took the Valley and Stanford to liberate it (as a poster indicates somewhere here), but that's ok. There is as much street cred in understanding how to implement/design practical applications using ML as there is in pushing the frontier on new ML mathematical techniques. That's how new commercial innovation takes place. You need both sides of the equation; the research and the practical. The course chose a balance that favored the latter, because prior to this little existed. You can hear it in Prof. Andrew Ng's videos... "this is big in the valley"..."you now know how to implement XYZ"... "if you ask these questions on an ML product, you can save your tea, time and money" (I'm paraphrasing).

Recall that at one point, logic/truth tables, sorting algorithms, graphs, etc. all needed to be derived mathematically with their proofs. But then they became axioms and codified as foundational building blocks of CS that just work, enabling us to focus on the next step in the evolution. We don't question or even think twice today when implementing "if (X && Y)".

jacobquick 2 days ago 0 replies      
This kid's a...kid, I guess we shouldn't expect a long view from him. What he sees as a slippery slope is a normal part of education that's hard to spot if you're only in the system for four years.

Professors have been complaining for decades that students don't start their classes with the basics already down. Making a video version of this class, even one that only teaches the first half of the real class, means the professors will start to expect the students know that part already and the real class will expand to include even more advanced topics.

There's no danger of Stanford or Harvard or MIT or anyone else making things easy on their undergrads.

bgposter 1 day ago 0 replies      
I fully understand the author's concerns, but isn't it possible to just make the classes more rigorous for those(at Stanford and online) with a better CS/math background? I mean it was clear that prof. Ng was giving only part of the story, presenting the intuition and skipping the math details/proofs. What is wrong with adding the more rigorous material as optional content for the online learners, and non-optional for the students at Stanford?
I am unfortunatelly only able to take these exciting classes online, but would like to see more rigour too. I am willing to pay a modest fee for the privilege.
sakura_k 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's awesome that Stanford is offering free versions of their classes and adapting the content to the needs of those students. If Stanford is teaching the same classes with the same adaptations to their core CS students, I'd be worried too. Full time on-campus students likely want (and deserve) different adaptations. That's the really concerning thing I saw in the OP's post.

Perhaps this class happened to be taught at an easier-than-usual level. But, if professors are torn between the demands of simultaneously serving dedicated (paying or non-paying) students and casual students, the compromises won't always be to the benefit of the dedicated.

denzil_correa 2 days ago 0 replies      
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. -- Leonardo Da Vinci
th0ma5 2 days ago 0 replies      
It is my understanding from various threads on Reddit that the AI class was meant also to be something of a talent search, as those in the top percentile got a message saying "send us your cv" or something like that.
UK-Al05 2 days ago 0 replies      
I haven't taken it; so I don't know what the difference is. However you might have to separate genuine concerns from threat of students elitism being taken away.
jeffreymcmanus 2 days ago 1 reply      
Watch out, this guy is about to write a letter.
pg_bot 2 days ago 2 replies      
I have watched a few of the online lectures offered by Stanford and I can't help but notice that the audio and video quality of the lectures is terrible. The video will not track the lecturer, and the audio will randomly cut in and out for long periods of time. (If I remember correctly, one lecture was missing half its audio) Also, I am unsure of the class sizes at Stanford but it seems like no one can arrive on time to a lecture.
Is Godaddy delaying domain transfer requests? skitch.com
204 points by prateekdayal  4 days ago   47 comments top 15
aeden 4 days ago 1 reply      
Anthony from DNSimple here. We've definitely seen a lot more of these messages since the SOPA announcement just before Christmas. Prior to that I almost never saw domains stalled because of problems getting at whois data. Whether GoDaddy is doing it on purpose or if they are just overwhelmed with the number of domains that are being transferred out is pure speculation at this point.

In the case of DNSimple, if you get a message like that we are currently recommending that you email us (support@dnsimple.com) and let us know which domains are currently responding with that message and we'll cancel them so you can try them again. It's a brute force way of dealing with it, it's inelegant and may end up causing even more problems for GoDaddy, but we have found that has helped a bit.

To be certain, this is different than the 5 day waiting period that ICANN allows. That only comes into effect after you've submitted the transfer request to the registry, and if you haven't received an email to authorize the transfer request then you aren't at that point yet.

untog 4 days ago 1 reply      
Sudden uptick in requests + the holidays = a multitude of reasons why there might be a delay.

Don't get me wrong, I dislike GoDaddy. But let's not jump the gun on these things.

PStamatiou 4 days ago 1 reply      
3 days ago I transferred ~15 domains. The first half arrived just fine, but the last half is stuck. Those transfers have not shown in GoDaddy's pending transfer page, even after accepting Namecheap's verification emails.
PStamatiou 4 days ago 1 reply      
gkoberger 4 days ago 1 reply      
"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."
-Hanlon's Razor
maxklein 4 days ago 0 replies      
I was planning on transferring only half my domains from godaddy this month, but now with this, I'm transferring them all.
citricsquid 4 days ago 2 replies      
Transfers take forever, it's not a problem with godaddy. I transferred a domain into godaddy before all this SOPA drama and it finally "arrived" yesterday, 7 days later.

edit: seems this is an unrelated issue and before it gets to the transfer stage, my mistake.

dangrossman 4 days ago 1 reply      
Can anyone who's successfully transferred a .COM domain to Namecheap verify which registrar appears on the new WHOIS, Namecheap or eNom? I'm still planning my own move and where to go is a tough move -- I think it's between namecheap and name.com now, and I don't want to move if namecheap is still reselling .COM through eNom.

Interestingly, I looked up all the recent YC-funded companies I could think of and 99% were still at GoDaddy. I was hoping to see some pattern in who they chose to move to, but they haven't moved (yet).

freejack 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is this a Namecheap specific issue or more general to eNom who they are a reseller for. Nothing on the enom system status page... http://www.enom.com/registrynews.asp
jscore 4 days ago 1 reply      
Finally released the domains from GoDaddy by clicking on the domain and doing 'Accept'.

Now, when I do a whois it's showing as registered to eNom (I was xferring to namecheap) and then showing domain not found.

On namecheap's side it's showing as pending - not action required from me.

Anyone seen similar behavior?

thotpoizn 4 days ago 1 reply      
This seems like a good use-case for a distributed whois proxy... I wouldn't mind running a node for a few weeks to help NameCheap get through the backlog, especially if it helps liberates my couple of domains that are currently held hostage...
aaronpk 4 days ago 1 reply      
Not sure. Only 3 of my 15 transfer requests from Friday have gone through.
RobSpectre 4 days ago 0 replies      
I received the same indication from NameCheap's support group. One transfer placed 24 Dec went through - the rest are waiting.
shiftpgdn 4 days ago 1 reply      
Did you go and accept the transfer at GoDaddy? Otherwise it takes a week.
Jayasimhan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Now, I'm more inclined to transfer my domains..
The Dangerous Effects of Reading davidtate.org
203 points by tate  1 day ago   69 comments top 29
nlawalker 1 day ago 5 replies      
I definitely agree about the "filtering crap from gold" bit. Once you reach a certain level of skill it can become a hindrance: you develop an extremely low tolerance for anything that doesn't catch you as interesting within a few seconds, and you start speed-reading absolutely everything. This is good in that you aren't wasting time consuming something that's not really useful, but it's bad in that you end up continuously subjecting yourself to input in this way. You can spend a whole day processing a million inputs, throwing them all away and learning nothing, when the alternatives are to spend your time doing something more fun or productive, or slowing down a bit and maybe actually getting a tidbit or two out of the first few hundred inputs and leaving the rest for another time.

A while ago, when I was reading for the purpose of focused learning (technical books, scouring blogs for information about some framework/API, etc.), I began the habit of taking copious notes. My notes are very wordy; it's almost like I'm having a conversation with myself and rephrasing ideas so I can understand them better. OneNote is my weapon of choice - for me it reduces the "barrier to entry" of starting notetaking because it's easy write now and organize later.

Over time, I realized that when I took notes this way, I had a much higher retention rate and a much greater understanding of what I was reading. So much so that when I find myself sitting at my desk or on the couch and "infosnacking," I try to stop and ask myself, "is what I am reading right now worth taking notes on?" If it is, then I start writing. If it's not, I make the effort to tear myself away and either do something that's more productive or something that I really enjoy.

paganel 1 day ago 3 replies      
I don't know if it's that dangerous. One of my biggest fears is to be stranded somewhere and not having anything to read, and I had this fear way before smart-phones were invented. I can still remember how at 14 I was reading "Ender's Game" in the middle of nowhere where my grand-mother had sent me to graze the cows.

From time to time I would just take my eyes out of the book to make sure that the cows hadn't trespassed our neighbor's property, and then I would quickly return to reading. To this day I always carry something to read with me, be it a book, a magazine or something like that.

And regarding the author's remark that his grand-grand-father would be horrified to learn in what strange circumstances we do read nowadays, I remember my peasant grand-mother scolding my grand-father for "preferring to read" instead of doing something more productive like feeding the cows. I heard a similar argument between my parents when I was little, with my father being accused of reading too much, and sure enough my (future to be ex)-wife also reproached me for reading too much.

wonnage 1 day ago 1 reply      
Jesus Christ. Can't a guy do anything without a corresponding pseudoscientific (actually, wholly arbitrary) blog post about "$anything considered harmful"?

The thread through all these stories is an author's dissatisfaction with their own life. "I found myself reading/working/eating too much. And I didn't like it. So Everyone Else in the world ought to stop reading/working/eating so much." Next week it'll be about how too much focus on creation makes one a narcissist. Or something. There's always something you can point to for making your life bland and unfulfilling. If you find yourself stuck in that loop, consider meditation instead of heroically "creating" a pile of unsubstantiated pontificating.

narrator 1 day ago 2 replies      
Often reading is just distraction. There's often very little actionable information there. It's just taking your mind off your real problems. It's basically all entertainment.

I go home and I watch Khan Academy videos now. I read Wikipedia. I read some Hacker News mainly to distract myself from work. I pretend that it's useful, and it sometimes is, but sometimes I wonder if I'm engaging in repetitive naval gazing and somehow getting off on the ubiquitous outrage.

Why do all this reading anyway? To be more fun at parties? To pretend like we're part of something important when all that lies ahead of us is years of sitting in a cube and stuck in traffic?

I guess it's all not so bad. Whatever floats your boat. Just realize that it's mostly entertainment unless you actually DO something with what you've learned. It's not what you think. It's what you DO that matters.

richardburton 1 day ago 2 replies      
You are right. Excessive consumption can get in the way of creation. However, I think consumption can also inform creation.

I have recently made a conscious decision to comment more-often and submit more links to Hacker News. I want to create, engage, contribute and create more content. The transition from using HN as a tech RSS reader to actually engaging more with the community has been a really refreshing one. I do not feel that time spent writing this comment is time wasted. It is time contributed and, hopefully sometimes, appreciated.

PS - Upvote for the _why quote alone :)

when you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.

PPS - I enjoyed the effects of reading your post ;)

dredmorbius 1 day ago 0 replies      

If you're going to devote a portion of your life to "consuming" (or, to use a more elevated term, "researching"), and a term to producing, and you're finding you're overwhelming yourself with the research phase, timebox it. Set a limit to how much time, or how much of your day, you're going to expose yourself to inputs.

Identify the stuff that you've absolutely got to pay attention to: the truck barreling down the street, the cliff at your feet, bills to pay, eating, time on the loo. Exercise.

And identify the time you're going to spend being creative and productive.

It doesn't have to be absolutely rigid deadlines, but there should be some sense of order to it. Some people work better with more structure, some with less. Find your own method in the madness and stick to it.

Yes, we're in a culture that makes consumption, and productivity dedicated to the interests of others (often our employers) easier, the norm, and default. Think of it as yet another system to hack for your interests and goals.

Good filters are good. But the flipside of a strong reject discriminant is identifying that which is worthy or simply that which you want to spend time with, and do so. Wiping out the other distractions at this point is very useful.

mcantor 1 day ago 1 reply      
In my experience, speed of filtering ("is this thing I'm reading cool enough to continue reading?") and fear of being filtered ("is this thing I'm creating cool enough for other people to read?") are 100% orthogonal. They are simply not related even a tiny bit, which makes this post seem kind of hilariously inane.
funkah 1 day ago 1 reply      
On the other hand: http://www.merlinmann.com/better/

This is my favorite thing Merlin has ever done, and I think about it all the time. I identify strongly with the following three points.

* identify and destroy small-return bullshit;

* shut off anything that's noisier than it is useful;

* make brutally fast decisions about what I don't need to be doing;

I completely disagree that honing your filter (um, to mix metaphors) is a bad thing. At a time when we have tons of ideas thrown at us constantly every single day, it is the essential thing. Otherwise you're looking at every stupid god damned cat video thrown your way.

Splines 1 day ago 0 replies      
You stagnate at work for fear of everything you do being judged like every news article or viral video that you view.

I feel like this about blog posts (even sometimes facebook/twitter updates). Is what I have to say so interesting that I need to share it with others? My cumulative reading filter usually says no.

jdminhbg 1 day ago 1 reply      
> Get off the popular train " teach yourself not to judge based on anything other than your own view. Stop listening to the mainstream radio or to popular music channels. Try college radio.

This will just make things worse! Trust me.

tlammens 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Side note: how freaking scary would it have been to explain to your great-great-grandfather that people would carry around computers and look at them while in the bathroom or driving - he would have been terrified of this future"

And terrified he should be, I am terrified thinking other people are not paying attention to the traffic.

seanstickle 1 day ago 0 replies      
More appropriately titled: The Dangerous Effects of Reading Crap. Should be paired with a companion piece: The Dangerous Effects of Eating Dung.
stcredzero 1 day ago 0 replies      
There is a big difference between musician and non-musician members of the audience. At this point in our history, there is no reason why a denizen of the first world can't be a maker or a creative of some sort.

Being a maker or a creative of some substance requires one to study a particular subject in depth. A part of the challenge the Internet creates, is that it's very easy to get a hugely broad sweep of rather shallow information. It's just not possible to study the whole range of information in depth, but we can send deep probes at one, two, or a few points and thus get a good idea of how deep the ocean of knowledge really is.

thewisedude 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Time in bathroom spent reading on your phone [Side note: how freaking scary would it have been to explain to your great-great-grandfather that people would carry around computers and look at them while in the bathroom or driving - he would have been terrified of this future]

Really? Try telling your ancestors that you have bombs that can destroy entire cities.
Or try telling your ancestors[few centuries back] that you could go to moon today, or that you have the whole world's information in your fingertips, they might faint in disbelief! My point being, that our ancestors' reaction is not a reason why we should not be doing something!

But, I do agree with the author that, the availability of tremendous information is forcing us to judge too quickly, and probably will lead us to making bad judgements!

laglad 1 day ago 1 reply      
Purposeful consumption is different than impulse based consumption. Investigating ideas by reading specific books, articles, and reflecting on the idea is consumption at its finest IMO.

I'm trying to be more mindful about what I consume, but also more committed to finishing what I begin consuming. I try to eliminate the meta-think in your head constantly assessing whether the content is worth my time, instead fully committing to exploring the idea being espoused, even if its bullshit. Its much more mindful to dissect the bullshit rather than dismiss it as low thought.

The link-based architecture of the web contributes heavily to the way we bounce from idea to idea. I've been thinking about how to de-emphasize the constantly shifting focus of clicking on a new link to explore an idea (If you've ever got lost in a quora/wikipedia loop, you understand this phenomenon). What if we could anchor an origin (say, this HN page about "The Dangerous Effects of Reading"), and when we explored links from here, we started a new path on a map showing how deep we were surfing from the original page. If we return to this page, we start an adjacent path that we can explore again. At the end of our browsing session, we have an information map showing how different ideas linked to each other. It might provide a meaningful perspective to our browsing experience.

tintin 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I think the author is expressing that if you (only) let external sources be the inpiration of who you are, you will lose yourself. That's why it is important to create (also).
icehawk 1 day ago 0 replies      
how freaking scary would it have been to explain to your great-great-grandfather that people would carry around computers and look at them while in the bathroom or driving - he would have been terrified of this future

Given that my great-great-grandfather would have been born in the mid-1800s, explaining it would be arduous, not scary. I'm pretty sure that all of the other things I'd have to explain to give him proper context on, "people use their phones in the car and in the bathroom" would probably scare him more.

JoeAltmaier 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'd offer my opinion of this piece, but the irony overwhelms me.
jader201 1 day ago 0 replies      
Interesting piece, and for the most part, spot on. A few thoughts as I read this, though:

> I need to use other peoples work to make myself look cool through sharing them with my friends

To me, sharing other peoples work is a channel for opening up dialog with my peers and learning more about them, and sharing more about myself. While I see that "looking cool" may sometimes be a motive, I think many may share things to spawn discussion (i.e. HN).

> I need to hear what others think before I form an opinion (If you have ever read a review of a new gadget before it launches: think about how ridiculous this activity is)

This one really threw me. Sure, forming an opinion based on reading reviews before something launches is ridiculous, but if somebody has a gadget that is soon launching that you may be interested in, it is only part of curiosity embedded in human nature to read what their experiences of it.

And I definitely go by others' experiences (reviews -- "what they think") of a product before making a purchase. To me, this is just being responsible with my money, and time -- and I believe this has paid off for me, and will probably always do this. I know several that don't do this, and often end up regretting purchases they make.

Reading others experiences -- not just on products, but in general -- help us be more educated and can prevent us from making mistakes. The key is to be able to filter out objective experiences vs. subjective garbage.

> Get off the popular train - teach yourself not to judge based on anything other than your own view.

I find that most people I know either follow pop culture or avoid it -- rarely have I heard about someone that on one end of the spectrum and decides to move to the other end.

I believe the real moral of this piece would be: Be open and make a conscious effort to change your habits.

Most adults are stuck in habits that take years to form, and will likely not change over night, and it will require ongoing effort. They have to first make be willing to do this, and make the decision to do this.

> Cease input - turn your cellphone off, stop reading every stupid blog post about productivity, just stop.

Remember that in order for our creations to be beneficial to others (and often times, that is the purpose of our creations), others must consume our creations. So I think it's more of a matter of finding the balance between consumption and creation, vs. altogether ceasing consumption. (I don't think this point was intended literally, but this thought did cross my mind as I read that statement.)

ballstothewalls 1 day ago 1 reply      
I really like this except:

"I need to hear what others think before I form an opinion (If you have ever read a review of a new gadget before it launches: think about how ridiculous this activity is)"

While I agree that I read too many product reviews, on larger issues, I need to read the opinions of people who actually know what they are talking about. I am so sick and tired of people offering up their opinion on complicated issues like economics when they have nothing other than a few crappy talk show hosts to base their opinion on. I wish people would just say, "I don't know how to fix the deficit or whether my candidate has a good plan, but I did check this book out on economics and I am reading through it"

aangjie 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Kind of ironic how he mentions productivity posts 3-8 times, all the while giving advise to create more(aka productivity improvement)
GlennS 1 day ago 0 replies      
As a counterpoint, there is also a danger to writing without reading. Reading other people's work can stop you from needlessly reinventing what already exists. It informs your opinions and reminds you to consider things that you might have otherwise neglected to. It can also act as a reality check and prevent you from disappearing too far up your own bumhole (when you write about something, and then write about what you wrote, and iterate until your whole argument becomes a house of cards).

For balance, I recommend keeping a pen and a paper by you (or a text editor open) and occasionally pausing your reading to have a scribble whenever something strikes you as interesting.

Additionally, the thing that you absolutely must take the trouble to read are other people's comments on what you have written (exceptions allowed for people who get too many of these comments to make that practical).

kghose 1 day ago 0 replies      

The one I knew of initially was from Faulkner (One of my moderately favorite writers)

"Read everything--trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out."

adriano_f 1 day ago 1 reply      
We are of one mind, davidtate!

I posted this today, too:

For those who say that reading can inform creation, I think neither David nor I would disagree.

It's just that the balance is so weighted on the consumption side that we need go to the other extreme once in a while to redress the balance.

balajiviswanath 1 day ago 2 replies      
We are given 2 ears and 2 eyes to read and listen, but given only one mouth to express ourselves. So, nature herself optimized us for consumption ;-). Also, when we use the term reading it is usually meant for longer content. But, most of what people do with smartphones could at best be called juggling or glancing.

We don't stop creating because we are consuming more. It is other way round. We are consuming more because we are afraid of creating.

opinali 1 day ago 0 replies      
When I'm drivin' in my car
And that man comes on the radio
He's tellin' me more and more
About some useless information...
mattangriffel 1 day ago 0 replies      
The truth is that I don't think most people have it in them to create. The ones that will actually create new things will know when to stop listening to other people. The rest of mankind is probably happy just consuming for their entire lives.
commnderkeen08 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm suprised nobody has mentioned Clay Johnson's new book, "The Information Diet." Pretty interesting read that goes with everything in this article. Side effect to overconsumption is increased personalization of information which makes us more ignornant to new/foreign ideas.

Also, I feel so ashamed listening to podcasts on my way to work now.

larve 21 hours ago 0 replies      
this is wonderfully ironic.
       cached 31 December 2011 05:11:01 GMT