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1
PayPal forces buyer to destroy $2500 pre-WWII antique violin in dispute regretsy.com
966 points by tfe  4 days ago   286 comments top 57
1
parfe 4 days ago  replies      
Some guides for buying violins that go back to 2006 which say to ignore the labels on violins.

http://reviews.ebay.com/Buying-an-old-violin-on-ebay?ugid=10...

http://reviews.ebay.com/What-apos-s-in-a-Name-A-Guide-to-Lab...

http://reviews.ebay.com/Violins-on-Ebay?ugid=100000000142981...

Paypal TOS Covers counterfeit items:

10.1 b Further, if you lose a [Significantly Not as Described] Claim because we, in our sole discretion, reasonably believe the item you sold is counterfeit, you will be required to provide a full refund to the buyer and you will not receive the item back (it will be destroyed). PayPal Seller protection will not cover your liability.
https://cms.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/marketingweb?cmd=_render-c...

If Paypal decides you sold a counterfeit item, you lose the item and your money.

2
Shenglong 4 days ago 3 replies      
It seems to be, that most of PayPal's PR blunders result from heavily regulation of stupid employees. I know we don't tolerate personal insults here on HN, but those of you who have spoken to as many PayPal reps as I have, will probably agree that there are few other ways to describe them. I guess their logic is: "If we can hire dumb people for less money, and regulate them so they can't make mistakes, we can save money! Genius!"

Honestly, this just goes to show how important hiring really can be. Someone with enough common sense to say "hey, that doesn't seem right" would eliminate so many of these problems.

3
udp 4 days ago 1 reply      
As a musician, there's something genuinely horrific about the destruction of a musical instrument.

Whether it's the fault of PayPal or not, I really hope whoever has done this gets what they deserve.

4
Isofarro 3 days ago 1 reply      
Note: the story only mentions the end result, not the path to that end results - so we only have a partial story

I've been through the PayPal dispute process as a buyer several times. It can only be escalated to a PayPal decision after communications between the buyer and the seller have proved unsuccessful / broken down, as in the seller doesn't reply, or refuses to sort out the situation. It doesn't happen overnight.

It's not clear which way this went, but after negotiating with the seller proved fruitless, and then being forced into raising a PayPal dispute, then again the seller failing to resolve the matter forcing an escalation to a PayPal decision - this led to the path of destroying what was claimed to be counterfeit materials.

So the seller knows that violin labels are a contentious area, thus perhaps should have been more accommodating and resolved the issue without forcing the buyer to escalate.

From the buyers perspective, being asked to destroy an item they claim is counterfeit as a pre-requisite to getting his money back seems a rather straightforward step.

Clearly the buyer and seller disagree with the authenticity of the item - but that should have spurred the seller to remedy the situation rather than force an escalation to a PayPal dispute. That way the seller wouldn't have lost out.

The seller's failure to resolve the situation appropriately, before the buyer felt it necessary to escalate a Paypal dispute is part of the problem here. I guess the seller was playing hardball instead of negotiating in good faith. And by playing hardball and failing to resolve the problem initially, the seller loses.

Where the seller believes that they sold an authentic item, and the buyer disagrees, isn't it logical for the seller to offer a good faith refund and send-back without forcing the buyer to raise a paypal dispute and then escalate it when no resolution could be made?

5
InclinedPlane 4 days ago 2 replies      
In the other recent paypal PR debacle I don't think paypal deserved the level of vitriol that was leveled at them. Regretsy screwed up by operating in a way that would have caused most banks to shut them down, but it was horrible customer service on paypal's part that turned it into a disaster.

For this I would like to hear more details of the story but I don't see how paypal could possibly be in the right if the facts as presented are in any way accurate, this is abhorrent.

6
abruzzi 4 days ago 1 reply      
To answer a couple of questions:

1. $2500 is a mid grade violin. I have a 100yo Czech violin that is worth $250. Sears specials for Jr. High students can cost $100.

2. The seller is right that the Label doesn't qualify as intentional counterfeiting. My Czech violins says its a Strad. This is extremely common, and should be taken more like a 'inspired by' tag--unless of course the maker is reputable enough to place their own tags.

It seems to me that the problem is paypal's definition of counterfeit shouldn't be expanded to cover objects where you truly need an expert to determine the counterfeit status. Knockoff rolexes are on thing, but at least from the post, it seems they are taking the buyers word, and don't understand the nature of violin labels.

Also, isn't PayPal owned by eBay? Aren't there thousands or even tens of thousands of counterfeit items littered across eBay?

7
Florin_Andrei 4 days ago  replies      
Yeah. I'm selling some old stuff on eBay, using money to buy newer stuff, drawing the difference from the bank when the PayPal balance is not enough. Repeat.

After not even two cycles of this, I get an email from PP saying:

> Starting MM/DD/YYYY, money from payments you receive will be placed in a pending balance for up to 21 days. By doing this, we're making sure that there's enough money in your account to cover potential refunds or claims. [...] We reviewed your account and determined that there's a relatively higher than average risk of future transaction issues (such as claims, or chargebacks, or payment reversals). We understand that it may be inconvenient to have your payments temporarily held but please know that we didn't make this decision lightly.

That's right. You didn't make this decision lightly. You made it out of greed. You're simply looking for ways to keep my money longer than necessary in order to accrue interest, or whatever. How is this legal? It's my money.

Fortunately, I noticed that selling stuff on Amazon is not too different from eBay. So I'm thinking to move my transactions to Amazon and stop using PayPal altogether.

8
kennywinker 4 days ago 1 reply      
Whoa. I can't believe anybody would do this. Both PayPal demanding it, and the buyer following through.
9
leelin 4 days ago 6 replies      
Wait, isn't $2500 very cheap for a violin? I seem to remember the rather mediocre violin I had as a kid costing more than that (such hopeful tiger parents).
10
wdewind 4 days ago 1 reply      
Not saying this didn't happen, but let's wait until we see something a little more official than a random claim on a blog that's known for its bias against PayPal before flipping out.
11
jaysonelliot 4 days ago 1 reply      
A lot of people are talking about finding an alternative to PayPal.

Does anyone have an opinion on Dwolla or Square?

I have also heard that Visa is getting into the P2P payment space, I suppose Google Wallet must have similar plans.

12
kevingadd 4 days ago 2 replies      
Are there any laws regarding the treatment of antiquities and museum pieces like this that could be used to get PayPal to shape up here?
13
jtchang 4 days ago 1 reply      
"They somehow deemed the violin as “counterfeit” even though there is no such thing in the violin world."

Are you kidding me? Of course there are counterfeit violins. Just like there are counterfeit art pieces.

14
hackermom 4 days ago 3 replies      
I can't believe the buyer didn't reflect over how awkwardly wrong it was to destroy someone else's unpaid-for property on the request of a third party (PayPal). Breathtaking stupidity.
15
whatusername 4 days ago 0 replies      
Step 1: Buy expensive Violin on eBay/PayPal.

Step 2: Dispute Authenticity. Ask for a refund / offer to smash as proof.

Step 3: Buy and Smash Cheap Violin and send PayPal photos as proof.

Step 4: Profit!

16
phaus 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised the dispute got this far. Normal SOP on paypal goes like this.

1. Buyer pays for expensive item with credit card through paypal.

2. Buyer receives shipping confirmation.

3. Buyer disputes credit card transaction.

4. Paypal customer service says "LOL, should have sold it locally. We don't recommend using our service for items like this."

5. Buyer enjoys free $2500 violin.

17
dataminer 4 days ago 0 replies      
About 3 years ago I had to deal with a counterfeit item bought on ebay. In such cases an experienced seller usually offer full refund no questions asked, this is the best policy and saves time and the item, though the seller loses shipping charges they paid when the item was initially shipped and the buyer has to pay the return shipping, sometimes to make the buyer happy, seller even offer to pay return shipping. These small loses are usually considered as "cost of doing business on internet".

Paypal use to require the buyer to prove that the "assumed" fake item is actually fake. In my case Paypal asked me to obtain a certificate either from the original brand or some authorized dealer. If I would have gone that route I had to pay for appraisal fees and spend time shipping/taking item to the authorized dealer. I guess this was Paypal's measure against every other buyer crying fake when they start feeling buyers remorse.

I hope Paypal has not changed their policy of asking for the counterfeit certificate, making it too easy for buyers to claim fake items.

18
droithomme 4 days ago 0 replies      
Since it was not a counterfeit, what legal recourse might the seller have?
19
marshray 4 days ago 0 replies      
I took violin in 6th grade and all of our student models had the "Stradivarius" label. The teacher said about half the violins in the world had a label like that, it was just the style.

PayPal's actions and those of these anti-counterfeiting fascists make me sick. How long until they start organizing "counterfeit violin" burnings in the streets?

20
pflargger 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't see at all where the seller refused to have the item returned. In fact, in both paypalcomplaints.org and Regretsy.com, the seller said:

"Paypal instructed the buyer of a vioin (sic) I sold on Ebay to DESTROY the item rather than return it to me..." - paypalcomplaints.org

"Rather than have the violin returned to me, PayPal made the buyer DESTROY the violin in order to get his money back." - Regretsy.com

So it looks like the seller tried to get the violin returned, but PayPal wouldn't issue the refund until it was destroyed.

Though if someone has that information elsewhere, I'd love to see it.

21
kstenerud 3 days ago 0 replies      
This invites a very lucrative scam:

- Buy an expensive antique using paypal for payment

- Wait for antique to arrive

- Dispute its authenticity

- Once PayPal destroy order arrives, send photo of cheap replica I destroyed.

- Get my money back AND have an expensive antique for free, which I then sell to a local antique dealer.

22
kenmck 4 days ago 0 replies      
Paypal's destruction of counterfeits policy is intended to combat counterfeiting of designer items. It's application here seems lame-brained to say the least.

I'm curious how it got into Paypal's dispute resolution process however. In the only other original post I could find on the matter the seller says she sold the violin through eBay http://paypalcomplaints.org/paypal-told-buyer-to-destroy-ite.... Normally this would have gone through eBay's dispute resolution process first.

23
sakai 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is incredibly disgusting behavior. I have so much respect for the founders of PayPal, but current management is destroying their company and, sadly, their reputations.
24
Renai 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is atrocious. Couldn't they sue and say that they did not own the violin since they did not pay, thus destroyed someone else's violin?
25
cpeterso 4 days ago 0 replies      
> I sold an old French violin to a buyer in Canada, and the buyer disputed the label.

Any more info about the "disputed" label?

26
Confusion 3 days ago 0 replies      
The initial problem here is a single PayPal employee that either didn't read the case well enough to understand the item involved or just doesn't care about antiques or violins (or both). Either way: an employee that doesn't actually care about customers and only abstractly cares about getting his job done, which is probably handling hundreds of similar complaints a day. I can't really blame him. The result sucks, but the system necessarily produces some excesses, because guarding against them is too expensive. Welcome to an corporatist, capitalist world with individualistic employees. It doesn't optimize for human happiness, only for added economic value, independent of who benefits from that value.
27
mbrzuzy 4 days ago 1 reply      
This makes me sick. Ordering to destroy? That makes absolutely NO sense to me. If someone told me this story in person, I would have thought that it was a joke. Paypal is right up there with godaddy on the list of worst tech companies.
28
manojlds 4 days ago 1 reply      
I just wish PayPal supports SOPA so that we can make a GoDaddy out of them.
29
mverwijs 3 days ago 1 reply      
The way I see it the buyer/destroyer should be sued.

A sale was agreed upon. The goods were delivered. The money wasn't.

Buyer simply did not hold up his end of the bargain and should be taken to court.

In my simple view, PayPal does not even enter the picture. Or is there more to it than that?

30
bhangi 3 days ago 0 replies      
Disclaimer - I used to work at eBay but my work was not in any way connected with policies on counterfeits or Paypal. So the following is my speculation only.

While this specific case does sound awful, I'd bet that eBay/Paypal's draconian policies towards counterfeits is a result of number of lawsuits that designer labels have filed in the past against eBay. It would likely be impossible for eBay/Paypal to physically examine every item that is claimed to be counterfeit, so the blanket policy which lets them claim in court that they are doing everything reasonable to prevent counterfeit items being traded on eBay. Again, this particular case does suck, but honestly I think the real villains are the Louis Vittons of the world.

31
gerggerg 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a tad ridiculous. Very few of you know anything about violins and I'm sure none of you know the details of this story or if it's even true. Regretsy was being irresponsible in posting it without any evidence and many people here are behaving like key members of a lynch mob.
32
parsnips 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's called small claims court. Just take Pay Pal there, and win the $2500 plus costs.
33
jeremyarussell 4 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe I'm just utterly lost here, but I'm hoping someone can fill me in on how or why PayPal would have told anyone to destroy something they hadn't paid for? This seems rather ridiculous if it's true, on so many levels.
34
angryasian 4 days ago 0 replies      
its great that the internet opened up a global market, but the same rules apply

Caveat emptor, Caveat venditor

35
nwmcsween 4 days ago 0 replies      
The thing is if an item is counterfeit and paypal allowed payment to proceed they could be litigated. If a third party imported counterfit goods and didn't take due action they could be fined and / or lose their license. Paypal does this to minimize risk and effort (cost) involved, whether this is a good way to minimize risk is apparent but than again this is paypal.
36
guelo 4 days ago 1 reply      
I would sue PayPal in small claims court.
37
josscrowcroft 4 days ago 0 replies      
What the ffuuuuu.....

Things just keep getting weirder and weirder with PayPal. And more depressing.

38
dhughes 4 days ago 0 replies      
The sad thing is he could have bought a $5 piece of junk at the pawn shop smashed it to bits then showed Paypal a picture of that.
39
pbreit 4 days ago 0 replies      
Something doesn't sound right here. Does the OP have any correspondence from PayPal showing that it indeed instructed the buyer to destroy the violin? Is it legal for PayPal to instruct and for a person to destroy property like this? Without some sort of third party mediation? Could the seller have offered to pay for an authentication?
40
ruethewhirled 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's reasons like this I'll never have a paypal account or offer it as a means of payment on my site
41
dannielo2 4 days ago 2 replies      
I couldn't find on the Internet a Bourguignon Maurice priced at less than $10.000. This certainly looks as if the seller tried to make an "irresistible offer" with their chinese violin that even had a inkjet paper label inside.
42
Tinned_Tuna 3 days ago 0 replies      
On the one hand, I can see why that particular clause (10.1b) is in their TOS. They don't want you (be you the buyer or the seller who got the item back) to re-sell the counterfeit item, costing PayPal the fees, and all of the lost time on the dispute.

However, there should be a reasonable limit, whereby if the item is >£x value, or is claimed to be an antique (or similar), an independent professional who can identify it will be hired -- and charged to whoever they side against (i.e. whoever made the false claim).

43
RobertKohr 4 days ago 0 replies      
So the moral is, if you are selling a big ticket item, don't accept paypal. There are many cases where it just gets reversed, and the buyer is always right.

When selling something like this, accept cashier checks, money orders, bitcoins, etc. You need need it to be non-reversible.

44
ck2 3 days ago 0 replies      
Congressional hearing please.

My only hope is that congress usually destroys instead of fixes whatever it sets it's eyes on, so PayPal would be doomed.

45
astrodust 4 days ago 0 replies      
I guess there's going to be a lot of counterfeit Roman-era coins that will have to be melted down for scrap!
46
imperialdrive 4 days ago 0 replies      
What a terrible story - I'm sorry to hear about your violin. I just closed my paypal account; it took 60 seconds...
47
Mordor 3 days ago 0 replies      
Even something counterfeit is worth something, so the seller is still entitled to sue (for the value of the counterfeit good). The object would then be re-valued during the trial and the seller liable for the full amount. Is this correct?
48
deepkut 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great case of a "picture is worth a thousand words." That picture is heart breaking...

STRIPE STRIPE STRIPE!

49
irunbackwards 4 days ago 0 replies      
I feel like this would make a great MasterCard commercial.
50
uurayan 3 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I don't understand is why didn't the buyer just contact the seller directly and try to return the violin for a full refund? Was it sold under the terms all sales final?
51
loceng 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think this should be taken to Reddit to get PayPal to change their ways, and/or fundraise money to sue PayPal to change this practice.
52
nsxwolf 4 days ago 0 replies      
Startup idea: Offer insurance to protect sellers against PayPal's counterfeit item policy.
53
jorgecastillo 4 days ago 0 replies      
I will never have a PayPal account.
54
Keyframe 3 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting story, but how is this hacker news?
55
Finbarr 4 days ago 0 replies      
There's a picture of a broken violin? Then it must be true! Why would anyone ever break such a beautiful instrument unless Paypal had told them to!?
56
vonskippy 4 days ago 1 reply      
Yeah, Regretsy.com is a bastion of fine journalism.

I'd wait to get your panties in a knot until a real news site reports this.

57
petercooper 4 days ago 1 reply      
The funny part of this story is in the comments section. A bizarre number of strangers seem to be "cut up" or "I'm crying" over an inanimate object that isn't even theirs!
2
Richard Stallman Was Right All Along osnews.com
714 points by thomholwerda  5 days ago   226 comments top 33
1
pg 5 days ago  replies      
This article doesn't seem to give any examples of specific predictions Stallman made that have turned out to be correct. All the article seems to be saying is that Stallman seemed paranoid, and present events seem to justify paranoia.

(Incidentally, people always feel that.)

Can anyone give some examples of specific predictions Stallman made that seemed surprising at the time, but that have come true? I'm not saying there haven't been any, just that such a list would be more useful than this article.

2
spodek 5 days ago  replies      
"I, too, disregarded Stallman as way too extreme... Only a short while ago I would've declared this as pure paranoia - but with all that's been going on recently, it's no longer paranoia."

I considered him extreme until I thought more about it, then came to agree with him on most major points...

... that was in 1993.

Glad to see others here.

3
kevinalexbrown 5 days ago 1 reply      
One problem with software you don't have control over is that anything is subpoenable. We don't have to wait for the government to impose their own tracking mechanisms, because as soon as they get probable cause, that's it (which includes missing a finger, having >7 days food supply at home, if you believe Rand Paul anyway). Or just look up Google's government transparency report[1]. When you don't have control over your data, it's just a warrant/polite request away from the government.

Not all government access to private data is bad. After all, it's needed to stop things like child prostitution/pornography rings, and yeah, terrorism. But what I liked so much about this article was putting the slippery slope into perspective. It's easy enough to quote the transparency report, "The number of user data requests we received increased by 29% compared to the previous reporting period." and go "well - just 29%" but that's one year. I'll make the surprising bet it doesn't go down. Compare to three decades ago, and a lot of what's happening now seemed draconian then.

[1] http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/

4
chc 5 days ago 4 replies      
This article is just a complete non sequitur. The Stallman angle has nothing to do with any of the problems it cites. Free software wouldn't prevent Obama from signing an indefinite detention bill, it won't stop the government from forcing ISPs and DNS roots to do harmful things " the benefits of free software are completely different things.
5
samstave 5 days ago 2 replies      
I think we are giving the government and Obama far too much credit for being stupid/naive/uncunning.

Of course the NDAA funding auth is going to be passed. It must be - thus, they throw on insidious clauses like the detainment, and Obama is the lucky guy who just happens to be in the unfortunate position where he must sign it even though he opposed certain items.

Here is an idea: require all laws to be single subject, single focus. If it is a funding measure, it cannot expand powers/modify any existing laws other than to either increase or decrease funding. If it is a law, such as one that is focused on the detainment of [whomever] then that should be a singular law stating under which circumstances this law shall be applied.

This is the number one source of corruption in the government, the ability to abuse the structure of the legal system.

By doing this one thing, you will cripple lobbying, create transparency and create accountability (you'll be able to understand where each rep is on each issue)

6
jasonallen 5 days ago 2 replies      
Agreed - Stallman was right all along. What's working against Stallman though is that his doomsday predictions are being delivered in piecemeal fashion. Each slight erosion doesn't seem too bad by itself. Only in retrospect does the magnitude of the problem reveal itself. Governments and corporations have evolved processes to change laws in such effective manners as to evade most human observation.

tldr; No one tells you the plane's not coming - they just tell you it's 20m late, perpetually...

7
strmpnk 5 days ago 0 replies      
Richard Stallman may have been right about the issue but that doesn't mean is approach to solving these issues nor his philosophy are in the same bucket.

I'd say he's always been right to a point since what he said years ago was true then and happens to be true now at a larger scale. It's not necessarily prophetic, just keenly observant. Likewise we have more free software options today than we did in the past.

My personal opinion is that it'd be wrong to get rid of either end. Eliminating freedom from software ecosystems would be disastrous. Likewise, I don't think free solves all of our software problems either (one could possibly abstain from many things but that's avoiding not solving the problem). SOPA needs to be stopped but lets not assume that non-free software needs to be limited because of this. Live and let live (and never let your guard down).

8
Tycho 5 days ago 4 replies      
I just don't see the relationship between government overstepping the mark... and buying a proprietary product form a company you respect, because you want to use the product and are willing to sacrifice the desirable but non-essential quality of unfettered access to its innards.

...OK, actually I do see the connection. The suggestion is probably that if the technology is not totally open, you don't know how much power you're giving away (the manufacturers could be cooperating secretly with the authorities). But if you really feel like this, all you need to do is refrain from using your iClosedDevice for any type of work or communication that you wouldn't trust in the hands of the manufacturers/authorities.

... And OK, I see the point that we need to support the alternative methods or else their won't be any when we need them. It's just the either/or sentiment that bugs me.

9
sunkencity 5 days ago 2 replies      
Good article but I disagree that supporting "Android (not Google) even though you like IOS" is a valid strategy for openness. android is all about monitoring and datamining the user. Sad to see the good old openmoko project die.
10
wycats 5 days ago  replies      
It's worth noting that Obama, upon signing, issued a signing statement that said that he was against the indefinite detention provision, and importantly, that he would not indefinitely hold Americans without trial:

"Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law."

11
Jun8 5 days ago 0 replies      
You have to counter the forces against freedom with an array of approaches, free software being only one of these. Without having a clear understanding of the economic and political understanding of the driving forces behind the ratcheting up of state control, resistance will be pretty much futile, I fear.
12
morpher 5 days ago 4 replies      
In Sec. 1021 (the one about indefinite detention power), it clearly states:

(e) AUTHORITIES."Nothing in this section shall be
construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to
the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident
aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are
captured or arrested in the United States.

So, how does this give the president the supposed power to detain US citizens? (The oft quoted 'slippery' line about not requiring detention Americans is from the NEXT section, which is specifically about requiring detentions in some cases.

13
trotsky 5 days ago 0 replies      
Rarely have I come across an article that promised such a ringing endorsement in its title only to find it peppered with bits of snarky back handed compliments.

So it doesn't come as much of a surprise that there wasn't much there even for the mostly uninitiated, still good(?) press is good press.

Surely, I thought, now that we've declared the imminent death of the Liberty and the Internet and its subsequent rescue by Saint Rick we must have hit bottom.

In the fine tradition of the showman the best had been saved for last. Never fear, he says, because Stallman's had our backs all along - it may have taken a long time but thankss to Richard we have Free and Open platforms like Android* that will protect us in the dark days ahead.

* resist temptation, remember: boot locks, carrier installs, 3rd party spyware, location tracking, cloud storage, baseband, drm everything, few security patches, etc.

14
SaintSal 5 days ago 2 replies      
"His only computer is a Lemote Yeelong netbook, because it's the only computer which uses only Free software - no firmware blobs, no proprietary BIOS; it's all Free." Interesting that it's made in China. I'm trying to reconcile the implications of that... http://www.lemote.com/en/products/Notebook/2010/0310/112.htm...
15
trotsky 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is why you should support Android (not Google, but Android), even if you prefer the iPhone. [...] There's going to be a point where being Free/open is no longer a fun perk, but a necessity.

Stallman on Android:
https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/android-and-users-freedom.htm...

16
Craiggybear 5 days ago 0 replies      
Of course he was right all along. As we will all soon discover to our enormous cost.
17
Shorel 3 days ago 0 replies      
Of course he is right when he writes about fundamental issues. He's very smart and knows the implications of laws and licenses.

However, he allows no room for dissent, no transition path, no concessions for the real world. His followers are the same.

For this reason, I will never use the GPL for any of my projects (I prefer wxWidgets and MIT licenses).

18
paulhauggis 5 days ago 1 reply      
Take note who signed it.
19
jimmeh2 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've often thought that Stallman was too prickly as spokesman or organisational leader, but I've never regarded him as being too extreme from a free software, ideological perspective. His thinking along those lines has always been meticulously careful and he generally sought out and found extremely competent legal advise. His basic mode of argumentation is to point out various legal exploits and note that there was no good reason to assume that government and industry won't abuse them if given the right set of circumstances.

It's a mystery why every ten years we have to have this discussion about whether we've entered a new age of ethical business and responsible government, where we somehow think that human nature and human organisations have changed permanently (through technological innovation!) in some egalitarian way.

20
ypcx 5 days ago 0 replies      
From the "Yeeloong Notebook" page:

"If you prefer warm interpersonal dialogs in solving problems, you can dial our hotline. Technical personnel will provide help in the first time."

Now I can understand Mr. Stallman!

On a more serious note, the only question is: How much worse do things have to get, in order to start getting better?

Besides, the Yeeloong thing coming from China, I wouldn't be so sure it doesn't contain a bit of tracking circuitry.

21
antoinevg 4 days ago 0 replies      
Excerpted from Volume 43 of How To Boil Frogs by P. Latanna:

  *ribbit*

To be sure the water is warmer this year but
surely it is only 9.943 degrees hotter and not
10 degrees like the author claims.

*ribbit*

22
dmoney 4 days ago 0 replies      
I can't find a news article saying that NDAA has been used to detain Occupy protesters, only that Occupy protesters have protested NDAA and some were arrested for failing to leave when ordered.
23
Mordor 4 days ago 0 replies      
People latch onto the word 'terrorist' and think it doesn't apply to them, but we are all 'terrorists' in one way or other because our thoughts and actions do not completely submit to the state. Indeed this is never possible.
24
zeruch 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very few people actually dispute the crux of most of his arguments (at least those that have more than a surface awareness), but his dogmatism and often shrill OCD about slapping the GNU-prefix on things and poor social and personal hygiene have resulted in an image of a wildly paranoid crank which has made it easy to write him off casually by many of those who should be listening to him.
25
Cieplak 5 days ago 0 replies      
To what extent can utilities like DTrace make proprietary software free? I know this is kind of a broad question, but can we detect hidden functionality in proprietary software without fully reverse-engineering it?
26
Tharkun 4 days ago 0 replies      
Invoking Godwin's Law.

Saying Stallman "was right all along", just because he's not completely wrong all the time, is a bit like saying "hitler was right all along". Complete and utter bullcrap.

Stallman is a tit. Being an unwashed dick is his god given right, I won't dispute that. In spite of his undoubtedly good intentions, however, the man has such a poor image that he's done "his" FOSS cause more harm than good. He should go away. Or at least shut up.

27
hnsmurf 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just because you're paranoid/doesn't mean they're not after you.
28
aquanext 5 days ago 0 replies      
Sorry, but the part about picking Android over iPhone is just bullshit. Android is totally open source and it still came preloaded with Carrier IQ on it. I agree with the sentiment, but let's not be stupid, okay?
29
tessellated 4 days ago 0 replies      
'Richard Stallman Was Right All Along' Is this really news anymore?
30
eddyweb 3 days ago 0 replies      
I love what Bob Dylan said in a song "...instead of learning to live, they are learning to die". That really summed it up for me
31
BiosElement 4 days ago 0 replies      
And I predict everyone on this planet will die at some point in time!

...
...

I guess that means I was right all along!

32
desireco42 5 days ago 0 replies      
I can't like this enough
33
gonzo 5 days ago 1 reply      
This whole "Stallman doesn't carry a phone" thing is BS.

I spent a couple days with him in Hawaii. He most definitely has a cell phone.

4
Impress.js - a Prezi like implementation using CSS3 3D transformations github.com
584 points by ramanujam  6 days ago   62 comments top 27
1
breckinloggins 6 days ago 2 replies      
"WARNING

impress.js may not help you if you have nothing interesting to say ;)"

Although said in jest, this struck me as poignant. I feel that many of us spend a disturbingly large amount of time researching, downloading and "hello world"ing all of these pretty well-marketed tools, but most of us still haven't figured out what we're going to build with them.

Opiate for the hackers. I plead guilty.

2
tptacek 6 days ago 2 replies      
This is really slick.

I'm torn by Prezi. It's the moral antipode to Tufte's philosophy of presentation. It seems like it should be objectively evil. But the infinite canvas aspect of it makes the slides so dense they actually kind of work for reading online; the transition animations, annoying as they are, add pacing and create a reading experience that somewhat mirrors the delivery of an actual talk.

I'd love to hear some success stories from people who have actually delivered Prezi talks in public.

3
moocow01 6 days ago 0 replies      
Looks fantastic although I have to admit these prezi types of presentations start to give me a headache after about 10 seconds from the motion. Also while the prezis look undeniably cool, I still use the standard slideshows in that I find the transitions to be a little too much whiz-bang fancy where standard slides are minimalist. But this is a very cool demonstration of CSS transforms.
4
aridiculous 6 days ago 0 replies      
I have a friend who gets paid to simply make Prezis for clients (large and small). The tool was designed for anyone to use and yet she still gets plenty of business.

There is a gigantic market for making stuff that makes other people look good. People are looking for something that is like Powerpoint, but a bit better because PP is considered boring. This, if refined and made easier to use for intermediary content creators, has enormous financial potential because it works on all devices.

5
sharmajai 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is mind-blowing, I like how he uses transitions to empower content.

The transitions themselves are fantastic and like others in the thread I don't find them fancy at all, in fact I think they add movies like continuity to presentations for cheap, which if used wisely can enable story-telling style of information delivery.

I can see myself using it for info-graphics and tutorials, other than presentations, by making it do non-linear (zooming in/out or using hrefs) flow of content.

Oh now I realize why I liked it so much, it also removes the single most annoying feature of reading content on the web - the constant scrolling and zooming, like readability it alleviates that pain for you, by zooming in to the content that matters the most at this instant.

6
scommab 6 days ago 1 reply      
While a very cool library, it will only be really useful once we get some content creation tools for it.
7
skbohra123 6 days ago 1 reply      
There's an inkscape extension Sozi http://sozi.baierouge.fr/wiki/en:welcome which is also very easy to use tool to make prezi like presentation and it's also FOSS.
8
pace 5 days ago 0 replies      
Impress.js is an awesome piece of tech"but I wouldn't use it for a presentation:

There's just a very fine line between over- and underdoing a presentation. It's never good just to dash off a presentation with lousy layout and design but it may not be beneficial to overdo a presentation as well. Too much FX and animations makes you at a certain point needy: "Look what I did to impress you", "Look, another animation!", "How nice, isn't it??", "And here another 3D effect, awesome isn't it? I spent the entire day to make the rotation perfect, just for you because I like you!". After the 5th animation the viewers think you are a needy guy, needing approval, spending to much time on design than content and having nothing to do.

Different with pure web presentations for a large audience, then such tools are nice, but I don't know if they convert better than a gold old landing page.

9
wyuenho 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm actually a little surprised that no one has mentioned reveal.js yet. Different idea, but worth mentioning. Impress.js is more like those font animation we see lots these days. It's pretty cool.
10
pearkes 6 days ago 0 replies      
I would argue one of the reasons the demo is so effective is because it's expressing (in language) the same thing it's doing visually.
11
brackin 5 days ago 0 replies      
Yesterday was the first day I'd blocked Hacker News to get work done, ironically it was the moment when I needed something like this the most. Oh well, seems really cool. I'm glad the flash, closed alternative Prezi has a rival as this seems far more responsive.
12
darklajid 5 days ago 2 replies      
"I don't really expect it to run smoothly in non-webkit-based browser."

That's the new 'optimized for IE 5 at 1024x768' it seems. Sad.

13
lwhi 6 days ago 0 replies      
I love this new format for presentations. I think the fact that slides are arranged in a spatially distinct way - and are linked fluidly - aids my comprehension. Would be interesting to find out if this is actually true (and not just expectation based upon novelty appeal).
14
lrizzo 5 days ago 0 replies      
excellent tool. For content creation it could be coupled with some markdown tool written in javascript.
I have been using this approach for a while, I put the content in a textarea and the browser does the conversion for you. The formatting instructions (to apply css styles) are similar to LaTeX which i am familiar with and is not too visually intrusive.

You can see an example at http://info.iet.unipi.it/~luigi/netmap/slides.html

15
Flimm 6 days ago 0 replies      
Unfortunate name. Impress is the name of OpenOffice.org's presentation tool.
16
aridiculous 6 days ago 1 reply      
Tried in Safari 5.0.2 and it's broken. Works great in Chrome.
17
mgualt 6 days ago 2 replies      
Is there a high-level markup language that I can use to output to this? E.g. LaTeX style document structure but for this kind of presentation output?
18
Metapony 4 days ago 1 reply      
In looking at the stylesheet for the impress.js demo, I wonder if this http://leaverou.github.com/prefixfree/ would be useful to keep things tidy when rotating content and such.
19
hackNightly 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great implementation and I enjoyed the demo. As I have nothing to say, I won't be using it, but good work.
20
j45 6 days ago 0 replies      
Very, very cool. I would use a tool based on this, are you thinking of building one out?
21
iambot 5 days ago 0 replies      
looks brilliant, pitty about the browser support, but thats to eb expected i suppose.
22
josscrowcroft 6 days ago 0 replies      
I love how it starts, definitely caught me off-guard!
23
janus 6 days ago 2 replies      
Very well implemented. Prezi it's amazing except that it needs flash.
24
artursapek 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is one of those cool things where you can say, "wow, so we can do this!" But it really doesn't solve any problem or help anyone achieve anything.
25
QuasiPreneur 5 days ago 1 reply      
damn..wish mobile webkit based browsers would support this..
26
cgcardona 6 days ago 0 replies      
Looks really nice. Good job.
27
aniketpant 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is just brilliant!

I actually don't have any words to say now :D

Love the work man.

5
Resolutions for programmers might.net
500 points by fogus  4 days ago   152 comments top 26
1
parfe 4 days ago  replies      
Learn Dvorak -
I'd warn against bothering with Dvorak. Huge time sink with dubious claims of speed improvements. While a mythical programmer may exist who feels his raw typing speed limits his productivity, I never met that unicorn. While learning you have an increased error rate, run into incompatibility with other programmers and programs (emacs or vim... good luck) and end up needing to defend something no one actually cares about.

Back Up Your Data - I'd argue the resolution should be "Restore Your Data". Everyone has "backups" but that doesn't mean they have a valid restore procedure that they know works.

I like the list overall. It definitely has some interesting suggestions. The dominant arm in a sling sounds fun.

2
feralchimp 4 days ago 2 replies      
Most "list" posts suck; this one was awesome.

My only quibble: "Argue against something you believe" is not a special, part-time exercise. It should be a tightly-integrated element of your ongoing mindset, even in 'damn the torpedoes' dev mode.

3
silentbicycle 4 days ago 1 reply      
For anyone who takes him up on his Datalog suggestion, this (http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/ramsdell/tools/datalog/datalog.h...) is a pretty good standalone implementation. Free (LGPL), in a mix of C and Lua.

For Prolog, try GProlog (http://www.gprolog.org/) - it has good constraint programming support.

4
mhartl 4 days ago 2 replies      
I have a couple of contrary suggestions with respect to health.

    1. Don't follow the conventional wisdom on RSI

I struggled with RSI for years, and did all the usual things (warmups, exercises, braces, a Kinesis with modified key layout, etc.) Then, in early 2010, I read (at Aaron Iba's suggestion) The Mindbody Prescription by John Sarno. Within a couple of days, I saw remarkable improvement; within a month, I was symptom-free. YMMV, of course.

    2. Don't wear a brace of any kind.

I question the advice to wear a back brace. Over time, this leads to muscle atrophy and causes or exacerbates the very problem you're trying to solve.

I don't warm up, don't wear braces, and have switched back to a Qwerty layout. I stay strong and healthy other ways, but I now ignore all RSI-related advice that doesn't acknowledge the "mindbody" nature of the problem. I've been symptom-free for more than a year. (This is an anecdote, so take it for what it's worth. The book's like $12, though, so you don't have much to lose.)

5
candre717 4 days ago 3 replies      
Tips for completing resolutions, such as these 12:

a. Have a plan with dates, milestones and accountability mechanisms

b. Start small (Instead of one month using a different OS, how about day and go from there)

c. Make it meaningful, Know why you're making a Committment, Be Selective (Have an intrinsic motivation to make a change in your everyday life)

d. Stay the course (If you get off track, get back on)

edit: formatting, typo

6
teeray 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'd like to add a caveat to the "Implement a cryptosystem" suggestion--Implement one, but DO NOT USE IT. It's a fun challenge, but only fools use their own crypto libraries.
7
maeon3 4 days ago 4 replies      
Programmers stuck inside who need fitness ideas get out and meet people. Go to meetup.com, type in your area and type in running, health and fitness. Find a running club where you meet up somewhere and run around a loop, trail, or city area. I found that extremely rewarding. It is a filter to screen out the fraggles from the doozers.
8
tedkalaw 4 days ago 1 reply      
"Going analog" is something I have really tried lately. The more I find myself into tech, the more I appreciate not being around it.

I really want to give woodworking a shot this year.

9
AznHisoka 4 days ago 1 reply      
I definitely recommend learning about the humanities and other fields outside of technology. For most people, we already know enough about programming, and learning another language or framework is a marginal investment.

But delving into another totally different subject like healthcare, or insurance, or psychology opens you up to a whole set of new problems and ideas. Whereas just learning technology helps you with the implementation side of things, not the high-level problem solving.

10
pknerd 3 days ago 0 replies      
Though the entire list is pretty awesome but somehow I missed or got overlooked that it does not contain the factor to give time to family.

Most of us, programmers when get busy in work tend to ignore our families unintentionally.This pattern is not different than artists who pain pictures.

After watching the TED Talk by Matt Cutts(mentioned in my last post) and some serious complaints by my wife and kid, I decided to make a resolution of this year to give more time to family than I used to give last year. It's covering few things mentioned in the post:

1- Coming out of comfort zone: When I start coding or doing something relevant of it, I just forget everything and often work in wee hours. Now coming out of it is definitely not comfortable for me but eventually would turn out to make things sane around me.

2- Be social: When one gets social,even with wife and other family member, you got to face things which don't pertain coding. While things like that could be painful at times due to bad situation but it naturally makes your brain cells think about other things as well.

So, I request to myself and entire HN community to give more time to your family too. You never know how such "non-technical" moments make your technical journey more beautiful.

my 2 cents.

11
Impossible 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great list. This is basically my new years resolution, which is actually a list of things I've wanted to do for a long time that I put together after I lost funding. The most important one being complete a personal project. My list has a few additional items including learn web dev and launch a simple web app and get back into mobile development and release something on Google Marketplace and\or the Appstore.
12
justincc 4 days ago 0 replies      
I was really hoping this would be about screen resolutions. 1920 x 1200 all the way, baby (or failing that 1600 x 1200, which is increasingly expensive to get nowadays).
13
eliasmacpherson 4 days ago 0 replies      
Other than going to work on time using a Seinfeld calendar ( so that my lax work environment doesn't eat into my evenings ) I'm going with this:
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/12/newyears-resolution-fu...
14
jiggy2011 3 days ago 0 replies      
Well I have tried to put my money where my mouth is in ref to this, just ordered the following from amazon.

SICP (Wizard book),

Practical Electronics for inventors,

Code Complete,

Javascript: The good parts,

Programming Android,

Arduino Cookbook

Now the question is , what order to read them in?

15
justindocanto 3 days ago 0 replies      
You will never be able to accomplish being "Healthier". What is healthier? a little healthier? maybe a little healthier than that? until you feel healthy? eat green stuff?

Try something more concrete like "Eat no more than 2 fast food meals a month".

Basically, your first resolution should be "Set 11 tangible goals".

16
gtani 4 days ago 1 reply      
languages: I'm going to give F# under mono another try, in the spirit of other langauges suggested (haskell, ocaml, racket)
17
jwallaceparker 4 days ago 1 reply      
+1 for trying the vegan diet

If you do this, please go to restaurants and request a vegan meal. The environmental benefits of the vegan diet are well-documented.

The best way to enact change is to get restaurants to start listing vegan options.

18
fredus 4 days ago 1 reply      
Get serious with Testing? :-)
19
samskiter 4 days ago 1 reply      
I really like the suggestions. So, January is analog. Time to buy myself an XBox Kinect and try and high score Virtual Dance Off High School 8.

3. Embrace the uncomfortable.
How about quit Facebook...

20
sidcool 4 days ago 2 replies      
Another one:

Meditate Regularly

21
cr0wppe 4 days ago 0 replies      
Good mathematicians make good programmers ... if they want to. but those I work with (Finance) can produce very awefull code.
22
mathgenius 3 days ago 0 replies      
me: talk more.
23
zerop 4 days ago 0 replies      
13. browse stackoverflow daily
24
ghaste 3 days ago 0 replies      
A toc but no links, maybe you need to add: learn usability
25
digitallimit0 4 days ago 0 replies      
Love the list. Favorited that for future-use with spicing up my life.
26
g3orge 4 days ago 0 replies      
Amazing list. I'm gonna follow every month.
7
A Man. A Van. A Surprising Business Plan. npr.org
482 points by slamdunc  3 days ago   100 comments top 29
1
johnnyg 3 days ago 3 replies      
There are going to be a lot of vans parked on that corner before long.

If I'm these guys, I realize that my moat is weak and do these things:

1. Do not interview with NPR. It isn't like you are driving business. You are only attracting competitors.

2. Park 6 vans outside, each with a different dba so that the market looks saturated.

3. Make a retail space, see if it does better than the vans.

4. Look nation wide for similar geographic anomalies that would create this same pain point. Park a van at one of them and send one of the owners to sit in it. See if money can be made. Repeat.

There are many unemployed people in America right now, it sounds like several dozen can go rent a van and fix the glitch. :-)

2
BenoitEssiambre 3 days ago 2 replies      
Am I the only one who read that in a hip hop voice?:

"We've all been there. Trapped in line at the D-M-V

Or stuck on hold while trying to call a city a-genCY.

It's easy to complain about government bureau-craCY.

But it's the rare person who sees such ineffi-cienCY

as a business opportuniTY.

Meet Adam Humphreys. He lives in New York CiTY

It started simpLY

enough. Adam found out he needed a viSA

to travel to ChiNA.

for a vacation. His bureaucratic haSSleS with the ChineSe conSulate launched a whole new buSineSS.

"Can you help me?" he said.

No!

"Do you have a printer I can use?" he tried.

No!

3
jitbit 3 days ago 2 replies      
I was born in Russia. Where they still have vans like this next to the US embassy, the UK embassy, the Canadian embassy, the French/German/Spanish/Swedish embassies, heck, all the "western" countries' embassies. We're used to it.

This "business plan" is 60 years old. When the WW2 was over and the world was (stupidly) divided into two parts. Visas are PITA. You, Americans, just not very used to it... Fortunately.

4
dugmartin 3 days ago 6 replies      
I wonder how many HN folk's first inclination would have been to create a website to do this instead of rent a van and deal directly with people? How much do we hold ourselves back by trying to go directly to a scaleable solution?
5
petenixey 3 days ago 4 replies      
I could see the same thing doing well outside the US embassy in London.

Offer a US-visa sized passport-photo service, a locker to put your phone when you can't take it into the embassy and some tissues to wipe away your tears of joy/despair and you'd be in business.

Add to that a £10 glossy file to give the assorted papers of your $2,000 application that final touch of gloss and you could make a wonderful income.

6
ShabbyDoo 3 days ago 0 replies      
I talked to a guy in Chicago who just opened-up an upscale bar/restaurant. His description of the corruption and bureaucratic hassles reminded me of stories told to me by Indian friends about getting basic stuff done in India. Apparently the Chicago liquor permit process required standing for hours in lines only to be told that you were in the wrong line, had the wrong documents, etc. This guy gladly would have paid a couple hundred bucks for a "guide" of sorts.

I'm sure there are high-end, lawyer-run advisory services which handle these issues for large clients. Perhaps the opportunity lies in the middle-ground? People who don't have complex needs but don't want to waste hours of their day? I'm thinking about the walk-in, "Minute Clinics" at CVS and other pharmacies which are run by nurse practitioners. Nurses there know how to treat basic stuff and how to decide if someone's needs might be beyond their expertise. It works out pretty well for the patient who just wants to confirm that he has strep throat and get some antibiotics.

7
cdibona 3 days ago 3 replies      
Let's do the math:

Gas + Truck Rental = 100$/day.
Parking/tickets in front of embassy: Free? Costly?

3 people (or 4? The article says they have 2 mandarin speakers on tap) in said truck for 8 hours + back and forth time splitting the remainder and you have a bit under 12.5/hour.

That said, they're not being up front about how much they make, and given its probably largely a cash business ...

8
ck2 3 days ago 0 replies      
Oh it's not just the competition that will ruin this for them giving this interview.

It's the law enforcement that won't allow them to park and run a commercial business like that.

9
felideon 3 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting. Having done all the paperwork myself for my wife's visa (thanks to help from visajourney.com) I always wondered how much 'consulting' one could do without being an immigration lawyer.

By the same token, if I am not a tax accountant how much tax advice can I give someone for a fee?

Granted, on the surface the Lucky Dragon Mobile Visa Consultants are just providing an internet and printing service " so there shouldn't be much of an issue. However, would they have to be careful of going from "What form do you need?" to "Hey, before you go in there, you probably need this form instead."

10
forinti 3 days ago 5 replies      
This used to be common in Brazil: a guy in a VW van with a typewriter to help you with bureaucracy. I see the fact that these characters are gone as a sign of progress, so it's funny that this has shown up in the US.
11
alexchamberlain 3 days ago 1 reply      
If they are making $500 a day, they only need this to work for a few months, then they have enough cash to keep them going for a few more to come up with another great idea.

I'm not sure it's sustainable, but it's certainly viable!

12
prawn 3 days ago 0 replies      
Last time I went to China was just before the Olympic Games and security was a little higher - not sure if it's since relaxed. You needed to list an itinerary for the trip and, specifically, accommodation for each night you were there. I, however, was looking to arrive with basically the contents of my pockets and then make things up as I went along. (Turns out my phone died and I was still wandering Shanghai at 2am until I settled on a hotel, but that's a separate matter.)

Solution was to book a couple of the cheapest hostels in a believable travel pattern, get stamped confirmation letters and then cancel them once I had the visa. I think one of the hostels was so cheap and I felt bad about cancelling (even a month out) that for the $4/night cost, I just let them know I wouldn't be showing up but that they could keep the money.

I wonder if arranging cheap accommodation for this purpose is a service they offer in the van?

13
nemesisj 3 days ago 1 reply      
Most of the trouble with the Chinese Visa system is the requirement that you apply in person. Note that this is for reciprocity against the USA requiring the same in-person application for Chinese nationals visiting the USA. There are several "by-mail" services that just stick a runner in line with your documents, I've used one for the last several trips to China.

These services are expensive, like roughly 50-100 bucks, depending on which consulate you're using. Those who stand in line risk running into trouble like the folks in this story, and I'm sure they're more than happy at this point to fork over some cash for the help they need.

14
hiccup 3 days ago 2 replies      
Great business. Serves an identified need for people with a real pain point. I'm glad to see that they're erecting some barriers to competition with native Mandarin speakers and a service oriented atmosphere.

It'll probably last a few months at least, but make hay while the sun shines. Doing NPR probably wasn't a great idea since their customers don't find them via traditional advertising means, but are literally thrown on their doorstep by the Chinese consulate.

15
pnathan 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think there's a huge market out there for beauracracy negotiation/consulting services. Every time I open up an insurance information packet, I am deluged with many options, all slightly different, all carrying different implications.

I want something simple.

16
five18pm 3 days ago 3 replies      
This is what happens in front of every single Indian government office - state or central :(
17
swombat 3 days ago 1 reply      
> And it's clear that Adam Humphreys and Steven Nelson have stumbled on a viable business. In a van. On the street.

Well, that all depends on your definition of viable. Being dependent on a single bureaucratic bug for your livelihood is not that great. They need to diversify a bit before this can really be called viable.

18
arnoldwh 3 days ago 0 replies      
I live across the street from this, and I've always wondered what these guys did. Great to read their story, and I've got to say it definitely takes guts to put yourself out there day in and day out (especially right now when it's 14 degrees outside!).
19
carlsednaoui 3 days ago 0 replies      
Find a problem: Check

Think of a solution: Check

Take some calculated risks: Check

Bring your solution to customers in need: Check

Make money: Check

This is brilliant!

20
umairj 2 days ago 0 replies      
Quite an interesting story, I would like to point out that being from Pakistan, I have seen such services since the first day that I went outside a passport office.
Here in Karachi, you can find people providing Copy services, to scanning and printing and also what they call here is document composition where the guy writes a complete letter application for the client to be submitted in the Govt office. You can also find different Oath Commissioners (for document attestation). And all these are commonly found outside courts and other Govt offices, usually having a desk under a tree !
21
simpsond 3 days ago 0 replies      
When arranging my trip to China, I was told not to even try to get my visa by going to the consulate. I was told to pay a service company to do it. It worked. This certainly helps those who are willing to do it themselves. However, if you plan to go to China, find a service to do it for you.
22
shimi 2 days ago 0 replies      
I went to the American consulte in Tel - Aviv about a week after they've changed the Visa procedure and had a missing form. The consulte did had a couple of PC's but non of them could access an email account.

I wondered to the street and found a coffee shop next to the consulte that provided all the services you'll need, lockers (this part is strange since you can't pretty much bring anything to the consulte e.g. a mobile phone lockers are essentials, I know that other consultes like the one in Sydney provides lockers), printer, and for a fee will feel up your forms.

So this isn't a new idea, but its an interesting phenomenon.

BTW
I got my visa, and I must admit that the consulate service was outstanding

23
bond 3 days ago 1 reply      
See an opportunity and take it...
24
taylorbuley 3 days ago 1 reply      
Government creates inefficiency and markets spring up (here, drive up) to take advantage. Classic lesson of economics.
25
conradfr 3 days ago 1 reply      
Thought it was going to be about BangBus.
26
michaelleland 3 days ago 1 reply      
There's an opportunity for some A/B testing, not just of price but of service. Another van, parked at another consulate, could vary one thing and the team could measure the gains/losses. I imagine this kind of thing is done in retail all the time.
27
ilaksh 2 days ago 0 replies      
The thing that bothers me is that everyone just accepts that the initial problem -- lack of printers or whatever at the government office -- won't get solved in that office.

I think everyone's premise is that the bureaucracy is unchangeable and unfixable, which in the short term and for an individual or small group is a realistic and practical perspective, but a longer-term responsible view for society is that the initial problem should be resolved.

First of all, its not _impossible_ to improve a bureaucracy. However, it is quite difficult, and therefore I think that in most cases bureaucracy needs to be replaced by a much more functional and responsive model.

Speaking of government versus private in general, we have two modes: 1) a private mode which has a profit motivation but no legal or ethical motivation but which is (supposedly) restricted in its capacity for monopoly and has (supposedly) highly restricted authority for force, and 2) a government mode has ultimate legal and ethical motivation and responsibility and total monopoly on force authorization and the domains of government.

I think we should be able to formulate another mode of operation that works better.

28
irunbackwards 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm thinking more of a Life Aquatic look.
29
tyler_ball 3 days ago 1 reply      
Upvotes for any headline with alliteration.
8
Python for Humans heroku.com
417 points by craigkerstiens  4 days ago   104 comments top 23
1
teyc 4 days ago 4 replies      
I blame GOF for making Python Standard Libs hard. The patterns described were for an OO system where functions were not first class. Python didn't need to be complicated.

If you have a look at the older libraries, most of them were written in a procedural style. Not only that, it is very amenable to testing in the REPL.

    import smtplib
s=smtplib.SMTP("localhost")
s.sendmail("me@my.org",tolist,msg)

note the absence of doers like "Adapters", "Handler", "Manager", "Factory"

If you have a look at the XML library, roughly when "patterns" became popular, this style of thinking infested standard library contributions. It also coincides with a time when camelCased function names crept into the python standard library.

Here's one in xml/dom/pulldom.py:

    self.documentFactory = documentFactory

Once you see this, you know you are in for some subclassing. You can no longer REPL your way to figure out how things work, and you now have to consult the manual.

Here's more pain from libraries of the same era, some of these I'd argue un-Pythonic:

    #xml/sax/xmlreader.py:    
def setContentHandler(self, handler):

#wsgiref/simple_server.py:
class ServerHandler(SimpleHandler):

#urllib2.py:
class HTTPDigestAuthHandler(BaseHandler,
AbstractDigestAuthHandler):

The last example is especially jarring. Abstract classes have a place in strongly typed world to declare interfaces, and help with vtable-style dispatch. In Python, where you have duck-typing and monkey patching, a class that virtually "does nothing" on its own stands out like a guy in a tux at a beach party.

Even logging is infected by the same over-patterning. logging/__init__.py:

    class StreamHandler(Handler)
LoggerAdapter(someLogger, dict(p1=v1, p2="v2"))

"Managers" - what a pain when plain function handles would have done the job. Does this name even tell you what task the class performs?

    #multiprocessing/managers.py:
class BaseManager(object)

If anyone remembers, Java had to do OO in a big-style with OO everywhere -- there were no alternatives.

Initially, buttons had to be subclassed just to handle click events, since functions were not first class objects. Then someone came up with a MouseListener interface, which proved too unwieldy to handle a single click. So the MouseEventAdapters came into being.

Therefore, to handle a click in a "pattern" manner involves

an anonymous class

which subclasses MouseAdapter

which implements MouseListener,

which overrides MouseClick.

Publishing how industry solves this problem of "MouseClick" over and over as a pattern [design pattern is a general reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem within a given context in software design] only gives legitimacy to an approach that has dubious wider applicability.

Heavens help the future developers who are forced to do it because it is now recognized as being industrially "good practice" and codified in a reknowned book.

It isn't!

It was a style that was forced by the constraints of a language.

This is neither pythonic nor necessary:

    panel.addMouseListener
(
new MouseAdapter ()
{
public void mouseEntered (MouseEvent e) {
System.out.println (e.toString ());
}
}
);

Embracing "foolish, unschooled" thinking, this would be rendered in Python as:

   def mouseEntered(event):
print event
panel.mouseEntered = mouseEntered

or for multiple event handlers

   panel.mouseEntered.append(mouseEntered)

This style of API again allows effective exploration on the REPL.

2
loevborg 4 days ago 1 reply      
I was intrigued by the author's library "envoy", which is intended to provide a more intuitive interface to running processes from python. (https://github.com/kennethreitz/envoy)

The back story is that the older APIs that Python comes with -- os.popen and os.system -- are deprecated. Programmers are urged to use the "subprocess" module instead. Although this doesn't have the problems of the original functions, it has a rather arcane interface, in particular if you want to read the output (stdout or stderr) of a subprocess.

"envoy" seems to aim at fixing this, by providing sane defaults and being optimized for the common case. However, these defaults have drawbacks of their own.

1. envoy defaults to keeping the process output in memory, as a giant string. This can be a bad choice with regard to memory usage and performance.

2. You can run several processes in a pipe using ("cat foo | grep bla"). But otherwise as far as I can see, run() ignores regular Shell semantics, such as quotes. I imagine this can lead to unexpected results. The amount of data passed from one process to the next is capped at 10 MB -- recipe for bugs that are hard to find.

3. subprocess.call() accepts an array in the style of ["ls", "-l", "/mnt/My SD card"]. This has obvious advantages over having to deal with escaping shell characters. A good API should preserve this advantage over os.system().

4. The defaults cannot be overridden, and no preperations have been made to allow changing them. Of course this can be changed in the future. However, one of the reasons the subprocess.* API is convoluted is that it allows all kinds of flexibility, much of which is needed in many serious programs. It may be difficult to add this flexibility to envoy at a later stage. The point is that a flexible API is hard.

None of this is to discourage this initiative, which seems to me a much-needed improvement over Python's built-in API. Also, with a version number as low as 0.0.2, there is probably little need to worry about API compatibility.

3
mattdeboard 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great presentation on a library I've loved (and used) for awhile. However according to slide 42 I need to rewrite the regex module? I'm so busy this week though.

edit: If anyone wants to see a real-world refactor from HTTPLib/2 to requests, I did so with Pysolr here: https://github.com/mattdeboard/pysolr/commit/db63d8910dec42d...

4
kenneth_reitz 4 days ago 0 replies      
5
socratic 4 days ago 4 replies      
This presentation brings up a tangential point that has always confused me: how error-prone is starting a subprocess, really?

I agree with the author's goals of making common tasks easier and more obvious. urllib2 is an easy target, as it was added to the standard library over a decade ago, long before REST was something people talked about. The best tools for packaging, versioning, and testing have always been a bit ambiguous in any language, including Python.

However, the author points out something that has always bothered me about Python: it is way harder to start a subprocess with an external command in Python than almost any other language. This has been true whether using sys or os or even subprocess, which is quite recent.

I always felt that this had something to do with the constant warnings in the documentation about how a pipe between the subprocess and the Python process might fill and cause the subprocess to block. Or how running the program through shell rather than exec or something might cause some sort of security issue. Are these real issues that other languages ignore in the name of user convenience, or has Python just never been able to make the right API (as the author seems to argue)?

6
ovi256 4 days ago 2 replies      
Wow those libraries are indeed great, amazing compared to the standard libs. Hope they'll be included in the standard libs one day.
7
y3di 4 days ago 2 replies      
The slides don't fit vertically on my screen, so some of the content is cut off. There's no scroll bar so initially it was difficult to figure how to see the info cut off from the bottom. Chrome's text zoom out didn't work either.

I had to highlight the text and drag downwards in order to see the content. But it was annoying having to do this for every slide with a lot of content.

Otherwise, these libraries seem really useful. Thanks for this.

8
dspeyer 4 days ago 2 replies      
Anybody have a text version of this? I got maybe 30 slides in before I got too annoyed to continue.
9
joshbaptiste 4 days ago 3 replies      
The portion that explains of how subprocess shuns dev/ops guys in the beginning is so true. Perl/Bash colleagues at work would basically ask me how to perform output=`command`. Once they seen subprocess, they would continue writing their script in Bash/Perl.
10
nvictor 4 days ago 0 replies      
seems the guy nailed down many issues i have had in the past :)
11
drivingmenuts 4 days ago 2 replies      
Hangs on the first slide unless I'm doing something really wrong.
12
rmc 4 days ago 3 replies      
This makes a lot of good points, but some bad ones.

Esp. the "installing python" one. Just use your package manager to install all the versions you need.

And for "Packaging and Dependencies", just use pip.

13
prolepunk 4 days ago 0 replies      
On installing python -- the most practical way to work with it, is to have a moderately recent os-level python install and then build all the other python versions from source if required -- https://github.com/collective/buildout.python

After that use virtualenv with virtualenvwrapper.

14
prolepunk 4 days ago 1 reply      
I wish that the developers of requests module stop changing it's API -- code that was working just fine with 0.6.4 suddenly began finding missing methods in version 0.8.5
15
arjn 4 days ago 0 replies      
I can confirm that the python subprocess api is a pain to use and also documented poorly. I recently had to use (no choice) python 2.5.x to write a script that extensively called external programs and ran into several problems. It strange that a language such as python which I find so easy to use in many cases does not already have a good as in simple, safe and well documented subprocess api.
16
pbreit 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's really inexcusable that in 2012 (or 1992 even) a language that otherwise is well-suited for internet programming does not come with a first class httpclient.
17
mixmastamyk 4 days ago 2 replies      
I guess I agree things could be simpler, although the cries of "garbage!" were a bit much. I wrote a wrapper function around urllib2 about 5 years ago and haven't looked back.
18
dhalexander 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Python standard library has gotten worse over time, as it got loaded up with more and more features, obfuscating the common use cases. The irony now is that to do simple, everyday things (like http requests) you are now better off installing a third party package like "requests" than using the standard library. So much for "batteries included."

The standard library needs a reboot. Why not do it in Python 3? Nobody's using it yet anyway ;-)

19
sktrdie 4 days ago 1 reply      
What did they use to make the presentation?
20
tuananh 4 days ago 0 replies      
The name says it all. This is much more readable compared to urllib2
21
edna_piranha 4 days ago 0 replies      
yes please and thank you muchly. puts away yak shaving contraption
22
josefrichter 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why don't you just switch to Ruby?
23
skrebbel 4 days ago 2 replies      
I like the presentation, but for me it just underlines how it's smart to stay far away from Python. It's great that it's improving, but many other languages have a much better library/API situation than Python has had for years already. Will Python catch up fast enough?
9
TVs are all awful dreamwidth.org
407 points by sciurus  4 days ago   160 comments top 20
1
algoshift 4 days ago 6 replies      
Right. One of the rules is "be nice".

OK. This article is flawed and many of the comments are just as flawed. Having been involved in the design and manufacturing of LCD displays (down to writing all FPGA image processing code, scaling, deinterlacing, etc.) I think I can say that none of this is accurate if the intent is to apply it generally.

Caveat: If you buy a TV don't expect it to be a computer monitor. Most TV designs are just that: TV sets. They are made to do one thing reasonably well: Take a crappy satellite/cable/whatever signal and give you a reasonable image back.

EDID can be programmed with any resolution you want. Do you need 921 x 333 at 12 frames per second? No problem. There is no such thing as a resolution not being available in EDID. Standards are one thing, but the EDID mechanism isn't inherently limited by standards.

BTW, there are commercially available EDID modifier gadgets that allow you to modify the EDID readout from the monitor. So, the monitor says one thing and your computer (or whatever device) receives your programmed values.

If you need a TV that will play nice with a computer you need to find one that was explicitly designed to do so.

Most consumer TVs use one of a very few commercially available processor chips to do their image processing. With a few exceptions they all do the same kinds of things. And no, the signals are rarely converted to YCbCr 4:2:2 internally but for the absolute cheapest and crappiest of processors. All the good ones convert the input to a common internal integer RGB format. The nice ones might standardize at 12 bits per channel (36 bits total) internally. When I did custom FPGA video processing we went as far as 24 bits per channel in order to avoid truncation of calculated values until the very last moment. This can make a huge difference depending on the application.

In general terms "monitor mode", if you will, should be a mode that bypasses as much of the internal processing as possible. You can force this bypass by using and EDID modifier gadget programmed for the actual resolution and timings of the panel. In other words, open the back of the TV, get the panel model number, get the data-sheet and program the EDID modifier to output these values to your computer. The processor should push this straight to the panel and you get very little, if any, processing. Again, this does not work on all TVs. As I said before, they are designed to be TVs, not monitors.

That said, I've connected many computers to off-the-shelf, un-modified, consumer TVs via DVI and HDMI. I have yet to run into any real issues.

2
mrcharles 4 days ago  replies      
If you are a gamer, TVs are now also awful for playing games, due to the built in lag between the TV receiving a signal and displaying it. On a CRT it was instantaneous, as game console data streams were sent basically straight to the electron gun -- nowadays there's a massive amount of processing before the signal is on screen.

This manifests primarily in a feel of poor controls, or a game not doing what you tried to do.

Good HDTVs will give you 100ms of lag or so, bad ones can be in excess of 400ms. With most games nowadays running at 30fps, that's between 3 and 13 game frames of lag.

It's pretty absurd the difference this makes, and as a game developer I have to fight with it constantly and it is infuriating.

3
noonespecial 4 days ago 4 replies      
Tv's too should have open firmware. Not to make RMS happy, but to protect savvy consumers from monumentally idiotic or short-sighted decisions made during the design. You can't make it perfect, leave the door open so your customers can.

I expect Apple will solve this problem in their usual way; pick slightly less stupid settings and lock those in. In this case, the difference will be stunning and people will marvel at how those apple tv's can look so good.

4
dgallagher 4 days ago 0 replies      
I used an HDTV once that had three different HDMI ports on it (0, 1, 2). Each port reported a slightly-different EDID for the same TV!

One of the HDMI ports reported this (extracted using SwitchResX):

    Established Timings:
--------------------
720 x 400 @ 70Hz
640 x 480 @ 60Hz
800 x 600 @ 60Hz
1024 x 768 @ 60Hz

Standard Timing Identification:
-------------------------------
#0: 1280 x 1024 @ 60Hz (8180)

The two other HDMI ports reported this instead:

    Established Timings:
--------------------
640 x 480 @ 60Hz

Standard Timing Identification:
-------------------------------

Almost all other EDID data matched, including additional timing data inside the EDID extension block, so I'm not certain these differences were that big of a deal. None the less, weird when all coming from the same TV.

5
jpdoctor 4 days ago 4 replies      
Relevant: Viewers are awful too.

Study: 18% of people can't tell if they're watching true HDTV content or not

http://techcrunch.com/2008/11/24/study-18-of-people-cant-tel...

6
baddox 4 days ago 8 replies      
Is his final point (about overscan) still relevant? Years ago I used to hear HDTV enthusiasts urging everyone to check their TV settings, but in the last 2-3 years, I've only dealt with PCs hooked up to a few HDTVs (all with 1080p native resolution), and I haven't seen a single one that overscans a 1080p DVI or HDMI signal by default. The author acts like it's a certainty that your 1080p TV will by default overscan a 1080p signal.
7
jedbrown 4 days ago 2 replies      
I want to put a display on the wall and stand five feet away with a keyboard and mouse while working (mostly Emacs, web browser, and reading pdfs). What should I check to determine whether a TV would work well in this configuration (without overscan issues and the like)? Is the only safe thing to go to a physical store with the computer, set everything up, and check for artifacts?
8
digitalsushi 4 days ago 9 replies      
Here's a non-facetious, completely honest question from someone who just doesn't know why- Why is is 2012 and my new TV and monitor each have about the same horizontal resolution as my CRT monitor from 1998? It's 14 years later, and I still only have about 2000 pixels to play with. I know the obvious answer is that everyone is just matching the resolution movies are sold as, but why can't I get a professional grade monitor with a "retina" quality display for my desk?
9
wvenable 4 days ago 1 reply      
I have one of those terrible older 1366x768 TV's. This TV accepts input at 1080i and 1080p as well as 720p. What they don't usually tell you, is that some of these TV's will up convert a 720p signal to 1080 and then down convert it back to 1366x768. So you're actually better off with a higher resolution signal.

Luckily I can get 1360x768 though the VGA port but the TV only accepts HD resolutions over HDMI -- this is becoming more of a problem as many computers now come with only with D-DVI or HDMI ports.

10
jodrellblank 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why would any technologist reading the likes of this over and over and over, have any faith in future brain-computer interfaces, mind-uploading or similar?
11
jal278 4 days ago 0 replies      
"and so because it's never possible to kill technology that's escaped into the wild we're stuck with it."

Such a general truth, its why web devs have nightmares about old versions of IE

12
smackfu 4 days ago 1 reply      
My only complaint about my Samsung TV is that the input select menu takes about 45 seconds to dismiss itself. Most equipment like receivers that drives your TV expects that input select is instant and doesn't show a menu at all. So you press the button to switch inputs and it sticks text on your screen for almost a minute. Stupid.
13
cs702 4 days ago 0 replies      
This would be incredibly funny if it weren't true :-(

It reminds me of Joel Spolsky's rant about standards: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/03/17.html -- the bit about headphone jacks in particular.

14
protomyth 4 days ago 1 reply      
TV's also uniformly have one of the stupidest designs for input ports.

My parent's HDTV has 8 input ports (4 are HDMI). All of them are crammed on the side of the TV and it looks like crap mounted on a wall. Not to mention being a pain to add new stuff. Why can't the TV come with a box that lies horizontal in my cabinet with all the in and out ports and have on umbilical cord hooked into the bottom of the TV? I know you can buy boxes, but it just seems like they should start looking at the implications of flat screens sometime in this century since they forgot to look in the last.

15
Aga 4 days ago 0 replies      
The second comment on the target page has a nice explanation on why this weird resolution of 1366x768 is so popular.

Apparently individual screens are cut from larger sheets of pixels. Using the same vertical resolution for 4:3 screens (1024x768) and 16:9 screens (1366x768) makes it possible to cut them from the same sheet, pushing down the manufacturing costs.

16
mcantor 4 days ago 2 replies      
I thought this was going to be an alarmist article about getting rid of your TV and doing something else with your time.
17
Derbasti 4 days ago 1 reply      
There are ways to achieve arbitrary upscaling without loss of information (e.g. FFT-based). It would be interesting if TVs out there utilize such methods or if they scale using some simple interpolation scheme.
18
Tooluka 3 days ago 0 replies      
Person who decided that HDReady should be 1366x768 was a little bit insane.

And personally for me I have even more crazy problem because of that:
When I transfer signal through HDMI from 1280x720 notebook to HDReady TV it actually thinks that the signal IS HDReady from 1280x720 and stretches it by that 6% of difference and crops it by 6% and stretches again.

tl;dr
As a result I have something around ~1210x660 center part from original 1280x720 signal stretched to 1366x768... Can't find any solution yet.

19
Craiggybear 4 days ago 0 replies      
Television is the worst -- and best -- invention of man.

Apart from radio. That was genius.

20
kinnth 4 days ago 0 replies      
wow I just read the etiquette on hacker news and then clicked around to this topic. I then just happened to click on user "mrcharles" as I never knew people had profiles before.

Turns out he is a game designer too and I read lots of interesting stuff. I love this site it has great people on it!

10
A Redditor's insightful message for discouraged students reddit.com
401 points by jimmyjim  2 days ago   101 comments top 22
1
martincmartin 2 days ago 5 replies      
There's research behind this too. The book NurtureShock has a chapter on telling kids "you're smart" vs. "you worked hard." There was even some HN discussion on it. Basically, when you attribute your kids accomplishments to their being smart, they kind of freeze up when they get a problem they can't handle. But when you attribute it to hard work, they work harder to figure it out. There are a series of fascinating experiments that bare this out.

For people into parenting books, I highly recommend NurtureShock. It's about the only parenting book I've found based on actual scientific research, as opposed to being somebody's opinion.

2
chucknthem 2 days ago 4 replies      
Slightly off topic, but I'm sick of post titles that start with "A Redditor's ...". A title like that is just going to encourage comments and culture from reddit which is usually inappropriate here. "Redditors" are mostly normal people, "An insightful message for discouraged students" would have been a perfectly good title to this.
3
jimmyjim 2 days ago 1 reply      
Perhaps I should rather have linked directly to the post: http://www.reddit.com/r/confession/comments/nxdzz/im_not_as_...

Anyway, I want to emphasize that while his response was specifically to some guy in MIT feeling down, his words are applicable for any of us.

4
nyellin 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have another message for struggling students: Go outside and get some fresh air; exercise; smile. It's only a grade.

I have experienced first-hand the shock of discovering just how hard university is, but pushing yourself harder and harder until you break is not the answer. You need to be smarter about how you work, you need to develop proper study habits, and you need to get over your fear of asking for help. But at the end of the day, grades are just grades. Once you finish university and get your first job, none of this will matter anymore.

University is far harder than programming jobs, so don't judge yourself too harshly for struggling. Many things are more important in life. Remember to enjoy the most intense learning experience you will ever experience, and don't forget to look after your own health.

5
rcamera 2 days ago 0 replies      
That post is very good, but it could delve more on how to motivate oneself. I am therefor cross-posting my own post here, trying to add some more value to this thread. First, a disclaimer, this will probably sound too abstract and not a guide on motivating yourself to study, well, it's true, this is a comment on how to motivate yourself through your entire life, and studying is usually a big part of it.

I've met very motivated people in my life, many of which are creating amazing things and companies. The first characteristic you can see in all these people is that they all have a well defined end goal. That's the first thing everyone should look for when motivating themselves, finding an end goal. This is essentially a long term goal, not short term ones. It must be a single goal, not a set of goals, else you will loose focus. I can hear you thinking already, "but I want to do so much", but that's the beauty of this end goal, it can be broad enough to cover all your dreams. This is the hardest question to answer ("what's my purpose in this life?"), took me 15 years (from the day I started to think about this, when I was a kid) to decide on what I wanted to do with my life, but the more life experience you have, the easier it is to decide upon it. When deciding on this, make sure you don't confuse the end with the means to reach it, so don't choose a specific goal such as become a doctor, or become the president of your country. Do you want to be a doctor, or do you want to actually save lives? Do you want to be the president, or do you want to build a better country/world? A tip that can help you with not confusing the end with the means is: state your end goal in 3 words or less. I can state mine in 2.

The second characteristic motivated people have is confidence. They are usually pretty confident they can reach their end goal. This is one of the reasons people have very different goals. Many would say that making the world better is a good goal, but how many would say they got the confidence to do it? If you don't have the confidence, build it. A little example from my own experience: when a kid I was scared of skating down a big half-pipe from a park we used to go to. At that time, my goal was quite simple, have fun and skate better than my friends, but I didn't really have the confidence to accept the challenge of skating down that huge half-pipe. I built up my confidence by going down smaller ones (even broke an arm when doing that, but it didn't stop me, I learned from my mistake and started using gloves) until one day I was confident enough to try going down the large one, and so I did. That's how you build confidence.

Lastly, after choosing your goals and building the confidence to do it, you need to decide on what way to take. For any goal, there are a wide choice of ways you can take to move towards them. Some ways are easier than others, some are more interesting, some are very challenging. This is what will define your short and mid term goals. Think of them as stepping stones so you can reach the end goal. Let's go back to one of our examples, you want to save lives. You can be a doctor and save lives, you can be a scientist, finding cures to diseases in a lab and save lives, you can be a fireman and save lives or even be an investor in nanotechnology labs and save lives. Which way is more appealing to you? Let's continue, you decided that by being a doctor you will save lives. First of all, what kind of doctor do you want to be? A cardiologist? A neurosurgeon? An E.R. doctor? Well, do you need to make that decision now? Not really, you can choose it while you are at college, so let's move on. Oh, right, you must enter college and graduate before becoming a doctor. Uhm, do you want to enter the best college you can? Damn, we need to study for the SAT then (I ain't American, not really sure how college admissions really work). Anyway, this is how you decide on the way. You state your end goal and work backwards from the longest term goal to the shortest one. That's how you decide on what means you will use to reach your end goal.

Anyway, after deciding on all that, that's how you will be motivated to study for that algebra exam, or to pay attention at that physics class from that boring teacher at 6pm on a Friday. A couple important notes, I highly suggest you to never share your end goal with your peers. This usually undermines your confidence, and therefor, your motivation. Secondly, your goal, once defined shouldn't change. If it changes, it just mean you haven't found yours yet. What can change, and should change (due to changes in environment) are the means you choose to take. The means can always change, but they should always be moving you towards the end. An example, your country enters in war. This is highly disruptive to everyone's lives and this will very likely affect on the means you will choose to reach your goal, but shouldn't change your end goal.

6
JerusaEnt 2 days ago 8 replies      
I agree with him when he says that it is mostly how hard you work, dedication, and ambition. But wouldn't we just be fooling ourselves when we say it's not genetic? Maybe I'm wrong but, there are such things as kids that knowledge comes easier to, and kids that they simply can't understand something.

Also, for example, a kid with ADHD is woefully behind on the "being able to sit and work" ability. I think it's nice that we say "everyone is equal and let's hold hands" But I personally don't understand that.

7
rglover 2 days ago 0 replies      
That advice was great, not only for younger students, but for those who have completed university (read: older) as well. Hands down, my favorite part of the piece was:

"smart" is really just a way of saying "has invested so much time and sweat that you make it look effortless."

All of the people that I truly admire (who subsequently I consider to be "smart") fall directly under this guise. They took the time and effort to learn how to be who they are. It's a simple idea, sure, but when it's really taken to heart it can change your entire outlook on things.

8
lhnz 2 days ago 4 replies      
I wanted to cry, somebody replied: "if you could share us some of those skills."

If it was possible we would and we could all just sit back and crib each other's notes on life. But this has to come from within you. You cannot share willpower, dedication and ambition.

There's nothing else to it: it's not as if the knowledge isn't on the internet or in books for cheap...

You can mould yourself a more conscientious personality through your own ambition and the willpower you had to start with.

9
tpatke 2 days ago 3 replies      
I wonder how this relates to the "entrepreneurial selection process".

According to PG [1]:

- hard work is necessary but insufficient

- entrepreneurs either have a very high probability of success or "epsilon".

- it is easy to know (or find out) what group you are in.

PG makes a strong argument...but then, so does this guy from MIT. Maybe they are talking about different things? Is intelligence more important for a startup founder then it is for a kid at MIT?

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3392049

10
sunchild 2 days ago 2 replies      
For me, this read like a manifesto for making your hamster wheel spin as fast as the other hamsters. The OP's core message (i.e., that intelligence is not in-born, but is earned by self-discipline and hard work) seemed very myopic to me, and bound up in the self-congratulatory world of academia. It starts from a position that rests on conclusions about the value of formal education that are no longer dogma for me.

At first, I felt depressed after reading it and all the fawning responses to it. Then, I remembered this parable about how knowledge comes from people, not places:

> "At a gathering of divines, the Mullah was seated right at the end of the room, farthest from the place of honor. He began to tell jokes, and soon people were crowded around him, laughing and listening. Nobody was taking any notice of the greybeard who was giving a learned discourse. When he could no longer hear himself speak, the president of the assembly roared out: ‘You must be silent! Nobody may talk unless he sits where the Chief sits." "I don't know how you see it," said the Mullah, "but it seems to me that where I sit is where the Chief sits."

After recalling this parable, I realized that I had initially misunderstood the OP's insight. His message was really the same as the Mullah's in many ways.

11
tlear 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great post, this happened to me in high school I got into a specialized school after being just above mediocre at a normal school. This was math/physics school in Ukraine that was basically one of 2-3 top schools in the country (whatever that means). First semester my usual mark in my math was 0/12. They only kept me because I was one of the best in programming and physics courses. Took me 5 month till I could solve one of 2 problems that they used for tests (3 hours 2 problems).

In a way it was maybe too early, in university everything was too easy (I did not go to a top school because I had trouble getting a high enough TOEFL score and wanted to start as early as I could). It took failure in graduate school, then few years of wasted 9-5 code monkey work to get me to see the light again.

12
leilavc 2 days ago 2 replies      
For anybody looking for solid tips on how to apply this attitude to their academics, I've found Cal Newport's blog* an invaluable resource. It's been linked to here before, mainly for its recent posts on 'deliberate practice' versus 'flow', but he also describes many strategies and tactics that high-scoring students at Ivy League-level universities use. They've helped me invaluably, and I find it a real pity that more students don't know about this writing.

[*] http://calnewport.com/blog/

13
theneb 2 days ago 0 replies      
This line of thought very much touches on how students are badly taught, I doubt MIT are as bad as where I studied which had the scribe lecturing approach.

Eric Mazur advocates the peer instruction method of lecturing (http://mazur.harvard.edu/research/detailspage.php?rowid=8)

Students should always be at the lecture with the content in advance to discuss in some form such as peer instruction. My University didn't even release a reading list of Mathematical or Computer Science material prior to the course beginning.

14
mynameishere 2 days ago 1 reply      
The more I learned the more I realized that the bulk of his intelligence and his performance just came from study and practice

Bullshit. When a 3rd grader masters differential calculus it is almost entirely hard-core innate intelligence combined with an innate ability to concentrate. No normal 3rd grade has the ability to study at that level. People who succeed often want to think it was entirely their hard work, and that lucky genes had no real influence.

Think about it.

If you take someone of average intelligence, he could spend his entire life, sweating and studying like crazy every day,
and not get through MIT. Even Bill Gates went from Theory to Applied math at Harvard when he realized how difficult it was. If you think he isn't a determined, hard-working person, well... The truth is, he just didn't have the freakish IQ required for the work.

15
vijayr 2 days ago 1 reply      
nice post. Can anyone share the tools/hacks that he is talking about? what worked for you, and what didn't?
16
samikc 2 days ago 0 replies      
This post is an eye opener, true and engaging. You can co-relate to the maths example with anything hard. You have give it time. I had a math book in school where it said, "If you love mathematics it will love you back." Actually if you look at it, for competency in any topic you have to work with it. You will eventually get it, if you are ready to work hard.

It may take some time but what the hell if you really want to understand something you got a give everything to it.

17
BadassFractal 2 days ago 1 reply      
What are some takeaways that us people in the industry can have from this? Should we be working harder? Should we be working smarter?
18
Tichy 1 day ago 0 replies      
What are good ways to learn how to study, though?
19
thewisedude 2 days ago 0 replies      
Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration : Thomas Edison
20
sliverstorm 2 days ago 0 replies      
For which program?

Or is Stanford just the best school in absolutely everything?

21
adnam 2 days ago 0 replies      
Gosh, so true! I am the 3% :)
22
verroq 2 days ago 0 replies      
>Reddit is down.

Perfect, maybe they'll actually get studying done.

11
Show HN: Scrollorama github.com
391 points by johnpolacek  6 days ago   51 comments top 23
1
notJim 6 days ago 3 replies      
Cool plugin, but I can't help but think of that quote"“Scrolling is the new flash.” Not trying to hate on your plugin or code, but I really hate all this scrolling stuff people are doing now. I wanted to scroll, not have a bunch of crazy animations explode in my face.

I feel like the popularity of this effect is to some extent a symptom of our society's constant information overload, and the attendant inability to slow down and focus, which then compels sites to compete for our attention with increasingly flashy presentations. Of course, to a much larger extent, it's probably due to cargo-cult website design.

2
buro9 6 days ago 2 replies      
I hate these things, maybe it's just me.

Reasons:

1) I use a mouse with a scroll wheel and the default setting is to scroll three lines at once, and I use the scroll wheel a lot. None of the scrolling effects ever look good for me, and if it's a site which depends on the scroll effect to communicate (a few marketing sites have done this) then I don't get the message.

2) When I use keyboard shortcuts (which I do quite frequently buy I realise most users don't), I just hit page up and page down. I see none of the effects.

To me, this is as bad as hover effects on tablets. I just can't see how it helps to improve user experience or accessibility. Sure, sometimes that isn't the desire but even in the case of those marketing sites I'm fairly sure the marketing men behind it would be appalled to find out some of their target audience was communicated to poorly. Though the worst thing is those same people on other sites then disable some key presses and default keyboard short-cuts to make sure there is no choice but to go through the bad UX to be communicated to.

What worries me when I see these things so high up on HN is that I fear others think this stuff is good.

Is that the case? Is it just me who prefers the idea of the client determining how to render something and not putting such stuff on the websites we create, or to put accessibility to all pretty high up?

3
tsunamifury 6 days ago 0 replies      
Unfortunately its a does not work well with iOS as it doesn't update until the scroll event is finish -- resulting in a somewhat jumbled and confusing experience without the animations. No doubt this is due to the way Mobile Safari conservatively updates events to save power.
4
ceol 6 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome job! OS X Chrome 16.0.912.63 has some stuttering when using trackpad scrolling, but it's surprisingly smooth for all those animations!

By no means is this meant to dissuade using Scrollorama, but for very long pages (like the demo), I tend to flick the trackpad up to scroll through and stop it when I see the content I'd like. However, I find it's hard to follow the sections because they're almost in a constant state of transition. I'd love to see this used on a site with lots of dummy content, since I assume if it's padded with text or photographs, it will flow much better.

This could be really cool on a portfolio site!

5
johns 6 days ago 1 reply      
Excellent landing page. Epitomizes "show, don't tell"
6
DrCatbox 6 days ago 1 reply      
Is this a bug in firefox 8.01? When scrolling up, the O overwrites the adressbar, bookmarkbar and part of the main menu. Upgrading to 9.01 made the effect less visible, since now only a small part of the O can end up covering the firefox UI.

EDIT: It can in fact cover parts of the main menu in 9.01 just as in version 8.

7
ot 6 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome plugin and landing page. Minor nitpicking: the "scrolldeck" link is broken.
8
mmastrac 6 days ago 1 reply      
Very cool. Nitpick: would be nice if it smoothly animated when using the scrollwheel - it's pretty jumpy using the wheel, but awesomely smooth with the scrollbar.
9
drivebyacct2 6 days ago 2 replies      
Sadly, these just don't look very good unless you're on a Mac and using a touchpad.
10
johnpolacek 6 days ago 0 replies      
Fixed the scrolldeck link, thanks. That's another plugin I made that is for making html slide deck presentations (similar to deck.js or reveal.js) and uses Scrollorama for navigation and animations.

http://johnpolacek.github.com/scrolldeck.js

To fix the jerkiness, I could animate the css props but that would probably cause quite a performance hit. If anyone wants to fork it and make improvements, please feel free!

11
spicyj 6 days ago 0 replies      
Just a heads-up/reminder: http://johnpolacek.github.com/scrolldeck is broken.
12
mikeleeorg 6 days ago 0 replies      
Totally random, but I scrolled down this page while listening to Limp Bizkit's "Take a Look Around" and thought: someone's got to create a movie credits page using this, just for the fun of it.
13
aridiculous 6 days ago 0 replies      
The bursting lettering at the top was truly unexpected. Bravo.
14
richardburton 6 days ago 2 replies      
I love the http://www.groupme.com scrolling stuff. It was done tastefully and to great effect.
15
lvillani 5 days ago 0 replies      
This script seems to trigger a bug in Firefox or X11 which brings the whole session down.

It's 100% reproducible with my setup: Firefox 9.0.1 on Ubuntu 10.04 (x86_64) and Fglrx 8.920 (Catalyst 11.11, if I remember correctly). Load the page then scroll down a bit: the whole X session blows up.

Anyone else experiencing this?

16
alagu 6 days ago 0 replies      
Totally love it. I was searching for iOS address book style scrolling (fixed headings for a context). This would help.
17
derekerdmann 6 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool, but I'd hesitate to use it on a production site - it's really jerky if the scroll isn't fluid, like on most PC's.
18
Trezoid 6 days ago 1 reply      
The rollout of the top H1 is downright painful (locked up the browser with 100%+ CPU usage on a C2D MBP 13") in Firefox 12.0a1.

Everything else works though.

It's all good in Chrome 16.0.912.63 on the above machine though.

19
shdon 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm very surprised at how much more smooth this is in Internet Explorer (version 9) than in either Chrome, Opera or Firefox on my PC. IE doesn't actually scale the letters in the title though.
20
lowglow 6 days ago 0 replies      
Totally awesome. I'm constantly impressed at the holiday projects that were developed.
21
ricardobeat 5 days ago 0 replies      
no dice for mobile webkit.
22
sn_ 6 days ago 0 replies      
Doesnt work with scroll up/scroll down keys, which I always use.
23
earle 6 days ago 0 replies      
paging looks broken
14
A Happy, Flourishing City With No Advertising good.is
339 points by gruseom  5 days ago   119 comments top 29
1
jxcole 5 days ago  replies      
I would be interested to see before and after shots. Was their advertising problem really so bad or was just about the same as any other city?

Edit: Found one: http://banbillboardblight.org/?page_id=4251

2
alextp 5 days ago 1 reply      
Indeed, after living in são paulo for a while going anywhere else in brazil lead to a slight culture shock.

In a sense this didn't hurt advertisers at all, as the demand for advertisement stayed exactly the same, they just had to change the available media. Think of it as a prisoner's dillema-like situation, where defecting is plastering a huge sign in front of people. It's better for everyone if nobody does that, but whoever breaks the law and does it can get an advantage.

Preventing people from defecting in these situations is exactly the point of a government (regardless of how much I disagree with Kassab's actual politics and would never vote for him).

3
kinow 5 days ago 0 replies      
I was born and live in Sao Paulo, and this law (Lei Cidade Limpa) really helped to reduce the visual pollution here.

Here are some links for pictures of before/after. For more images, you can search for images of Lei Cidade Limpa SP or Lei Cidade Limpa São Paulo (we use the tilde here, you can remove it if you prefer)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonydemarco/sets/72157600075508...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sueluzfotos/page4/

http://ftorquato.wordpress.com/2008/08/26/gilberto-kassab-de...

And here's a link with a article in Sao Paulo prefecture about this law (google-translated to English).

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=pt&tl...

Cheers, -B

4
spindritf 5 days ago 3 replies      
I actually enjoy advertising in the city, especially '90s-style neons, bus stop billboards, and those illegally plastered on construction site fences. I feel like I'm the only person who does.

It makes the city look vibrant, and often covers up some of the... less successful architectural experiments.

5
OstiaAntica 5 days ago 1 reply      
Vermont has similar rules restricting signage on state roadways, and it adds to the state's charm.
6
rufibarbatus 5 days ago 0 replies      
In the simplest terms, this bill:

   - outlawed billboards anywhere, period

- regulated the size of "corporate totems" (such as
McDonald's distinctive pole thing with their logo)

- regulated the size and number of times one can use
corporate branding on their business's façade

It's also important to note that sites that had been protected by previous acts as cultural heritage are exempt from this bill, which means we still have a few (rather charming) exceptions around.

São Paulo wasn't horribly polluted by billboards to begin with, compared to every other large city. This bill, on the other hand, had such extreme impact... we grew used to it very quickly.

7
hanskuder 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've always seen advertising as a game of iterated prisoner's dilemma. If every business cooperated and agreed to not advertise, consumers would still be able to seek and find products and services they wanted, and businesses wouldn't need to spend money on ads. As soon as one business started to buy ads, however, they'd have an immense advantage and competitors would quickly follow suit. So as soon as one business stops cooperating and starts advertising, the entire market devolves into the equilibrium we see today: our lives are completely saturated with ads.

The fact that business can carry on as usual when everyone is forced to cooperate in Sao Paulo shows that advertising is mostly a huge inefficiency.

8
mekoka 5 days ago 1 reply      
It's certainly an interesting concept if well applied, but I'm not sure it's suitable for all cities. For example, I have a hard time imagining Las Vegas without all the neons and signs.
9
algorithms 5 days ago 1 reply      
Wow. Just two days ago I wondered how the world would look like without being plastered with every kind of advertisment. I have to say I am so sick of going through my city and being bombarded with attention suckers from every direction. Same thing on the internet when I'm trying to read an article that is left aligned, makes up 20% of my monitor width and has blinking ads all around it.

I AM SICK OF IT. I would love to see a new movement to lower the amount of ads we are faced with each day and give us back our ability to concentrate on what's really important.

10
jeffem 5 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder what the comments here would look like if the ban would have been on a different advertising medium, say, online advertising.

I'd be willing to bet the great majority here would oppose it, and I'd be willing to bet that people would be exploring all of the negative and potential unintended consequences.

Have you considered the immediate losses advertisers will incur from removing/destroying their advertising assets? Will those costs be passed on to customers? What about the "public" cost of implementing and enforcing the ban itself? What effect does this have on companies that sell outdoor ads? Does this concentrate power to companies that sell other types of advertising and reduce competition? Does this lower the value of real estate properties that previously sold ad space? What happens to people who previously discovered or visited businesses via outdoor ads? What about the people who actually enjoy the ads?

On a deeper level, why stop at banning outdoor ads? Should we ban other things we find aesthetically unpleasing or is there something about these outdoor ads that was materially damaging people? Also, how exactly do you determine if this ban was a "success"?

11
mickdarling 5 days ago 0 replies      
Once augmented reality apps become more common I can imagine this becoming more popular. If you are a tourist and want to find stuff, or just see the ads you would be able to load up the ads layer and maybe even get discounts for your trouble.

If you want to just see the architectural facades as they were meant to be seen, then no tech required. I would love to see Vegas or New York, for instance, with the ads scrubbed and then be able to pull up dynamic ads with a phone or heads up display.

12
__david__ 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is pretty common in surburbia. My little corner of the world has banned billboards and tall signs for the past 40 years (and I happen to think it's for the best, but that may be just because I'm used to it).
13
rickyconnolly 5 days ago 3 replies      
Dislike. Advertising is what gives cities their unique visual culture. We associate different typographic 'looks' with different cities. Where would Miami be without its bold, ostentatious signage? Where would New York City be without its iconic frankin gothic and gotham centered visual culture?
14
jwwest 5 days ago 1 reply      
Given the choice between looking at ads and being assaulted by the hideousness of rusted, empty signs, I think I'd take the ads.
15
eaurouge 5 days ago 0 replies      
Speaking of distracting advertising, the massive, bright LCD screens on 101 (here in the valley) are an accident or two waiting to happen.
16
jacoblyles 5 days ago 2 replies      
Looks like a Stalinesque ghost town.
17
KleinmanB 5 days ago 0 replies      
This also should happen for banner ads.
18
kansface 4 days ago 0 replies      
I spent about a month in Sao Paulo on short notice so I spoke basically no Portuguese. Consequently, I found the city extremely difficult to navigate- both in terms of finding specific destinations and in the hunter/gatherer sense. I imagine big signs would have been of benefit to me since I understand pictures, logos, and studied Latin so I can comprehend way more in writing than in speech. Even large, indoor shopping centers are not obvious for someone in my position... how can you tell a shopping center from an office building when people aren't making huge purchases? I should also mention I didn't have a smart phone with me. I'm sure this move could not have been a net positive for business. Whether the trade off is worth it for locals is another matter entirely.
19
bokchoi 5 days ago 0 replies      
One of the links from that page led me to this mini-documentary which was quite interesting:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1Nmnv0Ospg

20
nsgf 5 days ago 0 replies      
A similar operation is ongoing (?) in Athens ATM.
http://www.illegalsigns.gov.gr/?p=611

The even made an iPhone app for reporting those things.
Everyone got thrilled at first, but now it looks like it's grinding to a halt (econ. crisis and all).

The city is indeed cleaner (at least the main avenues).
Also, we had many road accidents involving drunk drivers hitting on those huge ad poles (now, at least, somebody might have a chance for survival hitting something else other than metal).

21
mml 5 days ago 0 replies      
I talked with a startup that wanted to project ads on your car's back window. I asked them if they planned on measuring their revenue in blood.
22
minikomi 5 days ago 0 replies      
My mind just did a barrel roll trying to imagine Tokyo with no signage. I remember being here for a few days and being mentally overwhelmed with the constant information spew.
23
vishaldpatel 4 days ago 0 replies      
What a boring idea.
24
silentscope 4 days ago 0 replies      
Havana, Cuba is the same way. I love it and I hope to God some city in the US takes the plunge.
25
ericingram 5 days ago 3 replies      
Why don't they regulate away poverty, while they're at it?

I look forward to the future, when citizens realize their government is the biggest barrier between themselves and prosperity.

26
teyc 5 days ago 0 replies      
Next, see if we can ban people from using ALL CAPS in emails and forum posts. :)
27
bala79 4 days ago 0 replies      
visual pollutions makes a big distraction on roads, technically they are one of the reason for road accidents.
28
swah 5 days ago 2 replies      
IMO cables are much uglier than ads, but nobody else seems to notice or care for them. Most of them resemble this one: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2170/2056763887_4157b7a3a2.jp...
29
rhygar 5 days ago 2 replies      
The cost of this is a loss of jobs for sign makers (and their suppliers), marketing agencies, and a loss of income for new businesses (and their suppliers) that want to make their presence known. Basically, the economy in that city is worse off overall as a result, and there are fewer jobs to go around.
15
The Greatest Paper Map of the United States You'll Ever See slate.com
323 points by tptacek  5 days ago   90 comments top 28
1
viraptor 5 days ago 2 replies      
Looking at both maps, I see only one thing: they are both so much worse than new interactive maps... There's too much information and not enough "whitespace". They're so generic, it's hard to find some specific thing on them. If I'm looking for highways, I'm not interested in areas of Chicago. If I'm looking for known places in Chicago, not only is 5 items too short, it's forcing even more information on the map where it's not really needed. Regarding the careful placement... let's see for example: According to Imus's map Plymouth is north of the river, while according to National Geographic it's south of the river. In reality the river goes through the city. If the place is not right, what's the meaning of a "better" placement of it's label?

Regarding typography, I don't like the italic text on Imus's map - once you have many lines in random directions around your labels, it's not trivial to say if some 3-4-letter name containing many round letters is italic or not (is ORD in Chicago italic?) Here it's trivial to figure out from context - when you're trying to determine a size of some city, it's not.

Yes, I'm being negative about this map (maybe a bit too much), but apart from art, is there really a good reason to produce maps like this anymore? I don't agree with the angle this article takes:

> For one thing, that zooming capability means the makers of a single digital map are forced to design dozens of differently scaled versions. This severely limits how much time they can devote to perfecting the layout at each zoom level.

It's actually better because it can show the same information after zooming in, but you can still read the "important" information while zoomed out. Reading any text on this map while standing back from it must be a much harder exercise.

> Imus argues that you can't truly understand a place if you only use zoomed-in maps on teensy screens. [...] Looking at Imus' big, richly detailed map offers a holistic sense of what America looks like"how cities spread out along rivers, forests give way to plains, and mountains zigzag next to valleys.

Give me an option to turn each category on and off and I'll see the relations much better. Being able to filter out noise would give many more possibilities of exploration than a "generic map with absolutely everything on it". If cities and rivers are what you're interested in, many maps will provide you exactly that information. Trying to figure it out from a map with 10 other layers is harder.

In short, I disagree with this article trying to prove that "old-style" paper maps can be more useful or readable than interactive, zoomable maps with customisable layers. In my opinion those are always more useful than paper maps. </rant> Not to discredit the work that went into this map of course. I do appreciate this map as art and see what the author was trying to achieve. I just disagree strongly that it's useful nowadays.

2
barrkel 5 days ago 4 replies      
I have to say, I think the typography / lettering / label placement of the NatGeo map is significantly better than the Imus map. It's easier for me to see what's what, and it looks less cluttered somehow, probably helped by having freer choice of orientation. But I won't deny that there's more information in the Imus map.
3
Terretta 5 days ago 2 replies      
The greatest paper map of the United States I've seen is not this one (though I ordered this one), it is "USAtlas"[3] created by Richard Saul Wurman using early Macintosh design tools like Adobe Illustrator 88 and Aldus PageMaker 3.02 on a Mac Iici.

Wurman is cited in "Building Legible Cities 2 Making the Case"[1] and, oh yeah, created the TED conferences[2].

1. http://aprb.co.uk/docs/building_legible_cities2_0.pdf

2. http://wurman.com/rsw/ also http://www.ted.com/pages/16 )

3. http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0139322450/ref=dp_olp...

The biggest innovation for me as a frequent long distance driver in the late 80's and early 90's was having every page the same scale. But the clarity of information on a given page or city was unprecedented, was easily glanceable while driving, and is still unmatched to this day though Google Maps' data view comes close while offering more details. But this was hand drawn.

Here's Cincinnati. Notice the state borders vs rivers:

http://imgur.com/a/MMTZk

4
moultano 5 days ago 2 replies      
I'm originally from Cincinnati, and the National Geographic Map makes better choices about what to show. Norwood and Newport are important. The Roebling bridge is not.
5
lkozma 5 days ago 2 replies      
The Imus map does look nicer, but as a computer geek I am more interested in how one could capture the heuristics he uses and better automate the process. Surely all (or most) of the label placement, typography etc. ideas he uses could be captured in a set of criteria that could improve the state of the art in computer-mapmaking. This is similar to what Knuth did to maths typesetting.
6
johnohara 5 days ago 0 replies      
Interview with map creator and cartographer David Imus.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AatQI-wCbj4

Nice close-ups of the map and his own words.

7
mrb 5 days ago 0 replies      
This map is small: 4x3 feet. I would like a large map, maybe four times the area (8x6 feet), but with the same density of information. One could represent four times the number of towns, streams, roads, etc. I want to hang it on a wall, and be able to read it for hours, always discovering new places to visit.

Anyone know of such a map?

8
egypturnash 5 days ago 1 reply      
I only see one little image at the head of the article, but the text refers to what seems to be a few closeup shots. I bet it's Slate's damn tablet view dropping them on the floor. God I hate Slate's tablet view, it's slow and makes reading HARDER.

edit. Found the Normal view link. Yep. Tablet view is missing images. YAY.

9
unwind 5 days ago 6 replies      
I tried going to the author's site (https://imusgeographics.com/) to see what the map costs just out of curiosity, but at this point the site seems to be down due to exceeding its quota. Too bad.
10
joeyh 5 days ago 1 reply      
The first closeup, of Cincinatti is an odd choice because the Imus map does not color the river on the border blue. It was not clear to me that it showed the river at all.

The Chicago closeup has a confusing combination of a time zone line and dotted line. Still it is nice to have the time zone lines.

Paper maps are my favorite thing to put on the wall. My favorite right now is a map of the Appalachian trail. A tall, very narrow map, it cuts diagonally across the traditional map of eastern America, giving a very different perspective.

11
cjdavis 5 days ago 0 replies      
At first glance Imus' map is more accurate as well. He has the location of the airport (CVG) south of I-275, and the location of Vandalia, OH west of I-75. NatGeo is wrong on both.

But like moultano said, he missed Newport and Norwood.

12
agwa 5 days ago 2 replies      
Beautiful map. You can buy it here:

http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780981855127-0

Just $12.95 plus shipping (which was a few bucks for me).

13
msisk6 5 days ago 1 reply      
The Imus maps really are fantastic. I used his Oregon map for years for charting trips around that state.

My 2nd favorite map maker is also in Oregon: Benchmark Maps.

I just moved to Texas and haven't been able to find a map of this state that's even close to comparable to the products of these two.

14
brc 5 days ago 2 replies      
Maplovers should check out the Ordnance Survey maps you can get of Great Britain.

Because there is so much less countryside to cover, the detail you can get is quite amazing. They are a very interesting thing to peruse.

15
alabut 5 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of a post (from a now defunkt blog) explaining the design decisions of google maps that gives it superior readability compared to yahoo and bing:

http://web.archive.org/web/20110101023957/http://www.41latit...

They're fairly basic and common sense Edward Tufte tips but it's interesting to see what a difference a collection of tiny UI tweaks make in the aggregate.

16
shasta 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is like a really nice, hand carved slide rule.
17
PanMan 5 days ago 0 replies      
Side note: this article is a good example why websites should Not make a touch version. While the article looks more iPad-like in the iPad version, it also strips out the map example images, making half of it quite pointless. And off course switching to the desktop version of the site sends you back to the touch version for the next page, as it detects your user agent...
18
jackfoxy 5 days ago 0 replies      
Really well done. One of my cherished wall adornments is a Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion Airocean World map. I'd really like to see what Imus would do with that projection.
19
tomjen3 5 days ago 3 replies      
Reading this, I am most shocked that there are still that many mapmakers -- the age of exploration is long past and I guessed that the few updates that are necessary (renaming the cities and updating country borders, add a new street here and there) was pretty much done by a couple of guys on a computer, somewhere.
20
Sukotto 4 days ago 0 replies      
His site is back up. I also took the liberty of inviting him to come talk to us (or to do an IAMA Master Cartographer AMA on Reddit
21
myoder 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wish someone would have documented Imus's creation of this map. It would be interesting to see what circumstances perplex and excite a map maker.
22
wensing 5 days ago 0 replies      
I could relate to a lot of his painstaking efforts after building the maps for Stormpulse "by hand" albeit digitally. Hundreds of little decisions all along the way.
23
mapster 1 day ago 0 replies      
A cartographers' response to this discussion, see:
http://www.cartotalk.com/index.php?showtopic=7831&pid=41...
24
dmvaldman 5 days ago 0 replies      
25
icebraining 5 days ago 2 replies      
For one thing, that zooming capability means the makers of a single digital map are forced to design dozens of differently scaled versions.

How so? Aren't digital maps just a database of items that are rendered in real time?

26
hummer 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is definitely a dying art. Wish the site (https://imusgeographics.com/) is up soon.
27
Pelayo 4 days ago 1 reply      
The article says he used a computer to draw the map. Does anyone know what software he used? Is it something specialized or just Photoshop? I couldn't find it in the article.
28
kfcm 5 days ago 1 reply      
But does the scale read "1 mile = 1 mile"?
16
Poll: As a freelancer, how much do you bill per hour?
325 points by llambda  4 days ago   217 comments top 41
1
j45 4 days ago 7 replies      
Know and learn the difference between these three words:

Freelancer, Contractor, Consultant.

Each has it's own mindset. I wish I knew it when I started 12 years ago full time. When a customer asks something, they're asking for one of these three relationships.

When we get upset customers aren't listening, it's often a disconnect of which relationship the customer wants, and what you are offering. It's helpful to know which role you're being asked to play (and be paid for).

FREELANCER - Someone who you use from time to time to do a part of what you need. Directions provided. Generally freelancers work more part time than full time.

Typcially with freelancers you have to give notice on the order of 1-2 weeks.

CONTRACTOR - A regular expert who you provide detailed work instructions to. Customer cares more about your opinion but the strategy is still set by them.

If I'm asked for a design that leads to work, it's a quote. Typically the customer knows what they want, how they want it, or why, I'm just a hired gun.

Typically with freelancers you have to give notice for work from 0-7 days based on your arrangement.

CONSULTANT - A dedicated expert who is asked for their opinion of the best strategy to take, as well as delivering on it. Consultants can be part time, but most are full time. If all I'm being asked for is my professional opinion (and no ensuing work) I bill for that time.

Consultants are needed when you need expertise around at the drop of a hat to tend to things, or an ongoing basis to develop/manage/direct/drive internal business processes and hand them back in-house once management would like so you can focus on the next thing for them.

Customers who use consultants properly know it's not what it costs them, but what consultants save, or make them. Sadly, this type of relationship can often be perverted by consultants as well and I inherit people who have been burnt.

Me: I spent my 20's getting 20 years of experience in 10. That makes me about 40+ work wise, in my 30's. Consulting is heroin once you become capable at delivering value.

I am moving out of hourly/daily based consulting and moving to value based consulting, and entirely out of consulting as reasonably possible. If I do something that saves a customer $3,000/3 years forever, I ask for 20-30% of it regardless of whether it takes 5 minutes or hours.

I spent 15-20 man years working to learn how to do something in 5 minutes that will take someone 5 hours, if the customer is willing to pay for my 5 years to learn to do it in 5 minutes, I will bill them for 5 years, and then for 5 minutes.

I love learning and seeing this from different perspectives, let me know what you think too!

2
jasonkester 4 days ago 5 replies      
Pro tip: Call yourself a Consultant instead of a Freelancer and you get to double your bill rate.

A Freelancer is a 26 year old who will design you a logo in her spare time. A Consultant is a man in his late 30s with 15 years experience and a tie. Since nobody can tell the difference via email, you get to choose which one you'd like to be viewed as.

3
tptacek 4 days ago  replies      
Reminder: quote prices daily or weekly, not hourly. You're not a furniture mover.
4
sequoia 4 days ago 1 reply      
Without more context this poll is kind of meaningless. Are you editing up a wordpress site for a pizza shop or overseeing the setup of the intranet for a fortune 500 company?
5
thibaut_barrere 4 days ago 3 replies      
I charge 115 € per hour ex VAT (or roughly 900 € per day of 8 hours). I do mostly remote work (ruby, rails, etl, agile project management, sysadmin, devops, css/js, technical/org coaching).

If a client can give me visibility and ensure eg: 10 days per month for some months in a row, then I provide a discount on that rate.

I never do fixed-price projects and instead, provide best-effort estimates and bill by the hour.

6
Splines 4 days ago 2 replies      
(I feel like this is probably a frequently asked question on HN, but I'm throwing this out here anyway)

As a full-timer working for a big corporation, where would I even begin to start getting freelance work? I'm thinking about a change in my career path and see freelancing as a potential way to go about doing that, but I'm honestly scared about where to even start.

7
kaisdavis 4 days ago 3 replies      
I bill $60/hr. When I start to reach capacity, I multiple my rates by 1.5 for all new clients. I can see myself starting to bill out at $90/hr by June, 2012.

An interesting follow-up question for the freelance community could be how many of us employee freelances beneath us.

I've added a freelance copywriter and designer to my team and it's a joy to be able to work with and support another freelancer as they develop their practice. It's also a joy to have some of the capacity problems resolved by the addition of another set of hands. (:

8
johngalt 4 days ago 0 replies      
Depends entirely upon the person buying the work.

Penny pinchers = lowest rate, but only as a discount when buying an hour block in advance. Rates are double for afterhours/emergency work.

Waffles = Project based billing so they have to describe clearly what they want. Then changes are additional, or rolled into the next project.

Rich/Busy/Business types = Hourly rates billed monthly net 30. These will generally just cut a check so long as 'X' problem goes away, and you're not a problem to deal with yourself. Best customer type to have. Just make sure you include the scope of what you've handled with the bill. Even better if you figure out what their approval limits are and stay under that.

9
polyfractal 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm curious, what should someone do if they are just starting out?

I'm moving into freelance/contractor/whatever soon, but have zero "official" experience. It's a complete career shift. I code in my freetime and have started to build demonstration projects to throw up on github, but I look new right now.

Should I just charge a "can't beat this price" so I can get some experience and then up my prices to what everyone suggests? Or just pretend I know what the hell I'm doing and charge those rates from the beginning?

I'm already prepared to factor in unbilled, learning time but am not sure what to do on the actual billing side.

10
Mizza 4 days ago 0 replies      
I saw this question being asked a lot, so I wrote my policy here: http://gun.io/blog/how-much-to-charge-as-a-freelance-compute...
11
gavingmiller 4 days ago 1 reply      
Regardless of whether you're a freelancer, contractor, or consultant please do yourself a favour and have a lawyer created contract together. If you don't have a rock solid contract you're leaving money on the table, and making yourself extremely vulnerable.

Also highly relevant - Fuck you, pay me: http://vimeo.com/22053820?utm_source=swissmiss

12
Swizec 4 days ago 0 replies      
I bill $30/hr and slowly increasing my rates with every new client.

Only being available for work two-ish days a week greatly reduces my client pool. Being 8 hours away from most of them doesn't help much either. (I don't like working locally because everyone puts too much effort into trying to rip you off)

13
InclinedPlane 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is about as worthwhile as asking "as a human, how much do you bill per hour?" Everyone has a different skillset, caters to different customers, and thus has a different reasonable range of what they can bill. Some freelancers may be doing little more than some simple cut and paste or configuration work, others may be writing operating systems from scratch, the rate they charge for those services will of course vary greatly.
14
dylanhassinger 4 days ago 1 reply      
Whenever possible, I try to do a package price. This works when all the pieces are things I can do, or I can accurately predict my outsourcing cost. It doesn't work when a project gets thorny (damn you google APIs!)

For ala carte or ongoing work, I sell prepaid blocks of hours. I offer 10, 20 and 35 hour blocks; 10 hour blocks are at my highest rate, but if the client buys more then the hourly price goes down. If they don't use up all the hours, then they can bank them for later.

15
marcomonteiro 4 days ago 1 reply      
I develop iOS applications. Based on j45's definitions I'd be a consultant/contractor. I have one client right now and they take up most of my time. They're a small startup and it was my first development job in nearly 10 years. The first projects were priced according to the scope of the work and what they could afford. I was severely undercutting myself but I Didn't feel I had any leveraging power. Their dependence on me grew and they've come to rely on me to help them shape the direction and future of the company. The last project I charged what I believe is market rate for an iOS developer and I let them make payments while I retain all IP rights until its been paid. Now I have an ongoing agreement with them where I guarantee them a set amount of time per week in exchange for $1,000/wk. How that time is used is up to them. It could go to consulting or to actually writting code. This works out for both of us because my income is fixed from this client, it's not full time, gives them flexibility to use me as best serves the business and keeps us from wasting time on the negotiation table on individual projects.
16
lrobb 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm surprised at some of the low points on here... The general rule is to take your desired annual income and divide by 1000 to get your hourly rate. So if you want to make $120,000 year, your hourly rate would be $120.

I think a lot of "freelancers" must end up going through headhunters instead of finding clients directly? You might want to ask what your headhunter is making if that's the case -- I know of one body shop that only offers $50/hr to its contractors, while the client company is paying the headhunter $150/hour.

You can't even get a desktop support person out around here for less than $75/hour...

17
ludwigvan 4 days ago 4 replies      
Looking at these numbers, I am amazed at the inequality bt. different parts of the world. Here in Turkey, hourly rate of a developer is around 10$, maybe 15$ if you are better. Of course, the cost of living is lower, but still...

Time to move abroad perhaps.

18
jfruh 4 days ago 0 replies      
Traditionally when I've freelanced in the past I've billed hourly (varying rates, depending on what the client will bear) but I've read some convincing stuff that billing that way in essence punishes productivity. If you figure out how to do things faster, you just end up costing yourself money, so why bother? I've done agreed per-project rates as well and I think they're both more lucrative and better for your sanity.
19
jeswin 4 days ago 0 replies      
I charge between 40-50 in Bangalore.

I have been thinking about an interesting idea. Would anyone be willing to relocate to Bangalore for a 1 year freelancing gig? There will be lifestyle compromises to make, but you can save about 4k/month or more. It is insanely hard to find talented developers here, and I am thinking there is a limited opportunity for outsiders to come and work here.

Sort of like outsourcing backwards. I can help set it up if a group of people are interested in this.

(About to get into a plane, so will be replying only after 3 hours)

20
wilhelm 4 days ago 2 replies      
Approximately 200 USD plus VAT. Sometimes more, sometimes less. If the customer doesn't haggle, the quote was too low. I'm based in Oslo, Norway.
21
larrys 4 days ago 1 reply      
Another tip: Always quote a range not a price no matter the time period. A range allows you to gauge a response and many times allows the higher end. Whether you are quoting hourly or a per job basis.
22
samlev 4 days ago 0 replies      
It depends on the work. If I'm guaranteed a large amount of ongoing work (something getting close to full-time hours), then I'll usually bill lower. If it's a once-off project, I'll usually bill either a fixed quote, or a higher hourly rate.

Fixed quotes aren't that common, though, unless the client already has a scope set out, or is willing to agree to one.

23
gvagenas 2 days ago 0 replies      
Regarding consulting cost and value based model, i would like to mention Martin Fowler article regarding Utility vs Strategic projects (http://martinfowler.com/bliki/UtilityVsStrategicDichotomy.ht...).
In a really clever manner Martin Fowler distinguish projects depending on whether the business function is a differentiator or not. "This is not a separation of IT by the nature of the technology, but into what technology does for the host business".
This point of view should be taken into consideration whenever a consultant/freelancer/contractor have to prepare a quote for a project as the value of the project to the business can influence the cost.
24
kal00ma 4 days ago 0 replies      
Given the extra costs of being a freelancer (health insurance, self-employment tax), if you want to be living in the same neighborhood as your full-time peers you should be charging at least 75/hr.
25
manmal 3 days ago 0 replies      
I develop apps for Android (got some good iOS knowledge too), and I currently charge 40€ - I'm constantly raising that number (last gig was my first paid Android project, for 30€, which I now consider a dumping price). I do have to say that I'm still not sure whether Android development is a good sector to earn good money in - maybe I should start consulting or remote working (Berlin and London seem to be good places).
Interestingly, there is a culture of undercutting hourly rates in the Austrian freelancer community, or so have I experienced people around me ("What? You're leaving us because 30€ is not enough?" said a web-freelancer when I left).
26
lazy_b 3 days ago 0 replies      
As someone who has worked as a consultant and hired them, it's hard to imagine a piece of work that I'd be willing to pay an outside contractor a continuing percentage for. Products,definitely, but that assumes a more or less tu rn key solution that I am not responsible for maintaining. But code rots, marketing is forgotten, and business practices must continually adapt in the face of changing realities on the ground, as it were. If I'm paying you for your expertise, I'll leave the money on the nightstand , but you're not getting half my stuff. ;)
27
kposehn 4 days ago 1 reply      
I charge $300/hour for marketing consulting or a different structure on commitment to budgets.

One thing I've learned is never do a flat rate, no matter what. Projects will always be different than what you estimate so do time and materials only.

28
Achshar 3 days ago 0 replies      
Contractor, i guess? I dont bill by hour because my work productivity highly depends on my mood, so hourly rate would be unfair. A project wise prefixed rte s what i look for.
29
gubatron 1 day ago 0 replies      
$150-$300, depends on client, complexity
30
yeureka 4 days ago 2 replies      
I am new to the freelancing game and I try to bill at roughly USD65. However I tend to work more hours than what I bill for or I charge less per hour because I am afraid of loosing their custom when the project slips in time. I think this is because most of my clients are friends and acquaintances from previous jobs. Maybe I need to get strictly business clients. Also, one of my clients as asked how much I would charge for a retainer fee. I don't even know what to answer to that. Does anybody have experience with retainers? Are these a good idea?
31
jordanbaucke 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm at $50/hr doing SFDC -- I think a lot of my rate is based on the fact that I'm local and there isn't a large talent pool locally for what I do (Denver, CO)

I'm thinking I could move up to $75, if I didn't get benefits (very expensive and worth it here in the US)

If I thought I was working with a product where there were more people with experience around - I'd ask for less.

ALSO: LOWER RATE = MORE CLIENTS WHOM DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT AND DON'T WANT TO PAY FOR THINGS THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND.

32
BerislavLopac 3 days ago 0 replies      
What I would like to see is this data with geographic distribution. I'm pretty sure it would be quite interesting to see the differences between the global regions.
33
mattacurtis 4 days ago 1 reply      
To those of you with years of experience:

If I'm looking to start consulting on the side, is it reasonable to charge lower rates at first to attract business and get some experience (something in the $50/hr range)

While I want to be paid fairly for what I'm worth, I also don't want to overcharge clients while I figure out what I'm doing (processes and services etc).

34
saltcod 4 days ago 0 replies      
I charge $40 to do design and WordPress development.

As another example, an ad firm I interviewed with a few months ago were charging $1,000 per day to develop a website, brand, 'strategy' etc. The $1,000 got you a developer (really just a mid-range non-programmer), a copyrighter, a graphic designer, and a project manager.

35
webbeetle 2 days ago 0 replies      
Funny (or very blind) that you "forgot" the rates with which one is supposed to compete on freelancing sites, like Odesk, Freelancer, etc.
Then this list should start with 0-2.99 Dollars, 3-7.99 Dollars, 8-14.99 Dollars, 15-24.99 Dollars, 25-49.99 Dollars - you won't believe how many jobs are being awarded for rates under $4/hour. SCARY! The result of "globalization" in freelancing.

webbeetle - who tries to compete with rates around $30-40

36
Maven911 3 days ago 0 replies      
Any tips on how to start charging more without scaring away new and existing clients
37
CoughlinJ 4 days ago 0 replies      
75 for the first hour, 40 every hour after that.

That's just for general workstation & network support. Other 'projects' come with different pricing...

38
glimcat 4 days ago 0 replies      
A few hundred. It varies depending on how much I want to do or don't want to do what they're asking for. Tends to be "consulting" and monthly. I think the last one worked out to about $400-500/hr, but I wasn't tracking time closely.
39
jaequery 2 days ago 0 replies      
it's all of the above
40
jkaljundi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Depends on a country or region.
41
easy_rider 4 days ago 0 replies      
65
17
Uncloaking a Slumlord Conspiracy with Social Network Analysis orgnet.com
308 points by danso  1 day ago   69 comments top 15
1
dhotson 1 day ago 1 reply      
We do this kind of analysis where I work for detecting fraud. I can't go into too many details, but I can probably show you a simple example: http://i.imgur.com/feJLd.png

This is showing some of the relationships between users in the system. You take a user that you know is dodgy, and then start looking at what they have in common with other users.

Also, slightly offtopic"I open sourced the graph visualisation part: http://github.com/dhotson/springy

2
ChuckMcM 1 day ago 3 replies      
Ok, I thought that was cool.

Its a bit scary, in that it will force such conspiracies to become more complex (its an arms race after all), and it highlights a 'good' use of an analysis technique which the evil doers can use against their enemies, but still.

3
johnohara 1 day ago 1 reply      
The diagrams remind me of the hand-drawn ones FBI agent John O'Neill created after the USS Cole incident and continually updated prior to the attacks of 9/11.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/knew/etc/conne...

4
djb_hackernews 1 day ago 0 replies      
That was interesting.

If you like this kind of sleuthing and analysis, you'll enjoy http://sharesleuth.com/ - Which is a Mark Cuban pet project that investigates shady listed companies in search for shortable targets.

5
tibbon 1 day ago 3 replies      
I wonder if this type of business behavior explains some of the places in Boston I saw that were always "going out of business" only to reopen the next day, as practical the same thing. There was a rug store on Boylston that was like that. I swear it must have had 10 going out of business sales.
6
scrod 1 day ago 0 replies      
Imagine how much easier this is when the subjects openly declare their connections on Facebook.
7
wtvanhest 1 day ago 2 replies      
I guess I'm confused.

I can see how real estate owners and mortgage companies have relationships with each other. (A lot of small owners have investments from family and friends and use a single mortgage financing company with experience closing tough initial investment deals)

What I don't understand is how the social network analysis led to a conviction. What does the connection mean? Can someone else explain it?

8
jdp23 1 day ago 1 reply      
"How to research a slumlord", from last year, has a lot more information about the process: http://drpop.org/2010/04/how-to-research-a-slumlord/
9
cartouche86 11 hours ago 0 replies      
A similar situation in the state of Texas: multiple units under a condominum regime with a (now majority) owner who wants to buy all remaining units, raze the structures and convert the land to commercial use.

A minority of condo owners want to continue to live in well-maintained condos in a nice part of town where commercial real estate is _very_ expensive.

You guessed it, the majority owner is a shell corporation with the church/school behind it. The majority owner has slowly purchased units, stripped them of utilities and let them lie fallow without renting them.

The subdivision has well-written deed restrictions limiting the land to residential-only use. Commercial entities are specifically disallowed (churches and private schools are commercial entities in Texas). The deed restrictions can be changed only by majority subdivision vote once every 10 years (2020 next vote). The church/school does not own a majority of the land in the subdivision.

Through these shell corporations, the church/school has quietly purchased properties at residential rates in this deed-restricted residential-only subdivision and then converted the land to commercial use (IMO a clear violation of the deed restrictions). Commercial land in the same neighborhood is _very_ expensive. The city is allowed to enforce deed restrictions but is reluctant to do so.

The condo regime requires that units be kept for the welfare of the owners and residents but soon the majority owner will take over the condominium board. Minority owners fear that the majority owner will use the condominium association's powers to drive them out..

To me there appears to be a legal conflict of interest: all condo owners sign an agreement to support the condo regime and the welfare of all owners in perpetuity, yet this particular majority owner seeks to liquidate the condo regime.

Anyone have expertise in handling this type of case in Texas? Or who can direct me to someone familiar with this type of takeover?

What does this have to do with conspiracy? The ties of the church/school to the city government, the local legal community and real estate developers are deep and intricate. Most real estate attorneys we have spoken to have some affiliation with the church/school (which is a very large and very wealthy organization) and cannot or will not sell their services to us. For years the companies that were acquiring units in the condo used multiple shell corporations to do so. It was not clear what was happening until fairly recently.

10
cperciva 1 day ago 4 replies      
As time went on, and the buildings appreciated in value during a real estate boom -- loans from the mortgage company allowed the owners to "strip mine" the equity from the buildings. This is a common slumlord modus operandi -- they suck money out of a building rather than put money back in for maintenance.

Strip mining the equity? It's their building, isn't it? Seems to me that if someone wants to own a pile of cash and a worthless building instead of owning a well-maintained building, that's a business decision they should be entitled to make.

11
bane 1 day ago 0 replies      
12
laconian 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm no slumlord, but the fact that people can do this analysis with public data does spook me more than a little.

Still, that's good detectivework and a great outcome!

13
bri3d 1 day ago 0 replies      
A fun way to explore some (very different) data in a similar manner is to use Palantir's https://analyzethe.us/ - the Palantir client is pretty complex but extremely powerful for this kind of social network analysis.
14
uiri 1 day ago 0 replies      
It just seems unlikely that every single state will require the actual owner of the LLC to be in public records. If that is the case, good luck finding the owners. Ideally the slumlord will have a different registered agent (person in the relevant state who handles the LLC paperwork) for each LLC and the superintendent only deals with a lawyer. Again, different lawyer for each building/LLC. You can sue the LLC, but the only asset that'd own is the building itself. So, properly done, it seems that slumlords can get away with it. Of course, paying all these lawyers might be more expensive than being a decent landlord, it is probably a lot less work.

I feel like I'm missing some practical uses of knowing the superintendent, local and out-of-state lawyer for each building (or building/LLC combo). I only skimmed the linked How To Research a Slumlord, although the results seems to be "render the LLC useless by suing the actual owner".

15
civilian 1 day ago 0 replies      
And now I want to start a conspiracy. It just looks so cool!
18
TileMill " an application for making beautiful maps mapbox.com
305 points by dhotson  5 days ago   35 comments top 16
1
jashkenas 5 days ago 1 reply      
One of the neatest hacks in TileMill is the "UTFGrid", used for associating tooltips to regions of the map ... without having to do all kinds of expensive boundary checking on the client-side.

http://mapbox.com/mbtiles-spec/utfgrid/

edit: TileMill is also a really cool example of using Backbone.js + Bones to build a Desktop app: https://github.com/mapbox/tilemill/tree/master/models

2
cullenking 5 days ago 3 replies      
TileMill is great, I used it to style our replacement maps, since google maps decided to start charging. Here is an example: http://tile.ridewithgps.com/leaflet.html

TileMill is addictive to play with, though very tedious if you don't have a fast machine with some SSD's, as refreshes take a while to reload various zoom levels to see your work. Not much to be done there except throw hardware it.

Edit: I am hosting our maps on my own hardware, mapnik2+mod_tile. I just used the slick client to create a mapnik XML file for rendering.

3
akamaka 5 days ago 0 replies      
Looks great, and kudos on releasing open source code as well. As a developer who has specialized in making web-based maps, I've been dreaming of something like this coming a long, and here it is.

I had seriously considered working toward the same goal, but gave up because I wasn't sure about what kind of customers I might find. I'm still convinced that there are a lot of customers out there for this type of thing, and I hope you guys make this into something big!

4
ericgund 5 days ago 1 reply      
we just posted 2012 TileMill + MapBox major investment priorities today: http://ds.io/mapbox-2012. In short, big push for:

- TileMill on Windows,

- Live map rendering for dynamic data via TileMill + direct uploads to MapBox for hosting,

- Beautiful new OpenStreetMap base maps as an alternative for Google Maps w/ its new usage fees,

- Shipping fast hardware (which we are still designing :) http://www.flickr.com/photos/developmentseed/5812414817/).

5
NelsonMinar 5 days ago 0 replies      
TileMill is a lot of fun; you can download it and be making custom maps in just a few minutes. There's a lot of very sophisticated open source cartography hiding under the covers, not to mention nodejs wizardry. They've done a great job of packaging it all and making an easy to use tool for map-makers without requiring a lot of GIS or OSGeo expertise.

One particularly nice option is the ability to "print" your pre-rendered map to an MBTiles bundle for serving in a slippy map on the web.

6
mmaunder 5 days ago 2 replies      
Can you create large map images from tiles that can be turned into a poster?
7
ojilles 4 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe not entirely on topic, but after some googling I could not find this: what is the easiest way to have this interface (or Google Maps, etc) towards a huge picture (so not maps/GIS). A gigantic panorama picture so that the end user can pan and zoom?
8
xbryanx 5 days ago 0 replies      
News and background on Development Seed's great work: http://developmentseed.org/blog/2012/jan/02/major-mapbox-inv...
9
spacestation 5 days ago 0 replies      
i fiddled with TileMill last week.

I need something more "freehand" and Ortelius is what I need;
http://www.mapdiva.com/ortelius/

10
hunvreus 4 days ago 0 replies      
We've been using TileMill for a good 6 months now; for anybody who has been struggling with the tools that were available so far, it is a breath of fresh air.

I'd recommend anybody to give it a try and then have a look at their plans: http://mapbox.com/plans/. It's damn affordable for that kind of service.

We even use Tilemill's underlying node.js framework, Bones, for some of our projects.

11
twog 5 days ago 1 reply      
Its so refreshing to see someone launch software with an OSx, Windows, AND linux version. Thank you for your hard work.
12
noeltock 5 days ago 0 replies      
Talk about filling a gap in the market, good luck with this model!
13
dangoldin 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. Thanks for posting.
14
tectonic 5 days ago 0 replies      
Gorgeous.
15
jarnix 4 days ago 0 replies      
every month we have this post about your app :)
16
iampeter 5 days ago 0 replies      
fantastic. guess they were faster than me :)
19
Damn Cool Algorithms: Fountain Codes notdot.net
297 points by nl  2 days ago   62 comments top 18
1
tikhonj 1 day ago 1 reply      
This sounds really similar to secret sharing[1]. While not doing exactly the same thing, a simple secret sharing algorithm is also interesting to read about now--it's a different algorithm chunking up and reassembling data in a similar way with different properties.

One difference is that with secret sharing unless you have enough chunks you do not have any information about the result. (That's why it's called secret sharing--you can share a secret with a bunch of people without any of them knowing it unless a minimum number get together.) The neat trick is that any subset of the chunks big enough will get you all of the information.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamir%27s_Secret_Sharing

In fact, the algorithm (at a high level) is exceptionally simple: encode your data as the coefficients of a polynomial of degree n and transmit it as a bunch of points in the polynomial. You then need n+1 points to recover the polynomial, but which particular points you have does not matter.

What I love about this algorithm is that it is useful, nontrivial and can be explained in a single sentence (by a better writer than I :)).

2
jleader 1 day ago 2 replies      
Why does the described algorithm only decode transmitted blocks when the receiver has decoded all but one of the constituent blocks? For example, if the receiver has received the following 3 blocks:

  1. A ^ B ^ C
2. A ^ B
3. B ^ C

it can combine #1 and #2 to decode C, then combine C and #3 to decode B, then combine B and #2 to decode A.

The algorithm as described would in this situation cause the receiver to wait until it's received a single block, either A or B or C, before decoding anything. This strikes me as inefficient.

Edited to add: I think this is analogous to forward vs. backwards chaining: you can either start by combining single blocks with composite blocks to simplify them, or start by combining blocks whose component block lists differ by only a single block. Or you could apply both, which should get the greatest simplification with the smallest amount of input.

3
sown 1 day ago 2 replies      
Where do people keep these algorithms around? I've asked in the past about reference guides for stuff like this they throw Knuth's "Art of Computer Programming" which is a neat book but doesn't have esoteric and useful but hard to find stuff like this.

Where do I find stuff like this?!

4
epaulson 2 days ago 1 reply      
Alas, digital fountains are tied up in patents, and people have been leery:

http://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~michaelm/postscripts/itw2004.pd...

5
calloc 1 day ago 1 reply      
Seems the website has gone over quota. Shame, because the content is absolutely fantastic. Had it opened and had begun reading it on my computer at home.
6
phzbOx 2 days ago 0 replies      
Didn't know about that algorithm, pretty cool. Also, the way the author explained it made it a joy to read.. clear, simple examples, meaningful graphics. Can't wait to start reading the previous blog posts (About other cool algorithms).
7
kcl 1 day ago 0 replies      
It wasn't immediately clear to me the ideal soliton distribution always summed to one. There is a simple proof by induction. I wrote it up here: http://kevinlawler.com/soliton
8
evmar 1 day ago 1 reply      
Gray on black text. :~(

To make the page readable, pull up the dev console and run `document.body.style.color='black'`

9
repiret 1 day ago 3 replies      
Whats the advantage of Fountain Codes over more well known and deterministic forward error correction techniques like Reed-Soloman Codes?

The D.J.C.MacKay paper linked from the article lists applications in broadcast and data storage, but Reed-Soloman would work equally well in both those applications.

Hypothesis: With Reed-Soloman and friends, if you're unlucky and loose the /right/ n blocks, for small n, you can't recover your data. Is that n larger for LT? If I could maliciously corrupt your LT blocks, would I have to corrupt more with LT?

Hypothesis: If I randomly corrupt blocks with Reed-Soloman, does my likelihood of not being able to recover all my data drop faster than if I did so with LT?

Can someone say authoritatively?

10
jws 2 days ago 2 replies      
One wonders how it does rate limiting to avoid pointless resource consumption of faster, near links when the packets are going to be dumped by a slower, farther link.

In particular, if you intend to coexist fairly with TCPIP on an internet you might find your rate limiting code carries all the most of the work and timing issues of TCPIP anyway.

11
sethbuzz 1 day ago 0 replies      
Fountain codes look very interesting. There was a project at OLPC, I think written in Forth for OpenFirmware, that used something like fountain codes to reflash massive numbers of computers. It worked like this. Turn one XO-1 on in OFW mode, insert a USB with the disk image you wanted to be on all machines, and turn it on as the source server. Boot into OFW, the other XO-1s you want to reflash, and tell them to receive a new image. I think there was a key shortcut of some kind that told a machine to receive. The server XO would continue to send packets until all other machines had received enough packets to make up a complete disk image. If I remember correctly, they used it to reflash 3000 machines in the field that I heard about. There may have been more elsewhere or since.
12
invalidOrTaken 2 days ago 1 reply      
Thanks for this post. Patented or not, this is damn cool.
13
baruch 1 day ago 0 replies      
It is a damn cool algorithm, I was introduced to it in a startup I worked in and we actually tried to make use of it. The algorithm as described has a problem to converge fast enough and we had to make some extra structure on top that made it converge very fast and in a very consistent way. We used it for multicast communications where feedback to the server is impractical and such codes are making it a very effective way to distribute the data.
14
aidenn0 1 day ago 0 replies      
This seems most useful for broadcast. You could just broadcast the fountain code of a file out as long as you have listening receivers; the only feedback needed would be "send to me" and "done"
15
derfclausen 2 days ago 0 replies      
Luby had a startup named Digital Fountain in SF in the late 90's where they attempted to productize this, primarily for video streaming.

Looks like they were acquired by Qualcomm a few years back:
http://www.qualcomm.com/solutions/broadcast-streaming/media-...

16
cma 2 days ago 0 replies      
heavily patented
17
karpathy 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's somewhat intuitive, but I feel like there is some cool math or attempt at explanation behind this that was left out.

Why is this better than just broadcasting messages that always contain a single block? What do you gain by forming combinations? You still have an expectation of eventually getting all the information. I assume it just turns out to take longer on average because your expected gain in information is lower from single chunks once you already have many of them?

20
Bill Joy's greatest gift to man " the vi editor theregister.co.uk
296 points by sytelus  3 days ago   126 comments top 27
1
enobrev 3 days ago 5 replies      
My favorite quote in the article:

> "So you didn't really write vi in one weekend like everybody says?"

> No. It took a long time.

Nearly every day I come to this site and skim past headlines resembling "Check out my weekend project!" or "Look at the awesome business idea I put together in 12 hours!!"

While I understand there can be a great sense of accomplishment to come up with an idea and pull it together in a short amount of time, I far more appreciate projects that people have dedicated months and years of their lives to.

Forget weekend whims. Dedicate yourself to an interesting project for 6 months or a year and then tell me what you've learned. You may suddenly find yourself in high enough demand that you're no longer able to spare the weekends to waste on something to show off on HN.

2
Jach 3 days ago 2 replies      
A nice bit of history. Of course, even more interesting bits on the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vi#Creation

> Many of the ideas in ex's visual mode (a.k.a. vi) were taken from other software that existed at the time. According to Bill Joy,[2] inspiration for vi's visual mode came from the Bravo editor, which was a bimodal editor. In an interview about vi's origins, Joy said:[2]

> > A lot of the ideas for the screen editing mode were stolen from a Bravo manual I surreptitiously looked at and copied. Dot is really the double-escape from Bravo, the redo command. Most of the stuff was stolen. There were some things stolen from ed"we got a manual page for the Toronto version of ed, which I think Rob Pike had something to do with. We took some of the regular expression extensions out of that.

And fortunately for those of us in the modern world, we have vim.

3
nezumi 3 days ago 2 replies      
But that world does still exist: I often find myself ssh'd into a desktop tmux session, via my laptop tethered to my phone's internet connection. In that situation, I am highly appreciative of vi's 300 baud history.
4
StavrosK 3 days ago 2 replies      
> Now that computers are so much faster than you can think, nobody understands this anymore.

Are you kidding me? Only vi is much faster than I can think. I still have to wait for Eclipse. Hence, I use vi, because there's too much friction in waiting for my editor. I find that I miss lots of the convenience features of Eclipse, but when I can alrady get productive in vim by the time Eclipse has loaded, it's too easy to just work in vim.

5
martincmartin 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is from 2003. Can we put [2003] in the title?
6
bch 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's been pointed out that world -does- exist (just not as pervasively distributed as it was): people are using slow satellite connections, or low-powered devices where vi is the perfect fit. Regardless, whether vi was written "for a world which doesn't exist anymore", vi still works perfectly well in the world we live in, and a lot of people produce a lot of value with it, and enjoy using it. vi was written for a world that doesn't exist anymore; welcome vi to the world in which we live today.
7
jamesrcole 3 days ago 1 reply      
...I was trying to make it usable over a 300 baud modem. ...the editor was optimized so that you could edit and feel productive when it was painting slower than you could think.

Seems a good example of how constraints can produce innovation.

8
pschlump 3 days ago 3 replies      
That world is not completely gone! I use VI to connect to amazon AWS servers over a satellite link. It is faster than 1200 baud but with horrible latency. VI is the only editor that works.
9
sgt 3 days ago 2 replies      
As I read the article, "Joy leaves a lasting legacy " gave me a small shock, causing me to fire up Bill Joy's wikipedia page to ensure myself that he hasn't passed away. Phew, thankfully he's fine. Too many great people are dying these last few years.
10
Yuioup 3 days ago 0 replies      
I beg to differ!

I have several clients with which I connect to remotely via Windows Terminal Server or VNC. I usually have to connect to via the webbrowser by opening a link and then the session is opened. I usually have no option to change the performance or quality options.

We have a fast connection here but our clients have ADSL. Yes that's right, the A stands for really slow uploads.

I don't know about you but have you ever tried using Notepad/Notepad++/UltraEdit via a slow internet connection with all the options on full blast (32-bit color, themes, etc ..)?

I'm so glad that I can download PortableVim and run it off the "My Documents" folder and quickly do my editing without being too bothered by the refresh rate.

So the "world that doen't exists anymore" is very much alive if you ask me!

11
g3orge 3 days ago 1 reply      
Vim is my favorite editor ever, and I'm not gonna change it for the world.
12
ojbyrne 3 days ago 0 replies      
This seems like a back-handed endorsement of Emacs ;-)
13
kahirsch 3 days ago 0 replies      
In another interview, Coulouris said:

> By the way, 'em' stands for 'editor for mortals' - I christened it that after Ken Thompson visited our lab at QMC while I was developing it and said something like: "yeah, I've seen editors like that, but I don't feel a need for them, I don't want to see the state of the file when I'm editing".

14
zerostar07 3 days ago 2 replies      
Understandable why it's the most fond of his achievements, i spend more time thinking about it more than any of his other inventions. You get a glimpse of that old world he's talking about when you use it over a slow data connection on your smartphone.
15
16s 3 days ago 4 replies      
vi is the lowest common denominator among *nix text editors. It's a huge advantage to know how to use it.
16
saddino 3 days ago 0 replies      
As someone who was limited to 300 baud for learning UNIX and C, I actually preferred Joy's ex over vi. I found that I could type ahead very quickly and just let the edits scroll in as they were echoed from the mainframe. Watching the edits cascade in a scroll made much more sense to me than a slowly updating vi screen.
17
zaph0d 2 days ago 0 replies      
Many vi users don't know that they don't use vi but use ViM which was created by Bram Moolenaar.
18
quattrofan 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wish the title of the article was "Joy leaves Sun", dual meanings are always more fun.
19
pconf 3 days ago 0 replies      
Still my most used piece of software ever. No other text editor comes close in efficiency. Let those who can't learn vi remain tethered by the mouse, they'll never be able to write or edit text as quickly.

Now if only the sc spreadsheet could be retrofitted with Lotus 123 menus. With that, vi, and screen I'd be nearly as efficient as 15 years ago with 123, MKS vi, and Desqview.

Sad that today's software interfaces have so little to do with efficiency (and that includes the 'pc' keyboard layout).

20
MPSimmons 3 days ago 0 replies      
And yet, it still works great.
21
dextorious 3 days ago 1 reply      
So, besides democracy, theater, abstract math and the debt crisis, we Greeks also (sorta) gave vi to the world!
22
mlopes 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know which world he lives in, but in mine, it is used every day... and it's not even my main editor.
23
rio197 3 days ago 0 replies      
awesome history
24
gonzo 3 days ago 1 reply      
I used to work for wnj. I asked him about vi.

His retort, "I wrote that when I didn't know how to program."

He uses Textedit (on a Mac) these days. (Emacs bindings, if you didn't know.)

He hasn't used vi in years.

25
funkah 3 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe that's why I feel so crazy whenever I try to use it. We can have bitmapped interfaces now, no need for the arcaneness of vi and similar editors.
26
zobzu 3 days ago 0 replies      
vi(m) rock my world.

If that means I don't exist anymore, there's only one ascii art I can think of for Mr Bill Joy.

.i. (o.o) .i.

27
blhack 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Hammers were invented for a world that doesn't exist anymore".

"Manual screwdrivers were invented for a world that doesn't exist anymore"

"Chisels were invented for a world that doesn't exist anymore".

Etc.

The mere fact that people are still using vi[m] is evidence that this author is wrong.

21
Show HN: How I built a self-driving (RC) car.
290 points by dps  5 days ago   21 comments top 14
1
JoachimSchipper 4 days ago 1 reply      
Hint: it's common wisdom that such things are best posted as links instead of "Show HN", since "show/ask" posts leave the front page more quickly. You can always add a # or ? if you want to fool the duplicate-detecting algorithm...
2
aiurtourist 4 days ago 1 reply      
Congratulations -- you'll never need a resume ever again. :)
4
Game_Ender 5 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool robotics project. Were you aware of FANN (http://leenissen.dk/fann/wp) before you started your neural network implementation? Also have you tried any other machine learning techniques on that data, comparison results would be interesting.
5
richardburton 5 days ago 0 replies      
What a great side-project! I wonder how long it will be before we are comfortable with the idea of self-driving cars on the road? The transition will be slow but I think it is inevitable. Humans are less reliable than robots. I hope.
6
jakejake 5 days ago 1 reply      
super cool! it would be even more cool to see the arduino hooked up directly to the android so there was no separate computer involved and it was totally autonomous. even still, this is cool, thanks for sharing!
7
tzs 4 days ago 1 reply      
The input layer for the neural net has 25345 units. The input is a 176x144 image, which is 25344 pixels. Why is there one more input unit than pixels?
8
EwanG 5 days ago 1 reply      
So I have to ask, how well do you think this would scale? AM I but a month of effort away from never having to actively drive to work again (given I follow the same route most days, etc)?
9
leoedin 4 days ago 0 replies      
How practical is running the software onboard? Would you have to port it out of Octave to Java? There seems to be a useful library in the form of [jlmath] that may well let you run the program as-is.

jlmath: http://www.jmathlib.de/

I was going to suggest using the audio jack, but it seems you've already found a (really cool) project that's using it.

Anyway, it's a pretty awesome project. I'm building a robotic vacuum cleaner currently, although I'm building the chassis from scratch and that's proving to be a bit of a stumbling block with my current tools. My software right now is pretty much rudimentary collision detection, so something like this is pretty interesting as a far more sophisticated option.

10
endianswap 4 days ago 1 reply      
What sort of latencies did you see in this project while the car was running? Specifically, from the point where you have access to the camera's preview buffer to encoding it, sending it, running it through the neural network, and sending the button bits to the microcontroller.
11
geekfactor 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, very nice. Congrats on putting the course into practice!
12
josscrowcroft 4 days ago 0 replies      
Made my day and seems to have reignited my curiosity about DIY robots. Congratulations!
13
noeltock 5 days ago 0 replies      
Well done, that's pretty awesome.
14
jack83 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow
25
What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success theatlantic.com
273 points by dirtyaura  5 days ago   185 comments top 28
1
ender7 5 days ago 3 replies      
It's important to remember that the Finns implemented their new system for moral, rather than competitive reasons. Their resulting academic performance was a pleasant side-effect. This is a critical distinction that even this article seems to gloss over.

I went to the best private high school in my state. Before that, I attended an elementary school whose tuition cost more than many people pay for a college education. My parents were by no means rich, but were willing to spend a significant portion of their yearly income on the education of their only child.

I have also worked in schools of the other kind. The ones with metal detectors. The ones where the administration's main preoccupation is not which college their students will get into, but whether their students will graduate high school at all.

Arguments that competition between schools and school systems is necessary in order to maintain academic quality do not impress me. The quality of a child's education should not be determined by how much money a parent is willing to or is capable of paying. I am quite willing to let children to be buffeted by the inequalities of capitalism in every other aspect of their lives (except, perhaps, healthcare), but our current system is not only ineffective and inefficient, it is immoral.

2
DanielBMarkham 5 days ago  replies      
Assuming there's something here, which is a bit of a stretch for me, let's ask the obvious question: where else has this been tried? Did it work? Better still, how do we know we're being equal enough?

This is not Marxist by any means, but I have to use Marxism as an example. The problem with Marxism is that whenever it doesn't work, people say it wasn't tried enough. In the examples where it does work, there's always some special attribute or thing that causes it to, like a very small sample size. Yes it works in some cases and at some scale, but it never really works in a practical way. It's just a cluster of feelings about fairness in search of an practical application. This is, by definition, a "loose analogy". Finland has schools. So do we. Finland does all these things to make their schools better. So should we?

I love Finland, and I admire the Fins I've worked with. But I think we can play this game of "If we were only like Europe" only so much without actually having to apply some critical thinking skills. We are not like Europe -- as much as we'd like to be. I've been reading articles that claim we can improve various parts of society if we were only like some European country my entire life. If I didn't know better, I'd think a lot of academics spend time in Europe and become Europhiles the rest of their lives, much to the rest of our detriment. Seems like no matter how hard we try at these things, we can never be like European country X. There's probably a good reason for that. My best guess is that this has something to do with culture, but I'm not sure. If you want a country of Fins, perhaps you should consider moving to Finland?

So yes, maybe there's something here, but I have no idea what it is. Does the author suggest outlawing private schools? Perhaps indoctrinating our national culture with pithy slogans like "accountability is what's left when you take responsibility away"? Tighter control over immigration so the culture is more cohesive? Greater oil revenues? Decrease our population to 1/70th of its current size? More alcohol consumption? What is there that's here that we can take away and use today aside from a general admiration of how nice Finland is?

3
pg 5 days ago 2 replies      
The article mentions another difference between the Finland and the US that is equally extreme and probably more directly related to results:

"teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country"

4
tokenadult 5 days ago 2 replies      
I'll have to check the published literature for what it says about reading instruction in Finnish. Finland has a minority of native speakers of Swedish (not a closely cognate language). Finnish (Suomi) and Swedish are co-official as national languages in Finland.

http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/f...

Finnish, by far the majority language, has an alphabetic writing system that is recently reformed enough that it has very consistent sound-symbol correspondences.

http://www.omniglot.com/writing/finnish.htm

The late John DeFrancis

http://www.amazon.com/Visible-Speech-Diverse-Interactions-Co...

and current researcher and author Stanislas Dehaene

http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Brain-New-Science-Read/dp/0143...

develop historical and international comparisons, backed up by brain imaging in Dehaene's book, to make the argument that initial reading instruction should at its best focus students' attention to sound-symbol correspondences in the written language taught in primary reading instruction.

But initial reading instruction in the United States specifically and in English-speaking countries in general is only half-heartedly done that way,

http://learninfreedom.org/readseri.html

http://www.mackinac.org/5365

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3024599/

and when school pupils in English-speaking countries struggle to learn to read independently, they are also likely to struggle to learn other subjects thoroughly.

The best current information I have suggests that initial reading instruction in Finland, whether in Finnish or in Swedish, is better done than much reading instruction in the English-speaking world, and that advantage may account for much of the national advantage Finland enjoys (and partially explain why immigrant families who use Finnish as a second language are the bottom group found in national-level sample testing of Finland for international surveys).

5
icarus_drowning 5 days ago 0 replies      
Regardless of whether you think it is moral to abolish private educational institutions, there's good reason to look at other aspects of the Finnish education model rather than this one single point.

Finland does not use multiple choice exams and has literacy standards that are clear and simple. Contrast this to the U.S. model, where literacy standards are a byzantine mess, and are often completely disconnected from a student's inability to read and write.

Mike Schmoker has addressed this in his excellent book Focus, where he writes:

"[Finnish] success, according to observers, is a result of how much time students spend actually reading during the school day. They found one Finnish student who, upon returning from a year in U.S. schools, had to repeat an entire grade. This is because in the United States, instead of reading and writing, she and her fellow students spent their time preparing for multiple-choice tests or working on "projects" where students were instructed to do things like "glue this to this poster for an hour"..."

I teach in a charter school. We have mandated standards requiring us to assign students X numbers of hours of reading/writing per semester. Students who leave our school and then re-enroll in later years are often entire grades behind, and have often not been assigned any writing or reading of any kind during their time in the "mainstream" public school district.

I suppose my argument isn't so much that private schools are/aren't a good and moral thing, but rather that there are many far less controversial methods of improving the U.S. school system than abolishing private education.

6
yummyfajitas 5 days ago  replies      
The article claims Finland focuses on equality, and that immigration hasn't had much effect on aggregate education outcomes yet.

Immigrants tended to concentrate in certain areas, causing some schools to become much more mixed than others, yet there has not been much change in the remarkable lack of variation between Finnish schools in the PISA surveys across the same period.

This is only because there are still very few immigrants in Finland. In actuality, immigrants to Finland score about 50 points lower on Pisa than Finnish natives (about double the gap in the US).

(For comparison, the gap between Americans of European descent and non-immigrant Finns in Pisa scores is 22 pts, and the gap between European Americans and Greeks (the lowest performing European nation) is 46 pts. )

http://super-economy.blogspot.com/2010/12/amazing-truth-abou...

7
Jun8 5 days ago 1 reply      
One interesting thing about student performance in the US is that on the average it's not that bad early on (e.g. in grade school) but then takes a sharp dive. It is amazing to me what such comparison articles do not take into account: the toxic, sports-based culture in American highschools.

As a foreigner, when I encountered how sports culture derives high school and, in continuation, college student mindset. In high school, athletes and cheerleaders pretty much rule. Every high school in all countries have popular, good looking kids but the the esteem these kids have in the US, I think, is unheard of in other places.

8
hugh4life 5 days ago 1 reply      
"The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence. "

This is absolute complete nonsense... America does worse than Finland because America is racially diverse... and Finalnd is the most "bigoted" of all the Scandinavian countries. America's education system is just fine... actually it is excellant.

Just look at the 2009 PISA scores. American Whites do better than all other "white countries" except for Finland. America Asians do better than all other Asian countries except for the elite part of China(Shanghai). American blacks do better than all other black countries. American Hispanics do better than all other Hispanic countries.

http://www.vdare.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/fullsize...

9
aiscott 5 days ago 3 replies      
Personally, I think this one sentence from the article has a lot to do with why US schools are less than good: [In Finland] "If a teacher is bad, it is the principal's responsibility to notice and deal with it."

In the US, if a teacher is bad and the school is public, not much can be done. They certainly won't be fired.

Private schools, on the other hand, have more freedom in this regard.

I think the article made a lot of good points regarding creative play and avoidance of heavy standardized testing.

10
27182818284 5 days ago 0 replies      
Whenever a successful act is presented to Americans they tend to throw out the same generic defense we used to see on technology forums all the time: "That's good for them, but that won't scale for us!"
11
MaxGabriel 5 days ago 0 replies      
I can't find it, but there was a great post on HN awhile back about how Finland doesn't really know what makes its schools so successful. Thus, articles like this pull some facet out of the hat as the key differentiator.

There was a good comment, suggesting that instead of modeling who has the highest test scores, instead model who is most successful at climbing the ranks of PISA. That's probably a better way of figuring out what contributes to success, because there are fewer independent variables.

12
tokenadult 5 days ago 0 replies      
13
RandallBrown 5 days ago 2 replies      
Are other countries really doing that much better than the United States? It seems like most of the worlds top Universities are in the US and filled with students mostly from, the US.

Sure, they may score better on the tests for comparing students across the world, but it seems like the same people saying this are the same ones complaining about standardized testing in the US.

14
floppydisk 4 days ago 0 replies      
Out of curiosity, did the PISA study compare the level of parental involvement in a child's education between the countries? This NYT, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/opinion/sunday/friedman-ho... , article has a link to PISA conclusions about parental involvement from a 2009 study and shows that children with involved parents tend to do better academically.

While we're dealing with complex cultural systems with thousands of moving parts, reforming the education system to improve parental involvement might yield significant gains. As it stands now, the system offers little to no incentive for parents to actively get involved with their kid's education. You place the kid(s) on the bus at 7 in the morning and don't see 'em again until 3-4pm or later if they do after school activities. No incentive to get involved at the school during the day or afterwards. As a personal anecdote, I've met several people who view public education as nothing more than day care, kids in at 7, free time until 4pm or later with no involvement outside of "mandatory" meetings.

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yason 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's more to cross unknown factors out: a very interesting article on how the Finnish language itself affects schooling and has significance in PISA results.

Finland and Estonia share similar lingual roots and they both rank relatively great, even if Estonia is a lot poorer country than Finland. Yet, the Swedish speaking people in Finland fare relatively worse than Finnish speaking people, even if the schooling system is exactly the same.

http://finnish-and-pisa.blogspot.com/

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hack_edu 5 days ago 1 reply      
Has anyone here had any experience hiring or working with grads of Finnish schools? How about Master's/PhD level grads?

I'm curious how an employer or co-worker would view the quality of their school's end product.

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jks 4 days ago 0 replies      
One thing that many commentators seem to ignore is what exactly the PISA tests measure. For example, the PISA math problems (http://www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/38/51/33707192.pdf) are very specifically meant to assess how well students can solve pretty easy problems that could occur in their lives and where basic math literacy is needed, and the PISA exam is given to a random sample of all students. Contrast this with the International Mathematical Olympiad (results at http://www.imo-official.org/country_team_r.aspx?code=FIN) which measures how well the very best students do on very hard problems.

It should not be surprising that an education system emphasizing social equality instead of individual excellence performs well when you measure how well the average student does on an easy problem. It just shows that Finland's and PISA's values align well with each other.

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ggwicz 5 days ago 1 reply      
- No standardized tests (except one)
- Individualized grading by teachers
- Less homework and days of school
- More emphasis on creative play
- etc.

No, I don't think "equality" is the main thing we Anericans are overlooking. We're overlooking freedom. Trust in people and children to be curious and learn, and let them be free enough to do it. So many of the big bureaucracies put in place here in the US to "help" education just legislate the shit out of schools and regulate everything. Yikes.

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dcrom 4 days ago 0 replies      
What Americans are really ignoring is the idea that maybe someone can "hack" education for the better.

Numbers and anecdotes aside, we all know in our guts a few things that are beneficial to education: studying more, decreased distractions, (parental) encouragement, high standards for technical subjects, and nurturing of creativity. Every parent wants these things for their children.

The system in Finland has some of these things, but who cares why they have them? You could copy some aspect of Finland and hope you get Finland's results. You could copy some aspect of China and hope you get China's results.

We are trying to have the government build a model to explain WHY China's students study more or to explain WHY Finnish students have less distractions in the classroom. Are you confident about the government's ability to model this? I'm not sure I'd trust the world's best statisticians to figure it out.

The main point is that while everyone thinks they're an expert on how to get the above mentioned qualities into a school, simply finding a school that has them and then sending your child to it is a REALLY, REALLY easy way to get your child a good education. However, under the current system, you are discouraged from sending your child to said school.

Suppose your friend used a government chalkboard for a relational database. He's really upset about its performance. He hears about Oracle's fast databases, so he adds an index etc to his chalkboard, since queries with an index are faster. Maybe his chalkboard will catch up, and maybe it won't. MySQL is down the street offering what he really wants (a cheap, fast database) but he doesn't want to use it. He's worried that using MySQL will cause a decline in the quality of the chalkboards and leave all his neighbors with a piece of cardboard instead. He would rather spend his time mimicking Oracle until his chalkboard gets fast, and trying to figure out WHY Oracle is fast.

Shouldn't he just let the innovative minds behind MySQL sell (or give away) what they've built, and just know that their product has all of the features he wants? If it doesn't have what he wants, then he can use his chalkboard.

Are we all really afraid of that? An educational process is technology too, even if it's not software. This community is in love with software that solves problems, but is very cautious of schools that can solve problems.

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jiggy2011 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think that in the UK our school system's failure to set a standard of consistently adequate reading and writing skills for school leavers is a partial cause of many of our problems.

I would estimate that close to 50% of our population are functionally illiterate , by that I mean they are unable to put something into written (or typed) words that can be easily parsed by the human brain with a non ambiguous meaning. Look at the comments section of any British tabloid website for evidence of this.

This then causes employers to make a university degree a pre-requisite for many jobs that may not actually require one. If somebody has been able to pass a degree course which requires essay writing then they are probably able to send a professional email without looking like an idiot.

This then causes the government to create targets like "50% of Britains should attend university" which of course feeds a spiral of debt that may not have needed to exist if the standard of secondary education was high enough.

Personally I learned to read and write mainly by reading fiction books and computer manuals followed by writing text based games (added bonus of learning BASIC and C).

I think many things are best learned not by directly focusing on them but by creating paths of learning that subconsciously teach "supporting" skills.

21
valgaze 5 days ago 0 replies      
Sal from Khan Academy said it best: "I would make the US Education system more American (promoting creativity, ownership of learning, and independence) and less Prussian (moving together in an assembly line)."
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skylan_q 5 days ago 0 replies      
How about "because it's full of Finns"?
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davekinkead 5 days ago 0 replies      
There is actually a very strong structural argument for why public goods such as education and health, should be distributed equally:

If those in power have to use the same system as those they hold power over, then they have a strong incentive and self interest to ensure that those public goods are of a high standard.

This is not to say that public goods must be delivered by the state, but rather there should no difference in opportunity of access (such as the Finnish private schools that don't charge tuition).

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RyanMcGreal 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is my quote of the day:

> Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.

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jongraehl 5 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe there's too much homework, too many hours in class, and not enough physical movement / play in U.S. education. And it's probably true that teachers at some especially bad schools have given up entirely.

However, I got tired of reading U.S. educational-silver-bullet fantasy writing a long time ago.

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swaits 5 days ago 1 reply      
The author ignores the power and idiocy of public unions in public education. Anyone interested in this topic should really watch the movie "Waiting for Superman".
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gamechangr 5 days ago 1 reply      
Oh the Irony.....

You lost me on the quote above the picture:

"The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence."

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jshou 4 days ago 1 reply      
Regarding the quote on Finnish not having a word for "accountability": http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3678
       cached 8 January 2012 05:11:01 GMT