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"That's Why You Don't Have Any Friends." blogspot.co.uk
1021 points by kilian  6 days ago   195 comments top 46
DanielBMarkham 6 days ago  replies      
I'm about as asocial and celebratory of diversity as they come, and I love this essay, especially the conversational style. But I'd be careful not to take this argument too far into sophistry.

In school people clan and desperately look for some identity to copy. This leads to all the terrible social behavior you see in most secondary and high school in the U.S. Somebody calling you "weird" can really be a badge of honor.

But there's nothing to be gained in being different in itself. While you should be who you are, if you only define yourself in how weird you are compared to others you're doing the same thing, only in reverse. Instead of saying "I will look at my peers and copy them" you're saying "I will look at my peers and do the opposite" Both of these are just the same kind of herd thinking. Being weird? Awesome. Being deliberately different? Not so much. You need to do a gut check on this one. Schools are full of a bunch of people who all are very proud of being different, just like everybody else.

I also note that the gym conversation consisted of people comparing social preferences: sports teams, hollywood stars, and so on. These kinds of conversations form a type of social bonding -- a joining of group opinion (even if outliers are allowed). It's this very banter that creates the group identity that then shuns other people for being "weird".

People are some funny animals.

kevinalexbrown 6 days ago 0 replies      
I really identified with the article, and the author seems to have taken a reasonable course.

But I would not call all groups with social norms that differ from you 'losers' that 'lost the battle to be themselves.' The author's transformation seems like it had more to do with finding somewhere he fit the social norms than realizing any group that didn't want him was full of losers with no personality. After all, the author found a group in like-minded anime fanatics, and his group has its own norms regarding conversation:

The topics change -- what cars are best, what sports are better than other sports, what teams are better than other teams, what shows are better than other shows (but never politics or religion -- something you learn really fast in a gym is to never bring up the two topics most likely to incite violence in a building filled with metal bars and heavy plates).

Someone who walked in talking about the Talmud all the time probably wouldn't fit in.

And that's fine. It would just be sad if the kid, like a lot of nerds I've seen, unwittingly developed his own social norms, but was just as heart-breakingly rigid about them as the kids in his school.

abraxasz 6 days ago 4 replies      
I like the article, a lot. But I have some reserve with the advice given.

In my experience, many people would actually be glad to hangout with someone weird if he gives them some time to get used to it, and take it easy on the weirdness at first. I consider myself weird (my weirdness is that I mostly don't give a shit about conventional thinking and politically correct things. I just love a good argument, to the point where I would provoke people I barely know into arguments about politics, religion, whatever), and I have to be extra-careful with what I say and do, otherwise people freak out. Sometimes I slip and people think I'm crazy. But I'm getting better know, and I have a group of friend with which I can be myself. I provoke them playfully and they understand that it's just the way I am. And I'm grateful that they do.

Someone quoted Alain de Boutton in the thread: "Intimacy is the capacity to be rather weird with someone - and finding that that's ok with them". That's exactly right, but intimacy is not something you get immediately, for free. It's something you have to build, it takes time, and sometimes it doesn't work. Most of all, it takes compromises: people will accept you as you are when they realize that you're interesting and that you care about them.

Now why should weird people go out of their way to befriend other people? Well you have to be pragmatic here, and think about what you really want. Friendship is an amazing thing, and is available to anyone, weird or not, and doesn't require you to change who you are. It just requires you to be patient and take it step by step. Is it being hypocritical? Pretending you're normal when you really aren't? Not if it's temporary. Think of it as a way to create a first contact, before working your way to a real connection, where both parties can act natural. That's what social interactions are about, that's what all this highschool BS is about, and that's why I think it's a bad idea to home school your kids.

EDIT: An example of my weirdness in action: I often mess up with girls I really like just because I can't help saying outrageous things just to spark a good old argument. Damn.

aculver 6 days ago  replies      
The author's observation about high school is exactly why my kids, by default, will be home schooled. If they decide they want to go to public or private school at some point, I'll let them. Unlike a lot of kids that end up getting bullied, they'll know that their attendance is completely optional. I'm not looking to shelter them from the real world, only the fake miniature society that exists at school.
anotherthrow 6 days ago 2 replies      
The sentiment of the article is great, but a lot of it just doesn't quite ring true.

When the auther starts going on about other people being losers, and him being a winner, because they do things he doesn't personally value, you start to wonder if he is really free from defining himself in contrast to the guys who excluded him years ago. Life isn't a competition like that.

There's a classic transformation you see a lot of high-functioning geeks go through when they leave school, and start earning more money, living more cosmopolitan lifestyles and meeting more interesting people than those they left behind - they flip around and start juding their ex-classmates negatively in just the way their classmates judged them. You see it a lot on places like reddit, and I think it comes through a little in this article.

nickik 6 days ago 6 replies      
Nice, that will help him alot.

As somebody from Europe, we always see these typical American High Schools and think it can really be like this. Sure they overdo it in movies but I have read a fair amount of blogpost and reddit comments that discribe the same problem.

There is grouping and groupe think too in Schools here but not in the same extrem way. It could be selection bios on my part but lets look at the diffrents in the schooling system.

In Switzerland (most parts) we have 1-2 years of Kindergarden, 6 years of Elementry School and then the people get split up in 3 diffrent section depending on your grade. The lower to only take 3 more years and after them mandatory school is finished and most people start an profecional education via the Dual Education System (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_education_system). The other way is to go 6 more years and then most people go to a universety.

The good parts are that more often then not you put people to gather that go together. The typical movie example where the bull beats up the nerd doesnt really happen. The next positiv thing is that you put people together that are about equal in how fast they learn. The guy who always distracts the class will not hold back the guy who wants to learn. The studends get the matiral in there own speed, thus they don't feel stupid because of the fast learners, witch can be bad for confidence and it can cause social conflicts.

The bad is of course that you split up frindships because people go to diffrent schools and you just don't see each other that much anymore. This happend to me and only years later we really start hanging out again. Today kids are much better equiped to deal with this. To other bad thing is that often good studends could help the others.

It seams to me spliting up teenagers that are in puberty is good way to avoid social problems.

Other opinions why this problem seams worst in the US or is it just selection bias?

vectorpush 6 days ago 0 replies      
Highschool is one thing, but don't let this advice fool you into believing that every subtle faux pas is a badge of honor. I know several brilliant "weird" people who have learned to love themselves but have simultaneously rejected the notion of managing their social quirks.

You know the kind I'm talking about; the knowledgeable but frustratingly pedantic and egotistical smart-ass who can't glance passed his own hubris to consider the lowly opinions of mere mortals, or the talkative engineer who spends 30 minutes every morning boasting about his cool personal projects in your office (completely oblivious to the social cues that say "stop talking, let us get back to work"), or the enthusiastic geek who alienates non-nerds by always steering the conversation to obscure technical topics that half the group has no interest or knowledge of.

Don't be ashamed of who you are, but don't let a headstrong attitude make you believe that it's never your own fault that others find your presence alienating.

tseabrooks 6 days ago 1 reply      
You can have all of the upvotes they'll let me give you. It's amazing being "all grown up" and looking out and realizing that highschool and all of the shit that happens while growing up has almost no connection to the real world.
chriseidhof 6 days ago 3 replies      
Slightly off-topic, but still relevant: a great quote from Alain de Botton:

"Intimacy is the capacity to be rather weird with someone - and finding that that's ok with them."


chaostheory 6 days ago 1 reply      
I like the essay as a whole, but there is one clue that struck me.

"Then one day, Mike got tired of my bullshit and said those words to me. "That's why you don't have any friends," he said at very high volume. He deserved to say it -- I'd just told him to go fuck himself when he tried to explain why my girlfriend at the time was screwing someone behind my back. I called him every name in the book."

It's not being weird that will make you a pariah; being an asshole does.

srconstantin 6 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't have social trouble in high school, I had trouble in college. And that's something that I think goes unrecognized. Everybody knows about the crazy suburban high school experience, but a surprising number of my friends were severely unhappy in college. I can barely remember my freshman year -- I pretty much blocked it out. And I went to an Ivy League school. There was a kind of background noise level of callousness; people who were "different" in various ways were singled out for mockery in the school paper, people who were struggling were ostracized. And the undergrad culture was seriously misogynistic -- I accepted it as a given while I was there, but by the time I graduated I noticed I was advising girls not to go there if they had other options.

It's not just high school that can suck. Teenagers are immature, but there are other kinds of environments that can be stressful and isolating. And the advice is the same -- get through it, and then find a culture where you fit in better.

pgsandstrom 6 days ago 3 replies      
There is also a hidden aspect of it: Those people who don't overcome teenage awkwardness. Those who never regain their confidence and end up the weird tech dude at the office whom no one ever speaks to. This guy might be able to feed the kids confidence, and then you can encourage "weirdness", but it isn't always as easy as that. Sometimes parents should just tell their kids to go play sports or whatever, no matter if they want it or not, just so they can learn to interact with other people and "be normal".
magv 6 days ago 6 replies      
Is this a US thing?

In Ukraine, no-one is weird. No-one is a geek, or a nerd -- there aren't even equivalent words in our language. Nobody thinks less of you if you're smart, shy, or talk about transistors on occasion. There are no "popular kids", and even the scariest kid in school is not a bully.

So, again, what is wrong with US schools?

Tsagadai 5 days ago 0 replies      
I resonate with the article but I think the author only groks half the lesson.

And, "Fuck them" is rarely the solution.

It isn't being different, accepted, weird or yourself that is important. It is how well you can interact with other human beings. You can bang on about finding your niche or just being true to yourself but you are then following just another brand of conformity and group dynamics. The author himself realises this. He's in a gym, in this tale, with others he bonds with through social interaction and bonding (talking about sports, not pissing people off, joking about). What the author has stumbled upon is an understanding of the nuances of socialising and friendship.

I resonate with the post because like the author I was weird in school. I'm still weird as an adult. I had few friends (sometimes no friends) and would frequently fight. I was an outsider. Growing up didn't change many of those things (well, I don't have to live in a Lord-of-the-Flies style dystopia any more). Growing up helped me realise it isn't about who you think you are it is about how you interact with others.

I'm still an anti-social outsider but now I know how to make friends and get along with other people. Weirdness isn't something I wear as a badge of honour, it's just a factor of my personality. I can hide it to fit in. I can appear different to how I really am in order to get things done. You can be yourself, and you should with people you want to get close to. You have thousands of other people you will need to interact with to get things done, it is them that you have to be "less weird" for.

Now, I can bond with people who once upon a time would (and did) attack me on sight. Since then, I've sat around talking the gossip/sport/trivia/current events/reported speech topic that gets them excited over a beer or other social medium. Everyone loves to think there is some huge unfathomable difference between them and people that they don't get along with. There isn't, the only thing preventing you and anyone getting along is how well you can socialise.

It's the conclusion that I disagree with the author over. They are already practising the solution, his gym buddies are bonding with the kid and the kid seems to be learning. Most of us eventually learn how to interact with each other civilly, that's what growing up is about.

Eventually, almost all of us learn how to be part of one tribe or another. We are biologically programmed to find our tribe. So what's you favourite....

sopooneo 6 days ago 0 replies      
That sounds like a pretty good speech, but I can tell you from experience that the thing that will help kids most is listening to them. We tend to project whatever our frustrations were in childhood onto all struggling adolescents (and almost all adolescents are struggling) but the content of these heartfelt talks is much less important to the kid than being heard and knowing people care.
akmiller 6 days ago 0 replies      
It's definitely an inspirational story in a way...but lets not be quick to call the other kids "losers".

We must remember that they are all kids just trying to find their way. Some kids find their way by trying their best to fit in while others might be like the kid in this story.

You can build this kid up while not tearing the others down. Even the kids who are popular and mean, like the girl he mentions in the story, may at an older age find some of the things they did in school reprehensible. Lets not condemn them while they are still young and immature.

jwingy 6 days ago 9 replies      

On a side note, I wonder why this culture of popularity has to be the default in our schools?

padobson 5 days ago 0 replies      
The money line: You want to know what's weird? Hiding who you are just to have the company of people you don't even like. That's weird.

I was an athlete in high school, so early on I hung out with the athletes. Those in that group were not particularly enjoyable company, but I was too young to know what enjoyable company was.

When I finally stopped hanging out with athletes and took my proper place among the band geeks and drama nerds, that's when high school started to suck less (it always sucked, but it sucked a whole lot less when I discovered the type of people I liked being around).

Everyone needs validation. Everyone needs needs social acceptance. Everyone needs human affection. We're hard wired to require these things. But this can only truly come through introspection. You must conclude that you are a deeply flawed individual, and that those flaws don't separate you from your peers, but are actually the common ground.

The reason why you don't have any friends is because there is a failure to realize these common flaws. One side will often point this out: "You're weird. You're odd. You're not normal". Such phrases are not meant to affect any emotion in the target, but rather to hide the flaws of the speaker.

It is the truly enlightened individual that can recognize the speaker is as deeply flawed as they, and counter with affection and affirmation: "You're dead on. I'm crazy weird. You're beautiful/smart/funny/athletic, and I'm happy to be weird enough to say so"

How much better would high school be for everyone involved if high schoolers could just avoid going on the offensive to hide their own flaws, stop thinking about what makes them better than those around them in the ceaseless measuring of cocks, and start measuring and encouraging the best qualities in their peers?

Can such a (high school)world exist? I pray that it can.

growt 6 days ago 0 replies      
chernevik 6 days ago 0 replies      
It's a great post. One of my kids struggles socially, and I've had similar conversations.

I'd add this: You have to love the things you love. When you meet people who love the same things, and it could be a while, your friendships will go deep because they're founded on something deep and dear to you. And you'll be a great partner in exploration because you know these great things. Conceding yourself to other people's notions now erodes your ability to form real relationships later.

Which isn't to say such kids shouldn't look for as much commonality they can find. And they should note that they may have some genuinely negative and offputting behaviors which they shouldn't accept in themselves. It's very hard for these kids to pick out the social cues that they should read because they get so many they shouldn't.

But yeah, kids need to hear that it can sometimes take a long time to find their place.

mattiask 5 days ago 0 replies      
Loved the story and it's very good advice indeed. I'd like to add one thing though. Having a "fuck them" or "they are losers" attitude (not saying the article advocates that) isn't really healthy. It might be great for a boosting your ego short term but it isn't constructive in the long run.

I don't think one should look down or harbor anger/resentment towards anyone. Not because it hurts them, but because it hurts you, and your happiness.

So my advice would be to try and understand why people act the way they do, why it probably is caused by some underlying problems/childhood whatever and if anything feel pity (so long it doesn't go into besserwisser territory) rather than resentment.

It's also great to be able to socialize with all kinds of people. They might not be exactly like you, they might not share all or any of your values but surely you can find something interesting in interacting and trying to understand them.

Another sign of personal growth is that you don't have to convince other people they're wrong or convert them to your views. If it's being discussed you can put front your opinion in a constructive manner and let it be up to them whether to agree or disagree. Also always be open minded about other people's viewpoints and try to understand where there coming from and if there might be something to it.

Sorry if I sounds a little fluffy or obivous but I feel that changing my own perspective on things like that has been very beneficial

iamsoreal 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is a nice story but it makes everything seem too easy and I say this as someone who had a similar experience at secondary school. Even though it has been 7 years since it was over, I still relive it.

I was rarely bullied but I was almost completely ostracised for two years of my life. Before these years I had only a few friends and acquaintances. It's difficult to pinpoint any particular reason, but it was probably because I had truly awful brace treatments and that I was shy to the point of awkwardness; my geekyness and creativity could have been offset if I had been able to socially manouvre. To my detriment, my upbringing at home was fairly traditional and my parents believed that I should 'be a man'. I kept quiet. (They also didn't believe it was worth the money to buy me a school dinner so I could sit with everybody else, or drive me to friend's houses more than a couple of miles away... sigh)

To survive: I learnt to cope with silence, I learnt to be my own person, I learnt to concentrate on my hobbies, and I learnt self-control. However as the weeks passed and I 'stood strong' my actual thought patterns deteriorated. Weird fantasies of not existing or martyring myself crept into my mind, and I began to find it difficult to pay attention to school work or imagine a better future. My grades dropped from A/Bs to C/Ds. I was very depressed, and my upbringing and personality gave me little opportunity to get help. All the time this went on, people washed their hands of me, understanding me to be yet another introverted kid who was happy to be on his own. I suspect there is very little which could have helped me even if I had spoken out.

My point is that: a few days alone is uncomfortable, a few weeks unbearable, but a few months or years is traumatic.

But, I will tell you the upside. The stressful moments in your life generate the person you are. The old adage is true: "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." and so one day I lay back and decided I would fix everything.

Few will understand: after a difficult life, all adversity is shallow. "Ethos Anthropos Daimon."

I destroyed my social anxiety. I gained back my self-confidence. I am driving myself like a machine to work and to educate myself.

But it is so difficult to atone, and I am off the beaten track with strong individualistic values, constantly striving to be more. While I can empathise with all that have struggled, who can empathise with me?

excerionsforte 6 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting. I learned during my tenure in college (still here) that everyone is weird.. has their quiddities and more over it's more or less isolated from what is really going on outside of it. You really aren't lonely, as per say. You always have the opportunity to connect to people who aren't similar to you, but quality over quantity I say. :)
tlear 6 days ago 0 replies      
There is a lot to learned and gained from learning how to deal with people. Becoming a hermit is not an achievement. Most people who "do not have friends" are not in that situation because they are something extra special and different snowflakes but because they have not learned how to communicate, empathize, follow simple social norms and perhaps even take shower time to time. Not being an ass usually gets you at least few decent friends.
navs 6 days ago 0 replies      
It was the same for me in Fiji. I was into comics, computers, video games and not rugby. In Fiji, not liking rugby instantly makes you an outcast. 7 years later and I'm no better. All that loneliness led to insecurities that I have yet to shake. Now I work in a studio with a bunch of designers, photographers and on occasion, models and I feel as lonely as ever.

Hopefully in 10 years I can belong to a studio of amazingly weird, relatable people.

huherto 5 days ago 0 replies      
I am very late to this discussion, but I wanted to share my thoughts. I didn't like too much the advice of the article. I would have taken the opportunity to tell the kid about diversity, to appreciate the diversity of other people and specially his own. Observe that every body has strengths and weakness, that no one is perfect. Also, It can't be that everybody is an asshole. But even if they are, it is not his fault.
Tichy 5 days ago 0 replies      
This message that you will get out of your small town and meet likeminded people is a big one. However, why wait miserable years? I think even in a small town there are on average enough freaks so that you don't have to be lonely. The question is how to find and activate them.
Also, some socialization might be acceptable even for freaks, for example "normal" clothing, showering etc.
dools 5 days ago 2 replies      
Good story. As a side note: why do men have to be so mind numbingly boring? I had the misfortune of hanging out with a bunch of guys I didn't really know recently and the talk was similar to that described here (sports, women, avoidance of anything actually interesting like religion or politics). It was so boring I just left and went back to work.

As a gender, I think men have a lot to answer for in terms of conversation skills. Stop being so boring and predictable. Stop talking about sports as a habit.

evincarofautumn 6 days ago 0 replies      
“Even the furry had more friends than I did.”

That's a bit harsh.

Still, the overall sentiment is very much on point. It's not really expected that a high school student should think for himself and go about his life normally, without adopting a particular social identity. Unfortunately, it simply doesn't occur to some of us to bother trying to fit in. But if you keep an independent, open mind and learn to deal with people, you'll do fine no matter what.

rralian 6 days ago 0 replies      
Yep, I was one of the brainiacs, socially awkward... not necessarily alone. More in the "activities" clique, which was by no means cool. I'm still pretty awkward, honestly. I'm either the life of the party or climbing the walls trying to get away from people. I have no middle ground.

Anyway, while I totally understand supporting this kid and letting him know there's nothing wrong with him, I'm not so sure it's healthy to feed the "us vs them" (or "me vs them") mindset either. Though I totally understand it. Yes, everyone is an idiot in high school. Even him. The "cool" kids aren't necessarily giving up their identity just to fit in. Maybe they just like the same things. But honestly they're probably not all that happy either. Everyone is miserable, and they're all pretty much idiots. I mean, you're in high school.

I think the important thing is to help build confidence (and importantly not arrogance, which is just a defense mechanism) in these kids. Find something they love to do and support them. Confidence is really the most attractive trait. Outside of just being super-hot, that is. :-)

My son is five years old now, and I can already see his social skills following his daddy's footsteps. I see the other kids talk to him when I drop him off for school, and he'll just ignore them and stand off by himself. It's not them or anything they're doing, it's his mindset. I would desperately like to help him avoid the some of the mistakes I made. I think I'm actually pretty hard on him because of this. And then I feel pretty awful myself.

Anyway, sorry for the verbose meandering comment... I've just been thinking through this stuff myself, so it's useful to write it out.

StavrosK 6 days ago 3 replies      
By the way, what's with the "even the furry had more friends than me" bigotry? Would "even the gay had more friends than me" fly?
Lapsa 6 days ago 1 reply      
reminds me one of xkcd comic: http://xkcd.com/610/
vikas5678 6 days ago 0 replies      
I went through a similar phase during my high school years where I felt like I was weird and an outsider. When I was about to graduate, I found a gym, started working out and it changed my life. I feel happy for the kid in this story because he was at the gym, interacting with mature adults, and learning the discipline of weight training - great way to build a good foundation for his future.
methoddk 6 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for this. I was the "weird" kid in junior high and someone just like you gave me that speech. It helped tremendously, and you changed that kid's life.
g-garron 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, that was a little long-post, but I enjoyed it a lot.
It remembered my school days, I used to be interested in computers and physics and math.
Usually others seek me because they needed help on homework.
Yes you feel yourself a little weird, but then you grow up, and you realize that weird is also cool. If you enjoy being weird.
Let's be weird, if you want to.
majmun 5 days ago 0 replies      
If you are considered "wiered" that means you probably also lack the social competence to know what is the definition of word "friend". so don't wory as far as you know you may have many friends, but wrongly think that you dont have any. and your enemy may be your best friend. as far as you know.
zashapiro 5 days ago 0 replies      
I really love this story. It's so incredibly hard to see the forest for the trees when you're that age.

I love PG's notion that some kids are playing the popularity game and others are playing an entirely different game, because they're being individuals and are learning or pursuing something they want, regardless of popularity.

tehayj 6 days ago 0 replies      
It is not about you or them being weird, it is about being real. If you are real you will get respect for that no matter what you are. You might not get respect from the "cool" group or the "geek" group but you will get respect from all those who would like to be like you but are not because they try to fit in.
frederico 6 days ago 0 replies      
outstanding article; things ring so so true. Highschool is such a rough time with getting people singled out, and it's hard for those who are individuals.

Kudos to this guy for an outstanding talk to this kid; inspires hopefully many of us to share our experiences and reach out to younger kids we see.

skrebbel 6 days ago 0 replies      
tl;dr: "has it ever occured to you that it's just everybody else's problem that they can't get along with you?"
xxcode 4 days ago 0 replies      
Never till I went to MIT did I not feel that I was weird. At MIT, it felt ok to be me. I was like that, and others were kinda like that, and we were good together.
einarlove 6 days ago 0 replies      
By motivating the boy, I believe it could only strengthen his own motivation. Keep it up.
sniperjoe 6 days ago 0 replies      
After reading this article I am sure of one thing, he is not a minority. This existential crisis of "weirdness" he refers to is the luxury of those who are supposed to be normal.
tzaman 6 days ago 0 replies      
I wish someone explained it to me like this, back then.
Exposure101 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad there is still awesome people out there and thriving. I'm 25 and I still feel like the weird kid sometimes.
davemel37 6 days ago 0 replies      
My takeaway from this post is that, " You can really make a difference in someones life if you take a moment to empathize with their situation, and share a word or two of support."

I bet that kid will remember this speech for the rest of his life. I know, cuz I have my share of good and not-so-good memories from as young as a little boy to as recent as yesterday about how far a nice sympathetic and understanding word or two can go, and how damaging a cruel and dismissive comment can be.

We should all take a lesson from this. We are all human beings, and we all have commonalities we can empathize with and relate to in some capacity. It's all about perspective, and guess what... Perspective is all we have!

Use it at your discretion.

But remember, when that awkward weird boy changes the world one day, and looks back and says, "I was once in a gym hanging out with some older blokes, and one fellow gave me the confidence to be myself.I owe it all to him."

How I attacked myself using Google and I ramped up a $1000 bandwidth bill behind-the-enemy-lines.com
756 points by Panos  5 days ago   142 comments top 30
OzzyB 5 days ago 4 replies      
+1 For Amazon for kindly reimbursing the overage charge.

-1 For Google for creating what is the biggest threat to content providers by enabling easy-to-use DDOS attacks across the entire interwebs.


Seriously, is this what we have to look forward to when Google Spreadsheets, and God knows what else, become ever-more popular?

Think about all the additional onerus costs that would be incurred by content providers as more and more Google Spreadsheet users hotlink images, mp3s, videos...

This has to be a bad design decision by Google, there's no need to redownload assets by-the-hour, on-the-hour, regardless of whether the user's spreadsheet is open or not.

Is it time to go back to the days of putting your web assets behind $HTTP_REFERER?

damoncali 5 days ago 2 replies      
Reminds me of the email cannon we built on Gmail, not exactly on purpose. We needed a full Gmail account to do some testing on our company's email backup system. At the time that meant 8GB of email. And you couldn't just send a bunch of huge attachments, as it had to be like regular email. So we took a gmail account and signed it up for dozens of active linux related email lists (because they were easy to find).

The result was an email account that got an email message every second or so in a variety of languages.

We quickly realized that you could have some fun by forwarding that address to someone else's email account.

Fast forward a few months, and Gmail smartly requires a confirmation before allowing you to forward.

gojomo 5 days ago 3 replies      
But, why re-downloading every hour?

Does merely having the spreadsheet passively open in a browser trigger that, or was some other process re-loading the spreadsheet every hour? (If the former, I wouldn't be as forgiving of Google. I understand the desire not to cache possibly-private data, but proper URL design and conditional GETs should be able to prevent the entire download on an automatic hourly schedule. And even if the latter " the author had chosen to reload the spreadsheet each hour " I'd want Google's design to allow browser-side caching to work for such embedded and/or generated images.)

vladd 5 days ago 2 replies      
I cannot help notice that Hetzner offers 5000 GB/month AND a full dedicated server, for 39 EUR (51 USD) [1], so his traffic would have cost him at that rate a total of 100 USD if he were to use a dedicated server instead of Amazon.

(before mentioning Amazon's scalability, consider that Hacker News is ran on a single dedicated server, and the moral of the story seems to be how not to scale especially when you don't want to)

[1] - http://www.hetzner.de/en/hosting/produkte_rootserver/x3

tocomment 5 days ago 7 replies      
This really underscores Amazon's glaring omission of a billing cutoff on Amazon web services. How hard would it be for them to let me say, cut off my services at $100/month?

This is the main reason I'd never use AWS to host anything public.

richardlblair 5 days ago 2 replies      
It's really awesome that Amazon was reasonable and refunded the charges because they were accidental. I mean, technically it was still your fault, so it would have been easy for them to be jerks about it.
stretchwithme 5 days ago 2 replies      
kudos to Amazon for running time backward and letting you pull your foot out of the way.

I can't help but think that if benign decisions lead to disasters like this in the cloud, how much destruction could robots wreak in the future due to similar benign choices?

RandallBrown 5 days ago 1 reply      
If I wanted to launch an attack on something like Instagram all I would need to do is put a bunch of images (hosted on instagram) into a Google Spreadsheet? Then the google crawler will come through and download them all once an hour?
rachelbythebay 5 days ago 0 replies      
Feedfetcher strikes again, huh? I never did find out why they were so interested in one of my images.


K2h 5 days ago 1 reply      
I loved your reference to the huge Russion bomb Tsar Bomba. I for one had never heard of it, and it made a great metaphor.

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

TwoBit 5 days ago 1 reply      
That such a simple thing on your part could result in such an extreme and expensive result implies something is wrong with the design of the system you're using.
rorrr 5 days ago 0 replies      
Kudos to Amazon for refunding the guy. I don't think any other hosting company would just take the bullet for the customer.
Yarnage 5 days ago 3 replies      
I'm pretty surprised Google didn't have the client download the images instead. Wouldn't that be a better solution or am I missing something here?

Pretty interesting though and if this becomes a big enough story you can bet Google will be changing something; the last thing they need is someone using Google Docs to DOS websites.

Freaky 5 days ago 1 reply      
Amusing thing about that page - it's full of '\$100', and uses Javascript to strip the \'s out, replacing them with empty <span> elements. Not sure I really want to know why...
lubujackson 5 days ago 0 replies      
Here's the big money question, since I haven't used S3 - do you have any throttling control? Can you simply block the feedfetcher bot, or block repeated hits like this at all? It seems like S3 is a nightmare $$$ hole if there aren't some really robust tools to manage this sort of problem.
ltcoleman 5 days ago 1 reply      
This was an extremely interesting article. I hope Google rectifies this type of behavior. This is actually pretty scary.
igorsyl 5 days ago 1 reply      
Try http://cloudability.com to keep track of your cloud costs.
Note: I am not affiliated with them.
RobertKohr 5 days ago 2 replies      
Can you limit bandwidth with AWS?

Also, why would the spreadsheet be calling these images every hour. Did you have the spreadsheet open? Does google do this call even when no one is viewing the spreadsheet?

jyothi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sometimes a 509 Bandwidth limit exceeded helps!

AWS can actually do a setting for max bandwidth per hour or so & alert early if there is suspicious activity.

SagelyGuru 5 days ago 1 reply      
Scary indeed. Many thanks for the warning. I was contemplating starting to use Amazon Cloud and some Google tools but definitely will not touch any of it now. Who knows how many other traps like this are laying in wait for the unweary?

All this automation is very well but this illustrates the dangers of running stuff on other's machines of unknown complexity and out of your own control, while having to pay for whatever may happen. Not for me, thanks.

devs1010 5 days ago 0 replies      
"What I find fascinating in this setting is that Google becomes such a powerful weapon due to a series of perfectly legitimate design decisions."

I call in to question that these are "perfectly legitimate design decisions", basically, if google thinks that the data is private or too sensitive to cache, then it shouldn't be this easy to have it automatically keep hitting a site like this. Google should have realized the potential for abuse here. I'm guessing it truly is an oversight on their part as I can't imagine they would want to waste all this bandwidth either, however its something they should figure out a solution for.

otterley 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm curious to know whether the objects were stored with Cache-Control: or Expires: headers. Does having such headers make a difference?

Clearly the client's not presenting If-Modified-Since: pragmas as I believe S3 honors those.

arunoda 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is the same kind of attack. I've demonstrated here. But for users of a popular analytic service.
cabalamat 5 days ago 0 replies      
I have a VPS. When i read stories like this, I think there isn't any point in going over to GAE or AWS. But lots of people do use these services, so what am I missing?
matthieupiguet 4 days ago 0 replies      
Seeing how popular the story is, amazon could not have made a better $1000 PR campaign than being classy and reimbursing him!
nfonrose 4 days ago 0 replies      
You can use http://cloudcost.teevity.com to protect yourself from such situations (disclaimer : I'm the founder and CEO)
anthemcg 5 days ago 0 replies      
Quite an interesting article. I didn't even think of it as a potential DDoS tool until he mentioned it. It makes sense but it seems like Google should have a built a fail-safe for something like that situation.
_k 4 days ago 0 replies      
He's getting 100+ requests per second.

You could rate limit the IPs.
The question is how many IPs is Feedfetcher using ?

timwang 5 days ago 0 replies      
very interesting findings, good read.
drivebyacct2 5 days ago 1 reply      
>"But how come did Google download the images again and again?"

"But how come did" indeed.

Introducing Google Drive... yes, really googleblog.blogspot.com
641 points by jganetsk  6 days ago   492 comments top 114
edw519 6 days ago 7 replies      
What might go wrong? (This is a test of imagination, not confidence.) Google might finally unleash GDrive and steal a lot of Dropbox's thunder (especially if this takes place before launch.)...

From Dropbox's 2007 YC Application, http://dl.dropbox.com/u/27532820/app.html

I love reading old YC applications. I wonder if someday, they'll become the 21st century version of Harvard Business Review case studies.

primigenus 6 days ago  replies      
Here's the most important paragraph in the blog post that most people will gloss over (because Google glossed over it):

"Drive is built to work seamlessly with your overall Google experience. You can attach photos from Drive to posts in Google+, and soon you'll be able to attach stuff from Drive directly to emails in Gmail. Drive is also an open platform, so we're working with many third-party developers so you can do things like send faxes, edit videos and create website mockups directly from Drive. To install these apps, visit the Chrome Web Store"and look out for even more useful apps in the future."

Specifically the app integration ecosystem they're creating with the Chrome Web Store is extremely interesting. There's documentation for developers here:


Basically, you register your app against certain mime types, and then when users install your app into Chrome, they can now open those file types directly from Drive using your app, seamlessly.

It's Windows' "open with" dialogue, except on the Web. That's a big deal, because while everyone expected Drive to offer features that compete with Dropbox, this feature competes with operating systems. I think it's a brilliant move that shows Google thinking ahead and beyond what Dropbox is doing.

robomartin 6 days ago 3 replies      
Things I'd like to see before I consider using or recommending GDrive:

- A statement from Google regarding whether or not they will scan the data and files in GDrive to develop further profiling information or other data about the user

- A guarantee from Google that GDrive will not be subject to account lockout in the event of account suspension due to AdWords/AdSense algorithmic (or human) triggers. In fact, I'd want that guarantee for any Google service.

Here's what Dropbox has that Google cannot currently offer: If your work in AdSense/AdWords triggers a Google account suspension you do not loose access to your data with Dropbox.

Being that the algorithmic shutdown can happen at any time, without notice, warning or recourse, it is a far safer bet to keep your data on Dropbox, at any price.

The other guarantee you have is that Dropbox will not mine your data, email and docs to get deeper into your head and your life. Maybe Google offers this too. I don't know. I quit looking at their terms of service a while ago. I'll reserve judgement on that. I'm sure someone will tell me how this works.

In fact, Dropbox, the best come-back to GDrive might very well be to offer email and document services. I know that this might be a huge undertaking, but I am sure that there are lots of people, like myself, who have developed a serious trust issue with Google due to the way they behave on the AdWords/AdSense side of things.

This is an area ripe for an incursion simply because of what google isn't doing well: Customer Service.

As I have stated on numerous posts in the past, I have zero interest in any tool outside of Google Analytics because of the shitty approach they have to customer-no-service everywhere else. Could I use gmail and gdocs? Of course. Would I pay for that service? Certainly. Why don't I? Because I have zero interest in loosing access to my data because of some shitty algorithm, the lack of a staged approach to dealing with account issues and an even crappier non-existing customer service philosophy.

Why I feel this way (from about a week ago):

A thought on what could be a better system:

rkudeshi 6 days ago 2 replies      
[crosspost from the French translation thread - now that we have the official details, I think this comment is better discussed here.]

So the things Google Drive has that Dropbox doesn't:

* 2-factor authentication!

* Comments on files

* OCR - like Evernote, you can search against text in images (e.g. newspaper article)

* Image recognition - if you upload a pic of the Eiffel Tower, you can find it with the search term "eiffel tower"

* Web-based file viewer - 30 file types including HD video, Illustrator, Photoshop, etc.

The OCR and image recognition are going to be killer features for "normal" people. And I imagine it's something Dropbox can't easily duplicate (unlike the other features).

Then again, as a more privacy-minded technical person, the image recognition feature scares the beejezus out of me. Tagging faces on Facebook is one thing, but being able to semantically identify all contents of my images is really stepping up the creepiness quotient.

Should be interesting to see how Dropbox responds.

aresant 6 days ago  replies      
I recently upgraded to Dropbox @ $199/yr for 100gb to archive our digital photos.

Yesterday MSFT skydrive offered 100gb for $50/yr.

Today GOOG offers 400GB for $100/yr or 1TB for $256/yr.

As a consumer with "offsite backup" in mind, there doesn't seem to be an inherently high switching cost to move services away from DropBox.

As a result I think that they're going to need to reassess pricing strategy within the year.

ref: Goog pricing https://accounts.google.com/b/0/PurchaseStorage?hl=en_US

pg 6 days ago 6 replies      
Anyone know if this is the original Google Drive they wrote all those years ago and never launched, or a new thing they reused the name for?
richardw 6 days ago 1 reply      
Been waiting for this one for a while. But...doesn't feel right to me.

It synced down my Google Docs files. Except it didn't. They're not, say, Excel files, which I assume the average user will expect. AFAICT they're shortcuts into Google Docs, which I didn't really need since I know where those are already, to a close-enough approximation. So now on my local drive I have two classes of spreadsheet. Real spreadsheets and links to my online spreadsheets, which kinda mirrors normal hyperlinks to online spreadsheets, so we have two classes of those now as well. I can't really predict what will happen if I download the file as Excel and put it into my Google Drive directory. I guess I'll have two files, but will my newly created Excel file be a new doc online? What will happen if I delete the local links?

Created a text file in my local drive. Waited. Nothing appeared in Docs. Right-click the file to "sync", no menu item. Right-click the directory, no menu item. Click different Docs directories. Nothing. At some point, it appeared. That's a temporary issue and can be fixed, but those details count.

Dropbox/Sugarsync feels a bit more predictable. I'll sync, that's it. I have a button I can push to make it do something predictable. Seems less magical.

File sync is a square hole. Google Docs is a round peg. Feels like the reasoning behind this is boardroom-strategy-level, not user-level.

Right now Dropbox/Sugarsync will keep my business. Earlier today I put one minute towards grandfathering a Skydrive account to 25GB free, just in case that proves useful. Hope I'm wrong and Google Drive feels more useful tomorrow.

huhtenberg 6 days ago  replies      
Well, this pretty much exhausts the pool of people who don't care for the data privacy. On the plus side, those who do want privacy are still waiting for a proper solution, and it is an opportunity.

(edit) It is really shocking how absolutely mind-bogglingly ignorant people are when it comes to their data privacy matters. How could any business person in a sane state of mind choose to share its data with some 3rd party company. Business plans, emails, everything. And Google actively promoting such behavior and endorsing ignorance - this goes well beyond "evil." It is one of the greatest disservices to the state of the digital culture of our times. So, yeah, great to see more of the same. Yay to the gDrive!

franze 6 days ago 1 reply      
hmmm, hmmm .. "Posted by Sundar Pichai" - isn't that the guy who convinced Googles top management in 2008 to kill - the ready for launch - GDrive because files are "deprecated", "ungoogly" and a "thing of the past" (according to steven levys book "in the plex") - wonder what changed since then (DropBox? Evernote? ...)
mmastrac 6 days ago 3 replies      
The clock is ticking on Dropbox to lower their price. I'm paying $99/year for 50GB, but I'd be getting 100GB for $60/year over at Google. I'm already banging up against my 50GB limit - I may actually jump over to Google before my subscription is up just because the prices are so good.
numlocked 6 days ago 2 replies      
To anyone else who uses a custom Google apps domain, it looks like Drive may not be available for a few more weeks:

Edit: Not so. You can enable the "rapid release" track for your domain by following the instructions here:
It may take "up to a day" for the setting to take effect, but once it does your domain's users should be able to opt into Drive right away from https://drive.google.com/start

rsbrown 6 days ago 1 reply      
As a satisfied (and paying) Dropbox user, Google is pushing all the right buttons for me with this:

- More storage space, lower price

- Ecosystem for 3rd-party apps

- Integration with existing Google services and two-factor authentication

I like Dropbox and would love to keep using them, but they will need to respond strongly and quickly if they want to keep my business.

mikek 6 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting... they are not just going after Dropbox with Google Drive, but also Evernote.

"Search by keyword and filter by file type, owner and more. Drive can even recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology."

MikeCapone 6 days ago 1 reply      
Here's one thing that bugs me; Google Drive seems to constantly use between 2 and 3% of my CPU time. That's wasteful. If I was on a laptop, this would be battery time, and on my desktop, I want those cycles to be used for distributing computing science, not random background processes that aren't supposed to be doing anything when idle.
zach 6 days ago 1 reply      
So if I have desktop software, can I put a button on my download page that instantly copies the zip file to the user's Google Drive from my own?

If not, would anyone like to make one? That seems like a convenient option for users, not to mention the bandwidth savings.

namityadav 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is very aggressive pricing from Google. With Microsoft offering 25GB for free (although for a limited time, and only to its existing users), and Google offering 100GB for $5/mo, the online storage space is finally heating up. The tight integration with Google Docs, and (in case of Microsoft) Office Web Apps, and valuable features like OCR and Image recognition means that these companies are now offering services on top of their online storage that Dropbox doesn't.

Dropbox definitely has a head-start today, but Google and Microsoft have the scale to offer better prices, existing platforms to tightly integrate their solutions with (Android and Windows), and the brand-power to pull people away from Dropbox. This may be the first time Dropbox has some real competition.

cmer 6 days ago 3 replies      
Very aggressive pricing! Dropbox is 4 times more expensive for 100 GB. $5/mo vs $20. Will be interesting to see how Dropbox reacts to that.
atdt 6 days ago 1 reply      
This seems buggy. I created an archive subfolder and moved all my old Google docs there. This change (which presumably touches metadata only) took minutes to sync (on a fast connection) and failed on one file with this mysterious error: "Upload Error - An unknown issue has occurred."

Also: no option to disable the dock icon or turn off the hypnotic animation while files are syncing. Ugh.

etrain 6 days ago 2 replies      
Don't see any formal Linux support, anyone know if they'll open up their API or support with FUSE?
AlexandrB 6 days ago 2 replies      
The bottom line for me is that I no longer trust Google enough to use this. Pricing, etc. don't matter if the privacy of my data is up for grabs.
tlogan 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not sure if anybody mention this but GDrive actually does not download documents to your local machine. It just adds a json document pointing to file to edit.

So what is point of GDrive?

roqetman 6 days ago 0 replies      
Engadget is crunching the numbers (comparing the different services (google drive, dropbox, icloud, skydrive)): http://www.engadget.com/2012/04/24/google-drive-vs-the-compe...
jashkenas 6 days ago 0 replies      
Can anyone (perhaps from Google) comment as to whether the OCR feature in Google Drive is just Tesseract + OCRopus, or something different?
trotsky 6 days ago 5 replies      
no linux platform "coming soon" - too bad
lifeisstillgood 6 days ago 0 replies      
Did anyone else think "no, they cannot really be releasing a car the drives itself already?"

Just me then. I think it was the yes really that got me.

Sadly, still no dropbox-alike for FreeBSD. Would swap in an instant.

sakai 6 days ago 2 replies      
In my mind, two factor authentification is a killer feature here. Now if they can also have password-protected link sharing, this will be a much better choice for small businesses or privacy-minded individuals.
jl6 6 days ago 2 replies      
There is a huge economy of scale working in Google's favor: deduplication. The more users they can de-dupe across, the cheaper their raw storage becomes. To compete, perhaps smaller backup services could agree "reinsurance" contracts with each other, exchanging lists of file hashes...
rogerbinns 6 days ago 0 replies      
Don't forget that Google also has a history of disabling accounts and providing no communication, support or other mechanisms to get it restored. Usually kicking up an almighty fuss in public if you have a prominent twitter/blog works but do you really want to be at their mercy for that?
i386 6 days ago 1 reply      
Wait, their blog says its available today but all I get is a "Notify me when its ready" button when I visit http://drive.google.com/start ?

So its a soft launch for technology journalists then? What gives?

andrewljohnson 6 days ago 2 replies      
The pricing of this service is an eye-popper. I've avoided cloud backups for years because of Dropbox-like prices.

At $256/TB/year, I can back up all my stuff, and never think twice.

Game changed!

bryanh 6 days ago 1 reply      
Some thoughts:

It sounds like it is more of a competitor in spirit to iCloud, not Dropbox (though, obviously, Dropbox lacking those deeper integrations is troubling...).

100gb for $5/mo going to hurt Dropbox's margins...

Not too surprising gDrive doesn't have iOS support quite yet...

taylorbuley 6 days ago 0 replies      
"Our team will be on Stack Overflow to answer any questions you have when integrating your app with Google Drive."

This is awesome thinking: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/google-drive-sdk

via http://googledevelopers.blogspot.com/2012/04/introducing-goo...

redler 6 days ago 0 replies      
The help page for "Google Storage Plans"[1] is muddled. It now states that a base Gmail account provides 10GB of space, full stop. Unless they're rounding up from the old up-ticking 7+GB, this seems to be a policy change. But a little further down on the very same page: "If you've reached or exceeded the 7 GB free storage limit, all new incoming emails will hard bounce."

It also states "When you run out of free storage space, Google offers a way to purchase storage space shared across Google Drive and Picasa Web Albums (which includes photos uploaded to Blogger)."

But further down: "If you run out of free storage for Google Drive or Picasa you can purchase additional storage that is shared across these products. When you purchase a Google storage plan your Gmail storage limit will increase to 25 GB." This implies that a purchase of any storage plan includes not only the storage with that plan, but also an extra 25GB for Gmail.

I'm hoping that's the way it works, and that this policy extends individually to legacy Apps for Domains accounts, whose free users currently have to be upgraded en masse to paid accounts to get any additional storage.

[1] http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answ...

Groxx 6 days ago 1 reply      
>You can choose to upgrade to 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or even 1TB for $49.99/month. When you upgrade to a paid account, your Gmail account storage will also expand to 25GB.

That's... odd. I'm paying $5/year to get 25gb of storage across Docs, Gmail, Picasa, and I see it also applies to Drive (just checked) (which is basically Docs anyway). Considerably less than $2.50/month. The 1TB is less than 1/2 the price listed, and there's no 100GB option at all.

Might there be pricing changes coming soon, or is this just a series of strange typos?

bad_user 6 days ago 1 reply      
I was already paying $20 / year for 80 GB of storage that I was using for backing up my photos on Picasa.

Unfortunately the new plans are way more expensive, especially since my photo collection is growing like crazy and I'll end up needing much more than that.

If there's one thing I hate about Google is that you cannot rely on their pricing. They did the same thing with App Engine.

I'm also using the free version of Google Apps. Maybe I should reconsider.

karpathy 6 days ago 3 replies      
Few of my observations from this announcement:

In Google's vision of the future, your computer is a thin client. There is no My Documents folder, as everything personal lives on gdrive. The Chrome app store becomes the new operating system. Apps will have access to your files, they will be able to search them, open them, and operate on them. You will never see the "Open file" dialog box again.

In this world, the concept of a file on your local computer in some folder does not exist. Your stuff is simply available to you from the cloud from whatever computer. The abstraction or concept of a "file" or "folder" will fade. Our children will not know what these words mean. They will see their pictures in a web interface with location and time overlayed, completely oblivious to the fact that it happens to be stored as a .jpg file somewhere on google servers and an associated .txt file that contains some meta data about it.

We are finally moving beyond (arbitrary) abstractions from mid 1900's. I like this future.

mark_l_watson 6 days ago 1 reply      
Cost is not an issue compared to convenience. From 1992 to about 4 years ago, I used mostly Linux (desktop and servers). Now I have gone down the dark path of living in APple's little walled garden (except for servers). I don't care if Google Drive is a lot cheaper than iCloud: with OS X Mountain Lion and an iPad, using Apple's iCloud storage is just more convenient. BTW, with OS X Mountain Lion it is strange that for some apps the default storage is iCloud and not your local disk (although obviously you work from a local copy).

That said, it will be interesting to see apps built on top of Google Drive APIs.

amirmc 6 days ago 1 reply      
Why do people here expect Dropbox to 'respond'?

As far as I'm aware, their growth (primarily) comes from people inviting each-other and they're obviously device/OS agnostic. Yes, the pricing is way different but we shouldn't assume that's the major driver for most people.

macrael 6 days ago 0 replies      
Is Dropbox just screwed on pricing vs. Google Drive? Their help docs say they still rely on S3 for storing all user data: https://www.dropbox.com/help/7 They can't price lower than what Amazon is giving them, no?
pork 6 days ago 0 replies      
A future feature that might get me to switch: automatically download many years worth of Gmail attachments to my GDrive. It would be AWESOME to go through picture attachments from years ago.
pazimzadeh 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm really happy that they skipped the whole beta/invitation launch.
Maven911 6 days ago 0 replies      
And here I thought they got their self-driving car productified..especially with a title like that. Imagine my disappointment when its just another "dropbox"
driverdan 6 days ago 2 replies      
Absolutely no mention of how files are protected. Is encryption used? Is it technically possible for a Google employee with proper access to view your files (with private key encryption it'd be impossible)? Should we assume this is this on par with Gmail email attachments (viewable by certain employees)?
krishna2 6 days ago 0 replies      
What a nice opportunity that Microsoft squandered - they should've stuck out with the 25GB free option (Like they had for existing users) - that would make today's announcement so little. Marketing win and perception win! (just like what gmail did back in April 2004). After all, their data did show that less than 1% of users cross 7GB - so they should've trusted that and went along with it.

Also, it would now makes sense for Dropbox to go even bigger - as in build their own data center, storage network ..etc (ala crashplan..etc). Being on top of s3 would allow one to be only as cheap as s3 can be.

Lewisham 6 days ago 1 reply      
On Mac OS X, the application doesn't respect symlinks. Does anyone have any ideas how I can get it to auto-mirror my Documents/ directory without me actually moving my Documents/ under the Google Drive/ directory?
hornbaker 6 days ago 3 replies      
1 TB on Google Drive = $50/mo

1 TB on Amazon S3 = $125/mo (down to $55/mo for 5,000 TB)

Being based on S3, Dropbox is going to have a tough time competing on price.

jmount 6 days ago 0 replies      
Woohoo! A place to store your stuff until you get your Google Account banned or Google loses interest (~9 months).
saadmalik01 6 days ago 0 replies      
Something's "fishy" with this whole Dropbox vs. Google Drive thing: https://twitter.com/#!/SaadMalik/status/194838393874677760/p...
bluedanieru 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is something they could have done, and should have done, eight years ago. To suggest they are a day late and a buck short is a massive understatement.

I'll stick with DropBox, thanks.

bo1024 6 days ago 3 replies      
Haven't seen anything on the key question here for me ... how are they monetizing this?

I'd rather not upload a ton of personal data to Google until I know how they're making money off of it. (Do they plan to integrate your documents into your search results?)

jamesu 6 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone find the sharing to be awkward? For instance, i shared a photo and noticed it took quite a while to load for someone not signed in since lots of redirection was going on. I also shared a folder of pictures, but they simply appeared as a file listing with no thumbnail view despite thumbnail view being an option in the normal interface.

Really, the interface seems a bit plain for now. Hope they improve upon it soon.

philfreo 6 days ago 1 reply      
Remember when Gmail launched and it was like 10-100 more free space than other similar services?

I was hoping Google would have done that here, but rather it still feels like they are trying to play catch up.

vibrunazo 6 days ago 0 replies      
There's an update for the google docs Android app that renames it to google drive.


Xyzodiac 6 days ago 1 reply      
Seriously Google?

For a company that uses their own version of Ubuntu internally, makes a killing off their Linux based mobile OS, and is trying to carve a whole new market with their Gentoo Linux based ChromeOS, it's unquestionably sad that Google Drive did not have Linux support out the door.

mlreed328 5 days ago 0 replies      
Not trying to nay-say here- genuine question follows.

Is the goal of this service ultimately that I back up all of my personal files, work files, collaborative files, etc so that they can be analyzed and an advertising profile can be created/enhanced based on the contents?

Seems to me that this would make a lot of sense for Google. Let us store all of your goodies and cheaply. Don't mind us while we have a non-personally identifiable and algorithmically brillant peak at the contents so we can serve ads better and create a advertising/marketing/buyer permanent record of sorts for you.

Again, not a conspiracy theory. Just wondering, because that occurred to me as a real opportunity for them. Seeing some comments below this has occurred to others.

libraryatnight 6 days ago 0 replies      
On the upgrade storage page it tells me how much space I use across Google products, which includes Picassa. With the inclusion of Web Store apps, one of the first available being Pixlr, I'm curious if Drive is going to make Picassa obsolete?

It seems like applications working with Drive would eventually replace all of Picassa's functionality.

philp 6 days ago 1 reply      
Has anybody tried syncing extisting folders via symlinks? Using Dropbox this is how I prefer to keep track of folders outside of the actually Dropbox folder. Google Drive just seems to ignore them.
Not being able to include other folders would pretty much be a deal-breaker for me :( Any ideas?
antihero 6 days ago 2 replies      
Are they even planning Linux support?
andrewfelix 6 days ago 0 replies      
No one seems to be talking about the individual file size limits? I couldn't find if there were limit on individual file sizes. I have huge ISO files which have been an issue with other online storage services in the past.

Any ideas?

pgrote 6 days ago 0 replies      
They've changed their existing storage plans and policies. I bought additional storage for my photos through Picasa. The storage was made available across all Google products.

I had the 20gig for $5.00 plan. I say had, because I went to the Drive plan page and was told:

* Your current plan is no longer offered. Learn more.

The page redirect goes here:


No idea why it is called butter.

The excellent thing is that you are grandfathered in.

sachinag 6 days ago 0 replies      
I did a quick blog post with charts and comparisons to not only Dropbox but all the other major players: http://www.sachinagarwal.com/google-drive-charts
emp_ 6 days ago 1 reply      
I think this shows a massive change in direction with Google in the last years, when GMail was introduced it came with that "Holy shit that is a lot of space" while every other webmail was offering 10-500MB accounts, they came with BOOM! 5GB and growing.

Now they are simply matching the competition with the same features with the "..but it's from Google" attached to it, which is similar to what Microsoft did with Hotmail after Gmail exploded.

Ninja edit*: talking about the entry plan (free)

One might argue that you do that when you need new users (they don't), but it becomes more reactive than innovative in the end.

akrymski 5 days ago 0 replies      
Aren't there two completely separate use cases?

1. Syncing files across different computers: think git for docs.

2. Backing up files: no versioning necessary

Price points for these should be different imo. I'd live with a backup that offers little redundancy cause there is a small chance that my backup and my laptop die at the same time. S3 & Dropbox are expensive in large part due to that redundancy.

I only use Dropbox for syncing a small set of docs and live with the free account just fine. I should probably use online backup at some point but I just don't feel like the S3 solution is appropriate for this. I dont need my photos or music stored in 3 different data centers across the globe, and I don't want it to sync to all my computers either.

brainless 5 days ago 0 replies      
Will Google Drive Apps be limited to Chrome? Can anyone confirm if there is any way to run them on other browsers?

If not, then popularity of Drive Apps mean will make other browsers become less useful. There are many SMBs or individuals who would probably shift to Drive Apps for many day to day tasks and use mostly Chrome for that.

This clearly mentions only Chrome:

nixarn 6 days ago 0 replies      
Apparently they've changed their pricing :(


I want to be able to pay per year, not per month.

brlewis 6 days ago 3 replies      
"Drive is also an open platform"

Working with select third-party developers does not make something an open platform. A documented API makes something an open platform. Even a command-line client for a popular web-server operating system makes something an open platform. Google Drive is not an open platform yet.

dhconnelly 6 days ago 1 reply      
Integration with Docs. This is fantastic.
TomGullen 6 days ago 2 replies      
Wow it's cheap, I was looking at it thinking $5 per month for 20gb, that's pretty competitive. Then I saw it was $5 per year! I guess they have the infrastructure to do this and still make profit.
jebblue 6 days ago 1 reply      
Does Dropbox intrusively scan personal files, if not then I'd prefer to go with them since I don't want Google prying into my files.
goronbjorn 6 days ago 0 replies      
The price of cloud storage in the long run is $0, and we're approaching that point very quickly. UX, not storage space, is going to win.
jimmar 6 days ago 1 reply      
The official blog says you can buy 100 GB for $4.99 a month. If I go to my google accounts settings page to try to buy it, itsays 200 GB for $50 a year. Something is not lined up correctly. I'd pay $50 right now and get rid of Carbonite if I thought it would pay off, but I don't want to get stung paying $50 for the wrong type of storage.
tlogan 6 days ago 1 reply      
I just installed.

And it seems like I cannot edit Google Docs using MSWord/OpenOffice on my computer... I though that is point of GDrive. Am I missing something?

spinchange 6 days ago 0 replies      
Hopefully they'll fix sharing a public collection in Docs now. I have not been able to send a link to a docs collection that someone without a Google account can open and see in its entirety, like, since forever.
bvdbijl 6 days ago 1 reply      
Can anyone find information on file versioning? How long and how many versioned files are stored?
drcube 6 days ago 0 replies      
So if I upload all my music to Google Drive, and let my friends access it... will the FBI send a paramilitary team to confiscate Google's servers at gunpoint?
loverobots 6 days ago 1 reply      
To those expecting Dropbox to meet Google's prices, they might not be able too. Google can easily lose a fortune in this until Dropbox and other small players go bankrupt.
chintan 6 days ago 1 reply      
"I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."


alberth 6 days ago 1 reply      

Does the "GDrive for Businesses" not allow for a shared corporate folder?


This seems odd because if you're a business, that would exactly be your need.

I hope I'm wrong, otherwise I'll continue to use my Dropbox for Teams.


PaperclipTaken 6 days ago 0 replies      
To me Drive feels like another part of Google's push to get everything integrated into one easy environment. The end goal is (potentially) noble, but I feel like they are trying too hard to push products out too fast, and a lot of the releases they are making feel quite forced. I don't think that Google and the Google userbase is ready for something like this, and even if this is a really good product I see it failing just like many of Google's other recent products.
sskates 6 days ago 0 replies      
Is there anyone who's actually used it and can comment on how good it is?
adam-f 6 days ago 1 reply      
300 comments and not one mention of megaupload.


euroclydon 6 days ago 0 replies      
Any idea of the latency for HTTP requests? I wonder if it could be nice for storing and serving static resources.
antihero 6 days ago 0 replies      
What would be awesome is if this integrates with Google Music and Google Music worked in the UK. They are our files, let us listen to them.
EREFUNDO 6 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder how insync ( https://www.insynchq.com/ ) will adapt to this launch of Google Drive since they specialize on syncing googledocs.
kin 6 days ago 0 replies      
What's the memory footprint like? I remember giving Microsoft Mesh a try since it offered 3GBs more than Dropbox. Goodness that thing had quadruple the footprint of Dropbox.
bashzor 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is the big Google Drive we've been anticipating and rumoring about for the past 5 years? Google Docs with a different label and icon?

The icon is uninspired and un-iconic. Somehow this project looks incredibly rushed and simplified to me, but I can't imagine how Google would ever rush anything nor how they could have had too little time.

urjitbhatia 6 days ago 0 replies      
What do these hardware control permissions mean?

"take pictures and videos
Allows the app to take pictures and videos with the camera. This allows the app at any time to collect images the camera is seeing."

Doesn't this language bypass the point that the images/videos can only by captured when the 'user' initiates the camera app?

fsckin 6 days ago 0 replies      
Pricing is pretty darn good.

Any of these plans add 25GB on a non-Google Apps (just guessing, they like to screw us) Gmail Account which spills over to Picasa.

I just might switch from a Free Dropbox to a paid Google Drive, despite them treating me like a business because I want to use my own domains.

voxx 6 days ago 1 reply      
Anybody noticed how rare it is for OP to post?

His first page of submissions are mostly from 3 years ago.

mrbill 6 days ago 0 replies      
Can't use the Drive app on the Mac through a SOCKS proxy. 8-(
Lockyy 6 days ago 1 reply      
When are they going to get a customer service department that is easy to contact and talk to?
They have so many service based projects going on that need the ability to talk to a representative to get things fixed and there still isn't a way, that I know of, to contact them.
wildmXranat 6 days ago 0 replies      
And the price is great! I will most certainly give it a shot.
LyleK 6 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds like a good start, but not a replacement for SugarSync. You have to put everything in their special Google Drive folder, can't sync existing folders. So I can't use it to back up configuration files that need to stay in their own directories.
kin 6 days ago 0 replies      
Do we know if Google ever tried to acquire Dropbox or was it just Apple? Sorry in advance if I'm just really out of the loop.
treelovinhippie 6 days ago 0 replies      
New launches are never available for Google Apps domains. Fark.
jokull 6 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone see anything about selective sync in the clients?
epicviking 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm curious how this will work with google play music. if we can now upload songs through drive instead of that terrible slow desktop uploader, spotify may have just lost a customer...
dillona 6 days ago 0 replies      
I truly thought I'd never see the day....
biopharma_guy 6 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a way to use the Google drive without installing the software onto my computer? My employer does not allow me to install any software to the office computer.
Tomis02 5 days ago 0 replies      
I don't understand the name, I first thought it was a competitor for Nokia Drive. It doesn't have anything to do with driving, has it?
ChrisArchitect 6 days ago 0 replies      
Seems like inherently, they have always been going after Dropbox, Evernote, whatever. It's the very nature of the overarching idea of Google Docs. Everything is a doc. And all these 'features' are natural parts of the system.
thekevan 6 days ago 0 replies      
Am I mistaken or did I see something which said I could buy a 80gigs of storage for $20/yr while the app was installing. Now that I go back to look for it, all I see are the same prices as published in stories.
lalmalang 6 days ago 1 reply      
wow. i didnt realize what an aesthetic achievement the dropbox sync checkmarks were until i saw the google drive ones...
freshrap6 6 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder how affects those of us who pay extra for more space already?
iunk 6 days ago 0 replies      
Will it check if the file was already uploaded before so it does not upload it again? like Dropbox
puffyresearch 6 days ago 0 replies      
What do you think of the naming? At first I thought it was an API for the self-driving cars...
EREFUNDO 6 days ago 0 replies      
It's now a price war! good for consumers.....
bicknergseng 6 days ago 0 replies      
What does this mean for Dropbox?
dsirijus 6 days ago 0 replies      
Not available for Business. What the hell?
studio816 6 days ago 0 replies      
What's with the recycling bin icon, ew.
BlaineLight 6 days ago 0 replies      
How is this different from Google Docs?
mmmmbop 6 days ago 3 replies      
Yeah I think I'll pass. SkyDrive gives me 25GB and their "access any file on your computer (even those outside of your skydrive folder) from skydrive.com" feature is amazing.

Plus like someone else already mentioned, having GDrive download hyperlinks is subpar imo. I'd rather get the doc or xls back, edit it on a client, and have it re-upload and convert to gdoc format.

25gb (or 7 which is still > 5), cheaper plans, you can access your entire computer from skydrive.com,
and it already has iphone/ipad clients.

I really don't see a reason why anyone should use GDrive over SkyDrive unless they were a heavy gdocs user.

tuananh 6 days ago 0 replies      
Say hello to Google Docs+
solsenNet 6 days ago 0 replies      
"Let the bodies hit the Flooooooor!"
Modern Web Development jtaby.com
588 points by tomdale  7 days ago   85 comments top 23
paulirish 7 days ago 4 replies      
Disclaimer: I'm on the Chrome team and specifically focus on the Inspector/DevTools

Majd and I have talked a lot about tooling and the Chrome DevTools in particular. He ends up tweeting me a few requests or bugs a day that I'm routing to the engineering team. I love it.

Majd's writeup here is incredible. I hope to find a way to augment our existing documentation with this very thorough roundup. He's done a similar thing before ( http://jtaby.com/2011/05/31/google-chrome-why-i-hate-it-and-... ) and the Chrome team filed and fixed 33 bugs as a result. For the new article in particular, I expect us to iterate and improve based on the excellent feedback provided here.

I would add that CSS Selector Profiling is mostly in the DevTools so you can see how insignificant of a cost it is (in 99% of cases). But focusing on your network waterfall will pay performance dividends a few orders of magnitude bigger than optimizing selectors. :) That said, Majd knows what he's talking about quite well.

tomdale 7 days ago 5 replies      
This is a great resource and I'm glad Majd wrote it. However, this is really the kind of content that should be coming out of Google itself.

Google is in an interesting position. Of all of the major Silicon Valley tech companies, I think Google is the one most seen as the "web" company, and yet they've staked a lot of their future on Android. Android, instead of making the web a first-class citizen, has in fact set the mobile web back by years. While they should have worked to bring all of the strengths of the web to mobile devices, they decided to play the app game on Apple's terms and, IMO, have lost.

Surely someone at Google realizes that killing the open web also kills the company's cash cow--search and related advertising--but based on their behavior it doesn't seem like it.

My hope is that the Android wakes up and decides to make the web a priority again. In league with the Chrome team (some of the smartest people I've ever met), they could do wonders to make developing for the mobile web a joy instead of the disaster that it currently is. Google needs focus, and it needs its focus to be on the mobile web. Having great, unified documentation about building sophisticated web apps that competes with Apple's Developer Centers is a good start to doing so.

blhack 7 days ago 5 replies      
This is worth getting your head around just for the console.

<this post is partially for those of you who are, like me, relatively new to javascript. If you're one of the demigods that works at twitter/facebook, go ahead and ignore this>

I've been transitioning all of my projects from python cgi scripts (yuck), to shtml files, javascript clients, and APIs that run on node.js.

For somebody like me, that has been writing python+cgi for the last 5 years, diving into javascript was daunting. Terrifying even.

Console made this a lot, lot, lot easier. In javascript, you can call


and it will print it out to the console (again, this is obvious if you're done any JS development, I'm sure).

But that isn't all...

Suppose that I'm working with an object called map_pins. In the javascript console, I can just type:


and it will print out the object for me in a tree that I can traverse by clicking the little sideways triangles.

Very, very nice.

I can also interact with my javascript functions from the console. If I have a function called update_bounds(), I can force it to fire from the console by just typing:


This is really, really nice. Before I discovered this, my javacsript was full of alert("I made it to this without crashing");

It was awful.

If you're learning JS and OP's article looks over your head, at least take the console away from it.

DrJokepu 7 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not sure if docking to the right is really the best default; it really depends on your setup. On big, wide displays it's indeed a good way to do it. On small displays (notebooks) docking on the bottom is better. If you have multiple displays, detaching and moving the detached window to the other display works best. I think it's a good idea to assume the worst (tiny display) and dock to the bottom; the browser will remember your setting anyway so it's not like you'll need to do this all the time.
potch 7 days ago 3 replies      
"Modern Web Development" does not mean "Works in Webkit", and it does a disservice to future/novice developers to reinforce that notion. What's dominant now was not in the not-too-distant past, and may not be in the not-too-distant future.
Joeri 7 days ago 0 replies      
This episode of javascript jabber goes in depth about the chrome dev tools: http://javascriptjabber.com/006-jsj-chrome-dev-tools-with-pa...

I especially like the source maps, which allow you to debug code cross-compiled from another language in that other language.

micrypt 7 days ago 4 replies      
A mild concern of mine with the "Google, if you're listening" annotations. It's worth remembering that Chromium's an open-source project. If you really want something, send a patch.
bicknergseng 7 days ago 1 reply      
The custom scroll bar might look sorta cool, but it's completely unusable on Chrome. The scroll tracker disappears and it's basically impossible to find. I've ended up restarting at the top of the page just to be able to scroll properly.
DavidAbrams 6 days ago 0 replies      
One suggestion: Revise your list of browsers with inspectors to indicate what they are. The newcomer will look at that and think they need to download a tool called "Safari Stable".

It most likely should be something like "Safari (stable build)", and similar for the others.

Thanks for the write-up.

mmahemoff 7 days ago 0 replies      
I was just on the Chrome Dev hangout watching some of the latest mobile devtools features demo'd. These are also really neat - ability to set resolution, simulate user agent, simulate touch events, and dock devtools to the right (so you don't have problems with it becoming too narrow when making the browser thin).
wsbail29 7 days ago 1 reply      
This is a really nice inventory of the latest Chrome Developer Tools. I also really like the recent Settings additions of "emulate touch events" and "Override device metrics" for mobile web development.
dmvaldman 7 days ago 1 reply      
Wonderful, can't wait for part 2. One question: I don't seem to have the same file navigation for my javascript files as mentioned in this article. There is no "tabbed" browsing, nor an icon with two folders at right angles. Chrome is up to date.

Anyone else in this boat?

tambourine_man 6 days ago 0 replies      

  data:text/html,<b>ZOMG I AM BOLD!?!!?</b>

That's one of the best tips I've learned in a while. Thanks a bunch.

mkmcdonald 7 days ago 0 replies      
> I haven't found a use for the Properties section yet

It displays DOM properties and their current state. That's pretty important to any web developer.

Vaanir 7 days ago 1 reply      
Great read, not so sure why your page was awkward to scroll though.

Here is more about Heap Profiling from the horses mouth https://developers.google.com/chrome-developer-tools/docs/he...

omfut 7 days ago 1 reply      
Great Article. Very useful web development tools primer. Thanks for taking time to write such an insightful article.
felipe_csl 7 days ago 0 replies      
Google Chrome Canary dev tools is definitely worth it despite the bugs you see more often when using Canary. It has been vastly improved over the last years.
I remember when Firebug was the standard tool for web debugging, now, chrome (specially canary) is the de facto standard for me.
alisey 6 days ago 0 replies      
One thing that I use often: when execution hits breakpoint, you can switch to the Console tab and modify local variables, and run any code in the context of the current function.

Also, files in the Scripts can be edited by double clicking.

rpwverheij 4 days ago 0 replies      
docking to the right is definitely not working better for me!
macco 7 days ago 0 replies      
Respect. Great Article.
macarthy12 7 days ago 0 replies      
Very nice write up, quite a few things that were new to me
juanpin 7 days ago 0 replies      
Nice post Majd.
briandw 7 days ago 0 replies      
Nice job Majd
An employee, whose last name is Null, kills our employee lookup app stackoverflow.com
530 points by willvarfar  3 days ago   147 comments top 38
NelsonMinar 3 days ago  replies      
This is funny, but it's also a real world example of the kind of encoding nightmare that made SOAP RPC encoding really awkward. Various SOAP toolkits used to serialize a missing value as the empty string, or a literal value like "null" or 0, or all sorts of awfulness. I think the correct thing for the spec is to set xsi:nil="true" as an attribute on the XML tag in question, but IIRC about half the toolkits didn't understand that.

(I speak in the past tense of SOAP because I am an optimist.)

billybob 3 days ago 5 replies      
I have joked that I might change my name to Sample User, develop a piece of land in the country, and name my road Example Avenue, taking address 123. This would make me impervious to datamining, because my results would always be thrown out.

But a last name of 'Null' may be even better. :)

ShabbyDoo 3 days ago 1 reply      
I once worked for a medical records software company. We received a bug report that a particular patient's record could not be viewed. Our support engineer remoted into the client's site and asked the secretary for the patient's name. It was Bobby Null. You can imagine what sort of underlying assumption about String serialization led to this issue. [A preemptive aside: We had proper confidentiality agreements in place. No HIPAA rules were violated.]
wpietri 3 days ago 0 replies      
My favorite along these lines:


Flickr cofounder Caterina Fake couldn't fly on Northwest Airlines because their system silently deleted her tickets.

ColinDabritz 3 days ago 1 reply      
We should add these to the list!


* No one has a name that is a reserved system keyword (Null, Nan, Unknown...)

rdtsc 3 days ago 1 reply      
Mr Null, the uncle of famous Bobby Tables.


mthreat 3 days ago 2 replies      
In other news, employee with last name NaN gets a huge paycheck due to software glitch...
cafard 3 days ago 1 reply      
Sort of weirdly classical, like Odysseus identifying himself to the Cyclops as "Noman".
zbowling 3 days ago 2 replies      
My license plate when I live in Texas was "NULL". I never got a ticket when running the toll booth and the camera OCR'd my license plate.
ScottBurson 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is probably a direct consequence of the fact that XML (unlike S-expressions, or JSON) fails to be self-describing. See [PDF]: http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/wadler/papers/xml-essence/xml-...
joeyh 3 days ago 3 replies      
Something that worries me about perl to no end is tests like:

if ($lastname) { ... }

This fails when $lastname="0". But I am constantly seeing perl code that does it.

aidos 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ironic considering that the language behind (coldfusion) doesn't even have a concept of null (it just uses empty string).
hughw 3 days ago 0 replies      
This fellow Adam https://twitter.com/#!/undefined signed up for twitter as "undefined", scaring up twitter bugs like this one: "While visiting websites like Twitter & ESPN, the webpage will suddenly switch to the twitter page of the username 'undefined', who is not one of my twitter friends or followers"... https://getsatisfaction.com/twitter/topics/when_i_visit_twit....
septerr 3 days ago 0 replies      
19k in parking tickets for XXXXXXX license plate - http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2009/10/the_price_of_vanity_plat...

I heard of similar story of a student in Birmingham whose license plate was 'null'.

piinbinary 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's probably a good time to bring up "Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names": http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-b...
lifeisstillgood 3 days ago 0 replies      
I believe that these errors are so common they represent a Cognitive bias on the part of programmers. At some point every developer wants to execute a one line command and have the system "do something". If they cannot get that one line, then they have two options. - Wrap up more abstraction code, until one line executes (the SOAP solution), or think deeply about what you are trying to do and take things away until one line is clear and obvious (The REST solution)
joejohnson 3 days ago 5 replies      
I think this is a joke, possibly inspired by the XKCD comic (link posted in the stackoverflow comments). The string "Null" would not cause this behavior.
vitomd 3 days ago 1 reply      
Well my last name have a ñ . So for example my credit card have a weird character like "&" . Others just change to n. My last name crash a educational site when I registered
gbog 3 days ago 0 replies      
At least your employee has a last name. I had an Indonesian hacker in my team, he had no last name...

It is all about assumptions. OP assumed nobody would be called Null. MusicBrainz index assumes no band chose to name themselves "Various Artists" or "[unknown]". These are advisable but how to not assume that people have last names?

philwelch 3 days ago 0 replies      
It once took me more time than I would like to admit to realize that the string "false" is still true.
gouranga 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is exactly why you should never mix data and code/markup. When the semantic barrier is broken, all shit breaks loose.

I've always wondered if SICP style scheme would cause these sort of problems.

why-el 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is hilarious. Seriously, the question votes were being incremented live. :)
ufo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Dear god, so many deleted answers from people trying to be funny instead of informative! (I am counting 4 from the last hour and 3 more from the previous years)
charlieok 3 days ago 1 reply      
Naturally the very first thing I did when opening this discussion thread was search the page for “bobby tables” and “xkcd”. Of course, there were already three separate mentions of that comic in the thread.
funkeemonk 3 days ago 0 replies      
17 years ago, when I got my second Internet account with my ISP, I filled in these 3 names for my choice of email address on their paper signup form.

root@ , nobody@ and daemon@

They gave me "daemon". I've terminated that account long ago, but last I checked (6 years ago?), I could still retrieve emails and dial in using a modem using that account.

gabrtv 3 days ago 0 replies      
drudru11 1 day ago 0 replies      
Funny, just watched monsters inc last night and saw a guy named Jonathan Null in the credits. Also, Tom Duff was there too.
ChemicalHarm 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if the "employee" is a doctor. Something similar showed up on TheDailyWTF back in 2007:


wunderland 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is this real? I don't really understand what language they're discussing here, but wouldn't the string "Null" be distinct from the protected Null?
appleaintbad 1 day ago 0 replies      
And this is why it is a bad idea to look for null or nil as a value representation in place of text or number. Instead, use a different representation, like an empty or non-existent element/attribute, etc.
Madintelligence 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have problems using a data analysis software where the stock ticker data from a company is "NAN"
robwgibbons 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is what bounties are for.
based2 1 day ago 0 replies      
type or untype?
ahlemk 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's actually one of my friends database challenge. Indeed it is a funny fact
codergirl 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wish I could upvote this twice.
jaxn 3 days ago 2 replies      
The post is from December 2010 with no follow-up. It was likely a joke. HN got trolled.
marcieoum 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ahaha that's amazing!
theorique 3 days ago 1 reply      
But is his first name Bobby?
How to read Korean in 15 minutes ryanestradadotcom.tumblr.com
507 points by rfreytag  7 days ago   123 comments top 22
codyrobbins 7 days ago  replies      
Having an alphabet, as it does, Korean indeed isn't hard to learn to read and write. The difficulty is learning how to pronounce it properly"it has a number of distinct consonants that are treated as the same consonant in most other languages and that therefore are extremely difficult for non-native speakers to distinguish and produce properly.

For example, it has three distinct unvoiced velar stops [1] which are all considered the same sound in English: normal [k], aspirated [kʰ], and faucalized [k͈].

We use both the normal and aspirated [2] unvoiced velar stops in English as positional allophones [3], meaning we consider them the same sound but they're actually different and we distinguish between them unconsciously depending on where the sound occurs in a word. For example, /k/ is aspirated in word-initial position in words like cam but unaspirated after word-initial /s/ in words like scam. If you listen closely enough you realize that you turbulently expire a lot of air after the c in cam but don't do so in scam. Despite using both phones [4] in English, you consider them more or less the same hard k sound"if you pronounce cam with an unaspirated /k/ it may sound slightly odd but you'll still consider it the same word cam. The problem is that in Korean doing so would result in two different words"so it makes it hard for English speakers to perceive distinct words in Korean that differ this way, and to pronounce the correct word that they intend when talking.

This is true for many languages because phoneme inventories never overlap, but it's especially difficult for English learners of Korean because Korean has a third /k/ sound"the faucalized [5] one"and it doesn't occur at all in English. I know phonologists"people who are trained in the study of human speech categories"who have an extremely difficult time discerning between [k] and [k͈].

Peter Ladefoged, one of the world's foremost phoneticians, has a fantastic website to accompany his phonetics textbook and it has recordings of all the sounds known to be produced in human languages. You can listen to the distinctions between the Korean consonants here:


The /k/ sounds I've been discussing are the third row down (weight of measure, rope, and large). As an English speaker try to hear a difference between how the consonant is pronounced"it's extremely difficult to notice.

Our sensitivity to these phonemic distinctions develops at an extremely early age: by one month old infants already begin to stop distinguishing between different sounds that their language slots into the same category as the same “sound” [6]. Infants don't even babble at this age never mind produce or understand adult speech, but they have already stopped noticing certain differences in speech"that's how deeply ingrained the way we perceive and produce speech is, and why it's almost impossible to speak a non-native language without an accent.

(I am only tangentially familiar with Korean phonology so I might be getting some of the details slightly wrong here"please correct me if I've misstated anything.)


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

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspirated_consonant

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allophone

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phone_(phonetics)

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faucalized_voice

[6] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/171/3968/303 & http://home.fau.edu/lewkowic/web/Eimas%20infant%20speech%20d...

wheels 7 days ago  replies      
People overestimate the difficulty in learning different alphabets (and the assumed difficulty of the languages which use them).

I'm on vacation in Israel this week and learned the Hebrew alphabet with standard flash cards in 2 hours (incidentally by doing something similar to this post by remembering the names based on something the character looks like). At various points I've learned the Arabic, Cyrillic and Greek alphabets in a similar amount of time.

The real difficulty is, naturally, actually learning the language. The additional burden of it using a separate regular alphabet is negligible in comparison.

ghiotion 7 days ago 4 replies      
Wow. That is really neat.

I've always believed that spoken languages that are constructed/contrived are doomed to failure (esperanto, klingon, etc). I'm not saying that Korean itself is contrived, but it's fascinating that the alphabet was created like that.

bane 7 days ago 0 replies      
Hangul is an astonishingly good alphabet. If it has a problem it's that it's too tightly coupled to its host language.

as codyrobbins already alluded to http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3881388

it expresses the particulars of Korean extremely well, while only so-so mapping to the particulars of other languages. English, as a common example, is a mess in Hangul. It's readable, sometimes with a bit of effort, but completely obliterates certain sounds that have important meanings, or is forced to add other sounds where there simply is none in English (consonant consonant groupings in English end up rendered as consonant vowel consonant in many cases, usually with the all purpose ... (eu) vowel).

I've also long wondered how much of the verbal features of modern Korean is merely a reflection of written Hangul. Much like how English speakers will overemphasize the 't' in 'water' when the spoken form is really a soft 'd'. The hard coupling of spoken Korean to Hangul may help overemphasize certain language features that may not have existed in earlier forms.

Despite all this there's an effort to try and adapt Hangul to languages with similar vowel consonant features. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cia-Cia_language

If you think that's strange, regard Latin, Greek, Arabic and Chinese w/r to Western Europe, Eastern Europe & Russia, the Middle East and Central Asia and East Asia respectively.

Some other interesting notes, modern Hangul is a little simpler than the original form. There's quite a few consonants that have been dropped, and various consonant clusters (many of which make more sense when transliterating foreign languages into Korean as noted above, so it's sad they're gone). However, this makes learning it far easier.

It's alleged that King Sejong created and funded what we'd know today as a linguistic R&D program as a way of improving literacy and education in the country after a plague killed a great number of his subjects. The connection? A treatment for the plague was printed and disseminated throughout the country but the low literacy rate (you had to know how to read and speak Chinese to understand the information) resulted in low adoption of the treatment.

However, for quite some time (a few hundred years) it was overcome by politics and never adopted as the official written form of the language, not really being standardized or formalized to fit the modern dialect until the early 20th century!

It's really worthwhile to learn it if you travel to Korea, or even live in an area with a large Korean population. Why? Once you learn the names of a few foods, it's much easier to read them in Hangul and learning new words (and how to pronounce them) is much easier than learning them via transliteration.

kitsune_ 7 days ago 3 replies      
I've just returned from a 15 days trip to Korea. Being able to read Hangul was helpful, especially when trying to read menus, but in most places, road and subway signs were bilingual (English & Korean). In many ways, the country seemed to be light years ahead of other places (I'm from Switzerland).

By the way, Korea is absolutely worth a visit. I think I'm infatuated with it right now. In the short time I got to know a couple of very wonderful people.

pm90 7 days ago 1 reply      
Hindi is also a pretty straightforward language; by which I mean that the written alphabet corresponds exactly to the sounds made when speaking it. When I was in Korea, I used to write korean words in hindi (I did not know the korean alphabet then) because transliterating to english would screw up the pronunciation and unless you get the pronunciation exactly right, the locals just don't understand what you are saying.
spullara 7 days ago 0 replies      
I put together a cheat sheet a while ago:


Not as entertaining but tries to show you how the various parts are derived from one another. Interesting that n is half of m.

steve8918 7 days ago 2 replies      
The other thing interesting about the Korean alphabet is that the symbols take "notches" also have the same mouth formation. The notch is an indication to use the same mouth shape, but to use a "harder" sound. So the G sound and K sound have a similar mouth shape, as well as the D sound and the T sound, the J and CH sounds.

My understanding, also, is that there are no exceptions to the rules, so it makes it very easy to read and write, which is awesome.

dbh937 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is why I love Hacker News. Even though this doesn't really have anything to do with startups or technology in general, it's still something that interests the types of people who read Hacker News. One of the big reasons I love HN is the community that contributes to it.
bergie 7 days ago 0 replies      
Cool! 15 minutes sounds about right. I learned it over a single pint on my last trip to Seoul. I can tell you navigating the city becomes easier when you start to understand signs like megchu (beer) and tsikin (chicken) :-)

(sorry for the quick transliterations)

barumrho 7 days ago 3 replies      
I am not familiar with many languages, but something that is unique about Korean "alphabets" is that alphabets combine to form a character.

This makes sentences more compact in appearance, but it also creates difficulty in creating fonts, since a single alphabet looks slightly different in combination with different alphabets. (For example, Gulim font, a standard sans-serif font, contains 49,284 glyphs according to this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Gulim.)

RandallBrown 7 days ago 4 replies      
Well this explains how my Korean friend in college could type touch type in Korean and English on an American keyboard. I didn't know that Korean had an alphabet, I thought it was pictograms or whatever.
MichaelGG 7 days ago 0 replies      
Some scripts are surprisingly easy to pick up. If anyone is interested in the Japanese scripts (hiragana/katakan), this book[1] will truly teach them to you in 6 hours, total. I started reading it, and thought it moronic, but as I started writing a review of why it sucked, I realised that I could recall everything perfectly...

1: http://www.amazon.com/Remembering-Kana-Reading-Japanese-Syll...

WildUtah 7 days ago 0 replies      
Next I want to learn how to read and write the kanji in fifteen minutes. Okay, oaky. I'm willing to invest as long as twenty minutes.
jarek 6 days ago 0 replies      
There is a similar guide to hangul with information arranged in the shape of the periodic table of elements, the "periodic table of hangul": http://www.aboutletters.com/pfaq.html. I found it to be a reasonably handy reference that logically compiles all the information in one image as opposed to this guide's gradual introduction of vowels and consonants mixed in batches.

The author no longer authorizes distribution of the image over the internet, however copies can be found with a google search.

hsshah 7 days ago 2 replies      
This is indeed surprisingly easy. Now, where's the cheat sheet for 'understanding' what we read (other than proper nouns)?!
throwaway54-762 7 days ago 1 reply      
Yup. I happen to be an American, English-only speaker, and a friend was able to teach me the Korean alphabet during highschool AP chemistry (oh, and I still managed to get a 5 on the exam). It's really that easy.
runn1ng 6 days ago 0 replies      
I misread the title as "how to read Koran in 15 minutes".

....I would be quite interested in that.

mynameishere 7 days ago 1 reply      
You can learn to read Vietnamese much faster


jonniekang 7 days ago 0 replies      
Korean is actually one of the most easiest languages to learn in the world.
bsinger 7 days ago 0 replies      
This kind of reminds me of the classic Tim Ferriss article:


comfuture 7 days ago 0 replies      
Feynman: I am burned out and I'll never accomplish anything ohio-state.edu
485 points by 6ren  8 days ago   66 comments top 14
sgentle 8 days ago 6 replies      
I can never forget that chapter and how well Feynman expressed his burnout. It's hard to imagine that even charming roguish nobel prizewinning physicists who play the bongos can feel useless sometimes. I think most likely everyone has, but it doesn't make for a very interesting blog post unless it's followed with "but I turned it all around with the Pomodoro technique!"

Nobody picks a date and says "from that point on, I'm going to grow up and lose my sense of wonder", but still it happens. I worry, sometimes, about how dangerous slow changes can be. The boiling frog thing turned out to be a myth, but the fact that it still persists as pseudo-fact tells you something about how well it aligns with our experiences. I saw a child today play for, honest to god, about half an hour with a low concrete wall. What if I'm just getting a little bit less playful every day?

With achievement I feel like you have an internal zero point that you measure from. But the zero has a dangerous tendency to climb. When I was a child I felt like the zero was at, well, zero. People got impressed if I just managed to fall over with gusto. Now I'm a proper software developer and aspiring startup guy, the zero is more like being well paid writing good code for successful projects that make an impact but are also somehow deeply meaningful, about which I make clever insights while blogging, tweeting, plussing and getting a million internet points on Hacker News.

Even if it's not quite that bad, expectations build up pretty quickly, and it's easy to end up worried about being in the negative. Why can't it all just be positive? Imagine if you could return to the days when just getting something to compile was a victory that would stay with you for days. I don't really know if it's possible, but I have been making some attempts to try.

I read a book on Stoicism that was referenced on Tim Ferriss's blog (that he writes from the deck of his jumbo yacht on the shores of lake always successful), and it actually had a lot of great stuff to say about how to stop expectations wrecking your happiness. But even armed with the ability to bring up Marcus Aurelius at dinner parties, it's tough going. I've cut down to one day a week of work (and pretty fun work with a low responsibility factor) on the theory that I should undersubscribe myself for a while and let myself naturally gravitate towards things I like without an expectation they'll be my life's work, or even very good at all.

That's meant I've spent a lot more time doing things, but I still feel a sense of residual nervousness that things I do will be bad. My website, for example, has been blank page for nigh unto half a decade now, just because I want to write something good on there and I'm not sure whatever I write will be good. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Having written this now I look back and it seems long and rambly without any particular point other than what goes through my head when I think about that part of Feynman's book. I feel an overwhelming urge to go back and tidy it up, try to tie it all into a nice conclusion or something. Maybe that's the point, though. Can't I just be proud of the fact that I wrote something without worrying that I should be able to do better? Maybe we're all standing around worried but nobody says anything because it would ruin our carefully tended never-fail image. Alright, I'm going to post it. Here goes...

ahelwer 8 days ago 7 replies      
This is a very powerful message. I've been trying for three years now to recapture the feeling that sucked me into computer science. It was an introductory CS course, and the assignment was to draw a scene using Python's turtle graphics module. The idea I had was to draw cube structures in one-point perspective, as I had long done on graph paper. This was in ignorance of how the entire field of computer graphics worked, and so my method was laughable in its simplicity. Analogous to Feynman and the tap water curve, I suppose; I was immensely proud of the final result[0].

That very week I switched my major from physics to computer science. The code I wrote then was truly, truly awful[1], but the feeling it brought the first time a line of cubes was correctly drawn was incredible. I, and only I had made it do that.

I've not felt that way again. Programming contests bring only the feeling of excelling in competition. Algorithm textbooks bring only the short-lived satisfaction of having a magic trick explained to you. Now it seems any time I research a new project I'm drowned in best-practice recommendations and intense fear of writing my own extensive library when a tested, vetted, and fully functional copy exists elsewhere.

What to do? I would do anything to recapture that feeling.

[0] http://i.imgur.com/wih35.png find the tetris pieces!)

[1]* https://github.com/ahelwer/UofC/blob/master/cpsc217/as3/grap...

* If you want to run the script, you'll need the modified turtle graphics module found in the same github directory.

gjm11 8 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting. URL ends with "?repostindays=413". And it happens to be 413 days since the same page was submitted before: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2291773. What's going on here?
sown 8 days ago 11 replies      
I tried writing some software for fun and while it worked for a little while, I'm still burned out. Now what?
JoeAltmaier 8 days ago 1 reply      
Takeaway: its nice to be tenured.
paulhauggis 8 days ago 2 replies      
I've only gotten burned out when I was forced to work on projects I hated for long periods of time.

I guess I've been lucky in the fact that I've never truly been so burned out that I've stopped coding completely. I still get that feeling that I used to get when I first started writing software 16 years ago.

The key is to have interesting personal projects. Even if I'm working on a project I hate, I can always find some piece of it that I like (and I can use for future projects).

docgnome 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is probably the only chapter of that book I really enjoyed. It mostly felt like an "I'm so awesome" series of events. But this was a really valuable chapter. If you feel burned out on something you loved it can be hard to figure out what made you love it. Hacking CRUD apps for 8 hours a day for weeks, months, years can be seriously depressing. CRUD just isn't that interesting, but it is what a lot of programming jobs involve.

I'm really rediscovering the joy of programming by teaching intro programming classes at the local community college. To some extent it's let me relive the first time I realized I could make the computer do what I wanted, not what someone else said I was allowed to.

s2m 8 days ago 1 reply      
I think John Cleese does pretty good job corroborating the phenomenon in this speech:


prezjordan 8 days ago 1 reply      
I'm only 19 years old, so I can't speak for many. However, I've found that when I (or my friends) suffer from this "the excitement is gone" bug, I recommend learning how to program web applications. They let you make something big that can instantly be deployed to millions, and some frameworks like Ruby on Rails have a veyr low barrier of entry.

Also, with web applications you get to make websites, and experience the thrill of crazy traffic, ad revenue, and making sure people have a good time.

Web apps is what brought the excitement back to me. Again, I'm 19 so I'll most likely end up finding another vehicle for my excitement in the near future.

dschobel 7 days ago 0 replies      
vs "If it isn't going in a text-book or you can't sell it, don't bother." --my thesis advisor
comet 7 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me of a Zen Buddhist text that goes like this - “The Master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in everything he does, leaving others to determine whether he is at work or at play. To him, he is always doing both.”
dethstarr 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think this also alludes to his talent more than simply his burnout. For him, physics came naturally and he enjoyed. He happened to get a Nobel Prize while doing what he did for fun.

We should all follow our natural tendencies in order to do what we want. Whenever you fight it, it creates a cognitive dissonance within you that makes you feel depressed and unworthy sometimes.

Great post.

Nevaeh88888 7 days ago 1 reply      
There is actually a video of Feynman himself elaborating further: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzPfKI4b-dg&feature=relmf...

I would say that the death of his first wife Arlene and the aftermaths of the Trinity Project affected Feynman greatly, as exuberant as he is usually.

Feynman's magnificent exuberance and puzzle solving enthusiasm was also illustrated during his last days, where his coworker Christopher Sykes remarked "Look at this man. He faces the abyss. He doesn't know whether he is going to live through this week. But he was consumed by it, and he worked on it all day long...."

Feynman was the epitome of the "Doing things for the fun of it" philosophy. His last words to his artist friend Jirayr was "Don't worry about anything~! Go out and have a good time~!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fzg1CU8t9nw#t=1h32m10s

Drbble 7 days ago 0 replies      
Was Feynman talking about precession (like in a top or a planet) ?
The Average Font iotic.com
475 points by daleharvey  7 days ago   63 comments top 26
Stratoscope 7 days ago 0 replies      
What a wonderful adventure! My favorite of all the recent HN posts.

This is the true spirit of hacking:

> So, this stumped me for a while. I decided I needed to get to know fonts better, so I built a simple web app to view the lines, curves and control points present in the fonts I had. On this basis, I started to consider the ways the features (vertices, curves, stems, serifs etc) might be matched up between fonts. However, this was a rabbit hole I might never get to the bottom of - particularly when considering some of the more unusual varieties of font. Perhaps there was a simpler idea that was evading me.

Of course, now what I'd like to see is the source code to generate the "average" font on a different machine. It would be interesting (for me at least!) to see the average font from a font designer's machine - or someone who collects different monospaced fonts - or my own machine.

I suppose it's not so much "source code" as it is a bunch of manual steps - but would be interesting to know more about those steps, maybe even enough to repeat them.

chime 7 days ago 2 replies      
His final solution (500 equidistant points per glyph) is very clever though visually, it results in putting unnecessary emphasis in areas of variability. For example, look at the bottom of uppercase 'Q' or the middle of lowercase 'f' - notice how it appears to be a thick knot instead of being the same width as the rest of the letter. This is most certainly because averaging the perimeter points ends up enlarging the enclosed area. The more darts you throw at a dartboard, the larger the area you will cover. While he mentions that he solved the issue of excess variability (lowercase 'g') by selecting a subset of similarly styled glyphs, I don't think he did anything to shrink the knots.

Off the top of my head, one thing that could help solve the knot problem is treat the serifs and sans-serifs as two different subsets and make two Average typefaces. Additionally, he could calculate 'average distance to X nearest points in reverse direction'. By that I mean, a point on a curve pointing down should look at all the points that point up (meaning they are on the other side of the filled polygon or hole), and find the 5-10 closest points and take the average. This could tell you how thick the line or hole is at that point. Then use this as the weight to come up with a weighted average of all the other parameters for each point.

All-in-all, this is a fantastic project and the weeks and months of independent research is time well spent. Hacking for fun is wonderful.

ladon86 7 days ago 2 replies      
This is really interesting. I think the result is very attractive and readable. Yet it's also difficult to recall. It reminds me of a face built of averages (http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/phil_Fak_II/Psychol...) - attractive, but somehow lacking in character.

Great work in any case.

nostromo 7 days ago 1 reply      
It's interesting to see how lower-case g is the only letter left that is commonly expressed in fonts two ways, single- and double-story; one flipped left and one right.

Looking at the first average rendering, you can see that it isn't clearly defined like all of the other letters. It also has two very different versions in the serif and sans-serif fonts linked at the bottom.

I wonder if one of the gs will eventually be lost, similar how it's so rare to see an "a" represented in a font as a single-story "'".

mtts 7 days ago 1 reply      
Aside from some unfortunate smudginess here and there the end result is surprisingly good. It reminds me of 17th century texts I've seen: fairly wide, by modern standards, spaces between individual characters, and rounded serifs.
blahedo 7 days ago 0 replies      
The best part of this post was the dawning realisation about 2/3 of the way through the page that an actual font resulted from the experiment, and the page was displayed in it.

It's a really attractive font, actually. Regular enough that it coheres as a font, but just irregular enough to evoke the output of old movable-type printing presses.

Cushman 7 days ago 0 replies      
Inspired by the idea of the "average font", I whipped up a quick scramble suit bookmarklet:

    javascript:/*ScrableSuit*/var __slice=Array.prototype.slice;var __hasProp=Object.prototype.hasOwnProperty;var __bind=function(fn,me){return function(){return fn.apply(me,arguments)}};var __extends=function(child,parent){for(var key in parent){if(__hasProp.call(parent,key))child[key]=parent[key]}function ctor(){this.constructor=child}ctor.prototype=parent.prototype;child.prototype=new ctor;child.__super__=parent.prototype;return child};var __indexOf=Array.prototype.indexOf||function(item){for(var i=0,l=this.length;i<l;i++){if(this[i]===item)return i}return-1};(function(){var Detector=function(){var baseFonts=['monospace','sans-serif','serif'];var testString="mmmmmmmmmmlli";var testSize='72px';var h=document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0];var s=document.createElement("span");s.style.fontSize=testSize;s.innerHTML=testString;var defaultWidth={};var defaultHeight={};for(var index in baseFonts){s.style.fontFamily=baseFonts[index];h.appendChild(s);defaultWidth[baseFonts[index]]=s.offsetWidth;defaultHeight[baseFonts[index]]=s.offsetHeight;h.removeChild(s)}function detect(font){var detected=false;for(var index in baseFonts){s.style.fontFamily=font+','+baseFonts[index];h.appendChild(s);var matched=(s.offsetWidth!=defaultWidth[baseFonts[index]]||s.offsetHeight!=defaultHeight[baseFonts[index]]);if(matched&&s.offsetHeight-defaultHeight[baseFonts[index]]>20)matched=false;h.removeChild(s);detected=detected||matched}return detected}this.detect=detect};var detector,font,fontFamilies,letterTags,randomFont,scramble,traverseElement,_i,_len,_ref;letterTags=[];fontFamilies=[];detector=new Detector;detector.checkFont=function(font){if(this.detect(font)){return fontFamilies.push(font)}};_ref="serif\nAdobe Jenson\nAdobe Text\nAlbertus\nAldus\nAlexandria\nAlgerian\nAmerican Typewriter\nAntiqua\nArno\nAster\nAurora\nNews 706\nBaskerville\nBell\nBembo\nBembo Schoolbook\nBenguiat\nBerkeley Old Style\nBernhard Modern\nBodoni\nBauer Bodoni\nBook Antiqua\nBookman\nBordeaux Roman\nCalifornian FB\nCalisto\nCalvert\nCapitals\nCambria\nCartier\nCaslon\nWyld\nCaslon Antique\nFifteenth Century\nCatull\nCentaur\nCentury Old Style\nCentury Schoolbook\nNew Century Schoolbook\nCentury Schoolbook Infant\nChaparral\nCharis SIL\nCheltenham\nClarendon\nClearface\nCochin\nColonna\nComputer Modern\nConcrete Roman\nConstantia\nCooper Black\nCorona\nNews 705\nDejaVu Serif\nEcotype\nElephant\nEspy Serif\nExcelsior\nNews 702\nFairfield\nFF Scala\nFolkard\nFootlight\nFreeSerif\nFriz Quadrata\nGaramond\nGentium\nGeorgia\nGloucester\nGoudy Old Style\nGoudy\nGoudy Schoolbook\nGoudy Pro Font\nGranjon\nHeather\nHercules\nHigh Tower Text\nHiroshige\nHoefler Text\nHumana Serif\nImprint\nIonic No. 5\nNews 701\nJanson\nJenson\nJoanna\nKorinna\nLegacy Serif\nLexicon\nLiberation Serif\nLinux Libertine\nLiteraturnaya\nLucida Bright\nMelior\nMemphis\nMiller\nMinion\nModern\nMona Lisa\nMrs Eaves\nMS Serif\nNew York\nNimbus Roman\nNPS Rawlinson Roadway\nOCR A Exteneded\nPalatino\nBook Antiqua\nPerpetua\nPlantin\nPlantin Schoolbook\nPlaybill\nPoor Richard\nRawlinson Roadway\nRenault\nRequiem\nRockwell\nRoman\nRotis Serif\nSabon\nScala\nSeagull\nSistina\nSouvenir\nSTIX, see also XITS\nStone Informal\nStone Serif\nSylfaen\nTimes New Roman\nTimes\nTrajan\nTrinité\nTrump Mediaeval\nUtopia\nVale Type\nVera Serif\nVersailles\nWanted\nWeiss\nWide Latin\nWindsor\nXITS\nSlab serif\nApex\nCity\nCholla Slab\nEgyptienne\nGuardian Egyptian\nMuseo Slab\nRockwell\nNilland\nSans serif\nAbadi\nAgency FB\nAkzidenz Grotesk\nAptifer\nArial\nArial Unicode MS\nAvant Garde Gothic\nAvenir\nBank Gothic\nBarmeno\nBauhaus\nBell Centennial\nBell Gothic\nBenguiat Gothic\nBerlin Sans\nBeteckna\nBlue Highway\nCafeteria\nCalibri\nCentury Gothic\nCharcoal\nChicago\nClearface Gothic\nClearview\nCo Headline\nCo Text\nCorbel\nCoolvetica\nDax\nDejaVu Sans\nDotum\nDroid\nEcofont\nEras\nEspy Sans\nNu Sans\nEurocrat\nEurostile\nSquare 721\nFF Meta\nFF Scala Sans\nFlama\nFormata\nFreeSans\nFranklin Gothic\nFrutiger\nFrutiger Next\nFutura\nGeneva\nGill Sans\nGill Sans Schoolbook\nGotham\nHandel Gothic\nDenmark\nHaettenschweiler\nHelvetica\nHelvetica Neue\nSwiss 721\nHighway Gothic\nHiroshige Sans\nHobo\nImpact\nIndustria\nInterstate\nJohnston\nNew Johnston\nKabel\nLegacy Sans\nLiberation Sans\nLucida Sans\nMeiryo\nMicrogramma\nModern\nMotorway\nMS Sans Serif\nMuseo Sans\nMyriad\nNeutraface\nNews Gothic\nNimbus Sans L\nNina\nOptima\nParisine\nPricedown\nPrima Sans\nPT Sans\nRail Alphabet\nRevue\nRotis Sans\nScala Sans\nSegoe UI\nSkia\nSouvenir Gothic\nStone Sans\nSyntax\nTahoma\nTiresias\nTrade Gothic\nTransport\nTrebuchet\nTrump Gothic\nTw Cen\nTwentieth Century\nUbuntu\nUnivers\nZurich\nVera Sans\nVerdana\nVirtue\nSemi-serif\nAmsterdam Old Style\nDivona\nNyala\nPortobello\nRotis Semi Serif\nTema Cantante\nMonospaced\nAndale Mono\nArial Monospaced\nBitstream Vera\nConsolas\nCourier\nCourierHP\nCourier New\nCourierPS\nFontcraft Courier\nDejaVu Sans Mono\nDroid Sans Mono\nEverson Mono \nEverson Mono Unicode\nFedra Mono\nFixed\nFixedsys\nFixedsys Excelsior\nInconsolata\nHyperFont\nLetter Gothic\nLiberation Mono\nLucida Console\nLucida Sans Typewriter\nLucida Typewriter\nMICR\nMenlo\nMiriam Fixed\nMonaco\nMonofur\nMonospace\nMS Gothic\nMS Mincho\nNimbus Mono L\nOCR-A\nOCR-B\nOrator\nOrmaxx\nPragmataPro\nPrestige Elite also known as Prestige\nProFont\nProggy Programming Fonts\nSmall Fonts\nSydnie\nTerminal\nTerminus\nTex Gyre Cursor\nUM Typewriter\nUbuntu Mono\nVera Sans Mono\nWilliam Monospace\nBrush Scripts\nBalloon\nBrush Script\nDragonwick\nChoc\nDom Casual\nMistral\nPapyrus\nSegoe Script\nTempus Sans\nUtopia\nYear Supply of Fairy Cakes\nCalligraphic\nAmazone\nAMS Euler\nApple Chancery\nAquiline\nAristocrat\nBickley Script\nCivitype\nCodex\nEdwardian Script\nForte\nFrench Script\nKuenstler Script\nMonotype Corsiva\nOld English Text MT\nPalace Script\nPark Avenue\nScriptina\nShelley Volante\nVivaldi\nVladimir Script\nZapf Chancery\nZapfino\nHandwriting\nAndy\nAshley Script\nChalkboard\nComic Sans\nCézanne\nDom Casual\nFontoon\nJefferson\nKristen\nLucida Handwriting\nRage Italic\nRufscript\nScribble\nSoupbone\nTekton\nOther script\nCinderella\nCupola\nCurlz\nMagnificat\nScript\nStone Informal\nBlackletter\nAmerican Text\nCloister Black\nFraktur\nGoudy Text\nLucida Blackletter\nDingbat Symbol fonts\nApple Symbols\nBookshelf Symbol 7\nCambria Math\nCommercial Pi\nComputer Modern\nCorel\nHM Phonetic\nLucida Math\nMathematical Pi\nOpenSymbol\nSymbol\nSymbolPS\nWingdings\nWingdings 2\nWingdings 3\nWebdings\nZapf Dingbats\nDisplay Decorative fonts\nAbracadabra\nAd Lib\nAllegro\nAndreas\nArnold Böcklin\nAstur\nBalloon Pop Outlaw Black\nBanco\nBauhaus\nBeat\nBraggadocio\nBroadway\nCaslon Antique\nChiller\nCooper Black\nCurlz\nEllington\nExocet\nFIG Script\nForte\nGigi\nHarlow Solid\nHarrington\nHorizon\nJim Crow\nJokerman\nJuice\nLo-Type\nMagneto\nMegadeth\nNeuland\nPeignot\nSimulation Mimicry fonts\nBagel\nLithos\nPapyrus\nSkia\nMiscellaneous\n3x3\n8514oem\nAshley Inline\nBraggadocio\nContinuum Medium\nFixedsys\nGrasset\nKahana\nLED\nPythagoras\nSystem\nTema Cantante\nTerminal\nWestminster".split('\n');for(_i=0,_len=_ref.length;_i<_len;_i++){font=_ref[_i];detector.checkFont(font)}traverseElement=function(parent){var child,letter,text,_j,_k,_len1,_len2,_ref1,_ref2,_results,_results1;if((_ref1=parent.tagName)==='SCRIPT'){}else if(parent.childElementCount>0){_ref2=parent.children;_results=[];for(_j=0,_len1=_ref2.length;_j<_len1;_j++){child=_ref2[_j];_results.push(traverseElement(child))}return _results}else if(parent.innerText.length>0){text=parent.innerText;parent.innerHTML='';_results1=[];for(_k=0,_len2=text.length;_k<_len2;_k++){letter=text[_k];child=document.createElement('span');child.innerText=letter;child.style.fontSize=parent.style.fontSize;parent.appendChild(child);_results1.push(letterTags.push(child))}return _results1}};traverseElement(document.body);randomFont=function(){return fontFamilies[Math.floor((Math.random()*1000000)%fontFamilies.length)]};scramble=function(){var tag,_j,_len1,_results;_results=[];for(_j=0,_len1=letterTags.length;_j<_len1;_j++){tag=letterTags[_j];_results.push(tag.style.fontFamily=randomFont())}return _results};return setInterval(scramble,100)}).call(this);

This splits the whole page up into 1-character <span>s, and randomizes the font on each one every 100ms. The result is surprisingly readable-- and not at all guaranteed not to crash your browser, I don't recommend trying it on any page more complex than the HN frontpage.

Original CoffeeScript source: https://gist.github.com/2473373

mmphosis 7 days ago 6 replies      
Here's an off-topic legal question:

Are you allowed to copy intellectual property like fonts, perform a function like averaging on the intellectual property, and distribute the result of the function performed on the intellectual property?

crazygringo 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is really incredible.

I would love to see a professional designer "clean these up" -- use the exact same dimensions and curves, but standardize the stroke widths, curves, etc.

Then I wonder -- would this become the most legible, anonymous font of all time? The serif version could be spectacular for body copy that lets the content speak for itself.

Also, I imagine this could be a fantastic font to "design on top of" -- by overlaying your own designs, you can immediately see what is most distinctive about your own design.

zachrose 7 days ago 0 replies      
Bruce Mau uses similar techniques to create hybrid typefaces. See the signage and branding for the Walt Disney Concert Hall (http://www.brucemaudesign.com/4817/97310/work/walt-disney-co...), and work for Zone Books (http://www.zonebooks.org/titles/CRAR_ZO6.html, http://books.google.com/books?id=LCEjVBHQBMkC&pg=PA103&#...).
michaelfeathers 7 days ago 2 replies      
So, by copyright law, isn't this a "derived work" of all of those fonts.


crazygringo 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'd also love to see this process done for collections of typefaces from the same period -- humanist, transitional, modern, grotesque, and so on...
radley 7 days ago 0 replies      
hackermom 7 days ago 0 replies      
Beautifully soft and living! Like reading old typesetting! Thank you!
minikomi 7 days ago 0 replies      
Nice.. I had the same idea bored at work using canvas/js a while back (windows XP, so should work with windows versions..). Cool he followed through and made a font with it!


*edit : copied his idea and used baseline center

rogerbinns 7 days ago 0 replies      
Isn't the resulting font a derived work of the ones that made it up, and hence not his to freely license?
nicholassmith 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think the results are really interesting, for my money it puts me in mind of very old style printed text due to the letter shaping. It immediately feels, well, 'familiar' due to the way it appears.

Not sure if I'd use it for a project, but it's interesting none the less.

carbocation 7 days ago 0 replies      
Cool that he took it to the extreme and actually created a font based on his results ('Averia': http://openfontlibrary.org/font/averia/
bprater 7 days ago 1 reply      
Why do you think the author is using Cufon?
prezjordan 7 days ago 0 replies      
This looks a lot like print in old books.
acoyfellow 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is why Hackers can do anything. I love this. It's surprisingly readable as body text
colig 6 days ago 0 replies      
The 'o' in 'computer' at the start of the third line of that page seems a little taller than the other letters. Other than that, seems interesting. I'd prefer to see a sans-serif version, though.
wunderland 7 days ago 1 reply      
I don't know a lot about web design. Can someone explain to me how my browser rendered that page with the new Averiá font, even though I don't have this font installed? Can web pages include an external font library or something?
funthree 7 days ago 0 replies      
Looks better small and large more so than around the 14px-17px range.
aiscott 7 days ago 2 replies      
I really wish people would quit writing "whilst."
joeybaker 7 days ago 3 replies      
Argh!!! This is precisely the problem when you give developers a designers' problems. It is not possible to engineer your way around every problem.

In this specific case, the font is blurry, unattractive, and lacking any character. It looks like someone tried to autotraced a photocopied fax of a carbon copy.

It's an interesting experiment to be sure " but this is not, in anyway, a solution to … anything.


Learning VIM while playing a game vim-adventures.com
462 points by yogsototh  7 days ago   125 comments top 54
vog 7 days ago 3 replies      
Congratulations to that very nice and useful game! I loved to play around with the first 2 levels.

It's a pity that the project's state is totally unclear (at least to me, a casual visitor). Is it meant to become a community project? Is it a demo of something that will be sold in the future? The explaining text behind the "Unlock Levels" button adds even more confusion:

> Additional levels are currently being developed for you to play and enjoy. The 3rd level will be available for FREE only for players who sign up for my email list. Sign up now! You'll be notified as soon as the level is up. The level won't be available for unregistered users.

On the one hand, it sounds as if it is free, with some "forcing" to make more users join the project mailing list. On the other hand, this is totally discouraging contributions (because you aren't allowed to see the work-in-progress version), so maybe it's meant to become for-sale in the future.

I'd love to see it developing either way (although I think the community way is the more appropriate for this project). But as of now, it seems to unify the disadvantages of both worlds: Advertising the mailing list in a way that appeals neither to people who are willing to pay (as there's no clear pricing plan), nor to people interested in contributing (as it seems to more about announcements/"newsletters" than about how to improve and to help).

brown9-2 7 days ago 3 replies      
Very interesting idea, but something seems to be off with the email signup - it reports "Error: SMTP Error: Data not accepted. Mail could not be sent." for two addresses I tried, one of them @gmail.com.

However when I try to sign up a second time a minute later with the same address, it reports "Email address is already on the list".

steve8918 7 days ago 1 reply      
I learned how to use the controls of VI decades before I actually learned that VIM existed, through Hack/Nethack. I thought the controls were ridiculous, but I was a kid, so I just accepted it and learned them, little did I know how useful they would become later on in life.
JoshTriplett 6 days ago 0 replies      
Cute, but the inability to use keys before "collecting" them makes it painful to use as an experienced vim user. I'd love to have a mode that just unlocks all the navigation keys immediately. That would allow users to fly through the early levels, and then get slowed down by the first thing they don't know.

I found it particularly clever how the game forces you to use better navigation, by allowing you to skip over rocks that way.

Also, teaching capital HJKL early on seems like a good way to make it through the maze more easily; hitting the same key repeatedly (or rather, leaning on it until hitting a wall) seems like a bad habit to teach.

jlongster 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is great! I've been meaning to learn the basic VIM keybindings so I can start using evil-mode in Emacs:


tomkin 7 days ago 1 reply      
Wow. This is absolutely genius. You want to be more productive with vim, but this is generally due to the fact that you have little time as it is. Learning vim hasn't always been in the best interests of my current task. Then there is this game. Brilliant.
s00pcan 7 days ago 2 replies      
Couldn't move at first, then I realized I had to disable the vimperator plugin. Cool game though!
lell 7 days ago 2 replies      
Nice! I got bored before I finished the first level, but not before I was trying to use stuff like ^,$ and ctrl+f, ctrl+b, 5l to get to the end of the tunnels faster and those didn't work. Is more advanced editing unlocked in later levels? or is this just for getting off the arrow keys? I can imagine some cool things in a more advanced vim game like * for teleporting between words, mm to drop a bookmark, :badd to get to a new level ...
philluminati 7 days ago 2 replies      
I've gotten to the end of the level. Then I remembered that in the top corner of the Maze is another treasure chest. I go back there to the !! marks and type b but cannot enter that area.

The message reads "Remember: these are not words"... so how do I get in there? Can that part of the game not be solved?

I've tried Shift-B, ^ etc. Is anyone else able to get into there?

pyriku 7 days ago 1 reply      
They could do something like this one for Emacs. Wait, it already exists: it's called Guitar Hero.
ehsanu1 6 days ago 0 replies      
I've had this idea forever, but wanted to make it work in the as a terminal-based application. Being a noob a systems programming, I got stuck at getting a PTY working in C that would properly forward the escape sequences from vim to the player's terminal.

I wanted to just create a program that was simply a layer between the terminal and vim, so all the power of vim was automatically available. The game was going to involve manipulating the environment (made of text) to different goals. I had all sorts of minigames in my head. Unfortunately, way too ambitious, and I never even properly started it. This makes me really want to though, if only I had more time..

Produce 7 days ago 2 replies      
Incredibly slow here. Ubuntu 11.04, FireFox 11, intel graphics, 4GB RAM, Core 2 Duo E7300.
overshard 7 days ago 0 replies      
I already know VIM/use it on a daily basis and I found this fun and interseting.
com2kid 7 days ago 1 reply      
It keeps crashing Firefox. I am sort of wondering what in the world it is doing to manage to kill both Firefox and Chrome!

Aside from that, it was not immediately obvious what W and B did, though a few seconds of playing around and it made sense. (That is about how far I got before it died the second time)

jentulman 7 days ago 1 reply      
I really like this, and if the price isn't too bad I'll pay to keep going as I've learn't more from this than when I've sat down to try to 'learn to do VIM'.
I guess there's only so much you can cover in this sort of game format (I'm doubting there will be a .vimrc level), but if it goes far enough to teach me to take all the lag out of navigating and editing, I'll be a happy bunny.
ominous 7 days ago 1 reply      
Thank you for this. I have been putting off learning vim for way too long. Nano does its job fine :P

However, I can't input my email.. it has more than 30 chars. As per source:

<li><input id="email" name="email" maxlength="30" type="text" placeholder="Email Address" /></li>

tibbon 7 days ago 3 replies      
Chrome 19.0.1084.30 beta on OS X Lion is seeing nothing past the first screen for me. I hear sounds, but its a black box otherwise.
readme 7 days ago 3 replies      
After finishing the maze there is a roadblock at the bottom of the screen after talking to the girl who tells me about what happens if I step into water and there is no column above me... Is there a game beyond there?
lucian1900 7 days ago 0 replies      
Very slow on my Firefox 11, Ubuntu 11.10, fglrx
orta 7 days ago 0 replies      
works great for me! Safari 5 Mountain Lion

The email address box however didn't show my email as I typed it in

heydonovan 6 days ago 0 replies      
Just wanted to express my gratitude for creating such a game. It was a little saddening when I completed it though, as I really wanted to play more of it. Good job! I'm really looking forward to playing more levels. Do you have any plans for allowing others to contribute to level design or game mechanics?
farico 7 days ago 0 replies      
has a bug with option "start searching when I start" enabled on firefox, clicking cursor keys makes firefox open up quick search and the game becomes unplayable unless you keep clicking escape after every other button click.

The game looks fine! I already see how my kids will learn vim :)

PedroDiogo_ 7 days ago 0 replies      
Great little game! I never imagined a game would be so effective to get you to learn hjkl, but makes sense, most people learn wasd by playing games too.

I'm using a Macbook Air with Mac OS X Lion and Google Chrome and the gameplay is very smooth.

talos 7 days ago 1 reply      
crashed ("oh snap") in maze just a few seconds in, chrome 18.0.1025.163, mac os x 10.7.3
dan_b 7 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool - got an SMTP error when I tried to sign up though. :(
donniezazen 6 days ago 1 reply      
I am learning VIM. Do you exclusively use VIM for both simple text editing and programming?
awef 6 days ago 0 replies      
I thought of this a few months back, glad to see it being done in such a polished manner! Looking forward to play more levels.
connor 7 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty cool, just that sad smtp error at the end.
lwm 7 days ago 1 reply      
Fantastic! This game had me laughing instantly...gaining a proficiency in 'hjkl' via a crazy web browser game is a great idea!
jMyles 7 days ago 0 replies      
Are the two NPC's at the very beginning supposed to say nothing? I see a blank speech bubble when I walk to them.
veyron 7 days ago 0 replies      
I wish this worked on iPad ...
Jimbotron 7 days ago 0 replies      
Was silky smooth for me on a Mac Core 2 Duo & Chrome. Nice game and looking forward to more levels!
GGNH 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is exactly what I need as a beginning front end developer. Thanks so much guys, this rocks.
beastman82 7 days ago 1 reply      
My only recommendation to learn vim is vim tutor. Slightly tedious, but fast and effective.
altryne 6 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome game! @doronlinder you should really put a "retweet" button there asap!
daniel_sim 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is excellent! I really feel some of this sticking in my memory for once. Thanks.
ing33k 7 days ago 0 replies      
awesome, I am learning vim since a week and this is definitely very useful.
jachwe 7 days ago 0 replies      
had a lot of fun until it crashes the chrome tab. (like everytime)
54mf 7 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. I've been aching to learn Vim for years, struggling through the rare occasions I have to use it while SSHing in to a machine. I've picked up more in 5 minutes with this game then I have in all that time. Very impressive!
gshakir 7 days ago 0 replies      
It crashed chrome!!..:)
lotusblues 6 days ago 0 replies      
great! i can move around with h, j, k, l ..... so what now? nothing happens then i time out and get sent back to little person blocking the bridge. is it my browser, ie firefox?
nitinmartolia 7 days ago 1 reply      
works very slow in firefox .. had to play in chrome.
randall 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome!
fnaticshank 7 days ago 0 replies      
Congratulations !
it was a very cool game.. hope we see the next levels soon and I also hope you'd open all the game levels even to unregistered users later. :D
abbyroad9191 7 days ago 1 reply      
doesnt work on my iphone 4. is this the future of cross browser compatibility?

it's an interesting project none the less.

tubbo 7 days ago 0 replies      
i wanna use vim less now :D
mgogov 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is soooooo cool (:
giis 7 days ago 0 replies      
cool :P I really liked it.
stoolpigeon 7 days ago 0 replies      
very cool
toomanysecrets 7 days ago 1 reply      
I don't use hjkl to move around in vim. At this point it's counter intuitive. Lame
meglory 7 days ago 0 replies      
why the site isn't responding?
bejar37 7 days ago 0 replies      
ColinWright 7 days ago 2 replies      
Nothing works for me - what's the minimum browser/OS requirement?
Instagram bhorowitz.com
458 points by dwynings  8 days ago   143 comments top 21
cletus 7 days ago  replies      
Congratulations on the investment. The return is nothing short of spectacular. It's a truly excellent example of execution and timing.

But the point that keeps resurfacing in my mind is SpaceX. SpaceX, from nothing, created a low-earth orbit delivery system that is revolutionizing satellite launches and (soon) the cost of getting men into space... for less than the price that a bunch of people can send photos to each other with cheesy filters [1].

It would be difficult to overstate the impact Elon Musk has had, is having and will have on humanity (and no this isn't hyperbole) through SpaceX (and maybe even Tesla). And it didn't even require, relate to or is connected with some bullshit social network.

I'm also reminded of Steve Yegge's OSCON talk [2] from some months back. The computer power we have available now is stunning. used for the right purposes it could fundamentally change humanity for the good, whether that be in bioinformatics or whatever, is hard to overstate.

Yet we're using all this power and the brightest minds on the planet... to send cat pictures. It's actually reached the point that when I get unsolicited recruitment email or read about some new startup on HN that I tune out as soon as I see the word "social".

There's something astoundingly depressing about all this.

EDIt: I should add that my issue isn't that the founders and investors sought wealth. I don't begrudge them that at all. Not by any means am I anti-capitalist. Bill Gates, as one example, is doing huge amounts of good with his accrued wealth.

The issue is more on what society values.

[1]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3857904

[2]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKmQW_Nkfk8

andrewfelix 8 days ago  replies      
There is something wrong with a world that allows an investment of $250,000 to turn into $78,000,000 in such a short period.

Now before you downvote me, I'm not suggesting what these guys did was wrong, or that FB's money is dirty, or even that anyone directly suffered as a result of this transaction.

But capital is like a liquid, it ebbs and flows. The fact that so much of it can flow in such a small amount of time toward such a small group of people bothers me. Especially when you consider the impact that investment could have made in other places.

Ok now you can downvote me.

Mystalic 8 days ago 0 replies      
Andreessen Horowitz did the only ethical and logical thing it could do. It was in a tough spot, so it did the thing that wouldn't violate its implicit agreements with Kevin and Dalton.

I don't think either side is complaining, and I doubt Andreessen's LPs are either.

Can we put this matter to bed now?

yabbadabbadoo 8 days ago 1 reply      
funding Kevin to compete with Dalton would be a violation of the original implicit commitment we made to Dalton"to not fund competitors to PicPlz.

This is very interesting. Is this common practice among VCs? PG has said that they don't reject YC aspirants simply because they're building something that competes directly with another YC company: The way we deal with it is that when two startups are working on related stuff, we don't talk to one about what the other's doing.[1]

For some reason, I assumed this practice extended to VCs as well.

[1] http://ycombinator.com/faq.html

earbitscom 8 days ago 0 replies      
All I know is this...this is the kind of support I want from the people I work with. A16Z consistently show me they're the kind of people I want to be working with.
waterlesscloud 7 days ago 1 reply      
A couple of things I thought about while reading this, unrelated to the ethics...

1- If he's able to assign a precise value to the investment outcome, that implies that Facebook assigned an explicit value to their stock involved in the transaction. I don't know if that had to be the case or not, maybe it did. But what it makes me curious about is...what valuation did they use? The current second market valuation? Something else? The $100 billion bandied about isn't an official valuation is it?

2- What Facebook bought was an open social graph, as opposed to their current private one. Now that makes a lot of sense as something worth a lot of money, specifically to Facebook that otherwise has no way to make their private graph public, at least not in any way that doesn't piss off their users. Of course, now they have some verrrrrry tricky waters to navigate.

staunch 8 days ago 3 replies      
If I was Dalton (PicPlz) I would have been fine with my investor exercising their pro-rata rights in another investment, even it had become competitive. It's not ideal, but I don't think it's unethical. I'd be much more concerned about them sharing information, so there would have be a discussion about that.
kjhughes 7 days ago 1 reply      
So our choices were: a) invest in Dalton b) invest in neither or c) invest in Kevin and violate our commitment to Dalton.

I would have thought that suggesting that Dalton and Kevin join forces would have been one of the options.

mhartl 7 days ago 0 replies      
Andreessen Horowitz continues to show that they are among the classiest investment firms in the business, as well as being one of the best. Bravo.
benihana 8 days ago 0 replies      
So when faced with a sticky situation, he does what he thinks is ethically right, then makes $78,000,000 (with six zeros). If someone can't step back and evaluate that situation for what it is, they have a serious issue with perspective.
sakopov 7 days ago 2 replies      
Christ, 78 mil for an app that shares pictures. I must be the only one thinking this is money which could be used more wisely developing better medical equipment and generally solving real engineering problems.
sethbannon 7 days ago 1 reply      
Ethical and transparent -- two phenomenal qualities in a VC.
kposehn 8 days ago 0 replies      
What else is there to say now? He makes it very clear, shows how they value and respect both entrepreneurs and sets the record straight.

Very well done.

dantiberian 8 days ago 0 replies      
Is this standard of ethics amongst VC firms the exception or the rule? A lot of news and comments paint VC firms in a bad light but this story seems to suggest that strong ethics are still alive and well.
nazgulnarsil 7 days ago 0 replies      
all of the anger over instagram seems to come from zero-sum thinking. I liked one of the touches of David Brin's novel Sundiver, where people who think in terms of zero or negative sum games are deemed insane.
EGreg 7 days ago 0 replies      
I am really thrilled to read something like this from the venture capital community :)
ricardonunez 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think it was a great investment and great for them for the transparency. For those that criticize how much money was in so short period of time. You are probably in the wrong industry. I'm sure nobody feel bad for when somebody else do a bad investment. Thinks can go in both ways.
2pasc 7 days ago 1 reply      
That means that our friend Jack Dorsey also pocketed another 78M - along with Adam D'angelo? When most people will never strike 10M in their entrepreneurial/investment career, these guys have pulled three already... That's really impressive.
DanI-S 7 days ago 0 replies      
Imagine if other industries were this transparent.
villagefool 7 days ago 1 reply      
Can someone please explain what "...Kevin came to it organically based on the Burbn data" means?
hooande 7 days ago 3 replies      
This deal absolutely stinks. It sure seems like someone said, "Hey Facebook, you just got paid. Why don't you buy instagram for an amount of money that we made up so that my buddies and I can get even richer?" And they made 78 million dollars behind that.

1. If people can make up money, then it lowers the value of money for everyone.

2. If people can make up money, then it destroys any semblance of fairness in the system. Why are we working every day when some people can just invent tens of millions of dollars for themselves?

This isn't how markets are supposed to work. An asset isn't worth one billion dollars just because someone you know has a billion dollars to spend. The last thing I expected to see was a blog post bragging about it.

How I Tricked Myself Into Being Awesome japhr.blogspot.com
443 points by plinkplonk  4 days ago   114 comments top 29
ozataman 4 days ago 6 replies      
I applaud the author for his tenacity. There is no doubt that kind of discipline produces results, both in terms of work product and personal advancement.

However, I have serious doubts about the merits of writing a book about a subject intricacies and philosophy of which you have not yet had the chance to distill through the lens of experience.

The method may, perhaps, work for simple recipes, how tos and other procedural knowledge. I really don't think it would work for anything in or above the intermediate range of content on any meaningful, commonly deep topic.

Just imagine whether the "Mythical Man Month", "Code Complete" or "Innovator's Dilemma" could have been written with this kind of approach.

I don't know about others but when I read a book, I sometimes realize the presence of an unavoidable slight bias towards believing the author and respecting his conclusions, that is unless I am already deeply knowledgeable about the subject and have my own strong opinions. It better be the case that the author is in fact trustworthy on the subject.

anthony_franco 4 days ago  replies      
Jerry Seinfeld used this exact technique to become a great comic. As told by software developer Brad Isaac when he asked Jerry for career advice[0]:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."

"Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis.

[0] http://lifehacker.com/281626/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-se...

oskarth 4 days ago 3 replies      
This is a great way of working. I just wonder if the books are:

(a) any good?

(b) selling?

There's a huge difference between writing a good book and sticking a couple of notes together. Anyone read the books in question?

EDIT: I didn't see that one of the books was published - search on Amazon gave nothing and all I could find was a buy-my-book landing page. Sorry about that.

jwwest 4 days ago 0 replies      
Theres a lot of 'sayers' in the world: armchair quarterbacks, pundits, etc, but not enough 'doers'. There will always be a glut of consumers and a small fraction of producers. Not even our "consumer generated media" age of twitterbooks and instafaces has stopped this. Although it has raised the amount of snark and uneducated criticism.

So if you move your hand to write three sentences about Django, you're already in the 2% (totally made up) of producers on the internet. Hell, if you blog consistently for a month straight you're in the top .5% of bloggers.

The fact is doing something, anything, is worthy of some admiration. People that would try to detract from your work are often the 98% of never-have-beens.

bdunn 4 days ago 1 reply      
Chris - congrats man. I've been silently stalking your "chain", and also came across your posts frequently when I was writing Planscope and was frantically Googling for Backbone help.

The thing I like best is that you now have a time capsule for your professional life. You can look back and see exactly where you came from and where you went, which is more than most of us can say. I have a hard time remembering what I was doing a month ago!

Keep it up, and I look forward to seeing what technology or library you tackle next!

tangue 4 days ago 2 replies      
Though I respect the process and the efforts behind this, "How to write books with a superficial understanding of what you're talking about" would be more appropriate.
ctdonath 4 days ago 1 reply      
Someone else with a similar attitude I find inspiring: Les Stroud. He'd go to some random remote wilderness location, take a few video cameras and nothing else, and record himself surviving for a week. Result: Survivorman, a hit TV show going into its fourth season, with at least 3 spinoff shows.

A more mundane example: my brother took a photograph every day for a year. Not a big deal, no particular subjects or goals, but getting that one picture a day was paramount. With some editing & on-demand publishing, result was a very nice coffee-table book of intriguing eclectic photos.

Same idea. Pick a topic, dive in, write/record for an audience, do it with passion and consistency and detail, the result is awesomeness. The more you strive the awesomer you get.

personlurking 4 days ago 0 replies      
I spent many years doing something similar, blogging about what I had just learned (no posing of questions, though). I posted once or twice a day in two blogs and what I learned wasn't so much via the content as it was via the research and curation skills I taught myself. To me, research is all about staying committed to the information I am looking for, yet being flexible in my approach (something I learned growing up with a computer, ie, a problem needs solving so I look at all the ways to solve it).

Still get close to 20K pageviews/month in the main blog even though I barely post anymore, which is cool, and the result is the same as your blogging and books...sharing what you learn with others.

Now I'm taking on a new subject/blog. I will try to use your method. Thanks!

courtewing 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'd say this in the original article's comments, but apparently it does not allow anonymous comments:

I found this article to be really inspiring. I guess I can see how some people may think Chris is just stroking his own ego, but I did not read it that way at all. First and foremost, I took from this article that a key to feeling great about yourself and your accomplishments is to actually do stuff, all the time. It's a simple concept that I'm sure we're all aware of, but this article really hit it home for me.

As a direct result of this article, I am inspired to do stuff, even if that stuff is considerably less awesome than what Chris accomplished last year.

I start with a personal response via blog post: http://epixa.com/2012/04/on-inspiration-chains-and-being-awe...

Lewton 4 days ago 0 replies      
The idea behind this is roughly the same reason that I had a much harder time creating a habit of running 3 days a week, than I had creating a habit of running 6 days a week. If you start doing something daily, the friction to get started on the task is almost completely gone
Nitramp 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder what's the point in writing a book about Dart, where the language, environment, toolchain, compiler(s), and community are still very, very unstable.

At best, it could be an intro saying "this is what they're trying to do"; but you can also cover that in a blog post, right?

ilaksh 3 days ago 0 replies      
Some people didn't get one main aspect of his point which is the 'tricking' part where he publicly committed himself to his daily work output goal.

I guess two problems with that are A) I am unfortunately not that "gullible" as far as believing that there will really be dire consequences if I don't produce a certain amount and B) as far as I know there is no public for me who would care if I suddenly declared that I was going to produce one new feature every day no matter what or whatever. I have no twitter followers and no one ever really read my blogs and generally posts on sites like reddit are autobanned. The closest I could do would be to go on Facebook and almost everyone on there is family. They would probably react the way they usually do to my Facebook posts which is "wow, I forgot that guy was on Facebook? He is so weird" with an addition of "who cares".

Also, its easier to write one article a day than it is to say push a major feature per day. Also it is easier to measure and break off writing goals than software goals.

I don't have a problem doing work every day, but I do feel like some days are vastly more productive than others. Not sure what goal I could have per day other than X amount of hours of actual work.

marcamillion 4 days ago 2 replies      
slow clap

This is pretty awesome. The best way to ensure that you truly understand something, is to attempt teaching it.

This is a technique I am starting to use in my quest to be more awesome too...doubt I will write a book, but you never know.

jpastika 4 days ago 0 replies      
Congratulations, you are awesome! Not only did you accomplish your goal, but you have tangible evidence of your achievement. Your name is on the cover of three books, and no one can ever take that away. So what now? Does the bar get raised. Are you saying to yourself "Wow, I can't believe I did that, what else can I do?" The difference between success and failure is ambition. You sir have tapped into your inner ambition. Harness it, focus it and you are unstoppable. You've inspired me. Thank you!
guynamedloren 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is fantastic. Another method to "tricking yourself into being awesome" (also called learning) is to jump right in and start working on a project. Like the author, you'll come up with loads of questions that need answering, and if your project is going to be successful, those questions must be answered. Otherwise your project/startup will die.

Personal experience: this is exactly how I learned Ruby on Rails as a non-programmer. I had an idea for a project, so I tried reading books and tutorials for months. Nothing stuck. It just didn't make sense. I couldn't translate the words I was reading into code. So I said "screw it" and started hacking away at my project, with absolutely no idea what I was doing. Progress was slow obstacles were rampant, but it turns out those obstacles are easy to overcome with stack traces and google/stackoverflow!

epaga 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very inspiring stuff. A friend of mine once told himself he'd never be stumped by the same question twice and held himself to it. It's amazing what simple habits can do if you give them time.
andyouthink 4 days ago 1 reply      
I loved this story! The only parts that need a little work were: 1. His background, because he didn't just go from zero to book writer, 2. How in the heck Nick Gauthier decided to co-write with him on a topic Chris previously knew nothing about, 3. Usually "I'm awesome!" is just asking for a humility check... but I think that the point is that you can be awesome.
regularfry 4 days ago 1 reply      
This doesn't work for me. I've tried several times, but I just can't make it stick.
sampsonjs 4 days ago 0 replies      
Suggested title for all self help submissions to Haxor News: "How I discovered the one and only one secret to being incredibly awesome at everything".
sparknlaunch12 4 days ago 0 replies      
Super story!

This is exactly why we started writing a blog. It has kept is learning and recording new information everyday.

Pretty impressive to see the blog author publishing books on topics he knew nothing about a year ago.

bking 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a wonderful story about how impressive your willpower is. Everyone has the desire to be great, and most people can see the rough path they must take. But, the hardest part for everyone is keeping the willpower to continually push themselves to work towards that goal every day.

I am curious as to how you kept yourself motivated over the past 366 days.

raheemm 4 days ago 0 replies      
hey man... I'm going to try this out.
fforw 3 days ago 0 replies      
Sorry, but an awesome programmer does not only talk about programming, he does it.
tersiag 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm defiantly going to try this
free 4 days ago 0 replies      
Someone here submitted site for the same thing. http://sein-cal.co.cc/

What I have done is taken a printout of the same and marked on it everyday.

rgonzalez 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very impressive self-commitment.
davemel37 4 days ago 0 replies      
My takeaway, "Just Write. Go and Create Content. Stay Committed and you will surprise yourself at what you can accomplish."

The only thing I take issue with is the comment that the author has more than quiting smoking to show for it, he has 3 books.

as a former smoker, who hasnt smoked in 20 months, I can assure you that the struggle never ends, whereas once the book is finished, you can move to the next project.

I still rely on my 20 month chain once in a while to remind myself that I can do and continue doing the impossible... but the battle to quit smoking, is a constant one, and pays off for the rest of your life... the battle to write a few books is hardly comparable.

makeshifter 4 days ago 5 replies      
I think you're patting yourself on the back too much.

I was reading about a woman in Cambodia who escaped from torture and near death with her two children and survived in the jungle for 3 years. They never stayed in the same place two days in a row and ate nothing but roots and bugs.

Despite this mother's best efforts, her youngest child starved to death and died in her arms.

A few years later, she founded a safehouse for depressed women who had been raped and tortured like her.

Now SHE is an awesome person and I respect her a lot more.

mickeyben 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm really surprised nobody said it yet. But indeed, you are awesome.
We work a 4-day week and just raised $4.75m ryanleecarson.tumblr.com
444 points by ryancarson  6 days ago   179 comments top 44
edw519 6 days ago  replies      
Nice post. Proactive work. Thinking outside the box. Getting things done. Very encouraging. Sounds like a place where I would want to work.

Just one major nit...

(This is directed not only to OP, but to everyone in our industry.)

Raising funding != success.

As inspiring as this post was, it would have been so much better with a title like:

"We work a 4-day week and just satisfied 10,000 new customers."


"We work a 4-day week and just realized $10m new profit."

Great work, guys. But please don't allow this "success" to let you take your focus away from the real metrics. I assume you already know this, but every once in a while, it still nice to say that which should go without saying.

adrianhoward 6 days ago 3 replies      
There is something deeply broken about equating hours to productivity.

It's been my experience that folk are very good at deceiving themselves about their productivity (myself included :-)

One team I worked with had a serious problem with overtime. They were putting in stupid hours and it was showing in the quality of work going out. So I ran an experiment where we all agreed to work "normal" hours for six weeks.

I was "only" working about 45 hours a week at this point, when other people on the team were regularly working 50-60. I was relatively young, didn't have any family pressure, enjoyed my work and felt very productive doing those hours. I wasn't one of the people with a "problem" as I saw it. We were running the experiment for the other folk on the team.

In the experiment we dropped to a 40 hours week (6 hours coding per day, 2 hours for breaks, meetings & lunch). After a couple of weeks adjustment my productivity went way up. I also felt a lot better in myself - generally sharper and more on the ball.

People seem to have quite a wide bad of "this feels okay" that subsumes the much narrower "I'm performing at my best".

Also people don't jump from a 35 hour week to 60 hours a week. It creeps up a few minutes at a time as pressure increases on the team. People have enough time to adjust to it being "normal" and don't notice the drop in productivity that goes with it.

Currently I work roughly 25-30 hours a week and am just as productive by all metrics that I have available to me as when I worked 40-50.

I would strongly urge people to experiment. Pick some metrics, try working shorter hours for a month, see what happens.

(The only caveat I would add is that with folks doing silly hours - anything over 50 I would say - there is often a couple of weeks where things go to hell as the body adjusts. On the team from the story practically everybody caught a bug and felt crap for the first week or so before productivity rose again).

pclark 6 days ago 5 replies      
If I were an investor and someone said to me "We are only going to work 4 days a week since we can do 5 days work in 4." I'd challenge with "so why don't you do 6 days work in 5 days?"

I am mostly playing devils advocate: I think having a 4 day work week is a fantastic recruitment tool. I do wonder though if a young startup raising it's seed financing said "oh, we only work 4 days a week" an investor may raise eyebrows. Regardless, this is a fantastic example of Ryan Carsons' culture resonating throughout the company.

moconnor 6 days ago 1 reply      
I spent two 12 month periods working exactly 17 hours a week (German paternity leave is incredibly progressive).

Both times, it worked. When I tried tracking various arbitrary metrics of effectiveness (bugs fixed, commits made, files touched etc.) I found no real difference to working full-time.

I also spent one month working one day a week. During that month my effectiveness also stayed roughly constant, although I sacrificed almost everything that wasn't communication or coding for that month.

My focus during the working times was much higher. I never wasted time writing HN comments when I only had 4 hours to get my work done.

It was also more stressful than working full-time. Everyone else in the company still spent 35 hours a week generating email and commit traffic, which meant I felt I was always playing catch-up with that aspect.

I'd be interested to see what it's like when everyone in the company works a 4 day week.

jaggederest 6 days ago 3 replies      
That's cute, but why do I have to be in the office? If you're discarding useless traditions, start with that one. It leads to wonderful things like: flexible hours, goal-based performance rather than time-based performance, and other nifty things like not having to move across the country to change jobs.

Also, why 9-6? Is that a magic number? What about 10 to 5? Is that worse substantially? I doubt it. There's another 22% of your time with your kids back.

I'm pretty sure that we're going to look back at office buildings and the idea of commutes in general as being a huge waste of time.

Unless you're physically manipulating things, there's no reason for it, and it wastes an immense amount of society's resources maintaining millions of square feet of office space. Think of the number of people you could house in the average office building.

fascinated 6 days ago 3 replies      
Thanks for trolling, Ryan.

It's easy to think this is impressive, but the reader forgets about the number of years Ryan has worked on creating businesses. He has made awesome stuff, but all that time can't be ignored. The suggestion that others can easily do it too if only they were less "messed up/caught up in old manufacturing ways", is some smug shit.

These crazy hard-working Americans are trying to figure out their first startup, with very limited resources. It's a different game, and they are in a different place in the food chain.

I am sure if they too have sold multiple companies and worked in the industry for 10+ (?) years, they too would adopt all kinds of relaxed ways of working and running firms. I agree that if they still work long hours after that, it is misguided as you point out.

But lets not get carried away with how the 1% works. How many days a week did you work on your first company?

hkarthik 6 days ago 2 replies      
They have revenue, but at just $3MM in revenue, it still looks like they are operating at a loss.

Doing some quick calcs:
$3MM Revenue / 34 employees = $88,235 per employee.

In most major US cities, that wouldn't even cover the base salary of an skilled employee. Not to mention benefits, payroll taxes, etc. Add this to all the equipment costs, office rental space, etc. and they must be operating at a loss.

I've heard that most VCs/Angels consider a company profitable only if they're making an average of $200K/year per employee.

Under these circumstances, it's clear why they took funding because it provides some breathing room for another year or so till they reach true profitability.

Even so, it's still commendable that they're able to hold on to their ideals of a 4-day workweek given their current circumstances.

PeterMcCanney 6 days ago 2 replies      
The first startup I worked for was cash poor and I agreed to lower wages in return for a 4 day week. Bear in mind that this was in Ireland in the late 1990's and there was never any mention of shares etc. There was however a very competitive market for anyone who could turn on a computer.

At the time three other companies wanted me to work for them doing web design & development. And each of them had the 60hr a week, no overtime attitude that they were emulating from American companies. However they were not emulating the benefits of these American companies, at no point was a shareholding or options mentioned.

The money was good but I don't think i would have had the time to spend it.

So the smallest company offered me less money but agreed to four days a week. And I agreed. The 2 years I spent represents one of the most productive periods in my working life.

It also gave me time to develop my own ideas on the side while gaining great start-up experience.

Since then I've worked for other companies and myself sometimes pulling 80-100 hours a week. And after a couple of prolonged periods of this I Burned out.

Twice in the past decade.

No amount of cash, shares or experience was worth being burned out.

Now-a-days I do about 4-4.5 days a week, on a contract basis and once again I'm more productive and creative than I have been in 15 years.

its_so_on 6 days ago 2 replies      
"I get to spend 20% more time with my kids then almost all other dads. TWENTY percent. It's insane. For those on the Team without kids, they get to spend this extra 20% on their hobbies or loved ones."

The reason the author SHOUTS the TWENTY percent is that it's actually 50%! (3 days off versus two). The only thing that's 20% is the number of your old days that you now don't work. (You also used to work 25% more days than now).

_delirium 6 days ago 4 replies      
Interesting, I've heard of 4-day weeks at some large companies, but they're usually 4x 10-hr days, so same total amount of work, just a way of reducing time wasted commuting. Perhaps more common is alternating 5/4-day weeks of 9-hour days (every other Friday off). Making it 4-day weeks of regular-length days is more of a real change.
Produce 6 days ago 0 replies      
I've also been working a 4-day week this year and it's done me a lot of good. Gone are the days when I sat in the office and wanted nothing more than to run out and never come back. Now, there's plenty of time to rest and programming is fun again. I would recommend this to anyone.

If you're wondering how to get a job like that, here's what I did. Apply for job adverts intended for a rank lower than you're currently at. If you have senior level experience, apply for mid-level positions and say that you can do the same amount of work in less time. Explain that you bring more value, pound for pound, than a less experienced developer.

TamDenholm 6 days ago 2 replies      
Does anyone else wonder why if you're profitable on a $3MM a year revenue with 34 staff you're off raising money?

Ryan Carson is a very well seasoned businessman which i assume is more than financially capable of putting money into a business and clearly has what you'd easily define as a successful business, to me it seems like theres some kind of weakness somewhere if based on those very advantageous circumstances you need to go out and raise money.

meterplech 6 days ago 2 replies      
I think these posts are something like productivity porn for life hackers or 4 hour work week people.

I definitely agree that 4 truly productive focused days of works beats 5 lackluster uncreative and unfocused days and I applaud creative work/life balance ideas. But, I think 5 truly productive focused days of works beats 4. As PG says, if you think of a startup as a chance to compress your whole working life to just a few years, you can probably attain that prolonged productivity at least for a few years. Yes, worry about burnout, give yourself time, etc... But one of the things startups do to beat big companies is outproduce them.

Obviously for lifestyle businesses and probably a variety of industries this may not apply. YMMV

andrewingram 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'd prefer to take Monday off than Friday. Going to work places me conveniently in the middle of the city, perfectly placed for some post-work socialising.

The problem with taking Friday off is that it would make my social life incompatible with the people who are aren't. I'd be off doing my weekend things whilst everyone else would be hitting the bars and clubs. Having Monday off would let me finally make better use of my Sundays, and losing Monday night isn't a big deal because it's not normally a big night anyway.

jack7890 6 days ago 1 reply      
How many days per week did you work on your first company, before you were internet famous?
nulluk 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think this article hits the nail on the head regarding 4 day weeks.

I currently work a 4 day week (4x10 hour days) allowing a whole extra day to focus on external activities and interests that i dont get to fully peruse at work due to contraints and/or conflict of interest.

It's such a big change in life style and as Ryan mentioned in the article it fosters such good energy and a totally refreshed feel come a monday morning.

And again just like the employee mentioned in the article it's such a benefit that I wouldn't even consider a move in companies unless it was matched like for like (or better).

amix 6 days ago 1 reply      
I think this sounds great for people with families. But being 26 without kids this does not really appeal to me. Without girlfriend I would probably work 6 days pr. week as I think one day relaxing is sufficient, especially if you don't work too many hours pr. day and exercise regularly (like 3 times a week).
mbesto 6 days ago 1 reply      
Ryan, fellow American in the UK here...

I totally agree with this mentality, but unfortunately it doesn't work for everyone's business model. Furthermore, I would be willing to bet that a majority of my time beyond the 4-day week I currently is the extra time I spend having to deal with inadequate colleagues (whether they be clients or co-workers).

This model works if you have a group of very smart and talented individuals. Finding this 'zen' is extremely difficult...not because it doesn't take hard work, but rather there is a small dosage of luck around it. It also doesn't scale very well, as communication overhead begins to seep into that additional 'hour' of work.

That being said, work-life balance is much more tolerable in Europe/UK, and people are generally more productive here. The US is a purely service-based model now, where soft skills (which are largely time-unmanageable) are king.

Congrats on the funding. You must be chuffed :)

zobzu 6 days ago 0 replies      
I find it interesting that everyone brings up working less / earning more as necessary because they've kids.

As if, when you have no kids, you've obviously to work more and earn less.

In general, you have no kids because you realized that you wouldn't have enough money for them to get everything they need / it's too risky.

And that doesn't mean you don't work as well. In general it means you've taken more morally adequate decisions and less financially adequate decisions in your life.

newobj 6 days ago 0 replies      
Ryan, do you have any problems with the business being located in Florida? In terms of attracting talent, even in light of a 4 day work week?
JohnnyFlash 6 days ago 2 replies      
We had a post the other day about how important a name is. Here is another example of the name not being important. I mean what has "team treehouse" got to do with learning or web development?

To the article I am glad to see them get funding. I use the service and think its great.

I think a 4 day work week can definitely work, especially with motivation and guarding against burn out. Main issue is that the rest of the world works 5 days a week which in many sectors can create problems.

mrbgty 6 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting that they point out a 9-6 hour work day the other 4 days. If you believe in being flexible and not forcing employees to work so much then why enforce 9-6 on the other 4 days?
driverdan 6 days ago 0 replies      
Why not 5 day weeks with shorter days? I much prefer shorter work days to working fewer days. It gives you a lot more flexibility. You feel less burned out / tired on days you work. You can get more done in the morning or night or sleep in later.
jasonwilk 5 days ago 0 replies      
We do the same thing at 140Fire. 4 days in the office, 1 day at home. There is just not enough time for people to get things done on Saturday and Sunday, nor should they have to spend their 2 days off trying to accomplish personal tasks. Friday is the perfect day to take for completing personal things. It also makes them work harder and more efficient for the 4 days in the office.
joedev 6 days ago 0 replies      

How did you convince your VCs that it's okay to work 4 day work weeks when the Valley famously continues to call for startups to work non-stop night and day?

sparknlaunch12 6 days ago 0 replies      
Ryan - Thanks for sharing. Wish more people would appreciate the work ethos you write about.

It is about working smarter and more efficiently. Diminishing costs are often forgotten. Working smarter also empowers your staff.

Now, where do I send my CV?

ssn 6 days ago 0 replies      
The piece doesn't answer the most important question -- how?

Side note: I wish there was a site like "The Setup" focused on the next phase -- "how do I work".

villagefool 6 days ago 0 replies      
You are profitable, and have a large base of users. So what is the funding for?
gawker 5 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for this post. I think it's really great that you pointed out that working 24/7 does not guarantee success but rather how well you use your time. 4-day work weeks can be just as effective as 5-day work weeks. At some point, everyone will suffer from the lack of sleep or because you're pigeon-holed into a particular environment, the lack of diversity in your environment might hamper your ability to think creatively.
Gormo 5 days ago 0 replies      
The 4-day week is a great idea, and can probably work well in most vertically-integrated businesses. Ironically, it's probably most suitable for manufacturing work, especially if you're building to stock and not to order.

But if you have a lot of external dependencies, and need to interface with suppliers and customers on a regular basis, a 4-day workweek can really into the amount of time you have available to do so.

robforman 6 days ago 0 replies      
"I get to spend 50% more time with my kids"

You've made a good trade. Time is one of the few things we can never get more of once its gone. And the short 10 years or so of prime time with young kids is especially unique. As almost any parent of grown kids will say, its gone before you know it.

mibbitier 6 days ago 1 reply      
"I get to spend 50% more time with my kids then almost all other dads (three days versus two). Fifty percent. It's insane."

Why not 'work' at home? I've worked at home for the last 5 or 6 years, and get to spend pretty much all my time with my kids. Now that's insane.

ValeriuWL 6 days ago 0 replies      
Actually, the society as a whole has already passed the point where people have to work 40 hours a week. It's the monetary system that doesn't allow us to enjoy our time here without working ourselves to death.
goatcurious 6 days ago 2 replies      
Did you consider taking Wednesday off instead of Friday? Breaks the workweek nicely. 2 days of high burst and relax.
zoltarSpeaks 6 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if Ryan started doing business with this culture in place or if it was something he adopted. I'd be interested to hear how he converted to a 4 day working week if it wasn't something that he started out doing. I think it's that initial changeover that would be the hardest thing to stick to.
paraschopra 6 days ago 1 reply      
How do you handle customer support that can arise any time (including weekends)?
andyouthink 6 days ago 2 replies      
First off, this is great. I applaud the fact that you can be profitable working fewer hours, and hopefully paying more than competitive salaries with good benefits.

But, that said, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned here that M-Th, 9-6 isn't a 4-day week, unless you include a required lunch hour, which most don't. So, since you didn't mention that, and I'm fairly sure that you work through lunch as many do including myself, then 9-6 M-Th is 36 hours, which is 4.5 "normal" 8-hour workdays.

I challenge you to be profitable working 32 hours a week (the equivalent of 4 8-hour workdays), preferably using flex time (so people can work those hours whenever they wish) and allowing telecommuting whenever the employee desires, and still be profitable.

EGreg 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, highly upvoted. And spot on :) Wish there were more companies like this in our field.
bizodo 6 days ago 0 replies      
No need to brag. Haha. We do something similar at bizodo where we work a little later on Thursday and then half day on Friday.
rralian 6 days ago 1 reply      
So... ummm... do you have any opening for a developer (vs a teaching developer, which you mention on your website)? :-)
mweil 6 days ago 1 reply      
What about the founders, especially at the beginning of the company's life? Do they have the same work week as employees?
89a 6 days ago 2 replies      
Could have done with a less smug profile pic
drivingsouth 6 days ago 0 replies      
If the implied correlation works why don't you work 2 days a week?
dblock 6 days ago 0 replies      
France has been working 4 days a week basically. All the fundamentals in France seem the same as Germany except the working hours, yet Germany is doing economically much better.

Switzerland has school 4 days a week. Its students are doing better in various subjects than schools in the rest of the world, but not better than Northern Europe which has much heavier school schedules.

The point is, the number of days you work just doesn't matter.

Apollo program source code ibiblio.org
429 points by rjshade  5 days ago   57 comments top 16
exDM69 5 days ago 4 replies      
Fun fact: the actual programs in the spacecraft were stored in core rope memory, an ancient memory technology made by (literally) weaving a fabric/rope, where the bits were physical rings of ferrite material.


angersock 5 days ago 1 reply      
C'mon, Notch, even Apollo supported interrupts:


"It is first appropriate to briefly describe the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC). This processor is a general purpose, sequential, digital machine. Its word length
is 16 bits including parity. The random access memory consists of 2048 words of
destructive, read-write memory, called erasable, and 36,864 words of non- destructive read-only memory called fixed memory. The memor'y cycle time (MCT) is slightly less than 12 microseconds, with two MCI's required to execute an add
and four MCTs to execute a multiply. As is typical of real-time control computers, this machine has a set of special input-output channels with which it controls the
spacecraft and observes the state of its environment. The interrupt structure consists of ten program interrupts with associated priorities, which are used for program
control transfers. In addition, twenty-six counter interrupts with associated priorities allow for input-output servicing. The instruction set consists of forty-two
regular instructions and nine involuntary instructions. Figure 1 indicates the number and diversity of systems with which the AGC interacts"

EDIT: Apparently, as of six or so hours ago, Notch has implemented cutting-edge 1970s technology ( http://dcpu.com/highnerd/dcpu16_1_3.txt ). :)

andrewcooke 5 days ago 3 replies      
hmmm. so the "bugger words" at the end of, for example, http://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/listings/Colossus249/MAIN.agc.... are checksums - see http://books.google.cl/books?id=3fKzL0HfJp4C&pg=PA232...

anyone know the etymology? is it just a shortened form of "debugger"? is "bugger" not common slang in american english? or is this a joke?

russss 5 days ago 0 replies      
Most of this is code is available in machine-readable form in the VirtualAGC Google Code repository:


stuff4ben 5 days ago 0 replies      
looking through some of those documents a couple things stand out to me:
1) learn your maths people if you want to do rocket science stuff
2) the amount and detail of the documentation they wrote back then is unreal
3) the simple webapps I write for big bucks at local megacorp pale in comparison to those programs that frickin landed people on the moon!
jscheel 5 days ago 0 replies      
Now that the shuttle program has ended, it would be nice to get the supposedly perfect code produced by the On-board Shuttle Group as well. I wonder if a FOIA request has been made.
skore 5 days ago 2 replies      
Just in time for being ported to DCPU-16.
roqetman 5 days ago 0 replies      
My favorite is the DSKY emulator: http://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/yaDSKY.html
I used to use it as my desktop clock for a while.
rbrtrbrt 5 days ago 2 replies      
Anyone have an idea why there's sourcecode for (apparently) a pinball machine in there?


It's in the code repository for multiple Apollo's

ptrckryn 5 days ago 0 replies      
A very interesting book, written by Frank O'Brien and published by Springer, The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation, is definitely worth the read. Fun fact: The unit weighed 70lbs (32kg).

The AGC has spawned a pretty active cult of hardware hackers that have built the AGC from scratch - including the core memory.

GnarfGnarf 5 days ago 3 replies      
With the power of open source, "many eyes make all bugs shallow".

Wouldn't be a hoot if someone ran this through a simulator, and discovered a bug that had eluded NASA?

alexbell 5 days ago 0 replies      
If this stuff interests you, I highly recommend David Mindell's Digital Apollo.
mykhal 5 days ago 0 replies      
.. what about voyager program? you could then actually test the live system )
glenntzke 5 days ago 0 replies      
Who's going to implement this in-browser in javascript?
pkmays 5 days ago 1 reply      
I bet a lot of folks under the Iron Curtain would have loved to have had access to these documents back in the day.
rurounijones 5 days ago 0 replies      
so who is going to be the first to convert this all to DCPU?
Ubuntu Releases 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin ubuntu.com
406 points by cobychapple  4 days ago   292 comments top 55
gitarr 4 days ago 4 replies      
I have been at a clients location with my Ubuntu 12.04 laptop today.

The "IT guy" there and all the other (non IT) office staff asked me what this is and how they could get it. I had to do a full 15 minutes of explanations about Ubuntu. You cannot imagine the looks after I told them it is free.

philjackson 4 days ago 3 replies      
I'm here to collect my OSS karma as I contributed a couple of the wallpapers to this one.
cryptolect 4 days ago 8 replies      
Ok, I've just tried my 12.04 / Unity laptop with my 22" monitor.

The thing is, I have my laptop on the left, and 22" on the right. So I want to set the Unity launcher to the right hand side of my main screen, the 22" display, so that it doesn't get in the way of scrolling to the laptop's screen.

Sounds simple right? Switching the launcher from left to right? Wrong. http://askubuntu.com/questions/123552/unity-launcher-on-righ...

In short, I'm advised to switch to a whole different desktop manager for that simple functionality. What a crock of shit.

I still like it for laptops, but this inflexibility ruins it for multi-displays. BRB, installing another desktop manager...

A few more links on the subject:




revorad 4 days ago  replies      
If you have any issues (in addition to the ones already mentioned by others here), please let me know.

If you're interested in buying Thinkpads with Linux pre-installed and fully tested, please sign up here - http://giniji.com/ubuntu_laptops.html


rufugee 4 days ago 6 replies      
I'm one of those weird folk who run three monitors, and even though 12.04 promised better 2+ monitor support through Unity 2D, I still find it lacking. Perhaps it's the way I have it configured, but I use two nvidia cards with xinerama, which means I'm forced to use Unity 2D (no compositing support). Unity 2D just isn't as stable or usable. I really, really hope they put more effort to fixing this in 12.10.
oconnore 4 days ago 1 reply      
As someone who has been using 12.04 + Unity on my primary work computer since Alpha with minimal issues, this is awesome! It works great! Download it!
nextparadigms 4 days ago 1 reply      
If Canonical is reading this, please put up a torrent link on the main page with both versions. Obviously your servers can't handle the load right now.
alexmuller 4 days ago 1 reply      
keithpeter 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to know how the 10.04 -> 12.04 upgrade goes in places that use the Long Term Support (LTS) Ubuntu releases as end user machines. The change in UI is quite radical if you have not worked thru' 11.04 and 11.10 6 monthly releases. It struck me that there may be people here who have access/work in organisations with large deployments.

I'd be interested in knowing about the training issues that arose and what action was taken, and how people like the new interface. Sort of a high volume test of Canonical's user testing driven design.

I imagine most of the large volume upgrades will be taking place after 12.04.1 is released sometime June.

I've contributed a poster for the coffee area...


babarock 4 days ago 5 replies      
Has anyone tried to dist-upgrade? Does it work well?

Around the time I was a Ubuntu user (around Hardy 8.04), dist-upgrade would usually break your box and was discouraged by Canonical themselves. If I recall correctly.

cryptolect 4 days ago 2 replies      
As someone who went to Fedora 16 after the initial Unity debacle, I've been using 12.04 on my laptops, and I must say, it's generally been a pleasant experience.

I still haven't tried with multi-screens, so I'm not sure how well it works there.

After a few tweaks, I'm rather chuffed with 12.04:
- Change icons down to 32x32
- Auto-hide drawer
- Change theme to Radiance
- Set terminal font to 10 and colors to white on black / Linux colors.

I recommend people give it a second chance, particularly on laptops.

octopus 4 days ago 1 reply      
Finally with Ubuntu 12.04 we have a smooth Unity experience. I've used the 12.04 since beta and it just works.
floydprice 4 days ago 0 replies      
Been using the Beta releases for a while now and I'm hooked, Unity has matured in to a really well thought out and compelling desktop environment.

My absolute favorite feature is hitting the alt key (from any app) and being about to navigate the menus and options e.g. in FireFox Alt > Type "Edit" and i see all the options available - Very Slick and means i can use the keyboard to effectively navigate all apps now, Previous versions of unity didn't really lend themselves to this.

wiradikusuma 4 days ago 5 replies      
i'm thinking of triple-booting my 2009 MBP with Ubuntu (already Bootcamped with Win7). anyone has experience with Ubuntu on MBPs? any problem with hardware? i need a lightweight-but-nice-looking OS for day-to-day Java development (i use IntelliJ), Lion is taxing too much.
tero 4 days ago 2 replies      
Xubuntu seems to be out now:

I've been teaching the beta for a while now, I like it. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS comes with new vagrant, puppet and arduino 1.0. And with Xubuntu, you can use a traditional desktop. Some of my experiences teaching with the beta

portmanteaufu 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a reason that Canonical doesn't make upgrading via torrent more front-and-center? It seems like on huge release days like today they'd want the swarm to lend itself a hand.
read_wharf 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ubuntu is more than Unity.

If you don't like or have trouble with Unity, try one of the other Ubuntu variants. I love lubuntu (lxde-based), it's just windows and a panel. Anything that gets between my windows and panel (like Unity) gets thrown over the side without even a wave goodbye. Lubuntu is what xubuntu once aspired to, lightweight and simple.

Here are all the ubuntu variants:


What is Ubuntu? It's the "easy" Linux distro built on a highly curated version of the debian repository and their apt package system. Mainstream Ubuntu also has Unity. It has a large user base, and a large developer community. It's a nice place to be.

When Unity first hit my laptop, I went running to Mint, only to discover that they've made a search deal. I then looked at other debian-based distros, but I missed ubuntu's curated repository. While flirting with other debians, I discovered lxde, and then lubuntu. I'm there, for now.

Garbage 4 days ago 1 reply      
For the guys who are complaining about Unity, you can give a try to gnome-panel

sudo apt-get install gnome-panel

lhnn 4 days ago 2 replies      
If you despise Unity, switch to Xubuntu. A minimal amount of customization allows it to feel just like Gnome 2.
viraptor 4 days ago 1 reply      
I installed beta 2 and run into issues with disk power management. By default it had a very small timeout to spin down. Fixed manually with hdparm -S, but I didn't see any updates that correct it. If you notice your drive clicking all the time, there's your fix...
Osiris 4 days ago 2 replies      
I just spent over an hour last night upgrading one of my laptops to 11.10 because 12.04 was still beta. I guess I should have just waited one more day.
morsch 4 days ago 2 replies      
I usually praise the rich ecosystem of custom packages and (PPA) repositories available for Ubuntu. It means you get the stability and security of a distribution-maintained main repository as well as the up-to-date or even cutting edge nature of developer-maintained repositories.

Unfortunately, it's a huge pain in the ass when updating. Packages in PPAs are built with a specific distribution in mind, and distribution release x packages aren't supported in release x+1. I think the recommended routine when upgrading is to purge all custom PPAs you are using before you upgrade. And then add them back, if available, after upgrading. Of course, you might not even need the PPA since x+1 might already have the program version you need.

Still, upgrading is already a somewhat fragile process, and using lots of PPAs makes it even more prone to breaking. The upside is that it's really easy and safe to clean install over an existing install, particularly if you've got /home on it's own partition.

sciurus 4 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like ubuntu.com can't handle the load. I'm getting errors from squid when I try to visit http://www.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/whats-new
sajithdilshan 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've been using Ubuntu 12.04 for the past month and must say it is pretty stable for a beta version and I'm so glad that final version is out. Hoping to stick with it until Ubuntu 14.04
XERQ 3 days ago 1 reply      
We built and added Ubuntu 12.04 to our provisioning system for cloud servers at SSD Nodes (http://www.ssdnodes.com). It boots very quickly on our hypervisors at just 5-10 seconds.


beagle3 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have an exopc slate that I'm trying to use with Linux, and have had no luck for the last year.

12.04 doesn't make it better - https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/utouch/+bug/801988 has all the details (for the W500, but it's the same bug). Touching the screen with two fingers causes X to blow up. Touching with one finger at the wrong place causes X selection to lock-up for a few minutes. I'm almost tempted to go to Windows 7... I hope it gets fixed soon.

Meego 1.2 is able to use the touchscreen without multitouch (but is otherwise unusable as a distribution).

Does anyone have good experience with any ubuntu distribution on an eGalax / DWAV capacitive multitouch screen?

BrainScraps 4 days ago 1 reply      
Been using this for the past month or so - performs well, stable, and I'm still getting used to the HUD. Once I become a master of the HUD, I'll be all set.

I did have to do some tweaking to the default workspace management keybindings to be truly happy with the install, however. But if someone is coming in without any preexisting biases, the defaults may suit them just fine. (Hit the Super or "Windows" key for a guide)

snowwindwaves 4 days ago 1 reply      
My old Lenovo r51 is still on hardy heron 8.04. I used to read the release notes for Ubuntu to see if I could upgrade hassle free. There was a new Linux intel video driver which was a step back for a while: poor video play back and no compiz. Maybe it is time to get that ssd and upgrade os!
scribu 4 days ago 0 replies      
To set up my optimal configuration, I have a bash script that I run right after installing Ubuntu.

Based on the fact that I was able to remove lines and not add new ones to this script, I'd say this release is pretty good.

Gripe: Ubuntu One still takes ages to sync up.

Praise: Sticky edges for multiple monitors; they're really handy when scrolling or otherwise doing something near the edge between the screens (and can be turned off if you don't like them).

agumonkey 4 days ago 1 reply      
Booted the .iso cold from a usb key, desktop came up way faster than expected. For non old computer, it might be a very good consumer OS.

: fast on C2D 1.6G, 50% of the 4G of ram were used quickly.

loboman 4 days ago 0 replies      
I upgraded a few days ago it worked fine for me. I can't stand Unity yet however, so I'm still using Gnome.
eliben 4 days ago 0 replies      
Well, let's see if this one manages to recognize and correctly use all the hardware devices of my Asus laptop. 11.04&11.10 were so bad for it I had to revert to 10.04 which I'm still using.
scribblemacher 4 days ago 4 replies      
Has anyone tried using this on a netbook? My wife is interested in trying Linux, and I was thinking Ubuntu (or Lubuntu) might be a good choice for her. Speed is an issue for her and one of the reasons she's not satisfied with Windows. I'd introduce her to Gentoo, but I don't think she'd appreciate the joy of GNU make.
FelixH 4 days ago 1 reply      
As much as Ubuntu has matured over the years, I am pretty disappointed how many things are broken out of the box still. Being behind a proxy is a major pain as ever, as well as getting ATI graphics drivers to work properly.
pimentel 4 days ago 4 replies      
I really can't stand Unity. Does this work OK with Cinnamon, for example?
akulbe 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm only seeing beta2 available for download. I've tried several alternative links, like mirrors.kernel.org... and all I can find anywhere is beta2, as the latest version available. #impatient :)
cristiantincu 4 days ago 2 replies      
Please excuse my ignorance, but what exactly does “final beta” mean?
mmcnickle 4 days ago 0 replies      
After building a new machine for work this month, I was looking for a new distro to install due to the hassle I had with unity before (11.04 with 2 monitors -- it wouldn't even place windows on the second screen).

Out of loyality (ubuntu user since 5.04) I gave the 12.04 beta a go and was genuinely pleasantly surprised with unity. I've opted to keep 12.04. The multiple monitors works well for me (though not an exotic set up 2x23" matched monitors, Nvidia GFX).

ehutch79 4 days ago 1 reply      
major pains:

workplace switching is not what was listed on the keyboard shortcuts screen.

virtualenv would not install via apt-get.

so back to osx for me.

mdesantis 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm using it from the beta1, and I must say that it is awesome; apart from those notifications zero-interaction zero-configuration, I hate them!!!
jeffnappi 4 days ago 1 reply      
Been waiting for this! Testing and moving our 50+ Ubuntu 10.04 fat client desktops to 12.04 as soon as I can.
nimeshneema 3 days ago 0 replies      
The links for DVD images (which include language-packs as well)can be found here
krat0sprakhar 4 days ago 3 replies      
Whats the easiest way to upgrade to 12.04 LTS from 11.10? Thanks a lot!
tomrod 4 days ago 0 replies      
Bummer. My install failed.
codexon 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is it safe to use this on servers yet?
nilarimogard 4 days ago 0 replies      
horsehead 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm really hoping 12.04 is good. I upgraded to 11.04 on my laptop some time ago and detested it. Went back to 10.04 after that. I'm curious about that new search bar thing they're supposed to be implementing.

And isn't Shuttleworth coming out with a tablet Ubuntu? I thought that was going to be this release, but i dont see it mentioned ...

xxiao 4 days ago 0 replies      
can't wait to upgrade, one problem i had with 10.04 is that redmine is no longer working reliably, and hopefully 12.04 fixed that.
iamgopal 4 days ago 0 replies      
will it work on iMac ? ( last time, It didn't oob. )
padwan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Khloroform187 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is the last version I will give a chance to Unity...

I hope it reaches a professional level this time.

omnisaurus 4 days ago 0 replies      
this. is. awesome.
gary4gar 4 days ago 2 replies      
installed it but disappointed as my wireless doesn't work. Thought it did work on 10.10 but NOT on 12.04.

Poor Quality release!

hdeshev 4 days ago 0 replies      
Released today? Really? On the Chernobyl disaster anniversary - April 26?

I don't believe it's a coincidence!

guard-of-terra 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the funnier name is Persuading Pedobear.
This Homemade Headphone Amplifier Is A Work Of Art this8bitlife.com
396 points by ot  8 days ago   70 comments top 19
jfb 8 days ago 2 replies      
This is a lovely piece of work; I think it's missing the point to speculate on possible profit margins, or the magnitude of a kickstarter project; the thing is the point here. Something so well turned out makes me want to make things, not buy them.
moe 8 days ago 5 replies      
He could make a killing selling these devices - if the sound quality is good and if he can find a way to produce an audiophile-sized batch.

I'd pay in the $100 range for one without thinking, real audiophiles would probably pay much more.

benihana 8 days ago 0 replies      
>is either a very dedicated audiophile or just has a lot of time on his hands.

Why this passive aggressive line in an article praising how cool and pretty this amp is?

kragen 7 days ago 0 replies      
This worked out beautifully. I hope we see a lot of new electronics projects built like this in the next few months.

His choice to pot the electronics in transparent (apparently polyester) resin reminded me of this unfinished design provocation of mine, "The Egg of the Phoenix: a computational time capsule": http://www.canonical.org/~kragen/eotf/

Specifically, I was thinking that potting solar-powered electronics in transparent resin would be a good way to ruggedize them, so that your electronics might have a chance to keep working for decades or centuries.

raverbashing 8 days ago 1 reply      

It's very difficult to assemble a circuit without a substract (PCB or other), and those wires aren't going to stay straight by themselves.

The shining capacitors are a special touch (I guess he removed the plastic cover on them)

I'm not sure about the sound quality though.

bcl 8 days ago 3 replies      
Depending on how hard you drive it heat dissipation may be an issue. It sure looks nice though.
muhfuhkuh 8 days ago 0 replies      
If pricing seems to be a question, just put the project up on the most accurate consumer-pricing a/b simulator of all time[1].

[1] http://www.kickstarter.com

cake 8 days ago 4 replies      
Let's just hope that none of the capacitors break in the near future.

While it may look cool, it's a complete disaster for maintenance.

Someone 7 days ago 0 replies      
Very nice, but seeing that made me wonder whether this can be improved as follows: instead of soldering, drill holes in the copper wire that are slightly smaller than the thickness of the component wires you want to attach. Then, heat or cool both enough for the component wires to fit through the hole (thermal expansion factors will hopefully be different enough for this to work), put them in and let the device go back to room temperature.
dimatura 8 days ago 0 replies      
This style (using no circuit boards) is pretty popular in the BEAM robots community, where it's known as "freeforming". Here's a random example http://www.flickr.com/photos/mohitbhoite/5708836052/in/photo...
crikli 8 days ago 3 replies      
What's the application for such a thing? I'd buy one just because it looks completely cool but I'm not sure what I would do with it.
phodo 7 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know what the lifespan of the resin is? Is it longer than 6 months? For example, see the link here that states this resin has a 6 month lifespan. Wondering if you can get them for longer lifespans measuring in years.


DanBC 8 days ago 0 replies      
There are lots of really easy to make headphone amplifier plans on the www.

Some of them would be suitable for beginners to electronics. The practical aspects are easy enough. And the theory is reasonably straightforward.

And people enjoy putting them in nice cases. Often these are lumps of wood, or aluminum; this resin case is a lovely example though.

kfury 8 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone know about the thermal conductivity of the cured resin? If it's a thermal insulator I wonder if the capacitors might burn out after prolonged use because there's not enough heat dissipation.

Oh, and I want one.

RexRollman 8 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool. This made me realize that its been a long time since I visited the Head-Fi forums.
zerostar07 7 days ago 0 replies      
Is that enameled copper wire or how does one solder on copper wire? Also, what did he do exactly to avoid damaging the capacitors?
joshontheweb 8 days ago 1 reply      
This would be a perfect Kickstarter project. I'd like one.
gouranga 8 days ago 3 replies      
I bet that is noisy as fuck. Long traces and no shielding - utter turd. Form should never compromise function.
Something is deeply broken in OS X memory management workstuff.tumblr.com
383 points by fields  7 days ago   258 comments top 39
carguy1983 7 days ago  replies      
I have an 8-way Xeon Mac Pro w/ 20GB of RAM, almost half of which is 'free' at any point during the day unless I'm doing something really out of the ordinary.

Yet it still swaps to disk ALL THE TIME and a new Terminal.app window can take up to 5 seconds to open.

I really don't give a shit how it's not "technically" broken - that's broken from an experience point of view. And I haven't re-installed the OS (this was an App Store upgrade from Snow leopard) because that's a major pain in the ass as this is an actual workstation used to do actual work.

I can't believe this is actually advice, either - that's what Windows users used to say in the 90s. Anyway, I guess I'm just ranting. OS X is wonderful except for the fact that it sucks at managing memory to keep a system snappy.

w0utert 7 days ago  replies      
Not this again, we already went through this a few weeks ago.

Back then, I thought the conclusion was that there is nothing broken about OS X memory management, and that with every 'fix' you come up with, you will just introduce another degenerate corner case. The same holds for any OS, trade-offs are made that may have some negative effect in some cases, to the benefit of the general cases.

I don't recognize any of his symptoms anyway, and my OS X computers get pretty RAM-heavy use, with almost always a linux VM open, XCode, Safari with ~10 tabs, iTunes with a few thousand songs, etc.

Just to be sure I read through some of the links he provides that are supposed to explain what is going on and why the fix would be of any help, but nowhere do I see any hard facts that demonstrate what is going on. Only that he 'saw in vm_stat that OS X was swapping out used memory for unused memory'. I'd like to see some actual evidence supporting this statement.

xpaulbettsx 7 days ago 1 reply      
The core reason that this happens is that OS X uses a memory management mechanism called Unified Buffer Cache (http://kerneltrap.org/node/315 is the only reference I can find on this).

This seems like a good idea to unify paging and disk cache memory, but it actually isn't. This means, that if you do a lot of I/O, resident pages (i.e. your programs) can actually get pushed out of memory to free up RAM for the disk cache. This degenerates pretty badly in scenarios like using VMs, since you're also using large sections of mmap'd memory.

This doesn't happen on NT or Linux, because disk cache can only be turned into memory (i.e. making disk cache smaller), not the other way around; the policy is "Disk cache gets whatever's left over, Memory Manager has priority"

Unfortunately, the only thing you can really do about it, is have a machine with a huge amount of RAM, which will kind of help.

mikeash 7 days ago 5 replies      
No actual data, barely any technical discussion at all, mention of "the garbage collection algorithm" which most likely isn't even being used by most of the apps running, capped by a total cargo-cult solution... and this is #1 on the front page?
spudlyo 7 days ago 3 replies      
What really needs to happen is that Spotlight and Time Machine need to use direct i/o (F_NOCACHE) when they read data from the filesystem, this way they won't pollute the disk cache with their reads and OSX won't swap out a bunch of pages in response.

I think you could probably hack something together that does this with DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES (OSX's LD_PRELOAD) that would would hook the open system call and fcntl F_NOCACHE on the file descriptor before it hands it back to the application.

tomc1985 7 days ago 1 reply      
I did this for awhile and ran into an interesting (if fatal) edge case:

I use a 1.5tb external drive formatted in exFAT to minimize cross-platform headaches, and whenever the drive is marked dirty (improper shutdown, eject, etc), OSX will run fsck_exfat on it before I can use it.

fsck_exfat isn't a huge deal -- or wouldn't be, if it didn't have a nasty tendency to leak RAM... the moment you plug in, fsck_exfat's footprint climbs up and up and up... never stopping! Pretty soon it's eaten up 8gb out of my 8gb RAM and poor ol' lappy is unusable.

I can say with authority what happens when you run out of physical RAM in OSX: it hard locks. Nothing works -- no keyboard, no mouse, nothing.

So, if you plug in your large, dirty (you dirty drive you!) exFAT-formatted external drive, with dynamic_paging switched off, and let fsck_exfat do its thing, your laptop freezes! Leaving the drive dirty, only to be re-scan on boot-up... freezing the laptop, leaving the drive dirty, only to be re-scan on bootup...

EDIT: this is with Snow Leopard...

deweller 7 days ago 1 reply      
I had a similar problems with my Mac slowing down to a crawl with certain instances of disk access.

I tried turning off spotlight (which was taking a very long time to complete) but it did not help.

For me, the problem turned out to be a failing hard drive. After replacing my system hard drive, things returned to normal speed.

I'm just posting this in case it might help someone else.

munin 7 days ago 2 replies      
the OS X kernel is open source. so why aren't people reading it to figure out where this bug is?
bsimpson 7 days ago 4 replies      
I've been a Mac user since the beginning, and by far my biggest frustration is the perpetual running-out-of-RAM, even when I close basically everything. I have 4GB of RAM, and frequently catch kernel_task using at least half of it.
KC8ZKF 6 days ago 0 replies      
It occurs to me that HFS might be the real culprit. A lot of the bad behaviors described here involve heavy disk use. John Siracusa has a nice round-up of all the HFS faults:


illicium 7 days ago 1 reply      
There's a nice script[1] for tweaking OS X's dynamic pager settings to reduce the system's swappiness that helps a bit. Incidentally, if you have both an SSD and HDD installed, you can use it to move the swapfiles to the HDD to reduce wear.

[1]: http://dropsafe.crypticide.com/article/3848

nirvana 7 days ago 1 reply      
This claimed problem is not adequately described-- because I don't see it. Therefore there is something else going on here.

I have 8 GB of memory on my Macbook Pro, and I've never seen anything like the problems described in this article. I leave my machine up for weeks at a time, I leave the Time Machine drive connected for weeks, and never have a slowdown, even when time machine is backing up.

The only time I have memory issues is when I have too many safari tabs open for too long. Eventually safari takes too much memory. So, I shut down safari and start it back up-- it opens up all the tabs that were open and takes a lot less memory.

I'm kinda astounded that people with 20 and 32GB of RAM and 8 CPUS are saying it takes 5 seconds to open a terminal window. Have never seen anything like that.

I would venture to guess that these people who are seeing the problem are running a kernel extension or possibly have otherwise modified their machine.

DIVx0 7 days ago 0 replies      
I've experienced exactly the same thing that was described in this article. All the way though to installing more ram and disabling the dynamic pager (this is a late 2011 mbp).

Like the author I was shocked at how accustomed I was to waiting for an app to become responsive again. I was trained to wait on the OS to do it's business before I could do my work. Now things happen as quickly as I can think to do them, this is how computing should be.

collint 7 days ago 3 replies      
You can run `purge` in a terminal to free your 'inactive' ram.

I've set up a cron job to purge frequently, keeps thing humming.

digid 7 days ago 1 reply      
I also have major memory problems. 8GB RAM total in the system and I have 4GB sitting in inactive and it's paging out? http://imgur.com/VE4GB At this point the system pretty much thrashes until I start closing apps or perform a manual `purge`
herf 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is the penalty we pay for the advice from two years ago:

"Buy all your developers SSDs. It makes them more productive."

chrisdroukas 7 days ago 2 replies      
Does anyone else notice extreme time-based slowdowns using multiple monitors? I've looked through forums and system logs and I can't find an immediate explanation for it. The system tends to hang when using multiple monitors for any extended period of time.
DanI-S 7 days ago 1 reply      
I'm (fairly) uninformed on this, but from an initial read of the post it seems like memory management may have been optimized for SSD-equipped systems, at the expense of hard disk performance?

Whether this is unintentional, part of a calculated tradeoff, or a cynical business/tactical decision is another thing.

wagerlabs 7 days ago 0 replies      

It's called the Unified Buffer Cache (UBC).

kfury 7 days ago 1 reply      
Thank god for this article. My wife is a photographer making heavy use of Lightroom on her 17" MBP and has been experiencing these exact problems for a year or two. We've tried everything to fix it, rebuilding the system from scratch, to no avail.

She had 4 gigs of RAM which we recently upped to 8gigs which reduced the severity of the problem.

I really, really hope this is something that gets fixed in Mountain Lion. Tasks that should take 20 seconds take 10 minutes or more.

It's good to know she's not crazy.

waivej 7 days ago 0 replies      
Try "Free Memory"... I looked for a solution to this problem a few months ago. My computer runs better if I free the memory every few days. For example, resuming a parallels virtual machine drops from 30 seconds down to 3-4. Note, this is a 4GB Core 2 Duo with SSD.
United857 7 days ago 1 reply      
I've gotten a lot of his symptoms, and there might be another cause:


Bad blocks in the disk, causing the system to beachball frequently due to disk I/O failures when swapping out to disk.

The solution for me was to back up, reformat the disk and zero-ing out everything causing bad sectors to get remapped, and then restore.

marcamillion 7 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone have any nice articles with tips on how to generally optimize OS X? Esp to better handle this paging/memory management problem that the OP is talking about.

I have a MBP with 4GB RAM and leave programs open all the time. After a few days, it feels very sluggish.

Aside from double my memory and changing my habits (i.e. shutting down every night), how do I fix this?

lattepiu 7 days ago 0 replies      
Something is quite wrong indeed. I disabled the dynamic pager, and now my system is working as it's supposed to. Snappy and responsive.

I opened all of my apps, expecting it to crash miserably: instead, the system started paging as it should, stayed responsive (though slower), and promptly returned to normal once it regained memory.

I don't know what's going on, but I can definitely say that this is how I want my computer to work.

comex 7 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone have a radar number? This entire discussion is incredibly vague.
jmah 7 days ago 0 replies      
I've had problems with mtmd (Mobile Time Machine) really slowing down writes (and all disk stuff) since the Lion pre-releases. With that off (sudo tmutil disablelocal) things are pretty smooth.
hollerith 7 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting tangent: Plan 9 never had "dynamic paging" (swapping to disk). It supports virtual memory, but not swap. This information is accurate as of about 6 years ago (when I stopped following Plan 9).
kirbysayshi 7 days ago 0 replies      
My completely non-scientific observations have found that OS X needs plenty of RAM, like any modern OS. However, any disk I/O task has a huge performance impact on the rest of the system, as described by this article. For example, something like unRARing a file will affect the entire system detrimentally, even if CPU usage is nominal. By affect I mean even the cursor can get jittery, which is normally unheard of on OS X.

This typically affects me in low memory situations, such as less than 100mb of free memory. The effect is most pronounced when switching between browser tabs, which would cause a lot of disk usage... pulling all of that data in and out of non-ram cache.

daemeh 7 days ago 0 replies      
I don't have any tests to prove this, but switching from a 64-bit kernel to a 32-bit one and forcing apps to run in 32-bit mode helps a lot with memory usage on OS X.
You can use this app to switch apps to 32-bit: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/40405/sixtyfour

If you look at Windows 7 memory consumption with the same set of software you use in OS X, you'll notice memory usage is 1/2 or 1/3 on Windows compared to OS X. Maybe someone knows why that is?

kghose 7 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome. The thread is more informative and entertaining than the article! This is Hacker News!
rangibaby 6 days ago 0 replies      
Disabling dynamic paging as suggested in the fine article seems to have made some apps that constantly gave spinning wheels before (Firefox, Time Machine backups) some extra speed.

However, it's still early days. It might just be a "washed car effect."

(Mac Pro 1,1 / 7GB RAM / WD Caviar Black)

hmart 7 days ago 2 replies      
The only winners are those "Mac cleaner, keeper" apps whose Google Ads know we are all watching beach balls.
rdg 7 days ago 0 replies      
I fucking hate OS X Lion Vista. I really miss the stability of Snow Leopard. But can't easily go back.
jguimont 7 days ago 0 replies      
When time machine starts on my MBA ( to an external hd ) it almost freezes the Mac. Is this related?
jhspaybar 7 days ago 1 reply      
I too have noticed huge issues particularly when using photoshop or final cut pro. I figured it was the applications, but if it's the OS that's definitely a much bigger issue. I regularly restart every 2-3 hours when using those two programs heavily.
forgetcolor 7 days ago 0 replies      
i don't understand why anyone who cares about performance doesn't at least max out the RAM, let alone use an SSD as their boot disk. sure, the SSD is expensive, but the RAM? dirt cheap. i only wish the MBP could take more.
gulbrandr 6 days ago 0 replies      

font-size: 16px;
line-height: 1.5em;

adityanag 7 days ago 0 replies      
Damm.. I turned swap off, and now I have 3 VMs running concurrently on my 2009 MBP with 8 GB RAM, and it's smooth! Before this, even one VM would cause the system to periodically become unresponsive. Ok, this is my _subjective_ opinion, and you can ignore it, but hey, it works for me.
algoshift 7 days ago 1 reply      
> OS X is wonderful


The UTF-8-Everywhere Manifesto utf8everywhere.org
365 points by bearpool  1 day ago   175 comments top 21
pilif 1 day ago 2 replies      
Really good article. You'll get nothing from me but heartfelt agreement. I especially liked that the article was giving numbers about how inefficient UTF8 would be to store Asian text (not really apparently).

Also insightful, but obvious in hindsight: Not even in utf-32 you can index specific character in constant time due to the various digraphs.

The one property I really love about UTF8 is that you get a free consistency check as not every arbitrary byte sequence is a valid UTF8 string.

This is a really good help for detecting encoding errors very early (still to this day, applications are known to lie about the encoding of their output).

And of course, there's no endianness issue, removing the need for a BOM which makes it possible for tools that operate at byte levels to still do the right job.

If only it had better support outside of Unix.

For example, try opening a UTF8 encoded CSV file (using characters outside of ASCII of course) in Mac Excel (latest versions. Up until that, it didn't know UTF8 at all) for a WTF experience somewhere between comical and painful.

If there is one thing I could criticize about UTF8 then that would be its similarity to ASCII (which is also its greatest strength) causing many applications and APIs to boldly declare UTF8 compatibility when all they really can do is ASCII compatibility and emitting a mess (or blowing up) once they have to deal with code points outside that range.

I'm jokingly calling this US-UTF8 when I encounter it (all too often unfortunately), but maybe the proliferation of "cool" characters like what we recently got with Emoji is likely going to help with this over time.

gwillen 1 day ago 0 replies      
Ok, let me be the first approving top level comment: This document is correct. The author of this document is smart. You should follow this document.

As jwz said about backups: "Shut up. I know things. You will listen to me. Do it anyway."

luriel 1 day ago  replies      
Yes! I have been meaning to write something like this for years.

There is only one thing I would add: Never add a BOM to an UTF-8 file!! It is redundant, useless and breaks all kinds of things by attaching garbage to the start of your files.

Edit: Here is the interesting story of how Ken Thompson invented UTF-8: http://doc.cat-v.org/bell_labs/utf-8_history

pcwalton 1 day ago 6 replies      
Sadly, the pervasiveness of JavaScript means that UTF-16 interoperability will be needed as least as long as the Web is alive. JavaScript strings are fundamentally UTF-16. This is why we've tentatively decided to go with UTF-16 in Servo (the experimental browser engine) -- converting to UTF-8 every time text needed to go through the layout engine would kill us in benchmarks.

For new APIs in which legacy interoperability isn't needed, I completely approve of this document.

cygx 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Personally, I prefer UTF-8 as well. However, I think this whole debate about choice of encoding gets blown out of proportion.

Consider the following diagram:

                               [user-perceived characters] <-+
^ |
| |
v |
[characters] <-> [grapheme clusters] |
^ ^ |
| | |
v v |
[bytes] <-> [codepoints] [glyphs] <----------+

Choice of encoding only affects the conversion from bytes to codepoints, which is pretty straight-forward: The subtleties lie elsewhere...

haberman 1 day ago 2 replies      
Totally agree re: UTF-8 vs other Unicode encodings.

But are there still still hold-outs who don't like Unicode? Last I heard some CJK users were unhappy about Han Unification: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_unification

raverbashing 1 day ago 5 replies      

"UTF-16 is the worst of both worlds"variable length and too wide"

Really, the author tries to convince the reader, but it's not that clean cut.

One of the advantages of UTF-16 is knowing right away it's UTF-16 as opposed to deciding if it's UTF-8/ASCII/other encoding. Sure, for transmission it's a waste of space (still, text for today's computer capabilities is a non issue even if using UTF-32)

"It's not fixed width" But for most text, it is. Sure, you can do UTF-32 and it may not be a bad idea (today)

Yes, Windows has to deal with several complications and with backwards compatibility, so it's a bag of hurt. Still, they went the right way (internally, it's unicode, period.)

"in plain Windows edit control (until Vista), it takes two backspaces to delete a character which takes 4 bytes in UTF-16"

If I'm not mistaken this is by design. The 4 byte characters is usually typed as a combination of characters, so if you want to change the last part of the combination you jut type one backspace.

makecheck 1 day ago 1 reply      
Markus Kuhn's web page has a lot of useful UTF-8 info and valuable links (e.g. samples of UTF-8 corner cases that people often miss).


evincarofautumn 1 day ago 0 replies      
For those who don't know it, UTF8-CPP[1] is a good lightweight header-only library for UTF conversions, mostly STL-compatible.

[1] http://utfcpp.sourceforge.net/

tommi 1 day ago 1 reply      
That collection of best practices can hardly be considered as "UTF-8 Everywhere Manifesto" as it focuses on Windows and C++. It's good, but I'd rather see more manifesto like document for all cases on a domain like that.
erichocean 1 day ago 3 replies      
The strangest thing about Unicode (any flavor) is that NULL, aka \0, aka "all zeros" is a valid character.

If you claim to support Unicode, you have to support NULL characters; otherwise, you support a subset.

I find most OS utilities that "accept" Unicode fail to accept the NULL character.

FWIW, UTF-8 has a few invalid characters (characters that can never appear in a valid UTF-8 string). Any one of them could be used as an "end of string" terminator if so desired, for situations where the string length is not known up front.

We could even standardize which one (hint hint). I suggest -1 (all 1s).

UPDATE: I meant "strange" as in "surprising", especially for those coming from a C background, like me.

mkup 1 day ago 2 replies      
I use UTF-8 for transmitted data and disk I/O, and I use UCS-4 (wchar_t on Linux/FreeBSD) for internal representation of strings in my software.

I generally agree with this article, but I disagree with it on the point that UTF-8 is the only appropriate encoding for strings stored in memory, and also I disagree on the point wchar_t should be removed from C++ standard or made sizeof 1, as in Android NDK.

Let me explain why.

In UTF-8 single Unicode character may be encoded in multiple ways. For example NUL (U+0000) can be encoded as 00 or as C0 80. The second encoding is illegal because it's longer than necessary and forbidden by standard, but naive parser may extract NUL out of it. If UTF-8 input was not properly sanitized, or there is a bug in charset converter, this may result in exploit like SQL injection or arbitrary filesystem access or something like that: malicious party can encode not only NUL, but ", /, \ etc this way.

Also UTF-8 string can't be cut at arbitrary position. Byte groups (UTF-8 runes) must be processed as a whole, so appear either on left side or on the right side of cut.

Reversing of UTF-8 string is tricky, especially when illegal character sequences are present in input string and corresponding code points (U+FFFD) must be preserved in output string.

I think UTF-8 for network transmitted data and disk I/O is inevitable, but our software should keep all in-memory strings in UCS-4 only, and take adequate security precautions in all places where conversion between UTF-8 and UCS-4 happens.

And sizeof(wchar_t)==4 in GCC ABI is not a design defect, wchar_t exists for a good reason. I admit that sizeof(wchar_t)==2 on Windows is utterly broken.

fleitz 1 day ago 6 replies      
tl:dr; Use UTF-8 when you need to use unicode with legacy APIs, never anywhere else.

UNIX isn't UTF-8 because UTF-8 is better, UNIX is UTF-8 because you can pass UTF-8 strings to functions that expect ASCII and it kinda works. This is really the only thing you need to know about UTF-8 and why it's better.

There are few pieces of software that don't have to talk to legacy APIs that store strings natively in UTF-8.

C# and Java are probably the best examples of software that was engineered from the ground up and thus uses UTF-16 internally because it's much less likely to run into issues like String.length returning 32 yet only containing 31 characters. If you use UTF-8 expect this result anytime a string contains a real genuine apostrophe.

"UTF-8 and UTF-32 result the same order when sorted lexicographically. UTF-16 does not."

This is complete and utter bullshit, to sort a string lexicographically you need to decode it, if you've decoded the string into UNICODE then they sort the exact same way.

There are lots of gotchas for sorting UNICODE strings including normalization because you can write the semantically equivalent strings in unicode multiple ways. eg. ligatures.

If you're sorting bit strings that happen to contain UTF-8/32 then you're not sorting lexicographically and your results will be screwed up anyway.

breck 1 day ago 4 replies      
How could we avoid acronyms like 'utf-8'?

We can do better than that. Unicode8?

CJefferson 1 day ago 4 replies      
I there a simple set of rules for people who currently have code which use ASCII, to check for UTF-8 cleanness?

In particular, what should I watch out for to make an ASCII parser UTF-8 clean?

antidoh 1 day ago 1 reply      
Text is maddening, the modern Tower of Babel.

Is there a definitive reference, or small handful of references, to learn all that's worth knowing about text, from ASCII to UTF-∞ and beyond?

sopooneo 1 day ago 3 replies      
Can someone explain to me how UTF-8 is endianness independent? I don't mean that I am arguing the fact, I just don't understand how it is possible. Don't you have to know which order to interpret the bits in each byte? And isn't that endianness?
chj 23 hours ago 0 replies      
can not agree more! it will be a much better world if we all use utf8 for external string presentation. i don't care about what your app use internally, but if it generates output, please use utf8.
scoith 1 day ago 1 reply      
That page is misleading when it comes to Japanese text: UTF-8 sucks for Japanese text.
UTF-8 and UTF-16 aren't the only two choices within the whole world, which is demonstrated in their choice of encoding Shift-JIS.
alecco 1 day ago 4 replies      
ASCII and UTF-8 are too US centric. That's why adoption in places like China is so low.

Also, if there's variable length encoding why can't we just do a proper way and improve size for the same computational cost?

natch 1 day ago 3 replies      
Strings (NSString) on Apple platforms are UTF-16. The Apple platforms are not exactly lagging behind in either multilingual, or text processing. I wonder what this team of three people knows that Apple doesn't? Or is it the other way around, that Apple knows something they don't, and when it comes to shipping products that work in the real world, Apple has figured out how to do it?
Valve is developing Steam for Linux, says Michael Larabel of Phoronix theverge.com
351 points by pook1e  5 days ago   214 comments top 30
sho_hn 5 days ago 1 reply      
Even though Steam invites its own problems (it's ultimately a form of DRM, a closed platform, and a closed-source application), as a FOSS developer I can't help but feel excited about this prospect. I know many, many people in the 15-35 age bracket who are open to and curious about Linux, even tried it, but ultimately didn't stick with it because of the lack of high-end native games and because rebooting or setting up Wine is too much of a hassle. Valve has tremendous power to change this and legitimize Linux as a platform in their eyes.

Plus, there's already a lot of games in the Steam catalogue that have native Linux versions available:

- Dozens of independent titles, e.g. everything that was in those Humble Bundles.

- Everything using the DOSBox emulator to run even on Windows, e.g. id's Commander Keen, some Lucasarts Star Wars games, etc.

- Even a bunch of AAA titles: id Software's games (Doom, Quake) and games that have licensed their engine (e.g. Human Head's Prey), games that were ported by Linux Game Publishing (e.g. Egosoft's X series of spaceflight simulators), several games by Epic (e.g. Unreal Tournament) or using an Epic engine (e.g. Rune and Deus Ex, ported by Loki), Neverwinter Nights, Civilization: Call to Power, ...

Add Valve's own games and possibly some of the other games using their Source engine, and you could easily make 100-150 games available on Linux within a year of launch just from what's already there. But even more exciting is the notion of Steam's availability making more game makers consider adding Linux to their list of supported platforms going forward because the distribution problem is solved for them.

jiggy2011 5 days ago 2 replies      
I see a few things to think about here:

Will "Steam for Linux" be something that you can just apt-get into your free as in freedom Distro and start running AAA games, or will it in fact be something highly proprietary which is designed for a specific subset of devices which happen to run Linux kernels?

I see a lot of people here discussing "market share" but as has been proved by Apple market share is certainly not everything. In reality the computer market is broken into a number of distinct markets that have overlap and some of these are more lucrative than others.

Pricing structure will make a difference here, I wonder if the Linux games will be the same price as their Windows counterparts? I remember a few years ago there were a number of companies that tried to break into Linux gaming but the prices for the games were astronomical. Many 5 year old games that could have had for Windows for about $10 were selling for $40+ on Linux.

Linux Steam could also focus on other styles of games too, perhaps there is more demand amongst Linux users for highly cerebral RTS & RPG games rather than the latest COD that could be sold at a higher price? All you would really need is one or two "killer" titles that were Linux exclusive (think XBoX and Halo) to make whole categories of gamers take it seriously. Of course it is both a blessing and a curse in the sense that stuff developed for Linux is often easier to port to other platforms than the other way around.

As a Desktop Linux user myself I am not too concerned with "market share" , to an extent I couldn't care less if I am the only the person that uses it. What I really care about is being able to use Linux for all of my day to day tasks (I have a Windows dual boot but I would rather skip the step of having to power cycle my computer at least once a day).

qxcv 5 days ago  replies      
Looks like this is going to be reality, Phoronix just published the promised article[0] which basically claims that Valve have ported L4D/Source over to Linux already! Exciting news indeed, AAA-titles for Linux could turn the desktop OS market upside down.

[0]: http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=valve...

hedgehog 5 days ago 2 replies      
It will be interesting to see what this does to the state of GL support, Wayland, scheduler, etc. Steam telemetry will give Valve a lot of data about how different hardware/software/driver configurations are working but on Linux they'll be able to actually push patches to distros if need be. I would love to see Valve profile Source on Linux and start shaving sources of latency and jitter, it could eventually be better than Windows for competitive gaming.
patricklynch 5 days ago 1 reply      
That would be cool.

Video games are the only reason I even have a Windows partition.

tdr 5 days ago 2 replies      
Lack of gaming support was (and still is) in my opinion the main reason Linux didn't get properly accepted into the consumer sector. (every gamer had to keep Windows dual-boot )

Because of that there were problems with the drivers and snowballed to other areas.

m_st 5 days ago 4 replies      
I'm sure one of the reasons for a Linux client (and even a Steam console) is Windows 8 with its App Store. Soon potential customers are going to buy their software through these integrated stores rather than using dedicated clients. And since Microsoft is giving the Desktop a legacy feeling Valve has no choice but expand the reach of Steam.
Which is of course good for us customers.
baq 5 days ago 0 replies      
what valve's doing:

- hiring linux devs

- hiring hardware devs

this points to a linux/x86 gaming console - but x86 is only relevant if they want to sell existing games for it.

frunc 5 days ago 1 reply      
See also:

It's Official: Valve Releasing Steam, Source Engine For Linux! - Published on May 12, 2010


stefanve 5 days ago 1 reply      
I can imagine that the steam box is going to run on Linux.
Would be the only valid reason to port Steam to Linux. And it would make sens why develop your own OS... It did work out quite well for Apple (BSD -> OSX)
guard-of-terra 5 days ago 0 replies      
Desura is already out for linux and it works for some time.
I play Dungeons of Dredmor and Braid via it.

It's slightly buggy but delivers.

readme 5 days ago 0 replies      
seclorum 5 days ago 2 replies      
I really wish Valve would get behind the Open Pandora gaming console: http://openpandora.org/

Its a fantastic machine, with a great community, and an awesome technology for single-file game distribution, or PND-files (Pandora .pnd files are self-contained applications), along with a fantastic repository already in place: http://repo.openpandora.org/

With Valve behind them, the OpenPandora guys could really do something neat in terms of creating a Linux-based gaming hardware series. Imagine the Valve "Pandora" console, either in handheld or desktop/TV-side form .. this could really happen, and Valve would gain a lot from getting involved in this.

gouranga 5 days ago 0 replies      
That's a great idea. If you consider the potential for a "gaming appliance" (Valve console without all the commercial OS licensing costs then it really makes sense.
vibrunazo 5 days ago 7 replies      
I would be really excited by this news 3 our so years ago.

But it's to late now. Valve missed their chance. Gaming is moving away from desktop. In fact, while gaming is increasing extremely fast overall, desktop is actually setting decrease on revenue. It's the worst time to invest in it.

It won't help valve, and it won't help us Linux gamers. Game studios won't suddenly go back to support dying desktop only because steam now has a Linux client. So the store will be empty.

This is also a move aiming towards the new steam box. But that's also a bad move. Console is the second worse gaming platform now, after desktop. It's days are also numbered. While I love Valve, gaming and Linux. These won't work well together anytime soon.

The good news for us Linux gamers is that browser and mobile are on an absurd.fast rise. While we still don't see many AAA titles on the browser, that's much closer to reality than AAA titles on steam for Linux. At the end of the day, w don't need steam for Linux. Gaming in general is moving in our direction. The quality of games in our browser and our phones (the future consoles) are close to make desktop irrelevant.

edit: here's some stats that both console and PC game markets are decreasing. From EA's sec filing:


I didn't really thought of putting it because I thought this was ubiquitous knowledge everyone would agree with. But maybe that's just because I'm in the industry and always looking for market numbers every month.

The industry is moving away from these formats and moving towards mobile. The remaining anecdotes are just a consequence of old incumbents having a hard time adapting. The next dominant gaming consoles will be running Android and iOS. Simply because of the huge size of the app stores and user base.

hkarthik 5 days ago 0 replies      
Part of the problem is that the dev tools most game developers use are still centered around Windows. Visual Studio is still the hallmark IDE for Game developers everywhere. In addition, the tools developers in gaming studios still build mostly Windows tools that augment the IDEs the engine programmers are already using.

That ecosystem has to be disrupted substantially with viable dev tools for game developers on Linux before gaming on Linux can really become a first class citizen.

seanp2k2 5 days ago 0 replies      
Two things:

First thing, HELL YES

Second thing, it's about damn time.

Long time Quake 3 player here. Always loved playing it on Linux :)

mattbee 5 days ago 3 replies      
Brilliant news. Of course Valve wouldn't want their own console to be tied to Windows, and there are definitely enough Mac-ported games (e.g. including Assassins Creed, not just their own stuff) that Linux ports must be do-able in short order.

I'd hope there's some "trickle-down" effect of Steam ports- an push to sort out the knotty ball of Linux sound configuration, 3D drivers and other grimness. Alternatively it could be that you need to enable pulseaudio for title A, ALSA for title B, OSS for title C - ARRRGGHHH. Fingers crossed.

gipsyking 5 days ago 0 replies      
Could this have anything to do with the rumor about the Valve console?
meisterbrendan 5 days ago 0 replies      
When I switched from using mostly windows to a lot of Linux, I celebrated the lack of distractions on Linux. Goodbye, productivity.
octotoad 5 days ago 0 replies      
I can understand the argument regarding the slow uptake of OS X Steam games, but I can't help thinking hardware plays a small role mainly in relation to more 'hardcore' gamers.

One big advantage a Linux Steam box would have over a Mac is the ability to swap out critical components such as video cards and CPUs.

Even if Valve or others go to the effort of supporting OS X with their latest, whiz-bang AAA title, what's the point if you're on Apple hardware that's limited to a particular GPU that can't be replaced? (with the exception of a super-duper Mac Pro, and even then I can't see it being very easy to just go out and buy a new GTX 650-OMGTHEPIXELS-Edition card and expect it to work the way you would with a 'PC').

mladenkovacevic 5 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know if Valve is capable of getting into hardware at all, but from a market-clout point of view at least, they might also have success in selling a Linux-based Steam console. If anyone can disrupt the Xbox dynasty, it's them. Making the dedicated console interact with the Steam clients on desktop and mobile would be a win.
IsTom 5 days ago 6 replies      
Steam for Linux is one thing, but how many games will you be able to run?
Andaith 5 days ago 1 reply      
After reading their handbook, I'm not that surprised. I do wonder how long it's been a one-man project though...

Also, I wonder if the Humble Bundles have had anything to do with convincing Valve that Steam for Linux is worth the effort?

Tomis02 5 days ago 0 replies      
It was about time. And if there's going to be a Linux Steam Box I can see indie PC gamedev shifting towards Linux - the entry costs would be practically non-existent.
martindale 4 days ago 0 replies      
If I could get a dependable distro-managed version of Steam on Ubuntu, I would _certainly_ buy and play more games. I've stopped playing games (mostly) because I've switched to Linux as my primary desktop, and what I play is limited to my time (in general, and to fiddle with things to get them _working_ on Linux, e.g., EVE Online in Wine).
binarycrusader 5 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe this will finally motivate one of the distributions to start providing things like stable ABIs like Windows developers have had for years.
cabirum 5 days ago 2 replies      
Like Adobe Flash with Linux, Valve's effort will suffocate on the need to support hundreds different linux distributions and configurations complete with crappy drivers and audio/video subsystems.

Three years is my estimate.

jebblue 5 days ago 0 replies      
We've heard this before...if it happens, Linux wins and Valve wins, I still have an account and would love to buy games once again from Steam only on my platform, Linux.
rmATinnovafy 5 days ago 0 replies      
This seems like the kind of thing the Ubuntu software center was made for.

I'm glad gamers will have the option to play their games. Now, about those GPU drivers...

How the medical supply industry blocks device startups from selling to hospitals washingtonmonthly.com
343 points by lgv  5 days ago   153 comments top 30
paul 5 days ago 8 replies      
When people complain about entrepreneurs building social networks instead of curing cancer, they need to understand that this is a big part of the reason. The internet attracts so much innovation in large part because it's very open to innovation. In more regulated/corrupt (the two are closely related) fields, such as health care, there are many barriers to competition that kill innovative new companies. Mobile was actually very similar to this in the pre-iPhone era (because you needed to make deals with carriers). This in turn leads to less investment, since it's kind of dumb to invest in a doomed company.

We're at a point in history where most of our problems are social/political. Our technology is good enough to make the world into a nice place for everyone, but we don't do it because our social "software" is broken. It's easy to make fun of Facebook or Reddit as being all about sharing cat picture, but the reality is that they also are changing the flow of information and influence to be much more peer-to-peer instead of top down (e.g. three television networks). Many will disagree, but I believe that in the long term society will evolve to match this more egalitarian structure. The most effective way to cure cancer may be to first cure the social disfunctions that lead to the types of situations described in this article.

robomartin 5 days ago  replies      
As an entrepreneur I have dedicated most of the last 25 years to doing hardware (read: manufacturing) ventures. Manufacturing in the US is hard, if not impossible, save cases where the ecosystem or nature of the market can support it. Problems one could face include: ip (patents) mine field, government regulations, liability issues, lack of localized supply chains, high labor costs, high insurance costs, high taxes and more.

Then, to boot, if you are lucky enough to have to deal with the government or in an industry where government has decided they know better, well, this can be described with two words: Pain and Frustration.

The mechanisms described in the article kept me from even considering making an effort to do some good in the medical field. It's just too painful.

Finally, about two years ago, I had enough and decided to be done with making stuff and pivot into software-only products. This was not a huge pivot in that most of the products we manufactured during the last 20 years had significant software elements (embedded, FPGA and related workstation applications). The transition just meant making a very conscious effort to not go after hardware ideas. This was hard in that I personally like making physical products. But, no more.

My point in relating this personal story is that I have the scars to understand what this little syringe company must have been through.

The article in question highlights something that we should all understand very well at this point: Government rule-making is, more often than not, fraught with unintended consequences that, ultimately, end-up costing us in terms of money, freedom and choice. And, when it comes to the medical field, might even result in people dying.

Part of the problem is that we continue to give the keys to the shop to bureaucrats who have zero real-world, business or employed-by-a-non-government-business experience. You really can't expect much from anyone who has lived their entire life within the confines of an ecosystem where personal decisions carry almost no risk. That is vastly different from the real world, where, if you are a bad programmer or lousy barista you get fired and, no, you don't get to enjoy 80% of your salary for the rest of your life.

Programmers, for example, know and live this issue of making the wrong decision. In the course of solving a problem we choose an approach and go with it. Sometimes it works and often-times there are unintended consequences that need attention. Other times the approach is entirely wrong and has to be scrapped in favor of a different idea. The solution is evolved rapidly until the right approach surfaces. This ultimately leads to better solutions, particularly if peer reviewed.

The trouble with government decision making is that you have the equivalent of managers who don't know how to code --at all-- telling you what algorithm and database to use to solve a problem. Furthermore, it is equivalent to these non-technical managers making their decision the law for the company. And, yes, regardless of what the overwhelming reality of the matter might indicate, changing their laws is either impossible or you need 2/3 of said morons (non-technical managers) to agree to the change. In other words, you should expect the beatings to continue until the morale improves. Of course, reality in the technology world is closer to the idea that those who actually understand the subject should make the decisions. Wouldn't it be cool if every single politician had to have a real job 3/4 of the year? Work three months for government and then go back to the private sector. Now that could be interesting.

rscale 5 days ago 7 replies      
This caught my eye:

Kaiser spokesman Jim Anderson argues that if Shaw's products didn't make their way to hospitals it was because of “significant supply issues” on Retractable's end. He also says they were prone to malfunction and that, in several cases, needles detached and were left “stuck in the arms of patients.”

I'm doubtful that a Kaiser spokesman would fabricate these problems, which leads me to believe that perhaps this reporting isn't as balanced as it could be. Maybe these needles are great, but perhaps there are two problems here, one being a competitor with a lot of control over the customers, and a second being problems with supply chain and quality control.

robomartin 5 days ago 2 replies      
After spending way too much time on this thread here's my parting thought:

Some choose to believe that corporate greed is the cause of issues such as that highlighted by this article. Others believe that the political and legal system in place has flaws that create the conditions necessary for such things to happen. And some are in between these two schools of though.

Here's the kicker: While we live within and with our reality other parts of the world are watching. And in some parts (China?) they are surely having thoughts akin to "these people are too stupid to get out of their own way". And so, we'll keep arguing and "enjoying" the ineptitude, complexities and realities of our reality while others will watch, learn, study and take measures to ensure that they don't fall into the same traps.

Yes, there will probably be better syringes in China than in the US. And, with time, that will be true about a lot more things and a number of other countries.


angersock 5 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting bit from the end of the article:

"This isn't just bad news for Shaw. Because his company is in the red, he has been unable to pull together the financing he needs to expand his factory in Little Elm. So he has partnered with Chinese companies, which put up money to build assembly lines in China in return for permission to produce his syringes for the Chinese market. When his patents do run out, the Chinese manufacturers will be the ones poised to bring his technology to the world market, meaning all the jobs and economic benefits that could have gone to the local residents will instead go to the people of Gansu Province. "


excuse-me 5 days ago 1 reply      
Almost exactly the same with military equipment.

Design a product that saves the lives of front line troops, demo it to the troops and they love it.

Then try and sell it to the government and you are told that you have to form a consortium with an established supplier - Boeing/Lockheed-Martin/General Dynamics in the US, Thales/BAe/EADS in europe.

Now imagine the sort of deal you are offered as a startup negotiating with a trillion $$ global defense company with a stranglehold on the market!

ChuckMcM 5 days ago 1 reply      
When I think of the federal government 'fixing' health care, this is the sort of thing I think they can fix. Not single payer, not mandatory coverage, just good enforcement of anti-competitive practices, ways to enable innovation with patient consent Etc.
saturdaysaint 5 days ago 1 reply      
God I hate the healthcare industry.

This was on my mind this morning because my girlfriend isn't rich and relies on Lunesta to sleep (I'll leave the fact that her doctor is advising her to take this indefinitely for another day). It's extortionately priced - something like $6 a pill - enough to gouge insurance companies thoroughly and enough to wreck havoc on the finances of someone that's not rich and lacks insurance.

It turns out, this is actually the most profitable drug in the world. Yet they can't even sell it in the EU because it's a modest derivative of a (generic) drug that's been around since 1989.

It's disturbing that this is where the patent game ends - with power-brokering and lawyering determining who gets the wealth and power.

bsenftner 5 days ago 1 reply      
I experienced this somewhat when consulting for a medical device startup. They'd developed a modular system supporting Laparoscopic procedures, reducing hands during surgery, which equated to significant safety increases as well as cost reductions. However, their big issue continues to be navigating the procurement process at hospitals, which is akin to requiring a full time lobbyist per hospital for the duration of that hospital's adoption of their system: 2-3 years, after getting them to actually try the system, which often requires 18 months of demos, trials, and negotiations.

Our technologies we, geeks, develop are going to have a very hard time revolutionizing the medical industry. The big players have closed the door behind them in a major way.

DanBC 5 days ago 2 replies      
The movie EDIT "puncture" (thanks diek!) is a reasonably entertaining account off the retractable needle.

US healthcare (and thus, US patients) may miss out on improved syringes, but I hope they're able to sell many of these to the developing world where needle re-use is a serious problem. Re-using needles when 10% of the population has HIV/AIDS is awful. Not just because you risk transmitting HIV to other people, but because people with HIV are not able to resist any infection you pass onto them.

I'm surprised that the practices are legal - I'd have thought that the US would have had good law to ensure free and fair competition.

dr_ 5 days ago 1 reply      
"Or he sold his wares to systems so small and poor that they weren't on the GPOs' radar"prisons, nursing homes, Indian reservations, and the like."

So to minimize my risk of line contamination, I'd be better off getting my medical care in a prison. (Assuming this guys product really does work).

What will change this is how hospitals etc. are reimbursed - the trend is that reimbursements will be based on outcomes, especially with changes introduced by the ACA that go into effect in 10/2012.

So what matters then, are actual outcomes. If in fact there is an increase in infections from line contamination, or poor surgical outcomes (from a towel being left behind or what have you) - this will be measured and monitored, and believe me hospitals will address them, especially the for-profits, which seem to be surging again.

There was a interesting company out of Blueprint Health that addressed hospital procurement, allowing price comparisons. I don't have the details on how the GPO's are dealt with though.


lisper 5 days ago 1 reply      
I can tell you from firsthand experience (as an investor) that the gist of this article is 100% correct: there are significant barriers to bringing a new medical device to market that have nothing to do with the merits of the product or the supply chain, but are quite simply pure protectionism for the established players. If anyone wants details, contact me privately.
jrockway 5 days ago 4 replies      
contact with our health care system the fifth leading cause of death in this country

Whoa. Can anyone give this in-passing snippet some context?

kposehn 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'm glad that our startup isn't dealing with medical devices, only with software. Still, I've been working with some medical device makers and it is a wild and crazy world they work in. The whole GPO system is clearly broken, but I've met some people - at device makers no less - that are passionate about ending it.

We're doing our part to help that along.

rdl 5 days ago 1 reply      
I hope Amazon casts its all-powerful crappy-legacy-vendor-destroying eye upon the medical supply market soon.

All the value-add GPOs offer (other than pricing) is stuff Amazon could easily do for free -- inventory tracking, etc. It's all IT, and basically zero marginal cost.

As long as existing GPOs can't legally prevent a hospital from also using the Amazon GPO, I don't see how anyone could stand against Amazon. Amazon would have zero incentive to lock new device vendors out of the market. Sure, purchases from the Amazon GPO wouldn't contribute to meeting your legacy GPO quotas and rebates, but Amazon has access to capital at levels which will let them destroy regional competition if required -- they could price match any subsidized prices.

scotty79 5 days ago 0 replies      
"Then, in 1986 Congress passed a bill exempting GPOs from the anti-kickback provisions embedded in Medicare law. This meant that instead of collecting membership dues, GPOs could collect “fees”"in other industries they might be called kickbacks or bribes"from suppliers in the form of a share of sales revenue."

No one in their right mind could imagine that anyone could be genuinely stupid enough to think that allowing organisation that was supposed to work for buyers, take money from sellers is a good idea.

That law was 100% surely bought. You don't need any other proof that USA has best Congress money can buy.

tdpeterson 5 days ago 0 replies      
"In the case of the towel bid, hospital administrators were shown a PowerPoint presentation (a copy of which she gave to me) indicating that going with the Medline and Medical Action bids would save them between 6 and 29 percent. But this was relative to the same companies' bids the previous year, not the bids offered by other vendors."

I'm interested in seeing these slides and sent a request to the article's author.

Were the decision makers present aware there were other vendors? If so, how was this data not called into question? It would be interesting to see if the data was presented in a completely misleading way or if there was some level of laziness and complacency on the decision-makers' part as well.

Regardless, misleading presentations are always interesting to examine, such as Tufte's assessment of the presentation given to NASA officials before the Columbia disaster (http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0...).

Edit: Just received a reply from the author that she's unable to share the presentation as the person that originally shared it has been "subject to legal harassment." Lame!

tripzilch 4 days ago 0 replies      
This article definitely took its sweet time to get to the point. Sure it's interesting, but the first thing I want to know is, "what did they do this time?", so I can decide whether maybe I already know about it or not.

Certainly the story about developing new products for a failing healthcare industry is interesting, and I would love to have read about it, if I hadn't been skimming through "yeah yeah yeah and how did they prevent him from bringing it to market? skip skip skip, aha."--IMO, it's just wasting my time, though I would have gladly read the stories about the entrepeneurs if only they'd have gotten to the point first.

Even though I thankfully don't have anything to do with the US healthcare system, I'd love to pass this story on to some of my friends that unfortunately do. Except I don't want to waste their time either.

And that really is a missed opportunity to bring to light something rotten in the system, because of a badly written article.

guard-of-terra 5 days ago 0 replies      
But why doesn't they try to sell to other hospitals? In Europe, e.g., Switz hospitals are very well known for their quality. They might be interested.
Duff 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is there anything significant, important market out there that is not a cesspool of corruption?
digitalengineer 5 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of something: "Hacking Human Waste"

Two guys found (and patented) a way to get rid of very expensive human (hospital) waste. Working product in a few hospitals and everything, but they're looking for a way to scale up (they are great hackers but suck at finding an investor). Any tips?

Estragon 5 days ago 0 replies      
There's a movie based on this guy's struggle, but it's pretty terrible.
anxiousape 4 days ago 0 replies      
So he's a great innovator. So stop complaining and sell it outside of USA.
mahkra 5 days ago 0 replies      
This sounds like what the movie puncture was about. It doesn't end well.

Still worth seeing.

TwoBit 5 days ago 0 replies      
While the main point about the medical supply monopoly seems solid, I'm suspicious about this Shaw guy, his character, and his product. I'd like to see an objective counter-point.
ricardonunez 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm wondering if the best option for them isn't to create a partnership with a existing manufactures. It will be easier for them to get in the market.
tylee78 5 days ago 0 replies      
reminds me of the 400 dollars the hospital charged me the other day for part of a splint (the wrapping cloth) which was probably manufactured in China for $.50
hypervisor 5 days ago 0 replies      
He needs to sell his product in a different country. If the system is broken here, he should go elsewhere and see if he can make a change.
jmvoodoo 5 days ago 1 reply      
Someone needs to bring BYOD to the medical industry ;)
byandyphillips 5 days ago 2 replies      
Wow, I love reading a book on the web. Either cut your copy down by 1/2 (no one is going to read the whole thing) or place a disclaimer at the top on the average it will take to read the whole article.
Asteroid Mining Venture Backed by Google Execs, James Cameron Unveiled space.com
338 points by peteforde  6 days ago   211 comments top 53
jaysonelliot 6 days ago 1 reply      
My inner ten-year old is leaping up and down with excitement right now. I've got visions of OMNI magazine illustrations from the 1980s in my head, with watercolors of mining ships and stylish orange-suited astronauts.

It's been so long since the future felt like it would match up to the optimistic sci-fi of a few decades ago, that I'd nearly forgotten. I know this is just one announcement of an intention, but I don't care, I'm going to go ahead and start dreaming again about seeing space elevators and terraformed moons and planets in my lifetime.

Great story to read before bed.

necubi 6 days ago  replies      
This NY Times article has a lot more information: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/24/science/space/in-pursuit-o....

It's wonderful to see people spending huge amounts of money to expand the reach of humanity instead of our capacity for narcissism. Startups like these give me hope for the future.

jacques_chester 6 days ago 3 replies      
It really bugs me when billionaires do the same thing I would do with billions of dollars before I have billions of dollars to do them with.

Seriously. Space mining and pressure from environmentalism is going to turn this whole field into rivers of gold ... in the sky.

ericd 6 days ago 2 replies      
I'm surprised at how invigorated this news is making me feel, like a weight has been lifted. SpaceX is great, but until now they've mostly been talking about missions that would have to be paid for by the government and subject to the agonizing budget-cutting that seems to happen every time an exciting mission is planned. If these guys succeed, it will emancipate the future of space exploration from congressional budget meetings forever. I don't think I realized how depressed I was about that whole situation until now. This is almost absurdly audacious and I love them for it.
Eliezer 6 days ago 4 replies      
The next space race will be between Google and Paypal.
aresant 6 days ago 1 reply      
And two credible co-founders behind the giant names:

- Peter H. Diamandis (Founder of the X PRIZE)

- Eric Anderson (Founder of Space Adventures,

Rounding out the entire list of backers:

- Larry Page (goog)

- Eric Schmidt (goog)

- James Cameron (goog)

- Charles Simonyi (Billionaire via MSFT, oversaw creation of office)

- K. Ram Shriram (Billionaire via goog)

- Ross Perot, Jr (Perot's son)

via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_Resources

alinajaf 6 days ago 3 replies      
Wow. Second the comments about feeling about ten years old again. I hope beyond all hope that this is actually happening in my lifetime.

Questions for those in the know:

1. Is there any legal precedent on whether or not they're even allowed to mine the asteroids? From what I understand the Moon can't be exploited by any one country or corporation. Does any similar law apply to asteroids?

2. How are they going to get the platinum back to Earth? Re-entry strikes me as needing a really effing big parachutes for the hauls they're going to be bringing back.

guynamedloren 6 days ago 3 replies      
Cannot explain how much this excites me... but can somebody familiar with the matter please elaborate on the economics of this? How, exactly, do they intend to make money?

I was under the impression (from previous articles) that the raw minerals from the asteroids were worth tens or hundreds of thousands $$, while the process of bringing them to Earth would be orders of magnitude higher (millions or billions). Wouldn't it be more economical to use the materials for space ventures/stations/etc? Or are the asteroids composed of some high value materials that can be hugely profitable?

Edit: this is not to say that the venture isn't utterly amazing - but there does seem to be quite a bit of focus on profit, and that confuses me.

kamaal 6 days ago 1 reply      
I think this sort of stuff is natural progression in the time scale of evolution of a species. Its called exploration.

People in the middle ages got equally excited when somebody invented a ship that could sail the seas and a compass that could point where they wanted to go. And then when they actually went there, they found some surprises. They figured that they are not the only ones to exist.

Space exploration will be similar. We have gone from a boat to sail in a small lake, to making ships that can sail and mine resources for surviving a prolonged exploration campaign.

The only thing that can throw spanner in the wheels now is this things going down and projects like these getting dropped. We are on the right track and give the direct and a little more speed. Privatization in this domain is the way forward.I think permanent space colonies very much look to be practical realities in some decades to come.

WalterBright 6 days ago 5 replies      
I'm a little surprised that billionaires haven't already done things like launched a couple more Hubble telescopes. The design is already done and debugged, just clone it, and launch it.

The same for several other successful interplanetary probes - build a (relatively) cheap fleet of clones of successful designs, and send them out to explore the solar system fully.

Heck, you don't even have to come up with all the money yourself. Sell advertising on the mission. Having a logo on the rocket, and logos on the returned pix, etc., are all fantastic opportunities for advertising.

yaix 6 days ago 0 replies      
As much as I dislike Goog for it's terrible costumer service, but these kind of investments make Goog as a company -- as well as it's founders -- so different from other corporations. Autonomous cars, Google earth/sky/moon/mars, Google glass, asteroid mining. Having some crazy idea and just doing it, even though it could fail, but at least trying it.
mukaiji 6 days ago 0 replies      
Here's to the crazy ones.

As a scientist, I am so thrilled about this idea.

Tichy 6 days ago 2 replies      
What will be the shovels of the future gold rush? Maybe it would be a good time to develop mining robots? Rockets are completely out of my reach...
swalsh 6 days ago 1 reply      
Reading through this thread makes me realize there is no shortage of people who want to contribute either financially or through engineering talents.

Prior to now, I didn't even realize it was conceivably feasible to do asteroid mining... but if it is, why doesn't someone start a massive open source track? A classic space race, though it would between a private company, and a non government public effort. I'll contribute money and time :D

javajosh 6 days ago 2 replies      
Finally, extraordinary concentration of capital has an upside.
htf 6 days ago 0 replies      
> Planetary Resources wants to identify and characterize these top targets before it does anything else. To that end, it has designed a high-performance, low-cost space telescope that Anderson said should launch to low-Earth orbit within the next 18 to 24 months.

Wow, they are not wasting time. Last week, the idea of an asteroid mining company was still in the realm of science fiction. Today, an asteroid mining company announces that they are launching a survey telescope within two years. It feels like we are entering a new era of technological progress. It makes me wonder what other surprising announcements are coming over the next few years in other fields.

andyjohnson0 6 days ago 2 replies      
If we suddenly have large amounts of previously expensive (rare or difficult to extract) metals available, what will this do to commodity markets? Would prices be driven down?

If the price of $mineral goes down below a certain level, demand has to go up for continued asteroid mining to be viable. What future activities (apart from the obvious, like catalytic converters) might provide this demand?

tylee78 6 days ago 3 replies      
Now seriously, as a software developer, what would be the best skill set to help these guys... As soon as I can afford it I would knock at their door and work for them for free. What would be most usefull for them (or spaceX)... A lot of C, C++, knowing NASA's open source repos in and out, doing MIT online courses on robotics and astrophysics... ?
sabj 6 days ago 1 reply      
I am tremendously excited to hear about this project; it's exactly what I want(ed) to do, these billionaires have just gotten the jump on me by a few (dozen) zeroes of net worth.

If any of them are reading, or anyone here knows them, I would do anything to get involved in this effort; the development and exploration of space is the most important mission in human history, and I'd love to put to work my business expertise, youthful energy, and eagerness to contribute... I'm well credentialed but more importantly extremely passionate!

bane 6 days ago 0 replies      
This has so much potential. Could this be the proper bootstrapping of us up there? (Thanks NASA for all the early scouting!)
ricardobeat 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is so unreal my brain has trouble deciding it's not a prank.
waiwai933 6 days ago 2 replies      
I hate to admit it, but my brain initially processed the headline as:

"Google execs have backed an asteroid mining venture. In other news, James Cameron has been unveiled."

Then, after that horrendous attempt at comprehension, it came up with this, which was only slightly better:

"James Cameron has unveiled an asteroid mining venture that is backed by Google execs."

melling 6 days ago 0 replies      
We've had discussions on HN before about NASA and man vs robotic space exploration. It's really hard to convince people that NASA should not be going to Mars and not be going back to the moon with people at this time. The best way for NASA to spend its money is to build LOTS of robotic explorers/surveyors and learn as much about the solar system as possible. When we find something of value then it'll be time to send humans, which should take more than 15-25 years once we survey the solar system. At that point we'll have a VC bubble with people trying to extract whatever resources we find.
Roboprog 6 days ago 1 reply      
I love the first picture of the drum about to "eat" the rock. Reminds me of the furnaces in the book "Higher Education"


alinajaf 6 days ago 1 reply      
Has anyone considered that this may be PR for the upcoming Prometheus? They have a TED talk on youtube, so it wouldn't surprise me.
eliben 6 days ago 0 replies      
Incredible, and kudos to everyone involved. I wish I'll live long enough to see the fruits of such efforts harvested.
bitwize 6 days ago 0 replies      
Build yourself a rocket ship,

Blast off on an ego trip.

Can this really be the end?

Back to work you go again.


joshontheweb 6 days ago 2 replies      
How do I get a job as a space miner?
peteforde 6 days ago 1 reply      
I can't help but feel that Asimov would be proud.
MatthewPhillips 6 days ago 1 reply      
What are the property implications? Does a company "own" an asteroid simply by being the first to land on it, or do companies need to bid on asteroids to mine from (and who is in charge of that)?
sown 6 days ago 1 reply      

So I wonder where this puts us on the hockey stick curve of space exploration? Are we at the point of the spinning jenny or more towards the cotton gin in humanity's space timeline? Probably doesn't matter if you are sufficiently far enough into the future and have to squint backwards.

whalesalad 6 days ago 0 replies      
Ads like this in the center of the article really detract from the read =(


dhughes 5 days ago 1 reply      
If this becomes commonplace in the future I wonder how much it will affect the Earth, wouldn't more mass cause changes in the Earth's rotation or orbit?

I know tonnes of crap from space falls to Earth each day or year, whatever the number is, but mining may bring more material back possibly denser metals rather than just rock dust and in a shorter period of time.

Interesting to ponder.

masenghi 6 days ago 1 reply      
Who do asteroids belong to? Can they just claim them and sell the material they extract?

Don't get me wrong, I would love to have my own asteroid mining company. Just need a couple billion dollars first. But what happens once there are two or more competing corporations? Who has the power to say which part of space belongs to whom? Will there be space battles?

lmarinho 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm curious about how they plan to bring these materials here. I assume changing the trajectory of the asteroid towards Earth wouldn't be a very good idea, considering the potential risk of impact. Maybe small chunks of material brought by numerous cheap reentry capsules are the way to go.
ajlburke 6 days ago 1 reply      
This sounds awesome, but I couldn't help but think that once they've built a fleet of robots capable of moving entire asteroids around, there's another viable backup business model to which they could easily 'pivot':

1. Assemble several dozen (hundred?) of the non-platinum-bearing asteroids with your robots and aim them on a slingshot-accelerated path towards Earth.

2. Threaten the entire world (or at least rich countries) with massive kinetic orbital bombardment.

3. ... profit!

Brought to you by the guy who coined "Nuke them from orbit - it's the only way to be sure."

GlennS 6 days ago 0 replies      
If sci-fi has taught us anything, it's that this can only lead to a dystopian future where mankind is ruled by warring mega-corporations. Also, space pirates.
tylee78 6 days ago 0 replies      
I almost upvoted all of your comments - its incredible - as if someone was reading our mind and finally said, let's just do what all of us ever wanted to do!
prawn 6 days ago 4 replies      
If mines are such ugly, destructive things, why is it that I find this development so beautiful?
evoxed 6 days ago 0 replies      
I heard Mr. Cameron is already suiting up for the mission. I wonder where is secret door is this time...
tocomment 6 days ago 0 replies      
So what happened at the press conference at 1pm? Were more details released?
kfk 6 days ago 3 replies      
Are they considering also sources of energy (gases for example) to mine? I mean, metals are good, but we will need more energy too. Also, what metals can they mine? Can they mine lithium (maybe we can ship 'batteries' to charge on the moon or asteroids?)?

Cool stuff anyway.

godbolev 6 days ago 1 reply      
> "at 1:30 p.m. EDT (1730 GMT) Tuesday (April 24) during a news conference at Seattle's Museum of Flight."

I'm not in America. Does anyone know where I can see this live online?

geetee 6 days ago 1 reply      
Get Bruce Willis involved and put up the Kickstarter page. Take my money.
es20641 6 days ago 0 replies      
Link to their live public announcement :: Tuesday April 24 at 10:30 AM PDT :: http://www.spacevidcast.com/live/
gouranga 6 days ago 0 replies      
Genius idea. It'll be like playing Homeworld again :)
wtn 6 days ago 1 reply      
I wouldn't drink water from a heavy-metal rich asteroid.
chj 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, wow, wow, wow, what can I do to support this adventure? Buying more android phones?
chubot 6 days ago 0 replies      
How much is the Unobtainium gonna go for?
gavanwoolery 6 days ago 0 replies      
kator 6 days ago 2 replies      
I love the optimism I naturally want to jump on the band wagon and I doubt my comment will get a single up vote but here it goes:

What about:

1) Biological issues (space viruses etc.)

2) Accidents (opps the orbit changed it's heading for Chicago)

3) More AI for robots, Skynet finally has a good resource base

4) "Today in the news global markets failed as PRI announced capturing a 1 billion metric ton astroid with 80% gold and platinum content"

I am actually super excited just thought it was interesting to think about the counter issues.

Keyframe 6 days ago 1 reply      
Probability of PR stunt rather than truth - 99%, but if it is true we can definitely say we are in a new era.
samstave 6 days ago 1 reply      
What is the math behind mining resources on asteroids?

Assume it takes 50 billion to get to the point where you can mine your first asteroid, how much of what resource is in that asteroid that they can resell to terrestrial earth dwellers who need it for profit?

Or does this not matter at this point?

Further, what will the harvested resources be used to build? Military hardware? If so then I am very unimpressed with what this would mean to our civilization.

While I think it is "cool" - there are so freaking many problems with humans on earth that I feel we largely ignore our core issues and focus on shiny objects.

Every government on the planet is broken, we a a slave species to debt and we kill, exploit and oppress ourselves.

Now, what would be interesting if the took these resources to build a huge floating city-state in the middle of the ocean (or orbit) however, this would just be future-feudalism as it would be living in the corporation.

EDIT: I love how people on HN downvote without any comment. My point is completely valid, it is also my opinion - you don't need to agree, but it would be nice if you attempted to address my question regarding the economics of this effort.

Yelp, You Cost Me $2000 by Suppressing Genuine Reviews. Here's How You Fix It justinvincent.com
318 points by jv22222  6 days ago   160 comments top 45
edw519 6 days ago 8 replies      

Q: How can you verify the quality of a < mover / restaurant / hairdresser / babysitter / dentist / chiropractor / handyman / etc.>?

A: Ask your < friend / relative / neighbor / workmate / schoolmate / etc.>.


Q: Same question.

A: Don't need no stinkin' people. We have the internets!


Q: Internet solution doesn't work. How do we fix it?

A: Use the 1995 solution.

lazerwalker 6 days ago 8 replies      
Worth mentioning is Yelp's long (alleged) history of using review filtering as a de facto racket to 'encourage' businesses to sign up for their paid services.

A company I used to freelance for found that after they stopped paying Yelp for a premium account, they started seeing more negative reviews and a number of their positive reviews were filtered out. They got almost daily phone calls from Yelp marketing types essentially suggesting that if they renewed their subscription, the negative reviews would 'disappear'.

This was a few years ago, so maybe things have changed since then. Either way, I wouldn't hold your breath for a better review verification system.

underwater 6 days ago 3 replies      
I don't know if he's just being coy by saying this is an accident on Yelp's part.

The actual reviews are here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/royal-transportation-moving-and-stor.... It's pretty obvious there is something fishy about the unfiltered reviews. Each reviewer first left a one line review "Amazing!!! one of a kind..one of the best sushi place" and "the best of the best" before their very detailed, glowing review of the movers. If that's what it takes to fool the spam filter then something is very wrong. By contrast one of the filtered reviewers has ten measured, thorough reviews but his review has been banned for ToS violations.

Yelp really needs to disclose which vendors have a business relationship with them. They should also make the filtered reviews easier to see (place the link next to the unfiltered review count) and remove the damn CAPTCHA. I regularly try to check the filtered reviews but can't because the CAPTCHA is too difficult to read.

roguecoder 6 days ago 1 reply      
We've seen this result before, from Wikipedia: http://thedartmouth.com/2007/10/22/news/wiki

They found that there were two patterns of content contribution: people who wrote one review and people who wrote lots. For people who wrote one review, anonymous contributions were higher quality than signed, and those single reviews were higher quality than people who contributed multiple reviews.

Chances are good your most valuable reviews are coming from the long tail and your least accurate reviews are coming from people who are posting lots, but potentially with sockpuppet accounts. Tossing out your most accurate reviews in an attempt to suppress the latter seems counterproductive.

ChuckMcM 6 days ago 1 reply      
Yelp is the poster child of the disingenuous Internet problem.

In a nutshell the problem is that people who are not verifiable by "the service" provide information or data which is essential to the operation of the "the service." Further the beneficiaries of the service (customers) are not paying for the service, and the people who can be harmed or benefit from the service (establishments) have every motivation to game the system to increase business and little downside.

So your business which has modestly thin margins to begin with, grows slowly, and the more popular it gets the more it tries to get gamed and the more margins are squeezed if you're paying people to filter those reviews.

There aren't really any 'good' answers. But there are other examples of businesses like this that have done well. The ones that do well however use the 'review' portal to push more customers to the 'value' area where higher rates of returns are to be had.

I hope someone writes up Yelp, Ripoffreport, TripAdvisor, Expedia, and AngiesList up for a Harvard Business Review group study. There have been a lot of experiments in this space taking different tacks and it would be interesting to compare their effectiveness.

tatsuke95 6 days ago 0 replies      
Over and over and over again I read negative articles about Yelp. These kind of places are ripe for scammers. These businesses know that you're randomly searching for a service, don't know you and don't plan on ever seeing you again. Yelp's system is, apparently, very easy to game. They've been accused of extortion. And yet, billion dollar valuation. It's laughable.

We're so out of touch that people are talking about how this space is ripe for disruption and a new startup. Umm, Yelp is an extremely young company. I guess once you're public you're seen as old hat? Pump and dump, and move on to the next thing. Unbelievable.

dhyasama 6 days ago 0 replies      
The hiding of reviews has made Yelp virtually useless. I like the identity verification idea. I implemented the Equifax version and it's very simple to code. I believe it cost us in the neighborhood of $1/verification. That may outweigh the value of a verified Yelp user though, but I have no idea of the Yelp economics.
Aloisius 6 days ago 1 reply      
Personally I just Yelp would have some sort of collaborative filtering engine. They kind of have a social one, but my friends' opinions are often as bad as a random stranger's.

What people review on Yelp is subjective and Yelp makes it hard to filter out people's biases because of their one dimensional rating system. When people review a restaurant, they review the service, the food, the atmosphere and the overall value. For some people, paying $200 on a meal is outrageous regardless of how epic the food might be. For others, they don't even look at the check when they pay and value doesn't factor into their ratings.

Yelp doesn't ask you to rank the businesses you like on a scale of best to worst, so people rate things based on some internal weighting scale that probably shifts slightly from review to review. I may have a 5-star taco trunk right next to a 5-star review for the French Laundry. They aren't equal.

What people review is also temporal. God help a business if there is say, some construction going on across the street, the patron was in a bad mood and becomes argumentative or the chef is sick and food quality dips for a night. Or maybe the waiter just broke up with his girlfriend. Maybe they run out of the one thing the patron really wants to eat. Any of these things can make someone walk away and feel the business is poor.

Businesses and people also change over time, I have reviews on Yelp for 5 stars from 5 years ago for places that have either gone downhill or simply don't match my current taste.

People also tend to only review things they either really liked/loved or hated which results in most businesses (especially in SF) as being rated 3.5-4 stars making Yelp pretty useless without looking at the underlying reviews.

A collaborative filtering engine could fix a lot of these problems. At the very least I'll match people who have my own biases and normalize people's ratings. Of course it still doesn't fix the temporal issues, but I don't think that's insurmountable.

bobbydavid 6 days ago 5 replies      
Disclaimer: I don't work for Yelp but I have created other user-ratings-based sites before.

It's not entirely fair to criticize Yelp for under-emphasizing negative reviews.

One of the big hurdles to overcome on a user ratings site is that people are most motivated to write reviews when they are outraged. There is a massive selection bias, and if nothing is done to alleviate this, your site runs the risk of becoming a soap box for ranting.

You work harder to get positive reviews than negative ones. If you receive 2 bad reviews and 2 good ones, that does not mean 50% of people are dissatisfied.

This should be the motivation for preferencing good reviews over lots of one-off bad reviews.

BUT: Yelp made the cardinal sin of "objective" ratings sites: their profit comes from the entities they are rating. Ergo everything on their site is questionable.

simonw 6 days ago 1 reply      
The proposed solution sounds incredibly easy to game - as a moving company, I could create a bunch of fake, one-off profiles with complaints about one of my competitors and destroy their Yelp reputation. Unfortunately, I don't think it's possible for an algorithm to detect the difference between a bunch of angry one-time posters and a coordinated reputation attack.

This is why I've gone off sites like Yelp for recommendations, and instead stick to places like Foursquare which rely much more heavily on the behaviour of the people that I know. Seeing that several of my friends have been somewhere more than once is a much stronger recommendation signal than a bunch of strangers giving something five stars.

pitdesi 6 days ago 3 replies      
Is there a startup opportunity for an identity verification service whereby you do the ID verification once and then each service that wants to use it gets charged a smaller amount?

Example: consumer goes to idverificationsite.com, registers there for free- they ask out of wallet questions to verify identity, potentially do a minimal background check too.

You then use this login with Yelp, AirBnB, Getaround, etc.

Yelp, Getaround, Airbnb pay idverificationsite.com some small amount per verified person. Removes some of the friction of ID verification/spreads cost around.

Sidenote: the BBB is the worst offender of these protection rackets - http://feefighters.com/blog/bbb-accreditation/

Also - I've just decided to start posting reviews to Google rather than Yelp, they lost me as a product after reading this thread.

ed209 6 days ago 2 replies      
It would be interesting to see a crowd-sourced recommendation site based only on positive recommendations. Something like a Net Promoter score to tell me where is good. i.e. you can only leave feedback for a place if you would actually recommend it to someone.

Every business can have bad days, and a negative review can put a prospective customer off even if actually 99% of the time that's a good business.

This isn't really a comparative recommendation site like yelp, the scenario would be something like a user saying what they want to do (like eat burgers on friday) then people would only recommend place to go. Kind of like Quora for places.

Eventually you could build a decent picture of business that are recommended multiple times to start making suggestions beyond the crowd sourced suggestions.

teen 6 days ago 1 reply      
I have a friend that works as a veterinarian. Yelp called his business often to try to get an advertising deal. After he declined, many of his 5 star reviews disappeared from the site. After losing a lot of business, he signed up for the advertising. The next day all of the 5 star reviews returns. This was just a few months ago.
schiffern 6 days ago 0 replies      
So, you want Angie's List.

Is anyone surprised that a recommendation site that gets its money from the businesses is less than honest? Is anyone surprised that when they get popular they turn into a protection racket?

Say it with me. "If you're not paying, you're the product." Or in this case, the club.

derwiki 6 days ago 1 reply      
For the record: the sales organization at Yelp has a read-only copy of business data in Salesforce. Salespeople are not able to fiddle with reviews in the main database. They're two completely different systems. There's no possible way a salesperson can hide/show reviews to try and sell advertising. The salesperson can _claim_ to be able to do it, but they're lying.
timdorr 6 days ago 1 reply      
So, the solution is replacing the CAPTCHA with my SSN? All to post a review? Yeah, that doesn't seem reasonable to me...
JohnnyFlash 6 days ago 0 replies      
This isn't really Yelp's fault. Sites like this always have fake reviews mingled in with those that are real. The solution?

Assume people with a 4-5 star review are competent. GET MULTIPLE QUOTES. Doesn't matter if they have 5*, if you feel something is off with them they you avoid.

You also will find out when a quote is too cheap/too expensive and reduce your risk to getting conned.

Don't blame the internets or Yelp. Blame youself for not doing due diligence.

droithomme 6 days ago 0 replies      
The problem with the proposed solution of verifying ID is that people who leave honest bad reviews often enough get harassment sued by angry dishonest business owners, who it turns out are more likely to harass and sue companies than the honest companies are.

The main problem here is that Yelp is a racket as well, this has been known for some time. Those using it, well caveat emptor.

There are other review sites out there that are not as morally compromised as Yelp due to their business model being modeled on a mafia protection racket of "Pay us and we can help these bad reviews go away."

mbesto 6 days ago 0 replies      
Question based identity verification can be very painless.

For you, but not the vendor. See PayPal.

Question based identity verification processes are already used and supplied under the hood by agencies such as TransUnion, Equifax & Experian.

And that leads to friction. Yelp got it's massive user base from frictionless technology.

I don't like Yelp's business practices just as much as the next person, but this is a human interaction issue that isn't solved by a simple algorithm, nor is it solved purely by (mind you, costly) human being based committees.

IanDrake 6 days ago 0 replies      
Any review on Yelp that says "We" or mentions the name of the person that assisted them at company is most certainly fake.


"We were really worried about where to stay on Las Vegas, but then we called hotel X and Margo sounded so nice and welcoming on the phone that we just knew it was the right choice."

mrgreenfur 6 days ago 0 replies      
Yelp has been routinely hiding bad reviews and fixing good reviews to the top. It is a total scam and a total extortion scheme for local businesses.
tocomment 6 days ago 1 reply      
This sounds terrible. I wonder if this space is ripe for a new startup to gradaully take over?

If you guys made a competitor to Yelp, how would you improve on it?

3am 6 days ago 0 replies      
There's no technical workaround for having good references from trusted source for something as important as movers, a dentist, a skilled tradesperson, a doctor, et al. (edit: I don't care, it's true. Even Angie's List isn't great)
AlexBlom 6 days ago 2 replies      
Wow. Surely Yelp can pick up on a continuous, consistent pattern of negative reviews.

The hard part is staying one step ahead of less-legitimate accounts. There's always somebody trying to cheat the system, and stopping these users often results in a tradeoff.

Sivart13 6 days ago 2 replies      
What's most shocking at this point is that this story has been up for seven hours and Yelp hasn't bothered to fix the page in question, the wrongness of which could be observed by any human with eyes: http://www.yelp.com/biz/royal-transportation-moving-and-stor...
pbreit 6 days ago 0 replies      
I generally defend Yelp against a lot of mis-informed opinions but this is pretty bad. It's clear Yelp is hiding a lot of legit reviews. There's a decent case Yelp should be erroring on the side of showing not hiding. At a minimum, Yelp clearly needs to improve its algorithms. As the OP describes, a bad experience with a service provider could easily lead to a 1 star review from a first time reviewer. And these are very helpful reviews.
pg_bot 6 days ago 1 reply      
Honestly the author is over thinking his solution to the problem. The way to solve this problem is to give people the option of viewing reviews that Yelp believes are of dubious origin. Add another section to the reviews page, and let the users decide how to process the extra information but frame it as possibly being untrustworthy with an explanation of why it was tagged as untrustworthy.
pauljonas 6 days ago 0 replies      
I stopped using Yelp after I noted that reviews I submitted were only visible to me, if I was logged into the site.

That defeats the purpose of an online review site -- if the review is only visible to me, why am I posting to Yelp, and giving them valuable data they just will sit on, as opposed to logging in my own local host `reviews.txt`?

I noticed also that a number of favorable reviews, seemingly written by authentic reviewers were also suppressed in like fashion.

See Amazon for a site that gets posting reviews mostly correct.

exue 6 days ago 0 replies      
Despite all its flaws, Yelp is the best solution I've had for finding good restaurants and other services. I love being able to read reviews by locals I might randomly see, browse through their profiles and see what else they like. In the vast majority of cases the crowdsourced reviews are awesome. Unfortunately their verification and filtering system is weak, and needs major improvement (an identity verification program would be awesome). Yelp is still a great service overall, and the fact that I use it over ZAGAT or anything else tells you a lot about how effective it is.
mapster 5 days ago 0 replies      
I agree, though the example gripe is problematic as the moving industry is largely unregulated. It is full of outfits that are subcontracted by the big movers. Extortion is commonplace (moving truck is near your new home. they stop and call on phone asking for $2k more before they arrive and unload your property), and is considered a contract dispute and the police will not get involved, citing such.
mamasays 6 days ago 0 replies      
Yelp has been having problems for a long time, especially with small business owners. The site is killing small business owners, just do a Google search and you will find endless complaints about the site. Truth is Yelp cannot control the reviews, they can't guarantee them and their Filter... if it works only 50% of the time then it is worthless.
int3rnaut 6 days ago 0 replies      
Would anyone be interested in disrupting this space? My friend and I have been working on something we quite like that deals with subjectivity/ethics concerns, but it's a tough space to be in, and we'd love some help. If you want to get in touch, email us at questionasker[at]liveDotCA
Quizzy 5 days ago 0 replies      
Let's talk about the mobile only world: would a native mobile app be self-verifying in that only a mobile phone could download and use the app - so every review requires a real smartphone to post the review. Although "reputation" companies could game this situation by buying 1000 smartphones, but then you would have 1000 smartphones with the same pattern of up-posting such that it would be easier for an algorithm to recognize these "planted" phones.
rush-tea 6 days ago 0 replies      
Like what everyone is saying, Yelp review system is very easy to game. Just create a one off profile, and hype the business. Yelp algorithm only allows good reviews getting posted while the bad ones are buried. Why? Because good reviews generate traffic to Yelp which in turn help Yelp getting money from advertiser.

Five stars review system is flawed.

bbrtyth 6 days ago 1 reply      
Remember, everyone, if you aren't paying for it, you might be the product. In this case, a Yelp user is the product that Yelp sells to businesses by featuring 5-star reviews and burying the 1-star review.

Featuring the 1-stars and burying the 5-stars would also be quite the incentive for a business to pay Yelp, but it would be cynical to assume they are doing that, too.

Symmetry 6 days ago 0 replies      
This seems like pretty much the exact problem that social networking was designed to solve.
Otto42 6 days ago 1 reply      
Wait, people actually use Yelp? Seriously?

I find that to be the most shocking statement in the article.

debacle 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not surprised at all. Hasn't Yelp been considered kind of shady for yearS?
gzervas 6 days ago 1 reply      
True, Yelp got the filtering completely backwards in this instance. But, do you base any economic decision on two 5-star reviews from two Yelpers with 0 friends and 4 reviews combined?
garrett_smith 6 days ago 0 replies      
Justin, as a business owner, you are not Yelps customer. Yelp customer, or at least the one they care about, is really the people who use the site.
darkblob32 6 days ago 0 replies      
I use Yelp to get ideas about what places to eat, but recommendations and confirmations from friends is usually the final say. I really like Yelp, but things like this keep coming up and it's hard to trust that their heart is in the right place. Not to mention how slow they are at staying competitive with other services. Check-in feature seemed to take forever, and I still can't believe they haven't tried to implement customer appreciation cards a la Stampt.
antidaily 6 days ago 0 replies      
I only use Yelp to see whats nearby.
robatsu 6 days ago 0 replies      
Identity verification and such are only part of the problem. Even if it is a bona fide person writing the review (and ignoring the problems w/Yelp filtering practices), a truly valid review only comes from one who the readers can be assured really was a customer of Royal Movers in addition to some of the other, lower identity bars.

So how could that work?

AznHisoka 6 days ago 1 reply      
Yelp doesn't care because it doesn't affect their bottom line.

If you're not a customer, you're the product.

ckdarby 6 days ago 1 reply      
I have no pity for this guy...seriously he only went by Yelp's reviews and did no further research.

This article just proves how stupid consumers can be when making important decisions.

When I read the article I didn't see the guy mentioning looking up the company on the BBB or even simply Google'ing "[Company] scams" or "[Company] scammers".

Yes, Yelp could implement better solutions to protect consumers but ultimately the consumer needs to do adequate research before purchasing.

Pwning a Spammer's Keylogger spiderlabs.com
314 points by wglb  6 days ago   64 comments top 17
pilif 6 days ago 1 reply      
> Well, for the dump file BPK.DAT, the XOR key partially worked, but to make it more readable I XORed it using two bytes 0xAA, 0x00

I'd say the older version that was analyzed before wasn't using unicode yet, whereas the later version was.

Very cool how you see the effects of character encodings all over the place - even where you don't expect them.

Also, if done right, the "encryption" should IMHO have been done after the file has been written in its native encoding using an input byte sequence. But seeing that the XOR key had that second 0 byte, I'd say that the encryption was done using a "string" key instead of plain bytes.

And don't get me started on the idea of using XOR as "encryption" - especially with repeated pattern like this, this can't even be reasonably called obfuscation IMHO.

yread 6 days ago 3 replies      
Ah good old HIEW. It's the simplest and nicest disassembler - open a file switch to disassembly with one keypress. Move one line or one byte at a time for defeating code that jumps in the middle of instructions, edit the assembly (ok code bytes) in place with live preview what instructions you're writing. All in 130KB of code :)

EDIT: I wonder why is the author using a version from 2004 though... I had to double check the date of the article. This tool is well worth the money!!!

tallanvor 6 days ago 0 replies      
Although a year old, Mark Russinovich's posts talking about analyzing Stuxnet using only Windows Internals tools is another really interesting read: http://blogs.technet.com/b/markrussinovich/archive/2011/03/3...

It is fun to figure out how malware works.

jiggy2011 6 days ago 1 reply      
Reverse engineering stuff like this can be fun.
I remember trying to reverse engineer some random .exe that got emailed to me once.

I disassembled it but all I found was some basic initialization code and then a jmp to an address that didn't seem to exist.
However when I ran it (in a VM) with a debugger it seemed to go through all kinds of Win32 Calls.

Very odd

evilswan 6 days ago 1 reply      
Great post, really enjoyed following the trail along with the author. The sad part is, knowing how useless a lot of ISP's abuse@ emails are, the FTP might never be taken down this way.
drostie 6 days ago 1 reply      
Hey, let's use XOR-encrypt -- it works so well in the movies!

But seriously, it's nice to see this sort of post about breaking into the inbreakers' code.

I'm a little surprised that people are treating logging into the FTP server (if not deleting the keylogs) as a legal gray area. I understand the moral dilemma of vigilante justice, but in principle, just doing an FTP connect and LIST seems to be well within your right, given that they gave you software which logs in and makes a directory and sends your keylog. Is there a real concern that someone will take you to court for that?

martingordon 6 days ago 3 replies      
Correct me if I'm wrong, but one of the additional benefits of using a password manager such as 1Password is that it thwarts keyloggers. They may only get your master password (which shouldn't be your password on any site) but your site specific user name and password are never actually typed.
farmdawgnation 6 days ago 1 reply      
I would have replaced all the existing keylogger files with pictures of Rick Astley and Rebecca Black, but that's just me.
dkersten 6 days ago 0 replies      
I remember coming across a malicious piece of javascript that found its way onto some websites a few years back. Just for fun, I traced it through the various stages to find out what it did. I decoded the js to find out that it downloaded an executable. I used objdump to look at the executable and through some tinkering and google searching found out it was packed with upx. So I unpacked it and I think I went through one or two more stages (with the help of people on various forums) before we got to the raw binary. Someone on the forums also ran it in a VM and we found out it connected to one of a handful of ip addresses. After some tinkering and looking through the code, someone on the forums figured out that it stole WoW account passwords.

It was a lot of fun and felt a bit like being a detective of some kind.

datagramm 6 days ago 2 replies      
"This keylogger program can be legitimately purchased and used, ostensibly for monitoring your kids' or employees' browsing habits, etc. As you can imagine, PK can also be used for badness."

Is this person suggesting that using a keylogger to spy on your employees/children without their knowledge is not 'badness'?!

ertdfgcb 6 days ago 3 replies      
I wonder how he just happened to notice the keylogger connecting to FTP? Did he have a monitor in the background or something? Seems like that would be a good practice for doing things like this, and this guy obviously knows his stuff.
SjuulJanssen 5 days ago 0 replies      
Would be nice if there would be a community site for stuff like this where people would work together. A bit similar to http://www.419eater.com but then just only the technical stuff.
infinitivium 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is an awesome post! I want to see more of this on HN. There is a mac program called Private Eye that monitors netstat and shows if programs connect to remote addresses. I always run it after downloading a new app so I can see where it's phoning home too
acron0 5 days ago 0 replies      
I love stories like this. Victory over the dark side, muahaha!
hobbyist 6 days ago 0 replies      
Why didnt the attacker directly use the details in his code, rather than creating a configuration file and decrypting it from the code?
Duckaz 4 days ago 0 replies      
I inspire to be like you when I am older, great work :)
I have no idea what I'm doing ninjasandrobots.com
303 points by nate  7 days ago   75 comments top 30
j45 7 days ago 4 replies      
The smartest developers/people I know don't have to prove they're the smartest at every step.

They have the comfort to say "I don't know" and "You could be right".

Most importantly, they have an attitude of "I can probably figure something out that will work".

They rarely say something is not possible. They rarely say no outright.

They more often than not will say "Let me think about it and get back to you." They understand how delicate an idea is and how valuable it could be.

Being a problem solver every day, coming across new situations and getting better at it means this mindset is a normal, expected thing.

Problem solving is an optimistic skill, not pessimistic.

Problem solvers live in possibility, tempered by healthy, but not poisoning doubt.

What does this leave?

Those who are so full of their own doubts that they start to believe in the insurmountability of their doubts. They turn, like evangelists to spread their viewpoint and validate their insecurity and bring others down with their doubts.

I call them, the the doubt worshippers. Blind doubt is as painful as blind faith to me; especially where creativity and innovation are expected to occur.

Starting with a seed of believing in logical thought and debate, doubters now feed the monster of doubt, and live and see life through doubts, first, instead of possibilities tempered by doubts.

Doubters look at everything with what they believe to be a critical eye. Rather, it is one of doubt seeking to destroy, not tempering possibility so it may have a chance at succeeding.

Doubters love to play the position of contrarian, having something grand to say that's generally the opposite of whatever is being said, just to fuel their doubt muscle. Doubters are generally risk averse. Doubters generally avoid pushing their limits and growing. Yet, they're so smart and logical and skeptical.

Still, great things only seem to get accomplished in the realm of possibility and creativity.

Exclusive doubters kill creativity and innovation.

I generally avoid self-doubting doubters. If a scoffing, smarmy, self-absorbed know it all can't openly entertain an opinion that isn't theirs, isn't really as open of a mind as advertised. Logic is a great tool, but it is not where creativity resides. Doubt and logic can be used to fuel ignorant, stupid, petty and fanatic ends as easy as anything.

There's too many folks who try to fake it until they make it. They are driven by managing their insecurities instead of building their strengths. Unfortunately you can't fake being able to learn the details, see how the dots could connect and making a new reality that actually works with them.

Find and cherish those who know the balance of living in creative and innovative possibility and letting the doubts be a healthy, but not ruling force.


delinka 7 days ago 1 reply      
I've had to externalize this behavior since having children: "I don't know. But we can look it up."

I do this all the time anyway-- need to decompose an audio sample? I have no clue, but I can read about it ... oh, look FFT. Calculate a loan schedule? Think I was curious about that several years back ... Google amortization ... Got it.

My children think I'm a genius (I have a 17yo that still thinks her dad is the smartest human on the planet) simply because A) I will deduce an answer aloud, B) admit that it's a guess but plausible, C) research when we get home, and D) summarize the findings (including my mistakes in deduction) in language they can understand. And I learn something along the way.

Can't learn past 30? Bullshit. I learn every day and plan to for the remainder of my life.

jlongster 7 days ago 1 reply      
I experienced this over the past two weeks when I was staying up 'til 4 AM trying to get this project to work: https://github.com/jlongster/dcpu-lisp

I knew it was possible because I could compile the program in my head, but automating that in to a program is a whole different task. Still, the concept was easy to prove. It was all in the details, and I constantly was reminded that I had no idea what I was doing. I've never written assembly before, and barely done any compiler work. Still, over 10 painful nights, it all came together.

What a rush.

alexholehouse 7 days ago 0 replies      
Here's the secret which has brought me to some pretty interesting places over the last 10 years - "Go for the thing you find most interesting, irrespective of how hard it is".

What does this mean? I'm about to start a job optimizing and developing algorithms for high performance scientific computing, over 1000s of CPUs and terabytes of memory. I have NO IDEA how I'm going to do this exactly, but I also have complete faith that I'll figure it out and will do it well, because it's a really interesting problem, and figuring stuff out is what I do. It will make me a better programmer, better equipped to do other things I want to do, and better prepared for similar work in the future.

If something is easy, it's probably going to become boring. Find something hard and beat it into oblivion.

lotharbot 7 days ago 2 replies      
Constantly feeling like you have no idea what you're doing can be a good thing.

It means you're constantly putting yourself in position to grow. It means you're challenging yourself instead of simply falling into a routine. After a while, it means you know what you're doing in a lot of areas that you wouldn't have if you'd just stuck to what you know -- so even if you don't know what you're doing in this specific way, you know what you're doing in a lot of supporting areas. Because of all the figuring out you've done in the past, you're able to figure it out this time too.

(This advice is remarkably applicable to parenting, as well.)

kurtvarner 7 days ago 3 replies      
This is the same thought I had after reading Justin Kan's post (http://justinkan.com/what-good-is-experience). I was surprised by how much emphasis Justin placed on the importance of experience. I feel one of the best traits of an entrepreneur is the ability to learn quickly and figure things out on the fly.
stuartjmoore 7 days ago 1 reply      
I don't think I've ever started a project that I knew how to do backward and front. Every thing I know about iOS programming comes from "oh crap, a client wants this, how do I do it?". Although, it makes every past project look worse and worse every time I start a new one.

Google it 'til you make it.

sidman 7 days ago 0 replies      
Great post dude and i think i can relate to many of the situations you found yourself in. Hell every time i finish a module or feature on my current project i am always like ... What the hell ... It actually works. I do this because i remember not 5hrs or a day ago, i had no freaking idea what i was doing, the VIM screen was empty and had no idea where to start or how to solve what i wanted to do (specially if its a new language, new team or new technology your working with). Team always tells me to sit down and get back to work (jokingly) after i joyously get up and do fist pumps but i get happy when i have no experience in something but manage to stumble over things until i get it to work, cause the joy is not simply the thing works, its that i feel having no experience and getting something working no matter what the topic of concern is, is a big deal, whether its programming, math or traveling the world by your self when you have never left the house. It is a big deal ...

Right now though, i am working on a startup, just small, making some revenue to live of but finding it tough, very very tough, competition is aplenty, constant new technical problems ,design choices, no idea how to market cause just no experience (so far its been organic but we need a faster rate of growth)and i can honestly say this feels like it could be a particular case where i might not be able to make it out with a smile on my face. In all the other problems i had no experience with, i got this voice in my head that says, mate... you will do this no problems, you will get the problem solved but for this startup the voice is there but just not as strong cause its been told to shutup in more then one instance when things didn't turn out as planned. However, since I know in the past when i kept going things turned out alright I just keep going.

For a startup, there are just so many fronts that need some experience and as far as i can think back , I only ever had to face a single topic at a time for which I didn't have experience. Some examples have been when I worked on new math or programming problem or studying for any exam, solving a problem at work that is more inter personal, asking for a raise when i had never asked for one before, its all just one thing so its easier to focus all the attention on how to make that single thing work. But for a startup there are just so many fronts that experience would really help to make the event of starting a startup successful. Its painful sometimes ...

I guess this is the first step towards getting more experience :) and hey .. its fun

nsns 6 days ago 0 replies      
Dogen, the Japanese Zen philosopher has said (in the context of study and practice): "For example, when you sail out in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view the four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round or square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like this." (quoted from this translation - http://genjokoan.com/)

I know a translator who once had a conversation with another, 70 years old, translator, my friend complained how with each book she translates her perception of language becomes murkier, the elderly translator replied, "you still have it good, I have to check the meaning of 'table' in the dictionary."

My point: with experience things become more complex, not vice versa. Certainty is usually a mark of naivety.

demetris 7 days ago 1 reply      
It baffles me that people who seem to pay careful attention to the appearance of their websites are so careless with their fonts:


The allure of web fonts becomes stronger and stronger as availability and implementations improve, but people need to be careful: there are very few choises that work well everywhere.

robatsu 2 days ago 0 replies      
The optimistic viewpoint going into the unknown, i.e, the confidence that the answer is out there somewhere and you will find it, is one of the, if not the, most important success factors in any sort of greenfield venture.

I'm an older guy and even years ago when looking back, things that I just assumed would work out, even though an objective observer would perhaps disagree, always seemed to have more or less unfolded according to plan. It is almost as if life is much like some evil jungle vine that wraps and immobilizes one the more you struggle against it.

Here is one personal example - I was born into a family that valued education, it was always assumed that the kids were going to college - this was a little before the now current assumption that everyone goes to college.

Well, I hated school from junior high onward with an abiding passion and finally quit at the first available opportunity at the beginning of 10th grade. But it never occurred to me that I wouldn't go to college and I did, pretty much on schedule w/my peers (and I paid for it..) getting a BS in physics, MS in Computational Fluids/Mech Engrg.

Again, it just never really occurred to me that I wouldn't go to college as I was bailing from high school, kind of weird in retrospect. But I never even slightly doubted the outcomes - not in a defiant way, either, just a low key assumption.

And again, looking back, I can find many other examples my life or other peoples lives that follow this pattern.

I don't know if there is a term for this mindset, but I see allusions to it both in the OP and in many of the other comments here.

jgv 7 days ago 0 replies      
Ben Pieratt, CEO of Svpply, shared a similar sentiment in this great blog post last year: http://pieratt.tumblr.com/post/5450242474/my-job-pt-1-i-have...
decadentcactus 7 days ago 0 replies      
I definitely agree with the end of this. There's been many times where I've come up against something I need to learn - a new technology, technique, library integration, and wondered how I could figure it out.

Then I remember, years ago, thinking the same thing about the things I'm doing now. How I thought Python looked fancy and confusing, how configuring servers was arcane, and how I took hours to make a page POST a value to another page. And update a database (with no range checking, so that went into negatives, but it _worked_).

Now I can reasonably assume that given enough effort, I can figure almost anything out.

Sindrome 7 days ago 0 replies      
I've found that most people don't know what they are doing. Which as you pointed out is fine. But what I find very alarming is that most people don't ever take the time to mend their ignorance.

I've also found that since people rarely know why they are doing... The ones that can bullshit the best are viewed as more competent. These are the worst perpetrators of the ignorance issue. These are the people that become the token useless over compensated middle mananger.

tonyjwang 7 days ago 2 replies      
I assume, perhaps wrongly, that there are more efficient methods of becoming an entrepreneur than pure trial-and-error and plugging oneself into HackerNews, Quora, and irc channels, and reading books. People always ask, where do I begin? What's the most efficient way of doing X?

I'd love to see a mind map, or even a basic checklist, of all the skills you need in a typical startup and the different options for gaining that skill. Maybe I'm being too picky and demanding, but knowing what you know and what you don't know would be a nice efficient alternative to "I don't know what the heck I'm doing. Grit FTW!"

numeromancer 6 days ago 0 replies      
A new game for HN commenters: “Guess that reference”. A poster gives a relevant but maybe slightly obscure quote from literature and others try to guess where it's from. Here's mine:

“Do any of us know what we're doing? If we did, would we ever do it?”

orky56 7 days ago 0 replies      
It's all about perspective. As a lifelong learner, you're gonna have the highs of discovering an insight and the lows of realizing your ignorance. If you have the right mindset and character, then it's a challenge and up to you to deal with those highs and lows properly. Celebrate those wins, use that momentum and motivate yourself with those lows. Personally, what gives me the most problems is when there is too much of a gap in time or other resources and I lose that momentum. Getting over that inertia and rediscovering that spark for that subject or project can be difficult. Once I find it though, there's no stopping me!
laaph 7 days ago 0 replies      
Some things you can figure it out as you are doing. Some times I think being in software development is cheating as I can do that in many cases.

But in most cases, I think you can do great harm and likely waste a lot of time (but probably learn a lot!) if you just go along blindly without having some clue of what you are doing. To take an extreme example, you really don't want to be in the air as your pilot is reading a "Flying airplanes for dummies" book.

And he uses being in a class as an example! If you knew what you were doing already, you wouldn't need to be taking the class!

Having said that, I also believe that much of the time, no amount of preparation can prepare you for what you need to do. You still need to figure out many things on the fly, and frequently, you don't learn those things until you actually do them.

guynamedloren 6 days ago 0 replies      
Nate - did you talk about startups at UIUC circa 2010? If so, you (inadvertently) introduced me to the world of startups as well as the YC community, and for that, I am grateful. Life changing stuff - you have no idea.
cynthiaherald 7 days ago 1 reply      
Reminds me of a theme that many historical icons embodied....a sense of self-education. But on a daily basis.

Ben Franklin was a self taught printer, scientist, etc...who went on to become world-renowned for each profession. He had no formal education or schooling either.

IceCreamYou 6 days ago 0 replies      
Nate, the thing is, you do know what you're doing. You'd be having no fun if you were just doing things you already knew how to accomplish. You are intentionally choosing to do things where you know you will have to learn in order to achieve them. It's not that you are clueless, you just know how to achieve things you haven't already learned how to do.

You know how to learn. You know how and more importantly when to search on Google (which a shocking number of people don't). You know how to try things.

I wouldn't call that having no idea.

dkersten 7 days ago 1 reply      
It took about 12 floppy disks. :)

Java is about four times that size (for a minimal distribution) nowadays.

jonny_eh 7 days ago 1 reply      
Fake it 'til you make it baby!
loahou04 7 days ago 0 replies      
I always get stuck on new things and just get absolutely frustrated over things that i have no idea what i'm doing. I find taking a break and then coming back to it usually helps. The funny thing is once you figure it out you cant ever see how it didnt click in the first place
mmccomb 6 days ago 0 replies      
There's no harm in admitting that you don't know what you're doing, heck it's a healthy attitude to take. It's when you head down the other path and don't acknowledge you're ineptitude or need for education/learning that things start to go wrong.
taude 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is why one of the most important skills I look for in dev-types is their ability to learn and figure s#$t out. It's not only what you know today, but that you don't know what you don't know tomorrow, but you've gotta figure it out.
evilswan 6 days ago 0 replies      
So true. I have never, ever taken a job I knew how to do (fully). I blagged it, and learned it all on the job.
n00bmach1ne 6 days ago 1 reply      
nelmaven 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is inspiring read!
ojr 7 days ago 0 replies      
Power to the creators!
Show HN: iPG - YC Interview Simulator jamescun.com
282 points by jamescun  4 days ago   77 comments top 29
qdot76367 3 days ago 1 reply      
To prepare for demo day, I've decided to use iPG with M-x doctor (she's from a small, not widely known country that has some native naming eccentricites and is in constant war with their two lettered neighbors), the CEO at my new health startup Psychologr. Obviously I'm the technical cofounder and she's the ideas person, so I let her do the talking.


iPG: Who might become competitors?

M-x doctor: What do you think?

iPG: How big an opportunity is there?

M-x doctor: I'll ask the questions, if you don't mind!

iPG: What do you understand that others don't?

M-x doctor: Can you elaborate on that?

iPG: Why will you succeed?

M-x doctor: I could ask the same thing myself.

iPG: Who would be your next hire?

M-x doctor: I would appreciate it if you would allow me to do the questioning.

iPG: Would you relocate to Silicon Valley?

M-x doctor: Why do you say?

iPG: How much does customer acquisition cost?

M-x doctor: I have asked myself that question many times.


So, the tactic seems to be stay firm, and let him know who's asking the questions.

Can we have our money now?

michael_nielsen 3 days ago 4 replies      
The person who is perhaps the brightest [1] person I've ever met would - if this is a fair simulation - be rejected by YC. When answering a question he often won't even have begun to reply after fifteen seconds. I wonder how often YC rejects people such as that.

[1] I mean this in a particular way: capable of extraordinarily deep insight very, very rapidly. Just not 15 seconds rapid.

mceachen 3 days ago 4 replies      
When talking to PG and the other YC partners, be substantive, and get straight to the point.

DO NOT BEAT AROUND THE BUSH. Do not hem and haw. "Uhm"s and "uh"s don't lend an aura of intelligence.

Use precise and concise language. You aren't pitching a VC that will ask you what your "secret sauce" is.

He talks quickly, and so do the other YC partners. Try to match their tempo (as you should when talking to anyone).

Animus7 4 days ago 1 reply      
Heh, I thought my team was the only one that made this kind of thing before interviews. This one's got much better content than ours though; thanks for sharing!

For those like me who are curious what the RNG missed, here's the data list:


OpenAmazing 3 days ago 2 replies      
Are you guys affiliated with http://www.backblaze.com?

If not, you should change your logo and website design fast. Possibly your name too.

rooshdi 3 days ago 0 replies      
Holy macro! This is like a never-ending interrogation! But one hell of a good one, nonetheless. Great piece of stuff James and iPG! Should help out a ton of interviewees.
mindcrime 3 days ago 0 replies      
Given the nature of this conversation, I'll throw in a gratuitous plug for "pgbot" a half-baked "AIML implementation of pg" that I cooked up one night in response to something somebody said here (or on #startups).


It might be fun to get some other people to fork that and start making it "smarter."

elliottcarlson 3 days ago 2 replies      
Are questions such as "How will you make money?" answerable in 15 seconds? I tried it with my personal concept, and even with trying to remain concise and to the point, I can't answer that question without it becoming a string of words that would not pass as a sentence.
tzury 3 days ago 0 replies      
The speed of question makes it more like RPG than iPG

(*) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket-propelled_grenade

martin_k 4 days ago 3 replies      
Press N
sparknlaunch12 3 days ago 1 reply      
Wow! This is exactly what we have been playing around with. The tool looks really good.

Is this something you are looking to take further?

What has been the feedback in terms of usefulness? Do users this this type of mock interview works?

Have you done any research or analysis on the effectiveness?

charlieok 3 days ago 0 replies      
...however, there is also a “separate application track for groups that don't have an idea yet”


makeee 4 days ago 1 reply      
Love it! It helped me a lot before my interview ;)
ColinHayhurst 3 days ago 1 reply      
Take a look at this great list of questions too by Francis Dierick who created an iPhone app too. http://fr.anc.is/2012/01/21/top-100-startup-questions/
CompiledCode 4 days ago 0 replies      
Clever and fun!

Please fix the misspelling though... "quick, consice [sic] answers"

reso 3 days ago 0 replies      
We're using this right now to prepare for our interview. Nice work guys!
DTrejo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Record the person's response!

Would be great if you could replay each of your responses at the end to see if you sounded horrible (or good).

pbreit 2 days ago 0 replies      
Seems to require a keyboard so not usable on iPad.
freshfey 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't like the timing effect, but I believe that those are super important questions to ask yourself before attending an interview (be it for/at YC or somewhere else)
tonyjwang 3 days ago 1 reply      
Any way to make this a generic tool? Would love to be able to use this with my own questions for other purposes.
metaphorical 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is both stimulating and depressing at the same time. As if there's only one correct way of thinking and communicating. Why conform yourself to someone else's nature? You're not Steve Jobs, and you're not pg, you are yourself -- forget the pro-tip and be yourself.
aorshan 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is pretty clever. Well done guys.
aoprisan 3 days ago 0 replies      
it would be nice if sample answers could be recorded and votes recorded, pushing higher score responses up..
thenonsequitur 4 days ago 0 replies      
Well done.

I'd like to see some more pro tips!

xanadohnt 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have some good engrish for you today: What resistance will they have to trying you and how will you overcome it?
amarcus 3 days ago 0 replies      
Link seems to be down. Anyone got a mirror?
jansen 4 days ago 0 replies      
Love it, good luck guys!
dr_win 4 days ago 0 replies      
vyrotek 4 days ago 0 replies      
You can expect to be banned shortly.
"Gangbang Interviews" and "Bikini Shots": Silicon Valley's Brogrammer Problem motherjones.com
270 points by addabjork  4 days ago   360 comments top 46
fab13n 4 days ago  replies      
> To literally handicap yourself by 50 percent is insanity.

This is very PC, but BS nonetheless. At the stage when people can be profitably hired by start-ups, the male/female ratio is nowhere near 50% among technical candidates.

I'm not saying that frat culture isn't harmful, nor would I dare to guess why women are underrepresented among development professionals; but defending a thesis with such grossly false assertions can only harm it.

Lewisham 4 days ago  replies      
What I find particularly disconcerting about this Van Horn story is not that he wanted to present it (which is terrible in and of itself), but that this guy is 28, went through Digg (who never struck me as a company of idiots), already presented a sexist presentation, and still appears at SXSW either by invitation of him or Path. Why would Path or SXSW allow it? Did he not practice this presentation at Path before heading out? Was this thought to be acceptable by everyone at that company?

He sounded to me like some tragic Van Wilder-esque figure trying to clutch on to those college good times forever.

What is somewhat frustrating about all this stuff is that, while brogrammers or hipsters or whatever Bay Area-clique is in this month, can be targets of derision, the Valley is actually diversifying its personality structure, if not its sex. It's refreshing to see people that have different lifestyles to the geek stereotype, and it's broadening the appeal of these companies.

It's getting easier and easier to sell Computer Science as a career to male undergraduates, because they're seeing that there are people just like them higher up. It's very annoying that those same higher ups are screwing up female motivation.

joejohnson 4 days ago 3 replies      
Good, I'm glad people walked out of Van Horn's talk. That's the appropriate response to this sort of immature bullshit. This may sound extreme, but if you're surrounded by douche bags who make misogynistic jokes and weave rude and immature anecdotes into a work-related presentation, then these "brogrammers" must believe that this behavior is acceptable. And if you witness this, and laugh along (or even just ignore it), you are tacitly agreeing that this culture is acceptable. Do you want to work in an environment that allows this?

I am man, and this sort of culture makes me very uncomfortable and angry. I imagine it's even more aggravating and discomforting to women in these situations.

Simply refraining from laughing at a distasteful joke or turning a blind eye to vulgarities is a cop-out. We are all apart of the culture; if you're not calling this shit out, you might as well be laughing along.

If you see these behaviors, make an example to call that person out. Make it very clear that this behavior is not accepted. Failure to do so is implicit approval.

ebbv 4 days ago 2 replies      
Not that fucking Siri canard again. It was debunked repeatedly. The reason Planned Parenthood wasn't being found by the person's query is they were looking for "abortion provider" or something along those lines and Planned Parenthood wasn't listing itself under those terms. It had NOTHING to do with sexism on the part of the developers.

Shame on the author.

gdubs 4 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting and well-written article, but one big problem: why throw in the Siri abortion thing? It wasn't needed to legitimize the author's point, and if anything comes across as technically naive. While Siri contains easter eggs that were manually added by programmers, the vast majority of searches would have to be algorithmic. Siri fails to find an answer to many basic queries, so to say that the lack of a response to 'where can I get an abortion?' is due to a lack of insight on the part of 'male programmers' is specious.
ceol 4 days ago 1 reply      
> At the startup-focused Grow Conference in 2011, his presentation included bikini-girl images from his calendar. He prefaced the slides with a laughing, "I'm sorry for being sexist. I apologize in advance,"

I read this a lot on reddit. Someone will preface their comment with "I'm going to hell for this" or "Apologies in advance" as if that's supposed to excuse it. I get the feeling it's because these people don't see themselves as ____ist, so when they do something ____ist it's "just a joke" or "I'm not serious!"

I think for us to get rid of this culture, we need to make these people realize they're actually sexist. They're not a nice guy making a sexist joke; they're a sexist guy making a sexist joke, and this is how everyone sees them.

RandallBrown 4 days ago 9 replies      
The brogrammer meme is JUST A JOKE! It's the very opposite of a stereotypical programmer. It's simply taking a stereotype, flipping it around, and poking fun at it.

Instead of being disgusted by jokes about nudie calendars, do something about it. Go give your own presentation. Recruit more women at your company. Turn the boys club into an everyone club.

I'm not saying that everything people are doing is okay, I'm just saying that I think there are more productive ways of dealing with it than being offended.

reitzensteinm 4 days ago 3 replies      
It absolutely blows my mind that people are still dumb enough to get up at tech conferences and do sexist (in this case sexual) presentations.

A backlash seems almost inevitable at this point. Maybe they figure any publicity is good publicity?

vectorpush 4 days ago 1 reply      
What sickens me most is that these people don't believe they're wrong. I won't generalize every individual who's ever made a stupid comment, but I can tell you anecdotally that these 'brogrammers' resent being called out for sexist remarks and turn to like-minded cliques where acceptable discourse includes long-winded rants regarding the harrowing campaign of persecution set upon them by the likes of 'liberal whiteknights' and 'feminazi bitches'.

These guys aren't actively conspiring to exclude women from tech (in fact, they tend to jump at any superficial opportunity to demonstrate the opposite), but they're angry about being called sexist and they really don't want to capitulate to the suggestion that their behavior merits serious adjustment (which is not surprising considering the correlation of ego with 'brogrammer').

The surplus of cash and minor acclaim only emboldens their resolve; there is a subconscious belief that their financial success has conferred the wisdom to authoritatively determine the appropriate bounds of sexual commentary for a professional setting and anyone who can't deal with sexist bullshit can just get the fuck outta tech because the startup is king and sensitive women (and men) just can't handle the heat of 60 hour weeks spent reclined in front of a widescreen LCD.

These chauvinistic kids really need a wake up call, but frankly, I fear the money is just too good for them to ever really care.

stfu 4 days ago 6 replies      
These "I'm shocked, outraged, sick to my stomach." postings make me always a bit uncomfortable.

It seems to me that there are two ways one can approach this subject. On to proclaim that these are intentional acts of portraying females in a negative light and keeping them out of the tech industry. The other, that these are just a bunch of nerds, trying (and in large parts failing) to make coding something "oool" or a "manly" thing to do.

As always the interpretation of these things is to a certain degree based on the personal frame one puts these events in a context with.

slantyyz 4 days ago 1 reply      
Being a little too old to be a brogrammer (heck, I still remember when the notion of casual workdays was a novelty), I have a simple rule that I follow:

"If you're on the clock, act like it."

That typically means no inappropriate jokes/comments or profanity in workplace communications (email, conversation, slide decks, etc.), dressing appropriately (i.e., casual at work, but not too casual, dressing up for meeting with third parties), etc.

This idea might be considered "old school" here on HN, but it has kept me out of trouble for a long time, and I'm sure it could work just as well for 'brogrammers' as well.

I know that the tech workplace culture is quite relaxed about many types of borderline inappropriate behaviours, but to use another clichéd rule, "just because you can doesn't mean you should".

showerst 4 days ago 3 replies      
Do these companies not have HR departments? Occasionally idiotic things slip out from employees at bigCo's too, but they're swiftly dealt with. (Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of examples of hideous sexism at big companies, but I haven't ever had a job that didn't present a very clear sexual harassment policy on the first day.)

I'd have to think that the very words "uncomfortable work environment" would strike fear into the hearts of any investors, far more than any competitive threats.

eli_awry 4 days ago 3 replies      
This problem starts early, too - in my undergrad institution, many of the lectures and programming assignments taught OOP with examples employing beer and women-as-objects-of-seduction. The lecturers - not just TAs, but also adjuncts - would go out drinking with guys in the class from their old frats while ( I was alerted ) speculating as to how I got into Algorithms by sleeping with the professor. TAs discussed with guy students which of the female profs were 'bang-able' and which 'needed to be laid' so someone would 'have to take one for the team.'

No wonder these same people think this behavior is acceptable once they enter the workforce. They're getting it from authority figures from day one. I never experienced anything like this in any other department at uni.

byrneseyeview 4 days ago 0 replies      
I find it fascinating that being offended entitles people to extra credibility and lower standards of proof. It would be interesting to imagine a world being offended made you less credible, and forced you to have higher standards of proof.

(Incidentally, can anyone think of a case where you've smacked your head and said "Wow! If only I'd given more credence to the people who are most emotional about this stuff, I would have made objectively better decisions!")

I'm pretty bored of bro culture in general, and startup bro-culture in particular, but the dialogue here seems broken.

debacle 4 days ago 3 replies      
I didn't realize this was such a big problem. I don't think I've ever met a brogrammer outside of the Internet.
redthrowaway 4 days ago 0 replies      
My problem with Van Horne's presentation is not that it was sexist or offensive, which it was, but rather that he made himself (and path) look like frat boy douchetards.

Here's the VP of Business Development for a company valued at $250MM, and he acts like a child. The sexism, to me, is less repugnant than the notion that an idiot like this would have such a high degree of authority in such a highly-valued company.

sycr 4 days ago 3 replies      
Only one minor point from me: the Dan Shapiro quote is a bit off.

> To literally handicap yourself by 50 percent is insanity.

From the figures I've seen, the handicap is in the 25-30 percent range based on the percentage of women in the industry.

But I like his line of thinking. It's an old libertarian argument too: racism and sexism will be rooted out the market by those smart enough to take advantage of the inconsistencies in the labor pool. It's a tremendous opportunity if it's as bad as it seems.

droithomme 4 days ago 1 reply      
All right, let me get this straight. So this guy gives a speech criticizing gang bang interviews, and people walked out because they don't like the term "gang bang".

Or is it because they are so addicted to gang bang interviews that they aren't willing to give them up and are offended by anyone criticizing the practice.

I also despise gang bang interviews. There is no advantage to them and they should be stopped.

I also admire this guy for having the balls to come up with the disparaging and offensive term "gang bang interviews", because it does a great job of reframing the discussion about this practice. I will definitely start referring to them as "gang bang interviews" myself when mocking the practice.


batista 4 days ago 3 replies      
TL;DR; A guy made some jokes anybody would fine perfectly acceptable (if not ho-hum), and a few tight-arsed politically correct prudes walked out as if he was citing from the Main Kampf, in order to show how anti-sexist they are.

Political correctness: or why should the far right monopolize all the moralizing, fear of sexual references and plain old dirty jokes? Progressive people can be prudish squares too.

Oh: and those kind of jokes can be blamed for not many women pursuing a programming career. Like, you know, how video games make kids violent, and lawyer jokes make people not follow a lawyer career...

moocow01 4 days ago 1 reply      
Path... Uninstalled.

If this is how there "executives" think, I'm sure they could care less about the ethical use and protection of user data.

ojbyrne 4 days ago 0 replies      
Two things:

First of all, this isn't programmer culture, it's executive culture. MVH got to the position he is in because his world view matchs the world view of executives and VCs in the industry.

Second, I'm amazed that people can be critical of 'bro' culture in this article, but when Peter Theil's course material appeared here, people were supportive of it, even though it was essentially an intellectual argument that this is the type of culture you want to promote at a startup.

AdamFernandez 4 days ago 0 replies      
What's interesting about the brogramming phenomenon is it seems less about programming, and more about how to be what most would consider a pompous idiot (I am being kind with that term, another would be 'd* bag'), who just so happens to program. The implication here is that programming is not cool unless you are a brogrammer. I think this shows a lack of understanding or awareness about the basic philosophy of programming (see: pompous idiot).
codesuela 4 days ago 3 replies      
I find this whole brogrammer phenomenon ridiculous. It seems that it was a joke but now people start taking this stuff serious. I feel really embarrassed for people who describe themselves as brogrammers
jgn 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've been a "nice guy" my whole life, and sometimes it's socially detrimental (read: being too nice to girls that were hoping I'd be more than nice). At some level, I find the idea of brogramming attractive. Yes, I said it, and I know how awful that is. But consider that some very nerdy, possibly more insecure guys could look at this culture and decide they want to be part of it. They get to maintain their nerdiness and love of coding while making social changes that elevate them, at least in their mind.

I've never wanted to join a frat because they all seemed like idiots, but I can't say I haven't been jealous of them for the girls that seem to hang around.

All that being said, do you understand what I'm getting at? No, I don't wish for hipster sunglasses and drunken weekends. I am what I am, and typically that means I'm too shy and/or nice to girls for my own good. But at some level, the brogrammer culture looks cool to a guy like me.

I hope that makes sense and adds something to this discussion, it seems like most people are a bit older here and only approach it from that perspective.

jwwest 4 days ago 0 replies      
How much of this is a real issue versus something that is so incredibly annoying that any trace of it feels big? I haven't met a single 'brogrammer' in my professional life yet...

Let the idiots filter themselves out. Obviously they love attention or they wouldn't be doing these things. No amount of negative press on Mother Jones will fix that. The only way is to make it personal: if you encounter this behavior personally, say something.

That being said, our society as a whole is pretty sexist too. I don't agree with it, but subcultures tend to reflect at least some elements of the encompassing culture. Any male dominated field (think about truck driving or construction) will inevitably have this problem I'm sure.

Speaking of truck driving and construction, you don't hear much from those fields about needed more women in those roles. I truly wonder why that is.

cyborg 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm the shirtless guy in the top-left photo. I feel pretty bummed that something we did to parody the ridiculous 'brogrammer' movement was used in this context : (
mattvanhorn 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just want to say - I am not that Matt Van Horn. (I've met him, though, and I think the article is intentionally trying to show him in the worst possible light to drive more page views.)
nraynaud 4 days ago 0 replies      
Let's pound on programmers, they're an easier target than the bankers.
rudin 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you look past the horrible sexism I see an actually different undercurrent going on here. The clash of cultures is not between these "brogrammers" and women, but between brogrammers and "geek culture".

Geek culture has for various reasons dominated the technology sector for the last couple of decades however the risk and reward situation involved in startups has been attracting a different type of crowd, the brogrammers. The geek culturists feel threatened by this new crowd and so attack them by accusing them of sexism (a valid criticism) as it goes against one of the core geek tenets of tolerance towards others.

I on the other hand, view the inclusion of different subcultures in the tech industry, regardless of how they act, to be a positive thing. I hope more subcultures will come along which will continue to break up the dominant stereotypes in the tech industry (and hopefully address the gender imbalance at some stage ... bring on the sisgrammers!).

bherms 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think this is really a Silicon Valley problem so much as it's a society problem in general. We technophiles are just much more inclined to bitch about it on the internet.
newobj 4 days ago 0 replies      
Well crying about a certain personality or type of person crowding into your formerly insular world is hardly going to accomplish anything.

The context is a competitive business landscape so let the competition's results sort it all out.

tatsuke95 4 days ago 1 reply      
Sqoot and Geeklist may or not be sexist. If you think they are, respond accordingly by not applying for work with them, not using their products or actively campaigning against them.

But don't assume that they're not allowed to be "sexist" (in quotations because what they've done isn't really "sexist", more like immature). They can run their companies any way they choose, within the laws of the land. They are under no obligation to cater to women.

pasbesoin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Such people are scum. And, everyone has an individual decision to make whether to associate with them -- and thereby enable them -- or not.

Here's the other thing to consider: They are not just sexist. They are classic users/abusers. And that "user" attitude you see them displaying, and perhaps manifesting (though there's probably a fair amount of braggadocio as opposed to effective execution) towards women? Even as a guy, they'll manifest it towards you -- in a second, if they see an advantage.

In short, these are not pleasant people to deal with. My individual choice, enhanced by a few learning experiences, is to avoid getting involved with them -- in any fashion -- in the first place.

And to the potential employer I'll say that, yes, for me this is a non-negotiable "walking point".

dipthegeezer 4 days ago 5 replies      
Well you still have job adverts from big boys like twitter saying 'responsible enjoyment of beer' as a prerequisite.


If that's not appealing to the frat boy crowd then I don't know what is.

Not to mention the fact that a lot of people don't actually drink ( I know hard to believe! ), or have a life that doesn't involve drinking all the time. As someone who's been there and got the T-shirt I get jaded when I see things like this. A lot of the best coders are past the 'frat boy' stage and prefer a mature working environment when they see things like this it sends alarm bells ringing.

dageshi 4 days ago 2 replies      
Startup = Punk Band.

The worse they behave the more publicity they will get, the more people will know about their product. Plus the Techcrunch/Pando Daily's/Motherjones... of this world need something to talk about.

Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the age of the Punk Startup.

moron 4 days ago 2 replies      
Sexting, rainbow parties, jenkem, and brogrammers. All of a piece.
jongraehl 4 days ago 0 replies      
I personally wouldn't be looking for faux-bro culture in a startup, but you should expect people who have common goals+values and move/talk/dress alike to bond. This has value (sure, you still want diversity in thinking/problem solving - but in culture? not directly helpful).

So, hiring or soliciting hires on the basis of cultural compatibility, where legal, is just a tradeoff. You lose by turning off or dismissing part of the total pool, but if the culture is good, you get more out of those who are compatible with it.

Copying the latest fad culture is counterproductive. The companies piling on without any authenticity are idiotic. They'll end up with dregs pretty soon if they all keep going to the bro well (which I assumed was ironically intended - who knows any sincere bros?)

Of course, ironic culture is real (ironic) culture.

wtracy 4 days ago 0 replies      
The term "hogrammer" is being used to justify the term "brogrammer"? That term seems ridiculously offensive in and of itself.
molsongolden 4 days ago 0 replies      
Using bikini shots in a presentation is over the top but the rest of the article seems a bit petty.
conorwade 4 days ago 0 replies      
I was reading this article with an open mind until the SIRI issue was brought up. This is because the groups involved were not listing themselves as abortion providers, but as family planning clinics. Siri can't read minds (yet!). It makes me question the motivation behind the article.

I think everyone realizes that there are far too few women in technology. The thing is "brogrammers" are not at fault here. Girls being pushed a particular way in school is. It is a larger cultural issue.

I will be the first to say that 'brogrammers' or whatever seem a little like dumbasses, but people need to stop taking themselves so seriously and get a sense of humor, aswell.

In my experience females in tech are celebrated.

This to me isn't a gender related issue, but a small general issue being blown out of proportion.

option_greek 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's interesting that these 'sexism' articles draw huge number of comments. Usually that would mean there are two strong sides arguing. But since they are almost always one sided, I don't see the reason for this much of 'attention'. Whats the point in arguing, when there is no one to argue with...
cafard 4 days ago 0 replies      
As an old balding guy working for an East Coast non-profit, I have to ask: how much of this goes on? Is there enough to be a problem, or is this just a meme that has caught a lot of people's attention, and will disappear once we lose interest and get excited in something else?
BasDirks 4 days ago 0 replies      
sexists should be ostracised, and women allowed to hack in peace.
tomx 4 days ago 0 replies      
How big is this problem? A number or percentage of programmers would help to quantify things. Are all these blog posts about 10 programmers, 10% of programmers?...
base698 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is not sexism--it's bad taste. A marketing guy that can only use sex to sell sucks as a marketing guy and I'd expect more people to jump on that aspect of the story. (I realize I'm probably jumping the gun, and he could have instances of marketing brilliance).

What Sqoot did was kind of sexist--implying that women were only good for getting beer. What most of these other instances have been are just bad taste.

ahalan 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Adding Value as a Non-Technical No Talent Ass-Clown."

haha, I love this guy

Python Deployment Anti-Patterns hynek.me
270 points by craigkerstiens  7 days ago   118 comments top 16
djtriptych 7 days ago 3 replies      
As a python dev who deploys a lot of software, I found this article to be wonderfully helpful and informative, and a good reflection of current best practices.

Summary of the deployment tools mentioned:

  - Manage remote daemons with supervisord

- Manage python packages with pip (and use `pip freeze`)

- Manage production environments with virtualenv

- Manage Configuration with puppet and/or chef

- Automate local and remote sys admin tasks with Fabric

Other tips:

  - Don't restrict yourself to old Python versions to appease your tools / libs.

- Strongly consider rolling your own DEB/RPMs for your Python application.

Author also touted:

  - Celery for task management

- Twisted for event-based python.

- nginx / gunicorn for your python web server stack

smacktoward 7 days ago 4 replies      
I don't get the negativity on using your distro's packages, at least from the staying-stable perspective. Any decent package manager should let you pin/hold critical packages on a particular version, so if "the next Ubuntu ships with a different SQLAlchemy by default" you just hold the SQLAlchemy package at the version you want and then ignore it until you're ready to make that move.

99% percent of the time when I hear people complaining about their distro's packages, the complaints are coming from the opposite direction -- they want to run something bleeding-edge and the distro doesn't have it yet. (This is the standard beef Rubyists have with Debian, for instance -- that code that just hit Github ten minutes ago isn't in Debian's repos yet.)

Pewpewarrows 7 days ago 3 replies      
Regarding "Don't use ancient system Python versions" and "Use virtual environments", you can knock out two birds with one stone by just using pythonbrew. It also saves you the hassle of rolling your own deb/rpm if a package doesn't happen to exist.

Also, Chef/Puppet aren't "alternatives" to something like Fabric. Use the former for server provisioning, and use the latter for actually kicking off the deployment process. Trying to shoe-horn the finer deployment steps (git checkout, tarballing, symlinks, building the virtualenv, etc) into Chef was a nightmare every time I tried. Those tasks are better suited for Fabric's imperative design. Plus you can just run any Chef commands from Fabric itself, or use something like pychef for finer grained control. It's a win/win.

ch0wn 7 days ago 2 replies      
> The trick is to build a debian package (but it can be done using RPMs just as well) with the application and the whole virtualenv inside.

I would love to read an article describing some best practices for doing that. I tried it once and found it extremely difficult, reverting to a git checkout + virtualenv kind of deployment.

lifeisstillgood 7 days ago 1 reply      
Regarding virtualenv, I have come to the conclusion that Linux containers are robust enough now (like freebsd jails say two or three years ago) that I don't need to virtualise just python - I can afford to have the whole server as a "virtualenv" - no need for that extra complexity just install into site packages. No conflicts because a whole instance is dedicated. Jails take this to the limit - one virtual machine, one process - say Bind. A vulnerability in Bind ? The attacker takes over ... Nothing.
postfuturist 7 days ago 2 replies      
We do this, but also add a couple layers of safety between us and PyPI:

1. Run your own secure, local pypi clone with exact source versions of the packages you use.

2. The packages for production are built into RPMs from the local pypi.

PyPI is great for discovery, getting things running quickly, and testing new versions, but you never want to rely on it, even for development.

jordanb 7 days ago 5 replies      
This guy seems to be of the opinion that the software should be completely isolated from the deployment operating system.

I know that's a common view and wrapping as much of the site as possible up in a virtualenv certainly has a lot of advantages. But ultimately, your software is going to have to interact with the OS, at some level, otherwise, why do you even have an OS? So the question is: where do you draw the line? He seems to draw it further down the stack than most people (no system python, for instance) but he doesn't give his opinion on, for instance, using the system postgresql.

Anyway, I personally would draw the line further up the stack than him, but take things on a case-by-case basis, and I don't really consider it an "anti-pattern."

With regards to fabric vs. puppet, I understand the advantages of puppet when you have a complicated, hetrogenous deployment environment. But the majority of projects I've worked on have the operations model of a set of identically-configured application servers back-ended against a database server. For this configuration, what does puppet give you? If the author's argument is that the site may eventually outgrow that model, well, I can see puppet becoming necessary, but why not cross that bridge when you get to it?

IgorPartola 6 days ago 2 replies      
My two cents: I am a developer + ops person and deploy Python apps all the time. Typically they are Django and Tornado services. On top we also have a lot of daemons and a ton of library code.

I agree with the OP on most points but do not on a few. First DO use packages that come with the OS. The OP says that you should not have the distro maintainers dictating what you use. I say, use what is widely available. It takes the headache out of a lot of your deployments. If you are looking for a library that converts foo to bar look in your distro's repos before going on GitHub. Your sysadmin will thank you.

Second, DO NOT use virtualenv. It fixes the symptoms (Python's packaging system has many shortcomings such as inability to uninstall recursively, poor dependency management, lack of pre and post install scripts, etc.), but not the problem. Instead, use distro-appropriate packages. Integrate your app into the system. This way you will never end up running a daemon inside a screen session, etc. You also get the ability to very nicely manage dependencies and a clean separation between code and configuration.

Lastly, DO use apache + mod_wsgi. It is fast, stable, widely supported and well tested. If apache feels like a ball of mud, take the time to understand how to cut it down to a minimum and configure it properly.

When it comes to infrastructure, making boring choices leads to predictable performance and less headaches more often than not (at least in my experience).

cdavid 6 days ago 2 replies      
I am glad this is working for the OP, but pushing virtualenv and "self-contained" apps as the one solution is a diservice to the community. There are valid reasons to rely on your OS, assuming you have an homogenous deployment target (same OS, maybe different versions):

- lots of people argue for virtualenv because some versions may be incompatible. The problem here is the lack of backward compatibility of packages, and frankly, if you need to rely on packages which change API willingnily betwen e.g. 1.5 and 1.6, or if each of your service depends on a different version of some library, you have bigger problems anyway.

- any sufficiently complex deployment will depend on things that are not python, at which point you need a solution that integrates multiple languages. That is, you re-creating what a distribution is all about.

- virtualenv relies on sources, so if some of your dependences are in C, every deploy means compilation

- I still have no idea how security is handled when you put everything in virtualenv

See also http://bytes.com/topic/python/answers/841071-eggs-virtualenv...

afhof 7 days ago 2 replies      
Using tmux is a Python daemon antipattern? And then "there's so much wrong about this approach" that he doesn't bother explaining why? Isn't that why we are reading the article: because we want to know why?

If the author is trying to convince people to change their habits, he is doing a crummy job. He comes across as elitist and "if you don't do it my way you're wrong".

serverascode 7 days ago 1 reply      
I don't think using virtualenv to jam everything into a big deb file is really a best practice.

But at the end of the day, I do have to do a lot of that with application deployment, but I try to only go as far as packaging libraries (ie. gems, jars, python equiv) in the rpm/deb file.

RHEL 6 is python 2.6.6, btw.

What happens when there are vulns for your stack?

bickfordb 7 days ago 0 replies      
Long-time Python user here.

For a lot of my projects I write a shell script which builds all of the application dependencies (including services) into a project directory and run them all from there.

It takes a little bit of work to get going --- especially when building a new service for the first time --- but I like that it side-steps language-specific packaging tools (particularly the half-baked Python ones) and lets me pin an applications dependencies and port to various environments (develop on Mac, deploy on Unix) almost exactly. Integrating with Puppet/Chef is just a matter of breaking up the shell script into pieces.

cageface 6 days ago 0 replies      
The ability of Go to produce a single, self-contained executable is one of the biggest advantages it has over the "scripting" languages. It makes deployment so much simpler.
ma2rten 6 days ago 0 replies      
Don't run your daemons in a tmux/screen

Wow, I always though of myself as an idiot for doing this. But that is for some not yet launched thing. Who on earth does this for a production website?

njharman 6 days ago 3 replies      
Virtualenv is a half solution and a hack. Use vagrant and VMs. There's a whole sea of libs and software that isn't "versioned" by pip/virtualenv.

supervisord is the wrong solution. It answers the wrong question (is the process running). It's worse than useless in that it has given false positives. The right question is (is the process responding correctly). Use monit or something else that actually does what's needed.

minikomi 7 days ago 0 replies      
Just a thank you for writing a positive, easy to follow overview with links to more in-depth information. I love when people boil down experience and serve it without a side dish of attitude.
       cached 1 May 2012 02:11:01 GMT