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SpaceX wins $440M contract with NASA to develop Space Shuttle successor spaceflightnow.com
552 points by natep  3 days ago   177 comments top 25
btilly 3 days ago  replies      
It is easy to use superlatives like "safest rocket ever designed". But a lot of stuff can go wrong - fast - when you're sitting on a big pile of potential explosives that under other circumstances you'd keep a safe distance from. Until they actually achieve it, you shouldn't throw the superlatives around.

I will be the first to applaud if SpaceX achieves this goal. I am certain that they want to achieve this goal. But when you look at previous launch vehicles from existing agencies that had over 100 launches, their launch failure rate vary from 1.4% (the Space Shuttle) to 14% (US Atlas) with the Russian Soyuz and European Ariane both coming in somewhere around 5%. SpaceX would have to improve on existing rocket designs by several orders of magnitude just to get to a pretty crappy safety record.

So far SpaceX has had 8 launches with 5 consecutive successes. The initial failures were clearly part of the learning process. But their current string of successes does not provide any statistical evidence that they will prove to be safer in the long run than even the worst major rocket program. Sure they plan to be safe. But safety is based on seeing what happens, not what they planned to have happen.

In this light it is worth reviewing http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/51-l/docs/roger... to see how safe people thought that the Space Shuttle would be. Initial estimates of the safety of a launch went from 1/100 to 1/100,000 with the riskier estimates coming from lower level engineers and the safer ones coming from upper management. Whenever you see numbers in the press, it is guaranteed that they represent the view from the top. We should therefore assume that they will prove to be shockingly optimistic until there is concrete data.

javanix 3 days ago 2 replies      
According to http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/about/information/shuttl... each Shuttle launch cost about $450 million.

This contract amount seems to suggest that SpaceX launches will come in significantly lower than the Shuttle - a very good sign for continued space research.

beambot 3 days ago 1 reply      
SpaceX is just one part of this program... As part of the new agreements, Sierra Nevada will receive $212.5 million, SpaceX will receive $440 million, and Boeing will receive $460 million.


ColinWright 3 days ago 0 replies      
rwhitman 3 days ago 3 replies      
Eventually one of these private space companies will have a highly public, challenger-type disaster. I wonder if a startup like SpaceX could survive something like that.
austenallred 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm impressed that there's $440M left in NASA (or over $1 Billion with Sierra Nevada and Boeing included) to fund a new space shuttle, somehow I was under the false impression that there wouldn't be any more of that type of thing.

Hats off, Elon Musk. Hats. Off.

rms 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you're reading this and are in LA, you might want to come to this party Saturday night (August 4th). http://blog.ancientlasers.com/come-party-with-bill-nye-to-ce...
samstave 3 days ago 1 reply      
Musk is the most interesting man in the valley. This is awesome! Congrats to SpaceX!
ahsteele 3 days ago 0 replies      
To set an infinite value on the life of an astronaut is to set both the goals of the space exploration effort and the needs of the rest of humanity at naught.


catshirt 3 days ago 1 reply      
with that money they could have built a whole 4/10ths of an instagram though
droithomme 3 days ago 1 reply      
"the Falcon 9-Dragon combination will be the safest spacecraft ever developed"

Oh I wish they hadn't said that, they said the same thing about the Titanic.

JoeCortopassi 3 days ago  replies      
Every time I see something like a rocket or space shuttle launch, I can't help but wonder how much of the weight and cost could be saved using alternative methods. Even helium/hydrogen filled balloons could get them a good chunk of the way there. I know that would be horribly impractical for something the size of the shuttle and it's rocket boosters/fuel tanks, but if a balloon rig can get them to 120,000 ft they have gotten 15% of the way there (and overcome initial inertia) for pennys, and could probably shed a lot of weight that it normally uses to overcome those first 20 miles or so. Plus, at 120,000ft, gravity has already dropped from something like 9.8 newtons (sea level) to 9.68 (120,000ft). This might not seem like much, but it a good chunk of the way to the 9newtons that the Space Shuttle normally orbits at, and has to allow them to shed even more weight.

I'm obviously not an astro-physicist, physicist, or even that smart of a guy. I just can't help but think there are more efficient ways to get past 100,000ft without brute forcing the problem with rockets

ck2 3 days ago 0 replies      
How about we give them the TSA annual budget for a year? ($8+ billion)
chucknelson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Good for them - let's hope more commercial space companies appear in the next decade.
FrojoS 3 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome. So essentially, SpaceX will go ahead and add an escape and life support system to dragon. Plus, they will use the escape thruster for ground touchdown as well!
JL2010 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is manned flight necessary anymore?

I feel that a lot of design overhead is put into making a shuttle or space station safe and livable for humans. Why not focus on the main mission: to conduct research experiments.

I know there is the romantic idea of human space travel, but if it's not ready yet, why not invest more in autonomous systems and more advanced robotics for the sake of conducting the actual mission and sparing the lives of some truly brilliant and extraordinary people (potential astronauts).

RyanMcGreal 3 days ago 1 reply      
Has SpaceX gotten a contract to manufacture the ship according to NASA's preset specifications, or has it been hired to design and manufacture a ship that fulfills NASA's requirements?
bengl3rt 3 days ago 0 replies      
$440M is pocket change compared to what the first shuttle cost and it is a small fraction compared to what I imagine a new one might cost. If they can pull it off, though, huge kudos to them.
filipncs 3 days ago 0 replies      
So where does this leave Blue Origin?

There's been almost no news since last year, and they weren't included in this round of funding.

bborud 2 days ago 0 replies      
Note that it says "millions" and not "billions". If this was a research project to figure out how to bomb the shit out of people more efficiently, it would have said "billions".
alpine 3 days ago 2 replies      
I would hate to see SpaceX become an acquisition of NASA, or a nationalised company of the US Federal Government. Stranger things have happened, of course, but if Musk wants to retire to Mars, he had best be concerned with this.
afterburner 2 days ago 0 replies      
$440M? Hey, that's exactly the amount Knight Capital Group lost due to unchecked trading algos run amok... number 1 and 2 stories on HN.
hammock 3 days ago 3 replies      
So SpaceX is now officially a government contractor. This may be the beginning of the end for them. Can we name any govt contractor with a $400MM contract that has stayed true to its entrepreneurial principles and not fallen into the rent-seeking abyss?
chris123 3 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, rockets, drugs, expensive escorts, and now this! Sweeeet!
shtylman 3 days ago 1 reply      
wins 440M from knight
Rob Pike: the origin of dotfiles plus.google.com
453 points by keyist  4 days ago   153 comments top 18
keyist 4 days ago  replies      
Instead of putting a dotfile or dotdir in the user's home directory, do follow the XDG Base Directory specification: http://standards.freedesktop.org/basedir-spec/basedir-spec-l... .

It's easy to understand and requires only a marginal increase in effort/code.

acabal 3 days ago 6 replies      
I hate having dotfiles in ~/ for the same reason why I hate "My Documents" in Windows: because it's supposed to be my space that I organize, not a generic dumping ground for your config files, brand-named folders, or other nonessential garbage.

I want my space to be mine. Keep your app's stuff out of there!

antirez 3 days ago 1 reply      
dotfiles are not perfect, but to have this very negative vision on a feature that also helped is a bit a revisionist attempt IMHO.

Dotfiles provided a poor, but at least simple way to store program-specific-user-specific configuration, since another standard was missing. After all it's a simple and decentralized system that worked very well with the concept of unix user and ACL: you write something inside your home directory, and this changes the behavior of your program.

Consider that this was invented many decades ago. Now it seems a lot better to have directories with sub directories. Maybe back then it was considered to be a waste of resources, inodes, and so forth.

We can improve it, create a new standard, and have something better than dot files, but dot files are better than many other over-engineered solutions that I can imagine coming out of some kind of design commission to substitute them.

Every time to passed your vim configuration to a friend you just copied a text file, sending it via email: you enjoyed one of the good points about dot files. Every time you did something like cat dotfile | grep option you enjoyed the positive effects of single-file plaintext configuration.

Also it's worth saying that dot files are not just the concept of an hidden file with config inside. A lot of dot files also have a common simple format of multiple lines "<option> <value>", that's better than some XML or other hard to type format (IMHO JSON itself is not good for humans).

mseepgood 3 days ago 0 replies      
He also writes why the dd command is so horrible:
"dd is horrible on purpose. It's a joke about OS/360 JCL. But today it's an internationally standardized joke. I guess that says it all."


caf 3 days ago 1 reply      
The fact that "." and ".." were allocated actual directory entries and were returned when reading the directory, rather than just being handled by the kernel when parsing pathnames seems like the original sin of expediency here.
rehack 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the case of hidden dot files is a good example of 'convention over configuration'[1].

Point is accepted, that it came into being due to a lazy programmer. But surely early people might have just liked the unintended consequence of some files (dot files) being hidden. Just like most of us, whenever we learnt unix thought that it is by design.

If early users, had found the consequence a handicap, it would have been fixed long back.

Its similar to the use of hash-tags on twitter or the @for addressing which got adopted by users first and so became features (although the paths to them being considered features are different).

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

Edit: Grammar

seanalltogether 4 days ago 4 replies      
For those who object that dot files serve a purpose, I don't dispute that but counter that it's the files that serve the purpose, not the convention for their names.

I would like to hear a good argument for why hidden files and folders are a good thing.

ilaksh 4 days ago 1 reply      
The main takeaway I think is that the reason we are doing things the way we do them is because that is how we have been doing them, not because of some kind of genius design. And actually the whole thing can start out as a mistake, and then later on basically becomes a religion. Its very funny actually.
dsrguru 4 days ago 1 reply      
That's really interesting. I always assumed hiding dotfiles was a deliberate convention, but to semi-quote one of the commenters, Rob's got a point. Or two.
eliben 3 days ago 3 replies      
I really like it that G+ is becoming a "lightweight blogging" platform. There are too many of these around, and folding them into a "social network" seems like a good idea. I wish they would add more features that would make this easier, though, since in general I think it's in everyone's interest and will pull more traffic to the site.
skeletonjelly 4 days ago 2 replies      
If not dot files lazy programmers would have just found another way. Just look at the results of lazy programmers on any Android SD card.
mcgwiz 2 days ago 0 replies      
The author's gripe seems to be that the hiding of dotfiles was unintended, ergo dotfiles are Bad. Whether they were intended is irrelevant; their wide usage vindicates the practice. After all, traction = value. The problem of program state/configuration/metadata storage is adequately met by dotfiles.

There are, no doubt, numerous unintended behaviors of programs. Most of these are simply ignored and certainly not leveraged the way the dot behavior is.

People don't go out of their way to abuse an unintended system behavior; they simply leverage all capabilities of a system ("intended" or not) to meet their needs. Had dotfiles not gained traction, some other solution would have been designed (or "engineered") to meet the needs of program state/configuration/metadata storage.

[Tangent: All of this reminds me of grammar freaks that harp on "correct" usage, completely oblivious to the fact that grammar changes, and "correct" is merely a lightweight pointer to the current norm.]

89a 3 days ago 1 reply      
Can't read without signing into Google…

oh well nothing of value was lost.

tyrmored 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is a problem that libetc is supposed to help solve: http://ordiluc.net/fs/libetc/
emperorcezar 4 days ago 2 replies      
If someone thinks hidden files are a misstep, then I don't want them designing a OS. Grandma really doesn't care about some conf file, or anything like that. She cares about the pictures of her grandkids.

The opinion that there shouldn't be hidden files comes from a perspective of someone who is a "power user" and who can't step back and see that most users really don't care for some .config file. To them it's clutter that gets in the way of finding what they really care about.

That said, dot files maybe the wrong way to do it. I like ~/Library in OSX. That's one good way.

Edit: Note that I'm talking about a general trend in the post's comments and on here. Not the author's opinion.

leothekim 3 days ago 0 replies      
"How many bugs and wasted CPU cycles and instances of human frustration (not to mention bad design) have resulted from that one small shortcut about 40 years ago?"

Sigh, if only most of us had worked on a software system that has lasted as long as that.

specialist 3 days ago 0 replies      
Tangent: I'm grumpy that Eclipse IDE uses the file names .project and .classpath. So they're hidden by default. Requiring special treatment.

Their content is XML. What's wrong with project.xml and classpath.xml?

garfee 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, I was hacked. Hard. emptyage.com
435 points by thibaut_barrere  2 days ago   290 comments top 48
thaumaturgy 2 days ago  replies      
Damn, poor dude. The remote wipe was a pretty big asshole move.

I'm pretty curious about the initial break-in on his .mac account. I suspect that either he's misremembering and he has used the password elsewhere (and it was compromised there -- easy to happen over so many years of use), or it wasn't very strong to begin with and it got guessed after a handful of attempts.

There are a handful of takeaways from this:

- Backups, obviously. A lot of people here so far are mentioning online backup services, but those would be just as vulnerable to this kind of attack, since they're accessible online and use an email account for password resets. Online backup services and physical offline backups solve different problems and it's a good idea to use both.

- Since I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else: I wonder if it's time to consider keeping a "secret" email account that's only used as the password-reset account for all of your services? Something that you never use for communication, never publish anywhere, something with its own entirely separate password.

- Be careful about owning multiple devices from a single vendor that provides remote access and other kinds of control to those devices. Mobile devices are inherently insecure; they shouldn't carry sensitive personal information, ever. There are a lot of really good reasons for going with a single vendor, and remote wipe is a really valuable tool in case of theft, but the downside is ... well, this.

- Use some kind of password storage mechanism. (I prefer something that's not tied in to a publicly-accessible service.) I've made a game out of memorizing horrible passwords, and can recall quite a few without any patterns or mnemonics or the like. Still, I use KeePass every day anyway.

And maybe most of all: I doubt there's a single one of us that has a moral high horse to ride on this. Everybody always has something better to do than set up a new backup system or dick around with something that will only maybe hurt them someday. I'm constantly harping on other people about backups, but only a couple of days ago got my development machine on our network backup system; I'm pretty anal about passwords, but still I'll panic pretty badly if my laptop is ever stolen, because in there, somewhere, is probably a plain text password stored in a file that I've forgotten about, and there'll be a chance that I'll forget to change that particular password if I find myself having to suddenly change every single password for everything I've got access to.

rickmb 2 days ago  replies      
One thing that worries me about iCloud is that it puts a lot of data and services behind one single password.

Said password is therefor used a lot, with a lot of chances for interception. But most of all, it's used for trivial matters in which password typing is a nuisance (installing a cheap iPhone app), which pretty much invites people to use a weak, easy to type password.

iCloud should have multiple, completely separate forms of authentication for services like Find My Mac, instead of using the same login for wiping all your Apple hardware as you use to download Angry Birds...

danso 2 days ago 0 replies      
Don't know if this has been mentioned yet, but Gawker was completely hacked to pieces two years ago


The most visible consequence was that the entire user DB was compromised and the site rooted. But other consequences were that the hackers had cracked a large number of Gawker staff accounts and even had access to internal emails and chats.

I think it feasible that enough internal info was linked to compromise Gawker's staff for years. Some of them probably thought resetting their gawker.com account was enough, and forgetting that that password might have been used elsewhere. Also unclear is how long the hackers were snooping around before the hack was discovered...in that time, they could have download dumps of staff email and gmail accounts.

The upshot: someone out there might have several GB of personal gawker staff info. Ever email yourself your ID number to your email account? Has anyone ever emailed you credentials that you forgot in the heat of the moment? How many times does your social security number appear in your Gmail, thanks to attached billing/app files at you originated from there.

And remember that the hackers had root access to everything at Gawker, even the site source code. How positive is everyone there (remember that the owner's laughable password is one of the main reason that Gawker got crushed) that no key-loggers had been secretly installed and have been running all this time? It doesn't even require anything that sophisticated...all it takes is one security-unsavvy staff member...and this is a staff of mostly culture writers...to do something insecure.

I'm not sure if Mat was employed by Gawker all this time but even if he came after the hack, you can see how one massive data breach can have almost permanent implications within an organization.

That said, what an awful incident and thank you to him for writing a thorough account of how he coped...this is a valuable lesson to everyone and I hope they find the punks who did it.

* To underscore my point, I didn't realize that Honan is recently a former Gawker employee. Yet he had enough credentialed access for an outsider to break into Gizmodo's twitter account. I bet Gizmodo didn't think that an amicable departure of an employee was enough to warrant a password change to Twitter...but if his emails contained the password, then it's an easy hack. If I were Gawker, I would change EVERYTHING...not just gizmodo info, but all of its sister Gawker site credentials. They should assume the worst and that someone out there has all of Honan's emails, including every time he might have been emailed credentials in plaintext

also, Honan's current employer, Wired, should do the same. Change all the keys.

mtkd 2 days ago 1 reply      
"He and Gawker's Scott Kidder then got on the phone with contacts at Google and Twitter trying to help me put the brakes on."

Of all the issues surrounding this event, this one concerns me most. Most users would not be able to escalate like this. Hosted services need to be providing this level of support to all customers 24/7/365 - or at least offer it as a premium option.

pilif 2 days ago 2 replies      
If he really hasn't used that password anywhere else and it was not based on a dictionary word, then I highly doubt OP's password was brute-forced.

Brute-forcing the iCloud password is an online attack and would probably (hopefully) be caught by apple.

What is more likely is a keylogger or similar malware at which point even a longer password would not have helped. The days where macs are free of malware are unfortunately over.

tylermenezes 2 days ago 2 replies      
Everyone's focusing on the security of the password and iCloud, but I just wanted to take a second to say: fuck who did this. Yes he should have backups, but erasing someone's things is such a juvenile thing to enjoy.

Edit: Surprised to see Cloudflare is proxying their website. I understand wanting to be impartial, but I think it's fairly easy to draw the line at groups breaking the law.

0x0 2 days ago 2 replies      
That's it, I'm disabling "Find my mac". I guess it wouldn't work anyways if a thief is far away from my home or work wifi. So in essence, it's a remote wipe backdoor for when the device is in my possession, and useless if it's stolen.

FileVault2 should take care of the theft problem anyways.

Too bad you can't partially-enable Find my mac for the location service, while disabling the remote wipe and lock services.

dbecker 2 days ago 2 replies      
The hostility towards this guy in the comments is astounding. I already had low expectations for comments on blogs, but this took it to a whole new level.
jrockway 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is why I use two factor authentication for my email. It's a usability nightmare, but not as much of a nightmare as losing all my accounts everywhere.
emptyage 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hi, I'm Mat Honan (the guy who was hacked). I've been in touch with the person who hacked my account. He says it wasn't brute force, or guessed. I'll publish more when I know more.

To be clear, the password was unique. I use 1password as a password manager and even double checked to make sure that I wasn't using it anywhere else.

user49598 2 days ago 2 replies      
Passwords: Don't try to remember them. Use a service like passpack to generate and store random ones for every account. Two pass authenticate into it.

Data: Back it up. Backup your backups. Stop fucking around. If you don't get hacked, your storage will fail.

Software: Don't install shit you don't trust. Don't trust shit you can't verify.

Passwords: Don't try to remember them!!

It's 2012, not following these simple rules is inexcusable.

fjarlq 2 days ago 7 replies      
No backup? Seriously? Wow.

What do people like for backups these days? Crashplan seems pretty damn good to me.

rcthompson 2 days ago 2 replies      
So via your iCloud account someone can remote wipe all your Apple devices? That seems like a questionable design. Does anyone know the rationale behind this? I guess it would be useful to deny access to your data in the case where your device is physically stolen.

Maybe there should be a significant time period (hours?) after a password change where this functionality (and any other data-destruction functionality) is disabled. Or maybe a password change should require you to re-auth every device before data remote deletion features can be used on it.

ck2 2 days ago 1 reply      
My guess is they used brute force to get the password

How can a system allow login attempts so fast and often that a 7 digit word with numbers can be hacked?

That's hundreds of thousands of attempts.

robomartin 2 days ago 2 replies      
Every machine we have has local backup in the form of a sizable external USB drive. Some also backup to a network drive. Windows and Mac. With dozens of machines it is hard to justify paying for remote backup. Although, every time I say or think this I also think: fire, theft, earthquake. I wish there were a reasonably priced multi-machine remote backup service at an affordable price with storage measured in terabytes. One hundred gigs doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.
smadam9 2 days ago 1 reply      
>>7 digit alphanumeric

...could mean anything from myacct1 to iS2xd45

Since the password is no longer in use (only assuming), it would be interesting to know what it was - perhaps the reason that it was hacked was that it simply was easy to brute force due to common dictionary words?

Just throwing an (possibly wrong) idea out there.

breckinloggins 2 days ago 0 replies      
Regarding Google services:

When you enable Two-Factor Authentication, they give you the option of printing a "one time pad" with six codes on it. You then print this out and keep it safe somewhere. That way you can get into your account even if your phone and other contact points are compromised.

This won't do you any good if someone has deleted your google accounts or reset the 2FA system, but for more "normal" scenarios it can be a life-saver.

Zenst 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very well written story and also very educational on the faith peopl put in cloud backups. Even if you have a cloud backup/syncronised it is still worth popping over your mum's or a good freinds with a some burned DVD's or external USB drive (if you have two you can swap them every time you visit). This approach is good as a cheap offsite backup and also social at the same time.

As for linked accounts, that again is another education many of us have probably overlooked and I would say if you do have a 2-factor facility that uses SMS, maybe think about digging out an old phone and getting a PAYG SIM with a token credit and using that number. But security is a never ending drive bordering on paranoia and in that you do what is enough to help you sleep at night after reading the article.

Don't think I have seen a article doing a test on how easiy it is to recover a hacked account and how long it takes. I certainly have never seen any speed comparisions, nor consumer reviews in that area. Anybody know of any at all?

aw3c2 2 days ago 0 replies      
> When I set it up, years and years ago, that seemed pretty secure at the time.

If you did not change your password in those many years, an attacker had years and years of time to find or crack it. Regularly change your passwords. And use special characters.

racbart 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is one of the reasons why I have different Apple ID for app purchases (with weaker password which I'm more comfortable to type over and over again when purchasing apps) and different for iCloud (which I need to type only once, configuring the device).

I saw many people buying their apps in public and the password input in iOS isn't really secure from bystanders. As a Gizmodo reporter he probably went to dozens of events where he was pitched to try someone's app and maybe even given App Store codes. If he used to download apps on such events that might be the source of his leaked password. Someone could simply see what password is he typing.

As long as Apple requires you to type the password with each purchase, it is wise to separate your sensitive data/services with the App Store credentials.

dendory 1 day ago 0 replies      
The thing I keep thinking about when reading this is how many others, perhaps thousands or more, get hacked like that but don't have his clout? No direct line to Twitter, Google, etc..
growse 2 days ago 3 replies      
Well, if you will put complete remote control of all your devices behind a single, weak password.....
at-fates-hands 2 days ago 0 replies      
Once again another cautionary tale about why you should be paranoid about the security of your devices and accounts.

When securing anything, the best philosophy is to just assume you're going to get hacked and act accordingly. Linking accounts, weak passwords, and no encryption? You're just putting a target on yourself.

Best advice? Keepass, Whole disk encryption and using anonymous information is a good start. Keep your stuff and accounts in separate silos, and stay in the shadows.

dctoedt 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder why the article author was (seemingly) targeted? And who else might the criminal be targeting?

Or could this be completely untargeted? That might mean that anyone with a password vulnerability is at risk of having their digital life wiped out. That seems pretty extreme for lulz.

sgdesign 2 days ago 1 reply      
I actually didn't even know that enabling "find my X" also enabled that remove wipe option. I just disabled it for my MacBook Pro, Undercover is a much better solution anyway: http://www.orbicule.com/undercover/
piffey 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hate to repurpose a cliche, but never put all of your eggs in one basket.
koevet 2 days ago 0 replies      
It should also be noted that on the iCloud web site there is no link to change password.
This is the url to access the "My Apple Id" page and change the global password: https://appleid.apple.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/MyAppleId.woa/
rdl 2 days ago 0 replies      
Probably was hacked through email, then iCloud password recovered through it.

I wish there were a special high security password recovery email mailbox, separate from routine communications mailbox, in apps. Would be really hard to get adopted, and t that point, you might as well push for something better than passwords.

nicholassmith 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm amazed that Apple isn't running something to check for brute force attacks on iCloud.
mlloyd 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's both better than and worse than it appeared/feared. It turns out it wasn't a password hack, it was a social hack against Apple. Looks like someone recently watched the movie Hackers and wanted to see if that stuff still works. Hint: It still works.

Update Three: I know how it was done now. Confirmed with both the hacker and Apple. It wasn't password related. They got in via Apple tech support and some clever social engineering that let them bypass security questions. Apple has my Macbook and is trying to recover the data. I'm back in all my accounts that I know I was locked out of. Still trying to figure out where else they were.

oinksoft 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, who would give a program like "iCloud" access such that it could wipe your mobile, tablet, and PC? I hope the author can recover his data, but it sounds like he set himself up for disaster by linking all his systems so strongly.
uncoder0 2 days ago 1 reply      
I hope the password wasn't:



OmIsMyShield 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is there some background concerning the author that I'm not aware of?
Asking because some comments (at Emptyage, not here) seem unusually hostile.
wrekkuh 2 days ago 0 replies      
After hearing how this attacker was able move from one linked account to the next, ultimately gaining a snow-ball effect of moving through, defacing and wiping your data, from a security standpoint i can't say i'm surprised (of course that doesn't mean i don't feel for you and wish it never happened to you). I've made several avenues available to mitigate these types of effects, none of which involve administration at Twitter like most of the world.

Now i don't mean to insult you, but one basic avenue is two physical, offline & secure back-ups of everything i have on and off of the Cloud... with no connection to any network. I do have to say that it took a little bit of time to realize i did actually have to do this because my reliance on that data crept up like a ninja! And before i knew it i had well over 30Gigs of data up there in the Cloud, not backed-up.

jstalin 2 days ago 0 replies      
I created https://uncrackablepassword.com/ to generate passwords online that I don't need to remember.
Orva 2 days ago 1 reply      
Remote data wipe access to devices from cloud service. What could go wrong?
shocks 2 days ago 1 reply      
Google two-factor auth doesn't work if you have IMAP or POP enabled.
Xyzodiac 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why would anyone store that much data behind one password? Apple really shouldn't give the ability to remotely destroy all data on multiple devices with a single password.

I love my MacBook and all, but I would never use such a stupidly insecure service.

gcr 2 days ago 0 replies      
This article inspired me to begin using a password manager instead of putting everything in `.netrc`, `getmailrc`, and plaintext passwords everywhere else. Thanks.
alpb 2 days ago 0 replies      
That made me say thanks to Google 2-step verification.
bdz 2 days ago 0 replies      
The online backup service advice sounds good but what about the people, like me, who have an upload speed of only 64kb/s? No Blackblaze or Crashplan for me... Neither can I upgrade my internet connection.
So what to do? I have two Time Machine backups (one hourly at home and one daily at another place).
419 2 days ago 1 reply      
>>They weren't able to stop the wipe on my Macbook. Or give me a pin to log into it.

I don't use a mac so this question might seem a little off.

Wouldn't disabling the computer's internet access stop his data from being entirely wiped?

tadhgk 2 days ago 0 replies      
Personally I think all web services should be using aliases (so you don't login with the username that other people see) and pass phrases rather than passwords.
dkroy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Haha, oh wow those comments on his post are horrible.
verelo 2 days ago 1 reply      
The comments on that blog post make me remember all the things i hate about the Internet.
nubela 2 days ago 1 reply      
why is this news?
idiotblu 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well that sucks. Big time.
fullfilldreams 2 days ago 1 reply      
Mat Honan's statement on being hacked scared me into changing every password. You'll prob feel the same way, too.
A Man Walks into a Bank ft.com
399 points by jkharness87  16 hours ago   159 comments top 31
zalew 13 hours ago 4 replies      
Heh, a check in 1995 you say. Ok, hear this. This year 2 guys here in Warsaw put a bag full of newspaper into a cash deposit and walked away with 1.5 million Euro on their account. By 'their' account I mean an account set up on a fake or some bum who gave them their ID for a few hundred. Supposedly they had an insider who thought them how to build trust on the account, so after some time the deposits are cashed in before verified. The scammers vanished into thin air, in the meantime cashing out about 1 mil Euro, and the guy putting the bag on the cctv probably turned out to be some other drunkard.
portman 14 hours ago 5 replies      
I remember this story flooding the Internet in 1995. I'm confused why the author is doing a "one-man comedic show" 17 years later.
petenixey 15 hours ago  replies      
This story was from a little while back but what's to stop you just printing a cheque from someone else and paying it into a bank today? There's no alerting to the originator that a cheque's been paid out and there are no obvious authentication tokens on the cheques.

Frank Abignale only had to get past an initial look-test so what techniques protect against (and are consistently used) to prevent cheque forgery today?

derda 14 hours ago  replies      
It amazes me everytime, that in the US day-to-day banking still consists mostly of writing, sending and cashing cheques.

In germany (I dont know about the rest of Europe, but I guess the situation is similar), cheques are virtually non existent. You can still get and cash them, but you will get weird looks from the person behind the bank counter, most of the time there will be a hefty fee associated with it(I once cashed a cheque from an US-bases affiliate program and my bank charged me a ridiculous amount for the process).

larrys 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I question this story actually.

Checking the newspapers from that era I find several stories that were all based on the same AP wire story. Here is one (or search news.google.com for others)



A few things about this.

1) From what can find there is no attempt to verify anything with any bank. I understand that banks aren't going to want to trot out that this happened. But at the very least good reporting (this was also in the NY Times) would require verifying that it actually happened, even with a "no comment" from the bank or the attorney.

2) The type of career he decided to pursue. He wrote a book about "Make College Easier, Beat the System and Get a very cool job".

3) The fake check has a micr on the bottom for the amount. But you don't get cancelled checks with micr, the person who wrote the check does. The photo byline clearly says "Patrick Combs's fake cheque, which arrived as junk mail"

4) The micr says "95,093.55" and the check is for 95,093.35.

5) I haven't checked the routing number but there is no mention of the bank that the check was drawn on.

dabeeeenster 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I once paid a fairly big cheque (> 10k sterling) into the wrong business account. It cleared but I only realised the mistake a couple of weeks later.

I rang the bank (Santander in the UK - terrible bank don't use them) and they said "Oh yeah, we generally don't check the payer".


corin_ 15 hours ago 1 reply      
A couple of people have already linked to the author's website where the original story is, but for those of you who (like me) read the FT article and then wanted the ending... rather than reading the entire, rather lengthy, story (which begins at http://www.goodthink.com/writing/view_stories.cfm?id=11&...) you can skip right to the conclusion at http://www.goodthink.com/writing/view_stories.cfm?id=11&... - just the first few paragraphs.
three14 16 hours ago 0 replies      
alan_cx 15 hours ago 2 replies      
To amuse: Dunno if things have changed here(UK) but a cheque can be (or could be) anything. It's just a bit of paper with some details on it. In fact, I'm not sure there is a requirement for it to actually be on paper. Legend has it some students in the UK banked a cow (yes a large moo moo thing) because it had the right details on it.

Anyway, if this fake cheque had all the right details on it, or enough to make the transaction, how is it fake? Or how could it clear if the details were wrong? Surely US banks clear the cheque before crediting the account with the money?

wrath 16 hours ago 4 replies      
Am I missing something here?

The transit, bank and account number on the check must all be fake (or I would hope that this get-rick-quick company didn't actually send their real bank information!). So whether or not the check has non-negotiable printed on it is a mute point. The check cannot be routed anywhere and would have been flagged immediately. This is not the good ol' days of bank fraud, ala Catch Me If You Can.

Does the fact that he knowingly deposited a fake check constitute fraud in the US?

DanBC 15 hours ago 0 replies      
There's a reasonably well known scam where BadBob will order £2,500 worth of goods. The cheque will be sent, made out for £12,500.

BadBob then calls and tells you to cash the cheque, send the goods when the cheque clears, and to just money transfer the excess when the cheque clears.

As this story shows a cheque clearing means almost nothing. The bank will discover the fraudulent cheque, normally a long time after you've sent the goods and the extra cash to BadBob, and they will take the money off you.

You are out the time; the goods; and the extra cash.

corin_ 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Good story, shame (though understandable) that it cares more about promoting his show than actually finishing the tale for readers.
kitsune_ 14 hours ago 5 replies      
I live in continental Europe, can someone please explain the American cheque system to me? Is it still widely used?

We have giro and SEPA transfers. If I want to transfer money to someone, I simply order my bank to withdraw said amount from my account and transfer it to the destination account. I could even do this without having a banking account. Anybody could walk to a post office or bank and pay into someone's bank account with cash on hand.

bluesnowmonkey 9 hours ago 0 replies      
It sounds more like he was hoping to get $95k than that he was playing a practical joke. As if banks have senses of humor. And after the bank and media noticed the situation, he was probably enjoying the attention in addition to holding out hope that he'd still get to keep the money somehow. It's sleazy how he tries to spin it as if he had some moral high ground.
joakin 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Is the cookie warning normal? European laws applied?

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jorgenhorstink 12 hours ago 1 reply      
In the Netherlands the use of cheques is abolished in 2002. We all use internet banking now, using (at least) two-factor authentication, and we are able to transfer money from and to our current or savings accounts. Transferring money to other bank accounts (paying rent, paying to friends etc.) is also very easy.

Most banks also have mobile applications for smartphones making money transfer even easier. I'm able to transfer money to people I've already sent money to, by just using an iPhone app, and a personal pin code. When I loose my phone, I can just block the app, just like what I'd do when I loose my plastic (credit) bank card.

In Holland we also use iDEAL [1], a nation-wide system for online shopping. It works a little bit like OAuth; I provide the webshop the bank I use, the webshop requests a money transfer, the bank creates a unique transaction, the webshop sends me to the bank, bank requests credentials and processes payment, and sends me back to the webshop proving details about the transaction. This system sounds much more secure to me than the credit card paradigm; only using a credit card number, an expiration date and a 'security code'.

I just don't understand why the USA is still using a method so susceptible to fraud.

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

Bricejm 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised that this wasn't considered fraud.
Sometimes bank tellers make mistakes, but that shouldn't lead to the bank taking a $95k loss.
This guy played a joke on his bank - which would normally be considered illegal, but didn't like that the bank was angry?
fishercs 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Most systems today are completely automated, they'll check that the routing number is valid but not the account number the check is drawn on. Routing numbers don't change, but hundreds of thousands of account numbers are created every day throughout the US.. banks are different on how they do their internal account numbers, different algorithms are used when generating these account numbers. I work for a relatively small bank and on a normal day we'll clear 100,000 checks.

With the changes put in place after 9/11 and the Check 21 legislation float has diminished quite a bit but it still exists. Unfortunately there's just so much blue tape that banks are required to jump through that money that is fraudulently acquired takes some time to get back.

the reason this even happened is he was a good standing customer, and they did have his account information so of course they let him deposit it. it would be the responsibility of the bank that the check was drawn off of to catch the mistake. The man's bank just issues a credit to the bank that is drawn on.. it's when that bank catches the error they have to send off for a correction, this normally takes quite a bit of time.. we're talking 2-3 weeks especially in 1995.

the minute the man withdrew the cash their internal system red flags such a large withdrawal amount, this is why the bank was suddenly made aware of that transaction.

snorkel 14 hours ago 0 replies      
In other words, banks use lazy evaluation to validate checks.
DiabloD3 15 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm sorry, but from what I know of banking law (ianal, nor do I play one on the Internet, but it helps to know enough to defend yourself from banks)... why isn't he in jail? I thought knowingly doing what he did constitutes bank fraud and numerous other charges?
Tichy 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Could be some entirely different scam? Like they could write cheques in the names of old people with lots of money in the bank, then, if some people cash them in, they could approach them and ask for their money back. If some people comply and don't check carefully who the money originated from, they have extracted some money from random people who may or may not have noticed it.

Not sure how cheques work in the US, though - I think we don't have them anymore in Germany.

It is a common scam here to be asked to receive some payments on your bank account and pass them on. When the original owner discovers it, you are the culprit and not the scammer...

lincolnwebs 16 hours ago 0 replies      
That wasn't a story, it was a trailer.
jusben1369 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I would have thought that any laws around checks clearing etc would start or end with a big caveat along the lines of "Assuming there is no known or deliberate attempt to defraud"
timkeller 15 hours ago 5 replies      
Remind me why we still have cheques in our banking system?
pavel_lishin 15 hours ago 1 reply      
I swear the entirety of this story used to be online. I suppose he took it off to help his sales, and I'm too lazy to find a cached version.
eslachance 16 hours ago 0 replies      
The question is, can this be repeated? Junk mail creators haven't necessarily seen this story, they may not know that they are in error.

Would some sort of penalty be applied to someone depositing such a check, assuming one received such a check and it does have all the necessary features?

akandiah 14 hours ago 0 replies      
This does not always work in the favour of the client. As mentioned in the bottom of the article, a similar incident took place in New Zealand. The couple involved have been arrested, found guilty on multiple charges of theft and are currently awaiting on the sentence: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/7083997/Runaway-millio...
sch1705 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Pretty sure this constitutes fraud. Plus doubt the cheque processing is still carried out as described in the story- doubt any bank today would credit the customer account based on a bogus cheque that couldn't be validated. Surprised this was published in the ft as sounds like an urban myth.
chris-j 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Judging by the numerous sold out shows[1] over the years I bet this fake cheque has actually helped him make a lot more than $95,093.35

[1] http://www.man1bank0.com/dates.cfm

z02d 15 hours ago 1 reply      
There was a link to the same story afaik last year
ColinWright 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Now that I have read the full story, your memory is at fault, and that is not a fair or reasonable summary.
Great work Visa, now I hate you modern-products.tumblr.com
390 points by roee  7 hours ago   165 comments top 48
simonw 5 hours ago 6 replies      
I've been having enormous trouble understanding the thinking behind the "We are proud to only accept Visa" marketing campaign. I simply can't understand how it could be viewed positively by any consumer - it's such an obviously anti-customer thing to do.

I've been trying really hard to understand why Visa would make such an obviously unfriendly and counter-productive decision. The only theory I can come up with is that their real customers are the banks, and this is their way of saying to them "We're so completely ruthless that you're better off doing deals with us than anyone else". Seems a bit far-fetched though.

ehosca 0 minutes ago 0 replies      
And what makes you think you should be so entitled demand that the card you are carrying be accepted?

Your anger towards VISA is completely misguided.


mthoms 6 hours ago 5 replies      
During the Vancouver Olympics not only were we not permitted to use other credit cards, we couldn't even use our bank-issued debit cards for payment (in Canada we don't have Visa Debit cards - our debit cards are issued directly from banks have been accepted everywhere for nearly two decades.)

Cash or Visa Only.

So there I was at an official Olympic souvenir shop picking up some gifts when I was told no - I'd have to walk down to the other end of the airport terminal and take out cash... come back and pay with that.

Needless to say they lost the sale. How many other sales did they lose I wonder?

kareemm 5 hours ago 1 reply      
> I discovered that McDonalds' terms of sponsoring included that no one else in the areas of the games is allowed to sell french fries, unless they come with fried fish (because the classic dish of Fish & Chips could not be banned in the UK). But besides the Fish & Chips exception, no one is allowed to sell french fries around the games.

My friend dealt with sponsorships in the venues for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

One of her tasks was getting the venue menus signed off on by the sponsors.

One of the food vendors wanted to serve potato wedges at the venue.

But because McDonald's was one of the 2010 title sponsors, and they had the same "no french fries" clause, my friend spent ~6 months of her life negotiating with the McD's folks over the difference between potato wedges and french fries.

In the end, the vendor got to serve potato wedges, but McD's got a ton of concessions in exchange (better signage location, etc etc).

corin_ 6 hours ago 6 replies      
This reads like the sort of post that so often goes on bad logic riding on emotion, but it's a completely valid point.

I'm a Visa user, plus I don't plan on going anywhere near the Olympics despite living fairly close to London, but when I heard about this marketing plan I literally thought it had to be one of those hilarious fake news stories. But it wasn't.

Stuff like the McDonalds sponsorship he mentioned (banning people from selling chips) is bad, but at least as a consumer if you want chips... you can still buy them.

But this Visa deal, what on earth are people without Visa supposed to do? I just don't see how anyone sane could think this was a good plan, either from an Olympic organiser's point of view, or Visa's.

Oh, and the OP talks as if there's a difference between how international and UK people are affected by this, but that really isn't the case. Based on my own anecdotal evidence I certainly know many more people who have at least one Visa card than people who have at least one non-Visa card (myself for example, my personal debit card, personal credit card, and company credit card, despite being from three different providers, are all Visa), but there are still plenty of people using, for example, cards from MasterCard.

dredmorbius 5 hours ago 3 replies      
It's more than just Visa -- this is the marketing arrangement for (AFAIK) ALL Olympic sponsors.

The marketing agreement with the IOS is:

- You get your brand prominently featured across venues, media feeds, and collateral.

- All competitors are iced out.

I'm OK with the first.

I'm not OK with the latter.

Particularly in light of the Orwellian trademark and copyright enforcement (including significant changes to corresponding statutes) the IOC is granted.

That and the fact that Olympic athletes are no longer amateurs, but professionals. It's a charade. An impressive one at times, but a charade all the same.

rubergly 5 hours ago 4 replies      
More realistically, Visa was probably hoping that many consumers would, like the author, already have the option of and be forced into using their Visa card.

I agree that this seems, in addition to being extremely frustrating to almost all consumers, a silly marketing move, but I'm sure that Visa has run the numbers and has a sound business reason for doing this. Since, judging by mthoms's post, this seems to be a tradition at Olympics, my reasoning may be off, but I imagine that forcing all vendors to only accept Visa must cost a lot more than a sponsorship without that condition"and I really think that they wouldn't blindly jump into that without a sound reason.

There's the obvious trade-off of how much extra money Visa makes from users who have multiple cards and are forced into using Visa where they wouldn't have otherwise vs. money lost from Visa-owners who who are pissed off. But there are probably much more subtle, long-term effects. Maybe 75% of consumers present have a Visa, and 50% of those Visa-owners feel entitled and empowered by having the ability to use their card while others are frustrated; and then there's the trade-off of the 'entitled' Visa-owning 37.5% of consumers spending more with their Visa cards over the following months/years vs. the money lost due to the 25% of consumers who didn't have a Visa at the olympics and possibly hold a grudge and never own a Visa card because of the experience. Not to mention the fact that a similar sponsorship would likely be arranged if Visa decided not to do it; for all we know, MasterCard had a clear business incentive to do this but refrained because of moral reasons, but are we (consumers as a whole) discussing how valiant MasterCard is and how much they respect us as consumers or have we all forgotten a little bit about MasterCard because everyone's talking about Visa?

Again, I don't agree with this idea; I think it's bad and annoying. But I think it's silly and a bit ignorant for all of us (many of whom have no marketing experience, and most of whom don't on this scale) to assume we know more than the marketers making these decisions because we're annoyed.

brudgers 5 hours ago 0 replies      
If one needs a reason to hate Visa, their suspension of payments to Wikileaks may be a bit more robust and stand on somewhat higher moral ground, in my opinion.
ewood 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Maybe it is a unique marker of those who are technically minded to be especially aggrieved by an arbitrary restriction such as this? Going through the London2012 ticket website today I noticed the requirement to pay by Visa and even though I was intending on using my Visa I clicked on the "What if I don't have Visa?" link to see what alternatives were on offer:

If you do not have a Visa card, your bank will be able to help you select and apply for the Visa product that best suits your needs. For more information on how to obtain a Visa product, please visit the Visa website.

Do they seriously think I'm going to organise a new card just to buy Olympic products? A better piece of advice might be:

If you do not have a Visa card, find a friend who does and get them to buy the tickets for you. Then settle with cash and buy them a beer for their trouble.

FuzzyDunlop 5 hours ago 0 replies      
What I disapprove of most with this is that it totally flies in the face of existing competition laws, that exist to protect the consumer.

In any other situation this would not be allowed to happen, and that it actually has happened (amongst all the other things, like the excessive promotion and monopolisation of unhealthy food and drink) makes me resent both the Olympics and the government that gave them so much of a free pass.

The sheer amount of corporatism and hypocrisy depresses me.

knowaveragejoe 4 hours ago 0 replies      
What really gets me is the use of the term "proud" - as if the people displaying such signage really feel anything remotely like pride about it.

In reality they likely feel indifferently(they're going to make a lot of money anyways, just being at the Olympics). But they certainly do not think to themselves "This is a good thing I'm doing. I'm happy to present this to my customers."

paulsutter 4 hours ago 0 replies      
But the olympic organizers need a way to pay for their $70,000 lunches, which totally justifies this.


lutorm 52 minutes ago 0 replies      
Can anyone explain to me why the government issues currency for free, but doesn't provide for an electronic equivalent? Instead of having economic transactions being controlled by a giant corporation, shouldn't this be considered an essential function that should be handled by the state?
DannyPage 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm not surprised at all. This is a company-wide philosophy that they should be the only CC processor.

I once did some contract work at Visa. At the time, I only had Mastercard and American Express. Went to their work cafe, tried to get some food, but was told (almost rudely) that they only took Visa. No cash either. I could buy a pre-paid card that can't be reloaded at one of the nearby kiosks (for 3 dollar fee per card). Needless to say, I went somewhere else for lunch.

dools 3 hours ago 0 replies      
You didn't already hate Visa? I hate Visa, Mastercard, AMEX, the banks, insurance companies, the stock markets, real estate companies, mortgage brokers, you know, pretty much everything to do with finance. How could your opinion of a finance institution get any lower?
Shenglong 6 hours ago 4 replies      
I disagree completely. Visa sponsored the event - why would they want competitors there? When the average person sees that his or her Mastercard is not accepted, I don't think the first response is "damn you, Visa!" Just like, when I see an AMEX card isn't accepted, I don't say "Damn you Visa and Mastercard for offering lower rates!"

The image that Visa is trying to promote is that they're the most commonly accepted card. Because consumer perks vary only slightly (if at all) in home countries, for most consumers, the question becomes permeation. If they see lots of places accepting Visa and not Mastercard then they're more likely to get a Mastercard.

To give you a closer-to-home example: In Canada, we have Tim Hortons - which is a cheaper version of Starbucks (and it's very popular). They take Mastercard, but not Visa. There have been several situations where I've been unable to purchase food because I use Visa and I hate cash. At no point have I said "damn you, Mastercard! I hate you!" In fact, if I actually drank coffee, I'd probably have gotten a MC already.

apendleton 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm not sure what the basis is for the assumption that this is a marketing move. It seems like the more obvious motivation would be to force everyone to pay with Visa to get the credit card fees from what will undoubtedly be several million dollars' worth of purchases, as a means of partially offsetting the cost of the investment in the sponsorship.
jamesbritt 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Visa gets to to do this because the IOC and the sponsoring city allow it.

Hate on Visa (because they don't have to do this), but hate on the IOC as well, and on any city government that OKs this sort of shit.

ghshephard 5 hours ago 0 replies      
It used to be the case there were lots of places that wouldn't accept mastercard. It's rarer these days, but I still run into them. It would never occur to me to ever travel anywhere outside my local neighborhood without both Mastercard and a Visa. And I realize that 50%+ of the time my Amex (which, of course, is what I need to use for corporate travel) - won't be accepted at smaller places. Expense Report Hell...
damian2000 1 hour ago 0 replies      
My sympathy goes to the writer, but honestly, if you turn up at any major sporting event, anywhere in the world, without CASH, then you are asking for trouble. Cash is still king especially with small vendors, cafes, people selling hot dogs, etc. I'd never go anywhere like that without a plentiful supply.
einhverfr 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Honest question here. What implications are there under European Anti-Trust law regarding such a rule? Is such a bald-faced restraint on trade illegal? Could many vendors get into trouble here? Could the IOC be sanctioned?

I ask because in the US I would expect Sherman Act lawsuits to be flying over stunts like this.

bicknergseng 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm curious... does anyone know where all this money from sponsors goes? The IOC is supposed to be not for profit. I understand hosting the Olympics is very expensive and that the LOCOG wants to recoop some costs, but this is ridiculous. It's going against the IOC's Olympic Charter at the very least...
Zenst 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Fiscal descrimination is still descrimination. Maybe Visa broke a law, if not then the law needs to catchup.

I don't have a Visa card since a year ago when the ticketing system was announced as Visa only, I didn't attent the games or any aspect of it and it put me of the whole Olympic event that when the torch, cycle races which were going past my house I was like meh and avoided them as Visa had put me off. I don't like credit cards as it is, but bias and descrimination is something I dislike even more and in that I did what I could.

jiggy2011 6 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm surprised Visa even needs to market, whenever I have been issued a card by my bank sometimes it's been a VISA and sometimes a Mastercard/Maestro. I assume I could get one particular type of card if I specifically requested it but I really don't understand what the difference would be to the end user.

I guess perhaps if the only differentiating factor is "you can use this one if you goto the olympics" then maybe that is enough to sway a bunch of people?

ArbitraryLimits 5 hours ago 1 reply      
On the one hand, the author makes a good point.

On the other hand, he actually uses the phrase "simple folks" as if this were a Populist meeting in the 1890s.

I'm really surprised by how much that one slip has undermined his credibility with me.

rcavezza 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a golden quote from the post.

"If you want people to like you, give them something. If you want people to hate you, take something away from them. "

bdunbar 1 hour ago 0 replies      
This is a problem with a solution: eschew credit for debit cards.

Mine is 'visa-compatible' (and others), draws from my checking account.

jakeonthemove 5 hours ago 1 reply      
What the? I'm surprised they could actually pull this off - they must've spent a lot of money on it. In Europe, MasterCard is much more popular than Visa (the latter is used mostly for credit cards, and most Europeans use debit cards) - I'm thinking there are a whole lot of other people cursing the company right now, too. Good going, Visa...
Gustomaximus 5 hours ago 1 reply      
This is stupid marketing by the Visa team. But what has not been mentioned is why would the Olympic committee allow this! And money is not the answer as I would think Visa / Mastercard or other would still sponsor this if the committee had said all cards must be accepted. Personally I am more disappointed in the olympic committee than Visa.
netaustin 6 hours ago 0 replies      
The flip side of this marketing proposition (give something, not take something) is exactly what American Express does. At last year's US Open, American Express gave cardholders a special little radio from a booth in the concession area. Many people had these radios, which was good marketing for American Express, especially considering the presumably affluent audience attending an expensive event. But they didn't actually inconvenience anyone in the process.
ww520 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I have Master, Visa, AE, and Discovery, just to cover all basis. And the decision to use which one is purely based on the rebate economic. The 2% rebate Master got used the most, while the 3% gas rebate on AE or Discovery got used when filling gas. Only when all else failed I would use the 1% rebate Visa. So the "marketing" campaign by Visa in Olympics have 0 effect on me to use Visa in the future.
timrogers 6 hours ago 0 replies      
The oddest thing for me was seeing a "Visa Customer Services" desk at an Olympic venue yesterday with two exceedingly bored looking staff. I'm not at all sure what they were meant to be doing given that all the customer service is provided by card issuers, not the network...
slantyyz 3 hours ago 0 replies      
The Olympics as a sporting event is great (ok, if you discount women's badminton, fencing, boxing and a few others), but the Olympics as a business.. it's just sleazy.
thetrb 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I think this is a valid complaint, but it's nothing new.

Same thing happened to me when I tried to buy Tickets for the NFL. They also only accepted Visa at that time (not sure if it changed since then). I wasn't able to buy Tickets online because of that reason so I looked up the next brick & mortar store which sold these tickets and found that Macy's sells them (at a special counter).

So I drove to Macy's thinking that at least they should accept any credit card - but nope, they rejected my Mastercard so I first had to get cash at an ATM.

I think Visa's point is that you feel limited by not having a Visa card and so are more willing to get a Visa. In my opinion that's kind of similar to how advertisement works in general. You don't see a commercial and immediately go to buy it, but they try to build the sense in you that you actually need the product.

shtylman 6 hours ago 1 reply      
You hate them and yet will probably change nothing in your usage habits regarding their cards or make an effort to support systems that are not visa?
wilki 5 hours ago 2 replies      
Don't hate Visa, hate/dislike the venue host that agreed to such terms (thus subjecting you to said terms). Since the article talked about McDonalds - do you hate Coca Cola for striking up an exclusivity deal with McDonalds? If you must place blame, direct it toward the correct entity.
lucisferre 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I totally read that headline as "Great, work visa, now I hate you." Was expecting an immigration rant.
elchief 3 hours ago 0 replies      
You realize they do this because they know there's absolutely nothing you can do about it right?
haeikou 6 hours ago 2 replies      
So I'm European and everything, and not so much used to credit cards everywhere ... but is it really so hard to pay cash for a day?
switch007 5 hours ago 0 replies      
It's hard to avoid Visa now in the UK. I don't think any banks issue new Maestro debit cards any more - they're all VISA.
pacomerh 4 hours ago 0 replies      
This title can also be read as a really absurd immigration article.
JackFr 3 hours ago 0 replies      
You are a customer of your bank, not Visa. Visa's customers are merchants and financial institutions.
Happyhippy 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Visa should be reviled for what they did in the Olympics.

"Am at the GB v UAE match, and there's a serious problem with Visa. All the cash machines are turned off as they accept non-Visa cards, and the Visa-only card payment system has crashed. There's a lot of frustrated people here with no money and no food for two football matches. No one wants to do anything here. Very annoying, lots hungry and thirsty people here."

From http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/london-2012-olympics-blog/20...

Also, pre-Olympics they had the games zones remove all non-Visa machines.


"Visa confirmed that it was replacing the existing cash machines at various Olympic sites with machines running on its own system as part of its exclusivity arrangement as a sponsor. The move means people with Mastercard credit or debit cards will not be able to use the ATMs to withdraw money."

Gold in the Corporate foot shooting event goes to.....VISA!

donpdonp 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Not having been to the olympics before, an important detail is how far this 'zone' covers. I am going to assume its a significant number of blocks, maybe even a mile, around the olympic venues that include everyday businesses that people use, olympics or not.

The not-selling-fries bit sounds hugely anti-competitive and way beyond the scope of what should be possible by this event. Payment cards go a step further. People rely on their particular card and the norm is to accept at least two kinds of cards. Creating a temporary monopoly on payment cards is again way beyond the reach of what is reasonable for a marketing agreement.

10dpd 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Did anyone else read this title thinking it was from a disillusioned immigrant?
sirfried 3 hours ago 0 replies      
i thought he hated "work visa" for a second, silly me
peterwiese 6 hours ago 2 replies      
Pay cash, moron. That's how we roll in Europe.
jonknee 6 hours ago 2 replies      
So this is about a man with a Visa card upset that his Visa card is accepted everywhere he goes. Visa has been exclusive at the Olympics for a long time and even though I have never been I know that.
Source Sans Pro: Adobe's first open source font family adobe.com
378 points by robinhouston  4 days ago   67 comments top 24
user49598 4 days ago 1 reply      
The license for those interested:

SIL OPEN FONT LICENSE Version 1.1 - 26 February 2007

The OFL allows the licensed fonts to be used, studied, modified and redistributed freely as long as they are not sold by themselves. The fonts, including any derivative works, can be bundled, embedded, redistributed and/or sold with any software provided that any reserved names are not used by derivative works. The fonts and derivatives, however, cannot be released under any other type of license. The requirement for fonts to remain under this license does not apply to any document created using the fonts or their derivatives.


mortenjorck 4 days ago 1 reply      
A new type family, without a prominently-featured specimen? A strange omission.

The TypeKit page is a decent substitute, anyway: https://typekit.com/fonts/source-sans-pro

Not a bad News Gothic descendent at all. It takes News Gothic's structural personality and adds a bit of Frutiger's humanism.

gojomo 4 days ago 0 replies      
Because it's unclear with all the preamble, this is a release of 6 weights of the 'SourceSansPro' font in upright and italic styles. A monospace variant is a 'work in progress' that's not yet in the download package.
drivebyacct2 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't do enough design to care about fonts, but I'll always take a chance at a new monospace font. Especially this one. Looks gorgeous. (The regular face looks good too, don't get me wrong, I just don't have good uses for it).

[[On an aside, I love this thread. A post about the license, geeking out about the font and even more specifically the monospaced fonts. No where else would I see this conversation. :)]]

edit: sorry to burst bubbles, the release/source doesn't include the monospaced variant yet.

mmariani 4 days ago 1 reply      
Beautiful fonts. Thanks for the tip! :)

Here's the download link:

devindotcom 4 days ago 1 reply      
Good for them. I'm not really digging the tail on the lowercase L next to the simple bar I. Otherwise I might give it a shot for my own site instead of Quattrocento Sans or Open Sans.
tsahyt 4 days ago 0 replies      
The monospace version looks brilliant. Looks like something that could one day become my coding font. It's quite hard to find a nice monospace font and I think the choice does in fact matter (for coding obviously)
computerbob 4 days ago 2 replies      
Can I ask why this is such a big deal. I mean besides the point that adobe is opening something up for "open source". Is there a lack of fonts?
jryan49 4 days ago 1 reply      
Arch Linux packages I just created/added to AUR:

otf-source-sans-pro: https://aur.archlinux.org/packages.php?ID=61403

ttf-source-sans-pro: https://aur.archlinux.org/packages.php?ID=61404

jneal 4 days ago 0 replies      
Monospace is beautiful! Sad to see it's not included
emehrkay 4 days ago 0 replies      
Im no font nerd, but this looks great
laconian 4 days ago 1 reply      
I await Gruber's lengthy analysis of this font.

(and the monospaced version)

b0sk 4 days ago 1 reply      
They should atleast release the monospace as beta.
state 4 days ago 0 replies      
There's so much work to be done in advancing the state of readability on the web. Widely available, properly drawn fonts do a lot to help.

With only a quick look this looks like a really helpful contribution. I wonder if the name is a play on Open Sans.

petilon 3 days ago 1 reply      
Source Sans Pro is a dead ringer for Microsoft's beautiful Segoe UI. This is a great move by Adobe. The Open Source world now has an equivalent for Segoe UI. Web designers rejoice!
bierko 4 days ago 0 replies      
That's a really nice monospace.
DASD 4 days ago 1 reply      
Can this font be self-hosted rather than use Typekit or other externally hosted services?
activepeanut 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a font that supports both European and Asian languages available for free anywhere?
moondowner 4 days ago 1 reply      
Finally a new monospaced font!:)
stephanerangaya 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is really good, and great gift to the Open Source community.
specto 4 days ago 0 replies      
So can anyone send me in a direction to use this with LaTeX?
neya 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow...its beautiful!
nihonjon 4 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like brand marketing to me.
chbrown 4 days ago 4 replies      
Uh, sourceforge? When I hear "making these files available" I think github or a simple website. Not something with a download.com-style "Wait 5 seconds while we force this ad down your throat and try to find a mirror because Route 53 / load-balancing is a foreign concept to us programmers still hanging out in the '90s."
Stripe And A/B Testing Made Me A Small Fortune kalzumeus.com
338 points by craigkerstiens  11 hours ago   133 comments top 22
aresant 10 hours ago 2 replies      
At ConversionVoodoo we've found that the gains pulled out of cart-work are staggering vs. other areas in your funnel - 50%+ improvements to be had even on high volume / "well optimized" projects (10k+ sales/mo).

Three easy places to start:

a) Simplify the UI - Make it as simple as possible for people to enter their payment details - large fonts, cross-browser tested, minimal pages, optimized for the lowest screen resolution of your average user on up.

b) Reiterate TRUST messaging - testimonials or buying popular symbols (Verign /McAfee / etc) and even dialing in the PLACEMENT of those logos is high-value eg http://www.conversionvoodoo.com/blog/2010/07/proper-placemen...

e) Implement a Cart Abandon strategy - either sending "instant discounts" via email good for 24hrs to complete order, calling dropped carts, or hitting a pop-up of live help or similar is easy money.

Add to this all the usual - proper messaging on buttons, lightning fast response times, mobile optimized version too, etc and you instantly gain a massive advantage over your competitors.

jeremymcanally 11 hours ago 2 replies      
Stripe the service is fantastic. I just hope they can get the financial side together soon. They sent me a 1099 on April 14 this year (you know, one day before taxes are due). Fortunately I hadn't filed yet (I was literally typing everything in TurboTax as the postman came). Not only was that usually illegal (at least for traditional 1099's; I don't know if the same rules apply to 1099-K's...haven't looked), it was highly annoying as it was also the second one they sent me (each with a different amount). Turns out they'd switched payment processors or something at one point and didn't bother to tell their customers to expect two 1099's.

Still using it. Great product. But I had to file an extension and crap to get it all sorted out, which was highly annoying.

StavrosK 11 hours ago 3 replies      
God I hate posts about Stripe with a passion. It's like saying "You've had this pain in your back for the last five years? Well, I've got this miracle pill here that will not only make it go away, but it will also taste great. Oh, you're not in the US? Too bad then."

Stop reminding me I can't use Stripe all the time.

DanielBMarkham 10 hours ago 1 reply      
...I am not easily emotionally moved by git command lines...

This is going on my "best of" list of HN-related excerpts

TomGullen 11 hours ago 4 replies      
> This means that their credit card details never hit your server.

One thing I've been seeing recently is that some implementations using Stripe DO have the CC details hitting their server. The most common case being when Javascript is disabled the form posts to the website because the developer didn't design with graceful degradation, a dangerous mistake when mixed with credit card numbers.

It doesn't appear to be a problem for you (your payment page for CC info doesn't gracefully degrade with JS disabled and is impassible - you might want to fix that!) but I've seen it on other sites, and it's especially a problem when other sites don't use SSL as a fail safe for this sort of case which I have also seen. For Stripe it might perhaps be worth considering denying all payments from non HTTPS pages for this reason. It forces the merchants to have an SSL failsafe.

Also with CC info being entered on your site, it's presumably trivial for the site itself to record the CC numbers. Trust is the issue here, I'm not going to be entering my CC number on a site I've never heard of, with no reputation. Stripe doesn't solve this issue, Paypal does. Stripe looks wonderful, but it's not going to be suitable for everyone.

cperciva 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Stripe.js is a very well-implemented “or something”, where JavaScript that they'll provide for you hooks into your credit card form with trivial work. (About ~6 lines for me.)

If, like me, you don't like the idea of loading someone else's javascript into your own domain, the "web page" side of things can also be done by dropping a single <iframe> tag into your HTML.

dcaldwell 10 hours ago 2 replies      
I work in the same co-working facility as an education-based startup that switched from using PayPal(where user gets redirected to PayPal) to Stripe (completely branded checkout) and their conversion rates increased 40% overnight and have stayed at those levels. After digging into their API, we're actually building our new company, MoonClerk, on top of Stripe's API. We'll basically be an abstraction layer on top of Stripe so that non-developers can use it and implement it on their site, with a focus on recurring payments (even though we do one-time payments). We really want to allow non-developers the ability to use Stripe.
MarkMc 11 hours ago 1 reply      
In case anyone is curious, here's Patrick's sales graph:

You can see the big jump in May-July (although the jump for July is 32%, not 53%)

nickknw 5 hours ago 0 replies      
"(A customer had " I kid you not " a lightning strike hit her computer during checkout, and as a consequence the JS callback fired 36 times. This resulted in 36 transactions, which Stripe processed without complaint. Oops."

I can't believe the good old 'computer was hit by a lightning bolt' wasn't in one of your test cases, Patrick! I mean it's so obvious :P

More seriously, that is one of the wildest reasons for a bug I think I've ever heard.

maximilianburke 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Patrick, I'm curious how you have been using Stripe as you are in Japan and it seems they only recently began expanding out of America. Is the business entity behind BCC registered in the US?
ashraful 8 hours ago 0 replies      
@patio11 Thanks a lot for mentioning me in your blog again. I was wondering why there was a spike in my visitor log.

I would love to do a redesign for Appointment Reminder if you're interested :)

stevoski 11 hours ago 3 replies      
I currently use FastSpring to handle purchases of my software. What's the advantage to using Stripe instead of FastSpring?
brittohalloran 8 hours ago 0 replies      
"Suffice it to say there is a) a customer group which needs between 8 and 15 cards and b) they really, really like pretty checkouts."

I think this is more "people who are on the margin where they MIGHT be interested in paying for more cards can be convinced when they hit the pretty checkout page". If you don't need more than 15 cards, you probably don't have a burning need for the paid version.

sulife 11 hours ago 6 replies      
Or spend a few hours, get a merchant account through a bank and authorize.net with much lower fees and a pretty standard API. Tons of classes to use authorize.net with and super simple... no point of adding ANOTHER layer... charging with a merchant account is trivial.
bazookaBen 11 hours ago 2 replies      
have to admit, that one of the reasons patio11 got Patrick (cofounder of Stripe) to help with customer support is because he's *the patio11

but great customer service is still great, no matter what.

lrem 11 hours ago 3 replies      
Just curious: are there any good options outside the US?
maayank 10 hours ago 0 replies      
"Is Stripe available outside of the US?"

"Currently Stripe is US only..."

jacobn 10 hours ago 1 reply      
> "All three of these tests were null results. (i.e. No significant difference in aggregate purchases between either of the two options" (for goog&payp vs stripe, and several other combos)

This is a very interesting result. I would have thought that additional payment options would boost sales on the margin i.e. increase conversion by a couple of percent (not percentage points ;) for e.g. international customers, or people who already have accounts with GG/PP.

Patrick: Any chance you could elaborate a little more here? Would be very interesting to see some more detailed stats on this aspect.

propercoil 3 hours ago 0 replies      
that's nice but you arn't US based because you live in japan so how did stripe let you in?
angryasian 9 hours ago 1 reply      
could it just be his audience, I'm incredibly against adding my credit card on any site.
paranoiacblack 11 hours ago 1 reply      
I've never heard of this service before but it looks quite interesting. I wonder though, how feasible is something like this for paying membership dues in a small club, for example? Is there some other service does this a lot better?
Irishsteve 11 hours ago 2 replies      
Stripe is a great service, but I get the feeling their PR company or marketing department promotes extensively here (Makes sense since its the target audience).
Why Valve? Or, what do we need corporations for.. valvesoftware.com
314 points by liquid_x  3 days ago   159 comments top 28
grellas 3 days ago 3 replies      
It is a dubious proposition, in my view, that a "boss-less" company can or should replace the traditional hierarchical corporation of today as the normative form of business organization.

Here are my reasons for saying this:

For all of the economist's sagacity that the author has and evidently brings to this piece, the author's underlying case against modern hierarchical corporations seems to boil down to a populist analysis that is not so much a proof as a set of ill-developed assertions.

The author claims (a) that hierarchical managements lead to "corporate serfdom" and to "Soviet-like" dominance within the framework of the corporation itself, thereby crushing creativity and wasting resources, (b) that all this is made by possible by "toxic finance," and (c) that it is all "co-dependent with political structures that are losing democratic legitimacy fast."

Corporate serfdom? Toxic finance? Co-dependent on illegitimate political structures? This lumps every early-stage startup with every mega-corporation that has ever existed and, in effect, calls them all illegitimate. And that is a political assumption about "corporations" in the abstract, not an empirical analysis, because it cannot possibly be defended as an empirical analysis. Is it serfdom to join a YC company as a founder or an employee? Is YC a toxic funder? If the answer to both is no, does all this change once startups get bigger? How about a startup that purports to offer a different form of corporate culture ala Google? Are there serfs working at Google? Is their funding toxic? Or does this just apply to a Walmart or a Standard Oil or other mega-corporation that does not specifically do creative work in the tech field? Does hierarchical management consist of simply having the normal forms of corporate government - a board of directors and corporate officers - or does it come about only when people are given authority to hire and fire, to supervise the employment of others, and to direct them in what to do in their jobs? Is this all good, efficient, and respectful of human talent and creativity when the organization is small but soulless and deadening and even "Soviet-like" only when the corporation becomes large? If there is such a distinction, where is that line crossed? And does this mean that the corporate form is not innately evil but that a large organization of whatever type, organized hierarchically in its management structure, is what brings in the evil.

What, then, does Valve offer that makes it different? It too is a corporation. It is privately owned by a few persons who have had the luxury of screening all employees so as to hire only very bright, highly self-motivated persons to do predominantly creative forms of work. Working with such employees, Valve has been able to build a successful model by which these bright, motivated employees get to choose 100% of their projects and have complete freedom on how they manage their own time and on what results they seek to achieve. It all sounds like an amazing work environment but how many businesses get to focus in this way on creative forms of work or get to screen carefully to make sure they only hire self-motivated employees? And how many businesses have the luxury of doing this without needing to raise outside capital through their early stages? Moreover (and the author himself raises this point), to what extent can this scale? Can such a model work if the company grows a thousandfold and suddenly has 40,000 employees? Of course, the model inevitably breaks down at some point along the way because the environment in which the Valve employees currently function is highly unusual if not unique.

Unless human nature should radically change owing to technological progress (a dubious assumption in my view), we can continue to expect that, in any large group, there will always be those who fail to carry their weight, those who seek to take advantage, those who are incompetent, and those who are plain bad actors making life difficult for those around them or trying to cheat the company or steal from it or whatever. A hands-off management that lets all such persons do whatever they want will very quickly find itself immersed in problems and, ultimately, some mechanism needs to be put in place by which employees are managed, are disciplined, are rewarded, are redeployed, etc. in ways that conform to the goals of the organization and not necessarily with those of each individual actor within that organization.

Every form of business organization needs people with a vision to set its model and its goals and to direct people and resources in a way that maximizes the opportunities of successfully reaching those goals. In some situations, some or even all of the impetus for this can come from those who work in common without an overriding authority. Those situations, though, are by definition highly unusual at best. Valve may be one of them and even then it has to managed at some level even by its benign oligarchs who own it. And, even if technological progress could someday supplant the need for corporations, this piece does not make the case for how that will ever be possible. It is, then, an intriguing piece (with thought-provoking elements) but suggestive and incomplete at best in its main argument about Valve and marred by populist assumptions in its broader themes about corporations generally.

Yes, this is written from the standpoint of a startup business lawyer who has dealt with corporate forms of organization for some three decades now. This may give my views an inevitable bias in that direction but it also gives me a close familiarity with how such corporate forms work. From that perspective, what the author says just doesn't ring true. Business organizations generally aren't places where free-flowing creativity will hold sway above all else. The Valve model may be great but I just don't see it being made broadly applicable to the vast majority of businesses as they operate today or as I can even conceive of them operating in the future.

cs702 3 days ago  replies      
Great article. Anyone who has worked for a large, established corporation knows from personal experience that internally they are a lot like the Soviet Union, with a hierarchical structure of bureaucrats and their apparatchiks making decisions for everyone at the company.

Despite having grown to around 400 employees, Valve is evidently not like that. The author, Yanis Varoufakis, makes a compelling case that future companies may look more like it than like the traditional hierarchical corporations of today.


PS. As someone who regularly reads the author's economics blog at http://yanisvaroufakis.eu, finding him on Valve's corporate blog was the source of quite a bit of cognitive dissonance for me. ("What the...? Why is Varoufakis showing up on Valve's corporate blog?" was my immediate thought.) I had to do multiple double-takes before it dawned on me that, yes, he somehow works at Valve!

Spooky23 3 days ago 2 replies      
Capitalism doesn't require corporations. Corporations insulate capital from liability.

In the early 1800's in the US, you needed a act of the state legislature to form a corporation. This was difficult and came with other baggage (putting politicians on payroll, etc) so many more businesses were partnerships. Being a partner means that as you invest, you gain more equity AND more liability. It also means that governance becomes difficult as the partnership grows. As the industrial revolution brought about massive, more capital intensive businesses (railroads, steel, etc), the corporation become necessary to function.

If Hacker News was around in 1880, we'd be talking about corporate bureaucracy as a great innovation. It made sense.

I think what you're really seeing with Valve is a sort of modern partnership. I've seen similar sounding small businesses (farms, mostly) where running of the business is more consensus-driven or there is a "spontaneous" hierarchy that develops over time.

mhartl 3 days ago 2 replies      
I appreciate the insight in the OP, but I'm frustrated by the imprecise use of language. Valve is hierarchical. The hierarchy is simply informal and spontaneous based on the attributes of individual team members. (The OP hints at the distinction with the occasional modification "authoritarian hierarchy", but this line is often blurred.) In addition, the notion that Valve is "bossless" is disingenuous. For every person at Valve, there is some other person (or persons) who can fire him. If you worked at Valve, that person could in principle tell you what to do. That he doesn't have to is a product of the kind of people who work at Valve, not any radical innovation in corporate structure. Although its organization may be relatively flat, Valve is strictly hierarchical by any sensible definition of the term.

Valve's model reminds me of the old Costco vs. Walmart debates. Costco, we are told, get lots more productivity out of its workers by treating them well"good pay, generous benefits, etc."while Walmart suffers by comparison. What this analysis ignores is that the people are different. Costco has discovered that it can thrive by compensating disciplined, productive people well. Google does the same. Apparently so does Valve. But not all people have such discipline or high productive capacity"you couldn't just swap all Costco employees for the same number of Walmart employees and expect to get the same results, any more than you could with Google or Valve. The miracle of Walmart (or one of them, at least) is that they manage to thrive using the labor of people whose productivity is often marginal by the standards of Costco or Valve. Arguably, that is even more impressive, and perhaps more laudable. Unsurprisingly, Walmart's corporate structure is very un-Valve-like.

michaelochurch 3 days ago 0 replies      
I really, really hope Valve succeeds and gets this vision through. It sounds like a great company.

His insight about corporations being Soviet in nature is spot-on. Corporatism is neither capitalism nor socialism, but a hybrid system to give a well-connected elite (~0.5%) the best of both systems and the other 99.5% the worst of both worlds. Look at air travel; that's about as Soviet an experience as one gets, but the pricing is aggressively and mean-spiritedly capitalistic. Or consider suburbia as a microcosm. The rich live in places like the Hamptons and have both rural and urban amenities, while the poor live in depressed, polluted exurbs that combine the worst of city and country life.

What Valve sounds like to me is a post-scarcity capitalistic model where there's still inequality of results (as, IMO, there should be) but there isn't pain or poverty.

In our current world where there is a lot of scarcity (even though it's outmoded and artificial in the US) people work a certain way, and give up too much power, because the alternative is risk of economic misery. In a post-scarcity world with more of a safety net, people probably would "wheel their desks" to other projects, companies, and opportunities (or split their time among more than one, rather than lingering in this undiversified full-time thing) more freely. That's what we're starting to see in technology, as the demand for programmers increases and the stigma against changing jobs frequently (assuming there's upward progress and learning) goes away.

crazygringo 3 days ago 4 replies      
So there are two things that remain unclear from this analysis:

1) Moving between Valve projects may be like a "market" where the "buzz" around a project is like its "price"... but then the analogy breaks down, because in a real market, you'd have to pay to be on the hot team.

But at Valve you don't, so in this case, why doesn't everyone just drop their project and move to the hottest, most interesting team? Obviously in real life not everyone will, but if a team only needs 5 people, and 50 people want to join, who determines who really joins? Well, the project manager will have to choose, and now we're just back to managers choosing. Or am I missing something?

2) There's a lot of grunt work in software development. Bugfixes to maintain a year-old product, writing documentation, etc. If nobody wants to do the grunt work, then who does it? Because there's usually more grunt work than people who want to do it. Everyone wants to work on the new exciting sexy stuff, but that's not always what generates revenue and pays people's salaries.

bryanlarsen 3 days ago 2 replies      
In many ways, I think that a worker's cooperative is a much better legal structure for a software firm than a corporation.

I assume that Valve generously grants stock options to its employees, like most other Silicon Valley firms. This, combined with its interesting management structure, makes Valve a worker's cooperative in practice but not by law.

I suspect that if Valve lived in a jurisdiction with legal protections for worker's cooperative, that it would be one.

jacques_chester 3 days ago 2 replies      
Valve is a single data point.

A single data point that has several massively profitable ventures feeding its bottom line.

I'd be wary of drawing sweeping conclusions about political economy from a single example.

codexon 3 days ago 5 replies      
There is a serious flaw with this model. The flaw is that no one wants to fix anything because fixing things is boring and usually results in lower peer reviews than building a new feature or game.

Anyone who has daily exposure to Valve's infrastructure will notice the flaws.

- Credit card breach http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/13/steam_confirms_credi... ending up in foolish security measures like encrypting your password with RSA in javascript on top of SSL.

- Power outage of a single datacenter leads to Steam going down. http://kotaku.com/5884430/power-outage-knocked-out-valve-ste...

- Weekly unplanned outages of Steam Community and the Valve master server.

- Crashes and game breaking updates in nearly every TF2 patch.

This interview from Gabe shows that he knows there is a problem with this, but he doesn't realize how bad it is:

Newell: A lot of times people will want to complain. The first time somebody complains, you say, “Okay, fix it.” You just say, “I don't know what you expect to happen now, but you've just given yourself a job.”

Fries: Does that train them to complain less or to fix things more?

Newell: If you hired the right person, it trains them to fix stuff. If you hired the wrong person, they'll say, “Oh, this is mean.”

guelo 3 days ago 1 reply      
Awesome read. It's hard to find accessible well-reasoned anti-capitalist literature outside of fringe radical contexts. Although, as he himself admits, holding up Valve as the ideal model for post-capitalist society seems like a bridge too far.
aero142 3 days ago 1 reply      
Does this flat structure apply to the entire company? Who cleans the floors, does QA, decides when to release a product, does the accounting, waters the plants, answers support calls? Can all of these people move their desks or is it only the developers that are free to move within development to development related tasks? If the accountant decided that they wanted to do art design, would they do so and then likely be evaluated by their peers and possibly fired(assuming that they are not a talented art designer in addition to being good with the books)?
alenox 3 days ago 5 replies      
Something about this article reminds me of a post-scarcity future star trek paradise where everyone works on whatever gives them joy. At Valve, your basic needs are taken care of (a paycheck, healthcare, etc), and you produce the things you love to produce. If this works on the level of a firm, would it work on the level of a whole society?
wtvanhest 3 days ago 2 replies      
Valve is a "hit business" meaning that they need to produce hits to be profitable. In the short run they have been successful, but over the long run, they may run in to problems and if it does, this business model will look foolish (rightly or wrongly).

The reason, I and others on HN don't like BigCo, is because we feel stifled, but that doesn't mean that it isn't the most efficient business model.

Tycho 1 day ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of Iain M Bank's Player of Games in which the hero finds a winning strategy in an elaborate StarCraft style board game by decentralising the production and strength of his ranks, so that his territory was a sprawl of self sufficient mini-empires. I think Banks meant it as an allegory for Islamic/Persian/Asian empires being eventually swept aside by Western civilisation, but it seems relevant here.

However one factor I generally find missing in a lot of economic analyses is that no matter how 'feudal' or 'hierarchical' an organisation may be, workers choose whether to work there or not. The classic characteristic of soviet states was that you couldn't leave even if you wanted to...

stcredzero 3 days ago 1 reply      
Corporations reduce the transaction costs between many actors, allowing large projects to be done with greater economic efficiency. This is also true for Valve. For a company their size, my guess is that they've found a much better way of collaborating efficiently than hierarchies.
larrys 3 days ago 1 reply      
"Yanis Varoufakis is an academic economist, an author, and a prominent contributor to the debates on the recent economic crises in Europe and the United States. Born in Athens, 1961, he moved to England to read Mathematics and Statistics and holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Essex. He is currently Professor of Economic Theory at the University of Athens and Visiting Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. His previous academic appointments include the Universities of Essex, East Anglia, Cambridge, Sydney and Glasgow. His books include:"

Let me boil this down a bit.

Heads in the clouds. So using Valve, with it's particular product (games) and it's type of employee (young) we are going to construct an argument that ends in:

"and it so happens that it constitutes the reason why I am personally excited to be part of Valve: The current system of corporate governance is bunk. Capitalist corporations are on the way to certain extinction. Replete with hierarchies that are exceedingly wasteful of human talent and energies, intertwined with toxic finance, co-dependent with political structures that are losing democratic legitimacy fast, a form of post-capitalist, decentralised corporation will, sooner or later, emerge."

One wonders if people who write things such as Yanis, well, if they've every done anything outside the academic world and pure theory relying on what appears to be on the surface well written arguments that would probably go over the head of Sam Walton or Warren Buffett.

ianbishop 3 days ago 1 reply      
Valve's organizational structure has always been of great interest to me from an idealistic point of view. There have been a lot of articles written recently that cover nearly all aspects of this interest-based economy for developers, artists and so on. Other companies, such as Github, seem to have adapted similar models.

Regardless of the article though, one detail always seems to slip past me. Who answers the phones?

casca 3 days ago 0 replies      
If anyone is interested in hearing more from Ronald Coase (and you should be), he was on the excellent Econtalk Podcast earlier in the year: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/_featuring/ronald_coase/

The topic is "Coase on Externalities, the Firm, and the State of Economics", well worth the time if this topic interests you.

yochaigal 3 days ago 0 replies      
This article was absolutely fascinating, in particular because it compared traditional worker co-ops with Valve's unusual horizontal-style organization.
I'm a former worker-owner at a tech startup (we were organized exactly as he described traditional co-ops, basically we all owned the firm but were hierarchical) and based on my experiences there I think the only way a truly spontaneous structure such as Valve' could work is in the high-tech or "professional" sector; I think the average person (especially those lacking college education) has a very difficult time deciding how to best be productive. I'm not saying they couldn't co-own a business - on the contrary, I think it is the way many businesses should be run! But a strict managerial structure is essential in organization differently-minded individuals (in my experience).
AndrewDucker 3 days ago 0 replies      
Fascinating stuff! I am very curious as to whether Valve is scalable to either very large companies, or companies composed of mere mortals.
sopooneo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Whales are big and fleas are small. The optimum size of an organi(sm|zaton) depends on environment and niche.
guscost 3 days ago 0 replies      
Valve sounds like it might be the only other company I'd ever want to work for.
inopinatus 3 days ago 0 replies      
tl;dr synopsis of this management style:

* Hire great people,

* Give them goals and the resources they need, and

* Get the hell out of their way.

aytekin 3 days ago 1 reply      
There are some activities that always needs to be taken care of in time. Such as customer support. I wonder how do they do those tasks. If there are no excepted level of work, some tasks might go undone.
onitica 3 days ago 3 replies      
I just did a quick skim of the article, and call me naive if you want, but in the theory of spontaneous order why is Valve necessary? Obviously, the time and labour of Valve's employees is worth more than what Valve is paying them, otherwise Valve would not be turning a profit. I'm assuming that employees really have 100% work time for their projects as you claim. Then in essence Valve is providing facilities and connections (to other smart employees) in return for the lion's share of the labour profit. Is that really worth it for the employees? Once they have the connections wouldn't it benefit them more to split off their own companies, in a co-op horizontally structured company?

Don't get me wrong, I think traditional corporate structures are often abominations and I think Valve is a great company. It just seems to me that if you take the spontaneous order philosophy to the extreme than corporations in general just become unnecessary overhead.

clarnet 3 days ago 0 replies      
Someone that is somehow renegade is Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. And it's quite possible that his thought is way better fitted here.

Of course, he's another non-authority thinker but with a quite different perspective and way to think the world, the society and men.

Take some of your time at gutenberg.org:
- What is Property? by P.-J. Proudhon http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/360
- System of Economical Contradictions; or, the Philosophy of Misery by P.-J. Proudhon http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/444

InternetPerson 3 days ago 2 replies      
Does anyone else hear the sabers?

There seems to be a lot of noise about Valve these days. Some examples: the "Windows 8 is going to be a catastrophe" thing; the "we're hiring super elite Linux developers" thing; the "our engine is faster on Linux?!" thing; and now this navel-gazing self-congratulatory gobbledygook.

Sudden Clarity Clarence asks, "Is Windows 8 going to have an app store? Could that be a threat to Steam? Is all this noise just saber-rattling?"

jebblue 3 days ago 5 replies      
Valve's move to Linux was inspiring. He referenced Marx, I'm now starting to wonder about their wisdom in general. Why can't they just make a great game platform and stay out of politics.
Apple Support Allowed Hacker Access to Reporter's iCloud Account macrumors.com
307 points by antr  1 day ago   173 comments top 21
steve8918 1 day ago  replies      
It seems logical that the easiest attack vector for any type of cloud storage is through social engineering. You're essentially protecting potentially valuable or incriminating data behind millions of dollars worth of firewalls, encryption and other technology... or a customer service representative paid $10-15/hr, if that.

Depending on how valuable the data is to you, it might be easier to just pay off a CSR, and then fake a phone call where you pretend to convince that CSR that you are that person. The person will get fired, but probably won't go to jail unless they can prove collusion. And then they can either find a new job, or depending on which country the person is living in, they can live nicely off of the money for a while.

I'm not sure how to solve this problem, except by having highly paid and specially trained CSRs that do the account resetting, or by never allowing resetting ever, and if you forget your password and your security questions, you're SOL.

I have to admit this only makes me more leery of putting anything on cloud storage, although my own personal data is pretty useless to anyone, which is my only saving grace. Others who are more important might need to think twice about relying on these types of services.

tambourine_man 1 day ago 1 reply      
The thought hadn't cross my mind, but after reading this post it got me thinking:


So, let's get this straight...a hacker "decides" to hack the account of a semi-high profile tech guy and then after committing several serious crimes like fraud that could land him in jail for an extended period of time repeatedly contacts the person he hacked when he must know that Apple will surely pursue this matter?

I smell a rat...


kristofferR 1 day ago 3 replies      
I hope he sues Apple for this and wins, behavior like this shouldn't be allowed without consequences.
rogerchucker 1 day ago 1 reply      
Everybody should read the account of an opposite situation with Apple tech support and password retrieval: http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/260414/how_did...
epo 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't believe that things happened as they are being presented. This is (ex-)Gizmodo we're talking about, people who have a long standing grudge with Apple.

In the middle of a 'major crisis' this guy finds time to type up a story, on a computer? He can still access work machines to submit? And then the hacker is kind enough to tell him what happened? And oddly, there is no mention of involving the police or the FBI?

This episode is either an inside job or a complete fabrication. My prediction is it will fall apart within the week, rather like Gizmodo's exclusive story based on the purchase of stolen prototype equipment.

akeck 1 day ago 0 replies      
To connect or not to connect? I have been debating the advantages and disadvantages of coupling both personal and work IT systems for some time now. If you tie your IT systems together, you can manage them more easily and efficiently. On the other hand, as in Mat's case, a single node failure can cause an entire system to collapse. For another example, consider fully automatic self-updating servers. Without safe-guards, a configuration bug can bring them all down within minutes. At this point, I think some coupling, but not total coupling, is best. Too little coupling won't allow enough productivity; too much increases your risk of system-wide failure.
Zenst 1 day ago 0 replies      
In all fairness to Apple and any support desk, it ain't hard to bypass a control system were one human talks to another exchanging information that is mostly in the public domain or bypassed using emotional based social engineering (sounding as if in a panic and your mother is in hospital for example). Support is human.

I helped a friend set-up a account with some provider the other day and one of the security question was the classic choice of mothers maiden name, favourite colour or favourite number. All of which are hardly secure as they can be obtained or educated-guessed a lot easier than most, but that's another discussion. He wanted his favourite football player's name, so I told him pick mothers maiden name and use your favourite football players name. He knows this, and even if somebody who knew his mothers maiden name would still fail on that security check.

What could Apple do; And they will do something I suspect. Well they could add voice recognition to there support call system or/and add preregister calling numbers only (excluding device phone numbers already to cover losing said device) like your office phone. But they will step up-to the plate and hopefully turn this around, any good tech company will do that (even if it is going oops and we added password salts now - they evolve).

The whole aspect about all this that concerned me was how you can have what you perceive as a cloud backup that can then be taken away as well as your copy of the data. That is a lesson for the user more than Apple though. But will be reassuring to find out they have a backup system and maybe also concerning. That is a individuals perception of thought for them to ascertain for themselves, everybody is different.

I might also add that the chap who initial got hacked and subsequently also had his twitter accounts hacked said in a tweet that he is leaving the hacked tweets in the same way he does not go about removing scars on his body. Shows a insightful mindset and in many ways shows that pride was not a part of this and in that we would probably not of read about this had he been burdened by pride. Respect has to be noted there for him stepping up and going, this happened before he found out how it had been done and without knowing it was not an act of his own doing.

yesimahuman 1 day ago 0 replies      
Creepy. Well, this book by Kevin Mitnick is still very relevant I guess: http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Deception-Controlling-Security...
jws 1 day ago 0 replies      
We frequently see articles about well connected or influential people like reporters getting preferential support from large companies. This might be the dark side of special response.
MarkMc 1 day ago 2 replies      
Why isn't this part of every password-reset procedure? "We'll mail a reset code to the postal address you gave when you created your account"

This would mean that the attacker would have to commit mail fraud, which (a) is quite difficult; and (b) carries heavy penalties in law.

Jyaif 1 day ago 2 replies      
The remote wipe part is extremely scary. How do you disable this on your mac?
libria 1 day ago 1 reply      
Are they saying Apple sent the password reset request to a different backup email entirely? Or that they reset the password to a requested password while one the phone?

Even if someone had properly identified themselves as Mat Honan, neither of these should be permitted.

greedo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Social Engineering will usually win out as long as a person is in the loop. It's just not feasible to expect a poorly paid CSR to be able to cope with this type of threat.

In the end, a company has to constantly weigh the cost of strong protections versus the risk, and what this exposure will cost them in terms of customer goodwill as well as any civil penalties that may arise.

emergencynap 1 day ago 1 reply      
One of the main issues with the Apple ID is the ease of use vs security. Tying the remote wipe functionality with the ability to purchase low cost content (the primary use case for the Apple ID) is always going to have one group of users unhappy.

I frequently want to quickly purchase a song on my iPhone. I also, frequently tell my friends my password so they can do the same. How many of you have typed your Apple ID password on your Apple TV with others watching? I wouldn't really ask my friends to exit the room to type in a super secure and long password with many characters groups (one that should be required for remote wipe functionality).

How many users keep their password secure knowing the main place they enter it is on their iOS device? For the many every day Apple users I know, they set their passwords to something easy so they don't have to hit their keyboard too many times when entering them.

If Apple, can separate the two authentication functions as they do with OS X and FileVault it would go a long way to preventing these types of rare but high impact events. Another suggestion would be to separate the remote wipe into two phases, erasing the keys and cleaning up the data. The initialization vectors (seed) do present a bit of a problem but I think the FileVault solution is more than adequate. If the encryption keys and the key escrow system is cleared remotely, that would leave me comfortable that my data is still secure. If we really trust our crypto algorithms, then erasing data and removing the encryption keys should really be no different. Users that do not have iOS data protection and OS X FileVault turned on, cannot be considered any level of secure anyway. And even with that data protection turned on, there are still many issues due to each app needing to implement security properly. It would be really great to see Apple improve their App Store to really audit the security of each application more than they do today.

Most of the work lies with Apple but it is a hard problem that will take time. I think Apple is going in the right direction by centralizing on iCloud rather than the PC as the central hub. This will give them a lot more flexibility and agility to move quicker and deliver secure results to the masses.

rogerchucker 1 day ago 1 reply      
Damn.. this is popcorn-worthy. Anti-Applites are gonna say "sue them!" and Fanboys are gonna post a rebuttal to each of those posts.
shawndumas 1 day ago 3 replies      
I am confused; did the hacker guess the security questions or obviate them?

If the former it's not Apple's fault. If the latter; that's inexcusable.

dennisgorelik 1 day ago 1 reply      
I wonder if attacker will be caught and would end up in jail.
All password change requests like that must be carefully recorded and are probably very traceable.
Considering public nature of this exploit, Apple might put quite some effort to carefully investigate the incident.
stephenhess 1 day ago 0 replies      
Large amounts of personal data are collected by data brokers like Intelius, Spokeo and Whitepages - which makes this easier to pull off. It's fairly trivial to find answers to questions like "What's your DOB?" or "What's your billing address" by looking in one of these places. Most data brokers will have opt-out pages where you can request removal of your data - though they don't make it easy. There are also services that help with this: MyPrivacy (reputation.com/myprivacy) which I work on and Safe Shepherd (safesheperd.com).
jsmcallister 1 day ago 0 replies      
Hopefully the article on Honan's experience will open some eyes and make everyone take the security of their personal accounts more seriously. The money in your bank is insured, your online presence is not, and there is a huge imbalance in how consumers address security for each. Some hackers don't want money or notoriety - they just want to watch the world burn.
seagreen 1 day ago 0 replies      
Can iCould be enabled remotely? I know it shouldn't be able to, but could it?
baldfat 1 day ago 0 replies      
Sarah Palin Hack was basically the same. People don't figure what is available online gives the answers to their questions.
"The carpets are so clean, we don't need janitors" machinesplusminds.blogspot.com
306 points by zdw  2 days ago   111 comments top 16
kevinalexbrown 2 days ago 8 replies      
In this case, the downside to saving money by laying off expensive experience is clear. Unfortunately, the downsides are rarely clear before the upsides, and by the time the mistake is obvious, returning to the previous state is difficult, and an incentive has been created for short term savings at the expense of long term ones.

By way of example, several years ago I sold tools at Sears. Sears had spent decades building consumer confidence, particularly in their Craftsman brand. If you bought a Craftsman tool, and it broke for any reason, they replaced it, sans receipt. As a result, this warranty was transferable - there were no questions asked. While this policy certainly did not extend to every product sold at Sears, it did exemplify a commitment to service and quality: in the words of one older person I talked to once "if you bought it at Sears, you didn't have to worry."

As time went on, Sears was able to increase profit margins by slowly restricting the tool warranty, and using crappier parts. The obvious problem was that once Sears lost its reputation as a "you don't have to worry about it" store, it had to compete with stores like Wal-Mart on price[0].

The interesting problem here is not the Sears strategy, but the fact that it takes years for the effect of reduced quality to become obvious: in the short term, consumer confidence in the brand is still high, so the worse products are bought for the same prices, under the assumption that the quality is still high. By the time consumers on the average figure this out (when your drill wears down in 3 years instead of 10), someone that made the change has been able to demonstrate clear savings to the company and move on.

Several people have suggested solutions. The first one I hear thrown around is "get rid of executives." I think this is shortsighted in the same way that getting rid of a good IT department is. Certainly some executives are useless, but "get rid of the bad executives" is vacuous. A more compelling solution is to create incentive structures that encourage "bad executives" to be good ones, such as incentives which outweigh the short-term gains gotten by reducing, say, IT spending. For instance, I've heard it suggested that companies use long-term equity, say 15 years out. I'm not sure how that squares with moving from company to company, but it's interesting.

[0]This is not to say that the Sears quality-first business model was sustainable, merely that there was certainly a tradeoff, the effects of which take a long time to see in total.

michaelochurch 2 days ago  replies      
Executives are day traders. I've known day traders to argue that they make more money trading in the first and last 30 minutes of the day than they do if they're trading all day, because they end up getting involved in "boredom trading" that is break-even at best (and blows out their variance) and quite possibly losing. As for executives, they're disciplined, they can enjoy their easy jobs and high compensation and accept the boredom associated with rarely being needed, because if things are running well, they aren't operationally necessary. Unfortunately, they're rarely content to work 2 hours per day at their cushy jobs. They become forces of nature due to a combination of (a) a need to feel active and important, and (b) a theater in which it's hard for them to have real positive impact (because performance assessment of executives is impossible and most just don't have the talent).

"Trading boredom" sets in. The executive's job is to Make Decisions and to gamble with the company culture and operations. In order to feel useful, executives pull this shit. Like "saving money" by gutting the IT organization.

What's worst about this is that the executives who do this sort of thing rarely suffer any consequences. They shift blame to subordinates whom they can fire, and if the heat is turned up on them, they move on to other jobs. The employees and the owners get fucked, but executives get to flit about from one cushy job to another on account of building a web of connections that makes them effectively invincible.

patio11 2 days ago 1 reply      
As fun as getting out our tribal aversion to managers who don't respect geeks is, let's focus on the actionable career point: do not work for cost centers.
cstross 2 days ago 1 reply      
Also: good management is like oxygen -- you only really notice it, much less recognize that you need it, when it goes away.
Foy 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've read in multiple places and wholeheartedly agree that it's important to focus on visibility in your work.

If your managers can barely describe what you do, or how you do it, then your job is just asking to be cut.

When I show my clients an update, I always focus on what "looks" or "feels" different with the user experience. I wouldn't (maybe couldn't even) convey the awesomeness of all my fandangled SQL subqueries.

elptacek 1 day ago 0 replies      
In a somewhat related adventure, I am scheduled to give a talk soon (hopefully the same talk twice) about managing a security assessment project. I am hearing about this same sort of beheading happening in the infosec departments from various clients. The impact on me, personally, is that my client contacts are stretched so thin that they don't have cycles to prepare and make the best use of my time. I'm planning to have handouts with checklists. So this topic has been very much on my mind, lately.

One of the things I've learned from Tom is to keep track of how I spend my time. It is tedious and frustrating, but not unlike dieting: without data, you just have no proof. If I had found myself in the situation that the OP describes, my first reaction would have been to keep a running log of every task I had done, including start/stop time and a description of the work done. I've written scripts to do this in the past that generate PDF timesheets -- you could probably use Trac somehow. I'd keep this stuff on a device I owned, and bring the logs to my reviews. Yes, this adds to the stress. Yes, you'll get criticized for it. But when someone who has no clue why the carpets are always clean starts swinging that axe, you'll be wearing armor.

Dn_Ab 2 days ago 1 reply      
I am brought to mind a quote by a god like galaxy: "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all."
gabrielf 2 days ago 0 replies      
A real life example:

In the last ten years Connecticut Light & Power made major cut backs on trimming the trees near its power lines. The state got slammed by a huge snowstorm last Holloween and a huge portion of the state lost power - for as long as 10 days. Not only did CL&P suffer a financial and public relations disaster in the aftermath of the storm, they decided to double their tree-trimming budget for the next year. But this just led to further problems - people who weren't used to the power company coming in with chainsaws created a fuss at town meetings about CL&P removing or damaging their trees, leading to more ongoing PR problems.

antidoh 2 days ago 2 replies      
I have put this in my very small file of "things to share when I leave."
chrisbennet 1 day ago 0 replies      
A few years ago, my manager at the time explained to me how our company had acted as an incubator for 2-3 of our competitors.
It worked like this: Our company would design a product over the course of a few years and once it was in the pipeline (being bought) it would have a life of a few years.
More than once, the then current CEO of the company would decide to cut the engineering staff to save money and move on before the next product to fill the pipeline would be needed i.e. the lack of new products wouldn't show up on the bottom line for a few years. In the meantime, the talented engineering team (that they layed off) would go out and start another company to compete with us....
ricardobeat 1 day ago 0 replies      
Everytime I see a "for folks from HN" message at the top of a post I feel like I'm part of a school trip. Can we stop littering the web with these?
greedo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Efficiency rarely correlates with headcount and budget. 9 years ago, our IT budget was $11 million. Today, it's a hair over $60 million. Adjusting for inflation, we should be around 13 million.

Most of the added budget has gone to bloated off the shelf software applications, retaining duplicate/redundant staffing from a pseudo-merger, and mismanaged consultants.

The OP has added a lot of facts in replies in this post, indicating that his staff was relatively lean (1 staffer for every 50 users).

But be careful in drawing too many conclusions from one instance of anectdata.

bconway 2 days ago 3 replies      
It sounds to me (and I know this won't be a popular opinion here) that the original IT department was overstaffed. A printer never out of paper? No projector ever found with a dead bulb?

Much like there being a "healthy" amount of unemployment (~3%, I recall?), there's a healthy amount of smaller items not met. It sounds like the company was overpaying for IT.

ChuckMcM 2 days ago 0 replies      
Techstop. That's all I'm going to say.
blackcoat 2 days ago 0 replies      
I just started a new job two weeks ago, meaning that I've put in approx 80 hours in. I would guess that I was unable to perform my required functions for about 30 of those, due to setup inefficiencies. This has also delayed the onboard learning curve, because I have to stop and figure out who to talk to to get permissions, or wait for a machine, or an image, or whatnot BEFORE I could start figuring out how to do whatever it was I was trying to do.
zcvosdfdgj 2 days ago 2 replies      
He never says what the company is or what it does.

After IT was cut, he says it would take a week before a computer was on their desk.

That sounds bad. But we have no idea what the company does, so we don't actually know if this is a problem or not.

Look, every division is not critical, and sometimes that division is IT.

We have no idea how much the inefficiency costs or how much was saved by the cuts. So we have no idea if this was a bad OR good thing for the company.

Thanks to Quora, now you can't read anonymously gigaom.com
284 points by ColinWright  3 days ago   178 comments top 49
chrisacky 3 days ago 7 replies      
If you would like try and get your account deleted, send something like this to privacy@quora.com


Please can you delete my account.

I'm unhappy with your recent changes that would allow anyone to see the topics I follow and read.

My registered account is set up at <email address>

Please can you send me confirmation when you have done this.
Many Thanks.


I've fired an email off.
Re: http://www.quora.com/How-do-I-delete-my-Quora-account

samstave 3 days ago 7 replies      
Quora is in the same boat as FB (and to a certain extent, Twitter)

They think that the experience of their largely 20-something staff is anything short of revolutionary.

A bunch of kids running a digital media company with questionable morals and no connection to digital history.
I will delete me Quora account. So far I have gotten little value from it. Time for it to have no data on me.



I followed up with an email to FEEDBACK@QUORA.COM asking them to delete my account and data.. will see what happens. I dont like the idea of a limbo account that can be reactivated/mined.

I'd prefer to have it deleted.

0x0 3 days ago 7 replies      
Quora has gone the way of expert-sexchange, showing up in Google search results for interesting questions, but then overlaying/replacing most answers with blur and "sign up to read".

Borderline SERP cloaking, to say the least.

kmfrk 3 days ago 0 replies      
I essentially deleted my account a long time ago, which involved unsubscribing from every single question, and anonymizing every single comment I had ever made. It was the only thing close to deleting my account, and yet I still see my content, follows, and upvotes there. Gaining a sense of privacy is an abstruse and opaque task. And I'm sure that's intended.

One of the things that really bothered me was that I could tell who had made a thread about a sensitive or taboo-ridden subject[1], although this was not at all obvious to the person who posted the question. The site creates the impression that you are - sort of - anonymous when asking a question, but have to explicitly choose to anonymize, when you post an answer.

To think that this company raised at a $400M valuation in April pisses me off.

The concept of privacy can quickly get very semantic, but I think Steve Jobs summed it up perfectly:

    Privacy means people know what they are signing up

" Steve Jobs, D8 2010.

Anyone in their right mind will see that Quora don't give two shits about privacy - probably because the abolition of it helps their business model.

[1]: In the list of portraits of people following a question, the first of the portraits is the person who posted the question.

andrewingram 3 days ago 3 replies      
Early last year, when I was starting to get into using Quora, I stopped using it abruptly when I realised how limited their privacy features are.

Basically, I wanted to contribute quite heavily to the Depression topic. I'm a sufferer and I wanted to be able to help other people. But on Quora you have a choice of answering a question either Anonymously or as yourself, the problem with answering as yourself is that all your activity gets published to the feed of people who follow you, and with Quora being heavily integrated with Facebook I wasn't comfortable with this.

Which meant I was forced to answer questions anonymously, which I was equally uncomfortable with. I felt like I couldn't make an valuable contribution if I was hiding behind anonymity each time.

I don't mind people knowing things about me, which is why I don't mind saying this here, using my real name, but that's very different to being willing to shout from the rooftops.

I emailed Quora to suggest being able to decide what information gets published to the feed on a per-topic basis. I didn't get a response, which is hardly surprising, but if basic privacy-controls are outside of their plan for the site, I can't be part of it.

ericdykstra 3 days ago 2 replies      
Headline: Thanks to Quora, now you can't read anonymously.

Reality: Quora launched a feature called "views", announced to everyone upon logging in that it was automatically enabled, and is disabled with three clicks from any page on the site.

I wasn't particularly happy when I was opted in, and immediately turned it off. Then, after a few hours, I turned it back on and saw that it was actually a pretty useful feature to see how people were getting to my content. I noticed that a few of my followers were "connectors" of Quora, through which half or more of my views on an answer came. This, I feel, is useful and relevant information.

Yes, being opted into a less private setting is unsettling, but I trust Quora at least as much as any other company. This is the first time I've been opted into anything, their settings are incredibly easy to figure out and are granular, and I trust the people that run the site.

I'll add that this seems to bother non-users more than people who actually use the site regularly.

tronronin 3 days ago 2 replies      
Well, I don't think its about the money. Its a desperate move. Heres my theory on what happened:

Quora was started by an elitist group. They made content policies that were very elitist (similar to HN in a way) emphasizing quality and trained their early adopters to vote only the VERY BEST of content.

They then moved away from the gated status and allowed others to enter their community. The new-comers were however not as qualified to write as the old user base and obviously most of them never got any upvotes for the content they created. So the new users got programmed to believe that up votes are scarce on quora and therefore they themselves stopped up voting on quora.

Well the only problem with this was, up voting also meant sharing. So by training users to not up vote in a way, they cut off their sharing. So now old content stopped circulating and that explains why most people think quora is dead.

To solve the problem of content circulation slowing down, which would heavily impact the discovery of content, Quora first launched a feature called 'Boards' some time back. (Even though this invited comments on how Quora is just copying pinterest).
That probably got the engine up and running for some while.

However this still did not fix the problem. I think the most popular board on Quora has something like 5000 followers. Thats it! So the content is still not circulating well.

So then they came up with the Views feature - a feature turned on by default and which would convert every view into a vote and could turn on their content engine back up again.

What people don't get is - The guy who started eHow is an investor at Quora. It has always been about long tail content, getting traffic for long queries on google, content circulation etc...

Quora is not innovative at all, there is no great model there.

Its just eHow done more cleanly.

SwellJoe 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd forgotten what Quora was, or that it had existed. Now I'm very glad that's the case, since I wouldn't want to have to stop using something I actually liked.
chimi 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but Quora users are the product, not the customer. Quora wants to make money and they can make more of it by showing everyone who is looking at what. If they can go to advertisers and say, "See, we know every single question people are interested in, so you can get better value out of your clicks! We show this information to everyone, so we have no problem letting you tailor your placements to exact criteria."

Then they can charge more. It's simple as that.

Quora was a darling. It was started from the inside. We didn't expect this one did we?

Why oh why do we keep creating content/value for random people we don't know when we could create a blog on our own website? When we could create a product that has value to us and others and benefits us in a direct and measurable way?

Creating that content is work. Answering those questions is work. It takes time. It takes energy. It takes concentration and value away from work that benefits YOU.

OMG, I'm doing it right now!

wilfra 3 days ago 3 replies      
I've learned to go with the flow and trust them when they make changes like this. My first impression is usually to want the 'old Quora' back but once I get used to them, the changes do nearly always improve the experience. I would imagine this will be the same.

They are very skilled at interpreting needs and desires we didn't know we had and quickly correcting themselves the times they do make mistakes (like the recent notification spam issues).

edit: lol @ downvotes. Unacceptable to not be a Quora hater I guess...

pooriaazimi 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is stupid.

What's more stupid is their desperation for you to interact with their site. I went to remove my unused account, and this is what I got when I typed www.quora.com:


You'll notice that I couldn't do anything else - I "had" to choose 5 extremely broad subjects that I'm supposed to be interested in, in order to be able to view my profile. I selected 5 subjects randomly, and...


Only after that they kindly allowed me to view the main page and my profile. I deactivated my account, and won't ever click on a quota link again (and would add them to my spam list so they won't show up in my Google results).

flipside 3 days ago 0 replies      
To me, the fact that Quora feels it needs to share passive views means they're failing to get enough people to actively engage with their content.

If I don't care enough click a button, either A) I have no meaningful opinion, B) I don't want Quora to know what I think, or C) there's a "problem" with the button.

Quora, if you're going to just make assumptions about why I'm looking at an answer, you will very often be WRONG.

(views disabled)

fourstar 3 days ago 1 reply      
The greatest thing about Quora is that it doesn't really "exist" outside of the valley. I stayed in Georgia for 3 months. Everyone in the startup scene out there (except for my friend who runs a successful website) doesn't know what Quora is. When I explained it to them, they thought they could get the same answers from Google.

To an extent, they are correct. I'm getting tired of these self-entitled startups who think they are running the show.

aneth4 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is misleading, as you CAN read anonymously if you disable the feature.

Personally, I read stuff for amusement or interest all the time that I would not want a large portion of my acquaintances knowing that I read, and certainly not without explanation. For instance, if I read an article about child abuse and get curious about the age of consent in Massachusetts, I don't want that showing up to random acquaintances in my feed anywhere.

Enabling this feature surreptitiously and without an opt-in is insanely stupid and insensitive to users. Given that Quora has very good support for anonymous questions and answers, you'd expect them to be more savvy than this.

vijayr 3 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I can't understand with this "real name" stuff - why can't sites like quora charge a one time fee, like Metafilter? When people pay real money, you know who they are, they are less likely to troll, no? This has been successful with Metafilter, why can't other sites copy this? It'll also be another (small) source of revenue
yalogin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Honest question, why is Quora still relevant? I thought after the initial hype for what ever reason their traction is gone (as expected). They are nothing but a glorified version of yahoo answers. HN, Reddit and Stackoverflow do a better job at what they do.
wyclif 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is bad, bad juju on Quora's part. The Facebookisation of Quora is something that makes my Spidey sense go off as well. Forcing "real" names. Forcing reads into the public without warning. Lots of "hey, we're the coolest social startup on the block."

Quora is overrated. They need to get it together, dial down the hype, and show some freaking humility. To do that they'll need to stop abusing the users they have.

axx 3 days ago 1 reply      
I really have the feeling we're all merely getting sold to advertisers. Where are the real innovations from tech people? It is not about "social interaction", in many ways it's only about getting as much data from the user as possible, to sell it.

I can't say how much i hate the "social trend" in this era of the internet boom.

"Yeah, our Product is a ripoff of Product X (proof concept, existing since 2000) BUT WE ADDED SOCIAL TO IT, ZOMG!!11"

What's bugging me even more is the fact, that there're so many stupid VCs who think they'll invest in the next big thing and support stupid ideas, too blind to see real innovations.

minikomi 3 days ago 0 replies      
Off topic I guess, but to me Quora seems to have passed it's peak for updates to topics which I find interesting, unfortunately. I was not an early adopter, and joined when the gated-community phase ended, selected my topics and enjoyed quite a few good answers. A week later I opened it up on a train ride, but the content had not changed at all.

And, perhaps more tellingly, in each topic the few scraps of fresh activity each time I've opened the app since have been from exactly the same users.

jmsduran 3 days ago 1 reply      
Although I don't have a Quora account, I definitely won't be signing up for one after hearing this news.

I dislike the idea of passively sharing information. In my opinion, sharing should be a conscious decision the user makes, not something that the user is tricked or forced into.

jonathansizz 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't really understand why someone who has knowledge worth sharing would just give it away to a private entity like Quora who will then make money off your contributions.

If you do want to share knowledge for free (which is of course laudable), there are plenty of other large, well-established websites that are free and open and will remain so in the future. Or you could just set up a personal/community website of your own.

lrei 3 days ago 0 replies      
The immediate solution is simple: Settings -> Views:
Allow others to see what content I've viewed in feed: No (yes) -- change to no.

It's creepy and disrespectful that they would turn this on by default and it looks extremely desperate which makes me doubt quora's financial stability. Which in turn makes me not want to spend time contributing to it (not that I've made many contributions).

But this is the sort of thing FB would've done in their place... So I don't know, maybe their staff simply has no understanding of how people feel about privacy.

jaredsohn 3 days ago 2 replies      
You can turn it off, but then you can't see who viewed things. (Similar to how LinkedIn and OkCupid work with anonymous browsing.) And if you really want to see I'm sure you can do so via another account. (I think it is possible because okc and linkedin hide private data but quora hides public data.)

Instructions: http://www.quora.com/Views-on-Quora/How-do-I-turn-off-the-Vi...

oth3r 3 days ago 0 replies      
One thing that stuck out to me in the article is the whole concept of "anonymous reading."

When did the need to make the distinction of anonymous vs non-anonymous reading arise? Anonymity was assumed for something as simple as picking up a book or a newspaper. It sounds as awkward and unnatural to me as taking an "anonymous shower" or anonymously picking my nose. Pretty scary that we're headed down this path where fewer and fewer things are private.

muyuu 3 days ago 0 replies      
Quora seems nice but I cannot possibly feel comfortable with their policies, even before this. I can only participate very selectively because of this. I like the service and it has traction, too bad their invasiveness thresholds are too lax for me to accept.

I'd rather just pay a small quantity to be honest. I'm not sure if an alternative site working on subscriber money would be feasible.

johnchristopher 3 days ago 0 replies      
Not entirely unrelated: today on Facebook I noticed there are groups I can't browse without the group creator knowing which posts I have seen and which posts I haven't.


It might not be new but it was the first time I noticed it (and I immediately left the group without thinking about it for even one second).

benjaminwootton 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've never signed up to Quora, but the last time I visited, it looked as though I was logged in which I assumed was via my Twitter cookie. (I don't have a Facebook account.)

It's not happening now so possibly was part of some A/B test.

That coupled with this passive browsing would be a step too far.

peto123 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is disturbing. I hope this will not become a trend.
89a 3 days ago 0 replies      
Genuinely never understood the hype or money behind this.

It's just ExpertSexChange all over again

ojbyrne 3 days ago 0 replies      
That headline seems unnecessarily incendiary, since it tells you in the last paragraph how to opt out.
krelian 3 days ago 2 replies      
I was curious so I just had a look with my (fake name) account and the option called "Allow others to see what content I've viewed in feed" was set at "No". I don't recall ever playing with that setting so this may be a recent change on their part to avoid the backlash.
joelthelion 3 days ago 2 replies      
There is space for competition in that area. StackExchange is pretty good, but since they don't allow questions with subjective answers, they basically exclude themselves from the vast majority of the market share. Then there is quora, yahoo answers, ... There is certainly enough space for a few good startups.
yumraj 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is one of the reasons I keep fake accounts, including on quora, FB and Twitter, to read the content.
Due to the fake name in the quora account, I don't have edit privileges, which is perfectly fine with me as it is at most a minor inconvenience at times.
angry-hacker 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why Google doesn't penalize them for serving different content to google bot and to humans?! How can thy get away with it... I'm sure many people who work for Google and are part of team that has authority to make those changes have seen it..?-
chefsurfing 3 days ago 0 replies      
Recent changes that Quora has made to their interface ( several UI dark patterns implemented to get people to automatically share / integrate with FB / Twitter ) as well as this move of hiding answers makes me believe that they are desperate, not confident. I had high hopes for Quora from the beginning but have been continually let down to the point where Quora seems like ExpertsExchange 2.0 now.
prodigal_erik 3 days ago 0 replies      
Non-anonymous passive sharing discourages curiosity and experimentation by giving them boundless potential for embarrassment. It's hard to imagine worse long-term damage to users' humanity.
grose 3 days ago 2 replies      
What value does this have over, say, an anonymized view count? While it's nice to know that people have seen what you've written, does their identity really need to be known?
jlukanta 3 days ago 0 replies      
Not all views are shared. http://www.quora.com/Views-on-Quora/Which-of-my-views-will-a...

If you are too afraid to visit that link, try this one:

username3 3 days ago 0 replies      
Friendster did the same thing. Look where it is now. https://www.google.com/search?q=friendster+who+viewed+me
rdl 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't mind this feature if it were totally opt-in.
vlasta2 3 days ago 1 reply      
I do not have a Quora account, but I understand their move and it may not be all bad. There are 3 ways how a company may handle user passive privacy:

1. Not collect any information (in this case who read what article) at all. Obviously that company would be at a big disadvantage, having no access to a useful set of signals.

2. Collect the information and use it for their own goals.

3. Collect the information and make it freely available.

If I understand the article correctly, Quora went from strategy #2 to #3. From my perspective, this is a positive move. In case #3, users are aware of what is happening with their private information and may log out if they do not want to be tracked this way. It is way better than living in peaceful ignorance as in case #2. Also, the company cannot sell the private info, because it is publicly available.

bobobo1618 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just thought I'd point out that the method they used for the obfuscation is a simple CSS rule. It can be quite easily disabled with the developer tools, an extension or a proxy.
january14n 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hate this update from them. I think what have they done was a EPIC Fail in their part.
joelthelion 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just use a fake name :)
zerop 3 days ago 0 replies      
It can be turned off easily. No sweat !!
assente 3 days ago 0 replies      
mschalle 3 days ago 0 replies      
Quora, you fucked up.
18pfsmt 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just an FYI: This is known as thread-jacking, and it is looked down upon here on HN. I would suggest you post in 'Ask HN' if you want feedback.
mikebracco 3 days ago 7 replies      
Well as Eric Schmidt said, “If you have something that you don't want anyone to know maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." ;)


NASA TV feed of 10:31 pm PDT Curiosity landing nasa.gov
262 points by DavidSJ  1 day ago   93 comments top 37
lisper 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I was at JPL when this mission was first being planned. I actually sat in on a meeting where the sky crane was first being discussed. I remember thinking to myself at the time that there was no way that it would ever work. I'm very happy to say that I was wrong. Congrats to everyone on the MSL team!
noonespecial 22 hours ago 3 replies      
"We are safe on Mars."

Humanity rocks sometimes.

2arrs2ells 1 day ago 1 reply      
Curiosity is the rover for the Mars Science Laboratory, launched 11/26/2011.


Purpose of the MSL is:

* Determine whether Mars could ever have supported life

* Study the climate of Mars

* Study the geology of Mars

* Plan for a human mission to Mars

lisper 22 hours ago 5 replies      
There were about 240,000 concurrent users on the web feed at touchdown. But not a single TV news channel was covering the event live that I could find.
Wingman4l7 1 day ago 1 reply      
I noticed on the NASA TV schedule that the "Public/Education Channels" have commentary, and that the "Media Channel" has a "Clean Feed with Mission Audio Only".

The link given is for the public stream (http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv); the media stream is here (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-media-channel) and should be HD as well.

magic_haze 1 day ago 0 replies      
The BadAstronomy folks have started a google hangout covering this event:


Some interesting discussion going on there now; highly recommended.

yread 22 hours ago 5 replies      
what's up with all the "what does it mean for the nation"? It's a huge step for the humanity, not only the US. And the actual rover is filled with instruments from all over the world. From wiki:

> ChemCam ... developed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and French CESR

> Alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer ... APXS was developed by Canadian Space agency.

> Sample analysis at Mars ... was developed by Goddard Space flight center, the Laboratoire Inter-Universitaire des Systèmes Atmosphériques (LISA) (jointly operated by France's CNRS and some Parisian universities) and Honeybee Robotics, along with many additional external partners.

> Radiation assessment detector ... was developed by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the extraterrestrial physics group at Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany

> Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons ... provided by the Russian Federal Space Agency

> Rover environmental monitoring station ... provided by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science

martythemaniak 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't think it's an overstatement to say that this is one greatest expressions humanity is capable off. Simply amazing.
hdivider 1 day ago 0 replies      
Take a moment to consider what you're actually seeing here: a truly historic event.

This mission is so expensive, and has involved the figurative blood and tears of so many extremely talented people, that it will probably always be remembered in the history of space travel, whether or not the landing itself will be successful.

(It could be argued that the value of having so many millions of people watch or follow this (whether now or later), and have the associated mind-expanding thoughts and possible subsequent ideas or decisions, is itself worth the price of this mission.)

yoda_sl 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow! They made it... Great stuff happening and what a technological challenge!
Edit: even more impressive that they are already receiving some pictures
pokoleo 1 day ago 1 reply      
3 hours ago they were at 300k total views, ever.
Now, it's about to hit 1M total views.

This is a great chance for NasaTV to advocate for more funding. /just saying

mtinkerhess 22 hours ago 1 reply      
To see the images from Mars:


Edit: it appears that the page has moved to http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/, discussion at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4343891

ck2 1 day ago 1 reply      
If they pull this off I will be thoroughly impressed.

I keep googling to try to find where they tested the landing system altogether as a unit and there doesn't appear to be such an event, only individual components.

Can you imagine designing and testing the individual parts of a car, then assembling it and never testing the car as a whole unit and just hoping based on theory it works?

mbenjaminsmith 22 hours ago 0 replies      
That's the second time in recent memory that I got chills watching a room full of really smart people erupt into applause. Congrats to everyone involved.
kyrra 1 day ago 0 replies      
This video is an animation (created by the JPL) of what is going to be happening over the coming few hours: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4boyXQuUIw
cjdavis 22 hours ago 0 replies      
One of us watching this right now is going to set foot on Mars. Probably more than one.
antimora 22 hours ago 0 replies      
LVB 1 day ago 0 replies      
The free NASA TV channel on Roku is carrying this as well.
pka 13 hours ago 0 replies      
For those who missed it, here's a VOD: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/24512027

Landing starts at about 19:00 minutes.

seunghomattyang 1 day ago 3 replies      
Is there anything left to be done by NASA HQ? For example, are they still controlling the trajectory of the probe to Mars or is that mostly done by probe's onboard computers?

I'm genuinely curious about what kind of things the HQ is doing right now. I've been watching the live stream and there's not much activity besides milling around screens and resizing windows on the huge screen.

alanfalcon 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Got my peanuts. Good luck, Curiosity.
dakrisht 23 hours ago 3 replies      
If this is successful, do you guys think we'll see a man on mars in the next 20-40 years?
yread 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Look at this video:

it's about the landing of the spirit rover. You can see the same people that were in the room today talking about it!

njharman 23 hours ago 0 replies      
A word that is overused but truly applicable to this landing / 7min of terror.


mladenkovacevic 22 hours ago 0 replies      
This is amazing. I can just imagine the anxiety and excitement of waiting for Odyssey to fly around for another pass and transmit more data back home.
oofabz 1 day ago 3 replies      
Is there any way to watch in VLC? I don't have Flash Player.
ccarpenterg 22 hours ago 0 replies      
TomGullen 23 hours ago 1 reply      
One thing they mentioned is that one advantage to the sky hook is that it will be a soft landing - no dust will go everywhere and land on delicate instruments.

Isn't this easily solvable with some sort of skin it can just dispose of once the dust has settled?

bane 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Just landed..."lets see where Curiosity takes us"
jrappleye 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Earth wins another round of expensive hardware lobbing! Here's a humorous reminder at how difficult it is to reach other planets, especially Mars - too bad it hasn't been updated in a while.


antimora 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Congrats on successfully landing!
dinkumthinkum 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Well, congratulations are in order I guess. Touchdown confirmed. :)
rewatchhow 21 hours ago 0 replies      
For people that missed the event on the livestream, how can we rewatch this?
redwood 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I recognize one of those guys from college! w00t
manglav 22 hours ago 1 reply      
If you look at the images, it seems like they use linux as their OS? Can anyone else confirm?
RVijay007 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Why can't they ever take just one horizon photo of the scenery in front of the rover instead of the typical, "looking at the ground" photos that are common with these rovers? That would have been a far better shot to show live.
CopBlock.org Founder Faces 21 Years in Prison for Reporting Police Brutality cnn.com
246 points by wtvanhest  1 day ago   59 comments top 10
kevinalexbrown 1 day ago 4 replies      
While "crowdsourced" reporting is kind of cool, this report strikes me as an example of that idea gone awry. It took some googling to find a reasonable account, from the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press[0]. This would, if anything, be biased toward Mr. Mueller, but it put the above article in an entirely different light.

1) As others have pointed out, he's on trial for allegedly recording three telephone calls to the police, a school principal, and a school secretary, without the consent of all parties, then made them publicly available. This is a felony under NH law. The iReport article implies, via quotations from multiple sources, that Mr. Mueller is on trial for filming police brutality. In fact, it appears that he called these parties for comment, so this doesn't even seem to be an issue of the right to record your arrest, or interested interactions with the state.

2) CopBlock.org and other "citizen watch" type sites might be a great idea, but performances like Mr. Mueller's, who apparently insists on the court calling him "Ademo Freeman", says things like "Bring on the Circus", and represents himself in a criminal case just paint these movements in a bad light. Police brutality, over-reaching state authority, etc. might be big problems; this kind of misguided moral crusade does not help.

3) I can understand the frustration supporters might find with inconsistent applications of wiretapping laws: I am not sure the state would care if a random citizen made three phone calls public, if no one pressed charges or there weren't some other reason. This article in no way communicates any of these issues and instead implements a tirade of misdirection and indignation.

Finally, I'd like to say something in defense of professional journalists. I know they often get a bad rap as being either extensions of the state vying for "influence" or sensationalists chasing controversy in every corner, but reports like this make me appreciate journalists who:

- call for comment
- search for credible sources, preferably ones with opposing viewpoints
- read or link to actual court documents

EDIT: You can find the video where he publishes the recordings here: http://youtu.be/sEhFwI6IyMU . Both the principal and the police officer made it reasonably clear they did not wish to discuss the matter. While the principal did respond to Mueller's questions, it seems unlikely she implied any consent to record.


powertower 1 day ago 4 replies      
He is not being charged for posting the (mentioned) publicly recorded video of the cop slamming the kids face into the table.

What he is being charged for is calling police officials and others on the phone after this, and recording the conversations without getting the other parties permission to record the phone call... Then posting those recordings online.

This is how 95% of these stories are. Facts are hidden, what happened is misrepresented; stories to fit narratives are made up.

Don't get me wrong, if you call an on-duty police official at the police station maybe they shouldn't be given/expect privacy, but this story makes it seem that this guy is being charged for posting the mentioned video. Clearly he is not.

bilbo0s 1 day ago 2 replies      
One observation and one question.

First... this guy is gonna be a hero with a capital H if they send him to prison for recording the cops. Hero with the left and the libertarian right. Hero with the other prisoners... probably beyond that whole black-white gang thing. He will be untouchable.


I would also like to try to get an idea of the reasoning behind making it illegal to record the police, or indeed ANY public servant, in the execution of their duties. Suppose I make a phone call to, let's say, a public school. During this call I inquire about something erroneous that they may have been telling my child... as I understand this, it is illegal for me to record that call to use as documentary evidence of the challenges the child may face in that school.

I am wondering why that is the case? There must be some 'bad' way that can be used, so they don't allow it. I just can't see what 'bad' thing it s the government is worried about. Any lawyers out there able to address that quickly?

knowtheory 1 day ago 1 reply      
This certainly sounds egregious, and it may very well be, but all of the posts I can find on the subject appear to be written with approximately the same tone (one on prwire, which takes any press release folks want to post) and this one from iReport (which is crowdsourced).

I would be interested in reading any sources folks know about about this that are external to the Free Ademo movement.

FJim 1 day ago 1 reply      
According to the one other source I found, it wasn't the video which led to the charges.

He recorded a subsequent phone call with the police department without notifying them that the call was being recorded. According to Wikipedia, regarding the recording of telephone conversations, New Hampshire is an 'all parties consent' state, and seemingly by his own admission he broke this law. Thus the calls for jury nullification, to ignore a law which they find unjust.

gwern 1 day ago 1 reply      
> The controversial felony wiretapping charges journalist and CopBlock.org founder Adam ‘Ademo' Mueller is facing will go to trial, a situation that has stirred up a hornet's nest of free speech advocates in New Hampshire.

Not on the topic of the article, but this must be the worst-written sentence I've read in weeks; I had to read it three times before I finally figured out what it meant (a dude is going to trial).

smsm42 1 day ago 1 reply      
21 years for wiretapping? This surely sounds extreme, to the point of being incredible - can somebody with some expertise in legal system evaluate how probably is to get such sentence? Given no priors, no history of violence, no harm to property or any person and no criminal intent - even if he violated the law I don't see how it can even warrant one year in jail, let alone 21. Is US judicial system really that screwed up or is it just imagination of article writers?
DigitalSea 1 day ago 2 replies      
Wow, to put this into perspective if you kill someone in Australia you're looking at a sentence of about 15 years in comparison to recording someone without their permission and getting 21 years... This is seriously a joke and given the outrage being generated by almost everyone you know he'll walk free. The fact CNN is writing about this and by the language used in the article they agree he shouldn't be jailed it'll be interesting to see what comes of all of this.
mfkp 1 day ago 0 replies      
For the curious, I believe these are the videos in question: http://www.copblock.org/8754/manchh/

(Second video is the phone calls, third video is the high school recording)

lcusack 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wish this article was written by an actual journalist. Seems to be very one-sided.
Y Combinator's First Batch: Where Are They Now? thenextweb.com
238 points by playhard  1 day ago   13 comments top 6
Mystalic 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is a fantastic article with a lot of in-depth interviews and analysis. This is an example of what tech journalism should be.

Another note: the beauty of YC isn't that Paul & co. pick home runs every time -- they don't -- it's that they pick teams that eventually hit home runs. Justin.tv is doing okay, but YC's investment in Justin in 2005 has netted it Socialcam (acquired for $60M) and Exec. YC's investment in Reddit also netted them Hipmunk.

And I'm only scratching the surface here -- YC founders always recruit great people into the YC program.

sama 1 day ago 1 reply      
One thing that struck me reading this is that many of us from the first batch are still in the YC orbit. Exec (JKan) and Hipmunk (Steve, Alexis, and Chris) went through YC, and Justin, Emmett, and I are part-time YC partners.
amix 1 day ago 1 reply      
One of the missing people that this article does not mention is Simon Carstensen, a danish dude that was a co-founder of Infogami. I met Simon in an university class and I knew him for some time before I knew he was part of Y Combinator's first batch :-) Simon traveled back to Denmark after his round finished.
stcredzero 1 day ago 0 replies      
What I like best about this news is the long term orientation of it. The more thinking about long value, virtuous cycles, and underlying principles and values, the better for the SF bay tech community.
allenbrunson 1 day ago 0 replies      
Excellent idea for an article. I'm surprised I haven't seen such a thing before now.
KMBredt 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Would it hurt TNW to link to the mentioned projects?
Student Is Sanctioned for Creating Class-Registration Web Site ucouldfinish.com
234 points by robertwalsh0  3 days ago   112 comments top 35
gergles 3 days ago 7 replies      
I especially enjoy the University's ludicrous overreaction (seriously, read the letters they sent this guy; specifically the one where they demand he do the job of the "myUCF" team and come up with how he would update the application -- wherein he is specifically forbidden from saying he'd write something like the app that people obviously found useful since, you know, they were using it.)

I also enjoy that he has to attend a 'coaching session' where they teach him that University policy is sacrosanct -- and he has to pay for it as well as write a "spelled-checked [sic]" research paper about his coaching session (WTF is there to 'research' about an hourlong chat?)

What's even more bizarre is why this app exists at all. PeopleSoft's "SA" module that UCF is using for registration includes a waitlist feature that already does all of this -- actually, it's better, because it just pops people off the stack when a spot becomes available.

So, let's be clear:

- UCF willfully refuses to enable the waitlist option in PS

- Student uses a public interface to replicate the functionality

- Star chamber declares the student broke a nebulous IT policy and that he has to write humiliating 'research papers' as contrition.

And people wonder why higher ed is less and less valued...

jdietrich 2 days ago 6 replies      
I'm just wondering how such an obviously intelligent and enterprising young man ends up studying at an institution with only marginally more academic credibility than Hamburger University.
miles 3 days ago 5 replies      
It is embarrassing to see basic grammatical mistakes in a letter from a university:

Type a 5-6 research paper...

What is a "5-6" research paper? Even sadder is the officious and petty tone:

The paper must be in 12 point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced with one-inch margins...

I know what my response would be: two words, one page, 150 pt font.

revelation 3 days ago 1 reply      
There has always been something wrong with these usage policies. Its a technical problem, no? If you don't want me to make more than X requests, tell your webserver to stop answering them. If you can't do that, then what the hell are you doing operating a webserver on the internet?
cantankerous 3 days ago 2 replies      
I've got a better idea. Transfer. Nobody should tolerate this level of self-aggrandizement (in the form of "punishment" from anybody, even if they broke some rules.

The student made the administration of the school look bad/made them uncomfortable and they're making him pay the price. You don't have to play their games. Just leave.

SoftwareMaven 3 days ago 0 replies      
I used to work for a student information system company. These systems are all ancient, designed around a time when a dozen people would connect to the server using their green screen terminals or, in a spate of massive innovation, Oracle Forms.

As a result, all of the web access must be done through a single db server. Any app (including the portal) tends to directly access the db, causing all sorts of stored procedures to run. Nothing is cached. The server is only busy twice a year, fall and spring semester registration, so there is a limited desire to spend more than they absolutely have to on it.

Over all, IT in higher education in an interesting mix. There is a decent percentage of really good people there, who love the environment and are willing to give up the salary as a result. Unfortunately, there are also at least as many people who are earning what they are worth. The less prestigious the school, the higher the percentage of the latter.

delinka 3 days ago 3 replies      
Where's the information on this? Was he querying the myUCF dozens of times every second? Is he accused of bring the networking infrastructure to its knees?

Or is this simply the faculty attempting to make a student conform? "Watch this presentation to see our side of the story." What story?

Edit: so we have to click more links on the linked page to get any more context. My apologies for being lazy.

"University officials, however, said Arnold's software was tying up the campus computer network, claiming it accessed UCF's scheduling website 220,000 times, as often as every 60 seconds."

I want to know if the reporter bungled the information or if these officials are this clueless. If this thing accessed the server "as often as every 60 seconds," where's the problem? Was the student really that clueless that he wrote his service to query constantly?

Shenglong 2 days ago 1 reply      
University policy like this isn't uncommon. Last semester, the campus police called me in and told me I was to receive a letter of warning for "bad behavior". When I asked what I did, they told me "we can't tell you because we need to protect privacy".

On an IT related incident, my school's IT department claimed that doubling the email inbox for every student (25mb to 50mb) would cost 4 million dollars.

Schools are terrible, and there's no solution in sight. Every university campus is like a mini dictatorship.

dbbolton 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's always bothered me how (even state-funded) universities tend to act as autonomous legal bodies. It's especially disheartening to see them trample on the bill of rights (e.g. most universities will have a "policy" that you basically can't say anything bad about them). If you do break some arbitrary rule, you can expect an arbitrary punishment for it. When it comes down to it, they can make you do whatever they want you to until you are no longer a student.
comex 3 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder if some of the fear here is caused by the fact that this kind of tool would tend to get its users into classes first, before users that manually checked the original website on a regular basis... which seems unfair, especially since it has a (nominal) fee, and it removes the vague link between enthusiasm and ability to get in that manual checking entails.

But perhaps that's better stated as that the tool exposes the fundamental brokenness and unfairness of a system that allocates limited space based on who presses the refresh button at the right time.

ontoillogical 3 days ago 0 replies      
I love the part in the slide deck where he digs up a quote from the university's VP of IT talking up PeopleSoft's reliability.

“According to Joel Hartman, Vice Provost for Information Technologies and Resources at UCF, Sun really delivers in all regards. The Sun infrastructure for Oracle's PeopleSoft applications at UCF provides outstanding reliability, investment protection, and performance”

- Joel, the initiator of this conduct case, stating how powerful the myUCF server network is in a technical brief for universities published by Sun Microsystems."

tkahn6 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wrote a similar thing for Virginia Tech for private use. I definitely considered monetizing it but in the end I didn't.

Good luck.

But I think you're going about this all wrong. If you actually wanted to resolve this situation, you should have requested a meeting with the university provost or president and explained your service one-on-one -- with humility. I doubt they were trying to screw you over 'just because'.

It's probably already to late to do this though since you've gone to the media and have made it a big public issue. There's almost no chance that the administration is going to make any concession. The terms of service are written so vaguely they can do whatever they want.

jdbernard 3 days ago 1 reply      
The guy who made this app set up a timeline here: http://ucouldfinish.com/conduct/

Reading his side of the story it seems that the University IT blocked it first out of fear of being overwhelmed and then the University looked for some way to make it stick. I understand that charging for the service is the reason they have officially decided to keep it blocked.

Unless he has misrepresented the facts about how much data his service pulls it is trivial compared to daily use of the university service. He has invested significant time and money into creating a much more user-friendly interface to the course catalog. That is worth the amount he was charging. The problem, of course, is that he does not own the course listing, and the university has every right to offer it on their terms.

Better to ask forgiveness than permission the saying goes, but in this case it seems forgiveness is not forthcoming. Based on the free garage spot counting app he mentions in the presentation it looks like permission would not have been granted either. So while the university is within their rights, they do seem to be contradicting their own value statements.

jjcm 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's a shame that the University punished him for helping out students, though it certainly may have hammered the class registration servers as a side effect. Either way though, this is going to get a lot of publicity for a guy who's undoubtedly talented and motivated.
Considering the effort he put in to both this and the parking app, it looks like the guy would have little difficulty getting a job in the Bay Area or other startup havens, even sans-degree. At this point, I'd probably leave the university if I were him. Employers will accept him with open arms.
csense 3 days ago 1 reply      
The administration's reaction is clearly politically motivated. They're basically trying to hide their own incompetence in having a crap system.

It's incredibly stupid and frustrating for anyone who has an ounce of common sense, or cares about technology.

Hopefully this generates enough negative publicity to change the administration's point of view, because frankly, political pressure is the only kind of argument that toxic bureaucracies understand.

mustardhamsters 3 days ago 1 reply      
It glosses over it pretty quickly, but it sounds like he was charging a fee for frequency of checks for the classes. Part of the slide presentation shows that the school's policy surrounding their electronic services forbids commercial use or personal gain. Maybe that's part of the problem.

Edit: The conduct timeline makes this pretty cut and dried: http://ucouldfinish.com/conduct/ In the written statement of hearing determination (July 24, 2pm) they say specifically that he's in violation of their code by making unauthorized commercial use of their service. They then go on to talk about server loads, but the primary violation is the commercialization of their service.

Xcelerate 3 days ago 0 replies      
I actually wrote a tool to do this very same thing at my own university. Worked great and got me the classes I wanted as soon as they became available. I only shared the service with a few people though because I knew the administration would do something like this if I made it public. It's wrong, but it wouldn't have been worth my time to deal with.
jrockway 2 days ago 0 replies      
6 page research paper on why maintaining a system like myUCF is difficult

"Maintaining a system like myUCF is difficult because caching is hard, so let's go shopping. Furthermore, lorem ipsum dolor sit amit. (6 more pages) In conclusion, I'm very sorry your publicly-available program runs so slowly. Although I don't have a degree, I would happily repair it for $500,000."

They never said it had to be good.

(Incidentally, University IT policies tend to be quite silly. I stopped attending school after they wanted me to sign something giving the administrators the right to search my off-campus apartment for any reason. Ended up saving me quite a bit of money...)

martinshen 3 days ago 1 reply      
I was actually just talking with a buddy about how even schools that promote entrepreneurship (with possibly the exception of Stanford) so constantly stifle and work against entrepreneurs.
farhanpatel 3 days ago 1 reply      
I built an iOS app for my school (Simon Fraser University) that allowed students to view/share their schedule with their friends. One of the most frequent questions I get is if the school has tried to shut me down and it is exactly for reasons like this that other students don't build more apps like this.

We have the same student system that UCF uses. It's horrible and slow. Tools like this make it a little bit more manageable.

I am surprised more schools dont have simple API's that allow students to build services on top of them.

thinkbohemian 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a contact number or email address where we can speak to the people in charge at the university? Even if it doesn't change the punishment, they should be aware of how they are portraying their institution.
Turing_Machine 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the guy needs to contact F.I.R.E. http://thefire.org/
brudgers 2 days ago 0 replies      
For those unfamiliar with the University of Central Florida, the site's name "You Could Finish" is not accidental.

"UCF" has long been said to stand for "You Can't Finish" since at least the early 1980's (i.e. shortly after the name change from FTU).


rprasad 2 days ago 0 replies      
The hacker rage is misplaced. The student is in the wrong. This is not a story of a bureaucracy run amok; this is a story of a student exploiting a university computer system and causing technical problems with their back end.

TL;DR: student creates a for-profit registration system that abusively scrapes the university's registration system, causing system slowdowns and preventing students who are not using the app from registering for classes. University policy bars any for profit applications from using the University's computer systems.

csense 3 days ago 1 reply      
I suppose you could say that this sort of thing serves as a nice "education" in how the real world works sometimes.

I personally like to keep all my online work disconnected from my real-life identity.

If he'd written this app anonymously, since it only uses guest logins, the university would have no idea who wrote it. They might disable the guest access, but they couldn't have punished him personally.

Unless they were willing to commit to a lawsuit and managed to convince a judge to allow a subpoena of the app's financial records...

xtc 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'll be starting my Freshman year at UCF in the Fall. I would have loved to use this as compared to myUCF when waiting for my preferred Calc I class to open up. It was a hassle even to just check it every time, and I was never given a clear answer half the time.
farmdawgnation 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is a complete joke. Ok, so it's legit that they are mad that he was monetizing it. That's fine. Why do they have to humiliate and sanction him? Block access to the service and tell him not to do it again. Are we really still in the dark ages where we decide to make examples of people for infractions like this?
pixelcort 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is ironic, as IIRC the computer science department at my alma mater (SJSU) had the creation of a class schedule finder as a requirement for all students in one of their core classes.

To think that another school would discipline one of their students for something that another school requires of some of their students is quite interesting.

chrisrxth 2 days ago 0 replies      
You deserve a scholarship.

Plus, you are obviously smart and capable enough to be fine if you didn't finish your degree. Better yet, as cantankerous mentioned, transfer.

KMBredt 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like it that according to https://my.ucf.edu/ their motto is "Stands for Opportunity".
sturmeh 3 days ago 0 replies      
AutoCorrect 2 days ago 1 reply      
The University idiot that sanctioned him should have to write a 12 page research paper on why it would have been better to buy this guy out and fold his product into the University website, so it could serve it's STUDENTS better!
kreutz 2 days ago 0 replies      
I built one of these a couple years back as well. (I was going to be abroad and wasn't going to have internet.) I knew it had marketability. Glad to see someone come through with this! Bummer the school was so anal about it though.
gonzo 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wrote one of these for the course catalog at UH (Hawaii). Nobody cared.
yycom 2 days ago 0 replies      
What's the story?
Google crackdown catches innocent devs in the crossfire wired.co.uk
234 points by crm114  3 days ago   118 comments top 23
kevinalexbrown 3 days ago 2 replies      
What strikes me as interesting regarding Google's automated approach to community regulation is the effect of focusing on action rather than intent. Making a perfect intent-detector is difficult: much easier to make an action-detector and penalize actions consistent with malicious behavior. This works as long as those actions are a) necessary for malicious behavior and b) are easy to avoid while making good apps.

The experiment is now: how much developers will adjust their behavior to signal clean behavior versus Google perfecting its algorithm to perfectly judge intent. Once Google has a reasonable policy in place, they can sit and wait for developers to conform, and presumably those that can't conform cannot do so precisely because the behavior they would have to change is the behavior that makes their software malicious or undesirable.

Humans already do this every day in conversation - I adjust my language and tone to signal non-malicious intent when making a statement I fear might be perceived as threatening or rude. But these are relatively easy fixes that do not affect my communication horribly; I suppose it's still an open question as to whether Google's criteria unreasonably hinder the development process.

andybak 3 days ago  replies      
Once again there is no way to contact a human being.

Once again we hope that getting publicity on blogs will catch the attention of someone at Google who can do something about it.

This time, I'd like someone to tell me why it was impossible for the dev to remedy this through the normal channels and tell us what Google are going to do to stop this happening again.

dpcan 3 days ago 2 replies      
I hope he figures this out. I received the same "spam" letter from Google regarding my apps saying I had 7 days to figure it out or possibly have my apps or account shut down.

It turned out I had used the word "dice" too many times in a description of my simple "dice" game because I described all the rules in the description. I had to mutilate my description and remove about 80% of the times I used the word "dice".

I emailed Google telling them what I had done, and that I fixed that problem, and that I really hoped that WAS the problem, and I begged them not to remove my apps because I was diligently trying to figure out what I had done wrong, and that I WOULD fix it - I'm a reputable developer, and I play by the rules.

I did receive 2 real-human emails back from Google in the process saying "thank you" and now months later my apps are all still online, so it appears I found the right problem.

I can certainly understand the frustration however. If there is literally nothing throwing up a red flag and you don't know what you have done wrong, and Google doesn't appear to give specifics, it can be scary.

The way I approached the problem was that Google probably didn't have a live human poking through my apps to find a violation, and it was most likely a "robot" that found the problem. This means it most likely had to come from a textual description or there was a potential IP situation. The email mentioned "spam", so I looked for the former first and found the over-use of the word "dice". Sure enough, that was it. Or at least I assume that was it, because my apps are still online now - months later.

vacri 3 days ago 2 replies      
Looking at the game link for Templar Assault, it's a pretty clear violation of Games Workshop's IP. The art looks exactly like Space Marine Terminators; the character names are evocative of the same as well, along with a passel of other very close imitation.

I don't have a horse in this race either way, but as a pretty flagrant violation of IP, perhaps this is why they've drawn fire from Google? Games Workshop is usually pretty assiduous in protecting their IP.


crag 3 days ago 3 replies      
And that is Google's achilles' heel; support and customer service. It's across their entire line of software and services. Try getting a-hold of someone if you a Google Apps member. You damn lucky if you get anything other then a automated response.

And isn't Google about to release a tablet soon? Good luck.

jbuzbee 3 days ago 5 replies      
My app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.houseblend...) got kicked out of the app store a while back with the reason being:

"Violation of the intellectual property and impersonation or deceptive behavior"

Pretty vague so I didn't really know what the issue was. I thought my description fo the app was accurate and it was all my own work. I followed the appeal process listed in the email and waited. After a couple of weeks with no response, I emailed again. After another week, I followed up again. Finally after a total of three weeks off the market, it was re-instated. I still don't know what the problem was, but being off the market hurt. I went from nearly 4000 downloads a day when it was suspended to just a few hundred now.

jjguy 3 days ago 1 reply      

    Software isn't a fire and forget transaction anymore

There's a lot of insight in that soundbite. I wish more of the "enterprise!" crowd (and in this case, Daddy Google) realized that.

swdunlop 3 days ago 0 replies      
False positive with impending loss of market placement, reviews and app presence with their customers. No recourse for flagging Google's attention except for appealing to the court of public opinion?

Perhaps it is a "repeating scenario" because these app stores are rolling over in bed and squishing the poor bastards who get into bed with them and stake their business on cooperation?

tedsuo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Getting a access to human support is important in general, but absolutely necessary if you are going to mess with people via an automated system. I'm always frustrated when I read articles about a journalist who gets his gmail account hacked or otherwise messed with, and solves it via some back-channel/personal connection.
jack-r-abbit 3 days ago 1 reply      
> The notion that update frequency is the trigger for ending up on Google's hit list is just speculation.

... and so they really don't know anything... o_0

briandear 3 days ago 1 reply      
Every time I've had an issue or problem, I've been Apple to correspond with an Apple App Store rep. One tune it was because I needed to expedite and update and another time it was because I was in a copyright dispute with another app. Both times, my emails were answered. My friends who've had App Store rejections have been able to get exact reasons and email actual people at Apple for details.

I have zero experience with the Play store, but I have expected developers to be able to get more information by email, at least. Also, I though the Google store was supposed to be 'open' and all that. I feel bad for those devs whose apps are going to be arbitrarily removed without explanation. Perhaps they'll want to join us on the Apple developer side of the fence for awhile! I'd love to see their games on iPhone!

jiggy2011 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is this just not a risk inherent with developing for "app stores"?

To you, your application may be something you sunk months of your life and perhaps something you are relying on to pay your mortgage.

To the app store owner , your app is simply 1 of hundreds of thousands of apps. Google/Apple etc must receive hundreds of fraudulent or otherwise "dodgy" submissions every day, so it makes sense from their point of view to optimise the process of deleting these.

If they end up accidentally burning a few legit indie devs in process because of false positives then it is simply viewed as collateral damage.

I can only see this becoming more arbitrary over time as the app store owners begin to sink under the crushing weight of application submissions.

ekianjo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Templar Assaults seems like a massive rip-off of Space Hulk. Even though there is no mention on it on their store page.
corytrese 3 days ago 0 replies      
We have tried very hard to abid by the rules and produce and support fun Android games. Dealing with tha automated Google juggernaut is difficult but I am the first to admit that they are the reason we are able to make, distribute and support our games.
hackinthebochs 3 days ago 0 replies      
So everyone should wait until after their livelihood is destroyed (obviously an exaggeration) before raising a fuss about what seems to be impending doom? I don't think so.
notatoad 3 days ago 1 reply      
So maybe google is being a little obtuse here, but I think their point is a good one: android developers, please stop updating your apps once a week. It is annoying to open up my app list and have 25 of the 30 apps I've got installed needing to be updated. Roll all your little bug fixes into larger updates and push those out infrequently. Unless you have a real show-stopping security or functionality bug, I don't need the update immediately.
csense 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is why it's important to be able to switch vendors. If Google isn't responsive, these guys can switch to offering their product on the Amazon app store [1], for example.

Avoiding vendor lock-in is an extremely important part of the business side of technology.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/mobile-apps/b/ref=topnav_storetab_mas?...

Why http://www.amazon.com/mobile-apps/ 404's is incomprehensible.

neurotech1 3 days ago 0 replies      
A developer could side-step the difficult to contact issue by being a shareholder and contacting Investor Relations. The SEC may get involved if companies ignore IR communications. The IR person would be able to give you a direct contact.

Also, pay attention at conferences when you meet Googlers and stay in contact. They may also be able to help you with direct support.

DigitalSea 3 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds like typical Google to me. If you've ever had to wrangle with getting your Adsense account unsuspended you'll know it's near impossible, well in-fact impossible to get a sensible or reasonable person on the phone let alone by email.
oscillot 3 days ago 0 replies      
I play Cyberknights RPG by the Trese brothers as I fall asleep each night. Just left a comment of support on the game's play store page (while it's still there). We need to escalate this is a way that Google will see it. HN is nice, I will link to this from G+ and see if I can find it to upvote on Reddit as well.

Here is the link: http://goo.gl/1MNYv

mcguire 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Google didn't respond to a request for comment from me."

And there is Google's major problem in a nutshell.

chris_wot 3 days ago 2 replies      
Can they take their game and host it somewhere else?
cpunks 3 days ago 0 replies      
Honestly, this is why I would never, ever consider using something like Google App Engine for anything other than a toy. Google is not a support organization. Except for ads, you can't count on them for anything B2B.
Pie charts in your favicon github.com
228 points by johntdyer  3 days ago   33 comments top 16
cleverjake 3 days ago 2 replies      
Last time I checked (~3 months ago) canvas rendered favicons lead to HUGE memory leaks in Chrome.

I love this effect, but I had to remove it from my app. If you were only using it on a page that is navigated away from, then this will work great, most likely.

thegoleffect 3 days ago 0 replies      
Can you put a link to the actual github page on this page (for the lazy).


caryme 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks just like the one used in the new Flickr Upload page http://www.flickr.com/photos/upload/. Are they related?
jfoutz 3 days ago 0 replies      
TazeTSchnitzel 3 days ago 0 replies      
Now this is the kind of library I like. Not something difficult, or complicated. Just a small, fun library that does one thing and does it well.
Revekius 3 days ago 2 replies      
I feel like this would be rather annoying and distracting. I could just imagine my 10+ tabs in Firefox having a pie chart or something blinking instead of a plain image.

It feels like were devolving to the old websites of flashy and blinking images trying to lure people in. Don't get me wrong though, it is neat! But... Where is that disable favicon extension now?

taylorfausak 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is cool. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for me in Safari 6.0 on OS X 10.8. The title updates but the favicon stays as the default GitHub icon: http://imgur.com/kIzXX
_nato_ 3 days ago 0 replies      
OMG. This literally will solve a UI issue that chizzl.com (my lil start-up that could) has been trying to solve for 2 months. Bless this lib and bless Ycomb!
DigitalSea 3 days ago 0 replies      
Memory leaks aside in Chrome, this is amazing and I can't wait to see how people use this.
brokenparser 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's not a pie chart but just a progress indicator? An actual pie chart could have an arbitrary amount of slices in arbitrary angles.

This might be useful for slow file uploads, but eventually animated favicons will be abused and subsequently disabled in later browser versions. See "window.status".

dag11 3 days ago 1 reply      
Neat. Reminds me of the favicon tetris.

This could be very useful for an in-tab "progress bar".

sturmeh 3 days ago 2 replies      
It would be useful to tie this in with something like YouTube, where the pie graph represents how much of the video has been buffered.

Similarly for a page that auto-refreshes, it could indicate that interval.

mattacular 3 days ago 3 replies      
I think I read that Firefox might be ditching the favicon in the location bar for some reason?
sahat 3 days ago 1 reply      
Talking about bleeding edge; look at those browser requirements!
dantotheman 3 days ago 0 replies      
love it! great way to show progress while I keep working on another tab while waiting.
solox3 3 days ago 2 replies      
No favicon change in Opera 12.
One of Apple's Best Ideas Ever " Made Worse pogue.blogs.nytimes.com
228 points by adrianmsmith  3 days ago   133 comments top 35
danso 3 days ago 5 replies      
This is a rebuttal comment to Pogue:

> The ''L'' shaped conductor covers the Ethernet and the Firewire port completely on the Macbook Pro if any type of protective cover-clamshell is installed on the 15 or 17'' designs. Reason being, the ''L'' shaped conductor hugs the body so closely it cannot establish a connection if 3/64" clearance is not provided...Anecdotal evidence supports the view that the 90º magsafe connector design that Apple has reverted to using is the safer of the two designs in terms of accidents as it reduces the chances of a 'shear pull' which made the ''L'' clip vulnerable to pull downs when the Macbook is left on slick or glass like surfaces.

guelo 3 days ago 6 replies      
Personally I hate Magsafe in all its incarnations, it's always been too weak. Many times I thought I had been powering my laptop for a few hours but I had accidentally unplugged it and the battery was dead. At one point I had a laptop that had some kind of battery problems and I figured I could just use it as a desktop machine and leave it plugged in all the time. But Magsafe would just randomly detach when I moved the machine and it would immediately power down. I really don't understand the giant benefit that people see, I've never had the theoretical someone-tripping-on-the-cord-crashing-the-whole-laptop-to-the-floor problem actually happen on non-Magsafe machines.
vailripper 3 days ago 7 replies      
I have one of the new retina MBP's and have had no such issues. In fact I've been a bit surprised at how hard it holds at times.
ak217 3 days ago 1 reply      
David Pogue can speak for himself. I find the new magsafe to be a lot better than the old, if only because the sideways design sucked (it's harder to rotate into place when plugging in, harder to take out, and places extra strain on the connection between the wire and the plug).
mistercow 3 days ago 1 reply      
They probably weakened the magnet to make it detach more easily to prevent the point where the plug connects to the wire from weakening over time, which is a battle that they (and other laptop producers) have now been fighting for many years. They've had multiple class action lawsuits about this same issue, and multiple recalls, and they still haven't been able to get it right. I personally owned multiple models that ended up producing sparks because the wires inside had gotten so badly frayed.

I reckon it's a genuinely tough engineering problem, since besides unintentional yanks, a laptop power cord gets plugged in and unplugged and hauled around in bags. But it's pretty surprising that they haven't been able to make this enough of a priority to solve it, given how much they charge for those adapters and how much they must have lost on recalls and lawsuits.

But honestly, the solution is simple enough: make the side that gets easily damaged replaceable, and let customers have free replacements every 6 months (and build that trivial cost into the original price of the adapter).

bmr 3 days ago 0 replies      
Sometimes I wonder if we should all just take a walk outside.
mgkimsal 3 days ago 0 replies      
T connectors are better than L.


Had an L connector - I can either cover my ports or have it dangle towards the back. Towards the back, it picked up a lot of heat from the heat vents, because they run a lot because I use the laptop for heavy duty computing quite often.

I got some crap about "potential abuse - we'll switch it this time, but they're not meant to withstand abuse" (or something like that). This is normal every day use for 1 year. Old T style - have had multiple of them - never had this problem.

tsunamifury 3 days ago 1 reply      
I assume that the lightness of the connection has to do with the fact that the 'perfect balance' Pogue describes depends on the weight of the computer to counterbalance the break-away point of the magnet. New new 11-inch Air's are so insanely light that the old magnet could drag them all over the room (almost hang from it), thus defeating the break-away purpose.

A near feather-like connection seems required to balance such a light computer.

jsz0 3 days ago 1 reply      
I haven't used MagSafe2 yet but MagSafe1 on my 2011 Macbook Air 11" is too strong. When you pull from an angle it just slides the laptop with it. I would guess that's what Apple is trying to fix with MagSafe2. It may not be much of an issue for the heavier laptops but going forward it's likely laptops are going to continue getting lighter -- not heavier. I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks here.
rickmb 3 days ago 0 replies      
I had hoped that Apple had finally got it's power cable plug shit together with the L-shaped Magsafe. Before that, my wife and I have managed to kill every type Apple has produced over the past decade, but the L-shaped Magsafe has survived.

Why on earth did they have to mess with that?

StavrosK 3 days ago 3 replies      
I'm sorry, but I'm confused. Is the new MagSafe connector exactly the same as the connector two generations back? I have a white plastic MacBook and the connector looks like the first photo.
MBCook 3 days ago 0 replies      
I haven't tried the new connector, but I worry Pogue is right.

My last MacBook Pro came with the old T connector. It was a massive improvement over standard laptop connectors, but I did run into the crossed legs problem. If I had my legs crossed and set my laptop between them, I had to angle the laptop to be parallel to my left leg; otherwise my leg would dislodge the connector.

My current MacBook Pro has the L style connector. It doesn't have the lap problem, but it bugs me that it covers some of the ports. I usually plug it in so the came comes towards me (more convenient the way I have everything positioned), but that blocks the FW800 port, so I have to swap it around if I want to plug a FW800 disk in.

I like the idea of going back to the T connector, but the idea that they weakened the magnets makes me think the cross-legged problem would be even worse.

I guess I'll find out when I replace this machine with a newer one, probably in a year or two.

thoughtsimple 3 days ago 1 reply      
I just received a new MacBook Air and my MagSafe connection is pretty much the same as the last two notebooks. It sounds to me like Pogue has a physical problem with the magnet. He should get it looked at by Apple.

I can drag the 11" Air across my desk by pulling on the power cord. It doesn't disconnect unless I pull up or down.

jamesu 3 days ago 0 replies      
Personally I found the "L" shaped connector to be far worse since it blocks ports and encourages one to bend the cable when inserting and removing, easily leading to a frayed cable.
TwistedWeasel 3 days ago 0 replies      
I haven't really had any problems with my Magsafe 2 connector.

I was upgrading from an older Macbook that used the older T-shaped Magsafe, I never owned any of the L shaped ones.

nicholassmith 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've been through several iterations of Apple power packs now, from the straight pin plugs of the iBooks, t MagSafe and and L MagSafe. In my experience the L is much, much better.

I've had several issues with cable fray and connector damage with T shaped ones, mine grips fine and comes out when caught fine. Maybe I've got lucky.

stcredzero 3 days ago 0 replies      
> It's the worst Apple design blunder since the hockey-puck mouse.

Looking back at Apple mice and their acceleration controls, I think Steve Jobs had a blind side here. Perhaps he was more coordinated than most people, so could compensate and was unaware of the various shortcomings of Apple mice.

salman89 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just bought a MBA yesterday, and my relatively unbiased impression (from a non Apple product user) is that the power adaptor is awesome. In fact, I would worry if it were more securely fastened in there - I don't mind if it falls out, if it means that there will be less damage over time. I've had one too many chargers ruined on my PCs... I remember buying 5 or 6 for an old Dell I had.

"The beauty of the MagSafe connector was that Apple had found precisely the right balance between attachment and detachment. Strong enough to hold the connector in place, weak enough to detach if it gets yanked."

Pretty subjective I think.

bluesnowmonkey 3 days ago 0 replies      
The L connector suffers from the problem that you usually have to twist it a little to line it up with the laptop, and eventually that torque causes the connector to break off the cable. I'm on my third Magsafe in two years because of this. Thankfully, they just hand me a new one when I bring the broken ones into the Apple Store, though I'm out of warranty.
jscheel 3 days ago 0 replies      
I always felt that the L-connector was way to strong. There are plenty of times where it should have disconnected, but it didn't. It feels like it's only safe for really sharp tugs.
aroman 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've been using the 2012 MBA near daily since it came out. I have definitely noticed that the magsafe feels significantly weaker than it should, but I think it's simply a matter of Apple not cranking up the magnetism.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the T design (at least, in that it would outweigh the pros vs. the L design), and as others have pointed out, it has a number of advantages.

Speaking from personal experience, his exasperation is very over exaggerated. Sure, it's annoying, but I would much rather have it too weak than too strong.

DigitalSea 3 days ago 3 replies      
Is it just me or everyday is there a new story about Apple failing in some way? Whether it be a Microsoft-esque advertisement, patent lawsuits with Samsung, failure of a newly designed Apple power connector. I'm not an analyst so what I say should be taken with a grain of salt, but something is changing over at Apple. I honestly believe whatever magic Steve left at the place is now depleted, what we are seeing are ideas, products and ideals of a post-Steve Jobs Apple and by the looks of it, it is not doing so well.

My next question is: what's next?

btbuilder 3 days ago 0 replies      
I haven't tried the new magsafe, but I know that my existing L shaped magsafe is prone to fraying on the cable just below the L. I have had one replaced at the Apple Store after I was told that they don't normally replace due to "physical damage". I have a second at work that is starting to fray. I am someone who has a high level of mechanical sympathy so I don't believe I have abused these adapters.
spiralpolitik 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have noticed no difference between the MagSafe 1 connector on my 4 year old Macbook Pro and the MagSafe 2 connector my week old 13" Macbook Air. Both feel equally snug.
lysol 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if he took it into an Apple store to have it looked at. Based on the amount of variability it seems like it should be covered by warranty.
cefstat 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just one more datapoint. I had an older MacBook with the T-Magsafe and I now have a MacBook Pro with the L-Magsafe. I love the L-Magsafe. With the T type the cable near the connector would fray every year and a half or so. I had it replaced once for free. The second time I had to buy a replacement. Never had a problem with the L type. For me the return to the T type is a regression but I read in this thread that people had fraying problems with the L type. Is it a huge technical challenge to make a laptop charger that will withstand normal wear and tear for at least 3 years?
pan69 3 days ago 1 reply      
"I think the MagSafe connector is one of Apple's best ideas ever."

If you're saying that Apple invented this, my mother had this on her deep-fryer in 1979. Nothing new. However, it's a good idea to add it to a laptop.

robomartin 3 days ago 2 replies      
I don't know. In twenty years of owning many, many laptops of all kinds of brands and designs I have never had one yanked off the table like that. I have never even had anyone trip over the cord and break-off the connector. I've used them at home, in the garage, at the shop, at the office, on airplanes, at trade-shows and while camping. To me the mag-safe idea is simply a "feel-good" marketing checkbox rather than a real need. Again, that's my experience. I've seen people that are simply not carful and don't take care of their stuff. And some that might be more accident prone than others. So, I'll admit that this is just one data point.
RBerenguel 3 days ago 0 replies      
Well, a MacBook Air weights far less than a 2008 MacBook. If it is not weaker, it will fly if your cat runs around
niels_olson 2 days ago 0 replies      
Three retina macbooks (one bad, one loaner, one replacement) and I have not experienced this problem.
RyJones 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have a new MBA (13"), and the power cord falls out constantly. I've developed a tic of grabbing the connector and holding it in if I adjust the laptop in the slightest way to prevent coming unplugged.
calebjohnclark 3 days ago 2 replies      
The old style magsafe adapters is one of the best features of mac laptops. I'm still surprised that other manufacturers haven't followed suit.
tlow 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is about the future of the connectors, at some point they have to abandon legacy. It is thinner, that's obviously a future move.
jaytaylor 3 days ago 0 replies      
I posit that if Steve Jobs were still alive, the new mag-safe adapter design would not have been approved. It seems worse in every way.

Has there been any explanation from Apple on why they changed the design?

thekungfuman 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not much of an Apple fan, but I do have a used MBA and I have to say, the old style magsafe adapter is one of the greatest features of any laptop I've ever seen. If having a laptop that is 10mm thicker meant leaving this brilliant bit of engineering alone than it's no question to go with the thicker machine.
Why Men Can't Have It All relevantmagazine.com
220 points by mtoddh  3 days ago   223 comments top 37
crazygringo 3 days ago  replies      
This is a really important thing to bring up.

There's so much focus on letting women have balance in their lives, but almost never men.

Women complain that they can't keep up with men because they can't reconcile 80-hour workweeks with raising children.

The solution is not healthier, more balanced workweeks for women. The solution is healther, more balanced workweeks for everyone.

The solution is creating a cultural expectation where CEO's work 50 hours a week, not 90, regardless of gender or children.

After all, male CEO's would love this just as much as female CEO's with children. But they can't ask for it, because it's seen as weak and uncommitted, and another male CEO will take their place.

There's a truth behind the clichéed businessman dying in his bed, saying he wishes he had spent less time working and more with his wife and children. But as a society, we refuse to let our male CEO's work less. Why?

jeremymims 3 days ago 0 replies      
Disclaimer: I'm not married and I don't have children.

Truly having it all (defined as having a stimulating and powerful career while being fully present in your children's lives) is difficult for anyone: women and men. There's only so much time in the day and if you want to have any type of powerful career, that will usually mean some sort of irregular hours that will mean missing important moments in a child's life. Likewise, prioritizing childcare over a career will mean missing some important moments to build a career. You couldn't go speak at that conference or stay late to build a feature or invest the weekend to come up with the new killer product. Maybe you had to miss important meetings because you had a sick child that needed to go to the doctor or couldn't do the business trip to close a deal.

The people who seem to "have it all" are usually wealthy with a flexible job (like famous actors). Their secret is they have a whole lot of help. We never hear about Angelina Jolie's nannies, professional chefs, drivers, and cleaning staff making it possible for her to "have it all". But she probably couldn't otherwise, she'd have to choose.

I'll admit that there are likely some people who really do seem to "have it all". But let's also admit that they're the anomalies. For most mere mortals, there seems to be a balance requiring a choice. As a society, we'll move towards equality when we can respect people for the choices they make instead of trying to wedge them into the mold that we want and without judging them.

My mother was an Ivy educated professional who left the workforce to take care of her children. It would be very sad if she were judged poorly for not attempting to "have it all", because in truth it was a great gift to her children. I've always respected her for her decision. Though there were times when my father couldn't be present, he's always said that not being able to spend time with his children when they were young was one of his big regrets. His sacrifice to provide for my family even though he couldn't always be there was a great gift too and deserves respect.

As employers, there are things we can do that can certainly make it easier for people on our teams who choose to be more involved in their children's lives (like daycare, good healthcare, flex time, days to work from home, etc.), but very often startups forego these amenities to extend the runway.

It's still a relatively new idea in our civilization that men and women would share equally in raising children. Equally new is the idea that we'd have two middle class parents in the workforce attempting to have high powered careers. I see progress all around us, moving more slowly than we'd hope, but generally going in the right direction.

But I think that "having it all" as a standard may be hurtful to people who can't. Everyone's circumstances are different and perhaps we should just respect people for the choices they make and for doing the best they can.

dkhenry 3 days ago  replies      
The single best line from the article.

"""Men should not feel emancipated because everyone believes they are only mildly competent as caregivers"""

I fully agree with this. I strive to do as much work in raising my one child as my wife does. Recently my wife had to cover two saturday shifts giving me two full days with my son ( breakfast to bedtime ). My wife approaced the days like they would be some great hardship for me. I approached them as wonderfull opertuinities to spend extra time with my two year old. Even though I try to do just as much as she does in terms of feeding and changing and general parenting, the fact that for most of the week I am only present for maybe an hour a day gives her the impression that I am incapable of handling the full load of responsability by myself. I see this as the issue. If men do have full time jobs and their wifes are stay at home moms then there will allways be this perception. People always assume that those who are _not_ doing what they do _can't_ do what they do

RyanMcGreal 3 days ago 5 replies      
The site seems to be down right now. Here's the google cache:



When my older child (now 17) was little, people who knew he was my son would see us at the park and ask, "Oh, are you babysitting?"

I'd answer, "No, I'm parenting."

sreyaNotfilc 3 days ago 2 replies      
I can't relate. Its not because I don't have children. I've basically had children since I was 13. Well, they were my sister's kids, but I still took care of them as they were my own (in a way).

I recently had to watch a few of my sister's kids while she was touring with the Army. This was for a year, and the kids were pretty young (twins at one years old and another 3 year old). They were a handful, but I was always up to the task to take care of them. That involves, nurturing, feeding, disciplining, educating, cleaning, playing and interacting. Its a lot of work, but it can be done.

In away, I see them as my children, since I've been around they everyday for a year.

Long story short, it wasn't because I was a girl that I successfully took care of my nieces (for that short period of time). I'm a dude. I don't find it strange either. Parenting really is just a task. How well you do correlates to how much effort you put into it.

Its a lot of work to take care of kids as well as take care of yourself and your occupation. Perhaps this is the reason why we have marriages. Having two adults makes this task much easier. So lets go back to the subject on men being great parents and a great employer/businessman. It can be done. We are not aliens. We are no inept. We are human. We have as much of a chance to be successful fathers than any women being successful mothers.

Its all about effort.

Spooky23 3 days ago 0 replies      
You can have whatever you really set your mind to have. Male or female, when your time comes, none of these debates matter, and you'll figure out what you need to do.

When my son was born a few months ago, my wife felt a unexpectedly (even to her) strong desire to be home with him as much as possible. She was able to cut her schedule by about 60% -- if that wasn't possible, she would have quit. Fortunately, we have the means to make that decision and not necessity.

Is that sexist? Outdated thinking? Dumb? I don't really care -- we did what was right for us.

gyardley 3 days ago 7 replies      
Well, yes, but this situation is largely our own fault.

I know there are plenty of men who want to split domestic chores fifty-fifty and take an equal role in childrearing, and I admire them. But there are plenty more, including myself at times, who have been happy to let our spouses shoulder more than their fair share of domestic work - not because we're deliberately trying to be troglodytes, but because a good portion of domestic work is thankless and uninteresting. So we do things less often and less well than our spouses, usually unconsciously, and eventually things gravitate towards something like an eighty-twenty split. This gets us what we want, but it also gives rise to the incompetent husband stereotype that's bothering the author of this piece.

I've got no idea how to fix this soft bigotry of low expectations, if it can be fixed at all - we obviously don't mind being made fun of for our incompetence at things we don't want to do in the first place. Cultural problems are always the hardest to solve.

bobwaycott 3 days ago 1 reply      
Social-cultural notions and expectations are, at least in the U.S., bizarre concerning males and parenting. Perhaps because there are so many who abrogate involvement and parenting.

I can't tell you how many times (okay, I'm telling, so it's been a whole hell of a lot), that I seem to get automatic plus points just for being a non-abandoning father. I have two boys (one adopted, one natural), am divorced, and have had custody of the boys since the divorce. People who find out about my single-parenting situation seem to then react in a way that implies I ought to be revered or something.

I simply don't understand this. It's as if just because I am there I am equated to "being a good father and, therefore, some kind of rare good man". I mean, I could be an absolute shit parent, and just trotting out the facts creates this unwelcome (and unhealthy) mental bias. This has become quite the issue whenever I meet otherwise interesting women, too (in the sense that their reaction to my situation has overwhelmingly been one of summarily attempting to "latch on")--so much so that I've developed a habit of specifically not mentioning being a single father at all.

I've never felt like my kids get in the way of professional aspirations. But perhaps that is because I've always tempered my professional aspirations in such a way that they exist to support my sons and give them the best life I possibly can while keeping my brain entertained with creating new things and solving challenging problems (challenging problems of a different sort than parenting). I don't pursue professional aspirations and then ask myself, "How can I squeeze my kids into this?"

AznHisoka 3 days ago 2 replies      
I think taking care of kids is a fulltime job, and one parent should just stay home until they're old enough. Many of you may dismiss this as old-fashioned, and sexist, but it's very true. Don't forget that in the past, families lived together. Grandmas, aunts, uncles, sisters, EVERYONE in 1 roof. Which meant the mother had a ton of help. Today, we live in an entirely different society, and mothers usually are alone in caregiving. I blame society for getting rid of this family structure.
geebee 3 days ago 0 replies      
I remember reading the original article and thinking that we're slowly moving toward a situation where you could just replace "women" with "men". I've scaled back on my career because I have two small children, and I can't leave the house before 7:30 or get home much after 6pm if I want to stay involved to the extent I choose to be as a father. I want to help them with homework, music practice, sports, and just spend some time with them.

Now a lot of people may notice that I (very deliberately) used the word choose. Not everyone will make this choice, and some people have a tougher time with a choice than others. But as I remember from the Atlantic article, the author did have a husband who was available and willing to provide a very high level of domestic support. She wrote, with some hesitation, that she things women may be less inclined to spend time away from their families and at the office even when they do have this level of support (she cited both social conditioning as well as the possibility of basic biology as a factor in this).

I don't know if I'm unusual. I actually argued about this with my wife, who insists that I'm unusually at ease, as a male, with stepping back from my career to do domestic things. Personally, I have trouble believing that I am especially unusual, and I definitely know plenty of men who have made the same choice I did. Yeah, I can't have it all. If I want to limit work to 8:30am to 5:30pm, and at times have to shorten even those hours, that will affect my career. At times, I do look at other people's achievements with some envy, but I'm clear that this was my choice. I can't have it all, of course I can't. There are trade-offs in life.

There are of course still some big differences for women - I do think that it's probably harder for a woman to find a male partner who will fill the domestic gap than it is for a man to find a woman who will do this (though even if they do, they'll still have to accept the "understudy" role as a parent as they spend more time at the office than their husbands). If there truly is a deeper, biological pull here for women on average, then maybe we should look into better "on ramps" for people in their 40s (the author said she is frequently asked about this, and her honest answer is that there aren't really any good on ramps for middle aged people, at least not in her field).

I still see differences between men and women around the question of whether we can "have it all", but this does seem to be converging - and ultimately the answer will be "no, you can't."

d4nt 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the level of expectation on fathers is still on an upward trend. But getting to parity is probably related to the gender pay gap and whether that's a problem that needs some kind of intervention. In my own family it made sense for me to work full time while my wife took a career break to raise the kids, because I could earn more. But my wife left education with way more qualifications than me so, in theory, could have been earning more by the time we had kids. If what held her back was in any way a cultural legacy that values women less, then we've gone and reinforced it by taking the decision that we did. So maybe there's a chicken and egg issue here.
jseims 3 days ago 0 replies      
I recently had an experience that dovetails with this article.

This summer, I moved my family over to London for two months. I intended to work while there, but I was having RSI issues. So instead, I spent two months full time with my kids, the oldest one being a girl of almost 4.

This transition from work to family time was reluctant, but in retrospect was the best thing that happened to me this year. My relationship with my oldest daughter developed and deepened... we are now so much closer than before, she's matured so much since I've been able to focus on her development.

And I was never aware that this deeper relationship was a possibility, and that I was neglecting it in favor of work.

rmc 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is a great article. This is what feminism is about. We should not hold modern people to out dated, and wrong ideas of what people can and can't do just because of their gender. Society has moved on a bit and we now no longer have discussions about whether a woman can be a CEO, we're starting to move towards this way with men & parenting.

If you're a man and you agree with this article, just watch for the next person to complain about "feminists" or "feminazis" or "political correctness gone mad". That person wants to keep you in a box and doesn't think you can be a father.

VMG 3 days ago 4 replies      
So there is something like a implicit cultural hypothesis that women are better at raising kids at an early age. Anecdotally, women seem to be preferred in custody cases.

Is there any actual science supporting or refuting that?

bhousel 3 days ago 0 replies      
Health, Family, Career - pick 2

This is a false trilemma for only a privileged few. If you have unusually healthy genes, an unusually supportive family, or an unusually cushy job, consider yourself lucky! Both men and women need to make the same tough decisions to find balance in their life -- it's not a gender thing.

Tichy 3 days ago 0 replies      
I really noticed that, and it annoys me. My son (20 months old) tends to wake up around 7 or 8am and around 8 or 9pm it is bedtime. So if I were to take on a "normal" job, I would not spend time with my kid at all, except for the weekends (leave house 8am, work from 9 to 6, back home 7 at the earliest). Society assumes that I am fine with that, but I am not.

Still, I'd like to add that at least in our case, in the first year the mother was definitely more important because of the breastfeeding, which really incited a strong bond. But of course not everybody does that.

FeministHacker 3 days ago 0 replies      
"it's patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic and unchanging and incapable. It's patriarchy that says men have animalistic instincts and just can't stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. It's patriarchy that says men can only be attracted by certain qualities, can only have particular kinds of responses, can only experience the world in narrow ways. Feminism holds that men are capable of more - are more than that. Feminism says that men are better than that"

(The source, http://zeroatthebone.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/on-claiming-to..., isn't entirely relevent, although it's conculsion is)

roel_v 3 days ago 1 reply      
"We are saying, it's okay for fathers to neglect their families, as long as they bring home the bacon. No. It's not."

Did you even read the article? This is the exact point he's making.

yaliceme 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is actually a big part of why I can't take any pleasure from the "bumbling/incompetent husband" stereotype in commercials, sitcoms, etc. It's supposed to pander to women, but it's actually insulting to everyone - insulting to men by implying they are too dumb to handle basic self-care, and insulting to women by implying that housework is their natural domain.
peterwwillis 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think I know why women assume men can't raise kids. As we all know, at some point the biological alarm clock starts ringing in a majority of women's ears and they want to be a mother. The urge is probably such that they see it as a job that they want to do for themselves, and that a husband taking care of the child is removing them from that which they want to do, similar to a temp being hired to do part of your programming for you. I'm not speaking about all women, of course, just the ones that make comments insinuating fathers are incapable of being a primary caregiver.
ten_fingers 3 days ago 0 replies      
I tried: My wife and I both got Ph.D. degrees intending to have two careers, do well financially, and, with money in the bank, have a family.

In four words, it did not work.

A longer description is, eventually the evidence became overwhelming: Mother Nature and Darwin were there long before we were and very much did not want us doing that, and they were very strong minded about this: She struggled and struggled; the struggles caused stress, eventually the stress caused depression; the depression made the struggles and stress worse and caused severe depression; and that was fatal. No joke. Her Ph.D. had been a big investment that got 'written off'.

Or couples that could have done what we tried just were not among our ancestors. All this is in spite of what is commonly said would, could, and should be.

Thus, I suggest: In simple terms, Mother Nature and Darwin have arranged that without certainty but with high probability in practice and significantly on average a 'professional woman' is a weak, sick, or dead limb on the tree. Sorry 'bout that. Wish I'd known that earlier.

How could this "weak, sick, dead" stuff be? Here's a guess: In our 'culture' from the past few thousand or ten thousand years, women nearly never had opportunities to pursue a 'profession' and became wives and mommies whether they really, consciously or otherwise, wanted to or not. So, our 'nature', 'nurture'. 'social and psychological capital', and 'culture', or whatever, from the past kept the tree growing while, still, a significant fraction of the women didn't want to be just wives and mommies.

So, what's different now? Now the US society and economy have changed giving many women an opportunity to pursue a career or profession, and, with significantly high probability, these women are removing their genes from the gene pool.

E.g., in Finland, women are encouraged to pursue careers, and on average the number of children born to a woman in Finland is about 1.5. So, let's see: For some simple arithmetic, with one generation of 25 years, after 150 years the population will fall by

     100 * (1 - ( 1.5 / 2 ) ** 6 ) = 82.2%

So in the last 150 years or so Finland beat back the Swedes, Nazis, and Soviets but in the next 150 years are on track to lose out to careers for women!

This situation is common across Europe: The gene pool is being severely pruned. In simple terms, Europe is rapidly going extinct.

My guess is that the European gene pool is now in the period of most rapid change in at least the last 10,000 years.

Darwin stands to win this one: What will be left will be women who really, REALLY want to be mommies in good families.

Darwin has more to say: The situation for men is not easy, either: For the tree to do well, men have to be good providers, good enough that their wives can concentrate on doing well in motherhood. Some men are successful, and some are not -- Darwin again!

Without some big and chancy changes in work and families, thoughts about would, could, and should be pale to insignificance as Darwin wins again.

Or, it's not nice to try to fool Mother Nature!

Maybe in Finland and most of Europe, by the time the population falls by, say, 75% from now the new gene pool, 'culture', etc. that emphasizes motherhood along with the more favorable ratio of land to people will cause the population to stabilize and, then, start to grow again. Maybe.

johngalt 3 days ago 1 reply      
Men have been making this trade-off for centuries. It's self evident to us that the world works this way. That's why we don't write articles about it. When reading similar articles from women lamenting this trade-off, the response is a resounding "what did you expect?"
danso 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a tangent from yesterday's HN frontpage article about fasting and programming...I still don't think that the rigors of fatherhood, on average, are as demanding as that of motherhood, for a very simple fact: women are effectively supporting, through their lifeblood, another lifeform within them for 7-9 months before they're thrust into parenthood. So in that sense, they have a headstart in the race-to-give-it-up for the child.

(please emphasize the on average part in the above statement...obviously, fathers have the opportunity to more than make up for this once the child has left the birth canal)

How many articles do we see on HN about how important it is to get regular exercise, sleep, etc. in order to become the best hacker you can be? It's tough to do that for even young men out of college...how much harder is it to maintain that while pregnant?

JoeAltmaier 3 days ago 1 reply      
Its great to put such an emphasis on being there for your kid. But this is definitely a 1st-world issue. The family has to have money to function; many places the employed parent has to work diligently to accomplish this. Kind thoughts about being there for the spelling bee or ball game are cute; but the job has to come first or its all down the drain.
king_jester 3 days ago 2 replies      
So the author of this post is offended that a man can get a cookie for just being a father? That somehow getting extra attention for doing what many mothers do daily is a wrong?

Men CAN have it all. There is nothing stopping a father from pursuing parenthood full time. Fathers can ignore the negative stereotypes of men being awful caregivers and may in fact be praised for being a parent at all. The social expectation that men won't be involved in parenting is not a barrier to parenting in many cases, as few people will question your agency as a father if you choose to be more dedicated to your children.

Women have a much worse time dealing with social expectations and institutions regarding parenting. It is not that society feels that women are superior parents or are more capable of caring for children, but rather that a woman's primary purpose is to execute this role. Unless you have tremendous resources, your life's passion and having a family are mutually exclusive for many mothers. Women are expected to take on domestic responsibility and work the second shift at a much higher rate then men, so these issues affect them much more than men.

Defeating gender stereotypes in regards to parenting will help both men and women do as they please and raise their children as they wish, but let's not kid and declare that there is a need to focus on men when women are the most impacted in regards to this kind of sexism and are the least able to be free from it.

perlgeek 3 days ago 0 replies      
Other countries are ahead of the USA in this matter. For example in Norway the parents' money is reduced if the father refuses to stay at home for a certain time.

That's quite an effective measure, people actually do expect both parents to stay at home for a while.

moskie 3 days ago 1 reply      
The thing he doesn't seem to touch on is the fact that the barriers to being a good parent and the barriers to being a successful professional are different, and different per gender.

The only thing he claims is preventing men from being good parents are societal expectations. Which I agree should be different. But, still, any man, myself included, could decide to become a stay-at-home dad and successfully raise children to the best of their abilities, and nothing could stop that.

And that's substantively different from what can prevent women from being successful in the professional world. That success can be halted by tangible external forces, like institutional sexism.

hansbo 3 days ago 1 reply      
I don't know if it's based on culture or laws, but this article doesn't really ring true to me as a Swede. My father, like many (probably not most though) fathers I know, spent as much time home with the children as the mothers did. As I intend to as well when the time comes. It is very possible for both parents to keep up their professional careers if the burden is split between them, I think.
AgathaTheWitch 3 days ago 0 replies      
I see a few flaws with the author's analysis:

The first is the premise that that which a father does for his family outside of the home does not count toward "caregiving". Being successful in a career puts a roof over a child's head, provides him with material comforts, creates educational opportunities, and establishes a positive role-model. It may not be a romantic sentiment, but I wouldn't exchange all that my father provided for me growing up (nice home, good schools, help with tuition, good example of professionalism, etc) for him changing my diapers or playing catch with me a few more times than he did.

In many ways, a man does right by his family by focusing on his career. The same can be true of a woman. Ultimately, there is a set of requirements for raising a child - among these, physical proximity with a caregiver, instruction, affection, socialization, and all of the material necessities, such as housing, food, and health care. How parents divvy up the provisioning of these things is up to each couple, however in my experience, a division of labor (as opposed to doing everything 50-50) is often more practical.

This whole conversation is sort of silly since no gender and no individual can ever "have it all". Life requires compromise - saying no to some things we want in exchange for a higher value. No man or woman can put in 100 hours of work as a CEO captain of industry, and simultaneously spend 8 hours a day reading to their kids. Both spheres of life demand time, a finite resource, and thus it is up to parents to strike a balance.

The other issue I have with the author's analysis is the "ought." The "ought" is the idea that 50-50 (fathers and mothers having an equal focus on child-rearing and career) is a thing to aspire to for our society. This relies on the assumption that there is no meaningful difference between men and women that should allow for this, or at least the assumption that if such a difference exists, it ought to be resisted. I disagree. There are benefits to many of our biologically and culturally based gender norms, and we should embrace the productive ones that relate to child-rearing.

lifebeyondfife 3 days ago 0 replies      
If I recall correctly, wasn't the reason Jeff Atwood (codinghorror) stepped down from active work on StackExchange owing to spending more time with his children?

I'd be interested to know his view on this article.

Edit: Also, my PhD supervisor went part-time after he became a father. But these are the only two examples I can think of of professional men making a career sacrifice for spending more time as a parent.

kungfooey 3 days ago 1 reply      
Did someone manage to grab the text from this article? I couldn't find a cached version.
michelleclsun 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks Peter Chin for a thoughtful piece. I have come across so many friends who grew up in a family where "my dad was never really there". Society seems to put more pressure on males (and increasingly, females) to succeed (and make more money for corporations) than to be good parents.
electronous 3 days ago 1 reply      
I don't understand the strong insistence on having children that so many people have. Can anyone explain why this is such a big deal?
goggles99 3 days ago 0 replies      
Fighting against natures clear and obvious intent of gender roles will not ever lead to a happier and more fulfilled life.
jacknews 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think it has something to do with tits?
slurgfest 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is a Christian evangelical magazine. I find the trend of increasing evangelism on HN to be mildly disturbing. Can we please refrain from using HN for religious evangelism? This does not constitute a form of repression for Christians, rather it preserves freedom for everyone who isn't Christian or who is Christian but doesn't believe in evangelism through every channel available.
arturadib 3 days ago 0 replies      
> Now, tell me how that is any different or less insulting than telling a women the opposite: "Sure, you're a good mother, but you're not cut out to be a CEO."

This is disingenuous. The answer is because modern men don't aspire to become good parents nearly as much as modern women aspire to holding top-level positions.

I do agree with the necessity to change the stereotype of the clumsy dad, but to bring that to the same level as that of women fighting for equality in the workplace is utterly unfair - it is by far a much Bigger Deal for modern women.

PS: If you have never seen a competent woman having frequent nervous breakdowns after putting in a disproportionate amount of work just to climb a ladder that most average men do with ease, you probably won't understand the difference.

Github: Notifications & Stars github.com
205 points by telemachos  8 hours ago   79 comments top 28
akent 7 hours ago 2 replies      
The per-organization email settings is actually the best news out of the bunch - now I can stop checking my personal email so frequently at work.

I'm hoping this feature also fixes the long standing problem with github commits via the web interface (merges and minor edits) using the wrong email addresses in the permanent git history - which always seemed like a huge bug to me.

UPDATE: Nope, it hasn't fixed that. Organization repos still use my default personal email address in the logs even after changing the notification routing.

thirsteh 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Loved the email:

"Hi friend,

We've made some REALLY BIG changes to the way that notifications work at GitHub.

We're sending you this email because we love you. Also, the amount of email you receive from GitHub notifications is going to change and we want to make sure you don't miss anything important. First, check out the new notification settings:



sh1mmer 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised this took them so long.

I hope Github's new round means they are going to be more responsive to customers. I like the company and the founders and team I know there, but it's been frustrating to have to wait for features like this for months and months.

kisielk 8 hours ago 5 replies      
This is awesome. I think most users have been wanting a feature like this for a long time.

One notable omission: There's no way to filter or search starred repositories.

kyt 4 hours ago 5 replies      
I think this is a bad move and an example of feature creep. Were users really asking for this? The problem was that the stream was overloaded with irrelevant projects you may have watched on a whim. It seems like they solved that with the notifications drop down. I'm not sure what the point of Starring is.
obilgic 8 hours ago 3 replies      
2 buttons/actions(watch, star) and 2 different pages(dashboard, notifications)?

Why not make it simpler but powerful by introducing better watch button (w notifications and w/o notifications) and much better dashboard page?

tterrace 7 hours ago 2 replies      
They sent out what I thought was a very well done support email for this feature:

Hi friend,

We've made some REALLY BIG changes to the way that notifications work at GitHub.

We're sending you this email because we love you. Also, the amount of email you receive from GitHub notifications is going to change and we want to make sure you don't miss anything important. First, check out the new notification settings:


You can configure which notifications are sent via email, and which email address they're sent to (per organization!).

Which repositories do you receive notifications from? Any repository you're watching. You can manage the list here:


Going forward this page will be the home base for understanding which notifications you receive. You're automatically watching a bunch of repositories based on your permissions " it's probably a good idea to go through and unwatch repositories you're not interested in.

Check out our blog post to learn more about our new notification system, our new stars feature and improvements to notification emails:


andrewingram 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I like the change in notification behaviour, but now I'm missing the list of watched (or now starred) repositories on the feed page that used to sit underneath the list of my own.

I literally used this list numerous times everyday to get quick access to certain repos, now I have to click the 'starred' tab to get a similar list which means an extra page load.

hswolff 7 hours ago 0 replies      
This is awesome! I made a Chrome Extension (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/kfhdalekdpifhlndhc...) a few months ago that Stars has completely Sherlocked, but I'm happy for the native support of bookmarking a repo.

Kudos Github!

Edit: Also looks like it broke my plugin. Hrm...need to fix that.

stock_toaster 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Seems the new notification system impacted the news feed filtering of the 'switch account context'. I am now seeing lots of activity for organizations I am a member of in my personal context. I guess this is a side effect of 'watching' those repos?
splatterdash 7 hours ago 0 replies      
My initial impression is it's a little confusing.

Getting to the starred lists and to the watched lists require a considerably different navigation. (e.g. why is there a "Stars" tab beside the "Issues" tab but no "Watch" tabs? Why are my own repos starred instead of watched?)

I hope they'll make it easier.

reeze_xia 44 minutes ago 0 replies      
I like the feature. I've watch really a lot of projects.
but I really didn't want every feed show up in my timeline.
snprbob86 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Cool! Been waiting for this for a while.

Now, I'll continue waiting for https://gist.github.com/ to get the updated header :-)

gregwebs 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I have been waiting for the stars feature for years. I want to switch all my watched repos to stars.

I see there is an API for watching, but do I have to screen scrape to star a repo now?

duaneb 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I would really, really like per-file watching (or even finer granularity, though I can't imagine the use) In collaborative environments, having github tell you when something has changed without going through the commits yourself would be cool.
reustle 7 hours ago 1 reply      
pwelch 5 hours ago 0 replies      
These are awesome updates. A few days ago I was complaining about not being able to direct organization repos to specific emails.

Great update Github!

ericb 7 hours ago 1 reply      
From their announcement email:

> We're sending you this email because we love you.

Anyone else reminded of "Welcome to Costco, I love you" from Idiocracy's distopia? Intentional parody?

ricardobeat 7 hours ago 2 replies      
That blue notification alert should be next to the user name/toolbar.


- All my own repos are now "Starred" by me. Should I unstarr them?

- Why can't I watch a repo from the Starred list?

- Whats up with the "Watch + Ignore" setting, isn't that exactly what Star is?

davidradcliffe 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Per organization email routing is great too.
craigc 8 hours ago 4 replies      
GitHub, you should have made it so any repo that you had watched previously remained watched AND starred.

It looks like everything is now starred but unwatched so no one will receive any updates on the feed anymore unless they manually go through all their repos and choose to watch them.

shiki 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Excellent! I've been using watch for bookmarking interesting projects but I didn't really want to see all their activities (commits). Stars solves this problem. I think they're missing a search functionality for stars though.
uncoder0 7 hours ago 2 replies      
Was there a warning about this update? I heard about 10 minutes of commotion in our office due to this update. Mostly surprise at the timing which was the middle of the work day on a Monday.
Spiritus 7 hours ago 0 replies      
They should make the star list more compact, and add a search filter to it. And move it back to where watched repos was before.

Also, what happens to users you decide to "follow"?

apendleton 7 hours ago 1 reply      
The post doesn't say actually ever say what "starring" does, other than put it in the list of things I have starred. Is that it?
stigi 7 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a life saver. No more huge Gmail filters! GitHub I salut you!
TazeTSchnitzel 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Watched repos show up in notifications, starred don't.

So you can show support without being swamped with notifications.

guywithabike 7 hours ago 2 replies      
10 hours? You've never written a line of code in your life, I gather.

Seemingly simple features can be incredibly complex to implement, especially when you're operating at the scale that GitHub is.

In China, the rich and powerful can hire body doubles to do their prison time slate.com
189 points by muratmutlu  2 days ago   93 comments top 16
kaptain 2 days ago 3 replies      
A typical response I see on HN (and on other forums) in response to failings in other countries (e.g. acts of terrorism, corruption, failure of government support, etc) is to find some sarcastic analogy to compare it to in the US. The Chinese government has gotten on the bandwagon with its own publication of the US's human rights violations (http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2012-05/25/c_1316113...). I found this humorous.

It would be naïve to think that the USA (I'm picking on the USA because I am an American citizen) is the perfect country. I haven't lived in other countries long enough to be able to compare, but I /can/ compare the experience between China and the US and it makes me grateful to be a US citizen.

The truth is, there is no real comparison between China and the US: I get questions about corruption in the US all the time and I always answer that there /is/ corruption in the US but not in the endemic/pervasive way that we see it in China. The media is more open than in China, the government process is more transparent.

My business partner and I are in the middle of doing a training/internship (simple LAMP application development) for students at a local university. This isn't a top tier university: it's a third-tier university in the capital of one of the poorest regions in the country. There's a lot of potential here but when we asked people if they had any aspirations to entrepreneurship, we mostly get a 'no'. The lack of mobility for the common person is evident here.

No matter what the US's failures are what it has that the Chinese system (note that I didn't say government, because some of the issues here are cultural) doesn't have is "opportunity". There's a lot of unrealistic optimism here amongst college-age students (i.e. "I can do it if I try.") but there is a dark understanding that this is severely limited by what is available to them after they graduate. It's actually really sad: people here are in love with pieces of paper that 'qualify' you for a job. But with an overabundance of college graduates (in a system where cheating is normal), the value of a college degree is lessened. So you have a huge population of mid-20's that paid large sums of money for degrees that are largely worthless (i.e. the degrees didn't fulfill the better life that they promised).

China has aspirations to be the world's best, but it won't be until it can find a way to empower its own people.

ck2 2 days ago  replies      
In the USA they just buy the way out of the system - I mean look at all the people in prison for the default swaps and banking scandals. Oh wait, there aren't any.
kooshball 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder how that business would work.

Do you have a list of "candidates" that are willing to go to jail for a certain price?
Or would you get a client first, then try to find someone who looks like them, and then offer the person some amount of money to go to jail?

Both seems tricky, the 2nd one if the body double is not reliable they can go to the cops and everything falls apart.

BHSPitMonkey 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds like a great opportunity for a startup!
alan_cx 2 days ago 0 replies      
So, where is this special country where the rich do no use their wealth to manipulate justice, what ever justice actually is? The rich always have done, do so now, and always will. China is nothing special.
ramblerman 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Growing up in Dubai I witnessed a similar practice called 'blood money'.

Simply put, In the case of a car accident, The family of the victim can demand a fee, which would void any prosecution against the perp.

It's not ideal, but seems better than the chinese system. At least the victim's family gets something out of it.

edwinyzh 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm a Chinese and I'm sure that such things are very much possible in China. It's even worst in smaller cities since the media there is even more "unopened". Thanks to the fast growing of Internet usage in China(the only trustworthy media in China), things are getting a little better in the past ten years or so.
toddh 2 days ago 1 reply      
Recall that wealthy conscripts could buy their way out of serving in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
mulation 1 day ago 1 reply      
If all the rich and powerful can hire body doubles to do their prison time, why would they lose their lawsuit?
epynonymous 1 day ago 0 replies      
sad. i have a theory that this happens for entrance examinations and things like SATs. i sometimes see these morons getting into good schools like harvard from china. take for instance bo xi lai's son.
m0skit0 1 day ago 0 replies      
Title looks wrong for me. The right title should be "In China too, ..."
crafter 2 days ago 1 reply      
A good story for Marginal Revolution's "Markets in Everything"... which reminds me I should give it a visit.
swah 2 days ago 0 replies      
There is something similar in Breaking Bad.
sodelate 2 days ago 0 replies      
thdn 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've couldn't stop laughing when I've saw the headline ROLF
known 2 days ago 1 reply      
One Bad “Policy Change” Email Can Kill Company Culture moz.com
177 points by trevin  3 days ago   92 comments top 33
patio11 3 days ago 4 replies      
I totally agree that how one communicates influences corporate culture, and the second email is a better communication than the first. They both suggest to me, though, a company which reaches for a broad, expensive technological (+) solution to solve a narrow, cheap people problem.

+ There might not be code involved, but you're imposing a state machine, so it's tech even if it is taught in the business school.

How you communicate policy changes is important, but if your communication includes "How do we massage the fact that we know this is going to inconvenience everyone in our organization regarding one of the core benefits they perceive from working here?", communication is not the problem. The only corporate culture problem there is that the hypothetical CEO did not say "As custodian of the corporate culture, I think that working-from-home is too important to us to touch. What other options do we have?"

(One possible solution: If three people with different managers are routinely ducking meetings that have to take place, have three quiet conversations. Another possible solution: if three people with different managers are routinely ducking meetings, have three quiet conversations with their managers about how any person who can be optimized out of a meeting should be because their time is valuable.)

[Edit: It occurs to me that I glossed over the point in the blog post where they actual business rationale is presented: "Company X has been having trouble with abuse of work-from-home privileges. Managers are finding that more and more people are getting less accomplished and a primary suspect is a lack of coming into the office." I had gotten my understanding of the problem, like employees, from the second email. If that is indeed the business rationale, I revise my opinion of the second email: it is terrible because it is lying to me, in a way which makes the policy seem insane. Hilariously, when I read it now I find myself actually distrusting the hypothetical problem statement -- which is dicta for the purpose of this exercise -- because in light of being lied to I find myself thinking "Management, who we have established are liars, are probably too incompetent to actually measure people's productivity. I wonder what the real reason for this is?"]

chris_wot 3 days ago 2 replies      
To: allhands@reynholmindustries.co.uk

From: douglas.reynholm@reynholmindustries.co.uk

Subject: Time & Management Communication

Hi everyone,

Over the last month, our employees have been concerned that our CEO spends about half his time drafting fiats from his office with the assistance of his executive staff.

One challenge has been how to fill these emails with as much management jargon as possible. Words like "collaboration", "visibility", "communication delays" and "productivity" probably aren't enough as when I'm either in the office or at home I find that these specific emails cause me to run out of filler words.

Consequently, we've decided to do something different and get more focus on this problem domain. If you're planning on doing any work, please put it aside for an hour and see if you can find any words we might have missed. As you can see, I've started to do this myself, starting with this email, having already found innovative uses for the words "focus", "problem domain" and "challenge".

Both the management team and I know that you've all been working super hard lately and this might be seen as a pain. I'm sorry for that. But, as we've learned from so many things expanding our business, management's time is valuable and we are just spending too much of it drafting these emails. Your lists of words are invaluable and will ultimately make life easier for everyone.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, even if you feel like we are total boneheads that's ok. After all, that's why we need your skills in expanding our vocabulary - an informed company is a great company!

Thanks gang,


btilly 3 days ago 2 replies      
Meh. The long version is massively worse. I got to the end of it and was left confused about what, specifically, I could expect. I definitely prefer the initial "bad" version. (Though I would make it shorter.)

If you want to add explanation, make that short and sweet as well.

Here is an example following the lines of the first that is even shorter.

To: Allhands@CompanyX.com
From: JoeTheHRManager@CompanyX.com
Subject: New Work-From-Home Policy


Our work from home policy is changing next week. Employees wishing to do so must get an OK in advance from their manager. This is to improve progress on projects that depend on collaboration in house.

Managers, if your employee is not currently working on a project where in house collaboration is critical, please be generous in OKing working from home requests.

As always, please send feedback to HR@CompanyX.com.


That message explains the policy, indicates why, and should leave people with comfort that a favored perk is not simply being eliminated wholesale.

If you want fuller context for my advice, I highly recommend buying http://www.amazon.com/How-Talk-Kids-Will-Listen/dp/038081196... and reading it. (Ignore the bit about that advice being for kids - it works with grownups as well.)

michaelochurch 2 days ago 0 replies      
There is a reasoning behind emails like the first: managerial mystique. Make decisions, don't explain why. If you explain your reasoning, there's room for debate.

You don't want to explicitly say, "Because I say so", because that's drawing attention to the fact that you're being a dick. The stuffy and bureaucratic language is a part of that. It's about seeming official. The "bad" first email is classic 20th-century management done well.

Like this:

TO: All employees [1]

After careful consideration [2], we [3] have decided to review [4] the work-from-home privilege [5] that we offer. While we intend [6] to continue extending this plan [7], we expect that employees will monitor their individual performance [8] while doing so. For that reason, we've attached form TPS-363 [9], which all [10] employees are expected to submit to their managers should they continue to use the work-from-home privilege. [5]


[1] Aggressive formality. This isn't "Hey Team". It's serious business. Management is alert. The Man is on patrol.

[2] "Careful consideration" means, "We're saying upfront that we don't want to hear any complaints or dissent. We're representing ourselves as having deliberated already in an attempt to shut out any room for debate."

[3] Use "we" to communicate bad news. The "we" is a move to speak for the company so it sounds like you're ruling based on leadership rather than authority. "The company" (not just an anal-retentive manager) needs this.

[4] "Review". This makes it sound like there was a process and (again) a deliberation.

[5] Note the use of the word "privilege", subtly implying, "we can take this away".

[6] "We intend" = "We're being nice by letting WFH continue, but don't make us regret it."

[7] "Plan". Working from home is no longer something the company offers to improve productivity and morale, nor is it a perk. It's a "plan". And plans have rules.

[8] "Individual performance". Scary words that suggest more managerial oversight and possibly "reviews", "performance improvement plans", and terminations. Good employees never, ever have "performance" under discussion. Good employees (and managers who know they have good employees) discuss the impact they've had and would like to have in the future. They discuss goals and lessons and aspirations. When the discussion is of "performance", it's inherently a negative one. The stars don't need performance reviews to know they're doing well. Performance reviews are to scare the people in the middle and to document the reason for firing those at the bottom.

[9] The longer the form, the more there is a message of, "We'd actually rather not that you do this, but if you're willing to feel like you're applying for a hand-out by filling out this form, go ahead."

[10] Note the use of "all". That's most important. It makes the change seem uniform and fair, and applied across the whole company. This allows people to conclude, after a bit of annoying news, "Well, if my boss has to do it, and so does his boss, and so does his boss, it can't be that bad". Of course, the reality is that people in the managerial hierarchy (and grunts with supportive managers) can ignore TPS-363 and no one will bat an eye, but the change appears impersonal.

This is a "bad", morale-damaging email, but it's 20th-century bureaucracy done about as well as it can be. How so? Well, in a mid-20th century context, people are already used to annoying, paternalistic memos from "on high" and have developed an immunity to them. They know that companies gradually get worse, but that the process is generally quite slow. What it actually is is a dog-whistle. The actual targets (WFH employees perceived to be slacking off) of the memo are warned, but the rest of the employees forget it 15 minutes after it was sent. Do people actually quit their jobs after an irritating email? No. People grumble about them and then forget. They get back to work, and people who enjoy the work they're doing are going to annoy irritating upper management unless it directly affects them.

The difference between 20th-century bureaucratic management and 21st-century movement in the post-managerial direction (cf. Valve) is the change in the motivation-payoff curve. If a highly motivated employee is only 25% more effective than a typically motivated (i.e. wanting promotions and not to be fired) employee, then irking a highly motivated one to warn a slacker is worth doing. If that discrepancy is 5x to 10x instead of 1.25x, the calculus is completely different: you're actually better off taking a hands-off approach and letting employees self-organize (and quietly managing slackers out if they fail to find a place after a year). We're coming into a world where a company can only be competitive if its people are highly motivated, and traditional Theory-X bureaucracy just doesn't work.

columbo 3 days ago 2 replies      
I disagree. I don't see any difference between email 1 and email 2 except for email 2 has a bunch more filler words.

If I was to rewrite this it'd look something like this:

    To: Allhands@CompanyX.com
From: JoeTheHRManager@CompanyX.com
Subject: New Work-From-Home Policy

Hi Everyone,

All of upper management have just put in their notice!
Bagels in the break room!


What I mean to suggest is this type of email should NEVER be sent out in the first place. Blanket "Policy Changes" like this that impact everyone is a complete failure of management. This puts at-risk every employee you have.

Whatever reason for making the policy change (person X is not following the rules) needs to be resolved otherwise discontent and resentment will build (You know why this happened probably because Frank works from home ALL THE TIME).

droithomme 3 days ago 2 replies      
I don't like either email.

Assuming we have open communication, I would respond to the CEO's email and propose implementing a different policy - if we are expected to come to the noisy distracting office where it is hard to get work done, managers must send an email asking us, explaining why it is necessary, and it will be up to the engineer's discretion to determine whether or not he wants to lower his productivity by coming in.

Tyrannosaurs 3 days ago 1 reply      
So I like what he's trying to say but his "this is how to do it mail" makes a few mistakes:

1) Paragraph two says almost nothing. Overall the mail is too long for what it needs to say. Don't kid yourself that extra bulk makes bad news more attractive it doesn't, it just irritates people that you're wasting their time as well as doing stuff they don't like. If you want a bullshit free mail, always check the length - if it's longer than it has to be there's a good chance that a lot of the excess is bullshit.

2) The second one makes one of the worst mistakes in these situations and goes with the "I'm one of you" approach. In my experience little gets people's backs up more than this. As CEO you're not one of the team when it comes to this stuff. Yes you can make out you're doing it but volunteering information is different to being asked for it - it doesn't have the implied lack of trust. As a general rule don't pretend you're the same unless you're sure you really are in every way, not just superficial ones.

3) Different writing styles and all but I'd never include an exclamation mark in a "bad news" e-mail. Exclamation marks usually say funny / whacky, neither of which are things you want anywhere near bad news.

All that said, paragraphs one, three and four are good, actually very good - explains what's happening and why. If I got those with a straight forward friendly sign-off I'd probably be fine. I may even nick them as an example.

ChuckMcM 3 days ago 2 replies      
Generally these fail when nobody believes the rationale. So in the 'work from home' example, everyone will believe that management doesn't think people are working hard enough and so they want people at the office where they can watch.

I watched a number of these types of emails get sent out at Google while I was there, changes in 'policy' which were really reducing the kinds of things Google used to do that cost money and they didn't want to spend that money any more. Nearly everyone I queried 'read between the lines' and picked up a 'your screwing us and trying to make it look like your not' message, even if the Eric and the others didn't think that was what they were saying.

Perhaps only way to message this is in the results direction. Something like:

"Hey Team, we need to ship the X project because its vital to the company, That means we're going to meet every day at lunch time (we'll provide lunch) to make sure everyone has what they need and are getting stuff done. See ya there."

Then let people work around the requirement to suit their needs.

mindcrime 3 days ago 2 replies      
I agree that email #2 is marginally better than #1, but I'd not be thrilled by either one. Here's why:

1. I am all about respect, and I tend to take things personally (yeah, it's a character flaw, but whatever). If you send an email that even hints that you don't respect me and my judgment enough to just leave me alone and get my job done, it's going to rub me the wrong way and create an antagonistic feeling. My feeling is going to be "if you don't trust me, why am I working here?"

2. I wasn't consulted about a change that's going to affect me. Unilateral policy changes that aren't based on input from the people affected by the change are mondo bogus. This is also going to get my goat and annoy me to no end.

All of that said, I agree that people focus on the negative more than the positive, and that one "bad" email can outweigh 10 "good" emails (if there is such a thing).

My theory is that everybody has a mental balance scale tucked away in their heads, labeled "quit my job" with the ends labeled "yes" and "no". At any given time, neither bucket is completely empty, but it's usually fairly evenly balanced. But if enough little things build up and build up and build up on the "yes" side, eventually it tips the scale. Emails of this sort are definite additions to the "yes" side of the "quit my job" scale.

rcfox 3 days ago 0 replies      
Of course the second email sounds better: it's an entirely different message.

Email #1 says: "If you want to work from home, ask for permission with an explanation."

Email #2 says: "If you want to work from home, let us know when."

Email #1 demands that you ask permission. That's what kills the culture. Most managers are going to approve 99% of the time anyway, so skip the power trip. The message of email #2 doesn't mean you lose the ability to deny either.

bluesnowmonkey 3 days ago 2 replies      
He's trying to manage through policies. Not gonna work. If you have 50 people under you, there are 50 different situations to consider.

For example: Joe has been working at home because his wife just had a complicated labor and needs help at home for a while. Better leave that one alone. Frank has been working at home because yeah, he's slacking. You should already have fired him, but you're a coward. Eric has been working at home because he's depressed about his carer arc and hates the office environment, and he's one of your best employees. Go talk to him and fix it before he quits! Lisa hasn't actually been working at home at all. She's on the road this week helping a third party integrate with your system, and you even knew about that but forgot when you saw a bunch of empty desks in the office and snapped.

You can't abstract away the heterogeneous nature of your employees. You have to talk to each one and deal with them individually. Yes, it's hard.

wccrawford 3 days ago 0 replies      
To me, the real difference is knowing why. If you don't tell me why, I'm going to assume the worst. And history has shown that at least one of my co-workers will, too, and he or she will go around to everyone else and talk about these fears. Since they can't be countered (co-workers don't have any information about the situation), the fears will fester and rot until someone finally does explain the situation.

In most companies, that explanation never comes. After you've been there a few years, you've got an insane backlog of things you're still worried about. You'll probably have forgotten most of them at any given time, but it just takes a small trigger to bring it back to active memory.

That's the real morale killer.

DanBC 3 days ago 1 reply      
> “Office Happiness Update.”

I've had many emails like this. Dilbert, Office Space, Brazil, C Stross, all parody this kind of thing excellently.

His suggestion is much to wordy. Some people will have a bad feeling before they start to read it, and the conversational positive tone doesn't really stop that feeling.

I look forward to the ever-happy always positive dystopian science fiction.

16s 3 days ago 1 reply      
The second email reads like it was written by a MBA (no disrespect to MBAs intended). There are lot's of fluff words (visibility, collaboration-dependent, solo productivity, etc). Perhaps it sounds softer than the initial email, but it leaves one wondering what the intent is. I'd much rather receive a more direct email that requires less reading and less interpretation.
SeanDav 3 days ago 0 replies      
I love the second email. I have found that short emails, especially from senior people can lead to a lot of "what does he/she actually mean"?

I worked for a company where the CEO loved sending off 1 sentence emails. Short, yes. To the point, yes, but it was incredible the amount of time that was spent trying to interpret the real message behind the message or even if there was one.

Without the nuances of body language, tone, expression, etc of a face to face conversation it is extremely easy to misinterpret an email. In general long emails are annoying but this is, to my mind an extremely important exception. The more detail, background, colour that you have about important emails, the better.

lucisferre 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you're at a company where these sorts of communications aren't considered strategically, you might try talking to your managers/execs about it. I bet that more than 50% of the time, there's a good reason and good motivation underneath those overly-corporate, soul-destroying emails. Convincing them that being more open about the reasons and more considerate in the presentation will have a positive impact probably won't take much work.

This was a great post and of great value to me as I get started building a company where I want to create a better than status quo culture (the Valve post is also great, so far it's been a good morning).

However, I had to laugh at the comment above a bit. If you are in a company that has this sort of problem, it probably isn't the e-mails that are destroying company culture but the culture that's creating the soul destroying "policy" e-mails and micro-management. Trying to change that culture by gently suggesting ways to "frame things" differently is going to be about as effective trying to dig up. But hey, good luck anyways.

chrislomax 3 days ago 0 replies      
I find this balls if you ask me, the first one actually cuts out all the bullshit, the second one doesn't. I find the second email condescending and I would quite easily see through the crap of what they were trying to say.

Personally we have had those emails and after a day of people crying about it people just live with the new policy and get on with it.

I thought the whole point of the email was to cut through the bullshit, the second one had me looking through the dictionary working out what it meant.

JoeAltmaier 3 days ago 1 reply      
Are folks really so sensitive they can't ignore a bs email from a bean counter?

Yeah I've seen lots of stuff like those emails (both bad). They're telling me (and my manager) how to do our job.

I just ignore them. I ignore warnings about failure to conform to company policy. I ignore the corporate weeds that think talking to me about this stuff is important.

I work at a fairly high level now in my career, so you might say I can get away with this stuff. But as a low-level peon years ago, it was even easier to get away with. As long as my manager and I were on the same page.

The only corporate relationship that matters to you is, your immediate contacts. That's your manager, your team, and anybody you oversee. Get those right, work hard and deliver, and the rest is irrelevant.

sk5t 3 days ago 0 replies      
Both emails are pretty lousy; the upshot is the same "punish everyone with bureaucracy for the transgressions of a few". The second email allows the sender to assure himself that he isn't sending a memo about the new cover sheets for the TPS reports so if you could just get with the program that'd be greaaaaat--but it's the same order and smart employees will see right through it.
markokocic 3 days ago 0 replies      
I like first email more (the one marked as bad example). It's simple, and to the point. After reading it you know exactly what is changed and why. It's a bit harsh, but we are not kids, we can handle it.

The other mail (the one marked as good example) is apologetic, lengthy, and doesn't get to the point cleanly. It might be good when talking to other managers, investors, customers or suits, but not when talking to your developer employees. If you write specifications like that, the job will never get done.

blankenship 3 days ago 0 replies      
Or you could simply have the managers confront the offending employees one on one instead of blanketing your whole staff with a policy change...

A company culture where the slack of certain employees gets discussed in a boardroom and the solution is to email everyone a policy change sounds suspiciously like a culture that abdicates the responsibility to lead.

snowwrestler 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Policy Change" emails are terrible ways to address this sort of problem. People hate these sort of policy changes not because of the email, but because of the policy. It is trying to solve a productivity problem by imposing on everyone a new burdensome, non-productive task.

If you think employees are not performing to expectations, their managers should tell them that clearly and honestly in person. If necessary, those particular employees should be limited from working at home, or tasked with additional reporting. That way the "punishment" fits the crime.

As an aside, the second email is long and full of forced friendliness and awful corporate speak. I mean, every paragraph has the work "collaboration" in it, except the last one--which calls the managers knuckleheads. I think emails from the CEO should be short, honest, and clear.

Subject: Falling Productivity

We are seeing falling productivity, and the pattern seems to be related to working from home. It should go without saying that we must maintain high productivity if we want to grow and succeed as a company. We need to get this fixed.

In the next few days your manager will schedule a meeting with you to discuss in detail the problem and how we might solve it.

- CEO Guy

Zenst 3 days ago 0 replies      
Totaly agree with the article though not sure how it would effect a situation I had once.

WHen I joined a company they said verbaly(my mistake) I'd get a pay review after probation. That did not happen and shortly afterwards my department was closed down and I was in effect promoted to a higher up department (more in keeping with my skillset as well). I then after a month queried this situation and said there would be a meeting. I was the most productive in that department with getting users problems done and in the meeting I was told that as the company anual pay review period was due next month they would accomodate things then.

Two days later a company wide email goes out that the annual pay review period was being pushed back 6 months due to accounting restructuring. Now given that the directors would of fully known about this before hand and in the meeting I had one was a director I can totaly see how a bad email can upset some people on many levels. Now I'm sure the director in question was somewhat unable to tell me in advance but it was hard not to feel shafted as he would of had prior knowledge and neither my direct boss nor the director had the common sence to contact me and say we messed up and talk about the original issue and they both pretended as if nothing happened. I ended up leaving the company on bad terms and that company's share price has been going downhill ever since and they are on the verge of being non existant. Which is somewhat ironic given the company specialises in mobile email services.

skittles 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ideally, a company should have no policy stating how things get done. A real manager manages. A coward looks to the company to manage his or her people.
tomelders 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think he missed the very point he was trying to make.
pasbesoin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Personal experience/anecdote:

"Mind the gap"

This theme used a horrible, mis-applied term and metaphor from a different culture, while asking employees to make up for management's shortcoming not long after going public and buying a bunch of speculative, non-performing crap.

Further, it had the smell of outside management consultants (and "business-speak").

The employee-induced subtext: GTFO, before the doors close.


P.S. I didn't think the second, "improved" example memo in the OP was better than the first. Very wordy, without really laying out the problem It feels as if it is talking all around the issue. When I read something like that, I start looking for the other shoe (that is sure to drop).

abruzzi 3 days ago 0 replies      
I read the two sample emails, and the first seems honest, if a bit short on details. The second seems to be BS trying to put a positive face on "we're limiting work-at-home privileges because too many people are using it as an excuse to goof off." I'd be far more skeptical about the second email than the first.
jdcryans 3 days ago 0 replies      
Now have I have a long email to parse AND a policy change sigh.

More seriously, I doesn't seem to me that the author demonstrated how one such policy change can kill "company culture". At best he showed the way he personally likes it done, at worst he's trolling us by presenting a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist and now everyone comments on how they agree/disagree/have a better solution. The fact that a policy change is needed or not isn't even discussed.

727374 3 days ago 1 reply      
"framed properly without the bullshit" -- adding to my list of interesting oxymorons.
blt 3 days ago 0 replies      
I agree with the sentiment of email 2, but it's bloated and squishy like a banana slug. Major windbag writing style.
codegeek 3 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting to read this article. I used to work for a large bank where we were actually forced to work from home 1-2 times a day since they were running out of office desks for us :).
whazor 3 days ago 0 replies      
His second e-mail is unclear and big, it is wasting the time of his employees. By using a text structure you can be more clear. Here is a structure you can use for policy changes.

1. What is the measure?
2. What is the goal of the measure?
3. Why is the measure needed?
4. How should the measure be implemented?
5. What are the effects of the measure?

stretchwithme 3 days ago 0 replies      
You get what you ask for.

Ask for hours and you get hours.

Ask for greatness instead.

The U.S. Senate has blocked the Cybersecurity Act of 2012. zdnet.com
168 points by Empro  4 days ago   76 comments top 9
DanielBMarkham 4 days ago  replies      
Yay gridlock!

Interesting how one week it's a bug, the next week it's a feature.

jacoblyles 4 days ago 3 replies      
It's weird to see the ACLU and the senate Republicans teaming up to block this against the senate Democrats. Positions on executive power completely switch with the party of the Presidency.
maeon3 4 days ago 3 replies      
Where can I see a list of all the unrelated riders added to this cybersecurity act? I heard utah senator was trying to get a ban on abortion in there.
What i want is github for all these sneaky slithery little laws that make it through the house and senate onto the books. It's so bad now, I don't even know what the law is, it's changing back and forth so fast. It's making everyone a criminal, even retroactively!

Drugs.. Legal! Illegal!
Abortion.. Legal! Illegal!
Copying a floppy, owning a lobster, downloading a file, braiding hair without a license, filming a cop.

I don't know american law and I live here.

guelo 4 days ago 1 reply      
Notice that this was a battle between pro-business/anti-regulation forces and military/police-state forces. The interests of internet users was, as usual, completely irrelevant.
cyber 4 days ago 2 replies      
They were starting to pile on completely unrelated riders, it needed to go regardless of the contents.
Jgrubb 4 days ago 3 replies      
Am I to understand that the reason this bill was blocked was because Obama was for it, thus the Republicans' only move was to block it from coming up for a vote? What kind of bassackwards country am I living in??
techinsidr 4 days ago 0 replies      
Probably because our sketchy senators tried to sneak gun control and abortion amendments into the cybersecurity bill:


ericson578 4 days ago 0 replies      
yay the government protected us again from the government. oh wait...
nateabele 4 days ago 1 reply      
The sad thing is, Republicans probably only voted this down to spite president, but Democrats... seriously? What the hell are you doing on the wrong side of your own party platform?
Microsoft abandon Metro name due to legal challenge loopinsight.com
163 points by i386  4 days ago   117 comments top 34
recoiledsnake 4 days ago 2 replies      
Better story than the blogspam linked:


This is actually a good move, since the Metro design philosophy was getting confused with the WinRT environment. You can make a WinRT app that's not Metro looking, and you can also make a Desktop app that's Metro (see MetroTwit http://www.metrotwit.com/wp-content/themes/MetroTwit2012/ima... ).

So the two different app types in Windows 8 will be WinRT apps and Desktop apps. Not a big fan of the 'Windows 8 style UI' terminology though, maybe they should come up with a different name to represent the design philosophy.

Argorak 3 days ago 2 replies      
Just some facts for those that don't understand how Metro AG can strong-arm Microsoft into changing their brand name: Metro ows Media Markt ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_Markt ) and Saturn ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn_(store) ), both of which are huge electronics stores in Europe all the way to Russia. Media Markt is the second largest electronics retailer after Best Buy _worldwide_. Both already have an agreement with Apple about store in store. The worst thing Microsoft could do is piss them off, even if they would win the trademark dispute in court.

Also, it would lead to the strange situation that you could buy "Metro" (the UI) products in a "Metro" store, which could lead to actual confusion.

secoif 4 days ago 5 replies      
"Windows 8-style UI"???? Did their legal team pick that name? This says so much about the state of Microsoft.

This new name has a totally different persona and sends a confusing, unsexy message about Microsoft's vision for the future. It shows no competent person/team is in charge of maintaining a unified, consistent brand, but I guess we already knew that. The name "Metro" must have been an accident. Is "Windows 8-style UI" even really a name? It's more of a literal description. I don't know how you could pick something more lacklustre.

The experience formerly known as "Metro" encapsulates all of the innovative, risky developments Microsoft has been making on the UI front, with mostly positive responses (at least regarding the appearance). Metro was the word for Microsoft's sex appeal. Changing the name to something so unmemorable and vanilla is like deleting the word and its definition from the dictionary.

While this could have been a great opportunity to fuel the hype for the new UI with a slick new name, instead they choose to wet blanket the whole thing, making "Metro" not even really a thing anymore.

Microsoft needs help, they're clearly very, very sick.

crazygringo 4 days ago 3 replies      
But how can there be trademark confusion between a retail store and an OS interface?

I'm really surprised at this. Or was Metro just a codename all along, the word never used in the Windows 8 product itself? In which case, not worth a fight?

snowwrestler 4 days ago 4 replies      
Before it came out, the best guess for the name of an Apple phone was "iPhone." But Cisco already produced an Internet phone called iPhone.

Apple called their phone iPhone anyway and told their lawyers to work out the price with Cisco.

On the one hand this makes Apple look like jerks, but on the other hand there is no question who is in charge of marketing: the marketing guys. Not the lawyers.

This decision by Microsoft seems in sharp contrast. Here the lawyers are telling the marketing guys what to do. And the result is laughably bad. It's too bad because "Metro" was a great brand name for a new user interface.

pflats 4 days ago 2 replies      
Huh. The Metro Group is much, much bigger than I imagined when I saw it was a German store. Wikipedia says they're the 5th biggest retailer in the world, 67B Euro in revenue in 2010.

Surprised this American, that's for sure. I can imagine why Microsoft would rather just let this one go.

edit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_AG, naturally.

nhebb 4 days ago 4 replies      
They should just tweak the spelling to Windows Metwo. Then they could market it as Windows Me 2.0.

I know that's a ridiculous, non-HN type of comment, but really it's no more ridiculous than someone confusing a software UI style with a retail store.

gvb 4 days ago 2 replies      
I loved the suggestion They should condense it to the "W8" or "wait" UI. I wish I had thought of that! I know what I'll be referring to Win8 from now on. :-D
Steko 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why not submit the more substantial link from ars technica?

The Loop link we have here is basically the same one liner Gruber made but 30 minutes later. {this decribes a lot of posts from The Loop}

cft 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's actually a good thing for them. Generic bland names, such as "Metro", "Live", "Color", "Slide" do not work. "New iPad" is better.
Zenst 3 days ago 1 reply      
Class, not the first time a company have publicly announced a product before launch, rolled with it for a year then then just before launch got pointed out there nicking somebody else's name. Metro is also a free newspaper in the UK, name of a subway system....

RIM had the same level of snafu recently as well with the whole BBX branding they went on about and then got told it was somebody elses.

Microsoft could just add another M infront and call it MMetro, but whatever they call it, it's putting a mobile phone interface onto a desktop, so what do they call it on there mobile platform?

ALso why did they pick Metro - what did it stand for Microsoft Enormous Tile Royalty Option(!) Meaningless Enviroment To Ride Obscurity(!) I don't know and I don't think they did either.

Still at least we have more faith in them testing thre software than we do there naming, don't we.

InclinedPlane 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think I'll wait for a more trustworthy confirmation of this rumor to get worked up about it.
petercooper 3 days ago 0 replies      
Microsoft might abandon it, but as a name for a certain visual style, I suspect "Metro" will live on. (Consider Ajax. Also a brand of cleaning products.) It's too distinctive a style to either lack a name or be tied to one product (like Windows 8).
drivebyacct2 4 days ago 0 replies      
How did this not come up before?
obilgic 4 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe changing the name of the product when it is finally released to the public is a good idea?, they basically remove the link between the early reviews and the final product. So the public might not even see the these initial bad reviews etc.
stupandaus 3 days ago 1 reply      
According to the zdnet article linked by recoilednsake:

Update: A spokesperson is now saying the reason for this Metro de-emphasis is not related to any litigation. (I asked if it is related to any kind of copyright dispute that hasn't yet gone to litigation and was told there would be no further comment.)

The spokesperson added:

“We have used Metro style as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines. As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog we will use our commercial names.”

dhughes 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why not just call it Urban?
dkhenry 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is rather silly, I wonder if this is also why Longhorn was changed to Vista. I for one hope the use of Metro sticks around just to spite Metro AG.
martingordon 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is truly a shame and probably explains why Microsoft chose Windows Phone OS instead of Metro OS. I wonder why they didn't attempt to license the name or fight it (since it's unlikely that using the same name for a UI style and a retailer would cause any consumer confusion).
damian2000 3 days ago 0 replies      
A legal challenge has never stopped them before. Also you'd imagine they could always come to some compensation agreement.
54mf 4 days ago 2 replies      
Metro is just about the only thing Microsoft has going for it these days, as far as I'm concerned. What a blunder.
thepumpkin1979 3 days ago 0 replies      
Same thing happended with Windows Workflow Foundation in 2005.


10098 4 days ago 0 replies      
But everybody is going to call it "Metro" anyway!
hdivider 4 days ago 0 replies      
I doubt this will have a lasting negative impact on the Windows 8 platform, because I suspect that the majority of mainstream users haven't really encoded the 'Metro' name into their minds yet.

Still, if this is true, it's not great news for MS.

(And neither for those who have already registered sites like metrodev.com)

freditup 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure how much of an impact this will have. I'm guessing that the name 'Metro' will stick around, even if Microsoft doesn't officially use it.
manojlds 3 days ago 0 replies      
How come this is coming up only now? Didn't WP7 release in 2010?
lubos 3 days ago 2 replies      
I call bullshit on this one. Metro is a dictionary word so it cannot be trademarked as it is. I don't believe Microsoft would give up so easily.
russtrpkovski 4 days ago 0 replies      
Apple would have kept the Metro name and settled out of court later. Its a shame that Microsoft is too risk-averse.
dutchbrit 3 days ago 0 replies      
Seriously, "Metro"? It's a dictionary word, and they are completely in different branches. I wouldn't expect Microsoft to give up just like that..
StacyC 4 days ago 0 replies      
MS is like the Keystone Cops of the tech world sometimes.
Scorponok 4 days ago 0 replies      
Someone really dropped the ball on this. They should have had this figured out before they used the name "Metro" for the first time.
notatoad 4 days ago 3 replies      
I like this. 'metro' is unnecessary jargon, a design language does not need to have a trademark name. Just referring to it as what it is makes a lot more sense.
ktizo 4 days ago 1 reply      
Oh zune.
ConstantineXVI 4 days ago 1 reply      
Or call it 'Klatmi'; bastardized from 'klagt mich' or 'sue me'[0]

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sosumi

Principles of UI design bokardo.com
165 points by tomazstolfa  1 day ago   27 comments top 17
ender7 1 day ago 0 replies      
1. Respect your users

2. Respect their time

3. Respect that they are different from you

If you find yourself thinking "now I have to change it so stupid people can use it" then you will never make a UI worth a damn.

droithomme 1 day ago 3 replies      
No examples and prose combining platitudes with vague, hand waving grandiose manifesto language is a big red flag.

It's got some horrible advice from the get-go: "One hundred clear screens is preferable to a single cluttered one." is terrible advice. One hundred screens for a task is an absolute disaster.

munaf 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a decent list, but visual examples would help.

If anyone's interested, many of these ideas are derived from Nielsen's heuristics [1] as well as Tognazzini's [2].

[1] http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/heuristic_list.html

[2] http://www.asktog.com/basics/firstPrinciples.html

barking 1 day ago 1 reply      
I found this article a tough read.

I like Jef Raskins 2 principles :

First Law: A computer shall not harm your work or, through inactivity, allow your work to come to harm.

Second Law: A computer shall not waste your time or require you to do more work than is strictly necessary.

IMO everything else follows from these

ralphleon 1 day ago 3 replies      
Whenever I read an article like this, I immediately check out the designer's work afterwards.


This page, does not really follow "Conserve attention at all costs" when there's a 4x7 pricing grid with confusing information scattered about it. The rest of hubspot's design is equally banal, perhaps the author has some other role in the company than design?

_pius 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm seeing a lot of criticism (mostly unfair IMO) of these principles, but I'll say that Josh Porter's book "Designing for the Social Web" is a must-read. Easily one of the most accessible, practical, and insightful design books I've read.
saint-loup 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yet another loose collection of vague "principles" for UI design who are, in fact, just rules of thumb.
mitjak 1 day ago 0 replies      
This could enjoy some concrete examples. I tend to stay away from articles and books that make me feel like I've learnt something, but unless examples follow closely, I've just fooled myself into thinking that I've acquired new knowledge.
ricardobeat 1 day ago 0 replies      
While most items are sound in principle, this is very much focused on web interfaces, not user interface design as a whole, and even then on websites and not webapps.

There are different kinds of UIs, some focus on productivity, some on specific goals, some on fleeting interactions; some for a general audience, others for people with very specific domain knowledge. These principles are far from general, naming it a more casual "20 rules for web design" would be more appropriate.

For all we know, despite not pretty this could be a very efficient interface: http://www.apcconsultants.com/TCAR%20Control%20Screen25.JPG

the_cat_kittles 1 day ago 0 replies      
The "axiomatic" approach to design (and art) is usually backward. Even if you arrive at some sort of basic principles after a while, someone else cannot read them and know what it means to apply them until they have tried to design many things. There is a rich context to what everyone says about design, and you cannot learn it without repeatedly trying to design and improve things.
dreamdu5t 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think this should be the #1 principle: "Define success in terms of your UI." Before you set out to design an interface you must decide what actions that interface should expose and facilitate, and which of those actions constitute success.

First you decide what the user should do - then you design around that. I know it sounds obvious and practical, but 9/10 companies I've worked for started designing the interface before they decided on what the interface should accomplish.

tb303 1 day ago 0 replies      
principles of being a good ui designer: stop trying to make a name for yourself

these sorts of lists drive me nuts because they merely serve to direct attention to the author instead of allowing the audience to find much more reputable and proven information (e.g., the raskin rules mentioned below)

i am happy to see the comments here indicating others agree.

Falling3 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm always a bit disappointed by these kinds of UIX posts. As droithomme pointed out it's vague, but still in a way too specific.

I've found that pretty much all of these guides are extremely specific to blogs and the web in general (with good reason I realize). It would be nice to see more information about generalized interface design. For example, I work in home automation and a GUI can make or break the system. I know there have been books written on the subject. I'd really like to see contributions from contemporary designers that are useful enough to be employed in a variety of settings.

arocks 19 hours ago 0 replies      
TLDR: User interfaces should follow the principle of least surprise.
michaelpinto 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here's a rule that was broken: Try to not present more than 7 to 10 choices or items at one time (and yes a list of 20 bullet points that scrolls under the fold breaks that rule)
sshillo 1 day ago 0 replies      
It seems like the same principles apply all over the place. Keeping things clear and simple whether you are designing a web page, an algorithm or some module is always the best way to go. In what situation would making something convoluted and overly complex be a good idea.
tdrgabi 16 hours ago 0 replies      
why is FixThisPOSSite comment so downvoted?

I feel like he contributed to the discussions.

       cached 7 August 2012 04:11:02 GMT