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This is a bit f'd, Quora giantrobotlasers.com
794 points by webwright  2 days ago   224 comments top 48
cletus 2 days ago  replies      
I can't help bit feel vindicated by moves like this because they're a sign that Quora isn't the Next Big Thing that many inside the bubble that is Silicon Valley seemed to think it is (eg [1]).

Actually Quora is better than that (for me) in that it's a double hit on the hype on both Q&A and social.

These kinds of moves:

- requiring login to view content;

- partially obscuring content on Google results to maximize sign-ins; and

- showing what you view to other people.

come across to me as a company coming off hype and approaching a crunch point. I believe now, more than ever, than Quora will end up an acquisition for Google or Facebook or will simply slide into irrelevance.

[1]: http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/08/23/the-power-of-q...

wpietri 2 days ago 1 reply      
The forced login stuff really enraged me. This is the rant I posted to Quora on the topic in hopes of getting them to change their minds:

For a long time I've been meaning to write personal stuff about my mom's death last year from a brain tumor. The question "Death and Dying: What does it feels like when doctor says you'll just live X days / months?" popped up in my feed. So I answered it. In detail. Crying as I went. At some point I realized I was hyperventilating from the sobs, but I knew if I stopped I wouldn't finish. So I wrote and wrote and clicked "Add Answer".

Since I was sharing it with the world, I decided to man up and share it with my loved ones. I copied the link and posted it to Facebook, so that my friends and family could read it. Like you'd do with any other link in the world.

And then began the fucking tech support circus. Within an hour, somebody said:

I'd like to read this but I'm unable to without giving them my FB login info. Am I missing something?

I immediately checked, and I wasn't bothered when I clicked through, even when signed out of Quora. No idea what was going on. I thought it might be some referrer sniffing plus cookies; I suggested they copy-paste the link. Another friend made other suggestions. But that didn't solve it for everybody; another person just now commented:

I wanted to read, but I got this thing saying I need to approve an app called Quora - an app which "may post on my behalf" - which seems like a rather large presumption for an app to take. Or am I misunderstanding something which is actually quite benign? Sorry to interject a facebook question into this thread, but I do want to read what you wrote....

And they're right. It's a fucking giant presumption to ask for that just so my friends can read something I wrote and wanted to share with them. So I just gave up and copy-pasted the text into the little Facebook comment box, arguing meanwhile with Facebook about what the goddamn enter key means. (It means new line, motherfuckers.)

The end result: what I was hoping would be a solemn remembrance of my dead mom is now cluttered up with people trying to defend themselves against Quora's quest for better user numbers at their next fucking board meeting.

So thanks, Quora, for strip-mining my personal tragedy to up your AARRR metrics. I hope it was worth it, because you've lost a lot of my trust.

Edited to add links:

The rant on Quora: http://www.quora.com/rage-against-quora/Rage-forcing-Faceboo...
And the answer I wrote: http://www.quora.com/Death-and-Dying-1/What-does-it-feels-li...

blhack 2 days ago  replies      
The new "social" web is really creepy. Browsing in an incognito browser and logged into nothing has sortof become my default.

I don't want google chrome saving my search history, or to accidentally read an article on some news website that then broadcasts that fact to all of my facebook friends.

ivankirigin 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is my post. I didn't expect this on HN, but I shouldn't be too surprised I guess.

I just want to stress that I really do love using Quora. It has some of the most unique content on the internet. It is because of this that I even care about my activity syndication there.

ozataman 2 days ago 2 replies      
Wow, this is a really big lapse of judgement on Quora's part. I'm contemplating if I should delete my account altogether.

In any case, thank you for posting it here - at least people can take the precautions.

Edit: That yes/no button is not at all obvious! They need some form of green/red color coding.

cheald 2 days ago 0 replies      
And just like that, I no longer have a Quora account.

This is a "dark pattern", and it's sleazy any way you slice it. They could have easily fixed it by popping up a dialog when I first sign in that says "Hey, do you want to share the things you read in your feed? Yes/No", and I could select "No" and be on my merry way. Instead, they decided that they would make a decision about my privacy for me, and they've lost me as a user in the process.

timmyd 2 days ago 1 reply      
Indeed the problem - as with Facebook - is that these settings are constantly "opt-out". This is perhaps as bad as the Beacon program in that as the author correctly originally notes - some personal items might be "viewed" which subsequently detail their actions to other users which they never intended to be public.

Classic examples of mistakes in the past are like "How to propose?" or "What's a good engagement ring size?" and so on. All these problems were exposed with Facebook Beacon and purchasing decisions and after much revolt they shut it.

I honestly can't understand why Quora would implemented "User X viewed User Y" - I think that's taking the privacy perspective to a whole new level. Indeed, even on Facebook if they started listing things like "User A viewed your profile 55 times today" - it would essentially kill the service in it's tracks as would "User B viewed this photo 33 times" and so on. People have always used Facebook to stalk their friends - but that doesn't mean it should be detailed publicly for all the world to see.

This should be "opt-in" if not removed all together in my mind. As part of internal metric tracking - it's obvious that this occurs - but it shouldn't be public or should be entirely opt-in.

diego 2 days ago 3 replies      
I get the impression that Quora is in a tough spot because of the perceived implosion of the "social bubble" after the FB IPO. They have $61M in funding [1], which means that their investors must be demanding bold moves. I don't personally know anyone who works there, so it's pure speculation.

[1] http://www.crunchbase.com/company/quora

gojomo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Quora clearly announced this change of policy. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of The Leopard".


olalonde 2 days ago 1 reply      
Also, you can't view some answers anonymously anymore (blurred out a la expertsexchange.com). Seems they are desperate for new users...
cs702 2 days ago 0 replies      
It seems that almost every week I read about yet another "social" company breaching longstanding societal norms regarding privacy. Quora is just the latest example.

What happens next has become rather predictable: a few voices criticize the company in question, the company (maybe) issues some kind of public apology, and then... nothing seems to change.

Maybe our society doesn't really care that much about privacy.

incision 2 days ago 2 replies      
Smells desperate to me.

Quora launched with all kinds of "Former Facebooker!" hype that it hasn't really lived up to.

I've had some good reads on the site, but only from the cream of the crop threads that make it into the digest emails.

Searching out a general question on Quora seems more likely to lead directly to hordes of marketers linking back to their own sites.

ctdonath 2 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone remember Belkin's fiasco of selling a router which would randomly replace webpage requests with ads for their products? Some do, and still won't buy Belkin anything due to trust destroyed. Same here: Quora may survive this, but many users will never go there for permanent lack of trust.
rmc 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is why you need Data Protection law (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_Protection_Directive )
omegaworks 2 days ago 0 replies      
The blowback from stupid share-everything policies is what will eventually collapse this social media bubble. I disabled Spotify-to-Facebook sharing completely, even though I wouldn't mind if the controls were more granular and the notifications were less obtrusive. Right now people put a lot of faith and trust in their social media providers, and the more said services violate that trust, the less users will share by default and the less valuable the services will be as a result.
justinph 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here is the thread screenshotted in the blog post, in case any one was interested:


ivankirigin 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is apparently a new feature, just launched a 2 weeks ago: http://www.quora.com/blog/Introducing-Views-on-Quora
engtech 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why don't they show something like "4 of your friends" read this answer without identifying the friend? They would need a lower threshold were you would need a minimum number of friends before this feature would kick in to keep the data anonymous. They could also just say something like "4 people within your network" read this and use the network effect of 2nd and 3rd degree connections.

I'm surprised that no adult websites implement a social sharing feature like that. No one is clicking on the facebook / google+ buttons on purpose, but it might be interesting to see what videos people in your network are watching if it was anonymous.

SebMortelmans 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is completely crossing the line. Showing others what you have searched without notifying me about this is just offensive to me. I love quora and what they are doing, but this is completely below the belt.
dotmanish 2 days ago 0 replies      
I personally agree - I would be annoyed if I discovered this (I haven't logged on to Quora in a long long time). They seem to have most recently updated their Privacy Policy (http://www.quora.com/about/privacy/) on August 1. Quoting "Specifically, you consent to Quora's disclosure of information related to the ways in which you interact with the Service, such as: landing pages, pages viewed".

On the counter-side, I would have been okay if they sent a mass-mailer saying "We have introduced a new feature on Quora - now you know how your peers are doing with Quora!" - making it sound marketing-like, but in reality, percolating the information to their users in the most seemingly-harmless way possible. This could have won them actual fans for this feature.

ajju 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sigh, another day, another useful service decides to overshare on my behalf.

FYI, to turn off this setting, go to Views -> Allow others to see what content I've viewed in feed

melvinmt 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks, I posted a link to this post on Quora to my followers and deactivated my account.
ryandvm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hmmm. I wonder how Myoung Kang feels about this post...
stfu 2 days ago 2 replies      
So far I counted 10 fuck/ings and one nazi calling in this discussion. Please guys, I come here for a civil discussion and not some ragefest.
dm8 2 days ago 0 replies      
Question is, will it turn out to be "News Feed" feature of FB or FB Beacon?

Their founding team were present when FB introduced News Feed and Beacon. I'm sure they've given lot of thought to it.

Common sense dictates, it is screwed up move. I had the same thought when I saw news feed feature. But it turned out to be pretty rad and successful. Not sure what Quora team are envisioning here.

ereckers 2 days ago 0 replies      
There is nothing certain in life but death, taxes, and monetization. It's Quora's time to start making money. It's reaching the social site late stage end of life phase. The internet's natural order.
joe_bloggs 2 days ago 0 replies      
Equally f'd up is the fact that you cannot delete your Quora account. Seriously. Try searching for any such option in your settings page. They only have a "deactivate" option, and once you deactivate, you can reactivate anytime by just logging in again :)

Found this quora post:


According to a Quora engineer, it seems you can delete your account by emailing privacy@quora.com

Wow! This certainly sounds like something EFF (https://www.eff.org/) should try and do something about.

mcgwiz 19 hours ago 0 replies      
What's all the hullaballoo about?! LinkedIn does the same thing: you can see who viewed your profile if you enable your own views of other profiles to be seen by their owners.

Or do we only get riled up when the perp is a small startup that still holds the promise of cracking the holy grail of sustainability without charging a usage fee? ...Damn sell-outs, it's like all they care about is finding a way to make money.

codezero 1 day ago 0 replies      
The views feature isn't enabled until you read the announcement which is forced into the view on top of the page when you view the web site, you have to specifically click Hide to remove it and acknowledge the new option.

If you turn it off, it will retroactively remove any of your views, you can turn it off here http://www.quora.com/settings

chefsurfing 1 day ago 0 replies      
It seems to me there is only one good response to this type of corporate behavior: remove yourself from the equation. ou are free to quit and have them remove your data from the system. I did this last week and I feel much better now. To Quora's credit it only took 24 hours to be removed from the system. If you consider it abuse, staying in an abusive relationship is just plain stupid :)
guelo 2 days ago 1 reply      
This isn't much different from what Facebook does showing friends all your likes and comments, except Facebook doesn't let you turn it off.
bambax 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is why you need to login to Quora (et al.) under a pseudonym. (It's against the TOS but 1/who cares? and 2/how are they supposed to find out?)
electic 2 days ago 0 replies      
I honestly think having accounts on social networks is now becoming a huge liability. They start of as quite private and then morph into being open and you are left holding the bag. It just means the more networks you sign up for the more networks you have to main and the more networks you have to cancel later.

This is quite upsetting.

lifeinafolder 2 days ago 1 reply      
FYI, you cannot delete your Quora account from there website. For that, you need to email: privacy@quora.com
confluence 2 days ago 2 replies      
I understand people's outrage at this invasion of privacy - but honestly why do people think that anything they have ever done online hasn't already been tracked and recorded (not being paranoid or anything - just being realistic).

There is a lot of value in figuring out who someone is, what they like and don't like and what they are likely to buy (ad networks/trackers etc.).

Hence you MUST assume that everything you have done, and ever will do, is, for all intents and purposes, PUBLIC FOREVERMORE.

Not "whisper public" but shared across YouTube public with 100 MILLION PEOPLE.

Once you assume that situation you attempt to mitigate possible pitfalls and these things don't bother you so much (they still will - but the sting isn't nearly as strong).

And no - the web isn't going in the opposite direction - privacy is dead - long live privacy!

You can try and shame or regulate it away - but seeing the web as it is today and where it's going - there is no turning back.

alanh 2 days ago 0 replies      
I sent feedback@quora.com a message to let them know I am very upset with this gross violation of privacy and Web norms.

I encourage you all to do the same. (Or call them, if you know someone.)

rjsamson 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is exactly why I now stay logged out of Quora and use Spectacles (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/kbckpcgmpkkfdjhmhi...) if I need to browse over to Quora.
cpeterso 2 days ago 0 replies      
Quora must be doing well. They've outgrown their Palo Alto office and are relocating to Mountain View:


damian2000 1 day ago 0 replies      
I just got my quora account demoted to read-only for not using a real name .. wtf

Requiring login to view is their biggest problem.
Requiring real names is their second problem.

This is just making things worse.

pbreit 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am very surprised that there is so much support for this feature. I can't think of any other situation where such a passive action is made public.
ngsayjoe 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yahoo does the same thing ... and i immediately uninstall it upon such discovery!
espeed 2 days ago 1 reply      
You can disable that in your settings.
lucian303 1 day ago 0 replies      
You don't pay for it, thus you're the product, not the consumer. The product doesn't get what it wants. Not how things work.
jongold 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is the Quoraish way to answer the question - meta enough?
robforman 2 days ago 0 replies      
With a security background, I'm painfully aware of how very little is private these days. But this is just a disgrace. I deleted my account. I hope others get the message.
sidcool 2 days ago 0 replies      
This looks like a big gaffe by Quora.
valdiorn 1 day ago 0 replies      
And that's why you don't use Quora
heyitsnick 2 days ago 4 replies      
I see the author's point, and users should be aware Quora does this and have the facility to disable this but ... is this not an over reaction? Viewing a question titled “Should I come out to my parents?” or “What is the best way to hide an affair?” doesn't in any way imply you are gay or hiding an affair... just that you showed some interesting the question and possible answers. I'd be interesting in both those topics just to see the variety of responses. I don't think i would need to hide the fact that i viewed those threads.

If they were providing complete Quora browsing history of a user, which you could see a general trend towards topics a person reads over time, I would see a serious breach of privacy. But a single one off "so and so just read this" is hardly damning.

Textmate2 Goes Open Source github.com
762 points by evilduck  6 days ago   300 comments top 40
LoonyPandora 6 days ago 3 replies      
It doesn't appear to be a code-dump to GitHub, which would be indicative of fading interest on behalf of the original developer.

The ReadMe, build process, and licensing instructions all point towards this being a well planned Open Sourcing of a product.

I'm pleased with this, and hopefully it will spur development of TM2, allowing it to truly compete with the up-and-coming Sublime Text 2.

batista 6 days ago  replies      
If we are completely honest, Textmate was always a sub-par editor.

No Vim or Emacs style brilliantness, no BBEdit style tons of features and mature engine, no IntelliJ like, er, intelligence, no ST2 comprehensiveness, etc etc.

Plus, the Textmate 1.x text engine was probably a mess too -- I remember the very first versions being laggy (and that's coming from someone who doesn't find even Eclipse laggy). That he couldn't easily fix the one-character-undo is another pointer to that (and, for all I've seen, the 2.x engine is not that better).

It's main saving grace was the many extensions it had, and looking half-decent and native on OS X. Basically, it caught on because it appeared on the right time, and appealed to OS X users like web programmers etc, that wasn't old-time unix buffs, and wanted something native looking without forking for BBEdit (which itself was/is Carbon based and with a custom text display widget).

I don't think Textmate deserved all that success --it should have happened to a better editor.

thejerz 6 days ago 3 replies      
I don't want to pick on Allan Odgaard, but I think the way he's handled the TM2 project is pretty bad.

Allen is a great guy and I love TM. However, here are some facts. TM2 has taken SIX YEARS. It was "90% done" 2009.

This is a living, breathing case study in why quick customer-driven releases are better than "big upfront plans" and "giant system rewrites." Anyone who has developed a major application knows what I'm talking about. These "big rewrites" almost always take much longer than expected, as has clearly happened here.

I have learned to listen to what your customers want, and just build it. Develop it in a few weeks, release it, and then ask again what your customers want. Some people call it "customer-driven development" and I think that's a good way of phrasing it.

emehrkay 6 days ago  replies      
I've been using Textmate 2 for the past week or so and I still prefer 1 + missing drawer. For me, the only thing Textmate 1 is missing are split views (something 2 is missing as well).

I wonder if there is still enough interest in the app where people will contribute all of the community's desired changes -- I hope there is.

Am I one of the only Textmate users who feel that Sublime isn't the right "upgrade"? I much prefer Chocolat or Vico as they feel more like native OS X applications.

willurd 6 days ago 2 replies      
I don't understand the negativity being shown towards TextMate in this thread. This thread is about an extremely popular editor going open source, something people have been asking for for a long time and something we should all be THRILLED about, regardless of whether we use it.

Can we save the editor wars for another thread and maybe, just maybe, actually talk about the code?

albertzeyer 6 days ago 0 replies      
I created a binary from the current source, if anyone is interested:


umjames 6 days ago 1 reply      
powerslave12r 6 days ago 4 replies      
Awesome! Can someone comment on how probable it would be to port it to linux (and windows)?
podperson 6 days ago 4 replies      
I stopped using TM1 for one reason: undo (which is one. character. at. a. time.) TM had a lot of fans, but no-one liked its undo (some didn't dislike it that much).

TM2 alpha didn't fix it. Gave up.

chmars 6 days ago 1 reply      
I am not sure how to read the statement by Allan Odgaard. It does not include any hint on the future of Textmate: Has Textmate become open source abandonware or does Allan Odgaard intend to lead the future development of Textmate as an open source?

The latter would of course be great, the former rather sad from a user perspective since most former closed source apps do not survive for long after a switch to open source.

drivebyacct2 6 days ago 0 replies      
Found a build from today.

Not sure why this is supposedly so much better than ST2. I've got a Go(lang) bundle installed and a theme that I prefer over my current ST2 theme, but I like the file browser, tabs and menu layout better in ST2.

DTrejo 6 days ago 0 replies      
TextMate 2 tarball for your downloading convenience: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/10047/TextMate2.tbz Binary uses latest source. [I compiled and tested, works on Lion at very least]
bostonvaulter2 6 days ago 2 replies      
I'm confused as to how he could ever sell Textmate2 if he's linking against ragel, a GPL library. Well of course he could sell it but he'd have to release the source.
MikeKusold 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is going to be a mess initially. So far there has been a pull request changing the license, and issues such as "Improve syntax highlighting performance. It sucks much compared to Chocolat or Textmate 1 currently."
xentronium 6 days ago 1 reply      
Am I the only one surprised by total lack of history in the repository?
happywolf 6 days ago 0 replies      
I am cloning it right now before it is too late!
briandear 6 days ago 1 reply      
The best part about TextMate is that it led us to Sublime.
rigelstpierre 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think this was something a lot of people had seen coming. Really at this point it was only Hardcore Textmate users left. Most people in our office use either Sublime Text 2, BBEdit, Emacs or Vim. Sublime has made the change from Textmate really easy.

It's good to see that they are sharing their hard work with the community but it's sad to see a legendary text editor basically die!

chucknelson 6 days ago 0 replies      
Uhm...is it strange that comments are no where to be found in the source?
kposehn 6 days ago 0 replies      
Textmate2 needs one thing for me to use it prime-time again: split screen in OS X full screen mode (just like Sublime Text 2).

Now I can code that myself (oh joy :)

obilgic 6 days ago 1 reply      
where can i download the precompiled app?
electic 6 days ago 1 reply      
I think this is the right move. In my opinion, TextMate is not that great to ST2 or some other editors. Hopefully, it being open-source can get it closer to being on par. All I can say is thank god I never bought previous versions of TextMate and went with great alternatives.
drivingmenuts 6 days ago 0 replies      
Personally, if I could combine the TM modules into BBEdit (which uses Applescript for scripting), I'd be perfectly happy.
premist 6 days ago 0 replies      
Unexpected. Just awesome.
mjackson 6 days ago 0 replies      
So awesome. Thank you Allan.
lr 6 days ago 0 replies      
Where can I donate???
debugging 6 days ago 0 replies      
I can't imagine this was because Textmate isn't selling well enough.
I could be wrong but I always looked at Textmate as an example of an app that must be making a killing.
nsomething 6 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe now I can add my own "replace" button in the Find Dialog of TextMate 2. The only button there for me is "replace all"

Does anyone else have that issue?

rbanffy 6 days ago 0 replies      
Can it be ported to run on GNUStep?
barbs 6 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone else keen to add vim keybindings?
sswezey 6 days ago 1 reply      
What is the motivation for this? Is the developer losing steam / is support for it not strong enough? Either way, this is pretty cool.
tuananh 6 days ago 0 replies      
a very unexpected news for today! certainly i hope allan won't abandon it but keep leading this open source project.
owenjones 6 days ago  replies      
Is it wrong of me to be a little miffed that I paid $50, admittedly a long time ago, for Textmate?
shell0x 6 days ago 0 replies      
That's great :) I mostly use vim on the command line, but Textmate is great for dealing with Rails applications. I know, there is the nerdtree plugin for [Mac]vim, but the Textmate folder view is much better imho. Also, it's a nice tool for beginners, because you have zero configuration, but a really powerful editor.
agos 6 days ago 0 replies      
Just got a tweet from @macromates, they say they'll still charge for binaries
owaislone 6 days ago 0 replies      
Linux (QT/Gtk) port.. Anyone? Anyone?
joewee 5 days ago 0 replies      
Time to go bug hunting...
rjzzleep 5 days ago 0 replies      
another victim of the second system effect?
ved_a 5 days ago 0 replies      
Alas, there is no linux port.
SmileyKeith 6 days ago 2 replies      
Well TextMate was cool while it lasted. Good thing I switched to Sublime Text 2 a week ago.
John Resig: Redefining the Introduction to Computer Science at Khan Academy ejohn.org
452 points by spicyj  1 day ago   117 comments top 32
powrtoch 1 day ago 12 replies      
It's hard for me to imagine learning Javascript as your first programming language. It's always felt kind of crazy and bizarre to me (especially when you try to do anything requiring more than 20 lines of code), but I think a lot of that is just failure on my part to shake off the paradigms I'm used to. A generation of coders who are actually trained from the start to think in Javascript... almost scary honestly, but in a good way. We need more John Resigs pushing the web forward :-)
dons 1 day ago 2 replies      
Some similarities with Felleisen's work teaching programming to early high schoolers,

- http://www.programbydesign.org/

Those folks have tons of data on what works, what doesn't.

I get a bit of a NIH feeling from this effort, that I hope is unfounded.

thesash 1 day ago 3 replies      
Learning tools like this would have saved my teachers a lot of headaches if they were available 10 years ago.

As opposed to the classroom model of: [lecture -> assign work -> grade & return with static feedback], students can actually play with the subject matter during the lesson, instead of turning pens into projectiles or doodling in their books because they're bored to death (not that I know anything about that). Then they get immediate feedback, whether right or wrong, by seeing how the instructor would have solved the problem. That kind of hands on learning, where the student learns through their own trials and errors is much more fun than sitting through a lecture that has to accomodate the varied learning paces of a classroom of 20+ students.

The video posted here unfortunately focuses on the live editing aspect of the app, but you can see the interactive lesson function more clearly in this early prototype video[1].

This kind of interactive learning is the same thing that Sebastian Thrun is working on at Udacity[2]. For all the promise of making university courses available for free online, I think this is the truly disruptive stuff going on in online education, because it's way beyond just filming lectures and throwing them online, it's a fundamental leap forward for education.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvaaude_1hk
[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75TP3hoPA8U

msg 1 day ago 1 reply      
Interesting. I have shown my son the Logo turtle, but hopefully this will make even more sense to him. I was looking for a way to expose him to Processing but unsure where to begin. It's obvious now.

We are home schooling and always looking for new and interesting stuff to do with him.

Thank you, John.

karpathy 1 day ago 2 replies      
Don't miss the link to Bret Victor's lecture on responsive programming: http://vimeo.com/36579366 . I found it to be very enjoyable and it further shows what is possible with this paradigm. [minutes 2-23 are most interesting and relevant]
bpierre 1 day ago 0 replies      
We are working on a similar project (programming education), but in a persistent and multiplayer environment. It's more like a live game framework which allows to learn JavaScript, or just to have fun!

Everything is programmable: the display of a bot (Canvas 2D Context API), the buttons used to to control it, the interactions between the bots, etc.


crusso 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is very exciting. I was just looking around this past weekend for a way to introduce my 10 and 13 year-olds to programming concepts. I want them to understand more about the computer than how to play warcraft, watch youtube videos of pandas, or even make slide presentations.

My one daughter is going into 8th grade and has had a total of two half-semesters of "business and computer science" where the most they do is to play around with PowerPoint and Excel. Computers are so integral to every-day life now. It's positively disgraceful that every child shouldn't be educated on what they are, how they're built, how they work, how to program them, etc.

ilaksh 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is massively badass. I think this may be the best tool out there for learning programming.

One issue I am having here in Chrome in Ubuntu on my computer is that some of the videos are giving me minor playback problems where some visual features are not visible. For example, in the intro to drawing tutorial the rectangle seems to turn into a line because three of the sides are not visible. This is probably just what I get for using Linux though.

Anyway, I was wondering: have Mr. Khan and the rest of them put any thought into how the new interactive programming environment might be applied to learning math or other concepts taught by Khan Academy besides Computer Science? Like specifically taking some of the math or other lessons and presenting applications to tweak that would demonstrate those concepts. Maybe lessons in those other areas could sometimes include a link to a programming experiment.

Also, other question: are there any plans to try to cover a broader range of computer science or maybe even software engineering topics, for example things like Objects/Classes, components, unit testing, QA, feedback loops in general or for example between the developers/analysts and the users or between the developer and his test suite?

hanibash 1 day ago 0 replies      
Probably like many others, I learned to program first by developing web applications. The mass of information and multiple moving pieces frustrated me almost to the point of quitting. There are probably many people who did quit when introduced to programming this way.

This CS learning platform brings programming education back to its simple roots, back when your first program was as simple as drawing a circle in BASIC. It also leaps it forward, borrowing ideas from Bret Victors responsiveness talk was brilliant and I hope sets a precedent for programming education moving forward.

I really admire what you've done, Mr. Resig and the Khan Academy team!

scottrblock 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think a small, beautiful detail lost here is John Resig's career path. As the creator of jQuery, he probably had his choice of which sexy SV start-up to go work at. He chose a non-profit that's aiming to fundamentally improve his country's education. Pretty admirable if you ask me, and perhaps more importantly, a slice of hope, that if one desires to, he or she can use his or her time to change the world for the better.
look_lookatme 1 day ago 4 replies      
This is cool and I think Javascript is a perfectly suitable first time language, but I don't think it's ideal. Too many ways of doing things, too many code organization and programming styles... it's going to be confusing for people moving beyond the courses.

Still it's better than c++ or java.

crag 1 day ago 1 reply      
Best part of the intro video:

"Welcome. I'm super excited about computer science. it's my favoriate thing in the world... except for pot".


vph 1 day ago 0 replies      
These are good entrepreneurs and programmers, and they are using great tools, but I don't think they are qualified to say they are redefining teaching basic Computer Science.

Interactive platforms and approaches have been constantly introduced by CS educators to teach introductory programming. Educators are very aware of the value of interactivity and reactivity in teaching and learning. The only new thing here is the utility of cool new tools equipped with latest web-based technologies. Further, their approach is limited to programming, which is a large part but not the only approach to Introductory Computer Science. For example, they can't touch approaches such at MIT or Rice (I think), among others, which employ cool physical robots to teach coding, thinking, programming and robotics.

So this is not so much redefining, but rather a little enhancing CS education with cool tools.

rabidsnail 1 day ago 2 replies      
Little nitpick: Why make the draw event handler a magic variable instead of a function which takes a function?


    var draw = function() { point(random(0, 400), random(0, 400)); };

as opposed to

    onDraw(function() { point(random(0, 400), random(0, 400)); });

AFAICT there aren't any other variables that side-effect based on what you've assigned to them.

VikingCoder 1 day ago 3 replies      
I am done with all of you so-called "hands-on people" who don't give people real tools to use.

The XO (One Laptop Per Child) and now this.

Please stop giving people tinker-toy environments with tinker-toy problems that have nothing to do with the real world.

If someone's not motivated to learn, yes, they may need this kind of hand-holding. But if someone genuinely wants to learn to program computers for a living, this is - in my opinion - not what they need at all.

Drivers Education is taught in a real car, not in Mario Kart on a Wii. I'm sick of the Mario Kart version of computers being spoon-fed to otherwise intelligent people as though it has anything to do with reality.

I learned to program using Turbo Pascal. I was not so far removed from reality that everything I learned was almost completely useless. I have not given this much attention yet, but so far, it feels completely useless.

PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong.

archivator 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is not unlike Bret Victor's work - http://vimeo.com/36579366 . Do watch the video, if you have an hour to spare, it's a beautiful demonstration of "programming by tinkering."
th0ma5 1 day ago 0 replies      
He mentions the responsive design being really hard, and that was something I couldn't quite articulate to myself when I saw that talk a while ago... the ideas Bret Victor presented, only a handful of them are general purpose. I don't see how one could develop the timing examples he had, for instance, in a way that makes sense outside of his specific work on his 2D platform game.
johntb86 1 day ago 1 reply      
I wonder if they've added any help for transitioning out of their sandbox. I know when I first learned programming, one problem I had was taking what I learned in the classroom on Apple IIs and transitioning to using GW-Basic or QBasic at home. Transitioning from a browser-based sandbox to editing HTML and real files would probably be even worse. It might be nice if there was an easy framework they would let people download to help them create things in a more normal environment, so they don't get stuck and give up at that point.
jonahkagan 1 day ago 1 reply      
Awesome stuff. John Resig, if you're in here, can you give any details on the challenges of instantly updating the Processing sketch? I can just wait for the blog post, but I'm really curious.

Also, what components exactly are you planning to release open source? The other work in this area that I've been able to find is very tightly coupled to the rendering library (d3 or PJS). Is the Khan Academy system open to alternate rendering libraries?

bhb916 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I sat my 5-year-old daughter down in front of the first drawing tutorial today (Introduction to Drawing). I let her watch the video, then asked her some questions to test her comprehension. Before I could too many questions out she blurted "I want to build a house," and off we went.

I learned a few things:

1. We seriously need to work on her typing skills. We practice typing once a week but I think I need to increase that.

2. I need to go out and buy a smaller mouse to fit her hand.

3. She immediately understood functions and parameters, which, honestly, was all I really wanted her to get out of this.

4. The sliders are critical. She has never seen a coordinate system, but the sliders allow her to play around with location without completely understanding what the numbers represent.

5. At this age, she was engaged because she could draw things (she had a house worked out in about 15 minutes, which was also the limit of her attention span). I'm not always a fan of gaming things up to make them more palatable, but it definitely worked here.

daviddaviddavid 1 day ago 1 reply      
This looks really great. One criticism is that this style of graphical programming is overwhelmingly of a mathematical bent. Granted it's quite basic arithmetic but still, you open a code sample and you're confronted with a bunch of numbers and mathematical expressions.

My worry with this is that there are many, many youngsters out there who are intimidated by math but who would absolutely love to write code. This is especially worrisome since such a huge amount of coding involves no math at all.

bwlang 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I "watched" the first lesson or two. I think they've missed an opportunity to tighten the watch-try-watch loop with the student. This tachnology seems like it would support a mode like "here is how you draw a box" then "you try drawing a box that overlaps with the box on the screen". Maybe they do that later. I hope so, otherwise I think they're missing a great opportunity for engagement. Even without that level of interaction, I still plan to try this out with my children. Really impressive.
warmfuzzykitten 1 day ago 1 reply      
Seems clear they are teaching Programming and not Computer Science. There's nothing wrong with that, but they should be upfront about it.
jameshsi 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is great. I volunteered at Maker's Faire earlier this year at the Scratch booth and a lot of parents were wondering what some possible next steps could be for their kids who were interested in learning more about programming. It felt a little weird suggesting Khan Academy videos, but with this project I think the transition to deeper CS concepts is a lot more seamless for those who are curious
sethish 1 day ago 2 replies      
It is disappointing that KA launched their Computer Science program not long after making their website closed source[0]. Doubly disappointing because of open-education projects that were using the software platform to do free education projects in Brazil[1] and Portugal[2].

[0]: https://khanacademy.kilnhg.com/Auth/LogOn?ReturnUrl=/&nr...
[1]: https://calenglishbr.appspot.com/
[2]: https://uc3m-ka.appspot.com/login?continue=http%3A%2F%2Fuc3m...

gadders 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I understand why they only want the latest browsers, but it sucks that I can't look at it in my spare time at my locked down corporate (IE8) environment.
suyash 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I feel this approach is more confusing than clearer specially for beginners. Without giving a primer to the proposed languages (seems like they are using javascript and css), I feel a newbie would get more confused and leave the site after a few minutes.
sciurus 1 day ago 1 reply      
Anyone have a cached copy? ejohn.org is returning a 500 error.
Rickasaurus 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Programming is not computer science.
eranation 1 day ago 3 replies      
Love it,
Who is the presenter in the videos? the voice sound really similar to Vi Hart or is it just me?
bazookaBen 1 day ago 0 replies      
tried it. The greatest takeaway for me is being able to edit the code and see changes live.
scoith 1 day ago 0 replies      
Was there something wrong with the old definition?
Coding Horror: I Was a Teenage Hacker codinghorror.com
452 points by Anon84  6 days ago   119 comments top 50
zbowling 6 days ago 10 replies      
I remember in high school, the computers where running windows 95. They used this shell hacking "protection" software called Fortress. It worked by hiding buttons and menus and trying to prevent you from opening up various apps or clicking certain files in common dialog boxes.

My first "hack" was just a boot disk that simply copied fortress.exe to another directory (a little choice.exe with autoexec.bat magic).

The second hack came later. The computers were upgraded to Windows 98 and my autoexec.bat trick stopped working because of a BIOS password. Thankfully the machines came with Word which had nice shinny feature called Visual Basic for Applications. Most of the shell was hacked to hide menues still in Fortres 2.0 but good old VBA was still accessible. Using VB I could call Win32 apis and it was just a few calls to enumerate and kill the startup entries for fortress in the registry.

The best part of this was that it was all sanctioned activities sort of. The IT department was in a central building downtown (30 minutes away from our school) and who was always a pain to work with for the teachers. Their gradebook apps failed under fortress and even their teacher passwords failed to disable all the shell hacks. Shutting off fortress was the only compatible way to get things to run correctly for the teachers.

At first when the local IT department found out, they laughed, but then later got upset when the disk of my magic word document spread. It was making it's way across the district via email lists.

At some point in the school year I got accused of spreading 'a virus' to other students that allowed them to download 'warez' on school computers. Apparently fortress was the only thing preventing kids from using WinPopUp and windows NT messenger to send broadcast messages to all desktops across the network.

I tried to fight it and explain exactly how the thing worked and the silliness of shell hack in the first place. It didn't work. The Principal said I was hacking regardless and suspended me. After getting the suspension (and after they called my parents who knew before I did and were very upset already), I quickly called the computer programming teacher (who knew knew C++ and VB and had previously been an assistant for in my sophomore year). He called the principle and super and explained that I was not hacking and that I was 'improving productivity' and that the IT department's policies were hindering teachers. I got out of the suspension by the super the next day but no apology was given. Just a stern "stop hacking" the next week when I got back.

I was later voted most likely to succeed by my class. Apparently in a class size of 1200+, I was well known for my exploits.

T-hawk 6 days ago 2 replies      
My high school rascalry:

This was from 1993 to 1996, on MS-DOS 486 machines in the computer lab. I had found a program on some local BBS that could resize a hard disk partition. So on a few of the machines, I shrank C: by a few dozen megabytes and created my own D: drive and copied games into it.

How to hide that D drive? With Norton DiskEdit, I figured out how to manipulate the partition table manually, setting the partition type to a null value so that DOS wouldn't see it. Next I figured out how to read and write that disk sector in assembly language. Soon I had a command-line executable that would hide or unhide my private partition with a single command. Best of all, DOS would only read the partition table on boot. So I could boot with my partition enabled, then hide it, and play games knowing that any reboot would render the partition hidden again.

The last thing I needed to cover up was the missing space on the C drive, which could be revealed by the DIR command. So I wrote a memory-resident program (assembly again) that constantly scanned for the string of "bytes free" in video memory, and patched in a larger value.

Okay, now the MEM command might reveal the existence of my TSR. So I named my program as VSAFE, which was the name of a memory-resident antivirus program on each of these machines. I had my program output the same text as the real VSAFE did on startup, and overwrote the real VSAFE executable with my own.

So I had a pretty well concealed partition, that would have required some heavy duty skills to find and remove. "format c:" would not affect it, and even FDISK would just show the space as empty, not a partition. Never got caught for any of it; the computer lab supervisor and other students knew I was up to something but never found any of the hidden stuff.

Man, I could have had a career as a malware author...

a3_nm 6 days ago 2 replies      
In college, the machines in the computer labs had no speakers, but I found out that by logging on the TTY you could make the PC speaker beep at an arbitrary frequency. You could only play one note at a time, though... except if you used several machines. So I wrote a daemon and a script that would take a MID file and dispatch the various voices to all machines in the room (the daemon used NTP to ensure that everyone started at the exact same time).

The sound quality was awful, but the spatial effect was pretty cool because the sound came from everywhere at the same time. I got cool results with Mario, Pokemon, Tetris, but also some of the Goldberg variations or the Art of Fugue... But this was December, so I dug out a few Christmas tune MIDs and set them to play at random intervals until Christmas. As it turns out, a song triggered during a class once: a lot of people thought the sound was coming from their machine and freaked out, and the teacher spent some time trying to figure out from which machine it came before he understood what was going on.

At some later time we found one computer with sound, so we set up a daemon to monitor logins on all the machines in the room and had a GLaDOS-like voice blurb out a personalized greeting to newcomers. Fun times :)

zoul 6 days ago 0 replies      
My story: We used to learn Pascal in my high school programming classes. Each Pascal program ends with an “end” keyword followed by a full stop (“.”), at least if I remember correctly. I wrote a resident program that would monitor the keyboard and screen and when it detected a full stop inserted after the “end” keyword, an animated critter would appear (made of custom characters inserted into the ACII table) and eat the dot, thus making the listing impossible to compile. I didn't write the viral code, so that it took some social engineering to run the program on my classmate's account, but boy it was fun when he started complaining to the teacher that he can't run the source code because of some creature eating his dots :-)
petenixey 6 days ago 1 reply      
There's something amazing about programming in that regardless of whether you're a 100-year tree in the forest like Jeff Atwood or a hapless sapling stumbling about on Codeacademy you can still add value both as a developer and a community member.

I've been coding for 10 years now and have reached the point where I'm reasonably handy but I look at a post like this and the sedimentary layers upon layers of experience that Jeff has and feel like a total novice. And yet I can still build stuff that's useful. I can still help people on StackOverflow and I can still learn from the giants above me.

I had no idea when I got into it but in retrospect it's pretty awesome to have chosen a career with such an updraft for newcomers and where everyone at almost every level can meaningfully teach, learn and contribute.

jgrahamc 6 days ago 0 replies      
dsr_ 6 days ago 0 replies      
Pushing systems to their limits is what hackers do.

Figuring out when it's appropriate is what adult hackers do.

It usually takes a while to go from one to the other.

shawnee_ 6 days ago 0 replies      
In high school, I became yearbook editor and was entrusted with keys to certain parts of the school (darkroom, computer lab, etc). In the late 90's, yearbooks were all done manually: film was loaded into cameras with heavy lenses, pictures were burned into photo paper and stop bath. Some of the work in putting it together was done on a computer, enough to justify being on the computer after hours. We'd print out pages with blank rectangles and squares for the photos, glue the manually-developed pictures onto the pages that had printed text, bind together the book, and send it off to the printer at the end of the year. Being yearbook editor was great, always an excuse to be working on something creative.

I also had a key to the computer lab. Problem was, the part of the building where the computer lab was located was not accessible after hours -- there was a gate which was locked during off school hours. (Meaning it was designed such that I could get into the room with the computers during regular school hours, out during off-hours, but not back in after hours). This lab had about 20 computers, and live Internet access. More than enough reason to find a way.

While none of my "breaking into" that part of the school during off-hours was done with malicious intent to steal or deface school property, it probably wasn't exactly the most lawful thing a 17 year old could have been doing. My good student status probably helped for those rare occasions when one of the janitors or teachers would "catch" me in that part of the building at times when I shouldn't necessarily have been there. "Research for college", was a good excuse at the time (and actually pretty close to the truth).

TazeTSchnitzel 6 days ago 1 reply      
I got in trouble for a bunch of things. I wrote a utility that was supposed to cover up the "system tray" clock (with an identical one with context menu) so I could run command line apps on school computers, but the system thought it was a virus. (I guess Delphi 3 apps named iexplore.exe are suspicious? :P)

Then I embedded the Game Maker installer in a Powerpoint presentation, since it was one of the few ways to be able to run a foreign exe (along with zip files, but they are more obvious targets and they're more likely to inspect them).

Then I exposed (didn't exploit) a serious XSS issue in the school's VLE, which of course they gave me a final warning for.

Edit: The School's IT policy, previously a single A5 page, became two-and-a-half A4 pages thanks to me.

noonespecial 6 days ago 0 replies      
My indescretion was a boot sector virus that would randomly seize control of the computer long enough to beep the theme song to "Cheers". Oh and spread to the boot sector of any disk inseted. To be diabolical it randomly chose to play the song or simply silently reinfect others each time it spread.

They (at my highschool computer lab) were still battling to eradicate it years after I left. I am ashamed. Somewhat.

brc 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is all very amusing, but I have the other side of the story. A close relative of mine was the systems administrator for a large high school. The amount of grey hairs that sprouted in the few years they were in the job due to wannabe hero high school hackers is testament to how hard it is to keep a stable system running when you've got scores of hormonal hackers trying to outdo each other.

While this page tells of succesful hacks, it doesn't mention all the screw-ups whereby the payload didn't work but caused major problems with the school computers. Nor does it tell of the systems admin getting chewed out by school management for failing to play whack-a-mole properly.

By far the most common route of hacking was getting a teachers password, which was usually either easily guessed, or worse, written down in a notebook in the drawer.

As for me, I found that in university we had computer-based testing for weekly lab classes. When you submitted your answers, it printed the results and showed you where you were wrong.

We found that if we yanked the power cable on the workstation after the print job was submitted and the printer started, the results didn't commit to the database, you'd get a printout of the answers but your score wasn't saved. So then you'd just take the test again, using your printed answers as a guide.

statictype 6 days ago 2 replies      
At college, we had AIX Unix terminals that ran in character mode. I wrote a program to simulate the login screen. It would record your user/password to a file and then throw an 'Invalid Login' error and then actually logoff and give you the real login screen. So no one suspected anything.

After I was done with a terminal, I'd run this program and leave (knowing full well, that someone could Ctrl-C to terminate the program and get access to my account though no one ever did)

I got more than a few passwords with this. But didn't actually do anything with them. I felt bad and deleted the program and passwords after some time.

rachelbythebay 6 days ago 0 replies      
What about the flip side of this, which is catching and dealing with the hooligans who screwed up school lab machines? It involves trojan horse programs and hex editing DOS binaries, too. I wrote about it not too long ago.


cdcarter 5 days ago 0 replies      
My high school latin course used these silly HTML/JS (probably at the time called DHTML) quizzes and exercises. They were a significant portion of the grade and truly pure JS hooked up to good ol' Matt's FormMail to submit scores.

I slowly developed little bookmarklets to make things ...easier. Reveal the hint without taking a score deduction. Decoded the answer obfuscation to just pop up the correct answer. Auto-select the correct answers for that page. Eventually I sat down and read the source of the quiz all the way through and realized all I needed to do was

> javascript: submitScore("name",100).

ynniv 6 days ago 0 replies      
I've grown to love my own bad judgment. It's led me to the most fascinating places.

This appears to be the root of all that is self-taught.

Trust your technolust.

gghootch 6 days ago 2 replies      
Oh, high school and the semi-malicious innocent things you do. If only the IT department was more competent and didn't leave everything open. Perhaps instead of playing Quake all day, some of us would have gotten into real hacking a lot earlier.

Then again, teaching the entire year how to use NET SEND to send direct messages to every computer on the network was fun. So simple, yet total chaos soon followed. Imagine hundreds of Windows popups with messages such as: "Hi i79, did you know that miss Lengstein is wearing a thong today?". Every single person behind a computer in the building had to click through all these messages individually when they booted up their machine.

We thought it was amusing, especially the invidivuals who could not figure out what the hell was going on. As was the moment when the horrible miss from the library shouted 'WHAT IS THIS, HELP! I'M BEING HACKED!!!'.
The resulting crackdown started out fairly scary at first but became outright hilarious when every single authority figure started their frowning speech with "I am sure you have been punished enough". (Never punished, parents did not even find out, IT department just told me 'whenever you figure someone else out, please do not tell the rest').

I took that advise to heart and told only a select few when I uploaded mugshots of every single person in the school to photobucket. Fairly sure no one every found out, even when we hung pictures of other kids with drawings on their faces around the school and got busted they did not even stop to think about where we got those pictures. To think this all played out in a top five high school makes me smile like I am up to no good again.

AsylumWarden 6 days ago 0 replies      
Ah, the memories...

Like most I started early with programming in assembly, C, pascal shudder and then discovering unix.

I remember starting off by hacking the computer lab computers in my school. The lab staff had to log you in so they would know who was using which machines. I learned the pattern through a little social engineering and it wasn't long before I never had to talk to the staff. I also bypassed many of the tools that locked those machines down and even locked the lab techs out of a few of my favorite machines that I used for long running processes. I even had my own primitive form of RDP using screen captures and email. Eventually I learned to crack the passwd file on my schools mainframe and then I had access to everyone's accounts including the teachers. I then discovered those passwords also worked on most home dialup accounts, outside email, irc accounts, etc. Fun! I used to dominate the east coast irc back in the day, at least in my little world, but I kept my head real low so I wouldn't be noticed.

You know the best way to pick up a girl from Scandinavia? Easy, hack her email and irc accounts, knock her boyfriend off of irc and impersonate him, erase her boyfriends incoming emails and, spoofing his email address, bully her a little and tell her to stop seeing guys like yourself. Somehow it worked like charm. Man was she hot! First hot girl I ever dated.

My downfall? I gave some "goobers" some irc scripts to perform netsplits and become admin of their favorite channels. The idiots got caught making life threats against an irc admin that banned them and, in a stroke of self-preservation, they turn me over as their "ring leader". No hacking your way out of that one! Real sweet, eh? My parents were not very happy having the local police, the FBI and the NSA knocking on their door. I lost computer privileges (still went to college and got my degrees though) and now I just hack my own private network of pcs, laptops and cellphones at home.

Ahhh, the memories....

ry0ohki 6 days ago 0 replies      
My first hack was in typing class in 6th grade (1990?). They had the PCs (running DOS) locked down so you could only run the designated typing programs, but one of the programs let you open a text file, and in the root of C: I found a file with the passwords for admins to go straight to the DOS prompt. Turned out there were all sorts of games installed as well, I was the class hero. Ironically, I got terrible grades in that typing class even though I type over 100wpm now...
TomGullen 6 days ago 0 replies      
This isn't really a hack (I wasn't that smart). My earliest memory of playing round with computers was at primary school when I was very young, it asked me to enter my name so I typed in 'poo'. I then showed my friend and he laughed and hit his fist onto the keyboard really hard and the computer froze with the word 'poo' frozen onto the screen.

I got into big trouble as the teachers thought I'd crashed the whole computer, they shouted at me pretty hard!

I still think it's quite funny to enter your name as 'poo'.

mgkimsal 6 days ago 0 replies      
High school - 1985 or 1986, I wrote an interpreter (in BASIC) that looked and acted like the BASIC we'd boot up off the shared drive (some odd TRS-80 networked set of workstations). The BASIC interpreter that I wrote worked mostly like the regular BASIC, but would give some random extra output. Came in to class early and booted everyone in to that BASIC, and watched as people took forever to type in their code, then run it, and have it not work - things like 5+7 came up as 3. The teacher was flummoxed, and we essentially wasted the class that day.

Looking back, it was quite a jerk move. I was trying to be clever (well, I was clever), but it didn't get me any more status with anyone - basically just reinforced the geek status I had (which wasn't a good thing to have in 1985). I was bored, but that's a pretty lame excuse. I think I ended up with a C- in that class ("intro to computers I"), mainly because I never flowcharted anything.

sneak 6 days ago 2 replies      
Doesn't everyone have stories like this?

I remember when my parents (in Michigan) got a call from Norway after 14-year-old me owned a bunch of some large ISP's nameservers and proceeded to launch broadcast amplification attacks against a bunch of IRC servers.

I guess now that the Internet is for normal people, stories like this are news again.

mumrah 6 days ago 0 replies      
Since we're all reminiscing about high-school geek antics: In my Physics class, we had semester long ongoing assignments that were markedly harder than the nightly homework. You could turn in the problems at your own leisure. They were mostly applied problems that involved some math we hadn't learned yet (like calculus). The problems were the same for each student, but we all had different parameters, so our answers would be different.

After figuring them all out a few weeks into the semester, I started writing up some BASIC programs on my TI-86 that would take in student's parameters and spit out solutions. Long story short, I ended up selling answers to some jocks and got caught (I guess the teacher was suspicious when C students were getting these hard problems correct). End result was: made my teacher simultaneously proud/disappointed, earned a few bucks, learned about corruption/greed.

All in all, it was a good learning experience and I don't regret it (though giving away answers for free would have been more altruistic I guess)

bcl 6 days ago 1 reply      
For some reason I never paid much attention to the phone bills. I was long distance from every BBS, but I had an after school job and mom made me pay every month. That is until the $1200 bill (this was 1987) arrived. My modem got put away until I could pay off the bill, and we never did tell dad about that. I blame it on the Hayes 1200bps modem, it made it sooo much easier to redial busy BBS's than the Atari 830 modem I started out with.

For a while there the first program I wrote for a new computer was a War Dialer. Just like everyone else who had seen War Games.

cantankerous 6 days ago 1 reply      
"And there's more, so much more, but I can't talk about it yet."

Sounds like the statute of limitations hasn't expired yet. Should be interesting when it does!

dbecker 6 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me how lucky I am to be relatively successful as an adult. I could easily have spent time in juvenile detention for something stupid, and who knows how that would have turned out.

I suspect a lot of people on this board did the same (illegal) stuff as kids... We're lucky that we had the good luck to grow into productive adults. I like to think society is also lucky that it let us grow into productive adults.

sp332 6 days ago 0 replies      
The Hackers for Charity program is to find bored kids with budding computer skills, and get them experience while helping charities. This helps them build their "legitimate" resume, and hopefully keeps them interested enough that they don't have to resort to trivial illegal things like this.
diggum 6 days ago 0 replies      
I graduated high school in '92 and since my systems at home were better than what we had in our labs, I gravitated toward exploring the local University networks. You could dial in to a terminal and then connect to any of the local machines. Most were VAX/VMS or Ultrix systems. The VMS systems all had open GUEST accounts that were limited, but allowed you access to BITNET. I managed to chat with Taran King, who was co-editor of Phrack at the time, a few times over the BITNET chat protocol which was great fun.

However, my actually hacking life started on the Ultrix systems. I don't remember how I first had access since I don't think it allowed Guest logins, but I discovered a great hack: all of /dev/tty* was word-readable until someone fully logged in to a particular port at which point it was only readable by the user logged into that port. so every few hours, I'd just "cat /dev/tty* >> passwords.txt" and harvest logins for everyone who logged in during that time. I had some fun with one of the admins for awhile having unknowingly logged into his account. We chatted a bit and he was a good sport about it, but the hole was patched a few weeks after. I never knew if it was already a known issue or if I was actually the only one who found it.

A friend wardialed a system that appeared to be a Dept of Transportation front-end to the brand-new digital readerboards along the Interstate. Let's assume we never actually changed any text, but I cracked the password, TRAFFIC, on the 3rd or 4th attempt. Good one, guys!

Exploring random address on TELENET dialups was a blast as well. Most were very secure since they'd been well-picked, but every so often you'd find some interesting terminal and start poking around figuring out what it responded to and how to navigate deeper.

Don't get me started on the first 2600 meetings in Seattle. Some very prominent people in the tech/hacking space now were pretty sketchy back then.

Fun! Memories!

abalashov 6 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone actually even worry about how much voice calls cost any more, to anywhere in the world? This, my friends, is progress.

As someone who works in telecom and VoIP, and deals with the financial and regulatory aspects of a lot of jurisdictions that continue to be locked down by PTT monopolies, I think this is a silly question. :-) It's only domestic long distance that has really crashed.

My high school exploits mostly revolved around bypassing the school district's proxy servers, since they blocked pretty much everything I wanted to do, including legitimate stuff. I did this via tunnels of various sorts (but predominantly SSH) out to my home machine. Oddly enough, they didn't do anything to stop us changing the proxy settings in the browsers, they just broke outgoing HTTP(S) with firewall rules. No problem, I just sent the traffic to a box running Squid, reached via my home cable modem.

jordanthoms 6 days ago 1 reply      
I was poking around on the school computers and I found a (world readable) script for joining the AD (these were macs, so there was some black magic going on), with an username and password in it. Turns out that username and password was the administrator account on almost every server in the school, which were all accessible through remote desktop.

Yeah, that was a good time.

lurkersmirker 6 days ago 0 replies      
The details are a bit fuzzy, but I remember a certain computer lab of mac classics on an applets network. We installed some extension that let you send messages to other computers, and even put it on the teachers computer, which was connected to a projector. In retrospect photoshopping his head onto a playboy centerfold and resediting it into the extension and removing the reply button, and then sending it to him during class on the projector, well that was probably a bit much.

They tried several types of lockdown software, nothing ever actually worked. You can't stop kids from playing games.

richardw 5 days ago 0 replies      
I was working as a restaurant manager part time while at uni. One of the other managers thought it great fun to staple the back of my shirt without knowing, so when I got home I had a torn shirt.

That weekend, I fired up a 286 someone had given to me, coded up a mock-DOS environment, got the main manager on-side and left it set up for the next morning. Next day...:

Start computer, get coffee. Type "win" (for Windows). Get 2000 random ascii characters with an error message. Typing "dir" produced an empty C:\ drive called "F* You Francois". Anything you did pretty much got you "bad command or file name". Your manager (who is in on it) is shouting at you to get the computer going because his restaurant is starting up. You're typing out "F* You Francois" as a password, looking for bits of paper around the office, trying to restart the computer but having the autoexec.bat put you back into it.

After about 2 hours, main manager types "fix", and the rest of your day continues, but with much added mockery.

It wasn't particularly sophisticated, but I truly loved that :) Lessons were learned.

We did something similar at school. Mocked up the Turbo Pascal UI with menus and everything, but was a bit...uh, erratic. Unfortunately the teacher knew exactly who it was and came storming into our next class :)

topbanana 5 days ago 0 replies      
At school we had a network of Acorn Archimedes machines. We all had space on the file server, which the grumpy admin would search through regularly. There was an autorun feature in RiscOS which allowed a hidden script to execute on opening a folder, eg my network folder. It just so happened that passwords were stored unhashed, so I had everyones passwords appear in my folder one day. I must have been 12 or 13, as my family relocated when I was 13.

At the new school they had the same machines, so I put my knowledge of the platform to good use. I wrote an app which played a sound sample of a loud obnoxious burp at random intervals during class.

At college they had a Novell network. The login was a simple text prompt, which I discovered called in to a novell DLL. I wrote my own substitute login command which also saved the password to local disk somewhere, and replaced the default version on a few machines.

In both cases my reaction was the same on discovering my password hacks had actually worked. I crapped my pants and covered my tracks!
By the time I had started uni, I had largely grown out of that stuff. But something triggered a latent interest I had neglected for too long... the campus accommodation was based in tower blocks, with an entry intercom system. I noticed 4 very quiet dtmf tones whenever buzzing my friends apartment. I can't remember how I did it, but I found a way to get a dial tone and to my delight, 9 for an outside line worked fine using the type of handheld dtmf dialer banks used to give out.

joshaidan 6 days ago 2 replies      
Hmm... I'm somewhat bothered by how the word hacker is used in the article, where it's used to describe criminal activities. Or am I misinterpreting it? I know in one part he uses the term 'cracker,' and in another part he says that perhaps his utility should have used 'preaking' instead of 'hacking,' but in general I think he's using the term hacker to describe breaking into a system.

I know the word in society has a double meaning. It could mean breaking into a system, or engineering an innovative piece of software. I personally wouldn't really care, except nowadays I'm finding myself promoting a hackerspace or a hackathon on the radio, and usually every time I start an interview I have to begin by saying "We're not criminals." It gets tiring after a while. Once we were trying to form a partnership with an organization, and the guy immediately threw us out of his office when he heard the word hacker. He wanted nothing to do with us.

swah 6 days ago 0 replies      
I was very stupid when I didn't know better, in the days script kiddies were empowered by Backorifice I would play with random folks, mess with their kayboard and mouse.

Other nonrespectable "hacks":

- "net send *" to importunate colleagues

- wrote mIRC scripts to win at the IRC trivia games (this was actually funny for a little while)

- would call collect to my dial-up provider, learned to dial on rotary phones by "switch-hooking" -

- would connect portable phones to disabled payphones just to see if it was a regular line what I could use (it was)

- would "paint" the backside of payphone cards with graphite to fool the machine into thinking I had more credits.

- wrote a little "ringer" program and passed to my colleagues so we all ran it together and made the teacher crazy (oh the regret).

- used IDKFA in Doom.

Those are my earliest, lamest memories.

munin 6 days ago 0 replies      
and if this had happened today, he would have been put in prison for five years! hooray
at-fates-hands 6 days ago 1 reply      
Its interesting I never got into computer hacking until later when I was in college. In high school, I had a neighbor who was really big into phone phreaking. We had hours of fun building black and blue boxes, getting free long distance and calling people in random countries.

Probably the coolest thing was my neighbor somehow managed to get his hands on two master keys for the high school. He had a buddy at a local hardware store duplicate them (highly illegal) and we spent many nights prowling the high school, opening doors nobody could and exploring every inch of that place. Thankfully we never got caught, but I look back fondly at it as the start of my career hacking stuff.

digisth 6 days ago 0 replies      
Fun thread. My first computer mischief experience was in "Computer Class" in first grade. The computers were running DOS 3.0 (IIRC) and the class was for teaching computer basics, which mainly consisted of "Introduction to programming" using Basic (with a gentle introduction to I/O, variable assignment, and flow control.) The way the class worked was: an assignment was printed out and handed out to all the students. You followed the steps and at the end of class, the teacher would look at your output to see if you did everything correctly. I finished these assignments pretty quickly, so I used the time to figure out how to exit the editor, find the "hidden" games stash, play them for a bit, and then get my work back up on my screen before the end of class. Pretty soon I was being asked by all the other students how to perform this feat on their own computers. I showed them, and so every time the teacher would leave the room, everyone started playing the games.

We also never got caught. Wild times in first grade, let me tell you.

DisposableMike 5 days ago 0 replies      
I have fond memories of "hacking" in high school. The school system I went to used Deep Freeze to protect their Win98 computers. You could format the hard drive, change all of the settings, etc, and upon reboot, the image would return, unchanged. Naturally, this led to deep investigation into how it worked. The system administrators weren't stupid but were severely undermanned, and had left the Deep Freeze program slightly vulnerable. A little command line work and you could remove the protection mechanism for the given session, allowing you to persist changes. So, I did things like edit the shell in HEX and change "START" button to say "FARTS", lame things like that. The suspense was that supposedly the maker of the software would fly anyone who could crack their system out to New York to demonstrate. Despite finding the above hole, I was never able to totally eradicate the software, and could persist only certain changes (changing the startup image, playing funny .WAV files on boot, etc).

My biggest mistake was sharing this knowledge with my classmate, who used it to do a great many annoying and potentially harmful things. After doing things like sending "I 0wn j00!" to 11,000 computers on the network (via NET SEND), crashing the shared network drive with millions of blank text files, etc, he finally got caught after badly damaging 3 of the computers in our lab using my hack method that I'd written a batch file to accomplish and given him the disk.

I was called to the computer lab by my awesome programming teacher, who informed me that he had to leave the building in 45 minutes, and if the computers weren't back to their proper state by then, we'd both probably be suspended. The other kid just sat there, while I furiously reversed the changes and got out with a few minutes to spare.

Naturally, the next year, him and a couple of my other classmates were suspended or expelled for repeatedly crashing the entire 11,000 network with advancements on my initial script. I was thankful that there was apparently no ties left to me in the program's execution, but that was warning enough to focus on productive things for the remainder of my high school career.

imjared 6 days ago 0 replies      
My highschool "hack" involved downloading the contents of our school's website hosted at ourschooldistrict.com domain, buying the same name at ourschooldistrict.us, and then rehosting so we could put up any press releases we wanted. We wrote up a press release saying that two district high school names were changing to honor our very-hated superintendent. Then we started sending it to friend on AIM saying "omg have you seen this."

Within hours, everyone on my buddy list had their own "petition" in their away message and after checking traffic, we found we had thousands of unique hits.

Most of the credit goes to my friend who actually executed the tech part and was temporarily suspended when the inundation of angry emails supposedly hurt the school board's server.

Just checked and the school district still does not own the .us domain so this "hack" would be reproducible.

jayfuerstenberg 6 days ago 0 replies      
It's cool to see Jeff Atwood could take his skills and contribute so much later on.
stratos2 6 days ago 0 replies      
I remember hacking the Novell netware setup at my school, and being surprised to see how poor all of the teachers passwords were. Almost all were children's names or street names. And the system admins super password? The name of a well known department store :)
Zenst 6 days ago 0 replies      
1983 I was in College (one year course right out of high school) and we has access via a teletype terminal pool to a ICL 2903 running George. The operator console had a journal file and discs back then were the drum type and rotated to spread the wear and tear. These were not zero erased and you could create a file specifiy the size in buckets of all values how large and zeroing the space was optional. With this knowledge you could basicly go fishing, creating large files and looking to see if it was anything interesting. I was able to get the admin(aka root) password which was 5588. So I did chuckle when I saw the film Hackers and dumping the garbage file on the gibson.

Though I also had great fun with the spv command on george and knowing all the terminal ID's, but thats another story.

joshschreuder 6 days ago 1 reply      
In high school, we had laptops provided by the school and imaged by the IT department, who had logged into them. All we had to do was use a tool to recover the Windows password (yeah I know, skiddie, etc.) and we could login as IT admins on any computer on the domain.

Was pretty innocent about the whole thing, changed a few backgrounds remotely, and sent messages and shutdown people's computers in class remotely. Unfortunately I changed a default Windows background image, which meant it showed up something unsavoury for everyone who logged in, and got caught, copped detention and a many, many page letter about how I shouldn't do it.

aurelianito 6 days ago 1 reply      
"I must confess I've grown to love my own bad judgment"

This quote is amazing. I see myself in it.

X-Istence 6 days ago 1 reply      
The thing I got in trouble for ... is not something I should be writing in a public forum yet :P
andy_boot 6 days ago 0 replies      
Taking Eliza. Editing the answers to make it raunchier then leaving it running in the computer lab.
gdc 6 days ago 0 replies      
When I was 7 or 8, my Dad had a fancy new digital safe -- must have been one of the first -- type in your PIN on the keypad, and open it up.

Took me 15 minutes to try the number on the Social Security card in the desk beside the safe! Presto!

systematical 6 days ago 0 replies      
I never really did much "real" hacking when I was younger, but did fish for passwords and do social engineering back in 96 when I was roughly 11. Gained access to lots of peoples sites and emails that way.
rogcg 6 days ago 0 replies      
such a cool history/experience!
mmphosis 6 days ago 1 reply      
Jeff Atwood is cyborg
How we screwed (almost) the whole Apple community day4.se
403 points by pohl  2 days ago   117 comments top 52
kevinalexbrown 2 days ago 5 replies      
They might be severely overestimating the stupidity of the masses [1] here by only considering the those who actually responded in comments or twitter.

Either they perceived the news as truth, or called it fake, no grey zone in between. The split between the two camps, was quite unequal. An estimate would be that 90% regarded the screw as a fact and based all the further opinion on that, only 10% were critical to accuracy.

This smells like massive response bias. I imagine most skeptical and critical readers get tired of responding with the obvious "hmm, how do we know this is true?" response.

A more interesting statistic would be how many people saw it and didn't find it interesting enough to warrant further investigation. I believe I saw the headline, rolled my eyes, and went back to work.

That's not to say lock-out isn't an important consideration, but it didn't pass the "this can be verified" test, and anyway, it would be obvious enough once the new iPhone came out.

[1] Edit: maybe the masses are stupid (I'm not convinced of this), but the vocal rush to judgement of a few is not necessarily a representative sample.

rickmb 2 days ago 0 replies      
This whole thing can be reduced to "people who engage in idle gossip are generally speaking not the sharpest pencils in the box".

Most people with half a brain just kept their mouth shut, so there's really no way to draw any conclusion about the Apple community as a whole, unless you can produce an accurate number on the people that ignored the whole thing.

freehunter 2 days ago 5 replies      
Maybe a more accurate headline would read "How (almost) the whole Apple community is screwed". On one hand, you have the people who believe this. On the other hand, you have the ones who do not. In the middle is those who don't care. We'll disregard them for this argument.

The people who believe the false rumor of a custom Apple screw are, at least to a large extent, the people who wouldn't put it past Apple. There's a point being made there; Apple has done a lot in their short history of mainstream popularity to lock users out of their hardware and software. A custom screw wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary. With this argument, Apple has developed a notorious reputation and when people are believing this without questioning it, it means the Apple community (as opposed to just Apple users) is screwed.

The ones who would not believe it, I feel, are split into two camps. Ones who saw no evidence of this being true, and ones who could not reconcile it in their mind that Apple would be doing something like this. The ones who didn't believe it because of a lack of evidence is the community Apple (and every other company) needs on their side. The ones who didn't believe it because they didn't want to believe it do so out of a blind love for Apple, and denial that Apple could betray them. Even if this is a small number of people (you can't deny they exist, though), it's still evidence that the Apple community is screwed.

The first group is full of people who either hate Apple for similar-but-opposite reasons to the last group or people who are suspicious of Apple's history (especially after the newest Macbook Pro). There is merit in their mindset, and that's not good for the Apple community. The last group is full of done-no-wrong supporters, who will praise anything Apple creates for better or worse. The lack of critical thinking and constructive feedback and criticism is bad for the Apple community. Who knows if a review of a new product is 10/10 because it's a good product or because it's an Apple product?

This is just my analysis, and I am happy to discuss alternative viewpoints. For what it's worth, I'm not upset that these guys made a fake. It gives a great view into the mindset of Apple news publishings and reactions.

arn 2 days ago 3 replies      
fwiw, they didn't just submit to reddit and wait. They also submitted it to (at least some) sites directly. Doesn't look like any dedicated rumors sites actually published it. Getting fake rumor submissions is a daily occurrence for rumor sites.

The actual stories were posted on smaller sites which questioned the authenticity. And Wired actually did an article on custom screws and used the image as a jumping off point: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/08/if-theres-a-screw-the...

So you can look at as either a success or failure.

(disclaimer: I run MacRumors.com)

jonknee 2 days ago 1 reply      
The funny thing is Apple does make their own screws. When they replaced my back glass at the Apple Store they also replaced the screws so I would be unable to service it later.


WiseWeasel 2 days ago 0 replies      
What's funny is there's no indication from the drawing that the screw would only work in one direction; it just needs a special screwdriver, and you have to spend 10 minutes figuring out its proper orientation. When manufacturers ship non-standard screws, they simply create a market for non-standard screwdrivers. I had to get a three-pronged screwdriver to get into my Wii, and it presented little obstacle. Given the difficulty of actually using this particular design however, a discerning reader, and especially a tech journalist should be able to see that this is completely stupid and impractical. Apple is not in the business of employing technicians to spend half their days orienting screwdrivers.
BenoitEssiambre 2 days ago 3 replies      
Does anybody else hate those pale, faded out font colors? It does make the page look better when you are glancing at it not trying to read anything but it sure makes reading textual content (the actual point of blogs and most websites) much more difficult.
shadowmatter 2 days ago 0 replies      
"A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." - Mark Twain (attributed)
silvestrov 2 days ago 0 replies      
The media is hungry: there is simply not enough news to report to fill the pages, and real news is dull and requires a lot of effort to understand and write about.

So the media have to grasp every rumor, every speculation, everything which can be made into a scandal.

They would never, ever, say "nothing to see here, pass on". That would be loosing sales for them.

laconian 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is the brave new world of SEO in our media. Once reputable news sources are more than willing to throw all their credibility out the door so that they can be the louder wall of an echo chamber for the sake of impressions.
JamesLeonis 1 day ago 0 replies      
My grandfather sends me those political chain emails asking if they have any validity. He's pretty skeptical and deletes the majority of these, but every now and again he wants more information. That's where I come in. Last night I responded to one where the author attacked his opponent's credibility without any cited sources, for or against. I wrote him a long response about the need for sources, as well as the need to check the source's credibility.

What this article points out is how the news media is very hungry for new stories, and their need to publish as soon as possible. This means unverified information passes through the journalistic filter. This also points out, like the emails above, that people will generally fall for confirmation bias in many cases. Even HN has bouts of the echo chamber. It's really hard to counter, even when you are actively guarding against it.

Manual critical thinking and checking sources all the time is very mentally draining. I would bet that most to all of us have some form of automatic first-pass mental filter that immediately questions "facts" contained in email chain letters, or the latest fad technology if it has too many buzzwords, or Facebook posts. That is a shortcut we've developed so we don't have to manually think about every bit of information that comes across our desks. It goes immediately to the mental round file.

Unfortunately, there are people out there that do not have this filter. Maybe they haven't mentally trained to look for these kinds of problems. Maybe they were referred to the story by a trusted source, like a good friend or a prominent publication. Maybe the information fell precisely into their particular confirmation bias that it bypassed their skepticism. Political advertising thrives on this problem. Unscrupulous con men thrive off this problem.

But it happens to us all the time. I fall for it all the time, even though I try to find the "real" facts and am generally skeptical of most things. Thus it doesn't surprise me that people fell for the screw hoax, because Apple is traditionally very secretive and has a history of locking out DIYers. That screw fit Apple's MO to a T, and thus likely slipped through many of the internet bullshit filters and went viral. It happens. It will happen again.

The best we can do is try our best to root out false information, and accept that we will be fooled from time to time.

shocks 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wish web designers would stop putting light grey text on white backgrounds.
incision 2 days ago 0 replies      
"When someone presents a bit of loose facts on Twitter, I usually respond with something like ”64% of the facts on the Internet is 48% incorrect according to 52% of respondents”, completely made up numbers out of my head, but it makes people think a little extra."

I really hate that particular brand of quip.

I find it most often employed by people who want to effortlessly dismiss some statistic that they happen to disagree with.

I'm not claiming that's the case here or that Twitter is full of solid, factual information. Rather, that it's a worthless way to respond. At least the original posts in such cases, no matter how loose provide a context for someone inclined to search out of the facts.

chernevik 2 days ago 0 replies      
A more interesting question is the drawbacks of taking time to scrutinize, or making more conditional statements, or waiting for confirmation. Meme direction seems to be set pretty early, and hard to move once set. It's a commonplace of politics that you have to react within the news cycle or the story gets away from you, and everyone agrees this is not a good thing.

So anyone taking the time to actually think through a bit is surrendering time, at an important moment in the discussion, to less careful people.

josteink 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think it's fair to say the Apple community got exactly what it wanted here. This sort of "trick" wouldn't be playable on any other community, because its rabid fanboys tend to care about other things than screws.

Apple fanboys however... They care about the margins of product-announcement papers and reads the future from them like gipsy-queens reads tea-leaves. It's an impressive performance, but still oh so pointless.

Because they miss the important thing: A screw is an implementation detail. What you want is open access to the bits which matters: SIM, battery, storage, platform and bootloaders.

Provide me with that and I couldn't care less what screws you use.

engtech 2 days ago 0 replies      
of course, the real problem is that Apple will read this rumour and then get the idea of implementing these screws to lock consumers out of their devices and achieve the utopia of "no consumer serviceable parts".
rhizome 2 days ago 0 replies      
The author could have saved a lot of time and effort in coming to the conclusion that distance from the truth is problematic. Jean Baudrillard wrote about it in "Simulacrum and Simulation" 40 years ago, which was adapted into a movie called "Multiplicity," starring Michael Keaton.
Apocryphon 2 days ago 1 reply      
This seems awfully irresponsible.
bryanlarsen 2 days ago 0 replies      
For more information on how the media is manipulated in the 21st century, check out Ryan Holiday's book: http://www.amazon.com/Trust-Me-Lying-Confessions-Manipulator...
blhack 2 days ago 0 replies      
Could somebody explain what makes any of this stuff "security"?

Go ahead and make some weird top secret screw. We'll 3D print a drive for it.

kawaguchi 2 days ago 0 replies      
Even if I doubted the veracity of the news, I would still be unhappy about even the concept of an "unremovable" screw on my Apple hardware and my comments would reflect my dissatisfaction with this idea itself, irrespective of veracity. By assuming that people talking on Google+, facebook, twitter, etc. are buying the idea hook, line and sinker, it ignores the likely possibility that some people may just be reacting to the idea itself and hope that their comments, along with the rest of the masses, would dissuade both Apple (in this hypothetical situation) or any company that would attempt a similar design in the future.
mladenkovacevic 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just listen to the news tonight and count how many times dramatic reports are immediately followed by "...independent sources say".
jconley 2 days ago 0 replies      
Clearly the game of Telephone has never been able to have a higher impact than it does today with the speed and scale of the social internet.

But I think there is one question left unanswered: Why are we assuming this story itself is in fact true? Because it's written on a blog? :)

jere 2 days ago 0 replies      
They're called _rumors_ a for reason. People expect most rumors to be bullshit anyway.
Cl4rity 1 day ago 0 replies      
First of all, this problem isn't unique to tech journalism or the Internet. Stuff like this has happened in old media several times in the past--where's the outrage for that?

Secondly, the spread of misinformation, when it does happen this quickly, is usually rectified just as quickly. The good thing about most reputable tech blogs is that updates happen quickly and often. Anything you might have accepted as fact one day might be dispelled the next.

Aside from Apple's stock tanking several years ago when Ryan Block published a news story on Engadget about delayed iPhone shipments, when was the last time anyone was hurt by this sort of misinformation, anyway?

lnanek2 2 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of this book:
Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator
Hominem 2 days ago 1 reply      
Apple is the world's largest company, so they can take a few knocks.

Claims the article, by what measure?

mpchlets 2 days ago 0 replies      
This sounds a whole like like the Sokal Affair - take a look at it on wikipedia if not familiar.
And all before the Internet.
shasta 2 days ago 0 replies      
I see what happened. Apple, attempting to mitigate the damage caused when drawings of their new incompatible screw design leaked, has found a couple of patsies to claim it was a hoax.
pavel_lishin 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder how often companies pull stunts this against their competitors.
splicer 2 days ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of a Dilbert episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEOOFanQms0
conductr 2 days ago 0 replies      
What role does truth play?

I think most readers understand that apple news is rumor (unless it comes from apple). So the reader doesn't really care if the news is true. They want are stating their opinions as if it were true. They may not explicitly say "i know this is probably fake, but if not, apple can go screw themselves."

Similarly, the publishers are purely reporting the existence of this conversation to their readers. Like "hey, this is what folks are talking about, you might be interested".

mpchlets 2 days ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the Sokal Affair: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair

Very similar idea - and all before the Internet.

ozataman 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is absolutely hilarious. Come up with some !@#% that doesn't make any sense and watch the hordes make it the most important news since the invention of agriculture!
vacri 2 days ago 0 replies      
Another day, another blog with low-contrast text.
mmanfrin 2 days ago 0 replies      
This isn't limited to Apple, this isn't limited to tech. The small fish eat the lies of the smaller fish, and in turn get eaten by the medium fish, and a rumor turns in to a meal down the road for aggregator-type media sites. This happens with tech, but also with gossip, news, politics, everything.

This isn't new, either. This is just a cyclical case of lazy journalism.

Uchikoma 2 days ago 0 replies      
Didn't hear about this. Apple user. Guess the "(almost)" is a very large or small almost.
printer 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Apple is the world's largest company". Last time I checked Apple was listed somewhere around 30 (20th for most profitable). Maybe Day4 didn't check there facts...
benthumb 2 days ago 0 replies      
>We must become more critical of what we read and think 'Is this reasonable? '

The problem w/ this prescription is that just b/c something is 'unreasonable' to us doesn't make it untrue.

davecap1 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hold on. How do we know this article is even true?!
Kilimanjaro 2 days ago 0 replies      
So if I post an article about RIM betting the farm in a new phone based on Solaris and the stock tanks because of the domino effect in the news, am I liable?

Yep, the poster should be in jail.

smooradian 2 days ago 1 reply      
All the more reason why we need to teach kids in elem schools now how to identify real info and research sources. What a mess.
rco8786 2 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone else have a really hard time reading this? Need a little more contrast on the font color, por favor.
beweinreich 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think it'd be hilariously ironic if a story came out next week claiming this story to be a fake.
isyiwang 1 day ago 0 replies      
Please change title to:
How we (almost) screwed the whole Apple community


eyevariety 2 days ago 0 replies      
Make the body font on your blog bigger - its all out of proportion with the rest of the site design.
atruepoint 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's really interesting to look at the ways in which media distribution models have changed--especially the level of perceived authenticity in television 40 years ago vs now. As the internet becomes a greater and greater form of information dissemination, new models are going to need to develop in order to provide truth in media.
gawi 2 days ago 0 replies      
On the net, everyday is April 1st.
jamesmcn 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's funny because it's a pun.
dvliman 2 days ago 0 replies      
unrelated discussion. did anyone think this site is hard to read? the font size and color...
hahainternet 2 days ago 1 reply      
The big deal is that you didn't read the article.
App.net funded with $500,000. app.net
355 points by aculver  3 days ago   204 comments top 43
eoghan 3 days ago 8 replies      
The reason I think App.net is going to grow is NOT because it doesn't have ads or that the "users are not the product", etc. It's because the community it hosts will be so tightly grouped around a similar, passionate interest: tech startups. Requiring payment, being called "App.net" (they'll be tempted to change this), and being distributed via word of mouth amongst the segregated tech startup community, will prevent so many different types of people from using it. This is all a great thing and I bet there will be opportunities for other "Twitter for ________" ventures. Charging for a service like this that caters to a much smaller market makes it sustainable.

Congrats to Dalton and all involved. This is one of the most interesting and courageous internet projects in recent time.

dkrich 3 days ago  replies      
I'm not really sure what the purpose of this service is. Could somebody please explain? I'm not trying to be a dick. I myself wouldn't pay to use Facebook minus the ads. I barely use it as it is. I only pay for things that provide me with some utility. The description of "a paid, real-time social feed" is vague and ambiguous.
aculver 3 days ago 2 replies      
I love this. In years past, Dalton and his team were able to raise millions in funding from a top-tier venture capital firm. But raising $500,000 in revenue from his target customers, that's a whole different ball game! Super excited to see where this goes. Congratulations to Dalton and the whole team!
citricsquid 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm genuinely surprised, I didn't believe it would make it this far. I've backed it and I really hope it delivers, it's going to be very interesting to see how this turns out. I feel sceptical (because the value in Twitter is the people, not the platform) but I was also sceptical that this would ever reach $100,000, let alone $500,000, so clearly any assumptions previously made are wrong.
comex 3 days ago 0 replies      
@jayneely: Free-for-students is a bad way to go. Most students can't contribute much value, and it leaves out all the young people that either can't afford or chose not to go to college.

@christopher: I think there's value in some kind of tiered pricing model, especially when it comes to enabling students - in a managed, not free for all, manner - to contribute positively to the ecosystem. Perhaps that's the educator in me.

@elliottpayne: I think there's a broader issue of elitism & the digital divide baked into @adn, but that's a bit out of scope of this topic. But it's a weird suggestion that students can't add value

This is a thread from the site, but I'm quoting it here because it's relevant to the discussion about what kind of community app.net will become. The first two comments make me uneasy: even if there is value in excluding/discouraging people who don't contribute positively-- which is true for a site like Hacker News, but not so much, I think, for a Twitter-like site where you only see the activity of people you follow; the Global stream is an exception, but it'll only take a little more growth before it becomes unusable anyway-- trying to judge from a blank slate whether someone who might sign up for the site is likely to contribute value, especially based on such vague metrics as "ability to pay $50" and "student", runs the risk of being elitism for the sake of elitism. For some, $50 is enough of a barrier that they'll only sign up if they're especially interested (a sign that they'll contribute value); for others, it's little more than an impulse purchase. As for students, I agree that the site should avoid favoring students over people who don't go to college, but as a rather biased student (and backer), I contest the sentiment that students can't contribute value or need to be "managed" more than your average slightly older entrepreneur. ;p Even though age probably weakly correlates with quality, the goal of the site should not be to slightly increase average quality, but, if anything, to ensure that the highest quality users, the right edge of the bell curve, are there, which exclusionary principles will discourage.

Of course, the $50 is not actually some kind of proof of relevance but actual funding for the operation of the site; it can't be avoided. But I think it should mostly be considered a necessary evil, and there should be a focus on letting people who are unwilling to pay it but are strongly interested in the community get in anyway, such as with a sponsorship system.

jtokoph 3 days ago 4 replies      
Not that I'm accusing Dalton of doing this, but when croudfunding without using a platform like kickstarter, it might be too easy to fake backer numbers in order to meet the goal or inflate popularity.

What this means for the future: Companies will announce croudfunding and then fake amazing numbers in order to appear popular and gain lots of press.

I can see the headline now: "ACME Software raises $3 million in first 24 hours!" Actual funds raised: $250.

dj2stein9 3 days ago 4 replies      
A centralized social network is what's wrong. Despite their best intentions they're still going to have all their users and developers by the balls. This absolutely will not replace Facebook or Twitter, it'll be just another one of the dozens of copycats like Path.

What really needs to happen is an open decentralized protocol needs to be agreed upon for newsfeeds + blog posts (wordpress) + microblog (twitter). Then everyone can write their own servers and clients and operate in a manner like Email currently works.

dave_sullivan 3 days ago 1 reply      
That's pretty amazing. Clearly app.net is tapping into something that people are starting to feel pretty strongly about--the benefits of "free" aren't necessarily worth the consequences in the longterm.

I could see a similar model of aligning user/company interests rather than advertiser/company interests working for other services--email probably being the biggest that comes to mind.

This is actually a good thing for revenue as even a small membership fee is going to VASTLY outweigh the per user revenue generated from advertising. We'll see if this idea is capable of jumping from internet nerdom to the mainstream, but mainstream users are also becoming more and more aware of the actual cost of 'free' products.

So... congrats app.net team, and good luck!

sylvinus 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the stats will clearly show that it wouldn't have been funded without the Gruber post.

What puzzles me is that the HN crowd seems to be the target audience for whatever it is App.net wants to do but Dalton & friends totally failed to get them interested enough even after so much posts here.

With Gruber they reached a different crowd and got the money, which may prove that they have something interesting on their hands but now they'll have do deal with different expectations from their users, and I'm highly skeptical it will make their strategy clearer.

possibilistic 3 days ago 0 replies      
I know that this service may become valuable for a large number of the HN crowd. It might be up my alley for a price of $10/yr or so. But at $50/yr, I cannot justify its expense.

That said, I wish Caldwell the best of luck. In the future hopefully he can provide tiered pricing plans.

terhechte 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've been using the alpha for the past days and it's really refreshing. Interesting discussions, and the API that is shaping up, looks really good. Congratulations and thanks Dalton.
dylanz 2 days ago 1 reply      
I feel like being "that guy", and saying that this is going to fail. It's not going to gain traction, and will not be profitable or popular in the future.

The reason I want to be "that guy", is that me, Murphy, and his law... have a little thing going. I develop, but definitely don't use social applications (I find them distracting and mundane). I think the concept of a completely open and distributed system like dj2stein9 mentioned is what really needs to be implemented in order to leap frog this idea, and others out there, that might be trying to come up with alternatives to the current players. However, I can definitely see this gaining traction. I love the concept of an Ad free network as well as a nice API.

Dalton and friends. I hope you're extremely successful with this endeavour, and, that you can all comment on this comment in the future with a big "I told you so".

shortformblog 3 days ago 0 replies      
Credit Stephen Fry for probably at least $10k of that " he told his 4 million followers about the service, which pushed it over the edge: https://twitter.com/stephenfry/status/234695539357257728

Seriously though, this is great. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next. Hoping to experiment on the journalism front there.

acoyfellow 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is this going to inspire more companies / startups to go the crowdfunding route? (I think so). How many companies are going to now cite: "App.net style" of pre-launch efforts? Is this a good or a bad thing?

This is a whole new era, either way. Congrats to the App.net team!

drharris 2 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone else see this and think, "It's like Twitter, except for people who want to complain about Twitter all the time"? That's the vibe I get. There's no way those high school friends I reconnected with are paying for this. There's no way my uncles or cousins are signing up for this. There's no way more than ~5% of my real-life social network will. It seems like yet another Silicon Valley niche product. Maybe I'm wrong, I just don't see it for the 95% of the world that doesn't care about T/FB monetization.
maxbogue 3 days ago 2 replies      
While I'm in favor of the concept behind this, I have one deeply concerning question that I'm surprised I haven't seen anyone else ask here:

Why is it called App.net?

The first 4 or 5 articles I saw about it, I ignored completely because I assumed it was some sort of app (web/mobile/whatever) framework, not a social network. They talk about the users being the customers (versus advertisers), but the name of the service is clearly targeting developers, not the users...

shell0x 3 days ago 3 replies      
I don't want to ask dumb questions and I also read the content on their site, but I'm still not sure if it's just a twitter alternative or more. And what about identica? Isn't it a similar service like app.net?
bitsoda 3 days ago 1 reply      
Am I alone in thinking the ramp up in funding was a bit sketchy over the past three days? Did Dalton or a VC self-fund this to appear like it was gaining traction? I'm sure Gruber's post had an effect, but something seems off. I don't think the reason for hosting their own "Kickstarter-like campaign" was to save themselves the 5% cut. By controlling the funding, they are only accountable to themselves and control all visibility.

Note: There's nothing wrong with using your own money to fund your product, but some more transparency would be nice.

talleyrand 3 days ago 1 reply      
Greetings from way out here in Userland! Out here, there is no way that people are going to pay to be "social" online. Just FYI.
jamiecurle 3 days ago 0 replies      
To have funded something in which users are going to be first class citizens feels remarkably refreshing.
Jaigus 3 days ago 0 replies      
The idea of twitter/facebook not appealing to their users enough may be a bit exaggerated. Yes, facebook/twitter must please their advertisers, however they only have those advertisers paying them because they have many users/subscribers. To keep advertisers coming to them, surely they must keep users happy so they can stay and even hope to attract more?

Now I'm sure having to cater to the advertisers certainly affects the decision making(even a bit adversely at times), however their massive following is essentially what makes them valuable.

I also notice that whenever this idea is challenged, I only see people simply parroting his belabored battle-cry of "catering to the users" without actually giving any concrete examples. I'm not against app.net's idea, I just believe the true novelty of this project is creating a micro-twitter(which can also be created on twitter by simply following certain people) for affluent tech people, and _keeping_ it that way via the subscription fee.

Besides that, I haven't read or heard of anything that they plan to do fundamentally different than twitter. Honestly, even if they do, and it actually proves to be a great feature that users love, I don't see why twitter can't simply copy it and perhaps even make it better.

briandear 3 days ago 1 reply      
I sue Tweetbot on my iPhone and can't remember ever seeing an ad. This idea that twitter is getting cluttered by advertising is just a myth.
electic 3 days ago 0 replies      
I love the idea. I am totally rooting for them but I hate the name. I don't see someone in marketing, either girl or guy, who loves tech but does't know the internals of tech, singing up to this service. It's too narrow in it's focus.
jschlesser 3 days ago 0 replies      
Its not about destroying or replacing twitter or fb. Thats unlikely and not the goal. Its about new uses. T and FB have defined their contexts and rules. The infrastructure may look very similar but the universe of contexts and possibilities for non T and FB contexts is the point. The space of uses outside of T and FB is vast when publicity and ad focused mining isnt the core driver of business. FB and T have decided to compete for belly fat ads, thats the real shame. However they are both still revolutionary in terms of societal impact, they are just going to coerce their usage to fit their business model. Egyptian protesters and new moms posting baby photos could care less about belly fat ads. I truly sincerely hope both services find a more relevant way so that all models flourish.
jschlesser 3 days ago 0 replies      
Any reader of my comments should know im a supporter but not employed or beholden to app.net in any way and my opinions are solely based on my interpretation of publicly available info and informal interactions with people inside the app.net community. The actual apis and rules arent final but dalton has made many public commitments and has a history of doing what he says he will do. The work behind app.net didnt spring up overnight. I assume some vc money is in there somewhere so i wouldnt necessarily go vc bashing either. It looks a lot more like a pivot and if there are vcs involved, good on ya for backing it.
losvedir 3 days ago 0 replies      
Cool! I backed it mostly to snag my first name (@gabe) in case it actually does take off, but it's a neat idea, too. Congrats to Dalton and the gang.
cmod 3 days ago 0 replies      
1. Awesome to see this funded.

2. Curious to see all the post-funding pile-on. Looks like their subscribers are jumping quite quickly (for a Sunday!) now that funding has been met. Funding validation makes it feel like a safer 'bet' now?

3. Really curious to see if app.net can scale better than Twitter from the start. I'm talking full archives, proper search, robust conversation tracking. If app.net covers these areas sufficiently well, I could see this becoming a go-to feed for journalists / other people for whom proper archives and full-search would be invaluable.

arunoda 3 days ago 5 replies      
This is awesome.

But the real question is how they got funded more than 50% in just 4 days?
It's amazing. I hope this is not a manual increase of the counter.

sdqali 3 days ago 0 replies      
An update from Dalton that deals with new features and third party verification of the funding - http://daltoncaldwell.com/we-did-it
hxf148 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've upgraded my account and am going to take a spin at a html5 app. It's an interesting group of people and even if it does not get massive scale it's fun.

Also keep in mind that I don't think app.net wants to be Twitter, it wants to be the back end public messaging system for any and all kinds of apps that have a need for a messaging or notification network.

deepGem 2 days ago 0 replies      
There's something really inspiring about the way Dalton Caldwell speaks in the video. His demeanor shows an air of confidence, but it also shows how pissed off he is with the existing ad supported free model. Here's wishing the very best for app.net's success.
smbwrs 3 days ago 1 reply      
I was a huge doubter on day one - the initial video and manifesto seemed confusing and too abstract to fly - but seeing Dalton handle intensive negativity (even some from me, I'm a bit ashamed to admit) with such aplomb won me over. Seeing his frequent updates with progress, even before the $500k mark, was a great confidence booster.

Every cent well deserved. I was a supporter, and I look forward to helping build app.net in to something amazing.

nikunjk 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is legit. Dalton's model of funding might spur interest in startups to get money from actual users, rather than venture capital
whunut 3 days ago 0 replies      
To be honest, I was skeptical App.net would meet its $500,000 goal on time. Not because I thought it was a bad idea, but because raising that much money from customers just seemed an almost impossible feat.

So congrats, Dalton, can't wait to see what happens next!

dev1n 2 days ago 0 replies      
"If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done."

A quote hanging above my Grandma's oven :-P

Congrats Dalton

katcaverly 3 days ago 0 replies      
Congratulations to Team App.net and a special shoutout to the Alpha App.netizens who brought da noise, and the passion to the last 10 days.

Now it is up to the developers to show us!!

guscost 3 days ago 0 replies      
Congrats, dude. Now to scrape together a seriously unexpected $100.
axusgrad 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think most people signing up now are doing it for the land-rush of usernames.
TorBoT 3 days ago 1 reply      
What do they mean "claim" twitter name? do they mean claim your app.net name?
jasonhanley 2 days ago 0 replies      
Heh, so there's going to be just under 10,000 people on app.net.
gaving 3 days ago 1 reply      
...bootstrap? :/
obilgic 3 days ago 1 reply      
But Will it scale?
arunoda 3 days ago 0 replies      
App.net will reach $1,000,000 mark when they will be funded (AUGUST 13 at 11:59PM PDT.)
Why Explore Space? A 1970 Letter to a Nun in Africa. launiusr.wordpress.com
352 points by mike_esspe  3 days ago   157 comments top 17
jxcole 3 days ago  replies      
I don't know if this makes me cruel, but whenever people talk about donating money to starving children in Africa, I always imagine the following: If I were to donate some amount of money to starving children in an impoverished nation every year I could, theoretically, bring some of them out of starvation. However, these children would then grow into adults, and then these adults would have children of their own. The number of these new children would almost certainly be higher than the number I originally helped bring out of famine, so at that point there would be just as many if not more starving children than we had to begin with. So in my mind the question really goes the other way, how does donating money to buy food for starving children in Africa improve Africa's condition in the long term? What problems caused these nations to produce more children than food and what is being done to eliminate the source of these problems, rather than just the symptoms?
patio11 3 days ago 2 replies      
It certainly reads better than "We need to funnel some money to the guys who build the rockets so that, if the Russians get frisky, we can credibly threaten to can end the world."
MarkMc 3 days ago 2 replies      
I don't buy the argument. A $100b space mission is going to have a bigger benefit to the desperately poor than a $100b medical research program? No way.

But then, why does the space program need to be defended like that? People prefer buying big TVs, big cars, big houses instead of giving the money to starving Africans. So why not view the space program as just an extension of that?

vacri 3 days ago 1 reply      
A more curt, but more direct response would be: As a Christian Nun, you wouldn't even be in Zambia if it weren't for explorers increasing the bounds of our knowledge. Apart from the Copts in Egypt, there's not a lot of 'native' Christianity in Africa.
confluence 3 days ago 0 replies      
A relevant quote:

> When he [Michael Faraday] demonstrated his apparatus [the dynamo] to His Majesty's Government, the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, asked, "Of what use is it?" To which Faraday replied: "I don't know, but I'll wager that some day you'll tax it."

- Michael Faraday




We will tax space in good time my fellow skeptics.

All in good time.

mseebach 3 days ago 2 replies      
So the argument that research for the sake of research is worthwhile is perfectly sound, the condescending "let me explain to you how a budget works" and "it's not my decision to spend the money" parts certainly rubs me the wrong way.
slowpoke 3 days ago 0 replies      
I did not know the SU actually turned off all radio transmissions and sent out
ships to assist in the recovery of Apollo 13. That is an impressive display of
human compassion, even inmidst the Cold War (though the cynic in me assumes
there were ulterior motives, as well).
joering2 3 days ago 7 replies      
Ok, so the story with microscope was a good one. I was initially shortsighted. But coming back to the recent Mars mission, anyone has any ideas, more or less accurate/detailed, of how this particular mission will/could benefit our civilization? This is a serious question.
tmoertel 3 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone know how this letter first came to be published?

Update: Google Books answered the question for me:

> Dr. Stuhlinger responded to the sister in a letter that was published by NASA/George C. Marshall Space Center in 1970 titled "Why Explore Space?"

[1] http://books.google.com/books?id=qXuLydSqzDQC&lpg=PA55&#...

PakG1 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is also a perfect parallel to CEOs who have to justify to their shareholders why they spend so much money on R&D.
malkia 3 days ago 2 replies      
"You may ask now whether I personally would be in favor of such a move by our government. My answer is an emphatic yes. Indeed, I would not mind at all if my annual taxes were increased by a number of dollars for the purpose of feeding hungry children, wherever they may live."

Amen to that.

pippy 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd love to compare $billions in expenditure / angry letters from conservative nuns, for both NASA and the Department of Defense.

Even better would add the estimated lives saved by NASA technologies and DoD bombs.

nathan_f77 3 days ago 3 replies      
This letter is timeless, and provides such brilliant perspective. It's a fantastic answer to questions I've also been thinking about.

As an aside, I wonder if something so convincing could be written about military spending.

repoman 3 days ago 0 replies      
Well, US produces lots of surplus every year. We don't give them out. Instead, we burn them. Really now?
vincentperes 2 days ago 0 replies      
Somebody said "It's not by looking at improving the candles that we would have discovered electricity.". Like fundamental research, a lot of people are having a hard time to understand that it is a long term investment.
ninguem2 3 days ago 4 replies      
>He was a member of the German rocket development team at Peenemünde

Just the guy to be answering ethical questions...

fragsworth 3 days ago 2 replies      
This guy has incredible tact, and knows his audience well.

> Ever since this picture was first published, voices have become louder and louder warning of the grave problems that confront man in our times: pollution, hunger, poverty, urban living, food production, water control, overpopulation.

He even took care not to mention climate change, which I assume was in case the reader has a strong bias against it.

Steve Yegge: Notes from the Mystery Machine Bus plus.google.com
346 points by kungfudoi  5 days ago   180 comments top 65
cletus 5 days ago  replies      
As much as some commenters are (weirdly?) railing against this classification scheme I think the underlying idea that software conservatism is about risk aversion is essentially accurate.

Perhaps another way of framing this is to ask the question: are you optimizing for the best case or the worst case? This ultimately is a form of risk management. And I'm not talking in the algorithmic sense, meaning complexity expressed as the asymptotically worst case. I'm talking about people, software and ecosystems.

Let me illustrate this idea with Java.

- C++ has operator overloads. Java does not? Why? Because people might abuse them. That's optimizing for the worst case (ie bad or inexperienced programmers). Properly used, operator overloading can lead to extremely readable code;

- Java has checked exceptions and uses them liberally (pun intended). C#, as one example, only has unchecked exceptions. Why? Philosophically the Java language designers (and many of its users) feel that this forces callers to deal with exceptions. Pragmatically (IMHO) it does not and leads to more cases of exceptions being simply swallowed. But again this is optimizing for the worst case ie programmers who should deal with a particular error condition but won't;

- Java has no multiple inheritance. Same story: it can be abused ("it is known"). But also mixins can be a powerful metaphor.

- Rinse and repeat for duck typing, extension methods, etc.

Putting Python two steps from Ruby strikes me as an interesting choice. I'd say the difference is at most one.

I'll also agree that Google as a company (based on my own much more limited experience than Yegge's) is firmly conservative. The style of writing Javascript that he refers to is about writing Google Closure code with all sorts of directives to aid the Closure Compiler (I describe Closure as putting the Java back into Javascript).

I also see a lot of Python code that isn't really Python. It's Java expressed in Python syntax rather than idiomatic Python and that is kind of sad.

Which isn't to say that any of this is necessarily bad (or good). It's just a (software) political viewpoint you need to be comfortable with (or at least can tolerate) or (to quote the South Park meme) "You're gonna have a bad time".

One of the comments linked Worse is Better [1], which is worth a read too.

[1]: http://www.stanford.edu/class/cs240/readings/worse-is-better...

michaelochurch 5 days ago 5 replies      
I think I'm a software libertarian.

If you like dynamic typing and can write good, legible code in a language like Python or Lisp, do it. If you like static typing, knock yourself out. If you want to use an IDE, go for it. If you want to use emacs, do it. Hell, if you like object-oriented programming, try it out. I think 95% of "object-oriented" programming (as currently practiced) is junk, but the other 5% is legitimately valuable. If you have the taste to pick from that 5%, go ahead.

What you shouldn't have the right to do is impose complexity on other people. Use whatever environment you like, but if your code depends on your environment, that's bad. If people can't get work done because they're cleaning up your messes, that's bad. Be as liberal and as kinky as you want in your own sandbox, but don't impose your wacky, untested DSL on everyone else.

That said, I like statically typed languages. ML is the only language I've encountered where reading average-case code is enjoyable. (Scala's a great language, but average-case code is ugly due to the Java influence. There's a fair amount of spaghetti code written in it due to the cultural legacy of the SpaghettiFactoryFactory Java culture. I can't speak for Haskell because I haven't seen enough.) I think that's neat and very rare in the programming world. How much code is enjoyable to read? 1 percent, maybe? In Ocaml, that number is a lot higher. Probably around 50%. 50 percent of Java code isn't even legible. Being able to actually read other peoples' code is nice, and it's one thing I miss about working in Ocaml.

I'm probably more in line with the hard-line conservative camp in terms of my view of complexity: avoid it unless you need it. The Unix philosophy works. Religious X-oriented programming doesn't. Big Code leads to fail. Small-program methodology's little programs (Unix philosophy) are written to solve problems: do one thing and do it well. Ambitious projects should be structured and respected as systems, not all-or-nothing, massive single-program megaliths with no clear communication policy among modules. Small-program development works. Big Software is written to get promotions. That produces the next generation's legacy horrors. Also, structuring your company around 17-day "iterations" is stupid. Et cetera.

I also tend to think that a lot of the features that scare typical software conservatives are genuinely worthwhile. Macros in Lisp are important and can be very beneficial-- if used conservatively. Cleverness for its own sake is bad, but there are times when macros are very useful. Document what you're doing, and make sure it's tasteful and makes sense before you let anyone else depend on the work, but go ahead and do it. I wouldn't have learned what not to do with macros had I not made a few mistakes when I first encountered them.

So, with a mix of opinions from the "conservative" and "liberal" camps, I can't say where I fall. I like macros (when used by disciplined people) but I also like static typing. Both turn out to be very useful tools. Consequently, I find that I like a lot of different languages and insist not on a specific one, but on small-program methodology so that people can use the right tool for the job.

I'm conservative because I dislike complexity (I think "software liberals" are OK with complexity as long as it's under the hood-- most metaprogramming involves extremely complex solutions that, when they work and the abstractions don't leak, although this is rare, allow clean interfaces-- whereas I'm not comfortable making that distinction) but I (a) understand that liberalism is essential to driving innovation, and (b) can't classify myself as a conservative because management is inherently conservative and is, in software, almost never the solution to the problem. Usually, it is the problem. Most companies fall to shit not because they have some difficult code-- every codebase has some crap in it-- but because management mandates that they use the bad code (often for political reasons, like the original architect being a crony of the manager) as-is instead of taking the time to understand or replace it. I'd like to see how Valve evolves over the next 5 years, because I think management in software is usually a source of undesirable complexity, rather than the safeguard against complexity that it thinks it is being. If Valve can give us a determination either way on whether software can work without managers in the first place, that'd be incredibly useful information.

Not surprisingly, software politics also has a lot of individual inconsistencies and hypocrisy. Corporatism (in politics, not software) is neither socialism nor capitalism but a system designed to give the best of both worlds to a well-connected elite and the worst of both to everyone else. (Consider air travel as a microcosm: Soviet experience and service quality and comfort, mean-spirited and capricious-- but very capitalistic-- pricing.) I think the same exists in software politics and the typical managerial conservatism. People and organizations can identify in name with liberalism or conservatism, but tend to pick and choose as suits them. (For an example of this inconsistency: Google, a bastion of software conservatism, allowed GCL to exist.) What makes 90 percent of software jobs so fucking miserable isn't those rock star, "undisciplined" Rails liberals or stodgy gray-haired conservatives. Rather, it's a corporatist "crony capitalism" state where people who win managerial blessing get liberalism (i.e. the autonomy to do whatever they want and freely impose complexity downstream) while the rest of the drones get stonewalled with a supposedly stiff-lipped conservatism (e.g. "you can't [fix that codebase | use that language | pursue that side project] because we can't afford the risk") that is presented as principled, although the drones see managerial favorites getting through that wall on a daily basis, so they aren't fooled.

nirvana 5 days ago 4 replies      
I first noticed something like this, though I draw the lines differently, in the 1980s.

What's interesting is that there has been a shift over the years to where "programming" has come ot have a strong ideological bias to only one type.

The types I noticed then I call Cowboys and Architects. These are just terms I'm using for convenience, not meant as pejoratives.

Cowboys are now more common:
Some programmers write a bunch of sloppy code without bothering to ever design anything. Their methedology for making a product seems to be akin to bashing to the code into the shape it needs to be eventually. This group of people tend to advocate policies that assume everyone else is writing crappy code as well- unit tests, agile, etc. For instance, agile rejects design and assumes you can't know what the right shape for the code is going to be more than a week in advance and that all code is maleable without repercussions.

Architects are now rare:
Other programmers will sit for a week and think without writing any code. When they do, they sit down and over the course of an hour (or however long it takes to type it) will write out the code for the complete system or module. It will be bug-free with the exception of typos. Once the typos are fixed (Generally by getting the compiler to accept the code) the programmer can move on to implementing the next bit of functionality. Sometimes there are errors in the code working with other code, generally integration errors, but not errors in the thinking of the programmer. These programmers only accept that Agile makes sense because the business side of things can't make up its mind, so they architect core systems that are flexible to support multiple business needs, but don't need to be rewritten or bashed around, because they did it right the first time.

I'm of the latter type, and I have tested this objectively, by producing a 10,000 line iOS App like this, which has been in use for several years by tens of thousands of people with no crashes or other defects (a few minor conceptual bugs- mismatch between the features and the expectations of the business, which were fixed)... and not a single unit test. It compiled, it worked, and almost all the development time was spent on the UI. It has had major releases (eg: going from being iPad only to a universal app, etc.)

It has built in reporting for exceptions, and all of the reported exceptions are the result of things other than my code (eg: there are several situations where iOS will crash an app if it needs to or due to problems with pre-release versions of iOS, and those are what generate the exceptions.) No customer reported bugs either. (though they do have requests for things working slightly differently and new features, no programming errors reported by customers.)

The industry is so dominated by a culture of "all code is crap" that I think many people think that all programmers are cowboys and even Steve here is delineating types of Cowboys, and nobody believes architects exist.

Can you imagine someone saying "unit tests are a waste of time, they just double the amount of work with no benefit.". It produces a litany of excuses for why this isn't true. ("You need them if other people work on your code!", "maybe for a team of one", "you're assuming you'll never forget a design decision", etc.) I know this message will get responses along those lines-- its because Cowboyism has become an ideology. Yegge is right - programmers are ideological.

I'm not a savant and I'm not rare. Architects like me were about %50 of the programmers out there when I started out. I think the mainstreaming of "hacking" has produced a lot of people who are taught to be cowboys and a culture that encourages cowboyism.

tikhonj 5 days ago 3 replies      
As Yegge mentioned in his post, this is a bit of an oversimplification. As a simple illustration, choosing a statically typed language like Java over Python is certainly a conservative trait. But then choosing Python over Haskell is exactly the same, just with the whole difference translated towards the liberal end of the spectrum.

Put another way, it's the political liberals who came up with OSHA (I hope--I'm somewhat ignorant of the actual history :P). A liberal or conservative outlook is not characterized by some particular processes or tools--it's characterized in an entirely relative way. The conservative approach is in choosing the familiar over the novel and in avoiding change. The familiar could be safer--Java vs Python--or it could be less safe--Java vs Haskell. I've talked to some ardent Java adherents, and they have lucid cases for not going over to Python or Ruby or Clojure or what have you. But--critically--these cases are virtually identical to their cases against going over to Haskell or Scala. There are differences in details, of course, but it's a difference in degree rather than kind.

Another even more extreme example is TDD. In particular, the arguments people have against adopting TDD are essentially exactly the same as I've seen from TDD supporters against using formal methods. Once again, some details differ, but the core idea seems to remain: some people are inherently wary of change.

It's also interesting to note how Yegge categorizes certain concepts in multiple "buckets". Either he's just being inconsistent (which is plausible) or he's making a deeper point: it's not about the particular concept, it's about the philosophy behind it. If he wasn't making that point, I've made it for him :).

That is, anything called "something calculus" is conservative, but lambdas (e.g. lambda calculus) aren't. Type-based functions overloading (like type classes, I guess) is conservative, but Scala implicits are liberal.

In my view, the languages that are the most conservative (at least in my part of the world) are Java and Python. Why? Simple: they are the default language for almost everyone I know. You're at an enterprisey company? You're probably using Java. You're at a startup? You're probably using Python. You're using C or Scheme or Haskell or Erlang? You're crazy. (I should note that I don't know very many people in systems or embedded programming, so my view is obviously rather biased.)

All this rambling (I certainly see why Yegge always writes long posts) has left me with a fairly concise conclusion. Namely, mapping programmer attitudes to a spectrum vaguely inspired by politics is a reasonable idea. Sure, the reality is that there is no total ordering so a one-dimensional representation is fundamentally lacking. However, it's good enough to give some insight.

But I would not map technologies there based on the technologies' innate traits. Rather, I would map them there based on the thinking behind the people who use them. This is similar to how--if you don't know the background--it's hard to guess which political party supports which regulation. Gun control is the opposite of liberal, but it's exclusively heralded by liberals; deregulation seems liberal but, of course, isn't. Yet, on other issues, people on either end of the spectrum behave as expected!

This is why I think languages like Java and Python are fairly conservative. Not because they try to offer some sort of safety but because they are safe choices. This is also why I would probably place C# as significantly more "liberal" than Java--it may be the most "conservative" .NET language, but it is far less afraid of embracing new ideas than Java. So that end is simple: at least for enterprisey companies and startups, it's populated with Python and Java. But what about the other end? I think this is where the languages that most people consider too crazy to use go. Haskell, Scheme, Erlang and so on. Only very brave--very liberal--companies are going to use Haskell or Scheme in actual production. Too many weird features. Even the sentence "Scheme in production" just sounds weird.

So it's not a matter of wanting handrails (Haskell) or not even wearing a helmet (Scheme); rather, it's a matter of being willing to choose something more advanced over something more understood.

cromwellian 5 days ago 2 replies      
before it started I knew it was going to be another typing rant. I think you continue to present a false dichotomy on typing, as well as missing some of the reasons people desire it.

In particular, I like typing as machine readable documentation, that makes IDEs simpler and more accurate in code navigation and refactoring. Dart in particular shows this false dichotomy really well, but having a type system for human and machine readable docs, making the IDE experience far more pleasant, but which can be turned on or off. Unsound, untyped, programs can still run. Yes, dynamic languages can have nice IDEs too (Smalltalk), but they are harder to engineer.

In terms of optimization, typing is a must for many types of hard real time programming. You can bet that the Mars Curiosity rover isn't using a garbage collected dynamic language. Nor are the inner rendering loops of most mobile games or console games. (Lua is another story when it comes to actual game logic)

Lots of bold claims have been made for Javascript JITs for example over the years, include a lot of hype about tracing JITs, but the reality is, Javascript still doesn't even come close to native performance, and it's hideously slow on mobile platforms in comparisons, with basic, idiomatic programming (e.g. dictionaries with fields) having terrible numeric performance. All this has actually served to threaten the Web with a native-takeover because we don't have a fast web language CPU and memory efficient on these devices.

I don't think that Tim Sweeney or John Carmack are prematurely optimizing when they decide to write a game engine(rendering) in C++, because experience has taught them that it is highly unlikely they'll be able to optimize a dynamic language implementation later to a satisfactory level.

I think many people use a mix of languages depending on the context. I certainly wouldn't write a web service in C++, nor would I write a 3D game in BASIC. I wouldn't use anything but Perl to masage text files, and I'd use R for data analysis. 

ezyang 5 days ago 1 reply      
Hidden inside this fascinating screed is an announcement about the "Google Grok" project, which appears to be something of an Eclipse-killer for dynamic languages. It's good to hear that Google is working on this problem, and I'm interested to see what they come up with.
postfuturist 5 days ago 1 reply      
The things he said about the Clojure community are in contradiction with the data from the 2012 State of Clojure survey here: http://cemerick.com/2012/08/06/results-of-the-2012-state-of-... .

Steve claims that Clojure folks come from the Haskell/ML world when the survey lists the "former primary language" of survey takers to be 1% Haskell, 0% SML, 0% Ocaml. Whereas they actually come from Java, Python and Ruby mostly.

The Clojure "replacement" in the survey is all over the map with Common Lisp, Erlang, Haskell, Java, Python, Ruby, Scala and Scheme all performing well. The liberal/conservative thing is a false dichotomy and Clojure community is probably living proof of that.

parasubvert 5 days ago 0 replies      
This doesn't actually seem to be all that new of an argument: the debate used to be about "craft" vs. "engineering" or between "software is math" and "software is mechanism".

For example of what's pretty close to a Yegge rant of the 1980's, see Edsger Dijkstra, "On the cruelty of really teaching computing science" [1]. It seems to be bemoaning similar debates in the software field, though from a very "conservative" perspective, since Dijkstra prefers that a formal proof should be required with every program, and one should completely avoid anthropomorphism in discussing software design.

Another thought that's crossed my mind: one of the reasons for the evolution of these approaches to politics and risk over the years has to do with the scale of impact. Liberally messing around with a social and economic systems can lead to widespread human disaster: China's Great Leap Forward comes to mind. How the software is used and how reliable it needs to be is an engineering tradeoff with regards to cost & time. This is often why you tend to see much more liberal approaches to software in smaller companies - the scale of impact is much smaller (in terms of customer base, and investment) when you cock up.

Now, it's clear that larger companies, particularly many IT shops, could learn a thing or two about being "progressive conservatives", as they've "conserved" for far too long and are caught in the trap of special interests (i.e. traditional vendors dependent on their cash). Fear of dynamic languages, open source, or cloud services, or non-waterfall development is mostly a reactionary ideology grounded with some kernels of truth - static typing DOES help codebases scale (but you shouldn't be proud of a large codebase), you can't just pick ANY open source library as some are DOA, or ANY cloud as some are unreliable, and tinkering with your delivery methodology can reduce your performance greatly due to confusion, plus there's plenty of cargo-cult agile consultants waiting to rope you in. So, you need to think these things through. But that's not an excuse for avoidance. Perhaps that means I'm a software moderate.

[1] http://www.cs.utexas.edu/~EWD/transcriptions/EWD10xx/EWD1036...

(edit: typo)

Darmani 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is a brilliant move by Yegge. Now if you call him wrong, you're just like the guy who attacks Aunt Marge's politics at the family dinner.

Unfortunately, your business is not Aunt Marge. You need to be able to make the tough calls and say that, no, banning the color yellow is not a viable policy. Software engineering and programming languages are both seriously-studied disciplines, and all too often, the evidence comes down conclusively in favor of one position.

To pick an easy target, in many languages like Java and C++, null can be passed in place of (almost) any type. But

1) Empirical studies show that values intended to be non-nullable are more common...

2) ...which means that many method definitions are cluttered with is-null checks (to cut down the exponentially-increased state space)...

3) ...and it's just as easy to provide a feature to turn it on when it's wanted (option types/Maybe monad)...

4) ...which many companies hack into C++/Java anyway (various annotations and preprocessors)

This is a pretty solid case. Liberals win -- it's less code. Conservatives win -- there are fewer bugs. Sometimes things really are that one-sided.

austintaylor 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is fundamentally flawed. Take HAML, for instance. It tends to be polarizing, but not along the axis he has laid out. People who don't like it usually point to the unfamiliar and non-standard syntax (conservative), but the thing that I like about it is that it is more structured, and less error-prone than string splicing (also conservative).

In general, when I fall on the liberal side of an argument, I think it is for the reasons he gives (no fear, resist ossification). But when I fall on the conservative side (which happens just as often) it is not because of fear, but because I think that mathematically rigorous abstractions (pure functions, persistent data structures, etc) offer a more powerful way to approach the problem.

I think my attitude toward bugs (which he suggests is the defining issue) is more nuanced than this spectrum allows. Bugs are inevitable, and it's not the end of the world when you have a bug. We need debuggers. But I think that over time, if we are doing anything right, we should be growing a stable core of our codebase that is increasingly flexible and bug-free. I guess maybe this could be considered a centrist view. It is certainly neither liberal nor conservative.

Someone in the thread mentioned pragmatism vs. idealism. I think this is a much more useful distinction. I would definitely consider myself an idealist. But the pragmatic-ideal axis doesn't map to the conservative-liberal axis at all.

cturner 5 days ago 1 reply      
Broad-brush talk is a step backwards.

Political talk and thinking is poisoned by the ideas of "left" and "right" even though those phrases haven't had a connection to reality since the French First Republic.

It'll probably be fine. Politics is in many respects a zero-sum game, and polarises participants into two camps. Software isn't like that.

kephra 5 days ago 0 replies      
One thing came up in mind " United States has only one party:the property party. It's the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican. "

From a German point of view both liberals and conservatives are right wing. And his article is totally missing any left wing politics. He is missing the green, the socialists, the communists, and the anarchists point of view here.

And making it one dimensional also does not fit: What about Christian socialists, what about conservative greens, what about anarcho-capitalists, or national socialists?

e.g. I would classify myself (when it comes to programming) as anarcho-capitalist: I'm using the language that best fits the problem, without bias. And I'm earning most of my money with free software.

I also can not agree with how he positioned some languages, e.g. Perl might look liberal at first, but the CPAN community is more conservative when it comes to constraining regression test or documentation than the Ruby or Python people. Also ASM might look liberal at first, but if you ever worked in a closed shop, you know that ASM/370 coders have a really conservative approach to create software.

thebluesky 5 days ago 0 replies      

"A measurement of length of a piece of writing, particularly when indicating a length excessive for the genre. A Yegge is approximately 4000 words or 25 kilobytes.

Named for well known programmer and technical blogger Steve Yegge, whose blog up to about 2009 was notorious for entries of approximately 1 or 2 Yegges in length, vastly exceeding the typical length of blog entries in the genre."

yaongi 5 days ago 2 replies      
So, this is the culmination of 8 years of rants and blog posts? This is what he's been trying to say all that time? What a peak he has reached. What an insight.

I'm trying to think of an apt analogy for this post that doesn't involve vomit or defecation, but it's hard. From the introduction proclaiming how readers will be stunned by how clearly and resoundingly true the revelation revealed within will be, to the literary diarrhea it's followed by... it's like a little kid proudly telling his parents he finally used the toilet properly only for them to find he completely missed the bowl. Yeah, I failed.

If the political spectrum is deeply flawed, as he said, then why even try to hack it onto something completely unrelated, made of individual technical points where each programmer may have a different approach?

I don't know, I like a lot of his past posts, but I don't dig this one. I don't think it provides any useful insight whatsoever.

grandalf 5 days ago 0 replies      
While I found the article annoying in its oversimplification, I think the real tension Yegge is feeling is about contracts. At a high level, contracts apply to coding standards, and at a low level they apply to interfaces, etc.

One may find many aspects of a contract annoying yet still prefer a world where contracts are widespread to a world without contracts.

In a sufficiently complex ecosystem contracts make some things easier and some things more difficult. But contrary to Yegge's assertion, it may be that some organizations have a contract that if something breaks, then one of the parties involved does a rewrite/redeploy. This is not a replacement for a contract, as Yegge implies, simply a different contract.

One contract might be: "All code must be unit tested". Another might be "If you don't write unit tests and your code works, that's great, but if it fails then prepare to pull an all-nighter if necessary."

My guess is that most developers, if asked which kind of methodology was appropriate, would generally pick a methodology that was appropriate for the level of risk involved. If the code is going to manipulate a robot arm holding a knife as it jabs quickly toward the programmer's body, few programmers are going to think that the bugfix/redeploy approach makes sense. But when it's a social site then everyone starts to feel more like a cowboy.

I think it is an insult to the professionalism of programmers everywhere to assume that risk decisions are a function of internal constitution rather than a rational risk assessment.

kstenerud 5 days ago 1 reply      
What "politics" I adopt depends mostly on what I'm building.

If it's a library that someone else will use, I try to play as conservatively as possible, and I fully expect that despite my best efforts those developers will uncover lots of bugs regardless.

If it's a mission critical application, I'll also be conservative. The more pain there is in fixing things later, the more careful I'll be up front.

When I'm writing a game, I'll play it more fast-and-loose. So long as any glitches don't crash it or open an exploit or ruin the user experience, it's usually an acceptable trade-off.

When I'm writing stuff for myself, I go crazy, trying out all new fads and methodologies just for the hell of it. This way, I learn new things and get enough experience with them to mark them as conservative-safe and liberal-safe.

My only sticking point is this: If someone competent cannot follow your code, you haven't documented things properly.

lispm 5 days ago 0 replies      
The characterization of Clojure is questionable. A conservative would want to avoid risk and would be against change. About the only really conservative thing of Clojure I would see that it preserves the investments made into the JVM and uses an accepted technology as a base. Other than that it is a radical break for the Clojure user base. The Clojure user base does not come from ML or Haskell. It comes from Java, Ruby, Python and a few other languages. But not from statically-typed functional languages and not even from Lisp. Even Rich Hickey does not come from there.

With Clojure you keep one feet on the ground (the Java ecosystem) and the other feet is in the unknown dark water.

dsantiago 5 days ago 2 replies      
I'm trying to think of what anti-macros Clojure talk by a "key presenter" he might be referring to. I'm only familiar with the talks from Clojure/conj, so the only one that I can think of is Christophe Grand's (not= DSLs macros) talk from 2010[1]. If so, I think his summary mischaracterizes the content of that talk, but it could be another talk he's thinking of.

[1] http://blip.tv/clojure/christophe-grand-not-dsl-macros-45407...

fleaflicker 5 days ago 2 replies      
In his section on Tech Corporations, he classifies Apple as "Diagnosis: no idea."

Is there a reason nobody speaks publicly about Apple's engineering culture? We hear a lot about the culture at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon. But I've never met an Apple engineer. And I've never read any detailed accounts by an insider.

Does anybody have any good resources? Or is there a very restrictive confidentiality policy?

narag 5 days ago 1 reply      
Honestly, I can't see it that way. People that I met and I know how they work and think don't fit in this axis at all. The distinction that I do see is between people that trusts experience of what works and what doesn't (and still willing to test new ideas when it makes sense) and people that rigidly adheres to policies or dogmas.

The type of tools they use and like are circumstantial. It's more of a empiricists vs. authority thing.

ChuckMcM 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think the best (only?) point to come out of this essay is that different people have different definitions about what makes code or coding methodology "good".

And because of that you can find yourself in an endless argument with someone.

Why he dressed it up in political satire (allegory?) I don't know, seemed to me to make his point less forcefully.

mononcqc 5 days ago 0 replies      
I truly fear we'll get into debates of software conservatives vs. software liberals, and at some point some jackass will say "of course but <person x> is a researcher for <liberal/conservative> software engineering" as if it were a contest.

If that happens, I predict a fucking hellhole and I can only imagine myself leaving the industry at once.

brown9-2 5 days ago 4 replies      
Off-topic but does Google Plus offer any way to view a post nearly full-screen, without all the extra margin and white space taking up 2/3rds of the screen?

A bit annoying that the post text only takes up about 33% of my available screen real estate, even on the "view single post" URL: http://cl.ly/image/1p1B2o3D262g

ziadbc 5 days ago 1 reply      
Who is more of a 'liberal' programmer, RMS or Linus. Think about it.

In my estimation, if the answer here is unclear, then this metaphor breaks hard.

pshc 5 days ago 0 replies      
My project is accomplishing this lofty and almost insanely ambitious goal through the (A) normative, language-neutral, cross-language definitions of, and (B) subsequent standardization of, several distinct parts of the toolchain: (I) compiler and interpreter Intermediate Representations and metadata, (II) editor-client-to-server protocols, (III) source code indexing, analysis and query languages, and (IV) fine-grained dependency specifications at the level of build systems, source files, and code symbols.

So this is the project that Yegge mentioned would turn "all code [...] into Wikipedia." Man, my ongoing project is more similar to it than I thought.

I find it curious that he would even bother to mention (IV) though. (IV) falls right out if you start from the correct data representation, which I would have assumed from (A). I wonder if he's still listing dependencies explicitly.

sandGorgon 5 days ago 0 replies      
Clojure is tied very strongly to the Java toolchain (note "toolchain" rather than "ecosystem"). The packaging system and package managers use Maven and Java jars instead of a clojure-based one.

This means that promising projects like Clojure CLR have no chance of taking off the ground, unlike say Ruby vs Jruby vs Ruby EE vs Rubinius.

j_baker 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think one could make an argument that Haskell is like Fascism. They're both extremely liberal applications of extremely conservative beliefs. This can make categorizing them difficult.

Scheme, Erlang and company are more like communism: extremely liberal applications of extremely liberal beliefs. So much so that people tend to view them as "good in idea, but flawed in practice".

Python and Ruby are more like traditional liberalism. They bring in new ideas, but not in excess.

Scala and Clojure seem remarkably centrist. They both bring in good ideas from both the liberal and conservative camps.

Lastly, C is "old guard" conservatism, C++ is a Bush-style "compassionate conservatism" that tries to please everyone while being labeled "conservative", Java is a neo-con, and C# might be compared to the Tea Party.

DanielRibeiro 5 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting positioning of languages:

Assembly language: Batshit liberal.

Perl, Ruby, PHP, shell-script: Extremist liberal.

JavaScript, Visual Basic, Lua: Hardcore liberal.

Python, Common Lisp, Smalltalk/Squeak: Liberal.

C, Objective-C, Scheme: Moderate-liberal.

C++, Java, C#, D, Go: Moderate-conservative.

Clojure, Erlang, Pascal: Conservative.

Scala, Ada, OCaml, Eiffel: Hardcore conservative.

Haskell, SML: Extremist conservative

Woud be nice to overlap James Iry's chart[1] with it...

[1] from http://james-iry.blogspot.com/2010/05/types-la-chart.html

eternalban 5 days ago 0 replies      
"Just as in real-world politics" it is a 'misguided' idea to view the political space as a 1 dimensional space, ...
brlewis 5 days ago 0 replies      
Kent Pitman on programming languages as political parties:

2001: http://developers.slashdot.org/story/01/11/13/0420226/kent-m...

1994: http://www.nhplace.com/kent/PS/Lambda.html

duaneb 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think that a better parallel dichotomy would be features vs quality, in a world where they are mutually exclusive. However, I think Yegge wasted too much thought on this. It is the software that dictates how conservative a piece of software is: bugs and stability are generally tolerated in user-facing software because at worst the user has a bad experience. However, a database better be as close to 100% reliable as possible, which in turn leads to testing and static analysis, meaning typing... It is not really negotiable.

I think there are way too many variables for a linear scale to provide meaningful comparison.

robocop 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think a better analogy is

Conservative: the existing system must not break!

Progressive: we must add new features!

darkandbrooding 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yegge's entire essay seems like an application of JWZ's regex admonition. "I know, I'll present my hypothesis using political terminology!" Now you have two problems.

Political terminology in the United States is MASSIVELY warped by entities who spend literally millions of dollars in an effort to connotatively redefine words. When you (re)define words like "conservative" or "liberal" you risk alienating people who have been conditioned to have an emotional response to either definition. If you define a term in a way that seems pejorative to your reader, the reader will weight every subsequent statement against the rigor they think you brought (or did not bring) to those definitions. Your essay will entirely fail to persuade if it rests on (perceived) faulty definitions.

When writing to a largely US audience, no attempt at honest communication will be aided by the application of political labels.

Here's a test: can the essay be rewritten without that political terminology? Reader "nirvana" used the terms "cowboy" and "architect" to describe his two axes. ( http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4367328 ) I very much prefer those terms. Yes, they're also connotative and subjective, but as analogies they map much better onto the subject being discussed.

EzGraphs 5 days ago 1 reply      
Some of the tendencies depend upon the nature of the organization. Startups tend liberal (want to change the world). Corporations tend conservative (want to avoid major mistakes). The selection of tools does not always reflect this immediately though.

Also some classification of technology as conservative or liberal depends upon the competing technology it is running against. I was a bit surprised to see Python classified as liberal - but it makes sense when comparing it to Java. If it is being compared with Ruby it is very conservative ("do things one way").

There are some non technological risks that influence technology decisions. Visual Basic may be "Hardcore Liberal" from a language perspective, but it is pretty conservative politically (backed by Microsoft, lots of available experienced programmers).

Steve as usual has interesting insights. I am not sure that this is a paradigm that completely fits - but it does provide a perspective for understanding fundamental beliefs that can lead to disagreements in software projects.

engtech 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've noticed this divide for a long time, but the way I've always plotted the axis is "urban" vs "rural".

urban - accepts a certain amount of chaos for the benefits of reducing redundancy, wants to centralize code, reuse via shared centralized code

rural - wants to be isolated, wants to "see" everything, wants to have control over everything, reuse via cut-and-paste

ericbb 5 days ago 0 replies      
I just want to add a link for people interested in this discussion.

(Dynamic Languages are Static Languages by Robert Harper): http://existentialtype.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/dynamic-lang...

With HN discussion here:

swah 5 days ago 0 replies      
swah 5 days ago 1 reply      
I tend to relate to conservative with "small government", and in that light Lua would be a conservative language, because it has a small core and doesn't try to do too much.

His conservative definition is seems to be "everything that is wrong with the world" or something.


Also, this older rant reads to me as Yegge saying that this "conservative guy" was responsible for Google's success:

"I've been debating whether to say this, since it'll smack vaguely of obsequiousness, but I've realized that one of the Google seed engineers (exactly one) is almost singlehandedly responsible for the amazing quality of Google's engineering culture. And I mean both in the sense of having established it, and also in the sense of keeping the wheel spinning. I won't name the person, and for the record he almost certainly loathes me, for reasons that are my own damn fault. But I'd hire him in a heartbeat: more evidence, I think, that the Done, and Gets Things Smart folks aren't necessarily your friends. They're just people you're lucky enough to have worked with.

At first it's entirely non-obvious who's responsible for Google's culture of engineering discipline: the design docs, audited code reviews, early design reviews, readability reviews, resisting introduction of new languages, unit testing and code coverage, profiling and performance testing, etc. You know. The whole gamut of processes and tools that quality engineering organizations use to ensure that code is open, readable, documented, and generally non-shoddy work.

But if you keep an eye on the emails that go out to Google's engineering staff, over time a pattern emerges: there's one superheroic dude who's keeping us all in line."


yevuard 5 days ago 0 replies      
The difficulty that I have with his linear generalization is that I strongly agree with some points on both sides - sometimes feeling oppositely strongly about two halfs of the same sentence. Another commenter linked to http://james-iry.blogspot.com/2010/05/types-la-chart.html which makes the statement that "the design space is very highly dimensioned, perhaps infinitely so". I suspect that the programmer opinion space is similarly highly dimensioned, and more particularly, that the specific single dimensional analogue that Steve Yegge draws in his post obscures critical features of this topology. If I can come down hard all over the line, then he does not have a good enough mapping from the higher dimensional space. As an aside, using the labels "liberal" and "conservative" inappropriately juxtaposes rather strong emotions in the mix. Hopefully the emotional/visceral reaction was not his intention as a means of ideological persuasion.
dinkumthinkum 4 days ago 0 replies      
A political philosopher "he ain't." I still get the hype of Steve Yegge, I guess he's a writer only software blog audience world could love. It was soooo loqacious; he doesn't disappoint. :)

Nevertheless, I don't know which was worse, the claim about what political conservatism/liberal is or the software one. I guess the software doesn't matter because he's just making it up anyway, but still. Before anyone thinks too highly of this piece, I recommend people study some actual philosophy and humanities.

At it's very core this is just an elaborate (not in a good way) dressing up of the static vs dynamic typing discussion; hardly a revolutionary insight. I also don't see how this is "risk" based debate. But in any event, this is just hard to take.

alinajaf 5 days ago 1 reply      
I think as a Ruby (and occasionally C) programmer I stand firmly in the liberal camp, but is it weird that I sort of like Haskell too? I find the idea of expressing the semantics of my program through types to be useful sometimes.

Then again my actually political views tend to span the liberal/conservative spectrum so I suppose this is not surprising.

gwillen 5 days ago 0 replies      
The comments yield more or less the response I expected, to wit: The 'liberals' agree that this is a useful distinction, and the 'conservatives' complain that the distinction is bullshit, and serves only to try to justify the misguided beliefs of the 'liberals'.
7952 4 days ago 0 replies      
It depends on context. If you are aware of your own fallibility python is a far more conservative choice than C++. Coding is difficult and the most limiting factor is your own ability. Imagine asking some students to build a Mars rover in 6 months with no experience. It would be far more conservative to use Arduino than ask them to start rolling C code. You are liberal because you are crazy enough to try and build a Mars rover in six months with no experience.
mathattack 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great and obvious, but is this really new?

I think the issue he captures has been well known for a while. It is structured versus unstructured. Neither is better in an absolute sense, but one method can be better than another in a given situation. This is beyond just software, but business approaches in general. Startups are generally liberal/unstructured, Dow Jones firms are generally conservative/structured.

dmoney 4 days ago 0 replies      
Just as you shouldn't limit yourself to being a "Python programmer" or a "Java programmer", limiting yourself to liberalism or conservativism is a bad idea. You may prefer more liberal or conservative projects, or companies, but that doesn't mean you won't face safety-vs-speed[1] tradeoffs on a regular basis.

[1] safety meaning certainty of correctness, and speed meaning speed of development (as opposed to execution)

shiftb 5 days ago 0 replies      
I agree with this. Although, personally I'd make the analogy closer to religion than politics.
stock_toaster 5 days ago 0 replies      
I found it thought provoking, but I am not sure I agree with the classifications he arrived at. People sure do love putting names on things and classifying things into buckets!

I did find it interesting that he considers himself a liberal (both in software and politics), then then goes on to create a "type system" categorization for programmers (and programming languages) to be placed into.

kator 5 days ago 2 replies      
I know I will regret this but here is a little survey I whipped up quickly. It's static so results are local to your browser.. Enjoy:


kstenerud 5 days ago 0 replies      
notime, your account was hellbanned 15 days ago: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4294279

priestc, your account was hellbanned 26 days ago: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4245644

pilgrim689 5 days ago 0 replies      
Do any other engineering fields suffer from these broad-stroke categorizations? Do Mechanical Engineers have additive VS subtractive manufacturing debates? Or do they just shut up and solve problems?
MaysonL 4 days ago 0 replies      
The algebraist/analyst corn cob distinction seems much more valid & meaningful than Yegge's split.
lani 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think a good way to classify the two is :"one group feels that others cannot do what I do" and the other group feels "what I can do anyone can do - right away or with learning/time".. and I think this shows up
abecedarius 5 days ago 0 replies      
Forth by this light is batshit liberal, but stereotypically conservative in its early binding. I'm not sure how to take this -- libertarianism comes to mind. Or Sealand. (I used to hack Forth a lot as a teenager.)
prtamil 5 days ago 1 reply      
Now i understood why i love Common Lisp and hate Clojure.
It has nothing to do with Community or language. Its about Me. I'm a liberal. Knowing that i'm a liberal liberated me.
dusklight 5 days ago 0 replies      
I don't really think it is fair to characterize Clojure as conservative. If anything Clojure was created out of the motivation to have the cake and eat it too. Most other languages grant you the benefits of type-safety but at the cost of reduced flexibility/increased complexity. Clojure tries as much as possible to give you the pragmatic benefits of both while mitigating the costs.
cheddarmint 5 days ago 0 replies      
Is the introduction of a poisonous dichotomy into the engineering zeitgeist a good thing? Consider what this has done for politics.
mark-r 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think he misclassified exceptions. A true conservative avoids exceptions and uses error code returns instead.
hugoestr 5 days ago 1 reply      
His real argument is that there is a dynamic typing vs static typing divide.

Didn't we know that already?

I would like to believe that the political bit was just a well timed hook to get people to read his blog. He understands that the right incendiary rant will bring readers. If it is sincere, though, it shows a disturbing level of crankiness.

mej10 5 days ago 0 replies      
Making these arbitrary categorizations into "liberal" and "conservative" for things where we have all of the data is pretty much useless.


exim 4 days ago 0 replies      
He should invest more time in writing, to make his posts bit shorter.
kanaka 5 days ago 0 replies      
Good response from chouser (author of "The Joy of Clojure"): http://blog.n01se.net/Clojure-is-not-Software-Conservative.h...
anarchotroll 5 days ago 0 replies      
What he wrote about Microsoft is completely unrelated to the rest of his post. It says nothing about the company's culture and software development processes.
He could have saved himself the embarrassment of writing that.
guscost 5 days ago 0 replies      
As with regular politics, it always depends on the project, and the independents know best.
anarchotroll 5 days ago 0 replies      
The bottom line is: everything that cannot be scientifically proved acquires this sort of "religous" attributes. No wonder religions and politics are like that
sidcool 5 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty long essay, but worth a read.
You'll never be Chinese haohaoreport.com
333 points by ilamont  5 days ago   170 comments top 29
tokenadult 5 days ago  replies      
As Confucius said, 三人行,...有'師焉 ("wherever three persons are walking, my teacher is surely among them"). This is a very interesting article for an American who has lived in east Asia for two three-year stays (mostly in Taiwan) and who has been learning the Chinese language since 1975. Much of what has been said about China in the first decade of the twenty-first century reminds me very much of what was said about Japan in the 1980s--that it was destined to be the leading nation of the world. Today, demographics and looking behind the official economic statistics, and considering that China has not yet democratized as much as Japan had in the era when the Liberal Democratic Party had a lock on national power all suggest that China is most likely to have a "lost decade" that continues into two or more lost decades as China's economic growth fails to keep pace with the Chinese regime's world power ambitions. Political unrest is an ongoing fear of the Communist Party of China regime, and there is little to suggest that Chinese "soft power" can overcome the misgivings of neighboring countries (e.g. India, Vietnam, and South Korea) that remember being invaded by Chinese armies in the recent past.

It is possible to become an American. I have seen it done. My wife, out of all the girls I knew when I first lived in Taiwan, was the LEAST interested in gaining a green card or even living in the United States as a student until we had occasion to enter the United States (her first occasion ever) as a married couple after a year of married life in Taiwan. Over time, she has become a Minnesotan American by choice rather than by birth, and indeed we have spent far more time in the United States than I had ever imagined possible when I first planned my adult life as an American with a university degree in Chinese language. There have been great opportunities for us in America and much that my wife can cherish even though none of her primary or secondary education was intended to prepare her for life in the United States, and none of my higher education was intended as anything but preparation for living in east Asia. The United States is open to immigrants, accepting of cultural diversity, and a second home for many people that becomes a more meaningful home than their first home. That acceptance of outside influence is America's strength, and why the United States and not China will be the superpower of the twenty-first century.

What the United States can learn from China (but even more so from Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea) is better provision of elementary education in government-operated primary schools, particularly in the subjects of mathematics and science. Native-born Americans like me who have lived in east Asia are APPALLED at the wasted opportunities that United States schools have with their lavish resources to provide a truly world-class education. United States schools do not do as badly as they possibly could, but they also don't do as well as they reasonably could be expected to do. Let's learn from China's best examples here in the United States. Meanwhile, I hope that the common people of China eventually learn from other democratized countries of east Asia how to come out from under a one-party dictatorship and to enjoy uncensored mass media, free elections, and a vigorous civil society.

lionhearted 5 days ago 6 replies      
Hmm. A strange article. A mix of really good points soaked in bitterness.

I spend the bulk of my time in Beijing, Taipei, and Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia). My take is slightly different.

Well, a lot is true. The property thing, definitely. The state industry takeovers is scary; you have to get a sense for what industries they don't mind foreigners in, and which they do. Media? Yeah, you don't want to own a media company in China as a non-Chinese. The same is true with energy and raw materials. Probably not true for manufacturing, education, and consumer goods. So, that's a weird and surreal and true point.

But some things seem dead-off. The Chinese seem much more community oriented than the West. On mornings I'm up early, there's always large groups of people doing Tai Chi, or moving around doing a sword-dance, or other group exercises. Likewise, there's huge groups of people singing, dancing, waltzing, in the evenings. Families go out and play together a lot. At least, that's what I see in CBD in Beijing.

The thing about the Chinese loving money and size is true. It's not as bleak as it sounds though, it's probably similar to 1950's America in that sense. You've got people who were raised lower on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, so they're very pro-money and pro-security. It's all pretty upfront, and everyone is in to hard work, credentialing, and earning well. My friend is married to a Chinese woman, and we were working something like 12+ hours a day for a while. Since his work/life balance was totally destroyed on the projects we were on, I apologized to her one day at their house. "Hey, sorry we're working so much..." and she replies: "You're making money?" I say, "Yeah, we're making money." She says: "Okay! No problem then, keep making money! I'm glad you two are doing it!" They named their cat "Wangtzai" (spelling?), which translates to "Bring money." Yeah, they named their cat "Bring money." But they're also happy and have a good home life together. She just respects working a lot and wants her husband to work a lot. That's where she's at mentally.

This part struck me as the most off --

> [China] does not welcome intruders"unless they happen to be militarily superior and invade from the north, as did two imperial dynasties, the Yuan (1271-1368) and the Qing (1644-1911), who became more Chinese than the Chinese themselves. Moreover, the fates of the Mongols, who became the Yuan, and Manchu, who became the Qing, provide the ultimate deterrent: “Invade us and be consumed from the inside,” rather like the movie Alien.

It's not like "Alien" -- it's more like, China was so much more artistically and culturally sophisticated that even invaders assimilated the conquered culture, and happily so. It's little known that the Mongols (Yuan) built the Forbidden City at first. It was called "Forbidden" since it was Mongolian-only, preserving some of Mongolian Steppe Culture even within China. Likewise, Mandarin is the Manchu language... the ethnic minority that conquered China and became the Qing. The Han (majority) now speaks the minority's language, since it was widely spoken in courts and high level administration under the Qing Dynasty.

But why did the Manchu become more Han-like and base out of Beijing? Because it was a pretty amazing place, and by and large it always has been.

I don't know, maybe I'll get China-fatigue at some point. I agree with his point that you'll never be really truly Chinese in China, but foreigners also get all kinds of additional respect and benefits for being foreign, along with a tacit okay to break certain customs and decorums because you don't know better. For foreigners in China who speak Chinese, it's even better -- you get delight from everyone you interact with, and lots of respect (arguably, undeservedly so)... so yeah, it's good and bad. The article comes across overly jaded, though I suppose the idea to not start a media company or buy residential housing are both good pieces of advice!

kamaal 4 days ago 3 replies      
The author seems to be stuck in a country which is rising after coming from a country which had already risen. The path to success is no cake walk, its tiring and it causes fatigue.

As as Indian this article to me on many counts also looks like the story of India. The west will find it difficult to digest but the desperation to grow forces a person to go out of his way to do and achieve things people in the west in all the comfort cannot imagine in wildest of their dreams.

>>Modern day mainland Chinese society is focused on one object: money and the acquisition thereof.

What other dreams do you think poor people have?

>>The domestic Chinese lower education system does not educate. It is a test center. The curriculum is designed to teach children how to pass them.

The issue in Asian countries which are developing is most have only one shot at doing something in life. Study your ass off or perish, there is no social security- Your parents work hard to give you a decent education and you work hard in a once in a life time opportunity to do something in life. There is no other alternative, you don't have money to do business. The national infrastructures, license problems, corruption and other stuff won't give you a second shot at business.

There fore unlike in the west where 'chase your dreams' makes sense, here it doesn't.

>>Success in exams offers a passport to a better life in the big city. Schools do not produce well-rounded, sociable, self-reliant young people with inquiring minds. They produce winners and losers. Winners go on to college or university to take “business studies.” Losers go back to the farm or the local factory their parents were hoping they could escape.

As I said before, opportunities are at a premium here. This is difficult to understand if you come from US and settle down here. You will just never get why there is such a mad rush for opportunities.

>>The pressure makes children sick. I speak from personal experience. To score under 95 per cent is considered failure. Bad performance is punished. Homework, which consists mostly of practice test papers, takes up at least one day of every weekend. Many children go to school to do it in the classroom. I have seen them trooping in at 6am on Sundays. In the holidays they attend special schools for extra tuition, and must do their own school's homework for at least a couple of hours every day to complete it before term starts again. Many of my local friends abhor the system as much as I do, but they have no choice. I do. I am lucky.

Whoa this is nothing. In India while I did by second year of pre university college, I practically slept only for 3 hours a day for the whole year. Before going to the exam I cried. Because my whole years worth of hard work depended on this one exam! During my engineering college days, I've spend endless nights studying without sleeping. Same with school.

As a software engineer I've gone a whole week without sleep. And that was perfectly acceptable. My dad used to tell me, to consider myself lucky to even deserve the opportunity to go and work at a software company. Hence anything was acceptable.

>>An option is to move back to a major Chinese city and send our children to an expensive international school"none of which offer boarding"but I would be worried about pollution, and have to get a proper job, most likely something to do with foreign business to China, which my conscience would find hard.

Good schooling is shit expensive. Hence parents almost always send their kids to a local mediocre school. But warn them sternly to study very hard or they will have no future.

>>China does not nurture and educate its youth in a way that will allow them to become the leaders, inventors and innovators of tomorrow, but that is the intention.

Thats for the next generation. The first generation, like my Dad's. They had only one goal- 'First get your kids somewhere, let them take it from there on.'

The author is clearly stuck in a massive cultural conflict in his brain. He wants China to remain where it was, a mediocre country compared to his original homeland. He doesn't understand the cultural pressures of families in developing nations. He doesn't understand those countries are trying to go to where, his homeland is now. He clearly belongs to his native culture, where bulk of the growth work is already done, and people are just building on top of it. Where you can get to enjoy foreign vacations, passion based work environments, freedom to not worry about basic stuff like food, clothing and shelter.

Jd 5 days ago 5 replies      
"A China that leads the world will not offer the chance to be Chinese, because it is impossible to become Chinese. "

Of course. The British led the world and did not offer (at the time) anyone the chance to be British either. In fact, they actively discouraged interbreeding. It is a dogma of the modern Occident that it is stronger to be multi-ethnic, and that national identity should be open to anyone. History shows us, however, that that is hardly a necessity for world empire.

Full disclosure: I was once in love with a Chinese woman from an elite family, who I am fairly certain loved me but rejected me because I did not belong to the appropriate stock (with influence from her family). Lesson learned: if love is strong, kinship bonds are often stronger.

strebler 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is definitely one of the better (and more accurate) articles on the subject. I have been doing business in China and definitely see his view - it's easy to see why most of China's elite send their children abroad. I wouldn't live there for an extended period.

I'd say their education system (and society) tends to hammer the creativity out of people. I see strong evidence that who think differently are ridiculed. Only the strongest personalities could withstand this, and it is obvious that they often leave for greener pastures. Nurturing the free thinkers is not easy.

Superpower & housing bubble aside, first they have to figure out things like why having seatbelts in cars is important - that the individual is in fact valuable.

jisaacstone 5 days ago 5 replies      
Take a moment and conciser how a similar piece, written of the United states around the turn of the last century, might read.

Remember the 'roaring 20s?' Materialistic society, ambivalence about foreign affairs, widespread corruption, distrust of foreigners. A Chinese who owned a tea shop in a small town may well have to beg for a renewed lease, yes?

Well, China is not the United States, but lets put things in perspective. At the moment neither the leaders nor the people of China want to be a 'world leader' so why do we keep talking about it as if they do? China has its own problems and most Chinese are well aware of it.

China is not yet a rich country. Its Per Capita GDP (PPP) is about the same as Ecuador or Belize.

Right now things in China are not so great. It seems the Conservatives are back in power and so there has been some increased restrictions of freedom after a couple decades of improvement. Corruption continues to be a problem. The price of groceries, as well as property, has been increasing.

But the overall trend is upward. The author of this piece has fallen afoul of the Guanxi networks of business and politics in China. Sorry, yes, they don't play fair. But I am hopeful at the turn of the next century China will be as prosperous and egalitarian as my own United States of America.

kaptain 4 days ago 2 replies      
What does it mean to be Chinese?

Technically, there is no Chinese ethnicity. China is made up of (officially) 56 ethnicities. My parents are ethnically Han Chinese. I was born in Canada, raised in America. I carry an American passport. To my neighbors, I'm a 华侨 (overseas Chinese); one taxi driver told me that I would be Chinese forever because it's in my blood. So what am I? Moving from the questions of ethnicity, is it possible for a foreigner to immigrate to China and become a Chinese citizen? I suspect the answer is 'no' but I have heard (perhaps from the internet) that one can become a citizen at the invitation of the Chinese government. It seems, being Chinese has more to do with ethnicity AND culture than anything else.

While some may deride China for being parochial/uncosmopolitan for this, many countries share this same trait: the majority ethnicity defines citizenship and acceptance. The United States isn't immune from this. Even though I grew up an American (and still consider myself American) I have experienced personal bias and prejudice because of my ethnicity. I got comments from kids about me going to Buddhist church (I'm not Buddhist), using karate in a fight (I don't know any form of martial arts), using chopsticks (this is true), or speaking "Ching chong, ching chong" (I am not familiar with this language). High school was hard. Not that it wasn't for any of my white friends who shared the same weight/height/car/popularity class as me, but none of them were ever told to "Go home."

The big "but" here is that I live/lived in the United States. And though there is a history of disenfranchisement as well as evidence of racial bias today, I am more hopeful that you (whoever you are) /can/ become American... not by becoming 'white', but by participating in a society that has the opportunity to change itself as well as the opportunity to change you.

It's not clear to me that this is possible in China (i.e. social change to embrace differing ethnicities). The average Chinese (pick any of the Chinese ethnicities) person has very strong feelings about one's identity as it relates to race and language (e.g. some people couldn't believe I was Chinese and couldn't speak Mandarin when I first got to China). In my first trip to China, I made a friend who relayed me this interesting anecdote (this was the late 90's): he (an American) was on a college campus and he engaged in a discussion about race relations in America with a Chinese student. The Chinese student told him: "There is no racism in China because there aren't any black people." While the ethnic tensions aren't as visible here, simply ask a Han person how they feel about Uyghers.

timee 5 days ago 0 replies      
"The pressure makes children sick. I speak from personal experience. To score under 95 per cent is considered failure. Bad performance is punished."

I grew up in that culture in America having a Chinese mother and belonging to the local Chinese community. The interesting aspect to it, is that it represents a curve as everyone gets a 97+ on their tests. It felt like 97 was the median in the class. It just happened to be instead of having scores from 50-100, you had them compressed from 90-100. Scoring below a 90 is equivalent to getting an F in the local Chinese community as only a few ever scored that low.

I personally appreciate having gone through that and all the brainwashing that occurred with that mindset. I know one of my strengths is the ability to work well under pressure, where often my motivation is correlated with pressure. While I never made the connection in college, I innately understood the curve and how to play the game due to being curved at a young age.

The worry I have at times with correlating motivation with difficulty is whether I am creating an invalid proxy for value. Sometimes the work leads to something of value, but they are not directly linked as there are plenty of difficult things out there that generate little value to society and oneself.

That said, bringing it back to the OP's concern about his children's education, I don't know what it's like to go through a full Chinese system as I highly appreciate the mixture of Western education in my upbringing. I had a nervous breakdown in high school after realizing the falseness of my quest I had around accomplishments and achievements. If it weren't for the liberal arts of Western culture (arts, music, and literature), I don't know how I would have came out of that mental breakdown. I began to value the Renaissance man who was balanced in a variety of topics and sought the balance of academics, the arts and social skills. I wonder if it weren't for those concepts, if I would have trained myself to seek higher and higher goals in mastery over academics as I saw with some of my childhood friends who had a stricter Chinese upbringing.

Shenglong 5 days ago 3 replies      
Bitterly biased.

The China that the author describes is not the China I've seen. Housing prices may be high, but he neglects to mention that it's common for companies to provide housing to their employees. Yes, people will ask you about your money - but that's culture, and it's not impolite.

There are a lot of untruths in his article, but it's too long to pick apart. A big one, though, is about appreciation for foreigners. China does in fact have laws about foreigners, but most are designed to protect them and avoid international incidents. For example, several schools around the Shaolin Temple offer practical training in everything from hand-to-hand combat to spears to swords. Only three, however, have passed safety regulations to accept foreigners. The Chinese also likes to tell you that you're special, because they think it endears you to them, whether it's true or not.

I'll end by saying: it's hard to judge China through a western perspective.

vph 5 days ago 2 replies      
The author seems to suggest that the main problem -- as suggested by the title -- is that the Chinese are strongly anti-foreigners. This might be true. But I don't think it's why his business was robbed.

The main problem, I think, is the Chinese's jungle-ruled platform associated with its single-party tyranny. What happens is they will invite you in and give you lots of promises and flexibilities at first. They will learn from you. And when you get too big, they will change the rules to favor their owns, and kick you out, robbing you if necessary. It's not so much that you're a Caucasian foreigner.

I believe that a lot of outside investors and companies will eventually (unless they are big) find out that doing business with the Chinese will end up looking like this person. I am not anti-Chinese as a people or a culture, but I have seen this type story again and again.

205guy 5 days ago 0 replies      
Very interesting read of one person's (very credible) opinions about China. Yet...

The title is a tautology. I can't help but feel that anyone from country X will every be integrated into any other country, as long as they still want to be themselves. Which is what the author never really states. Had he bought into the materialistic lifestyle, asked everyone how much money they made, and insisted his kids cram for elementry school exams, and toed the party line (whatever that may be), then maybe he would've been considered Chinese (I bet he'd say you still wouldn't but he didn't even consider that possibility). But no, he wanted to be a Westerner in China, and by definition, never become Chinese.

I lived in Europe for half of my life before age 30. I was fluent and mistaken for a native of the country where I lived. Yet, I could not help but retain my American perspective; I don't think I could give that up even if I wanted to. So even if I blended into the culture and wanted be a native, I could not feel like one myself. I came "home" to the US and don't feel American anymore either--I think that will be the author's fate in Britain. I have American friends still there, native by any standard, yet still consider themselves American by choice.

So I think it comes down to giving up one's identifying culture. The ironic thing, is that Chinese (and many other foreigners) do it all the time when they immigrate to the West. To me, that is the quandary of immigration: how do they manage to embrace the host culture so much that they no longer identify with their native one. It seems so much easier to do from East (India, China) to West (US, mostly). It seems like it's much easier to go from a culture of community to one of individuality than vice-versa. Why is there a lack of symmetry?

iag 5 days ago 1 reply      
Very insightful article. I feel more worried about the Chinese housing bubble crash than anything else. You think the '07 US recession was bad? That'd be a walk in the park if China's bubble bursts.
andrewcooke 5 days ago 0 replies      
we do tend to project our own desires on other people. i remember a colleague telling me how disappointed he was with chile because the same people who had overthrown a fascist dictator were now interested in worldly things like cars and clothes.

there's something of that in this article, i think.

also, it's very hard to be neutral when you live in a place. and living in a foreign place is hard (more for some than others, of course). it's easy to bear grudges, no matter how aware you are that "it's just cultural differences".

huh. voted down for that? sigh...

analyst74 5 days ago 1 reply      
Even though Chinese ideals/opinions tend to be NOT as diversified as, say Canadians, doesn't mean all Chinese think the same.

Some of the main causes, and by no means the only causes for "racism":

1, those you don't understand, you don't trust -- vast of Chinese have not met many foreigners and Chinese culture tend to differ greatly from western cultures.

2, as noted, China is a very segregated country, you get discriminated against for all sorts of reasons. But if you are from a powerful American family, you will find your respect in China; if you are a poor China man, even your (slightly better off) neighbours would look down upon you.

Same reason Jd's love could not marry him, she will not marry another China man either, if he is not from a respectable family or occupying a respectable position.

On a final note, I don't believe in racism. Not that racism does not exist, but it's too easy of an explanation for your misfortunes; It's too easy to blame something you cannot change and call it a day. Real life is a lot more complex than that, and it's best to look for resolvable problems and fix them, increasing your chance of success, than to blame someone else.

seivan 5 days ago 0 replies      
" The Party does not want free thinkers who can solve its problems. It still believes it can solve them itself, if it ever admits it has a problem in the first place."

This is not only damaging to society in China, but to the rest of the world as well. So much potential to do good, squandered because of fear of revolution.

peterwwillis 5 days ago 0 replies      
Hearing about the property bubble and political system in China is a bit like hearing a Greek tell you about how politics and business worked in Greece, pre-economic meltdown.
barkingcat 5 days ago 2 replies      
Just remember, this too shall pass.

You can't be Chinese right now, but that doesn't mean you'll never be Chinese.

Governments do fall and rise at the drop of a hat in China. People know that right?

pdeuchler 5 days ago 0 replies      
> Schools do not produce well-rounded, sociable, self-reliant young people with inquiring minds. They produce winners and losers. Winners go on to college or university to take “business studies.”

Scarily reminiscent of education in the U.S.

sabj 5 days ago 0 replies      
As lionhearted said, a mix of good points and bitterness, but " and ... always go well together, don't they?

I think the most poignant section was this:

>A deal had been struck. Deng had promised the Chinese people material wealth they hadn't known for centuries on the condition that they never again asked for political change. The Party said: “Trust us and everything will be all right.”
>Twenty years later, everything is not all right.

But I would disagree with the overarching theme that the problem of an ascendant China / China in general / etc. is that China is too inward-looking, that "You'll never be Chinese." I know you'll never be Japanese, but I think China and its people and culture are quite different; I didn't spend as much time living in China or studying Chinese as the author, but in that time and in my experiences I think there is a lot more interest and openness of people (and many elites) than is given credit.

Unfortunately, there are huge structural and institutional barriers too...

diminish 5 days ago 2 replies      
"blowing your nose in a handkerchief is disgusting."

I am curious, where in the world is that acceptable (especially during lunch) and where disgusting..

fring0 5 days ago 5 replies      
It's funny to see more of these articles about China where westerners get their panties in a bunch when they find themselves in a similar situation most other people have been in with respect to the west. I should write a similar article about my American/European dream. I hope the Chinese are able to take criticism better than the west. Westerners can't get over their superiority complex.
chaostheory 5 days ago 0 replies      
The article isn't loading. Google cache doesn't seem to work either.
grakic 5 days ago 1 reply      
While the article may have good points, I was once told not to burn any bridges when leaving. It is an illusion that you can change things while giving up the fight. Unless you leaving is an illusion for some other agenda.
freewizard 4 days ago 0 replies      
Talking about ideology education for children in this country, it's just like in some far-far-away, every newly born has to be fucked by the king; growing up, they know they are fucked, some are addicted to get fucked, some manage to be fuckers, most just know and accept what has been done and move on with more/other important things in their life.
it's just life, no matter you born, just get fucked and move on.
chubs 4 days ago 0 replies      
I loved this bit: "Leadership requires empathy, an ability to put yourself in your subordinate's shoes"
jfaucett 5 days ago 0 replies      
are you sure this isn't an Orwell excerpt?
Khan Academy: Computer Science khanacademy.org
328 points by johns  1 day ago   53 comments top 11
dag11 1 day ago 3 replies      
The videos for CS are brilliant. I don't think programming videos could possibly be more perfect than this.

For example: http://www.khanacademy.org/cs/booleans/839898911

So you can scrub through the lesson and play and pause it, and the instructor can type code into the editor directly causing it to output on your screen in real-time. But the amazing outcome of this is that the viewer can pause the lesson at any time and fiddle with the code directly, instantly changing the outcome. The downside to this is that if the lesson is then resumed, your modifications are kept and the code will be out of sync with the teacher's.

Another cool thing is that the teacher can draw directly onto the program output section just like in normal Khan Academy videos.

Brilliant. I'd say it's almost just as good as having someone right next to you teaching you how to code. The virtual teacher is typing the code directly into your computer!

cantankerous 1 day ago 2 replies      
Methinks "Computer Programming" or "Information Technology" would be a better title for this section than Computer Science. They are more general and applicable to the content.
Groxx 1 day ago 2 replies      
Interactive numbers in the UI: seriously awesome. LOVE that they did this. Hopefully we'll get live updates to code in more systems, it's wonderful.

Lack of a 'course' to go through: ? I have no idea where to start. Nor can many of these be applied outside of the little editor with the 'tutorial'. Elsewhere, KA has a nice 'do this, then that (or that)' set of branching paths that give you a reasonable path to take. I see none of that here. Am I missing something?

vlad 1 day ago 3 replies      
Great work, but I have some feedback about the first video shown to everyone who visits the Computer Science page.

1) It jumps right into talking about syntax of programming instead of showing screen shots of what a person will be able to build after completing the lessons, the benefits of learning about Computer Science, some cool problems they will know the answer to, etc, like Udacity does.

2) It is spoken way too fast. It's going to turn off almost all non-native english speakers, as well as confuse many english speakers.

3) As if that's not bad enough, anyone who turns on closed captioning to get a transcript will be even more confused, as YouTube's transcription is both messy and flashes quickly. It's so useless, you should look into disabling the CC button for the videos while looking into other approaches in the mean time.


"according to a common just by out of the two facets to the front and we call this commenting out coat now the fun we skipped and sometimes this can get away with the land was for".

4) When re-recording it, I hope the speaker (who is female) says "men and women" rather than "dudes" when talking about programmers several times. Lots of women have contributed to software development. Otherwise, she made some great jokes!


recursive 1 day ago 1 reply      
This looks like it has more to do with programming than computer science. That's a good thing, in my opinion, since I think programming is probably more generally useful. But it's a little misleading as the title.
eranation 1 day ago 3 replies      
I'm checking CS on Khan academy every few weeks with hope for something like this, the Python class was great, but this is really exciting, and having Vi Hart do the videos is cool (or someone with a very similar voice...) - correction: it's narrated by Jessica Liu, who is doing an amazing job too
sanxiyn 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Atropos 1 day ago 0 replies      
That is really incredible work! I bet Codecademy is happy they already received their $10m round...
Kiro 1 day ago 2 replies      
So what's the difference between this and any other tutorials on the internet?
laserDinosaur 1 day ago 1 reply      
I just noticed the Khan academy website has no logo
m0skit0 1 day ago 1 reply      
The "How to read documentation" link is dead...
How to crawl a quarter billion webpages in 40 hours michaelnielsen.org
308 points by cing  5 days ago   64 comments top 15
soult 5 days ago 7 replies      
In my experience, one of the hardest parts of writing a web crawler is URL selection:

After crawling your list of seed URLs, where do you go next? How do you make sure you don't crawl the same content multiple times because it has a slightly different URL? How to avoid getting stuck on unimportant spam sites with autogenerated content?

Because the author only crawled domains from a limited set and only for a short time, he did not need to care about that part. Nonetheless, it's a great article that shows many of the pitfalls of writing a webcrawler.

ChuckMcM 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is a great article. On a side note if you want to do this all day and get paid for it let me know :-) Crawls are the first step of a search engine. Greg Lindahl, CTO at blekko.com) has been writing up a variety of technologies used in our search engine work at High Scalability [1].

One of the most interesting things for me is that a lot of the 'frothiest' web pages (those that change every day or several times a day) have become pretty significant chunk of the web from even 5 years ago. I don't see that trend abating much.

[1] http://highscalability.com/

netvarun 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you very much for the post. I have written a distributed crawler at my startup Semantics3* - we track the price and metadata fields from all the major ecommerce sites.

Our crawler is written in perl. It uses an evented architecture (written using the AnyEvent library). We use Redis to store state (which urls have been crawled - using the hash- and determine which urls to crawl next - using sorted sets)

Instead of using a bloom filter we used sorted sets to dedupe urls and pick the highest priority urls to crawl next (some sort of priority queue).

For the actual distribution of crawling (the 'map reduce' part) we use the excellent Gearman work distribution server.

One major optimization i can suggest is caching the dns (and also do it asynchronously). You can save a lot of time and resources, especially at that scale, by simply caching dns requests. Another optimization would be to keep the socket connection open and do the download of all the pages from the same domain asynchronously.

*Shameless plug: We just launched our private beta. Please sign up and use our API using this link:


sneak 5 days ago 1 reply      
> Code: Originally I intended to make the crawler code available under an open source license at GitHub. However, as I better understood the cost that crawlers impose on websites, I began to have reservations. My crawler is designed to be polite and impose relatively little burden on any single website, but could (like many crawlers) easily be modified by thoughtless or malicious people to impose a heavy burden on sites. Because of this I've decided to postpone (possibly indefinitely) releasing the code.

That is not a good reason. There are many crawlers out there. Anyone can easily modify the string "robots.txt" in the wget binary to "xobots.txt".

Release your code so that others can learn. Stop worrying that you are giving some special tool to bad people - you aren't.

jdrock 5 days ago 4 replies      
Being the CEO of a firm that offers web-crawling services, I found this post very interesting. On 80legs, the cost for a similar crawl would be $500, so it's nice to know we're competitive on cost.
brey 5 days ago 2 replies      
> I used a Bloom filter to keep track of which urls had already been seen and added to the url frontier. This enabled a very fast check of whether or not a new candidate url should be added to the url frontier, with only a low probability of erroneously adding a url that had already been added.

other way round? bloom filter provides a low probability of erroneously believing a URL had already been added when it had not, zero probability of believing a URL had not already been added to the filter when in fact it had.

using a bloom filter in this way guarantees you won't ever hit a page twice, but you'll have a non-zero rate of pages you think you've downloaded but you actually haven't, depending how you tune it.

rb2k_ 4 days ago 0 replies      
My Master's degree project was a webcrawler. If you're already reading this, the thesis[0] might be a somewhat entertaining read.

I had a bit different constraints (only hitting frontpage, cms/webserver/... fingerprinting, backend has to be able to do ad-hoc queries for site features), but it's nice to see that the process is always somewhat the same.

One of the most interesting things I experienced was, that link crawling works pretty ok for a certain amount of time, but after you have visited a large amount, bloom filters are pretty much the only way to protect against duplication in a memory efficient way.

I switched to a hybrid model where I do still check for links, but to limit the needed depth, I switched to using pinboard/twitter/reddit to find new domains. For bootstrapping you can get your hands on zonefiles from places on the internet (e.g. premiumdrops.com) that will keep you from having to crawl too deep pretty fast.

These days, I run on a combination of a worker approach with redis as a queue/cache and straight elasticsearch in the backend. I'm pretty happy with the easy scalability.

Web Crawlers are a great weekend project, they allow you to fiddle with evented architectures (github sample [1]), scaling a database and seeing the bottlenecks jump from place to place within your architecture. I can only recommend writing one :)

[0] http://blog.marc-seeger.de/2010/12/09/my-thesis-building-blo...
[1] https://github.com/rb2k/em-crawler-sample

veneratio 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow that was informative. I appreciated the author's responsibility the most. Rather than make this a daring adventure or fanciful notion, Nielsen approached the activity with a genuine interest in creating something awesome, not just from the angle of power, though. Great post.
alexbardas 4 days ago 3 replies      
Not bad at all. I build just a few months ago (not publicly released even though I plan) a crawler using NodeJS to take advantage of its evented architecture. I managed to crawl and store (in mongo) more than 300k movies from IMDB in just a few hours (using only a laptop and 8 processes), creating many processes and every one having a specified number of concurrent connections (was based on nodejs cluster and kue lib by learnboost). For html parsing, I used jsdom or cheerio (faster but incomplete), but the process of extracting and storing the data was very faster (prob less than 10 ms for a page). Kue is similar to ruby's resque or python's pyres so the advantage was that every request was basically an independent job using redis as a pubsub.

Even though your implementation is a lot complex and very well documented, IMO using non blocking I/O it's a much better solution, because crawling is very intensive I/O and most of the time is spent with the connection (request + response time). Using that many machines and processes, the time should be much shorter with node.

marklit 5 days ago 0 replies      
You can make fabric execute commands in parallel. The reliability will be as good as it'll get with chef. I've spent ages dealing with edge cases with both fabric and chef setup systems.


mey 5 days ago 1 reply      
Is there any reason you crawled for 40 hours? Was this the optimal cost from Amazon? Why not do this over more time using bid for spot instances?
x-header 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is not how to crawl webpages. He started with the Alexa list. Those are not necessarily domain names of servers serving webpages. I would guess that some of the request to cease crawling came from some of these listings. Working from the Alexa list he would have been crawling some of the darkest underbelly of the web: ad servers and bulk email services.

His question: "Who gets to crawl the web?" is an interesting one though.

Do not assume that Googlebot is a smart crawler. Or smarter than all others. The author of Linkers and Loaders posted recently on CircleID about how dumb Googlebot can be.

There is no such thing as a smart crawler. All crawlers are stupid. Googlebot resorts to brute force more often than not.

Theoretically no one should have to crawl the web. The information should be organised when it is entered into the index.

Do you have to "crawl" the Yellow Pages? Are listings arranged by an "algorithm"? PageRank? 80/20 rules?

Nothing wrong with those metrics; except of course that they can be gamed trivially, as experiments with Google Scholar have shown. But building a business around this type of ranking? C'mon.

If the telephone directories abandoned alpha and subject organisation for "popularity" as a means of organisation it would be total chaos. Which is why "organising the world's information" is an amusing mission statement when your entire business is built around enabling continued chaos and promoting competition for ranking.

Even worse are companies like Yelp. It's blackmail.

If the information was organised, e.g., alphabetically and regionally, it would be a lot easier to find stuff. Instead, search engines need to spy on users to figure out what they should be letting users choose for themselves. Where "user interfaces" are concerned, it is a fine line between "intuitive" and "manipulative".

The people who run search engines and directory sites are not objective. They can be bought. They want to be bought.

This brings quality down. As it always has for traditional media as well. But it's much worse with search engines.

zaptheimpaler 4 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent article. Looks like there was a lot of work involved in the project, about how long did it take you to make this?
zerop 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks. I came across fabric from this article. very useful for us.
praveenhm 5 days ago 0 replies      
Very nice article on web crawling.
Browserver: a node.js HTTP server, in your browser browserver.org
294 points by jedschmidt  5 days ago   63 comments top 21
arturadib 5 days ago 2 replies      
TL;DR: This is a proxy server that routes HTTP requests from a unique subdomain (e.g. http://m7rp3u2ntr9t3xr.browserver.org) to a browser that's visiting browserver.org. The JavaScript in the browser then handles the HTTP response. This is possible thanks to a persistent connection between the browser and browserver.org, via some "websocket-like" protocol.

The title "node.js HTTP server, in your browser" is because the HTTP handler in the client (browser) has a Node-like API, see:


jedschmidt 5 days ago 7 replies      
Hey all,

I put browserver together in my free time over the last week. It's still a bit of a toy, but I think it's useful to explore ideas around extending webhooks all the way to the browser, to simplify our increasingly complicated web architectures.

It's already late here in Tokyo, but I'll be up for a bit if anyone wants to chat/brainstorm about approaches like this (and also to make sure the server stays up).

ericz 5 days ago 2 replies      
I find this title rather misleading. There is no node.js HTTP server in your browser. Meaning, you cannot do anything that is part of Node.js in the browser "server"

The browser is still running its original js engine with none of the Node goodies. It merely receives proxied requests, does some stuff to it, then sends it back to the proxy, which returns it to the client.

arunoda 5 days ago 3 replies      
Nice attempt.
But your title is misleading.

You just listen for a URL and forward it to the browser with socket.io
(Pusher, Pubnub are some commercial services for this)

If I can change some content in your webpage by just curling localhost, I can judge the title you put :)

VikingCoder 5 days ago 1 reply      
...I'm looking forward to WebRTC, which should make this obsolete, right?


That said, this is cool!

aba_sababa 5 days ago 1 reply      
I don't really see why this is special. It's just a websocket connection that happens to show every request made to the server. Your browser is not a server, no matter which way you cut it.
mcantelon 5 days ago 0 replies      
Weinre is a project that, if my understanding of it is correct, leverages the same basic idea. It's used to remotely debug mobile browser issues and also uses Node.



quarterto 5 days ago 1 reply      
It's not just you! http://browserver.org looks down from here.
mgurlitz 5 days ago 1 reply      
Github has a good readme if this site doesn't stay up: https://github.com/jed/browserver-node
alan_cx 5 days ago 0 replies      
Ok so I can access it either, but:

Loading the app... If this message doesn't go away within 10 seconds, it means that the server crashed under heavy load. Please refresh mercilessly.


state 5 days ago 2 replies      
I think there's a ton of unrealized potential in this kind of thinking. Although people will say 'But that was done by X a year ago!' I see that as evidence that this is gaining momentum.

Now, what's the project that will fully take advantage of this kind of thing?

Kilimanjaro 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just add a text area and let people share some html. Now that would be cool!

Change some HTML in that text area and refresh automatically in all listeners.

That would be an interesting toy to play for a while.

debacle 5 days ago 1 reply      
And they're down.

It was a good 15 minutes, though.

sehrope 5 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone know if browserver.org is self hosting (i.e. running on some guys desktop/laptop in a browser window)? Site is down at the moment and I'm wondering if this is why.
mislav 5 days ago 0 replies      
rip_kirby 5 days ago 0 replies      
If you look at the favicon, there's two of them faviconception
sharps_xp 5 days ago 0 replies      
I do not understand what is going on.
bestest 5 days ago 0 replies      
What sorcery is this!
mekwall 5 days ago 1 reply      
Hacker News killed it with fire!
napolux 5 days ago 0 replies      
We put a server in your browser. #inception
shawndumas 5 days ago 0 replies      
Google Keeps Paying Deceased Employees' Families for a Decade theatlantic.com
281 points by jbredeche  6 days ago   124 comments top 18
cletus 5 days ago 3 replies      
Speaking as a Google employee who does NOT speak for the company, I remember reading the notice about this. This is separate to life insurance (which we also get).
rhplus 6 days ago 6 replies      
This is just a life insurance policy being rebranded and puffed up by Google PR & Google HR.

Life insurance is a standard benefit among many top employers. What makes Google a bit different is that they're paying out 10 x salary, which is probably at the higher end of the spectrum of policies like this. I think my previous employer paid something like 4 x salary for death through illness and 10x for accidental death. Perhaps Google is happier to pay higher premiums or they've negotiated down thanks to a younger and healthier corpus of employees?

melvinram 6 days ago 2 replies      
I envy not Google employees who get these benefits. I envy Larry Page and Sergey Brin for founding and building a company that is capable of offering these types of benefits.
NDizzle 6 days ago 0 replies      
This kind of stuff is great, and great is an understatement.

When my Dad passed back in the early '90s from cystic fibrosis, the company he worked for (for about 15 years) continued to pay our family his entire salary for 3 years.

That was what enabled me to be where I am today. It allowed my Mother, who was a stay at home Mom with two wild ass kids, to take the time out to get a solid vocational education and get a job that pays a decent wage.

Anyways. Good on google.

csmeder 6 days ago 5 replies      
So soon as you leave google you have to sign up for a real life insurance plan? At that point you may be too old to get one at a good price. This seems like a sneaky way to scare people from leaving google?

As I understand it at a normal company you pay into a life insurance plan each month from a young age, so that if you take this plan with you to a new company you get to keep the low rate you have earned. With google you loose all your life insurance if you leave Google!

Am I confused or is this a crummy deal?

j_baker 6 days ago 6 replies      
Somewhat random (but non-trolling!) question: Why is it considered good for Google to give its employees lavish benefits while it's considered extravagant for Wall Street companies to give lavish benefits? I personally feel this is a valid way of viewing things (I may be biased), but I can't quite put my finger on why.
fsckin 6 days ago 3 replies      
Morbid as this may be, it's common practice. There was a scandal about it involving Walmart not long ago where they gave absolutely nothing to the family.


ChuckMcM 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, this is the same guy who decided that engineering managers cannot share with their reports the calibration number which is the basis for all their variable compensation calculations. I wonder if you keep the same number after you die or if they set it to 0 since you're not really contributing as much any more.
Eduardo3rd 6 days ago 6 replies      
Wouldn't it be much cheaper to offer a life insurance policy for each employee that would pay out enough to generate this much income at a relevantly low interest rate? Or is that what they are actually doing and just packaging it differently?
rprasad 5 days ago 1 reply      
I can see the headlines now: "Is Google's Generous Post-Death Policy the New Unfunded Pension Liablity?"

EDIT: Google's policy is not life insurance. The post-death salary payments appear to come out of Google's pockets, not the pockets of an insurer or reinsurer.

This may help Google compete right now, but in the long run, it will be the same drain on the company's resources that pensions were for Detroit. When Detroit was giving out pensions like candy, it was the top-grossing industry in the world; they were making margins close to what Apple makes today. It helped them recruit the best and brightest talent. But then a funny thing happened: the market corrected itself. Cars stopped earning bank. Margins fell, and even the biggest carmakers started going out of business.

We're in the glory days of the web industry, the only difference being that most websites don't even make money before getting sold. But investors will catch on, eventually, like they always do. And when that happens, policies like this will start to go away, just like they did for Detroit.

clarky07 6 days ago 0 replies      
This sounds great when you write it like this, but it's a $10 a month life insurance policy. If they have another regular life insurance policy that's fine, then it's $20 a month. Not exactly mind blowing when we are talking 6 figure salaries. Awesome, everyone just got a .1% raise. yay.
yason 5 days ago 0 replies      
That's just proof that half a day's of work isn't productive anyway. The guy lives, gets half of his salary for trying to do work and the other half of actually doing it. The guy dies, the productive half of his salary disappears but the unproductive half continues. :)
melvinmt 6 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, Google's a great place to die.
coopdog 6 days ago 4 replies      
As admirable as this is (they're basically giving employees a free, low hassle premium life insurance plan), I can't help but feel that this is a will calculated way to widen the gap between goog and startups. I imagine employee spouses have a huge reason now to talk their partners out of leaving their cushy job. 'If not for yourself then think of us...'
keithpeter 5 days ago 0 replies      
As the original article states, this benefit will mean more to older employees. Do HNers think this will lead to the median employee age at Google increasing over time?
kkjhcyuwb 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is in addition to regular life insurance that Googlers get, not instead of.
selvan 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow..loved last line of the post.."Google has an interest in being seen by its staff not just as a place of work, but as a way of life. Even in death."
vexxt 6 days ago 0 replies      
Larry Page probably got health issues (he lost his voice) that lead to this
Soviet Venus Images mentallandscape.com
281 points by wglb  6 days ago   51 comments top 17
jamiequint 6 days ago 1 reply      
The details on how they built cameras (in 1980 no less) to capture and transmit data in an environment of 100atm and 400+ degrees Celsius are really interesting! http://www.mentallandscape.com/C_CatalogVenus.htm
nixy 6 days ago 1 reply      
This blew my mind. I had no idea we ever landed anything on Venus, let alone something that was able to send us pictures from the surface. Fantastic images!
DividesByZero 6 days ago 2 replies      
These landings have one of my favourite ever engineering failures, regarding Venera 14. Venera 13 and 14 were twin landers which landed at the same time on Venus. Both contained a similar science package - including an arm to measure the compressibility of the soil on the surface of Venus.

Venera 13's arm functioned properly. Venera 14's returned strange data, which was soon traced to a very simple fault - both Venera landers had a lens cap protecting their sensitive camera equipment on descent. These popped off on landing, and then the spring-loaded instrument arm extended to perform its testing.

Venera 13's arm extended into the soil correctly. Venera 14's arm extended directly into its discarded lens cap. Poor Venera 14 travelled millions of kilometers to test the compressibility of a lens cap on the surface of venus.

http://www.mentallandscape.com/C_Venera_Perspective.jpg Venera 14 on right)

Venera 14 did also function for almost twice its design lifetime (~57 minutes) so it was a good little probe, but I love to use this little example when talking about reliability engineering.

jschuur 6 days ago 2 replies      
Worth noting that the Venera probes only survived between 23 minutes and 2 hours on the surface of Venus, due to the harsh conditions there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venera
tjic 6 days ago 3 replies      
Now HERE is what I consider really cool: in the US we were seriously thinking about taking some Apollo components, building what amounts to a Skylab with thrusters, and doing a MANNED Venus flyby in 1973.


mladenkovacevic 6 days ago 1 reply      
lots of images and text explaining the process of stitching and processing. Here is the money shot that made me go :O

Also this shot of Halley's comet fly-by from another Soviet craft (Vega-1) that only served to deposit a lander on Venus but then went on to fly close to the famous comet as well:

pacaro 6 days ago 0 replies      
Don Mitchell has some cool stuff on his site, I'm always tempted to use his "Palette of Planets"[1] in a project...

[1] http://donpmitchell.blogspot.com/2006/02/palette-of-planets....

afterburner 6 days ago 1 reply      
I always loved the look of one of the Venera landers:


rwhitman 6 days ago 0 replies      
A Russian scientist revisited these recently and became convinced that there could be life on Venus. A fun read: http://io9.com/5878554/russian-scientist-claims-to-have-disc...
abuddy 6 days ago 0 replies      
There is a new mission Venera-D, they plan to launch it in 2016-2017.
More info here: http://venera-d.cosmos.ru/index.php?id=658&L=2
zerostar07 6 days ago 0 replies      
And now we need a "space" filter for instagram
tsieling 6 days ago 0 replies      
Every few years these photos cross my path and every time I'm just as captivated as when I saw them as a kid. The further we get from that era, the more remarkable the accomplishment feels.
DonPMitchell 6 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for the comments. I'm working on a book now. Also was invited to write a paper refuting the claim of living creatures in the Venera photos. Those features are explained by unusual pulse-position modulation system.
NaOH 6 days ago 1 reply      
I learned about it some time ago in another HN thread, but the BBC series The Planets gives great, concise looks at much of the interplanetary research efforts by the US and the USSR. There are some bits of information that are no longer understood as true, and the series lacks some recent information since it was produced in the late 90s, but it really is worth watching.

It's an eight-part series (each episode being about 45 minutes), and the first three episodes were especially remarkable for the descriptions of what scientists have accomplished, the interviews with some key people, and the film/images shown. I can watch those over and over, and each time I'm struck by how amazing it is that people have accomplished things like this. To me, there's a wonder in it all, from the fact that there have been these achievements and that I've lived at a time to bear witness.

I know it's listed on Amazon and through Netflix for anyone who is interested. My thanks go to whomever it was around here who informed me that this series exists.

cutie 6 days ago 2 replies      
It's a shame the other terrestrial planets are so uninhabitable.
adrianwaj 6 days ago 3 replies      
Anyone know where one can find free (as in public domain or permissible for commercial usage) hi-def photos of outer space? (eg Hubble, other telescopic photos
Paul_S 6 days ago 1 reply      
You've pasted this link in every Mars thread. And submitted it on its own. Multiple times. I had a look at your submission list out of curiosity and all your submissions are just self-promotion. I don't think that's in the spirit of HN.

Best self-promotion you can do is make quality posts and submissions and then link to your blog from your profile page instead.

How you eat corn on the cob predicts whether you're an analyst or algebraist bentilly.blogspot.com
280 points by JumpCrisscross  5 days ago   99 comments top 45
petenixey 4 days ago 4 replies      
There is another reason why you might chose spirals over rows which is that while spirals are more opportunist and agile, rows require you to work harder at the start and then reap your rewards later - perhaps a little more waterfall.

Regardless of approach, your opening bite requires pushing your teeth down in between unharvested rows rows and clearing out a patch of cob. On the second bite however you can now chose between the base of your newly cleared patch which is literally the "low hanging fruit" (spiral approach) or move directly along and open up a new row (row approach).

The base of your open patch offers good purchase for your upper teeth, high visibility of any oddities that may be lying under the surface and a good understanding of how much you're going to be able to expect from the next bite based on what you just had. Should you find that the cob is too much for you, you can also chop the remainder off, wrap it in clingfilm and keep it for later (or feasibly offer it to another diner).

A row approach means opening up the whole cob in one go. It's hard work at the start and you're fully committed. If you give up half way through you can't really offer your corn to anyone else or bag it for later - it's basically a mess. That said, after that first push you'll never need to open up any new rows and the rest of the process is pretty formulaic - you get all of the uncertainty out of the way at the start.

From this I'd also guess at the following correlations:

Row eaters:

- tend to start projects solo & keep going on their own

- tend to have a lot of unfinished projects that don't work

- like to tackle "big picture problems"

- tend towards optimism

Spiral eaters

- happy to break projects down and collaborate. Unfussed by solo or otherwise

- good at finishing projects

- not that fussed by starting projects

- tend towards realism / pessimism


Everything that you're currently thinking :)

m0nastic 4 days ago 8 replies      
Apparently I'm screwed; I cut it off the cob in sheets.

So I guess that means I don't care about efficiency, but need things super neat and orderly. I have always liked Prolog though...

btilly 4 days ago 1 reply      
I wondered why I had all of those hits to an old blog article. Now I know!

This is one of the odder correlations that I'm aware of. I'm glad that other people find it interesting.

tptacek 4 days ago 1 reply      
Nailed it. I can't stand cooked corn, and I suck at math.
gpmcadam 4 days ago 1 reply      
I buy corn in a can and heat it quickly in a microwave.

Not the tastiest, but it's quick and it gets the job done.

And yes, I'm a PHP programmer.

gxs 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is the kind of article that makes me love HN.

While I'm not a mathematician, I was a math major. I always preferred algebra, and sure enough I eat my corn in rows - so one more data point!

jboggan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Weird. I got heavy into algebra, algebraic topology, and graph theory early on and never cared a whit for analysis. I eat like a typewriter.

In my home state of Georgia the two major public universities are very lopsided in their math departments. University of Georgia is very strong in algebra and Georgia Tech is very strong in analysis. I went to both but fit in much better in the former department.

I have a bunch of job interviews coming up - I'm going to ask my interviewers how they eat their corn as a wedge into discussing problem solving strategies on their teams.

pirateking 4 days ago 2 replies      
I eat in both spirals and in rows. Sometimes sticking with one method all the way through, sometimes alternating along the way. Additionally, sometimes I take great care to cleanly peck each and every kernel out of its socket. Other times I mow through it like a wild animal, bits of corn strewn around my mouth.

I have always loved math, and I always want to dive in deeper, but can never quite figure out exactly what area to jump into...

Sniffnoy 4 days ago 3 replies      
I'm very confused by the idea that OOP would be considered somehow more "algebraic". Functional programming seems way more algebraic to me. I mean, writing Haskell seems about as algebraic as programming gets even without using monads or other such very-high-level abstractions. Also, odd where he puts emacs/vi compared to where he puts programming languages, considering that emacs uses Lisp. (FWIW, I prefer algebra, and I tend to eat corn in patches.)
MaysonL 4 days ago 2 replies      
A much better split than Yegge's.
pguertin 4 days ago 0 replies      
I grow my own corn that has just one extra-wide kernel per row, so that eating it in spirals or in rows is the same thing.

Yes, I am a Forth programmer.

delinka 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm flexible.

A) I hate getting the kernel skins stuck in my teeth. This happens when eating directly from the cob. I spend dozens and dozens of minutes picking, flossing, and sucking my teeth to get them clean. I'd prefer to shave the kernels off with a knife.

If I must eat from the cob:

B) Cobs with husks attached-- you get these at festivals and fairs. Sometimes they're so frickin' delicious you have to just put up with the A) issues. I'm eating it like a dot matrix printer prints on its drum, from one end to the other, rotate a bit and do it again. Cuz it's hard to rotate more with the damn husk in the way.

C) Cobs without husks-- family gatherings with plastic utensils that couldn't shave a cob in any circumstances. Start at the left end and spin the cob until that section is clear; move slightly right, repeat.

So I'm a pragmatist. And this post had me spending far too much time analyzing and posting about my corn eating habits.

Hi, I'm delinka, and I eat corn.

Gring 4 days ago 1 reply      
Apparently Mickey and Donald are algebraists :-)


carterschonwald 4 days ago 1 reply      
Hehe, I'm on both sides and it shows in all three directions. I like all areas of math once I get to know them, and I'm currently rolling numerical computation tools in Haskell :p
(as my job! its pretty great. shoot me an email if that sound fun and you'd like to learn more )

Great silly post to end the day with

jawns 4 days ago 0 replies      
Fascinating! I've made this the daily poll question on Correlated (http://www.correlated.org). Let's see what other surprising correlations we can make from this!
mistercow 4 days ago 0 replies      
My fiancée is a mathematician, and tells me that she eats by spirals, and she prefers algebra, so... Myth: Busted
tel 4 days ago 2 replies      
I eat my corn in rings, fix a z and then scrape through theta before choosing the next z. It's efficient and it sort-of follows the cornkernel grid.

I'm also more of a statistician who edits in vi and emacs every day and I'm challenging myself with some category theory and abstract algebra because I find it intoxicating.

So, I don't have a clue how to fit into this divide.

lani 4 days ago 0 replies      
I eat corn on pizza. I'm a manager
bluekeybox 4 days ago 1 reply      
Rows are superior to spirals, because you can eat up all grains while having to turn the cob only once. The minimal number of turns you have to make when eating in a spiral is the length of the cob divided by the width of your frontal bite. // Full disclosure: I started liking math only after a course of abstract algebra, and I eat corn in rows.
msg 4 days ago 0 replies      
Spirals, functional, ... Emacs. I haven't done such high math but analysis seems more like how I approach design problems (domains more unique, beauty and intuition for guidance).

I have noticed that when each kernel is firm and can be cleanly separated from the cob, I am more likely to do rows. When I do, though, I usually take a horizontal chunk at a time.

noblethrasher 4 days ago 0 replies      
Solving problems is about connecting things.

Analyst connect things by putting them in a "big" circle and then making the circle arbitrarily small.

Algebraist connect things by showing that you can get from one to the other with a line of operations.

I don't remember how I eat corn on the cob but I rarely finish it in either case :(

radicalbyte 4 days ago 1 reply      
I prefer to eat my corn-on-the-cob quickly, with lots of butter and salt, whilst making as much mess as I can.

It's one of the few meals where its' socially acceptable to eat like a pig :)

super_mario 4 days ago 0 replies      
Of course how you eat corn predicts nothing (except how you eat corn of course :D). Most people are neither analysts nor algebraists. I'm a trained mathematician and analyst, but I eat corn like algebraist. Now what :D.
cperciva 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't like corn, but I checked with my parents and they both followed this rule.
dfc 4 days ago 0 replies      
Was the title changed in order to not violate Betteridge's Law[1] or just to be more linkbaity?

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

rapind 4 days ago 1 reply      
I eat my corn in rows and usually start about 7 kernels in from the left and almost never eat more more than 65 kernels per row.
cafard 3 days ago 0 replies      
According to a fellow who wrote for the Washington Post, it indicated whether you grew up in the city or the country--city was around, country was rows. (Or maybe I have this backwards, for the column ran many years ago.)

Of course, _that_ you eat corn on the cob indicates that you are a hedonist. Poorer societies get the hull off the corn to get more of the nutrients. Some use mechanical means, some use chemicals like lye.

joering2 4 days ago 1 reply      
Works out in my example.

Seriously -- don't be surprised to see an interviewer offering you a cob of corn as a snack (especially since we are having summer) and watching you eating it. While this should not be a major indication into your engineering nature, I am sure it may add up as positive/negative points into said interviewer decision making process.

logicalmind 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very interesting. Now I am very curious how some famous physicists and mathematicians eat corn.
rdtsc 4 days ago 0 replies      
It is akin to choosing a breadth-first or a depth-first exploration (or corn consumption in this case) strategy.

Analysts want to try and explore depth first hopefully to get to the result while algebraists go in breadth first -- to leave no kernel un-eaten in a nice systematic way.

ThePherocity 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is nonsense. You could eat your corn in rows because adding butter to a row is a hell of a lot easier than buttering a spiral.
dbbolton 4 days ago 2 replies      
He predicted me pretty well: spirals, functional, vi. But even though I have a decent amount of upper-level math experience, I can't say whether I really prefer analysis over algebra. I think it just depends on the problem at hand.
mhb 4 days ago 0 replies      
By spiral do the mathematicians mean helix?
arnarbi 4 days ago 0 replies      
> Going out on a limb, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that where people fall in the emacs/vi debate is correlated with how they eat corn. I wouldn't predict a very strong correlation, but I'd expect that emacs is likely to appeal to people who would like algebra, and vi to people who like analysis.

I would guess exactly the opposite way. Vi defines a sort of a composable language for editing text. Commands are combined of atoms giving a verb describing an action, number of times to repeat and movement over a range to apply the action on. It all becomes a semi-algebraic system of text editing.

Zenst 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds like a load of coblers to me, I prefer to buy it from KFC and then add extra butter and lick it off then eat down the main shaft and and then the ends and typewritter style the rest. Given that it would indicate I like to outsource, male prostitute and like safe methodical approach's. Guess I should go back to being a contract programmer!
jerfelix 4 days ago 1 reply      
I use the Roomba technique to eat my corn. Random walks.
unabridged 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a discrete mathematician and I cut all the corn off the cob with a knife first.
SoftwareMaven 4 days ago 0 replies      
Makes me wonder: could you change the way you think by changing the way you eat your corn?
begriffs 4 days ago 1 reply      
Sure enough, I prefer algebra and eat in rows. Creepy.
Turing_Machine 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm wondering if recursion v. iteration might be a better test than OO v. functional.
gweinberg 4 days ago 0 replies      
I's been a while since I ate corn on the cob, but as I recall I used to eat in a zigzag rather than "typewriter" fashion.

When people say "spiral" they really mean a series of circles, right? I've never known anyone to eat corn that way.

xfhai 4 days ago 0 replies      
I once saw a girl who separated each kernel with her fingers and ate it. I have not seen anyone else do that. She was eating in spirals, but I thought this is something worth mentioning because I have not seen anyone else do that.
ncarroll 3 days ago 0 replies      
Aren't there any random corn eaters here? Shudder not, I just bite around on the cob until all the corn is gone.
gauravsc 4 days ago 0 replies      
I eat my corn in spiral and I love analysis part of maths. I am doing my masters in data mining. I guess, it adds another data point to your findings.
dleibovic 4 days ago 0 replies      
If you butter your corn, it's best to eat in spirals to ensure even distribution of butter over time and minimal dripping.
Write any javascript code with just these characters: ()[]{}+ patriciopalladino.com
279 points by alcuadrado  5 days ago   50 comments top 23
dherman 5 days ago 4 replies      
Arg, scooped! I was working on this exact same thing! :D

Since you've beat me to it, let me offer up a couple additional tricks you might want to use. If you want to make this completely independent of browser API's, you can eliminate the dependence on window.location (or atob/btoa as the sla.ckers.org poster did).

Trick #1 is to get the letter "S".

You can extract this from the source code of the String constructor, but you want to be careful to make this as portable as possible. The ES spec doesn't mandate much about the results of Function.prototype.toString, although it "suggests" that it should be in the form of a FunctionDeclaration. In practice you can count on it starting with [whitespace] "function" [whitespace] [function name]. So how to eliminate the whitespace?

For this, we can make use of JS's broken isNaN global function, which coerces its argument to a number before doing its test. It just so happens that whitespace coerces to NaN, whereas alphabetical characters coerce to 0. So isNaN is just the predicate we need to strip out the whitespace characters. So we can reliably get the string "S" from:


Of course, to get isNaN you need the Function("return isNaN")() trick, and you know how the rest of the encoding works.

Trick #2 then lets you get any lowercase letter, in particular "p".

For this, we can make use of the fact that toString on a number allows you to pick a radix other than 2, 8, 10, or 16. Again, the ES spec doesn't mandate this, but in practice it's widely implemented, and the spec does say that if you implement it its behavior needs to be the proper generalization of the other radices. So we can get things like:

(25).toString(26) // "p"

(17).toString(18) // "h"

(22).toString(23) // "m"

and other hard-to-achieve letters.

But once you've got "p", you're home free with escape and unescape, as you said in your post.


CurtHagenlocher 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is like a bizarro-world lambda calculus, complete with its own Church numerals.
quarterto 5 days ago 0 replies      
There are no words to describe how dirty this makes me feel.
dag11 5 days ago 0 replies      
I made a little script to extract the original javascript from a script obfuscated with OP's tool (http://patriciopalladino.com/files/hieroglyphy/).

And because I felt it was appropriate, I created this extraction script in an obfuscated form!

Use this to extract obfuscated scripts: http://pastebin.com/raw.php?i=Q9TB4wEF

Just save your obfuscated script in a variable called "original" and then run my code. It'll return with the extracted script.

Oh, and it won't work on itself. That's because I didn't use the obfuscation tool to create it. I made it mostly by hand: http://pastebin.com/9LBWCSJs

apendleton 5 days ago 1 reply      
This post title omits "!" which is also necessary.
stcredzero 5 days ago 0 replies      
So, basically Javascript is just a superset of an esolang that contains itself.


(Especially true if you're developing with a Javascript interpreter hosted in Javascript. Really, it's esolangs all the way down.)

spicyj 5 days ago 0 replies      
The article lists [][+[]] for undefined; you can get away with just [][[]].
mistercow 5 days ago 5 replies      
Man, if you didn't care about performance or bandwidth, this would be a hell an of obfuscation technique.
infinity 4 days ago 1 reply      
Some of you may also enjoy aaencode by Yosuke Hasegawa:


Encode any JavaScript program to Japanese style emoticons (^_^)

And of course jjencode:


(hint: have a look at "palindrome")

skrebbel 4 days ago 1 reply      
Could someone please enlighten me as to how this helps doing an XSS attack?
jerfelix 4 days ago 1 reply      
Looks cool, but I couldn't make it work.

I went to http://patriciopalladino.com/files/hieroglyphy/ and put in a script "alert(1);". This provided me with a script of about 8300 characters.

I created a web page to execute the script:

    <body onload="
[][(![]+[])[!+[] ...

Firebug reports:

    ReferenceError:  Unescaee is not defined.

Looks like it's having trouble picking up a "p".

ctdonath 5 days ago 0 replies      
Cross this with John Horton Conway's notion of "Surreal Numbers" and you might be onto something.
maartenscholl 5 days ago 0 replies      
If you like reducing programs to basic expressions you should read into SKI combinator calculus and the X combinator.
Here is a paper that describes the construction of an efficient X combinator[1].
Reading the paper gave me insight in how simple yet powerful combinatory logic is.


alter8 5 days ago 1 reply      
This guy did it with 6 characters by removing {}. But it lacks the detailed description available in this post.

EDIT: I didn't check properly. You only use {} for a minor detail.


rubyrescue 4 days ago 0 replies      
this is very cool...let me know if you want a job at inaka (we're in BA and have other people in school working for us)
bgeron 5 days ago 1 reply      
I evalled all pieces of Javascript of <30 characters in Rhino, takes 1 minute on my laptop. 4219 possible values, after stripping out some really uninteresting stuff. Doesn't seem to contain anything interesting, unfortunately.


jared314 4 days ago 0 replies      
I remember something like this a few years ago. They were using it for XSS.
michokest 4 days ago 0 replies      
Minor typo:

> "[object Object]" with {}+[]

I believe it should be []+{}

chris_wot 4 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder how well gzip would compress this?
bazookaBen 4 days ago 0 replies      
i pasted the entire json library into the field and it just hung. Any tips?
bradsmithinc 4 days ago 0 replies      
Fando 5 days ago 0 replies      
really cool
mynameishere 5 days ago 1 reply      
Write any Windows application with just the following characters: 0 1
New York Underground nationalgeographic.com
277 points by sehrope  5 days ago   83 comments top 23
cs702 5 days ago 1 reply      
The greatest depth shown in that graphic is 800 feet. At 10-12 feet per floor, that's equal to the height of a 67-80 story skyscraper. This means Manhattan has a 'mirror-image' city under the ground -- its 'citizens' are electric power, water, gas, and trash.

I can't help but be in awe.

msutherl 5 days ago 5 replies      
So, there are two of those deep underground water tunnels, one which runs down from the Bronx through Manhattan and another that runs from the Bronx through Queens and Brooklyn. These tunnels were completed in 1917 and 1935 respectively. How they managed to do this then is beyond me.

Currently a third tunnel is being built and apparently it's "the largest construction project in New York history". The project was begun in 1970 and won't finish until 2020. It cost 6 billion. When the third tunnel comes online, it will allow for the other two tunnels to be shut down for repairs for the first time in their history. Scenes from Die Hard were filmed in Tunnel 3.

This is big, long-term stuff folks. Makes me feel kind of proud of civilization.

evgen 5 days ago 0 replies      
Nice image, but if you want to really have fun with a kid dig up the book "Underground" by David Macaulay. It peels back the layers beneath our feet and was a real eye-opener for me when I was younger. Actually grab anything by the same author and have fun...
DanBC 5 days ago 1 reply      
Tunnelling under cities has a number of odd problems.


I read an article, some years ago, about the problems of getting subterranean tunnels at a depth greater than 100 foot approved. As part of the process the plans get submitted to the security services, who then say "yes" or "no"; and you only get three attempts. I can't find the article (or anything similar) so maybe it's just myth.

The Moscow subways are beautiful, but when I went (April '86) you were not allowed to take any photographs.

I'm fascinated by the complex networks of public tunnels, secret tunnels, and abandoned tunnels.

axefrog 5 days ago 3 replies      
This is a very old article. One of the pages links to this page - http://www.nationalgeographic.com/nyunderground/docs/myth000... - which suggests using RealPlayer 3.0 and Shockwave 5.0.
d0ugal 5 days ago 1 reply      
gee_totes 5 days ago 4 replies      
I'm no civil engineer, but why are the sewage tunnels above the clean water tunnels? If there were a leak, wouldn't the sewage seep into the clean water? Or is the clay thick enough to provide a good barrier?
Tashtego 5 days ago 1 reply      
If you like this, you'll love Kate Ascher's The Works: Anatomy of a City (http://www.amazon.com/The-Works-Anatomy-Kate-Ascher/dp/01431...). It's slightly out of date (but much more up to date than the OP!).

And if you like that, you'll REALLY love Brian Hayes' Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape (http://www.amazon.com/Infrastructure-Field-Guide-Industrial-...). It's porn for people who like to try to figure out what the random towers in a chemical plant do, or how the electrical station you just passed on the interstate works.

gklitt 5 days ago 0 replies      
These fascinating Web 1.0 pages prove that content is king. I miss Geocities.
ChuckMcM 5 days ago 0 replies      
Its a fascinating picture. I'd love to see one of the Bay Area, one of the cable technicians installing yet another fiber down the road outside our office joked that if you put big rockets at PAIX and MAE-WEST and launched, they would lift 'silicon valley' [1] into space on a net of fiber optic cables.

Of course no mention of "Beauty and the Beast" [2] which took place in a pretty fanciful world under New York city.

Given the expense these days of tunneling I wonder if we've reached a peak of complexity underground for now.

[1] Actually only the parts between San Jose and Palo Alto but it was the imagery not the accuracy they were going for.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_and_the_Beast_%281987_T...

Alex3917 5 days ago 0 replies      
For those interested in this sort of stuff, there is a documentary called Dark Days that's all about the homeless people who live in the NYC subway system. It was available on iTunes the last time I checked.
lobster_johnson 5 days ago 1 reply      
Naive question, but are things like power, gas, water, TV cables and steam always buried like this (requiring digging to make repairs or modifications), or are there cities/systems where they are laid in human-accessible tunnels? Seems like it would be more practical, albeit more expensive.
siculars 5 days ago 0 replies      
Here is an interesting Subway chart from 1904 with a depth chart.


evansolomon 5 days ago 0 replies      
A friend of mine made a very cool documentary called Under City that you'd probably like if you're into this kind of stuff.


natesm 5 days ago 1 reply      
This isn't accurate for the entire city. At Astor Place, you can look through the sidewalk grates directly onto the tracks.
yskchu 5 days ago 2 replies      
The most interesting I found was the steam pipes.
donohoe 5 days ago 0 replies      
For the record I first got a link to this page in 1997 or 1998.

Its a timeless page.

jyturley 5 days ago 0 replies      
This was absolutely fascinating. It reminds me of Tokyo's underground sewage system--considered the largest in the world:
kine 5 days ago 0 replies      
I love how this is both informative, very cool and a complete Internet relic. I can't remember the last time I saw a message where I had to choose whether I had Shockwave or not to continue. Nice find!
dmhdlr 5 days ago 0 replies      
BLDGBLOG is a gold-mine for these kind of things.


chermanowicz 5 days ago 0 replies      
this is incredible!
mrclownpants 5 days ago 1 reply      
This has already been posted several times.
ChrisArchitect 5 days ago 5 replies      
yeah, seems to be a lot of old links getting shared lately. please stop.
Maybe start using http://isitold.com/ before posting.
White House Deletes TSA Petition epic.org
274 points by shill  4 days ago   103 comments top 17
cjoh 4 days ago  replies      
Nonsensical sensationalism. The petition expired, and didn't get 25,000 signitures. Should it have gotten special preference because it got on the front page of Reddit and Hackernews? No. Should you have signed it 2 days ago instead of upvoting this article hoping that somebody else would? Yes.

Here's where it says clearly what happened:

Karunamon 4 days ago 3 replies      
Considering how much heed the administration pays to this web site (read: none), somehow I don't think this was willful, nor do I think the enclosing "maintenance" in scare quotes was necessary.

The implication is that the government was so terrified of having to answer for the TSA's shenanigans that they deleted the petition. I suspect the real answer is much more mundane.

DannyBee 4 days ago 1 reply      
Since they have literally never answered a petition in any useful way (Read: action was taken, or real explanations given, rather than talking points repeated), i'm not sure why it even matters except so advocacy folks can say they are doing something.

All that is happening is that people are pretending to give an air of legitimacy to a process that has none.

smsm42 4 days ago 1 reply      
So this petition won't get boilerplate "We heard you, thanks for your feedback, don't you know we are so awesome for responding to you? Please vote for us and we'd consider reading your next petitions while continuing to do absolutely what we want!" response from some White House intern? This is a major setback for the cause of freedom. We all know how much impact other petitions made, if only this one could have the same resounding success!

Seriously, if this petition didn't get 25K signatures in an hour, White House has absolutely no reason to be so afraid as to try and hide it. There's no revolution brewing. And calling your representative and letting him know you'd base your next vote on this issue is more effective (provided that enough people actually do it) than any of the internet petitions anyway.

saurik 4 days ago 2 replies      
This was posted at 11:30AM on the 9th; the deadline was the 9th (some references below)... maybe the deadline was just "exactly X days from posting" and expired in the middle of the day?

As in, this might be neither malice nor incompetence: this could very well just be an implementation detail of the expiration system and how it displays the deadline, causing some people to be confused.

> 10,477 signatures required by August 9th to require President Obama to respond.


> If 25,000 people sign the petition before August 9, 2012, the White House will respond.


jpxxx 4 days ago 0 replies      
The governments of the world only respond to two things, statistical polls and bullets. You cannot Like Button your way to social justice.
walexander 4 days ago 1 reply      
Are non-US citizens allowed to petition on the "We the People" site? The top signed petition here is by some right-wing Japanese history revisionist to remove monuments to Korean sex slaves abused during WWII [1]. Maybe it's a good thing that the administration ignores this site.


Calamitous 4 days ago 2 replies      
This kind of behavior is no longer surprising, from the least transparent White House in living memory.
ck2 4 days ago 3 replies      
Why the heck in this day and age does it take longer than 24 hours to get 25k signatures? There are a million americans on Facebook and Youtube every day?

That said, please stop pretending the petitions mean a darn thing. We don't even have popular vote in this country. Representatives love to insulate themselves behind that.

dasht 4 days ago 0 replies      
Well, organize.

Suppose you hit the deadline with almost but not quite enough signatures. Now, if all those signatures are disorganized -- just random individuals who happened to sign -- that's the end of the game. But if many of those signatures are a coordinated action by organized groups of people, then there is less problem re-introducing the petition, starting off with a lot of votes right of the bat, and then closing the gap before the next deadline.

joering2 4 days ago 1 reply      
"the White House unexpectedly cut short the time period for the petition."

Any ideas what was expected time for such a petition? Lets hope the stir this move caused will push a similar petition that hopeful won't be "down for maintenance" this time.

aggie 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure why people expect these petitions would amount to any real policy change; in fact it would be a disaster if they were true referenda. 25,000 signatures represents 0.0008% of the population and all they did was click a button. If 10 million people signed one of these petitions, and there's no reason that couldn't happen if it was a truly widespread will of "the people," there would be more serious consideration of policy change.

Relevant to this discussion is the petition to take the petitions seriously[1]. The response is essentially that successful petitions bring the topic to discussion at the White House. This might not seem like much, and it isn't "much", but it's something. In the same way big donors do not (usually) buy policy directly, but rather the ear of the administration, these petitions give a small voice in the proces of governance. It's better than nothing and discrediting it because of unreasonable expectations is not helping anything.

[1] https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/actually-take-thes...

jmadsen 4 days ago 0 replies      
Without commenting on any of the other aspects of this,

The petition couldn't get 25 THOUSAND signatures, although I think it was up for at least a month (I tried to sign at one point before the Wired article but it was also down)

In a country of 300 MILLION.

Do you really think this was some sort of conspiracy to silence the masses? Do you really think this was going anywhere?

Go to Change.org & or the White House site again and start a new one if you want. And actually SIGN it this time.

thoughtsimple 4 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone know how much time was supposed to be left? As Karunamon says, I don't think they would be particularly worried to have to respond. Their responses on other petitions have been pretty laughable. But it does seem odd that would cut the time short.
jentulman 4 days ago 0 replies      
In the UK we've got http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/ which is about as effective as people are saying the White House petitions site is.
But we've also got the great http://www.38degrees.org.uk/ which has been effective on a few campaigns now.
tycho1 4 days ago 1 reply      
Seems like people may be jumping to conclusions here.

If this was an actual attempt at censorship it seems very heavy handed and obvious. This seems like it could be legitimate technical issues.

tocomment 4 days ago 0 replies      
Has anyone considered making a new petition to replace this one?
Nokia sells Qt to Digia digia.com
267 points by frax  6 days ago   66 comments top 16
densh 6 days ago 4 replies      
> Following the acquisition, Digia plans to quickly enable Qt on Android, iOS and Windows 8 platforms.

Gods have finally heard my prayers. What have they been waiting for all this years?

edwinyzh 6 days ago 3 replies      
I wish QT Creator will have built-in support for Python (along with PySide), I really like that IDE, it's really well designed for its sole purpose with a minimal UI (when being compared with Visual Studio).

Power of QT + Productivity of QT Creator + Simplicity of Python = Amazing, IMHO.

PySide-powered python scripts can be frozen into binaries with various tools such as cxFreeze, that's a good thing.

BTW, QT Creator is one of my inspiration sources for my new text editor with a Firebug-like UI for testing css/html in real-time (http://liveditor.com).

nuje 6 days ago 1 reply      
The Finnish stock exchange press release also says
the deal has a "neutral effect" on Digia's earnings
so seems they got it for a pittance, or maybe did some
kind of more complicated hedged deal?

Url is http://www.kauppalehti.fi/5/i/porssi/tiedotteet/porssitiedot... if you want to hand it to Google Translate

Edit: I guess it's an accounting trick where you don't
categorise acquisitions as an expense. But still
leaves the 125 salaries...

gingerjoos 6 days ago 1 reply      
Seems like Digia was already into Qt bigtime [1] . Can anyone give some context w.r.t Digia?

[1] http://blog.qt.nokia.com/2011/03/07/nokia-and-digia-working-...

eliben 6 days ago 4 replies      
IMHO Nokia has really managed to alienate developers with their treatment of Qt, and their dumping of Meego in favor of MS. This may cause deep repercussions in the long run.
nicholassmith 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is probably the best news that can come out of the situation. It's someone already in the community, and familiar with the needs of the platform going forward.
Xyzodiac 6 days ago 0 replies      
I knew this was going to happen, seriously glad Digia is bringing it to mobile.
daurnimator 6 days ago 0 replies      
Website down due to load; see it via Coral: http://www.digia.com.nyud.net/en/Home/Company/Press/2012/Dig...
przemoc 6 days ago 0 replies      
So what Atlant Schmidt wrote on development(at)qt-project(dot)org ML [1] came true.

Somehow it looks like this whole open governance transition of Qt was aimed to lessen disturbance of the inevitable sell off.

[1] http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.comp.lib.qt.devel/5502/focus=5...

happywolf 6 days ago 1 reply      
For iOS, a sane obj-C binding to Qt4 will be the first thing I wish.
api 6 days ago 1 reply      
Sell your best product. Great job Microsoft flunkies...
mikecane 6 days ago 0 replies      
How will the new ownership of Qt affect Open webOS?
ylem 6 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder how this will effect pyside...
chj 6 days ago 0 replies      
Qt for Android!
freepipi 6 days ago 0 replies      
I hope QT will stay neutrality to any specified OS
umenline 6 days ago 2 replies      
does it remain LGPL ?
The first Django site to run on Python 3 myks.org
252 points by mYk  14 hours ago   50 comments top 14
mYk 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Since the showcase is low on information, here's a summary of the current status:

- the porting strategy is explained here: https://docs.djangoproject.com/en/dev/topics/python3/

- the porting work happens in the master branch; commits related to the Python 3 port are usually prefixed by [py3]: https://github.com/django/django/commits/master

- the test suite doesn't pass yet, but the hardest part is done: http://ci.djangoproject.com/job/Django%20Python3/

- most of the work happened over the last three weeks, and 5 or 6 core developers are contributing significantly

arocks 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Not only a major boost for Python 3 adoption but also a reference for how Unicode handling [1] can be successfully ported from Python 2.x libraries.

They seem to be on schedule as well, which is brilliant [2].

[1]: http://wiki.python.org/moin/PortingDjangoTo3k
[2]: https://www.djangoproject.com/weblog/2012/mar/13/py3k/

gitarr 14 hours ago 2 replies      
Well, the authors of frameworks and libraries still on Python 2 and without having concrete upgrade plans will have to either do something soon or others will take their space.

Python 3 is here, now.

redsymbol 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Heck yeah! My startup uses python heavily, and it's ALL Python3 except for the public-facing website... which is currently Django1.4+Python2.7. As recently as six weeks ago, I tried porting it over, and had to abandon the effort... as soon as this gets stable enough, you can bet we'll make the switch.
SiVal 7 hours ago 1 reply      
What is the estimated release date of Django 1.5?
roryokane 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't use Python for anything so I don't really care about Django updates, but I found this cool anyway. It was interesting to look through the code on the page in order to figure out how the page printed out that code. It was also interesting to see just how little code (Python, HTML, and CSS) is needed to make a professional-looking page.
marcusbartli 11 hours ago 2 replies      
So glad to see python 3 being adopted more and more by major web frameworks. This might be the wrong place to ask, but have there been any updates on python 3's wsgi or flask support? I've been out of the loop.
tocomment 9 hours ago 4 replies      
Relatedly, what's the correct way to install Python 3 on a Linux server (debian based) so I can try this? while keeping Python 2.x.

The last time I tried doing that I ended up in some weird quagmire with the LD_LIBRARY_PATH being messed up. There must be a standard way to install it?

antihero 14 hours ago 2 replies      
Awesome, good to see this move forward. However, what is the django ecosystem support like?
crimsoncoder 11 hours ago 0 replies      
We are a django shop and I have been concerned about the transition to python 3 for our projects as well as the community in general. Even though I don't think this the end all for a migration, it is a really promising sign. Nice to see this transition starting to occur in the django world.
sho_hn 14 hours ago 2 replies      
Best thing I've seen all day.

(Go ahead and downvote me, this comment has absolutely value, yet despite knowing that I'm so happy I still feel compelled to post it. :)

conradfr 6 hours ago 0 replies      
As a mainly php dev on the server-side, I've been interested on expanding to Python / Django for some time but the whole v2 and v3 thing put me a bit on hold.

Glad to see it moving.

tocomment 9 hours ago 3 replies      
Does anyone know how they decided on that porting strategy? Why not move to Python three and run 3to2 for backwards compatibility?
charliesome 13 hours ago 0 replies      
nice to see django take python 3 seriously
The effect of typefaces on credibility opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com
246 points by gamzer  6 days ago   93 comments top 27
blahedo 6 days ago 5 replies      
There are a lot of problems here.

The bar charts used to illustrate that article are terrible. They present raw counts for each font, but each font was not presented to the same number of people---they varied from 7,477 (CM) to 7,699 (Helvetica), which is a pretty big swing given the other numbers they're displaying. In fact, when you run the percentages, CM has a higher percentage of agreement than Baskerville (62.6% to 62.4%)!

When we turn to the "weighted" scores, which don't follow any clear statistical methodology that I'm aware of, the bar chart is again presented with counts rather than proportions, and this time with an egregiously misleading scale that makes it seem like CS gets half the score of gravitas-y fonts like CM and Baskerville, when in fact its score is only about 5% lower.

Finally we get to the "p-value for each font". That's... not how p-values work. The author admits that his next statement is "grossly oversimplified", but there's a difference between simplification and nonsense. He says that "the p-value for Baskerville is 0.0068." What does that mean? What test was being performed there? Can we have a little hint as to what the null and alternative hypotheses were?

aw3c2 6 days ago 2 replies      
Those columns graphs were very misleading to me. Here is some adjusted image showing the whole image for easier grasping of the dimensions: http://i.imgur.com/QS8PA.jpg I am not 100% my math is correct but a quick calculation in my head says the dimensions seem correct
waratuman 6 days ago 6 replies      
I'm not that great of a writer. My papers were usually in the B range and I almost never got an A. Then I started using LaTeX and now my papers are used as examples in classes.
pierrefar 6 days ago 3 replies      
How did they control for whether the fonts are actually installed on the participants' computers or not?

Also, did they control for desktops vs smartphones vs tablets? It's reasonable to hypothsize the device's screen (and zoom level on mobiles) affects typeface rendering and its perception.

All in all, intersesting and worthy of more work, but I want more to believe the result more.

JoelSutherland 6 days ago 3 replies      
When the survey initially came out I was randomly given Computer Modern. The day before, I had painstakingly converted Computer Modern it to a webfont for a friend's blog (http://www.krisjordan.com) and I was shocked to see it on nytimes.com.

I quickly went over to a different (Windows) machine to try it out because I couldn't believe my eyes. That one was given Georgia, so I mistakenly assumed that Errol Morris was such a type hipster that he included Computer Modern in his type stack if it was installed locally. It was pretty funny to see this today.

One thing I will say, is that the Computer Modern webfont they used is a disaster. It had tons of aliasing issues. I wonder how they sourced it since natively it isn't in a normal font format. (Knuth!) That certainly would skew the results.

anusinha 6 days ago 2 replies      
An empirical anecdote: when I was in high school, all of my lab reports for chemistry and physics were typeset in LaTeX while most of my friends either handwrote the mathematics or used MS Word's Equation Editor. There were multiple occasions where a friend and I made the same mistake (we usually worked together; yes, we cited each other) and the deduction on my report was less than the deduction on his. It wasn't huge, usually -1 point vs -2, but there was consistently a difference.
jere 6 days ago 2 replies      
>Georgia is enough like Times to retain its academic feel, and is different enough to be something of a relief for the grader.

I've thought for years Georgia was a great choice on a resume/paper.

a) You want to stand out

b) You also don't want to appear too "starchy"

brendano 5 days ago 0 replies      
Following up on blahedo's comment and the questions about what the heck their p-values mean --

This is a nice example that you can get statistical significance for small effects, if your sample is big enough. Their p-values are explained very badly, so I did my own analysis by transcribing their data from those plots. Let's take their weighting scheme for granted. I agree with some other commenters that the sums and counts are misleading, and instead took average scores per font, and computed confidence intervals for those means. The means are indeed a little different, and for some pairs, statistically significantly so.


But does it matter much? Take the pair with the largest gap, Baskerville vs. Comic Sans, of 0.95 versus 0.79: a difference is 0.16. This is out of a 10-point scale (ranging -5 to +5).

In fact, the standard deviation for the entire dataset is 3.6 -- so just 0.05 standard deviations worth of difference.

Or here's another way to think about it. If a person does Comic Sans example, versus could have done Baskerville example, how often would they have score higher? (This ignores the weightings, it's a purely ordinal comparison. I think this is related to the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test statistic or something, I forget.) So with independence assumptions (if they had proper randomization, hopefully this solves), just independently sample from the distributions many times and compare pairs of simulated outcomes. 22% of the time it's a tie, 40.3% of the time Baskerville scores higher, and 37.8% of the time Comic Sans scores higher. I guess then it sounds like the difference is better than nothing.

Not sure what's a good and fair way to think about the substantive size of the effect. I wanted to take the quantile positions of the means, but realized you can't exactly do that with ordinal data like this (zillions of values share the same quantile value).

I probably missed something, so here's the transcribed data and R/Python code probably with errors: https://gist.github.com/3311340

Now that I'm thinking about it more, averaging the agreement scores seems weird. Maybe it's clearer to use the simple binary agree/disagree outcome.

thebigshane 6 days ago 0 replies      
I really hate those "Weighted Agreement/Disagreement" charts.

For Weighted Agreement, it looks like Comic Sans had a way lower agreement rate (it looks like 60% lower) but Comic Sans had only a 4.5% lower agreement rate than Baskerville, including their weighting system.

For Weighted Disagreement, Georgia had only a 7.7% increase in disagreement than Baskerville whereas the chart makes it look more than double.

Still interesting, but not nearly as substantial as they make it out to be. Is there a term for this type of manipulation of charts (whether intentional or not)?

EDIT: Indeed, the term for this is "Truncated graph" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misleading_graph#Truncated_grap...

And as a bonus (thanks wikipedia!), according to Edward Tufte's "Lie Factor"[0] (where 1 is considered accurate), the Weighted Agreement chart has a lie factor of ~15 and the Weighted Disagreement chart has a lie factor of ~17.

[0]: http://thedoublethink.com/2009/08/tufte%E2%80%99s-principles...

rubergly 6 days ago 0 replies      
> Baskerville seems to be the king of fonts. What I did is I pushed and pulled at the data and threw nasty criteria at it. But it is clear in the data that Baskerville is different from the other fonts in terms of the response it is soliciting.

No amount of 'pushing' and 'pulling' at data can compensate for a poorly designed experiment. Georgia can't be used as both the control and a measure of how effective Georgia is"clearly fonts that stood out from the rest of the page would have a different effect than the one that looks exactly like the rest of the page. To give any of this credence, the sample should have stood alone, or the typeface of the surrounding page should have been randomized as well. What we're looking at here is "Are there certain typefaces that compel a belief that the sentences they are written in are true when contrasted with Georgia?".

sgoranson 6 days ago 0 replies      
Generally I detest font geeks, but I'm going to defend them here. First off: yes it's true that many intellectuals, designers, and hipsters have a genuine prejudice for Comic Sans. Facts need to work a little harder to prove themselves when written in that font. But in a world where we're deluged with typed information from the second we glimpse at our alarm clocks, I think it's okay to have a little prejudice because we need filter out at least some of the noise. Like most stereotypes, the Comic Sans prejudice is based on a grain (beach?) of truth. Can anyone really claim that the percentage of trustworthy Comic Sans based webpages they've seen in their life is equal to the percentage of trustworthy Georgia pages? Sorry. Geocities happened people, and I, for one, will never forget it.
lubujackson 6 days ago 0 replies      
This misses the most obvious difference to users, which is that the font changes in the middle of the article. Taken in conjunction with all the other fonts on the page, the harmony of the specific font to all other fonts in the article and on the page is probably the most important factor here.
Danieru 6 days ago 2 replies      
I would like to ask Patio11 if he has ever done font A/B tests. I'm working on my sales website and the results would be very welcome. In my case I lack the traffic to do any proper testing.
wisty 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'll take the other side here:

There's two axis - engagement and authority. Baskerville is not engaging, but it looks authoritative. So you tend to agree, even if you don't know what it says (like a boring professor or politician). Comic Sans is like a boring person in a clown suit - you can't follow what it's saying, and you tend to disagree just because it looks a little stupid.

The more respectabel Sans are engaging, but not authoritative; Times is both engaging and authoritative.

If you read something in Baskerville, you agree because it looks so boring that you can't be bothered reading it. Georgia, on the other hand, encourages both strong agreement and strong disagreement - people take it seriously, but actually pay attention. No-one takes Comic Sans seriously, because it's hard to read and looks stupid.

eliasmacpherson 6 days ago 0 replies      
I would like to see it controlled for age group, I remember liking Comic Sans as a child. Would Comic Sans have an effect on children, the same way it seems to for adults?
wwweston 6 days ago 0 replies      
"It's going to work! I'm using a very convincing font; it's bold, and has a lot of serifs."


ryanricard 6 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know about typefaces, but taking a screenshot of rendered black-on-white text and saving as .jpg sure has an effect on credibility.
jakeonthemove 6 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting read.

I certainly agree that Comic sans nudges me towards disbelief (and I'd never read a full article written in this horrible font :-)), while Georgia seems more 'professional' and believable.

Baskerville in my mind is instantly associated with all the books I read - most of those on scientific topics had this or a very similar font. Don't know whether it affects my judgement of what's written compared to any other normal fonts.

Typewriter-style fonts do make texts seem older and therefore, more believable (since they've been around for so long, there must be some truth to them - the standard logical reasoning).

tolos 6 days ago 0 replies      
I find it odd that Comic Sans and Georgia change places in the weighted totals.

Now I'm going to petition Randall Munroe to gather more data (thinking of the color survey).

mmcnickle 5 days ago 0 replies      
Our lecturer give us notes on particle physics in Comic Sans. I found them impossible to study from.

Edit: incidentally, she works at CERN on the ATLAS experiment too.

vorg 5 days ago 0 replies      
So font has an effect on how seriously readers take what's written in it. The names of the fonts alone (i.e. Helvetica, Georgia, and Comic Sans) also give off the same vibes.

I wonder... Do the names of programming languages have an effect on how seriously people want to read what's written in them? If given 3 names (e.g. Python, Ruby, Groovy), do people subconciously rank their seriousness???

christofd 6 days ago 1 reply      
regarding comic sans use at CERN... often found that scientists like hideous designs. it's a way of saying that we work on serious stuff.

a lot of sites at MIT, CMU have that mark... the more prestigious, the uglier.

of course it has to be a certain style of ugly.

deadmike 6 days ago 0 replies      
I took a class that was very writing-intensive. I was one of the only people to ever actually change the font in my essays from Calibri to Times New Roman, and always wondered if this contributed to the fact that I did substantially better than most other people with very comparable essays.
cmancini 6 days ago 1 reply      
The ironic thing about this article is that it encodes the text images as JPEG. I wonder about image encoding's effect on credibility.
scoith 6 days ago 0 replies      
As a scientist, I wouldn't worry about someone's lowered opinion who judges a scientific text by the font.
sirtophat 6 days ago 0 replies      
Honestly, the font had nothing to do with my decision - I just trust NASA.
Textmate 2 on Github macromates.com
241 points by wycats  6 days ago   8 comments top 4
masnick 6 days ago 0 replies      
Here's the text of Allan's post -- their site isn't loading very quickly right now.


Today I am happy to announce that you can find the source for TextMate 2 on GitHub.

I've always wanted to allow end-users to tinker with their environment, my ability to do this is what got me excited about programming in the first place, and it is why I created the bundles concept, but there are limits to how much a bundle can do, and with the still growing user base, I think the best move forward is to open source the program.

The choice of license is GPL 3. This is partly to avoid a closed source fork and partly because the hacker in me wants all software to be free (as in speech), so in a time where our platform vendor is taking steps to limit our freedom, this is my small attempt of countering such trend.

I am also a pragmatist and realize that parts of the TextMate code base is useful for other (non-free) applications, so I may later move to a less restrictive license, as is currently the case with the bundles. For now, please get in touch with us if there are subsets of the code base you wish to use for non-free software, and we might be able to work something out.

Anything related to the code base, including contributions, can be discussed at the textmate-dev list or ##textmate on freenode.net. Pull requests can be sent via GitHub but if you plan to make larger changes, it might be good to discuss them first if you want to ensure that we are interested in accepting a pull request for such change or simply want advice on how to go about it.

simonbrown 6 days ago 1 reply      
The two Textmate posts would make more sense with eachothers' titles.
chmars 6 days ago 0 replies      
systems 5 days ago 1 reply      
now we wait for someone to port it to linux and windows
Things I didn't know about the WebKit inspector joocode.com
240 points by copesc  5 days ago   50 comments top 17
simonsarris 5 days ago 3 replies      
I love tip articles! Here are some more that I use heavily (note that some of these might be Google Chrome only at the moment)

The gear in the bottom right of the Chrome inspector has a lot of useful options, such as emulating touch events and preserving the console log upon navigation.

The Watch Expressions persist across tabs and I keep "this" as the top watch expression all the time. It makes for an easy quick check when debugging to make sure that you're in the scope you thought you were, and you can always use the dropdown to inspect all the properties of the current class.

CTRL+G works in the sources tab (go to line)

You can highlight some code and right click -> Evaluate and it will run that selected line in the console for you. Alternatively you can highlight the code and press CTRL+SHIFT+E

You can remotely use the web inspector for Chrome Mobile: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4zpL4VBbuU

There's a useful shorthand: In the console you don't have to type "document.getElementById('blah')" to get a reference to the blah ID'd element. Instead you can just type "blah" in the console, and even though autocomplete doesn't show it, pressing enter will return the element with ID blah!


As an aside, developer tools like the inspector are the reason my pea brain is allowed to have a love affair with the weird little language that is JavaScript.

Thanks to the console the amount of time it takes to whip up a five-cent program with JavaScript without even leaving my browser, heck without even leaving this tab is just astounding to me even after all these years.

One thing I noticed is that more than the language itself, the tools that I use while building things in the language are what really make them a pleasure to use. If I wasn't using (Chrome's) web developer tools I'd probably consider JavaScript to be a nightmarish corpse of a language that punishes the slightest of typos with a silent malicious grin, as code execution carries on as if A.blah = 5 and A.blsh = 5 were both equally worthy of existing to the JS compiler/interpreter. Only by the grace of tools is JS tame at all.

(So if you're reading this Webkit/Inspector developers, thank you.)

joshuahedlund 5 days ago 0 replies      
Several cool tips in here I didn't know about.

Regarding the element drag and drop: it's a really awesome way to brainstorm redesigning a UI, but I've found if I mess with it too much it starts behaving weirdly and getting confused about whether the elements are in their old or new spots, and I have to refresh and start over. Still an awesome feature for productivity.

euroclydon 5 days ago 3 replies      
Speaking of web inspectors, did anyone else notice what a tremendous broken piece of crap the one in the latest version of Safari is? It's downright scandalous!

I had to manually roll back Safari to 5.1.7 to get the old one back.

I will give Apple credit for keeping me hooked on Safari since they're bookmark and history sync across all their devices via the cloud is top notch.

TazeTSchnitzel 5 days ago 2 replies      
The $0 thing will save me a lot of time. I often spend a while figuring out how to select a specific element with DOM queries, or assign it a special ID and then do the whole document.getElementById malarkey.
jenius 5 days ago 1 reply      
Command-K also clears the console, just like it does in terminal. Awesome stuff. Unfortunately the `x = _` trick to save the output of the last command to variable x does not work, but that would be really awesome if they put that in!
tszming 5 days ago 2 replies      
>> Console, write more-than-1-line commands: shift-enter does the trick. Pressing enter at the end of the script runs it.

You need to shift-enter every line, not as usable as Firefox/Firebug. Also tab is still not working. This is the reason why I am still using Firefox for development purpose.


Stratoscope 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's one I stumbled into the other day: You can inspect the inspector!

This is in Chrome for Windows (haven't tried Safari or Chrome for Mac).

Hit F12 to open the inspector.

If it is docked, click the undock icon so it's in a separate window.

Make sure the focus is on the separate inspector window (click its titlebar to be sure), and hit F12 again. This opens another inspector window where you can inspect the first one.

phpnode 5 days ago 2 replies      
very useful, but i really wish Chrome allowed you to replay a HTTP request from the network tab. I just want to right click on e.g a POST request, and send it off to the server again. Whenever i need to do this at the moment i have to switch to LiveHttpHeaders in firefox, which is a pain.
boonedocks 5 days ago 1 reply      
Can anyone point to a guide for using the web inspector in Safari 6? It looks like it could be powerful, but it is not as user-friendly as the Safari 5 and Chrome inspectors. It feels like a step back.
rijoja 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've always felt that firebug has been a little bit better than the chrome developer tools. Now I might reconsider and start using chrome for development instead. The ability to add new css rules in the element view something I've been dreaming about for a long time. The ability to write more than one line of javascript without enabling a different mode is also absolutely fantastic.

Is there a similar list for firebug? A strong advantage of firebug is of course that it's has a bunch of nifty extensions. Which one do you prefer?

MindTwister 5 days ago 0 replies      
Write "debugger" in your source code, chrome will drop you into debugging mode when that line is read. The console will be in context of your "debugger" statement.
tterrace 5 days ago 1 reply      
"Break on DOM modification" is going to be a big time saver for when an ajax call fetches a bit of html with a <script> in it.
rb2k_ 5 days ago 1 reply      
It's a long shot, but worth a try:

I loved using Safari's inspector for for trying out CSS selectors. It seems that both for Chrome and Safari, only searching for xpath seems to still work. Am I missing something or did that really get removed?

direllama 4 days ago 0 replies      
In Chrome when viewing a js file the "{ }" button (pretty print) in the lower left will un-minify the file. Most useful for debugging live sites.
laserDinosaur 5 days ago 0 replies      
Well damn, I only knew one of those. Good article.
Mpdreamz 5 days ago 1 reply      
CTRL+SHIFT+F searches through all the scripts. I use this primarily to navigate through code i.e CTRL+SHIFT+F "function showDialog("
dhucerbin 5 days ago 0 replies      
Right click in Sources tab on gutter and you can add breakpoint, and conditional breakpoint. Condition is any javascript expression and is evaluated to Boolean. If true - debugger breaks.
Single Element MacBook Pro with CSS codepen.io
237 points by michaelkscott  19 hours ago   60 comments top 22
aidos 16 hours ago 0 replies      
If you add .macbook {zoom:4;} you can see how the detail is done. Basically you use lots of box-shadows to give you elements to glue together. The details on the front are not actually solid lines, but a collection of circles side by side.

That's when you realise this technique is a bit flawed - you can't actually scale the element and keep the detail, you'd be better off with an image. Not to take anything away from it though. It's good work.

maqr 14 hours ago 1 reply      
There really should be a warning on all these demos, something like: "Don't actually draw with css in the wild, you'll break the web."
javajosh 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Cool, and I'm glad that someone is demonstrating a way to use CSS3 to create graphics in a way that doesn't require extra markup. One of the biggest problems with CSS3 is that, in a twist of irony, it's image composition power entices developers into adding markup to hang the CSS off of. This ends up complicating the markup merely to generate an image, which is a mistake.

This technique, on the other hand, using the :before and :after selectors shows the right way to use CSS3 image composition, if you choose to do it. This example should be shouted from the hilltops to all front-end web devs.

zbowling 16 hours ago 2 replies      

one line difference and you have the non-glossy screen version.

aba_sababa 7 hours ago 0 replies      
And now we've got a Macbook Air!


joshuahedlund 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Impressive. While I'm generally familiar with CSS I haven't delved into the icon logo stuff yet. I'm toying with the idea of trying to create JS/CSS-based country/state maps with customizable mouseover/onclick functionality, since there aren't really any good free versions available (that I've found). This kind of stuff inspires me that it might be possible, though I have no idea how hard it would be to create geographically-shaped elements.
andrewfelix 14 hours ago 3 replies      
It's been well established that you can achieve just about any icon purely with CSS. Why is this getting so many upvotes?
al_james 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Wow. There have been many of these "Look what I can do in CSS" articles lately, and frankly, they are normally quite boring. However this is the first time I have ever gone "wow". Very impressive. Quite useless really, but good work.
peter_l_downs 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Very cool. Not sure why I'd ever need this, but it's impressive that it can be done. Congratulations on making something awesome.
MattBearman 17 hours ago 2 replies      
While undoubtedly impressive, I think using css :before and :after kind of defeats the point of 'single element'
calvintennant 5 hours ago 0 replies      
And because I'm a content-management geek: http://codepen.io/anon/pen/wxytJ
wickeand000 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Here is the comparison between different web browsers. Note that the image does not even load in IE8, so it is not included.


kondro 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Looks like it's probably even smaller than the equivalent SVG would be. Wish I had a use for it.
lunarscape 13 hours ago 2 replies      
Chrome-only? Doesn't appear to work in Firefox nightly.

Edit: Somehow my fault. Works with new profile in FF14. Curiously doesn't work in my standard profile in Aurora or Nightly even with plugins disabled.

mparlane 17 hours ago 3 replies      
Does anyone else think the front is too wide for that perspective? My only criticism.
phaemon 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Very nice!

text-align: center;
line-height: 100px;

to the .macbook css, so you can add text to the screen ;)

blt 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow, this markup language that provides shapes, positions, colors, gradients, and transparency can be used to create images!
antidaily 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Pfft, thats not a retina display.
mrbrownie 4 hours ago 0 replies      
This one has a GPS like device made of only CSS: http://geeksigner.com/clients/egl/
paulocal 7 hours ago 0 replies      
added the macbook pro logo to top it off. hope you dont mind :D
cjdentra 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Very cool. Nice work.
irunbackwards 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Are you a wizard?
United Airlines Lost My Friend's 10 Year Old Daughter And Didn't Care bobsutton.typepad.com
235 points by Brajeshwar  1 day ago   189 comments top 23
chimi 1 day ago  replies      
This is a problem bigger than United -- which has a lot of problems. This is what you get when you subsidize bad companies that need to fail. United needs to fail so someone better can take over. The moral hazards are ruining the country.

I saw it recently with farmers struggling from the drought. Compare this farmer: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7417774n who has acres full of hay that don't do well in the drought to this farmer who planted a solid base of drought tolerant sorghum http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7417664n in addition to his corn. The second farmer is diversified. He's making smarter decisions with his farm, but because he wasn't hit as hard as other farmers who aren't making good decisions with their land, he's not going to get as much compensation for failed crops. That first farmer needs to go to work for the second farmer so he can learn better and more profitable methods of farming and we will all benefit -- including him. Watch the two farmers. Look how worn out the first one is compared to the second one. The first farmer is working harder the second farmer is working smarter. We need to reward that.

The same thing with United. United Airlines was the largest recipient of cash grants from the US after 9/11, getting $774.2 Million [1]. If the US hadn't kept United alive over the past 10 years so an Airline that cares could fill the void, this little child may not have been left stranded at the airport by a company full of employees who don't need to care.


benologist 1 day ago 2 replies      
United are losing it at the moment. I had 2 flights the other week where they couldn't even get someone to move the walkway thingy in line with the plane so we all just stood around waiting after we landed. On one flight the pilot actually phoned because he couldn't get anyone on the radio.

They're really hit and miss with the service - it's either great or it's shit. Sometimes I really love them... I've had two flights where a host has gone out of their way to block off a faulty overhead light and a faulty in seat entertainment system so I could sleep, another flight where I didn't have a long enough layover to get food and they had no snack service so they gave me two main courses (and I wasn't even elite back then). Other times they're like a bad fucking movie - 6 weeks ago at 1am after a cancelled flight they just arbitrarily closed the elite line with "a dozen people left" and told us to go to the end of the economy line with 100s of people waiting in it already for reticketing and hotel vouchers.

lancefisher 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wow. This is one thousand times worse than breaking guitars. I would love to see that band make another video about this incident. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo
greggman 1 day ago 3 replies      
Doesn't this sound like many large internet companies? Paypal? Ebay? Google? Facebook? Yahoo? All of them seem to ignore their customers. At least that's my experience. They only seem to solve issues when either you have connections to someone on the inside or manage to get your story carried/notice on some major news website (HN included).
anusinha 1 day ago 1 reply      
As someone who traveled many times as an unaccompanied minor (without a cellphone) in the early 2000s under United Airlines, American Airlines, and Northwest Airlines, I'm shocked to hear this story. I always felt safe and knew who was in charge of taking me from place to place. I'm astonished that United's service has deteriorated to this extent. Yes, it was only a very small sample size of United's service staff, but the fact that this situation happened does not bode well for the quality of their service and will hopefully spark something in the administration and leadership to revitalize the culture that currently tolerates such treatment. If not, well, there are plenty of cheaper airlines with superior service and United's marketshare and reputation will suffer. There's always someone willing to provide the service you do for less. You have to figure out what you can do better than the other guys and capitalize on it.
jcampbell1 1 day ago 6 replies      
I want to know who the the passengers were sitting next to this child were that didn't help her with her transfer. The lack of human decency is a cultural problem as much as an airline problem. What the fuck is wrong with people that don't talk to a child traveling alone and make sure she makes her connection. I blame humanity as much as the airline.
k-mcgrady 1 day ago  replies      
United is clearly very wrong here and treating their customers poorly. But, and I'm sure this is going to be an unpopular opinion, who sends a 10 year old across the country on a plane alone? I wouldn't send a 10 year on a 30min bus ride alone. I understand United offers a service to make this possible but it seems like a ridiculous thing for a parent to take advantage of. Maybe it's a cultural difference and this is common in the US (is it?) but I don't know anyone who would even consider doing it.
rodolphoarruda 1 day ago 0 replies      
"So some United executive called Annie and Perry at home yesterday to try to cool them out."

Interesting. I would make this guy wait some 40 mins on the phone, then tell him "something has happened" and that he would have to call later. In the meantime he would have to wait and watch the news getting widespread in media. A little bit of reciprocity would be nice to educate this corporate people. It's absurd that, IMHO, parents of a missing child who have not received proper care for days, now have to give all the attention and care to some executive.

barbs 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm astounded at how terrible United Airlines is, and seemingly always has been. How have they been able to get away with such terrible customer service for so long?

In 1995 I flew with my brother and mother to America from Australia, a 12 hour flight. I was 5 years old and my older brother was 7. They knew our ages, and had seated us with 1 seat at the back of the plane, and 2 near the front. My mother was pretty frustrated. Was she supposed to sit up the front by herself and leave us two at the other end of the plane? Or sit with one of us and leave the other by themselves?

I recently took a very similar flight at the end of last year. I was flying by myself, but sure enough, once the bulk of the passengers had boarded the plane, an attendent over the loudspeaker told us that they were aware that family members had been separated due to seating arrangements and they ask that we please just sit in those seats for take-off and rearrange ourselves once we were in the air. I couldn't believe that after 16 years they were still having the same problems.

mherdeg 1 day ago 3 replies      
I don't think this blog post's headline is quite right.

"Losing a child" is putting a child on BOS-EWR instead of BOS-CLE and not noticing the problem until the child's family in Cleveland calls the parents and the parents call Newark, http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2009....

It sounds like what happened here was "causing a child to miss a connection" (and also separately "delaying the delivery of a child's luggage"). This is of course a very bad thing.

Missing the handoff of an UM from the aircraft to their connecting gate is the same kind of service delivery failure that routinely happens to pax with disabilities who, when the third-party wheelchair vendor fails to show up, occasionally may be stuck at a gate waiting for someone for an hour. It's a really bad way for a third-party vendor to fail.

The unaccompanied minor fee is supposed to cover a really, really good white-glove service, so it's really sad to see this break down. The service is supposed to include a gate pass so you can accompany your minor to the gate; a complimentary onboard meal (food-for-purchase these days); careful handoff of the pax by flight crew to the ground staff who are supposed to be waiting to escort them to their connecting gate; and in the rare event of an overnight delay, guaranteed overnight accommodations with airline staff staying with the minor at the hotel. (This last perk is so expensive to the airlines that in the event of irregular operations that require a rebooking, UMs typically get top priority for rebooking, ahead of all other displaced pax.)

Total bummer to see service delivery fail here.

Foy 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is the kind of rage-inducing stuff that makes you want to choke a flight attendant.

I cannot even imagine what it would feel like to be told over the phone that the company lost your child, and the baggage, and that they don't really care... or even think it's a big deal.

cellis 1 day ago 1 reply      
O'Hare is gigantic airport. And, I know from experience that some flights from O'hare to GRR are running tight,sometimes as little as 10 minutes before the connecting flight taxis. I once sprinted through O'Hare to catch a connecting flight to GR. So I'm not surprised at all by this.
PaulAJ 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't know how accurate it is, but this article


provides an explanation of the chronic financial problems that airlines find themselves in. Briefly, the senior pilots get to negotiate their own pay rates, and since they have the airlines over a barrel they always wind up taking any profit themselves.

Of course that means that airline management is permanently strapped for cash and has to spend the bare minimum on everything else.

jnsaff2 1 day ago 0 replies      
Simon Sinek in his book makes very similar observations and also has his take on why this is happening and how to fix it.

The book is at http://www.startwithwhy.com/

TL;DR folks this is the "trailer" for the book: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang/en//id/848

andy_herbert 1 day ago 1 reply      
Not really surprising, in my opinion once these organizations become large enough that diffusion of responsibility become institutionalized. It doesn't necessarily indicate that the individuals don't care, just that they feel that it isn't their responsibility to do so.
axusgrad 1 day ago 0 replies      
My first flight was unaccompanied at 10 years old, to Maine via Boston. All the airline's flights were delayed indefinitely due to some malfunction. A stewardess took my brother and I around Boston airport and kept an eye on us for 6 hours while things got straightened out. I've had respect for Delta ever since, even if all the people involved are long gone.
pasbesoin 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yes, the Management should feel like the scum they are.

So should all the self-serving, money-grubbing, union-busting, career-exporting, not-in-my-backyard scum that have come to infest the U.S.

You want to blame someone? Look in the damned mirror, reader.

gte910h 1 day ago 0 replies      
This shouldn't be on HN. Flagged.
misiti3780 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm not United's biggest fan, but this story sounds one-sided.

I know for a fact that flight attendants have procedures where a child is handed off from person-to-person, by signature. The agent comes with the child and paperwork, gives it to the FA, and then when the plane arrives at a new location, the paperwork and the child are handed off to the next person. This article does not mention any of the procedures, but I know they exist -- If a flight attendant loses a child, her job is on the line. The company does care.

blisper 1 day ago 0 replies      
2 months back my 13-year old nephew flew from USA to India as an unaccompanied minor in Lufthansa, with a flight changeover in Frankfurt. This is a 21 hour journey. It went off without a hitch. In fact, Lufthansa staff took good care of him, and he had a great time.
muro 1 day ago 0 replies      
scary story.

Reminded me of this kid's story (almost same age):


calgaryeng 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the moral of this story is not to send your 10 year old unaccompanied on an airplane...
FrankBooth 1 day ago 7 replies      
The responsibility lies with the parents. What are they doing sending a child so young alone? United is not a baby-sitting service.
Pixar open sources production animation code, patents theregister.co.uk
234 points by cpeterso  2 days ago   38 comments top 13
zach 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is it too much to hope that someday some of the software at the heart of Pixar's physics simulation systems could be released?

Oh man, that would be awesome. When I went to the legendary SIGGRAPH 2001 Physically Based Modeling course with David Baraff and the late Andy Witkin, they discussed all the ways we could avoid having our numeric solvers "blow up" (basically, when numerical values change too quickly to figure out how to reasonably estimate them). Then Andy somewhat sheepishly mentioned that they don't actually deal with these problems, since their team at Pixar created a direct solver they actually used instead, which solved the many necessary equations symbolically instead of numerically.

This was 2001, so few in attendance had the ability to go off and write an effective direct solver for their project even if they had the right background to do it. So we made do with numeric solvers and patched over occasional blow-ups. That's a picture of how things go. It's not surprising that the pipeline in Emeryville was far more advanced, seeing how Witkin and Baraff created the Maya physics engine as a warm-up for their Pixar system. By now, there are better solvers in many physics systems... yet how much more insanely awesome must Pixar's simulation software be by now?

It's easy to see that this kind of software is highly strategic " Pixar hired world experts to work on this and it must be extremely well-seasoned code, with countless tricky "gotchas" compensated for. It's not hard to see how that gives them a clear competitive advantage.

On the other hand, the potential is enormous. This system is the masterwork, even the life's work, of unbelievably talented people. Erin Catto's work and generosity with Box2D has shown the massive innovation and even cultural value of code like this. How many more amazing things could be created with a simulation engine of the quality Pixar is sitting on?

So although I'm not holding my breath, it would be amazing to see even a small part of their physics simulation in a future open source release. Is that realistic? I have no idea.

nezumi 2 days ago 2 replies      
Subdivision surfaces as implemented in RenderMan have been a thorny issue in VFX for many years. Most production facilities wind up implementing their own version of subdivision surfaces for other production tools, but still rely on Pixar's implementation for rendering. The nature of the patents in Pixar's implementation make it hard for individual facilities to match the final subdiv output, and risky to release their own open-source implementation for fear of revealing a patent dependency.

So this has been a long-time coming, and while the quality of Pixar's implementation is undoubtedly welcome, the main advantage to studios is relaxation of the patent requirement - something Pixar should have done years ago, since all anybody wanted to do with those patents was better utilize the tools they had licensed from Pixar in the first place.

kine 2 days ago 4 replies      
My initial reaction to this was, "Why would Pixar do this and remove such an advantage that they hold against Dreamworks and other animation companies?" And then it dawned on me, the animation is such a small piece of why we love their movies. We love them for their characters and their writing and their stories. The animation is the glue that ties it together so this is actually really rad. Now that people can use this to animate as well as Pixar, it's time for everyone to tell the best stories they can and capture the hearts of future generations, just like Pixar has.

Side question: If Jobs were still alive, do you think this would have happened?

snogglethorpe 2 days ago 3 replies      
The Pixar code seems to be released under the "Microsoft Public License" (Ms-PL), which is reportedly* (and no doubt intentionally) incompatible with the GNU GPL.

So it's a nice gesture, Pixar, but, well ... muh.

[I am curious what Pixar were they thinking when they decided to use the Ms-PL... Or was it just ignorance about Open Source?]

* http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#ms-pl

Anon84 2 days ago 0 replies      
There's also an Open Source clone of RenderMan itself...


which (I believe) has received some official support from Pixar. More information:


EDIT: Wikipedia link

lemming 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is pretty cool. I haven't followed graphics tech in a while, but Subdivision Surfaces are one of the most important modeling primitives around. Back in the day when Catmull and Clark first developed them Pixar held a patent on them and it was pretty unclear how aggressive they'd be defending it - the controversial removal of Larry Gritz's BMRT didn't bode well. It's great to see them making steps towards an open model at last.
kevinconroy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here's direct link to github repo: https://github.com/PixarAnimationStudios/OpenSubdiv
mtgx 2 days ago 4 replies      
Does this mean Valve's Source Filmmaker can incorporate some of this stuff now, so anyone can make Pixar-quality movies in the future?
bendoidic 2 days ago 0 replies      
I love this wish list item:
"John Lasseter loves looking at film assets in progress on an iPad. If anyone were to get this working on iOS he'd be looking at your code, and the apple geeks in all of us would smile."
leetrout 2 days ago 0 replies      
That is pretty rad. Nice to see that support for Alembic is on the wish list. Hopefully some of the other studios will contribute back. I've been watching from the side lines hoping to see a robust framework / toolkit emerge in open source that deals with some of these lower-level issues. (Blender has pretty much nailed the high level tool kit).

If anyone is interested and didn't already know, ILM & Sony made a splash into open source last year with Alembic http://www.alembic.io/

caublestone 2 days ago 1 reply      
I was just contemplating the idea of open source film and that it could only occur in animation and it would be especially helpful if the Pixar source code was open. Now it's time for the creative Linus to emerge and start directing content creation to make awesome open source films.
papaver 2 days ago 0 replies      
pretty epic pixar, thanks! good way to set an example for the rest for the fx community on sharing.

have to say im pretty impressed with the state of the code.

love it when i see ++index in for loops! props.

DigitalSea 2 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, just wow. While animation isn't my foray it sure looks like a lot of time and effort has gone into Subdiv only for them to give it away and let you use it for anything. Pixar are amazing and not to mention the end result of Subdiv is as equally as amazing.
Yesterday, I Went to the American Idol for Startups. It Made Me Want to Die. thestranger.com
232 points by fixie  6 days ago   88 comments top 23
polyfractal 6 days ago 6 replies      
Really enjoying the author's prose. This had me rolling:

>>It's like watching some sadist work over a baby lamb with a rusty crowbar and a broken gin bottle. The names of these startups sound like the products of an aggressive brain tumor on the frontal lobe. Crowdegy, Placeling, Kouply, QuoteRobot, Appthwack, Makegood, Onthego, Nickler, Kahal, Tanzio, Taskk. They're all whimsical and unique in exactly the same way.

rprasad 6 days ago 1 reply      
"When the language you employ to communicate your ideas is small and boring, your ideas are going to be small and boring."

That's how I felt reading this blog post. A long, pedantic, raging post that does nothing but demonstrate that the author has an inflated sense of his writing prowess. His post is basically one type of Hipster raging against the Hipsterisms of a different type of Hipster.

kstenerud 6 days ago 3 replies      
"Hell, as I check my e-mail, I notice with a resigned shame that my coworkers"smart people I consider to be excellent writers"are unironically using the word “spearhead” as a verb in an e-mail thread."

Aaaaand this is where I dismiss the author as simply looking for things to complain about.

Complaining about names (as if that even matters).
Complaining about the way they dress.
Complaining about the way they talk.

Might as well end it with "get off my lawn!"

jboggan 6 days ago 3 replies      
"These women and men have come together to do brutal violence to the English language, to leave the spoken and written word bloodied and victimized on a cold cement floor, wishing for the sweet relief of death."

I will read anything this author writes. Thanks for spotlighting this blog.

Tip: if you want your blog READ instead of skimmed for buzzwords and facts, make sweet love to the English language. Then worry about your content.

zalew 6 days ago 1 reply      
thinkingisfun 6 days ago 0 replies      
Two quotes from George Orwell spring to mind:

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink."

"If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them."

nuff said...?

mamoswined 6 days ago 1 reply      
"The women have it tougher. Their business casual is neither business-minded nor all that casual, a confusing melange of sundresses and sensible slacks, gossamer sweaters tossed over spaghetti straps."

That seems weirdly sexist to me. I guess I really like working in tech because I can wear generally what I want, and often in the summer, that means sundresses, instead of a stifling business suit. And I guess I always assumed the tech world, particularly the start-up scene, wasn't judging me as less business-like because of it.

TLDR: yes, a lot of the startup world is full of shallow business-speak, but don't you dare insult my sundresses.

akoumjian 6 days ago 0 replies      
The Stranger disappoints, as usual. Easier to poke fun at people's clothes and other shallow topics than provide something of substance. Don't get me wrong, I love the occasional quip, but the author has put zero effort into understanding the culture before casually ridiculing it.
artursapek 6 days ago 0 replies      
A very pleasant surprise seeing The Stranger on HN today.
SCdF 6 days ago 2 replies      
So those names were indeed terrible. But how the hell do you name things well? It's really hard.

The second you write some code you have to call it something, and I imagine that's the point where people think up janky cute names, and then it's in the codebase and that's that. I know for me I think up something stupid and then roll with that, presuming that if it ever makes it out of localhost it will be renamed to something sensible.

These people are just pitching, no wonder there names are like AwesomeSaucr and CakeBacon and what-not.

TenJack 6 days ago 2 replies      
Here's the author's bio and picture if it helps put this article in context: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/paul-constant/Author?oid=...
aaronbrethorst 6 days ago 0 replies      
I can't say I ever expected to see a Slog post on here. Slog's where I go for my daily dose of adorable animal videos at lunch, sex advice from Dan Savage, and Seattle/Washington state political news.

All that said, Paul Constant is a fantastic writer, and I'm glad to see he's found an audience here.

barbs 6 days ago 0 replies      
>"You can do anything you want with an idea. It can be as big as you want. It doesn't have to solve a minor problem that nobody ever really realized was a problem. It doesn't have to fit into something the size of a button crammed into a “folder” the size of a button on a screen the size of a playing card. But everywhere I look, I see tiny little ideas,ideas that are almost petty in their inconsequentiality."

This. This sums up how I feel about the whole startup scene. The lack of real innovation is incredible.

MIT_Hacker 6 days ago 1 reply      
Woah. How did this drop from #2? There are articles above this on HN that have less points and were submitted at an earlier time...
dinkumthinkum 6 days ago 5 replies      
Not to be that guy but it's like the author is writing a novel. What's the tl;dr here?
LeFever 6 days ago 0 replies      
I was there yesterday, and we actually presented and ended up tied for second place. AppThwack (Not to be confused with a "brain tumor") is a rapid, automated QA service for testing Android apps on real, non-emulated devices in a massively parallel and fast way. I realize it's not a world-changingly noble mission, but I also don't think it's trivial or inconsequential. Regardless, here are my thoughts. I posted a bit more in the article comment, but thought I'd paste part of my comment here.

"This article is definitely entertaining. It's vapid and catty and well written, and accurately portrays an event from an outsider's perspective. Of course there are lots of things that look like "bad ideas" on their face. On the other hand, there are lots of ideas that seem dumb at first that grow into interesting companies that end up solving legitimate problems.

Overall I think the event was very well run and I met a lot of great people. I was there with the goal of getting something out of it, though, and that something was connections, potential partners/customers, and some more pitch experience. Obviously the author got what he was looking for as well.

I think it's important that the "startup community" (I hate that that's a thing people say) gets kicked in the balls every now and then. For example, this look at TechCrunch Disrupt: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jackstuef/scenes-from-the-pounding-h...

ojbyrne 6 days ago 1 reply      
"tiny little ideas" - for me the best startup ideas are those that start with some small idea, but it is actually a trojan horse to get something into the market that is actually very large.
cindywu123 5 days ago 0 replies      
I was one of the presenters at Startup Riot. Events like Startup Riot give early stage founders the opportunity to showcase their products and it is extremely important to keep this a safe place for newbies and encourage entrepreneurs to keep at it!

Two cents from a presenter at the event:

lukejduncan 6 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone else have a bunch of pop-up ads when browsing there?
iblaine 6 days ago 1 reply      
Investors are so desperate to find the next homerun that they'll cater to the ridiculous that is speed dating for startup ideas.
njx 6 days ago 0 replies      
When the dust settles, we all will remember those crazy startup euphoria days and this article would be one of it. Pretty soon we might need to ammend the Dictionary with new words or spelling corrections
petitmiam 5 days ago 0 replies      
Some of the photos for 'Stranger Personals' that appear on the right of the article aren't really safe for work.
jason3 6 days ago 0 replies      
Great writing, reminds me of David Foster Wallace's work.
A New Species Discovered ... On Flickr npr.org
231 points by llambda  4 days ago   59 comments top 12
jasonkester 4 days ago 4 replies      
Shame the entomologist didn't offer to let the guy who actually discovered, photographed, and collected the bug name it. I was waiting for that to be the happy ending of the story, but surprisingly he just named it after his own daughter.

[(optional) insert lame joke about proper attribution]

nostromo 4 days ago 4 replies      
Does anyone want to speculate on the evolutionary reason behind that interesting pattern on its back?

It's odd because it makes an insect that otherwise is very camouflaged much more noticeable. This makes me wonder if it's biomimicry of another dangerous/poisonous/distasteful local insect.

savramescu 4 days ago 2 replies      
And the museum refused to fund an expedition for finding this? And the Scientist waited a year until the photographer went back there. It doesn't look to me that it was hard to find (especially since thy had an uncataloged specimen). I see that in this case the Scientist didn't want to be bothered very much with it. Furthermore he named the specie after his daughter and not the finder.

When has the exitement for discovery got so casual?

Volscio 4 days ago 1 reply      
No shoutout yet for Project Noah?


"Backed by National Geographic, Project Noah is mobilizing a new generation of nature explorers and helping people from around the world appreciate their local wildlife. Our community is harnessing the power and popularity of new mobile technologies to collect important ecological data and help preserve global biodiversity."

DigitalSea 3 days ago 0 replies      
Winterton comes across as a big of a jerk if you ask me. Without the photographer taking the photo initially and then a year later returning to the same spot and capturing this insect there would have been no discovery. Fair enough Guek not some recognition and has his name published co-author in a scientific journal, but seems like the importance of Guek is lost here.

All the scientist did was go, "Compare to any other lacewings we have on record, if no match, new species. Presto, new species give me my accolades" - the bug should have been named after Guek not Winterton's daughter.

mikehotel 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just how big of an unclassified specimen backlog do most museums have? When does it make sense to go through this rather than browsing insect tags on Flickr? Or, better yet, crowdsource the backlogs via Flickr...
205guy 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm curious: how do they know it's a new species? Seems like it could just as easily be a small mutation that does not affect interbreeding. From one (presumably dead) specimen, how did they determine it was an entirely new species, and not just a local population?
raghus 4 days ago 0 replies      
I can't help feeling that this story would have gotten more media attention if only the photo had been posted to Twitter or Instagram
rickdale 4 days ago 0 replies      
"I swear this crazy weather has created new insects. Have you noticed that we have new insects this year?" - My brother, we live in Michigan, says this to me all the time.
freepipi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Kilimanjaro 4 days ago 0 replies      
Fairies! I've seen them do it.
ksec 4 days ago 2 replies      
This may be totally off topic. But Flickr? While the story may be true It seems to be another new marketing things under new management to generate more buzz.
Push, push, push. Expanding your comfort zone sivers.org
226 points by royalghost  2 days ago   58 comments top 11
mrspeaker 2 days ago 2 replies      
For me the things on the list are not what would expand my comfort zone - because they're things that are outside of normal routine, and therefore are just "crazy adventures" - which I love to do.

More scary for me are the mundane things - like sending back food I'm not happy with, asking for a raise, or trying to speak my embarrassing version of the local language.

It's funny that to think you could be far more at ease lost and hungry in a strange land than asking for a dinner reservation at a fancy restaurant.

quadhome 2 days ago 2 replies      
For a one-time investment of $75k, you too can become a citizen of Dominica and offshore your funds... taxfree!



eliben 2 days ago 4 replies      
I didn't get it. Honest. Can anyone explain (in "Like I'm 5" fashion) what is the point of this post?
wolfhumble 2 days ago 1 reply      
Stories about pushing limits gets me motivated and a lot of the "life-glimpses" in the post resonated with me, but the part about the Muslim conversion ceremony made me think: That is far more serious than physically pushing your boundaries.

A conversion involves your whole belief and truth system, and will affect you eternally as you have accepted the faith's beliefs about the afterlife and rejected other faiths.

Such a decision should not come as a result of other people's expectations or an eagerness to push boundaries.

marcamillion 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wow Internets....thnx.

I have come to a place in my life where I am considering doing a switch. A complete switch, professionally, and have been nervous and even thinking of not bothering.

But this post just reminded me, that sometimes it's good to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone.

P.S. I love Derek's posts.....always so poignant and pseudo-poetic.

guiambros 2 days ago 1 reply      
Sounds like a post written by the Old Spice guy.
geekfactor 2 days ago 0 replies      
I recently read a similarly themed article that had an interesting perspective on risk:

"To be alive is to be at risk, to be free is to be at risk, and to be powerful is to be at risk."


antman 2 days ago 2 replies      
You can push your comfort zone without the risk of losing your life. I would exchange all the experiences in the post for not forcing my kid to go to the singaporean army, losing two years of his life.
goggles99 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is a fantasy because none of Sivers bad experiences and times of pure hell or near death experiences were written about. None of the heartache, none of the strife or regrets.

Half of any story makes it nothing more than a creative license fantasy.

goggles99 2 days ago 1 reply      
Most acquaintances of mine who have embarked on "adventures" like this have ended up dead, maimed, homeless or with major regrets.

That said, a small number of them have had an overall very positive and life enriching experience.

I am not surprised that Sivers is a musician. I tend to stereotype aspiring artists and musicians as wanderers/dreamers who will most likely never make any money and end up bitter and impoverished for the rest of their lives. Gypsies they call them in Romania.

Can you imagine a whole society of people with this attitude. Hippie commune comes to mind.

paines 2 days ago 0 replies      
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