hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    20 Nov 2012 Best
home   ask   best   7 years ago   
The Quiet Ones nytimes.com
766 points by wallflower  1 day ago   371 comments top 72
pg 1 day ago 19 replies      
My life has been a search for quiet for as long as I can remember.

I think the fundamental problem with noisy people is not that they're inconsiderate, but that they don't have any train of thought to interrupt, and they thus don't realize the havoc they're wreaking.

When I was living in Providence, working on On Lisp, I told my loud but well-meaning neighbors that I was writing a hard computer book, and that made them be quiet. Ordinary people can understand that you need quiet if you're working on some specific, hard task, like doing math homework. What they don't grasp is that someone would want their mind to work that way all the time, as a matter of course.

cletus 1 day ago 13 replies      
I sympathize with whoever criticized the guy for loud typing. Seriously, it's distracting/disruptive. I learnt to type on (manual) typewriter too but laptops and keys don't need to be stabbed with the force of a thousand suns to register the press.

It can be just as loud as people talking and (IMHO) can be harder to tune out. After all, we're used to hearing people talk all the time.

Oh and while I'm in the mood for ranting, people who eat with their mouths open--particularly when it's something crunchy--or who slurp in any way are going to be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

I don't catch long distance trains in the US at all. I sometimes take the subway but more often than not you're just standing for 10-15 minutes. In Germany, I don't recall having a lot of problems with noise (although, on one train back from Oberhausen, the smoke was so thick you couldn't see one window from the other in a very Cheech and Chong moment). England varied but was generally fine.

What I'm not looking forward to is when cellphones become usable on planes because you know someone is going to sit there and talk loudly for the entire flight.

One tip though: my Bose noise cancelling headphones are worth their weight in gold.

bpatrianakos 1 day ago 5 replies      
Oh, the quiet car. I ride the quiet car every weekday to and from work into and out of Chicago (except ours is Metra, not Amtrak). His description of it is completely accurate. The people on the quiet car tend to be thinkers, readers, writers, and I dare say just a bit more intelligent than the average rider.

I've had the same experience before. For some reason people think the signs and the announcements don't apply to them and it just boggles my mind how much self awareness they lack! There's been a guy I've seen on the quiet car twice last week who for some reason had his iPhone at full volume and texted for the entire hour I was on the train. The problem wasn't the texting but that the iPhones clickers clackety keyboard sounds were on. Is that really necessary? And on the quiet car no less? A woman did the same thing a few weeks back. Of course no one said a word but we were all very annoyed. And then you get the oblivious guy who doesn't read signs or listen to the 3 announcements who talks on his cell the whole ride. And don't get me started on the teenagers who seem to be visiting the city for the first time and for some reason need to scream at each other despite being centimeters from each others face in a car full of completely silent people. The signs are obvious. The announcement are loud, clear, and numerous. So what the fuck, man?!

That's life now. It seems we have a whole generation of people who are just completely lacking self-awareness and have a serious problem with entitlement. But it's not young people this is specific to. I'm only 26 and I'm good on the quiet car (though I have had my moments I'll admit). There are people of all ages,miracles, and genders who behave this way and though I think humans are like this by nature anyway I also think the Internet and cell phones have made it worse. It seems like a learned behavior.

I just blamed Internet and cell phones for a portion of the world's ills. I'm going to go think about how old that makes me sound now...

jerf 1 day ago 7 replies      
Sometimes, the urbanites on HN will pile on suburbia, wondering how anybody can live there. This is one of the reasons I often feel the same way, only in reverse. As I sit here, I can not hear any sounds not originating in my house. While I certainly visit the places with Musak, loud bars, et al, I don't live there. It isn't as grating when there is surcease.

I'm not saying that Here It Is, The Reason Suburban Living Is Better Than Anything Anywhere. I'm just saying, if you're one of those people who just can't imagine what anyone would find appealing about the lifestyle, but were also nodding your head in agreement with this piece... now you can.

LaGrange 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Respecting shared public space is becoming as quaintly archaic as tipping your hat to a lady, now that the concept of public space is as nearly extinct as hats, and ladies."

...and there you get it. It's really about someone pining for the golden age, and habits that weren't as innocuous as he presents it.

Nowadays we have to live in the same space with millions of people, who all have different needs and habits. The kinds practicing rap on public transport are probably using one of the few spaces they feel safe to do so. It's annoying to you, but in your golden age half of them probably wouldn't grow into their current age, and the rest would be working in a factory. And just your hat-tipping-gentleman social position would mean that you can order them around. Unless you're unlucky enough to actually be one of them. Is this really something we want to present as more civilized? Because for me, the respect is obvious in that people can do a lot more than in your golden age (which was mostly more stinky and loud than in your icons).

We get quiet cars. We are able to acoustically isolate areas in libraries to an extent impossible. And at least Swiss quiet cars are actually quiet cars, so your headphones and typing is annoying others, and you will be reproached for it, so please use a notebook.

While settling down I talked a bit with my neighbors. And there's one thing I found out: I'm not the quiet one. We all were. Just at different times. When I shut down on the weekend, my upstairs neighbor likes to exercise. At time I like playing computer games, she does late work from home stuff. And your noisy teenagers may turn out to read books or code at home. No matter how impossible it seems to you that a woman with a cellphone might actually be a coder, or an artist.

Ah, and more and more railways are carrying quiet cars. So maybe portraying them as last vestiges of your vow-of-silence lifestyle is somewhat misguided.

timf 1 day ago 5 replies      
On a related topic: if you are a developer and are forced to deeply concentrate in public places, after three years of doing that daily I arrived at a system that could keep me coding.

1. Figure out what earplugs work well. Working well means good sound suppression but also means earplugs that you can have in your ear comfortably for long stretches. I can sleep the entire night in the ones I settled on (I buy them bulk: http://www.amazon.com/Moldex-6800-Pura-Fit-Soft-Earplugs/dp/... ).

2. Get over-the-ear headphones, the kind that physically enclose your entire ear. Mine are noise-canceling as well but most of the benefit comes from the enclosure.

3. Play a white noise mp3 into the headphones. Turn the volume up to the point where you can just hear it through the earplugs you're also wearing.

With that setup, I would not even notice people talking next to me. People would often have to wave their hand by my laptop screen to get my attention (to ask me to share the coffeeshop's power outlet or what not).

I rent an office now and am happy that is not a daily situation for me, but that's how I made the best of it after much experimentation.

pud 1 day ago 6 replies      
Off topic, but I think that's the most beautiful illustration I've ever seen accompanying an article. And the animation - just wonderful.

(I've visiting from my laptop. Assuming mobile version probably doesn't look the same.)

greenyoda 1 day ago 0 replies      
The article notes: "In his recent treatise on this subject (its title regrettably unprintable here), the philosopher Aaron James posits that people with this personality type are so infuriating " even when the inconvenience they cause us is negligible " because they refuse to recognize the moral reality of those around them."

Out of curiosity, I searched for Aaron James and found the book whose title could not be mentioned: Assholes: A Theory.[1] From Amazon's review of the book:

What does it mean for someone to be an asshole? The answer is not obvious, despite the fact that we are often personally stuck dealing with people for whom there is no better name. Try as we might to avoid them, assholes are found everywhere"at work, at home, on the road, and in the public sphere. Encountering one causes great difficulty and personal strain, especially because we often cannot understand why exactly someone should be acting like that.

Asshole management begins with asshole understanding. Much as Machiavelli illuminated political strategy for princes, this book finally gives us the concepts to think or say why assholes disturb us so, and explains why such people seem part of the human social condition, especially in an age of raging narcissism and unbridled capitalism. These concepts are also practically useful, as understanding the asshole we are stuck with helps us think constructively about how to handle problems he (and they are mostly all men) presents. We get a better sense of when the asshole is best resisted, and when he is best ignored"a better sense of what is, and what is not, worth fighting for.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Assholes-A-Theory-Aaron-James/dp/03855...

ANH 1 day ago 2 replies      
Oh lord, yes. My particular nemesis: leaf blowers.

My office is in a residential neighborhood. The sound of a gas powered leaf blower is at just the right frequency to penetrate the double-pane windows, my noise-isolating earbuds, and it somehow overcomes all background noise. The whine and revving is audible. All. Day. Long. From every direction.

I imagine to the operators it seems like a sensible choice -- What harm can I possibly be doing? I'm just one guy blowing some leaves around! But to me -- the guy four blocks over trying to write code for a living -- it hurts deep in my soul, and I wonder when exactly we became so fearful of physical activity. When did we forget how to USE A RAKE?!?!

I know, I know. Cry me a river.

ghshephard 1 day ago 4 replies      
I suspect the author will be unhappy to hear that the key message I took away from his nice little story (with David Foster Wallace quotes, no less) - was that he was identifying himself as the jerk who loudly whacks away at his keyboard, annoying the crap out of people around him. When I'm near those people in a public space, I always wonder if they are having some kind of mental-breakdown, or whether they are passive-aggressively trying to get people to move away from them. Or perhaps some combination of both.

Ironic, in that what he was trying to communicate was some concepts regarding recognizing the moral reality of those around him, when, in fact, he was one of those clueless types who likely hadn't considered the possibility that his whacking-away at his keyboard was really annoying others.

As to why the "riff-raff" tend to be a little more considerate on public transport - One reason is usually because you don't want to piss somebody off and get a punch to the head. They tend to play things a little more roughly on Oakland public transport than they do on Amtrak.

ComputerGuru 1 day ago 4 replies      
Is the "Quiet Car" really as intellectual as Kreider makes it out to be? Is it really full of readers and intellectualists, people that take pride in knowledge and are aloof from the mundane?

This is an interesting situation: put the people you're most likely to enjoy a good, thought-provoking, intellectual, factually-backed, philosophical conversation in a car together... where they take a vow of silence for the duration of the ride.

jeremymims 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm one of those people that enjoys a certain level of noise... usually music without lyrics. I can work without it but I find that I can more quickly get into "the zone" when I have a beat.

I'm also not a huge fan of sitting in especially quiet libraries or buildings. In college, the buildings were old enough that you'd start to hear the buzzing of the lights, the tick of an old clock, the hum of an air conditioner, a heating pipe clanging in the distance. When I think of the "quiet car", I just assume all the little things would get annoying (as it seems in this article). I always found that more distracting than creating my own baseline.

That being said, with all the flying I've done the past few years a $300 set of Bose noise canceling headphones has been a bargain investment. My music, my work, and a whole lot less of everything else.

Fargren 1 day ago 4 replies      
I think this being loud is particularly ingrained on the US culture. I have to say, tourists from the US are notably loud on Argentina. We have a large amount of tourists on Buenos Aires, but it's always the US accent you can hear all the way across a crowded train wagon or room. I can't imagine why that is.
brianchu 1 day ago 1 reply      
The funny thing is that two months ago when I was taking a train in France with some friends, instead of having a quiet car, they had a noisy car. And it was really quiet in there, by our American standards. There were quite a few elderly couples in the car, it seemed. We were talking and laughing and were probably the loudest on the car. At the end, the person I was traveling with who knew French remarked that the family next to us was talking about how loud and annoying we were. No one told us to be quiet, of course, since this was the loud car.
AngryParsley 1 day ago 2 replies      
A lot of the problem is caused by cell phones. People talking on phones are usually louder than in-person chatter. And while a conversation is distracting, half of one is worse. Also, cell phone conversations on public transit seem to be more common than talking in-person. Everyone has a phone, but not everyone takes the train with a conversation partner.

Different cultures have different rules about mobile phones. While vacationing in Japan, I noticed that nobody talks on their phone on trains. It's wonderful. As soon as I came back to the states, I was crudely reminded how horrible American cell phone etiquette is.

A few years ago, I bought a cell phone jammer. It has paid for itself many times over. If you find yourself distracted by obnoxious people on cell phones, buy one. You won't regret it.

MemorableZebra 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised no one found this condemnation of a society "constantly getting louder with this new internet generation" to be oddly similar to the idea that "each successive generation is getting more and more immoral" -- an idea that I would argue has not only been thoroughly debunked, but also rather impossible as well.

Of course I'm not saying that overall our cities haven't increased in their background volume by virtue of more people and things such as air planes and leaf blowers, but to go another step further and call a entire generation of people inconsiderate and loud because they're used to being on a "solipsistic" internet smacks of a classic sense generational moral superiority.

And I'm also just as surprised that to come here, with as good of a community as I feel HN has, after scanning through the comments section, not a single person mentioned this in the first comment in each comment-tree. Instead it was a mess of "well, yes, us quiet people are so superior...".

gfodor 1 day ago 0 replies      
Unless I missed it, the author fails to mention the other front line in this battle: the airplane. Sure, the roar of the engines can be deafening, but the cellphone ban more than offsets that. I've found that more than anything else flying reminds me of just how productive you can be when free of distractions. Heck, the nature of productivity itself changes: instead of measuring it by how many emails you've answered, it's measured by how much progress you've made in thinking about problems or expanding your knowledge. Part of me is disappointed with the prevalence of wifi on flights now -- it was inevitable, but being put in a situation where I had no other choice but to read a book I've been meaning to read or to simply just sit and think for a few hours provided a really important ballast in maintaining sanity.
geoka9 1 day ago 1 reply      
Having grown up in Eastern Europe, I was always reminded by my parents not to talk loudly in public places. The habit is so ingrained that even now I'm uncomfortable speaking up when strangers are around.

When I visited North America for the first time, I was of course surprised by loud voices everywhere, but I just shrugged it off and assumed that it was a cultural thing.

And now this article surprised me again.

majormajor 1 day ago 2 replies      
I guess I'm one of the people who ruin it for everyone else. I'm ADD as all get out when it comes to something I'm not really into, but when I'm lasered in on something interesting, it would pretty much take a fire drill to break me out of that. I even prefer a background din in that situation over dead silence"so I've never been bothered by, or spoken out against, any of the trends away from silence. I love open-plan workspaces since I can have an ear open for anything particularly important or interesting (especially if it's relevant to what I'm working on).
bazzargh 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I gave up reserving seats in the quiet car after last time - a man sat next to me and handed his grandson (aged 3 or 4) a Bopit. Yes, one of these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH4XHwefPVY

There followed a short argument where I questioned why he would book the quiet car in advance and give the kid a toy where noise was the point of the game, and not, say, a colouring book.

Anyway. It's just less stressful to be in part of the train where noise is expected, because I have /never/ been in a quiet car which didn't have people on mobile phones, clacking keyboards, and kids with headphoneless gameboys.

gnufied 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am surprised no one has brought the topic of working from Coffee shops. This is one of the things that I have tried but never worked for me.

Worst yet, me & my friend were consulting for a startup, whose co founders worked from a coffee shop. One day some discussion was required around certain design elements and we had a Skype call scheduled. when the call started, there was unbelievable noise from their side. I asked them to call later. 3 times this happened and there was always tons of noise. Somehow it was perfectly fine for them, but we couldn't hear anything. I tried politely asking to give respect to hours we are spending for them.

It is odd, how people ignore effect of noise.

kahawe 1 day ago 0 replies      
There are two things I am always wondering about... one is what all these people are actually talking about for hours on end. I am a very quiet person but I see and hear pretty much everything going on around me even if it appears I am dis-connected. I just don't open my mouth unless I really actually have something to say. So I just have no idea what I might be missing in my life that I don't have all these things to talk about for hours and hours.

And the second thing that baffles me even more: I basically have to apologize at work when I have my ear plugs in because my over-sensitive boss feels like "we are ignoring her" when actually we are just trying to get some work done and that takes focus and I need all the noise blocked out for that. But someone who has never done any software engineering work probably really cannot relate and understand why that matters.

wam 1 day ago 0 replies      
I used to love the quiet car. I appreciated the serenity and the opportunity to listen to just the noise of the train. But the hostile shushing (2-3 times near me per trip, usually) started to bother me more than the transgressions. I began to worry constantly, checking and re-checking to make sure I had my phone on silent mode. Now I sit one car back and relax. The quiet car is good for people who can deal with it, and that's fine with me.
jgannonjr 1 day ago 5 replies      
Did anyone else notice the hidden text "#@$%&!" at the end of the last paragraph? Does this have some kind of meaning or purpose, I can't figure out why it would be there...

<p itemprop="articleBody">
We're a tribe, we quiet ones, we readers and thinkers and letter writers, we daydreamers and gazers out of windows. We are a civil people, courteous to excess, who disdain displays of anger as childish and embarrassing. But the Quiet Car is our territory, the last reservation to which we've been driven. And we can be pushed too far. Our message to the barbarians who would barge in on our haven with their chatter and blatting gadgets like so many bulldozers is: <span style="color:#fff;"><em>#@$%&!</em></span> </p>

sramsay 1 day ago 1 reply      
I am nearly driven to madness by the torrent of noise in public environments. I don't expect places full of people to be quiet, per se, but I do not understand why every such space needs to have eight screens and speakers every ten feet pumping some kind of inane music.

I spend a lot of time in airports, and I'm always amazed at how hard it is to find any space that is not subjected to either Fox/CNN or whatever insipid music they've decided would be "good for this space." I'm always grateful to find one of those ridiculous chapels that tries not to offend anyone of any religion while still being "spiritual." Because -- praise God! -- at least it's quiet.

Honestly, I just want to read and think. I respect those who would rather talk, or sing, or whatever; I can move away from that if it's bothering me. But how do you move away from environments that are deliberately designed to make sure you are never without noise?

FrojoS 1 day ago 0 replies      
Imagine a future, where you could simply switch your hearing ability on and off.

When I first thought about this, I got so excited, that I started writing a science fiction story around the implications. Unfortunately, I'm a horrible writer.

I am not talking about noise canceling headphones or ear plugs but something like a neurological switch. I assume the "easiest" way to do this, would be a surgery in which one cuts the nerves between the ears and the brain and installs an electronic switch. But I know nothing about this stuff.

manaskarekar 1 day ago 0 replies      
Makes you wonder, if the quiet car was full, would the author have come to this civil resolution?

And where does one draw the line.. someone would call for a quieter car.

Interesting read but doesn't suggest anything other than it is hard to find silence in public places.

ALee 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm one of those loud Americans (ENTJ - for what that's worth). To those who know me, they'll say that I'm one of the most talkative people they know. I'm not always proud of my talkativeness, but let me try to explain why we act the way we do.

For extroverts, social interaction energizes us. I'm almost like a vampire if I'm around introverted people. It may be the difference between tribal vs. modern relationships, but in many big families (generally with less income, but not always the case), you need to say something loudly and constantly to get what you want.

We also tend to feel noise is comfortable. I've lived in urban areas, where if there isn't noise, it is discomforting if not dangerous. You may have felt the same way at a get-together when there isn't any background music or when you meet a stranger for the first time.

For many people in this world, they have the TV on all the time or music blaring 24/7. I'm not saying it's more productive. God knows watching tv while doing anything beyond rote tasks is not a recipe for success, but it makes the task more bearable.

As to why we're loud... sometimes it's opinion, sometimes it's emotional release, while other times it's just social pruning. It doesn't mean that we're not thinkers though, it just means we think out loud. It was a key difference between me and another friend I had an argument with, where I wanted to talk it out and she wanted to run away and breathe for a bit.

For us, noise/discussion is just as important to the Quiet Ones as quiet.

P.S. one caveat, I need quiet when I'm writing, working, reading, or even watching a movie, so I'm not the typical type.

niels_olson 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Has anyone noticed even the libraries are not immune to cellphones? Someone should start selling phone booths to libraries: people who need to take a call can use the booth.

I have carried ear plugs with me for years (two fresh pairs in a small pill bottle, in my briefcase). In a moment of sleep-deprived delerium in an airport, I bought the Bose QC-15s. I love them. I am a huge fan of instrumental music. We have an offer in on a house one bedroom smaller than our current rental, which is perfect: I have an excuse to get a writer's shed.

I would pay a membership fee to anyone who could build a Quiet Car Hacker Space within 5 miles of my house. QCHS: where are you?

But seriously: phone booths in libraries: it's brilliant. Somebody: do it!

Deejahll 1 day ago 0 replies      
Woah is that...? It is!

Author Tim Kreider may be better known by some of us Internet folk as purveyor of the fine web-comic "The Pain": http://thepaincomics.com/

doctoboggan 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am a 'Quiet One' and I used to search high and low for locations I could find peace. But recently I've stopped depending on my surroundings being quiet and started listening to white noise on my phone or laptop. I use simplynoise.com (they have an app) and I can find my quiet place even in a crowded coffee shop. I also use it often in the office when I need to get work done without distractions.
the_cat_kittles 1 day ago 2 replies      
In Japan, you get a level of public acoustic courtesy that is wonderful. Coming back here made me realize how outrageous it is that we tolerate things like people talking on a cellphone on an otherwise silent bus.
rcthompson 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can deal with just about any noise of any volume as long as that noise doesn't include any intelligible speech. Muffled voices are fine, the combined voices of an entire crowd are fine as long as I can't make out what any one voice is saying. But as soon as the part of my brain responsible for interpreting spoken words gets activated, I lose the ability to concentrate on anything.
mcdowall 1 day ago 0 replies      
I travel two hours each way to work to London, and likewise, I sit in the quiet carriage.

I've been that person to stand up, walk over and have a quiet word, but all to often I'm met with hostility and shock that we should even dare to police our own quiet space.

The regular commuters in the whole are respectful and as the writer alludes to, treat the carriage as their personal quiet time, but as Brits, confrontation such as this is a cultural misnomer, we just don't tend to do it and I can't think that I will ever feel happy about having to do so, much more I just wish people would be more respectful.

tehwalrus 1 day ago 0 replies      
London Underground is a wonderful mixture of opposites in this respect.

During the very crowded morning rush, it is almost a capital offense to make a sound (except perhaps some noise escaping from headphones). You can forget about talking to another passenger, even a friend. Even looking happy while not obviously reading something that might be funny is met with embarrassed glances at feet at ceilings.

In the evening though, after about 9 or 10, the tube is full of groups on their ways home from the pubs - then there are people singing, often whole carriages will silently giggle at someone being an extrovert centre of attention.

Finally, there is the etiquette surrounding when one must offer a seat to someone else. the order of priority appears to be:

    * pregnant and (obviously) disabled people, plus new mothers.
* old people (ladies first)
* children (especially medium sized ones who look like they might actually sit
down, and/or shut up if given a seat)
* the rest of us, in a reserved, passive aggressive scrum.

(also, obviously, talking to a complete stranger on the tube is a massive faux pas, no matter the time of day...)

On quiet coaches specifically, I have to say that on British "mainline" trains there is a big problem, which is reservations. For example, on virgin trains there is always a quiet coach (both a standard and first class one), and a coach with no reserved seats. If you want a seat at a busy time of day, you must be one of the first to arrive at (on Virgin it's coach E) and take one (it is even possible to get the prized window-side-facing-forwards-at-a-table seats this way.) However, these coaches never coincide. Thus, if you want to be in the quiet coach you must book a seat in advance, which is cheaper but restricts you to a particular train - if you're late you must pay twice, and if you're early you have to wait. This is important when you're on the tube (which frequently has delays) and the trains from Euston to Manchester are every 20 minutes (and absolutely packed in the evenings, especially Fridays, in spite of this.) Given the convenience factor, I usually plump for coach E, and risk the screaming babies/mobile chatterers - as another commenter pointed out, this is why I paid £80 for a pair of headphones.

weisser 1 day ago 1 reply      
The problem with the quiet car is that offenders usually do not realize they are in it. Unless you travel on Amtrak frequently (I don't do it often but certainly more than the average person) you may not even realize a quiet car even exists. It isn't common to have a quiet section on an airplane or any other form of public transportation so I can see why people would not expect this.

Ignorance is no excuse for being loud repeatedly after this is pointed out but I almost always travel in the quiet car and have found that conductors only infrequently make announcements explaining that the car has special rules-perhaps 25% of the trips I've taken.

I cannot blame someone for missing the sign that says, "Quiet Car" but I can place some responsibility on Amtrak for not making the quiet car and the rules that go along with it more obvious.

mark_l_watson 1 day ago 1 reply      
Quiet spaces are important to some of us, but my bbrother always has music or the TV on. He admits disliking quiet.

The small town where I live has strong no noise laws. You can't generate sound that can be heard outside your yard unless it is gardening noise - during business hours. Noise is one reason I no longer want to live in a city.

kitsune_ 1 day ago 0 replies      
That's funny, the sentence at the end, before the pictogram, has the following censored expletive in invisible text: #@$%&!
philsnow 18 hours ago 0 replies      
A "finger-pressed-to-lips" icon is shown at the very end of the article. As much as some HN denizens like to obsess over detail and polish (especially in iconography), how can everybody not have noticed that the hand is facing the "wrong" way?

Nobody shushes by putting their own hand in front of their own mouth like that, they turn it 90 degrees. The only time the pictured arrangement happens is when you put your finger on another person's lips, a very intimate and unmistakable gesture.

vijayr 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'd like to add "photo" pollution also to this. It is near impossible to go to a party, or a tourist spot and actually enjoy the place/occasion. Photos/flashes everywhere, all the time - even the most useless/mundane things being photographed, all the time.

If you are in new york city, you can't even walk peacefully on the road - you'll have to stop to be "considerate" to the people who are blocking the sidewalk taking pictures. I went to a speech - the room was quite dark, that still didn't stop people from taking pics. It seemed that most people there were interested in taking pics than the speech itself, which I find very disrespectful to the speaker.

All of it is just annoying.

darkarmani 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Actually, the article has it wrong. The signs on the quiet car say this: "Please refrain from loud talking or using cell phones in this car."

They don't say you need to whisper. I only remember because I saw people shushed that weren't loudly talking and glanced up at the sign to double check if you weren't allowed to talk at all and the sign only mentions "loud talking."

Here's a link with a picture: http://roiword.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/conflict-and-the-qui...

chaz 1 day ago 0 replies      
Silicone keyboard skins cut down on typing noise. It's a little weird at first, but I've found them to be helpful at keeping debris out as well as being the guy typing in a meeting without people looking at me. I always bring earbuds with me wherever I go as to not be distracted by other people.
Zaheer 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Did anyone notice the last line?:
"Our message to the barbarians who would barge in on our haven with their chatter and blatting gadgets like so many bulldozers is: #@$%&!"

The symbols are in white font.

mynameishere 1 day ago 1 reply      
I lived in the "quiet" floor in my dorm in college. No greater farce has ever been endured. I really wish noise-cancelling headphones existed then.
accidc 1 day ago 1 reply      
It amuses me when people from western countries complain about noise(most comments contain clues to location).

Having lived most of my life in India, noise has never been an issue for me, even while doing tasks that require intense concentration. It's like the brain implements a band pass filter for most ambient noise, you never notice it. I have also noticed that the more I concentrate on a task at hand, the less I notice anything else around me.

On the other hand, I have been living outside India for the past few years and I notice noise a lot more.

Make what you want of this but it has lead me to believe that our perception of noise is a function of our state of mind, the ambient noise level and our conditioning/habituation. The takeaway being that it is possible to learn to ignore noise, since in most situations one may not be able to control the source of the noise.

justlearning 1 day ago 0 replies      
I had an interesting thought experiment after replacing "quiet" with "privacy".

While not everyone may not agree on the word replacement, I go through similar emotions (as the author describes) when someone posts a photo (that has me and others) on facebook without permission.
I like to think that there are others out there like me. I am one of those "quiet" snobs.

philip1209 1 day ago 1 reply      
Are the random white characters at the end of the last paragraph a message about blending in?


ranza 1 day ago 0 replies      
I find it crazy hard to tell people that they are noisy. Mainly because i feel like im very egocentric for wanting quiet times. We sit in a large room with a lot of people and i guess we have to make space for each and everyone if we want to get along. But since im the only one writing code and the rest are mostly making graphics, im the only one that requires some sort of quiet time around me. It can be really hard to tell people what you need when your the only one that really needs it. I mostly ends up sitting with my headphones on and listen to noise like rainymood.com to block other peoples noise out. Seems weird but it works for me.
xradionut 1 day ago 0 replies      
My saving grace is that I live a mile away from a library that has study rooms and actual encourages quiet in the adult areas. I also wear earplugs and shooter muffs at home to block out the noise from my spouse and pets.
scott_s 1 day ago 0 replies      
I prefer the moderate din of places like coffee shops for this reason. There's usually enough background chatter, music and random noises going on that it's easy to not actually listen to any of it. It's only when there are but a few noises that it becomes a problem, I think.
unohoo 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've had the exact same experience on Caltrain. Although Caltrain does not have a 'quiet car' per se, most of the every day commuters are aware of the unspoken conduct of silence. Although there are a few folks who just cant get off their phones and like to yap about non-stop. The worst part of it is that most often, I end up being the asshole telling them to keep it down. I dont know why some of the other folks dont speak up, even though they are equally annoyed as I am
nevster 13 hours ago 0 replies      
In Sydney they've instituted the same idea - on the inter-urban trains the first and last carriages are now quiet cars. It's great!
lars512 1 day ago 0 replies      
For people who can't get the quiet they need to do their work, try drowning it out. I highly recommend Rainy Mood http://www.rainymood.com/ which just plays the sound of rain continuously. In open plan offices, sometimes it's the best you can do.
001sky 1 day ago 0 replies      
Respecting shared public space is becoming as quaintly archaic as tipping your hat to a lady, now that the concept of public space is as nearly extinct as hats, and ladies.

-- QFT

rumcajz 1 day ago 0 replies      
Are there societies that are notorious for being quiet? Finland, maybe?
archagon 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm a bit surprised that so many people NEED a dead-silent environment to concentrate on their work. Maybe it's because I grew up with a snoring dad, but I can completely tune out a crowd of people without breaking a sweat, while all my coworkers would go crazy without their headphones. Honest question: is this truly such a difficult skill to cultivate? You'd think it would be a whole lot more beneficial in the long run than investing in an expensive set of noise-cancelling equipment. But I don't know, maybe I'm just going deaf!
marknutter 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wonder how "The Quiet Ones" would handle someone with a disability like Tourettes syndrome or with some sort of medical equipment that made an annoying noise. I'd give anything to watch the moral dilemma play out.
civild 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've worked next to someone that was extremely harsh on their keyboard - full blown hammering the keys, with the whole desk shaking - and even in a medium-noise office it was infuriating to work next to.

After a few light-hearted suggestions that he be a bit lighter on the keys, I ended up having to point out how much it was putting me off my work. Thankfully he was good enough to change his habits while he remembered, but he would soon idly begin bashing again.

On a similar note personal space invaders are even worse, but I'll contain my vitriol on that subject for now.

eshvk 1 day ago 1 reply      
Idea for any startup founders out there: Have quiet breakout rooms where one can't talk in anything but a whisper. Hell, make it so that one can't even use a Das Keyboard in there. I would be curious to run an A/B test on productivity (say number of features produced). :-)
napoleond 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here's to the quiet ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the quiet ones, we see genius. Because the people who are quiet enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
sbandyopadhyay 1 day ago 1 reply      
An article titled "The Quiet Ones" was posted by user "wallflower"? That's like a pun. A quiet pun.
kogus 1 day ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of "The Pedestrian", by Bradbury.
stretchwithme 1 day ago 0 replies      
One thing I have noticed, about myself and others, is that people are more oblivious to noise and how much they generate when they are in a group. It seems that a group doing most things makes many think its just fine.
stretchwithme 1 day ago 0 replies      
They say a single noise bothers people more in the country than the same noise does in the city. Perhaps the same is true on the train. It seems like stress I don't need.
Roelven 1 day ago 0 replies      
Ha this is a great article. I too look for quietness and find myself more and more turning off music just to allow myself to think properly. And yes- one of the virtues of staying late in the office is the actual quietness, which is a shame.
m0nd0nger0 1 day ago 2 replies      
As I once heard someone say in Spain - I prefer the noise of life to the silence of death
MrMan 1 day ago 0 replies      
I fear for you lot when this article is revealed as satire.
stickydink 1 day ago 0 replies      
The quiet car is great for returning home in the morning with a hangover...
namank 1 day ago 0 replies      
Why can't you control yourself instead of the outside circumstance?
queensnake 1 day ago 0 replies      
I look forward to the day when workplace noise is treated like second-hand smoke.
dschiptsov 1 day ago 1 reply      
Hell is the "ordinary people".)
chrislong 22 hours ago 1 reply      
i haven't read this entire thread, but i've read enough to say this: custom earplugs? noise cancelling headphones? white noise soundtracks? are you serious? the problems discussed here took place in a space specifically designated for quiet. why can't people make an effort to comply? if you want to make noise, go somewhere else. i literally cannot believe what i'm reading here. shaddap!!!!

this brings to mind the BWCA in northern minnesota. pure, unspoiled wilderness. many want to change that, introducing cellphone towers, water slide theme parks, boats with motors ...

to which i say: the vast majority of america has been "civilized" -- can't you leave one place alone for refuge?

in this case it's the quiet car. everywhere else is noisy, which is great/fine, but cannot you respect the desires of people wanting refuge in one tiny place? sheeeeeesh.

How to Get Startup Ideas paulgraham.com
629 points by relation  16 hours ago   175 comments top 65
kyro 16 hours ago 7 replies      
One thing I've noticed that has generated a ton of ideas, particularly within the hospital setting I'm in, is to listen to all the questions staff members ask one another. Who's doing that? When's this happening? How do I do that? etc. They're all seemingly mundane questions that get asked on a daily basis, but they give you great insight to the daily frustrations that people have come to accept (that's why they're boring everyday questions). They also often shed light on a lot of the accessory tasks people endure in order to accomplish their main job.

As an example: in a hospital, we have the "sign out sheet" which is a list of the current patients and all of their important data. These sheets are usually manually updated and it's a very, very tedious task; you've got to make sure all the dosages are current, and they're already in the system! Anyway, I kept noticing the residents would ask one another if they had updated the sheet and realized this was a pain-point that's become an accepted part of the day-to-day medical routine. That's just one example.

Good problems don't have to elicit noticeable frustration. In fact, I'd say many of the best problems around are ones that have pushed people past frustration and into acceptance.

cs702 23 minutes ago 0 replies      
FWIW, it's not just pg who has pursued one of those "sitcom" ideas that seem good (but really are not) before pivoting to make a different product that solves a real problem.

Before Microsoft, Bill Gates and Paul Allen built and tried to sell a hardware product (!) called the Traf-O-Data. The device processed raw data from roadway traffic counters and printed out human-readable reports for traffic engineers. Luckily for the two budding entrepreneurs, they were unable to close the first sale, leading them subsequently to pivot into making Basic interpreters for microcomputers.[1]


[1] http://startup.nmnaturalhistory.org/gallery/story.php?ii=45

paulsutter 16 hours ago 2 replies      
After 20 years of entrepreneurship, of struggles and successes, of spending man years of that time thinking about startup ideas, and having learned so many lessons the hard way, I can say the following:

pg's essays are so true and correct that I could practically cry.

If enough people read these essays (especially this and the recent "growth" essay), it could materially boost the economy.

mattmaroon 10 minutes ago 0 replies      
I don't think I'd define Facebook or Google as something "few others realize are worth doing". Facebook launched around the same time as a score of social networks, so lots of people realized it was worth doing. People also realized search engines were worth doing (Google was probably not even among the first 20 launched) they just didn't realize Yahoo was beatable. Or how lucrative they could be.
nlh 16 hours ago 4 replies      
This is a spectacular essay. PG is dead-on correct here. In fact, one of the strongest reactions I had while reading it just now was "Shhh Paul, you're giving away the secret!" :)

And this doesn't just apply to tech startups...

The business I currently run (an exotic car rental company) started out precisely as described -- it was an idea I had to solve a problem I was facing (I wanted to rent a super-fancy car to drive across the country. Nobody in NYC offered that service). The business started as a fun side-project - a toy. I figured it would be a hobby business - something I could do in my spare time while I figured out what business I "really" wanted to start. I built it myself - did the deliveries, threw a website together, learned SEO, etc.

And sure enough, I was surprised by how much other folks also wanted this service. So when I went live - the calls kept coming. That was 8.5 years ago, and the business now employs over 20 people and is about to open in its 3rd city.

So take PG's words to heart - they're some of the best I've read.

F_J_H 16 hours ago 3 replies      
Having exited earlier this year from the start up I co-founded, I've been thinking a lot about this lately as I weigh up what to do next. We arrived at our start-up idea 10 years ago in much the way pg says you should, which was more by accident and serendipity more than anything else. So, I can vouch for the veracity of his advice.

I came across the following quote by William S. Burroughs recently:

Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war.

Replace "Happiness" with "a start-up idea", and I think you get what pg is getting at:

A Start-up idea is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict; those who seek a start-up idea for itself seek victory without war.

I also came across a great post on the relationship between serendipity and success, and is it well worth the read: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/10/when_success_is_born_out_of_...

I especially enjoyed this bit:

Our mind abhors these serendipitous explanations, and searches for convenient patterns instead. Ask for the keys to career success and you'll get logical explanations, recommendations, pathways and approaches. Then ask someone how he or she became successful and suddenly it becomes a story of serendipitous encounters, unexpected changes in plans, and random consequences. It does not make sense to ignore this basic fact about success any longer.

Swizec 16 hours ago 1 reply      
"For example, a social network for pet owners. It doesn't sound obviously mistaken. Millions of people have pets."

I once worked on a social network for dog owners. Not pet owners, dog owners. And not actually dog owners, but their dogs. A place for people to have a social network of ... dogs.

But all the features made it an interesting enough project. The guy even came up with enough money to pay the web agency I was working at for the development - yes, outsourcing core product to an agency.

It took a year for the project to go from "I need devs" to "Build this". By then I had already given my notice at the agency with the dream of launching a cool startup.

I don't know that the dog social network ever launched.

tarice 1 hour ago 0 replies      
>So if you're a CS major and you want to start a startup, instead of taking a class on entrepreneurship you're better off taking a class on, say, genetics. Or better still, go work for a biotech company. CS majors normally get summer jobs at computer hardware or software companies. But if you want to find startup ideas, you might do better to get a summer job in some unrelated field.

THIS. The field of CS has so many people in it, it's difficult to find an idea that somebody hasn't already implemented in 4+ languages.

If you branch out into other fields, you become infinitely more valuable to said fields, plus the problems in other, not-as-programming-saavy fields become readily apparent.

I know it's been repeated elsewhere, but as a chemical engineer I feel obligated to spread the word.

dreamdu5t 12 minutes ago 0 replies      
pg: Investors don't fund these ideas. Investors fund the sitcom startup ideas and the ideas that start with perceptions of huge growth.

You admit that most successful startups don't start as visions of taking over the entire world - yet investors don't want to fund narrow and deep ideas.

What's your take on this?

nadam 5 hours ago 1 reply      
"For example, a social network for pet owners. It doesn't sound obviously mistaken."

It is not obvious so much that actually there are several social networks for pet owners with apparently hunderds of thousands (registered) users. There is one even in Hungary where I live (only 10million people live in Hungary), but here are some english sites also:


Yes probably this is not a huge market, but some people make some money off of this.

So, yes, it is totally not obvious what startup ideas are good or bad.

ryan 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I love the concept of living in the future. I recently read the biography of Dan Raymer, a well-known aerospace designer, which was appropriately titled 'Living in the Future'[1]. This is because for most of his career he had been working on secret aircraft designs that the rest of the worldn't see for 20 years. Truly living in the future.

There's also the excellent quote attributed to William Gibson[2] "The future is already here " it's just not evenly distributed". That's probably the biggest reason I live in silicon valley - there is a disproportionate amount of 'future' distributed here.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Living-Future-Education-Adventures-Adv...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Gibson

jfdimark 3 hours ago 0 replies      
As usual, an excellent and well articulated essay from pg.

Just a couple of thoughts on the paragraph about finding non-organic ideas.

If you're a developer and in need of an idea, I couldn't recommend highly enough to attend industry conferences (in any industry). Over the day or two you are there, you will hear speakers tell you the problems they face, hear which are the repeat questions asked from the audience, and have a chance to talk with delegates about their biggest problems and why they are attending (what are they trying to find out). I rarely leave a conference without several obvious pain points facing the industry jotted down. If one of them inspires you, sounds interesting, feels familiar etc. then that could be your start-up idea. Most of these could be 'eaten by software' I'm sure, so they would be ripe for a developer to tackle. You could even find your domain-specific co-founder there too - 2 birds, 1 stone!

Another place to look (and possibly cheaper and involving no travel) would be sites like twitter, quora, linkedin etc. where large numbers of users can ask each other questions or complain about some pain they have. You could look for trends and see if that sparks any interest.

Lucadg 7 hours ago 1 reply      
The social network for pets is actually not such a bad idea. I've got friends who build one in a niche:
- only in italian
- only for one race of dog
and it so many users I could not believe it.
It's kind of funny and depressing reading them: they write in the first person as it was the dog talking. Stuff like "hello my friends, today my master gave me a bath".
Wow... :)
(I won't link it, as they seem to be very jealous of the idea).

On "A particularly promising way to be unusual is to be young", I'd like to add another way to be unusual:
"A particularly promising way to be unusual is to be travel"
I mean travel a lot, not short holiday breaks of course.
Stuff like go to live 3 months in Mexico, 6 months in Bali and so on.
I did all this for what, 10 years, and I have more ideas than I can chew.
I'm not that good in executing thought.

And one last thing. Pick your most "status quo" friend. You know, those guys who are absolutely convinced nothing will ever change and nothing ever changed and everything is normal as it is, today.
They live in the present.
Run your ideas on them. If they go "naa...who needs that?" you may have a good idea.

It happened to me a few years back when I had already started an online reservation business in Prague and decided to try the same in Riga, Latvia.
This "status quo" friend had already told me Prague would not work "nobody will trust a website to reserve an apartment".
When we went to Riga he told me "naaaa...who would come to Riga, this is like the Soviet Union and it's far". It worked, immediately.

I mean zero investments, html websites and stuff like that. Really low tech.

Thinking about it now, with low cost flights coming in from all over Europe and no passport requirements, he admits I was right.
But I am sure that if I present him with another idea he would still go: "nnaaa...who would..".
Good, time to build it!

You need a friend like that.

ChuckMcM 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Noticing is key for me. I have zillions of startup ideas from mundane to crazy, they are all outgrowths of noticing either something missing or someone frustrated or being frustrated myself and wanting something, or to do something, and not being able to.

Strangely (or perhaps not) getting married made me better at noticing. I could sit in a room and watch TV because there was 'nothing else to do' when my wife sat in the exact same room she saw all sorts of things that needed doing. And when she pointed them out they became obvious to me too. Perhaps I'm an inveterate slacker but those things were deeply camouflaged against the patina of knik-knacks that couldn't hide from her. Oh there is the radio that needs the knob glued to work again, that corner needs a light fixture. The top speakers are covered in dust, the board games have started tumbling out of the AV cabinet and are threatening the dog cushion.

I had invested way too much time as a youth trying not to see things I didn't have time to do or want to do, that I perfected my non-vision vision. She helped switch that off which made my marriage better (fewer arguments) and suddenly seeing things that could be better but weren't yet. One of those 'benched' (sort of ideas was a computer system for teaching computer science. The Raspberry Pi helps wonderfully in that regard. So sometimes even when I don't make progress things get better :-).

YuriNiyazov 14 hours ago 5 replies      
Getting advice from an essay by PG is like reading a description of a stock market strategy - by the time you read and assimilate it, everyone else has too, and that particular inefficiency has been eliminated.

There will now be a lot more HN readers keeping diaries of all the things that they noticed were inefficient in their day, and they will come up with good, competing startup ideas. However, the founder that is likely to be the most successful was the one that started doing this long before this essay came out. Which is actually the point of a large part of the essay, the one that talks about being "the right type of person".

jamesjyu 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Many huge businesses have been built by solving seemingly mundane problems. The thing is, many of these mundane problems turn out to be big looming issues that represent huge inefficiencies in an industry. Businesses are willing to pay lots of money to solve these problems, especially if it makes them more efficient or profitable.

This spurs on a thought that I've had about the position of entrepreneurship and human society. The cohort of startups are all hard at work solving problems that consumers or businesses run into. It's like the human collective organism that is constantly evolving to become better, stronger, and faster.

Startups are the seeds of the experiments that could become a business that makes a huge impact to the organism. Imagine how much more efficient the world is with Google, for example!

If all businesses and founders were to take pg's advice here, the practical (and important) problems in society would be solved at a much more dramatic rate.

srid68 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Let me first talk about the elephant in the room about finding Startup Ideas which generate extra ordinary returns.

YC assembles a Team of the Greatest Founders after extensive validation by the most qualified people in the planet to judge whether you have the qualities required to build a startup. (They may miss a good team, but the probability of them selecting a bad team is less than 10%)

YC mentors these teams ideas by making the best people in Silicon Valley available to these teams so that they can pivot and re-work on the most probable idea which may succeed

Expected Outcome to Founders: Conservatively 50% of YC funded Startups would be back to the point of their starting (Zero returns for the effort invested both for the founder as well as the investors) Some Founders may even have negative returns in Health, Relationship and sometime financially.

Extected Outcome to YC and the World in Large: Even less than 10% hit a home run, they have extra ordinary returns and the world becomes a better place hopefully because of realization of new ideas.

What does this tell me, this tell me that there is no relation between Ideas and the extra ordinary results which every founder is look towards, then why waste time looking for a needle in a haystack.

As a startup founder who identified a big pain (Fragmentation of Operating Systems for Applications to be developed on - It does not make financial scence to develop the same functionality three or more times) about 2 years back and started working on a solution to solve my own pain, i have come to the conclusion even after solving the problem, financial success will not come easily by just working on a Idea. But Working on this Idea made me understand how to get success.

Just follow in the footsteps of the YC. What does YC do, it enables and guides others start on the path of founding a startup and takes a % if you succeed. Since the returns are extra ordinary, even if a few succeed they win.

A example: Any developer can just start doing Minimum Viable Prototype (1 to 3 months effort for a capable person) for any interesting idea for 1% non dilutable equity return (!Don't spend any effort after MVP and don't ask for money to do the prototype!) which others are interested in pursing for a mythical return. This is equvalent to emulating YC and may have a better return on effort. Of course if all the people whom you sponsor are duds, your expected return will be zero which is also what YC is solving, If their luck is so bad that they don't have home runs, they would have wasted their money, where as you would have enjoyed trying to solve interesting problems even if they have failed and in the situation your MVP becomes a Instagram. Your 1% is 10 Million dollars.

All the above are assumptions which i am planning to verify (But not a a developer but as a Micro Angel) and hope to see what will happen.

If you earn based on Effort you are an employee, if you earn based on the value created by your Effort you are a consultant or most of the current startups, but if you earn based on other peoples effort willingly parted, then you are true scaleable startup which has a higher probability of success.

If your idea can make others succeed in what ever they do, but there is a link to return based on their success of their idea, the probability of making extra ordinary returns becomes possible.

AirBnb succeed because it is an idea which makes others monetize their living space. YC succeeds because YC shows the path to wealth generation for founders even if 50% of founders fail.

Last point is about Idea about Pets which pg assumed is a bad idea. My take on it is (I have no domain expertise on this), Pet Foods is a multi-billion dollar business, i know there are many pet food stores selling pet food, i also know that the pet food suppliers are multi-million dollar corporations. If i create a simple Mobile Pet Food Cataloging/Ordering/PreOrdering system (a 3 months effort) and give it away free to these pet food stores for giving to their customers and collate all these data and can sell the viewing of this data to the pet food supplier, I have a just in time inventory replenishment system. So many inefficiencies can be remove by asking the customer to preorder pet food. You remove overstocking, managing discounts. You effectively become the middle man between the Pet food supplier and the Pet Food store/Customer. I am not saying that this is a good idea, but just rejecting an idea because pets.com was a flop is not the correct way to go about it. You should deeply think about any idea before discarding it.

A disciple of pg giving an alternative viewpoint.

kokey 6 hours ago 0 replies      
The comment about the social network for pet owners made me think of this, which actually turns out to be quite a good idea I think:


"DogVacay is an online marketplace that links dog owners with passionate dog care providers who open up their own home as an alternative to the traditional cage-oriented kennel."

hiddenstage 15 hours ago 2 replies      
Twitter was built so people would be able to blog via SMS. That was the idea; that was the problem they were setting out to solve. That's not what made them big.

They inadvertently solved the need of microblogging. No need to maintain blogs; no need to write long posts. Just a simple, short way to keep people informed with what you are doing. But that's not what made them big either.

What made them big is celebrities took to it and used it as their main form of communication with their fans. That's why I made an account a few years back and I'd venture to say over half of the active users did the exact same. Twitter has since evolved past that, at least for me, but it was definitely the initial reason for the boom. Would they have been successful without that? Probably not.

So is Twitter a good idea? I don't know. I really don't know.

ekm2 36 minutes ago 0 replies      
Just curious,does living in the future also include playing with the latest tools or just figuring what future user needs?
saturdayplace 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd recently come to the same conclusion that programming is a fantastic secondary skill. Having some other domain expertise - combined with the ability to make your own tools - seems to be the best way to find problems that people are willing to pay money to solve.
ComputerGuru 11 hours ago 1 reply      
I actually gave a TEDx talk on this topic, my conclusion (similar to PGs, but more succinctly summed up in 10 words) was any time you find yourself saying "this is stupid, there has to be a better way..." BINGO! you've got a startup topic. Just actually keep track of it, and you'll find it happens more often than you realize.

The talk, should anyone actually want to listen to me talk for 20 minutes: http://youtu.be/bPwgkf1aZ9I

(the guy controlling the projector had a hard time with the remote, the background slides keep going out of order :(

dps 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I was struck by the Bucheit/Pirsig conjecture "Live in the future, then build what's missing." and the following paragraph regarding ideas that come out of folks experience at college. Pg encourages those readers who are still studying to take classes unrelated to their CS major so that they may see more problems worth solving, but what struck e about this paragraph was how much, for me, college was like living in the future. In the late nineties, I lived in an environment where every single member of my social circle had an always-on 10 Mbit connection to the Internet and spent inordinate amounts of time communicating via email, IM etc. It seems like no coincidence that so many successful Internet companies were born out of students of that era. I doubt that today's students encounter the future of much at all in their dorm rooms. Perhaps universities should be working hard to make sure that campus living is more like living in the future than setting up mobile app development courses, incubators etc etc.
iamwil 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Reading this was like a punch in the gut, in the same way that Family Guy comedy hits you right there just by stating what's plainly in sight. I saw all the mistakes, things I've discovered, and hard lessons I've learned along the way phrased and frame in a clear way--so much so I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Spectral 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Right now I'm currently 21 years old and I've had quite a few organic ideas pop up before which I took the time to brainstorm a little about, sometimes even creating a little website for them.
I've shown to many of my friends my aspiring entrepreneur-ish spirit and many of them support my ideas, but I'm still at a standstill over here.
I personally feel that the main problem I'm going through is that the college I chose to go to is subpar, to the level where it does not produce many people with "dreams." Everyone around me are just lazy people who like to party, so unless I spend all day trying to go to other campuses to talk to people, I find that I rarely get to experience an intelligent conversation about tech, career goals, and whatnot. Has anyone ever encountered this and have any advice for me?
I go to Cal Poly Pomona and have many smart friends (from highschool) but they go to schools like UC Berk, UCI, UCLA, etc.
lifebeyondfife 1 hour ago 1 reply      
This has given me a little shot of confidence. I've just finished my first mini-site with potential revenue stream. From the few places I've marketed it thus far, not many have really "got" what problem I'm trying to solve. But it's a problem I genuinely have and am thrilled to have a solution to it. I just need to find the others who'd like to drink from the well.

(Well idea: as I've gotten older I no longer care to keep up on all music related media and there are too many bands I like releasing music I don't want to miss. I've made a service that allows you to keep track of releases from your favourite artists chronologically so you don't miss out on any.)

codewright 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Pretty strong parallels here with his article about "schlep blindness".

Specifically: " Drew Houston realizes he's forgotten his USB stick and thinks "I really need to make my files live online." Lots of people heard about the Altair. Lots forgot USB sticks. The reason those stimuli caused those founders to start companies was that their experiences had prepared them to notice the opportunities they represented."

Also the section about "wells" and attacking a problem at least some people care deeply about, instead of a shallow 'hole' is one that has just allowed me to clarify and refine some of my thoughts and ideas about where I'm at right now.

This was a massive help.

Thanks for the great article pg.

GregBuchholz 15 hours ago 5 replies      
Free startup idea for the day. 3D design software for the masses. It seems to cover lots of the bases in the article. I feel the need for this right now (just this weekend I wanted to print out a plastic part to fix the broken piece on my lawn mower). 3D printing seems to be an up-and-coming area. The hardware for this is still being perfected, but the software seems further behind. There are lots of competitors making 3D modeling software, ranging from FOSS to the ultra-expensive enterprise-y, but they all seem to have a very steep learning curve. Most people who are going to own 3D printers aren't going to want to dedicate their live to learning the intricacies of 3D CAD. Ideally, I'd think the software would be based on photogammetry [1], which would allow you to take pictures of an object you want to copy, but allowing you to make tweaks (i.e. extend the portion that is missing because it broke off, etc). Think of the MS-Paint for 3D objects. I think it covers the unsexy and schlep aspects, since it seems doable, but would take a lot of tedious work. It seems like it could start out very focused at first, and expand from there.

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

matteodepalo 7 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm wondering if the reasoning that you should build a startup based on your own needs is applicable to ideas that have already been solved abroad and will not be imported in your country for some time. We don't live all in the Silicon Valley and people feel the same needs all over the world. Let's take the Stripe example. I live in Italy and I would use their product right now. Too bad they are not here and will not be here for quite a long time I foresee. Is it a good idea to create a startup that solves this need NOW for Europe? PayMill thought it was. The same for Netflix; in Italy (and most of Europe) we don't have a single decent service for renting movies online. Sometimes I feel I should build a service like Netflix here, but what if Netflix comes here 1 year later? It would probably crush my service.
vlokshin 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Couldn't agree any more.

Ideas should stem from problems. The "problem" with only solving problems for yourself, however, is that you may not be hitting a real market. The tech niche isn't exactly the norm (it's the .1%).

Lean methodologies behind testing problems and market needs are definitely making it better, but it's still extremely time -consuming, can get costly, and can lead to nothing (which is still better than building a product that doesn't go anywhere).

Landing pages, blog posts, setting controls & changes, analyzing the results and transferring those to actual needs and potential customers.

It's a mess.

If only there was something to solve this "problem" of figuring out which problem-solvers are market viable and which aren't quickly and affordably (without the massive learning curve).

My team and I just may have to give tackling this one a try :)

larrys 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm curious about this statement that appears at the bottom (and I've see this before obviously):

"Thanks to Sam Altman, Mike Arrington, Paul Buchheit, John Collison, Patrick Collison, Garry Tan, and Harj Taggar for reading drafts of this, and Marc Andreessen, Joe Gebbia, Reid Hoffman, Shel Kaphan, Mike Moritz and Kevin Systrom for answering my questions about startup history."

(my emphasis)

To what extent do these individual contribute and/or suggest corrections of an essay like this?

wslh 3 hours ago 0 replies      
" The prices of gene sequencing and 3D printing are both experiencing Moore's Law-like declines. What new things will we be able to do in the new world we'll have in a few years?"

An OkCupid for best genetic matching?

SeoxyS 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I think it comes down simply to: don't set out to make a startup. That's the wrong mind set. You shouldn't be creating a startup for the sake of creating a startup. You should be setting out to solve a problem, and somehow happen to turn that into a startup along the way.
earroway 1 hour ago 0 replies      
In my case
1. Source of ideas: How to I make my everyday life simpler?
2. Filter criteria: Will I pay for this, if so how much?
olalonde 15 hours ago 0 replies      
On the more practical side, write down any idea you have no matter how crazy they sound or where you are (use your smartphone's Notes app). It will quickly become an habit and you'll soon find yourself with dozens of ideas. Eventually, the hard part will begin: choosing the right one.

Another good trick is to write down those ideas on your blog at a fixed interval. This has two side effects: it forces you to either execute on an idea or let it go and it gets you feedback from your visitors. Here's my most recent idea dump: http://syskall.com/some-crazy-and-not-so-crazy-startup-and-p...

lewisflude 16 hours ago 1 reply      
I've been trying to work out what problems I have right now that I'd like to solve, and I really can't think of any that excite me, tech or otherwise.

I eagerly await for a problem to come into my life to which the solution is only a few weekends of Ruby away.

graeme 11 hours ago 4 replies      
Only tangentially on topic, but I imagine someone here knows the answer: is there currently an Airbnb for cars?

AirBnb lets you monetize your spare housing capacity for rent.

Congested cities are full of cars with spare capacity that isn't being monetized. I'm not the only one that's noticed this. Someone will eventually try to use smartphones + ridesharing to use this spare capacity.

Is anyone doing it at present?

damian2000 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Great read. I don't think PG addressed this in his essay, but I was wondering about the fear some startups have - whether their idea may be easily rolled into the product of an existing encumbent.

E.g. I read below someone's startup idea is for a new type of movie rating system ("because 5 stars just isn't good enough anymore") - but couldn't this be easily wiped out if an encumbent like IMDB just rolled the idea directly into their rating system.

chewxy 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Choose something many people like a little vs Choose something few people like a lot.

Sounds like start with a niche. Which is great advice.

I like how in this essay pg managed to balance the idea of building something you really want (but may have a market size of 1) vs a problem that everyone has but is only a small itch-to-scratch problem

I ran and failed a number of startups for a number of reasons, and I think this essay resonated the most with me as the idea fountain never stops. Choosing the ideas were in fact the difficult parts, and I know a few months down the track, I'd be reading it again.

mgummelt 15 hours ago 1 reply      
I really want someone to do [16] and report back.
nazgulnarsil 4 hours ago 0 replies      
All the sexy problems I think of are illegal to solve.
Geee 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Observe everything and learn new things. This leads to (problems ∩ solutions) = ideas. Sooner or later you'll have more great ideas than you'll ever have time to execute.
vadimoss 10 hours ago 0 replies      
An online Art Gallery in 1995 is not a bad but rather a premature idea for that epoche. It's a norm for the Art to be a decade or so behind the technology world. No wonder Google launched this idea with Google Art Project in 2011, which is more appropriate as far as timing concerned. How about the lost art gallery? http://galleryoflostart.com @PG - you are just ahead of the crowd. Timing and luck are two ingredients of the same origin. Good timing is essentially luck:) On the other hand hard working is a guarantee of success if the "good timing" component presents.
bernardom 11 hours ago 0 replies      
If the we assume the hypothesis is true (that exposure to real-life business problems generates the best startup ideas), wouldn't it follow that management consultants have tons of great business ideas? I mean, if I want to maximize my exposure to "seeing the same problem crop up over and over in similar industries," that's how I'd go about doing it.

Are there good examples of "former consultants who decided to start a company building the tools they used to make for every new client?" RJMetrics is the only one that comes to mind.

(This is not a loaded question; I was one and am in that place now. My potential cofounders and I are engineers but not developers; that's a barrier but not insurmountable)

panabee 16 hours ago 0 replies      
another suggestion for sourcing ideas is to identify weaknesses in popular products then build something where that weakness becomes a strength (e.g., browsing in smartphones => iphone, search in portals => google).

re the unsexy filter, success can create sexiness. nike sells shoes. amazon sells books. salesforce sells enterprise software. yet these are all considered cool, sexy companies for the most part. if you build something people love, you can make it sexy. worry less about if something is sexy today, and worry more about building something people will love tomorrow. sexiness will follow.

sidcool 10 hours ago 0 replies      
"Live in the future, then build what's missing."

This hit home run.

timmillwood 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm really bad at thinking of ideas, even thought about setting up a site to crowd source ideas, but didn't want to get into all the copyright and intellectual property issues.
codyZ 16 hours ago 0 replies      
What is the difference between a "problem" or an "inconvenience" that is worthy for a startup to tackle? Alot of startups seem to have trouble deciphering that- sometimes spending immense efforts of time and money on a 'problem' that really is frivolous at best.

...On the other hand, I suppose for some ideas you would never know unless you tried to execute it...

skdoo 9 hours ago 0 replies      
1. Thinks "I really need X... why doesn't it exist?"

2. Domain expertise in X

3. Thinks "I could build X!"

4. Actually builds X

The intersection 1+2 occurs often, and 1+2+3 more recently. 2+3+4 are fun for hacking. A PhD thesis is 1+2+3+4, but with a very limited 1. The startup I'm at (my first) is the first time I've worked on something that strongly intersects 1+2+3+4.

akproxy 12 hours ago 0 replies      
I was pleasantly surprised that this post by PG was not from Feb 2001.
pknerd 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I liked Matt Cuts way to find a problem and solve it. Worth reading


AndrewKemendo 13 hours ago 0 replies      
These principals apply equally within large organizations too. So once your startup is humming and a few years, even decades old, you now have an HR department and a law firm who works solely on your suits, remember these things.

The difference however is that instead of a new and massive muscle movement, it will be refining and pruning the tree to make things more efficient, cost effective and empowering.

novaleaf 11 hours ago 1 reply      
from the article, pg: "Whereas the activation energy required to switch to a new search engine is low. Which in turn is why search engines are so much better than enterprise software."

is that last sentence a joke? if yes, i think it is too subtle, a lot of dry sponges would soak it up.

if it's NOT a joke... ummmm... wtf?

selvan 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Generate ideas to solve a problem. If you have 'n' ideas to solve a problem, it is n x 1 complexity.

Issue with using ideas as your problem is that you have to find actual problem first, then solution next. 'm' ideas as your problem and another 'n' ideas for each problem, it is m x n complexity.

Use lean principles to find a solution to a problem that you understood well.

napoleond 16 hours ago 0 replies      
pg drew a graph explaining "the well" after Startup School: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4685655
sown 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I was going to ask about new markets but he seems to cover it: live in the future?

Anyone else have other methods?

wololo 13 hours ago 1 reply      
technically, on social networks for pet owners: http://crunchbase.com/company/dogster also did catster
ekosz 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I remember Evan Koslow talked about this idea back in 2010. It was a pretty interesting lecture[1].

[1] - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v...

known 7 hours ago 0 replies      
In globalized world, sell first, build later
mmvvaa 15 hours ago 1 reply      
My brother had just sent me this link while I was finishing up reading PG's essay: http://www.theuselessweb.com/. Coincidence?
bitteralmond 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Automatic upvote for a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance quite. And this is so spectacularly true it hurts.
pseut 11 hours ago 0 replies      
At least this essay lets me feel better about my inefficient toy projects.
justplay 7 hours ago 0 replies      
whatever you said pg,its true.
I completely agree and should work on problem which we are facing. We is more natural to realize where we missing to provide solution and in what way.

@pg, why dont you upgrade your design ? You have so much money . You can hire best designer . If you say,i can contribute my design to you .

alenam 8 hours ago 0 replies      
pg's essays are so true and correct that I could practically cry.
groby_b 13 hours ago 2 replies      
[16] is a rather cynical view of women in sororities. Maybe it's actually true for American colleges - I have no experience there. I doubt it is.

At it's core, it seems to be saying "Ask women what they need, then build it for them". Start with that attitude, and women will have no interest in your product - because you begin by assuming they're incapable of building the things they need themselves.

You can do it alone ryancarson.com
518 points by ryancarson  2 days ago   169 comments top 43
pg 2 days ago 15 replies      
You can certainly start a business without a cofounder. What's hard to do, empirically, is to start one that gets really big. There are a handful of counterexamples, like Amazon, but Treehouse is not one of them yet.

We have a lot more data about what happens in startups than any individual founder does. What interest would we have in mischaracterizing it?

petenixey 2 days ago 1 reply      
As I think Ryan would be the first to agree, he may have built Treehouse on his own but his early businesses have all been very much built with the support and partnership of his wife Gill.

Ryan has also been a master of bootstrapping businesses upon business. He built Carsonified on the foundation of simple workshops he ran, he built ThinkVitamin on the foundation of Carsonified and he built Treehouse on the combination of both of them.

I say that not as a critic but as an admirer. I think he's done a first class job of building his reputation, wealth, influence and expertise through all of these.

However I think it's somewhat disingenuous for Ryan to state that because he has done Treehouse on his own, "so too can you". It's what the people want to hear and it will bring the enthusiasm of the bulk of HN readers who are going it alone.

However the risk for most startups is not that they will exit for millions and the CEO will only own a paltry 20% of the company rather than 70%. It's that they will die. It has taken me many years to realise it but the presence of a true co-founder dramatically reduces this likelihood.

It feels odd writing this all these years later because I knew Ryan at the very start of my career and almost the start of his. I then was a single-founder, he was working with Gill. I feel like we've passed each other going the opposite direction.

I gave only a small fraction of equity to my first co-founder and paid a high price for that. I have now come full circle and realise the importance of a good co-founder and of an even split between you.

Ryan is right in that he can do it without a co-founder. However if you fit that mold you probably already know that and are running a business quite possibly as the sole influencer already. If you don't then I think there is good reason for the astonishing faith of the valley in the co-founder. There is a degree of group-thought, sure but there are a lot of very, very sound reasons not to go it alone.

rauljara 2 days ago 0 replies      
"I believe Paul and David are stressing the importance of co-founders because they're talking about young founders with no previous business experience."

"I funded the business with cash from my previous business"

Ryan has thoroughly convinced me that if you've run some successful businesses in the past, it's probably better to go it alone your new one.

However, I don't think he convinced me that PG was wrong (and I'm not sure he was trying to), just that PG's advice doesn't necessarily apply to serially successful entrepreneurs. All of PG's cautions about the dangers of going it alone still seem completely valid. However, it's not like there aren't dangers to having a co-founder (the marriage analogy, though a little cliche, is cliche because it rings true).

I suppose, as with all things, the thing to do is take stock of your own particular situation and weigh the risks. But if you don't have direct experience overcoming at least some of challenges PG refers to, a co-founder still seems like the more sensible route.

Kiro 2 days ago 1 reply      
"What's wrong with having one founder? To start with, it's a vote of no confidence. It probably means the founder couldn't talk any of his friends into starting the company with him. That's pretty alarming, because his friends are the ones who know him best."

Wow, pg is so wrong. Whenever I get an idea I want to execute it myself. Bringing in friends is not something I even consider.

nodesocket 2 days ago 3 replies      
I just applied to TechStars Cloud in San Antonio for http://commando.io and was denied as a single founder. I knew it was a long shot, but had to apply just for the amazing opportunity that is TechStars and the mentors and experience.

Being a single founder is bloody hard. Mostly though it is lonely. Nobody to talk with, nobody to bounce ideas around and debate features or implementation with. Should we use MongoDB or Riak? Being a single founder you make all the decisions. Also investors believe if you can't convince anybody else to join your company, than its probably a bad idea. I don't necessarily believe this, since I am myself a single founder.

So, why is finding a co-founder hard. I moved up to San Francisco over a year ago, left my pool of friends, and drove up in my car with everything I owned. Finding people in San Francisco that are either not already doing their own startup, or already working at a badass company is extremely difficult. Even more, there is the catch-22, I don't have any capital to pay you, but I have equity. Again, not a really convincing proposition for a rockstar developer or designer.

Startups are hard, the hardest thing you will probably ever do. So being a single founder is just not mentally healthy and as productive as having co-founders.

justjimmy 2 days ago 1 reply      
Ryan has built businesses before Treehouse - ThinkVitamin and Carsonified for example. He knows the people, has the connections, the talent pool to pick from.

PG's YC (using YC since that's the case being used) are tend to be populated with fresh/younger people, who probably never ran a business prior to YC.

Not really fair to try and compare the two and draw conclusions that will blanket the other side of the argument.

Are you going to succeed right out of college as a single founder with your very first business? Probably not.

Would you succeed if you had decade of experience under your belt, built previous successful businesses, know the industry, know the players, and etc? Most likely.

jonathanjaeger 2 days ago 1 reply      
Mark Suster agrees that you don't need the 'typical' co-founder split. Here's his take: http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2011/05/09/the-co-founder...
webwright 2 days ago 1 reply      
I don't think anyone has ever said that you can't. Just that it's harder and success is less likely. Yes, certainly co-founder add additional risks to the equation and do indeed reduce the magnitude of success, should you find it. But as others have said, the more important # to optimize is your chance of success.

I'd love to see data to the contrary versus an (admittedly inspiring) anecdote... All of the data that I've ever heard about (from PG and other sources) seems to support that ideas that people who find a co-founder have a better shot.

nhangen 2 days ago 1 reply      
If it hadn't been for my co-founder, I would be insane at best, and at worst, divorced and nearly dead. We keep each other going, pick up each other's slack when we're having a bad day/week/month, and keep each other energized throughout the day.

I'm sure you can do it alone, but I wouldn't want to.

david927 2 days ago 0 replies      
What makes some start-ups succeed where others fail is so poorly understood that superstitions start to creep in -- such as this one: that a co-founder is needed. It's widely believed and utter nonsense. Worse, it leads people to find co-founders artificially and to accept a co-founder when they would be much better served going it alone.

When you add a co-founder, you might have increased your chances of success but you certainly have increased your chances of failure.

muratmutlu 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think that many founders won't be in the same position as you as having come from a successful business and be well known and respected in the industry.

I think either way is cool, I'm happy to share 50% with my co-founder because money isn't my primary goal and he's a fun and clever guy to work with which makes the journey even more enjoyable

goldfeld 2 days ago 2 replies      
The point I find to ring the truest with me is that of a single life goal. If your startup is the love of your life, your ultimate passion and purpose on Earth, it gets very hard to find someone to share in on that passion. And taking someone on board for half equity because they see it as an exit opportunity doesn't feel right.
marcamillion 2 days ago 1 reply      
I am curious, Ryan says:
> This is also why I don't ever want to take Treehouse public. I hate the idea of having to answer to outside investors who don't have day-to-day knowledge of the challenges and opportunities we face. They also don't share the insane passion that I have for the business.

But Treehouse has raised $5M. How did that work? What outcome are those investors looking for?

If you didn't want to go public, then what did you sell the investors on? Seems to me that you are weakening your hand - because any potential acquirer knows that your options are limited because you don't want to go public.

What's the point of publicly disclosing something like that?

Given that VC investing is a hits driven business, I can't see any rational investor being satisfied with you not swinging for a large outcome for them.

Given that you own 70% of your company, if we make the simplistic assumption that you sold 30% for $5M - which would give you a $16M post-money valuation...you would have to sell to Google or some other deep pocket for almost $40M just for them to double their money. Assuming this doesn't happen for 5 years, those returns look paltry.

What is the end game for them?

P.S. If you never told them that you didn't want to swing for the fences, then this must be a sucky way for them to find out.

fitandfunction 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'd love to see someone (ryancarson or pg?) write a complementary article about "what if you have to do it alone?"

In other words, sometimes, it's not your choice to be a solo co-founder. Many people have compared finding a co-founder to finding a spouse. In both life decisions, I don't think anyone seriously advocates for "sucking it up, and going with the least bad option."

Sometimes, you're poorly geographically positioned, or in a "strange" market, or later in life (friends are already "matched up" or in secure jobs), etc

For myriad reasons, you could sincerely try to recruit a co-founder and come up short.

The question then becomes ... do you make the best of it and go for it anyway?

Or, is the lack of a co-founder a signal (to yourself and others) that your idea / plan is unworthy?

I hope the answer is the former because that is what I am doing. Someone remind me to write this article when I figure it out.

ludicast 1 day ago 0 replies      
Since dropbox's valuation might be bigger than that of all the other YC companies (including airbnb) combined, it serves as blazing evidence that you don't need a cofounder. Possibly the truth is that singlefounder companies have more struggles but are capable of bigger wins (which is what investors should want).

Kinda how many succesful dyslexics (like Ari Emmanuel) credit dyslexia for their success.

The fact is that many of the extraordinary people YC looks for are often written off by YC's own bias against single founders. That's silly, but in the end it hurts YC more than the founder, because of all the other Dropboxes they miss out on. So forgive them for knowing not what they do.

An investor usually has only one chance to pass or invest, whereas the entrepreneur has many chances to succeed. Single founder or not, if you are tenacious you will keep having chances for as long as you are willing to fight. Many more chances than any one investor does.

zacman85 2 days ago 0 replies      
I went through YC as a solo, first-time founder and I would not recommend it to anyone. Despite working the hardest I have ever worked in my life, I barely made it through Demo Day, and my Demo Day presentation was not exactly riveting. Furthermore, after Demo Day, you still have to continue building the business.

Solo, first-time founders will undoubtedly lack the emotional support systems necessary to give them even a baseline sense of sanity and the mental clarity to persevere. They are far more likely to make stupid and irrational decisions. It was not until I found a cofounder, long after YC, that our company began to behave even remotely like a normal company.

Having a cofounder to share the load with has unforeseen compounding value that one does not have the awareness of to offset in their first company. Maybe in a second or third company you can pull it off by planning around the repercussions of being a solo founder. Unfortunately, without previous experience, you will have no idea how to do that.

bencoder 2 days ago 1 reply      
Somewhat off topic but I'd like to ask about this:

> We've grown from three people to 54, and $0 revenue to $3.4m+, all in just two years.

I'm completely naive about these things and I'm not involved in business, but isn't this very risky? That equals to only 63k/head revenue. I guess this is banking on future growth but is this a standard pattern for a growing startup?

ChuckMcM 2 days ago 0 replies      
Fascinating discussion, one of the nice things about multiple founders is you get to hear people who don't agree with you. I've found a huge number of people 'self edit' around the boss, even when you tell them not to. So when you're doing something stupid you really need to hear that from someone else because if it was obvious it was stupid to you, well you wouldn't be doing it.

That is something that always impresses me about teams with a solid level of trust, they can talk about anything. They trust that everyone wants the same thing, success for the endeavor and nobody worries that someone is trying to make them look bad in front of someone else or to the team.

saddino 2 days ago 0 replies      
Although I am in agreement, I believe it best to re-emphasize the qualifiers for such an endeavor (totally IMO):

1) A single founder must have already had an exit;
2) A single founder must be able to speak to their own weaknesses and address how to balance those to potential investors;
3) A single founder must have domain experience.

Finally, although most people anticipate a single founder as a CEO with technical skills, I believe that a better single founder is a CTO with business skills.

But I guess we'll see where I end up... ;-)

timedoctor 2 days ago 1 reply      
A big factor if you are trying to succeed while doing it alone is can you hire a great team to complement your skills. This usually costs more money in the beginning stages in salaries than having a co-founder. It means the founder must have some money behind them and usually means they must have succeeded in business before.
liquimoon 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's misleading to point out how startups worked in Bill Gates and Steve Jobs era. Then, it really took a team to build anything.

The technology has improved drastically. 10 years ago, it requires millions of funding to start a web business. Today, a team of talented developers can build an impressive app in a weekend.

Even marketing has become easier. With App Store, it's now possible to have apps distributed to millions of users over night.

Yet, our assumption about startups stayed the same disregarding the change of context.

Sure, even Steve Jobs had a cofounder. But then what would be the equivalent of building a PC in today's age? And have that distributed to millions of users in that age?

Take into account now it takes a beginner Rails developer 15 minutes to build a blogging app. If the cost of running a startup is going down as technology matures, then it really shouldn't take a team to build a startup. It should take one guy with a vision, a few freelancers and/or interns.

Solo founders are being discriminated against for all the bullshit reasons. Time has changed, technology has matured. It's time to end it!

dschiptsov 1 day ago 0 replies      
From you own point of view it is much better to be the only boss - share nothing, nothing special.

From the point of view of any investor, investing in a single-founder is a much higher risk. In case of any accident the second founder could be of some use, where in a single-hero case it would be a guaranteed lose.

Another issue is that smart investor would try everything in his power to engage all co-founders in a competition, a standard manipulation about position and respect. Very useful technique.

So, it seems possible to do things alone, and a lot of people do, but investing in a single-founder startup is too risky - there is a single point of failure.)

vlokshin 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think I speak for most young, yet-to-be-successful, founders when I say: I'd rather keep 15-30% of something that has a 5% chance of success than 70-100% of something that has a .01% chance of success.

I thoroughly believe doing it alone (even if you're REALLY good) is a .01% chance, and doing it with complementary talents that have skin, heart, reputation in the game brings that up a ton.

That being said, congrats on being in the 0.01% of that equation.

namank 2 days ago 1 reply      
Doesn't exactly instil confidence when "You can do it alone" is prefaced by "The Naive Optimist".

That said, upvoted!

photorized 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yes you can.

Best part is focus, clarity, and instant decision making. If you feel you have a great idea, just go for it. Don't waste time convincing others.

jeremyjh 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think a co-founder would be great, but I'm afraid I'd have to totally re-arrange my life at this point in order to find one. It would be like dating. It would take up a long time where I wouldn't get as much work done, and I'd still end up hooking up with someone I wasn't anywhere near 100% sure of.
bsims 2 days ago 0 replies      
Everyone commenting on this thread should read Founder's Dilemma to at least give some statistical information about success rates of founding teams.


Regardless of one's opinion of solo vs team, statistically it is easier with co-founders. That doesn't mean it can't be done solo, but you have better odds. And YC makes investments so why wouldn't you play the odds?

eande 2 days ago 0 replies      
yes, you can do it alone and I had some success building up my hardware company. But at some point I decided to change and bring in co-founders and our momentum just build up x-times higher.

First hand experience tells me too, that starting up a company alone is not only really hard, but slower as well, which these days speed is more crucial than ever.

I have to agree on common wisdom and recommendation here that if you want to start a company and create something with impact try to partner up. Finding the right partners is another whole chapter by itself.

benatkin 2 days ago 0 replies      
The title of the article is plainly and simply wrong. The you is every prospective founder of a tech company. A fraction of this group of people can build a company to the point of testing their hypothesis. A fraction of this fraction can do that without a cofounder.

Besides that there are some good points in the article, it's fairly well written, and being a solo founder has put its author in a good position.

rvivek 2 days ago 0 replies      
Startups are a function of the morale of the founder(s). When it becomes zero, the startup dies. And there will be hopeless times when it'll almost approach zero. Empirically, having a co-founder can be a huge boost during those times which in turn means you're increasing your odds of success by playing longer. You can definitely do it alone (kudos), it's all about increasing your odds.
zerostar07 1 day ago 0 replies      
It may just be down to logistics. In the past starting a company just required more time in the beginning phase (i.e. someone to build the hardware while someone else writes the code and someone else does bureaucracy). Nowadays, with the cloud, the outsourcing of all kinds of work, accounting and legal stuff, you can build a company literally in a day.
dutchbrit 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'd hate to have a cofounder. I'd really have to find someone with same amount of passion and who's on the exact same line. I don't like people messing with my vision, having too much control. Don't get me wrong, I listen and take in other people's advise and views, but I want the final say.

Also, I think a lot of people look for funding, while they don't even need it, but that's another issue..

liquimoon 1 day ago 0 replies      
So, I created a FB group for solo founders:

It would be great to have a group where we can share experiences and motivate one another. Remember, just because you are a solo founder doesn't mean you have to work by yourself.

Would appreciate if you up vote tomorrow around 2pm EST. Thanks!

seeingfurther 2 days ago 0 replies      
He didn't start a business as a single founder. He had his wife, and I don't mean as moral support, I mean as a defacto founder. To quote his wife Gillian's own blog... " I left publishing to start a business with my husband. We sold that company and we now run an online training company called Treehouse"
earroway 2 days ago 0 replies      
Glad it worked for you, Ryan. You makes some very valid points, especially in #3.

As I am learning daily, techpreneurship has so many facets from the core technical, to biz dev, sales and day to day activities. Can be overwhelming to go solo (assuming one has all the various abilities). Though I am not personally sold no the idea of having a co-founder, I think it helps to bring in folks to augment as needed.

dorkitude 2 days ago 0 replies      
IMO whether or not you have good cofounders correlates pretty well to whether or not you'll be able to hire good employees.
freework 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think single founders have it hard because in order to succeed, you need both introvert and extrovert personalities present. Most people are either one or the other. You need one brain thats social and salesman-like. You need another brain thats analytical and details-oriented. Some people (such as myself) are terrified of the idea of going to a party to meet people and make connections. But I have no problem obsessing over a problem that needs solving. Other people love going to parties to meet new people, but would hate the idea of staying home all weekend to fix a technical problem. You really need both 'types' of people to have both types of tasks covered.
zupa-hu 2 days ago 0 replies      
The article being #1 on the front page tells a lot about how much driven (we) solo founders really are! ;) Go for it!!!
jermaink 2 days ago 0 replies      
Let's ignite a candle and hug each other. And then let's watch Bob Ross painting a sunset lake.
calgaryeng 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm with ya - you just have be slightly crazier than any "normal" entrepreneur :)
nashequilibrium 2 days ago 0 replies      
You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
duncanwilcox 2 days ago 0 replies      
just2n 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm sorry, but this just comes off as a guy ranting about how he defied Graham so that he would have more equity and no one to question his decisions. You know what that says to potential hires and the rest of us? "Huge red flag."
What Happens When A Twitter Client Hits The Token Limit marco.org
501 points by DaNmarner  3 days ago   179 comments top 37
jmilloy 3 days ago 6 replies      
Twitter: Don't build core-feature Twitter clients, we probably won't approve them.

Atta: I built a core-feature Twitter client!

Twitter: Sorry, we're not approving your core-feature Twitter client.

Who is surprised? How is this news? Were you expecting them to not apply their own rules? It seems like a clear-cut case, and concluding "don't build anything for Twitter" is just throwing a temper tantrum.

hnriot 3 days ago 14 replies      
*The effective rule, therefore, is even simpler: “Don't build anything for Twitter.”

Exactly, that's precisely the message they wanted you to have.

What's wrong with using the twitter.com on Windows8, do we really need a special client just for Windows 8? This is exactly what the web is supposed to do.

I don't get anyone is surprised, it's Twitter's ecosystem and if you're duplicating their functionality then it's perfectly reasonable of them to not make any special exemption. If you wrote a client that exposed twitter to new markets or something that added value to Twitter then they'd likely give you a higher limit, but that's not the case...

nollidge 3 days ago 2 replies      
Sort of amused by the wording in this line:

> It does not appear that your service addresses an area that our current or future products do not already serve.

How can your future product already serve an area?

jusben1369 3 days ago 3 replies      
I've watched this from a distance with interest. Developers have a special place within the overall Internet ecosystem. As a non developer, everything Twitter has said and done in the last 12 months or more tells me "We don't need a healthy 3rd party ecosystem and we don't want one. Hobbysits can stay filling odd niche requirements and here's our cap. Everyone else though? Sorry" I have no emotion around this as I'm not a developer. I feel as though many developers can't wrap their mind around this concept of not being wanted. They're used to being very wanted initially and then at best still wanted but with a few controlling parameters around activity (see "all App Store/Developer discussions"). I suspect it might be a slightly over exaggerated sense of self importance that's meant it's taken a long time for the obvious to set in. Perhaps that's why Marco only just connected the dots? (as usual I'm not talking about all developers - I've seen many who got it right from the get go)
Pewpewarrows 3 days ago 2 replies      
If my salary depended on the Twitter API right now I'd be scared shitless.
quotemstr 3 days ago 5 replies      
You know, back before APIs were all the rage, people wrote clients for web services by scraping. Twitter really wouldn't be able to do anything about a Twitter client that pretended to be IE9.
lancewiggs 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's so sad to watch such a lively lovely service remove the fun by destroying the values that made it great.
Meanwhile we are sitting here saying "charge us money, you fools", and they are deaf to us.
Twitter: your online site is usability hell, your own clients are dated and painful. Above all we have one question: why? Why are you intent on this path of foolishness based on placing customers and developers last?
droithomme 3 days ago 0 replies      
> Now we know: “work with us directly” means “die”.

Very good summary by Marco. It's really annoying when these companies have secret policies that have to be discovered rather than are clearly stated. It just wastes people's time to try to discover the policy, having to do costly time consuming experiments to find out what the policy is as if this was an unknown branch of particle physics.

taude 3 days ago 0 replies      
While I've disagreed a lot with a lot of Marco's blog posts, gotta say he's totally right on this one. Actually this is bigger than Twitter, as any new platform that comes out that wants Devs to develop for their API needs to be treated with a certain cynicism: if the platform gets big enough, they'll likely cut you out.

I wonder if this trend between FB, Twitter, etc. is going to ruin the ability for new companies and new platforms to attract free development by third parties?

uptown 3 days ago 2 replies      
Aside from pissing off Twitter, and possibly getting a cease and desist, what's preventing developers from building a translator that sits between Twitter's web layer and their native application client? Couldn't something be developed that loads Twitter into a hidden webview that's locally scraped for the purpose of re-display however the developer pleases on their client? This implementation wouldn't require the tokens, and wouldn't be constrained by their arbitrary limits.

But I suppose they'd just wind up getting sued.

javajosh 3 days ago 1 reply      
Goddamn, I've never seen a clearer example of the colloquial term "butt hurt". Twitter is a company, they built something, they support it, they have the right to control it, and they have arbitrary rights over it. More tellingly, they have a very good point.

It reminds me of the craigslist haters, and my response to them. I don't hate craigslist for stopping third parties from using their data because, frankly, it hurts their brand if "druggycriminalroommates.com" starts syndicating their apartment ads.

That said, don't think that I'm some sort of right-wing capitalist fascist. No, I don't think everything should be privately owned and controlled. There are some things that should remain public: internet infrastructure being one of them. My personal belief is that the only real egalitarian, open system is one that relies on that infrastructure, and ONLY on that infrastructure. This vision requires that people either a) run their own servers, or b) pay money to someone else to run servers (or parts of servers). (Other possibilities for payment exist, of course, such as bartering information for service, etc.)

I mean, twitter is free to control, the OP is free to complain about that control, but the solution presented (don't develop anything for twitter) is ridiculous and immature.

koide 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder why something like "If you want more than 100k usernames, either pay us $x per username or use our advertisement API and put whatever tweets/ads we push where we tell you to" is not an option.

It would be refreshingly honest and for some people/clients it could work, plus it could earn them some of the needed cash.

ianstallings 3 days ago 1 reply      
Wait, you mean you can't just wrap someone's service in a fancy UI and then sell it as your own? OH THE HUMANITY!

What happened to innovation? All I see these days is a derivative of a derivative of a derivative. Hell even the memes these days are derived from other memes.

keithpeter 3 days ago 0 replies      
When you have to find 1500 monthly pay checks, I suppose you have to get the money somehow.


Found via


Seems a sensible position to me (old guy, non-coder and won't use twitter or fb).

zaidf 3 days ago 0 replies      
The problem with core-twitter limitation is that twitter's own product sucks and has basic features missing or implemented very poorly...years after launch.

This is just shitty all around. Sometimes I wish I could buy 1,000 twitter tokens for some price and use it in some "core-feature" 3rd party app because twitter sucks at implementing the very core features.

JohnTHaller 3 days ago 2 replies      
If you build a company around someone else's free API, you're either a high stakes gambler or a moron.
TheCapn 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is the inherent problem with building your product with dependencies on other products. You are tied to their system in such a way that your existence relies on the faith that they keep doing what they do and do not change to a system that blocks you or inhibits your functions.

I see the need/desire for hackers to make things useful and unique in a way that they envision things but you will never hear me apologize for my remarks on this subject. If you are building your business or product depending on someone else's and are not a form of contractual partner you can be kicked in the ass down the line and there's no accountability to you they owe.

rsaarelm 3 days ago 0 replies      
I liked the Internet better when we had things like irc and news to talk with that weren't controlled by any single corporate entity.
ChuckMcM 3 days ago 0 replies      
It is surprising that their response does not include a call to action with respect to their business development team. Why isn't there a 'click here to sign up to by a 10,000,000 token' link in that email? Now granted the result might be the same, people not developing for their API but at least they could get value pricing information as part of the transaction.
rubynerd 3 days ago 1 reply      
I agree with the "Don't build anything for twitter" motto (and it would look good on a t-shirt), but part of me wonders if twitter could get by charging 25 cents a token past 100k, so developing apps is still possible, and twitter still gets its slice of the pie.

Although, it still kills the advertising cash cow.

SoftwareMaven 3 days ago 0 replies      
Not exactly. Twitter doesn't want you to build anything that will take a single eyeball from them. There are still services that can be built that don't fall in that category, though, such as sentiment analysis.

At least, for now. Twitter has shown they are willing to be hostile towards their developers. Even if I fit in the "don't take their eyeballs" category, I wouldn't build on their platform because I don't trust them.

yaix 3 days ago 0 replies      
> that our [...] future products do not already serve


dpeck 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm amazed we haven't seen some developer say screw it and build thing using Twitters own keys. There have been multiple instances of them being published over the last couple of years, and I'm having trouble seeing what incentive a dev has not to just use them.

If you're working against Twitters interest already then why not go for broke?

k-mcgrady 3 days ago 0 replies      
I still don't understand why everyone is getting angry about this. It doesn't affect clients made before they introduced the new rule. The only people who get hurt are the idiots who ignore twitter and build a business which uses their API in a way they have said not to.
ishansharma 3 days ago 5 replies      
This is really idiotic. What are they trying to do? Make sure that all the top users flock to App.net or somewhere else?
TazeTSchnitzel 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned yet that Windows 8 has built-in Twitter integration that works very well.

Why do you need another client? Just go to the People Hub and click What's new. Need to reply or retweet? The buttons are right below the message. Need to see mentions or replies? Click Notifications.

jeremysmyth 3 days ago 0 replies      
Now that it has the userbase, it's milking its situation. The talk in the beginning was "How are they gonna make money out of this?" and the answer is gradually unfolding. Kudos to them or starting the way they did, shame on them for closing out the very things that brought them to where they are.

Late arrivals like identi.ca might not be as polished, but they offer a similar product, with open APIs. Being based on open and federated standards like status.net, it's extremely unlikely that identi.ca will ever get the ego trip twitter got, and in fact is much more likely that it will be more open over time, and more useful even if other competition arises. What it doesn't have, and what we (consumers as well as devs) can help with, is by heading over there and giving them users and status and content.

why-el 3 days ago 1 reply      
Does anybody know of any Facebook apps that sort of do the same thing, i.e. recreate the Facebook newsfeed experience for users?
kalleboo 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'd like to see what would happen if a third-party client just started to use the API token extracted from the official client. What could they do?
babesh 3 days ago 0 replies      
How would you compare the Twitter ecosystem to how the Facebook ecosystem is doing lately? Seems that Facebook sign on/identity is doing well. Seems that the Facebook hosted apps are increasingly less relevant than apps just getting sign on and possibly newsfeed flow? Twitter ecosystem seems pretty much destroyed. Tweeting and Facebook newsfeed seem to be doing fine.
nileshbhojani 3 days ago 0 replies      
Tweetro should be happy that Twitter is not blaming them for using their platform in a way they prohibit. They want to use what Twitter has worked hard to build, make easy money, and then also want Twitter to spend extra to help them do it (by allowing more API calls etc) - why don't they build something original?
camus 3 days ago 0 replies      
make the twitter api a paid api, and everything will be clearer.

Businesses that rely on twitter will have a contractual relationship with twitter , meaning less uncertainty ,less competition ( since you'll have to pay upfront to access twitter's data , less clients ).

That's the solution that makes sense , instead of this half baked situation twitter api developers are in.

crististm 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't understand why people bend over backward and provide also the grease to FB, Tweeter, AppStore & co?
myWordBiLLY 3 days ago 0 replies      
So, based on their guideline, if we made and sold Twitter ID BiLLYS which are custom made wooden signs for the or office (and BTW makes for a cool present), would Twitter have a problem with this?
marblar 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to me this is an issue of pricing. Reach 100,000 tokens with demand to spare? Congratulations, you left money on the table. Charge more next time.
smirksirlot 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think some people might call this "biting the hand that feeds you". Or at least the hand that got you started.
fidz 3 days ago 0 replies      
If developers are prohibited to develop apps with Twitter APIs, so why they build the API?
They Cracked This 250 Year-Old Code, And Found a Secret Society Inside wired.com
416 points by pstadler  3 days ago   35 comments top 15
kens 2 days ago 4 replies      
I suspect there's a second code hidden in there. From the article, describing the code symbols that are Roman letters:

    These unaccented Roman letters appeared with the frequency 
you'd expect in a European language. But they don't
represent letters"they mark the spaces between words.

It's implausible that these characters just happen to appear with a language-like frequency distribution and are all meaningless spaces. I suspect they actually have a meaning and provide a second message.

To clarify, it's like taking "SthisEisCtheRfirstEmessageT" and assuming all the capitals just indicate spaces.

danso 2 days ago 3 replies      
A wonderful read. I know a little bit about frequency analysis and was surprised to see how straightforward its application was (in theory). I'm even more surprised that after a decade of Google, that this approach wouldn't be one of the first things tried out given the length of the text. As the OP describes, it was a chance encounter at a conference that machine learning was finally introduced into the problem. Until that point, the linguist had been trying in vain to decipher the text...is there still such a gap between the researchers and the computational experts who know how to implement solutions?

* to put it in a less-polite way: how the F else would you solve a problem like this, with non-computational methods?

Turing_Machine 2 days ago 0 replies      
The next time I'm at the eye doctor, I'm going to be wondering what that eye chart really means. :-)

Another poster mentioned the Voynich manuscript. It's available on archive.org if anyone wants to try their hand:


Here's a list of others:


gebe 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, not often accomplishments from people you actually know and have had as teachers end up on the frontpage of HN. I was at the same talk by Kevin Knight as Schaefer and I can vouch for that it was a mighty interesting one! I actually changed my curriculum a bit (to include cryptography) as a result of his talk.
keithpeter 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good catch, nice read, with a computational angle.

Take a walk down some of the older lanes in London, say near Borough Market or back up towards Southwark, or the other side between Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane, and imagine yourself back in the 1700s.

Coffee houses, close groups having meetings, private rooms upstairs in narrow houses. The feeling that true knowledge was being passed on. The meaning people found in the processes of the primitive technology.

It strikes me that the boring bits of the decoding (tokenising the symbols, entering the tokens) could be farmed out using a web site hosting scans of texts. The computational resource could perhaps be spare cycles on a PC with an appropriate application. Scope for lay science of a particularly interesting kind, and the refinement of algorithms as they are applied to a larger corpus of texts.

nnq 2 days ago 0 replies      
this: "The unaccented Roman letters didn't spell out the code. They were the spaces that separated the words of the real message, which was actually written in the glyphs and accented text." makes me think of a cyphertext within a cyphertext, something like an ancient form of stenography.

...maybe the symbold used as spaces are not actually random and there's another message hidden there, with another cypher, offering the writers of this "plausible deniability" regarding its existence: they could only give the way to decipher the first level of encryption and say that's all there is, while the really important information was hidden in the "space characters"...

(... now putting my tinfoil hat back in the closet :) )

Jun8 2 days ago 1 reply      
And now if only someone cracked the Voynich manuscript!
stcredzero 2 days ago 0 replies      
Actually, they cracked a 250 year old code and found a secret society inside a secret society. (True. Read the article!)
Leszek 2 days ago 2 replies      
> Eventually we turned to the last items in the Oculist trove: nine copies of a four-page document written in a mixture of old German, Latin, and the Copiale's coded script. The message was more or less identical in every set.

I feel kind of sorry for them, that at the end of their journey they found what was essentially a Rosetta Stone for the code they were decoding.

tsunamifury 2 days ago 1 reply      
This introduction feels eerily similar to an opening interview at Google.
BerislavLopac 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'll be calling my rock band "Quiet Bulldozer". ;-)
k2xl 2 days ago 1 reply      
Question (maybe a dumb one) but how does an algorithm account for symbols that might mean a series of letters? Or a symbol that stands for a different letter depending on the symbol before or after it?
Roelven 1 day ago 0 replies      
Woah. Awesome story but was kinda disappointed with the ending, just leads to more riddles & codes.
BaconJuice 2 days ago 0 replies      
Enjoyed reading this. Thank you.
myWordBiLLY 2 days ago 0 replies      
This was a fun read. Thanks for sharing.
Hauntingly Beautiful, Wildly Low-cost Solution to Clearing Afghan Landmines good.is
415 points by Brajeshwar  9 hours ago   122 comments top 31
chernevik 2 hours ago 4 replies      
It is depressing to me that a community as smart as this is so congratulatory of such inch-deep stuff. Oooh, landmines! Design! Shiny! But a fast perusal of the comments shows that this approach is at best problematic. And a deeper reading of the comments suggests this might very well be a dangerous anti-pattern.

People, you are some of the brightest and cleverest people walking the earth. And the earth has some nasty problems. They won't be solved by meaning well or looking cool.

In my early days I worked with homeless and mentally disabled people, I migrated to government policy to solve larger problems, but I was perpetually frustrated by the refusal to ask hard questions of stuff that sounded good. And you know what? I am so sorry to tell you, but there are people who have noticed this persistent absence of accountability, and who are willing to exploit it.

I have no particular reason to believe that the designer in the OP is a cynic. But you do his effort to help no favors by upvoting it to the moon because it looks cool. The informed and thoughtful critique in the comments DOES help, and a dialogue talking about the potential application of design to the problem would help still further. Here are a few ideas:
- Kids ignore warning signs around mine fields -- why not design hideous boundary demons to frighten them off?
- Design "clear trail" markers apparent in all weather and easily moved to reflect cleared sections?
- Mapped displays of mined areas as targets for Apple vs Microsoft battles to see who can clear more?
- Does the computing power of Raspberry Pi offer new possibilities for cheap clearance -- maybe gather seismographic data with controlled explosions to be analyzed for "echoes" of a landmine?
- Declaring total clearance is a problem, what if there were a program that took 99% cleared land and used as grazing pasture for 10 years so the cows can find the missing bombs?

These don't strike me as half bad and I suck so I expect most of this board can come up with better and more detailed.

The guy is trying to do something and that's great. But let's not just congratulate him and move on. Let's actually think about whether the damn thing helps, and if not, how design could help more.

_djo_ 7 hours ago 12 replies      
Sadly, demining is not this simple or easy.

Mine rollers and mine flails like this have been tried and tested since WWI but none have proven completely effective in finding and clearing mines. This is partially because they only work well on totally flat terrain and rapidly lose effectiveness in rougher terrain where a large number of mines are typically buried.

In practice, solutions like this achieve only 50-60% effectiveness at clearing minefields, which makes them useless for civilian demining which demands a 99% clearance rate.

For that reason there's been a ton of research in this area which has resulted in better demining vehicles and interesting new techniques such as using sniffer dogs or rats to detect the explosives inside landmines. This is especially useful for the numerous plastic-shelled landmines that resist standard detection methods.

Using a layered approach with these techniques, civilian demining organisations like Mechem[0] (which pioneered the use of sniffer dogs) are now able to achieve a high enough clearance rate to make areas safe, though the work is expensive and time-consuming. If you support this sort of work, donating money to demining NGOs would be better than funding yet another ineffective mine roller.


haliax 4 minutes ago 0 replies      

Seems like a promising approach. Does anyone know about this?

chad_oliver 8 hours ago 2 replies      
This is a great solution, but it seems like it is designed to follow a random path (that is, where the wind blows). How do you prevent this from creating a false sense of security, when in fact there are areas of the desert which have not been tested?

I remember when I was little I built a small platform high up in a tree. My father refused to let me put a rail around it, because the sort of rail I could build would not be enough to stop a fall and would only encourage a sense of complacency.

Of course, I do not mean this as a criticism of the design, but merely as a path for future exploration.

sgdesign 7 hours ago 2 replies      
Sorry for going completely off-topic, but I'm slightly annoyed at the overuse of adverbs like "hauntingly" and "wildly". "Hauntingly" might be tolerated here even if it is very hyperbolic, but "wildly low-cost"? What does that even mean?! Why can't the headline just be "Beautiful, Low-cost Solution to Clearing Afghan Landmines"?

Oh, and another one that has been popping up a lot around here lately is "vanishingly" (I've noticed Patio11 likes it a lot!).

OldSchool 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I find the story touching. Unexploded ordnance is a problem mainly for children in former war zones.

Imagine if the park / playground / vacant land where you played as a child was mined and you witnessed others, perhaps your friends getting killed or severely maimed there. Such an issue would weigh heavily on you for a lifetime.

While we can't seem to ban war, many countries have joined a treaty banning landmines. That doesn't help with the ~100M unexploded mines in the world already. This is a bigger problem than one would ever imagine.

pinaceae 4 hours ago 0 replies      
great case study of why product design is very hard and requires deep understanding of the factors involved.

as others have pointed out:

- your goal is to clear an area, hence you need a systematic approach to be able to deem a strip of land safe. random paths do not help

- this identifies and detonates in one go. but if the mine does not get triggered, the identifier is lost. these are two separate tasks. merging them would only work with 100% detonation rate.

- this does not work against other types of explosives. anti-vehicle mines, unexploded ordnance, cluster ammo,...

the upside is definitely the low cost. the low effectiveness rate and unreliable pathing makes it lossy though. which with mines is not acceptable.

codebeaker 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I believe that studies (which I cannot find citations for now) determined that this device makes the sutation worse, as it scatters metalic debris over a wider area, and that human mine clearance teams have to work an order of magnitude harder, cleaning up tiny bits of shrapnel. Before an area can be marked clear, it has to be devoid of all unidentified metalic shards, and of course, all mines of other materials. As a result, it was the determination of more than one agency that this device makes things worse.

With that said, props to the designer for working on a solution to a difficult problem, but perhaps more domain knowledge would have lead him to a more suitable solution

jtchang 8 hours ago 0 replies      
These things look rad. If there was some way to keep track of the landmines detonated per Mine Kafo I could totally see making a game out of this. Donate $10 and get your name on a rolling mine clearer. Live scoreboard keeps track of mines cleared!
michael_h 2 hours ago 1 reply      

  We've updated our site to better accommodate you and the world. This means the browser you're currently using is no longer supported

Web developers, please do not do this. I have no power over what browser is installed so this only ensures that I won't read your content. Give me a warning and display it anyway. My browser is one version behind the current version.

ThomPete 1 hour ago 1 reply      
I was involved in a startup that tried to find landmines using a genetically engineered plant.

The semen would be spread out over an area and then wherever there was landmines it would turn red. The other area would stay green.


haclifford 8 hours ago 0 replies      
As noted in the reddit thread on this:

This isn't to be used alone for clearing minefields - as it's not going to get 100% coverage.
It's still a useful tool for surveying minefields or perhaps doing a cheap first-pass before sending in pricey equipment

Joeboy 5 hours ago 0 replies      
That looks pretty cool. I don't think it's correct to advertise it as "clearing" minefields though. It looks like a useful tool for identifying them, and making them a bit less miney.

My understanding is that manual, low-tech demining is not actually that dangerous. It requires some training and caution, but generally speaking anti-personnel mines aren't likely to do you much damage if approached carefully from the right angle.

Whereas the approach of getting machines to jump up and down randomly is expensive, likely to lead to a false sense of security and may even cause mines to get pushed into positions that make them more dangerous.

You could get a lot of Afghan workers enthusiastically doing low-tech demining for not that much money. Every now and again one of them would lose a finger or two but maybe that's not such a bad outcome considering the alternatives. People tend to get much more excited about expensive, higher tech solutions because they're sexier and the people who develop them (often the same people that made the mines in the first place) are better at selling them.

joelcox 7 hours ago 0 replies      
This story is only about the short film made about the Mine Kafon. If you want more info on the deminer itself you should check out the designer's blog. His concept also include GPS tracking and an online platform, as suggested here on HN.


varjag 4 hours ago 1 reply      
When you put effort into promotional video, how hard is it to Google the actual Russian text for "danger minefield" rather than put up a shield with random Cyrillic alphabet soup?
rdl 5 hours ago 0 replies      
One of the things which terrified me most about landmines was seeing signs all over pointing out that it was a violation of UCMJ and huge fine/jail/etc. for stealing land mine marker signs. I always assumed minefields were all either professionally laid (and marked) or had been marked by subsequent forces (and thus could be avoided), but I hadn't realized anyone would be stupid enough to steal the markers.

In practice the best way to clear most mines (to a military standard, which is far lower than civilian) seems to be explosively generated overpressure -- they launch a bunch of explosives, usually a linear charge, in the direction of travel, and it drops and blows up, clearing a path.

Using trained rats to clear mines (cheaper than dogs) seems to be the best upcoming way to meet the civilian standard. It's labor intensive, too, but most countries with landmines have relatively cheap labor, and the training to be a rat operator isn't as difficult as to be a full EOD tech. It's definitely one of the charities worth supporting.

melling 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Is there a cheap way to add a chip to help map the precise route taken? It would increase the cost but I'd think it would help to know that an area has been covered several times.
smoyer 3 hours ago 0 replies      
"Hauntingly Beautiful" ... It's interesting to me how the feet on each leg is designed to catch the wind. You might not get the torque needed to generate electricity, but the gentle continuous "nudge" needed to roll across the desert can come from any direction.
digitalengineer 7 hours ago 2 replies      
How about a bio-solution? A fast-growing 1-year non-reproductive plant or weed that's engineered to grows best (or not grow) around old explosive chemicals? I imagine dropping seeds from a plane around a (old) minefield. After a few months you'll see plants popping up and you'll know that's where the old mines are.
tezza 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Israel uses goats to clear Syrian mines in the Golan Heights

That would seem cheaper here too, and the still-alive goats can make milk.

ricg 8 hours ago 2 replies      
Combine them with a GPS sensor (accurate enough?) and track the area that they've covered on a map.
ChuckMcM 8 hours ago 0 replies      
That is a very cool gizmo. I could see rolling hundreds of them across the minefields, collect them on the other side and do it again.
peteretep 7 hours ago 3 replies      
I wonder if you could offer £10 per retrieved landmine as a bounty, and let local entrepreneurs try and work out the details...
happywolf 4 hours ago 0 replies      
The Vimeo-hosted video gave me problem. Youtube version is more reliable:


sodomizer 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Update to those who last checked in the 1990s:

"Hauntingly beautiful" is now officially a cliche.

I miss it, too, but the overuse is crushing any significance it once had.

keeptrying 5 hours ago 0 replies      
It needs to mark where it's been and where things exploded. You literally need that thing to go over every part of the terrain.
venomsnake 5 hours ago 0 replies      
In this flat terrain it will be much more simple and efficient just to drive tanks in strict patterns and blow the stuff below them.

Or you could just create a fleet of cheap ground stomping robots with armored feet designed to deflect the blast wave that are powered by cable and remotely controlled.

new299 8 hours ago 3 replies      
If this guy had a Kickstarter project I'd back it in an instant.
wiremine 3 hours ago 0 replies      
There are some wonderful other films in the contest this was submitted to:


The one on synthetic fuel was especially interesting:


shail 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Mine Kampf
jpxxx 8 hours ago 0 replies      
The masterstroke of this design is that it creates a time vortex when the windspeed reaches 88.5 miles per hour, sending it back to 1997 to crush Bill Clinton to death so that his successor ratifies the Ottawa Treaty banning landmine sales from the United States of America.

Thousands of lives saved by such simple engineering!

Entrepreneurshit bothsidesofthetable.com
373 points by ndemoor  2 days ago   62 comments top 21
ahoyhere 1 day ago 7 replies      
This is ONE way to be an entrepreneur, certainly not the only one.

I don't mean to brag, because I'm sure none of you care about my "little dipshit company," but there are people out there who deserve to know that this kind of adrenaline junkie lifestyle as described in the article is not "entrepreneurship" as a whole but just one type of person's interpretation of it.

We, for example, got back a couple weeks ago from a 2-week trip to Arizona. We (biz owners (my husband + I) plus our employee) went to attend a conference in Scottsdale -- not to demand speaking slots or to impress anyone, just to learn, to experience it.

Because, hey, Arizona is gorgeous in October, we had decided to extend our trip and rent a convertible, and a 4-bedroom house in beautiful Sedona, AZ with a private pool and heated spa tub, for a week. We spent 3 days of that as a company retreat, and then the rest was just my husband & I hanging out.

During the 3 days when we were working, we all used the spa every night to stargaze. In the middle of the days, we'd take a break and go hiking. When our employee went home, we just bummed around a day, then we rented a jeep and went off-roading.

This year, my husband and I decided to draw about $160k of profit out of our biz to pay for a mortgage down payment and various fixings for our new (old) house. Then we bought a nice car, in cash. (Honestly I would have preferred to get a loan, but there was a problem with the fact that we hadn't gotten our PA driver's licenses yet. Long boring story. Patched over, as so often, with money.)

Our finances are secure. Our products may be "boring"… but they are growing very nicely and our customers are happy. Our employee can feel secure about her salary. We own 100% of our company… nobody can tell us what to do, except possibly the government, but they don't seem to care. Certainly we don't have to worry about SEC filings.

This weekend, I co-taught a bootcamp as part of my favorite product, 30x500. It's only on a weekend because that's when the majority of my students can attend. I plan to take the next couple days off, just cuz. I can do that whenever, of course… and often do, because I have a chronic illness which is exacerbated by stress. So I keep stress low and live a very chillaxed kind of life.

I expect that, as a 3- or maybe 4-person company, we'll break $1 million in gross yearly revenue in the next 24 mos… probably more like 12-18. All without begging, nagging, scrambling, fundraising, pitch-decking, obsessive emailing, jockeying, etc.

My biggest stress this year is about how to reinvest another six figures into our biz so we pay less taxes (and changing bookkeepers). I don't like paying taxes more than we have to, but honestly I'm not sure what to spend it on after we max out our 401(k)s.

I expect downvotes for this. Probably because it sounds like I'm bragging. Probably because the reason the above article is so popular is because people like it when authors "get real" about the "harsh realities" of running a business. Deep inside, they believe that if it doesn't hurt horribly, it must not be worth it. So this kind of "truth" is appealing, and what I say will be labeled as some kind of crazy outlier, I got lucky, I'm famous, etc, etc., surely nobody could really make this kind of money off time tracking so I must be embroidering the truth, etc.

But if you want to create a business -- as opposed to a drama-filled life -- there truly is a less painful way:

Create a small product for small business which creates value, then charge money for it.

It's stupid simple. It's not easy, but then again, it's not all that hard, either. And it works, over and over and over again.

Yes, our first year building the product income streams while consulting kinda sucked… but it didn't suck at THIS level described by the post author. The main suckitude came from the fact that the more we worked on our real products, the less we wanted to consult… we still never had to travel away from our families, stump, beg, wheedle, or go without money. And we don't have to convince somebody else to buy us, fund us, love us, millions of people to use what we made, to make that short & minor sacrifice pay off.

Sometimes pain is meaningful and necessary. But sometimes it's just pain.

minimax 1 day ago 5 replies      
A few (dissenting) points:

If you want to eat healthy at O'Hare, you can find a salad or sandwich in any terminal. If you really want to blow your calorie budget, go find one of the Goose Island bars in terminal 1 or 3. Have a Matilda. It's fantastic.

Next point: I really dislike working for bosses with a misplaced sense of paternalism. If there are risks or uncertainties facing the business, don't hide them from your employees. Transparency breeds trust, which you'll need if you expect your engineers to put in the kind of hard work that's required when a company is starting up.

Last point: look, if a life of flying around the country and working long hours is your idea of a tortured life only a special breed of men known as "entrepreneurs" can bear, then you need to pull your head out of your ass. That life is stressful and that it takes hard work to get ahead are universal truths. The rest of us aren't just coasting along in a risk-free world.

Double secret bonus last point: why all the cussing?

tinco 1 day ago 3 replies      
This sort of post is why I read HN, in my opinion posts like this should get more upvotes than Steve's death.

For some reason I find it very reassuring to read articles that tell about all the downsides of being an entrepreneur. It makes me feel like I know about all the obstacles that are coming my way, but also confident that I could handle/deal with them. Ofcourse this might be terribly naieve. But then comes the article that naivety is an essential founder's trait, and I'm restored in my faith :P

I wouldn't mind if every article submitted to HN was some founder's anecdote, big or small, keep them coming :)

paraschopra 1 day ago 0 replies      
I may be in the minority here (and I certainly have nothing against Mark), but I really dislike such _implicit_ glamorization and heroism of entrepreneur hardships. There two specific problems with the post: a) in general (unless you are lucky), all good things require hard work so what's so special about entrepreneurship?; b) this interpretation of entrepreneurship is clouded by a specific type of startup (and I am guessing for a founder with a specific personality type who gets a kick out of such emotional turmoil -- I am probably like that but it doesn't change the argument).

Athletes, politicians, charity workers, soldiers, scientists and many others work hard even when outcomes are unpredictable. Even people with so-called "normal" jobs may require episodes of such unpredictability and hard work. Why specifically elevate entrepreneurship?

And, frankly, such lifestyle even for an entrepreneur is a choice. I see no point in re-iterating the obvious that doing a startup may be hard if you are aiming to build a huge business. If it were easy, most people would be doing it, no? I fail to see the whole point of the article.

To be fair, I did write about how is it in the life of an entrepreneur (specifically it was about my day): http://paraschopra.com/blog/personal/startup-an-emotional-ro... but my aim there was to document how is the day in life of a founder at a startup that is still in early days and I tried hard to avoid generalizing or glamorizing the hardships. Looking back, I think I should have been more specific and objective in documenting the day (rather than making generalizations on the nature of entrepreneurship and heroism contained in living through such a day).

lubujackson 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is all true... if you play the VC game of growing your business before you have revenue to support the growth. The fact is many web-based businesses can be built without spending all your time raising money that you need because of a self-fulfilling burn-rate crisis. Some businesses need VC, but you should ALWAYS avoid VC if you can.
pjsullivan3 1 day ago 1 reply      
After coming off a failure I think the part that really resonated with me talking about the fear of disappointment. I've been so afraid of disappointing others that believed in me and thought they wouldn't look at me with the same amount of respect. What I've found is that they saw it as much more of accomplishment then I almost did.

The other part is "You're unemployable. You're an entrepreneur." I am now in the process of meeting lots and lots of companies, big, small, new, old, re-invented and I'm finding that maybe its a case of once you've been a CEO you will always be a CEO. We will see what comes.

scott_meade 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wish there were more explanation as to "why?". If someone enjoys voluntarily living such an unsustainable lifestyle, fine. Everyone needs to get their thrills somehow.

But when it comes to playing with other peoples' plans, emotions, money and lives; then for "the rush" seems like a thin reason to live every day wearing a game face for employees, creditors, and family.

Glad to have Amy Hoy pointing out that Suster's view of the world is far from the only definition of entrepreneur!

Lucadg 1 day ago 0 replies      
in other words this life sometimes sucks but it way better than working for somebody else.
I'd rather have some deep lows, some very steep highs and a constant background noise saying "you're going to fail", than sitting there, watching out of the window and knowing I am not testing my full potential.
Because when you try to reach your limits you always fall, that's when you know them.
Then you stand up again and go for the next limit.
Once you tasted that, there's no way back.
nhangen 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is the most complete and representative post on entrepreneurship I've ever read, at least according to my own experiences. I do listen to Mark's podcast, but this is by far the best of his best.
rdl 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you live in the Bay Area, there's not a whole lot of travel which can't be done in your car. That's the whole point of being in the capital. Maybe it's different if you're in LA.

I go to Vegas a couple times a year for conferences (which I could skip, but I enjoy them), and have met with investors and BD partners in Seattle, but if I had to do a business without going more than 10 miles from I-280 in the Bay Area, it could be done. (I'm curious if you could do it without leaving MV/PA/MP!)

(with enterprise or b2b, maybe there's a little bit more call to go to DC, maybe Boston, NYC, maybe a few other cities, but absolutely not for consumer, and if you don't enjoy travel, you could probably get away with no travel.)

ryanackley 1 day ago 0 replies      
As I was reading this, I couldn't help but juxtapose this article on top of the first world problems meme on everything this guy was saying.

"I had to miss a full day with my family, camping in the mountains...to raise $150 million"

Poor guy! This would be more relevant coming from someone who utterly failed.

dschiptsov 1 day ago 0 replies      
There are many types of entrepreneurs but we could define a two major groups - those who are seeking a niche to make money by what they produce and love to do, and those who are seeking a niche to become a middle-men, a parasite, a cheater, a wise-guy, a "manager" of others.

It seems that in every kind of business, including criminal, those who are capable to produce have very few troubles, while the second group, the wast majority, have much more suffering, just because, well, no one really need them.

So, before thinking about entrepreneurship, become good at something first. Then you will be able to create and notice opportunities. It doesn't not work in opposite direction - one cannot create an opportunity being of no good in any other field.

antonioevans 1 day ago 0 replies      
On point 100% as usual. You are focused, you are afraid, and you are resilient. One thing you do see due to the ups and downs is the future. By eating the shit in your industry you see whats going on. You know...fuck...this is going to happen in at least 3-6 months. Not saying you can do anything about it but you can be part of the "conversation".
pelargir 1 day ago 0 replies      
Some people become entrepreneurs because they want to make loads of money. Others do it for the freedom and lifestyle it affords them. It just depends on what your priorities are. Personally, I prefer setting my own hours over driving a BMW.
bryanjclark 1 day ago 0 replies      
Observation: nearly every single slide in that presentation that describes entrepreneurs exclusively features men in the (bad) clip art.

Just sayin': you can do better than that.

SagelyGuru 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't know about the article but this is one of the best HN headlines I had seen in a long time :)
dools 1 day ago 0 replies      
Haha "I only have $6,000 in the bank!!".
feniv 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great post. Knowing that there are so many others out there going through the same unforgiving grind day in and day out is a strange kind of inspiration. Thanks!
slaxman 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is powerful stuff!
jamesjguthrie 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great article!
FrankFrank 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yep. And we will keep the grind going. There is no try.
Thank HN: Our friend is Safe and Sound jacquesmattheij.com
333 points by jacquesm  1 day ago   97 comments top 20
btilly 1 day ago 2 replies      
No. Thank YOU, Jacques!

I am one of the HNers who knows the details on this case. And I can say, with great confidence, that without tremendous generosity from Jacques, a talented young woman that he has never directly met would be in very bad circumstances indeed.

edanm 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great news! Thanks for letting us know.

I'm sure I speak for many here when I say that your and swombat's combined reputation is definitely enough to be able to make such requests, even without details, whenever you need.

srean 1 day ago 2 replies      
Could anyone shed light on why the police act like they do. Is it to get ahead in their career graph, is it to augment their salary, is it out of fear ? Is it just because everybody else is doing it and there are lack of role models ?

If it is more than speculation that would be better, like insider stories.

Do people aspire to join the civil services because it opens up this wide possibility to be corrupt and wield power ? I have seen that many do, sometimes by the dormfull.

I am Indian, but it is as inpenetrable to me as it is to anybody else.

gratefulhner 1 day ago 1 reply      
I am the person of interest in this case.

Thank you HN for pulling together a miracle that saved me by the skin of my teeth.

Thank you pg for creating this amazing community.

brfox 1 day ago 0 replies      
Original post asking for help:


kmfrk 1 day ago 4 replies      
Can someone explain how these Indian bogus prosecutions work? Is it something the government does?
duiker101 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a great news, thanks for letting us know. I hope everything will be fine also in the future. Good luck.
lucb1e 1 day ago 1 reply      
Follow-ups to news are so rare - thanks for posting this!

I couldn't help, but I saw/read the original thread.

easternmonk 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am really glad that someone helped you guys find an advocate. That was a small thing you asked for.

Not that I would have managed to help in this particular case in any big way but I think we should always be wary of helping people who wont even put the facts before you. Hope we dont see more such request for help on HN.

I am saying this because in past I have faced situations like this and after I offered help I realized that I was in fact siding with the bad guys.

kami8845 1 day ago 4 replies      
I feel a


would be appropriate for this blog post. In any case - good to see the HN community really coming through in a time of need.

datalus 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is why the Internet is awesome :) I read the original article, glad to hear it turned out positive.
melissamiranda 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is great to hear, glad you're able to get to the right people so quickly!
akproxy 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Does this case has something to do with your venture "ww.com"? I mean such a association can attract scrutiny and trouble in this country which is absurd in itself. Just wanted to know as I was quite curious the last time post came up.
pknerd 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great News! It shows that entrepreneurship is not all about making money and ideas but also making others happy too :)
aw3c2 1 day ago 0 replies      
You forgot to properly markup the link to HN, it is just text at the moment.
skyebook 1 day ago 0 replies      
Glad to hear about the positive outcome, I followed the original thread and was similarly impressed by the outpouring of support.
stretchwithme 1 day ago 0 replies      

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

SatvikBeri 1 day ago 0 replies      
Awesome. Glad everything is ok!
ForFreedom 1 day ago 1 reply      
So what was the case?
spitx 1 day ago 2 replies      
For the rest of us who are still puzzled at why this merits cheering or even any attention for that matter, this case and the response generated from the community - almost at will and on demand - illustrates the power of social proof.

One might even say, ill-congealed social proof.

At any rate, with little more than a website (incidentally hawking domain names to the tune of $100,000 a pop) and a plea (albeit a sizable karma locker to go with it), you've just witnessed how a feat of this order, spanning continents, could be nicely dusted up.

Before I further explore the sheer naivete of the intentions of HNers involved in this effort, I just want to note that my motives are nothing but pure. I have very little interest in the actual veracity of what is claimed so far. Just the array of potential outcomes(good or bad)that can spring in these scenarios. All other facts kept constant, there is nothing claimed so far that could obviate even some chances of foul play.

Without revealing a single identifying detail pertaining to the case, this Jacques Mattheij has convinced you that you should dutifully aid him in -- for all intents and purposes -- this illusory junket.

He has even name dropped PG in there some where although PG hasn't chimed in yet.
[ I'm assuming that none of you have checked with PG to corroborate what's been claimed here with the exception of those chosen few who claim to be in the know including this 'btilly' and 'swombat' fellows. ]


  We all at HN, have no idea what the case is.

No, you are wrong in that. There are a few HN'ers that
know the real identity and some of the details behind this
(pg for one). And I'm pretty sure they'd agree that
keeping her identity a secret is of paramount importance
with respect to her safety.

How PG would vouch for a person without coming into direct familiarity with the facts himself, is an entirely different batch of cans we needn't open here.

The only consolation here is that this person (or others involved in this case) haven't sought any coin, just some yellow-page help. This might only be a consolation if you value your coin more than having your trust violated.

From the looks of it, nothing more will come of this.

We live in an age of elaborate human-powered ornithopter hoaxes [0], hipster grifters[1] and name-dropping hucksters[2] all plying their trades and advancing their conquests, largely online.

The old adage is increasingly relevant: "Look Around the Poker Table; If You Can't See the Sucker, You're It."

Be keen, not just singly but in herds as well.

At least don't be derisive of those who want to use their dose of circumspection. HN has been increasingly getting a lot less accommodating of the anti-herd view, even when that view is rationally argued.

[0] http://gizmodo.com/5894904/man-flies-like-a-bird-flapping-hi...

[1] http://gawker.com/5212970/meet-kari-ferrell-criminally-hipst...

[2] http://betabeat.com/2012/08/shirley-hornstein-shirls-credit-...

Windows 8 " Disappointing Usability for Both Novice and Power Users useit.com
317 points by thomaspark  1 day ago   240 comments top 40
potatolicious 1 day ago 11 replies      
Have been using a Surface as well as a Win8 desktop for a couple of weeks now, and I have to say this is pretty accurate.

When WinPhone first came out with the Metro UI I was a fan - there's a visual simplicity to it that's very appealing. After you use it for a while though the weaknesses become pretty glaring and hard to accept. It is often very hard to tell what UI elements are interactive and what are purely informational because they are so plain. There's no way to visually discern a non-interactive icon vs. an icon that is also a button.

The lack of shading and UI chrome also means that UIs frequently become jumbled. Sections of UI blur together where on any other platform they would've been separated by a visual line, shading, or something else.

The simplicity in this case has gone too far.

It's also very true that many of the first-party apps have ludicrously low information density, almost as if they expect these devices to be toys. This is in stark contrast to MS's stated goal of shipping something that is more serious, more productive than iPads and Android tablets, which up until now have been seen as leisure devices.

People often accuse Apple of taking style over substance, but Win8 IMO is a far, far more egregious violator.

There's another big issue: the first party apps suffer from some pretty serious performance problems. It doesn't bode well for your platform when your own internal teams can't ship best of breed apps. The People app, for example, takes literally 6 seconds to load your recent notifications on a Surface RT - all the while without displaying any loading indicator. You literally tap the button, wait, figure it's broken, and just as you're about to move on it pops into existence - and of course the performance is so poor that it just magically appears on screen without transition.

The entire OS is littered with sloppiness of this variety - as well as apps where touchability has clearly never been comprehensively addressed. You will move from places with gloriously comfortable touch targets (like the home screen) to apps that have 9pt text links you're expected to hit.

The "search" charm is also poorly thought out. Just take a look at Amazon, eBay, iTunes, and what have yous that have substantial search functionality - Windows expects everyone to cram their search needs into a single freeform text input. In fact, the eBay app on Win8 builds its own search page. Surprise, search is complex, context dependent, and not all apps can pigeon-hole it into your paradigm. Oops.

[edit] Extra rant: I was able to get the Windows Store app completely stuck today on the Surface. I visited an app's detail page, and tapped the Back button to get back to the search results. Nope. Back button would visually indicate interaction but do nothing. Waited, nope. Sloppy bug.

So here's where it gets good. On any other platform (and in old Windows land) I could just go kill it. Except I have no idea how to go about quitting an app on Windows 8. Apple at least has the courtesy of allowing you to kill an app very quickly - if someone knows how to do it in Win8 I'd love to know, because clearly their own first-party apps are not good enough to be trusted to take care of themselves.

robomartin 1 day ago 4 replies      
I have yet to take the leap in terms of using it day-to-day. I just don't have the time to play.

I had my kid install it in a small netbook we were not using just to see what it felt like. Neither one of us is interested in using it very far past boot. It's one of those "Right. Brilliant!" moments and then the notebook is closed shut and turned off.

Professionally my concern has to do with wasting time and not being able what we absolutely-positively need to do on a daily basis. As I type this I have about twenty programs up and running on this machine. It has three large monitors attached. It was specifically built to make programming, electronics design or mechanical design far more productive. If doing a web project it is not uncommon to have multiple browsers, virtual machines and IDE's going as well as PDF's and reference material. Similar scenarios exist when doing electro-mechanical design.

My current first-touch experience with W8 is just that: a first impression. And this impression has not been positive at all. I, frankly, don't have time to deal with bullshit. Metro (or whatever they care to call it) might be great for a tablet or for grandma on a single screen laptop. It absolutely suck ass for us. I wouldn't even want it present on any of my machines. What I need is an evolutionary improvement over where we are as opposed to a pole-shifting paradigm shift. I would suspect that if I decided to switch my development machines to W8 (not likely) the process might easily bring productivity down to zero or less for at least a month. This on the assumption that all applications play ball.

What's disappointing here is that, to me at least, it sure feels like MS has more than lost its way. They seem to simply not understand who uses their machines and what they need to do with them.

I get it. I get it. Grandma, uncle Fester or cousin Itt might need a dumbed-down single-finger point-and-something-happens interface so they can waste five hours a day on Facebook. However, the massive population of users who needs these machines for business, engineering, design, industrial and other applications don't need this at all. They need the ball to keep rolling in the same direction. Less bugs. More speed. Cheaper. That's it.

I was hoping that the day might come when MS might fully embrace Unix/Linux as the core underneath Windows and move us all into what could be a really neat platform in a manageable way. Of course, it is lunacy to even think that this could be possible. Then again, I present you with Windows 8.

corporalagumbo 1 day ago 5 replies      
This seems a little harsh, to say the least. Among other things, he seems to be criticising Microsoft for both the early efforts of third-party devs (live tiles) and because users take time to grasp some of the new UI fundamentals (charms bar). Both of those issues will disappear quickly as the OS picks up steam.

As an iPad owner myself, I am nothing but intrigued and excited by 8's tablet interface. It seems like it would be a massive, massive jump in usability from iOS (dependent, of course, on how the App Store fills out). Furthermore, while he may not be wrong re: 8's desktop usability, I think this review is unnecessarily harsh towards what must be seen as a significant and complicated transition product. Just as web design is changing to a responsive model where content dynamically adapts to different devices and display areas, so are OSes changing to be dynamic and adaptive. In the future the idea of a user experience where your files and program's were locked onto the hard drive of a single computer, accessed through a static, unchanging desktop will be absurd. Computer interfaces are going to become incredibly smart, fluid and responsive, and W8 is the first step in that direction. I think it is silly to just focus on what Microsoft didn't get perfect first time around - I think they should be congratulated on their audacity. What they've done is certainly leagues more impressive than Apple's plodding, torturous attempts to wedge iOS concepts into its 20-year old WIMP model (seriously, go use Mountain Lion - its a complete mess - but no one attacks Apple as harshly as they do Microsoft... funny that.) Anyway in the end I share his sentiment, can't wait to see how Microsoft builds on its great work with W9! One thing is for sure: the old one desktop to rule them all model is finished.

NB: just to clarify, I haven't used W8 myself. I am sure a lot of the complaints about it being too minimalist and apps being too limited are perfectly fair. But I think Microsoft was right to strip away the clutter of the WIMP legacy and start again from scratch. Adding progressively more complexity in carefully measured increments is the best way to build a mature, balanced product befitting a new generation of computing. Again, go take a look at the average Mountain Lion set-up if you want to see a ridiculously cluttered, complicated mash of UI concepts, windows, spaces, slide-away trays, menu-bars, etc etc (and try find a normal user instead of a HN-style power user for added effect.) The only argument is for me is not whether Microsoft is doing the right thing (I completely believe they are) but whether they are managing this transition well. As someone with no experience in developing major new OS versions I can only imagine the complexity, so I am inclined to go easy and try and praise what was done well and what is a good idea rather than what didn't quite pan out in the first attempt : )

kyro 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is anecdotal, but I walked into a Windows store not too long ago to try Windows 8 on a tablet, and I was blown away at how terribly unintuitive it was. There were absolutely zero visual cues to indicate where features were, how to move around the interface. None. Now I don't know if that's changed since then, but the experience left me with such a bad taste that I told myself I would never give it another 5 minutes' chance. Throughout the entire demo, I was asking the rep to show me again how he accessed certain menus, switched views, etc.

My technologically-illiterate parents went from zero to road geeks with their iOS devices in a matter of days. Had they been given the Surface, I imagine my legs would be in constant spasm from all the frustrated and confused phone calls I'd be receiving.

jsz0 1 day ago 1 reply      
Most of the problems with Windows 8 are typical Microsoft errors. This may be the most radical example of them but basically it fits into the same patterns. The UI revamp on the desktop side was almost entirely unnecessary from a user's standpoint. It only exists to promote Microsoft's own self interests by promoting Windows phones/tablets and attracting developers to the new platform. It's the type of move that would have worked quite well for Microsoft in the 1990s when users had very little choice. With more competition now any bit of friction you introduce can drive users away. Either by switching to a competitor's product or not upgrading.

The other big typical Microsoft error was rushing out buggy/slow software and betting they would have plenty of time to fix it later. This worked fine for decades but user expectation's have increased as often happens. If someone re-released a 1950s era automobile consumers would be horrified at how unreliable it was. Totally acceptable in the 1950s. Totally unacceptable in 2012. For its size and complexity I don't think Winodws 8/RT is unexpectidly buggy/slow it's more that the competition had the luxury of a 5-6 year head start slowly evolving their operating systems. Microsoft had to do it in 2 years. So you get all the pain of bugs upfront instead of spread out over a more tolerable time table.

Ironically the biggest mistake is very atypically the type of error Microsoft makes. They rushed people into this new platform quickly without doing much to soften the ground or ease users over. Retaining the classic desktop UI was a big hedge on the Metro bet but only offers an escape not a bridge. Generally Microsoft has to be dragged into the future kicking and screaming. This is a rare case where they actually moved too fast for user comfort. If they had made Windows 8 more of a bridge with the new UI features and other major changes taking a less in your face presence they could have moved forward quickly with Windows 9 as a bigger change.

All that being said I don't think it's a total diaster. They just need to quickly walk back a few bad choices especailly for desktop users. They need to make a few concessions to usability in the Modern UI style. Mostly they just need to accept that business practices that worked when you were a giant monopoly don't work when you are the new comeptitor challenging the big established players.

zainny 1 day ago 2 replies      
Personally, I think "Metro/Modern UI" is a complete train wreck. While it initially received a great deal of praise from the tech press for being "unique" and "fresh", my suspicion is that a lot of the praise was incredibly shallow and based purely on aesthetic appearance and not usability.

This suspicion has been confirmed repeatedly from my own experience using Windows 8 and watching others use it as well.

notatoad 1 day ago 2 replies      
In my opinion, the biggest failure of windows 8 is that they called it windows. If metro mode was an installable add-on for windows 7 that you could jump into whenever you wanted a simplistic or touch-friendly experience, people would love it. The usability isn't terrible on its own, it's only terrible if you try to use it while expecting a windows operating system.

for example, the only being able to run one fullscreen app at a time thing. the proliferation of iPads has shown us that users love this, in the right context. The desktop PC just isn't the right context.

NZ_Matt 1 day ago 5 replies      
For what it's worth I've been using Windows 8 since the RP and have been very happy with it. The key point that a lot of reviews fail to emphasize is that evrything that worked in Windows 7 is still there and works exactly how it always has. The removal of Aero and subtle improvements to explorer are nice updates for the desktop experience.

The start menu was always kind off useless so I didn't take long to get used to not having it there, I launch everything via search now (hit the Windows key and start typing).

f4stjack 1 day ago 1 reply      
Wow... I feel like I am in a minority who enjoyed windows 8. As for the article I disagree with it on many points. I am using this beast for several months (adding the beta releases to the queue) and although I was very sceptic and using the same words with Mr. Nielsen as in the UI is schizophrenic and tries to be two things in one shell BUT you know what? If you are not interested, you don't even see Metro (or whatever its post copyright lawsuit codename is). It doesn't get between your legs, it wasn't always so; my memory did record some awful experiences with CP and RC releases of Windows 8. But the release version is... good, surprisingly. I expect windows 9 will streamline it even more.

I agree that opening two browsers in desktop mode and in tablet mode can be a hassle towards users' memories but hey my workflow makes me using two different browsers in two virtual desktops so I was happy to have this feature without loading a virtual desktop app for windows.

"Lack of multiple windows" um... what? I am running a netbeans, firefox and several consoles running tweaker script programs in ruby at the moment. Of course if he meant the Metro interface, I can't see why do you expect multiple windows on a tablet interface.

And from there I felt like the article goes irrelevant and subjective. I had no problems with flat icons, and to be frank I found the news app the best of the bunch. It does not oversaturate you with the content and is blazing fast. As for live tiles, how can third party developers' choice can be accounted as a failure on Windows 8's usability? I mean if his criticisms were about the Microsoft Apps I would have accepted it but it's saying like "oh iPhone apps icons are too colorful. Shame on you Apple!"

All in all there is a weird tendency of bashing windows 8 in the press. And it doesn't deserve it. It's good, and is trying to change the desktop paradigm whether you like it or not - It is admirable, they are trying to create an original thing but this very originality is hindering them on reviews.

This is my cuppa anyway.

suresk 1 day ago 2 replies      
Random usability rant: I find it slightly odd that, even now on Windows 8, keyboard customization requires so much effort in Windows. For example, I always make my capslock key an extra control key (if you haven't tried this before - try it!) and on OS X and most flavors of Linux, this is an easy 5 second process.

On Windows 8, there are a ton of Keyboard settings - including promising-sounding ones like "Change how the keyboard works" and "Keyboard properties" - yet you still have to use a stupid registry hack to actually change the behavior of keys (ie, to make your capslock key an additional control key).

Cbasedlifeform 1 day ago 2 replies      
Wow. Scathing:

One of the worst aspects of Windows 8 for power users is that the product's very name has become a misnomer. "Windows" no longer supports multiple windows on the screen. Win8 does have an option to temporarily show a second area in a small part of the screen, but none of our test users were able to make this work. Also, the main UI restricts users to a single window, so the product ought to be renamed "Microsoft Window."

I wasn't aware of this "feature"...what a disaster.

pixie_ 1 day ago 2 replies      
Windows 8 must be the slowest train wreck in computing history, it's been being reviewed as crap for over a year now and they keep chugging along.

It's funny to read all the comments from over a year ago and how nothing has changed since then -

at-fates-hands 1 day ago 1 reply      
Wow, looks like I'm the only person who actually likes this and disagree with several of the points from the article.

First of all, you have problems finding your apps since they tool away your start menu? Get a simple, free app launcher like launchy or executor. Problem solved.

I'm running an older Intel 1.8 processor with 4GB RAM on a 32 bit system. I've had several Adobe apps open at the same time without any issues I experienced with XP, Vista or 7 such as hanging or crashing under the system usage. We all know most Adobe apps are Vamperic on system resources so I was surprised at how well 8 handled the load.

This is probably the first time I've seen an article cry about the lack of information on a news app. When I look at most news sites, it's information overload on the homepage. Try finding a specific article on that LA Times homepage? Good luck.

sliverstorm 1 day ago 0 replies      
Eh. I've been using Win8 on my desktop for a couple weeks now; I'm pretty happy with it. As far as I'm concerned, it works out to $40 for some nice new features and continued security/feature updates.

I don't use "Metro" mode. But I do appreciate many of the tweaks, and I'm still grinning over my cold boot times with Win8, UEFI, and SSD. I swear it boots faster than it resumes from sleep. (Resume from sleep is fast, but it seems the NIC takes a few extra seconds to re-establish a link)

alyx 1 day ago 3 replies      
This is all yawn inducing.

I don't remember the last time we had this many articles on HN discussing an OS.

All this "discussion" and criticism of Microsoft and Windows is 90% conjecture or very personal (read biased) opinions.

I too have been using a Surface since launch and have been running Win8 Pro on my laptop since RTM, and guess what? I disagree with the OP.

I highly recommend you go to a store and give it a try yourself, if you can will yourself to cut through the hater-noise.

arrrg 1 day ago 1 reply      
Oh, wow, that “Change PC settings” button (if you can call it that) is abhorrent. How can something like that happen? How are you even supposed to know that's a button? Is it more often the case with Windows 8 that buttons have zero indication that they are buttons?
madoublet 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have been using Windows 8 for awhile now. I never really stopped to think about the overall usability of the OS, simply because I thought it was easy to use. Nielson makes some good points, but I think at the same time, his point-of-view is overly academic. It is an OS. If you choose Windows 8, you will use it all the time. Nuances, such as how the charms work, how gestures work, and what tile does what, fades into the background. You learn it and you move on.
ronyeh 1 day ago 1 reply      
I spent some time using Windows 8 at the local Costco, and agree with most of Nielsen's points.

In case you need alternative ways to exit an app, try:

Alt + F4. This old-school method still works!

Hit the Windows Key on your keyboard. Treat it like the Home key on an iDevice or Android tablet. This backgrounds the app, but does not terminate it. Then, you can type the name of another app and your menu will filter down rapidly. Hit enter to launch the new app.

All the new gestures make sense on a tablet (except the swipe in from the left, but back out again to show your active apps). But the gestures are terrible when you're on mouse + keyboard. I wish Windows 8 laptops had nice big multitouch trackpads, so that you can do things like 3 & 4-finger swipes, and pinches, like with OS X.

mtgx 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks. I was wondering when Jakob Nielsen would review Windows 8's UX. I agree the mono-color icons are a mistake. Icons exist for a reason - to differentiate between each app, and have its own unique identify. It's much less the case with Windows 8 icons because they are all white and mostly undifferentiated. It just makes it harder for the brain to process which is which, and where is what you're looking for, or what an icon means.
chintan 1 day ago 1 reply      
Honest question: For a multi-billion product like Windows, doesn't Microsoft conduct usability testing?

Neilsen had 12 participants in his study and discovered quite major usability issues. I wonder if their internal testing came up with similar issues and now they are having an Emperor's clothes moment.

tvdw 1 day ago 2 replies      
I've been using Windows 8 since roughly two weeks before its launch, and I agree with most of the article.

In fact, I just realized that I never use a single "Modern UI" app for the simple reason that they force my entire screen (2560x1440, 27") to be filled by one app. Such a waste of space. In desktop mode I often have four 1280x720 windows on my screen.

Windows 8 might just be the push I needed to switch to Linux.

rmrfrmrf 1 day ago 1 reply      
1) Whoever was responsible for this Hindenburg of an OS needs to be removed from Microsoft immediately.

2) Whoever claims that Metro, the star feature of Windows 8, should simply be disabled as a response to near unanimous criticism is in no way qualified to discuss UI/UX.

genwin 1 day ago 1 reply      
Maybe Microsoft will get it right for Windows 9, like they did for Windows 7.

It might be too late, though. I never thought I'd use a Mac, if only because Windows was good enough, and I like Windows 7. But knowing the Upgrade Train is approaching, eventually to make it difficult not to upgrade to Windows 8+, and using Linux more often, and having got real tired of facing a significantly different OS UX every few years for mostly no benefit to me, I find myself reluctantly researching a switch to the Apple world. If I'm considering such a move, there must be tons of other people in the same boat since I don't make big moves easily, especially not at higher cost.

josteink 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the worst thing about the Windows 8-feedback so far is that everyone is very dismissive about Metro as a whole.

Lots of people (me included) will tell you that Windows 8 is great and a solid upgrade from Windows 7. That there are improvements across the line, and that if you don't care about or don't like Metro, just don't use it.

People are assumed not to like Metro. People are told how to avoid it. If Windows 8 in any form succeeds based on that feedback, it would still be a failure for Microsoft, because the whole point of Windows 8 and the one thing they are actually trying to sell is Metro.

I'm not driven crazy by it, but I don't use it much. I don't use Metro-apps. When I was given a chance to sample a Microsoft Surface tablet, Metro made a whole lot more sense. But I'm not going to be using it on my laptop.

ct 1 day ago 0 replies      
As someone that really wanted Win8 to succeed being primarily a Win dev, I can't help but agree with the article. MS needs leadership that truly understands usability. Win8 missed most of the boat for what consumers want and drove their core supporters of enterprise devs away with all the HTML hoopla. With Sinofsky out, Ballmer needs to go next and be replaced with someone that's a better speaker and better understands users/developers if MS wants to retain any market share.
lyudmil 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was disappointed that the article didn't do a better job of separating opinion from evidence. The introduction seemed to imply that a usability test had taken place, but the results were never used to back up any of the article's criticisms.

That being the case, I have to assume that this is opinion. So, the author and the people he spoke to didn't like Windows 8 for what seem to be logical reasons. Okay, but not as illuminating as actual evidence that there are usability problems.

yuhong 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Windows no longer supports multiple windows on the screen."
In Metro mode.
cheeaun 1 day ago 1 reply      
I've been using Windows 8 on a laptop (no touch input) for few weeks and it took me 2-3 days to make it "work" like Windows 7. Since I upgrade from Windows 7, several things messed up and none of the Metro apps can be launched. Even the Store app crashes every time. Googled around, tried fixing it and giving up in the end. The only last solution is to 'Refresh' the PC which I'm hesitant to do.

So, none of the Metro apps work at all, and I don't think I'll be using them anyway on a non-touch device. The next thing I do is install some 'Start menu' alternatives like ClassicShell, IObit StartMenu8 or Start8 (Start8 works best for me, not free though). These apps will skip the Start screen (when booting up) and hook the 'Windows' shortcut to open its own menu.

There are few little annoyances like when you open images, it launches in the Metro Photos (or Images?) app which takes up the whole screen. That'll need to be changed by setting the default app for images to 'Windows Photo Viewer' (or any apps you like).

chrisherring 1 day ago 0 replies      
From a purely desktop perspective I've found Windows 8 to be a positive step overall. As a 'power user' the main benefits I have found are better performance and stability. Those alone should be enough to mark it as a success for heavy users. The new task manager is just a bonus.

As far as the start menu is concerned I'd be surprised that any 'power user' would miss it all that much. I always used a launcher (executor) as keyboard trumps mouse for speed and the new UI makes the 3rd party launcher app obsolete. Pressing the windows key and typing the name of the app is something most users could learn and come to appreciate the boost in productivity.

itry 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Windows no longer supports multiple windows"

Only in Metro-Mode, right?

Its hard to imagine to have a Desktop OS that does not support multiple windows.

Did Microsoft say anything about the future of the Metro/Desktop duality?

And Metro Apps do not work on the Desktop and visa versa? So you would have to decide if you buy a "windowed" version of Photoshop or a fullscreen version?

dromidas 19 hours ago 0 replies      
You know what... get over it. You're just showing your age by not being able to figure out how the new Windows works. It may have been hip and cool to yell about how hard to use the new Win8 was a month ago but now you just sound like my grandmother.

No multiple windows on your screen? You're kidding, right?
There is a new "style" of program. It's called the app. It does not belong on your desktop. If you're using an "app", you're doing it wrong. Use desktop programs, ignore the start menu except for program look-ups and carry on as normal. There is no UI difference in Win8 for a desktop user other than the start menu which can be primarily ignored.

Underlying performance improvements make up for the tiny bit of hassle anyway.

kristianp 1 day ago 1 reply      
"When running web browsers in both device areas, users will only see (and be reminded of) a subset of their open web pages at any given time."

Setting firefox as my default browser helped here. (Not going to work on RT of course). Clicking a link in the Metro mail app takes you to the desktop instance of the browser, unlike chrome and ie, which also seem to ignore any sessions you have open in the desktop version.

pzaich 1 day ago 2 replies      
Question: Why couldn't Microsoft user some sort of device input flag to default the Windows 8 UI to the best UI for the current input?

Tablet-mode: default to Windows 8 metro style (I'm using my fingers)

Any kind of trackpad or plugged-in mouse: Shift UI to traditional Windows GUI (Obviously I want more fine-point control)

If Windows is truly trying to cover both types of usage, they should recognize that both of these paradigms are useful in specific settings.

antonpug 1 day ago 1 reply      
I agree 100%. Windows 8 is a major step backwards. I tried to get used to it for about 2 weeks, and as a developer, I can say that it is slowing me down big time. Not intuitive, buggy, ugly, distracting UI.
iamtherockstar 1 day ago 0 replies      
The thing about Windows 8 is that it makes me uncomfortable because I'm technologically competent and feel lost all the time. It makes me feel like I don't know anything about computers when it's been my career for 15 years. It's similar to using vim for the first time, where you hit something accidentally and don't know what mode you're in, or how to get back out.
lawnchair_larry 22 hours ago 0 replies      
For anyone who has to suffer with Windows 8, Classic Shell from sourceforge will save your life.
rplnt 1 day ago 0 replies      
They keyboard utilization is much better in Windows 8 than it was in Windows 7. The metro is just great with keyboard. Can't say the same about mouse.
gtirloni 14 hours ago 0 replies      
UX experts gave us GNOME 3 or so I'm told.

Great work guys!

moe6 1 day ago 1 reply      
Some parts really need to be worded better.

I can't go back from Windows 8, as a power user with 3 monitors too, and am also eagerly awaiting the Surface Pro.

I just don't see nor feel many of the "hacker news" sort of geek hate with how certain things have been done in 8. I just went at it openly and while some parts need some work for Desktop, I actually quite like it.

I think everyone also should be aware that this is basically their first iteration, of which they've said they're going for a shorter cycle akin to Mac OS, and that the Metro apps are going to be low density at least for now because of the pitiful resolution the regular Surface is at. Many of these apps are also first generation or quick ports of apps on other ecosystems. Of course they're going to target the Surface tablet first then think about how they'd do it, if they wanted to, for the desktop or laptop.

pteredactyl 1 day ago 2 replies      
Twitter is Pivoting daltoncaldwell.com
305 points by olivercameron  3 days ago   123 comments top 29
nemesisj 3 days ago 9 replies      
I hate to be that (negative) guy, but I'm starting to get really tired of Dalton constantly pissing all over twitter. Particularly because he's competing against them. I'm an App.net backer, and I think it's cool what he's doing, but FFS, let someone else carry the water, if it even needs carrying at all. This all just feels really petty and whiney, particularly when you're already at work solving the problem.
danso 3 days ago 4 replies      
Of all the rhetorical points that Dalton makes, this one was the most damning for me:

>>> His announcement was formatted as a direct reply to the official Twitter account.

This means the announcement would only be seen by his followers that also follow the official Twitter account. I don't get the feeling he did this on purpose. An experienced Twitter user would know to add a “.” at the beginning of his message so that his followers would see it.

It seems a bit pedantic. But when top-down leaders don't get even the basic details of their operations right, then there are a lot of other big-picture things that they seem to get wrong as well. In the case of MySpace's crushing defeat by Facebook, the difference really was in the details, not in the overall ambitions of the two companies.

zaidf 3 days ago 5 replies      
An experienced Twitter user would know to add a “.” at the beginning of his message so that his followers would see it.

Signed up for twitter on the day it launched(I think) and did not know that. Twitter is a painful product to use. It isn't made for humans.

Twitter doesn't have to show a username in tweets; they can easily translate it to the name.

Twitter doesn't have to require each reply to appear like an out of context note. They can easily group them as complete conversations(like facebook allowing comments).

Twitter doesn't have to make lists so hard to use. They can easily make it very similar to facebook(except on twitter there is much more need to use this since they do not filter out tweets).

Twitter doesn't have to insist on this 140 char limit that looks funnier every coming day and result in butchered communication.

Twitter doesn't have to subtract 100 characters if I post a URL that is 100 characters; it could automagically shorten it or not count against the 140 at all. Instead, I am forced to manually use bit.ly to shorten it.

Twitter doesn't have to show me a stream filled with url strings; it could easily show the title of the page or something similar to facebook.

Dear Twitter, PLEASE stop this stubbornness in your product philosophy. It is hurting your users and it is hurting Twitter Corporation.

jmduke 3 days ago 0 replies      
For those unaware: Dalton Caldwell is the creator of app.net, a direct competitor of Twitter (with a subscription fee model instead of an advertising/data model).

I think it's important to read the post with that context in mind.

sethbannon 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is how I use Twitter now -- to consume news and discuss said news with my social circles. I certainly wouldn't be upset if Twitter took this as the core use case of the product.
ChuckMcM 3 days ago 1 reply      
Ok, third comment here, guess the previous two comments (memesisj and jamesmoss) pretty much define 'polarizing' :-)

Dalton raises some interesting questions. What exactly is twitter ? And perhaps more importantly what does Twitter think it can become? The churn in API restrictions, usage and messages certainly can be confusing.

wmf 3 days ago 2 replies      
I get the impression that social media douchebags already pivoted Twitter in that direction a few years ago, and now Twitter is just confirming it. The sad part IMO is that it seems like they could fix their developer relations problems and their business model by charging to send relevant tweets to existing followers, not unrelated ads. Of course, I don't even use Twitter so you probably shouldn't ask me.
lordlarm 3 days ago 2 replies      
I actually have used and are using twitter. It is a horrendous user experience - but I know how to fix it.

My main problem is my diverse interest in different subjects and twitters current inability to let me organize and follow what I like.

I'm following approx. 200 people divided 30% technology, 30% cycling and 30% friends/locals. For me, it would be impossible to imagine following more than 250 or 300 people with todays interface - because they are all thrown into each other and reading the raw feed is a clutter and mess of subjects.

You would think, considering their main goal is to get people following their interest, that they would get this part of the interface right. But the contrary - it is what is worst with twitter.

The solution (and problem) I'm hinting to is of course lists and as Facebook, G+ and virtually every other social network already have found out: people like to organize interests, people and subjects into different "buckets". Facebook had a lame interface for this many years, but does a better job now.

My point is, as an experienced twitter user, I know where the pains are and my first day in office I would make sure that the accessibility of lists were greatly improved.

The second day I would use to fix a decent conversation view and comprehensible reply scheme.

EDIT: To point out the inaccessibility of lists today, here is the general way to read up on a subject: tool-icon > lists > choose list. That's 2 clicks too many.
You could also use the shortcut "gl" and spare 2 clicks, but still, it is 1 request too much and way too complex for the regular user.

dm8 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have to disagree with author on some of the points. And looks like he doesn't like the fact that FB and Twitter are part media, part software companies.

"a media company writing software that is optimized for mostly passive users interested in a media and entertainment filter."

What's wrong in being media company? We all agree that software is eating the world, so why is it bad if Twitter is "disrupting" real-time media consumption? I loved Twitter's Olympics coverage. Even though I was thousands of miles away from London, I could feel the excitement.

Same for Hurricane Sandy. It was so useful to get latest news update in such a terrible time (for everyone involved). I was caught in another disaster few years back and the biggest problem was not getting important news updates from credible agencies/people. Twitter solved that problem for Hurricane Sandy coverage.

Twitter/FB are becoming like "breaking news" for every news. Be it earthquakes, celebrity gossip, world cups, olympics or new product launches!

nsns 3 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps a true commercial social network is a contradiction in terms; the friction from the user=product formula necessarily becoming unbearable with time. Perhaps an open source non profit solution wil have suited it much better.
lotso 3 days ago 0 replies      
"What is post-pivot Twitter supposed to look like?

The best way to consume “news and information”.
Important content is mostly created by media companies, whether they are blogs, television, radio or movies.

The main reason that “normal users” would write messages is as a backchannel to discuss media events such as the Olympics, Election Coverage, or a new television show. “Normal user” tweets are something akin to Facebook comments.

Even though this backchannel exists, it's not expected that brands and celebrities are supposed to pay much attention to everything that is said. Chernin himself hasn't replied to the numerous replies he received."

That's funny because that's how I used Twitter from the beginning (5 years ago).

jusben1369 3 days ago 0 replies      
So just reading the post I got a little confused (and then i found out he's the creator of App.net and wondered if his passion isn't clouding his best judgement) Firstly the quote: "Given that most of their traffic comes from us, if we build adequate if not superior competitors, I think we ought to be able to match them if not exceed them." - I just wasn't quite sure what this quote meant - I certainly didn't assume it mean't we're going to block them though. Maybe they did block them but shouldn't the correct quote end with "I think we ought to be able to block them"?

He's been using it for a long time to consume news and information. Ok, makes sense. Yet this is apparently objectionable or at the very least damming. I think it's damming because he says he's a consumer not a producer of tweets. Is this news to anyone?

"Admit failure and give up on trying to get normal people to tweet" The balance in twitter's tweet creation and consumption happened organically. Kudos to Twitter for allowing it to happen vs forcing unnatural acts? "You should tweet more!" I don't look too closely but it seems like it's been an open secret for 2 + years that 80% of all tweets come from 5 - 10% of users or whatever.

I guess I wouldn't call it a pivot if Twitter is focusing heavily on the 10% that do 90% of the tweeting vs trying to get the other 90% to tweet more.

jamesmoss 3 days ago 0 replies      
Although I'm fairly indifferent about app.net I could read Dalton Caldwell's blog posts all day. He's a clever guy that puts across his points well.
cwp 3 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting, but it's reading an awful lot into a single tweet.
jonathanjaeger 2 days ago 0 replies      
Dalton was just on This Week in Startups. Great to hear more in-depth insights on iMeem, social, ad sales, and app.net http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6ZsIlfzSBU

While I don't necessarily agree with his wording in every blog post, this is an awesome interview.

state 3 days ago 1 reply      
To me, what's implied by this piece " since it's written by Dalton " is that Twitter is leaving behind an opportunity that he plans to take advantage of. What remains to be seen is whether the thing they're leaving behind can be fully realized.

Do people really need a short-form messaging platform for communication?

winstonian 3 days ago 0 replies      
Imagine a Hacker News without Dalton Caldwell or 37 Signals.... Mmmmmmmm
pbreit 3 days ago 0 replies      
The one point that really did not resonate with me is that companies will take over. Currently, companies are by far the worst tweeters and are totally dominated by individuals whether thy be celebrities, experts, citizen journalists, etc. Even the good tweeters who sort of tweet under a company umbrella define themselves more than their companies. Twitter seems to me that it will remain the anti-company network since it provides so much advantage to the collection of individuals.
michaelkscott 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you want more insights about the things discussed here, there's an interview that Mark Suster did with Joel Spolsky last year where they talk about the "API wars":


They cover everything from the early days of Excel's API to the downfall of myspace and the rise of YouTube and Photobucket, and how twitter took off. It's worth your time.

saumil07 3 days ago 0 replies      
1. I like, support and (pay for) App.net
2. One tweet, by one famous media guy (admittedly a board member, yes, but really only known for being a great media executive) does not a strategy make.
3. The title "is pivoting" is extremely assertive and not really backed up by, well, a preponderance of facts or data.
jsilence 3 days ago 0 replies      
So are we finally moving to our own status.net instances?
iomike 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hard to say you're a "long time user" if you've only been on since 2010. Been on 6 years, that line made me laugh.
diedsj 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think its outrages that a member of the board of directors of twitter has absolutely no idea what he's doing on twitter.
I have no knowledge of Dalton's other business then this blogpost, and therefore it doesn't strike me as annoying, just a well written critical analyses of what twitter is doing wrong. I really hate the protectionistic (i.e. stupid) way twitter is doing business and I hope if enough people vocalize it, twitter might do something about it.
mullingitover 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a longtime twitter user. He should've checked out my account for an example of best practices - http://twitter.com/mullingitover
ghostblog 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Admit failure and give up on trying to get normal people to tweet."

What are you saying? Fourteen year olds and ethnic minorities use this website. How normal can you get?

"An experienced Twitter user would know to add a “.” at the beginning of his message"

Thanks for the protip, Dalton.

Codhisattva 3 days ago 1 reply      
Sounds like Chernin wants to make a news wire.
hayksaakian 3 days ago 1 reply      
I like that twitter forces you to be concise.
fudged71 3 days ago 0 replies      
TIL what the '.' in front of '@' is for. Interesting.
stephenhandley 3 days ago 0 replies      
they're just gonna concentrate on content/media sharing via url, and that isn't necessarily big-company driven. people sharing links and talking about them etc.
A breakdown of how I was talked out of $100 dskang.com
270 points by dskang  3 days ago   173 comments top 54
tzs 3 days ago 2 replies      
Even better than talking someone out of money is to get them to pay you without even knowing they are paying. A landlord I rented from once did this with the rent, managing to raise rents with most tenants not noticing.

Here's how they did it. Rent was $550/month with a one year lease, which works out to $6600/year.

When the least expired, you had the option of going month to month, or signing another lease. Month to month would be $600/month ($7200/year). However, they said, if you'll sign another one year lease, they'll let you keep the old rate ($6600/year), which will be implemented by giving you one month free. That is, you'll pay $0 for January, then $600/month for the remaining 11 months of the year, bringing the total to $6600/year.

A year later, when it was time to renew again, they told people rent would probably be going up soon, but if they renewed now for another year, they could avoid the increase and just keep paying $600/month.

Since that is what people were already paying, most did not see this as a rent increase. Yet they would be paying $7200 for the year, as opposed to $6600 for the year before--a $600 increase--because this time there was no free month for signing the lease.

anonymouz 3 days ago 1 reply      
> I was masterfully manipulated, and I have little choice but to admit that I received an unexpectedly expensive lesson in the art of selling.

How would you be sure it was that masterful? From your description it sounds pretty much like a standard sales pitch. It could just as well be that you're simply rationalizing being talked into spending $100 on something you didn't want to buy. You seem to be thinking "He was so good, he even managed to get me to buy this stuff", but the truth may unfortunately just as well be "Gee, I fall for this kind of stuff much more easily than I would have liked/thought".

Doing a postmortem of such a sales-pitch as a target yourself seems to be loaded with subjectivity problems.

jeremymcanally 3 days ago 12 replies      
Reading this and the subsequent comments, I have to ask: am I the only one immune to the this sort of thing? I get approached by these kiosk workers all the time while shopping, and I simply wave and keep walking (possibly reinforcing with a "No, thank you" if they follow me down the path, as they sometimes do). I know it's a high pressure tactic. I know they're selling something that no one actually needs. I know if I give them an inch of attention they'll try to take a mile. It's a well known sales tactic, so I'm puzzled why people continue to get sucked into it.

I'm actually kind of confused why this warrants a post-mortem given that I would hope that no one ever duplicates this sort of tactic in a legitimate business. Let the product sell itself, don't "become the customer's friend" in order to push it on them.

robomartin 3 days ago 6 replies      
Your first mistake was to let an Israeli sell to you.

That's where you lost brother. For that matter, I'll expand that to Middle-Eastern. I have a lot of friends from Israel and some from other ME countries. A lot of them tend to be very good at selling. I never got to the bottom of it. Maybe it's something in the water? I don't know.

I've gone on sales calls with Israeli friends (yes, as an engineer I decided I needed sales training from the best when it came time to sell my own products). We used to play this game that we loosely referred to "Shut-up and sell something". The idea was to see how little you could say and still close a deal. In my early days I tended to talk too much. And, as an engineer, I'd get lost in long explorations of features and even stuff we were planning on doing. I'd loose sales right and left. Then came "shut-up and make a sale". It is amazing how sometimes you can say absolutely nothing. Zero. And make a bigger sale than when you start flapping your jaws. The art is in knowing when to speak and when no to.

Hey you! Yes you. The one reading this thinking that it is a pejorative comment. Stop it! It isn't. It's more of a compliment than anything else.

kitcar 3 days ago 2 replies      
The one additional (and arguably most powerful) sales tactic you experienced was playing with most human's natural desire for reciprocation - the longer he keeps you at that booth, the more of his time you have consumed, and therefore the higher probability that you will actually buy something.

I know I've found myself buying things I don't need in the past because a sales person spent lots of time with me, and I thought "Well, I should reward them in some way for all this time they have given me!", when in reality, that's the whole point of them spending time with me in the first place :)

ericdykstra 3 days ago 2 replies      
If you want information from a salesperson about a product or service without getting into their "selling" mode. Just come up to them and say, right off the bat, "I'm not considering a purchase of this kind for at least 1/3/6 months, but I have a couple of questions about your product."

If it's a bad product or bad salesperson, they'll probably end the conversation quickly, because their whole premise is to catch you off guard and convince you to buy something that you never would if you had 30 seconds to search the internet for reviews.

If it's a good product and a good salesperson, they'll gladly answer your questions and give you a business card. Then you can verify their claims later, and you have a somewhat-trusted contact that you can go back to.

It's a quick way to filter, even if you know you may end up purchasing the product within a couple of days.

This tactic is also a way to quickly stop a potential email conversation with a recruiter, while still being able to have them as a connection. "I'm sorry but I'm definitely not changing jobs for at least 6 months, but thank you for reaching out to me," is enough to do this.

harel 3 days ago 1 reply      
As a former resident of Israel I kinda know those people. They are there to do their 'hit' before settling back to 'normal' life. The brief they get is "sell". There are companies that specialise in getting young folk to the US and Europe to sell those product. They promise them the world and a silly salary. The reality is that the salary doesn't translate to the figures promised unless you actually sell like you life depends on it. So they do just that. The dead sea stuff is just one type of product, manufactured by nondescript factories and arguably not so 'dead sea'. There are others who go door to door selling 'made in china' oil paintings that they claim to be the artist of. Others sell gadgets in malls. Others sell whatever they sell. The techniques are similar and they are controlled by a few companies.
There are even ads where they recruit based on having a US tourist visa alone (i.e., work illegaly until caught). This got so worst that the US embassy created a short film warning young Israelis of that scam, and the airports in London will hold any young Israeli coming in on suspicion of being a mall-stall fodder. Sorry for the guy on loosing $100 worth of chemicals that cost the seller about $4 to procure (I know this because, alas, my brother from the same mother has dabbled in this in the past). You've been had buyer of cosmetics.
The best way to go about it, and a lesson to future cosmetic buyers as this poster, is that you buy if you initiate the purchase, not if it initiated upon you.
axusgrad 3 days ago 2 replies      
I took his advice and Googled "Dead Sea Cosmetics". Apparently one of the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables had details about a company exploiting young Israelis, to take tourist visas and sell these cosmetics in malls.


flatline 3 days ago 1 reply      
People in the US don't know how to haggle, it's just not part of our culture, so you were done from the second you started talking to him. The first step is learning to walk away from something like this - something that may be nice to have, but that you don't really want. You should have given up when he talked you down to $100 for the lot. Seriously, you didn't need or even want the product, why buy it? There is a decent chance he would have come after you and dropped the price though -- that's the first sign you can start talking seriously about price, everything before that is pure profit for him. And if he didn't chase you down, you're not out anything, and can come by later and see if he'll take a lower offer. I've walked away from vendors like this not once but twice and gotten a price at a quarter of what was originally offered as the lowest possible price.

The opportunity to do this kind of bargaining just comes up so rarely, it's hard to get good at it unless you spend time in developing countries. The much harder skill is to be able to do this for something you really want, something you've already made up your mind to purchase. Which is a shame, since this particular skill does come into play all the time in the US, particularly when it comes to big purchases like cars or houses where bargaining is expected. We have a weird culture.

PaulHoule 3 days ago 1 reply      
I had this happen at the mall that's a few blocks from Union Square in SF.

For me it was a guy who tried to sell me $800 of tooth whitening services and ultimately sold me two tubes of toothpaste for $20. Once he got me to sit in his chair and talk about myself he hung on tenaciously. It was clear he had authority to mark prices down to 25% of the first price he gave and he'd give you half of that off in cash and give you the other half by doubling the product on you.

I was shocked when I walked away then the next guy asked me if I knew about the dead sea salts and I told him "Yeah, some guy put them on my hand in the mall years ago and it felt great but then 15 minutes later my hands felt dried out and awful."

You might say the guy from White Science is a brilliant salesperson, but if you look at Yelp you'll see people are generally not happy with the products and services that they get there.

gergles 3 days ago 1 reply      
I just walk off. If anyone follows me through the mall screaming at me (which has happened, at the very same mall listed here!) I immediately go complain to mall management..... who do nothing, because apparently a gimmick kiosk selling $2 bottles of goo for $100 pays them a lot of rent.

One mall I went to in semi-rural Ohio had it right -- the kiosks had little boxes taped on the floor around each kiosk, and the hucksters weren't allowed to leave their box. It was easy to go to a mall to shop, not to be yelled at like some kind of third-world bazaar.

alan_cx 3 days ago 2 replies      
With out getting too specific, there is a vulnerability the buyer can exploit. The sales man has spent ages with the buyer rolling out his well learned techniques. This is helped if the buyer uses up as much time as he can bare. Which means unless he makes a sale, he has totally wasted his time. Time is money.

So, just at the point where he has totalled up his oh so great deal for you, and just as you are about to pay for the items, stop. Turn to the sales man and offer a deal of your own.

Two things happen. You have just taken control back of the whole sales routine, which suddenly changes your position completely not least because it refreshes your own sense of control. And second, the sales man is totally set off balance and facing the loss of the sale and his time. You can give a whole load of his patter straight back. "Because you are such a great sales guy, I would hate for you to lose this sale", "This offer of mine is a one time offer, could go home and order this lot much cheaper on line", etc.

At that point I start by offering 25%, yes 25%, and seeing where he wants to go. My reasoning for the low percentage is that is sends out a message about how much I value the product, and that despite everything the sales man has said, it hasn't worked. But, I might buy at a value I feel is right for me.

Having done all that, the pressure is off you, and you are freed up to make a rational decision, and being back in control makes it much easier to say, "No, thanks, but I'll pass today."

droithomme 3 days ago 0 replies      
Good article. $100 is definitely a fair price for a private tutorial session in sales techniques taught by an experienced professional.
tlrobinson 3 days ago 1 reply      
Usually I'm immune to mall salespeople, but literally the exact same thing happened to me a couple years ago. Same products, same mall (SF Westfield), same tactics, Israeli salesperson. They've got the formula down to a science, apparently.

The only difference was the salesperson was a cute girl and I was single at the time...

Joeboy 3 days ago 0 replies      
On a bit of a tangent, if anybody's ever wondered why innocent people would incriminate themselves under questioning by the police, bear in mind that the police have much, much more leverage at their disposal than a skin care product salesman.
funkaster 3 days ago 0 replies      
I was approached by the same sellers in a mall. I got the exact same samples of "dead cells" cream. It was a lady the one that gave me the samples. Very convincing. If it wasn't because I was with my wife at the time, who happens to be a person that does not bend to that kind of selling techniques (I call it her super-power :P) I would've walked with $100 less, at least.

One bad thing about this selling technique, which might be effective in selling you stuff, is that right after walking out, you feel bad. You know you did not do the right choice and the probabilities of you walking again to buy more stuff from them or telling your friends how awesome these products are is so small, that they seem to aim to one-sell only. Maybe that's why they're so expensive: they know you're not going back for more. It's a cheap technique and it probably is not looking for anything long term... But in any case, you can always move to another mall or create a new crappy-good-looking product to scam more people.

jyap 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is pretty funny. I was just in SF in June and was waiting around that booth for about 20 minutes while my wife shopped. Overhearing the guy (must have been the same guy Adir) was certainly interesting.

It would start off with the free sample push, often targeting older ladies. "Young lady, free sample for you." Then when there was eye contact, "Where are you from?". Then the sales pitch began in full force.

dave_sullivan 3 days ago 0 replies      
That's an interesting story. There's a great book called spin selling that mentions some study where they tried to look at the effectiveness of closing tactics like the ones you saw.

They found that for reasonably inexpensive purchases (a $300 camera for example), the hard close can work quite well. But for more expensive, complex purchases, like million dollar software contracts, the hard sell is pretty much the worst thing you can do.

For more complex sells, it pays to uncover and explore the true expense associated with a problem and paint a picture of the user continuing with current product (their competitors put them out of business) vs your product (they put their competitors out of business).

Just don't break out the calculator, offer the one time only special deal, or do anything else from the school of 24 hour fitness gym membership sales training unless you want to get kicked out of your prospect's office.

elliottcarlson 3 days ago 0 replies      
While this may not be the case for all of the dead sea related skin care booths (though I know it accounts for a large chunk of them in my area) - these people often have major quotas to reach in exchange for the room & board and small pocket money they get in exchange. A lot of them are brought to the U.S. with the promise of a job lined up and when they get here they are in a small apartment with 5 or 6 others. Just a slight insight as to why they are often so aggressive in their sales pitches.
intellegacy 3 days ago 1 reply      
In my observation, people who believe they are not susceptible to advertising or sales pitches are actually more susceptible than they otherwise would be. If you don't acknowledge you can be influenced, you're less likely to notice when you ARE being influenced. And you don't have to be hit on the head by a sales tactic to be influenced either. It often comes in subtle ways.
jakejake 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd say the OP was a rather gullible customer. The salesman didn't even have to resort to the next level, which is when they try to make you feel guilty for taking up their time. Or try to make you feel like a cheapskate because you won't buy their product for your child, date, etc.
fratis 3 days ago 0 replies      
When I worked in a mall, I'd get accosted by these guys on a daily basis (on my way to lunch). I developed the perfect response to their inevitable "Hello, sir! How are you?"

"I'm doing great! So well, in fact, that even Dead Sea products couldn't improve my day!"

conover 3 days ago 1 reply      
A man named Joe Ades used to do something somewhat similar in Union Square. Apparently he was well known.


squarecat 3 days ago 1 reply      
The author should stay FAR away from car dealers.
thisone 3 days ago 2 replies      
Sales guy tried to embarrass my boyfriend into buying a huge watch once by questioning his manhood. "A real man can carry off a watch like this"

I burst out laughing and asked the salesman, in no uncertain terms, if he would like to borrow my tape measure.

ajtaylor 3 days ago 0 replies      
This happened to me last Christmas! Those guys (it was a woman in my case) are super effective in their techniques. I had absolutely no intention of buying anything as I was walking by. My first mistake was responding to their question as I walked by. My second mistake was not continuing on my way through the rest of the mall.

Luckily, I DID manage to get a refund for the products later. I claimed that my wife was allergic to the things I had bought. The sales ladies were skeptical when they say the packages were unopened, but nevertheless I got a full refund - somehow.

brk 3 days ago 0 replies      
I ran across one of these kiosks recently while walking through a mall in Waikiki with my wife.

Same basic pitch (and the dude had a very similar name), including lots of "touching" of your hands, which helps make that connection.

From the minute we made eye contact I pretty much knew it was going to be a high-pressure sales tactic. I let him do his spiel and offer us all the tremendous discounts, then thanked him for his time and left.

EGreg 3 days ago 2 replies      
"With the new number 69 seducing me, my strong “no” quickly changed to a “maybe”, and then to a “yes”. "

This is not the first time I was seduced by the number 69. There's something about that number that's seductive. Like how all the cable TV packages are $69. I wonder what it is about that number that is so attractive to everyone in the US -- it doesn't seem to be that way in other countries.

DigitalSea 2 days ago 0 replies      
These Dead Sea Costmetic stalls must be everywhere. The same kind of cosmetic stalls are very prevalent in shopping centres here in Australia. They employ people with French accents usually and well, I think someone trying to sell you something in an accent also helps brainwash you into a purchase.

The calculator part of this story gave me a chuckle. For those who have been to Bali before (well any part of Indonesia, Thailand and those kinds of countries) bartering is in their blood and they too employ the same techniques using a calculator to sell you stuff.

aneth4 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yelp reviews are fascinating for showing how effective these tactics are. I guess Israelis are as scientific about their sales as their martial arts.


lani 3 days ago 0 replies      
$100 worth of education, that will remain seared into the brain ?

you should get a paper out of it and sell the technique it to retailers ...
i see a lot of kahneman/ariely patterns here... how about if you string them up in a nice if-else style decision tree ...

coffeedrinker 3 days ago 0 replies      
One piece of good advice:
"A good deal today will be a good deal tomorrow."

Live by that advice and you will always be free to walk away and think about it.

drivingmenuts 3 days ago 0 replies      
We had a skin-care salesgirl parked outside one of the Apple stores here in Austin. They really will try almost every trick in the book short of actual physical assault to keep you from leaving.
ruswick 3 days ago 1 reply      
I find the ease with which people can be manipulated to be fascinating. This individual was far too trusting and lacked adequate discernment or awareness.

I buy things based on one tenant: don't trust anyone who attempts to take your money, ever. All commerce is done based on an imbalance of value, and the ability for one party to unilaterally leverage that gulf to make money. Moreover, the customer is diametrically opposed to the salesman. Their goals are antithetical to one another and their objectives are mutually exclusive. The seller wants to take the buyer's money and give them as little value as possible, yielding more lucrative margins; the buyer wants to acquire as much of a commodity as they can for as little money as possible, heightening returned value.

A capitalistic society is just a myriad of people trying to take whatever they can from everyone else. Sometimes we forget that.

crusso 3 days ago 1 reply      
Never make eye contact with mall kiosk workers.
rizzom5000 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Yelp reviews on these kiosks are interesting (dead sea premier kiosk). Lots of one-star ratings and rants about smooth-talking sales people taking money from the, ahem, innocent who are now filing complaints with FTC etc. I had to laugh out loud.

It reminds me of this olde English phrase, "If they pay a penie or two pence more for the reddinesse of them..let them looke to that, a foole and his money is soone parted."

valhallarecords 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've talked to this exact same kiosk in the SF Westfield before as well. The saleswoman was very very persuasive. I eventually walked away, and she made me feel like I was a mean person haha.
damian2000 3 days ago 0 replies      
One of the biggest upsells I ever had launched on me was when purchasing a new car. After signing the purchase agreement they immediately put me into a different office with a stunning looking blonde woman who upsells additional protection products such as 5yr warranty extension, window tint, fabric protection etc. Trying to say no to all of it is extremely difficult at that point.
polynomial 3 days ago 0 replies      
Oh, I thought this was going to be about Kickstarter.
ari_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a very easy way to get out of a Dead Sea cosmetics selling pitch:
Say: "shalom, ani merusut haHagira, efshar lirot et Ashrat HaAvoda Shelca?"
Translates as: Hello, I'm from Immigration, can I see your work visa?

Also in the USA there's no such thing as No Refunds No Exchanges - if you pay for something by credit card you have extensive consumer rights regardless of the merchant's policies.

Finally, the real reason these sales pitches work so well is they MAKE SKIN CONTACT - and there's something about the actual physical touching that makes the sale a lot easier.

ww520 3 days ago 1 reply      
I guess the ultimate challenge would be to go to a free timeshare vacation and endure the sales pitches there. I've heard people with their mind set on not buying ended up buying the timeshares at the end.
r00fus 3 days ago 0 replies      
As someone hailing from an emerging foreign country, I usually find these kind of encounters very uncomfortable and feel almost allergic to any sales process.

The pricepoints ($100) make things much worse. Not sure about you but once I get to 3 $digits, there's an approval step required by my internal auditor even if it's just a "sticker price" that will be talked down.

I tend to avoid these situations by all means possible, even if it means taking a less efficient route to my destination.

willhsiung 2 days ago 0 replies      
Had a similar experience at Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington, NY (Long Island) when I visited my mom for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. The lady at the kiosk selling something similar gave me a sample and pestered me to buy a package. Don't remember the excuse I gave for not buying, maybe pointing out I was from out-of-town or just wasn't interested.

Haven't had any problems with other mall kiosks with such sales pitches, so it appears those selling "Dead Sea skin care" products may be in some network where vendors are given a consistent method of selling.

kaila 3 days ago 0 replies      
I spent many years working in shopping malls, and while I was there I learned a few fun things about the kiosk folks. It's apparently really common for them to only come to the US for the last few months of the year, set up the kiosks in malls, make a bunch of money, and then go back home. I'm not sure why, but Israel seemed to be a really common country of origin. The mall management in the malls I worked in were okay with the aggressive sales tactics (including following after people) from the kiosk people because they made so much money for the mall itself.

The best way I learned to deal with the kiosk people was to just not make eye contact and keep walking if they said anything to me. Rude, but effective.

gsibble 3 days ago 0 replies      
Bought the same exact stuff from the same guy at the same mall.

Actually works really well. But damn do they have the tactics down.

indiecore 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if you could make a game out of trying to regame these guys. Maybe as training? Try to be as obstinate as possible for as long as possible while not getting outright rejected.
jimmar 3 days ago 3 replies      
I went used car shopping two weeks ago. I was genuinely looking for a car, but the social scientist inside of me was equally curious to observe the sales tactics. I understood many of their tactics to try to get me to sell myself the car. But I didn't get one thing: handing me off to several different people when it was obvious I wasn't totally sold on the car I liked best. I'd find myself talking to a new person about the price I'd be willing to pay. Or I'd have the floor manager show me around. And before leaving, the sales manager wanted to introduce me to some random guy I'd never talked to before. Why I would want to meet that guy, I have no idea.
yarianluis 3 days ago 0 replies      
This story particularly illustrates why I avoid going into places with a selling mentality (most places in malls) and prefer to shop in places with a completely customer-centric perspective (what I call the REI model).

One easy way to find such places is to look for lack of pay by commission. REI and Apple are too relevant examples. However a lot of the time even stores that pay based on commission will have a larger customer focus than a sales-pitch focus. Nordstrom is one example that comes readily to mind.

In short, be careful where you shop.

ipince 3 days ago 0 replies      
Funny. A few months ago I was subject to the exact same pitch. Everything exactly the same. As I read I thought "wow, these cosmetics companies got this down to a science." Turns out it was the same company, so who knows.

The only difference was that my salesman was in fact a woman, a very good looking and flirty woman. At the end of the day I didn't buy anything and I could feel her hatred towards me. Left a bitter taste in my mouth.

chimpinee 3 days ago 0 replies      
I used to find it hard to walk past 'chuggers' in the UK (people collecting for charity in the street). I managed it but it was unpleasant. Why? Because I'd have to steel myself into a kind of Beast in order to break free from their psychological tractor beams.

I eventually worked out that if they were exploiting basic decency and human contact, that's fine. I'll smile and wave, even reciprocate compliments creatively, and then walk past.

cerebrum 3 days ago 1 reply      
How to these sellers learn this stuff? Do they get some instruction or do they just learn by trial and error? Any info on that?
olleicua 1 day ago 0 replies      
Consumers are so stupid. Do you really have such little sense of self worth that you'll let yourself be scammed like that?
janoulle 3 days ago 0 replies      
This mirrors my experience with a Deep Sea salesman. Same setup: pop-up stand in a busy mall and I made the mistake of locking eyes with the salesperson. I 'lost' $75 and after a brief period of kicking myself, I couldn't help but marvel at how I was manipulated to buying the creams.
languagehacker 3 days ago 0 replies      
"I was duped" didn't cover it? Had to make it a homework for one of your MBA classes?
The Year 2512 antipope.org
225 points by huetsch  2 days ago   89 comments top 42
cletus 2 days ago 6 replies      
It is of course hard to predict 500 years out. Hell, it's hard to predict 20 years out. Did anyone really see the world of today even 20 years ago?

But I'll take my own fanciful stab.

I don't foresee either an energy or a climate crisis. There is a hard limit on how expensive energy gets because at some point you can turn totally renewable energy into a fuel of some sort, ideally taking CO2 out of the atmosphere to do it. It's not cost effective now because energy is so cheap. But like I said: there's a limit to how expensive it can get.

The bigger problem (IMHO) is going to be certain elements and metals that aren't so easily replaced. I agree with the author that getting certain elements from space is going to be economically tricky (rather than technologically tricky) compared to how cheap it is to pull stuff out of the ground.

You can recycle iron to a degree but a certain amount is lost through corrosion/rust. Rare earth elements are harder to replace.

I do foresee there being a lot less of us and that is probably going to be a traumatic change.

Sadly I don't foresee a huge presence in space. The energy costs, particularly when you look at even the most optimistic models of interstellar travel in particular, are just too extreme even with perfect mass-to-energy conversion.

Change like evolution is often perceived to be smooth but it's not. Our world like life itself is shaped by key, often small, events. Europe in 1914 was a powderkeg in 1914 but one man's death triggered a sequence of events that resulted in World War One, the armistice for which sowed the seeds for World War Two. One could argue that if the Archduke had lived something else would've triggered the war and you may well be right. Still how different might the world be if, say, JFK was killed by a chance bullet in World War Two?

As far as longevity goes, that's a tough one. I expect there'll be a certain class of people who live much better and longer than others but then again the history of the world thus far is those kinds of technological advancements always trickle down eventually. Living forever? I have my doubts.

Artificial intelligence as always is the sleeping giant of the future. I believe that to be inevitable and the effects could be profound to put it mildly.

I too believe the nation states of today mostly won't exist in 500 years.

InclinedPlane 2 days ago 1 reply      
Assuming that there is no great WWIII or equivalent cataclysmic event the world of 2512 is beyond our faintest imaginings and would likely be frightening to us.

I don't speak about nanotechnology or even brain-uploading and synthetic sentience, I speak about rather more mundane trends that are almost certain to continue.

For example, manufacturing. Today manufacturing is still rather similar in nature to the way it was in the 17th century, we just have a whole crap-ton more of it and it's easier to ship manufactured goods around the globe. But I believe we are reaching an inflection point on manufacturing. We will soon reach a point where manufacturing becomes entirely automated for huge classes of devices. All you'll need to do is upload a set of files to a server somewhere and press a button and then a factory will produce whatever it is you've designed, on very short notice and in arbitrary volumes. This alone is a transformative technology, but let's take it a step further, toward fully automated creation of machine tools and to factories themselves. The idea of an assembly line as this huge, fixed entity is due to the nature of our manufacturing technology, but it's possible that manufacturing facilities will themselves become disposable (likely recyclable) and transient. Manufacturing won't be something that people consume, it will be something that people do. More so, the ability of a small amount of capital machinery to boot-strap into the manufacturing capabilities of a developed nation will rapidly eliminate almost all remaining undeveloped parts of the globe. Imagine what happens when you can ship a few containers of equipment to, say, antarctica and start building out factories, tractors, automobiles, houses, etc, etc. with only an input of crude raw materials.

How this will transform the world is beyond me, but it will certainly change our perception of wealth and scarcity and the people living in a world with this technology will be as unfamiliar to people of today as people of today would be to stone age tribes. And this technology is not a 500 year technology, it'll likely arrive in the next hundred years at most.

Let's talk about drugs and surgery and self. Modern medicine is at best a century old, and in some ways perhaps even less. There will come a time, certainly within the next 500 years, when medical technology in the realm of mood alteration, behavior alteration, and cosmetic surgery are at a level which we would describe from the perspective of today as nearly perfectly effective. Imagine what happens when people can change their personalities and their mental capabilities at whim? If you find you're depressed you can fix that, effectively and permanently. If you have a mental illness such as, say, schizophrenia or pedophilia then you can fix that too. And if you are dissatisfied with your mood or your personality you can change that too. Do you want to be an alpha personality? Do you want to be a thrill-seeker? Do you want to be bubbly and happy all the time? Easy peasy. Do you dislike the way your face or body looks or works? You can change that too. You can have a stunningly attractive and physically fit body with ease, and you can look like a movie star.

To say that this will change society is a gross understatement. In many ways I think this will be a bigger challenge to the world than any other technological or environmental challenge. To be honest I think it will be a larger challenge for our species than even trying to co-exist with thermonuclear weapons.

As for space, I think it will affect our future a great deal but perhaps not as much as these other things. One thing a lot of people get wrong about space is imagining that it's hard. It's not, we've just been doing it very, very badly. For the same exact amount of money the world has spent on space so far we could have easily built orbital cities and moon bases housing hundreds. Not with revolutionary technology, not with some alternate and hugely more cost effective programs, but merely with applying proven and existing systems and technologies in a sensible way instead of the haphazard way we have done so the last 4 decades or so. For example, for the same cost as the Shuttle program we could have continued launching Saturn Vs (at least 150 of them) which would have allowed us to easily put living quarters for hundreds of astronauts in Earth orbit and to build out moon bases (or Mars bases, frankly) quite easily. There are two other important factors people miss. First, once you have a substantial off-Earth industry then it's no longer reliant on the cost of launch from Earth's surface. You only have to launch the equipment for an automated space mining operation once, afterward you only need to keep it operational. The potential return in terms of mass launched from Earth vs. resources returned to Earth or to Earth orbit could be a great many orders of magnitude (millions or billions), much like it is for mining equipment here on Earth. Second, the world of the future will be unimaginably wealthier than we are. The parts of the world which are today developed will be even wealthier in the future, and much of the developing world will have developed within the next 100 and certainly 500 years. Even without factoring in technological and industrial advances which could make orbital launch cheaper (incidentally, things which are already running at a rampant pace of advancement even today) the simple factor of having a much, much larger total economy will mean that the amount of resources for space exploration will be larger than today by a factor of tens to hundreds. The idea that this doesn't translate into a substantial permanent off-Earth human population is, to me, patently ridiculous.

Overall, the idea of trying to predict the world of 500 to even the tiniest degree is probably a losing prospect, but it should be an interesting ride regardless.

tokenadult 2 days ago 1 reply      
It was kind of Charlie Stross, a participant here on HN


to take time out from writing his latest novel to post the interesting blog post shared here. Thanks too to the HN participants who shared the link and have commented already while I was coming back from work. I especially like about this post that Stross looked back at Earth 500 years ago to show readers what time scale he is talking about, and that he was boldly definite about technological and social changes.

I will be boldly definite in disagreeing in part with one of Stross's conclusions in this interesting post. Stross writes, "I'm going to assume that we are sufficiently short-sighted and stupid that we keep burning fossil fuels. We're going to add at least 1000 GT of fossil carbon to the atmosphere, and while I don't expect us to binge all the way through the remaining 4000 GT of accessible reserves, we may get through another 1000 GT." I fully agree with this premise. There are no effective incentives in place today, nor any likely in the next few decades, to prevent further consumption of fossil hydrocarbon fuels, and that will surely result in a substantial increase in atmospheric conentration in CO2.

Stross's next step in prediction is, "So the climate is going to be rather ... different." That's a safe prediction any time, because over 500 year time scales, we have often observed climate change in historic times. Over longer time scales, but since Homo sapiens populated much of the earth, rock art in the Sahara Desert shows that the Sahara was once much less arid than it is now, and cave art in Europe shows that the climate of Europe was once much more frigid than it is now.

Stross goes on to write, "Sea levels will have risen by at least one, and possibly more than ten metres worldwide."

An interesting series of online maps shows projections of flooded land based on various degrees of sea level rise for places of interest such as New York City,


San Francisco,


the Netherlands and England,


and Chesapeake Bay.


In all cases, the maps default to showing seven meters of sea level rise and do not project any civil engineering projects to protect existing infrastructure.

Having read Matt Ridley's blog post "Go Dutch"


back when it was published, I wonder if the most dire predictions about the Netherlands are true, or if the Netherlands, the land of polders,


can continue to be "living proof to climate pessimists that dwelling below sea level is no problem if you are prosperous."

Stross writes, "Large chunks of sub-Saharan Africa, China, India, Brazil, and the US midwest and south are going to be uninhabitably hot."

I live in the United States Midwest, and my mother grew up in a hotter part of the United States Midwest during the Dust Bowl era. Most of her family is still near the family farm on the windswept Great Plains. I don't expect any part of the earth to become uninhabitably hot. We have, according to the best developed models of influences on world climate, a sure prospect of a generally warmer Earth, warming currently lethally cold areas into areas that will be habitable. My experience living in subtropical east Asia suggests that we will have more warming of cold areas than turning hot areas into unbearably hot areas from global warming.

Stross continues, "London, New York, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Mumbai " they're all going to be submerged, or protected by heroic water defenses" and my prediction is that New York, at least, will be fully protected by civil engineering projects. New York City is sufficiently prosperous to attract some of the world's brightest minds to live there (I know some young people who have moved there recently) and the current city administration actively encourages making New York City a technology hub. New York will thrive, whatever the climate.


Stross wraps up this prediction by mentioning, "Venice and New Orleans (both of which will be long-since lost)." Venice and New Orleans have been in long-term decline for quite a while, from bad governance, and will surely suffer further relative decline, regardless of sea levels. There will still be a great port at the mouth of the Mississippi-Missouri river system, and it will be a thriving and cosmopolitan city, but it may well be in a different place along the river delta from the current location of New Orleans. Venice may basically vanish.

There is much more interesting content in Stross's post, but allow me to explain why I think the high end of global warming predictions (and thus the high end of sea level rise predictions) is unlikely. We already have a known model for induced global cooling from the "natural experiment" of volcanos erupting and ejecting much dust high into the atmosphere. If the climate change we now experience produces more pain than gain (where I live, at 800 feet above sea level in a continental dry, cold winter climate zone, global warming has so far mostly produced gain), then there will be political and economic incentives to sequester greenhouse gases, or directly shade the Earth with high-altitude dust, or to do whatever else science discovers to slow and perhaps eventually reverse global warming. Over a 500-year time span, I would expect enough of an increase in understanding of climate models to bring about a world climate that is more moderate in more places than today's. Thanks for the chance to think about the far future.

reasonattlm 2 days ago 2 replies      
The point of the technological singularity insofar as it interacts with reasonable prediction of the future is that reasonable predictions tell you that it is next to impossible to make any sort of reasonable cultural/climate/landmass/population/other soft prediction much past this century.

Hard takeoff scenarios seem to be unlikely (no self-improving AI going from human project to godlike status in a couple of hours while rolling its own molecular nanotechnology foundation). The reasons for this are the same reasons that make rapid global takeover of the internet by a viral monoculture unlikely today: results take effort, some results are opposed, some results are intrinsically hard, no breakthrough happens in a vacuum.

But: by 2040 it will be possible to emulate human brains the hard way. By all means tell me that every human culture will refrain from taking full advantage of all that can follow from that over the decades that follow. The economic benefits of human and built-from human intelligences instantiated to order are incredible. The possibilities spiraling out from that are so much greater than everything that has come before that it becomes very, very hard to say what comes next.

You could see a world in which there are trillions of entities of human and greater intelligence by 2100. With their own cultures, so much greater and broader and more varied than ours as to make us the first snowflake in the blizzard. They may or may not have access to molecular nanotechnology and as much of the solar system as they care to begin making over by then. What will they build? How can you say? Culture determines creation.

Equally, you might not see that world. But it looks most plausible to me that software life will erupt from our culture in much the same way as we erupted from Greek tribes thousands of years ago - but much more rapidly. If you can show me you can sensibly predict the details of today's world by an examination of the Mediterranean Bronze Age, then I might be more inclined to think it possible to talk about what lies on the other side of emulated human intelligence.

aresant 2 days ago 1 reply      
That's what I call fun Saturday reading . . .

"GM mangroves that can grow in salinated intertidal zones and synthesize gasoline, shipping it out via their root networks, is one option."

That one sentence overloaded my system with a visual day-dream about the potential for our future - the way it's written evokes that famous Bladerunner line:

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. . ."

A few dozen words in both quotes that evoke such richness. Beautiful work.

rogerbinns 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad he didn't take the doom and gloom approach. We do keep seeing the bad side (overpopulation, disease, environmental degradation, wars etc) but slowly and surely the opposite has been happening. Prosperity has been improving things for (virtually) everyone, not just a few westerners. And people do strange things once prosperous - they protect the environment, have more greenery (compare richer versus poorer neighbourhoods), buy organic, electric cars, contribute to charity etc. The question is can we continue to improve prosperity, and there is no reason to believe it won't keep happening. Matt Ridley of "The Rational Optimist" has a lot of material to substantiate that.

Here is a quick TED talk and a transcript of the opening to get you going.


"When I was a student here in Oxford in the 1970s, the future of the world was bleak. The population explosion was unstoppable. Global famine was inevitable. A cancer epidemic caused by chemicals in the environment was going to shorten our lives. The acid rain was falling on the forests. The desert was advancing by a mile or two a year. The oil was running out, and a nuclear winter would finish us off. None of those things happened, (Laughter) and astonishingly, if you look at what actually happened in my lifetime, the average per-capita income of the average person on the planet, in real terms, adjusted for inflation, has tripled. Lifespan is up by 30 percent in my lifetime. Child mortality is down by two-thirds. Per-capita food production is up by a third. And all this at a time when the population has doubled."

rndmize 2 days ago 2 replies      
Five hundred years out is an awfully far distance into the future. I could see most of this happening in 200 years, or probably less.

One of the problems with making predictions like this is that technology begins to compound and affect itself in weird ways - a book I have discusses how once you have proper mind-machine interfaces and can copy a person at will, one of the most efficient ways to travel becomes transmitting yourself at light-speed and getting a new body once your persona has been downloaded at your destination, rather than traveling in a physical body. This is something I had never considered before encountering it in that book, as much as it is a logical step from cybernetic brains and being able to back yourself up.

Similarly, racism, sexism and language issues being to disappear as you approach a higher level of computer integration. Racism and sexism become quaint ideas when most people can change to a body of the opposite sex whenever they want, and skin color becomes a matter of aesthetic choice. You might end up with wholly different types of racism (or perhaps species-ism) due to deliberate genetic changes to adapt to different environments resulting in wildly different types of humans, or due to experiments to bring certain species to human levels of intelligence (apes, dolphins, octopi?)

I find it interesting that he would have geopolitical boundaries exist at all. The idea of nations may well be an outdated one a couple hundred years hence. As we continue to improve our abilities to manufacture and grow things on ever smaller and more controlled scales, there may come a point where we no longer need massive structures of human organization like nations, corporations, etc. On the flip side, these things could become more ingrained and efficient such that we approach hive-like efficiency/societal structure (group minds etc.)

I suppose I find most of these speculations rather tame. I think that things will change a lot faster, and in a lot bigger ways, than described here.

ChuckMcM 2 days ago 0 replies      
Definitely a fun read, lots of things to nod and shake your head at. For example if we've mastered the fusion power generation process then rather than carbon remediation we may find we have to burn things occasionally to boost atmospheric CO2, the reasoning goes that we've basically converted all of the arable surface area to 'farm' land, we have converted all of our industrial and motive mechanisms (cars/trucks/trains) to electricity, we use the Fischer-Tropch process to create jet fuel which can take CO2 out of the air, so not only are anthropogenic sources of CO2 but natural sources (forest fires) are removed from the system. If we are pulling energy geothermally out of volcanic hot spots that will leave their tops just frozen enough to not erupt (another giant source of atmospheric CO2).

It is really really hard to predict past a point where the energy problem becomes 'solved.'

I also expect that all of our computing / electronics devices will be essentially 3D printed out of carbon in various forms (tubes, balls, graphene) providing the various roles of switch, conductor, gate, and substrate. Those will be connected by a mesh of networking that is a couple of gigabits wireless and perhaps a terabit when hard connected. The low marginal cost of bandwidth will make it pretty much non-blocking bandwidth everywhere.

I expect we'll be eating a manufactured food product that is tasty and nutritious and the domestication of livestock and the use of any other living organism (including plants) will be considered 'quaint'. No one will have to go hungry because the combination of low cost energy and the ability to assemble food will allow for free 'food' (although not designer, "high end" food).

I think the more interesting question though comes from biology, which is to say if we have completely decoded cellular biology then there won't be any excuse for being sick or not 'healthy' (and by that I mean optimal function of all organs including the brain). At some point during the development of that capability the aspects of ones genetics which determines sexual orientation will be completely mapped out and understood and there will be a big debate about what we do about that, do we 'cure' homosexuality, do we offer to make everyone 'omnisexual' etc. There will be huge and heated debates about what is and what isn't normal.

mukaiji 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think it's a bit off on the predictions relating to energy. The best way to explain why is to borrow from Vinod Khosla's theory of energy black swans, and assume that the forms of energy we know and make use of today are going to be replaced by forms of energy we either don't know of or haven't yet managed to master.

500 years is simply a long, long, long time from now in terms of human progress. I think the energy description provided here might possibly fit a model of our energy mix 100 years from now. However, it's very unlikely to be the one we follow 500 years from now, simply because the basis for energy-related discoveries dictates that every few decades an entirely new form of energy is discovered and gets subsequently iterated upon until economically viable. It simply isn't factually reasonable to assume that we have already discovered all possible forms of energy production.

By the way, i did energy-related research which is why i wanted to point this out. Regardless of these flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed reading that essay.

tl;dr: energy-predictions 500 years out are not reasonable because of Vinod Khosla's theory of energy black swans.

jhuckestein 2 days ago 0 replies      
This all makes sense, if you think of the future as a linear progression. Technology however, progresses exponentially (I don't want explicitly invoke Kurzweil here because his theories have their own faults, but the exponential part he gets right). That means 500 years from now, we will probably have solved the problem of survival. We will probably be much more intelligent, not have to work, almost certainly beexploring space etc.

There's almost no way to try to predict what life will be like in 500 years (try the predictions people had 500 years ago!). When I think about this, the most interesting questions are philosophical. If ou didn't have to die and could simulate whatever pleasure you desire whenever you want to, what will the point of living be? What will the definition of a human, a life and consciousness be if you can simulate/augment it using computers?

javajosh 1 day ago 0 replies      
There's an interesting meta-consideration here, and that is how humanity wants things to be in 500 years. It's almost like Stross is considering the weight of action as something that we can't choose. But really, I think our collective choices can make a world of difference.

If we choose to protect biodiversity today, if we choose to keep our climate optimal for naturally evolved life, then our future in 500 years can be a lot better than anything Stross has described.

For example, I think we will indeed have AI, but it will turn out that AI, like a human baby, has to be raised by parents. The process of "programming" an AI is just like the process of "programming" a person - it's messy, and it takes a lot of personal effort and fortitude.

I also think it is likely that the rules of our universe allow only one successful colonization attempt per home planet, or perhaps home system. This limits the spread of any Life to linear (rather than geometric), and it also means that the odds of life meeting each other on the same planet are extremely small. (It goes without saying that there is Life in a lot of places, but that it rarely succeeds in the singular effort of colonizing another system).

More and more of our productive efforts will be created and consumed in virtual environments. But that doesn't meant that the physical will be ignored. "Slow space" is important, and beautiful in it's own way, and we evolved with it. We're not going to leave it behind.

Social constructs will become self-aware, and driven by ever greater understanding of ourselves and our relationship to the world. We will truly choose our beliefs, and aggregate (virtually and physically) with others of the same belief. Indeed, I can imagine a world government who's primary purpose is not adjudicating national disputes, but rather protecting the rights of new adults to choose what they believe, and to live their lives wherever those beliefs are most closely held.

The US and all nations will evolve according to what they really are: explicit belief systems that exploit energy/food/material resources in order to protect/promote their belief system. We will probably see a spectrum of US-like nations, that differ only on second-order considerations. Basically, what we have today, only more explicit and with far more porous borders.

It seems very unlikely that the majority will actually modify their bodies with computer interface technology. The inherent risks are far too high when a device doesn't have a physical off switch. Consider the nightmare scenario where a hacker hacks into your visual cortex, and Rick rolls you. this is far worse than blindness - it could drive you insane (really).

startupfounder 2 days ago 1 reply      
"I'm also going to ignore space colonization, because I want to focus on this planet."

Europe changed when explorers "discovered" the new world. Saying you are only going to focus on "this planet" is like saying I am only going to focus on the "old world" when talking about earth 500 years ago.

In my mind the rest of the article is pointless because the author is using the old world way of thinking about this planet.

The fact is the exploration of space is very similar as what happened 520 years ago. What happens when the price of getting to orbit drops significantly because of reusable rockets? Already there are companies that are planning on mining astroids. Saying that this is not going to effect earth in a major way is not really looking at where earth will be in 2512.

Space exploration is going to define the next 500 years of humanity and of this planet just as exploration of the new world defined the last 500 years.

JVIDEL 2 days ago 1 reply      
OP makes a number of mistakes about the past.

For starters it wasn't Portuguese conquistadores who descended on South America 500 years ago but the Spanish. The Portuguese had more important operations in Asia at the time. It wasn't until the 17th that the Portuguese really started to exploit part of what today is known as Brazil, part because a chunk of Brazil used to be part of the Spanish Empire, not the Portuguese.

Of course we are not going back to hunter-gatherers, that's stupid on the face of it. Even after a massive collapse the first thing survivors will do is try to salvage whatever machinery they can find and start anew, first with crops and eventually industry. The "dark ages" weren't really dark, the north of the Roman Empire had always been underdeveloped which is why after the fall it continued to be a number of backwater kingdoms while Venice remained as a center of scientific and cultural development.

Also I don't get why OP comes with all these amazing sometimes insane technologies but rules out any attempts at geoengineering which rely on technology which we already have (but we don't deploy because the costs are still too high and the political motivation too low to support it).

And his understanding of the roots of racism is egregious, he completely ignores the vast political and economical reasons for recent and still enduring racism in many parts of the world. For example the Rwandan genocide background lies on which tribe had the upper hand during the colonial age and was thus wealthier and more powerful. It had next to nothing to do with religion or patriarchy.

abecedarius 2 days ago 1 reply      
Seems inconsistent to bring up nanotech, etc., yet keep climate hell as a fixed background. Of course attempted fixes will run into issues, small or catastrophic, but they're bound to exist.
paulsutter 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why would we have massive climate change if we have nanotechnology (either wet or full on drexlerian)? The author seems to have completely missed the mark. The only interesting conclusion (massive climate change) is contradicted by his own assumptions.

This is a pessimistic, probabilistic, poorly thought-through vision of the future. The Elon Musks of the world will steer things in a different direction.

pourush 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'll write this before I read the article:

Assumptions: I think a lot of what we "know" is going to be wrong. It's just a thing which seems likely to me. Not in a "things fall up now" sort of way, though a little of that, since the laws of physics have been revised quite a bit, and I don't see that trend stopping. But more in a "We were pretty much crazy to think these things" way. You know about alchemy's position politically today, and how some of the church's actions were perceived? Some things which we consider important today are going to be treated like that.

History: We'll be better at this. Assuming historians haven't mysteriously vanished as a profession, I think we're going to know more about history in the future, and knowing more about the present in the future. As a collective, I mean, not every individual.

Screwing the world up: Will happen a lot less. We gained raw power in the last 500 years, we're going to learn wisdom now. Or die. That's a possibility, its been discussed. But I'm assuming we survive.

Culture: Will have finally recovered from British expansionism. There will be lots of strong local cultures again.

Government: Will be competent. And not vitriolic. I'm predicting a break from history again.

Population: Will be ignored. Won't be a problem.

Tech: People will get what they want here. Even if what they want is something they've never heard about. And if they don't want it, that will stop it. We got the atom bomb because we wanted to kill people. That will happen less. No flying cars, but maybe hover-boards. Lots of the stuff that we usually relegate to philosophy, or say that is impossible to know, and won't affect anything even if we know it will be known and become part of science. And we'll be better, way way way better, at biology and ecology.

Intelligent Aliens: Will be found, will be relevant to some people's careers, but won't be all that important. Not the main driver of events.

Planet: Will be better, much better. Things will turn around here. People will care about it. The majority doesn't really care about it now, except in a kind of abstract way as it relates to government. But they will care about it later.

Intelligent Aliens: Will be found within a hundred years, won't be important until at least 200 years in.

dave1010uk 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think it's quite likely that within a couple of hundred years there will have been multiple changes that are completely beyond our current compression, that we couldn't even begin to speculate on. Nevertheless, I'll add my speculation to this rather interesting discussion:

The ease and volume of communication is bound to increase. Perhaps we communicate through technological telepathy, with anyone we want to. We share thoughts and senses with groups of people and solve problems by adding more brain power. The Mythical Man Month is no longer mythical. Learning and "news" become instant. Communication is probably faster than the speed of light.

Physical objects are only slightly constrained to their form and location. They can be transformed and moved almost as easily as energy can. Having something only requires thought and currency.

depoll 2 days ago 1 reply      
"The half-life of a public corporation today is about 30 years: ten half-lives out " 300 years hence " we may expect only one in a million to survive."

Am I the only one who read this and went "Wait, 10 half-lives... that's 1/(2^10)... that would mean about 1 in 1,000 survive -- not 1 in 1,000,000."?

cyanbane 2 days ago 0 replies      
The author continues to compare now to 500 years ago, while I think a lot of his prognostications might right on target I think that these advances will come much quicker than 500 years. If we took the magnitude of advances for humanity from 1512-2012, and we applied those magnitudes today that it would happen in the next 100 years (5:1). I do like his non doom-and-gloom approach (disclaimer aside). I agree with some of the other comments that if you ask any human at anytime if the world is in its worst state in history, the answer will be yes and I think the author understands this isn't always the case. Great read.
edanm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Since I started reading Yudkowsky/LessWrong heavily, I tend to have 2 strong predictions about the future:

1. AI will be invented sometime, and this will be a radical game-changer. In that everything after it will be hard/impossible to predict today.

2. We will eventually conquer death. Hopefully soon.

The second belief I find to be very, very strange for most people I talk to about this - people really can't imagine it, and most don't want to imagine it.

By the way, the other major prediction I have about the future - we will all be vegeterians, and future generations will look at us as barbarians for eating animals. I'm not a vegeterian, but I believe that this is inevitable, as soon as we have the technology to make animal-like foods without killing animals, both in terms of health and taste.

hdivider 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think one of the only things we can be reasonably certain about is energy. Many or even most of the changes Charlie listed would require changing much of the technology deployed on our planet (except of course those changes that are more or less inevitable, like rising sea levels). Changing any of the hardware in our world on a large scale requires massive amounts of energy, and energy follows rules that don't change at all over a 500 year timescale.

Fusion seems to be inevitable. I can't say I agree with people who say it'll never be competitive with other energy sources. All that has to be done is to solve the engineering hurdles required to make fusion scalable, and perhaps to add the capability to use fusion reactions that make use of a greater variety of elements. (And yes, those are huge challenges, but we're talking 500 years of advanced engineering operating on something that already works in a simple prototype system.) Once that has been achieved, fusion power can outperform >any< other terrestrial energy source (except perhaps fission), as a matter of physics. I imagine the economics of that will fall into place once that massive supply of energy is made potentially accessible, since there will undoubtedly be demand for titanic amounts of cheap and reliable energy.

geori 2 days ago 0 replies      
I highly recommend reading through Charlie's Comments. They're just as good as the article and touch on everything from building construction to Scottish Independence to creating an atmosphere in the Vales Marineris rift valley on Mars.
gus_massa 1 day ago 0 replies      
> modified ribosomes that can assemble polypeptides using non-standard aminoacids (presumably coded for using four-base codons)

This prediction is a little too much. Theoretically it is possible to use a four-base codons, but I'm almost sure that it is extremely difficult to make all the changes in every part of the process. For example, to change the number of bases in a codon, you must change the number of bases in the reciprocal part of the tRNA. But the shape of the tRNA depends on the length, and it seems to be very difficult to change this without breaking the other functions.

It's much easier just to change the meaning of some codons (there are 64, and only 20 codified aminoacid + a termination mark), and even the mitochondrias and some estrange living organism have small changes in the genetic code.

robomartin 2 days ago 1 reply      
Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition
alanctgardner2 2 days ago 1 reply      
Not to be the PC crowd here, but the author is a little bit flippant about modern history. The Holocaust didn't just 'suck', nor did the Battle of the Somme. Furthermore, in his brusque dismissal of contemporary Middle Eastern culture as primitive, he misses out on the fact that Islamic extremism is a very modern issue ( < 40 years old ), and definitely does not define the region as a whole.

It's fine and well to speculate wildly about technological advances, but the future of the human race is ultimately about humans. If you're going to ignore the human aspect, do it completely. Don't trivialize millions of deaths in the race to talk about how cool nuclear fusion will be.

noiv 2 days ago 0 replies      
Reads like a fair extrapolation of the past 500 years. Although, assuming everybody adapted to climate change, the unknown unknowns are possibly underestimated. With 2000 gt more CO2 this is a completely different planet and there might be no technical solutions to the full spectrum of rising social tenses, when a billion people and their jobs are forced to move, because of rising sea level or too much or too less rain. To develop sophisticated solutions like synthetic biology you need places where weather is of no concern and only a few places will remain when temperatures rise by 4 and more centigrades.

So in short C. Stross painted a rosy future where technology - like in the past - solves everything. But he overlooked game changers like the permafrost bomb, a burning Amazon rain-forest and all upcoming social implications.

I'll give an example: In 2010 the jet streams stucked over South Russia and Pakistan and brought heat over Russian fields and devastating floods in Pakistan. As a result food prizes exploded, Russia stopped exports leading to food riots in the Arabian world and finally sparked revolutions.

Sure, there is no proof of one event based on the other. Anyway, there is no science available to estimate social consequences of climate change, but does that mean it will have none? Just think of the secured gas transports in NYC after Sandy. How many days longer with limited supply and it would gone worse? Now, answer one question: Which technology stops gas riots?

Eventually the author is not wrong with his vision of 2512, but what scares me are the next 50 years with an unleashed economy going frenzy over excluded environmental costs.

tjmc 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great article and discussion. I'll add 2 predictions.

Assuming we've mastered genetic engineering, adding the ability to live and breath underwater will be tempting. This would be the catalyst for significant speciation as an additional 70% of the earth's surface becomes habitable.

As a secondary consequence of this, Europa could become habitable. Vast amounts of water, radiation protection from its icy crust and warmth due to the extreme tidal stresses of Jupiter all combine to make it far more desirable than lifeless, atmosphere deficient rocks like Mars.

cwe 2 days ago 0 replies      
With all the talk of engineered intelligence and huge biotech advancements, I think there will be a massive space expansion, and I'm surprised to see it doubted.

First off, a human settlement on Mars, while technologically challenging, would need a relatively small initial population to get started sustainably (say, 2000 people). All of the advancements in food and energy production mentioned in the article could be used to provide for a colony there.

The OP talks about genetically engineered animals for food production, but they could also be engineered to better work and thrive in space-based industries; collecting raw materials, zero-gravity manufacturing, energy collecting, etc. Sophisticated, autonomous machines could do all that as well, so that actual humans have very little need to spend much time out in space, other than traveling between planets and settlements. Or perhaps all travel is virtual, using telepresence to see the solar system.

Machines built in space don't have the costs to get up there in the first place, other than the initial factories and material harvesting equipment.

Great thought-exercise, though. I love thinking about this stuff, and I think our generation has to start anticipating these changes. Some other commenters pointed out this all may happen far sooner than 500 years, so we just might need to be ready.

stretchwithme 2 days ago 0 replies      
I sort of think we'll figure out how to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Richard Branson has offered a $25 million prize for it.
The world uses 85 million barrels a day and its currently $85 a barrel. That's $7.2 billion dollars spent on oil per day. And $2.6 trillion a year.

$25 million is less than 1/100,000 of what we spend on oil per year. If every American chipped in 8 cents, we could double the incentive.

Sounds like a kickstarted project I could get behind.

guard-of-terra 2 days ago 2 replies      
Is solar shade so much hardrer to launch than retooling all the biology to live at 45C and still dealing with the world that sucks? Launching a large slightly opaque mirror to shade select aread of Earth does not seem impossible to me.

It seems he bet everything on climate being out of control.

curt 2 days ago 2 replies      
Highly doubt any of the countries that exist today will exist 500 years from now. Honestly I highly doubt most of them will exist 50 years from now. Most developed countries are headed for their day of reckoning as the bills for their welfare states come due. Combined with the fact that every developed country has a negative birthrate due to these policies delaying adulthood many countries will collapse from just demographic changes in the next 50 years.

How do people still believe in run away global warming? There's been absolutely ZERO warming for the lat 16 years, the Earth warmed for 15 years before that, then cooled for 40 years before that. Cloud formation, the major environment influencer of global climate, now seems to stem from cosmic rays.

I do believe space travel, specifically mining, will become much more prevalent. This will eliminate any resource problems. As for energy advances in solar technology and nuclear (fusion or fission) should drastically lower the cost of energy by an order of magnitude from today's prices.

6ren 2 days ago 0 replies      
Moore's Law: 2^(500/1.5) = 2e+100 (assuming no limits!)

Adam Smith: division of labour (specialisation) creates wealth. It is limited by the extent of the market. Therefore, economic forces favour larger populations.
If you have separate classes of people, forming separate markets, they are smaller and therefore less well served. Hence, the elite are materially far better off by participating in larger markets. Consider: can a million dollars buy you a better smart phone?

Of course, people want to feel superior. The above reasoning can also be applied here:

teebs 2 days ago 0 replies      
I enjoyed this article and I agree with most of the prediction on this timescale. I'm surprised, though, that he didn't mention one issue in particular: the continued development of human-computer interaction and its impact on the world's socioeconomic makeup.

Over the past 20-30 years, computers have completely changed the way people interact with the world. Most highly-educated people's lives center around their iPhones, laptops, iPads, etc. As time goes on, automation will likely continue to advance. As computers surpass humans in efficiency for more and more jobs, what role will the uneducated play? Clearly, wealth will continue to concentrate in the hands of fewer and fewer highly educated individuals. Will the rich exploit the poor, or will the need for consumers cause the wealthy to redistribute wealth just so that people have money to buy their goods? Will ordinary people end up like the passengers of the spaceship in WALL-E? Let's go a step further: if the so-called singularity occurs, what is the need for people in general?

pdubs 2 days ago 0 replies      
Since this is really just educated fiction, if you like this you'd probably enjoy most of the stuff written by Alastair Reynolds. Not "hard" scifi exactly, but maybe "firm".
cpeterso 2 days ago 0 replies      
When I read science fiction about people living hundreds of years from now, I wonder what science fiction they read. The characters in Star Trek, for instance, conveniently read Shakespeare and watch mid-20th century film and TV.
guscost 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hard to miss the alarmist undertone here. He seems much more confident about the effects of climate change (or is that global warming?) than the effects of politics and technology. Compare:

"Sea levels will have risen by at least one, and possibly more than ten metres worldwide."

"Fission: will be in widespread safe use or completely taboo."

lsc 2 days ago 0 replies      
comment 13:

"In the future your major political affiliation will not be the nation state or even the corporation. It will be your IT infrastructure provider IE Apple, Google, Microsoft or their 2512 counterparts."

would be an absolutely /awesome/ sci-fi novel.

Of course, for it to be realistic, consumer needs would have to grow dramatically faster than moore's law. As it is now, it's too easy to start a new consumer IT provider business, the infrastructure is too cheap. I spend rather more compute resources per customer, dramatically more than google, and I've got two thousand customers, me being some nobody kid.

If current trends continue (e.g. consumer demand for compute power trails moore's law by quite a lot) the per-customer cost of providing IT infrastructure will be so low that those providers will not be able to demand much by way of payment, otherwise some kid like me will show up and do it cheaper. If you notice... most of the online consumer infrastructure providers, right now, are not in a position to charge their customers anything at all.

melling 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't really see the point of speculating about 500 years out. Wouldn't it be a lot more useful to figure out how to increase the rate of innovation and discovery now?

For example, if innovation happened in flight and most people could fly at hypersonic speed within 10 years, the world becomes even smaller. Cure most cancers within 10 years instead of 50 and maybe the "next Steve Jobs" will get another 2-3 decades.

There are lots of big problems that would could solve decades sooner if we could find better ways to innovate now.

chacham15 2 days ago 0 replies      
This article reminds me of another article about what science fiction writers thought the year 2012 would be like (how we would have burned through all out fossil fuels, etc). Just goes to show how little we can actually predict the future,
rms 2 days ago 0 replies      
I predict global scale climate engineering rather than our current coasts under water.
teeja 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm going with Walter Miller's 'Leibowitz' future. The technology to do much else will be lost as a result of economic disasters and unending upwelling of ignorance. (Cf 2012 election) Global warming and searise and the resulting turmoil will hugely reduce the human population. No money, no interest in industry.

Lots of deserts, lots of monasteries (in cool caves and huge underground 'Topeka' labyrinths).
The 10,000-year clock will be found and melted down to make weapons. As always (especially today) the educated will be suspicious and forced into hiding. Resurgence of manual encipherment. Tourism to the mysterious ruins of the past a major industry. All slowly being buried by dirt falling from the sky. -30-

bejar37 2 days ago 0 replies      
Silk " Interactive generative art weavesilk.com
202 points by bawllz  3 days ago   69 comments top 41
jamesbritt 3 days ago 0 replies      
Some amazing generative art, done with Processing, here: http://complexification.net/gallery/

You can grab the source for these and play around with them, tweaking values to see how things work.

One of my favorites is Sand Traveler. The underlying algorithm is relatively simple, but the results are stunning.

These are presented as Java applets, but Processing 2.0 now lets you export code to JavaScript (processing.js).

It also exports to Android apk files, so you can build Android apps with Processing.

hcarvalhoalves 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very interesting. It's random, but not enough to keep you from controlling the brush to create natural images.

Trunk on fire:

Flower: http://new.weavesilk.com/?cz7z

jQueryIsAwesome 3 days ago 1 reply      
This app is consuming my soul: http://new.weavesilk.com/?czkk

And Ctrl+Z would be nice.

anigbrowl 3 days ago 1 reply      
Quite impressed with this; only thing 'wrong' with it is that the gray/black color should erase rather than add. Thanks for the source link Void_.

I do a fair bit of generative music stuff, so I'm impressed with that part as much as the pretty colors: http://new.weavesilk.com/?czw6

cwilson 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've literally had this on repeat for almost 3 hours now: http://new.weavesilk.com/?d06a

So cool.

ChuckMcM 3 days ago 5 replies      
Ok this was mine : http://new.weavesilk.com/?czgl

Would love to see a retina iPad version of this.

Void_ 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is implemented with canvas. Cleaned source: http://pastie.org/5391134
jff 3 days ago 2 replies      

Simply doodling, when out pops the angel of death. Lovely :)

Zolomon 3 days ago 1 reply      
I am sorry, but what am I missing - where is the interaction? I can't interact with the art I create. What is the difference between this and Photoshop (or any other image editor for example) except for it being browser based and playing some sounds in the background?

It is very well done, and what you can make with it is very impressive. Good work!

zoba 3 days ago 1 reply      
These make a good 'just because' mini gift :)

Here is a heart: http://new.weavesilk.com/?d38q

fumar 3 days ago 0 replies      
twodayslate 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is pretty old but still pretty fun. http://new.weavesilk.com/?cz33
ohashi 3 days ago 0 replies      
Everytime I play with Silk it feels wildly beautiful. I don't know what it is about it, but I love it.
pnewman2 3 days ago 0 replies      
My attempt at Ringo: http://new.weavesilk.com/?czix
geuis 2 days ago 2 replies      
Works great on the iPhone five. The ad is a bit annoying in that it covers the entire interface.
hendi_ 3 days ago 0 replies      
pwenzel 3 days ago 1 reply      
mkelley 1 day ago 0 replies      
pirateking 3 days ago 0 replies      

Very awesome. Needs undo!

casinaroyale 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ha, here is mine. Fire and ice. http://new.weavesilk.com/?d1q5
hankScorpi0 3 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting idea - I had implemented a similar symmetry concept in one of my ios apps (http://gravitypaint.com - if you want to check it out).

Why not extend it to also cover radial symmetry - should be easy to add and you can let the user set the angle etc...

SenorWilson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Look, I made a cat http://i.imgur.com/KK9fk.png
ofca 3 days ago 1 reply      
Super! I'd love the option to change the color of the background. Any way to do that?
likeclockwork 3 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty cool, reminds me of this:
Kiro 3 days ago 0 replies      
Works really good on the Android browser where things like this usually lag out (Galaxy S3). Smooth.
yonilevy 2 days ago 0 replies      
With the symmetry setting disabled, this is an interesting way of freestyle sketching (more so with a Wacom) http://new.weavesilk.com/?d4e6
fidz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Could someone list another apps that can make "beautiful" graphic like this app? (Or at least, something that could be done by non-artist, no photoshop / pattern / texture needed to generate the graphic).
gpmcadam 2 days ago 0 replies      
Probably obvious. A nuclear explosion: http://new.weavesilk.com/?dayj
alan-saul 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is superb, thanks for posting I must have missed it the previous times. What is the ambiant music playing in the background?
phate 2 days ago 0 replies      
pseut 2 days ago 0 replies      
-> "Note, Silk has sound, Mute?"

That was considerate and awesome. Thanks.

spyder 2 days ago 0 replies      
one more:

(needs 1920x1200 or above)

contravert 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can someone explain the technical details on how this program works?
wavesounds 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, just wow, amazing!
Dilan 3 days ago 0 replies      
It would be great if you could easily set the picture as your desktop background.
apha 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think I made a demonic, dual-wielding Samurai: http://new.weavesilk.com/?d119

Or it may just be a mess.

Techasura 3 days ago 0 replies      
i would keep this background music running during my work..
makes me refreshed.
earroway 3 days ago 0 replies      
nmb 3 days ago 0 replies      
hi yuri! :)
ghostblog 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is so dumb. Why is this art, because it's pretty? God listen to the music. So cheesy. It's the "Alienware" aesthetic. Nerd
Q: “How much does an app cost?” A: “About as much as a car.” darwinapps.com
196 points by vlokshin  1 day ago   88 comments top 12
swanson 1 day ago 7 replies      
Ha! A car? That's cheap!

Big companies can't risk going with a freelancer (who might go out of business or be booked when they need updates) so they put out an RFP to software firms.

A month or so of upfront design (wireframes, screen design, user stories). Another couple of weeks of iterations to get signed off by the branding/marketing group.

The development will need a team, four developers is about right (we need to get this app out fast in the ever-changing mobile landscape). We'll need a manager at half time and a team lead to handle client meetings. Throw in a dedicated test engineer (so many phones to test on these days...) and a month for formal test plans and execution (did we mention this app might be audited? test plan is 500 pages).

Make sure it is localized as well - we are a global company with global customers, all of whom we value. We also don't want to be sued, so we'll need a EULA screen that the user must accept. And a help page. And a way to register on our site.

Oh yeah, the way our budgets work, we've only got one shot at getting money for this app - can't do a minimal release and update it after it's in the store.

Conversative costs for an app in the OP's "BMW Tier":

  One month upfront design at $100/hr (1 designer, 1 dev): ~$30k
Three months of development at $100/hr (4 dev, 1 test): ~$250k
Three months for PM at $150/hr (0.5 PM): ~$40k
One month formal resting at $100/hr (1 test): ~$15k
Monthly maintenance/update 20hr/month (1 dev): ~$25k
Total: Over $350,000 for the version 1.0 of your mobile app (on a single platform)

Apps ain't cheap.

AngryParsley 1 day ago 3 replies      
/me checks http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=vlokshin

> about: I love web apps and my team is amazing. http://www.darwinapps.com

/me checks http://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=vlokshin

All submissions but one are darwinapps.com. The exception is vladlokshin.com.

Nice marketing.

I'm not against self-promotion, but it makes me wary when someone uses their account solely for that purpose. I'd prefer that people contribute to the community instead of just submitting links they stand to gain from.

hrabago 1 day ago 3 replies      
I was once contacted by a company who wanted to purchase my code to use for their app for their company. It wasn't a flashy app, but had a few time-consuming, and at the time, unique features. I gave my starting point - $10k. I expected them to come back to negotiate, but I think they were taken aback at the price I quoted and decided to go another way. I suspected they instead outsourced it or developed it in house. Several months after that (likely over a year) I checked the App Store for their company name, and they still did not have an app. Whenever I remember that episode, I wonder if they ever realized that the deal I offered them was actually reasonable.
netcan 1 day ago 0 replies      
This blog goes back to the complicated issue of people who don't understand software needing to buy software. The part that this analogy misses is that a $400k app is not necessarily going to be better than the $4k one, or even very different.

The interplay between costs, quality, tradeoffs, choices, project management, etc is way too complicated for someone without some experience in the process to "get."

"Websites" were the first piece of bespoke "software" that every company needed. The "how much does a website cost" was a question that "websites-for-companies" people still don't really know how to answer. Clients are still bewildered by quotes orders of magnitude appart.

I wonder if the intelligence level here is growing though. An experienced business owner (say, a 15 year veteran) by this stage will probably have paid for (or at least been involved in) a handful of such projects.

gabemart 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm not a developer. I've been considering paying someone to develop an iOS app for an upcoming project I've been working on which is based around subscription to a magazine-like service. The application would need to:

* Be built around the Newsstand APIs to display text content

* Allow in-app subscription with a free trial

* Display text content with appealing and highly readable typography

That's pretty much it. Is the $1-$5k range reasonable for an app like this? From my perspective, it would be about as simple as an application could be (displaying simple pushed text content) but I realize that as a non-developer I'm not really qualified to make that call.

ISL 22 hours ago 0 replies      
"I want something that works on anything" -- '97 Subaru Outback Wagon. Hauls the kids, handles rough roads well, gets through snow, reasonably easy to work on, easy parts availability, predictable maintenance schedule. ~$3-6000 used on Craigslist.
prezjordan 1 day ago 8 replies      
Question for HN (loaded one): What do you consider to be the most "expensive" app (in history) in terms of development cost?

EDIT: Clarification - mobile app, as stated in the article.

freyrs3 1 day ago 2 replies      
Replace the word "app" with "custom software" and you'll see how ludicrous this article sounds.
eggmonster 1 day ago 3 replies      
I've been 'struggling' with this lately. I have app dev experience but not really anything to show in public so I have been offering to do apps at $2k-ish as a portfolio building exercise. Maybe I anchored it too low or this is just how it is, but I received a fair few messages asking if I'd go sub $1000 or work on a pay-if-we-like-it/if we make money basis.
aes256 1 day ago 0 replies      
It'll cost you a whole lot more if BMW were to sue you for stealing their start button design for an app icon...
dirkdk 1 day ago 0 replies      
yeah, or as much as a building. Ranging from the dog house to the new Freedom tower
Dove 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Day-UM! I am not charging enough for Android work.
Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People udayton.edu
193 points by dmmalam  15 hours ago   50 comments top 15
jws 12 hours ago 4 replies      
Issuu wins for most annoying way to break my web experience. I have a perfectly serviceable PDF renderer, but instead I have to let Flash have a shot at my security to get a slowly loading page that has navigation obscuring the content and ignores my scrolling input, requiring me to use their invented elements and watch their slow, jerky, scroll animation. Going to the next page requires closing a tab, searching for which page I was on last in a grid of similar thumbnails, clicking the next one, clicking again to really go to the page, and one more click to approve Flash (ok, that one is self inflicted).

That was a lot of effort on their part to make an interface annoying enough for me to ignore this work.

jtheory 13 hours ago 5 replies      
Teaching music theory is damned hard.

You very quickly find yourself making statements like this (taken from the second PDF in this series):
"A tuplet is any non-standard division of a note. These are usually written as a group of notes delineated with a bracket and a number showing the division being made." It's correct in grammar and sense, and about as exciting as a lawn-mower repair manual.

This is probably the best series of music theory cheatsheets I've ever seen, though... just about any other music theory resource you can find, online or off, gets bogged down immediately in sleep-inducing language. I had to poke around a bit to find the example above.

The real problem is the "building blocks" approach to music theory pedagogy; that is, making students learn all of the basic concepts before they can do anything remotely interesting or useful.

It's really, really logical. It's also a sort of mental torture, in the realm of music theory, because a lot of the building blocks are arbitrarily weird for historical reasons, and it takes too much meaningless memorization before you can do something as trivial as sight-reading a piece of music you could already pick out by ear 10x faster. What about doing basic analysis of a piece of music? So, so many building blocks required first....

I think it's possible to make learning theory enjoyable, but it'd be damned hard (and not possible in a static form).

That said, if you have the external motivation already to make the slog through the basics, these are solid references to help get the details straight in your head.

Cogito 11 hours ago 0 replies      
This looks like a great resource, that is severely suffering from lack of accessibility (as pointed out by many others here). I emailed the author, hopefully they will be able to improve the usability. Following is the guts of message I sent, for reference. The documents look over a year old in most cases, so I doubt we will see much, but you never know!


First of all, thanks! These are some excellent notes. That said, it is extremely irritating trying to read them. If you could provide the ability to do one or all of the following it would be most excellent:

1. Download of the entire pdf as one document

2. View the documents as a web page/series of web pages

3. Open-source the documentation so others can contribute/provide fixes

commontone 42 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'm the author of the pages, and wow... I was wondering where all the sudden traffic was coming from. Thanks, dmmalam, for getting my stuff on the front page, and for those who emailed and let me know about it.

First, sorry about the Issuu thing. These pages are actually several years old, and at the time Issuu was actually the easiest way I knew to make them available without burning out my personal hosting bandwidth. I created the index page later on, but used the Issuu links since they were there. (You have to understand, there has never been more than a trickle of a demand for them outside of my own students.)

The other reason I was a little hesitant to bundle them all together is because I'm still working on them, and I didn't want to "publish" something that had the air of being complete.

But the internet has spoken... I've added a link at the top of the page which takes you to a single PDF. (Thanks to jamie_ca and pyroMax for doing this before I stumbled into the party.) Oh, and I fixed the <title> tag, too.

Also, thanks very much for the other feedback that has been sent my way; I do genuinely appreciate it. While I'd like to retain sole authorship (at least for now) rather than make them open-source, I most definitely welcome comments on how they can be improved.

mertd 12 hours ago 2 replies      
This is truly a great effort. At the same time I am frustrated by the choice of the medium. We are well past the age of disseminating information through print. I would love to "hear" the concepts described. Why not make an interactive web page? Maybe sprinkle some audio samples here and there? It seems convoluted to not use sense of hearing to describe music.
akandiah 2 hours ago 0 replies      
It's good, but I dislike the way that it's presented. If you want something that's presented a little better, you may want to try: http://www.musictheory.net/lessons
wallflower 10 hours ago 1 reply      
OT: I am not a musician, still kick myself for giving up piano lessons after only a couple years. I believe that anyone who writes software can learn from how musicians practice and get better and don't or do get in a creative/skills/motivation/passion/Groundhog-Day rut...

One of the most interesting books I have in my library is "Effortless Mastery". Recommended by a musician and artist.


R_Edward 9 hours ago 1 reply      
OK, I can understand never including a leap of an augmented fourth in a single voice. That's just cruel to your singers. But an augmented second? As in a minor third? As in the first two notes of Greensleeves? or Misty? Whyever not?
pav3l 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Thanks for posting this, I have had some very vague ideas about some cool music-related side projects that I could work on, but never knew how to go about learning the theory (enough to at least formulate some well-defined projects). This looks like a good start. Hoping the discussion here will pick up to see more suggestions for math/cs oriented crowd.
cllns 14 hours ago 1 reply      
FYI, the name seems to be playing off 'music for geeks and nerds': http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4295714


RossDM 13 hours ago 1 reply      
This is pretty sweet. I wish there was a better way of browsing through all the cheat sheets in some kind of full-screen view.
ronyeh 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Thanks, this is a nice summary of music theory. I wish the font were more readable... though I like how it conveys a casual feel.
weewooweewoo 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Anyone who spent time to download every single page want to upload the set?
justinator 13 hours ago 0 replies      
This looks great; I hope the other puts a title on the HTML page!
scurvyscott 14 hours ago 0 replies      
This is awesome, nice work, thanks for sharing.
Republicans Repudiate 40 Years of Tougher Copyright Laws volokh.com
182 points by gwright  3 days ago   92 comments top 11
simonsarris 3 days ago 7 replies      
I'm not sure its fair to say "Republicans", as if there's some consensus outside of the paper, regardless of the amount of Republicans in the Republican Study Committee. I doubt most of them know the paper exists, never-mind what conclusion it might draw. There's also no saying what percent of republicans and percent of democrats might agree with the paper. For all we know 70% of democrats and 40% of republicans might agree with the conclusion (pulled out of a hat, I might expect the % agree to be roughly the same for both parties).

It's unfortunate, and I'm having a hard time finding a way to put it nicely, but other issues seem to take up most of that party's time. If the Republican party pivoted to being a fiscally conservative and socially apathetic party then they might actually do very well.

If they spent their news cycles advocating research on the myriad topics in american law that border on cultish in acceptance, such as copyright and, sure, poverty reduction programs that may or may not be worth their salt, they might do great. We could use a party of respectable scrutinizers that stand skeptical of any longstanding policy that might be costing citizens (or civilization) too much.

But they don't do that. Instead they spend their news cycles (conservative news stations and radio) on all this cultish crap of their own. Obscene amounts of doom-saying over every thing they might dimly disagree with. XYZ is going to "take away" guns, and kill jobs, and "ruin" (ruin!) the economy, and force an end to all prayer, and other ridiculous characterizations. Taxmageddon is the newest one. Taxmageddon. Returning to 90's tax rates is the End of Days.

Lofty policy other than tax cuts, if they are thinking about other policies at all, are certainly rarely talked about, at least on the national stage.

It's an interesting paper we've got on our hands here, but we have no reason to believe that the majority of republicans know it exist, never mind that they are ready to be serious and sincere about examining party priorities that might stop the entire rest of their platform from being a blocking issue towards voting for them.

ajross 3 days ago 2 replies      
The headline is oversold. The meat is this: "The conservative-led Republican Study Committee just put out a Policy Brief that questions forty years of bipartisan support for tougher copyright enforcement".

Now that's good news, and I think the analysis in the post is spot-on. This is the kind of thinking we'd hope to see out of a "new, more moderate" reinvented republican party. But one policy brief does not a policy make, and this one doesn't even (apparently) advocate for any explicit policy.

They're dipping a toe in the water. At least they're thinking about swimming, but we've got a long way to go before this turns into something worth voting over IMHO.

ewillbefull 3 days ago 1 reply      
"Throwing Hollywood under the bus could pay dividends for GOP"


Republicans have suggested pivoting their platform in a free-internet direction.

lubujackson 3 days ago 1 reply      
Huh. That would certainly make me think more favorably of Republicans, and it fits with the older, more moderate Republican concept of "less government involvement". There's a ways to go on some other topics, though.

It might seem to be an anti-business angle, but the music business is shrinking rapidly and it's kind of like kicking a ball while it still has a bit of air in it.

tptacek 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is a _Republican Study Group paper_ that argues for the reform of a critically important regulatory system because --- and they lead with this --- it "Retard[s] the creation of a robust DJ/Remix industry".

I mean I'm not arguing, it's just hard to take that seriously as a Republican policy position. How big is the "DJ/Remix industry"? How big could it ever be? We have empirical evidence, because (according to this paper) other countries have robust DJ/Remix industries.

The reforms at the end of this paper all seem totally sensible. It'd be great if this stuff happened. But be honest: even if we adopted every single reform in the paper, most infringers today would remain infringers, their liability would still be denominated in the tens of thousands of dollars, and it would remain just as illegal as it is today to run businesses predicated on copyright evasion.

001sky 3 days ago 1 reply      
Hollywood votes democrat. RIAA is run by a democrat. MSM media is democrat 9/10. Comcast's CEO vacations with OBAMA. etc.

-- Old saying: 'My enemy's enemy is my friend.'

_delirium 2 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like they've already disavowed this memo: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4799352
stretchwithme 3 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe they finally noticed who creative folks vote for.
Khurrum 3 days ago 0 replies      
I like it. Seriously, 12 years is a long time to be milking stuff.
mturmon 3 days ago 0 replies      
"It pleases conservative bloggers, appeals to young swing voters, stokes the culture wars and drives a wedge between two Democratic constituencies, Hollywood and Silicon Valley."

Glad to know they are in this one for

iterative 3 days ago 2 replies      
Um, except for two idiot Senate candidates who went down in flames, it was the Democrats who were pushing so-called "social" issues this election cycle with radical positions like forcing everyone to buy health insurance that includes contraceptives, whether they wanted to or not.

Saying the employer or the insurer is one paying for the contraceptives is economic nonsense -- the cost ultimately comes out of the employees' pockets. Should, say, a woman who's gone through menopause or a gay man really have to pay higher health insurance premiums to subsidize someone else's birth control? Given that birth control pills are legal and cheap (~$10 a month at Walgreens) this was really just about trying to create a wedge issue by scaring people with a phony controversy.

And after being in office for four years, Obama waited until about five minutes before the election, when the polls showed support was turning in its favor, to announce his very tepid support for gay marriage. Not exactly, a shining example of leading on principle.

Configuring Sublime Text 2 mutuallyhuman.com
174 points by manlycode  3 days ago   90 comments top 27
eta_carinae 3 days ago 1 reply      
Something the article misses: Sublime Text 2 already comes with a command line front end called "subl". Just copy it in your favorite bin/ directory and you can open your files with it from any shell.
molecule 3 days ago 6 replies      
My first piece of advice is to set up a command line alias for Sublime...

Sublime ships w/ a command-line executable:


jemeshsu 3 days ago 3 replies      
Always wondering why the version '2' is emphasised heavily. Never heard of Sublime Text when it is version 1. The version number is part of the app binary file name. It is the only OS X app in my Mac that has the app name together with version number on the menu bar. Nothing wrong with this "unconventional", just that it will break a little thing when Sublime Text 3 is released. For example to change command prompt linking as in "ln -s /Applications/Sublime\ Text\ 2.app/Contents/SharedSupport/bin/subl /usr/local/bin/sublime".
shade 3 days ago 1 reply      
Another useful tip for navigation - when using the fuzzy search, you can start typing a filename to jump to that file, then with that still in the search box, hit # and start typing a keyword to jump to in that file.

So if you wanted to find something with the class btn_order in index.aspx, in Windows you'd hit CTRL-P and type "index#btn", hit enter, and there you are. You can of course scroll up/down through the available files matching the filter before you hit # -- the keyword search applies to the currently selected file.

ivanbernat 3 days ago 1 reply      
Sublime team by default need to advertise Packages and just how much you can customize the thing. You'd be amazed just how powerful this thing can be - once you get the hang of it, the shortcuts and some basic packages.

My favorite ones are Zen Coding (now deprecared in favor of Emmet) and SublimeERB when working with ERB - the front-end dev in me cries of joy when using them :-)

alexpopescu 3 days ago 0 replies      
> FileDiffs - This can be a really useful tool for diffing files. [...]

This is something I've been looking for. I had to use an external diff tool or vimdiff, but this might change things quite a bit.

The other thing that would be a great addition to ST2 (if not existing already) would be a search by symbol in all project files. Currently Cmd+R is great for navigating to a symbol in the current file. Extending this to a whole project would be awesome.

grimgrin 3 days ago 1 reply      
Here are two other sources that I found pretty useful when switching to Sublime.


I'm not a huge fan of video sources when I could just look at images/read text and get it done faster, but these do offer some pretty good stuff. I was fond of him giving me the idea to use the Gist plugin, creating a new account, and have a great way to manage snippets.


scq 3 days ago 0 replies      
I set Ctrl-Tab and Ctrl-Shift-Tab to behave like they do in web browsers and notepad++:

{ "keys": ["ctrl+tab"], "command": "next_view" },
{ "keys": ["ctrl+shift+tab"], "command": "prev_view"}

manojlds 3 days ago 3 replies      
What I need to know is how are people versioning the settings? For Vim, a simple .vimrc is all I need to take care of. What do people do for Sublime?
SquareWheel 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've been tweaking my Sublime for 5 months or so, and this is how my config file looks so far.

    "color_scheme": "Packages/Color Scheme - Default/Monokai.tmTheme",
"detect_indentation": false,
"detect_slow_plugins": false,
"font_size": 10,
"highlight_line": true,
"highlight_modified_tabs": true,
"margin": 0,
"move_to_limit_on_up_down": true,
"remember_open_files": false,
"shift_tab_unindent": true,
"tab_completion": false,
"tab_size": 4,
"translate_tabs_to_spaces": false,
"word_wrap": false

I'd suggest going through the default settings file to see what options there are to change. It's pretty darn configurable.

I'd also like to suggest the plugins Bracket Highlighter and Emmet (previously Zen Coding). I also use Package Manager, Sublime Linter, and FileDiffs as mentioned in the article.

hayksaakian 3 days ago 0 replies      
Tip I figured out accidentally: command + 1 through x changes to the 1 through xth tab in the current window.
modeless 3 days ago 0 replies      
The biggest win I've had from configuring Sublime Text is in setting up build systems. Specifically, configuring F4/shift-F4 (skip to next/previous error). The build system integration is rudimentary (and I hope that's a focus for Sublime Text 3) but "skip to next error" is all you really need to be productive.
af3 3 days ago 2 replies      
> "trim_trailing_white_space_on_save": true, # trims trailing whitespace

bad for Markdown, as it will delete spaces that are needed for newline, I believe.

gavanwoolery 2 days ago 0 replies      
For those who sometimes prefer straight GUI, you can just drag the folder into Sublime Text (or Textmate) and it will open it in the sidebar (probably obvious to some, but I did not know to do it until I saw somebody else do it).

Also, another thing I have grown really attached to:

Command-Option [1,2,3,4] to open up multiple views within one window, good for viewing several files at once.

nicholassmith 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you're using Sublime I'd highly recommend writing some Snippets, there's plenty you can write and it gets you digging into Sublime's docs. Helped me get used to Sublime a lot more.
javan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's my Github-themed, less-ugly-than-the-default setup: https://gist.github.com/3164018
kellishaver 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's my (rather opinionated) setup. I'm quite visually impaired, so getting my editor just right so I can code comfortably is important. Most of my changes have to do with making things easier to see.


batgaijin 3 days ago 3 replies      
Does sublime text 2 work well with CL or Haskell?
tylermauthe 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is the real lesson of this article:
"As a craftsmen it is important to understand and use our tools properly. Just as a painter needs to use the best paint and brushes - and understand how to use them - a developer should understand and use the best software tools available. For me, Sublime Text is the highest-quality brush available."

Great stuff, thanks!

HyprMusic 3 days ago 0 replies      
Kind of awesome seeing him mention one of my plug-ins I created to scratch a simple itch (Auto Semi-colon). Definitely motivated me to work on the slight improvements I wanted to implement.
feniv 3 days ago 1 reply      
As a python programmer, these were the first two settings I configured after installing Sublime Text.

    "tab_size": 2,
"translate_tabs_to_spaces": true

You can either set them as Preferences > Settings - Default or Settings - Syntax specific

wldlyinaccurate 3 days ago 0 replies      
This post reminded me that 90% of the developers I work with don't set their editor up properly. I'm constantly finding Windows line endings and trailing whitespace. I wrote this (really short) guide that I send to new developers, but imo editors should come configured like this out of the box. http://wildlyinaccurate.com/setting-up-your-editor
darkstalker 3 days ago 3 replies      
The hardest part of configuring Sublime Text is the color scheme. It's written in some apple XML format that's hard to edit by hand.
yen223 3 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome stuff. I would dare say the command palette alone makes ST2 better than Vim.
togasystems 3 days ago 4 replies      
Can someone explain the difference between command-p and command-t?
goldfeld 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why isn't there a plugin to Find in Files in the same way Ctrl-P works? Open the best match in buffer as results stream in.
s1 2 days ago 1 reply      
How to make the same settings for root and my user?
Mumbai girl arrested for Facebook post mumbaimirror.com
172 points by ashray  1 day ago   114 comments top 18
jasim 1 day ago 3 replies      
Bal Thackeray or communal politics is not the issue here. It is the freedom of expression of individuals. The Chairman of Press Club of India had an article on The Hindu (a national daily) which painted Thackeray in a bad light (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/why-i-cant-pay-tribute...) - but the state won't act as recklessly against him as they have against these two.

Recent events in the country that sets the alarm bells ringing:

- Kapil Sibal (minister of communication) doesn't understand the internet. He wants active censorship of online media - http://www.labnol.org/india/censorship-in-india/20527/.

- An individual was arrested from his home at 5am due to a tweet he made alleging the son of an Indian minister was corrupt. He had 16 followers. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/iac-volunteer-tweets-h...

And now this - both the individual who made the post on FB and her friend who 'like'd it has been arrested. This abuse of power in a country with a lot more urgent problems to solve.

This very much seems to be a generation gap between people in positions of power (politicians, bureaucrats, police) who are not used to the internet and the way it gives voice to everyone.

I can only hope that as internet becomes ubiquitous across the country, people will realize the value of free speech and the need for an uncensored internet.

realrocker 1 day ago 0 replies      
I shared this story on my fb account and got a veiled threat in 30 minutes. This is what I posted: "21 old year girl arrested for opposing Mumbai bandh on her Facebook status! 2000 Shiv Sainiks vandalize her Uncle's clinic. Another girl was arrested for liking the status! This is horrible. I blame all the people on facebook and in real world who patronize such violent and undemocratic forces. So much for free speech! The youth of this country are pushed down from all directions every day. Are we supposed to just sit and take it? Today it was Shiv Sena who did this, a fringe party. A few days ago it was Congress cabinet minister's son. What happens if every Political Party starts doing this? How long are we going to sleep? I never say this : Share !!". Note that this person was a well educated guy from my convent school. The extremism in my country is appalling.
denzil_correa 1 day ago 1 reply      
The chairman of Press Council of India and has written to the Chief Minister of the state of Mumbai (Maharashtra) to intervene and sort out this issue citing "freedom of speech" Article 19 (1)(a) of the Indian constitution [0].

[0] http://ibnlive.in.com/news/katju-writes-to-maha-cm-on-arrest...

denzil_correa 1 day ago 0 replies      
News emerging that the girls have been granted bail, an enquiry has been initiated. The local cops may also be in trouble for their action [0]. Good going!

[0] https://twitter.com/sreenivasanjain

   SreenivasanJain: Both girls initially sent to judicial custody, then granted bail.

SreenivasanJain: Maharashtra police HQ has ordered enquiry into girls' arrest. Says will look into merits of charges.

SreenivasanJain: IG Konkan will head inquiry. Prima facie police HQ says no basis for arresting the girls. Say local cops jumped the gun.

capred 1 day ago 3 replies      
Although this girl might be arrested today, this general trend (growing accessibility to information) will show more and more people that there is a world beyond their immediate experience and what they are being told by people like Bal is false. Bal Thackeray was a bigot. He sought and exploited communal tensions and it's a shame that one can't openly criticize such a reprehensible person. Furthermore, his party Shiv Sena "operates as a network of street gangs" and is holds ideology which isn't far from the Tea Party in America.
guard-of-terra 1 day ago 9 replies      
I hope that people who still think religions "make people better than they would otherwise be" are happy now.
nleach 1 day ago 0 replies      
A co-worker in Mumbai also made some controversial statements on Facebook. He's absolutely fine, but just about every one of his friends scolded him for being so brazen. I was out of the city for the weekend, but by all accounts it was a terrible place to be.

This news is not terribly surprising, though as many have said, likely not true. It is extremely indicative of the immense gap between India and more developed nations.

guard-of-terra 1 day ago 1 reply      
I hope this "Bal Thackeray" is happy now too: he caused two girls to be arrested. I hope he is happy too wherever he is now. What nice way to go out with the bang!
jetru 1 day ago 1 reply      
Am I the only one who finds it ironic that it was the girl who got booked under "Section 295 (a) of the IPC (for hurting religious sentiments)" - hate speech laws?
manamol296 1 day ago 2 replies      
No girl's arrested. They just made up the story to stop negative online trend related to Bal Thackeray. His death made a lot of people to start a worthless debate on facebook and twitter.
thewarrior 1 day ago 0 replies      
This just in : The girl has indeed been arrested . Saw this on NDTV journalist Sreenivasan Jains twitter feed.
petercooper 1 day ago 2 replies      
Police on Sunday arrested a 21-year-old girl

A 21 year old girl..

Praveens 1 day ago 0 replies      
Its sad that the freedom of speech for a individual has been erased by misuing the laws which were actually meant to provide justice. The arrest and the eventual ransacking of the victim's uncles clinic by the supporters of Balasahab Thackeray, may have very less to justify the act.

I wonder if they would even reflect upon the fact that would the supremo himself support such expressions and outbursts by his partymen and followers. No wonder the signs of the party cracking up are showing and i hope this case becomes a eye opener given that internet has got a wide reach and educates the young to chose the law makers more sensibly.

anuraj 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is India, a country where rights exist only on paper. Rights materialize only where people have knowledge and power to defend them. Unfortunately India is a long way from there.
muon 1 day ago 0 replies      
There is high possibility of this being true, but still news is only as good as its source.
twapi 1 day ago 0 replies      
Fast JVM launching without the hassle of persistent JVMs github.com
170 points by riffraff  3 days ago   42 comments top 15
6ren 3 days ago 1 reply      
So obvious, trade-off space for time, yet I wouldn't have thought of it... I mean, I've thought about this problem, written a persistent JVM solution, and didn't think of it. Memory is cheaper than my intuition realises.

I wonder how many other "obvious" solutions I'm missing like this?

EDIT for the code I tried, user time is almost 3 times faster, but real time is only around 10% better... I don't understand linux well enough to know why - anyone care to explain please? EDIT Yes, drip had already run. (I picked typical times from about 10 runs each).

   $ time java...
real 0m1.466s
user 0m1.216s
sys 0m0.180s

$ time drip...
real 0m1.378s
user 0m0.412s
sys 0m0.260s

BTW: For server-like workloads, an advantage of a persistent JVM is that it gets dramatically faster over repeated runs of the same code, as it improves its hotspot-style adaptive optimisations.

I really like his quickstart "standalone" installation.

WARNING "drip kill" crashed my system. The kill functions are kill_jvms and kill_jvm (https://github.com/flatland/drip/blob/develop/bin/drip). I'm using an older ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

yason 3 days ago 2 replies      
Hasn't anyone ported zygote over to desktop Linux/Windows? You just keep the preconfigured jvm process running and fork it indefinitely for each new process. You'd still suffer some overhead depending on each application but that's just expected anyway. The jvm startup overhead isn't.
zmmmmm 2 days ago 1 reply      
> It keeps a fresh JVM spun up in reserve with the correct classpath and other JVM options so you can quickly connect and use it when needed

So I assume it doesn't help if you are launching JVMs very rapidly (like, scripting stuff in a tight loop). Slow JVM launching has pretty much killed languages such as Groovy for scripting for me, because once I start using them in loops things get horribly slow.

sandGorgon 3 days ago 3 replies      
time ./drip -jar /home/user/research/jruby-complete-1.6.0.RC3.jar --1.9 -e 'a=1;puts a'
./drip -jar /home/user/research/jruby-complete-1.6.0.RC3.jar --1.9 -e 0.03s user 0.03s system 4% cpu 1.282 total

time java -jar /home/user/research/jruby-complete-1.6.0.RC3.jar --1.9 -e 'a=1;puts a'
java -jar /home/user/research/jruby-complete-1.6.0.RC3.jar --1.9 -e 3.65s user 0.12s system 183% cpu 2.056 total

Interesting!! if it runs rails effectively, this could be awesome for jruby.

honr 2 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting idea (especially, hashing based on command line options, and probably also the libraries in the classpath); I should add this to Clove (http://hovel.ca/clove : a small persistent-jvm that I wrote for *nix, with VERY fast connection time, e.g. suitable for scripts; sorry for shameless plug).
mitchi 2 days ago 0 replies      
I read his explanation but I don't have a great understanding of why a JVM would need to clean up like this. Doesn't it have a Garbage collector just for that? Why does it get slower over time? The only thing I know that gets slower over time without you doing anything special is my dad's mac os x word-only macbook pro.
dcolgan 3 days ago 1 reply      
This seems like a really clever solution. I remember trying to set up nailgun a while ago back when I was experimenting with Clojure because the startup time for running a program was so long, but I could never quite get it to work. I missed being able to run python myprog.py and getting instant feedback.
pbiggar 2 days ago 2 replies      
Does anyone know how to use with with lein?
azth 2 days ago 0 replies      
> The main problem is that the state of the persistent JVM gets dirty over time, producing strange errors...

Does anyone know what kind of errors the author is referring to? Does any long running JVM instance run into these issues?

olaf 2 days ago 1 reply      
My experiences with drip were very mixed (on Ubuntu 10.04), it did not make a stable, reliable impression on me. I wouldn't recommend it for professional use.
isbadawi 2 days ago 0 replies      
georgeorwell 2 days ago 0 replies      
As a further optimization, why not memcpy an uncorrupted JVM to some backup place in memory and then when you want to 'reboot' just memcpy the image back again?
wiradikusuma 3 days ago 0 replies      
Sweet! I immediately updated runner script for Scala and Groovy to use it!

EDIT: Hmm, I encountered this: "Could not connect to compilation daemon after 300 attempts." but re-running it ("scala") works.

pjmlp 3 days ago 1 reply      
What about just using AOT compilation?
z3phyr 3 days ago 0 replies      
Happier Clojure hacking days ahead :)
When the Nerds Go Marching In theatlantic.com
170 points by boh  3 days ago   64 comments top 15
kleiba 3 days ago 4 replies      
I'm sure it's just me.

But the more news articles read that write about "nerds" the more I can't help but feel increasingly offended. There's often times an undertone of ridicule in the writing that I cannot overhear any more. Please tell me I'm overreacting and should just relax a little more, because I sometimes feel that mainstream newspaper articles are borderline bullying. To a point where I've actually started thinking about forming a lobbying group to fight for more respect in the portrayal of technically inclined people like us.

Just a thought experiment: next time you come across an article that talks about "nerds" try replacing every instance of that word with "gays". Not that the result would make much sense but I think the gay community, despite their ongoing struggle, has at least managed to make it almost impossible to receive a similar kind of media report that consists of nothing but stereotypes.

If you do the above experiment, I'm sure you'll the offensive subtext in some articles, the self-content righteousness in making fun of those people who created everything modern society cannot be without: facebook, twitter, the internet, apps, you name it.

Maybe it's because technical people seem harmless that they think they can get away with their bullying. But I think it's about time to stand up against it and make our voices heard.

P.S.: I'm not saying that this particular article is worse than the rest. As a matter of fact, it's quite okay, compared to some others I've read. So maybe this comment is misplaced in this thread in which case I apologize.

activepeanut 3 days ago 2 replies      

  The team had elite and, for tech, senior talent from
Twitter, Google, Facebook, Craigslist, Quora, and some
of Chicago's own software companies such as Orbitz and

21st century SWAT team.

mattdeboard 3 days ago 1 reply      
Look at those beards! Obama was destined to win, flown to victory on the billowing gray beards of ... something. Justice? The internet?
confluence 3 days ago 0 replies      
> Jim Messina signed off on hiring Reed, he told him, "Welcome to the team. Don't fuck it up."

Jim Messina is a complete boss and I highly recommend that fellow hners read into him to get a good understanding about how things operate in DC. My favourite Jim line is the one he uses when he meets new political people. As he shakes their hands, the first thing out of his mouth is:

> How are you fucking me?

Silicon valley entrepreneurs should take note.

vampirechicken 3 days ago 7 replies      
So am I the only person seeing a Democrats (Big Goverment services) way of doing things vs a Republicans (multiple layers of crony capitalists contractors) in the comparison of the efficacy of Narwhal Vs Orca?

I can't be the only one?

dbecker 3 days ago 1 reply      
Did anyone else get bored of the author picking out details to show that these guys met the nerd stereotype?
bo1024 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hopefully this team can use their brownie points with the Obama administration to encourage some more tech-friendly policies (immigration, patents, etc).

Also, we should be clear, that Orca was not going to change the outcome or make even a dent.

scott_meade 1 day ago 0 replies      
"He'd told me earlier in the day that he'd never experienced stress until the Obama campaign, and I believe him."

So many people get stressed out about the dumbest things that don't matter. Especially in IT, people like to tell war stories about their stressful job and all the hours they put in and how they don't sleep because there is too many fires to put out. Yuk. Harper Reed has it right. Do what you enjoy, have fun. Go nerds!

espeed 3 days ago 0 replies      
Was monitoring election fraud part of this project?

In 2004, Bush had ties to Diebold's CEO Walden W. O'Dell, and there was evidence of voting fraud in Ohio -- the exit polls weren't matching the results (http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/2004votefraud_ohio...). Later it was confirmed that Diebold voting machines could be hacked remotely (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3045086). A programmer even admitted to being directed to create a software "prototype" that could rig the machines (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEzY2tnwExs).

This time around one of Romney's companies had ties to the company that owns the Hart Intercivic voting machines used in Ohio and Colorado, and there were reports of potential fraud from installing uncertified software patches on the machines (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/art-levine/mia-in-voting-machi...).

Eric Schmidt is on the Obama technology team, and Google Ideas creates software for monitoring election fraud (http://techcrunch.com/2012/11/03/the-20-most-innovative-peop...). I'd be curious to know how the campaign monitored election fraud and what type of countermeasures were put in place.

Karl Rove's election-night meltdown shows he was clearly shocked Romney didn't win Ohio (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSiVhJq4tos).

fmitchell0 3 days ago 1 reply      
Two key quotes:

It was like someone had written a Murphy's Law algorithm and deployed it at scale.


...with technical people, it's one thing to look at their resumes and another to see how they are viewed among their peers


Don't be a dick, no matter how smart you are or how much you know. Playing nice is more important.

0003 3 days ago 2 replies      

  And losing, they felt more and more deeply as the campaign
went on, would mean horrible things for the country. They
started to worry about the next Supreme Court Justices
while they coded.

Is it too naive to think that Reed and his team are able to influence the Administration's policies? Their ability to raise Billions of dollars and increase voter participation must trump 'regular' moneyed interests.

aantix 3 days ago 1 reply      
What was the app written in?
zby 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is there anything beside the 'nerds are cool now' message? Which I really appreciate - but you know - it's kind of long.
niels_olson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Blue State Digital


I got it...

lifeguard 3 days ago 0 replies      
Now THAT sounds like a successfully managed web project!
Elon Musk: 'Europe's rocket has no chance' bbc.co.uk
166 points by rglovejoy  1 day ago   90 comments top 16
InclinedPlane 1 day ago 5 replies      
This shouldn't be a controversial statement. The Ariane 5 is one of the more expensive launch vehicles on the market right now. It's telling that CNES/ESA has brought the Soyuz to Guiana for launches, because it is massively cheaper than the Ariane 5.

2013 is going to be the defining year for SpaceX, I think. They've already proven that they are rather uniquely capable in banging out rockets and spacecraft that work at a tremendously low cost, but 2013 will prove their operational mettle, especially for commercial launches. It will show whether or not they can meet schedules, launch reliably, and maintain their existing cost structures. And if they do all of that, they will gain the trust of the people who hold the purse strings of the world's satellite launch budgets (although they already made a tremendous first effort in that regard).

More so, the Falcon Heavy and the Falcon 9 v1.1 are a much bigger deal than people give credit for. Things like the "grasshopper" Falcon 9 first stage reusability test-bed and the manned Dragon capsule development gain a lot of attention, but the v1.1 and the heavy are going to be the crowbars that utterly disrupt the spaceflight industry.

See, with Falcon 9 v1.0 they are already on a dramatically different cost structure. With v1.1 they will reduce their manufacturing costs, increase reliability, and increase the payload capacity by about 40%. This will make it a lot easier to do dual and multiple launches at extremely competitive prices. Also, it will allow them to underbid the competition incrementally while raking in massive profits. The Falcon Heavy will use just under 3x the components of a Falcon 9 v1.1 but it will have nearly 5x the payload capacity. This means that it can do multiple launches for crazy cheap. Also, it will be a pretty tempting target for governments to use for manned spaceflight. For example, it could be capable of sending a manned capsule into lunar orbit, which would be super useful for any sort of activities NASA decides to perform out there. Additionally, it might encourage folks to develop extremely massive payloads (next generation commsats or manned space station components) which are incapable of being launched by any other vehicle. SpaceX is rapidly moving into territory where they are untouchable. Already no other company (and no government either) can return large cargo from the ISS, for example. Soon they will be the only commercial company capable of sending astronauts into orbit. And just as soon they will be the only launch provider capable of putting 50 tonne payloads into LEO or 10 tonne payloads into GEO or on an interplanetary trajectory.

drzaiusapelord 1 day ago 4 replies      
Its hopeless for the ESA. On one hand you have a super nimble startup vs a nationalized industry whose decisions makers span different countries, all of whom have a political dog in this fight. SpaceX's biggest advantage isn't Musk or its team, its that its not hamstrung by the Congress and Senate on how to do things and historically their demands to move pork into their home states.

Nor is the air force demanding design requirements like they did with the shuttle.

Too many cooks for the ESA.

rdl 1 day ago 4 replies      
It's cute that ESA tries to claim SpaceX will get more expensive and less reliable as they scale up to (sort of) mass production. Uh, no. If you're going for FUD, at least be plausible.

More likely would be "SpaceX might go out of business if the market softens or they hit serious technical problems, whereas EADS can guilt European governments into funding it indefinitely" (true) or "SpaceX won't customize launchers for unique European requirements" (wtf) or "EADS allows Europeans to maintain employment and skills in critical launch industries in the event ICBMs become necessary" (I really hope this is never the reason...).

microcentury 16 hours ago 0 replies      
This is slightly off topic, but I would just _love_ to know how Musk manages his time. He has the same number of hours as the rest of us - how does he divide them between his personal research and actually getting stuff done? What percentage does he spend on marketing versus engineering, PR versus logistics, and on and on... Man I would love to have a drink with that guy. There has been no other contemporary person in any sphere of human endeavour I have been so fan-boyish about.
guylhem 1 day ago 0 replies      
It may be a bold claim, but he is making a falsifiable statement.

(yet IMHO he is right - things are quite messed up in Europe at the moment - in France mostly)

However matching french Guyana launch site geographical advantage and infrastructure, and European funding, to Elon Musk ships could be a winning move.

nachteilig 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was really pretty pessimistic about space travel when NASA announced they would shift some of their duties to the private sector, but Elon Musk has really made this idea exciting in the same way he did with electric cars. It really makes me believe that companies need a strong personality like his or Jobs' to get the public excited about new/revitalized sectors.
josephagoss 1 day ago 0 replies      

"12 years"

"soon as that"

"I don't want to be so old that I can't go" (to mars)

This guy does so much, so right. Unlike most people in high positions he doesn't seem to have a negative side at all. (not that it really matters too much if he did, its just really interesting.)

startupfounder 1 day ago 3 replies      
With the grasshopper technology the cost of a flight to orbit basically is the cost of rocket fuel, which is 1% of the total cost of the flights currently going into orbit. That is 100x cost savings.
jobigoud 1 day ago 2 replies      
"The upgrade of Ariane 5 - known as Ariane 5 ME"

I have a bad feeling about this…

znowi 23 hours ago 0 replies      
ESA is in a difficult situation to compete with a privately owned, agile, startup in spirit company. I suspect ESA is not much different to NASA in operation. And as Musk pointed out, the latter has two major problems: 1) fear of innovation and 2) inefficient production. First is a catch 22 where no components can be used in space unless proven to work in space. Second is multiple chains of subcontractors until you reach a manufacturing process. It's fine tuned to cash extraction, not product efficiency.

I looked up some numbers. Falcon 9 costs about $5k per kg to launch. Falcon Heavy is expected at almost $2k. While competitors run at $10k and more. The only viable competitor seems to be the Russians with their trusted Soyuz and Angara series, currently in development.

j_col 23 hours ago 3 replies      
My understanding is that one of the key advantages that Ariane has over it's rivals is it's launch site near the equator (http://www.arianespace.com/spaceport-intro/overview.asp). Is this saving negated by other factors, when compared to SpaceX?
rational_indian 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Just curious...can someone knowledgeable in these matters comment on how the Indian GSLV ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geosynchronous_Satellite_Launch... ) compares to the SpaceX rockets?
jakeonthemove 20 hours ago 0 replies      
How about the ESA just starts using Falcons - then the prices will go down even further and they can focus more on actually putting good stuff in space rather on how to do it...
sentinel 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Actually, he was apparently misquoted: https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/270776170184847360
riffraff 23 hours ago 1 reply      
no comments on the recent VEGA thingy? Was that DOA ?


luckystarr 1 day ago 0 replies      
ESA has to battle its 'cash cow syndrome'. This is going to be interesting.
Chris Dixon Joins Andreessen Horowitz cdixon.org
164 points by sethbannon  17 hours ago   21 comments top 11
sayemm 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Just curious, how old is Chris Dixon?

Awesome news, I'm a big fan of his posts and his track-record as an entrepreneur/investor. He bleeds startups.

Just looking at his LinkedIn profile to get a sense of his career path and where it's taken him (http://linkedin.com/profile/view?id=56309)... guess he's 41 years old? (since he started undergrad in 1989)

That must mean SiteAdvisor was acquired when he was 36. I know age doesn't mean much, but it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately, esp after reading that Fast Company article on Paul Graham. I think all too often startup founders forget that big wins don't happen overnight, there's something to be said for training and having a long time horizon.

rdl 16 hours ago 0 replies      

This makes me kind of sad (selfishly) because a16z and Chris Dixon were two of my favorite investors; this increases the awesomeness of the combined entity, but reduces the number of potential great investors out there.

sethbannon 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Big congrats to both Chris and AH. But why not have Chris open up a NYC office? With more and more VC funds opening up satellite offices in New York, it seems silly to move one of the city's best to Silicon Valley.
kloncks 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder what this means for Founder Collective?
swohns 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Chris is a giant in the NYC tech community, and his machine learning at Hunch has been a personal inspiration. He's a brilliant addition to a16z.
flipside 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow, that's awesome. It's a huge win for Andreesen Horowitz but also the bay area since it looks like he'll be making SF his primary residence (with the secondary being NYC).
jval 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd be interested to see whether the NYC connection was part of why a16z offered him the job. Depending on how you read the announcement it could either be a huge win for NYC or a huge loss. Probably need to wait for some more info from people closer to the source to find out.
antr 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I love how humble entrepreneurs like Chris are taking on the traditional gentlemen's club (read British upper class men in the 18th century) that the VC industry still is. Hope.
jfornear 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Is the NYC startup scene over?
brandonb 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Chris is a fantastic investor. This is a steal for a16z.
jgalt212 13 hours ago 3 replies      
I dunno about this. From his postings, cdixon seems like a reasonable and thoughtful investor and business builder. Can you really see him pouring $15M into rap genius? Or $100M into github? Or $40M into Fab? Seems like a bad mix. Or perhaps, a16z has lost its way amongst the hype machine it has helped resurrect. Perhaps, cdixon can bring a16z back to the thought processes and valuations that drove some of their earlier plays.
Refining Ruby headius.com
162 points by jballanc  1 day ago   49 comments top 7
kaiuhl 22 hours ago 2 replies      
The most convincing argument as to why not to include refinements in the Ruby spec comes from alternative implementations like JRuby and Rubinius. Method dispatch will need to be vastly more complex (and have scope-limited caching) to support this feature. Much, much slower. Folks using these implementations are still on the fringe, but it seems wrong to add a feature to Ruby that makes both more complicated code and slower running code.

Wasn't Object#source_location added in 1.9 to help folks understand and find method definitions in code? Shouldn't we simply test our code to ensure it functions correctly and not force additional semantics all the time to fix a rare issue?

xentronium 23 hours ago 3 replies      

Headius technical comments on ruby tracker are a must-read.

As my personal take, I am appalled at refinements. I think this is a bad idea solving the wrong problem.

danso 22 hours ago 2 replies      
While I run into unexpected monkey-patching from time to time (i.e. just about anytime I include an "active_" library from Rails), I can't remember the last time it's screwed me over. But I can see the potential...what have been the most prevalent cases of conflicts for day-to-day Rubyists?
jonpaul 22 hours ago 3 replies      
When it comes to monkeypatching, this is one thing that JS and Ruby got wrong. C# got it right. It'd be great if you could monkeypatch in JS/Ruby in a module level scope vs a global scope. Good to see that Ruby is taking steps to remedy this. Too bad my favorite language, JS, hasn't yet.
MatthewPhillips 21 hours ago 2 replies      
What problem does monkey patching solve? It seems to only add complexity onto the already complex nature of inheritance. What do I gain by adding camelize to String vs. using MyModule.camelize?
nnq 20 hours ago 0 replies      
`module_eval` and `refinements` seem like good ideas unless you mix them. if `module_eval` wouldn't be so widely used op's arguments about what refinements do to code readability would mostly fall.

...why not simply just find way to discourage people from using these together, like having blocks of code only see refinements from their defining scope, not the one they are actually run in?(this would make it obvious for library authors that mixing these to features is "not sane to do", if the fact that they are used to solve similar when it comes to creating DSLs problems does not make it obvious)

pirateking 21 hours ago 2 replies      
Does anyone know how Objective-C categories handle some of the issues brought up with Ruby 2.0 refinements?

It seems method swizzling is a far less touched trick than monkey patching, and the latest LLVM compiler throws a warning if a category overrides an existing method. I am curious about low level differences in how the two languages approach this problem.

The Web engineer's online toolbox ivanzuzak.info
158 points by koevet  1 day ago   7 comments top 7
Breakthrough 1 day ago 0 replies      
I find it kind of funny that all of the tools live online... Not in a bad way, just a kind of "at the end of the day, this thing I'm building has to serve real people over this thing we call the internet" as opposed to doing everything with offline tools.

Puts everything into perspective I suppose :)

hughesey 1 day ago 0 replies      
Suggesting an addition http://viewdns.info/ - A collection of free DNS tools.
hayksaakian 1 day ago 0 replies      
Cool, this list showed me APIfy, which has an intriguing service I'll probably make use of. APIs out HTML sounds great.
stretchwithme 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great list.

Slight misspell of pingdom.

sbuk 1 day ago 0 replies      
Web Engineer?
jeffehobbs 1 day ago 0 replies      
Holy fucking shit, this is a good list. A lot of lists happen on Hacker News, and we're all like: ha ha good list. BUT THIS IS A GOOD LIST.
vedrana 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a really great list!
Ron Paul's Farewell Address: The Internet Can Stop Big Government techcrunch.com
156 points by relampago  3 days ago   225 comments top 14
snitko 3 days ago 17 replies      
What makes me sad is that a lot of people, even here, discharge Ron Paul as some sort of crazy guy without even listening to what he says. In comments to this post "thesagan" wrote that some of his ideas are "batshit crazy" as if his ideology is composed of many different unrelated parts. Not true, Ron Paul ideas are ideas of libertarianism and if you study them diligent enough, you'll eventually be used to thinking in this framework. Which is actually the point: it is a framework which has logical structure to it. Unlike both parties' ideologies, which are, indeed, crafted out of many different unrelated parts serving special interests.
mixmastamyk 3 days ago 3 replies      
The real thing:


Some great stuff in there, I just wish it was about half its length. Would tighten up the points a lot.

curt 3 days ago 1 reply      
The libertarian viewpoint is very simple and not the dog eat dog world people here are making it out to be. Libertarians such as myself believe that people should be left alone to make their own decisions and live with the consequences, except that you need laws to stop one person from hurting another. Does that mean everybody for themselves? No. Before the creation of the welfare state we had mutual aid groups where communities would help each other. The groups could be based on religion, ethnicity, occupations, etc... People naturally took care of each other.

Would a simple world like this work today? No. But you can still use the guiding principles to form a freer world. That's where Ron Paul went wrong, he lived in an idealistic world. We have legacy costs and promises that must be kept.

jakeonthemove 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why the hell doers everyone think a libertarian government would be pushing the ideology to the extreme? It doesn't happen with the other two parties, and it definitely wouldn't happen with libertarians at the helm.

They would compromise because it's just impossible to do otherwise.

IMO, they have a lot of great ideas that Reps and Dems don't even consider (which is why they probably label Libs "crazy").

1123581321 3 days ago 0 replies      
As can be seen in these comments, people are penny-wise and pound foolish. They would rather support one of two presidents who enjoy inflicting trillion-dollar wars on other ethnicities than concede an inch of ground to a man who wrote a couple racist newsletters. The behavior of people towards a threat to the status quo, no matter how good and helpful the threat, is insanity.
jacobsimeon 3 days ago 0 replies      
He also says something of a little more substance that, maybe, lines up with the deeper HN sentiment:

"Our individual goal in life ought to be for us to seek virtue and excellence and recognize that self-esteem and happiness only comes from using one's natural ability, in the most productive manner possible, according to one's own talents."

I would argue that no other politician could state such a clear and meaningful fact. The guy is as sincere and level headed as they come, which is what makes the media's portrayal of him so tragic.

Steko 3 days ago 0 replies      
"You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can't say “nigger”"that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states' rights, and all that stuff, and you're getting so abstract. Now, you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”"

-- Lee Atwater's Secret Decoder Ring for Conservative Doubletalk


pjriot 3 days ago 2 replies      
"The internet will provide the alternative to the government/media complex that controls the news and most political propaganda. This is why it's essential that the internet remains free of government regulation."

What bothers me about this statement is that either side of the net neutrality debate could claim it was meant to support their position. Net neutrality is government regulation. It is also the kind of regulation that would prevent the kind of control Paul is referring to.

slurgfest 3 days ago 1 reply      
"The Internet" is not democratically elected. Why should it have a mandate to defeat what is decided democratically?
devb0x 3 days ago 0 replies      
"...why it's essential that the internet remains free of government regulation"

The internet just gets switched off or blocked in some instances, we've all seen it before. China, Iran, Egypt.

You don't control the infrastructure or the pipe in, the government does.

Even here in South Africa, I wonder at which point they will switch it off. It's not ours.

wordplay 2 days ago 0 replies      
Would a true libertarian society view nations as pseudo corporations and citizens as shareholders? Would the more highly compensated individuals be considered to have a larger stake in the state?
SpikeDad 3 days ago 3 replies      
The Internet was vital in exposing his naive and harmful behavior. His hypocritical pronouncements and racist background would never have come to the public without it.

Don't let Washington hit your ass on the way out.

eli_gottlieb 3 days ago 2 replies      
Way to pander to Reddit.
Cisco Acquires Enterprise Wi-Fi Startup Meraki For $1.2 Billion In Cash techcrunch.com
152 points by ardahal  1 day ago   44 comments top 17
paul 1 day ago 2 replies      
I think Meraki was the 4th startup that I ever invested in (first was Wufoo).

When we visited their office in Mountain View, it was full of "Meraki Minis" (their first batch of hardware). I asked how much money they had raised so far, and their response was, "none". They were so scrappy that they had managed to build the first batch (which was partially pre-sold) for practically nothing. And they somehow got the office space for free.

Very impressive team. Glad I invested :)

kanzure 1 day ago 2 replies      
Well, looks like pg called it on this one.



"Here, have a billion."

Obviously, I am omitting all of the actual work for entertainment value. Edit: isn't a YC company, I don't want to confuse things.


"27. Hardware/software hybrids. Most hackers find hardware projects alarming. You have to deal with messy, expensive physical stuff. But Meraki shows what you can do if you're willing to venture even a little way into hardware. There's a lot of low-hanging fruit in hardware; you can often do dramatically new things by making comparatively small tweaks to existing stuff."

ChuckMcM 1 day ago 5 replies      
Congratulations guys (if you're reading). I'm sure this has nothing at all to do with Ruckus going public [1] :-) Its a great exit and Cisco certainly has the manufacturing and marketing reach to take you to the next level.

That said, I find it fascinating that my first experience with wireless gear was with Aeronet (which was also $1B+ buy for Cisco) And of course Linksys ($1B+). And now Meraki ($1B+) So here is the multi-billion dollar question, "Why does Cisco keep spending billions of dollars on WiFi companies and still they aren't leading the market in WiFi innovation?"

[1] http://www.ruckuswireless.com/press/releases/20121116-ruckus...

codemac 1 day ago 1 reply      
How fortunate in the short term, and unfortunate in the long term.

< removed long cynical rant about Cisco and handling of IronPort >

(funny story, Cisco's workplace resources group's bonuses are based on (total revenue) / headcount+workplace costs. Instead of incentives based on retention and growth, the group gets a bigger bonus every time a group is downsized, or they close an office.)

yellowbkpk 1 day ago 1 reply      
I remember way back in 2006 or so when Meraki was a startup trying to sell the hardware units geared towards community wifi systems. A short time after getting the units out into the community they 'pivoted' away from that model and started charging for the service: obviously trying to gear their stuff towards business customers.

I'm glad this pivot worked!

ayanb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congratulations Meraki, very well deserved!

I just wonder if they had continued their run, could they have IPO-ed at a much higher valuation? They seem to have both very strong product and business fundamentals. Would love to hear thoughts on this..

sown 1 day ago 0 replies      

Every time I find a company that I think is worth working for, I spend time on a good cover letter to try to get interest or even play around with their API and build something simple. Meraki was one of those companies I cared enough to write about, I believe, but I never heard back from them. I seem to not be good enough to be hired but good enough to recognize the best, lol.

Perhaps I should start a newsletter.

newman314 1 day ago 3 replies      
One of the things mentioned in the acquisition FAQ was that one of the key differentiators was the Meraki business model.

Can anyone shed more light on exactly what is different?

EDIT: Also, since I have never priced any of their gear before, any idea on ballpark costs (list) would be nice.

amalag 1 day ago 1 reply      
I gotta ask, I was looking for some access points for a small company. How does meraki compare to the super cheap

which seems to have some nice software as well. Is Meraki really aimed towards enterprise who can justify $1000 access points?

helper 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congratulations to the Meraki team. I was hoping to see them make more of a run on the wireless incumbents, but I can understand that 1.2b was too much to pass up (considering Aruba's market cap is only 2.1b).
dm8 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats to Meraki team. Another exit for Sequoia. Looks like they had an excellent year where companies like Palo Alto Networks, Kayak, LinkedIn that went public (and doing well). And companies like Instagram, Meraki got acquired for north of billion dollars.
netvarun 1 day ago 0 replies      
Interesting article on the CEO, Sanjit Biswas:

Move over, Doogie Howser; here comes Engineer Biswas

yozmsn 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nice to see startups still being bought for the products and not just the talent
ksec 1 day ago 0 replies      
I understand how Ruckus could be doing IPO. Since they actually solve the problem with too many WiFi connections going to single point. Problems we have seen in Hotels, and Apple Expo. etc

How is Meraki different? Since Ruckus is a software + hardware solution.

lsllc 1 day ago 1 reply      
I wonder how similar this is to Ubiquiti's UniFi enterprise WiFi system. I'm a big fan, UniFi is just excellent as is their point to point/WISP solution airMAX, very inexpensive too. For example, I recently set up an airMAX 280Mbps point to point link over about 1/2 mile using 2x Nanostation M5's for ... $140! Their airFiber system gives you 1.4Gbps over up to 10km for about $2.5K for the pair of radios.


pebb 1 day ago 2 replies      
Interesting, never realized they offer a free MDM (MAM) solution.
Meglis 1 day ago 0 replies      
I might be wrong but the word meraki is one of those greek words that cant be translated in english and means passion to work and develop something. Try it on google translate as μεράκι !
Twitter's descent into the extractive 37signals.com
151 points by zdw  2 days ago   49 comments top 13
markokocic 2 days ago 8 replies      
I don't understand why so many people are criticizing twitter for trying to monetize here on HN. Twitter is not a startup anymore, they have real investors and have to earn real revenue, and thus they cut everything that can potentially affect that.

Is trying to be profitable now considered a bad thing? Is selling a startup to big company that will close it down the only exit strategy that HN praise?

I know that some people feel betrayed by twitter for cutting something that used to be free. But what should twitter do? Jeopardy its own business in order to make others happy? That's not how business works.

edit: s/that/they/

antirez 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's as simple as this: it is extremely hard to do a big business on something that is trivially reproducible (like Twitter is), just because there is a big momentum at some point. Because the outcome is one of the following three possibilities:

1) You ruin the experience because of the business model. People switch to a competitor that is annoyances free as you were.

2) You ask for money. People switch to a competitor that is free as you were.

3) You invent a business model that is an added value for users instead to be a problem. You win.

To make "3" working you need to be open minded and design the business model for months, with creativity, thinking at your users. It's hard but you could do it, but unfortunately there are this guys that gave you millions that will ruin this process. So "3" is very very very hard for Twitter IMHO.

mariusmg 2 days ago 0 replies      
I find it ironic to see the usual "follow me on twitter" at the end of the post. Yeah, people will bitch @twitter but nothing will change.

Also, Twitter has 1500 employees. That's absurd.

fierarul 2 days ago 3 replies      
I don't understand how such a simple service is able to block 3rd party clients. Just scrap that web site if need be!

I have an user, I can acces the site via a simple text-based protocol, who cares what weird client I'm using?

smoyer 2 days ago 3 replies      
Why are so many sites crashing Safari on my iPad1 now?
Void_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm sad that a link like this makes the frontpage of Hacker News.

It contains nothing we didn't know before, it's not interesting at all and there's no value in it. David just talks shit about another company.

rdl 2 days ago 0 replies      
At least they didn't go public and tank subsequently, and their downfall looks like it is happening before any IPO would be a risk.

Big consumer IPOs which tank hurt investor confidence across the market, and particularly in the tech IPO sector in the future.

joelthelion 2 days ago 0 replies      
Someone should build a decentralized (p2p-based?) alternative to twitter/reddit.

This way we will finally have something we can settle on, we will have multiple competing clients and no censorship or arbitrary rules, and no monetization.

Only problem is that it may be a harder technical problem than it sounds.

aes256 2 days ago 1 reply      
The business model is broken, the monetization prospects aren't there, and ultimately, Twitter is a fad.
ed209 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if jaiku.com could have kept twitter honest?
ianstallings 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think I'm more curious about what they need 1500 people for. That blows my mind.
lewisflude 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wonderfully written.
georgeorwell 2 days ago 0 replies      
When did the word 'extractive' become the opposite of the word 'inclusive' anyway?
How To Package Your Python Code scotttorborg.com
151 points by storborg  1 day ago   32 comments top 12
gvalkov 1 day ago 2 replies      
I've wondered why using a dictionary to initialize setuptools.setup() isn't more advocated in such guides. I understand this is superficial, but imho, this looks much clearer than the author's suggestion [1]:

    from setuptools import setup

kw = {
'name' : 'funniest',
'version' : '0.1',
'description' : 'The funniest joke in the world',
'url' : 'http://github.com/storborg/funniest',
'author' : 'Flying Circus',
'author_email' : 'flyingcircus@example.com',
'license' : 'MIT',
'packages' : ['funniest'],
'zip_safe' : False,

if __name__ == '__main__':

Here are a few of my setup.py files that follow this convention [2] [3] [4].

[1]: http://www.scotttorborg.com/python-packaging/minimal.html#cr...

[2]: https://github.com/gvalkov/harstats-graphite/blob/master/set...

[3]: https://github.com/gvalkov/jenkins-autojobs/blob/master/setu...

[4]: https://github.com/gvalkov/python-evdev/blob/master/setup.py

JulianWasTaken 1 day ago 2 replies      
Taking a quick look through this it looks pretty good! I find that beginners have tons of trouble navigating the slightly tricky waters that is packaging in Python, so more resources is great.

One thing I think is missing is to point out not to use setuptools, but to use the less broken, more maintained, drop in replacement distribute (http://guide.python-distribute.org/). That website also has some further information on the packaging ecosystem that's worth flipping through.

pak 1 day ago 1 reply      
The fact that there is no good, canonical guide for doing this in Python is one of the reasons I moved away from it and toward Ruby. With Ruby I had no problems writing and forking gems using the canonical guide (http://guides.rubygems.org/make-your-own-gem/). With Python, navigating the hell that is packaging is just demoralizing when it comes time to give end users a complicated chunk of code. (Setuptools is truly "a hack on a top of a bad design", not my own words.) I hope for Python's own sake that distribute (http://packages.python.org/distribute/) catches on and people are simply shamed out of using older tools, but since Python already has a problem with getting everyone to migrate code away from old things, I'm not holding my breath.

I'm still not sure how to do certain things "right", e.g., distribute a modified version of somebody else's package with my own package. In Ruby, I can do this with bundler specifying a git repo for my own fork of the gem (and then submit a pull request for the original fork, if it's a patch that's useful upstream).

chewxy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here are other good packaging guides for Python (by Tarek Ziade). I think Scott Torbog has joined the ranks of these greats:



feniv 1 day ago 0 replies      
I know this isn't exactly related to packaging the code, but any thoughts on utilities like py2exe (http://www.py2exe.org/), cx_Freeze (http://cx-freeze.sourceforge.net/) or pyinstaller (http://www.pyinstaller.org/) for distributing finished python modules to end-users?
mixedbit 1 day ago 3 replies      
Are setuptools suitable for packaging the whole web application (for example in Django) together with html/js/css files, configs for uwsgi and some management scripts?

I once tried to do something like this and failed and I had an impression that setuptools are not really intended for such things, but mainly for packaging plain Python modules.

Is this a right impression? If yes, what is a good way to package the whole Python based web application?

rhettg 1 day ago 0 replies      
You guys might also find this github project useful: https://github.com/splaice/py-bootstrap
norlowski 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Awesome job. I had been stressing about getting my code up there but your tutorial made it easy.
maxjaderberg 1 day ago 1 reply      
ive been writing python for ages but never found a simple introduction to how to package modules - always thought it was voodoo, so thanks a lot! so simple...
dearmash 1 day ago 1 reply      
I apologize for the spam, but apparently I'm unable to save articles for some reason. I'd like to read this later, and I want to see if a comment will work.
phryk 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks, this is exactly what I was looking for the last few weeks and couldn't find :)
borntyping 1 day ago 0 replies      
While I've already been doing things a similar way, it's nice to have a clean, clear explanation of how to package stuff.
       cached 20 November 2012 16:11:01 GMT