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The DDoS that almost broke the Internet cloudflare.com
796 points by jgrahamc  1 day ago   170 comments top 39
apawloski 1 day ago 2 replies      
Cloudflare always does an excellent job of optimizing their writeups for large, diverse audiences. The prose of this article reminds me of an equally accessible discussion of BGP from a few months ago [1].

[1] http://blog.cloudflare.com/why-google-went-offline-today-and...

ChuckMcM 1 day ago 2 replies      
In one of the earlier attacks I discovered I was running an open resolver on my home network. I fixed it, and now just get a bunch of 'recursive lookup denied' messages in my logs.

But the key here is the source. And this from the article:

"The attackers were able to generate more than 300Gbps of traffic likely with a network of their own that only had access 1/100th of that amount of traffic themselves."

And this is key, so we could hunt them at their source if there was a way of deducing their launch points (it may be a botnet but it may also just be some random server farm)

I've got log records of the form:

   Mar 27 09:19:21 www named[295]: denied recursion for query from [].61604 for incap-dns-server.anycast-any2.incapsula.us IN

Which suggests that is somehow being used, and according my latest GeoIP database that is an IP address in Tel Aviv.

   $VAR1 = {
'longitude' => '34.7667',
'city' => 'Tel Aviv',
'latitude' => '32.0667',
'country_code' => 'IL',
'region' => '05',
'isp_org' => 'Golden Lines Cable'

So can we create a service where the recurse requests send the IP trying to do the recursion to a service which then inverts the botnet/privatenet? Everytime this level of co-ordination is undertaken it potentially shines a bright light on the part of the Internet that is compromised/bad.

criley 1 day ago 5 replies      
Gizmodo is calling out Cloudflare's claims that this affected anything more than Dutch networks: http://gizmodo.com/5992652

They point out, for example, that the IX's in question routinely see 2.0+Tbps peaks, so a 0.3Tbps attack would not be likely to shake a single IX, little like "the internet" itself.

Interesting rebuttal, although certainly not comprehensive.

binary11 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yes, my DNS server is listed on openresolvers.org. Here's why:

I've a smallish home network, 5 machines, one of them running handful of VMs, some devices (printer, scanner).

I wanted to have a local DNS server to name all these things, but mostly to learn about DNS and how to set up Bind.

So i installed bind on a Debian machine, set up a local domain, promptly named .fia.intra. As an added benefit, I now had a local DNS caching server too, and since my machines use this as their primary DNS server, it needs to be recursive and not just respond to queries for my internal fia.intra. network.

Now, all this is running on an internal network, and bind is set up to only respond to queries from, and I'm behind an ADSL NAT gateway, so noone from outside should be able to query my internal DNS server.

I ignorantly assumed that the ADSL modem wasn't completely broken and having a moronic way of operating.

Now, I've not set a port forwarding rule in the modem that forwards port 53 to my internal DNS server, the only port forwarding rule I have is one for SSH.

However, I have this setting on the ADSL modem: http://i.imgur.com/dlL9LKV.png

The ADSL modem as shipped from the ISP acts as DHCP server on the LAN side, as most modems would do, and by default the DHCP server hands out a DNS server that is my ISPs DNS server. I changed that to my internal DNS server,

In the image you will see the DHCP server isn't even enabled, I moved that to my same Debian machine and turned it off on the ADSL modem, but didn't erase the DNS settings.

As it turns out, because of that setting the ADSL modem listens on port 53 on the WAN interface(which has a routable IP address), and forwards/reverse-NATs queries to my DNS server at
I'd never guessed it to do that.

I did a "dig google.com @<my.public.ip>" from an EC2 instance I have, and indeed it responded nicely..

I've now changed the setting to read "Primary DNS Server=" and have verified I no longer respond to DNS queries from the WAN side.

Stuff sucks.

tptacek 1 day ago 1 reply      
Worth pointing out: I'm presuming that the 300gbps of reported traffic† was not generated by DNSSEC resolvers, because DNSSEC isn't that widely deployed.

Which is bad, because DNSSEC dramatically increases the amplification effect you get from bouncing queries off open resolvers (the DNSSEC RRs are Big).

Adam Langley notes on Twitter that Cloudflare reports 3k DNS responses, apparently containing the zone contents of RIPE.NET; I guess these were EDNS0 UDP AXFR requests? That's worse than DNSSEC.

This has been one of Daniel Bernstein's big critiques of DNSSEC. It's not one of mine, but I'm still happy to see his argument validated.

(at a tier 1 Cloudflare doesn't have a business relationship with, which makes this kind of a "my cousin's best friend told me" number, but still)

jre 1 day ago 0 replies      
As a programmer with little knowledge of internet-scale networking, this was a very interesting read. Thanks !
richardjordan 1 day ago 1 reply      
Doing a DDoS attack in the cause (however questionable the commitment to that cause is let's put it to one side for now) of Internet freedom is a ridiculous strategy. The more this sort of thing becomes inevitable the more TPTB will clamp down on such things and eventually we'll find ourselves on an Internet with far fewer freedoms and it'll all be far more locked down.

Whether you like it or not society tends to react like high-school - when enough people abuse a privilege eventually that privilege gets taken away. You can argue that a free Internet is a right (as some do) but you won't win that argument in the public sphere if that right is used to stop everyone else from getting done what they want to do online.

Bootvis 1 day ago 1 reply      
News is that the dutch hoster CyberBunker[1] is responsible[2] for the attack.

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

[2]: http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=nl&tl=en&js...

alanbyrne 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is why I pay CloudFlare each month. They repeatedly publicly show that they know exactly what they're doing - and they do it without any sense of smugness.
lucaspiller 1 day ago 3 replies      
I'm a bit confused about the 'open resolvers' bit. I searched for the static IP range assigned by my ISP, and a number of results came up:


This range has a description of "Static IP Pool for xDSL End Users", so is it also home users who have open resolvers?

Ntrails 1 day ago 1 reply      
Thanks for a really cool lesson about the nature of the internet :)

I was, however, interested to see no mention whatsoever of cloudflare in other reports of this[1]. Is this something that bothers you?

[1] e.g http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21954636

DangerousPie 1 day ago 1 reply      
So, given that there is already a list of open resolvers and the problem is that they can be used to DDoS a server - why doesn't someone just make them attack each other? From what I have read one could easily forge packages appearing to come from DNS A and send it to DNS B-Z. Rinse, repeat and take down the servers one by one.

Obviously this is probably illegal, but there would definitely be a beautiful irony to it. :)

sakopov 1 day ago 0 replies      
This was an immensely interesting read even though only high-level details were discussed. Always impressed with CloudFare architecture. Thanks for a great read!
kevinburke 1 day ago 5 replies      
What are the incentives for the maintainers of open DNS recursors? How can we alter their incentives so that they can no longer be used in DNS amplification attacks?
pragmatic 1 day ago 2 replies      
Did I miss something in your article (I skimmed), who are the gentlemen in the photo at the top?
jwr 1 day ago 1 reply      
What I don't understand is why someone doesn't finally write a piece of malware that destroys botnets? These unmaintained machines cause the entire world so much grief.

It doesn't have to be mean and destroy data, just incapacitate the machines and force the users to upgrade.

eah13 1 day ago 0 replies      
"..but first a bit about how the Internet works"

My favorite part of a Cloudflare post.

dubcanada 1 day ago 4 replies      
I don't understand something...

How is 300GBPS a lot? If we take London which has 8million and say roughly half of them are on the internet (4million). Wouldn't that mean that if everyone was using 78kbps we would reach 300 gbps(roughly)?

I just don't understand how a tier1 or internet exchange router can only handle 100gbps. That seems extremely low to me considering I have like 1mbps for just my house?

colbyolson 1 day ago 1 reply      
I thought this was an excellent writeup and I would like to learn more more.

Are there any recommended books on learning about the Internet/DNS on a global scale?

drchaos 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm not a networking expert, but how would turning off recursive DNS queries mitigate this kind of attack? A nameserver must still answer queries for the domains it is authoritative for, so what prevents the bad guys from using only authoritative queries for their attack? Wouldn't it be much better to just add some rate limiting to every DNS (recursive or not)?

On a side note, I think that especially in times where messing with DNS is used as a censorship tool by a lot of governments and regulators, there is some value in being able to ask someone else's DNS for any domain, but that's a different issue.

calbear81 1 day ago 1 reply      
I wonder what the political implications of this type of "collateral damage" might be.

Governments have recognized the need to defend against direct attacks on their networks and develop their own offensive attack capabilities from a national security perspective but I haven't seen the same level or response to these sorts of events.

When the damage spills over to impacting services that tens of millions of people rely on and cause economic damage, should we treat this as the same as an attack on our critical infrastructure (electricity, water, etc.) like an act of terrorism? If that becomes the case, would it warrant the use of deadly force against the attackers?

chisto 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Today one guy in my local news (Monterrey, Mexico) talk about it, that "tech guy" said that netflix and other services were intermitent or fail to access, and also that this "war" were between cyberbunker and Spamhaus. I think this is not completly true, but he spoke if this kind of things would be the next kind of wars in the following years and recommendo to the people a good antivirus and a firewall.

I really admire what cloudflare did, and help the not too tech guys to understand how this things works, if cloudflare were promoting himself with this posts well they need to eat and educate their children is normal their behavior.

neumino 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks for the post Clouflare. It's way more interesting to read from your perspective than from a random journalist.
omegant 1 day ago 1 reply      
So, that´s why HN has been doing 503´s for the last week?, I am from Spain and it has been failing all the time.
summerdown2 1 day ago 2 replies      
I understand the issues with DNS reflection, but why are open resolvers the issue? Isn't the point of DNS to respond to requests with correct information?

Surely if random people can't connect to DNS resolvers and get information, they can't surf the net either? Someone has to resolve DNS for people for the internet to function, don't they?

radio4fan 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great post, and thanks for introducing me to the Open DNS Resolver Project.


ancarda 1 day ago 2 replies      
I feel like there's a shocking amount of laziness and incompetence rife in the industry. How else would so many open resolvers exist? It's like the thousands of nodes with default passwords that were used for the IPv4 census.

How exactly do we combat this?

trumbitta2 23 hours ago 0 replies      
And here's another interesting one from the past (7 / 13 root servers got shutdown or blocked): http://c.root-servers.org/october21.txt
senthilnayagam 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't think the attack has stopped, it will come back even bigger and would take down many networks.

Hope that kind of pubic outcry and media visibility will get the networks and governments to take notice and fix the core Internet infrastructure of the known vulnerabilities

vermontdevil 1 day ago 0 replies      
No wonder I had difficulty accessing Google a few times during that time period.
nitins 1 day ago 0 replies      
k__ 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Tier 1 networks don't buy bandwidth from anyone, so the majority of the weight of the attack ended up being carried by them."

"We're proud of how our network held up under such a massive attack."


kronholm 1 day ago 0 replies      
From the article: "If the Internet felt a bit more sluggish for you over the last few days in Europe, this may be part of the reason why."

Hm, as opposed to normal days, when our Internet is just normal sluggish. Not that fond of that phrasing. And I must be bored to even comment on that.

sikhnerd 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm happy to see CloudFlare actually include some technical details in this post, though as always, I'd be happy to see more. It's always more interesting when we can follow along technically.
wglb 1 day ago 1 reply      
This site http://www.internetpulse.net/ is useful to check if you suspect a global slowdown.
propercoil 1 day ago 0 replies      
nic.fr is down so most .fr domains are down due to unresolved hostname.
AdrenalinMd 1 day ago 2 replies      
Hold on, isn't it the time to force DNS to be TCP only ?
ateev23 1 day ago 1 reply      
Mine was OK. In India
I Bought A Firetruck kinja.com
692 points by amartya916  4 days ago   273 comments top 46
ChuckMcM 4 days ago 5 replies      
I've always thought that an old firetruck would make a much better RV conversion platform than an old bus. The reasoning is that a firetruck (especially a pumper truck) has a suspension that is designed to carry much more weight than a bus so you would not be as constrained in what you could build on top of it.

Jay Leno did an excellent column about how amazing fire trucks are in terms of durability.

The OP said that "fire trucks" weren't designed to drive on the highway at highway speeds, which is a bit of an over generalization. The National Forest Service for example has a number of trucks in California that are tasked with driving up and down the state to fight wild fires. They not only drive on the highway, they end up with a couple million miles on them before they are retired.

In terms of practicality (there isn't much :-) but a ladder truck has the ability to put you fairly high up somewhat "away" from the truck. (although an inexperienced operator could easily tip over their truck if they weren't careful) and they have those pretty awesome hydraulic stabilizing legs. I sketched out briefly a sort of 'circus tent' RV where the tenting was connected to a ladder truck's ladder which could then extend up and allow you to stake out a tent around it. A number of issues there, from the outgassing of the truck into your tent :-) and the ladder has a specified end load that it can move around which is often less than 500 lbs so you end can't really hoist canvas, you would get away with light nylon at best.

But in terms of interesting vehicles to own I agree with the author that there is a certain cachet there :-)

carlob 4 days ago 11 replies      
Is there some sort of crazy game of one-upmanship in the USA as to who can drive the most impractical gas guzzler?

First it was stretch limos, then Hummers, then Hummer stretch limos. I wonder if we're gonna see stretch limo fire trucks…

Edit (since I'm being downvoted): The story is cool, I just find the fact that he's driving it daily to work completely retarded. What the hell I consider driving a car to work to be hardly justifiable at all in our trade, but a 31 year old fire truck is sending a giant fuck you to anyone else trying to reduce their carbon emissions.

gph 4 days ago 1 reply      
That's pretty cool, as a toy. Too bad he doesn't seem to have any use for it in that capacity.

Don't know if I can agree with him driving it on routine trips around town. Not only because of the extra gas consumption and CO2, but it also takes up a lot more room on the road, and it's a lot slower on acceleration wasting everyone's time behind him. When someone has a purpose for having a huge truck on the road you tolerate it, but if I found out I was stuck behind a slow firetruck because some guy wanted to tickle his own fancy I'd be less tolerant.

Yea, practicality isn't the end all of life, but don't be a dick.

Edit: Just wanted to add, it also puts a lot more wear on the roads especially during spring when the ground frost is melting. You might be within the law to drive it around, but your County Road Commission will not be pleased.

AlexMuir 4 days ago 7 replies      
I just bought a warehouse. Similar - I always wanted one. I'm going to turn it into a house and put a roof garden on it and put a sweet garage in to fiddle with cars and set up some office space and generally cause havoc in there.

I could drop dead tomorrow. It's nice to tick these ambitions off, although my ambitions always seem to make it more likely that I will drop dead tomorrow.

(It's in Manchester, UK if anyone wants to come and lug bricks around.)

smoyer 4 days ago 1 reply      
Someone got their childhood dream!

Mine was shattered when I found out that my dad didn't drive trains (An electrical engineer is apparently not the same thing). Since then, I've ridden on many trains, but I haven't driven one (yet).

ben0x539 4 days ago 1 reply      
My nightmare scenario here would be being parked somewhere near where a fire breaks out, and then having to tell people that no, I can't actually help them.
rdl 4 days ago 2 replies      
I still want an office in a light industrial area with a concrete wall/bollards/ditch, and a roller gate, behind which I could park a 5 ton truck and/or unimog or fire truck or something (so as to make it impossible to drive through the gate). I had no idea fire trucks were even cheaper than old 2.5 or 5 ton military trucks.
teuobk 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hooray for firetrucks! Back in undergrad, my fraternity owned two firetrucks, and for about a year I was in charge of them. One was a 1940s ladder (with an open cab and still-functioning ladder), and the other was a 1960s engine (closed cab with still-working pumps). Tons of fun to drive around campus... except for the time I clipped a parked car with the engine. Oops!
geoka9 4 days ago 3 replies      
I wonder if the author realizes what a waste it is to drive a big car (let alone a fire truck) to the grocery store.

We all love nature. We go out of our way to live in a place where it is more spectacular. And yet we do our best to shit on it with the damn gas guzzlers. Because, you know, it's fun!

nraynaud 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is completely immature and un-professional. I want one.
nateabele 4 days ago 1 reply      
It turns out there are no actual aircraft carriers for sale on eBay. I am disappoint.
trafficlight 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm coming down to Missoula for Barcamp in April. I expect a ride on this thing.
claudius 4 days ago 2 replies      
Don't you guys have voluntary fire brigades or volunteer-driven agencies for technical relief[0] over there? Sure, you can't get your groceries with one of their trucks, but driving them is still pretty fun I was told. Plus you don't have to park them in your driveway.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technisches_Hilfswerk

gavanwoolery 4 days ago 1 reply      
I grew up in the mountains outside of Napa. One of our neighbors was very wealthy, and also paranoid about fires (brush fires are very dangerous in that region). He owned a fire truck aside from many other vehicles. One day an arsonist set fire to the mountainside, and he had a heart attack because of it. A new person bought up his property, and I would visit their house sometimes, and see that firetruck, not knowing the backstory. I just thought that wealthy people owned firetrucks because it was cool. :)
jdmitch 4 days ago 0 replies      
To be fair it's not really that much more impractical than driving a HUM-V around in urban areas (which is frighteningly common), and definitely way cooler!

Does it have a built-in telescoping ladder - that could actually be quite a lot more useful than the firehose...

josefresco 4 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe I missed it but did he end up shipping it? He mentions it would cost more than the truck itself, and mentioned his wife chiding him for not researching this more but no actual description of how he transported it.
whalesalad 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is so awesome. I used to make my mom drag me around town to various fire stations so that I could look at their goodies. I was obsessed with that stuff as a kid.

Congrats on doing it! I myself have a bucket list item to grab an old Crown bus (the ones that look like twinkies) and drive that beast all around the US.

unimpressive 4 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe I missed it, but how did he get it shipped to Montana?
ja27 4 days ago 2 replies      
What a great thing this would be for someone that does kid's parties or activities. I have a firefighter friend that borrowed a reserve engine for a water-themed kid event we had. He had fun for 2 hours, spraying people 100' away with water. For a while, everywhere I walked, I had a constant stream of water hitting me on the top of my head.
205guy 4 days ago 1 reply      
Waiting for the follow-up article: whether the pumps really work, how well they work, whether it came with a firehouse (and if not, how much those cost+shipping), and fun things you can do with a big jet of water.

Actually, I'd think you'd need a bit of training to operate a firehose (assuming the sellers showed you how to operate all the buttons and levers). But once you have all the safety aspects down, you can go out to a lake, set up an intake hose and make a cool water display. Waiting for the pics.

HeyLaughingBoy 4 days ago 1 reply      
Reminds me of the old bulldozer that I very seriously thought of purchasing (always wanted a dozer). But in my case it was only about 5 miles away in a farmer's front yard with a "For Sale: $1,700" sign on it. Getting it home probably wouldn't have cost more than about $300.
Nursie 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not into firetrucks myself but something from this rings really true - if you don't put aside time and (a little) money to do extraordinary things, your life will be an endless procession of the mundane.
mst3kzz 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Relevant Kids in the Hall sketch - "Quarter Life Crisis": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiESfUGC_Pw
pmorici 4 days ago 2 replies      
"Even though it's 31 years old and technically qualifies as an antique"

What makes something technically and antique? I was under the impression that 50+ years was measure of antiqueness but I can't remember why I think that.

sib 4 days ago 0 replies      
Danny Hillis, co-founder of Thinking Machines (maker of the Connection Machine), bought and drove an old fire truck around Cambridge, MA, in the 1980's. I guess that was a lot harder than getting around Montana!
jhawk28 4 days ago 0 replies      
I understand exactly where he is coming from. One of my fathers cousin decided the farm needed a firetruck and decided to pick up two. It was the first on the scene when one of our barns burnt down. Pumps didn't work so great and did a little spurt by the time the fire department came. Great memories.
ImprovedSilence 4 days ago 0 replies      
I always wanted a school bus. Something to build into an rv for far away hunting trips and weekend tailgate extravaganzas. I did some searching, and running buses are suprisingly cheap. Someday when I have a place to put it, I'm going to jump all over that.
baby 4 days ago 1 reply      
I want a plane.
mgcross 4 days ago 0 replies      
I still find myself staring at firetrucks. Kind of like muscle cars. I love the chunky, iconic design, the chrome, the impracticality and noise.
prawn 4 days ago 0 replies      
Jacuzzi/spa in place of the water tank(s)? Are they set up so that would be possible?
ck2 4 days ago 0 replies      
And people think the homeless guy on the corner has mental health issues...
EGreg 4 days ago 0 replies      
My favorite word starts with an f and ends in a uck. It is indeed firetruck.
Axsuul 4 days ago 0 replies      
Would make a good movie title (We Bought a Zoo)
shurcooL 4 days ago 4 replies      
Isn't $3600 kinda ridiculously inexpensive given that a Civic costs over $15k? What's the insurance and mileage on that thing like?
lignuist 4 days ago 0 replies      
You could offer rainmaking as a service during dry summers.
sibman 4 days ago 0 replies      
A fire track? I always wanted to get a tank!
Gabriel, thanks for this post. I now believe that everything is possible.

I posted a link especially for you

timjahn 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome! My kid would be ecstatic if we drove a firetruck to the grocery store.
delinquentme 4 days ago 0 replies      
"A total of $3,600 which also happened to be the hard limit my wife had imposed on this particular invaluable transaction." cough
bredren 4 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone remember the two-seater firetruck arcade game? That thing ruled.

edit: this! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_Truck_(video_game)

ibudiallo 4 days ago 0 replies      
You inspired me, i will follow my dreams and nothing will stop me.

Thank you so much.

meisterbrendan 4 days ago 0 replies      
so this is my favorite thing, ever.
bryanwbh 4 days ago 0 replies      
A great way to express the term "Always remember to pursue your dream."


imran 4 days ago 0 replies      
so you see we can do anything we want to ! Its much more related to the "out of the box thinking". If you can't do things you were planning since childhood how are you supposed to be creative and pursue your dreams let alone Change The World!
jarpleadmin 4 days ago 0 replies      
how does voting work
herpaderp 4 days ago 3 replies      

Seriously, HN needs to see if there is a service out there that spams these type of sites with these horribly uninteresting reddit/digg/boingboing/hurrderp stories.

chevas 4 days ago 1 reply      
How many people looked up "aircraft carrier" sales on ebay after reading this article?
A Note from one of Cloudflare's upstream providers cluepon.net
569 points by jauer  20 hours ago   76 comments top 17
lsc 19 hours ago 4 replies      
> This is definitely on the large end of the scale as far as DoS attacks go, but I wouldn't call it "record smashing" or "game changing" in any special way. It's just another large attack, maybe 10-15% larger than other similar ones we've seen inthe past

Heh. Nice. Yeah, I expressed skepticism that 300G/sec qualified as "largest ever" - I mean, I personally have been hit by 10G+ attacks, and Cogent mostly shrugged. (I mean, my cogent side was down until the target was blackholed at the cogent border.) I know 10 gigabits is a lot less than 300 gigabits, but I am a nobody compared to the people involved in this little kerfuffle.)

e40 19 hours ago 2 replies      
I never read the Gizmodo piece, because I think they're mostly trolls, but I really liked this response. Kudos to him.
zobzu 19 hours ago 2 replies      
That was a very nicely worded response that echos what, I hope/believe, most of us think.

Plus; that was in ASCII. Damn. :)

eastdakota 18 hours ago 1 reply      
This is a great writeup and aligns with what we saw at CloudFlare. The most interesting part of the attack was that the attackers went after the IXs.
finnh 18 hours ago 0 replies      
> But, having a bad day on the Internet is nothing new.

That's my new quote of the year.

dudus 19 hours ago 3 replies      
It amazes me how little I know about overral internet traffic infraestructures
polarix 19 hours ago 5 replies      
What if this had been Akamai and not Cloudflare? Would we even hear about it? Why is Cloudflare in the news regularly and never Akamai? Do they just like drama? Is that good or bad for their business?
nullrouted 19 hours ago 1 reply      
For those of you who don't know Ras is one of the people that run/ran nlayer (now part of GTT) which is Cloudflare's primary provider.
malachismith 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Fantastic response. Thank you so much for writing and sharing. Cuts through all the spin and FUD effectively.
smackfu 18 hours ago 0 replies      
>The next part is where things got interesting, and is the part that nobody outside of extremely technical circles has actually bothered to try and understand yet.

Isn't this talked about in CloudFare's write-up?

stevewilhelm 19 hours ago 0 replies      
This incident drives home the fact that there is no one entity responsible for "The Internet." It is run by a network of for-profit companies, governments, and non-profit public and private standards bodies.
barkingcat 12 hours ago 1 reply      
I think this just reminds everyone that as large as google, facebook, etc seem to be, they are just a small part of this huge global network we humans have created.

As large as Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc is on the web, the major telcos have to be even larger (in terms of network size, capacity, amount of fibre, switches, datacentres) in order to carry the traffic.

donavanm 6 hours ago 0 replies      
morganwilde 19 hours ago 0 replies      
My first reaction to these kinds of news is fear. As someone who builds stuff for the web, I really hate the idea of some malicious being trying to purposefully ruin your work.

My second reaction is that of "bring-it-on". Basically this is an impulse for improvement, and as with any major threat you either stand your ground or get run over.

mpchlets 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Nice response, nice sentiment, nice format. I often dislike the sensationalism surrounding attacks or viruses - it makes people distrust and gives others excuses for issues.
Paige 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Richard you can hit me with your cluepon any day.
drakaal 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Straight up Lie. Talking with Google Engineers, and Amazon Engineers they say this is not happening. So unless someone picked a fight with CF, it is more likely CF is just having a bad day.
Persona is distributed. Today. mozilla.com
555 points by charlieok  2 days ago   147 comments top 26
inopinatus 2 days ago 5 replies      
I've just read through the Persona protocol specification document at https://github.com/mozilla/id-specs/blob/prod/browserid/inde... and was quite disappointed to find RFC5785 in use, in which HTTP is abused as an infrastructure discovery protocol.

This gives a lie to the identity being an "email address". It isn't. Ok, it's structured as a LHS@RHS form but the domain in the RHS isn't an email domain, it's an overloaded website with some problematic assumptions ladled in.

This creates a significant barrier to adoption. Many entities just won't bother: not only does it ask an apex A record to serve actual content (usually a mistake) but it requires the primary web host of a registerable domain, usually a trademark or brand identity, to carry technical material, definitely a clash of concerns.

(Why? In many companies of reasonable size, the website is managed by a completely different group of people - often a marketing team - to the internal identity service. Then, even if one team convinces to the other to install the browserid file, there is a possibility of it being deleted it by mistake during the next site refresh.)

I had hoped to find an intermediate step where a DNS SRV lookup was used to first locate the host delivering the browserid file. This follows the federated structure of email rather more closely and allows the identity service to be independent of the corporate brochureware. Even better - if the SRV lookup could be signed with DNSSEC, the transfer itself can be protected with DANE. The whole thing becomes manageable as a simple, separate unit of technology. It is thus rather more likely to gain the support of system administrators.

csense 2 days ago 11 replies      
How is this different from OpenID?

EDIT: Seriously, this question was downvoted within two minutes? Why?

EDIT again: The best I've been able to come up with by reading the comments and docs is that they attempt to solve the same problem, but OpenID is based on the backend of the website you're logging into issuing a request to the auth server over HTTP, while Persona has the auth server issue a very-short-duration cert for a public key generated by the client.

cromwellian 2 days ago 3 replies      
I haven't look at the specs deeply, but it would be nice to have a system that did not need any kind of server at all, but the browser itself could be the Persona identity provider. The actual local data needed to pull it off could be replicated (encrypted) to cloud storage so it would work across all your devices and browsers, but the actual profile data itself would never be readable by the servers.

I started looking at the feasibility of building something like Persona into a 'serverless' social network a while ago using Broadcast Encryption techniques to define social sharing groups with revocation (de-friending) and Identity Based Encryption, but it seems like the state of the art IBE always requires a trusted server somewhere. But someone with more expertise in cryptography than me can maybe make it work. My original essay that prompted it (http://timepedia.blogspot.com/2008/05/decentralizing-web.htm...) based on the sad state of affairs these days where everything is non-federated.

JoshTriplett 2 days ago 4 replies      
Currently wondering the most sensible approach to make a single-user website support this protocol, so that I can make my email address (the only valid email address at my domain) support Persona natively. I don't really want to have to set up a username/password system with a single user. I'd almost prefer to manually hand my identity's private key to each browser I want to use. I wonder how much work it would take to write a Firefox extension that does this and uses Sync to snychronize the key between browsers?
e12e 2 days ago 1 reply      
Persona is nice, because it is simple. It is still important to note
that it is an alternative mostly to: "Trust that a user being able to
read an email address is proof authenticating said user" -- in other
words sites using it have no expectation that the user need any form of
authentication before being issued a persona (Similar to eg: shared mail
accounts -- where having access to the email does not identify you as a
single person/user -- rather as a group of users -- which is subtly

Additionally without any form of single sign out/invalidation of private
keys/session certificates other than expiration (please correct me if
I've missed something wrt sign-out/invalidation) -- persona is in some
ways less secure than "trust the mailbox": Even if you change your
password/secret key -- any (stolen) signed session certificate (aka
token/ticket in most other systems) will remain valid as far as the
authorizing site is concerned.

This is similar to a stolen cookie -- except the site cannot decide
how long the certificate is valid -- the identity provider does. So if
somedomain.net signs certificates valid for a year, the only thing you
can do as a site allowing persona logins, is mark said domain as "not
trustworthy enough" -- and disallow logins.

This is "fine" as long as Persona isn't used for anything "serious" --
however with social engineering attacks, anything that to the end users
appears to be proof of identity can be used to escalate privileges ("He
sent me a hipsterchat-message on kewlchat.net -- so I reset the
RDP-password like he requested").

I do think moving identity management "closer" to the user is good --
let the ISP, the various organizations the user is identified with vet
and administer the user database -- but for the general use case -- we
also need some form of trust between the sites, and the iDPs.
Shibboleth[1] is one approach to this -- but it is more complicated that
Persona, and has more overhead.

Personally I'd like to see a solution based around x509 certs and
organizations like https://cacert.org -- but for that to work we need
browsers to get better at handling cerificates. That is -- we need a
user friendly way to manage identities based around x509 -- and we need
browsers and servers to expect to validate both server and client
certificates. Unfortunately such validation will entail a lot of
problems with expired certs etc... it's not a trivial problem to solve
in practice.

[1] http://shibboleth.net/

jjcm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great work Mozilla team, very eager to see this catch on in the coming years. Would be great if startups could get on board with it so the larger giants will be swayed to follow suit.
teawithcarl 2 days ago 1 reply      
Outstanding work, Mozilla.
Parallel to when they broke the I-E monopoly, Mozilla is truly impressive lately.

Best way to support the new creativity surge by Mozilla -
re-adopt Firefox as your MAIN browser.

With each search worth $1 (approximately), every time you search using Firfox, Mozilla receives $1.
(payment by Google, for using their search engine)

Mozilla currently receives $300 million/year via search. Increasing search $ income ... rewards Mozilla as the most open platform and amongst the most innovative organizations on Earth.

lubujackson 2 days ago 1 reply      
I still have a funny feeling about the robustness of Persona. For instance - let's say one of my emails gets hacked, my crappy Yahoo email. Does that give them access to my other Persona accounts? Would I (or anyone else) be able to know if the account is compromised? Normally you change your password and that's the end of it, but I'm not sure what happens with Persona.

What if my kid brother uses my computer - wouldn't he have access to any site that allows Persona logins? How do you lock it down?

eliasmacpherson 2 days ago 4 replies      
I have been confused by the distinction between these two for the longest time, and I'm hardly alone.
Any plans to rename one or the other?
Ixiaus 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm building this into the authentication scheme for my company's new application. It's remarkably easy to get started with. The team did a great job of making it solid and simple.
stcredzero 2 days ago 0 replies      
One nitpick about the current implementation: It was hard for me to know if I already had a Persona ID. I'm still not sure. I ended up "resetting" my Persona password to log into Trovebox. I have no idea if this actually created my Persona ID by doing so, or if I had one before. A developer like me might realize that this is idempotent and just go ahead, but your ordinary joe user might be put off.
snowwrestler 2 days ago 1 reply      
> Of course, in the long term, Persona is meant to be distributed: alice@example.com should be verified and certified by the administrators of example.com. If example.com wants to use 2-digit passwords, they can. If they want to use retinal scans powered by your webcam, they can. It's up to them. With each domain able to customize its authentication protocol with its users, the Web becomes more secure.

How would a 2-digit password make the web more secure?

Let's say I allow users to authenticate into my website with Persona, and I accept alice@example.com--whose 2 digit password is brute-forced the next day. Now whoever got into Alice's account has elevated permissions in my web app too. Great. If I had just stuck with my own authentication scheme at least I could have enforced some minimum complexity.

namespace 2 days ago 0 replies      
Email has been the identity backbone for a long time. Persona supports multiple emails. This makes maintaining multiple identities even easier. A great alternative to identity trackers.
jchrisa 2 days ago 0 replies      
I hacked together a PhoneGap plugin so you can easily use Persona to log into your mobile apps https://github.com/couchbaselabs/cordova-browserid

I think this is an easier protocol for devs than OpenId or Facebook Connect.

epa 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's hard not to respect Mozilla in 2013. I know i've personally moved away from Chrome back to FireFox. Mozilla seems like a young Google in a way.
themgt 2 days ago 2 replies      
I tried to boot the example app eyedee.me and it's unable to find this tarball from the package.json: https://github.com/benadida/node-client-sessions/tarball/92f...
rattray 2 days ago 6 replies      
Can anybody explain exactly what is meant by "distributed" here?
supervillain 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is Persona reviving the old Microsoft Passport?

Microsoft first implemented this in early 2000s, I remember Microsoft Passport marketing the single sign-on feature, it did not catch up.


frabcus 2 days ago 0 replies      
How is this different from WebFinger?

And a more detailed question - what is Mozilla's political strategy for getting adoption?

I hope they succeed!

zobzu 2 days ago 0 replies      
both 2 digits passwords and webcam based retina scans are terribly weak. Always upsets me when sarcasm like this is used, and the author is horribly wrong;-)
yjyft846jh 2 days ago 2 replies      
I don't understand how this is an advantage over just using email address as username with a password, like many sites do already. Can someone please explain the benefit?

[Edit: message to user Anonymous09, who replied to me below - you appear to have been hellbanned since the past three weeks. Thought you ought to know.]

oscargrouch 2 days ago 0 replies      
Web technology (http and relatives) was not meant to do this.
Can do it? of course, but will do it badly..

Its time to wake up, and see that we need new kinds of technology to keep up evolving

Its like glue wings in a old car and say that it is a plain and can fly..

The idea is good, and we need it badly, but the technology infrastructure its based on is weak for this scenario

ekurutepe 2 days ago 0 replies      
Am I the only one to read this as 'Persona is disturbed'?
tiziano88 2 days ago 0 replies      
very cool, looking forward to a more widespread adoption!
martinced 2 days ago 1 reply      
It sounds great both for users and for devs which, I'm sure, is going to help it take off.

However I've got one question: was this conceived from the start with security in mind and is it simple enough as to not be plagued with the countless security issues which product that are too complex inevitably run into?

I'm thinking, for example, of the various recent OAuth SNAFUs.

jcroll 2 days ago 0 replies      

building stuff you don't need today

How the Maker of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing propublica.org
547 points by danso  3 days ago   330 comments top 44
cletus 2 days ago 9 replies      
There are two things that disturb me about the US government:

1. As a whole, it seems to operate on the assumption of guilt; and

2. It seems bought and paid for by special interests, pork barrelling and so forth.

As a foreigner I of course have foreign retirement and bank accounts. If they total more than $10,000 (at any point in the last calendar year) you need to report them. This is FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Reporting).

Failure to do so can result in civil penalties up to the 300% of the balance and/or criminal prosecution. Why? To fight money laundering, drugs, terrorism or child pornography (every piece of onerous US legislation or prosecution is justified by ostensibly fighting one of more of these things; even sharing MP3s).

How are foreign retirement accounts treated? Are they taxable? How do you report them? Nobody really knows. Just tick "Other" and write "Retirement account" and hope for the best.

If your foreign assets are above a certain amount there is another separate form you need to send to the Treasury department IIRC.

You can e-file this form... if you use Internet Explorer. The JavaScript actually doesn't work in any other browser in a way that locks your account after 2-3 attempts.

In Australia the ATO (Australian Tax Office) produces e-tax, which for most people allows you to file taxes for free. But beyond that, the ATO doesn't seem to have this same level of mistrust of its citizens that the IRS does.

In Australia it doesn't scare me to make an honest mistake. In the US it does. This is not only for taxes but things like immigration issues.

In some European countries, once a tax return is accepted, that's it, it's done. The government basically can't reopen that later in an audit. In Australia I think they can go back 7 years. No idea what it is in the US. Probably to the day you were born. Now I'm sure there are exceptions to that rule (as in if you commit deliberate fraud) but the point of the system isn't to punish innocent mistakes.

All the while corporations and high net-worth individuals get away with blue murder as far as tax obligations go. The US could solve a lot of problems if it treated foreign corporate earnings the same as foreign individual earnings (in that you owe taxes on foreign income even if it isn't repatriated but tax you've paid with double-tax treaty countries offsets that obligation).

Yes by all means send me to prison for failing to mention a $24,000 retirement account in Australia I can't touch until I'm 65 instead. Great use of resources.

EDIT: to clarify (2), which is the major point relevant to this article, I don't understand why other governments don't seem so easily bought and sold for a pittance (in this case $1.5M over 5 years).

Another example: toxic fire retardants used in pretty much all couches due to a California law bought by an industry only worth tens of millions a year [1].

In the case of TurboTax specifically, I think so many people use them because of (1) and the complexity of the tax system created by (2).

Many people use TurboTax. You can say that's because of lobbying but that's only part of the story.

[1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/magazine/arlene-blums-crus...

rm999 3 days ago 5 replies      
This stuff aggravates me. My taxes aren't abnormally complex (single, one state, very few deductions, one w-2), but I get several 1099s for my investments and end up spending an hour filling them in manually, importing CSV files from my brokerages, and double checking the numbers. What annoys me is all the forms clearly state the IRS has also been sent this information; I'm literally filling out forms in a slow, error-prone way just so the IRS can run a simple == check to make sure I entered them in correctly. I feel like it's something my third grade teacher would force us to do to kill time.

I don't care about the 30 dollars turbotax charges me, I'll send 30 dollars straight to the CEO or promise to burn it. What bothers me is that I've been forced to do manual data entry - a pet peeve of mine as a programmer - because the government has been lobbied specifically to be less efficient.

DanielBMarkham 2 days ago 6 replies      
Couple of notes.

1) The IRS itself gets most of the tax advice wrong that it gives out to taxpayers

2) Paying taxes is one of the few transactional relationships you have with your government. If you ask me, a government representative should come to your office and you should pay him in cash, not hide and automate taxes so that they disappear.

3) There is a difference between a simple tax system and a tax system that is simple to operate. Taxpayers deserve a simple tax system. Continuing to automate the byzantine monster we already have is a terrible, terrible idea. How would reform ever take place?

4) Think for a minute what this implies: that a government agency that is responsible for collecting money should also be the sole source for computing how much money is owed. Where else would you allow such a conflict of interest? Should the police come by your house to determine what crimes might have been committed? Would you want inspections by the local health department of your private cookout? Right now we have administrative courts and such, but the principle is fairly clear: reporting by the citizen, oversight and acceptance of reporting by the government, and the court system to sort out problems. You don't start putting everything in one bag under the name of ease-of-operation. That's whacked.

5) I do not believe these candidates campaigned on this. What I believe they said (or meant) was that the system should be simple enough to eliminate the burden on the taxpayer, not that compliance with a bad system should be automated.

As a side note, have any of these people ever created software or worked for a project inside the IRS? The guys I know that have could tell you horror stories. Testing alone should give anybody who knows programming and the IRS nightmares. This is a tremendously bad idea, both from an execution and a structural standpoint. When something doesn't work, the answer isn't to just do it harder or throw computers at it.

Having said all of that, having the IRS give you the information that's already been entered once so you don't ever have to re-enter things? Excellent idea.

ADD: Completing taxes is not hard because we don't have technology applied in the correct manner. It's hard because the tax code is a complex, unintelligible POS. The only people benefitting from continuing to hide the POS that the tax code is are those folks who made it complex in the first place (And will continue to add to its complexity the more that we ignore it)

jcr 2 days ago 1 reply      
> The following month, an ad in The Sacramento Bee, paid for by the CCIA, cautioned "Taxpayers beware" and said ReadyReturn "could be very harmful to taxpayers." The ad pointed to a now-defunct website, taxthreat.com, opposing ReadyReturn.

Well, they won't be doing that again!





(Note To Self: Eventually, I might regret this.)

danso 2 days ago 4 replies      
The fact that a tax-hater such as Grover Norquist opposes reforming the tax-filing procedures illustrates the complex dichotomy between giving government good responsibility without giving it dictatorship-like responsibility.

In Norquist's opinion, making taxes too easy to file will make citzenry too complacent about how they're being nickel-and-dimed and will lull them into not pursuing reform. OK, fair enough.

But what about a scenario in which for 30-50 million Americans file for their taxes by sending a SMS (as it's apparently done in Scandinavian countries)? And all the other taxpayers, they're wondering: "Why the f-ck can't my taxes be that easy??"

Isn't this scenario as likely to lead to overhaul of our complicated tax code?

ScottWhigham 3 days ago 10 replies      
To those saying "We should be more like Sweden/Finland!", I'd ask whether those countries have a tax system that is also based on using tax credits and deductions to lower your tax due? I don't know the tax codes in those countries but my guess is that, because they use the tax entity-created system, they do not have such a complicated tax code as the US.

In the US, you have two sides of this: (1) the IRS, and (2) CPAs, CPA firms, and software firms like Intuit who profit from helping customers file taxes. The question always is, "Why would I pay someone to file my taxes?" The answer is, "If they can save you more than their fee, it's worth it." In other words, if they charge $100 but save you $101 in "tax due", you have a net "win" of $1 thus you should hire a professional. Why does this work?

For the CPAs, CPA firms, and software firms like Intuit, you have a professional who is taking your money and offers a reasonable expectation that, as a result of using their software, you will save more money than you pay in fees because they will help you find deductions and tax credits that you would've been hard pressed to find yourself. These companies compete in a free market for your money, both with other software companies and with CPAs/CPA firms. The "winner" (for a particular user/client) is the one who (a) has the best reputation of not getting you audited, and (b) who gets you the best price:deduction ratio.

On the other hand, you have a government entity whose sole charge is to collect revenue. Is their system going to be designed to help you get as many deductions as possible? Are they going to prompt you to deduct moving expenses (just to pick one example)? Maybe, maybe not. The question is legit though and thus causes us all to say, "Wait a minute... maybe, since there is a financial incentive for them not to show me deductions, that they will hide some of that (or make finding it as complex as the tax code)."

If Intuit/et al help you save $5000 in taxes this year by helping you deduct all that you can, Intuit/et al do not make one penny more - that money simply stays in your pocket. And you probably smile, buy a new car/vacation/etc. And you certainly tell your friends, "You should use Intuit!" If the IRS helps you save $5000 that you would have otherwise paid (b/c you did not fully deduct all that you could have), then the IRS loses $5000. That in and of itself highlights the problem. Do you trust the IRS to say, "It's okay if we lose $5000 - you're happy, right? That's what matters!"? Of course not. Having the separation works in the US for this clear conflict of interest.

Again - I don't know the tax code of the Euro countries but I'd be interested to hear if they have a similar setup and how they work around this. It's logical to think that the IRS could invest $500 million building such a system and then no one uses it because paying $30 to Intuit/etc results in a higher refund for the above reasons...

rayiner 2 days ago 0 replies      
There is a lot of reading between the lines that needs to be done with this article:

> It's already a reality in Denmark, Sweden and Spain.

This is roughly equivalent to saying: "New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana already do it, why not the whole country? Lobbying must be to blame!"

> William Gale, co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

So the left agrees with it, I wonder what the right thinks?

> Conservative tax activist Grover Norquist

Now things are getting interesting.

> opposes IRS government tax preparation.
> allowing the IRS to act as a tax preparer could result in taxpayers paying more money
> calling return-free filing a "massive expansion of the U.S. government through a big government program."

> In 2005, Norquist testified before the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform arguing against return-free filing. The next year, Norquist and others wrote in a letter to President Bush that getting an official-looking "bill" from the IRS could be "extremely intimidating, particularly for seniors, low-income and non-English speaking citizens."

> The letter says the IRS wants to "socialize all tax preparation in America" to get higher tax revenues.

> A year after Norquist wrote Bush, a bill to limit return-free filing was introduced by a pair of unlikely allies: Reps. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the conservative House majority leader

The article says Intuit spent $11.5 million lobbying in the last five years (which in the U.S. is table scraps--see $30 million paid by Yahoo! for Summly).

What is really more likely here. That Intuit has managed to buy the government for $2 million a year, or instead that they've successfully hit on a message (free tax filing = government takeover of return preparation) that resonates with rightists and billionaires who have good reason to not want the IRS to have any part in tax return preparation, not to mention ideologues who see simpler tax filing as a slippery slope to making it easier for the government to raise taxes without push-back (on the theory that citizens are more likely to push back against taxes if they are forced to face the numbers every April).

facorreia 3 days ago 0 replies      
In Brazil this kind of tax statement has been done online for many years using software supplied by the federal government. Unfortunately the government doesn't supply the data as well. It knows much better than me how much money I was paid, how much I paid for medical services, what my bank statement says, and so on, because we have a very comprehensive and intrusive set of laws about accountability towards the government. But still the government has us entering a lot of information from a lot of sources every year (information, I repeat, it already has) and we face harsh liabilities if we fail to retrieve and enter the correct information.
Nursie 3 days ago 1 reply      
In Australia there is a program distributed by the government each year, based on some sort of spreadsheet type thing, that looks up as much info as it can from central records (when provided with identifying info) and then walks you through the rest of the process of filling in a return.

Not as simple as "yes, that looks right" that happens in a bunch of places, or the UK system (no tax return unless you have special circumstances) but it works well.

MatthewPhillips 3 days ago 2 replies      
The IRS switched to an xml file format a couple of years ago for e-filing, which broke the first week of the tax season. They were unable to accept any returns for around a week, IIRC. This article is a little overly optimistic about their chances of fully replacing tax prep, in my opinion.
eumenides1 2 days ago 1 reply      
Isn't there free options in the US? In Canada, we have StudioTax. http://www.studiotax.com/

It's free and on a donation basis. I switched from TurboTax to this and I'm really happy with it.

I'm surprised there isn't a open-sourced free way to do taxes. That way we can address the tinfoil hat based worries of the government doing your taxes and have free and easy software.

JimWestergren 3 days ago 3 replies      
Stats about tax declaration from Sweden last year:

Via internet: 19,9%

Via PIN code: 20,1%

Via telephone: 12,5%

SMS: 6,6%

Smartphone app: 2,3%

Total: 60,4% filed electronically

The rest sent in papers via the mail. (the old method)

Source: http://www.skatteverket.se/download/18.71004e4c133e23bf6db80...

Personally I have filed via the internet since 2005 both private and for my company.

gyardley 2 days ago 3 replies      
Yes, TurboTax is being rather transparently venal, but that doesn't mean they're wrong. I doubt the American government is competent enough to get tax calculations right, and I suspect they're hungry enough for revenue to make all their default assumptions in their favor. At least that's been my experience with every state and federal tax authority I've dealt with for the past half-decade or so.

Once we have a tax code that's simple enough and a government that's competent enough to get things right, then we can talk about having the government fill out our tax forms. Until then, the government's just going to be ripping off the blindly trusting, a little bit at a time.

ilaksh 2 days ago 1 reply      
This seems an easy to grasp example of how the free market actually benefits the wealthy disproportionately. I think its an over-simplified concept.

Yes, we definitely need to remain free and diverse, but we need to figure out how to factor more actual science, especially science related to human needs, into our decision-making systems. Right now its just whoever manages to collect the most money buys the policies.

I think that the concept we have of money is inadequate. We need to start tracking and taking into account more data rather than just how many points everyone has regardless of how they got them or how they want to spend them. And I think to make things fair and effective the rules and enforcement need to be automated.

Imagine a computer game where there was only one stat. Does that sound like a fair, fun, or sophisticated game?

pm24601 2 days ago 0 replies      
Intuit could not get the Minnesota tax returns right. Minnesota had to threaten to refuse any TurboTax generated returns for Intuit to fix the problem: http://www.twincities.com/business/ci_22767151/minnesota-tur...

"On Monday, March 11, the state released a list of 13 specific line items that led to errors on Minnesota tax returns filed through the Intuit software and other tax-preparation products from the company.

"These were very serious to us," Terri Steenblock, the state's assistant commissioner of individual taxes, said Monday at a news conference. "We've never seen issues like this."

Last week, the state advised people not to use Intuit products to file their state taxes. Those products include TurboTax, Lacerte, Intuit online and ProSeries."

enduser 2 days ago 0 replies      
Those of you who live in Silicon Valley might consider writing to Rep. Zoe Lofgren about this. The article mentions she is one of two Representatives who co-sponsored a bill to limit return-free filing. From the article:

"A year after Norquist wrote Bush, a bill to limit return-free filing was introduced by a pair of unlikely allies: Reps. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the conservative House majority leader, and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a liberal stalwart whose district includes Silicon Valley."

nawitus 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is one of the things that's done correctly in Finland. I've never had to do my taxes, it's always been correctly pre-filled.
paulyg 2 days ago 2 replies      
Many in this thread seem to be glazing over one important detail. This system would be opt-in. Don't trust the IRS? Have a lot of complicated deductions? Hire a CPA or use Turbo Tax or fill out the paper yourself. Approx 13% of filers used a 1040ez last year. This system is perfect for them. I would venture a guess that 1/2 of 1040a filers could also use it. Again though it is your (hopefully informed) choice to do so.
joras 2 days ago 1 reply      
Taxes are prefilled in Estonia also, you can see all of the information on the webpage, and in case of a home loan or investments, you can send that information to the tax form from a bank site with one click. If you're married you can file joint tax. And thats it.

The whole process takes about 10 minutes, the deductibles are calculated and returned quite quickly, this year I was returned about 100euros, mostly because of my daughters dance lessons that are exempt of tax.

I dont see the reason people try to defend TurboTax here, yes, taxes are more complicated in US, but still, government does the same calculations anyway, have the same data anyway. Why not do this automatically. And if government wants to screw you, well, then I dont belive that turbotax or alternatives could help you anyway.

Symmetry 2 days ago 0 replies      
This seems to suffer from the same main weakness as attempts to simplify the tax code. The people who most care about taxes and best understand alternative systems are those who know how to work the current system. No doubt the Grover Norquists of the world have accountants who can use differing opinions of the rules to shave their tax bill. If our tax system was simpler or easier more people would claim all the deductions to which they were entitled then taxes would have to go up, but effectively only on those who already knew about all the deductions.

We might all be outraged about this, but we're not going to change who we vote for based on whether a given politician supports tax reform or not, we reserve that for things that directly effect us like SOPA. Likewise people who prepare taxes for a living will change their vote to punish politicians who are taking away their jobs, but will ignore stuff like SOPA.

mcenedella 3 days ago 5 replies      
The choice is between letting the government do your taxes for "free", versus having a company whose reputation rides on getting your taxes done as efficiently as possible with the least tax burden to you. Anybody who would choose to have the government complete them, hasn't been paying attention to the lengths revenue-strapped states will go to maximize their tax collections.

It's a bit like letting the user car salesman set the price you pay for the auto versus haggling for yourself. It's also simpler, "free", quicker, and less intensive to let the professional do it for you.

But free can sometimes be the most expensive way of all.

hkarthik 3 days ago 2 replies      
US Tax reform is one of those things I don't expect to happen in my life time. Our government is too addicted to the income stream it provides and is just too scared to mess with it in any meaningful way.

All it takes is a fear monger with an agenda like Intuit to whisper "Our experts estimate that you will lose $X billion in uncollected taxes with this new scheme" to send congressmen from both parties running.

Ideally, we would see state governments take the lead here and innovate. If they can show meaningful gains then maybe the Federal government will pay attention.

frogpelt 2 days ago 6 replies      
Frankly, anyone who does trust any government hasn't had very much experience with them. At best, governments are inefficient and incompetent. At worst, they are run by politicians absorbed with self-interest.

There are already scads of people trusting too much to other entities rather than figuring it out on their own. These people leave their tax withholdings at default levels, then walk down to the local Wal-Mart and trust the Jackson-Hewitt crooks to do their taxes. Jackson-Hewitt files a 1040EZ for them, charges $300 bucks and they leave happy because it will be automatically be taken out of their $10,000 refund. They feel rich for about two weeks.

The solution is not more government nanny-state ideas. The solution is to find ways to require people to be MORE accountable for their own well-being.

How about requiring every person who receives 10% or more of their yearly salary back in a refund to attend classes on how to maximize their tax benefits? It would be paid for out of their refund. After they go once, they don't have to go again for 5 years.

If you're too dumb or unaware of your surroundings to know that you can file your taxes for free with a little bit of effort, you need education.

fduran 2 days ago 0 replies      
Also unlike other countries from what I remember you mail your federal and state tax forms and you don't even get a receipt or acknowledgement notification, just hoping the envelope won't be lost.

A simple official paper stating your basic tax figures (gross/net income) can also be used as a simple way to verify low income when asking for scholarships and other financial aids right?

RougeFemme 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here in the state of Virginia, we never had return-free filing for state taxes. But we did have free online filing of state tax returns. It was cheaper for the state to process the online returns rather than paper forms. However, the legislature decided that it wasn't proper for the state government to provide for free a service that should be provided by private enterprise. So now your choices are to file paper forms (which costs the state more to process) or file electronically, which, of course, costs you, the taxpaer, money. . .but is quite a boon for private enterprise.
LarryMade2 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is why the US can't have shiny things.

I've always thought the IRS should provide us with a lot of the tax info, since it gets reported to them so regularly.

mikec3k 2 days ago 2 replies      
Why does anyone give a fuck what Grover Norquist says? He was never elected to any office.
jisaacstone 2 days ago 0 replies      
For the past three years I have filed my taxes myself, and every single time I make a mistake +- $100 or so, the IRS sends a correction, I fill out more paperwork and send payment / receive refund.

Y'all know this is inefficient. I spend at least 20 hours of work filing my taxes each year, and as a fairly intelligent citizen I always make a mistake anyway.

kyrra 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure what the tax code is like in other countries, but the US one is pretty complicated due the number of write-offs you can add to your tax deductions. A lot of those deductions are not reported to the government, so it's up to you to figure out if its worth doing or just doing the standard deduction amount.
readme 3 days ago 0 replies      
>Intuit argues that allowing the IRS to act as a tax preparer could result in taxpayers paying more money.

Gee, you think? Thanks for saving us Intuit.

bjhoops1 2 days ago 0 replies      
David Cay Johnston covered this in one of his chapters in The Fine Print. If you're looking to be incensed by more cases of corruption between corporations and government, it's definitely worth a read.
You'll also get to find out why we in the US pay 38x more per bit of data transferred than the Japanese do!
seivan 3 days ago 5 replies      
Hmm. How good is Turbo Tax, I mean I can tell it's horribly coded, but does it have automated features/recommendations that will help you earn more? Or is it basically what the tax system does in Swede/Finland etc?
ericcumbee 2 days ago 0 replies      
"When you make an appointment for a car to get serviced, the service history is all there. Since the IRS already has all that info anyway, it's not a big challenge to put it in a format where we could see it,"

Say What?

fakeer 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can't you sue your Government for this crime?

It's a crime, isn't it? Your government is doing it on the behest of all those companies who fund the lobbyists. You must be having some public litigation system.

It disturbs me when in countries like USA such policies that directly and greatly affect the citizens are controlled by lobbyists. My hope and enthusiasm for changes in my own country dims by a bit.

(BTW taxation has become very simpler off late here, relatively I mean).

just2n 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here's my idea. I suspect TurboTax would lobby against it as well.

Tax reform.

Woah. I mean make it simple enough that there isn't any need for tax specialists, because it's just not that involved. Then filing takes seconds for most people, audits are trivial, costs go down for everyone, and most importantly, companies that shouldn't exist die (H&R Block, TurboTax, the many law firms that help major corporations exploit tax loopholes). Win win win win?

sigh. Never gonna happen.

yyqux 2 days ago 0 replies      
Government sucks since it's inefficient and bureacratic and wastes people time. In order to remind people of this fact we must ensure that it remains this way so that people don't get the incorrect idea that government can be efficient.
niggler 3 days ago 2 replies      
FYI: this exists: https://www.freefilefillableforms.com/

I haven't used this personally for filing because it doesn't handle certain forms like 1128, but I'm told it's pretty good for basic stuff

nico 2 days ago 0 replies      
"You'd open up a pre-filled return, see what the government thinks you owe, make any needed changes and be done. The miserable annual IRS shuffle, gone."

That's how it works in Chile, for about 10 years now :D

caycep 2 days ago 0 replies      
same thing is happening with electronic medical records. Why else does EPIC's CEO donate heavily to Wisconsin congressmen, or sponsor memberships to the FDA panels that oversee the guidelines and policies regarding these systems?
warmwaffles 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's also another source of income as well for the IRS. Intuit makes money off of selling their product, their earnings get taxed.
HarlinAtWork 2 days ago 0 replies      
Personally I'm against any business lobbying to change laws to give itself a competitive advantage. However, so that I don't have to pay more than my fair share in taxes, I have to itemize deductions: business expenses and those that I am entitled to. Until we can implement something more libertarian like the Fair Tax plan, a lot of us are stuck with long tax forms unfortunately. An online EZ form or a tax form that the Government fills out "on my behalf" won't cut it. The Government will screw you as much as these scumbag businesses.
bjhoops1 1 day ago 0 replies      
We the People white house petition, anyone?
theorique 3 days ago 2 replies      
All taxes are theft of the private property of free citizens.
nathanb 2 days ago 1 reply      
OMG big business is trying to ruin my life!

The government are not incentivized to do a good job preparing your taxes. I'm not a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorist. I don't think the US government wants to institute a program to systematically defraud the population. But I do believe that governmental inefficiency and incompetence is nigh-limitless, and the very people who may need their tax returns the most could end up being cheated out of them, not by malice but by indifference or stupidity.

(And there are many opportunities for the poor and underserved to have their taxes prepared for free. Many credit unions will do it, for example, and they are incentivized to do a good job because the tax returns will likely pass through their hands).

I realize the counter-argument is "but you can just opt-out if you don't trust the government". Sure. I can also choose to drive if I don't want my civil liberties violated by the TSA (and I do, except when traveling internationally). If the easiest and most convenient option also involves giving away rights, most people will take it. And then when later it turns out that it's being abused, there will be insufficient infrastructure in place for many people to choose an alternative.

I hope this is just paranoid ranting.

How Google Sliced Away Our Knife Ads knife-depot.com
546 points by AJ007  3 days ago   327 comments top 42
DanielBMarkham 3 days ago 12 replies      
You cannot wield the kind of economic power Google does and not be evil, at least for the working definition many people have of "evil".

We've put a huge hunk of our intellectual and economic capital under the control of a marketing company. I really, really like Google, but I don't see this situation as being stable over a period of decades. Maybe 5-10 more years or so, but not a lot longer.

These kinds of decisions, where we pick economic winners and losers, are political decisions, no matter who makes them. (Personally I abhor making them, but that doesn't change what they are). These knife guys have representatives. Indeed, every small business Google has run over has democratic representation. Each year Google continues to make these decisions the political hue and cry will increase. This can't go on forever like this. "Don't be evil" was a great slogan, but its days are numbered. Perhaps over.

Side note: one of the ways I can tell Google's power has grown too large is the elliptical way many commenters have of criticizing it. They're unhappy with its actions, perhaps even livid, but it's always a tone of "Golly! This is really unfortunate and I'm sure nobody at Google really meant to do this, but...."

This is the same way you'd criticize a king, somebody you are beholden to. "Golly! I know you, the king, are not at fault, but some of these advisers of yours must have accidentally goofed up somewhere..."

Whereas if Dell, the electric company, or the garage down the street screws up in your eyes? Different tone entirely.

josefresco 3 days ago 3 replies      
Being an AdWords veteran (having managed campaigns for several clients) all I could do was nod my head grumble under my breath about how this is "business as usual" for Google.

One of my clients who was selling in the health market had this and other seemingly "unfair" treatments happen again and again over the years. All the while Google was taking money from Canadian "pharmacies" and allowing big brand competitors to violate the same rules they were coming down on my clients for.

The kick is that sometimes you just luck out. Your ads are reviewed by another (anonymous) staffer who doesn't interpret the rules in the same way.

We found the best way to avoid issues like this was: never edit an existing approved ad. Seems silly but we cringed each time we had to edit or submit a new ad knowing that some random reviewer would roll the dice and deliver a verdict.

Finally however Google banned most of our most effective keywords, while at the same time allowing our competitors (both larger and smaller) to continue on without interruption.

pud 3 days ago 5 replies      
Whenever I ban a user from one of my sites for an infraction, he invariably points to several other infracting users and says "well why do they get to post porn (or ads for weapons or whatever) and I don't?"

The reason is because I didn't catch the other users. Or their infraction isn't as bad.

While I feel bad for the knife company, I also know dealing with user-generated content (like these ads) is hard.

onemorepassword 3 days ago 2 replies      
Oh, the irony of publicizing the same knives via YouTube, the Google property that censors boobies but allows you to promote machine guns to a global audience...
JumpCrisscross 3 days ago 0 replies      
There may be merit in splitting Google's Search and Advertising businesses. Advertising would pay Search (or Bing or Duck Duck Go) to place ads in its results via an API. Search would indiscriminately host ads posted to it by ad brokers, of which Advertising would be one. Search would be freed from having to police advertisements. Advertising's policing would be checked by competitive pressure.

In a stylised securities transaction we have customers, brokers, and an exchange. Customers have choices between brokers. Brokers, of which there are many, exercise discretion in how much capability they give which customers. The exchange, of which there is one, exercises discretion in which brokers it transacts with, but not which customers get to transact on it. This is important since the exchange has something approaching monopoly power. It also means the exchanges aren't liable for non-compliant customers - the brokers are.

Skip back to Google. Search is the exchange and Advertising is the broker. The exchange only permits one broker. Naturally, the broker-exchange is liable for policing non-compliant and stupid customers (barring a very large expansion in government which would permit it to monitor all transactions going through Google). It has also extended its exchange monopoly power to its broker.

We love disintermediation. But intermediaries facilitate checks on concentration in a competitive system.

tehwalrus 3 days ago 8 replies      
(from UK, and happy to accept your downvotes):

I'm shocked that people litteraly sell knives designed to hurt people on the internet, and that people on HN come to the defence of these arms dealers. I assumed this was about kitchen knives when I clicked on the link.

The US constitution was written with a right to bear arms so people could overthrow the government, not protect themselves from criminals. Since then, that government has entrenched power to the point where it would be nearly impossible for even another state to take it down, let alone a group of armed civilians - thus rendering the constitutional clauses irrelevant to their original purpose. (note to secret services: no, I don't want to overthrow governments or start wars, I'm talking hypothetically.)

In the rest of the developed world where weapons are generally banned, as they are in the UK, criminals simply don't use weapons on civilians (apart from high value targets, perhaps) because the penalties for doing so are so harsh. Criminals literally throw their guns away in a chase, rather than use them on the police/get caught with them. Police are generally unarmed, apart from specially trained units (dawn raids, at airports, etc).

This is the sole reason I would never ever consider living in the USA - the risk from a) criminals, b) civilian "heros" and c) the police themselves, all of whom are armed to the teeth, legally. Terrifying.

rdl 3 days ago 3 replies      
I'm in favor of banning porn ads (generally), since those tend to be offensive to a lot of people and also are highly correlated with spammy behavior, but I'd be tempted to boycott a vendor who prohibited weapons ads for any reason other than legal compliance.

Amazon is pretty reasonable (knives are fine, firearms accessories are fine, but firearms and ammunition are out due to compliance issues). Google has no excuse.

jordoh 3 days ago 3 replies      
This seems like a pretty clear-cut case of assuming that there is some intentional malice or favoritism in actions that are the result of an automated system.

- Google adds some terms like "assisted opening knife" and "assist folding knife" so they are recognized as prohibited knife ads. Adding these terms could very well have been automated based on the terms having a strong association with other terms found alongside prohibited items.

- knife-depots' account suddenly contains X% disallowed knife ads, based on the new terms - where X is relatively large percentage. Account automatically disabled.

- Amazon and Walmart also have X% disallowed knife ads, but X is an extremely small percent of their overall number of items. Accounts remain active.

Fortunately, AdWords is one of the few Google properties where you can actually get a human on the phone and have them intervene with the automated results (though it can certainly take a lot of back and forth, in my personal experience).

In a more general sense, this is something that you constantly run in to if you have your automated systems performing any action that a user could view as punitive. I've yet to see a site that was open about automated actions being such - likely because they don't want to make it too easy to automate getting around the automated rules - but it does seem like there is a reasonable amount of explanation of the system that could diffuse these assumptions of persecution.

anigbrowl 3 days ago 3 replies      
I watched his video that purported to explain the difference between a switchblade and a spring assisted knife. As far as I can tell the only difference is that the location of the switch has changed. This is a distinction without a substantive difference. So yo would need a slightly different hand movement to trigger this alternative spring-assisted knife. Big deal; as someone who used to like knives enough to have a small collection, I think I could get the necessary movement down in 10 or 15 minutes if someone handed me one of these

I have nothing against this guy promoting his business, but this is a switchblade as far as I'm concerned, just a slightly different design.

ImprovedSilence 3 days ago 3 replies      
very slowly, but very, very surly, google is doing a complete 180 on "don't be evil". I think the slow pressure of being a public company is really going to strangle out much of the "good side" of Google. Everything they've done in the past 1.5yrs has been terrible for their users.
corresation 3 days ago 1 reply      

Company tried to sell a product that Google prohibits. Where is the story here? Trying to say "well they do it too!" is not and is never a valid complaint, just as it wasn't in primary school -- their day will come. Further the desperate reaching to make Google evil is a stretch given that doing this can only possibly lose them money (favoring the "big guys" isn't rational for a bid-based service, where the highest bid gets Google the most money, regardless of the vendor).

The only real story here is that Google managed to achieve such dominance in advertising (though it certainly isn't as absolute as some are pretending).

samd 3 days ago 3 replies      
What's really important is this line:

"For that reason, we wanted to let you guys, loyal Cutting Edge readers and Knife Depot fans, know that you might not being seeing Knife Depot ads peppered across the Internet."

If you don't get to advertise with Google you basically don't get to advertise on the Internet. That's a powerful monopoly, one they've had for years, and that's the real story here. You have to deal with Google and all their idiosyncratic/evil/whatever behavior because there's no alternative.

pja 3 days ago 0 replies      
I suspect the short question + answer is: are you buying Amazon or Walmart levels of AdWords? No? Well, congratulations, you're SOL.

It's no wonder that Google has started pouring large amounts of effort into lobbying in the last few years, because it's precisely this combination of de facto monopoly combined with poor treatment of customers who have no-where else to go that leads (eventually) to legislation or possibly even break-up of the company in question.

To paraphrase a famous quote: you may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you, whether you like it or not.

jawns 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'd be curious to know where Knife Depot is putting its advertising dollars now that it's not spending on AdWords.
radtad 3 days ago 2 replies      
Search 'assisted opening knives' and you won't see any ads about such knives EXCEPT for Amazon. You will also see "Shop for Assisted Opening Knives on Google" which, if you follow the link, will show you a nice assortment of about 14k assisted opening knives. This feels like an abuse of monopoly power.
robomartin 3 days ago 0 replies      
In the context of their world-wide monopoly, at one point we have to start asking if Google has the right to censor or control anything this way.

Don't get me wrong, I hate the idea of government telling anyone what they can and cannot do. Massive monopolies is one place where I can see a need for some kind of legal intervention. The reason obviously being that a large monopoly has no competing entity to force it to modify its behavior.

While it is true that Google tries to "clean-up" their search I think this is almost an arrogant stance. How can a few hundred people be in charge of deciding what you and I should and should not see? Methinks we should be given control. If I don't like weapons of any kind I ought to be able to go to my control panel and exclude them from my results. It should be my choice, not theirs.

That said, these "assisted opening" blades are an obvious example of exploiting a loophole in the laws. For all intents and purposes they are switch blades. The end result is exactly the same: Open a knife very quickly.

Then there's the whole argument about how much sense it makes to granularly ban stuff like this. I have no clue as to how much crime out there can be attributed directly to switch blades. Probably not much at all. Although I do remember that knives are on par with certain types of guns in terms of murders per year.

Circling back, the "Google Syndrome" is one that is constantly growing in threat level. I've said this many time. I like their services, but this business of killing your account auto-magically with no real business process in place to deal with the problems is just total bullshit. At one point it has to stop. I have no clue what's going to make that happen, but it sure seems to be leaving a path of destruction behind it.

The best thing we can do is stop using every new Google service they throw at us. I know, it's hard to let go of the free drugs, but look at what you are promoting and decide if this is what you want in the future five times over.

arbuge 3 days ago 0 replies      
Google suspends AdWords acconts without much recourse all the time, as a quick search on "adwords account suspended" shows. Doesn't matter if they're paying customers, etc.

The thorny part about it is that the guidelines that can lead to suspension change over time and deleting ads that are no longer in compliance might not safeguard your account. I've known account holders that got suspended retroactively for ads that are no longer in compliance, even though these ads were actually deleted before the guidelines changed. The point seems to be non-negotiable with Google though.

This can be pretty tragic for many small businesses since Google accounts for such a huge percentage of search traffic. Larger customers typically have dedicated account reps who I'm guessing might be able to help in these situations.

alekseyk 3 days ago 1 reply      
Google is a two faced company who only cares about money.

And unlike other companies, they only care about BIG business money not small business money.

I know that all too well, they banned one of the web sites I owned for 'adult' content on first strike while competitors who had 10x the traffic (and 10x the reports of user uploaded adult content) remained in their network.

I never spoke to a single person there, always a robot. That was back in 2003.

Now my headphone jack failed on brand new Nexus 4 and I never heard back from Google at all.

This will bite them in the ass sooner or later.

ams6110 3 days ago 0 replies      
Comcast is doing something similar, they have banned advertising from legitimate, legal gun shops, but of course continue to carry copious amounts of programming featuring glorified, gratuitous gun violence.

I want to cancel my Comcast account; they used to be my only option but very recently AT&T is now offering their "U-verse" internet in my neighborhood.

yalogin 3 days ago 0 replies      
I just realized that Adwords is Google's equivalent of the iOS app store. They review stuff and either remove or block certain "items". I cannot help but wonder how civil and accomodating the people effected by the adwords changes are compared to the developers effected by the iOS app store. Is it just because the developers know how to make noise better than the non-tech ones?
tn13 3 days ago 0 replies      
There is one more point we all might be missing here. This is not just about knief-depot.

It is unreasonable to believe that someone at Google said, "Hey, I dont like these knief-depot people, let us screw them to benefit Amazon".

Likely case is this. People at Amazon (or put other large company spending significant amounts with Google) maintains a dashboard and does a competitor analysis to find out that knief-depot is doing better than them and hence there is scope for screwing this smaller company. They talk to google and create problems from them. And I dont think they have singled out knife depot alone, but they have done this with many more on the slippary slope.

This means that Google does have some non-transparent ways of doing business when with comes to Adwords.

This is not just bad for Knife-depot but bad for all of us.

TomGullen 3 days ago 1 reply      
Here's one possible explanation. Amazon is a high value customer so Google carefully reviewed their t&c to ensure their selling policies are in line with googles own policies. They confidently know that amazon won't sell anything illegal, and that amazon have measures in place to deal with rogue sellers on their service. They know amazon has been around for a long time and are trusted by google and the general public. They know that if amazon screws up, amazon would probably take most of the heat. With this information google considers amazon to be a low risk user of their services.

Knife depot is a small customer, and google cant justify the time to review your policies and risk that accepting you as a customer entails. If you screw up, google would probably take a large part of the blame.

The popular alternative hypothesis seem to be that google is pure evil.

danhodgins 3 days ago 0 replies      
If I was Knife Depot, I would focus on brainstorming a single opt-in offer they could use to have all their marketing and advertising channels function as a funnel for growing their email list.

"1 Badass Knife Per Week" is an opt-in offer that would get my attention, even though I'm not a knife guy.

I expand on this idea in this post: http://www.tinylever.com/one-badass-knife-per-week

Why be dependent on Google for your sales? Pay them once up front to help grow your list, and you'll be able monetize each subscriber for their lifetime using email - a FREE channel you own and control 100%.

A list is really where it's at, but to make list-building work you need a single opt-in offer that will cause people to sign up on the spot.

If you'd like some ideas for crafting your opt in offer, reach out right now by email: dan [at] tinylever [dot] com

xutopia 3 days ago 6 replies      
Is it really illegal to own a switch blade but legal to purchase and own assault rifles?
DividesByZero 3 days ago 0 replies      
In the example video both knives seem like they do pretty much exactly the same thing?
conductr 3 days ago 0 replies      
Google's not the only one who bans you. I'm at work: "This Websense category is filtered: Weapons."

Yes, I work for a big company that filters the web and it does suck for me... but since a lot of people shop online while at work, it also sucks for you

brador 3 days ago 0 replies      
Solution B: start second site with the questioned knives. Link from main site. Keep adwords pointing to main site. ?
jroseattle 3 days ago 0 replies      
As more of these stories happen, Google adwords will simply consist of the big-brand marketers. There is something I trust in this process -- the market.

Companies like knife-depot are specialty, niche, hyper-focused on their particular product: knives. From their post, it's obvious they know those products inside and out. WalMart, Target, Amazon? They don't know squat about those products. If I want a specialty product such as the knife described in the article, I trust a specialty shop much more than the bulk-focused vendors.

As Google runs more of the specialty folks away and caters more to the big brands, I would venture they'll see click-through activity commensurate with that change. And that's called opportunity in that space.

Nice going, Google.

score 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's easy to see why Google banned these guys and not Amazon.com or Walmart. I could sum it up in one word: trust. Amazon and Walmart have it, these guys don't.

Personally, if I'm going to buy a knife, I'll buy it from Amazon. I trust them on a whole bunch of levels that I don't trust these guys.

Is it fair? I've been doing SEO / PPC for over a decade and its never, ever been fair.

mgkimsal 3 days ago 0 replies      
I can imagine one of the justifications for letting walmart and others get away with it is because they're big, but more specifically, their ad budgets are big. But... so what? Where else are they going to go? Bing? Mapquest?

Perhaps if every major large retailer in the US shaved off a few percent of their ad budget away from Google and gave it to one competitor, there'd be a slim fighting chance of actually upsetting Google's dominance, but I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

Relatedly(?), MS has avoided hardware for a long time... ostensibly under the guise of "not upsetting their partners". But... what would the partners do? Bundle Linux? In mobile, they're sort of doing this, but hardware partners left MS not because MS was competing in the hardware business against them - they left because the option (android) was better.

davebees 3 days ago 1 reply      
> We'd also been careful to not ever violate Google's Adwords weapons policy, which prohibits “the promotion of knives, such as butterfly knives, (balisongs) and switchblades.”

Sounds like they were promoting knives, and hence violating the policy.

aymeric 3 days ago 0 replies      
I got into the same situation with my outsourcing company http://taskarmy.com

They suspended our account although we made the changes necessary to comply with their terms of service (you can't guarantee 1st page in SEO services).

In the meantime, some of our competitors can still advertise their services.

Since my account has been suspended, it massively slowed down the growth and I couldn't a better replacement.

joey_muller 3 days ago 1 reply      
I predict Google will come around and open up your adwords account again. Don't give up on it if, of course, you want their traffic. Were you running product listing ads (PLAs) as well?
cm2012 3 days ago 0 replies      
Does anybody else notice that they now OWN Assisted Opening Knives in the organic SERPS? Making Google ads, while useful, not as vital.
notdan 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ironically I can't view this "because it has been categorized "Weapons;Shopping"" by the corporate firewall...
jccalhoun 3 days ago 0 replies      
"After some deep thinking, we decided that serving our customer base, who legally buy large amounts of assisted-opening knives, was more important than continuing to advertise with Google. For this reason, we decided to not remove the knives and forgo our Google Adwords account"

I'm not clear. Did Knife Depot remove their ads or did Google?

raheemm 3 days ago 0 replies      
Seriously, there is a need for a startup to disrupt the hell out of google.
ritonlajoie 3 days ago 0 replies      
The real issue with these blogs is that there is no way to get to the main website easily.
akproxy 3 days ago 0 replies      

The beauty of Hacker News!

It started at Google Adwords and is now going to Communist China and Stalinist Russia!! Just have a look at the comment threads.

Not bad!

sroerick 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is great PR.
mannu4u4u 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ok i will try my friend and Emma wow i really love her....
capo 3 days ago 2 replies      
Why is this sort of post even on HN, not to mention the front page? and why is this thread dominated by idiotic language about "evil" and "kings" and incoherent babbling about politics and democratic representation?! and suddenly everyone is a law scholar.

I blame Matt Cutts' occasional appearances for the subsequent flocking of SEO sorts here. This post doesn't belong on HN, certainly not on the front page.

What's Actually Wrong with Yahoo's Purchase of Summly hackingdistributed.com
451 points by hoonose  2 days ago   272 comments top 63
michaelochurch 2 days ago 5 replies      
I'm sure a lot of people are resentful or disgusted that a 17-year-old was acquired for $30 million. I just find it fucking hilarious. It's awesome, not in some dipshit "American Dream" sort of way, but in the "holy shit, this world is on crack" sense of it. I say, go him!

The next time I am looking for work I am seriously considering getting rid of the resume and coming up with a bullshit startup name. It's pretty ridiculous that my "acq-hire" value in a startup with a bullshit product would be about 50 times the market salary for someone at my level of skill. (I've seen enough inside numbers to know that this is not an exaggeration. Acq-hire values are $2-4M for mediocre engineers and $4-10M for good ones.)

One could do major social-proof arbitrage by offering cuts (of future acq-hires) to people in the tech press. I am dead-fucking-sure this is already happening. It must be. The stakes are too high, and the players too degenerate.

On to the main point: yeah, it is terrifying that large corporate cultures are that desperate for innovation. I feel like they suffer the same problem as command economies. The natural information-theoretic incompetence of central authorities makes them slow to respond to anything (including especially their own creeping obsolescence, for which they compensate by purchasing external talent at extreme prices) but overreactive once they do.

api 2 days ago 9 replies      
What this really underscores is that conventional capitalism provides little incentive for fundamental innovation.

All this stuff we're gluing together is the product of state-funded research, mostly from the cold war era. DARPANet, the web (CERN), DARPA research on "augmented human intelligence," etc.

Stuff like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJDv-zdhzMY

(I bet you thought Xerox PARC invented that stuff, right? Or Apple? Nope. DARPA and SRI invented the entire modern user experience in the 1960s.)

Few companies ever fund that kind of thing. There's two reasons. One is risk vs. reward-- such projects are typically "high risk, high payoff" as DARPA likes to say. Most lead nowhere. The second reason is that there is no good mechanism for monetizing the result. Fundamental innovations are often too fundamental to patent effectively, and are easy to copy once understood. They're also often worthless in themselves. They are enablers of value that is built on top of them.

Fundamental innovation is a lot like infrastructure -- something else free market players seldom invest in.

This is a problem for today's generation of enthusiastic free-market proponents. Who is going to pay for the next generation of innovation?

It's also very unjust. Where were Douglas Engelbart's billions? Tim Berners-Lee, is he a billionaire? No, we have 17 year olds making quick millions gluing together the work of dozens of Ph.D's who will never see that kind of money in their lifetimes.

It's a big thing that turned me off the Ph.D path. I don't feel like taking a vow of poverty and toiling in the dungeons to develop some fundamental, difficult concept that someone else then takes, glues to something else, flips, and gets rich.

JumpCrisscross 2 days ago 6 replies      
"But it's critical to keep tabs on the ratio known as 'glue versus thought.' Sure, both imply progress and both are necessary. But the former is eminently mundane, replaceable, and outsource-able. The latter is typically what gives a company its edge, what is generally regarded as a competitive advantage."

I am in finance. I am glue. I take existing people, things (read: capital), and ideas and bolt them together. Glue is the socioeconomic fabric that gives value to ideas, things, and ultimately people.

It's not just finance. Craigslist? Airbnb? Facebook? Apple? Glue. Put it this way: if you walked out the door with their source code, how much of their value could you replicate? Put it another way: how much would you pay to walk out the door with their source code and physical assets? Put it another way: how much would you pay to walk out the door with their source code, physical assets, and low to mid-level developers but none of their senior guys?

We have laws to protect intellectual property because thoughts and technologies are copyable, fungible, and ultimately outsource-able. We don't need such laws to protect relationships, the gluiest of glues. In fact, we need laws to break down their strength.

alaskamiller 2 days ago 3 replies      
Overpaying for apps is the new overpaying for social networks for that vague master bullshit artistry of "reaching" users.

Yahoo irrationally overpays for tons of stuff, AOL irrationally overpaid for Bebo, there was that high school girl that made a social network and makes millions of dollars so she bought her mom a house, there are plenty of other data points I filed away in my head over the years.

Tons of things happen in Silicon Valley everyday that makes no sense to outsiders, or sometimes even to those stuck in the tunnel. Are you new here? Sit, enjoy a cup of tea meanwhile.

Throw on top of that the youth obsession in tech has been around since I was 17 eleven years ago and it will continue to stay. Youth is forever a distraction that you have to grow out of. If you don't then consider seeking a therapist.

Your brain hurts from trying to neatly organize this particular liquidity event as fair? Maybe you can't. Maybe it doesn't matter. Get over it, stop the hating, and get back to work.

Funny enough, mainstream media with old talking heads are spinning this narrative two ways: 1) the ever louder need to get every child to learn to code and 2) it's so fun bit of escapism to think what you would have done with big money when you're still a teenager contrasted against the $325MM Powerball win in New York.

All in all, this barely registers as a blip on the average American considering real shit that's ongoing with fairness over marriage equality in SCOTUS.

pan69 2 days ago 5 replies      
This is my (pessimistic) take on this Summly thing. I think the following scenario happened:

15 year old kid does something with computers and for some reason the press is all over it. Some smart investors thinks; "hey, I can use this to make money". They invest money into this 15 year old which gives him more press coverage. Wait a few years and the investor gets his buddies at Yahoo to buy it for a substantial amount of money. Ka-ching, money in the bank.

ChuckMcM 2 days ago 3 replies      
I think the author makes this comment:

"Summly's entire business model seems to revolve around catering to this demographic. Frankly, it pains me."

I reads like a critique of Chubby Checker's "Twist" from a professor a Julliard. Perhaps, and I say that because I can't know what they were really thinking, but perhaps that was the point. This company had successfully "catered to this demographic" (which was defined as young hipster like brogrammers) and while those guys drink their PBR and deck out their mancaves perhaps it is a demographic that Yahoo desperately wants to reach? Maybe the whole point was that Yahoo folks were building things for middle-aged dot boomers and not for the cool kids.

Maybe the goal was to get more people who could quickly assemble a MVP from existing APIs that appealed to the emerging cohort of buyers and trendsetters. Maybe NLP wasn't the point.

richardjordan 2 days ago 1 reply      
Ouch. Still, hard to find fault with the analysis, no matter how unpopular it may be with much of the readership of HN. Many folks here would love to sell a company to Yahoo! for $30MM after 18mo with minimal engineering effort and download numbers probably below those of many folks reading the news on HN.
mindcrime 2 days ago 2 replies      
What this really underscores is that conventional capitalism provides little incentive for fundamental innovation.

I'm not as convinced as you may be, but there certainly seems to have been a decline in past decades, in terms of private funding for basic research. At one time, Bell Labs, Xerox, IBM, HP and others did quite a bit of basic, fundamental research. IBM still do, last I saw, but here's the question... if it made economic sense to fund private, basic research in the past, what has changed? WHY don't the HP's and Bell Labs, and Xerox's of the world still spend as much on research.

Note: I am, of course, talking out of my ass here, as I have no actual objective numbers to support the idea that private funding for basic research is diminishing. But, subjectively, from what I read, see reported, hear, etc., it sure seems to be the case.

All this stuff we're gluing together is the product of state-funded research, mostly from the cold war era. DARPANet, the web (CERN), DARPA research on "augmented human intelligence," etc.

That's probably true, but there is a danger in looking at the past on a macro level and saying "this means the future must be $THISWAY". The problem is, we don't know what the other outcomes could or would have been. If DARPA had not funded all of that research, we cannot say that the same innovations would not still have been developed via other sources. History, IMO, hints at conclusions, but it's hardly a definitive guide to the future.

onan_barbarian 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's amazing how many column-inches, irate blog posts, etc. can be generated by a off-the-record "sources close to the deal said that the deal was worth $X million" remark from one source.

Having seen this for a Y Combinator exit (no names) where the bullshit factor was around 10X (according to what I've heard from actual insiders vs the Techcrunch leak), I find it hard to get too exercised about it or to understand why anyone else is so worked up.

noonespecial 2 days ago 1 reply      
Perhaps the license from SRI is the valuable part and for some reason, it conveys intact with the sale? What would SRI charge to license to Yahoo vs a 17yo kid playing "my first startup"?
graycat 2 days ago 0 replies      
The OP seems to be calling for bringing unique, new,
powerful, valuable technology to information
technology (IT) products, presumably as a way to
faster progress for civilization. If so, then okay.

Given a claim of such technology, an investor doing
'due diligence' has to evaluate it. Then if the
investor is a venture partner (VP), they have to
consider the 'guidelines' they agreed to with their
limited partners (LPs) and for the investment maybe
'explain' to the limited partners. Then the LPs
have to 'judge' the accuracy of the due diligence.
But, the VPs and LPs don't like to do, or get
involved with, such things. Instead they just
prefer to "let the market decide".

Are the VPs and LPs wrong? From some data posted
recently by Fred Wilson at his AVC.com, apparently
they are wrong: The numerical data seems to say
that in recent years the 'venture capital asset
class' has done significantly less well than an
index fund or the S&P.

For more, the financial value of the coveted,
honored, respected, celebrated "unique, new,
powerful, valuable technology" in IT doesn't have
such a great track record at least in the sense that
it's not easy to find the yachts. Can take this
situation as either a slap in the face of the hopes
of financial gains from research or as a great, wide
open field, free of competition, for such gains from

One argument for the research is that what the
venture partners are looking for is exceptional; if
a venture partner gets 2000 contacts from
entrepreneurs, evaluates 100, and invests in 3, then
clearly they are looking for something exceptional.
Well, looking for value in "unique, new, powerful,
valuable technology" from research should be a
promising place to look for something exceptionally
good (in ROI).

However, look at two more points:

First, what does it take to evaluate research? For
one important case, we know well: In school mostly
it takes a Ph.D. committee that, for each Ph.D.
granted, spends maybe hundreds of hours in close
work and evaluation. Then after school, for a
submitted paper, there are reviewers, editors, and
editors in chief, and they all play a role. To get
to be an editor in chief is, from a Ph.D. and a good
research record, maybe a 20 year effort. So, how
are venture partners, rarely with a Ph.D., who don't
really do research, going to do the work of
reviewers, editors, and editors in chief, not just
in one narrow field but in everything that might
land in their in-box? They can't. Could they
'outsource' the evaluations? Maybe, but there would
likely be risks there.

Second, the VPs and LPs seem to be highly concerned
that somehow 'the market' is some unpredictable,
chaotic, inscrutable swamp where even the best
research results can get laughed at and die.

So, apparently so far in IT the investors just
concentrate on 'let the market decide'. If 'the
market' means that Yahoo writes a check mostly just
for reasons of buzz, publicity, internal
inspiration, etc., so be it.

Could there be something else? Perhaps: (1) Get
what one VP calls a "big ass problem" (BAP). So, if
can get a good or much better solution for this BAP,
then there should not be much question about
virality, 'traction', happy users/customers, or
'product/market fit'. Or there is Sequoia's
optimistic remark, "A huge market with customers
yearning for a product developed by great engineers
requires very little firepower.". (2) Do some
research to get the solution. Or to modify the
(1)-(2), get a list of BAPs and a list of research
results likely can achieve or build on, and then
pick a pair of a BAP and a research result that
provides the needed solution. This pair picking is
part of 'problem selection' and widely viewed as
important for success. Then do the evaluation of
the solution, possibly presented just on paper,
e.g., much as in a journal article, but with a
better organized approach than the peer-reviewed
journals use.

So, can such pair picking and evaluations lead to
success? For success in the market, recall the BAP.
For the success research promised, yes. Examples of
this last? Sure: What the US DoD has done, with
batting average much higher than the VPs, since
about 1940. E.g., the USAF's GPS was the second
version; the first was by the US Navy, with crucial
early work at the JHU/APL in Maryland. The work was
proposed essentially just on paper, and the rest is
history. For another example, when the U-2 was shot
down, the US wanted a replacement -- Mach 3+,
80,000+ feet, 2000+ miles without refueling. Kelly
Johnson drew a picture, and the rest is history,
right, the SR-71. Net, it really is possible to
plan projects with "unique, new, powerful, valuable
technology" and execute the plans successfully.
VPs, LPs, listen up.

Net, likely a better solution would be for
researchers to talk of the value of their work at
media parties on their yachts, 250+ feet long. Or
"money talks". Or, the VPs and even the LPs have
been known to rush for 'the next big thing'. Well,
a few IT researchers with $1+ billion exits could be
a 'next big thing'.

Funding for such work? Well, just do an MVP by
licensing some code from SRI or some such, put a
mobile app in front of it, get a lot of publicity,
sell out for $30 million, and then use that cash to
fund the real project. So, that would be a $30
million Series A where the VPs get 0% for a project
without yet even a single dollar of revenue, user,
or line of code!

Researchers, believe me: When your serious project
is the next big thing and you are worth $1+ billion,
your little MVP $30 million weekend will be

Whatever we do, currently we are crawling like a
snail and, instead, very much need to get going, and
VPs and LPs need to be part of it for all concerned
including themselves.

guelo 2 days ago 0 replies      
> For 95% of the news I read, that can be done with a regexp that slices out the first sentence.

Interestingly, that seems to be what Google News does for its summaries. It works well most of the time but I've seen some screw ups. Also interesting, Mayer worked on Google News so she probably knows this topic well.

gesman 2 days ago 1 reply      
That's a deal between Yahoo management and Summly investors. Lucky young guys got themselves warmed up in the middle of big guys hugging each other.
jval 2 days ago 0 replies      
I just finished watching an interview with D'Aloisio on the huge 7.30pm current affairs show here on the ABC in Australia (unimaginatively named 7.30).

The interview opened with the newsreader restating the fact that he had been covered on the front page of almost every major newspaper. Then here he was, talking to her on TV, talking about Yahoo, and their amazing 'focus on mobile' etc etc. Suddenly it dawns on me - I live in Australia. Australia is practically the other side of the universe. Yahoo has a fresh faced 17 year old kid talking to just about every living room in this country about how focussed they are on mobile.

Every country in the Western world from the US to Australia and beyond, front pages of newspapers, prime time TV interviews on government owned ad free broadcasters during primetime - no amount of PR spend can buy this.

I know the PR rationale was mooted, but nobody could have imagined it would be this big.

pron 2 days ago 1 reply      
This post is full of anger, desperation and disdain, but of the exquisite kind, and the kind I agree with, so it's great!
minimax 2 days ago 0 replies      
So, what is Yahoo signaling to the world? "We value glue more than thought."

What? No it doesn't signal that at all. Look at Yahoo's other recent acquisitions. Yahoo is buying mobile app companies. Spinning it as technology vs glue is silly. It's all about buying expertise in mobile.

rayiner 2 days ago 2 replies      
If "brogrammer" is a thing, this picture is next to its definition in the dictionary: http://hackingdistributed.com/images/egs-small.jpg
dr1337 2 days ago 1 reply      
To see why Yahoo is doomed, let's compare and contrast Yahoo's recent acquisition of Summly with Google's DNNResearch.

Summly - Sloppy mobile app that licenses technology from SRI.

DNNResearch - Groundbreaking fundamental CS Research into Deep Neural Networks that won Merck's Kaggle Competition.

Enough said.

Edit links -



powertower 2 days ago 1 reply      
I dont understand why the current wave of criticism is leaving the market penetration (and 1st mover advantage), brand, and million users (and climbing) out of the picture - like it's not important. And are assuming that Yahoo must of paid it all to hire 3 people.
michaelpinto 2 days ago 4 replies      
Yahoo didn't buy the technology, they purchased the talent. Talent that knows how to reach an audience. You can always get high quality engineers to figure out the rest...
lecha 2 days ago 0 replies      
Insightful piece. Thank you.

One point I wish the author would elaborate on is the value a company gets by acquihiring a great designer. I haven't used Summly so I cannot measure the talent of a designer Yahoo gets. But it would be wrong to ignore the design by focusing on technology advancement in "glue vs thought" argument.

How much would a company pay to acquihiring Jonathan Ive or Philippe Stark?

The author may be right to question the designer's talent or by googling "I use Summly", but it seems rather shallow analysis.

spoiler 2 days ago 0 replies      
Am I the only one who is not surprised Yahoo! bought it? I'd be surprised if Google, Apple, Adobe, Microsoft or some other respected company did it.

I mean who really uses Yahoo! these days anyway? The only good thing that they still have to offer is YUI (most notable is its compressor). I don't want to sound like a Google supremacist (although I might be guilty of it), but Google offers a better search engine, a better mail service (people use yahoo mail only for traditional reasons). To me this just feels like Yahoo! wants to join the "we <funded|bought> this awesome <product|service|project> created by this <16...22> old."

(I hope) Other companies did it because it improved their service. Yahoo did it so it would be talked about.

I could be wrong, and $30 mil. might be a lot for an attention whoring attempt (let me just point out that it's successful so far), but what else do they have to do with the money they acquired with their past success.

Summly version: Yahoo! bought us in an attempt to save its stale ass from Oblivion.

[If anyone is reading this, they are probably in the gutter (down vote) section of the thread... Welcome to the dark side, we lied about the cookies.]

jpdoctor 2 days ago 4 replies      
> By definition, Yahoo's directors know how to spend Yahoo's cash reserves best.

This is absolutely incorrect. There are many instances in which there is a personal financial connection between a board member and an acquired company. For example, a board member is a limited in a VC fund.

Didn't bother reading after that.

tdr 20 hours ago 0 replies      
KeenSkim created it's own tech - will soon launch an iPhone version



6ren 2 days ago 1 reply      
A common motivation for acquisitions is to buy users, not technology. YouTube used PHP and the video tech in flash - but they were the ones to grow the userbase (and continue to do so). If Summly had the product/marketing to be popular and growing, that's why Yahoo bought it. (though it seems Summly doesn't have the strong network-effects of YouTube, of gaining both producers and consumers).

EDIT they could be buying market-product fit...? but yes, if they killed it... hmmm...

johnrob 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yahoo should not be surprised when future prospective employees would rather work at or found a startup.
dr_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've never used Summly but perhaps it would have come in handy when reading this article.
Many businesses have been built by riding on the backs of others. A good number of them have already been mentioned in the discussion here.
Many others have also tried, and failed. And have lost both time and capital in the process.

Lets not forget something here - a 17 year old kid licensed technology from SRI and then developed this app. How many 17 year old kids do you know who would even think to do something like that? It's certainly not something that ever crossed my mind as a teenager.
Obviously Yahoo sees something in him (them) that many others don't. Can't comment on whether its the right move or not, but just look at their stock price since Mayer took over.

benastan 2 days ago 1 reply      
It doesn't seem to matter what the app does or how its built.

The story goes something like (a) people (yahoo) want mobile apps (b) the kid got investors to give him cash (c) people downloaded it generating 'buzz' (d) more investors and cash (e) more downloads and publicity (f) yahoo plays right into the hands of the investors and the hype around a young founder (g) yahoo buys the company, making the kid a millionaire, it's a PR grand slam, bringing more publicity and 'users' to the app (for now)

It works out really, really well for the investors and founder; in my opinion it seems like Yahoo got duped.

babuskov 2 days ago 0 replies      
Whoa, I had an idea creating something like that in 2011. And I thought "it's stupid, noone would use it except me" and "google or yahoo would probably build a much better one and have 10x more engineers iterating on it".

Which brings me to the point: Why did Yahoo buy this, instead of building it themselves? Are they really that thin with engineering talent?

topherjaynes 2 days ago 0 replies      
I thought a good bit about the reflection of TL;DR. My Gut reaction was to think we're heading to an idiocracy, but it could be people just getting smarter. Trust me I love the virtues of deep reading, but think of all the knowledge you could gain if it was done well? There is an entire business about providing executive summaries on books, news, and other important bits of information that we're inundated with. While I would cringe at a TL;DR for The Brothers Karamazov, I think there is some merit to being able to get a lot of tidbits quickly from a lot of news source. Would be very interesting to compare Fox, NYTimes, and the Washington Post on their 'gist.'
niggler 2 days ago 1 reply      
What's actually right about Yahoo's purchase of Summly: we are still talking about it, and are still reminded that Yahoo exists. The marketing was great (the video is really well-done), and to be honest yahoo really could use some marketing boost at a time like this.
frozenport 2 days ago 3 replies      
Yahoo is a media not a technology company. Can you recall something Yahoo has done innovative?
rdouble 2 days ago 0 replies      
All of Yahoo! is "bolt on engineering." It's clearly not an entirely losing strategy as Yahoo! is still around, somehow.
kunai 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wait a second. Can the founder even code?

It would be particularly impressive if he had written the backend and then hired his team for frontend and design.

If all he had was an idea, this is really nothing to marvel at, especially on HN. Interesting why Yahoo chose to buy him and his team. PR? Maybe.

gyom 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like his point about how trivial "tl;dr" summaries often don't get at the core idea of an essay, but they still work for news formats which are kinda "tl;dr" already.
brown9-2 2 days ago 1 reply      
Totally unrelated, but what does I interviewed at DE Shaw when Bezos was there and turned them down for 1/10th of their salary offer mean? I'm having trouble parsing the "for 1/10th of their salary offer" part.
teyc 2 days ago 0 replies      
Summly as a technology play is only moderately interesting.

What I suspect though is Yahoo desperately needs new users. We know that most Yahoo visitors use Yahoo out of habit from the 90s. Where are the new users? Having a young man with penchant for both technology and publicity be the public face of Yahoo the same way as Marissa did with Google gives Yahoo a slightly better edge.

I expect Nick to be groomed for bigger things. Congrats.

lmg643 2 days ago 0 replies      
Do we know that the purchase agreement did not include a multi-year license to use the SRI technology across yahoo, or are we just reading a lot of wild speculation?

It is altogether possible that yahoo made a foolish purchase, but it is also possible that they made a great purchase and we are just guessing at the details and assuming that all $30 million went to the staff they acqui-hired.

chx 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is the second article from the same author that is well reasoned and factually incorrect (the first was the MongoDB hate). Check http://blogs.wsj.com/tech-europe/2013/03/26/what-does-30-mil... to see there is some research going on there. Also, glue or not, a successful mobile, one that has an audience is worth some money...
billsix 2 days ago 0 replies      
That article was way too long to read on my device. A summary, 1/8 of the length, would have given me all of the necessary information.
Choronzon 2 days ago 0 replies      
Actually extracting metaphors via Natural Language Parsing of Ulysses interests me far more than yahoo blowing money or some lucky kid winning the lottery.If its not an isolated example the field is more advanced and interesting than I suspected.
I dread to think what parsing Finnegans Wake would be like.
stevewilhelm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Someone should put a reminder in their Google calendar to ask whoever is CEO at Yahoo at the their 2014 annual shareholder meeting what the Summly team has done for the company over the last twelve months.
dvt 2 days ago 0 replies      
Article screams of "you jelly?"

And most of us are, indeed, jelly. The bottom line is, if you're into start-ups, you understand that in many ways it's a lottery. Instagram won last week, then Pinterest, and now Summly. This is the norm. Over-paying for products that aren't really even products.

I'm surprised a professor at Cornell hasn't understood the VC culture yet. I was talking to a friend last week about this cute chick he wanted to introduce me to. Turns out she works at a relatively famous startup in L.A. as a secretary. It also turns out that she makes more than my mom (who's a research chemist). I've just learned to /sigh, move on and then quickly get back to work.

Throwing money around is how Silicon Valley works. Get used to it.

mattbarrie 2 days ago 1 reply      
I doubt the acqui-hire was for $30m. I would believe probably $3m, structured as $1m each over 4 years, with each person getting 100k in the first year, 200k in the 2nd, 300k in the 3rd and 400k in the fourth. Lots of these "acqui-hires" get reported in the press at some stupid number. I know a couple that were reported way off. The original journalist says "it sounds better", and then all the secondary sources just quote the figure from the first.
dgbsco 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've never felt so guilty skimming an article.
at-fates-hands 2 days ago 1 reply      
The decades of anything being built from absolute scratch are long gone. You can essentially say we've hit the ceiling in terms of technology.
OGC 2 days ago 0 replies      
A point or question missing from the article (i think):
So, downloads for a free app are essentially a competely empty metric?
greenyoda 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Finally, it doesn't matter how much money Summly got or whether Yahoo wasted its money."

Yahoo shareholders might disagree on this point.

YPetrov 2 days ago 0 replies      
While I don't disagree with this opinion, I believe that there is also a positive side of the problem and I have expressed my opinion here - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5447184
parennoob 2 days ago 0 replies      
If this article's premise is correct, Yahoo is buying Summly in order to generate more news about Yahoo rather than the intrinsic value of Summly.

However, this article is adding to the flood of news about Yahoo acquiring Summly, thereby giving the purchase even more publicity. I wonder how many articles have taken the same approach.

rythie 2 days ago 0 replies      
The only justification is, that the team (all two of them) can generate $30m+ of new revenue for Yahoo.
usablebytes 2 days ago 0 replies      
The beautiful girl Jenny falls for Chris and marries him. I think she has made a terrible mistake; it's natural to be jealous. But I keep the feelings to myself.
parnas 2 days ago 0 replies      
it's about comfort zones, my 17-yo will take out the trash, but only to the screened in porch, not to the can. He also won't walk around the corner to get the can if it is still in the driveway, he will leave the trash exposed to racoons on the deck near where the can is supposed to be. Comfort zones...
ed56 2 days ago 2 replies      
To the author: Would you have not taken a buyout offer from Yahoo! if you were in this kids position? All HN discussions regarding this topic have just screamed jealousy/disdain. It is as if people come to HN to read an intelligent argument to argue for their immature feelings. Also, the most important premise in your argument, that their technology was licensed, is incorrect. Their natural language technology was 100% proprietary according to them, and not "licensed from SRI" [0].

[0]: http://blogs.wsj.com/tech-europe/2013/03/26/what-does-30-mil...

vnkatesh 2 days ago 0 replies      
So what he means is that the iPhone, which is essentially 'glued on' technological device, is unmarketable?
chebert 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm jealous of this kid.
escherba 2 days ago 0 replies      
What surprises me is that the same people who complain about patents and intellectual property are often the first to bring up the discussion of how market tends to undervalue fundamental research. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
jskrablin 2 days ago 0 replies      
I suggest reading Fahrenheit 451... similarities with TR;DR problems outlined in the article are striking, at least.
thescorer 2 days ago 1 reply      
swartzrock 2 days ago 1 reply      
From his own quoted post:
"I lived through 8 years of a non-reading president along with everyone else. I know that the brogrammers out there are constantly getting texts from their buddies to plan the weekend's broactivities..."

Thanks Professor, now I don't have to continue reading your post " ie, you're kind of a jerk.

azm1 2 days ago 0 replies      
The point is to dig up something cool in the vast universe of information and actually deliver it. It is nice there are friends and university Professors who knows about this certain technology way deeper but can they _really_ deliver ? Sure, they will teach other kids and those kids will teach others or maybe going to be employed at some tech company.
This kind of success is just more potent a visible. It really depends from what angle you look.
This guy has financial, educational and social success. From standpoint of the startup culture, I think he's done very well. Anything can be judged only by comparison to something else.
alexvr 2 days ago 2 replies      
As a fellow 17-year-old, I have nothing less than respect for Nick. You're obviously doing something right if you sell your company for $30M before you're an adult. Who cares if he's not an AI researcher? The scholar who wrote this article can't bash this kid's product until he actually builds something useful. If he came up with a revolutionary AI theory, great. But the people who take an experimental idea and see the value in it are the people who change the world. Einstein came up with some good theories, but nobody will remember his name when someone uses the theories to create a time machine.

Are we going to ridicule Tesla Motors for making (highly innovative) cars because they licensed the steering wheel or navigation system from another company?

A scientific accident that could change the world io9.com
451 points by roachsocal  5 days ago   103 comments top 13
BenoitEssiambre 5 days ago 5 replies      
Conspicuously missing is any mention of energy density. Who cares about power density. That's juste how fast it can discharge. We don't need capacitors that can discharge faster. All capacitors are already much better than batteries with respect to power. We need capacitors that can store more energy. Capacitors typically suck at that and this article doesn't give any indication that these new ones are better.
lifeisstillgood 5 days ago 2 replies      
I really don't want to come across as nit picky but is this one time when changing a linkbait headline to something more descriptive would help - on the iPhone this page did not render thE actual text for a full half hour (subjective) and I spent all that time with my brain whirring but not in gear - it was a little frustrating

A headline like "DVD Graphene sheets store charge super fast in lab" would have helped me shift the various articles into my own working memory whilst the page loaded.

Downvote with comments please

(And I seem to get the general idea that Graphene will be big, but this is unlikely to be the killer app)

ratsbane 5 days ago 6 replies      
Am I the only one to think "hey, I could try this at home?" 1) prepare carbon slurry 2) pour on dvd 3) etch with LightScribe DVD drive... 4) Peel of graphene layer ...?

I wonder what, exactly, goes into the carbon slurry and if it's necessary to etch a particular pattern with the LightScribe.

Fargren 5 days ago 5 replies      
Well, the graphene seems easy enough to manufacture. What are the obstacles to start using this technology right now? What is still missing?
ergest 5 days ago 2 replies      
I don't know much about the technology of this, but I used to play with capacitors during my teenage years and if this works even half as advertised it would be truly life altering. We could have "hybrid" solutions of a capacitor combined with a battery with the capacitor acting as a buffer to improve battery life.
alexjeffrey 5 days ago 3 replies      
I'd love to see this technology being incorporated into Tesla's batteries. With super-fast and long lasting charges their cars might become viable in countries where charging stations are either incredibly rare or nonexistent.
paul_f 4 days ago 0 replies      
Using Graphene to build supercapacitors is not a new idea as this video suggests. Here is an article from 2.5 years ago in PhysicsWorld describing another team doing almost the same thing:


axelfreeman 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not a scientist. I can't not say anything how this could be a revolution but if you want learn the basics about Graphene. Start with this video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX8ClPVkD1g and then to this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXmVnHgwOZs or just search it on youtube. This helps me a lot to understand. Have fun.
alanh 4 days ago 0 replies      
(semi-serious) Title should be “Meet another scientific accident that could change the world”
achy 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wrote this last time too:
Having a better conducting, higher surface area electrode is a huge step. BUT it doesn't really change the fact that a carbon based supercapacitor requires an electrolyte to form the double layer, and all existing electrolytes have a breakdown voltage below 5V. What we need is a better electrolyte. In calculating energy storage in a capacitor, the energy increases exponentially with voltage, while linearly with capacitance.
dj-doppelganger 4 days ago 1 reply      
Hi - 1st post on Haker news. Please be nice :)

Aren't debates over energy density of super conductors v. Li-Ion batteries missing the important point, relative cost?

E.g. If the energy density is 1/4 lower but the cost is 1/40th as much then electric cars get ALOT more viable. Can anyone guess at the relative cost?

frozenport 4 days ago 1 reply      
Diamonds are carbon based but you can't use them to grow vegetables.
Selfcommit 4 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone else remember when this was posted a few months ago? (I wish my account was named pepperidge farm, just for occasions like this.)
Dashing - A dashboard framework github.com
405 points by thehodge  2 days ago   84 comments top 25
pushmatrix 2 days ago 7 replies      
Hey everyone! Dashing creator here. Thanks for the frontpage :)

I have good news for you all. Dashing will be evolving soon to support multiple backends. Already there are ports being written for python, perl, .net, and also better rails integration. Stay tuned!

P.S: Sorry for the downtime. Was not expecting frontpage. While I work on getting it stable, enjoy this screenshot: http://cl.ly/image/321Y2V361X1r

taude 2 days ago 1 reply      
Everyone complaining about the Flat UI. Isn't the use case for something like this to be displayed on a TV or large monitor around the office anyway? Seems like one place where the flat UI would be OK.

I'm not a Win 8 fan by any means, but I think this dashboard looks good. The bright/contrasty colors are exactly what are needed to broadcast metrics across the office.

DoubleCluster 2 days ago 6 replies      
Exceptionally handsome if you like Windows 8 perhaps. I don't like the big rectangles with bright colors. A good dashboard should be almost invisible until something important happens.
8ig8 2 days ago 1 reply      
This popped up a few months ago. Unfortunately, not much discussion:


benaston 2 days ago 3 replies      
Looks great. Wish it used JavaScript instead of CoffeeScript to lower the barrier to entry though.
pstinnett 2 days ago 0 replies      
For anyone interested in only the grid/rearranging js behind this: http://gridster.net/
barranger 2 days ago 1 reply      
While I'm sure it looks fantastic on a dedicated monitor/tv, it's lack of a responsive layout limits it's use in my books

Looking at something like http://dash.social-biblio.ca/torontolibrary on a sub 1080p monitor is less than optimal.

jbrooksuk 2 days ago 0 replies      
We wrote our own Dashboard at my current place, but it's nothing as nice as this!
jalada 1 day ago 1 reply      
Coincidentally just started using this today. I've got a couple of widgets/jobs I'm hoping to share for re-use. Some on the wiki are out of date e.g. the Twitter ones that don't support Oauth will stop working soon.
skore 1 day ago 0 replies      
Dashboards! For when you don't know what to put on the screen that users will click away for what they actually want! /s
jonahx 2 days ago 2 replies      
Is batman.js supposed to be an alternative to angular? If so, what advantages does it have?
fidz 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is great demo. But i really don't know, do everyone have the same use case? There is so many library that work great in demo, but doesn't suit my use case. I hate to build my own library (if i am able to use existing lib, why creating new?), but i must do this because some library/framework isn't really customizable. The time cost between customizing existing lib and creating new lib is the same, so i prefer to create my own library most of my time.
szajbus 2 days ago 1 reply      
We're using dashing to present some internal information about our company's cashflow.

We built a second application (in Rails) that collects data from various sources, stores and transforms it, and then exposes it via API for dashing to use.

So in our case, dashing is a neat presentation layer and it serves its role very well.

swah 2 days ago 1 reply      
It would be interesting if the browser on SmartTVs rendered this properly, then you don't need a PC just for this...
cmdkeen 2 days ago 0 replies      
This has made me sad because we're too far down a far uglier, and less functional route at work to change.
okor 1 day ago 0 replies      
Fantastic. Real time server stats with Dashing and a cheap plug computer would be great.
cincinnatus 2 days ago 1 reply      
Doesn't seem to handle load very well, though normall I guess it wouldn't need to.
biznickman 2 days ago 1 reply      
Where's documentation of how to use the graph widget?
Ecio78 2 days ago 0 replies      
Couldnt load the demo on Heroku, probably too few dynos for all the HN traffic...
namenotrequired 2 days ago 1 reply      
Points from me even if just for the name alone :) Looks great, wish I could think of a use for it!
toddmatthews 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not a rails guy....why does something so cool looking have to be so closely coupled to a rails backend?
camus 2 days ago 0 replies      
nice , a few glitches here and there but definetly usefull.
jheimark 2 days ago 0 replies      
this looks lovely. can't wait to use it for internals
richoffrails 2 days ago 2 replies      
I don't get it. Why is something at the UI level coupled to a server-side framework?
jmgunn87 1 day ago 1 reply      
that's awful. css and some javascript? do we really need anymore head-up-arse code junk floating around our heads right now? every five minutes there is a new javascript plugin/distraction that claims to change our lives. When will you people get a life and start solving real problems?
Docker, the Linux container runtime: now open-source docker.io
378 points by shykes  2 days ago   74 comments top 22
shykes 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hey everyone! We didn't plan on opening Docker for another few weeks, but last week [1] you guys made it clear you'd rather see it early, warts and all. So here it is! Pull requests are welcome!

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5408002

trotsky 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've loved messing around with docker so far.

Do you guys have any plans to offer an image library? Pre-built versions of common open source tools like official .amis or the vmware virtual appliance directory?

I understand it doesn't exactly match your primary goal, but i think there is a large untapped demand for lightweight appliances for use at home or inside the firewall that juju really isn't set up to satisfy. I love the similar feature on my synology nas, although those are really just packages. There is often a large gulf between knowing how to set something up and being willing to do it.

KenCochrane 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you have a cool screencast showing off what you made using docker, add the links here. We will take the best ones and put them on the docker.io website.
chrisfarms 2 days ago 1 reply      
The push/pull mechanism for images seems like it adds a rather large centralised component to an otherwise very standalone piece of kit.

Is this "docker registry server" the final thought on how people will "ship" their containers? ... I'd much rather have the docker cli be able to be able to be configured to use some private repository of images. Maybe I missed something.

AlexanderDhoore 2 days ago 3 replies      
The more I look into freebsd, the more I realise how awesome it is. This same thing has been in freebsd for ages: jails.

(maybe not the fancy deployment, but the container technology)

That, together with ZFS turns freebsd into one hell of a server OS. ZFS seriously needs to come to linux. And don't say license problem, "there is nothing in either license that prevents distributing it in the form of a binary module or in the form of source code."[1]

[1] http://zfsonlinux.org/faq.html#WhatAboutTheLicensingIssue

the_mitsuhiko 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why is it aufs instead of unionfs? Not that I have a preference for either but I am curious :)
daenz 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is really kind of incredible. If I understand it correctly, are containers : virtual machines :: greenthreads : threads?
steeve 2 days ago 2 replies      
As said before, containerization is the new virtualization. This is History in the making people.
yebyen 2 days ago 2 replies      
Did you guys decide to launch without the "push/pull images" mechanism? I can't find it on the site in 3 clicks or less, so I'm assuming it's not finished yet.

(For anyone who's not the submitter, when this was mentioned about a week ago, @shykes was hinting that there would be some sort of community images repository made before launch.)

dnerdy 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm glad to see work in the area of making linux containers more accessible. I recently stumbled upon openruko[1], an open source Heroku clone, and from there discovered linux containers and lxc[2]. It takes a bit of configuration to set up useful containers, though. I think the ideas behind Heroku and The Twelve-Factor App[3] are good, and containers are an important building block. I'm excited to see (and I'd like to see more) tools like Docker that aid in robust and streamlined container-based deployments in-house.

[1] https://github.com/openruko
[2] http://lxc.sourceforge.net/
[3] http://www.12factor.net/

darkarmani 2 days ago 2 replies      
How does this compare to OpenVZ? I'm assuming this is much lighter than OpenVZ or am I wrong there?
3PytbecKord 2 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome product! I've squinted at lxc for a while now. This looks great!

But: What about this security issue regarding lxc? Does docker takes measures to prevent this?


The issue itself appears to be fixed if you use Linux 3.8 with compiled in namespace support (that breaks NFS and other filesystems at the moment)

edwintorok 2 days ago 1 reply      
Any plans on supporting network topology / network speed simulation like Mininet does? (i.e. the ability to set network latency, throughput and jitter using netem).
Would be useful for testing purposes.
creack 2 days ago 1 reply      
Cool conversation underway on the IRC channel: #docker on freenode.
buster 2 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, great. Any plans to provide RHEL/CentOS instructions?
brunoqc 2 days ago 1 reply      
It seems I'm unable to get the tarball by following the instructions.

    $ wget http://get.docker.io/builds/$(uname -s)/$(uname -m)/docker-master.tgz
--2013-03-26 15:43:39-- http://get.docker.io/builds/Linux/i686/docker-master.tgz
Resolving get.docker.io...
Connecting to get.docker.io||:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 404 Not Found
2013-03-26 15:43:40 ERROR 404: Not Found.

dannyr 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is the one written in Go right?
agentultra 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sweet. I will be reviewing this thoroughly as I have been looking forward to it since the PyCon demo!
deepakprakash 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very excited about the possibilities and convenience that Docker opens up. Will be taking it for a spin soon.

Few questions regarding performance compared to running the processes directly on Linux (I guess this applies to LXCs in general - forgive me if these are due to a lack of knowledge about how LXCs work in general):

- How much extra memory and CPU does each Docker process take?
- Is there any performance hit with respect to CPU, I/O or memory?
- Are there any benchmarks from testing available?

Again, kudos to all the people at dotCloud behind Docker and extra props for open sourcing!!

siliconc0w 2 days ago 0 replies      
For a similar but non LXC version of the same idea check out http://www.pgbovine.net/cde.html

Basically it records all the dependencies an application touches while running and creates an environment you can tar up and use on basically any system of the same arch. It even works cross distro. Wouldn't really work for 'the cloud' as you don't get the same security and isolation as LXC and you have to make sure all the execution paths are triggered but for a lot of apps it works great and it's ridiculously easy to use with no setup.

frozenport 2 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me a lot of hpc tools like `mpirun`, 'qsub`
Edmond 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just a suggestion regarding the FAQ: What is a Standard Container?

Wouldn't it be better to simply describe it as something similar to a vm snapshot/export. If I export say a virtualbox image I can move it around and run it on other vm players.

I think the shipping container analogy is simply bad:)

Judge Says Mathematical Algorithms Can't Be Patented techcrunch.com
374 points by soupboy  22 hours ago   135 comments top 25
voidlogic 21 hours ago 7 replies      
Good thing all source code is just very convenient mathematical notation describing an algorithm... This to me is the most fundamental reason software patents are insane.
jwb119 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Some very basic background from a famous patent case (Diamond v. Chakrabarty):

"Anything under the sun that is made by man [is patentable] . . . . [T]he laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas have been held not patentable . . . a new mineral discovered in the earth or a new plant found in the wild is not patentable subject matter. Likewise, Einstein could not patent his celebrated law that E=mc2; nor could Newton have patented the law of gravity. Such discoveries are manifestations of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none."

inopinatus 15 hours ago 0 replies      
All algorithms are theorems. All theorems can be represented by unique numbers (Gödel numbers). In the abstract sense they exist at all, all numbers exist prior to their use. Therefore all algorithms are discoveries, not inventions.

Ok, this argument sounds clever at first but is actually trite, being excessively reductionist and ignoring that some intellectual creativity occurs in most discovery. Most obviously it motivates a better proper definition of the term "invention". Patentable inventions should always be applications of technology, not the technology itself.

The whole purpose of patents is to encourage more innovation that benefits economies as a whole, by granting a temporary monopoly to entities to benefit from the process and expense of invention. Standing to sue should be on that basis; transference of rights to another entity should not whitewash that socio-economic responsibility. Everyone with distate for the NPEs understands this.

skizm 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Math can't be patented and yet you can get a patent for code snippets? This sounds absurd since all code boils down to mathematical manipulation of binary numbers. I guess if you abstract something enough you can get away with patenting it? Can we patent methods of preparing food now? How about ways to put something together (think ikea)?
Why hasn't anyone patented something like the smartphone yet people can patent something as arbitrary as memory management techniques?
I would say I hate our patent system but I'm just too damn confused by it to form an opinion or explain why I hate it.
riazrizvi 21 hours ago 4 replies      
jostmey 21 hours ago 4 replies      
Wait, so are Software patents acceptable but patents on mathematical algorithms not okay? Where is the rational in this? Granted, the patent in question is absurd to a new extreme (trying to patent floating point numbers).
auggierose 21 hours ago 3 replies      
So, now we just have to define what exactly a mathematical algorithm is. Good luck with that.
codegeek 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Seems like uniloc is willing to file lawsuits without any considerations. see below for an interesting Q&A on uniloc's site:

Q. How many additional lawsuits does Uniloc plan to file?

A. Uniloc plans to defend our patents aggressively whenever they are infringed. This protects our business and our shareholder value. In our view, it's the right thing to do.

mckoss 10 hours ago 0 replies      
The true problem is obviousness. Any machine is reducible to an algorithm is reducible to an integer. They are all the same. It's ridiculous to say that algorithms are "discovered" and not "made by man".

There needs to be a better procedure for throwing out all the stupid obvious or trivial patents - but allow ones that have required the blood, sweat and tears of their inventor to create.

alexvr 19 hours ago 1 reply      
I personally think copyright law provides enough protection for software. I think patents would actually harm innovation in the software world.

Algorithms are inherently protected, anyway - they're not like clever mechanical solutions that can be reverse-engineered by anyone with eyes and a brain; they're usually close-sourced when the author wants them to be. Patents may be necessary to protect products with transparent functionality, but software usually doesn't fit that bill unless it's deliberately open-sourced.

Even if you developed a strong AI algorithm that will change the world, there should be competition. It's not like Microsoft will hire a few engineers to rapidly develop something that transcends yours; it would be a reverse engineering challenge to any competition.

What if algorithms behind network protocols were patented? Computers would still be novelties and corporate tools, I think.

lisper 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know which patent is being asserted here? I thought Uniloc only had one patent, and it was related to try-and-buy DRM. But the description in the article says "processing of floating point numbers by the Linux operating system was a patent violation" which doesn't seem to fit. Is there another Uniloc patent?
drakaal 16 hours ago 1 reply      
This would overturn every video/audio/data compression patent. Every Encryption Patent. It would over turn every Google Search Ranking Patent. It would limit patents to physical things.

Under that system even many physical devices would not be patent-able. The math that goes in to Battery charging optimization. Silicon Chips would not be able to patent XOR, NOR, OR, Gate logic.

This judge doesn't have the authority to make such changes to patent law.

api 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Does this invalidate certain crypto patents, like the NTRU patents or the RSA patent (if it were still in effect)?
pagekicker 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Are algorithms invented, or discovered? Did they, like geometry, exist in a platonic state before human thought? See Neal Stephenson's great ANATHEM.
rogueSkib 17 hours ago 0 replies      
You may not be able to patent math, but certain numbers are still illegal!


betterunix 16 hours ago 0 replies      
So no more software patents? Or at least no more cryptography patents?
bdg 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Can we not express nearly everything in existence as a formal system?
smrtinsert 21 hours ago 0 replies      
'mathematical algorithms' is a little broad.
acchow 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Does this mean I can use Fountain Codes now?
prudhvis 20 hours ago 0 replies      
If only the loosing party have to pay for all the legal fees.
darkhorn 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Page Rank?
polarix 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Oh no, now there's really no incentive to find new ones. We're doomed.
ateeqs 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm waiting for Uniloc's silly patent 5,490,216 to expire in a couple of years. How can they not even have a reference product sold for this?
ttrreeww 19 hours ago 1 reply      
I guess Mathematicians will never get rich then :(
nammaki1 7 hours ago 0 replies      
i play world of warcraft iwant an hack for reset server for reset bosses in the server in 2.4.3
The Summly deal makes no sense philosophically.com
369 points by thomseddon  3 days ago   251 comments top 55
kyro 3 days ago 20 replies      
For some who need perspective:

Right now, somewhere in the world, a child is being born into an uberly rich family. That child will grow up to inherit millions for absolutely no work. He'll live the good life full of yachts and private jets.

Right now, somewhere in the world, there is a party happening full of gorgeous wealthy people who need not lift a finger to attain the luxuries that they have. Their success is only a matter of genetics and luck.

Right now, somewhere in the world, is an investment banker who is making literally millions after clicking a few buttons and making a few phone calls to a few friends. He knows the right people and is in the right place, and that's all that matters.

Right now, somewhere in the world, is a 20-some year old guy who is worth billions because of a website he started. He was born into a family that sent him to the right high school. He then went on to one of the best universities in the country, built his website, moved, met the right people, and raised $500+ million in funding. He and likely generations down the line are set for life.

Right now, somewhere in the world, is a 17yr old teenager who started a company with some money from his parents, built a product, with help from friends and family, and got acquired for $30 million.

There's always someone becoming richer than you for much less work, every second of the day. Look past that and just keep working. I get down about how unfair that is from time to time, but there's nothing you can really do about it, other than focus on your work.

Edit: Others are asking where in the article is jealousy mentioned. It isn't, but I took the entire post as one rooted in envy and bitterness. There certainly wouldn't be any of this type of reaction had the guy been a 40-year old who finally got acquired after years of failed attempts. If anything, I'm sure people would be applauding him and the whole affair.

itsprofitbaron 2 days ago 4 replies      
Normally whenever an acquisition happens, I avoid these types of posts on HN because there are often people in the comments (and even in the posts themselves) calling out the acquired company saying “I could have done this” or “Acquirer could have built Acquired Company in a day” but, this one deserves a reply.

The reason why this deserves a reply is that the OP's post does not really contain any facts rather, it contains assumptions (either the OP's assumptions or others).

For instance:

   “Yahoo screens the employees, and tells the founder that 2 of them passed” 


  “Summly says dang, only 2 out of 5 passed?”

The article the OP links to, to cite this actually states[1]

  “In addition, only two of Summly's employees will go to Yahoo with D'Aloisio”

There is no mention of anyone failing a ‘test', all it states that only that 2 of Summly's employees will be joining Yahoo alongside the founder. Now when OMGPOP were acquired by Zynga, one of their employees didn't join Zynga[2] and that employee chose not to join Zynga " the same may have happened to Summly's other employees as well (something that we do not know).

Moreover, the OP calls out Yahoo for acquiring Summly for $30M and citing that,

  “Summly says no, $50m is our minimum. We need to pay back our generous investors”

However, there has been no confirmation of an acquisition price " there are rumours which place the amount in that ballpark and rumours which say the price was 90% cash. Now, when startups get acquired, they do not get acquired for one price (as Media outlets etc will report) rather, amongst other things there's an earn out for employees/founder(s) and money to cap table. These things are often complicated and can be very complicated which is why, I am not criticizing media outlets for reporting a single price " in particular these Media outlets love the “millionaire” stories because it gives them a ton of page views - although, when someone is calling out a company for selling for an unconfirmed price by, saying that it is ridiculous " these things need highlighting.

Likewise, the OP concludes with:

  “The craziest thing is that there are a lot of really qualified, CS-beefy teams doing really amazing things in the mobile news/discovery space these days - and that would definitely take a $30m acquisition offer or less. I don't really understand why they picked this one”

First of all, as I already highlighted no one knows that Yahoo gave the people at Summly a test " and if they did, if the employees who are not joining either rejected the role or failed the test. Likewise nor do we know an official price for the company of which flaws I already mentioned in regards to a single price.

However, what we do know is that Yahoo acquired Summly (which is shutting down although, some of it will be incorporated into Yahoo)[3] and regardless if you agree with it or not, they acquired them for a price which is suitable to Yahoo and Summly's investors/team.

Either way, I wish Nick D'Aloisio and the rest of the Summly team all the best and congratulations on your exit to Yahoo.

[1] http://allthingsd.com/20130325/yahoo-paid-30-million-in-cash...

[2] http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/167244/Turning_down_Zynga...

[3] http://ycorpblog.com/2013/03/25/yahoo-to-acquire-summly/

IanDrake 3 days ago 4 replies      
Right after college I started consulting at an eCommerce company that had bought a 17 year old's website for over 1M. Had had built a gaming community site that had become very popular and they wanted the traffic.

I thought the kid was just lucky until I was in a meeting with him. His thought process basically ran circles around everyone else in the room, some twice his age. I realized then, that there are kids, KIDS!, much smarter than I'll ever hope to be in my life.

Sometimes you have to meet these people to believe they exist.

jval 3 days ago 3 replies      
I feel this would be an appropriate subject for a Dilbert comic. Storyline is that someone accidentally left the dot out of $300000.00 to make it $30000000 and then everyone else went along with it for fear of looking stupid.
minimax 3 days ago 6 replies      
In 2005 Yahoo buys Delicious, a bookmarking site, for between $15MM - $30MM. Summly was acquired for a reported $30MM. Delicious had 5MM users, and let's face it how much "CS beef" goes into a bookmark sharing site. Summly claims to have 1MM downloads. The difference between Delicious' 5MM users and Summly's 1MM is a factor of five but the order of magnitude is roughly the same. Joshua Schachter is highly respected as an entrepreneur and engineer within the HN community, but Nick D'Aloisio is considered just some lucky teenager.

The jealousy on display in the post and subsequent comments is, I think, glaringly obvious to anyone who would take a second to compare it to almost any other startup acquisition where the founder isn't a 17 year old.

mtoddh 3 days ago 5 replies      
From the article,

Let's ignore the hurt feelings that our employees will have about making a 17 year-old a millionaire.

The price tag for this company aside, am I the only one that detects a hint of jealousy in some of the comments that seem to imply "but he's too young to be a millionaire!"?

rdl 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's possible it's a big top line number (some press quotes even higher than $30mm), but in a way which actually makes sense.

Long earn-outs could be one factor. Giving engineers $1mm with 1/2/3/4 4-year earn-outs would even be on the low side. Doing the same with a founder would obviously be worth less (especially at Yahoo!, given how founders historically leave after acquisition)

SRI is presumably getting a big chunk for a new license. Maybe even a domain-exclusive license. That alone could be $0-100mm.

If it's equity, it is a lot better for Yahoo!

It's possible the founders and key employees have a weird incentive structure -- if they continue with the product and get 50mm users, they'd get a payout of an extra $10mm vs. otherwise, for instance. That kind of thing could add to the reported deal figure without adding much risk to Yahoo!. (I'm sure I could get a "if you turn Yahoo! into a $60b/yr business in the next 3 years, you can have an extra $100mm" on any deal.)

I'm not Marissa Mayer's biggest fan, but I don't think she's in the same vein as the previous leadership at Yahoo!, so presuming that they're throwing money away irrationally isn't the first thing I'd do.

scholia 3 days ago 3 replies      
Last year's press release had quotes from Daniel Ek (Spotify) and Mary Meeker, and said:

"Summly is backed by several investors, including Horizons Ventures, Ashton Kutcher, Betaworks, Brian Chesky, Hosain Rahman, Joanna Shields, Josh Kushner, Mark Pincus, Matt Mullenweg, Stephen Fry, Troy Carter, Yoko Ono and many more."

Not exactly a teen-programmer-in-mother's-basement story...

danso 3 days ago 4 replies      
Can someone comment on whether this is a reasonable amount of money to pay for talented engineers and some patents? As a service, the deal doesn't make much sense...it doesn't seem that the world is hungry for ways to simplify web content, even if the technology actually worked. The most popular articles on most news sites are popular because of their in depth content or because they are slideshows of arousing photos. Summly would appear to not really affect either of those trends
amirhhz 3 days ago 2 replies      
There's a possibility that this publicity changes younger people's perception of Yahoo's. They'll see the BBC headline and a) will now know what Yahoo! is and b) might get motivated to write/learn code and even want to go work for a tech company (even Yahoo itself). Combined with everything else Marissa Mayer is doing, (b) might actually happen, as altruistic-seeming as it might sound.
rayiner 3 days ago 2 replies      
This article assumes that the primary goal of the acquisition is the technology. Without having looked at the technology or commenting on its merits, I can think of a boatload of other things Yahoo is buying with its money:

1) Free positive publicity--publicity that doesn't constantly remind people how Yahoo! is circling the train;
2) The recruiting hook of "yeah, we're not stodgy anymore, we paid some kid $30 million!" which will fly with some people;
3) A new engineer who obviously has both technical and business skills;
4) A subliminal "don't forget, there's more of you turning 18 every day" to the rest of the organization.

fleaflicker 3 days ago 1 reply      
I once heard Joshua Schachter describe this kind of acquisition by a public company as "somebody in corp-dev falls in love with your product and has to have it."

In other words, it's not repeatable. This is nothing new. It happens all the time.

niggler 3 days ago 0 replies      
"The craziest thing is that there are a lot of really qualified, CS-beefy teams doing really amazing things in the mobile news/discovery space these days"

That's true of most of these acquisitions. There are a lot of qualified people doing crazy things, but the smartest people aren't always the ones who win. That fact is immaterial here until we find out what other things they got (maybe the kid brings along investors who may buy more yahoo stock ?)

I do agree, in general, that as a public company Yahoo has to explain to shareholders why they made the acquisition.

t4nkd 3 days ago 0 replies      
Unless I missed a particular story, I haven't seen Summly or Yahoo! announce the number is $30m. A reasonable point here was that relicensing from SRI for the core functionality of this app could be a large part of the purchase price. Also, not being totally familiar with taking VC money, it sounds reasonable to me that a significant portion of the monies is going back to the investor(s?).

While I think $15m would have been fine and generous, it doesn't shock me that someone important in Yahoo! got it stuck into their head that Summly was hitting on something that would "change the way people use news", a particularly neat fit if their intention is still to be the new homepage of the internet.

sdfjkl 3 days ago 1 reply      
Good point about "ignore the hurt feelings that our employees will have". Now a bunch of Yahoo(er?)s have this kid sitting in their Soho office with a £17m price tag on his sleeve - that's got to be a little awkward for everyone involved.
rdouble 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Summly deal makes sense as much as any Yahoo! acquisition over the years has made sense. Yahoo! is a frankenstein of almost 2 decades of acquisitions. If the CEO of this particular acquisition wasn't a teenager, nobody would bat an eye at $30M for this company.
aheilbut 3 days ago 0 replies      
You haven't considered the simpler possibility that what has been reported is significantly incomplete and/or BS.
lifeisstillgood 3 days ago 0 replies      
Oh. come on. I would kill to make an app as nice as this, even if it did not sell at all.

Kudos to the kids for actually making a product people wanted to use, and at least one person wanted to buy.

pisarzp 3 days ago 1 reply      
I kind of agree with the author. Have I been engineer in Yahoo, I would ask myself question "Why is he paid so much, where we could do it in house better and spend this money on bonuses for employees?". Especially given that fact, that Summly doesn't even own this technology just licences it from SRI.

The only explanation I see, is that what Yahoo actually really bought is the great licensing deal (flat fee? exclusivity?).

nicholassmith 3 days ago 4 replies      
It makes perfect sense, they've got some technology out of it, some people who understand mobile, and a nice big headline.

Worth $30m of my money? Probably not. Worth $30m of Yahoo's money? Maybe, they're not likely to have decided to spend that much on an acquihire without board approval really are they. Unless they Zuckerberg'd it and thought it was better to seek forgiveness.

Evbn 2 days ago 0 replies      
The problem in a nutshell: Yahoo just indirectly but clearly told all their talented employees to quit and try to get acquired back. (The untalented employees know they have better expected returns if they just chairwarm for a few years.)

Bad for Yahoo.

giffo 3 days ago 0 replies      
They might have picked this company up because its news,

"Yahoo" buys "17 wiz kid" "mobile app and company", is good advertising around the world, yahoo is now a company who buys the "latest" technology, they hired a wiz kid - they have him on board he will do crazy technology experiments - "you have no idea what he could come up with next!", and they have his technology that a company as big as yahoo would play $30m for.

It tells potential users and more importantly investors and current shareholders it is now company who buys stuff because its investing and changing for the better and maybe people should change their views about yahoo etc etc.

note: I have not used the app, still don't care about yahoo.

dhannum 2 days ago 0 replies      
Summly has no real history to speak of, but Yahoo clearly has a long, sad, sorry history of overpaying for little nascent startups, failing to capitalize on them and then eventually letting them fall apart while missing out on larger trends.

At first it seems that whether or not this deal makes sense to you depends on whether or not you're a shareholder of Yahoo or a shareholder of Summly. But keep in mind that if Yahoo didn't make a similar deal with ViaWeb a decade ago there may not be a YC or any of the companies they helped start.

trotsky 3 days ago 2 replies      
When the number sounds way too high and it's from a single anonymous source and no one else is talking - it's often a lie. People have big egos.
mortdeus 3 days ago 0 replies      
I read in forbes that this kid was supposed to write a machine learning search algorithm that would slay the titan google beast and bring balance back to the ad force.

The moral of this story? Invest in the opposite of what Forbes says will go do.

Mc_Big_G 3 days ago 0 replies      
...except that Yahoo just got $30 million worth of controversial press.
ck2 3 days ago 1 reply      
Who actually confirmed the $30M number though?

No-one that I've seen quoted?

Maybe it was $30M in stock?

PaulHoule 3 days ago 1 reply      
People are on the threshold of really good text analysis algorithms. I know of teams all over the place who have bits of the puzzle solved amazingly well.

SRI is a world leader at this technology, it already spun off Siri to Apple, and they've got patents on key technologies in this system, so a $50 M valuation is about right.

I know another guy from New York who sold a company of the same size for $30 M or so and when I wargame scenarios around companies developing this kind of stuff I'd expect an exit between 20 M and 80 M.

brown9-2 3 days ago 0 replies      
These things are a lot easier to understand once you realize that to the acquirer, the publicity is a part of the deal as well.

Plus, it's not all that common for senior management to face any sort of punishment for acquisitions that go bad.

mortdeus 3 days ago 0 replies      
$30,000,000 to make yahoo relevant enough to be discussed on hacker news? Ehhh I think they got their money's worth.
robmcm 3 days ago 0 replies      
Summly and Autonomy aren't the bet poster boys for Britian's software developers.
plinkplonk 2 days ago 0 replies      
So what happens to the three employees who didn't clear Yahoo's interviews? Do they get nothing? Just curious.
workbench 3 days ago 1 reply      
Never really understood why Summly got so much press to begin with.

Isn't it just Flipboard with a slightly different UI

L0j1k 3 days ago 1 reply      
What I read in this piece of news (though not really any article in particular) was: "Yahoo spent 30 million to attract the attention of high school kids"...
harel 3 days ago 2 replies      
Good on him. Doesn't matter if it makes sense to us (it doesn't to me but hey, its not my money!). The kid got minted, his employees probably got a good deal out of it, his mum must be proud as punch. All in all, congratulations kiddo, don't spend it all at once.

What baffles me most though, is that Yahoo would conduct a CS type interview to the employees, failing some of them in the process (if that bit is true). I have over 16 years of real hard world experience and I would never dream of passing a CS type exam. Is that really a gauge of excellence?

31reasons 3 days ago 0 replies      
> I don't really understand why they picked this one.

Yahoo Executive: "Don't Make Me think"

Summly: Ok. 30 mil

Yahoo Executive: OK.

smnl 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm confused why they decided to immediately remove Summly from the App Store rather than use it to drive traffic to other Yahoo apps - anybody know why they did this?
_chrismccreadie 3 days ago 0 replies      
I suppose Yahoo will have to answer to their shareholders, just not yet. It seems to me that they have invested in the talent and the current customer base. If Yahoo really do make an impact on the mobile news market I'm sure $30m will seem like buttons.

I do agree that many other development teams would have jumped at an acquisition offer of a lot less money but they were either unknown to Yahoo or deemed not suitable for Yahoo.

lmirosevic 2 days ago 0 replies      
My first reaction was that this was a play by yahoo to get in on the newsreader market. There's been a lot of fanfare about google abandoning its RSS reader so obviously this is a big market, one to which Google doesn't think RSS is the answer. So what is the answer? I don't think anyone knows but it seems to me like yahoo is taking a bet on summly. Plus it's a great opportunity to capitalise on the press and general sentiment of the whole Google RSS story. And finally Marissa is new, and a lot of people are probably pointing their eyes at her to see if she can turn around yahoo; and what better way to do that than to win a game of chess against Google?

Edit: and if Marissa does get a lot of faith from investors, which she will if one of her first moves is a victory against google, then her reputation will undoubtedly rise. And how much is the reputation of a CEO worth at a multi billion dollar company? I think a lot more than $30M. Just look at Apple's recent stock movement.

nns1212 3 days ago 0 replies      
Pulse is getting purchased for over $50 million by LinkedIn. (http://gigaom.com/2013/03/11/linkedin-reportedly-buying-news...)

Summly is much better than that as far as technology is concerned.

Yahoo got a better deal.

kadaj 3 days ago 0 replies      
Truth be told, the deal is bullshit.
chuhnk 3 days ago 1 reply      
Where is this information coming from? Is this back and forth a fictional tale or actually what happened?
fruor 2 days ago 0 replies      
To put your question more into perspective, I would ask if paying $50 for something that only costs $10 to manufacture, makes sense? Anyone who runs a profitable business will say 'yes'.

Summly is a product, and as such, has been purchased for more than it cost to "manufacture", as you laid out.

$30M is bargain shopping; lest we forget "Draw Something" was bought for $180 million, or "Instagram" was purchased for a whopping $1 billion.

hmottestad 3 days ago 3 replies      
Everyone now knows about this app. For $30000000 they pulled off the best marketing campaign ever.
marknutter 3 days ago 0 replies      
Summly has had a ton of buzz since it was first announced and that's saying more than, oh, every single product Yahoo has come out with in the last 5 years. I think Yahoo wants to inject some of that young and naive but optimistic joojoo that the Summly founder embodies into the company. Maybe this will light a fire under some of the old guard's asses and get them to work on Yahoo side projects in their spare time.
tangledweb 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ignoring this specific deal, mull on this hypothetical.

Imagine you are a young superstar who with some justification believes you have the world at your feet.

A bloated, cadaverous company that your dad tells you was cool when you were in preschool wants to buy you and tether your career to them.

How much would it take to convince you to do that?

disclosure 3 days ago 0 replies      
"I've got 30 billion, I guess 30 million is not too much to ask for. Do it." - Li Ka-shing
MMXII 2 days ago 0 replies      
Seems to me that the kid has connections if you look at investors and business partners.

Maybe those partners wouldn't have wanted to collaborate with Yahoo, but now they'd consider it for 30M.

porker 3 days ago 1 reply      
Any open source equivalents to Summly's "pure rocket science" summarization technology?
akristofcak 3 days ago 0 replies      
At the risk of stating the obvious, big companies overpay for deals all the time especially when there is some perceived intangible benefit to be accrued. Alas.
askimto 3 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe they got some real nice licensing terms from SRI.
camus 3 days ago 0 replies      
I say good for him. It is a PR deal.Wether it is a good deal or not I dont know,i'm not a yahoo's shareholder,but good for the guy.Congrats to him.
k__ 3 days ago 0 replies      
Buying the Justin Bieber of Software Development for $30,000,000?

Seems like a good deal to me

naunga 3 days ago 0 replies      
You know if the kid really wanted some press for his app...he should have turned down Yahoo's and state that he values his company too much to allow them to be used as a PR stunt.

...and then the dump truck full of money pulled into his drive way.

thiagoperes 3 days ago 1 reply      
Let's say you're Yahoo:

You're making a huge effort towards mobile, with no apparent success.

You see a small team that built a great product, that fits mobile nicely and that has a huge user base. BTW, You have a lot of money.

A 17yr old boy did something that lots of highly skilled engineers, managers, designer couldn't do, and that you pay a lot of money.

If you have the chance to acquire a great product with a huge user base, wouldn't you do it (being a company like Yahoo)?


That's the same as the Instagram deal. Huge companies are not succeeding in mobile, but they need to do this right and create a mobile presence. If it costs "only" 30m, it's a great deal if you ask me.

21 Nested Callbacks michellebu.com
347 points by ericz  2 days ago   108 comments top 29
lelandbatey 2 days ago 5 replies      
I love this. The code may not have been beautiful, but it worked, and the author figured it out themselves!

I'm simultaneously reminded of two different quotes:

Let's argue about whether Haskell or Clojure is better while somebody else ships products using PHP and duct tape.
--@agentdero [0]

And the other:

<dm> I discovered that you'd never get an answer to a problem from Linux Gurus by asking. You have to troll in order for someone to help you with a Linux problem.

-- Bash.org [1]

You should always try to do SOMETHING over being frozen in indecision. Additionally, we really should do a better job of explaining things to people, so they don't have to stoop to trolling for answers :)

[0] https://twitter.com/agentdero/status/174965036928868352

[1] http://bash.org/?152037

tikhonj 2 days ago 2 replies      
> (I gathered from these exchanges that programmers have a perpetual competition to see who can claim the most things as 'simple.')

Amusingly, I've noticed the same thing: I do claim that a surprising amount of things are simple. And you know why? Because they are. A whole bunch of things (most recently F-algebras and F-coalgebras) really are simple: you start with a very simple concept (say sets and functions) and build up to them, taking very simple steps along the way. Maybe you have to bring in a couple of other concepts that are similarly simple.

EDIT: I should have made this clearer: I say something is simple before trying to explain it rather than instead of. I mainly do it to avoid scaring people without reason, and everyone gets far too scared of words like "F-coalgebra" or even "monoid".

Every single step along the way? Virtually trivial. But put them together and you get something genuinely difficult to follow.

It turns out that enough trivial steps all building upon each other becomes difficult to follow for anyone. Yet, once you've finally understood it, you can't see why it was difficult any more: after all, all the components are so simple, and it all makes sense! (Now.)

I realized this in a pretty direct way: I was trying to explain the aforementioned algebras to some of the smartest people I know--people with much more mathematical experience and aptitude than me--and they all found it a bit hard to follow. Not because they couldn't follow any particular step, but because putting it all together in your head is difficult.

So really, the ultimate conclusion is: just because something is simple does not mean it is easy. Having some trouble with simple concepts like this is not an issue at all; everybody does. But that doesn't mean they aren't simple!

Another, more surprising, conclusion is just how shallow the stack of concepts has to be to cause people trouble. It's not like there are hundreds of parts in these definitions: there are maybe 10. (Say: set, function, algebra, identity, category, morphism, functor, dual.) And yet this is more than enough to confuse.

Cushman 2 days ago 1 reply      
> (I gathered from these exchanges that programmers have a perpetual competition to see who can claim the most things as 'simple.')

Nobody hits my brother but me.

Programmers are persistently frustrated in our tools-- when you can see how things work, you start to see just how broken it all is. Things that should be easy are hard, things that should be hard are nearly impossible. And for every thing gotten right, there's something a little subtler that's completely and opaquely wrong, wasting days of your life. We hate our tools, and we love to complain about them.

But if you complain about our tools... Sorry, who are you? This is basic stuff.

munificent 1 day ago 1 reply      
> "No, no programmer would do something this." He was not sarcastic. I wanted to switch back into Molecular and Cellular Biology right then. But then he added, "No one would end up with code like this because they simply would not have had the patience."

My brother and I learned to program in BASIC on an Apple IIe when we were kids. At the time, we were also into making little movies with our family's VHS camcorder. You could draw graphics in BASIC, so we thought it would be radical to write a program that would draw a cool logo animation for our movies.

We got a big sheet of graph paper and hand-drew the intended pixel art for our logo. Then started writing code to draw it one line at a time. We put a delay between each line so that it would do an animated wipe. We knew how to pause by doing a busy loop:

    10 FOR I = 1 to 100

What we didn't know was how to define reusable procedures (GOSUB). So between each of the hundred lines of pixel art, I typed in that loop. And I mean that literally: this was a line editor. No copy and paste. I wrote it out each time.

Now I just lament having the much free time and focus to be able to do that...

lincolnq 2 days ago 1 reply      
I love that the author was persistent enough to actually get to a solution -- any solution, no matter how ridiculous -- using nothing more than Google. I can't count how many times I've tried to help someone get started on the basics of the web programming stack only to realize that the inferential distance for this person is so high that I would have to spend hours explaining things in order to help them solve the problem.

Sorry world. It's getting better. But slowly.

untog 2 days ago 1 reply      
My real regret after reading this post: my early code is lost. Git didn't exist. Maybe SVN did but I wouldn't have had a clue.

To my genuine amazement, the company I worked for immediately after leaving college is still using a program I wrote for them seven years after I wrote it. When I left, they said that every company operation was going to be covered by SAP- weird how that didn't work out...

But still, it was written in VB.NET (!) and was a horrible, horrible mess. I would love to take a look at that code now, but I'm afraid that if I contact them they'll hold me responsible for updating it.

jcampbell1 2 days ago 3 replies      
I just wasted about 30 minutes writing a short solution, when I could have written the 22 callbacks in about 5 minutes. I did learn quite a bit about jquery, and the fn.delay isn't great. The funny thing about programming is that it does seem simple once you have a solution.

    function animate_opacity_to(opacity) {
var elems = $('[id^=row]').get();
(function x(){
var el;
if(el = elems.pop())

Mahn 2 days ago 1 reply      
We all have written code only to come back to it a few weeks later and think "oh god, what in the world was I thinking". If only code refactored itself over the time; small projects aren't an issue, but there's a point in every devs life when you have this monstrous one-eyed, ten thousand lined class that works fine in production but no one knows how or why it works and the idea of making a single change to it gives you pure panic and terror. And you know you have to rewrite it, but you have a hard time justifying spending two weeks on getting nothing tangible done, so to speak. The class goes on unfactored for a while (until it inevitably breaks) but at least you come to this almost zen realization that beautiful code = simple, short, and self descriptive code.
lmm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Programming may or may not be hard, but it's not a good idea to think of it as hard. You need the laziness that makes you think, as soon as you get to callback 3, "there must be a better way than this". Occasionally you're disappointed, but generally if you know programming is easy then it will be.
dirtyaura 2 days ago 1 reply      
I like this quote:

"I gathered from these exchanges that programmers have a perpetual competition to see who can claim the most things as 'simple.'"

sirmarksalot 2 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of the first pseudo-3D thing I wrote back in high school. I'd borrowed one of my brother's 3D graphics books and came across the simple algorithm for depth drawing (x = x0/z, y = y0/z), and immediately set to work writing a wireframe space shooter in Pascal.

I was so eager to get the graphical part out there that I didn't think about the problems of modeling, or having multiple objects on the screen at once. The whole thing was a single-file, thousand-line, hard-coded mess. And I still think it was awesome.

cmurphycode 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've been getting pretty sick of the whole "look how dumb I am, but I'm iterating!!!11" meme, but I really like this post. As a young person working in a company of people with far more experience, I've asked my share of stupid-simple questions and made my share of dumb mistakes. Luckily, I've got enough experience with programmers to get the most out of these interactions (also helpful to have decent human beings for co-workers!)

The important thing is to remember that there aren't (m)any super geniuses for which this stuff spews out first try. It's just that some people had the benefit of working through their ridiculously terrible code at the age of 8, writing BASIC, or whatever. And while they may have to learn jQuery the same as you did, they have a massive class of "intuitive" knowledge, which is really just experience, to help them through most of it.

kadabra9 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great article.

For a while, I was even hesitant to simply show some of my projects to other developers I looked up to..I figured the code was so bad, and the project so trivial, that why bother?

Reading sites like HN, you read about these tremendously talented people.... doing exits, building absurdly cool projects that you think you'll never be able to build... and it's easy to benchmark yourself against that sort of ideal and think that your stuff isn't cool enough. When I finally was confident enough to share some projects with a few people I respected, I was blown away by how much I learned just listening to their feedback.

Even if you think you're code sucks, you'll improve rapidly by learning WHY it sucks, and using that in new projects.

sergiosgc 2 days ago 0 replies      
To the writer of the post: my thanks. You brought a smile to my face. The awe at the complexity of programming is something I felt a long time ago, when I was 9 or 10. It is still vivid, and your post brought back memories and a smile.

Just goes to show that talent is as much inate as it is countless hours bashing against the wall. I had a lot of patience when I was 9.

noahsark769 2 days ago 0 replies      
I used Michelle's website last year when I was looking for examples of how to write good CSS and HTML - I definitely couldn't have told you then that she had started web programming less than a year ago!

It just goes to show that if you really have a passion for something and you really work hard at it, you can become awesome at it (or at least good enough to know you can be awesome without that much work) in no time. I find that this usually holds for most things in life, but it lends itself to web design especially.

kushagrawal 2 days ago 2 replies      
I know Michelle, and it's impressive that she started coding just two summers ago. Testament to the fact that it doesn't take long to become a good programmer
gizmo686 1 day ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of some of my earlier excursions into coding. For example, early on I needed to be able to randomly select from a set of 100 numbers. Not knowing about arrays, but knowing about classes and the random module I created a class that had 100 fields, and a method that contained a giant if-else tree to select one. Of course, I did not want to write out all of that, so I ended up creating an excel spreadsheet, and used that to mass produce a bunch of the repeated lines.
Choronzon 2 days ago 1 reply      
21 nested callbacks sounds like my current attempt at twisted programming,except Michelles code is a lot clearer and easier to read!
Even more experienced people write complete rubbish in an new language or worse port their old language patterns over.
No shame in being a beginner.
benatkin 2 days ago 0 replies      
kennu 2 days ago 3 replies      
Nowadays whenever I see a callback waterfall forming, my first thought is https://npmjs.org/package/node-async.
tomasien 2 days ago 1 reply      
Everyone I know who codes or designs is anxious to help others learn to do the same. However, it's just common decency and respect to Google it, try to do it, and then have specific questions about what you couldn't get past.

Just a rebuttal to one point that irked me.

sps_jp 2 days ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of a novelty I created early on in my programming career. I wanted to recreate the color picker from Photoshop (I think version 4) on a webpage. This was several years before jQuery and "Googling" it would have produced meager results. After considerable effort and writing equally "elegant" code as the OP, I had a 256 x 256 grid of divs displaying my color picker. Little to no CSS in that bad boy, but a ton of javascript hex conversions. The page loaded soooooo slow and brought my computer to it's knees, but I was very proud of it. I did actually use recursion, but not to the degree I could have if I had more knowledge. The achievement was not in writing perfect and optimal code, but in having an idea and seeing it through to completion.
jwmoz 2 days ago 0 replies      
I find those 21 nested callbacks strangely elegant.
bjliu 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well...it seems like Eric Z. and the UC Berkeley Hackers@Berkeley club really can easily vote their way up on HackerNews. It's happened more than once and its not a coincidence :\
Still, amazing article and learned a lot in 5 minutes :)
joshguthrie 1 day ago 0 replies      
I love this code, reminds me of my seven-level cascade in server-code javascript.

And it's always funny to go back to our beginnings and see the difference in code and level after only some years :)

yati 1 day ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the days when I was learning, even before I got into college. Fortunately, we as an industry have more resources than any other field for beginners, but as lelandbatey said, "...we really should do a better job of explaining things to people,..." - +100
robomartin 2 days ago 0 replies      
I hate snob programmers and designers.

It isn't very uncommon to have code that would cause most to projectile-vomit in products that are massively successful, reliable and, yes, very profitable.

For design, there's always Craigslist.

kailuowang 2 days ago 1 reply      
Programming is hard, but that's where the fun is. Writing 21 nested callbacks isn't that hard especially with some copy and paste, finding a solution that does not look that ugly is hard, but otherwise programming will be really boring. I mean writing code that merely works is boring most of the time. If finding an elegant solution is not more fun than finding a working solution for you (those who enjoyed math knows what I mean), then programming maybe not your thing.
camus 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Programming is hard." No it's not. Resources are everywhere today ,tons of books , Stackoverflow , tutorials ,etc ... you cant accuse programmers of not wanting to share their knowledge ,that's not true , they all do.

You have entire and complex projects on github available for free , so no Programming is not hard , it takes time to become a good programmer yes but like everything else in life. You want to try something hard ? try to be a doctor instead.

The power of the RSS reader marco.org
328 points by mh_  2 days ago   80 comments top 36
BenoitEssiambre 2 days ago 2 replies      
Also the fact that rss enables this kind high quality, narrow domain, low volumes posting makes the web way better.

I don't want to read professional writers who have to write their quota whether there is good material to write about or not on that day. They too often focus on gossip and sensationalism. Although I might be entertained briefly, in the end I will not have gained much from reading this type of articles and it's a waste of my time.

I want to read the authors who mostly spends their time doing things in their domain of expertise and get out of their lab/office/cave once in a while to write a post on something they feel is interesting and worth sharing. Because they are not frequent writers the prose might be dryer but the facts, ideas and insights are usually much better than what you get from those who's main job is writing.

I love insights that comes directly from an expert's keyboard. They are pearls of wisdom and it would be sad to lose them because of a decline in support for RSS.

jcurbo 2 days ago 4 replies      
This exactly matches my use case for RSS. High volume daily websites - like HN - I read directly. I went through a phase where I tried to read HN via RSS (in Google Reader) and for me it wasn't better than just hitting HN directly.

But for the kind of sites Marco mentions (which I read most of, actually) that update on a semi-daily or weekly basis, RSS readers are perfect because I don't want to go and visit those pages individually just to see they don't have any updates. Typically those sites are narrowly-focused personal/organizational blogs in areas I am interested in.

joebadmo 2 days ago 4 replies      
Personally, I have different labels. I have a high volume label that I nuke with impunity, then another label with low volume feeds that I treat more like Marco describes in tfa.

This lets me keep up with all of those low volume feeds, but also skim the daily news when I have time.

I also prune my feeds pretty aggressively.

This is probably a much fiddlier setup than most people will want, but really so is any RSS reader.

gnosis 2 days ago 2 replies      
I've read HN over RSS for years. It's perfect for that.

Firefox isn't very well suited for keeping up with blogs and news sites like HN because it's so damn bloated and slow, and you can't really save any articles for later reading without upvoting, opening them in a new tab, or bookmarking them. Bookmarks in Firefox are a total pain in the ass, so I try to avoid them as much as possible. I already have more than enough tabs open, and don't want to waste more keeping some possibly interesting article waiting for me.

In my RSS reader (Newsbeuter[1]), all I have to do to save an article for later reading is not delete it. It will remain marked as new and I can read it later, at my leisure.

If I go for some days (or weeks) without reading HN at all, I can come back whenever I have time and still have all the articles waiting for me, instead of using HN's shitty time-limited "more.." prompt to painfully page through old articles.

Some years back, there were even a couple of "HN Full Feed" RSS feeds that would show the entire linked article in each RSS item, so I could read it in my RSS reader instead of having to click through to some crappily designed website and get pissed off at how long Firefox took to load it.

RSS is really one of the very best ways to read virtually any blog or news site, whether there are a ton of new items per day (like HN), or whether it's some little blog that's updated once every few years, or anywhere in between.

[1] - http://www.newsbeuter.org/index.html

charlieok 2 days ago 2 replies      
The feature I want on RSS readers: Volume sliders.

A volume slider per feed, and perhaps also a global one.

If a feed is posting too much stuff, but I still like some of the stuff on it, I'd prefer not to unsubscribe if I had a better option.

If I notice a feed getting a bit noisy, I'd like to open a view for that feed, with titles and timestamps. Then I'd just move a slider and watch stuff drop out, until I've turned it down to a volume I can handle.

Hopefully, the lower-signal items will drop out of view first and the higher-signal items last. The more data available for making these rankings, the better. Comment counts or scores from the hosting site should help. So should links/shares/likes/comments across the major social networks.

gtCameron 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ironically, I use IFTTT to read the RSS and push sites like what he is describing into Instapaper. You lose the by-site organization of it, but if you don't overdo it you end up with a nice small selection of things to read every day when you fire up Instapaper.
roc 2 days ago 1 reply      
The creator of Instapaper doesn't see the value-add of using an RSS reader to skim the postings of a high-volume site, for readability/usability reasons?

That's a curious blind-spot.

bsimpson 2 days ago 3 replies      
I never got into RSS readers, but I use Hacker News and Reddit for the purposes Marco is describing. I have Pulse on my phone set up to follow a handful of RSS feeds (Hacker News, The Verge, Daring Fireball, Ars Technica, etc.) so I have an easy way to see what's happening if I have a couple minutes to kill throughout my day.
notaddicted 2 days ago 1 reply      
Something else that Marco didn't dwell on is the diversity of stuff that you can basically just plug into your rss reader if you want notification. A website may choose to use it to publish anything they wish. Misc. examples:

1. Following a user on reddit via rss:


2. Following a search term on reddit via rss:


3. Checking a mailinator throwaway email via rss:


4. Google Alerts (RIP.)

josephkern 1 day ago 0 replies      
Marco, you might also think of RSS readers like an archived narrow band search for high volume traffic. For example: I am a security researcher, so I susbscribe (via RSS) to everything security related that I can find: mailing lists, bleeding edge snort ruls, CVE, blogs, SANS, etc, etc.

Now when I want to see the current state of affairs in Ineternet Explorer security issues, I can simply search for "Internet Explorer" in my RSS reader. I am then presented with the traffic on the latest issues, their possible resolutions, and even possibly the person who discovered the issue.

The beauty of RSS is that it lets me decide what it will be, and when I want it to be that way.

erikpukinskis 2 days ago 0 replies      
The "tyranny of the loudest" is a problem I wish more reader software addressed. If someone tweets 100 times a day, just show me the one that was retweeted 10 times. If someone tweets once a month I want to see every one.

Maybe give the option to accordion out a "100 tweets hidden" link.

Spellman 2 days ago 0 replies      
I personally started using an RSS Reader to keep track of webcomics. Especially ones that update infrequently. Now they're all in one handy place and I never miss a panel.
saraid216 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder how much of a challenge it would be to create an RSS client that provides a direct payment system to content creators. I'm sort of shocked that I can't remember hearing about something like that; the issue was always about getting page views and having a donation link or whatever. They never seemed to consider direct payment of any kind, even though PayPal was definitely around back then.

Take a slice en route and you have a business model.

...I feel like I should append this to the top comment so that it gets seen, heh. I'm not interested in doing this. Someone else do it.

mcculley 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think advising people to delete feeds misses a possible feature that I wish was available in the feed readers I've tried: I would like to mark each feed/URL to tell the feed reader if it is a feed in which I care about seeing every new item. The "number unread" cue/badge should only count the important feeds and not ones where I just want to see the latest content if I have free time.
pauljonas 2 days ago 0 replies      
Everybody thinks everyone uses or should use the internet the same way they do.

I couldn't disagree with this post more. I subscribe to a lot of sites that accumulate thousands of unread items. In fact, I could care less about read/unread toggle. My RSS is indeed a river, but it's a river that sometimes I plunge wholeheartedly into and devour large chunks, other times I merely skim for items of interest. Then there are spots in which most is completely ignored. But it's still there and given the magic of SEARCH, I can pull up all the articles for a topic of interest, confining my query to just those sites I have pre-declared an interest in.

So I like the mailbox metaphor for being able to quickly traverse items and skim item summaries, so the real payoff for me is not just the increased efficiency in reviewing so much more than could be done by visiting each site (or even in a magazine/mosaic format) but also a repository ready to serve up information for any topic that I wish to browse upon in a future moment.

Mithaldu 2 days ago 0 replies      
So he advocates never subscribing to high frequency feeds because most clients show the contents of all feeds in one big list.

I find that is the wrong way to adress the problem. A more useful solution seems to be a different way to structure an rss reader. Opera for example incorporates one that works alongside its email client. It fixes the issue by treating individual feeds as email folders which can be structured inside more folders and highlighting folders with unread contents as well as displaying their content counts.

This screenshow should demonstrate usefully how easy this makes it to notice new updates on low-frequency feeds while still allowing skimming of high-frequency ones without one interrupting the other:


Too 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just disable read status in your rss-client and the problem is solved. For low frequency sites that you care about you most likely remember their latest headlines anyway. For high frequency sites just watch the headlines roll by, if you happen to be interested in one then click it, otherwise just ignore.
webwanderings 2 days ago 0 replies      
The rss2email script apparently works like a charm but it isn't suitable for large number of feed subscription. This is where Google Reader came in handy because I didn't have to care how long it takes to grab however many feeds I have under my account. Ultimately, all RSS feed readers (old and new) are going to be suffering from this issue of retrieving large number of feeds.
Spittie 2 days ago 0 replies      
I partially agree - I do use RSS to check for sites that publish daily updates (yes, even Hacker News). But even with those, you don't need to overload yourself. Right now I get about ~100 news every day, which is perfectly fine with me. I went away last week, and I was greeted by ~500 news. I was able to skim through those in maybe one hour, so it was fine.

Everytime I feel that my feed reader is overloaded, I write down every site that I follow, and decide about which sites I really care, and which sites i can easily unsubscribe without problems. I also try to remove sites that post the same thing (this happen a lot with news sites).

Schwolop 2 days ago 0 replies      
Surely there's a sorting metric that could solve this? Something like score = k_1/age_of_post * k_2/frequency_of_posts with appropriate k-weights.

Personally, my Google Reader has a folder for 'rarely updated', which I usually check first. Then I have the 'All Items' sorted by magic and skim the first few pages or so for things that strike me as interesting. Then I mark all as read.

laurent123456 2 days ago 0 replies      
> If a site posts many items each day and you barely read any of them, delete that feed. If you find yourself hitting “Mark all as read” more than a couple of times for any feed, delete that feed. You won't miss anything important.

Actually, this could be an interesting feature of an RSS client. If the user keeps marking items of a feed as read, either put the feed in silent mode (no longer shows up in inbox) or lower the relevance of its items so that they go down the list (if the items are sorted by relevance).

curtin 2 days ago 2 replies      
I use to mess with rss and agree with Marco on the purpose of them. Then I found a better solution, just subscribe to some of the awesome curated newsletters out there that do all this for you. HN has one - http://hackernewsletter.com and Peter Cooper's tech focused ones (https://cooperpress.com/) keep you in the loop in a particular stack, plus a lot of others that I've seen.

Now I don't have to check anything these days, except my email, which of course I check everyday anyhow!

stevewilhelm 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think RSS is being replaced by Twitter. Many of the RSS feeds I currently consume already cross post to a dedicated Twitter account. If publishers aren't doing this, they should start before Google Reader is shuttered.

As a consumer, set up a Twitter account dedicated to reading "long tail" low volume twitter feeds or use a fancy Twitter client like Tweetbot that manages lists.

jasonjayr 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is not a new problem -- newsgroups had this problem back in the day. I think the solution now is the same as it was back then -- better scoring/sorting/killfile tools that the end user can control.

The death of newsgroups, was also the death of an structured, parseable discussion forum, where the end user had the final say on how they'd see the discussion. Nowadays, we need moderators and the forum software on the server to re-implement these things that newsreaders had worked out.

I've setup my own ttrss instance, and it has some basic scoring abilities. Unfortunatly not all rss feeds provide the text of the article (or even the lede) in the feed directly, so the scoring ends up crippled.

caycep 2 days ago 0 replies      
Also, it occurs to me, I use Instapaper to deal with this issue in RSS...hmm...
edavis 2 days ago 0 replies      
Both high and low volume feeds have their use. You just have to know how to manage them.

I use River2 for my high volume feeds while I stick my rarely updated and "must read" feeds into NetNewsWire. Has been working pretty well for me so far.

When using NetNewsWire, I'm in "slow down mode" where just about every item (in theory) is important to me. But when I'm using River2, I'm in "scan and click mode" and just trying to see what the latest news is.

Using separate applications like this helps keep me "in the zone."

If I were to put high volume feeds in NetNewsWire the temptation to read all the posted items would be too great. In River2, items older than three hours just drop off the page. There's no "unread count" or "read older items" button to tempt you.

gz5 2 days ago 0 replies      
Like many of the points but not following the conclusions because Google Reader doesn't aid long tail discovery...was just best place to subscribe post-discovery.

If the need for RSS reader remains, then others will simply fill the GR niche?

prathibhanu 2 days ago 0 replies      
We have been working on developing RSS reader since last 8 months. We felt google reader is not for everyone and we wanted our rss reader to be used by anyone... who may not understand RSS. While implementing the RSS reader, we have learnt a lot and one of them being the power of RSS. I hope what we are building helps a lot of people. Check out http://multiplx.com
wcgortel 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a very interesting use case, particularly in investment analysis, my area of specialty.

The problem of obscure, rarely updated blogs with fantastic information (but no reader base) is plainly evident here. I can think of a blogger who is a fixture on "who's who" lists, but publishes a blog so ill-trafficked you can hear the crickets chirping. There are hundreds of these guys.

I'm at work on a finance-specific version of this. Hopefully we can announce something before the readerpocalypse.

monsur 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is precisely why I like Fever as an RSS reader. Fever lets you separate feeds into low-volume kindling and high-volume sparks. Kindling are the feeds you want to keep up with regularly, while items that are mentioned across Sparks bubble up to the top (Its like having your own personal Hacker News).
davebindy 2 days ago 0 replies      
I tend to add feeds only when the site doesn't generate either a significant number of comments or comments that are actually worth reading. Sites like HN I'm often as (or more) interested in the comments as in the actual article, so I'll just visit the site for that reason instead of using RSS.
Sami_Lehtinen 2 days ago 0 replies      
You don't need RSS for monitoring sites for infrequent updates. http://www.changedetection.com/ Free and well working solution. I use that to monitor all low traffic sites, which do not provide RSS.
eridius 2 days ago 0 replies      
mathOne, all your comments seem to be [dead].
mh- 2 days ago 1 reply      
I was very confused to see that I posted this article.
caycep 2 days ago 0 replies      
sorta wish this was the start of the "negative killfile" in the William Gibson Idoru trilogy. Because, you know, 3D cyberspace Walled City and stuff.
lakofsth 2 days ago 0 replies      
For the same reason that I have 14000 messages in my inbox (half unread), this is bunk. Who cares if you can't read everything? OCD much.
Embrace, extend, extinguish: How Google crushed and abandoned the RSS industry zdnet.com
322 points by iProject  6 days ago   193 comments top 31
onosendai 6 days ago 5 replies      
The whole article makes for some pretty depressing reading, and touches upon some important points. For me, the most crucial and eye opening is the stark contrast of the relatively open ecosystem we had back in 2005 to what we have today. You can't help but feel uncomfortable about the whole direction we're taking with tightly controlled silos of information (Twitter, Facebook, G+, etc.) using extremely limited, or highly monetized, API access, when you read something like this:

"One thing that's definitely coming (and some of these already exist, although haven't yet been made public) is extremely deep API support. Our general plan here is to expose nearly everything in NewsGator Online via API, and allow folks to build applications that leverage our platform in unique ways."

Google is just as guilty as several other parties of bringing about the situation we have now. I get the fact that everyone is looking for ways of increasing revenue, but they're doing it at the expense of openness, instead of leveraging that openness (see RSS for example) and building services and added value on top of it.

I hope the death of Reader serves as a wake up call on several fronts.

yanw 5 days ago 2 replies      
"RSS industry"?!

I thought the whole point of RSS is that it's decentralized. Feeds don't have to come from a single source and no one client is needed to view them.

One could argue that the demise of Reader is the best thing to happen to RSS in along time as this supposedly decentralized and decentralizing standard became too reliant on one vendor.

Is it really Google's fault that RSS was overshadowed by the emergence of social networks to the point that it doesn't make economic sense for them to keep maintaining it?! I don't' think so.
Neither is it a commentary on standards, it's merely a company that is acting in its own perceived interests, something companies are wont to do.

As for the “Industry” part, last I checked those who are actually building a Reader replacement are delighted with opportunity:




When a writer this associated with Microsoft starts framing this situation as yet another flimsy accusation of anti-competitive behaviour, I tend to be skeptic.

mtgx 6 days ago 7 replies      
Here's another viewpoint. If Google Reader was so good that it made people so mad about it being shut down, and it was so important in people's lives - then it must've been a pretty good app, right?

Okay, so even with Reader being this good, the RSS protocol was still dying because most people have moved on to other ways of consuming news. So then if RSS didn't have a reader that was this good, then it would've probably died a lot sooner, and Google Reader actually prolonged its life. Without Google Reader, RSS might have died 2 years ago.

So I don't know what's with all this "Google killed RSS". Google didn't kill RSS. Twitter, Facebook and RSS' "geekiness" that made sure it never crossed that "chasm" into mainstream usage (and what doesn't grow will probably die, as nothing is constant) are what killed RSS.

As a side note, I'm someone who consumes a lot of news every day, yet I still found a service like Reader to quickly become overwhelming, and I've barely used it occasionally. As we've seen, many of these journalists actually had thousands if not tens of thousands of unread news stories in their Reader, which I think is also why not that many people were using it. It felt overwhelming.

bborud 6 days ago 6 replies      
One of the things I always wanted to get around to while working for Google was to borrow some ideas from Gnus, Lars Ingebrigtsen's brilliant news reader for Emacs. (A rewrite of Masanobu Umeda's Gnus)

Gnus has a brilliant system for assigning a score to postings in all sorts of clever ways. You have the simple stuff, like assigning a negative score to a given person, but you can also do more subtle stuff like scoring up postings that are responses to your own postings. It also has various forms of adaptive scoring.

The score then influenced the ordering of threads, highlighting threads that need your attention and hiding threads and postings that you do not want to see. (Most news readers had a bozo-filter that could do the latter, but which didn't really do any of the former well).

What made Gnus such a great newsreader was that, with the use of scoring, I could spend 10-15 minutes per day getting an overview of dozens of active discussions I was having across a bunch of newsgroups. At one point the total number of postings in the groups I was following was around 6000 postings per day, and it took me mere minutes to get an overview of what had happened that was of interest to me.

The idea of scoring applied to RSS feeds would have been brilliant. It would have made following a massive number of RSS feeds a far more attractive proposition.

I still think that there is an opportunity to revive RSS and make it relevant again, but I would recommend that people interested in RSS readers have a closer look at Gnus first. RSS readers need to do a lot more than just aggregate and display feeds. There are some great opportunities in figuring out how to add scoring in a way users can understand. Also I think that harnessing social to provide additional signals that can be used for scoring would be neat.

Is there an RSS reader today that does any of this?

nir 6 days ago 1 reply      
It might be naive, but my own little protest is avoiding Google+ whenever possible, as a user and in projects I build.

RSS isn't dying of natural causes. Plenty of small-medium sites are getting orders of magnitude more traffic from Reader than from G+. Google and other major companies are trying to deprecate it in order to replace with their own, tightly controlled, solutions.

Nux 6 days ago 0 replies      
RSS is not very good for social networks, they want you to visit and stay on their web page, so that they can control and monetise properly.

Nobody is interested in ways to leak content and users outside their empire, at the contrary.

One day, when the Internet will have transformed in the Amazon-Facebook-Google-Microsoft walled garden we begin to see today, I shall tell tales of how people used to build and run their own web sites and email servers and visit each other's blogs and so on. And how they all let that go, because it was "too hard" and they "didn't have time" to deal with it all.

Ultimately it's us who are at fault. We had it, but gave it all up.

We are giving up our privacy and freedom for illusory convenience and safety, to paraphrase a famous saying.

streptomycin 5 days ago 1 reply      
I see the "embrace" part. But I don't see any "extend" or "extinguish". Seems to be just FUD. Lots of cynical people wish Google was as "evil" as 90s MS, but that false equivalence just doesn't hold. It would only hold in some outlandish scenario where Google added proprietary extensions to RSS to make everything that operated with Reader incompatible with anything else, thus eliminating the main advantage of RSS as a common standard (like MS did with Java).
taylodl 6 days ago 2 replies      
RSS is a technology, not an industry and Google's killing Reader may not necessarily kill RSS. I've switched to Feedly and love it. I wished I'd been using Feedly years ago. Reader is quite pathetic in comparison to Feedly actually. But I didn't know that. I used Reader because it was from Google and all my colleagues were using it.

As a result I'm checking out alternatives to other Google services. I've been in a Google rut for many years now and it's time to get out of it. It's all good.

andyl 5 days ago 1 reply      
One thing that strikes me about the piece is that it reads like actual Journalism. Yes there is opinion and point-of-view, but it is mixed with historical context, real comparables and quotes from actual industry people.

A lot of the so-called journalism I see today is fact-free, thinly-sourced advocacy posing as news. Its nice when writers do a bit of legwork and put some meat on their reporting.

Disclosure: not associated with ZDNet or Ed Bott. :-)

intopieces 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm very put off by thus attitude that Google owes us all a free RSS reader, as if they are the tech equivalent of the social safety net. Google has and always will be a company focused on profits. They would be supremely unprofitable if they sunk time and resources into dying technology just because it had a few fans.

It's not hard to make an RSS reader and if you miss Google Reader so much, sign off of HN and make your own, better version. But you won't, because you know that Google is right in their decision to axe the whole thing.

guelo 5 days ago 0 replies      
One big innovation new rss sync engines can provide is linking of posts. For example, showing you blog responses from across the web to a post you are reading. I think Google didn't show it because they have an aversion to exposing the incoming links graph for whatever reason, but this would be a killer feature for users.

Reader did have an excellent "recommended" feature that used some kind of social metrics algorithm. That feature stopped being useful after the G+ debacle, but it could also be a killer feature. I'm sure there are many others.

cinbun8 5 days ago 1 reply      
This has got to be a joke. Just because one company decided to shut their RSS client, the 'RSS industry' is now abandoned ? Tell that to feedly who just welcomed 500k users [1]. These were users that relied on google reader. RSS as a standard / service is not on square 1. It is inadequate in some ways and ATOM was supposed to fix that and was never really adopted as well as RSS. There are tons of aggregators out there that use RSS (and ATOM) to get all your news in one place. Use another client and move on.

1 - http://mashable.com/2013/03/18/500000-google-reader-users-mi...

artificialidiot 6 days ago 0 replies      
I don't get why RSS is "dying". Many people who create online content that is worth following provide a feed which you can subscribe through so many ways it is not funny.

Maybe social network addicted people may not recognize but there is a whole world who use email, instant messaging and other stuff like feeds to communicate, which are very established and not beholden to whims of any single moneymaking scheme.

Feeds are a very simple and open idea. Inability to put a toll booth between the communicating parties doesn't mean feeds are useless or dying. It just means you are unimaginative. Browsers may chose to hide the functionality out of a desire to idiot proof their software but it doesn't mean people who have an attention span more than a goldfish have no other ways to subscribe.

magic_haze 5 days ago 0 replies      
And it's not just Reader: Google Talk is following the exact same strategy as well. It supposedly is the world's largest xmpp network, but with a few extra changes that makes compliant xmpp clients practically useless (e.g., not able to add anyone inside gtalk from the outside: _they_ have to initiate the request, supposedly for spam reasons.)

But then again, Facebook does the same thing...

gregjor 6 days ago 0 replies      
I offered to give Google my first born to keep Reader alive but they didn't even respond. First iGoogle was given a death sentence. Then Reader. If they shut down Currents or Google Print I am going to move to Canada.
jswinghammer 6 days ago 1 reply      
I love using Google Reader but I don't see what the big deal is. It seems like an RSS reader is something anyone can build in a month maybe. There are alternatives that seem to be less than optimal but I assume they'll get their act in gear. I would be in their place.
chirop 6 days ago 1 reply      
To me, the permanent archive of all RSS feeds is far more important than the Google Reader front end. Critical comments that blog owners deleted on their site are still found in the Google RSS archive. In some cases it exposes true malfeasance, when blog admins change the comments of others. I can download whole RSS histories myself, but without a link to an independent archive my own copy is worthless as evidence, since I could have edited it myself.
don_draper 6 days ago 0 replies      
>>It's not unlike the widely criticized model that Microsoft pursued in its pre-Millennium days as a monopolist: Embrace, extend, extinguish.

Ridiculous. Microsoft works to eliminate the competition, whereas Google is just not supporting it. RSS will not be eliminated due to this decision.

moe 6 days ago 0 replies      
"RSS industry"?

Everything to spin a drama, I guess...

Aqueous 5 days ago 1 reply      
There's a really easy solution here.

Google should just donate the Google Reader application to the Apache Foundation or another open source initiative so that others can host their own.

In fact, it was a mistake to shut down the service without also announcing that they were open sourcing it simultaneously. Look at all the bad PR that's floating to the top of HN right now.

They open sourced Google Wave around the same time they shut it down, and that was a far less popular and useful service. It avoided a lot of the bad PR that the Reader shutdown is causing, however.

lclarkmichalek 6 days ago 1 reply      
Where does the extend come in? Not that I ever used reader but the article doesn't seem to mention any extensions to RSS other than a thing called "bundles" which I have never heard of. Did reader have a lot of specific extensions that make it hard to build a competing product?
anoncow 6 days ago 2 replies      
Perhaps there isn't money to be made providing (free) rss sync services. If there was no google reader it might have been newsgator shutting down(or if it was their main product they might have shut down their free service or severely decreased their free quotas).

Either way, RSS "going back to 2006" is not a bad thing for anyone. Companies will roll out products if they think there is a market. Google shuttered Reader but they have products that do similar things. With Google+ you can follow people (equivalent to following personal blog feeds on reader) and blogs/websites with plus accounts(equivalent to following websites with feeds on reader). The bright side is with g+ you get more interactivity. I always wanted to comment on posts in a feed without having to visit the website or blog. The dark side is with g+, content and delivery both will be tied to one single service(with RSS atleast your content will still be available after reader dies in july).

Google currents is doing something similar to reader too. The difference is the lock in and the magazine like feel. Then there is Keep.

So perhaps RSS or atleast the idea behind it is not dead yet. Perhaps Reader wasn't making any profit or perhaps Reader was eating into the potential success of Google's other offerings and so it was killed.

rafski 5 days ago 0 replies      
RSS was a business threat to Google, it allowed people to glance through aricle headers and often read them whole without ads. Google Reader allowed Google to contain this trend, then slowly phase it out as much as they could.

People easily forget ads are Google's main product that provides them he bulk of their revenue.

joering2 5 days ago 1 reply      
Google has a proven record of killing its own and acquired business/startups. Please, next time you have a buyout offer from Google, please think about your users and DO NOT sell! If you are in a position to receive offer from Google, rather than not you have pending offers from others as well. There is NOTHING Google can give you that will benefit your users more than other interested parties can.

Anything other than Google search, Android, Google Cars and Google Glass is doomed to extinct, sooner or later.

slig 6 days ago 1 reply      
I can't see what's the big deal. Those that were using an RSS reader can find another replacement right now. And, as others have said, the replacements are arguably better.

If anything, all this buzz may be bringing new people to RSS.

ommunist 6 days ago 0 replies      
Rumours of the RSS demise are exaggerated. Just put a notice for your RSS users to encourage them to use Feedly or something like that.
mosselman 6 days ago 1 reply      
I don't get all the fuss:
"Google Reader was born in October 2005"..."the short life and sad death of Google Reader"?

Come one, I think that 8 years is a very long time in the (online) IT world. It was pretty obvious that RSS wouldn't be something for the long-run anyway.

meerita 6 days ago 1 reply      
I never understood why Google didn't profit RSS well by doing a product polish as Flipboard or Zite. They could have done something powerful as those and they didn't. Instead of that, they did a crap app wich it doesn't even get close. I would have been a happy customer of Reader wich such nice interface.
non-sense 5 days ago 0 replies      
In a way, isn't it good that Google has discontinued Google Reader. It gives chance to other small players to grow and focus solely on improving their RSS reader?

Yes, it was unfair to their users that they were left out suddenly. But I am sure they will find good alternatives.

Metapony 6 days ago 0 replies      
They need to indent their stylesheet, but that's an interesting perspective, and a nice overview for those needing a refresher as to the history of Google's tactic.
martinced 6 days ago 0 replies      
zdnet? really? This "thing" has always been the low of the low and they've been constantly defending MS everytime MS did embrace, extend and extinguish.

Actually zdnet is a pro-MS propaganda medium.

Who does seriously take this junk seriously?

There may a lot to criticize about Google's move regarding RSS but posting links to zdnet isn't helping the cause.

Learning JavaScript - my experience and advice sivers.org
308 points by ibrahimcesar  4 days ago   92 comments top 24
georgemcbay 4 days ago 8 replies      
"JavaScript: The Good Parts" is a fantastic book, but anyone telling you to read it if you're coming at JavaScript as your first language is doing you a horrible disservice.

It is a fantastic book for learning to avoid being bitten by all of the stupidity in JavaScript if you're used to programming in sane languages, but it isn't a tutorial or "Learn to Program" book by any stretch of the imagination.

To be completely honest, I'm a bit horrified people are learning JavaScript as a first language at all. The language does indeed have its "Good Parts" and it is incredibly useful because of its ubiquity, but I just wonder how many young brains are going be hardwired to think some of the design choices (the way block scoping works/doesn't work, equality, lack of modules, etc, etc) in current JavaScript versions are normal, when in fact they are very unfortunate.

shawndrost 4 days ago 3 replies      
Javascript's secret weapon[1] -- especially for beginning programmers -- is its dev tools. If you learn JS' debugging toolkit early on, it will accelerate your learning in general. I recommend Code School's "Discover DevTools" course [2] for beginning devs, but I'm not aware of a high-quality introduction for experienced devs.

Shameless plug: I teach at a school for JS devs named Hack Reactor. If rewriting Underscore as a learning tool sounds like fun, you should apply. http://hackreactor.com

[1] until now.
[2] Chapters 3-4. http://discover-devtools.codeschool.com/chapters/3

philipwalton 4 days ago 0 replies      
JavaScript has three main features that commonly trip up people from other languages. If you understand these three things, you'll be way ahead of the curve:

1) What `this` means in a function context

2) The prototype chain and prototypal inheritance

3) Function closures and variable scoping

nlh 4 days ago 11 replies      
Nobody has commented on the suggestion to aid learning with Spaced Repetition Software - specifically the Anki open source program.

Anybody try or use this technique? It looks interesting and sounds reasonable and effective. I took a peek at Anki but have to admit it looks messy (and the iOS app is $25, which is def. on the high end of the iOS pricing scale). I'd be curious to hear others' experience in this area...

Helianthus 4 days ago 2 replies      
The attached Learn Backbone.js Completely article is also very good.

Angular has _huge_ obstacles for dev usability when Backbone's source is so accessible you can use it to help learn js.

Alex3917 4 days ago 3 replies      
I definitely agree on JavaScript: The Good Parts -- it's quite possibly the single most over-rated book I've ever read.

There is literally a Stack Overflow thread devoted to just about every single code example and paragraph in the book, because no one has any idea what he's talking about. And even the JavaScript gurus on SO can't figure out what he's actually trying to say a good percentage of the time.

I'm sure it would be a great book if I were already pretty good at JavaScript, but as a first book it's just awful. I had much better luck with a HeadFirst book that covered JavaScript, even though that is a little too dumbed down at times. I was then able to then go back and have a much better appreciation of what Crockford was trying to say.

jurassic 4 days ago 6 replies      
I wish somebody would write a post like this for Ruby. Trying to craft a personal study plan of the best, most current resources from the large number of apparently high-quality offerings is difficult for a newcomer to the language. I'm operating on the assumption that success is mostly path-independent (just start doing stuff and going through resources, and you'll learn), but it still feels like a random walk approach to learning sometimes.

I'd also like a list of critical tools for programmers new to the Ruby langauage. These things don't always get highlighted in beginner resources because of the need to hand-hold on fundamental concepts for people who've never programmed. For instance, I wish when I'd learned Python that somebody would have told me right at the beginning to install ipython, virtualenv, pip, etc.

Edit: Wow. Thanks, guys, for all the good recommendations.

mark_l_watson 4 days ago 0 replies      
I tried doing a total immersion in JS recently by coding up small learning projects for Ember.js, Ember.js + Node.js, Node.js + Express, and some general experiments while reading "Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja" (I like this book, BTW).

All that said, I did a 90 minute sprint with Clojurescript tonight, and as awkward as it may seem to use an intermediate language, the development process is really nice. Whether I am modifying server side or client side code, the edit, try it cycle is very quick (a second or so). I have found that if I make little changes in one cycle, keep a browser JS console open with logging from client side code, and keep repls open for both the server side Clojure code and the client side Clojurescript code then I have a good window into both sides of a web app.

However, Node.js with either something like Express or (if you are brave) Ember.js is really nice also. I understand why people like Node.js.

pyvek 4 days ago 4 replies      
Professional Javascript for Web Developers is really an excellent book. Also, I would like to mention a blog post [1] by Richard Bowell which was front-paged here recently who also recommends the same book.

I'm currently learning JavaScript and the thing that sucks is reading about IE incompatibility/workarounds on almost every other page of the book. Any advice on how should I handle it? Is it really necessary to keep in mind all those quirks or can I skip through those material right now and learn what works on most browsers?

[1] http://javascriptissexy.com/how-to-learn-javascript-properly...

tantalor 4 days ago 0 replies      
> you'll love looking at the code to two very popular and powerful JavaScript projects: Underscore.js, Backbone.js

Is that a joke? I can't stand reading the source of those two libraries, even with the pretty two-column documentation. There have got to be better examples of readable JavaScript.

straws 4 days ago 0 replies      
Eloquent Javascript is absolutely the right starting point, I'm glad there's been a shift from recommending The Good Parts to that one.

It was linked here the other day, but Superhero JS is another great "what is the path to javascript mastery" lists:


kybernetikos 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've recently made something that I hope to use to teach our new hires (who will all have programmed before, but probably not in javascript) the ins and outs.

It's called "New to JS" and is available on github at http://caplin.github.com/new2JS and the source is https://github.com/caplin/new2JS.

Keen to get any feedback / pull requests.

nickporter 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's like people don't understand that JavaScript is a language. The browser is just giving you a JavaScript API.
akurilin 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've had to learn JS pretty fast just a couple of months ago and from what I can read I managed to do almost exactly what Derek did, same exact books and all. Professional JS is indeed fantastic and is highly recommended. Same thing as far as reading Underscore and Backbone source.

For fun, try implementing something in Backbone. It's certainly one way of assessing if you're at all proficient in the language.

Millennium 3 days ago 0 replies      
TGP isn't a good book for learning JavaScript the first time, it's true.

The time to read it is when you've been doing this for a while, and it's time to "unlearn what you have learned" before you can move on to the next level of expertise. There's a lot of dogma in the book, but that's not bad in the appropriate context: most people will find something to follow in its pages, but most people will also find something to question. Both experiences are valuable, especially for someone preparing to "take the next step," as it were.

andrus 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'll second the author's recommendation of Effective JavaScript by David Herman. I've found it very helpful: http://effectivejs.com/
blacksqr 4 days ago 0 replies      
The world would be a much better place if there were more straightforwardly helpful posts like this. +1,000,000 internets.
gavinflud 4 days ago 1 reply      
I read "JavaScript: The Good Parts" after having been using JavaScript for a couple of months and still found it overwhelming. Douglas Crockford moves through the topics at a very fast pace.

However, after a few more months of learning the language I went back to the book and was immediately thankful for how quickly he moved from topic to topic. I understood the references and was receiving quick tips on what to do and what to avoid doing with all the different elements that make up the language.

Also, I agree with the author, Professional JavaScript is the ultimate JavaScript book in my opinion.

fredyr 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is really a good set of resources for learning Javascript. In addition I want to add the "Learning to love Javascript" presentation by Alex Russell from Google Code 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seX7jYI96GE that I felt really boosted my learning curve (or at the very least kept me passionate about JS to continue learning as much as I possible could)
luketych 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think the first spaced-learning algorithm was actually SuperMemo, developed by Piotr Wozniak. The rest just copy his algorithm.
ryanSrich 4 days ago 0 replies      
I tried a similar approach and kept going back to jQuery first. For some reason it was learning jQuery that aloud me to really understand Javascript.

I really like the way codeschool teachers their javascript track.

reyan 4 days ago 1 reply      
Another book which I really liked is JavaScript Patterns by Stoyan Stefanov.
taurath 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks a lot for this post. As a relatively new web dev mostly working in jQuery (I get stuff to work right and be relatively fast, but thats about it), I've been very curious about where to go next.
mtgx 3 days ago 0 replies      
CodeCademy's course is very good, I thought.
Simple Minecraft Clone in 580 lines of Python github.com
281 points by wting  12 hours ago   77 comments top 23
rodly 10 hours ago 2 replies      
If someone were to make something like this a step-by-step tutorial/template appropriate for a classroom setting it would be huge. Imagine a class at High School where you start off learning the basics of Python for the first few weeks and the rest of the semester is spent writing the chunks of code into a template that has lots of notes for guidance.

I'd image something like :

def setDefaultBlockColor(color):
# recall that this is a function that takes in a variable called 'color' as its argument, write the code that will set the current game files configuration file to either 'red', 'blue' or 'green' (p.s. DONT FORGET TO INDENT YOUR CODE!)

Just writing this function and seeing it work once you load up the game is enough to hook almost anyone that has the potential to enjoy programming but just doesn't know it yet.

arocks 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Pyglet is vastly more pythonic than pygame for writing games. I have found it much easier to teach pyglet for newcomers and the code is easier to read too. Since it uses ctypes, it is very easy to port pyglet to a platform that supports OpenGL.

Unfortunately there is very little momentum in the project. Last year an alpha version was released after a gap of two years. I truly hope that pyglet gets the popularity it deserves.

ubershmekel 5 hours ago 1 reply      
I wrote down the basic steps to get this running on windows at https://github.com/fogleman/Minecraft/wiki
j2kun 11 hours ago 2 replies      
I used a variant of this code for a project for my students. Just had to clean it up a bit and organize the code into parts they should be reading (game logic) and parts they should ignore unless they're really curious (mostly the OpenGL stuff).
nsxwolf 10 hours ago 6 replies      
These seemingly "big" games written in a handful of lines of code always make me feel very, very stupid. I know if I made this, I could easily imagine writing 50,000 lines.

How do people do this? How do their minds work?

doctoboggan 12 hours ago 0 replies      
This is incredibly inspiring for young kids. I am going to study this so I can teach it to my younger brother who loves Minecraft and is trying to learn Python.
rufugee 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Please...someone put a Udacity course together which backs into the underlying math used to create this (for those of us who didn't have it or don't remember it)...
sklivvz1971 7 hours ago 1 reply      
[rant mode on]

1. 80% of the bang takes 20% of the time

2. Writing games is 99% fine tuning and game play

3. It's just a rendering exercise, certainly not a "clone"

FYI: The above is "the internet" in three lines! :-)

[rant mode off]

craigching 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Hook this code up to redstone (the nodejs server also on the front page) and you'll really have something :) Not to detract from the demo, it's really cool!
inovica 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I have been teaching my 10 year old Python as an exercise. Recently I've noticed he's getting a little bored and I'm being very careful not to 'sicken' him, as this needs to be fun. I've just shown him the video for this and downloaded the code to show him that its possible in Python. He loves Minecraft (we watched the documentary movie about Mojang) and seeing this has given him a bit more of an interest again
scottrogowski 11 hours ago 5 replies      
More than 100 lines of this are textures!

Got this error though. Any ideas?

OSError: dlopen(/System/Library/Frameworks/QuickTime.framework/QuickTime, 6): no suitable image found. Did find:
/System/Library/Frameworks/QuickTime.framework/QuickTime: mach-o, but wrong architecture
/System/Library/Frameworks/QuickTime.framework/QuickTime: mach-o, but wrong architecture

Janteloven 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Jump speed is too fast... if you slow it it works better and is more like minecraft IMHO

        elif symbol == key.SPACE:
if self.dy == 0:
self.dy = 0.500 # jump speed

javert 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Just curious, what is it that makes the performance not so great?

Could performance be significantly improved by doing a re-write in Lua, for example? (Probably not... it's probably something in Pyglet itself...)

(FWIW, it's choppy compared to Minecraft, which is obviously much more complex and has a greater rendering distance.)

Millennium 12 hours ago 2 replies      
Nice. Next stop: Dwarf Fortress.
just2n 8 hours ago 2 replies      
Can we get a JS answer to this in the browser? I'm curious if Three.js can match this level of terseness.
frozenport 8 hours ago 1 reply      

  building penises out of dirt right now.

I find this comment a bit distracting, and in poor taste. Everybody knows real minecraft users build castles.

  building castles in the sky.

mckoss 7 hours ago 0 replies      
A fork for those having trouble getting this to run on Mountain Lion.


cdelsolar 11 hours ago 0 replies      
This is really freaking cool. I can't believe how short the code is.
daGrevis 6 hours ago 0 replies      
If anyone are having problems starting this:

* You need Python2 virtualenv,

* You need to install `pyglet` in it,

* Start it with `bin/python main.py`;

shurcooL 9 hours ago 1 reply      
I remember being as excited about Liero as kids are about Minecraft today. Minecraft is great, but so was Liero.
josephagoss 11 hours ago 1 reply      
How are the graphics being drawn? Is Pyglet being used to so this?
sebastianavina 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I remember the times when I had time and readed this things until I digested them...
daGrevis 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow! This is so cool!

This proves Python's ability to be RAD.

Amazon Acquires Social Reading Site Goodreads techcrunch.com
267 points by ssclafani  18 hours ago   67 comments top 28
austenallred 17 hours ago 5 replies      
This acquisition makes so, so much sense. I have a goodreads account, but I never update it, mostly because it's too much time. If it were well-connected (or synced?) with my Kindle, I would use it literally weekly.
Narretz 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Hopefully they will invest in development of the actual site. Its ui is inconsistent, sometimes confusing, and at times very slow. While they support many many use cases, the workflow for a simple thing like "add a book I am reading and the start date" is needlessly convulted. I also don't like how they prioritize the English version in the results even if you search for another / the original language. Especially in the latter case, the original should be highlighted. And you can only mark the edition your read, not the language explicitly.
travisp 17 hours ago 1 reply      
I agree that it makes a ton of sense for both companies, but how they integrate it is going to be very important. My wife and I don't use a number of Kindle features (including the current built in review feature) in part because we share our Amazon account. But, I am a big GoodReads user.

If Goodreads just gets attached on a per device basis (like Twitter), then it's no problem, but if it gets integrated with the Amazon account itself (as some people seem to be suggesting) then I don't see how we (and many others like us) could use it.

myle 15 hours ago 1 reply      
A mail from a year ago (29/1/2012).

We want to let you know about a change on our site that is impacting some of the books on your shelves. It's important that you read this and take action by Monday, January 30.

For years, we've used Amazon's data for information such as the book title, author, and publication date. Unfortunately, the terms required by Amazon have now become so restrictive that we decided it makes better sense to work with other data sources. However, the deadline to make the transition is Amazon's, and they have told us that we must stop using their data by January 30. We have to meet this deadline.

We've been adding data from other sources and now know which books still need help. You are receiving this email because we need new sources for 2 of the books on your shelves.

First, please be assured that none of your reviews or ratings are in danger. Not a single review, comment, shelving, or rating will be lost in this transition. We have a system in place to preserve your reviews and comments for any books at risk until we can find new sources. That's the most important thing"your data is 100 percent safe.

What can you do? The good news is you can rescue your books. Saving a book is easy. Just click the "Rescue Me!" button next to each book edition that needs help, and fill in the information on the following page. A few keystrokes can help preserve these books for millions of future readers.

Rescue your books!

It takes only a few clicks, and you will be doing your part to make sure these books remain available for other readers like you. We appreciate the passion you bring to Goodreads, and we apologize for the short notice. If we could have prevented this inconvenience in any way, we would have done it. Ultimately, this change will be better for the members of Goodreads and long-term success of the site.

If you don't want to rescue your books, you can also export your books to a spreadsheet so you have a record of them.

All the best,
Otis & Elizabeth
Goodreads Founders

gcheong 18 hours ago 4 replies      
The lack of integration with my kindle is a large part of why I don't use Goodreads as much as I might otherwise but I'm kind of disappointed that it will take a buyout to get that integration rather than Amazon creating an api that would allow third-parties to integrate their services with the device directly.
runn1ng 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Book Depository getting more popular than Amozon? boom, they buy them.

GoodReads having better Google positions for books than Amazon? boom, they buy them.

I am personally a little afraid of this monopolistic behaviour. But hey, capitalism, I guess...

drucken 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Maybe Amazon can turn Goodreads into an actual recommendation site and use the full capabilities of its databases and search facilities.

To this day, since I first joined near its founding, I am astonished that there is still no way to search for the highest rated and voted books within a genre.

Instead, one is left to rely on heavily skewed "Lists" or "popular" books or their (annual) Award system.

In short, at this time, Goodreads for books is far less useful than say, IMDB is for movies. I actually find Goodreads less useful than Amazon itself for recommendations!

sgpl 18 hours ago 2 replies      
Not surprised. Goodreads is for books what IMDB is for movies (which Amazon also owns). It'll nicely complement Amazon as a recommendation engine to push buyers to amazon to purchase books (which it already does). I use goodreads to track books that I want to read at some later point; and have used it to discover new books.

Atleast I'm glad it was Amazon vs "Any Other Big Corp" because I believe that Amazon will keep the service alive vs shutting it down or trying to absorb it somehow.

jamesshamenski 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I think this is Amazon's third purchase of a social book community.
oblique63 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder if this will have an effect on Google's current scraping of goodreads reviews to fluff-up their books section on the Play store...
austinstorm 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Nobody's talking about Shelfari, which hasn't changed since 2008 when Amazon acquired it. It got frozen in time.
fakeer 13 hours ago 0 replies      
First Shelfari which Amazon bought 3 years ago and now Goodreads.

In three years there's been no updates to Shelfari and that was my biggest peeve against Goodreads - lack of update) and absence of even a half decent mobile app(I use Android).

So, looking at Shelfari's fate one can say that Amazon has bought it for anything but continuing the development and doing sth about it's questionable interface.

Hope LibraryThing stays afloat. Would like to move my data there. Just in case.

traeblain 18 hours ago 2 replies      
So....Shelfari is going to die now? I guess the team there with Shelfari couldn't cut it with making a good Book data site.
dsyph3r 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I was never a big reader of books before I joined Goodreads. I spent a lot of time reading tech books (mostly programming related) but never fictional books. Since joining Goodreads and enjoying the social aspect Ive read so many more books. I really hope Amazon doesn't destroy this service
jefftchan 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Besides Apple, I see Readmill [1] as another serious competitor. It provides the social integration on top of an ebook reader. However it's lacking in its catalog selection.

[1] http://readmill.com

magicmarkker 18 hours ago 0 replies      
If I can link my amazon account and have it load all of my books into goodreads that's great. Otherwise, I still won't use goodreads because I have too many books to enter manually and I'm too lazy.
djhworld 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Personally I think Amazon have just purchased this site for the data.

Goodreads has a fairly reasonable recommendations engine based on the book collections people have inputted into the site, so I'd imagine that information might be very interesting for Amazon to capitalise on.

nzeeshan 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Goodreads and Amazon were two places I used to go to check out book reviews. Now I can get best of both in one place. Makes a lot of sense for Amazon to buy them.
xbryanx 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Now if Amazon will just buy LibraryThing and Discogs I can beam my obsessive library catalog consciousness up into the Amazon mothership.
pathikrit 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I used to be one of the engineers on shelfari. The team was kept mostly the same 4-5 guys from before acquisition and we worked on incremental stuff - integrating with Amazon sign-on, better meta data, lot's of minor UI things like better threads, series info etc etc.
arjn 16 hours ago 0 replies      
How is this a good thing for readers and other book retailers ? Will we still be able see links to buy books from a number of different retailers such as B&N or Indigo ? I doubt it.
jacobheric 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm a sometimes Goodreads user. I'd use it more if it weren't maddeningly slow.

One thing that I had noticed about Goodreads was that Amazon was always at the bottom of the online store referral list. Because of that, I took them to be Amazon hostile or adverse (perhaps reading too much into that). But, I went to the site today and now Amazon is at the top of the online store referral list.

breck 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Awesome. I love Goodreads. I hope this helps them make it better.
tocomment 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Probably a dumb question ... But how does this give superior recomendations to amazons normal recomendations?
patcon 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm not looking forward to this. The best community was just bought by the company that killed text-to-speech in their product in favour of making hundred of millions on audiobooks. Welcome to your new garden prison, online book community. Enjoy the complimentary bookmarks.
diadara 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I hope they don't murder the site.
ajju 13 hours ago 0 replies      
About time.
chris_mahan 17 hours ago 0 replies      
time for me to close my goodreads account I guess...
Global Internet slows after 'biggest attack in history' bbc.co.uk
256 points by laumars  2 days ago   153 comments top 26
jgrahamc 2 days ago 7 replies      
This story doesn't mention that Spamhaus is protected by CloudFlare and we took a beating from this attack. At some point I'm hoping the full technical story about how the attack morphed from our infrastructure to Internet infrastructure can be told.

Also, http://openresolverproject.org

PS Technical details: http://blog.cloudflare.com/the-ddos-that-almost-broke-the-in...

xSwag 2 days ago 12 replies      
Funny story from the Hosting company[1]:

"Before the break of dawn on a morning in April, a full SWAT team was sent to execute a search warrant on CyberBunker's property."

"It must not have occurred to the officers that the blast doors were designed to withstand a 20 megaton nuclear explosion from close range. When the SWAT team realized that the door was not being opened for them, they throw flashbangs and take other actions to draw attention."


And from the NYT article:

“Dutch authorities and the police have made several attempts to enter the bunker by force,” the site said. “None of these attempts were successful.”

Haha, this is too funny.

More detailed article on NYT[2]




unimpressive 2 days ago 1 reply      
I don't have much time to write this comment. But before I head to school I'd like to posit that these sorts of attacks are largely our fault.

When I say "our", I mean the loose knit group of sysadmins, self proclaimed "computer people", hackers, phreakers, security experts, and government officials trying to quell the increasing lurch of botnets and malware that has gone on since the Eternal September.

Botnets get big because users don't know any better, users don't know better partly out of laziness, partly because they feel they can't know any better. I don't know of a single site I can point to and say "If you really give a shit about not getting your credit card data stolen, go here." Instead as far as I can tell the majority of users in this demographic have their needs "met" by fraudsters selling bogus antivirus packages and weird proprietary utilities.

If you want a computing environment that can survive open, it needs users who can use open.

derrida 1 day ago 3 replies      
Wikipedia seems to suggest that Spamhaus blocked a large chunck of Cyberbunkers IP allocation, when the problem originated with a subset. I suppose given the conditions, Wikipedia is perhaps not to be trusted, but it does make me think less of Spamhaus.

In October, 2011, Spamhaus identified CyberBunker as providing hosting for spammers and contacted their upstream provider, A2B, demanding service be cancelled. A2B initially refused, blocking only a single IP address linked to spamming. Spamhaus retaliated by blacklisting all of A2B address space. A2B capitulated, dropping CyberBunker, but then filed complaints with the Dutch police against Spamhaus for extortion.


lucb1e 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm sorry, but what actually slowed the internet down and was the biggest attack in history? It doesn't even make a dent on the charts of the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (ams-ix.net): https://stats.ams-ix.net/cgi-bin/stats/16all?log=totalall;pn...

As wel as the daily stats by the way: https://ams-ix.net/technical/statistics

Reading on through the article, they continue about Spamhaus. What's that got to do with slowing down the internet? And "But we're up - they haven't been able to knock us down." is factually incorrect, Spamhaus did go down. They're winning in the end, but they did go down.

> He added: "These attacks are peaking at 300 gb/s (gigabits per second).

Source? 300gbps would definitely be visible, and I think I remember hearing about something between 60 and 100gbps.

> Spamhaus is able to cope, the group says, as it has highly distributed infrastructure in a number of countries

AKA cloudflare

> We can't be brought down

We've seen that. Am I missing information or is this a lie?

ck2 1 day ago 2 replies      

Cyberbunker brags on its Web site that it has been a frequent target of law enforcement because of its “many controversial customers.”

“Dutch authorities and the police have made several attempts to enter the bunker by force,” the site said. “None of these attempts were successful.”

If this happened in the USA - the police would never leave - they'd call in tanks or bunker busters from the military.

Did the Dutch just turn around and go away and say "oh well" ?

error54 2 days ago 2 replies      
"We can't be brought down."

I understand taking pride in your work but isn't bragging like this kind of an invitation for more things like this to happen to Spamhaus?

belorn 2 days ago 2 replies      
"These attacks are peaking at 300 gb/s (gigabits per second).

Is that around like 3000 compromised computers? Maybe 2-5 botnets worth? I might be a bit off on the prices here, but that sound like maybe ~$1k/day on the market? would be nice to get a price tag on the "'biggest attack in history'".

ohwp 2 days ago 0 replies      
"a Dutch web host which states it will host anything with the exception of child pornography or terrorism-related material"

Since it's a Dutch company I highly doubt they host anything illegal (as the article implies). The same rules apply to them as they do to other hosting companies in The Netherlands (and EU).

Related: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onafhankelijke_Post_en_Telecomm...

garretruh 2 days ago 0 replies      
jobigoud 2 days ago 2 replies      
"In this case, Spamhaus's Domain Name System (DNS) servers were targeted"

I'm not sure to understand why this should slow down the whole internet. It seems to be only for email filtering, not for the web, and only those ISP that use their service should be impacted, and only when their DNS cache is not triggered. Am I missing something ?

InclinedPlane 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's great that all of our criminal justice resources in the US are dedicated to stopping real crimes like TOU violations of academic journals instead of things like investigating and stopping industrial espionage, sabotage, etc.
OGinparadise 2 days ago 2 replies      
The main problem is that some people decide what's good and what's not online and paint with the broadest brush possible. Spamhaus, sadly I say, is used by a lot of providers as gospel and a lot of innocent sites are hurt.
curveship 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here is a (claimed) account of the dispute from the attackers: http://stophaus.com/entry.php?5-The-Real-story-on-the-New-Yo... .

I got there from the comments on the CloudFlare blog posts, where a user named "STOPhaus" posted taunting CloudFlare, with a link to the stophaus.com website. Apparently it's a meeting place for anti-Spamhaus sentiment and includes such classy stuff as personal information on Spamhaus employees.

Wild stuff, and thanks to CloudFlare for their writeup.

Nux 1 day ago 1 reply      
RBLs are a bad idea, they often end up in abuse.

To this day - with v4 exhausted and despite numerous delisting attempts - I have a /21 listed in Sorbs because it happened to be in the past part of an ISP's /18 dynamic range for customers.

They deserve all that's coming to them and more.
Too bad other's get affected in the process.

srj 1 day ago 0 replies      
I realize it's a news headline but I feel obligated to point out that this doesn't rank as the 'biggest attack in history' except maybe for Spamhaus. It doesn't appear to come close to what the SQL Slammer, Blaster, or Sasser worms did. Slammer in particular increased latency globally and the impact was easily visible to anyone browsing the web.
dreamdu5t 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is all advertising doubling as news, seeded by CloudFare.
AdamN 2 days ago 3 replies      
Exactly why is this affecting non-spamhaus services? Is it just shared dns servers or actual IP traffic being throttled ?
jussij 1 day ago 0 replies      
Really? I never noticed.

My internet down here in Oz has been as slow as ever!

darkarmani 1 day ago 1 reply      
Now we have a list of every zombie in their arsenal. Is that information we can use to reduce their impact in the future?
hhw 1 day ago 0 replies      
When it comes to DoS attacks, bandwidth is a much less meaningful metric than packets/s. 300Gbps could be anywhere from 200,000,000 PPS to 4,687,500,000 PPS. High bandwidth attacks just cause congestion issues, while high packets/s actually take networks and servers down.
byerley 1 day ago 0 replies      
'Security experts' are full of it. Root DNS servers have seen attacks on the same scale regularly.
rikacomet 1 day ago 0 replies      
for the biggest attack in the history, its kinda looking boring from here (India). :/

1 billion+ people won't hear of it much.

I would be interested to know, what did Spamhaus paid google to use its resources, and would such a type of cooperation on global scale means the end of DDoS in the long term?

zozu 1 day ago 0 replies      
This discussion is quite intense. Frankly it's scary that a single attack manages to slow down popular sites like Netflix. What consequences for future attacks will this attack have?
orenmazor 1 day ago 0 replies      
the internet is a series of on/off ramps.
np422 1 day ago 1 reply      
Spamhaus can be a real PITA to deal with, all in attitude "squeal like a pig, or you'll end up on the blocked list - bitch!"

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

What can I do to provide extra firepower in the ongoing ddos against them?

The language of Vim stackoverflow.com
253 points by sanathkumar  23 hours ago   95 comments top 9
andyl 22 hours ago 12 replies      
I love Vim. I understand the 'Vim is a language' concept, and use it every day.

But I have to wonder: is this the best that Vim can do? Vim as a language is a great concept. But IMHO, the execution sort of sucks. Twenty years have gone by, and 'Vim as a language' is still a big mystery that takes a long long time to understand...

Someone should take that concept and run with it. Surely 'editor as a language' can be done better.

dustinupdyke 22 hours ago 3 replies      
It's odd how often a SO link comes up here where the question is locked for being off-topic, not constructive, etc.

I still think to some degree SE shoots themselves in the foot with the strict enforcement of their rules every time this occurs.

pmelendez 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Well, Vim is 21 years old already and it still has a strong base of fan users. Good example on how good software live long
curiousdannii 22 hours ago 10 replies      
I've never understood the appeal of vi(m). Programming is a thoughtful, creative, deliberate process. I'm never in a situation where I've got so much to type that my productivity would drop if my fingers stopped touching the keys. Rather the opposite in fact.
darkchasma 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Learning to code with vim is much easier than learning to code without vim once you've learned vim.
lunchladydoris 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Who needs bookmarks when the worthwhile posts keep turning up again and again!

I'm not complaining though. Learning Vim beyond the surface level is fun and the more you know the more fun working with Vim becomes.

dbbolton 17 hours ago 0 replies      
It seems as though the asker doesn't know about mapping, which wasn't really addressed and would answer the implied "I don't like how this feature works and it's slowing me down" question. It only takes a few lines to work around vim's "horrible" copying and pasting:

    let mapleader = ","
let g:mapleader = ","
noremap <leader>a ggVG
noremap <leader>c "+y
noremap <leader>v "+gP
noremap <leader>x "+x

johnchristopher 22 hours ago 4 replies      
I wish vim was a little bit more "international" because some commands that involves {,^,[ combined with ctrl are tricky to trigger on non-us keymaps and don't feel as natural as `yy`. Some obvious keys that only need 1 keystroke for an US user requires a combination of alt-gr or something for french users. Soon I'll be remapping my keyboard for coding but I also need those é,à,ç,è :)
larrybolt 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I always kept switching from Vim to Sublime text until I found this:

http://vim.spf13.com/ The Ultimate Vim Distribution
It's a collection of plugins and common shortcuts such as :W becomes :w, :w!! for saving as root, etc...

In the beginning it was mostly the file-drawler that make me want to leave Vim but that was easy solved by using this version:

In combination with iTerm on mac it's my preferred way to develop, the only thing I miss is an easy way to reload, visit pages etc in the chrome-window on my second screen without having to lift my hands from my keyboard, but cmd+tab and Vimium help me with that.

Introduction to Go 1.1 googlecode.com
248 points by sferik  3 days ago   237 comments top 16
jgrahamc 3 days ago 2 replies      
Worth also knowing that the Go team has made significant improvements in crypto speed:




Fast approaching OpenSSL speeds.

Also, the integration of the network poller into the main scheduler is likely to make a big difference to Go programs that make heavy use of the network.

acqq 3 days ago 4 replies      
Two most interesting news for me are:

> The garbage collector is also more precise, which costs a small amount of CPU time but can reduce the size of the heap significantly, especially on 32-bit architectures.

Previously, 32-bit version was almost unusable is some cases when garbage collector kept the allocations for which
he falsely believed to be used even if they were not. I'd like to know if this means that the problem is finally solved.

> Previous Go implementations made int and uint 32 bits on all systems. Both the gc and gccgo implementations now make int and uint 64 bits on 64-bit platforms such as AMD64/x86-64.

This is a C-like can of worms, forcing you to test on more platforms just to be sure that you have portable code. I believed there's no reason to do such things with primitive data types in the new languages of 21st century (compare with http://docs.oracle.com/javase/tutorial/java/nutsandbolts/dat...). I'd like to see any discussion about such in my opinion quite strange decision.

mseepgood 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's not released yet, this is just a preliminary document. There are still open issues for Go 1.1: http://swtch.com/~rsc/go11.html
And I guess there will be a RC first.
melvinmt 3 days ago 9 replies      
For those of us who are wondering if 1.1 is stable enough to upgrade: Google is already using Go 1.1 in production.

And the company is betting big time on Go, more than 50% of their codebase will be (re)written in Go in a couple of years.

Source: core dev on the golang team.

etfb 3 days ago 5 replies      
I grew up with Pascal and its derivatives, so I have a strong sense of the aesthetic of programming languages. I can't take Go seriously, or bring myself to use it, because it appears to have no aesthetic sense at all. It's ugly! Strings of keywords and punctuation, no rhythm to it, just a lot of mess. Like a cross between C and Prolog, perhaps, with a smattering of Python but only the ugly bits. I really don't like it.

Now, if you want to see a recent language with a bit of style to it -- and bear in mind I know nothing of how it is to use in practice, so I'm basing my opinions entirely on the look of it -- I think Rust is one of the best of the pack. So much smoother.

TL;DR (for any Redditors who may have stumbled in on their way to the Ron Paul fansite): languages have a flavour, and Go's flavour is "mess".

davidw 3 days ago 4 replies      
I'm interested in tracking Go as a replacement for Erlang. Some things that should probably happen:

* GC works on 32 bit systems.

* Scheduler improvements so that things are a bit more robust ( http://code.google.com/p/go/issues/detail?id=543 )

* A fairly solid library implementing supervision trees or something like it.

* Probably some other things, but those strike me as the big ones. The important thing is for the system to be able to run for months at a time.

I think they'll get there eventually. Maybe not 100%, but 'good enough' sooner or later.

Titanous 3 days ago 1 reply      
Here's the same document with a stylesheet: http://tip.golang.org/doc/go1.1
GhotiFish 3 days ago 3 replies      
Whenever I look through golangs specs, I always get stuck on the same question.

Why are the methods we define restricted to the types we define? I'm SURE there is a good reason.

Others have said that it's because if you did allow that kind of thing to happen, you might get naming collisions in packages. I don't buy this argument, you could get naming collisions anyway from packages, Go resolves those issues by aliasing. Go also allows for polymorphic behavior by packaging the actual type of the method caller with its actual value, so resolving which method to use isn't any more complicated.

I don't get it, I'm sure there's a good reason! I just hope it's a good enough reason to throw out the kind of freedom that would allow you.

thepumpkin1979 3 days ago 3 replies      
Still missing custom generic types and methods :(
ubershmekel 3 days ago 7 replies      
> In Go 1.1, an integer division by constant zero is not a legal program, so it is a compile-time error

How often do be people accidentally divide by a constant 0? I personally use that to simulate runtime errors all the time in python. It's shorter than writing "raise Exception()".

phasevar 3 days ago 1 reply      
Sweet performance improvements! Definitely looking forward to seeing Go 1.1 on the benchmark game.
przemoc 3 days ago 6 replies      
We have integer madness here and no one is commenting on it. Why making this int change and why now? I don't like Java, but well-defined integer types sizes is a good thing. Most of the world uses intXX_t typedefs in C and C++ too.
VeejayRampay 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'd more than welcome any instructions and pointers on how to install Golang 1.1 on my computer which has 1.03 installed already. Either to replace my current version or maybe to install it aside 1.03 for testing. Thanks a lot.
joeshaw 2 days ago 1 reply      
"We trust that many of our users' programs will also see improvements just by updating their Go installation and recompiling."

Does anyone know if it is possible to determine what version of Go a given binary was compiled with? Perhaps extracting some metadata from an ELF section?

djhworld 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm excited for this release.

I'm not sure if I understand what "method values" are though

mortdeus 3 days ago 1 reply      
Can you please delete this article until go1.1 is officially released. Just in case the go developers make any last minute changes. Otherwise this article may lead to confusion for those who choose to skip out on reading it on golang.org when go1.1 is released because they read it here.
Take pride or fuck it robertheaton.com
242 points by jshakes  2 days ago   127 comments top 27
michaelochurch 2 days ago 12 replies      
Lions get a better deal: take pride and fuck it.

Ok, to be serious... I perceive a dissonance here.

On one hand, we're essentially a degraded tribe. Most software engineers work for managers. We're not a profession, we don't pick our tools, and most of us work on uninspiring bullshit and are subjected to Brownian Management that has one team digging holes and another filling them in.

Management has its place, but in most companies it's a class of intermediate extortionist thugs who keep talent down: you support my career goals, or you're gone yesterday. Only the most progressive companies (Valve, Github) trust engineers to work directly for the company. No wonder our industry is so fucked.

On the other hand, the fact that Yahoo bought a small team of high-schoolers for $30 million and canned the product means that there is a lot of value in what we do. As engineers, we have a lot of muscle. We're good at something for which the world has almost infinite demand (not "programming" only, but the more abstract talent of solving problems and improving shit.) We're just terrible, as a class, at negotiation. We need to get better. We also have a tendency to want to put our heads down and ignore "the boring business stuff", then we get pissed when non-technical executives drink our autonomy milkshake. We need to stop that, too.

edw519 2 days ago 2 replies      
Great post! I've felt this way for years but never put words to it quite like OP just did. Thank you.

I also work in 2 modes: "1. Make it perfect." and "2. Just get it done and hope I never see it again."

I used to do everything in Mode 1 and took great pride in my work. Now I use this logic:

if (LowLevelCode) or (VeryImportantAppForCustomer)
mode 1
mode 2

Funny, the longer we build software, the more we rationalize and the smarter and lazier we get.

dangrover 2 days ago 4 replies      
I used to get mad at other engineers for this. A lot of them didn't seem to take much pride in their work.

Then I realized that people take pride in different dimensions of their work. Perhaps for one person it's well-factored code, for another person it might be design and user experience and overall polish, for another person it might be the ultimate effect of the product being built on the customers (or on the business). And even on each of these there is infinite room to give a shit or not about different components of them.

All too often, being obsessive about code cleanliness is a type of bikeshedding among geeks who have gone so far down the rabbit hole that they can't engage meaningfully with the world through anything but code. Or have been so disempowered through years of cruddy jobs and sitting at the kids' table that they haven't reason to try.

It's a hard balance to strike, because there certainly have been projects where people couldn't move forward or feel pride in anything because the code was so messy. But in these situations I've found it's best to try to see the big picture and pick my battles. Code quality is only important in service to other goals.

TheFuture 2 days ago 7 replies      
Having done this stuff for about 15 years now, it is amazing how much of your work is scrapped in 5 years or less.

If you're writing some deep enterprise level back-end stuff that is going to be integrated in a large, expensive system, obviously it really is worthwhile to do it right.

If you're cranking out another piece of shit marketing website, or even better, anything app or mobile related, no matter how much planning and testing and pride you put in to it, it is almost always completely worthless in a couple years.

Everything is changing so fast right now, the platform, device, language, database, etc, may not even exist in 5 years. 5 years! That's a hell of a depreciation schedule for a $200k project.

coenhyde 2 days ago 0 replies      
"It's too easy to write something crap, be forced to write several layers of crap on top of that, shout "LEAN STARTUP" at anyone who questions you and make a shamble for the exit."

This. I hear "Lean Startup" way too often as an excuse to do something shit. I'm so over it.

Doing something shit is easy.

Every situation is different but i'm generally of the opinion that you should do the absolute minimum required to achieve your objective but just do it well. If your trying to get to market asap so you don't die a horrible death i'll give you a temporary pass on the quality... unless quality is one of your core value propositions.

eeeeaaii 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would have agreed with this up until about a year ago. But I've recently discovered a new way of thinking about the development process that IMO is far superior, and more importantly, far healthier in the long run.

The way I used to think about development was that there were separate phases: building, debugging, then launching, then you stop working on it because it's "done." Then, I suppose, you go on vacation and sip Mai Tai's on the beach.

The thing is, once you get rid of the "done" phase, your whole perspective changes. The other three phases (building, debugging, launching) get mixed together in a blender. Suddenly, any time you hack something, it's okay because you're going to fix/change/refactor it later. It's all part of one big growing, changing, process -- a process that actually fits with the literal meaning of the term "development."

So it's not about pride anymore for me, it's about humility. These days, when I build something, I start off hacking something together in the quickest way possible, no matter how ugly. Then I just keep iterating, refactoring, fixing, cleaning: improving, improving, improving. So there is never a moment when you proudly show off a gleaming, fancy product and say "look, I'm done!" There's always something that works, something that doesn't -- something that needs to be completely rewritten, something that looks good and you haven't touched in months (or years).

The great thing about doing this is that it's a good way to keep yourself from being an "architecture astronaut." If you start with a hack and build refactoring into your process from the very beginning, you'll never build out more architecture than you need, because every time you use a design pattern it will be a direct response to a real need, not an imagined future need.

To conclude, I'll leave you with this quote from Walt Whitman, talking about the "deathbed edition" of "Leaves of Grass" -- a book he revised nine times during his life, which grew from 12 poems to 400 during his lifetime.

"L. of G. at last complete"after 33 y'rs of hackling at it, all times & moods of my life, fair weather & foul, all parts of the land, and peace & war, young & old"

Not sure what "hackling" means, but it sure sounds a lot like hacking!

unoti 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a personality preference thing. Some people feel empowered by the open possibilities of an empty text editor, and their spirits crushed by the boring grind of polishing existing features to a fine glow.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people out there who are somewhat paralyzed by the completely open and undefined possibilities of a project not yet started, whose spirits soar at the opportunity to take something mediocre and really make it shine.

The trick is to pair with someone of the opposite type, and work together to make truly awesome stuff, and keep each other honest and not lazy. I've done this many times over my career.

A1kmm 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the real problem is when people have an inappropriate model of what 'quality' is. Quality criteria, when used properly, act as surrogates for the realisation of the benefits that motivated the project in the first place, or for the management of risks or costs.

What constitutes quality is context dependent - a quality criteria that is meaningful on a large project that will be used for a long time (for example, one that improves maintainability) is not necessarily meaningful on a throw away script that will not conceivably be reused.

Too many people are influenced by fashion when it comes to evaluating quality. Some things called 'best practices' will provide no organisational benefit, and might increase the cost without any corresponding gain.

Slogans like 'take pride or fuck it' probably do more harm than good - what you should do is think rationally about what the appropriate quality criteria are for a given project, keeping focused on the continuing 'business' justification for the project and all the criteria, and aim to produce something that lives up to those quality criteria. By focusing on what is optimal for your goals, you avoid premature quality optimisation / over-engineering.

jcmontalbano 1 day ago 1 reply      
This seems like distorted thinking. Surely there is a balance to be struck between hyper-rigor and abandoned rigor. This guy seems to have an awareness of various best practices, but no sense of perspective about their relative importance.

I'm not a programmer (at least, I'm a very beginning one), so maybe someone can clue me in: Are all best practices equally destructive if you don't follow them? Or are there best practices which can be neglected?

I'd expect that the best practices being neglected would be differently relevant to different projects, types of application, customers, etc. Would it be productive to modify the discussions of "best practices" by talking about under which context those practices are necessary or unnecessary?

johnw 2 days ago 0 replies      
All engineering involves trade-offs. Ideally, we'd prefer to have maintainable code that ships on time, but this usually isn't possible.

So you have to look at how much payoff you're getting from maintainable code versus shipping late. I would say that how to manage this tradeoff depends on the type of software being developed - If you're creating throwaway apps for the app stores then shipping fast is probably a more important consideration than having a maintainable codebase. If you're writing banking software for the enterprise the balance probably tips in favor of maintainable code.

You also have to take into account the constantly shifting goalposts in software development. That class you spent all day refactoring gets thrown out tomorrow.

bartwe 2 days ago 0 replies      
After several bouts of not programming due to perfectionism driven fear of failure, making 'crap' beats perfection.
cynusx 2 days ago 0 replies      
ship it and write up a janitor card to clean it up.
pick up the janitor cards when you're low energy or waiting on somebody else.
seivan 2 days ago 0 replies      
I see this in myself. It hits right at home.
Very well put!

There have been occasions I fall in love with a particular solution because it was so elegant and I just have this urge to tell everyone about it.

But there have also been the opposite...

cmdkeen 2 days ago 1 reply      
Very apt given I was just moaning (zombie?) to my colleague about this. The problem is how you get your pride back though - especially when management continually gets in the way.
endgame 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have the opposite problem. For personal projects I have to get over my fear of imperfection or I'll produce nothing at all. For work projects or anything with a deadline the pressure to make it work means I'll at least have something to refactor.
taude 2 days ago 0 replies      
One thing the author doesn't really take into account is the team dynamic...and once you're no longer the sole guy in charge of that feature/product whatever...it get's vastly more complicated (and tainted) once five or ten others have gotten their paws on the code.
marmot1101 2 days ago 0 replies      
I understand the premise of the article, and I think that one should take pride in creating great work. However, this kind of absolutism makes people difficult to work with. I've worked with absolutist engineers and things rarely ship and the team hates themselves by the end. Lighten up, make things work when the chips are down and move on with life. You have to take pride in the imperfect because all software is flawed, some of the flaws just haven't been discovered yet.
mmv 1 day ago 0 replies      
The funny thing is that memory is a tricky bastard, and you're likely to remember yourself with no pride on something you did that went wrong, when at the time you were actually doing it you were very much committed and with a lot of pride.

The opposite is also true: if your endeavor did succeed, you'll probably remember the journey with the sense of "of course deep inside I always knew this was going to be great" even if in fact you didn't believe in what you were doing.

linhmtran168 1 day ago 0 replies      
Agree with the article wholeheartedly.

In my case, sometimes, another team fucks up, they cannot ship the product on time and I have to join to help them.
As I have to deal with bad codes, bad practices, short deadlines and a product that I don't have any interest in, I often become a zombie and get it done as fast as possible and hope I would never have anything to do with it again.

lukethomas 2 days ago 0 replies      
"covered my codebase in bacon" - I got hungry after reading that.
gavinflud 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very well put and it hits home. I always find that once I cut the first corner, I care less and less about each future shortcut or badly coded feature I implement.

However, if I truly care about the project or have a project that has been very well designed so far, I always find myself going out of my way to ensure I will be proud of it when looking back.

parnas 2 days ago 0 replies      
side project. side language... I think mine might be ocaml--can't stop looking at it, though I've tried I know there's no application other than a side project. Something has to have a bit of soul...

look at softpanorama regarding lots of years, it just gets frustrating.

dave_sid 2 days ago 2 replies      
peer code reviews. I don't they are done often enough. But, as a developer, if I'm sitting writing a line of code, and I know my peers are soon going to review it, I'd be less likely to cut corners and make myself look unprofessional.
ipetepete 1 day ago 0 replies      
"I've unleashed the hounds of hell and covered my codebase in bacon." Best quote of the week.
stevebot 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wish I could do this, but I know I won't make the deadline if I do.
martinced 2 days ago 4 replies      
"As soon as I lose pride in something, I stop caring about it being good."

The one quote to deal with that is simple: "A professional is someone who can do his best job even when he doesn't feel like it"

That's what I keep in mind when I have to work in that special Java/C# + ORM / (N)Hibernate + XML + SQL kind of development hell.


iTrollFreely 2 days ago 1 reply      
"untitled.txt"? what kind of p.o.s editor is he using to code
Show HN: My side project " Do I need a visa for...? doineedavisafor.com
241 points by jlangenauer  4 days ago   155 comments top 67
wting 4 days ago 10 replies      
I don't understand the presentation.

Allow the user to choose nationality from a drop down box, then show a world map colored various ways:

- green no visa

- blue for easy to obtain visas

- red for difficult to obtain visas

On a side note, it should probably be "United States citizen" and not "US". Also, US -> China is a very common route that requires a visiting / mailing your passport to a Chinese embassy to obtain a visa that you should probably have listed.

JoshTriplett 4 days ago 2 replies      
You might want some country aliases; since the first items in the drop-down had full country names in them, I expected to have to type "united states", not "US".

Works great, otherwise. Seems handy as a standalone service; it'd help even more if integrated into a travel site like Hipmunk.

nchuhoai 4 days ago 0 replies      
Several comments layed out some alternatives, and it's usually fairly easy to figure out where you can go, my personal favorite are the Wikipedia pages:


However, there is one edge-case that I do not see covered:

I am a permanent resident of Germany, citizen of Vietnam and hold a valid visa for the US. Sometimes these qualifications allow for entry (for example Mexico). I'd love to see an overview of what other countries I can visit without a visa given my residency and other visas.

stevenp 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is really cool, and the info is super-useful.

However, your SEO links at the bottom of the page make your site look unnecessarily spammy, especially because the color and font size makes it look like you're trying to hide the links, like someone might have done in GeoCities in the 90's. I understand what you're trying to achieve, but I think you could present it in a way that doesn't look so manipulative. If you make it easy to link to one of your pages, lots of travel blogs and sites will give you backlinks without you needing to create links to every possible combination on your site.

Even the URLs look unnecessarily verbose:


Why is the word "travelling" in the URL? I assume it's because you feel strongly that you will get indexed more prominently if someone uses that word in their search. I wouldn't count on that. You'd do better to rely on the value of your content, instead of trying to artificially game the system. If the URL was http://www.doineedavisafor.com/united-states/afghanistan, you'd still have friendly, easy-to-construct URLs, without the extra cruft.

redact207 4 days ago 0 replies      
GREAT idea. I travel with my girlfriend often and it's a massive pain to work out visa requirements in countries, especially with "com" companies now setting up pretending to be an embassy.

One issue though is how do you keep your database up to date? Some countries (eg Thailand) change their Visa requirements VERY often.

Good work!

samfoo 4 days ago 3 replies      
Delta used to have an awesome frontend for Timatic (the system that all of the airlines use for determining their own liability in visa requirement issues) that I used exclusively. Sadly, it seems they've removed it from their new site.

I was able to find a similar offering[1] for free on Gulf Air's site, though.

A nice frontend to Timatic would be awesome, but I suspect that the licensing is too pricey...

[1] http://www.gulfair.com/English/info/prepare/Pages/VisaInform...

jmharvey 4 days ago 1 reply      
Neat! I wonder if you could crowd-source some of the missing data. I tested it with "I'm a US Citizen travelling to Macau." but didn't get any result. The US state department web site http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_955.html#en... says no visa is required.
jlangenauer 4 days ago 2 replies      
For anyone that's wondering, there's data for about 60-odd countries in there at the moment, and I'm adding more every day.
udit99 4 days ago 0 replies      
So about a year ago, I created Visamapper(www.visamapper.com) for the same purpose.I ended up crowdsourcing the data. Slightly different take on the interface as your project. But I have to say, I'm just a little jealous because visamapper didn't get any attention on HN :-). Anyways, Nice job with the design. Small nitpick: The list of countries at the bottom is unreadable with the current font color.
glyphobet 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is great. Some thoughts:

* It abbreviates "US" in "US Citizen" but not "United States". I would expect both "United States Citizen" and "US" (country) to work too. It uses "British Citizen" vs. "United Kingdom". Both "United Kingdom Citizen" and "Britain" should work too.

* Using ISO 3166 country codes in the URLs would make them shorter.

josscrowcroft 4 days ago 0 replies      
Someone may already have said this: use IP2Country (or similar script) to determine the visitor's most likely location, then pre-select their nationality.
petercooper 4 days ago 0 replies      
"British citizen" is in between "UAE" and "US" citizens, based upon the UK, I suppose, but it would ideally be sorted in alphabetical order.

That aside, providing more links to information on each result would be handy. There are too many details involved to really trust the results. For example, you can't travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program if you've ever been arrested for anything even if no conviction resulted.

grecy 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome.

I'll get links to this from http://wikioverland.org shortly.

opinicus 4 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting project. Outside of interface choices, are there any differences between this and some of the existing offerings like DoYouNeedVisa[1] or VisaMapper[2] (which is crowdsourced and includes the very important information of whether visa are available at the border)?

[1] http://www.doyouneedvisa.com/
[2] http://visamapper.com/

danellis 4 days ago 2 replies      
Here's why I don't understand the point of a site like this.

I don't know anything about the site. I don't know if it's accurate. I don't know if it's maintained. I can't trust the information on it, so if I get an answer from it, in order to verify it I'll have to do whatever work I would have done if the site didn't exist. I've gained nothing.

nemetroid 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think you should change the message displayed when there's no data. Being "unable to confirm" whether a Swedish citizen needs a visa to visit Norway comes off as worse than "have not yet added a source".

Particularly so in this example: both countries are part of the Schengen area, i.e. it is obvious that no effort (and nothing wrong with that!) has yet been made to add this information, rather than having been unable to find a source.

gyardley 4 days ago 0 replies      
The non-standard select lists made this extremely difficult to use on iPhone.
andrewhyde 4 days ago 0 replies      
"US citizens do not require a visa to visit Argentina. US citizens do not require a visa to visit Argentina, however US citizens must pay a "reciprocity fee" prior to arrival and present the receipt for doing so when entering Argentina.

You have to pay the reciprocity fee for a visa as of two years ago.

nico 4 days ago 1 reply      
Here's a spreadsheet (on google docs) that pretty much fulfills the same need: http://goo.gl/RXSQk

You just enter any airport code in the country where you are from, and any airport code in your destination country, then you get the visa information.

To OP: seems like there's quite a bit of information missing, you could try scraping it from the link on that spreadsheet

w3pm 4 days ago 0 replies      
How about just displaying the result below as soon as the selection is changed? Having me click a button, and then click 'Back' to try a new combo, is annoying.

Other than that, great idea :)

GFischer 3 days ago 0 replies      
Nice, works for Uruguay :) , small nitpick, it should say "I'm an" not "I'm a" where applicable (for example for Uruguay and other countries that start with vowels).

It would also be nice to set defaults to U.S., and to try and detect the person's country from their IP or something.

Small things, overall it's nice to have and it works nicely (I like the detailed explanations)

sav-henderson 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is awesome! You should also add the ability to post comments about visas and the visa process, since in my experience, some border crossing agents try to overcharge you and you can get them to lower their price simply by stating that you "know" they should be charging x not y. An on the ground report of the visa process can be invaluable next to the usually inaccurate/out-of-date info available through the official channels.
seszett 4 days ago 0 replies      
I tried a few destinations and found no information for any of them (from Canada/France to China/Taiwan for example).

Also, "French Guyana" doesn't have different requirements from the rest of France, it does not make sense to include it in the list while not including Martinique, Guadeloupe or any of the other French overseas regions. However, the overseas territories have different requirements (New Caledonia is included, but not French Polynesia).

There's also an encoding problem with Monégasque and Burkinabé in the dropdown, and a mistake in the info page - it's Burkinabé, not Burkinabè.

Also none of the place I mention in this comment seem to have information.

Also, I see "French guyanese citizen" in the list (which doesn't exist) but no "French caledonian citizen" (which does exist) even though both places are lisited in the right-hand dropdown.

vellum 4 days ago 2 replies      
You should put the US as the first choice in the drop down box, since that's where most of your traffic will come from. Later when you have more data, you could put the top 15 in the first choices.
nategraves 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is great and is certainly something I'll use as I'm exploring summer travel options. One thing I would love to see though, is a simple "yes" or "no" at the front of the sentence. I had to read "US citizens do not require a visa to visit Argentina." a couple of times to make sure I had it right.
yesimahuman 4 days ago 1 reply      
Nice work! Noticed one issue though: did a US Citizen -> Brazil check and it said I didn't need a visa but then says I do need one.
niggler 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a way to list the visa requirements for a US citizen? (just a simple list of the other countries and whether or not a visa is required to visit those countries)
acrooks 4 days ago 1 reply      
A few points I would like to mention about the interface:

1. Make it easier to find a country. Code an autocomplete textbox or something of the sort.

2. Keep the form on the page after searching. If a user wants to make a second search they shouldn't have to press the back button.

3. There are a bunch of links on the bottom that are very difficult to see with the background.

4. The body is perhaps too transparent. The text on your "About" page blends in with the background a little bit.

Overall, it is a good idea and can be perfected with some simple tweaks. Good work!

thedays 4 days ago 2 replies      
Great work - nice, clean interface.

One small thing you might want to consider adding is geo-ip identification of the user to detect which country they are visiting from, and default the country selected in "I'm a _ citizen" to that country.

stumacd 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nice side project!

A dual citizenship feature might be a nice touch - for instance travelling to Brazil is easier on a European passport than an Australian. So it would be great to know what to use when.

One bug report: On the one page -
Australian citizens require a visa to visit Canada.
Australian citizens do not require a visa to visit Canada.


anonfunction 4 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome idea and it works great. What would be really cool is providing a public API. I'm working on building a site that list conferences and this would be really beneficial to incorporate.
beilabs 4 days ago 1 reply      
Irish Citizen => Nepal; Visa required...not in your database yet.
corywright 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very nice.

One UX suggestion: don't center the text in the drop downs. It makes your eyes jump around when scanning the list, and has made me look past a country I was looking for.

munimkazia 4 days ago 2 replies      
Amazing idea, but you probably need more data. I got married recently and we haven't got around to our honeymoon yet. I did a few queries which were relevant to me and they didn't have any information. (Indian citizen, tried cyprus, egypt, indonesia with no results. A few other results were helpful).

Also, like someone mentioned, a map showing all the areas you can visit without visas would be much more helpful.

inovator 4 days ago 2 replies      
Thank you so much! Your site saved us big time! My girlfriend is from one of the visa waiver countries, and she is coming to the U.S. to visit me in June. And guess what? We have never heard of the ESTA requirement until today. I wish online travel ticket agency could be more specific and tell us all the required documents. Does anyone know what would happen if you forgot or didn't know about ESTA?
nisse72 4 days ago 0 replies      
I like the idea, but the entries in the citizenship dropdown seem to be "not quite" sorted. Some examples of out-of-order entries:

Ivorian (between Costa Rican and Croatian),
Salvadorian (between Egyptian and Equatorial Guinean),
Burmese (between Mozambiquan and Namibian)

[ edit ] Ah are they ordered by country name, not the adjective that's being shown? Unexpected and confusing.

frankdenbow 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes! Simple and useful for me (I travel a lot, was looking up this kind of info yesterday). I would change up the background since its a bit distracting. Congrat on shipping!
ciroduran 4 days ago 0 replies      
Just a correction: Venezuelan citizens can travel as tourists to the United Kingdom without the need of a visa, it is only necessary to obtain a visa if you do not have a biometric passport. - http://www.doineedavisafor.com/visa/venezuelan-citizen/trave...
aleksandrm 4 days ago 1 reply      
Text is very hard to read on that background, barely noticeable. I suggest changing background, or text color and making it slightly larger.
bigbang 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. Very useful. Also would be useful is a full list of countries that don't need a visa for, based on my citizenship.
aaronwhite 4 days ago 0 replies      
Really well done and love the SEO-ness that provides real value for folks! Nice tool
optymizer 3 days ago 0 replies      
I would also provide advice on where to apply for a visa. The "nearest X embassy" is not too helpful. Otherwise, great work!
malvim 4 days ago 0 replies      
That is a great side project and one that has helped me already. Kudos for linking to the first-hand info. Now, I just found some info that you currently don't have on the site. I'll contact you via email with the link, but maybe you want to have a form for that?
abuiles 4 days ago 0 replies      
I know I'm required to have visa for a bunch of places but not sure which ones, would be really cool to see given your nationality all the countries for which you are required to have visa.

btw, I'm Colombian, we don't need visa for Russia and Turkey (Data not available yet in your DB).

drazvan 4 days ago 3 replies      
A quick rule of thumb for European Union member states: no visas are needed for any EU citizen to go any other EU country (as a tourist). It shows that I need a visa to go from Romania to the UK or Sweden (that is false, Romania, the UK and Sweden are all EU members).
NonEUCitizen 4 days ago 0 replies      
It does not work in IE9 -- screen flashes but info not displayed. I use large fonts.

It DOES work in Chrome.

baby 4 days ago 0 replies      
That's a great idea but it's not working for me. I'm french and visiting HongKong soon.
swatkat 4 days ago 0 replies      
Indian citizen --> Cambodia. Need visa; you can get an E-Visa or get it on arrival.


Been there, done that :)

TheBindingVoid 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder how you keep the visa requirements up to date. I've worked on a visa project before and I know that visa requirements change all the time and there's no central place to get those updates.
tvaughan 4 days ago 0 replies      
See also this iPhone/iPad app built by a friend: http://www.uquery.com/apps/Ji3W1/got-visa
chipmunkninja 4 days ago 0 replies      
Humm ... Doesn't work for a huge number of things I entered:

Have a lot of friends and family in Asia, and too many answers are "dunno, sorry".

meerita 4 days ago 0 replies      
Works neat. One question, why the background image? such a waste of resources and it doesn't add anything at all.
vette982 4 days ago 1 reply      
Serves the same purpose as http://www.visahq.com/, but it would nice to see a better presentation.
phryk 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, thanks. That's one of the question I often couldn't find an answer for and thusly has kept me from travelling a few times. :)
prawn 4 days ago 2 replies      
Tried Australian going to Morocco and China. "Sorry, we've no information available." Could've got more data in there before playing your "Show HN" card maybe.
pinouchon 4 days ago 0 replies      
North Korean citizens can live and work in North Korea without limit by virtue of their citizenship.

I'm not so sure

radiusq 4 days ago 0 replies      
Might want to put in some 'alias' type of names for some common countries, like England for United Kingdom for example.
gottagetmac 4 days ago 0 replies      
United States -> China (a pretty important route that does require a visa) says no information.
_kai_ 4 days ago 0 replies      
FYI For "Taiwanese citizen to Germany" and to other states of the Schengen Area, no visa is required since 2011. http://www.taipei.diplo.de/Vertretung/taipei/en/01-Welcome-t...
starik36 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool. I'd add the ability to locate the nearest embassy/consulate based on GeoLocation.
lewisflude 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm a bit annoyed that British Citizen is filed under U (for United Kingdom).
btw0 4 days ago 0 replies      
very clever URL for the resulting page
sobbybutter 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for making this! I'm making travel plans right now and it's quite handy.
archer174 4 days ago 0 replies      
The US to India has a spelling error. Visa is spelled vist.
wyclin 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome.
Where did you get all the data from btw?
robertomb 4 days ago 0 replies      
How to help improving information?
bedspax 4 days ago 0 replies      
Congrats, cool.
The Flask Mega-Tutorial miguelgrinberg.com
240 points by giis  5 days ago   56 comments top 9
irahul 5 days ago 3 replies      
I prefer keeping routes in a separate file.

Instead of

def index():

I keep a routes array

    routes = [
('/', endpoint='index', view_func=index)

I find it a lot pleasant to look up all routes at the same place rather than guessing or searching. Also, I give an explicit name to all endpoints.

I do the same with blueprints. Blueprints have their own urls.py, and blueprints don't specify the url prefix. For eg, a comment blueprint will define '/', rather than '/comments'. I leave the url prefix to the main application.

    app.register_blueprint(comment, url_prefix='/comment')

For migrations, I prefer alembic to sql migrations - https://alembic.readthedocs.org/en/latest/tutorial.html I find Alembic simpler than SQLAlchemy(without compromising on power). Alembic can autogenerate migrations based on your model definitions. The way I work is I add a new model, and then run alembic to autogenerate the migration. Same goes for altering models.

For settings, I maintain setting.py, dev_settings.py, prod_settings.py. settings.py contains all the common settings. If environment is not defined, I do a `from dev_settings import *`, else I do a relevant import for the environment.

I also prefer having BEFORE_REQUESTS, AFTER_REQUESTS, MIDDLEWARES, LOG_HANDLERS, TEMPLATE_FILTERS, CONTEXT_PROCESSORS, ERROR_HANDLERS... in settings, and in main.py, call the relevant functions. That way, I don't have to hunt down the codebase. For blueprints, I define the same variables in __init__.py.

Model forms are another time saver(use wtforms, or preferably flask-wtform)

    from flask.ext.wtf import Form
from wtforms.ext.sqlalchemy.orm import model_form
import models

PostForm = model_form(models.Post, models.db.session, Form, field_args = {
'name': {'validators': []},
'title': {'validators': []},
'content': {'validators': []},

models.Post is flask-sqlalchemy model, models.db.session is sqlalcheymy session. You don't need to list all model fields for your model form. I find keeping models and forms in sync a pain. This way, I only keep the validations in sync(field_args isn't required - that's an example of adding validations).

I use flask-debugtoolbar for basic profiling and debugging. flask-webassets is awesome for managing assets and dynamic compilation. flask-script for writing manage.py jobs(python manage.py get_deps, python manage.py db_createall etc etc)

randomchars 5 days ago 1 reply      
> If you are on Linux, OS X or Cygwin, install flask and extensions by entering the following commands, one after another

I think this is a really bad advice. Instead create a file called requirements.txt and add the required livraries, one per line.

Then you can install it with

    flask/bin/pip install - r requirements.txt

Edit: More information in the documentation[0]

[0]: http://www.pip-installer.org/en/latest/requirements.html

nonpme 5 days ago 11 replies      
The biggest problem I have with Python frameworks is the fact that it's hard (at least for me) to configure server and just write aplications. I came from PHP background, where you install few packages, configure apache/nginx (which is quite fast) and things just work. I'm learning python for some time now, but I still can't create working python environment... I know django basics, and use its server for developing, but I don't know how to configure nginx on my VPS so I can have multiple python webapps (my simple apps, django apps, flask etc.). Someone has good resources for that (believe me, I read a lot of tutorials)?
ctoth 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to quickly plug Flask-Admin here, it's a much nicer experience than writing constant CRUD code for your administrative interface: https://github.com/MrJoes/Flask-Admin/

The author is quite friendly as well.

reinhardt 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm between Flask and Pyramid for a new project, would love a hands-on comparison between the two.
buro9 5 days ago 2 replies      
Question: Is there a way to create application modules in the same style of Django modules (shippable extensions to an application) in Flask?

I've read about Flask blueprints, but that didn't seem to have the same angle... seemed to be more shippable libraries rather than a module of an application.

arianvanp 4 days ago 2 replies      
So I've always wanted to start learnin some python and python web dev. I've only done webdev in node.js so far, and now I have the question : Django or Flask?
QuarkSpark 3 days ago 1 reply      
just a simple question: Why do we really need Flask, when we have Django?
Kiro 5 days ago 3 replies      
I thought Flask was a minimal micro framework but this looks as bloated as Django.
Can We Stop Drawing Trees on Top of Skyscrapers? archdaily.com
239 points by tumblen  4 days ago   132 comments top 44
jellicle 4 days ago 6 replies      
Toronto requires green roofs for new building projects. Grasses and shrubs are typically grown, and they survive just fine with minimal care. I suspect the only reason that large trees are not typically used is that there's fear that tree roots will damage the roof of the building. Oh, and the weight of the soil required for larger plants is an issue.

Yep, looking at the bylaw, the growing medium - soil - is only required to be four inches deep. Weight of soil and drainage starts to be a problem - you have to figure that the soil may be 100% soaked...

It's going to be tough to grow trees in four inches of soil.

So, nutshell, tree survivability not a problem, but engineering a roof to hold enough soil (and therefore water) to grow a large tree is expensive, and root damage is a problem, and therefore - no large trees on skyscrapers. Still, there's nothing magic about it, just engineering problems. I could easily imagine a high-end residential tower with a forest on the roof.

AlexMuir 4 days ago 3 replies      
We have an incredible 4000sq ft olive grove at the top of the 48 storey Beetham Tower in rainy Manchester. The architect turned the top two floors into his own penthouse, complete with enclosed olive trees.

Picture: http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/articles/2009/04/27/...

Trees at the top of a skyscraper convey both extravagance and eco credentials. Helipads are no longer credit-crunch-friendly.

Video (Skip to 1:16 for the trees)


Spooky23 4 days ago 1 reply      
You can grow trees on skyscrapers. But the author captured why it is unlikely to happen: trees need care & maintenance. Care & maintenance == $.

For the types of people who build and run skyscrapers, facility operations is a cost center, and regulating authorities don't really care about greenscape. Nobody wants to pay for a staff of gardeners.

That's why when plans get mocked up, the public spaces around commercial buildings are usually lush, but when the building are actually constructed, you see a few shrubs or maybe a few arbor vitae at ground level.

When the local people and regulating bodies care, things are different. The Wal-Mart parking lot in Hilton Head Island, SC is wooded and shaded. The town refuses to issue construction permits that require old growth trees to be cut down -- so there's 60" wide tree in the lot, with a buffer between it and the pavement. Instead of curbs directing water to storm drains, there are mulched beds that absorb alot of storm water. About 15 miles away near I-95, there is another Wal-Mart with the typical construction methods -- bulldoze, flatten and pave everything.

cperciva 3 days ago 1 reply      
There's another reason to not have trees on top of skyscrapers: It's dangerous.

Even the best-pruned tree will occasionally have the occasional branch break off in a severe storm. Normally that's not a problem -- but if the tree is 300' in the air, that branch can go flying a long way and hit someone with a lot of force when it reaches ground level. The sorts of companies which build big skyscrapers don't like to take risks like that; nor do most city zoning boards.

josefresco 4 days ago 2 replies      
I feel like most of the replies are focusing on the feasibility of putting trees in or on skyscrapers when I think the criticism levied in the article was more towards "designers" or architects who are using them as decorations knowing they will never get to see actual production.

I don't think it actually matters to the author if trees can live and thrive in this environment but more so if they are actually implemented.

Including something in your design to make it special (or to win a project) knowing it will never be implemented is a design problem and one that could be translated to what we (hackers) do with technology projects.

up_and_up 4 days ago 5 replies      
> Life sucks up there. For you, for me, for trees, and just about everything else except peregrine falcons. It's hot, cold, windy, the rain lashes at you, and the snow and sleet pelt you at high velocity. Life for city trees is hard enough on the ground. I can't imagine what it's like at 500 feet, where nearly every climate variable is more extreme than at street level.

How is being located on top of a tall building much different from being located on top of a tall hill or mountain? Wouldn't the only factors involved be the type of soil and species chosen?

sk5t 3 days ago 0 replies      
Two other things about trees:

* They hold tons and tons of water and are generally massive (if you've never given a hardwood tree a good pruning, the volume and mass are surprising). A large, growing tree and its root system would add very significant load to the structure.

* They blow over sometimes. Probably frequently, on an exposed, elevated rooftop with limited soil depth (shallow roots, fairly easy to saturate). 20 tons of tree flying off a tower during a storm doesn't sound like fun.

ry0ohki 4 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe there is a certain height where this comes into play, but I've seen trees growing naturally (not by design) in abandoned buildings. The first I could think of is the 13-story Highland building here in Pittsburgh you can kind of make out the quite large tree in this photo http://photos.mycapture.com/PITT/1314621/37517652E.jpg
DanBC 4 days ago 2 replies      
I think this shows the problem that people like me have with design.

I don't notice good design. Things just work and everything is where it should be. It's taken hundreds of years of collected wisdom and research and skill to get it like that, and someone has worked very hard to make it so I don't notice their work.

I do notice when someone draws a willowy slender tree on the side of a towerblock. It'd be great to have more shrubbery and trees up high, but at least they could do it realistically. And I get the impression that they forget about all the root system and maintenance and etc.

England has a problem with terribly dull architecture.

wyck 4 days ago 1 reply      
Mister Spock has a 30 foot tall oak tree on top of a building for many years now, http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3228/2896752060_d5bd34df28_z.j...
raverbashing 4 days ago 3 replies      

"Trees won't survive in this conditions", but in Nature they are not watered, they are not pruned, and they have lived for millions of years

What harsh conditions are there in the side of a building that don't exist in nature? (Off the top of my head there are several, but it would be nice for him to specify)

It could be: temperature, winds, lack of cover (either soil cover or taller trees) and their corresponding soil dynamic.

But it shouldn't be too complicated to find a plant that works there.

SeanLuke 4 days ago 1 reply      
Apparently someone hasn't heard of the Guinigi Tower.

Trees on top of buildings didn't used to signify green. They used to signify power.

rossjudson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Who says these have to be real trees? Fake trees look damn impressive these days. All you have to do is dust them off. And hey -- the wind at these altitudes will do that for you. Now we just need to hire someone to clean up the bird poop.
cwp 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's one example. It's an oak tree, right at the top of an apartment building.



bargl 4 days ago 0 replies      
I get what he's saying. I think he's more upset that architects are using a "tree" to add some level of trendiness to their buildings. When in fact they should be adding altitude hardened plants that are typically not the most aesthetic plant.

But it is after all just a model and hopefully someone will sit down and scratch their head and say, wait what happens if a branch falls off that tree? Lets just put some bushes up there that don't grow past the railing...

kybernetyk 4 days ago 0 replies      
I see a huge potential market for holographic trees.
Glyptodon 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the writer is being a bit unrealistic.

So long as you aren't somewhere at a rather high elevation to begin with, the temperature, elevation and wind chill factors seem like they'd be quite easy to work around. Even something as simple as buffering vegetation from the prevailing wind direction ought to go a long way.

Perhaps a more relevant point might be that the architects aren't fully designing their vegetation's support systems, but that seems like it would require a higher burden of proof. I wouldn't be surprised if issues such as 'what if a large branch fell off 500 feet above street level?' aren't fully thought out, either.

But I don't think there's any reason that someone using careful engineering and design couldn't put healthy plants on a tall building.

If he was merely intending to point out that many architects are placing vegetation without proper design and engineering, he may be right, but I don't think he really succeeded in making the point.

smurph 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm a bit surprised that the article never mentioned the potential affects of the tree's roots on the structures supporting them. My driveway can tell you that the roots of a decent sized tree will not play nice with man made things that get in their way.
Aloisius 3 days ago 0 replies      
In San Francisco there at least one building with trees and other greenery about 500 ft up at 1 Front Street. It has them on the 35th through 38th floor with a rather high glass wind shield that keeps parts from blowing off the roof.

I know that's short compared to some of these massive skyscrapers they show, but as long as the building radiates heat back up at the trees, I don't really see why you couldn't go considerably higher.

kalms 4 days ago 0 replies      
Please make it viable instead of halting it, just because it's hard.
Nux 4 days ago 3 replies      
Please do not stop!

I absolutely love the idea of buildings lush with vegetation, as if in some post-apocalyptical world where nature has reclaimed the cities.

It may not be very possible/feasible, it may even be a public safety hazard, but I'm so fed up with steel, concrete and glass.

alan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Looking at those pictures, I wonder "Where are the roots?" It's like the artists think the tree stops where the trunk meets the surface. I see rooms where peoples would be walking just under the trunk of the tree.

I could see using Bonsai style root trimming and enclosed spaces for the trees, but yeah, other than that it looks like pure fantasy.

ichtet31 4 days ago 2 replies      
I live @ 9200 ft in the rocky mountains in colorado. Plenty of tree growing right out of the granite. It amazes me how easily plants and trees can make their homes here. At these altitudes, a wide, horizontal root system works better than a deep vertical root system. It is definately within our ability to plant trees on top of buildings.
hawkharris 3 days ago 0 replies      
As a fan of urban exploration (photographing old left-behind structures in cities), I had a positive gut reaction to images of buildings overrun by plants.

To me putting trees on the exterior of a tall building makes the building look abandoned. When you find your way in and explore such a building, the artifacts, grittiness and worn-down aesthetic make you think about all the people who have ever lived and worked there.

For this personal reason, I think the trees might be an improvement. Much better than the typical sterile corporate look of skyscrapers. But I can understand why someone who has more architecture experience might think of it as a cliche.

gadders 3 days ago 0 replies      
This house: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2994951 is a few miles from where I live. Last time I saw it the green stripe over it was a sea of dead yellow grass.
biznickman 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, trees bow on windy mountains (or even next to the ocean), but since when was this a bad thing and/or a sign that the trees were not healthy? This article is like saying "don't put plants on your balcony". True, it's more windy but many plants, especially trees, are created to be more durable.

I do agree that it's a more challenging environment than a forest, but if the building is willing to cover the costs of maintenance, I don't see why not have them!

zemo 4 days ago 0 replies      
this is a really, really interesting critique of why the current idea of trees on buildings is wrong, but it's a bit short-sighted in that it just says "stop". The next logical step in this is to contemplate how a rooftop environment would affect the evolution of trees moving forward; how human architecture will interact with the genetic lineage of trees in the future, and how we can encourage an evolutionary process so that we get to a point where trees on buildings are possible. Either way, upvote; there's a lot of interesting content in this article.
protomyth 3 days ago 0 replies      
shows what picking a different submission time will do https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5416289
brownbat 3 days ago 0 replies      
I can't help but think of Betteridge's Law, even when a headline is a request.


michaelbuddy 2 days ago 0 replies      
So far, I hadn't seen written what's most obvious problem to me. A dead branch or something from the tree that falls from a building will kill or cause serious injury to someone. Now if a few trees were dead center on the roof, they likely wouldn't, but anything close to overhanging in high winds will shake loose objects very dangerous to humans.

sure you could protect people by adding nets. Well then you have a skyscraper that looks trashier than it did without plants at all.

SonicSoul 3 days ago 0 replies      
we do have some buildings in NYC with trees sustained for years. Trump 5th ave being one example.


I guess it's more manageable because the trees are not on very top?

beefman 4 days ago 0 replies      
There's a tracking hash ("#.UU-2q9uRnOI.facebook") that probably should be trimmed before posting.
danielsiders 3 days ago 0 replies      
When I saw the title of this article I really hoped it was a metaphor for software, ideally about building products on top of proprietary APIs.
T-zex 4 days ago 0 replies      
In my neighbourhood there is an apartment block with two pine trees on the roof terrace. The trees are about 2m high. I still do not understand how they are not causing any trouble. Its not a skyscraper but still..
breadnwater 4 days ago 0 replies      
Putting trees on skyscrapers is lame when its only purpose is to gussy-up an image, but honest to goodness metropolitan reforestation where condos and apartment buildings are self-sustaining and eco-friendly is something we should move forward with.

Instead of building outward as in urban sprawl, build upward with vertical forests: https://cbpowerandindustrial.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/future...

prawn 3 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of the arcologies in SimCity, though the one this brings to mind had a dome over the roof park.
pdevine 3 days ago 0 replies      
I lived in Singapore for a while where I commonly saw trees on the top of skyscrapers. Sky gardens live and thrive in South East Asia.
Mankhool 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's one that has thrived for years, but it has its own planter!
j1o1h1n 3 days ago 0 replies      
Capita Centre, Sydney, Harry Seidler & Associates 1989
dysoco 3 days ago 0 replies      
This reminded me of Gremlins 2.
alexrson 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is architects drawing trees on skyscrapers an analogy for something non-function-related we do with software (other than put a bird on it).
marknutter 4 days ago 1 reply      
Can't the trees be enclosed?
gcb0 3 days ago 0 replies      
typical frustrated architect :)

how about new ideas and solving problems to make them a reality? if it were for people like him alone, we'd still have only blocky concrete buildings.

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