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Hyperloop spacex.com
2216 points by spikels  1 day ago   875 comments top 129
aresant 1 day ago 15 replies      
"In the case of the Hyperloop, Musk started focusing on public transportation after he grew disenchanted with the plans for Californias high-speed rail system."

And who says that big government stifles entrepreneurial innovation?

If ALL Musk does with the Hyperloop announcement is shed more light on the potential debacle that is to be our $70b+ high-speed rail in California, we owe him a debt of gratitude.

PS - Direct link to the Hyperloop plans .PDF http://www.spacex.com/sites/spacex/files/hyperloop_alpha-201...

krschultz 1 day ago 4 replies      
This is very serious first proposal.

As a professional mechanical engineer I have worked on high quality steel tubes (nuclear submarines) before. The immediate thing that sticks out to me in this proposal are the tight mechanical tolerances that have to be maintained. Talking about tens of thousandths of an inch tolerances on a 10' diameter tube is not to be dismissed lightly. That is going to be tough to maintain - especially with welding heat distortion. I would image the tubes will be joined with automated friction stir welding or something similiar, but that will still require a fair amount of post weld machining which has its own pitfalls. Not to mention simple thermal expansion and contraction as the temperature changes could change the circularity and inner diameter.

I would be more interested to see a tolerance stack up of those considerations than an FEA model of the concrete pylons. I can gaurentee that we can build concrete pylons capable of holding up a steel tube, that is done all over the country dozens of different uses cases. But can we build a multi-hundred mile long steel tube to the required tolerances?

I would be inclined to trade off efficiency for manufacturability. I.e. maybe a higher internal pressure or larger diameter to make it less sensitive. There should be plenty of power from the solar panels so it doesn't have to be perfectly efficient.

I'm also surprised that the I-5 plan is cheaper than buying private land. I may be naive here, but the pylons really do take away most of the objections from farmers and installing tubes over farmland has to be a lot cheaper than doing construction above a highway. I just look at boondoggle that was the SkyTrain in NYC (tram running over a highway out to JFK airport) and wonder if that is a great option.

goodcanadian 1 day ago 7 replies      
I am intrigued, but not overwhelmed. Many of his reasons why his hyperloop is superior to high speed rail are not specific to the hyperloop. For example, you can put railway tracks up on pylons, too, with very little impact on the ground. It is common to do this in urban areas, but it is rarely done in rural areas because it is flat out cheaper to put it on the ground. I don't believe that an experimental tube is going to be somehow magically cheaper and easier to route and build than train tracks.

Now, I am not trying to defend California's HSR, specifically. I agree with Musk that it appears to be very poorly done. However, the answer, to my mind, is to do it properly rather than propose a wild experiment with hand-wavy arguments as to why it would be politically easier to do. Do you really think the special interests that are making HSR so difficult and expensive would say, "Oh, do whatever you like with your tube."?

Now, in an attempt to end on a positive note, I do like his proposal as a possible next step beyond HSR. Rail can go up to 350km/h currently (perhaps more in the future--why wouldn't California design with this goal in mind?), but Musk's hyperloop is proposed up to ~1000km/hr. It is definitely an idea worth exploring, but I think it falls far short as a serious alternative to the current high speed rail plans.

dkulchenko 1 day ago 7 replies      
That capsule (http://images.bwbx.io/cms/2013-08-12/0812_Hyperloop_605.jpg) looks like a claustrophobic's nightmare.

Otherwise very, very cool.

Osmium 1 day ago 4 replies      
Reading the entire PDF is highly recommended; it contains a surprising amount of answers already (including many to comments below).

I think, if anything, safety aspects haven't been sufficiently explored in the pdf. I'm quite happy to believe it's safer than other modes of transport, but I wouldn't be too quick to overstate it. Also, if anyone can explain what "Tubes located on pylons would limit access to the critical elements of the system." is meant to mean in 4.5.6 I'd be grateful...

lowkey 1 day ago 1 reply      
Adding a compressor fan to actively transfer air from the front to the rear of the pod while simultaneously serving as an air cushion to support the vehicle is simple, elegant and absolutely brilliant!

An ingenious solution appears so obvious in hindsight that it leads you to ask "why didn't I think of that?" While being subtle enough to confound all those who came before.

I have been following the developments of the ET3 Consortium for the past year. I have read virtually all the technical literature available online on the topic of alternative high-speed transportation systems going back as far as the RAND paper and even reading related patents from much earlier.

Looking at the genius of Elon Musk's insight is both inspiring ang greatly humbling - but mostly inspiring. Holy awesome! I would love to see this innovation take root. It could be the perfect elixer to our stagnant economic malaise.

Well done Mr. Musk!

Andrenid 1 day ago 0 replies      
Announcement any minute now according to Elon Musk's twitter: https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/366964441159438337

Edit: First article - http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-08-12/revealed-elo...

Edit2: Site OP linked to is up, but may be cached for you. Try http://www.spacex.com/hyperloop?1

rthomas6 1 day ago 3 replies      
I am skeptical of the proposed cost were someone to actually build this. Sure, the cost of materials, labor, engineering, etc. is probably accurate, but something like this has never been built before. What about the cost of research and testing? Not to mention there doesn't currently exist an industry of contractors to build most of the parts of this system, which is not true in the case of traditional high speed rails. Citing the cost to build something like the Hyperloop as the entire cost of developing it seems a bit disingenuous.

Not that it still wouldn't be comparable to the cost of a high speed rail system.

pjungwir 1 day ago 6 replies      

    The key advantages of a tube vs. a railway track are that it can be built above    the ground on pylons and it can be built in prefabricated sections that are    dropped in place and joined with an orbital seam welder.
Did anyone else read this and imagine laser beams fired by satellites?

revelation 1 day ago 1 reply      
The aerodynamic power requirements at 700 mph (1,130 kph) is around only 134 hp (100 kW) with a drag force of only 72 lbf (320 N)

Mind blown.

clarkmoody 1 day ago 1 reply      
I love this concept!

My main concern is the air-bearing suspension system. Barring very high flow rates, the fly-height of an air-bearing system is very small. Some systems[1] fly at 5 microns, for instance. That being the case, any sort of particulate or imperfections in the tube will cause the air-bearing to 'land' with a large amount of friction. Perhaps this is alright if you're already going 700mph, but it would reduce the overall coasting efficiency of the system.

The engineer in me sees this as the most important design consideration of the project.

As an aside, I would like to see trade studies done on filling the tube with other gasses whose speed of sound is much higher than air's, allowing the capsules to travel even faster before shocks begin to form.

[1] http://www.newwayairbearings.com/products/flat-rectangular-a...

dkrich 1 day ago 4 replies      
The main reason why air travel continues to be the most practical, cost-effective means of high-speed transport is that the politics involved in connecting two points with a transit system are enough to make you lose faith in humanity.

Take for instance, the DC metro system. There is an expansion underway to extend the system west to Dulles Airport, about 30 miles or so from downtown DC. A huge project, no doubt, but it is about ten years behind schedule. What was a seemingly great idea (mass transit to a major airport and outlying regions of DC) was almost ruined by all the fighting.

This is for a project spanning 30 miles. Imagine the politics and fighting that occurs between politicians, contractors, lobbyists, and residents on a public works project that spans hundreds of miles between two of the most populous cities in the world.

A project this ambitious is only well-suited for a small, independent group of like-minded people, which unfortunately will never be possible with all the interests involved.

stevep98 1 day ago 0 replies      
A couple of points I would like to make:

* Structural requirements

The hyperloop has much less structural requirements than a traditional train. The reason is that its cars are separated, so it is 'less dense'. If a train goes over an overpass, the overpass has to be engineered to carry the weight of the rail and the train, whereas the hyperloop only has to handle the weight of the tube (30m between pylons at about 8 tons/m is 240 tons plus the negligible weight of the capsule).

The upshot of this is that the pylons can be much less invasive on the real-estate requirements. This is important because now you have more choices with regards to routes, which leads to less curvature and higher speeds. Looking at it from the reverse angle, High Speed Rail design suffered because the massive real-estate requirements imposed such a burden that route choices were compromised, and thus the projected travel time was lengthened.

* Tube manufacture.

It occurs to me that there already exists expertise in manufacturing elevated, highly reliable large diameter steel tubes hundreds of miles long. Oil pipelines. Moreover, these companies perhaps would be interested in diversifying their business away from oil.

* Development

High Speed Rail has issues, but they are political and financial, not technological. We're really just buying the technology from other countries. Much of the cost and the incredibly lengthy construction time for HSR is coming from building overpasses and the foundations for the rail, so far as I can tell.

But hyperloop is something that requires some development. This is a good thing because investors can sell that technology and get some return. It's difficult to attract private funding for HSR, but I can definitely see someone stepping forward to fund the development of the technology.

Pretty much once someone builds the hyperloop demonstration system, you'll know if you have a winner on your hands, but with HSR, you don't know if you'll be successful until the whole thing is built (and with a 2:30 travel time LA->SF, it's not going to be a slam dunk against air).

There are plenty opposed to HSR, but I see very few alternative solutions being proposed. This might be something those opposed to HSR jump onto, and it might get a lot of support quickly.

Matti 1 day ago 2 replies      
"Hyperloop Passenger CapsuleThe maximum width is 4.43 ft (1.35 m) and maximum height is 6.11 ft (1.10 m). With rounded corners, this is equivalent to a 15 ft2 (1.4 m2) frontal area, not including any propulsion or suspension components."

At a first look I didn't get that the proposed passenger capsule would be so small. That's pretty cramped.

Edit: Isn't the the ft to m conversion for the height wrong?

jacquesm 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'll just leave this here:


Looks like I nailed most of it. So, who is going to build a proof-of-concept scale model of this thing a few kilometers long?

clebio 1 day ago 4 replies      
> 4.5.6. Human Related IncidentsHyperloop would feature the same high level of security used at airports. However, the regular departure of Hyperloop capsules would result in a steadier and faster flow of passengers through security screening compared to airports.

Ugh. That only seems feasible if back-scatter scanners are the only option (but would you still have to take your belt off and put all metal in a little bowl?).

205guy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wow, 300 comments in 2 hours--this is reaching the limits of readability. My first thought is that this release of Hyperloop details is like the geek's version of the Breaking Bad season premiere that is being so talked about in the US (didn't see it myself).

First of all, I think it's genius how nobody saw this solution coming, despite all the speculation. Put the air compressor on the pod, and use Tesla's battery technology to power it. Seems evident in hindsight.

My biggest gripe is the non-inherent safety and thus the security issues. The evacuated tube is a real issue in my mind, and saying it will be re-pressurized in case of an accident seems dubious. Yes, like a modern jet, but planes can descend to 15,000 and people live. Also, planes don't fly at 150,000 feet (the pressure equivalent in the tube) and there may be other biological hazards other than breathing. But mainly, the vehicles are subject to the same exterior threats as airplanes, so security will need to be similar. In addition the tubes are also a target of threats, which is less of an issue with trains and not an issue with planes.

jballanc 20 hours ago 0 replies      
A country like America in the '60s, '70s, or maybe even '80s would build this in a heartbeat.

A country like America today...who knows?

This plan has the perfect mix of reasonably practical yet slightly unsettlingly new and unfamiliar. It is just the sort of thing that meaningfully evolutionary changes are built on, like airliners or cross-country trains or steam-powered ships. If America builds this, great! If not, watch for which country does and move there post-haste!

venomsnake 1 day ago 1 reply      
(Figure 1). The only system that comes close to matching the low energy requirements of Hyperloop is the fully electric Tesla Model S.

Shameless plug of the day :) So far it does not break too much of the laws of physics and is indeed workable.

linuxhansl 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I have an anecdote here that is both funny and sad.My friend's mom visited a few years ago from Germany.

After she returned home she said that she really had enjoyed the trip, especially the trip on "the old, historical train".

She was talking about Amtrak.

jimmcslim 1 day ago 0 replies      
Someone needs to convince Musk to build this on the east coast of Australia; linking Brisbane-Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne. The Sydney-Melbourne air corridor is one of the busiest in the world (6,795,000 passengers in 2007, vs 6,306,638 for LA-SF in 2009 [1]). We recently had a feasibility study into HSR along the east coast (a condition of Greens support of the current Labor minority government) but it suggested that such a project would be ridiculously expensive and take upwards of 30 years to complete (some say the study was doomed to fail and the numbers are wrong).

The geography is probably less favourable for Hyperloop in the eastern Australia context (e.g. Sydney is in a basin bordered by low mountains north, south and west), whereas the route it would follow in California is mostly flat?

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World's_busiest_passenger_air_r...

tomrod 1 day ago 1 reply      
I hate to be a party pooper, but I see some economic issues.

My takeaway is that while the 7 billion fixed costs will be low, the operating costs are going to be huge.

Battery packs and solar cells will need replacement. Large maintenance teams will be needed with immediate response times to fix issues such as complete seal blowouts, etc.

I think the first few years will be great! But in my opinion maintaining this system over the long term will be very, very expensive compared to slower rail.

I'm still optimistic that most of these and other issues will be worked out in the long term.

EDIT: Did he post what this tube will be made out of? How will he prevent solar degradation?

danvoell 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think he should start a ticket pre-sale on kickstarter and see if he can be the first person to reach $6 billion for a project.
malbs 1 day ago 1 reply      
As someone who gets claustrophobic on planes - I have to fight the panic every time I fly, the dread that fills me at the thought of a service/system malfunction, while halfway between LA and SF, what happens then?

I'm reminded of this water slide at the Gold Coast's Wet and Wild - you end up going upside down - but in order to attain the velocity required to make the loop, you need to be dropped from a particular height, only some people don't make it - so they have a single access point into the tube where people who haven't made it, can get out, but I'm sure it wouldn't be a fun experience, so I opted for not going on that slide, even though my kids were pleading with me to do it. No thanks.

The hyperloop looks amazing, but my heart rate went up reading that document, and it wasn't out of excitement

dudus 1 day ago 3 replies      
In Brazil the building of a new high speed train between So Paulo and Rio was just delayed for the third for for lack of interested companies to build the system. The estimated cost is at US$ 17B.

There are not earthquakes in Brazil and the length should be around 500km. It seems like a better candidate than SF-LA.

just saying,

evan_ 1 day ago 1 reply      
I thought Musk said it wasn't an evacuated tube. Does it not count because it's very low air pressure and not a completely hard vacuum?
ehsanu1 1 day ago 0 replies      
Some interesting tidbits:

    The total trip time is approximately half an hour, with capsules     departing as often as every 30 seconds from each terminal and carrying 28    people each. This gives a total of 7.4 million people each way that can be     transported each year on Hyperloop. The total cost of Hyperloop in this     analysis is under $6 billion USD. Amortizing this capital cost over 20 years and     adding daily operational costs gives a total of about $20 USD (in current year     dollars) plus operating costs per one-way ticket on the passenger Hyperloop.    For aerodynamic efficiency, the velocity of a capsule in the Hyperloop is     - typically: 300 mph (480 kph) where local geography necessitates a tube bend radii       < 1.0 mile (1.6 km)    - 760 mph (1,220 kph) where local geography allows a tube bend > 3.0    miles (4.8 km) or where local geography permits a straight tube.

Lewton 1 day ago 3 replies      
Holy hell

A 57 page document

I expected mostly fluff.

asmithmd1 1 day ago 1 reply      
I see just a little bit of hand-waving with how to deal with the 300 psi and 1000 degree F air.

He says they will cool it with on-board water and storing the steam (I don't see a pressure here)in the vehicle. Given the tight space, will any kind of thermal insulation breakthrough be needed?

shirro 23 hours ago 2 replies      
Australia needs to build this between Sydney and Melbourne. Plenty of sunlight to power it. Not much risk of earthquakes.

There is enough traffic to support it.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World's_busiest_passenger_air_r...

delsarto 1 day ago 6 replies      
No toilet, and no way to get off, or even really stand up? I know some personal jets lack such facilities, but they're not exactly open to the public. At least on BART you can move away from the crazy...
robomartin 1 day ago 6 replies      
None of this is to say that Hyperloop is a bad idea. The idea sounds very interesting and I'd rather spend sixty billion building a Hyperloop --even if it fails-- than the ridiculous California high speed rail project.

Cost is probably off by an order of magnitude, if not more. Why? Unions and other groups. Building anything in this country costs massively more (and takes significantly longer) than one could imagine because of our unions are not business symbiotic. The goal of union leadership is to extract as much as they can out of the businesses they infect, even if this means their demise.

A lot of the unions that would be part of such a project have some of the laziest and most problematic people working for them. If you come from the Silicon Valley tech world my words make no sense to you. In fact, you might think I am nuts. All I have to say is: Do a good size trade show exhibit at a few of the unionized convention centers in the US and then see what you think about US unions. Then repeat that experience at various locations in Europe and Japan and see the difference. I have done just that. US labor unions are destroying our country from the inside out.

How many significant new civil engineering projects in the US can you name over the last, say, fifty years. Right.

Hyperloop cost would be way more than this paper seems to predict.

The political factor is grossly underestimated. Our reality is that we live at a time of political deadlock. Nobody can or wants to make a decision and the decisions we do make tend to be suboptimal, sometimes grotesquely so: example, California high speed rail.

Finally, it addresses the wrong market. I am not sure why people insist on applying trains to transporting people in the US. Sorry to resort to reality folks: If you build it they will NOT come. We do not have that culture and you will not inspire it simply by building trains. You'd have to forcefully push people in that direction through legislation that would make it too expensive to not use rail. In other words you'd have to declare war against other methods of transportation through punitive actions.

The right place for high speed rail in the US is cargo, not passenger rail. If we could evolve our cargo rail systems to move at 300 km/hr rather than 50 the consequences would provide economic benefits and development beyond a century.

The final point is related to politics. We have a decision making system that allows anyone to vote. And, while this is commendable, it does create horrible problems. Imagine allowing a random group of, say, ten people deciding whether or not your child should have surgery. I'd be surprised if anyone thought this to be a good idea. No, most people would rather have a group of experts in the field, more than likely MD's in this case, vote for such a decision. The ridiculous California high speed rail project is a result of hordes of low-information, mathematically challenged, technologically ignorant and financially ignorant voters being led by the nose by unions, media and political forces.

How do you move forward when people like that can vote on these issues and their vote has equal value to that of an expert in the relevant fields: a PhD in Physics, an engineer, a financial expert, etc.

Regrettably this is not a technological problem. It is far more complex than that.

ChuckMcM 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm really curious about turns and switches. The latter more about loading and unloading. If you have a platform to carry 300 people / hr to or from the other city how do you load them and keep them organized.

The failure scenarios are interesting too. Lets say a tube breaks, if the linear motors are spaced out, how do they brake? Turn off the air lift? Does that then destroy the tube they are in? What is the emergency exit like?

dmfdmf 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Best comment on reddit so far "this is a pipe dream"

* I don't think the Hyperloop is viable and I hope they kill the $100B High Speed Rail (HSR) project before it ruins the SF Peninsula and budgets across the state.

* Setting aside the $100B HSR cost (yes, I know current estimates are $70B but it was sold at $10B and will easily exceed $100B if/when completed) the operating costs will have to be subsidized for every minute of its existence just like every other govt boondoggle. This is a white elephant and, in case you weren't paying attention, California and most cites are or soon will be bankrupt. We can't afford this, cut our losses now.

* If I was made Bay Area/CA public transportation csar (with suitable budget and dictatorial powers) my first step would be to extend BART through San Jose so it actually loops the bay and (finally) complete BART. (I am old enough to recall that that was the original design)

* I do think a high speed rail connection SF/LA is economically viable but would need to do research and crunch numbers while finishing BART. I would move the SJC airport south (with a BART extension) to Morgan Hill/South San Jose and build the connection from there to LA.

* From SJ to LA I would confiscate I5, leave two lanes for truckers and local traffic but build a high speed (300MPH) car/ferry train system so you could be blasted to LA in a little over an hour and have your car there when you arrive. Home by dinner.

* I would build a nuclear plant somewhere halfway between LA and SF on I5 so my trains would not have to use diesel fuel (too smoggy) or solar (too expensive).

Nothing here is any less fanciful than Musk's musings and far, far more practical.

yid 1 day ago 2 replies      
> Risk of derailment is also not to be taken lightly, as demonstrated by several recent fatal train accidents.

Interesting. No comment on the potential outcome of a passenger-filled capsule being ejected from a burst tube on high pylons at 350mph.

sethbannon 1 day ago 10 replies      
It's very interesting that this is a SpaceX project. Why not Tesla, or another company entirely?
bobzimuta 1 day ago 2 replies      
Cache needs busting http://www.spacex.com/hyperloop?a=b

nm, they fixed it

mesozoic 1 day ago 0 replies      
I like how the head of the project called him to make sure he knows it's not the absolute slowest or most expensive per mile only nearly so.
yk 1 day ago 1 reply      
I have somewhere read, that large cities are usually the size one can travel in under an hour. So this could have quite interesting effects in effectively joining LA and SF.
platz 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Btw, this is not the very latest version. Will post an updated version with several late arriving corrections in a few hours." https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/367028946426019840
prawn 23 hours ago 0 replies      
"... each passenger will have access their own personal entertainment system."

Only a small point. Other than to display ghastly advertising, why not a dumb monitor that interfaces with your phone/tablet? It's not like you're going to be able to watch a movie. And if we're seven years into the future on this, I'll be wearing my Oculus Rift 4.0 anyway.

Maybe I'm just too disillusioned by the systems used in aircrafts with their awful interfaces, lag, etc.

QuantumGood 1 day ago 2 replies      
Most fascinating likely medium-term event: The hyperloop will be built outside the US, most likely in China, after changes and development that help China claim it as primarily Chinese in design.
dictum 1 day ago 7 replies      
I'm impressed, but I'm afraid Hyperloop's operation is modeled after airplanes, while the actual use of the system would be closer to a city bus.

>All capsules would have direct radio contact with station operators in case of emergencies, allowing passengers to report any incident, to request help andto receive assistance. In addition, all capsules would be fitted with first aid equipment

>Typical times between an emergency and access to a physician should be shorter than if an incident happened during airplane takeoff. In the case of the airplane, the route would need to be adjusted, other planes rerouted, runways cleared, airplane landed, taxi to a gate, and doors opened. An emergency in a Hyperloop capsule simply requires the system to complete the planned journey and meet emergency personnel at the destination.

What happens if a brawl erupts inside a capsule? What happens if a suicide bomber boards the Hyperloop?

featherless 1 day ago 4 replies      
Thought this was amazing: $20 for a one-way, 35 minute trip from SF to LA.
hristov 1 day ago 1 reply      
Sorry, but I do not believe this will be cheaper than conventional rail. This is essentially a vacuum tunnel. Ok it is not a perfect vacuum but it is still supposed to keep 1/1000th of the earth's pressure.* Keeping such a vacuum over several hundred miles of metal tubing would be very very expensive.

This may work but it will be several times more expensive than the HSR system.

* Oh and by the way, it is completely misleading and annoying for musk to refer to this as merely 1/6th of Mars's pressure. That would be a really relevant statistic if he was building his thing on mars.

matthewcford 1 day ago 0 replies      
I love the fact that Musk is publishing this publicly preemptively blocking future patent claims on the basis of prior art.
alan_cx 16 hours ago 2 replies      
So, a sealed tube from A to Z, passing B through Y. No benefit to B through Y at all. So why do B through Y allow the tube to pass through?

When railways happened, B through Y believed they would see economic benefit, and often did. They got a station. Not so here, correct?

There for, wouldn't this need a government to force it through? How would that happen in the USA?

To me this is where the idea runs in to the buffers, as it were.

anigbrowl 1 day ago 0 replies      
The total cost of the Hyperloop passenger transportation system as outlined is less than $6 billion USD (Table 8). The passenger plus vehicle version of Hyperloop is including both passenger and cargo capsules and the total cost is outlined as $7.5 billion USD (Table 9).

Love the idea but the cost projections here seem extremely optimistic.

adriano_f 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I just posted a link to the Hyperloop spec, written as a "tree document"... Makes it easier to quickly absorb the main points.


Osmium 1 day ago 1 reply      
Note that the UK's new high speed rail (HS2) is budgeted at 33bn ($51bn) and likely to exceed that[0]. Being mostly straight, and across land already approved for rail use, it seems like an ideal candidate for a hyperloop alternative.

At 120 miles long[1] compared to the SF<->LA ~350 miles, a UK hyperloop would be even cheaper, especially since the major cost is the tube itself. A back of the envelope calculation[2] gives a cost of about 1.9bn ($2.9bn) which is suspiciously, almost absurdly, cheap.

If anyone can find any flaws in this argument (specifically related to e.g. UK-specific issues/laws that I may be unaware of) I'd be very interested to hear them!

[0] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/revealed-hs2s...[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HS2[2] using average cost values from the pdf, not accounting for differences in pylon height/amount of tunnel required etc.

rdl 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wow. I was expecting it to be something like the UW Ram Accelerator (RAMAC), but he put a fan in front. I was thinking it would have natural gas/detonation for propulsion, using the ram jet principle, and continuous acceleration, but I guess that rapidly gets you to totally absurd speeds (10km/sec+) and wouldn't really be viable, plus humans aren't so into 10G+ acceleration even when mounted laterally.

I would totally ride this. I hope there's a way for California to build it, and more importantly, I hope we can fix our government somehow to allow projects like this to actually happen in multiple fields.

SuperChihuahua 1 day ago 1 reply      
From the conference call: "I'm tempted to at least make a demonstration prototype, but I think I would have to punt it for a little bit of time, it wouldn't be immediate."

Source: http://live.theverge.com/live-hyperloop-announcement-elon-mu...

_random_ 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think his vision is based on Futurama: electric cars -> spaceships -> elevated transportation tubes -> hover cars -> robots. I bet if the government still goes with the traditional rail plan, then Elon will build "his own hyperloop", adding "blackjack..." and other stuff.
Geee 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm pretty sure the first Hyperloop will be built in China.
thatoneguy 1 day ago 2 replies      
From my skimming of the PDF, it sounds like a pneumatic tube transportation system with a compressor fan on the front of the vehicle that moves high-pressure air from the front to the back maintaining a low-pressure state around the vehicle. Kind of like an Earth-bound Alcubierre drive.
richcollins 1 day ago 1 reply      
Feedback is welcomed on these or any useful aspects of the Hyperloop design. E-mail feedback to hyperloop@spacex.com or hyperloop@teslamotors.com



scott_karana 1 day ago 0 replies      
Interesting that Charles Alexander's writeup was said by Musk to be the most similar, when the ideas were fairly dissimilar by the end.[1]


tankbot 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Just finished reading the pdf and now I understand why this is by far the most popular HN post for a long time (ever?). I now post my feeble comment to be lost in a sea of enamored nerd buzz.

Fucking awesome, Elon.

chrismealy 1 day ago 2 replies      
So, it's a two-lane highway where the cars are 5 miles apart? How many people will be able to use this thing?
Gravityloss 1 day ago 0 replies      
The pressure difference is higher than in a passenger jet. The pressure vessel must be a tubular structure with small well sealed doors. None of this prism with whole fuselage gull wing door stuff.
laxatives 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm curious how well this thing can "maintain distance between the capsule and tube walls". It seems like this is a much tougher problem than simply levitating the whole thing off the ground where the forces are relatively stationary. It also doesn't look like any of the artist renderings address this, and only consider the airflow lifting the thing off the ground.
jessriedel 1 day ago 1 reply      
OK, so he says it's much cheaper than high-speed rail mostly because pylons require taking much less land through eminent domain. Can anyone explain to me then why high speed rail can't be built on pylons?
chmars 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Could it be that Musk got some of his inspiration from the (stalled) Swissmetro project in Switzerland?


Same idea, different technology. Anyway, implementation is important, not the idea itself.

jcromartie 1 day ago 1 reply      
Does anybody else wonder how easily the rotor will slot into the stator at 700 MPH? It looks like pretty small tolerances. Maybe guide rails leading up to it?
dllthomas 1 day ago 3 replies      
... could CHSRA just build this? I understand they're in the planning stages, and I don't think it'd be absurd to say "this is a train, just better and cheaper".

Edited to add: My question was primarily legal - if someone were to step up and demonstrate this was feasible could it possibly make a difference?

kamjam 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Did anybody ever see Discovery Channel's Extreme Engineering episode about a possible high speed train from London, UK to NYC, USA?



This reminds me a lot of that, but without the vacuum tunnel... there was a proposal in 1960's apparently... so no so new after all.


uptown 1 day ago 1 reply      
Really interesting proposal. How do you maintain the tube when something needs repair? You need to shut the whole system down, don't you?
swalsh 1 day ago 0 replies      
From a telecommunications stand point, we were just starting to get handovers to work on high speed rail, now we have to get it to work on super sonic transport? come on now :D
nell 11 hours ago 0 replies      
What is the feasibility to construct one within a metropolitan area, like Greater Boston, Bay area etc. Example: One between South bay and SF in the Bay area?
bsherrill 12 hours ago 1 reply      
I like the idea of transporting cars with passengers or just cars/SUVs. That would be ideal. Travel from point a to point b like a ferry. Or extension of our current super highway network. Use your personal transport machine after arrival. In most of the USA when traveling outside the dense urban areas driving a automobile is the preferred form of transportation. It would make the world a smaller place much like how cars and paved roads did 100 years ago. If we could hyper transport our vehicles at large chunks of distances say 300+ mile integers. I could only imagine this future.

Freight shipping would greatly benefit. Build a freight tube only across the US mainland. Amazon Prime? Same day delivery.

damian2000 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Originally I thought it was going to be inside a transparent tube that you could see out of - one of the only downsides to this is that you are inside a steel tube with no view. Technically not important, but may be important for some passengers.
varworld 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Btw, this is not the very latest version. Will post an updated version with several late arriving corrections in a few hours."https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/367028946426019840
JulianMorrison 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Something interesting my friend said: this would make an awfully good roller coaster.

Could that be a path to getting it prototyped, profitably?

verbin217 1 day ago 1 reply      
Seems like this would be particularly vulnerable to terrorist attacks. There is a huge surface area that needs to be protected (tubes/pylons). If there are pods leaving every thirty seconds and traveling at supersonic speeds then taking out one pylon could kill several hundred people and leave the entire train inoperable. In a future where this design was used extensively to connect cities on the coasts it would quickly become a critical piece of transportation infrastructure. Attacking several arcs of the city graph simultaneously would be utterly debilitating. Especially if the system's relative efficiency leads to the displacement of other forms of transportation.
Ricapar 1 day ago 1 reply      
So one question that hasn't really been mentioned yet... What happens in the event of a fire?

Do you just keep going? Stop the Fire suppression systems?

Given any worst-case scenario.. how do you escape from the tunnel?

liuh 20 hours ago 0 replies      
James Bond used Hyperloop prototype, a modified pig, in "Living Daylights" back in 1987. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AzJ5_8Cqdchttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigging
ajiang 1 day ago 1 reply      
So who wants to start a company? I'll uh...come up with the business plan.

Seriously though, this would be an incredible project to work on. I wonder, outside of Elon Musk, who would take on the challenge?

j2d3 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Why not go ahead and build the Hyperloop, and when CA HSR gets around to actually building the links into downtown LA and SF, design them to connect up to the Hyperloop, which will surely be complete and running by the time HSR is projected to be available. The Hyperloop can even share some rights of way with HSR. Why not have both?

Hyperloop should be an AND proposition to HSR, not an either/or.

ars 1 day ago 2 replies      
"by placing solar panels on top of the tube, the Hyperloop can generate far in excess of the energy needed to operate."

He seems to be planning to build this over farmland? Because farmers aren't going to be happy about someone blocking their light.

Light is the limiting factor in plant growth.

If he's going to block the light to farms he'll have to pay them for the lost crops, and then he might as well just buy the land.

tocomment 7 hours ago 0 replies      
A thought I just had, could a hyperloop like technology be used to launch ships into orbit? Why or why not?
GigabyteCoin 1 day ago 1 reply      
I thought it was just a few days ago that elon musk said that he "wished he had never mentioned the hyperloop as he doesn't have enough time to work on it" [sic].

When I heard the news about this announcement on the radio today, I thought that my local news station was just a week behind the times as usual. Apparently they were not?

guelo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Let the tech workers test it out on their SF-Silicon Valley commutes first. Maybe Elon's musk will help convince all the millionaire tech NIMBYs that own the peninsula.
mrbill 1 day ago 0 replies      
Made me think of a scifi book I read recently where terrorists attacked the hyper-speed rail system by leaving a bowling ball on the "tracks"...
bitteralmond 1 day ago 0 replies      
Aside from the whole "will they actually build it" debate, I'm worried that if they do, the capsule ceiling won't be high enough for someone fairly tall (let's say 6'5'' or taller) to sit in comfortably. I'd assume the height of the capsule will have some effect on the drag involved, as well as the necessary size of the tube, so it makes sense to make it as short as possible.

Musk himself stands just below 6', so he may not naturally think of us taller folk. I'd hate to have to slouch for the trip, even if it is only projected to be 35 minutes.

edit: dear tall people who have ridden in one of Tesla's cars: how's the headroom in a Model S?

hoffcoder 13 hours ago 0 replies      
"In addition, safety emergency exits and pressurization will be added in key locations.."How could anyone predict what 'key' locations an emergency is going to happen at?And how would eviction happen, given the tube's low pressure?
Symmetry 1 day ago 0 replies      
After reading about the benefits of putting the track on pylons I was strongly reminded of monorails.
lsllc 1 day ago 0 replies      
So ... it's a series of tubes?
lnanek2 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's nice that it doesn't have drivers. As someone who visits the SF area a lot, the BART drivers strike way too much and have to be replaced by automated trains. So this is a nice step forward.
niels_olson 1 day ago 0 replies      
My dad has worked on at least one proposal for linear rail in California in the past. Emailed him the whitepaper for comments. Delivery not guaranteed :)
greedo 1 day ago 1 reply      
Although Musk has said this idea stems from his frustrations in traveling through California, I wonder if he's contemplating something similar for transportation on Mars?
27182818284 1 day ago 1 reply      
I honestly expected better work. I feel like this is something everyday users on Reddit or HN could have put together in a report. I only gave it a look because Elon Musk's name is on it. That says something sad about me when it comes to the Big Imagination projects :-/
untog 1 day ago 3 replies      
A "coming soon" page is at the top of HN?
mercurial 1 day ago 1 reply      
I was thinking that a well-timed explosive charge on a support pylon would make for a nice mess, but I suppose it's not any easier to secure a conventional railway.
jared314 1 day ago 2 replies      
> Hyperloop is considered an open source transportation concept.

I'm glad they didn't just let the idea die on a drawing board somewhere because of a lack of time/money. Now, someone has to just develop it faster than someone else can legislate against it.

jessaustin 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think it's interesting to devote so much space in the introduction to hypothetical supersonic air travel. Might this be what Musk actually intends to do next?
StandardFuture 1 day ago 2 replies      
God damn it, Elon! It looks amazing but the logistics are just not adding up! 2-minute departure time scales? Good luck getting the future Hyperloop TSA to do that.

But, the numbers don't quite crunch for this to be a legitimate business (unless we are talking no returns for 25 years charging customers an average of 1500-3000 dollars per ride .. but the demand is not there for those prices).

Idea is awesome .. yes! Viable ... yes, yes!! A business ... idk. :(

bostonvaulter2 1 day ago 0 replies      
How long would it take to get from San Fran to LA?

Edit: nevermind, it is about 30 minutes

capkutay 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wonder if that $70 billion price tag is partly tied to the "I created x many jobs in my time as a politician" rhetoric. I'm just assuming high cost means a higher number of people being paid.
MarcScott 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's there now. No longer a holding page
abdullahkhalids 1 day ago 1 reply      
Just remember people, the real future of travel is SpaceX, not Hyperloop.

The final frontier is space, not San Fransisco.

(I am wide eyed and crazy about the Hyperloop)

praguebakerr 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I think you should improve rail network in overall than work on this crazy idea. Anyway good luck.
dllthomas 1 day ago 0 replies      
If Musk really wants to give this a push, how about a patent grant on Tesla battery patents used for this purpose?
mwein 1 day ago 0 replies      
macinjosh 1 day ago 3 replies      
For all of you whose panties get wet at the sound of Elon Musk's name Hyperloop is essentially just Arotrain in a tube:


This guy isn't really a genius, he's just rich.

MaysonL 1 day ago 0 replies      
Ah a turboprop tubular-ground-effect vehicle.
Thiz 1 day ago 2 replies      
Pretty but absurd.

With all that money I rather give a Cessna to 1M people so they can fly anywhere without restriction.

Or make special small airports for direct flight between cities. Much less infrastructure.

Kudos to Elon, I love they guy and his incredibly visionary mind.

dmitrygr 1 day ago 1 reply      
How about some physics about this? Here is some...


DonGateley 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great KickStarter project! I'm only half kidding. Public source, why not crowd funding?
karmicthreat 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would dedicate 6-10 years getting something like this off the ground. Unfortunately I don't think anyone without the political and financial connections could pull this off. Musk could probably do it because of Musk Mania. But few others.
bsherrill 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Why not build a tube around the span of earth? A joint world project.
webbedhands 18 hours ago 0 replies      
It might not be built in real life, but somebody should at least build it in a mod for GTA5.
smegel 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is that a jet turbine in the nostril?
krallja 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Segway. New Coke. Google Wave. Musk's Hyperloop. Today is histrionic.
ehsanu1 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think you're not seeing the latest updates. Here's a direct link to the pdf: http://www.spacex.com/sites/spacex/files/hyperloop_alpha-201...
wavesounds 1 day ago 0 replies      
Jerry Brown: Build this tube!
huntleydavis 1 day ago 0 replies      
So who's starting the Kickstarter campaign?
huntleydavis 1 day ago 0 replies      
To put the the 7 billion cost in perspective...that's approximately the cost to build the new segment of the Bay Bridge.
amitdugar 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is such a cool concept. I was so hoping he would build this.
presty 1 day ago 0 replies      
first thing that popped in my mind when I heard about the hyperloop was hank rearden
bttf 1 day ago 0 replies      
One of the few times I've read the word 'pylon' without being concerned with some video game.
SriniK 1 day ago 0 replies      
My travel nirvana: Supersonic air + Hyperloop + Self Driving Car.
lem72 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have never been more excited for a coming soon page.
designpete 19 hours ago 0 replies      
One part that's not getting nearly enough press: you can bring your car with you!

This is the key that will drive massive adoption. Wrote about this here:

"Hyperloop = Warp Speed for Your Car"https://medium.com/hello-hyperloop/82cb2069112f

gnu_fan2 1 day ago 2 replies      
i would say that it is marketing if the guy did not own SpaceX. Still I am skeptical. Every child can draw neat pictures and speak about vacuum.
polarix 1 day ago 0 replies      
rbhatia 1 day ago 0 replies      
its up now
oakaz 1 day ago 0 replies      
Does the government give it a fuck?
wehadfun 1 day ago 3 replies      
Appreciate Elon Musk for this idea. But do you really want a bus sized hunk of w(ever)tf this is made out of zipping by you at 700mph?
Lavabit abruptly shuts down lavabit.com
1744 points by cstuder  5 days ago   639 comments top 91
lmkg 5 days ago 10 replies      
For the unfamiliar: Lavabit was a webmail service, that (claimed to) encrypt emails in such a way that they literally did not have access to the content stored on their own servers. The linked email would lend some credence to those claims. It was originally designed in contrast to gmail scanning your email for targeted advertising, but my imperfect memory says that their system should also have been resilient to "we have a warrant, hand over the data."
RyanZAG 5 days ago 6 replies      
I'm in the process of moving any Saas offerings I use off USA-affiliated companies, but it's actually more difficult than I first thought. I believe there might even be a very profitable market in simply duplicating the functionality of Saas offerings at a higher price with security/privacy guarantees in Germany/HK/etc. Might be the next hot business to be in? You'd be surprised as to the number of people seeking alternatives at this point.

EDIT: Relevant XKCD for people calling for technical solutions to the problem: http://xkcd.com/538/

grey-area 5 days ago 1 reply      
So he pretty much does say why he's shutting down, the US gov. has demanded access and he said no. Kudos for standing up for his users, and he does raise an interesting point at the end:

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

The worst thing about this situation is that other governments like the UK, France and Germany are equally guilty.

For history on lavabit, see the cache, this page is now gone:


guelo 5 days ago 4 replies      
The US government is destroying one of the few bright spots in the American economy with its out of control military. It is unconscionable. And the sad thing is it has been enabled by the betrayal by many of the web 2.0 giants, Facebook, Google etc. Google especially is sad to see since they were willing to forgo the Chinese market on principle, but then decided that taking on the authoritarian US government was too lucrative for principle to be involved. If Google had done what Lavabit just did we would be living in a freer country today.
modeless 5 days ago 4 replies      
Please donate to their defense fund. It's not often you get a chance to directly support a cause like this. The link is at the bottom of http://lavabit.com/, but I'll repost it here: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_b...
raganwald 5 days ago 6 replies      
I like the part where he can't tell you why he's shutting down. As if we won't engage in rampant irresponsible speculation that they have told him to decrypt and forward everything to them in real time.
dkulchenko 5 days ago 8 replies      
This is infuriating, and the worst part is that a clear solution isn't in sight.

Sure, we can fight this in the courts, and a few secret programs might get shut down, but operations will just continue under a different name. We can encrypt our data, move our services and data offshore, but that just paints a big target on our heads - doesn't actually address the fundamental issue. This is supposed to be a democracy, but I don't see any democratic way of addressing this.

What do we do?

ferdo 5 days ago 2 replies      

> "This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States."

It's kind of fitting. The nation that spawned the internet is the nation that's killing the internet biz on its own turf.

dmix 5 days ago 1 reply      
From 2011:

> Lavabit processes 70 gigabytes of data per day, is made up of 26 servers, hosts 260,000 email addresses, and processes 600,000 emails a day. Thats a lot of email.


Update: According to their stats page, they had 410k email accounts hosted before shutdown https://twitter.com/georgemaschke/status/365553445538775040

rsync 5 days ago 4 replies      
Time to donate to the EFF. They haven't been branded as a terrorist charity yet, AFAIK...
sage_joch 5 days ago 1 reply      
If Congress has passed laws abridging the freedom of speech, then those laws are illegitimate. Unfortunately, it feels as if speaking favorably of the Constitution is enough to get put on a watch list anymore.
joelrunyon 5 days ago 7 replies      
> I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know whats going on--the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this.

Anyone know what happens if he just says "F it" and writes a massive blog post on what exactly happened or what exactly they said to him?

raganwald 5 days ago 0 replies      
Seems like a good time to hunt through the wayback machine:


kefs 5 days ago 7 replies      
Seems like it would make sense for users to demand that any US based service includes a warrant canary, just like rsync.net's implementation. A global canary + separate canaries for individual accounts would also make sense.



koenigdavidmj 5 days ago 1 reply      
"I can't tell you the reason" is a rather blatant way of saying "National Security Letter".
unethical_ban 5 days ago 2 replies      
I watched Casablanca the other night.


I thought about how the Gestapo had Lazlow in their midst, at the same TABLE as them, and yet didn't do anything immediately other than deny him further travel. Of course, it's a movie, but it was an interesting thought. Nowadays, if Snowden were known to be hiding in a foreigner's Moroccan cafe, we'ds drone half the building.

Also, I noticed the pride and the wonder that America inspired in the workers and patrons of Rick's. It was a symbol of freedom and opportunity. I wonder how many people see it that way now.

lawl 5 days ago 4 replies      
I really would want to donate to them. But you know I kind of feel weary now connecting my PayPal Account with them. I hope some kind of organisation is standing up for them. Like EFF or something. Not because I don't trust them. But because I don't trust the NSA. They might flag me as a terrorist or something. Then again I'm probably already on this list for having some technical involvment with something the US gov doesn't like.

I guess it purely a coincedence that Snowden used a lavabit address the last few weeks. I guess there is no relation at all.

nsxwolf 5 days ago 0 replies      
If there's any upside to this news at all, it's a confirmation that encryption in general does frustrate the NSA's mission to some extent.
tehwalrus 5 days ago 0 replies      
I had just signed up for 2 years pro service, and had been wondering why thunderbird couldn't log in all day (and I've been waiting to send an email all day!)

I also recently had a chat with their support about this (before purchasing,) and they told me something like "don't worry, we're not big enough to get hit by this stuff, and if we are we'll tell them where to shove it!" -- it looks like they were telling the truth.

alan_cx 5 days ago 2 replies      
So, secret court case, started by a secret spy service gets an email service shut down. We know next to nothing, except the service went down, with out an open honest explanation. The owner is left with leaving a cryptic-ish message to their users.

So, I ask again: at what point is it reasonable to use words like fascist, police state, etc? What is a reasonable tipping point?

jka 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've posted this link on HN before, but it's potentially relevant - we might find out more, but it sounds like this might be the result of a National Security Letter preventing Ladar from talking about the reason behind the shutdown.

I would suspect he has tried to protect his users from a request for information (NSLs are allegedly limited to metadata), but would prefer to discontinue the service than take the other possible legal action (silently disclosing information). Perhaps it is possible he will/has been forced to disclose information anyway.

This link is a video featuring Nicholas Merrill who (if this is in fact NSL-related) went through a similar situation with his ISP Calyx, and gave as much information as legally possible about the frustrating process as a talk at the yearly Chaos Communication Congress in 2010.


DASD 5 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting thread from Email Discussions:


If you're a SAAS provider, be aware if you need to shutdown that many users are not prepared for this. Several posters in the linked thread rely on a recover password feature sent to e-mail for access to other accounts. Not a prudent practice but this is common for many.

bgentry 5 days ago 4 replies      
How long until PayPal suspends their legal defense fund?

On a serious note, if you want to donate to their defense fund, consider doing so anonymously. Pay cash for an Amex or Visa gift card, and use that to make your donation.

EthanHeilman 5 days ago 0 replies      
The line "A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company." seems to suggest that he may be working to create lavabit outside the borders of "Mordor".Can he reopen it as a foreign business?
junto 5 days ago 0 replies      
They should open source the whole thing. We can bring it to Germany. I believe we are legally allowed to tell the NSA to GFYS.

Any people who have businesses in the US need to take a serious look at the risk now posed by their own government on the success of their business.

One rogue customer and business could go down the toilet, or you'll be forced to bend your morals to suit a rogue secret fiefdom.

Karunamon 5 days ago 6 replies      
Are there any countries, anywhere, where a person can store data outside the reach of the US government's illegal overreach?

Any countries friendly to the US are right out. They can tap the lines, but there are ways around that.

I just want to be able to park data where some twit with a piece of paper that says "NSA" on it can't get it retrieved or deleted. Any suggestions?

vermontdevil 4 days ago 0 replies      
Lavabit needs to contact their congress representative and raise stink. Explain to the representative that jobs and money is at stake. And explain to the local community how there will be jobs lost due to this behavior.

We need to start getting on both local communities and their representatives to emphasize the long term dangers of NSA's actions towards tax revenues, jobs, etc.

In other words speak their language and make them understand that inaction is not an option.

And yeah spare me the comments about how all Congress representatives are owned by corporations etc. It is still possible to get your representative to pay attention as they still need votes for the next election every two years.

spoiledtechie 5 days ago 1 reply      
When the FUCK did we become a nation that starts shutting things down that don't comply with the government?

What really have we come to?

Reminds me of Nazis Germany, except replace communist and socialist with Free Thinkers, The Innovators.

First they came for the communists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,and there was no one left to speak for me.

joyeuse6701 5 days ago 2 replies      
You know, all these counter measures we come up with are just 'patches' to a set of bugs in our society. We need to rewrite the damn thing. This will just become a cat and mouse game against our own gov't and indirect defensive movements are meaningless without some sort of offensive to change policy. This is becoming a full blown arms race over people's private information. The funding, the computational power, the human capital used to create these things... if the gov't can't or won't listen to the people's will and the situation is bad enough, then something will rise to replace the broken system. Someone's got to spearhead a defense of the individual.
u2328 5 days ago 0 replies      
Any other Obama supporters out there so utterly disappointed in this administration? Call me naive, but good god this is depressing. Seems like the country at large is so much more willing to let this stuff slide because it's not Bush/Cheney doing it.

Congrats Democrats. Your complicity here has pretty much converted me to a third-party voter.

scoofy 5 days ago 2 replies      
How in the hell are national security letters constitutional? It's mindboggling to me that they haven't reached the Supreme Court. I don't mean to sound like a hippie or patriotic douche, but it seem rather tyrannical that you aren't even allowed to talk about something that happened to you.
tenpoundhammer 5 days ago 2 replies      
Sounds like any country willing to guarantee a snoop free environment could have a lot of servers hosted there. I'm thinking the Caymen islands of data. Set up a shell company and a shell server in the Caymens to protect your money and your customers.
Glyptodon 5 days ago 2 replies      
I've had a lavabit email as one of my main emails for years (close to when they first started) and this is a major inconvenience. I'm not sure I'll be able to change the email address associated with a lot of my various accounts now that they're offline.
mathattack 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is a real shame. 10 years of work gone, and they have to ask for help for the legal bills.
uptown 5 days ago 1 reply      
So we've hear stories of the big companies being targeted. Now a smaller company has been included. How small will this go for monitoring?

Should we assume that any browser plugins are potential trojan horses for desktop targeting?

samstave 5 days ago 0 replies      
So this is the reality. 100% proven that there is utterly NO privacy nor any "legal" defense against the spying of the NSA.

America has NO 4th amendment rights and encryption is now a criminal activity.

afarrell 4 days ago 1 reply      
Wired says "Court records show that, in June, Lavabit complied with a routine search warrant targeting a child pornography suspect in a federal case in Maryland. That suggests that Levison isnt a privacy absolutist."

Can anyone find me a primary source on this document? It is fromhttp://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/08/lavabit-snowden/

tareqak 5 days ago 2 replies      
Some questions given the reasons why they had to shutdown:

1. Can Lavabit now set up shop overseas (with a different TLD)?

2. If not 1, can Lavabit license their software infrastructure in such a way such that someone overseas can set up shop for them?

3. If not 2, can Lavabit open source their software such that someone anywhere else in world can start their own Lavabit?

The point that I am trying to get across is that if Lavabit has been forced to shutdown through no wrongdoing of their own by the US government, a case can be made that certain American government actions are making American companies uncompetitive/non-viable in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

TL;DR jobs are leaving the United States.

MarcScott 5 days ago 1 reply      
Can you imagine if this had been the response from Google, Microsoft and Yahoo when the FISA court demanded they hand over data? I commend Ladar Levison.
acuozzo 5 days ago 2 replies      
I only used webmail on Lavabit; not IMAP.

All of my e-mail is gone.

I was a paying user. WTF.

Kelet 5 days ago 5 replies      
Crap, I had just recently migrated all of my accounts to my new Lavabit address, paid for a year of service, etc.

Although I've seen some mentioned, what recommendations does HN have for a new e-mail service? Preferably something stable and also respecting of a user's privacy. Or perhaps you can only have 1 of the aforementioned attributes.

plainOldText 5 days ago 0 replies      
I know I've said this before in one of the other threads, but I believe donating to their Legal Defense Fund is a sensible thing to do if you care about your rights. Link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_b....
throwaway420 4 days ago 0 replies      
Lavabit's UI was a bit imperfect, but their death is a horrible loss to people who were using it and looking to defend their privacy. Additionally, the fact that this guy running the service was clearly threatened with some kind of national security letter that clamped down on his freedom of speech is rage inducing.

There's a lot of ridiculously smart folks on here who are making good money working on advertising, social networking, and other typical web 2.0 startups and companies. There's nothing wrong with these things, they are certainly enriching peoples' lives and create value.

But if what is going on in the world isn't a clarion call for a lot of these smart people to look into startups, networks, services, software, open source projects, etc that try to defend peoples' privacy I don't know what is.

I urge everybody to look at your notes, ideas, forgotten projects, and see what you can come up with to provide services and ideas and concepts that will work to defend people's security and privacy from government entities that have gone drunk with power.

Not only is this vital to everybody's liberty, but there is a ridiculously huge business opportunity here for services and software that can provide some measure of defense for people.

If we don't stop what is going on soon there will not long be a market for a lot of cloud based services that people are going to want to use.

rexreed 5 days ago 0 replies      
This may have something to do with it: http://bbs.boingboing.net/t/so-apparently-edward-snowden-use...

And he references his troubles over the past six weeks, which would be pretty much perfect timing with this.

dgregd 5 days ago 1 reply      
Is this really the end of freedom in the US? Does your constitution means nothing nowadays?

Almost everybody here talks to move email elsewhere, etc. There are no positive comments.

Does this mean that the US government has won and can do anything they want?

Theory5 5 days ago 0 replies      
Well, that's it. I am now going to move everything onto my own infrastructure. I signed up for lavabit a while back, and I like them as a secondary email service; and now they just shut down!
joncfoo 5 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a way to verify that the service has been shut down for the reasons stated/(not-stated)? I want to call my political representatives and let them know that these secret court filings that prevent people from speaking about their case hurts businesses & individuals alike. Before I do that though I'd like be sure that the reason Lavabit shut down is due to the government's interference. Is there any way of finding out?

Also, can someone recommend a trusted alternative?

revelation 5 days ago 0 replies      
The health page is still up:


ics 5 days ago 0 replies      
I just signed up three days ago, and was exchanging mail with one of their reps about opening a couple more accounts with them. I went to log in last night and noticed that the service was down, which I thought was a little odd (since everything was down at once). I'm going to have to read this again later when I get a chance but for now, wow. I respect their decision but I'll bet the timing sure was bad for a lot of people (especially those coming to Lavabit specifically to escape what's going on here).
mpyne 5 days ago 3 replies      
One big question I have for the legal beagles: It's understood (if not well-liked) that Fourth Amendment protections don't apply to data given to a third-party...

What if, instead, you host server space within the U.S. and run your own software (email, listserv, whatever) and data on the leased hardware? I would think there's a good argument that Fourth Amendment protections then resume, and the domestic-ness of the server would also mean the NSA is not legally allowed to look at it, at least without a real Article III warrant.

Do similar rights apply IRL, e.g. if you rent a storage closet, can law enforcement just open the door when they wish or do they need to get a warrant?

nish1500 5 days ago 1 reply      
It won't be long before companies start introducing non-USA-affiliated as a feature.
EdSharkey 5 days ago 1 reply      
When I read the Lavabit statement, I felt like this was "The Strike" Ayn Rand predicted. Guy took his marbles and left. Tough to be optimistic about our future after seeing this happen for realsies.
sycren 4 days ago 0 replies      
Would it be naive for me to ask if the private key can also be encrypted?

User logs in, password is used to decrypt the private key which is used to decrypt the emails.

I guess this method would mean that the password is not stored as such. Perhaps there is a method of encryption that you could use that generates different sentence structures and word choices instead of obfuscation. So even if a user tried to bruteforce the login, they would always get a message back in the language it was written with no idea if it was the correct message unless they demand the password from the user.

Therefore, all the 'keys' can be handed over but it's all meaningless.

mtgx 5 days ago 1 reply      
Source: https://lavabit.com/?repost=true

This is very unfortunate and sad. I hope he wins in Court. The NSA/administration are really trying to destroy the last bit of privacy in the world, and they will fight relentlessly until they do (especially if the People aren't fighting back).

wellboy 5 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like the second hero from the NSA scandal emerges.
methehack 5 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe we should all just start writing letters again. Snoop that mutha fucka!
LekkoscPiwa 4 days ago 1 reply      
In communism there was no progress exactly because of laws like this. Who wants to operate hosting business in the US now? Why not Asia? HK, Singapore? Or even New Zealand at this point. See how much business is lost. See how much Google, Yahoo, MS, Facebook are hurting now. That's true people will still use them, but not for business critical stuff. No way. In the name of catching a few idiots from a desert who try to blow up themselves they just handled over the whole IT industry to the rest of the world. How stupid you must be to do that?
ozziegooen 5 days ago 1 reply      
Apparently they just cut off all email access. From Facebook: "Could you please at least forward the messages for a couple of days to some other e-mail accounts? I can't reset/change the e-mails I used on other websites because they require validation PER EMAIL.""While I approve of what you've chosen to do, I just purchased a decade of advance service from you, and you've left no contact addresses or information. Who are your customers supposed to speak to at this time?""i do respect your decision. But as a long time lavabit customer(8 or so years) I am very upset. I have paid money every year to upgrade and have spam protection and now lost all my emails. I would have liked some notice and a forwarding option for us."https://www.facebook.com/KingLadar?fref=ts
biomechanica 5 days ago 0 replies      
I support his dicision. I just wish there was some warning so I could have prepared for losing all of my contact information, etc. This couldn't have happened at a worse time as my backup server took a rather ultimate farewell yesterday.

I really don't want to use gmail or hotmail, so what other service can I use? Ugh. It might be time to get back to the roots and invest more time and effort in decentralized services instead of relying on centralized services.

oldgregg 5 days ago 0 replies      
dear god I hope he open sources his codebase.
declan 5 days ago 0 replies      
My initial guess about what the government did to Lavabit that forced Ladar Levison to shut it down: https://plus.google.com/112961607570158342254/posts/EujgUYbr...
Zelphyr 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really wish he had chosen some other means for accepting donations. PayPal has gotten so bad that I literally can't donate money to a worthy cause because I can't even change my fucking address on file without some generic error message popping up.
kelvin0 4 days ago 0 replies      
The whole system is collapsing under it's own weight. There is no simple solution, we simply need to accept that the current power structure in place and anything resembling it will always cling to power for it's own sake.

It's up to us to decide if we want to continue having our cake and eating it too. What I mean is that we cannot continue incensing our shiny techno-gadgets based system, and then also be surprised that the same system tries to keep itself 'on top' by whatever mean necessary.

We need to change our attitudes and actions within the current system, anything else is simply a band-aid on an open wound.

laureny 5 days ago 2 replies      
Doesn't the fact that Snowden was using Lavabit lend credence to the allegation that he has been leaking information?

If you're just a regular joe who, one day, realizes that what he's working on is bad for the public and decides to release it to the public, surely you have had no reason to use an encrypted email service before this realization dawned on you.

dendory 5 days ago 0 replies      
This will never go away, what we need is strong email encryption to become the norm. Then the US would need to go see the individual users if they wanted to spy.
shirro 5 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone care to comment on the chances services like LastPass are compromised in some way? I would expect they would have been approached. Even if the data is end-to-end encrypted there have to be ways - injecting something client side etc.
yaiu 5 days ago 1 reply      
As a user I'm essentially fucked. I can't change emails since the service is shut down... and the money I paid is now gone.
tn13 5 days ago 0 replies      
Shutting down of Lavabit makes us more safe from suicide bombers!
HNaTTY 5 days ago 0 replies      
Here's my speculation, to be buried 450 comments deep:

The government said, "you must update your software to compromise your encryption, and deliver us this information we have a warrant for." Lavabit said, "well, no, that defeats the purpose of our business". The gov't said "we don't care, we have a valid warrant" and now Lavabit is out of business.

If I'm right, nobody's files were compromised because Lavabit refused, but I imagine that doesn't bode well for returning user data because there could be huge legal consequences if one of the confirmed users is strongly suspected of XYZ.

If I'm right, it shouldn't prevent the owner from starting a new secure email service outside of the US. I suggest Iceland.

mladenkovacevic 5 days ago 1 reply      
Hmm another tremor... I wonder how long until the big one hits.
photorized 5 days ago 2 replies      
Host in Russia. You all saw how the Snowden issue was handled.

Just don't do anything that would attract FSB's attention.

khafra 4 days ago 0 replies      
Seems like a great time for cperciva to remain in Canada.
th3byrdm4n 5 days ago 0 replies      
If I could afford it I would donate, big time, to them.
chx 4 days ago 1 reply      
Do you know much coverage this extraordinary events gets in mainstream media? Nothing, zilch, nada. http://imgur.com/a/WyDKy
skrowl 5 days ago 3 replies      
So.... what should we use now?
mrshu 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's very sad news. For those who didn't use it, Lavabit has been down for 2 days prior to releasing this statement.To give you an idea what it felt like I wrote up my experience here: http://mareksuppa.com/blog/notes/lavabit/
MrGando 5 days ago 2 replies      
This is terrible, I'm thinking about migrating my personal stuff out of Digital Ocean to some VPS host under the Netherlands legislation or other... any suggestions?
jorgecastillo 5 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe if you use Yandex Mail the US government will at least have to do the proper procedures in a Russian court, to get your data.
brass9 3 days ago 0 replies      
Since they've stopped providing service, they should opensource their stack.
BinaryAcid 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just don't get it. Why not create and store the encryption keys client side? That way, even Lavabit would not have any keys to hand over. Just like Mega does.
nilved 5 days ago 1 reply      
Does anybody know of a good European VPS provider for self-hosted email? That seems to be the only way to go moving forward.
nilved 5 days ago 1 reply      
I regret giving Lavabit my business and more so paying for several years up front. This is immensely disrespectful.
resplin 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great story about an ISP owner having to deal with National Security Letters:http://www.shiftfrequency.com/madison-ruppert-owner-of-small...
andy_ppp 4 days ago 0 replies      
Given what we know about all this; the NSA has a legal right to retain access to everything - you have no right to complain or to stop it (because of the terrorists/children/anything that'll wash), we can assume Google Glass is a dead product at this point right?
olsn 4 days ago 0 replies      
A "complicit in crimes against the American people" - he's just providing a tool, if he's a complicit then ANY weapon-/gun-manufacturer in the US is a complicit in armed crimes/murders against American citizens!
JimWestergren 4 days ago 0 replies      
What about relocating to South America? Perhaps Bolivia? Bolivia is _really_ pissed about USA ... I know as I live here.
pearjuice 5 days ago 0 replies      
Any word on what happens to our data?
mnml_ 4 days ago 0 replies      
They didn't even bother giving refunds ?
superconductor 5 days ago 6 replies      
Can we get a list going of non-US alternatives of popular apps most of us use?

Let's start with Dropbox. What's the alternative?

MyDogHasFleas 5 days ago 4 replies      
Where's the "I wish you hadn't done that, lavabit, I'm a customer and I feel very screwed over by this action" comments?

Or is this appropriate for any SaaS vendor? You're OK with this? Should all customers, even those who really don't care if the NSA could be watching, be put out because some feel that this cause trumps actually doing business and having customer-vendor relationships?

I could see someone suing an SaaS vendor for an action like this, actually. "You cost me $XX in actual costs and $YYY in lost business. Your TOS says nothing about your shutting down because the government asked you to do something you didn't agree with."

John Carmack joins Oculus as CTO oculusvr.com
961 points by salgernon  6 days ago   204 comments top 43
angersock 6 days ago 5 replies      
So, let me say this much: Fuck. Yes.

Quake 3 had stereoscopic rendering in the source back before anybody really cared, and Carmack has had long involvement both in consumer 3D graphics as well as vendor relations.

Long-short is that if you look at the code the dude has shipped, he really cares about things being both technically correct and worth hacking on. This is a really good move, and if they end up picking Mike Abrash I'll be unsurprised.

LandoCalrissian 6 days ago 3 replies      
John Carmack believes in the tech, and I believe in John Carmack, so I will be getting one.

He has basically been with them since the beginning in some capacity, here is a video of him demoing a unit at E3 2012:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kw-DlWwlXHo

You can see that one is still a very early prototype held together with duct tape. It's not specifically stated, but it sounds like he will be leaving id for this. I'm fine with that since there is only so much you can do in the game engine world these days. Seeing him try to advance gaming and immersion in a different way seems like it will fit him very well.

Congrats to everyone at Oculus.

nakedrobot2 6 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, what a coup!

Instant and absolute legitimacy. They are in for the long haul. This is going to be real stuff.

As a fanatic of 360 photography and video, this is simply fantastic to see. The oculus has the potential to challenge what we have known as TV for half a century.

AndrewDucker 6 days ago 11 replies      
I've played with an Oculus VR, and I think they're amazing.

But I'm not convinced that they're ready for the mass market yet. Not because of any failing on their part, but because I think that they need games, and controllers, specifically designed to work with VR.

You can't use mouse/keyboard well if you can't see the mouse/keyboard. UIs that float at the bottom of the screen feel very odd when you move your head around and they stay at the bottom of your vision.

We're going to need a year or two of people producing iterations of new interfaces before we have something that feels really smooth to the average user.

(In the meantime they're great fun to play with.)

kayoone 6 days ago 0 replies      
Oh well, probably the best CTO you can get on this planet for a company like this, very exciting news and makes me even more pumped for the product!
tehwalrus 6 days ago 5 replies      
This news gives me the shivers.

(I recently read "masters of doom" after a HN recommendation, so a couple of months ago I'd have been like "what? who?".)

eterm 6 days ago 4 replies      
This makes me want one. This is huge news for Oculus and I wish the team the best.

I had a first glimpse of an Oculus watching someone use one on a Twitch stream the other day. He was just watching a tech demo thing of a rollercoaster ride but it was clear the tech was at or around that tipping point of interesting vs actually fun.

Nogwater 6 days ago 2 replies      
This is good news for Oculus, but I worry about them having two locations at such an early stage. They're going to have to work very hard to keep everyone on the same page. Hopefully they're not going to split hardware and software development.
jdavid 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is more evidence of how much the Oculus team owes to Andrew Scott Reisse, the developer who was killed during a hit and run.

It might be that John Carmack was trying to help out an amazing team who lost an amazing and talented developer.

I know the Hawken forums have been amiss with talk that more that one game is behind schedule since they lost the integration help from Andrew.

I guess there is some there is something to say when a company needs to replace your absence with John Carmack.

Thank you Andrew for getting VR this far.

thenomad 6 days ago 0 replies      
For anyone who isn't familiar with the current state of progress on the Rift, I'd recommend a look at


Lots of cool stuff happening.

tanepiper 6 days ago 4 replies      
Also seems to be confirmed he's leaving id: http://www.engadget.com/2013/08/07/oculus-rift-john-carmack-...
deletes 6 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like the http://www.oculusvr.com/careers/ is offline. It seems a lot of people want to work with John.
prawn 6 days ago 2 replies      
Is the level of immersion likely coming with the Rift going to really challenge parts of our interest in the 'real world'? Get Thalmic's MYO to the stage where two of them are enough to replace a typical game controller, and virtual worlds might be possible that reel us in tight with few physical reminders that it's all not real.

As it is, games, gambling and social networks are sticky enough. I had to drag myself away from Minecraft after trying it, thinking about how I was building a virtual house and garden in a captivating world, while a load of household projects went unfinished in my actual backyard.

Story- or world-driven games like Red Dead Redemption and LA Noire could be incredible.

adambratt 6 days ago 0 replies      
Shit just got real.
fmax30 6 days ago 0 replies      
The best news I have heard all day.Carmack was one of the reasons I choose computer Science .Now I will start taking Oculus rift seriously ,I always thought of it as a niche product.Carmack will put some of his awesome in Rift to make it more awesome.
yankcrime 6 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like his first job as CTO should be to fix the website's scalability ;)
pearle 6 days ago 3 replies      
Wait, is he leaving id? Didn't see that clarified in the article.
DigitalSea 5 days ago 0 replies      
If there is one man in this world that can bring 3D virtual reality gaming to the mainstream and do it right, it's John Carmack. We are talking about a guy here with proven interest and knowledge of 3D gaming, this is massive news. I guess given the amount of support John has given to the project, joining the project officially makes sense to me.

Now lets see what his next move is. The gauntlet has been thrown down, lets battle.

lispython 5 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe it's really a good news for Oculus, but if anyone here feel a litter melancholy?

Armadillo Aerospace run out of money and hibernate (2013), id Software had been acquired by ZeniMax Media (2009), id software President Todd Hollenshead has quit after 17 years of service (2013) and there's a long time without really big new Game.

Now John Carmack some kind of working for another company

rcarmo 6 days ago 1 reply      
Carmack has been edging towards this for a while now (not Oculus, but the concept), and I foresee great things.

OTOH, considering I played all of id's games up to Doom 3 (which I found a tad too creepy), I hope they strike a good balance between display smoothness and sheer unmitigated fun. I miss a good Q3A CTF.

WhitneyLand 6 days ago 3 replies      
What's your guess on how much equity they had to give him? I would have been inclined to be generous.
alx 5 days ago 0 replies      
Oculus is not HD yet in its dev version, if you want HD (like Carmack prototype on this page), you should try Open Dive: http://www.durovis.com/index.html
tchock23 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome news. I received my Oculus in the first batch and have had a ton of fun playing around with it (save the occasional nausea, but that's really game-specific).

Agree with some comments here that the Rift needs more VR-specific content, but it's still early and with news like this I'm confident that great VR/Oculus-specific content will emerge soon.

twidlit 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. this is a big win for the team. Carmack can go deep and can also look at the controls on an instinctive level since he made Doom and Quake.
10098 6 days ago 0 replies      
I only hope that his work at Oculus will benefit id software. I really want them to produce more successful games.
julianpye 6 days ago 0 replies      
As a big 3D and VR fan, this is the best news I have heard in a long time!
Kurtz79 6 days ago 1 reply      
First time I hear of the Oculus... somehow I can't stop thinking about the Virtual Boy :)

Congrats, it must not be easy signing up a programming icon like Carmack.

InclinedPlane 6 days ago 1 reply      
I was actually just thinking recently that John Carmack was past his prime. Or, more accurately, that he was no longer sitting in the right sweet spot in the industry that he once was. But with this move it looks like that may change. He's a one of a kind genius, and if there's anywhere that could see his skills used to effect more I can't think of it.
RyanMcGreal 6 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe he can start by helping with their website database...
altharaz 5 days ago 0 replies      
When I see the name of "John Carmack", it means to me "deep optimization". I still remember of this trick http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_inverse_square_root.

I heard that Oculus Rift had some minor delay issues. With Carmack as C.T.O., I do believe that everything will be solved pretty quick.

Kudos, Oculus!

ciferkey 6 days ago 0 replies      
When I was watching Carmack's talk from Quake Con this year all I could think was "how does this man have the time to do all of this?" The email today from Oculus both excited and worried me though. I really hope Carmack is given the chance to dedicate himself to the project. His tweet today was reassuring though: "My time division is now Oculus over Id over Armadillo. Busy busy busy!"
dynjo 6 days ago 0 replies      
I own an Oculus and even before I read this I knew it was the next big step in gaming, now it is beyond question.
taternuts 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wow - now I'm _really_ interested in the Oculus and it's potential.
josh33 6 days ago 0 replies      
Ready Player One! - If you haven't read this, I highly recommend it.
doubledub 6 days ago 0 replies      
Hoping Oculus and EMOTIV Insight (http://www.ted.com/talks/tan_le_a_headset_that_reads_your_br...) consider a joint project connecting their 2 ground breakers.

That space puppy would make the technology of written language the equivalent of banging rocks together. The possibilities of creation & control without the limitations of writing, typing, and even learning means we could create, build, view, and modify ideas with just thoughts... so rad it's scary.

mhartl 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, talk about a hiring coup. Bravo!
ZiadHilal 6 days ago 0 replies      
Incredible! Virtual reality just got that much more serious.
andyidsinga 5 days ago 0 replies      
holy shit!
MrGando 6 days ago 0 replies      
Omg omg omg, lovin' it.
obilgic 6 days ago 0 replies      
Error establishing a database connection
bluedino 6 days ago 1 reply      
Saddens me to suggest that Carmack has finally 'jumped the shark'. Childhood hero of mine and all, but id hasn't been doing much lately. He's cutting back on funding Armadillo. Maybe he plans on retiring and taking it easy pretty soon? He's had to have an exhausting last 20 years.

No matter how cool this Oculus product is, VR headsets are just not going to catch on.

Kids can't use computers, and why it should worry you coding2learn.org
576 points by mikeevans  4 days ago   420 comments top 98
simonsarris 4 days ago 17 replies      
I get the feeling that the author was judging the person he was helping far more harshly than the perceived judgement she might have passed on him.

Maybe she was tired, clearly she was frustrated, but it wasn't obvious that she held the author in any disdain, though the author seemed to perceive it. What we're sure of is that the author held her in such low regard.

I wonder if she picked up on that. I suspect she did, and I suspect it contributes to the negative stereotypes that the author wanted to rail against by mentioning all this.

> Do you know where the proxy settings are? I asked, hopefully.

> It took me about ten seconds to find and fill in the proxy settings.

Well for Christ's sake don't ask her something she almost surely doesn't know if it only took you ten seconds of looking. Look for ten seconds first.

The first rule of any educator is to never, under any circumstances, make someone feel inept. And it was so easily avoidable here.


Of course people can't use computers. They're not trying to use computers. They're trying to get X done. The computer is a device that, most of the time, just gets in the way of doing X.

Just the way that cars are a device that get from point A to point B. Few poeple get in a car to drive. They get in a car to locate themselves to point B.

In this case, the person can't use a computer because people like the author condescend a bit, fix the problem in ten seconds, and don't set them up to be just a bit wiser for next time.

The important part of the story is the part where the author explains that on some networks, you need to set extra settings so the office network can communicate with the outside world network. I hope the author explained what it took him ten seconds to do, so that she might be able to help herself next time. The omission (and disdain) leads me to suspect not, or at least that actually helping her was not an important part of the story.

otakucode 4 days ago 8 replies      
The problem isn't that these people can't use computers. It's that they can't THINK. They do not understand what critical thinking is, or how it works. They do not know how to approach problems or explore solutions. They don't know how to do it with their computer... or their car, or their vacuuming robot, or their television, or their oven or their relationships or any thing in their life. They don't understand why the world is the way it is, they don't know how to figure it out, and they generally think that trying is a suckers game.

You mention that there are always 1 or 2 kids a year who have already picked up programming or know how to build a computer... I think I would live for them. I was one of those kids, and I would be so excited for them that I would bury them in whatever help they needed.

For the other kids, I'd put aside the computers for a bit. I'd teach them critical thinking, because it's really the only skill they need to learn (see the documentary "High School" by Wiseman for an excellent example of how reformulating every single class as being centered around critical thinking led a poor latino high schools students to accomplish the highest percentage of students to attain college degrees in the nation... while preserving their youthful exuberance for learning).

angersock 4 days ago 5 replies      
So, here's some different themes in the thread so far, some ideas spawned from the article, and thoughts on them:

  Author is a jerk for the TLDR at the beginning
Sure--it's unfortunate that such a red herring was thrown into an otherwise excellent article.

  Normal people shouldn't have to learn how to into computer.
This is unreasonable. "People don't want to learn how to computer, they want to learn how to get X done" is a great statement, but there's a distressing endpoint to it: if you simply learn how to get X done, instead of the framework for using resources that enable things including X, you become a technician, a cog. One day I'm going to write an Excel spreadsheet VB macro, and your whole department is out of a job. One day somebody will release YourJobaaService and then you are useless. And because you spent your life becoming a technician, you won't be able to enjoy your newfound free time, because you can't do anything other than blithely consume the content others have created.

  People still treat computers as new things.
We've had personal computers for nigh-on three or four decades now, and the fact that they're still treated in popular culture as magic black boxes is a failing on our part as techies for not educating better the rest of the population. We probably did it to curry favor, to enjoy the power of knowing something they didn't, but damned if it isn't going to bite us in the end.

As the author deftly points out, these folks are going to become our political leaders--and however little we think of their policies in regards to technology, they'll be that way because we failed to impress on them the knowledge that they needed. For anyone who's been paying attention to the darker subtext of the PRISM scandal, you can draw the uncomfortable conclusion that the government is saying: "Hey, tech sector, guess what--the halcyon days of your industry ignoring us are over. We matter, we command, and you obey. Get back into line."

Things would be different if any politician making clearly false claims about technology and the way it works could be and was mocked publicly, much as we mock US politicians with too much of the Jesus.

  IT front-line people are seen as janitors and treated accordingly.
Many of us have been there, many of us have probably chatted up a member of the preferred sex and tried to display value as somebody who can Fix Things (tm) or just stepped in to help a friend unfuck a colossally broken setup. This gets you quickly shunted off into the IT monkey box. You become not a person, but an annoyingly human interface over a set of skills that can be tapped on command to make problems go away. You aren't seen as a person, you're seen as a vending machine of computer repair. Again, this is probably our own fault--instead of teaching people how to fix their own problems, many of us used our positions and social skills (or lack thereof) to cultivate exactly this caste. Mistakes, mistakes.

  People don't know how to use computers as engines of computation.
The rise of the Web and the mobile device is mostly to blame for this, though the idea of a Mac as something your grandmother could use goes back many decades.

The problem is, knowing how to use a computer isn't like knowing how to fix your car, how to change its oil, or how to replace your water pump and radiator--a simple mechanical task that one could argue is redundant. It's about a way of thinking, about a way of abstracting problems and creating generalized solutions, about recognizing patterns in a system and applying just enough force to overcome your issue in an elegant fashion. This mindset is important to cultivate, and carries over to solving other problems and enriching your life.

Mankind is foremost a tool-user, and to deny that basic responsibility to our fellow humans is to tacitly acknowledge that they are subhuman.

brandon272 4 days ago 2 replies      
I found that the author came across as extraordinarily condescending with the whole "let's get the president on the phone" thing. I'm sure that the woman he was dealing with understood full well that the "Internet" itself was probably fine and that it was her configuration that was the problem. Though I guess he took the holier-than-thou approach because she didn't use the precise terminology that he would have preferred, heaven forbid, which warranted him degrading in her a blog post.

Amusingly enough, I work in a web shop and I wouldn't think twice about asking a colleague, "Is the internet down?" and he would understand full well that I was referring to some issue between our office machines and our ISP.

king_jester 4 days ago 3 replies      
Technical literacy for the avg computer user could be better, but the examples cited aren't surprising because those situations ARE confusing. Let's break it down:

* Someone's MacBook doesn't connect to the internet. This is because 1) the wi-fi is turned off and 2) the school has a burdensome proxy policy. On (1), there is a huge disconnect between understanding that wi-fi functions like a radio with an on/off state and how many devices today are persistently connected via wi-fi or 3g/4g cell networks (tablets, phones). On (2), the proxy policy deliberately conflicts with how people expect to connect to and use the internet and entering proxy details is not a common activity for most people.

* Someone has embedded a YouTube video into a powerpoint presentation. The user has saved this ppt on a flash drive and is confused as to why the video will not load. There is already a disconnect between the fact the video is embedded while the ppt file itself is portable. This is a failing of the design of PowerPoint, presentations are very often to be considered portable once saved even though the content in the presentation may not be portable. Further, the proxy blocks YouTube streaming (why god why) so this user would be unlikely to find an app/add-on to rip the video and then pack it into the PowerPoint because this is entirely contrary to how you expect to use YouTube.

* A user's laptop is running very slowly due to virus infection. The user didn't get anti-virus automatically included on their machine even though they are downloading tons of content. This is a massive design fail, anti-virus should be automatic and transparent on new installs.

* A user complains of a computer not turning on, but it turns out the machine is on and the monitor is off. There is a reason why Mac desktops are designed as single machine/monitor units, the disconnect between machine and display is not intuitive or well understood, esp. in the age of tablets and phones that are single cohesive computers with displays. Just try and watch the average person set up a TV set to various peripherals and you'll see this same thing happen.

* A user cannot connect to the internet even after trying various software settings. It turns out the hardware wireless toggle is off. Either the hardware or OS itself didn't inform the user of what was going on, this is a massive design fail.

* A user attempts to log in to a network site/computer. The user dismisses error dialogs instantly. The problem is the machine is not connected to the network via ethernet. This is already a nexus of various design problems: dialog fatigue, the concept of network login vs. local login, and assumptions about connectivity being automatic through wi-fi vs. cabled network connections. The vast majority of people, including programmers, make huge mistakes about this kind of thing all the time, do we expect the average person to get it?

* A user has a new iPhone and is sad about loss of contacts. When plugging in to the user's laptop, the iTunes backup is able to be restored to the phone. iTunes does make the backup process transparent, but terrestrial backups are not nearly as good as cloud backups for this kind of thing. Android makes this much easier for the average person, restores are opt-in by default when setting up new devices and there's not need to physically connect to a computer.

* A user complains of not having internet access. They have associated the browser shortcut icon with internet. As more items were saved to the desktop, the icon shifted from its original location. Mechanics of file systems and browsing file systems isn't well understood by the average user. This is why whole volume backups are the easiest kind of backups to get someone to performs (esp. if those backups are automatic). This is also why Android and iOS devices try to hide the underlying file system, it is confusing and not well understood (apparently even by devs judging by the assumptions on file systems on StackOverflow).

* A user thinks they have a virus. What they are actually looking at is a spam ad designed to mimic native UI of an older Windows platform. There is a reason why scammy malware ads and sites do this, it is effective because users do not conceptually understand the difference between the browser and websites as separate entities from the OS they use the browser on. In fact, most people don't even conceptually understand how browsers and webpages work at all.

3pt14159 4 days ago 2 replies      
People here are passing judgement on the guy for writing the post, but in reality his point is 100% correct: People don't know how to use computers. It is way more important for us to have a generation of people that understand computers than it is for us to have a generation that understands how to repair a car. Computers bring along things like freedom of speech, digital currency, taxes, etc. Knowing how the internet works is paramount to supporting the proper policy decisions. The fundamental difference between well governed countries and the US with respect to internet legislation is the relative computer literacy of the people involved.

Beyond the political, much of our unemployment problem is less a problem of governance, and more a problem of a lack of appropriate skills. People want to raise the minimum wage, but that will not help the poor, what will help the poor is to make themselves more economically efficient. Being able to properly diagnose, design, and debug technology is a fundamental way for a country to stay competitive (read: first world).

Furthermore, the reason he (and I) are angry is that we grew up automatically freed since all of our programs ran with easily readable code (QBASIC). Kids these days don't have that opportunity. Fuck, they can't even RUN code they've written on their pocket computers without shelling out for a developers license.

MarcScott 4 days ago 1 reply      
Author here.

Thanks for the up votes and the comments - both positive and negative. I'll take all feedback into consideration when I next post anything. I didn't post this on HN myself, just added a link in a comment to another post.

Just to clarify - I do want to try and fix what I perceive as the current problem. I'd hoped the post ended on a positive note, but maybe people stopped reading. (It was rather long)

The TL;DR did have a question mark after it (although the rest of the punctuation left little to be desired). I've had positive and negative feedback with regards to this, so I'm leaving the post alone, warts and all.

I completely acknowledge that my post comes across as arrogant and condescending at times. Please realise that I spend all day being patient, polite and helpful to both my students and colleagues. My blog allows me to blow off a little steam every once in awhile.

Anyway, I'm very flattered to have made the front page of HN and I'm sure it'll never happen again. I love this site and the community. If you want to berate me or support me then feel free to do so by replying to this thread and I'll endeavour to reply.

VMG 4 days ago 1 reply      
The analysis is good, the conclusion is questionable.

Of course a system administrator thinks knowing about computers is the most important thing.

A medical doctor thinks kids should know about medicine to stay healthy. A lawyer thinks kids should know about the law and know how society works. An athlete thinks his kids should play team sports and learn grit and be tough.

Like with everything in life, you should know a little about everything, but you can't possibly know everything that is important.


My conclusions is that computers are still too hard and the future belongs to systems that have less failure modes.

cliveowen 4 days ago 7 replies      
Kids know how to use computers, they know how to make them do what they need them to: browsing, email, some text-processing. Everything else, and I'm sorry to break it to you, it's the realm of technicians. The plumbers don't expect the average joe to know how to unblock an occluded pipe, do they? Expecting everyone to know how to configure advanced settings in a computer just because you know how to do it it's very condescending on your part.
javajosh 4 days ago 0 replies      
We assume that growing up with computers makes you expert with them, when it doesn't. I wrote about this last year [1].

Since then, I've realized something important: things fall apart. Always have, always will. It's just thermodynamics. This means that we have to keep rebuilding our world. Which means that the people who build things really control the world. Remember that the next time a techno-illiterate sneers at you: you are building the world they inhabit, you get to decide what it looks like, so pity them.

[1] http://javajosh.blogspot.com/2012/06/note-to-parents-compute...

bargl 4 days ago 0 replies      
Before everyone gets out their pitchforks and dictionaries, lets look at what he's attempting to say.

I think he's arguing that there needs to be a basic level of competence that we are teaching the next generation about computers. Not just how to browse the internet, but to do basic problem solving one something they own.

I believe this is true of anything you own. If my car dies, I can fairly easily determine the severity of the issue and if it's simple, fix it myself. If my shirt gets torn I know how to put a patch on it or sew it myself.

I don't think he wants everyone to be computer technicians (although that seemed to be the tone of his article). I'm assuming he was telling an exaggerated story from an exasperated perspective. Hey may have even been speaking in hyperbole to make a point.

My brother, who I love very much, is dependant on everyone around him. He can't cook, clean, or navigate in the car. I do not exaggerate, I've recieved at least 4 or 5 calls from him (before GPS were packaged into phones) that he needed directions from X, Y cross streets to insert address here. He expected me to give him directions.

The sad thing is I did. I love my baby brother. I'm proud of him in many ways, but he has never HAD to do anything because we all fix it for him.

I recently just stopped helping him in these situations, and you know what? He now knows how to stop the car and get directions, or better yet take a GPS/Map with him.

This isn't a new issue, it's been around for a long time. Teach a man to fish, vs. give a man a fish. <joking>I'm sure that quote was taken from someone else, but I don't have the citation. </joking>

d4nt 4 days ago 0 replies      
This got me thinking. I share many of the authors frustrations, but I realise that people are just trying to get a thing done, and they really just want to outsource all the IT knowledge, just like I want to outsource car maintenance and food production.

The real problem here is that the IT literate have historically been very bad at communicating how valuable their knowledge is to others. Just like the author, I do a hell of a lot for people for free.

I think the issue stems from the newness of IT, most IT literate people grew up in families where they were the computer whizz kid, and enjoyed showing off what they knew to their extended family, friends and neighbours. When we were 12, the praise, and maybe a bit of pocket money was all the thanks we needed.

Actually though, comparable fields of expertise charge a lot of money per hour and I therefore tend to approach them with respect. When I want a lawyer to arrange a house purchase I expect to pay a lot of money and even though I may just want the darn thing sorted, I know I have to listen and fill in forms correctly because holding up a whole house purchasing chain can have big consequences.

Like the author, I have been too willing to insulate others from the consequences of their computing mishaps without charging them for my time or making them listen to me while I explain what they should do next time. If more of us did that then perhaps people would be less casual about dumping their problems on us and expecting it to be fixed.

noonespecial 4 days ago 0 replies      
Not only did he not really help by not politely showing her how to select a wifi network... "Here, this is easy watch, you get on wifi by..." (He's a teacher dammit. That's his freaking job), his idiotic network settings and bungling "proxy" just broke her computer for later when that proxy is stuck in there and she can't get on her network at home where there is no-one to help her set it back the way it was. How hard is a transparent proxy in 2013!?

He made everything worse and is now complaining about his victims.

TFA is like reading a "User Friendly" from 1998.

jiggy2011 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know if it was necessarily any better when computers were "new", most kids in the 90s knew how to plug in a SNES cartridge and maybe launch a few games from DOS but the oft required "boot disks" were still a mystery to most.

Computers were much simpler then in terms of there being fewer moving parts in the software. Modern computers might be "friendlier" in some sense, but that's only because we have had to build grand abstractions out of necessity. Once these abstractions break down it can be often difficult for even relatively tech savvy people to understand what is wrong.

codegeek 4 days ago 3 replies      
"the problem is usually the interface between the chair and the keyboard."

Loved reading this. Well said [1]. I am sure this post resonates a lot with many of us. I remember a joke where someone calls the tech support of a computer company and it goes like this:

  Person: "My computer does not turn on".   Tech. guy: "Whats the problem. Did you press the ON switch? "  Person: "Yes of course. I pressed it twice already"
[1] EDIT : As other pointed out, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_error

Kuiper 4 days ago 2 replies      
I feel like the author defeats his own central thesis in his conclusion:

It didnt used to be like this. Using an OS used to be hard work. When things went wrong you had to dive in and get dirty to fix things. You learned about file systems and registry settings and drivers for your hardware. Not any more.

In other words, people used to be technically literate because they had to be. Now, it's possible to utilize technology without knowing how it works. Think for a moment about what that means.

This sounds very much like a case of a species evolving to meet its own (lack of) need. People aren't tech literate because you don't need to be tech literate to check your email on an iPad, just like I'm not very proficient in spear hunting because being able to hunt a wild animal is no longer necessary to feed myself.

Not everyone needs to be good at everything, and mastering skills has an opportunity cost. Yes, it would be nice if every teenager could spend the hours required to know how to install Linux and work around the Linux desktop environment, but how many hours would that take them? Every hour that they spend learning how to install and use Linux is one hour less that they have to spend on guitar lessons, or learning a foreign language, or automotive repair, or oratory practice, or whatever other pursuits they might choose to invest themselves in.

ethanbond 4 days ago 15 replies      
So I take it the author can fix any brand of car and would, without missing a beat, answer questions like "where's the expansion tank?"

I'm so tired of "tech savvy" people simultaneously sitting on their high chairs and large salaries dissuading anything that makes their trade less esoteric - and then talking down to those who can't pierce the veil for whatever reason (whether it by financial, intellectual, or just not giving a flying $#@! about where proxy settings are).

EDIT: Let's not build a generation of people who know how to navigate terminal. Let's build a generation of people who will never have to.

Phargo 4 days ago 7 replies      

"TL;DR? Why not just go watch another five second video of a kitten with its head in a toilet roll, or a 140 character description of a meal your friend just stuffed in their mouth. num num. This blog post is not for you."

Snarky enough? If you start out like that I've already made the decision that you're over opinionated and probably prone to dramatic exaggeration.

anonymous 4 days ago 0 replies      
The title is better phrased as "should you worry that lots of people can't use computers?". Because of the obvious "no" response. No, you shouldn't worry.

We've had computers for two generations now and the existence of people who can't use them hasn't made the world stop turning. People who do not understand things in general have always existed. People who make decisions about things they don't understand. Politicians who make decisions about things they don't understand. Always has been, always will be. Trying to educate them is a futile effort, we're better off trying to find ways to get what we want or route around the damage. I would of course prefer it if that wasn't the case, but it's like wanting pi to be exactly 3.

Think of it like driving a car. I cannot drive a car. I have a license, I have taken classes, I have put in effort, but it's just too complicated and unnatural for me; and I deem myself too dangerously inept to drive. To commute, I ride my bike, take public transport or pay other people to drive me. Same with computers - if you can't use them, either do your job without one, or pay someone to do stuff for you.

You'd find it easier to make the earth spin in reverse than to make sure everyone knows how to use a computer.

daleharvey 4 days ago 0 replies      
The fact that I am working in the same industry that has these characters as stereotypical archetypes depresses the hell out of me, the fact that this is an attitude thats likely being passed on to impressionable children outright scares me, sometimes I wonder if I got into computers for the opposite reason of everyone else.

Most people dont care about using an open source phone that is entirely useless as a phone, most kids dont need to know how to format a boot partition. The kids that are interested in it are amazing and get so much done precisely because they arent worrying about how to patch their graphics driver.

Also if you are going to be so exceedingly patronising[1], at least learn to configure a network that doesnt need you to manually enter a proxy.

[1] no, even if you do do that, please dont be so exceedingly patronising.

cinquemb 4 days ago 0 replies      
Tomorrows politicians, civil servants, police officers, teachers, journalists and CEOs are being created today. These people dont know how to use computers, yet they are going to be creating laws regarding computers, enforcing laws regarding computers, educating the youth about computers, reporting in the media about computers and lobbying politicians about computers.

I feel like this may worry some, but for others who have no power in the societies we live in today (increasingly employing the use of computers), might find solace in that there is a future where they might be valued

kyro 4 days ago 1 reply      
This really, really hits close to home. I'm the oldest of 3 brothers, me 26, the youngest 21. I was always an 'experimenter' with computers, meaning I had no problem toying with the settings or clicking through unknown menus to find the solution to a problem. I toyed and tweaked until something worked, and that willingness to explore has helped me innumerable times throughout life.

My brothers, for some strange reason, did not develop that ability. The second something goes wrong on their computer, they freeze, deer in front of a lighthouse. Everything from installing apps, to fixing wifi settings, to customizing their desktops, to updating their iPhones, is a situation that causes panic. These guys are otherwise very functional, and very educated. One of them went off to grad school the other day with a new macbook, and after already having one for 4 years, asked me to "set up" his computer, which consisted nothing more of going through the walk-through for new OSX users.

It is one of the most frustrating and mind-boggling things. You can often hear me yelling at them, whether in person or over the phone, "You need to figure out yourself! Just play around with the damn computer! It's not going to explode!"

bambax 4 days ago 3 replies      
> a kitten with its head in a toilet roll

its head

If your plan is to insult readers before they even start to read your rant, can you at least make an effort to spell your insults correctly?

general_failure 3 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent article.

Many people here are missing the point of the article and are instead busy attacking the author's writing style and some random lines in the article. It's terrible to not try to understand what the author is saying and attack an article line by line. Please don't fall into the trap of what many non-authors do: criticize line by line and miss the point. The author is a normal human like you and me and not some "professional" writer who earns his career by writing books.

I hope you get my own point in the previous paragraph and not shred my writing line by line.

Back to the article, what the author is saying is that technology is such a fundamental part of our lives now. Much more than a fridge or a car, because these haven't become general purpose devices yet. Our laptops and devices store personal information and it's critical that we are all educated on how the internet works and how our laptops work in general.

I love teaching but I am not a teacher. When I taught computers to my (50's) mom, I spent the first few days just telling her the story of the internet, microsoft, linux and all that. She really uses the computer now. While she may not be able to fix the problems, I am surprised how capable she is to diagnose the problem and try to pinpoint the problem. It was just a matter of arming her with enough information to get her interested.

IMO, the main problem to be solved here is to teach computers in a way that it's interesting to them. That's it. Human nature will take care from them on - curiosity and knowledge.

cupcake-unicorn 4 days ago 0 replies      
This article was helpful for me. Why? Because I guess I "know" this in theory, but I surround myself with very intelligent people, mostly who are in the field of IT, and I don't so much hang out with younger people from the age of 20-25.

I grew up with computers, and unlike now, when things were starting out, you actually had to be a little bit clever to use one. I rolled my eyes at my dad as a kid when for fun he typed "DEL ." at the C: prompt of his new DOS machine. Doing command line stuff like that, while not at by any means an advanced level of computer sophistication, is a far cry from people growing up with extremely user friendly things like Ipads, only having to press a few buttons to get things done, and very idiot proof.

But at the same time, since it comes so naturally to me, I do tend to forget that the skills I have are that technical or unusual. Reinstalling Windows? Installing Linux? Putting together a computer from scratch? I mean..even if you don't know how to do it, you can Google it. But then I get snapped back into reality, like when my parents call me up and say they hired their friend's son to fix their PC, a "computer whiz", who obviously about a minute or so into the conversation has no real or deep understanding about computers whatsoever - probably just some gamer or something.

It's awful too, since I'm a woman and I see other non tech savvy women perpetuating that sterotype. I went to get my hair cut, and one of the employees was trying to get a Netbook to work. "This thing is so slow. It doesn't even have any RAM!" she claimed, loudly. Since I was waiting on the stylist, I told her that I could take a look. "No thanks," she said while barley looking my way, "My husband's in IT, so I'll just call him." I then had to to listen to an excruciating phone call while she called up her husband which made it pretty clear also that the husband also "can't use a computer".


codegeek 4 days ago 1 reply      
A lot of people are bashing the author and the article saying that the tone is condescending, kids do know how to use computers etc. I think his point is that kids do know the "what" part (browsing,texting,fb etc). The question is: do they know or care about the "why" and "how" part ? Should they care ? Should they not care ?
B-Con 4 days ago 1 reply      
> I watch him type in his user-name and password. A message box opens up, but the kid clicks OK so quickly that I dont have time to read the message.

Computer sends message to user. User quickly dismisses it without thought. This evokes mixed feelings from me.

First, unfortunately, we have spent a long time training users that computers output cryptic messages that they don't need to understand. Anyone who used XP for more than 3 years is probably used to seeing odd pop-ups or error boxes from some application that's spitting out some message (possibly too often) that the user doesn't know. They're used to seeing things crash, and they're used to messages being too technical to be actionable. That is in part our (development) fault.

However, things are better now. If a message box pops up, you probably should read it. You should pay attention to what the computer says. I think that people so often just don't care what it is because they guess that it won't get in their way for their immediate task so they don't want to bother. Or, worse, they're afraid it will require some thought/energy (even if it's small) to understand and take appropriate action, and they're crossing their fingers and hoping that ignoring it is for the best.

wf 4 days ago 0 replies      
>"They click OK in dialogue boxes without reading the message."

This. And you know what, as software developers, it's partially our fault. Even I, as a "kid who grew up in the tech age", do this (albeit rarely) as a force of old habit. Before I knew anything about computers the error messages that would pop up would sometimes be so obscure that there was really no other choice, you just get used to them being implicitly unhelpful. The other part of this is that society is so rushed. Who can spare a moment to read and troubleshoot an error message? "Why won't this thing just work!?"

As far as people being able to "use computers": I'm not completely aligned with this but I do question whether or not they should have to be a sysadmin to do so? I don't have to be a mechanic to driver a car (as several comments have already pointed out). Computer's are just tools to most people. They expect them to work and when they don't do what people expect they call someone who knows about them to fix it; there is literally an industry built on this need. Don't most of you who build software work to create something that solves a problem for a user? Makes it EASIER for them to do something that was previously complicated/convoluted/impossible? They're just users, not domain experts.

cenhyperion 3 days ago 0 replies      
As someone that grew up with computers and the internet I have numerous issues with this article. Mostly the expected level of knowledge about computers.

Most teenagers are decent typists, can navigate a well done website or application, can use word/other programs to get work done, and are comfortable being on a computer. That's what they should know how to do.

It's us in tech who need to make things work for users, not users jobs to know how to install linux from source code. I'm going to go against the author and say that most users _shouldn't_ learn linux, and should use easy to use software like iOS. It lets them get work done.

Most people don't and shouldn't have a reason to have a deep understanding of python, html, and the command line.

>A hundred years ago, if you were lucky enough to own a car then you probably knew how to fix it. People could at least change the oil, change the tyres, or even give the engine a tune-up. Ive owned a car for most of my adult life and theyre a mystery to me.

This is actually a great metaphor to show why the article is wrong. Cars became reliable enough and abstracted enough that you can confidently use one _without_ knowing how to fix it. Technology should be reliable enough that the average user doesn't need to know what's under the hood to use it, and that's what we've seen happen with things like iOS and web apps.

PhasmaFelis 4 days ago 0 replies      
I worked help desk in my university's computer labs for several years, and got consistently good reviews. When I fixed someone's problem, I made a point of explaining what I was doing as I went. I wasn't just pretending to be polite; I really do enjoy helping people to get a better understanding of their world. Sure, it's obvious to me that you need to empty the recycle bin before the space is really freed up, or that saving a shortcut to a file won't let you access the original from another computer. I'm sure my users know any number of "obvious" facts about math or architecture or medicine that would've left me dumbfounded. What right do I have to claim that my domain of knowledge is more important? If I'm pleasant and helpful and educational, then the student can solve their own problem the next time and my job is easier.

I'm pretty sure I was the only person in the entire campus-wide computer lab system who felt that way. Sometimes students held on to complex problems until my next shift because they knew I was the only one who would actually explain the problem. Techs all over the world seem to treat clients as unteachable idiot annoyances to be shuffled through as quickly as possible, so they can get back to what's really important: complaining on the internet about how nobody understands computers.

ChuckMcM 4 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting comments. I got that this guy was burned out. I know that feeling, how many times can someone say "The Internet it down" and you have told them the steps to identify what is the problem and often fix it?

I really applauded Microsofts work on "Trouble Shooters" which would walk you through those steps. Each one saying "Is it better now?" and if you got to the end it would send a report to Microsoft.

More importantly the message though is that a large number of people use "computers" when what they wanted were "appliances." Specifically it always does what its job. No programability required. This is what makes the Chromebook and things like it so powerful for those people. Turn it on it works, if not you get a new one.

The dissonance of people who use a software tool, and that forces them to use a computer to run it, versus the people who use a computer that has a number of different software tools is getting stronger.

seldo 4 days ago 1 reply      
"It's no longer necessary to be a computer person in order to use a computer, and that means lots of people are using computers who aren't computer people!" TRAGEDY!

Lots of people use cars and don't know how to fix them. Lots of people live in houses but hire people to repair the plumbing or the electricals when those things break. You don't have to completely understand something to use something, and that's OKAY.

wavesounds 4 days ago 0 replies      
The problem is people are ok or are even proud of not knowing how their stuff works, even the author isn't ashamed that he has to ask a salesmen what car to buy. People in Africa can take apart your car and put it back together, people in India can become experts in computing from a computer stuck in a wall[1].

Rich lazy first world humans are proud of the fact that they have advanced technology they don't need to understand, its a sign of luxury and 'success' like new clothes you just throw away as fashion changes.


tenpoundhammer 4 days ago 0 replies      
"I want the people who will help shape our society in the future to understand the technology that will help shape out society in the future."

The people who shape our society will know what they need to know. I'm not sure a great understanding of a desktop PC is going to change this.

On a separate note, the author is demanding that everyone be super knowledgeable about a set of devices that is on it's way out. I think it's far more relevant for people to understand how their phones,tablets, and the internet work than understanding how to re-install windows...

makerops 4 days ago 0 replies      
"I looked at the MacBook. I had no experience with OSX at the time. Jobs wasnt an idiot though, and displayed proudly in the top right hand corner of the screen was a universally recognisable WiFi symbol. It took me seconds to get the device on the network.

I handed back the MacBook and the woman opened up Safari. The Internets not working. she stated with disdain."

This, while I may be reading WAY too much into it, is a great display of how I used to think about what I do for a living, and conduct business. You are asked to do X, so you do X. What your client really wants is Y. She wanted to browse the web, not getting her there before you hand the laptop back is fruitless and frustrating to her, the same goes for a client.

pyk 4 days ago 0 replies      
We have English classes since we need to read and write on a daily basis. We have math classes since we need to add/subtract/multiply on a daily basis.

But why don't we have a technology literacy course where kids can learn about devices we interact on a now daily (hourly?) basis. It could be taught at a low enough grade level before the geeky become geeky so-to-speak. Something beyond just typing skills.

Demystifying the magic behind a computer/smartphone/tablet may even encourage those who wouldn't give a second thought to coding to now jump right in.

mannkind 4 days ago 0 replies      
While I do kind of agree with parts of the article, the author proposes some seriously nonsensical "solutions".

Especially this gem:

"""Mobile[...]I use Ubuntu-Touch, and it has possibilities. [...] Okay, so I cant use 3G, it crashes when I try to make phone calls and the device runs so hot that when in my jacket pocket it seconds as an excellent nipple-warmer, but I can see the potential."""

To learn more about "mobile" the author proposes using a something that's not functional ... yeah, that makes sense.

incision 4 days ago 0 replies      
>"A hundred years ago, if you were lucky enough to own a car then you probably knew how to fix it. People could at least change the oil, change the tyres, or even give the engine a tune-up. Ive owned a car for most of my adult life and theyre a mystery to me."

I wonder if this guys mechanic/dealership is as much of an assumptive, condescending douche towards him as he admittedly is toward everyone who seeks his help?

There are good points in there, but they're buried among 4000+ words of rambling tripe.

Personally, I agree with bits of what is presented. Thing is, I don't think these are things which necessarily need fixing. We're in a period of transition where this kind of mismatch is apparent, but it will fade quickly with time and I'd question the impact of widespread low-level literacy on progress.

astral303 4 days ago 0 replies      
By the way, the counterpoint to that Cory Doctorow quote how everything is a computer (airplane is a flying computer) is that the EXACT PROBLEM with software is that damn near everything is a computer. And when you add a computer to anything, it tends to go to shit. Things that worked just fine without it, now saddled with the typical software engineering mindset, are suddenly not so good. BMW iDrive, Ford Sync/MyFord Touch case in point.

Read the preview of this book:


The part that says "what do you get when you cross a computer with an airplane".

jpatokal 4 days ago 0 replies      
The blog doesn't do a very good job of explaining why this should worry us. For shits and giggles, try replacing every instance of "computer" with "car", and every complaint about not being able to reinstall the OS with not being able to replace the carburetor.

Guess what? The vast majority of people don't need to know how to replace the carburetor, or know how to reinstall the OS -- they're happy with something that Just Works 99% of the time, and to consult professionals the rest of the time. And that's just fine: in the same way that not everybody needs to be a car mechanic, not everybody needs to be a computer guru.

jroseattle 4 days ago 1 reply      
This just sounds like the rantings of a disgruntled "computer guy" (sorry for the gender bias). The suggestion here is that the ability of users to handle their own inane tasks EQUALS the ability to use a computer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

FWIW, my kids can use their computers quite ably. They use the command line, they know the difference between wireless vs. physical connections, and they know their file system. And, wouldn't you know it -- sometimes they still ask inane questions for help.

Reading some of the comments, it's apparent the author takes his teaching seriously. I hope it comes through as teaching, and not as disdain for the future.

Houshalter 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't really think it's as big of a deal as the author thinks it is. Computer systems are often extremely complicated and confusing. Yes you might not think so because you are familiar with them, but things that seem obvious to you through experience do not to everyone else.

Anything that makes them simpler, easier, or cuts through the confusion is a good thing. My analogy would be how most programmers don't work with machine code. Even if they are familiar with it they probably don't have any experience. And you get any more low level than that, like the cpu design.

Specialization is a good thing. It's how we built modern civilization and how we are able to build computers in the first place. For most people there isn't really any benefit of learning the details of their operating system, if they don't have to deal with it in the first place because it's well designed, isn't that a good thing?

>I have one question for these policy makers:

>Without reference to Wikipedia, can you tell me what the difference is between The Internet, The World Wide Web, a web-browser and a search engine?

>If you cant, then you have no right to be making decisions that affect my use of these technologies. Try it out. Do your friends know the difference? Do you?

Legislators also aren't familiar with the vast majority of other industries they regulate. Stupid regulations aren't unique to technology. You just happen to know enough to see problems with them.

>We should be teaching kids not to install malware, rather than locking down machines so that its physically impossible.

What's wrong with more secure systems? I mean I don't think we should lock out general purpose apps entirely, but it's great that people can generally trust random apps, and that it's much harder to create a virus.

And for what it's worth, computercraft for minecraft is a great way of introducing programming.

ImprovedSilence 4 days ago 0 replies      
first thing that struck me, the author complains about a stigma attached to knowing how computers work:>>"Rather than being some faceless, keyboard tapping, socially inept, sexually inexperienced, network monkey, she now saw me as a colleague. To people like her, technicians are a necessary annoyance. Shed be quite happy to ignore them all, joke about them behind their backs, snigger at them to their faces,"

AND THEN, goes on to declare that yes, he is normally a sarcastic bastard who makes big deals out of inane verbiage:>>"Normally I pull out my mobile phone and pretend to tap in a few numbers. Holding the handset to my ear I say Yes, give me the office of the President of the United States NO I WILL NOT HOLD, this is an emergency Hello, Mister President, Im afraid I have some bad news. Ive just been informed that The Internet is not working."

And you wonder where the stereotypes come from....

gambiting 4 days ago 2 replies      
I could also add that nowadays people don't know how to use cars. They might as well be magical boxes that take us places and nothing that happens underneath the bonnet is important. And just like in this article - there are people who are perversely proud of it. They are proud that they don't know how to change a wheel, how to check oil level, or even refill the washer fluid. In fact, they don't even know HOW to open a bonnet. I know people who could ignore the most obvious of signs that something is wrong - loud noises, visibly low pressure in the tyres, high/low running temperature......

In fact, I imagine we could write an article like this for pretty much everything. I knew a guy who would call an electrician to change his lightbulbs. People don't know how to use anything, and there is nothing we can do about it,since most people are incapable of being mentally engaged in something they don't care about.

DSMan195276 4 days ago 0 replies      
I agree on a lot of the points. I think a key here is that I don't really think anybody knows what to teach people when they do teach them, and your beginning example shows it extremely clearly. You, having almost zero knowledge of OSX, managed to get things going for someone else who's been using it far longer then you have. It's not that you knew specifically how to fix the problem, it's that you knew the basic idea of what was wrong, an idea of things to look for, and enough critical thinking to figure your way through it. Most people miss that point.

While a wifi problem may be harder to fix then others, in most cases a problem can be solved just by knowing the right info to type into Google and then be able to do a bit of thinking over the results and which seem reasonable to try. Not only that, but a bit of knowledge of some basic symbols (Like, Ex. The various Wifi Symbols, or USB Symbol) and some basic UI knowledge (Like, Ex. Knowing what a bar or panel usually look like, and what a normal OS UI look's like. Text-Boxes, Scroll-bars, Check-boxes Vs. Radio-Buttons, Menus, etc....) go a long way.

I in no way expect everyone to become experts (I wouldn't really expect people to become good enough to reinstall the OS, for example. At that point, you'd want to show someone who knows what they're doing before going further). But, taking some time to teach some basics of more generic concepts, how to go about troubleshooting instead of just learning how to fix some basic problems, and some basics of where to look for various things goes a very long way.

jredwards 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's amusing to me that several of the top level comments here only reference the author's initial story about helping another teacher, completely ignoring the latter three quarters of the article. It's almost as if you guys didn't bother reading past the first page to his actual point.
chrisgd 4 days ago 0 replies      
This really resonated as I am probably technology illiterate in a lot of things and I would hope my son isn't. Thanks for some ideas.
KVFinn 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've had some experiences in the opposite direction.

A neighborhood kid, about 12, asked me for some computer help with Minecraft. My jaw hit the floor when he started asking about stuff I didn't learn until college -- he was doing this crazy redtone circuitry (stuff like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc6spHvGPtQ) to program the doors in a castle according to timers and various inputs.

The kid was basically teaching himself hardware design just to play a game. And it wasn't considered that weird, this was just what you have to do in Minecraft.

Raphmedia 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am laughing pretty hard at all the comment here that rants on the first few paragraph and then brings points that are actually covered later on in the article...

Yes, he is being harsh with the teacher. Yes, cars are complicated.

That's not the point. Read the full article...

mmagin 4 days ago 0 replies      
In a lot of the discussions I'm seeing on here, it seems like a lot of the disagreement is around the question of whether it is reasonable to expect that people should be expected to know how their tools work.

I would have to take the position that people should have some in-depth knowledge of how their tools work. Why? All abstractions are leaky. Would you expect a carpenter to use a (powered) saw without knowing how it is designed and how the blade is driven (for safety and making smooth cuts)? Would you expect a radiologist to interpret x-ray photos without having an understanding of the impact that different energy (KeV) radiation and film/sensor technology has on the resulting image?

cbhl 4 days ago 0 replies      
Having been that kid that plugs the Ethernet cable back in for the kid sitting next to him, and figures out how to connect the projector to the computer at the start of class, I understand where the author is coming from and I am similarly concerned that people are not more up in arms about Internet censorship in the UK, yada yada.

So, yeah, the tone is a little harsh, but if I had to deal with these sorts of user support requests every day on top of teaching class, I'd be grumpy too.

Managing a network when all the users BYOD and/or have administrator access isn't as trivial as the author makes it out to be; I remember wiping "Deep Freeze" off of a school computer unintentionally once when I installed Ubuntu on it in dual-boot from a CD. Eventually the school district moved to a thin-client solution; wasting the thousands of dollars they had spent buying (then) cutting-edge general-purpose computers in the first place. But it's certainly the ideal; it's what I think we should be aiming for.

aristidb 4 days ago 1 reply      
Even the most savvy computer user will make stupid mistakes... For example I once wondered why my display didn't work when I had apparently accidentally hit the "Input Source" button so the display was no longer set to DVI and didn't know how to get it to work... I guess I "can't use a computer" in the author's mind?
csense 3 days ago 0 replies      
I was one of the kids who could use computers. I got a lot of negative reactions from teachers whenever I used the DOS prompt for anything. Kids in high school who know programming or other advanced tricks learn quickly that the teachers finding them using what they know often leads to censure or even punishment.

So the "good kids" who follow all the rules will leave that stuff at home and play dumb in school. The "rebels" who like to push boundaries will make sure the teachers don't find out.

So I'm betting there are plenty of bright kids who know a lot about computers in the author's classes, and they're all keeping their heads down. Doubly so if the author has a reputation for being angry and judgmental. (I didn't think this article was particularly offensive, but other commenters disagree.)

hkuo 4 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps the issue is that there is this expectation that everyone should know how to "use" a computer. We forgive older generations, because it's something they never grew up with while being appalled at younger generations because they're not using computers to do technical stuff. News flash: computers are not the end all be all of the world. It's simply an aspect of it, and while some kids won't give a crap about how computers work, others will be wildly passionate about it. Some kids will grow up to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, artists, philosophers, and excelling in their domains does not come with a requirement of knowing how to connect to a wifi network.
networkjester 4 days ago 0 replies      
I personally thought this was a very good article. It definitely gave me a lot to think about with regard to how much I help my family members fix their computer problems instead of "teaching them to fish" so to speak.

First thing that came to mind for this:

> When they hit eleven, give them a plaintext file with ten-thousand WPA2 keys and tell them that the real one is in there somewhere. See how quickly they discover Python or Bash then.

Was "How will they learn Python without Google"? Only to look to my right and see my Python book. facepalm

Agh, the dependence.

Well done!

GhotiFish 4 days ago 1 reply      

  "Without reference to Wikipedia, can you tell me what the    difference is between The Internet, The World Wide Web, a    web-browser and a search engine?"
uh... well the last two are pretty easy, but... the first two.

I actually don't know, I've used those two terms interchangably to be honest. I guess if I was pressed I'd say that the world wide web is what the colloquial internet actually is, and the internet is the package of protocols the world wide web runs on? I can't imagine many people are going to get this one right.

NoodleIncident 3 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't agree with most of the article, but the bit about the Microsoft Office curriculum is completely true.

In high school, I wanted to take my school's generic AP Java class. To get to even such a basic level of CS education, I had to sit through _years_ of MS Office and Adobe classes. Thankfully, the workload was so low, I was able to teach myself TI Basic and Actionscript, but those classes were jokes.

csense 3 days ago 0 replies      
> defeated by their school laptops because they dont have administrator privileges

Physical access is usually game-over from a security perspective. Unless you're doing hard-core encryption and TPM stuff, I bet someone who knew what they were doing, and was allowed to take a laptop home overnight, could root it by morning.

I'm sure that some students have done this.

I'm not going to detail the attack vectors, because I respect those hackers more than I respect the school that gives people crippled hardware, and I want those doors to remain open for others like them.

btbuildem 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, this guy sure trolled HN good..

If someone asks you "can you fix my computer", a good response could be "I have some time next Tuesday, it'll be $50 to figure out what's wrong, plus $100/hr to fix it".

And yes, most people are lazy and do the minimum to get by in their lives, whether in context of computers of otherwise. Don't kvetch about it, use it to your advantage.

lucb1e 4 days ago 0 replies      
This article gets so much right. I was initially offended by the TL;DR; I read it hoping to get a quick gist of what it was about but instead was told that I should go watch kitten videos. Reading on, it shares so many of my opinions. Even the small paragraph about driving your own car or having Google drive it for you strikes home. I've talked about that with people and everyone's still like "I'm sure we'll keep driving for a good while because it's fun". I fully agree with the author on every point he made in the article.

One of my favorite parts:

> Cameron announces that ISPs are going to start filtering The Internet. Its described as a porn filter, but the Open Rights Groups investigations implies that far more than porn will be filtered by default. Then to top it all, Camerons chief advisor on this issue has her website hacked and displays just how technically illiterate she really is.

pqdbr 4 days ago 0 replies      
I had some good laughs reading this article, and I agree with almost everything the author wrote.

I then came here to read the comments and it's just everybody complaining and nitpicking about every single comma in the article. GOD, this is getting tiring.

salem 4 days ago 0 replies      
People may not like how this message is delivered, but I've worked support at a university full of supposedly smart people and saw the same sort of things. It's a real issue that I hope the raspberry pi and associated efforts do something to address.My favorite IT request was someone asking to put the internet on a disk for them.
mathattack 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is a stretch for me... Should every kid know how to install Linux? And troubleshoot a proxy? Hmmm.... And is this important if they can't read or write well?

I view computing as a great topic for those that are interested, but technology is getting easier. I want my kids to learn about it, and consider it for a career. But mandatory? I won't turn my nose up on anyone who doesn't understand proxy settings.

That said, I recall a finance professor bemoaning that most Phd students in his department don't program any more. "This will limit the kinds of research that they can do."

DocG 4 days ago 1 reply      
I am under 25 and I can use a computer.Why? Because my parents bought me only my first computer and refused to upgrade after that. At one point my need for playing new games got the best of me and I started experimenting. First OS cleanup, first format, first memory upgrade, etc.

I have never really learned how do deal with computers.Its just 10+ years of just fixing whatever is broken/not working, because there was no one to fix it for me.

Now I just have to find a job where I can do this problem solving for money

adammil 4 days ago 0 replies      
He's mastered the arcane and delicate technology that we software people work with every day, but that doesn't make everyone else a moron. His experience blinds him to how bad the user interfaces are for most things we use. The sad fact is that most software products are simply not good enough if the general population is expected to be successful with them.
jackmaney 4 days ago 0 replies      
Obligatory xkcd: http://xkcd.com/627/
H4wk_cz 4 days ago 2 replies      
The county proxy is there to ensure that the staff and students cant access porn on the school network. It also filters for violence, extremism, swearing, social networks, alcohol, smoking, hacking, gaming and streaming video. Ironically, if you were to perform a Google search for proxy settings OSX, the top results would all be blocked because you used the word proxy and that is a filtered word.

That was the most interesting part for me. It's crazy that people are ok with it.

NDizzle 4 days ago 1 reply      
The 30-50 age range can use computers because they spent the early half of the 90s trying to get VGA games to run reasonably well on their 386s. Or they were laying in front of the commodore, recreating code from a magazine. Me and my friends tried to recreate songs on it.

At least that's how I got my start. What's your story?

snowwrestler 4 days ago 0 replies      
Article could benefit from a blog post version of the Wadsworth Constant.


By my count the first 15 paragraphs had nothing to do with the title and served mainly to illustrate the author's projection of his disdain for others.

lotsofcows 3 days ago 0 replies      
TL,DR? You write a rambling article containing basic factual inaccuracies and switching writing style without warning and you dare make it sound as thought not wanting to finish it is somehow _my_ fault?

The bits in italics were well written. The first paragraph headed "parents" was a nice conclusion. That would have made a great post.

The bit about the UK going to MS for it's initial computing curriculum seems to wipe the BBC / Acorn / ARM story from history.

phusion 4 days ago 0 replies      
Regardless of the attitude of the author, I loved this article. I'm 30, been in IT since 1999 or so and recently I've thought that maybe the younger generation would start filling positions that I'd normally be a shoe in for. This is not the case, they're great at web apps and wasting time online, but when it comes to hardware, networking concepts etc.. they're lost. It's sad, but it also makes me feel secure :)
saltyknuckles 4 days ago 2 replies      
The TL;DR makes this guy sound like a prick.
Zigurd 4 days ago 0 replies      
Get out of the driver's seat you git! If you don't set the manual choke properly you'll flood the engine!
mgaphysics 4 days ago 0 replies      
The authors' attitude, while polarizing, is not really as important as the underlying issues that the article is trying to address. I agree and disagree with a few of his points, but just understanding the current environment in education, there are too many obstacles to overcome systematically.

How do you strike a balance between budget, administration, curriculum, and execution. Inevitably, one of these stakeholders prevents change and growth.

In the end, it may fall upon us tech professionals to continually improve UX. As far as the masses are concerned, that is the point of our professional existence. When a car breaks, they want a mechanic. When a computer doesn't connect to the inter-nets, they want a tech professional.

Just to throw it out there. Think of how much tech has advanced in the last ten years (Google is only 10yrs old)... do you really think, knowing what you know about agility in education, that public schools could have kept pace??? There are tech giants that have fallen by the wayside over the same period of time.

SamBoogie 4 days ago 0 replies      
I love hacker News and wouldn't consider posting this unless I were certain that it applied. My friends and I are working on a game that will teach players (mainly kids) how to code. We have done workshops in NYC, Philly and Sheffield, England. I'd love for you guys to take a look at it and give feedback, we think we're making something pretty cool. www.betathegame.com
joshaidan 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have a lot to say in response to this article, but for now I'll just share a quote from one of my computer science professors that I'll never forget:

"Just because you're a computer science professor doesn't mean you know how to use a computer."

analog31 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why didn't the MacBook just configure itself?

What basic computer skills should everybody possess? In my view, the answer is: None. My rationale is that any skill considered to be universal enough for everybody to know, should be taken care of by the computer -- especially if the computer is sold on the premise that "it just works."

I've been hacking since 1981, and I wouldn't have guessed the need to configure the MacBook for a proxy server, or that the proxy was blocking the embedded YouTube video.

On the other hand, I want my own kids to learn how to hack. We have 4 Raspberry Pi's in the house. The kids are learning HTML and Python. But why? My motive isn't to teach them "skills," but just to see if it sparks their interest. Also, I think that given the ubiquity of programming as an intellectual pursuit, and its impact on society & history, it ranks as a "liberal art" alongside calculus.

iopq 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, what a badass, you can connect to a wifi, turn on a monitor AND find an IE icon on the desktop? How does one acquire such advanced skills?
dllthomas 4 days ago 0 replies      
This post made me realize I've come to use "TL;DR" as "thesis" or "abstract" - giving me something of a sense of what the writing promises and where it's going before I dive in - and I found it somewhat jarring when this one didn't meet my expectations.
jfranche 3 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, I have a completely different take on this article. Us techno-geeks that can fix proxy settings are low-end commodities nowadays. (Outside of a tech company) - the lawyers, doctors, salesmen that want to work and drive revenue don't need to mess with that. Newer computers and OS's do shield a lot of that, and that is a good thing. They can hire a few IT dorks to plug things in if needed. That is the future. There was a time that a car mechanic was looked at as an engineer or scientist. Now he is a wrench turner. Get used to it.Now, should people dump tech problems on you? No. Just like it is not considered right to show your rash to your doctor friend while at Starbucks. That is a different issue.
gcb0 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is one reason I'm against the current GUI trend in Linux. By copying Apple and Microsoft blatantly, they forgot that when using the command line that they are replacing user must first understand the concept of what they are doing.

Most guis i contributed to opensource have at least the console output so the user is not 100% oblivious to the concepts that are happening underneath.

wowaname 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am horrible at being patient with others' technical difficulties. I've run into the "Where's the Internet Explorer icon" problem at my elementary school before; I honestly do not understand why the desktop folder was invented.

Yes, the article was a bit harsh, but you have to admit there are a few real issues the author is pointing out. Why the hell are schools being taught Microsoft Office from junior high all the way to senior year? Why can't school systems set up a GNU/Linux distro on their networks? Sure, it takes a bit more work to install, but it's free and technology classes would benefit heavily from it.

I know somebody is gonna reply and say that Linux has no real-world use.

WalterBright 4 days ago 0 replies      
When I was a kid, none of the other kids could use a computer. I couldn't, either.
alexPetrov 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have only read the TL:DR.

If you're going to be a condescending jerk, why should I read anything you have to say? You know what makes it obvious that an article is too long for me to read? I start reading it and notice it is too long for me. No condescending presupposition about how I use my free-time is necessary.

I infer you are trying to get a point across. I recommend you cut out anything that both has no chance of improving your chance of reaching people with that point and also reasonable chance of increasing the amount of people who will ignore your article. Focus on the point.

borlak 4 days ago 0 replies      
It sounds like you want everyone to be a system administrator. That is not going to ever happen.

The human history of inventing has one very consistent theme: making things easier for ourselves. "Computers" will only become easier to use, and require less knowledge of the humans that are using them.

When "computers" go wrong, a human with that specialty will fix it. You have that specialty. Why can't everyone fix their own cars or HVACs or bake their own bread?

auggierose 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great post. Looking forward to hopefully having beers with you and Phil in Edinburgh sometime soon again.
vehementi 4 days ago 1 reply      
Yyyyyyup, that's a lot of comments by people complaining about the tone of the article (and misunderstanding it to boot) and ignoring the content.
JVIDEL 4 days ago 0 replies      
When I read kids I was expecting actual kids, a "twentysomething" may already have kids of their own.
buckyball 4 days ago 0 replies      
Making things foolproof results in better fools.

But, I really would like to admit that things like "WPA2 Enterprise" or "Proxy" are really at least more than special in terms of common language.Looking at the TV analogy OP made, I would like to throw in this piece of information:

Even getting a new TV up and running is some kind of rocket science nowadays. This is what it is like in Germany right now:

Step 1: buy TV at local dealer.

Step 2: At home, the TV is asking you to tell him what kind of signal you have:

   * Cable, analog   * Cable, digital   * DVB/T (terristical, antenna on roof or indoor)   * Sat, satellite analog   * DVB-S, satellite digital   * DVB-S2, satellite digital h264 HD
Step 3: Call son or husband of daughter to setup this strange device: "All I wanted is to watch TV!!!!eleven!"

And that is not even close to the confusion happening when the wifi and apps settings are popping up.

auggierose 4 days ago 0 replies      
I had the same Fisher Price toy!!
waylandsmithers 4 days ago 0 replies      
helpdesk/support guy here-- I think a small part of this is a weird desire to be liked by the person asking for help-- the 'wow, thanks!' after you flick their wi-fi switch back on. You often don't make friends by telling them to google it, or maybe pointing them to the appropriate documentation, especially if they don't care to learn.
smooth 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you don't know how to spell "tires", you don't know how to use a computer.
beefxq 4 days ago 0 replies      
Kids will just use tablets instead.
yawniek 4 days ago 0 replies      
the real tldr:"i don't know how to properly configure a network and now everybody and me has to suffer"
dylangs1030 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is one of the most fantastically insightful and legitimately important posts I've seen on Hacker News in a while. It's refreshing.
ssyphon 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for writing this.
rhizome 4 days ago 1 reply      
No, this is why it worries him: his salary depends on it.

Frankly, I have never seen a good reason why kids need to use computers or the internet aside from peer pressure, especially in elementary school. There's nothing that requires it until at least high school, at least as much as they should learn to frame a house because they might be a construction worker some day.

TallboyOne 4 days ago 2 replies      
I hate these idiotic titles. It feels like I see at least 5 titles a day that are broad sweeping generalizations that all have the same tone. Of course kids can use computers, don't be stupid. Maybe a small subset can't. If that's not what the article is about, then don't put it in the title.

And also.. I went to read the article, saw the extremely arrogant TLDR and closed it.

Why I Changed My Mind On Weed cnn.com
571 points by tptacek  5 days ago   363 comments top 43
kyro 5 days ago 7 replies      
I'm glad that Gupta has made this public apology. It takes a lot of courage to make that statement especially for someone with great public influence.

I'm just curious as to why it took him this long. Medical marijuana has been prescribed in hospitals for some time with great benefit. I mean, just from a clinical standpoint, he should've seen the great upsides and limited downsides to using the drug. Patients, typically the elderly, with cachexia from cancer are often given marijuana to stimulate their appetite, and it works. Given its possible links with the development of Schizophrenia and the rest of its relatively mild side-effects, a quick and simple benefits/costs analysis should show that in many cases, its efficacy far outweighs the potential risks.

A huge percentage of physicians today, as indicated in the article, would be supportive of a move to legalize it. And it has been this way for several years. I just do not understand why it took Gupta so many years, having to go to the ends of the earth to dig up research from various countries to come to that conclusion.

My suspicion is that his initial viewpoint was more rooted in irrational bias and ignorance than in scientific evidence proving the drug's inefficacy. You can tell that by his mentioning of his children and how he wouldn't let them try marijuana, which is both irrelevant to the issue and an ignorant emotionally-charged argument commonly used when the topic of legalization (for medical use) is brought up. It's effectively "but remember the children!" The same could've been said for legalization of opioids and a myriad of other medications that have much more severe side-effects. And that really saddens me, because I've got great respect for the guy. I'm glad he's on what I believe to be the right side, but as someone with great influence in this country, with such an accomplished background, I feel he could've arrived to this conclusion much earlier, with much less data, and pushed for its medical legalization when the conversation was happening.

All in all welcome aboard, Dr. Gupta. Please be a little more forward-thinking from here on out.

gregpilling 5 days ago 5 replies      
I am a medical marijuana user. I have fibromyalgia (a catch all label for constant pain), and it helps some with neuropathic pain. My doctor is kept informed about how much I am using, and I have to get my card renewed each year. MJ works, but at best it dulls the pain, and also helps to make the pain less 'front and center' and instead kind of makes it more something that is in the background.

I was never a stoner, and did not use it until I was 38 years old. I am happy it exists, because I was being treated with Vicodin for pain and was on a schedule of 6 pills a day. Enough that liver damage and addiction started to be a concern. I am allergic to pills in the Percoset family (hives and skin lesions) and I consume about 5 joints a day worth of weed. I don't even get high anymore, but it does help with the pain. It is costing me about $100 per week, compared to the $3 per month the Vicodin cost on my medical insurance. I could buy a new car with the weed money, but couldn't buy a coffee at Starbucks with the Vicodin money.

I hope the government gets around to reclassifying the drug soon. In the current situation, Child Protective Services would take my kids away if I was to consume the drug in front of them. A reclassification would enable more research, more research would lead to easier ways to ingest it. I find food products make me stomach sick, vaporizing doesn't work as well as smoking, and smoking is unappealing and difficult to do with any discretion.

I am fortunate that I can afford it, and can fit it into my schedule (I own my business). Many people need something like MMJ and can neither afford it, nor can they keep their employment with it because of widespread drug testing. While the state I live in says that card holders can't be fired for holding a card, it is a state that has 'right-to-work' laws and you can fire someone for no specified reason at all. (source- I employ ten people).

jgrahamc 5 days ago 8 replies      
After I saw Gupta in Japan talking about protection against gamma radiation (http://blog.jgc.org/2011/03/cnn-sounding-authorative-while-t...) I stopped listening to him at all.
rickdale 5 days ago 4 replies      
One of the biggest issues with marijuana in this country is the lack of research behind it. Here in Michigan where over 60% of the people voted for medical marijuana, they just outlawed medibles. Meaning no pot brownies for patients. Which makes no sense when applying medical marijuana.

Caregivers and patients are outraged because they feel like they know more than the judges or politician do, and I have to agree.

On another more general note about marijuana, I think most peoples perception of the drug is that out of a hollywood movie. In my own experience you can use marijuana to lose weight, as opposed to inducing the munchies, but generally people don't know that or expect it.

Medical marijuana is legal in more states than gay marriage and growing in all 50+ Canada and Mexico. I am so tired of the US lagging behind the rest of the world and not listening to the people.

Marijuana is safer than alcohol, and its time we treated it that way -quote from pulled commercial that was going to play of Nascar event..


Edit--Additionally, here in Michigan we have real doctors that refuse to sign marijuana recommendation forms for fear of their contracts with hospitals and insurance agencies. Meanwhile we have doctors from states close and far recommending patients come to medical states to get marijuana. This leads to dingy doctors signing medical forms for patients they have little interaction with, which makes the law seem abused.

dave_sullivan 5 days ago 3 replies      
Better late than never I guess, but what changed his mind really? "I actually did more research and was shocked, shocked by what I found!" or "I'm making a documentary and the tides of public opinion continue to shift, writing's on the wall, time to change my tune..."

Maybe (probably) I'm being overly cynical, but people like him have lent support and legitimacy to a machine that literally destroys people's lives for their involvement with a fairly innocuous plant. Oops!

nakedrobot2 5 days ago 2 replies      
the headline should read "over-credulous member of establishment is finally swayed by overwhelming evidence to the contrary, although he has to travel to the ends of the earth to be convinced"
ferdo 5 days ago 1 reply      
> "We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that."

It takes a large soul to admit, in public, that you've been wrong about something that has to do with your profession.

And he's right, Americans have been misled about hemp and its products:


gadders 5 days ago 4 replies      
"Much in the same way I wouldn't let my own children drink alcohol, I wouldn't permit marijuana until they are adults. If they are adamant about trying marijuana, I will urge them to wait until they're in their mid-20s when their brains are fully developed."

Good luck with that.

ignostic 5 days ago 0 replies      
>"I do want to mention a concern that I think about as a father. Young, developing brains are likely more susceptible to harm from marijuana than adult brains. Some recent studies suggest that regular use in teenage years leads to a permanent decrease in IQ. Other research hints at a possible heightened risk of developing psychosis."

The same is actually true of alcohol. Unfortunately, the discussion has become so black and white (legalization vs. prohibition) that no one is even pausing to consider what is actually optimal.

I wish I could get this message through clearly: the crowd on Reddit could benefit from learning the actual risks. Yes, I am in favor of legalization or decriminalization. No, young people should not use pot or alcohol often.

It's hard not to scream at kids as I pass them in a part of the city where they - some of them not even old enough to drive - are burning away up to 10 IQ points. Perhaps if their teachers and parents taught them the real risks rather than fear-mongering nonsense, we would see fewer kids throwing away precious intelligence.

tptacek 5 days ago 3 replies      
This is a surprisingly thoughtful article for CNN.
nkurz 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is a fine article, as are the other front page stories on e-cigarettes in New York and cycling in the Netherlands. It's submitted by one of HN's most respected participants from a major US media source. While obviously "of interest to Hackers", it's far from exclusively so. It's also currently the top story on Reddit. I like the discussion of this topic better here than Reddit, but there are some good points on Reddit as well: http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/1jy7xa/dr_sanjay_g...

Thomas: how does this article accord with your comments here?https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6158093

As this is also a contentious legal, social, and political issue, I worry that the currently 'better' level of discourse will be hard to maintain.

lilbearsbrother 5 days ago 0 replies      
I have no medical issues that marijuana could treat, but I still want to use it for recreational purposes without being persecuted for breaking the law. I am a functional member of society. I have a job and a college degree, and I love to get stoned as shit and play video games. The fact that medical research is increasingly supporting decriminalization is great; however, I am wary of the movement to pigeonhole the substance into the realm of prescription drugs while stopping short of full-scale legalization. I believe that society has more or less struck the right balance between structure and self-regulation on the issue of alcohol consumption, and I see no reason why marijuana cannot exist similarly - especially given that it is a considerably less harmful substance. Policy should be concerned with preventing kids from smoking it and preventing people from driving under the influence, but aside from that I think the people can figure it out for themselves.
michaelwww 5 days ago 2 replies      
I think people are forgetting his target audience, which is probably older. I doubt many young people watch CNN. Even the title "Why I Changed My Mind On Weed" sounds like it was written for the Readers Digest, which I used to read as a kid because my grandmother would give me her copies.
aswanson 5 days ago 0 replies      
I dont smoke but I drink. I think alcohol is a more dangerous drug in terms of causing addiction and inciting violence. When was the last brawl you saw started when weed was the agitator? Nicotine in cigarettes are far more addictive than thc.
tareqak 5 days ago 5 replies      
Honest question: How many drug companies' bottom lines would be affected if marijuana was legalized right now?

Reminds me of the quote: If you're not a part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem.

barking 5 days ago 1 reply      
I saw a short news report (over a decade ago) about a Swiss heroin addict who daily attended a clinic to be given heroin (not methadone) for free (the cost of legally available heroin would be minimal).

She was able to hold down a job, pay rent and had no need to beg or commit crime to fund the habit.

She also could afford to eat properly and was no longer at risk of acquiring disease through contaminated drugs, dirty needles or prostitution.

Also methadone is an absolute destroyer of teeth not least because of the slowness to provide a sugar free variety.It's also highly addictive in its own right I believe.

artagnon 5 days ago 3 replies      
[I'm not talking about most parts of the US, where weed is harder to obtain; I'm talking about most poor countries, where it is readily available]

I've seen many of my friends waste years of their college lives running around like stoned hippies, overeating junk food, and watching absolute trash with loud sounds and bright colors. To make things worse, it's considered a great "social activity", much like going to a bar to get sloshed with friends. Only weed is _much_ easier to get hooked onto, because it's much cheaper than alcohol, and you don't need much more than rolling paper (as opposed to refrigerator, soft drinks etc).

That said, many of them have had very eye-opening experiences where they learn a lot more about the world and themselves. They have formed strong social bonds on the basis of meaningful experiences, and have learnt moderation. They've also found it to be an extremely good analgesic and laxative. Ofcourse, there are sections of society that need it more than anything: chemotherapy patients take it for increased appetite, and people with chronic headaches take it to reduce occurrences (although LSD has been shown to work with an even more extreme form: cluster headaches).

Every substance in the world has a potential for abuse: there are plenty of "sugar junkies" who will live horrible lives and die a painful death, for instance. All in all, the issue is that of education: we need to legalize all these substances, and objectively explain how people can practice moderation. In general, enforcing hard-abstinence is a very poor solution; only repressive regimes should practice them.

benackles 5 days ago 0 replies      
It's encouraging to see public opinion and the medical community evolve on the issue of medical marijuana. However, there still remains an ambiguous interpretation to the way the substance is treated between State and Federal governments. For example, in my home state of Oregon the laws on medical marijuana possession are quite liberal, yet the consequences at the Federal level make progress on the issue nearly void. Furthermore the consequences at the state level in Oregon for illegal possession of marijuana remain quite harsh [1].

My biggest concern is that people who otherwise wouldn't be criminal are becoming lifelong criminals by getting locked up for a relatively harmless substance. From a financial standpoint, our government needs to tax the substance so we aren't treating a large portion of the economy differently than any other industry.

[1] http://www.robertcrowlaw.com/blog/drug-crimes/oregon-marijua...

Shivetya 5 days ago 6 replies      
I found it interesting they did not comment on the means of using weed. Smoking it cannot be much better for you than smoking cigarettes.

Even after the Feds remove it from the list there will be regulation governing its sale. You can grow tobacco all you want; most people don't because prep is much harder than marijuana; but run afoul of a few laws should you try to sell it.

It would certainly reduce the jailed population of this country and possibly even reduce the usage of harder drugs, after all if there was a legal outlet most people take the easy route

jmharvey 5 days ago 2 replies      
Does anyone have statistics on what percentage of "medical marijuana" is actually used for the treatment of medical conditions? The de facto medical marijuana regime in California seems to be that anyone who wants marijuana goes to a doctor, says they're anxious or have trouble sleeping, and gets a card. I'm sure some people with legitimate medical problems get relief from using marijuana, but it seems to be a distinct minority.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. Recreational users having a steady supply has no real social cost, and sick people getting the care they need has real benefit. But as long as we're going to be talking about medical marijuana in the context of science, it seems like we should compile some kind of statistics on this.

gadders 5 days ago 0 replies      
Cool. Can we have a dispassionate review of Performance Enhancing Drugs now? I'd be interested to see how harmful they are compared to alcohol, tobacco, MJ etc.
leke 5 days ago 4 replies      
I really can't understand it when people claim to be addicted to weed. From what I hear, it's not chemically addictive, so can it really be claimed so if the addiction is placebic?
ctdonath 5 days ago 0 replies      
Starkly absent from the discussion of state-legal pot is the relevance of the US Supreme Court verdict in Raich. That case concluded that regardless of state legality and medical prescription & supervision, the federal government is still justified in executing armed raids on citizen possession of federally-declared contraband - even if the contraband in question never moved inter-state (by any stretch of the imagination), such possession could be regulated (including confiscation) on grounds that intra-state production & possession reduced demand in illegal inter-state commerce therein (as it affected inter-state commerce). [No, I'm not kidding. The ruling is, in fact, that deranged.]

I suspect the DEA will sit back for a while on the subject of state legalization of pot, but at some point they're going to return to exercising intense control over the subject. This will not end well for many.

at-fates-hands 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is a great article, but how can you mitigate the abuse of the system by people who just want to smoke weed and complain of headaches or glaucoma?

I'm all for easing the pain of people who have real pain issues, but it's abundantly clear people are abusing the system.

piokoch 5 days ago 2 replies      
I am wondering why British employers are testing employees for drugs usage.

Is this justified? Are cannabies, etc. really affecting badly people? If yes, then it makes sense for the employer to spend its money on tests. If no, it means that employers in UK are victims of some kind of paranoia against cannabies.

dreamdu5t 5 days ago 0 replies      
Fuck Sanjay Gupta. There is no debate to be had. It is not up for discussion. I don't have to justify what I do to my body to fucks like this guy or anyone else.
crusso 5 days ago 0 replies      
The interesting part of this article for me is the illumination of the weakness of Science as it's practiced and commissioned by the government today.

For political reasons, the government decided that marijuana was bad - so almost all of the approved research went into confirming that decision. If you'd naively look at the number of papers or scientists who've published the opinion that marijuana is "bad", the evidence would appear overwhelmingly confirmative.

cjdrake 5 days ago 0 replies      
I had no idea the startup community was so interested in the subject of marijuana. Well, I guess it's just about as interesting as reading a daily blog about somebody's impressions of the Go programming language.
rglover 5 days ago 0 replies      
Marijuana doesn't hurt you. I smoke it on occasion and I don't use it for medical reasons. Here's why:

It allows me to land my spaceship. I see where I'm getting things right in life and where I'm getting them wrong. In essence, it's a great tool for gaining perspective on a myriad of things. It's not something to abuse, but rather, to enjoy.

It's time to let people make their own decision about it. They're fully capable.

bayesianhorse 5 days ago 0 replies      
The discussion needs more balanced voices like this. There are a ton of voices already overhyping the harmlessness.

Besides the damage to developing brains, there are more immediate effects on the mind, which are less predictable than alcohol.

Make no mistake: The "learning process" of a society that legalizes weed will involve deaths.

danbmil99 5 days ago 0 replies      
If MJ is so useful medically, wouldn't it be healthier (and easier to control dosage) to injest it, rather than expose your lungs to all that smoke? Hot smoke can't be good for your airways.

And eventually, can't the active substances be put into pill form?

anonymouz 5 days ago 0 replies      
I love the ambiguity in the headline.
jasperkyle 5 days ago 1 reply      
I know this is a classic libertarian argument, and I hope you will forgive me that, but this whole thing is just silly. Medical considerations around marijuana are at best tertiary considerations. Far more important are 1) personal freedoms and the elimination of the standard of a victimless crime and 2) the incredibly damaging effects of the War on Drugs. Deal with these two and it is obvious that marijuana should be legalized. Who cares about the medical benefits.
throwaway0808 5 days ago 0 replies      
As someone who does have schizophrenia and did smoke weed heavily (once a day, an eighth a week), I support its legalization with the caveat that people should be screened for its use and people with likely predisposition for schizophrenia should avoid it, and if Big Pharma (which I hate) wants to develop a version which lowers the likelihood of developing schizophrenia (which I do not believe is likely), I'm all for it. I would not say marijuana use caused schizophrenia in my case, there's a possibility that I would've developed schizophrenia later in life when I had a career, and it might've been worse for me, or might have been better.

I'd also like to add that stimulants, alcohol, and psychedelics are some other classes of drugs to avoid, if you feel you are predisposed to schizophrenia.

Rulero 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'm quite fascinated by the fact this is on the first page so quickly.

It's evident what all of you get up to in your free time :)

macowar 5 days ago 0 replies      
Is Hacker News the new reddit now? Should I start posting graphic memes?
thebiglebrewski 5 days ago 0 replies      
Have you ever changed your mind...ON WEED?!


mumbi 5 days ago 0 replies      
Man, I didn't even know who Dr. Gupta was but I fucking love this guy after what his article did to the public.
mjfl 5 days ago 1 reply      
Isn't any effect that marijuana has on patients going to be confounded with the placebo effect? Not that I disagree with what is being said, I still have my doubts about the actual medical usage of marijuana, and the studies that have been done on it.
saltyknuckles 5 days ago 0 replies      
I am a marijuana user with no medical condition. This is awesome.
rogerthis 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've already said: stay away from my kids.
sgdnogb2n 5 days ago 0 replies      
Better late than never?
rorrr2 5 days ago 3 replies      
Just a hype for his movie.

This all reminds me of how some famous supposed atheists convert to a religion X and then write books about it selling millions of copies.

Same shit. You're being manipulated.

We don't need a mediocre surgeon to tell us weed is OK. Any idiot with internet access knew that for the last 15 years.

Washington Post to be sold to Jeff Bezos washingtonpost.com
570 points by Volscio  8 days ago   230 comments top 44
miles 8 days ago 6 replies      
Few people were aware that a sale was in the works for the paper, whose reporters have broken such stories as the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate scandals and disclosures about the National Security Administrations surveillance program in May.

Claiming credit for the NSA story seems disingenuous at best, especially given their antagonism towards Snowden:




EDIT: While acknowledging the WaPo's significant contributions in the early 70s, it seems like they lost their way somewhere along the line:

Washington Post Kills Account of Its Failures in Iraq Reporting and Runs a Defense Insteadhttp://gawker.com/5992158/washington-post-kills-account-of-i...

ChuckMcM 8 days ago 2 replies      
I think this is a bold move by Bezos. One of the interesting data points in the world of Journalism has been the transition of the New York Time from mostly paper to being mostly digital. Something Jeff is profoundly aware of.

Every morning while I eat my breakfast I download the Wall Street Journal and times to my iPad, and on the train to work scan them and this weeks Economist for interesting stories of the day, combined with this month's Scientific American, Smithsonian, and Science News.

If I could use Evernote with those "publications" on the iPad I could be very efficient in my collection of various inputs on news of the day. For now, I'm constrained to making notes to myself in my notebook.

To pull an interesting analogy here, Google sees everything through the lens of "You will be connected 100% of the time to the network." which is their future point that they are building systems around, sometimes today they seem ungainly or even useless when no network is available. Jeff (and Amazon) seems to see everything through the lens of "You will consume all of your media on a tablet like device." and building around the complete media experience there.

epistasis 8 days ago 2 replies      
>There would be change with or without new ownership. But the key thing I hope people will take away from this is that the values of The Post do not need changing. The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners.

The Washington Post is an important institution for the USA, and comments like this make it seem that Bezos will be a good steward. I hope, and am fairly certain, that this is a good thing for everyone involved.

guard-of-terra 8 days ago 1 reply      
- Mr. Bezos, we've bought Washington Post as you ordered.

- Good. I hope it's a fresh issue?

- ...issue!?

aridiculous 8 days ago 7 replies      
Looks like Bezos has a propaganda arm now.

I mean, sorry for the cynicism, but this is an obvious conflict of interest. Retail, distribution, infrastructure, and now politics & media.

The man can do what he wants but the public probably shouldn't applaud this.

tptacek 8 days ago 2 replies      
I presume this means he hasn't bought the WaPo company, and thus not other assets like Slate.
badclient 8 days ago 0 replies      
The first is the courage to say wait, be sure, slow down, get another source. Real people and their reputations, livelihoods and families are at stake.

A 1000 times. At least it won't turn into the next PandoDaily(and its BeachMint fiasco).

rgbrgb 8 days ago 0 replies      
Of all of the big Tech companies to have deep ties with a national news source, Amazon seems like a decent fit. They were one of the first retailers to allow negative reviews on their site and have a culture that allows employees to make decisions that prioritize long term thinking over short term profits ("willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time"[1]). This type of thinking is really important in an often buzzy industry that relies on advertising for revenue.

[1]: http://blogs.hbr.org/ideacast/2013/01/jeff-bezos-on-leading-...

salemh 8 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting. Warren Buffet has always gobbled up a large chunk of newspapers (albeit not directly as an individual (ala Bezos), rather, through Berkshire Hathaway):http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-13/buffett-poised-to-a...

Buffett, 81, has been expanding Berkshires media operations in the past year as he wagers that publications focused on local communities can withstand the shift of readers and advertisers to the Internet. The billionaires firm bought the publisher of his hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald Co., in December, and acquired 63 daily and weekly newspapers from Media General Inc. (MEG) for $142 million last month.

Local papers vs something larger like WaPo.

And note:While Buffetts firm holds the largest stake in Washington Post Co. (WPO) and has shares of Gannett Co., he said Berkshire is less likely to make more stock market investments in the industry.

josh2600 8 days ago 2 replies      
How does this mesh with his investment in Business Insider?

Is Jeff pursuing a content strategy? Washington Post for investigation and Business Insider for Biz news would be great.

Personally I'd rather have Jeff Bezos than Rupert Murdoch, but maybe that's just me...

cpr 8 days ago 0 replies      
The WaPo is just a prominent member of what Joe Sobran so elegantly called "the Hive"--people who all think pretty much alike ("enlightened liberalism", in their own minds), know only other members of the Hive, and only read each other. (The NYT being the other major member.)

And nothing will change.

minimaxir 8 days ago 6 replies      
To put things into perspective, the $250M purchase price is lower than the purchase price of The Huffington Post at $315M.


larrys 8 days ago 2 replies      
Announced after market close. Expecting NYT stock to rise quite a bit.

I was surprised when Jack Welsh (x GE) wanted to buy the Boston Globe (he backed out). He realized the the shine was one of the past. It's interesting that Bezos sees value here but I think the value is in the same sense taking a small part of his billions and buying something that is a legend. (After all rich people buy art and other trinkets because they can so why not a newspaper?).

anigbrowl 8 days ago 0 replies      
Great. Now it will be delivered in a 6 cubic foot box.
Eliezer 8 days ago 0 replies      
Let's all hope that this day we have witnessed the birth of the anti-Murdoch.
pla3rhat3r 8 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone believe or trust in the American propaganda machine (i.e. mainstream media)? We live in a world of stories that seem to be in a perpetual loop. When we eliminate news for the sake of ratings or the number of papers/magazines sold, then we return to a time when the media will resume reporting on things that matter. The "news" in the US is a dumbed down version of TMZ and that's being nice.
patmcguire 8 days ago 1 reply      
Is this in the category of buying sports teams, or does he expect to make money off of it?
lifeisstillgood 8 days ago 1 reply      
This is not a power grab - this is the natural effect of gravity - the last twenty years saw an almost cataclismlc shift in strategic leverage from non-Internet to Internet businesses, and now all that cash is exerting its pull - and power is sliding over the table.

Just watch as the rest of the baby boomer generation die off and hand over their assets.

peterwwillis 7 days ago 0 replies      
I was thinking about this when I heard the announcement, and I thought, what a disruptor! Here are some ways that a newspaper (with "internet content") would be superior than digital media:

  * Much larger viewing area than an iPad  * It's more compact than an iPad  * It's cheaper than an iPad  * It's disposable  * It's recyclable  * You can use it in places digital media aren't allowed    (security buildings, airplane takeoff/landing, subway, etc)  * You don't have to know how to use it  * You don't need a data plan or need to use a computer  * You don't have to recharge it
All you have to do is create targeted content and sell to places that digital media doesn't work as well. Fill with context-specific in-line ads and make it more interesting to the target market audience. (And probably figure out a new way to print it so that makes monetary sense)

blackaspen 8 days ago 3 replies      
I don't see anyone majorly naysaying this move, but in case anyone does, remember that Jeff is smart. Very, very smart. I've heard him referenced to as "a hyper-intelligent alien who has only a tangential in human affairs" before. AMZN represents a bit of this.

My money's on Jeff - he's got something up his sleeve here.

psbp 8 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure if this is good news. Doesn't this portend further monopolistic control over publishing and distribution? Amazon isn't known to fairly and openly distribute its content.
Kurtz79 8 days ago 1 reply      
Lots of cynicism around here.

Nobody is saying that Bezos will be a steward of good journalism (I can't see him doing much worse as the head of a major news medium than Rupert Murdoch, though) and has reasons to buy the paper that go beyond, ultimately, making more money.

But from a technology enthusiast standpoint, it can't be denied that the guy has a amazing track record of innovating the sectors he has been involved in, and personally I'm curious to see how he will tackle this one.

The main takeaway from the story, in my opinion, is seeing a steady trend of the "new" technology companies trying to get in a position of influence, like Facebook interested in getting into politics, Google having already plenty of lobbying/funding activities, and now Amazon getting its own paper...

ferdo 8 days ago 0 replies      
I think that this signals that Bezos is going into the fish and chips business.
squozzer 8 days ago 0 replies      
I will celebrate by watching "Citizen Kane."
aaronbrethorst 8 days ago 1 reply      
I'm kind of surprised, but this seems like the best possible direction for them. Sort of like Chris Hughes buying The New Republic, Bezos has the cash to give the Post breathing room to find a direction that will be profitable. And, ostensibly, he won't want to turn it into Buzzfeed.
tcpekin 8 days ago 1 reply      
If Bezos integrates this with Amazon, how could this change the newspaper with respect to the Kindle and e-publishing? Could this change daily print media?
jhuckestein 7 days ago 0 replies      
It's noteworthy that the Washington Post sells for $250MM, compared to for example OMGPOP which sold for $200MM last year.
Tloewald 6 days ago 0 replies      
I hope the plan involves taking WaPo's news gathering expertise and delivering seamlessly through all possible channels -- don't just fix a newspaper, fix the news.
mkr-hn 7 days ago 0 replies      
I remember reading a story about how he turned Amazon into a platform to make it more nimble and faced a lot of resistance, and it gave me a good impression of his leadership abilities. This purchase is probably a good thing.
adventured 8 days ago 1 reply      
I'm a bit surprised Buffett didn't make a play for that asset, particularly given his recent expeditions in buying more newspapers. Perhaps he regards Bezos as a better long term steward given the age difference. At the least Buffett had to give his blessing to this deal, and absolutely knew about it and chose not to outbid Bezos.
photorized 8 days ago 0 replies      
I am convinced one of his next moves is going to be brick and mortar. He has already tested the concept of free showrooms for Amazon via the likes of Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, etc - so it's only natural to move back to the physical world.
augustocallejas 7 days ago 0 replies      
From the article:

> Weymouth said the decision to sell The Post sprang from annual budget discussions she had with Graham late last year. We talked about whether [The Washington Post Co.] was the right place to house The Post, she said. If journalism is the mission, given the pressures to cut costs and make profits, maybe [a publicly traded company] is not the best place for The Post.

Does this mean that the future of much of journalism is in the non-profit sector (think NPR)?

mehmehshoe 8 days ago 0 replies      
Meanwhile the Koch brothers want to buy the LA times...I will grab my popcorn and wait for the hilarity.
serverascode 8 days ago 0 replies      
For some reason this blows my mind. Man, it would be so cool to own the paper that paid the guys that broke Watergate. But it seems so...weird that it would be Bezos. I'd love to see the first meeting.
deepblueq 7 days ago 0 replies      
There's now a box in the lower-left informing me that I can view 20 articles in a month before they'll put up a paywall. I don't recall ever seeing anything about a paywall before.

If that's actually new, Bezos sure didn't waste any time monetizing things.

MaysonL 7 days ago 0 replies      
Guess what the next freebie for Amazon Prime subscribers will be.
ommunist 7 days ago 0 replies      
Was it what he negotiated at Bilderberg club this summer in Watford, UK?
crashoverdrive 8 days ago 0 replies      
Bezos goal may be to force users to more digital media. Amazon has been trying to push its publications by forcing book print companies out of the market, by cornering newspapers as well, Amazon could make it self the centralized location for e-media.
zpk 8 days ago 2 replies      
Another newspaper owned by a corporation. I'm sure this is going to end well.

Can't wait for it to become another CNBC infomercial.

e3pi 7 days ago 0 replies      
"...The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment.

"There is no map" -from a proven visionary worth $25.2B, leaves a whole lot of successful innovations and failures open.

rogerchucker 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think Jeff Bezos will be bigger than Steve Jobs one day.
rurban 8 days ago 0 replies      
Welcome to micromanagement to its extreme
kenshiro_o 8 days ago 0 replies      
Hope Bezos revamps the site's design. It's quite ugly.
CSS Absolute Centering codepen.io
518 points by nvk  3 days ago   221 comments top 29
crazygringo 3 days ago 7 replies      
Just in case anyone's unaware... it's entirely possible to vertically center elements of variable height too in pure CSS... it's just "unsemantic", because it relies on the fact that only table cells have "vertical-align:middle".

But that's how I center every one of my "modal dialogs" on a site -- the whole modal dialog is inside a <table> with position:fixed and top/bottom/left/right:0. Then, just give the <td> a "vertical-align:middle", and then put your desired visible dialog <div> inside it.

It's annoying to have to wrap something inside of a <table><tr><td> just to vertically center something, but it sure beats using JavaScript to do it. (You might be able to do it just with the display:table-cell property too, but it's been a long time since I checked browser compatibility.)

gamegoblin 3 days ago 16 replies      
I have just started doing web programming in the last month after several years of applications programming.

It feels like to me, and someone please tell me why I'm wrong, that the amount of hackery that goes into making webpages look the way web designers want them to is astounding. I google for solutions to various problems and the top rated comment on StackOverflow says "...there isn't a good way to do this in CSS, but here is this hack...".

I feel like somewhere in the universal programming ether there exists a beautiful unification of HTML, CSS, and JS that doesn't rely on any ugly hackery, and it's just waiting to be found and start a brave new world of web programming...

jiggy2011 3 days ago 1 reply      
It confuses me that you have to specify things in terms of margins, I understand how that is technically correct but surely something like alignment: center should just align to the center of the parent element?

I've spent hours in the past the past getting correct centring behaviour in CSS, then tried by just putting the whole thing inside <center></center> and had it work immediately in all browsers. But apparently that's "cheating".

eagsalazar2 3 days ago 0 replies      
OMG, just use a table! It's not semantic but no one will die and your mom will still love you, I promise! And if you are using haml/jade/handlebars whatever it is so insanely easy to create a little mixin or whatever to keep your code clean.

Articles about how to do this should be summarized like this: "Vertical centering hard/hacky/messy unless you just put it in a table. So put it in a table".

(I do realize the article says this).

BTW, regarding the argument about the damage of using tables wrt screen readers, google themselves used tables to layout very basic buttons on their landing page until very recently. If you use it sparingly and just for this purpose, screen readers will do just fine. Now, using tables for other types of layout can and will break screen readers but a full old-school table-based layout is a long way from having a single TD to center stuff.

mkl 3 days ago 1 reply      
I haven't done any front end web work so I'm confused by this. Can someone please explain why it is noteworthy? It seems strange to me that something as simple as centring a box should require special attention. Why aren't such tasks trivial beginner stuff?
unclebucknasty 3 days ago 1 reply      
When CSS reached a certain point, using tables for layout suddenly became evil. CSS was like some strange measure of your salt as a frontend dev. Very Emperor's New Clothes type stuff.

But, I can remember trying projects with tableless design at that point, and absolutely beating my head against a brick wall attempting things in CSS that required almost zero thought with tables. Then, I'd finally get it right in one browser only to find that it looked like garbage in another.

It was like having a toolbox with a hammer that I couldn't use, instead being forced to nail everything with a screwdriver. And it wasn't just that I was accustomed to tables. They were easier and more natural. When you think about it, layout is nearly always grid-like.

So, I confess that there were times when I said screw it and reverted to tables. I'd solve problems that weren't working after hours of trying with CSS in literally minutes.

And the challenge with CSS is still apparent. Here we are all of these years later, still trying to do something as simple and frequently necessary as center things vertically which, BTW, doesn't work in my stock Android browser.

CSS is a bloated, convoluted mess and just too much work for simple things. That's why I have always found it somewhat draconian that people insisted on CSS as if it didn't have its own significant issues. If there were a tag that operated just like tables, but indicated layout or, as I think someone else suggested, a simple attribute to mark a table as layout vs row/column data, most of the semantic/SEO problems could be solved.

For that matter, I am not convinced that we should be so bent on having html pull double duty as the source for semantic data and the source for a presentation engine's rendering. Maybe a different approach altogether could be more liberating and efficient on both fronts.

jafaku 3 days ago 1 reply      
Can someone paste the code somewhere else please? The linked website is broken. And yes, I have Javascript enabled. But it's probably using localStorage (with no graceful degradation), which I won't allow. Is this becoming a thing? Either you give up your privacy, or you can't surf the web anymore?
hayksaakian 3 days ago 2 replies      
Does it seem a bit off to anyone else in chrome?


Or is the browser chrome considered usable real estate.

DigitalSea 2 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty nifty trick, but I think undoubtedly the best is the transform 2D method detailed in this CSS-Tricks article: http://css-tricks.com/centering-percentage-widthheight-eleme... You don't need to know the height or the width, and the great thing is transform2d's are supported in most browsers that matter. If you're smart and have dropped IE8 support, then all browsers are mostly covered and is definitely a lot nicer/neater than needing a height/width or using display:table and display:table-cell hacks.

If IE8 and down matters, then there are polyfills available for this functionality.

lectrick 3 days ago 0 replies      
The fact that something so simple needs to be explained as "a thing" or "a trick", many years after HTML5 even came out, feels like a disgusting frontend failure.
X4 3 days ago 1 reply      
Why is such basic css hyped so much? Can someone technically explain it? Is the ratio of HN folks that need Web 101 greater than the ratio of people who need Startup advice, including technical and architecture solutions? (Been doing dev+webdev for >13y)
candl 3 days ago 1 reply      
HTML/CSS is generally quite flexible when it comes to operations on text. No surprise since it was its intended purpose to be a format for documents.

Making any layouts and god forbid centering elements has always been a headache for me. Even by looking at the CSS examples provided by the link my first thought is how random they all seem and how ugly they are not to mention difficult to remember and use. There should be a single way to center an element. It should be an obvious operation given how important and common it is.

Some very useful CSS properties might take a lot of code and be hard to implement in native GUI toolkits like floats, overflow, height/width with percents, text wrapping etc. This is a sweet spot where HTML/CSS shines.

I have been playing with QML lately and decided to implement the Dialog (Absolute center within viewport) that pops after visiting the linked page just for comparison:

Here's the dialog equivalent that just fills the entire screen of an application done with QtQuick 2.0 for Desktop.


Layouting is easily done by anchors. Filling a rectangle to match a parent's container, centering an element inside a parent, etc. Other containers such as Rows, Columns or Grids are also provided. Property bindings are used for centering the dialog even if the viewport changes. Text wrapping is also done explicitly and binding was necessary to limit text width to the ScrollView for it to work.

One big difference compared to CSS is that by looking at the source I can see at glance what the layout structure is and what might be happening with the element.

Another cool thing about QML is that it's as simple as taking the code, creating a new file 'Dialog.qml', adding a few properties, a signal and some functions and we get a reusable standalone component:


that is very convinient to use:


result: http://i.minus.com/iGTQhAxP55bBP.gif 3MB gif)

lwhi 1 day ago 0 replies      
I came up with a similar solution a while back [1]

[1] http://stackoverflow.com/questions/5009864/using-all-four-po...

msujaws 3 days ago 0 replies      
We use this same technique in Firefox to center images when viewing them standalone, inspect http://www.elizabethtownfamily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/0... to see for yourself :
mcgwiz 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is interesting but I don't like it. It's a quirky non-idiomatic hack. Using vertical-align/line-height/inline-block is equally-effective and IMHO conceptual and readable/self-documenting.

Details: http://jsfiddle.net/uy64k/6/

This requires no extra markup, but it does require the font-size and line-height to be reset.

the_cat_kittles 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very nice. When I actually stop to think about it, it's amazing to me that this is not immediately easy to do. Things like this give credence to Bret Victor's most recent talk.
spleeder 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have written about a much better (IMHO) solution that does not need the height be declared and does not use tables.


namuol 3 days ago 0 replies      
Don't forget to sacrifice at least one goat, if you want cross-platform, standards-compliant code.
hpaavola 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's a shame that we need to hack layouts to work with language designed for changing fonts and colors.
pbreit 3 days ago 0 replies      
Vertically centering dialog boxes in a window is a minor pet peeve of mine. Boxes should be slightly above center.

If I recall correctly, the original Mac UI guidelines specified that the midpoint of the box should be 1/3 the distance from the top.

ghostdiver 3 days ago 1 reply      
What is performance loss/gain compared to Javascript solution of this problem?
stesch 3 days ago 1 reply      
Doesn't work with NoScript. Bad example.
marcolz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Those CSS class names are unacceptable. (:grin:)
oakaz 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's still impossible if you'd like to center a div that resizes itself depending on the content.
marizmelo 3 days ago 0 replies      
There is anything new here ?
BigBalli 3 days ago 1 reply      
not sure how people who "know CSS" can work without knowing this...
ForFreedom 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why do you need this to center a box in css?It can be done without this too.
ilovecookies 2 days ago 0 replies      
How is this related to hacking now again?
blogtechjav 2 days ago 0 replies      
this is good
Email service used by Snowden shuts down, warns against using US-based companies theguardian.com
493 points by weu  4 days ago   166 comments top 18
spodek 4 days ago 8 replies      
"Can we call it a police state now?"

I saw the question on Reddit after a different revelation last month. I feel like we're going to ask that question more and more.

I can only hope more and more of us are inspired, as Snowden was by Levinson (Lavabit's CEO) and many of us have been by both of them, and we act to protect ourselves and constrain our governments from overreaching to where they can't help repeating the disasters of previous overreaching governments.

ck2 4 days ago 5 replies      
How is it possible for Snowden to be inspired any further?

He sacrified his life for us. He is the inspiration.

Certainly no president in the next few terms will rest until he is rendered, he has to look over his shoulder now forever.

Thank you for your sacrifice Mr. Snowden.

jedbrown 4 days ago 1 reply      
CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, 1994) addresses real-time monitoring of the communications of a single person, by way of a warrant. Lavabit has complied with warrants in the past [1] without shutting down services. Real-time interception does not fundamentally break Lavabit's security model [2] of encrypting incoming email and never storing the user's password, which is required to use their private key when they wish to access the mail. The implication in this shutdown is that the basic security model would be compromised, allowing untargeted retroactive snooping without needing to wait for the user to log in. Such a system is functionally equivalent to not having server-side encryption at all. Regardless of your stance on government snooping, this is just bad security, allowing a successful attacker to take all data in one shot rather than only being able to snoop on users currently accessing their mail.

[1] http://ia600908.us.archive.org/9/items/gov.uscourts.mdd.2362...[2] http://possibility.com/LavabitArchitecture.html

eliasmacpherson 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Note how a country's human rights problems becomes of interest to the US political and media class only when that country defies the US"

I am glad Greenwald has cottoned on to this and also made pointed remarks on the use of the abuses of others to question the ethics of Assange and Snowden in their "choice" of destination.It's reminiscent of the cold war retort from the soviets.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_you_are_lynching_Negroes

btipling 4 days ago 0 replies      
Kind of sucks for those customers though, who can't get their email out. I get it, but man I'm glad I didn't use lavabit. The lavabit founder is probably going to have to deal with some serious civil legal problems, and maybe even criminal ones too.

I don't know where I stand on this. I feel like the NSA can't respond because they're trapped by the same secrecy that they operate in from speaking out, although the lies and backtracking don't help, so this echo chamber is just amplifying itself to the point people are making big bold moves that hurt themselves (and their customers) when anyone has yet to demonstrate a single instance of where the NSA has misused their information (if you don't assume the DEA parallel reconstruction is using NSA data, which is maybe speculative or not).

Well at least Obama is meeting with Tim Cook about this, because that makes sense. I've been thinking, why doesn't Tim Cook go talk to the president about this. Because...yeah.

mhurron 4 days ago 4 replies      
And now we have completed the move to the story is about Snowden.

I wonder what his favorite food is? What is his favorite band? Where is his favorite place to shop? What does he think of the architecture of St. Basils?

A few more weeks and it will be 'Privacy Expert Snowden says...' and no one will remember why he's even famous.

jusben1369 4 days ago 1 reply      
Help me with this. A) I'm a non dev and b) I'm trying to cut to the chase vs use inflamed terms like Freedom of Speech and Police State. I'm piecing this together from the few comments I see that trying and get to the core of the issue.

i) Lavabit's provided a communication service (email) that was uniquely designed so as the content's literally did not touch their servers. Therefore, if the NSA came to them wanting to look at communications by their users they would literally be told "It's impossible to do that"ii) NSA (or government in general) says "We cannot allow you to have a service that is completely untraceable. You need to begin having a way to trace this.iii) Lavabit's understands that this is their commercial value proposition. Should they be forced to do this they literally go out of business. iv) They fight it hard for a while but realize it's futile so shut up shop vs slowly go out of business.

Is that right?

As a side note I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the Greenwald/Snowden circular loop. It's very close to a propaganda loop and not all that different to other media outlets who get two like minded people and thus really just have a mutually agreeable conversation vs a reporting role. The danger being of course it's passed off as news by being positioned as such.

grandalf 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is the kind of scenario one would expect to find if encryption were introduced into a totalitarian society.
cbhl 4 days ago 0 replies      
I know we all trust pg and all... but are there non-US-based alternatives to Hacker News that we should be considering?
coldcode 4 days ago 3 replies      
Yet a "safe" email system is now gone. A better idea would be to move yourself and your encrypted email company to a country that will let you keep providing such a useful service (assuming there is one).
mcv 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why does it have to be Paypal? They've already proven themselves unreliable in cases such as this.
k-mcgrady 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'd love to know what the consequences of making public these secret court orders and trials. One company standing up to the government and making public the actual content and threats could make a big difference.
mtgx 4 days ago 3 replies      
Snowden: "Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and the rest of our internet titans must ask themselves why they aren't fighting for our interests the same way".

Indeed, they must. Your move Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple.

MWil 4 days ago 2 replies      
Why is Lavabit, based out of Texas, appealing in the Fourth Circuit (Maryland, West VA, Virginia, North and South Carolina)?
susi22 4 days ago 0 replies      
This blew up more than I expected. It is the front page story now of Spiegel Online (one of the top German newspapers).
quantumpotato_ 4 days ago 0 replies      
What's up with all of these news articles where person A thinks topic B is word "C", in quotes? Maybe I'm missing something, but just throwing words onto events and calling it news looks like unthoughtful neurolinguistic programming. "this thing is called 'horrifying'". Often the articles don't declare the subject, so we just see that an invisible someone has done something. Sort of like "Wall graffitied with "$GANGTAG" sign". Off topic, I know. Just having a tough time grappling with news articles titled like this..
jokoon 4 days ago 0 replies      
The darker side of this, they can't speak about it because of state secrets, and any other individuals involved in other stuff has to deal with the same problem.

I'd think, people would end up speaking out when they're threatened by the NSA to shut up, but they have nowhere to go for legal advice.

I wonder if the government or the NSA could manage to shut down a class action if there would be one.

wil421 4 days ago 0 replies      
Now that we are seeing more and more publicity surrounding this issue and companies are at least attempting to be transparent, how can we spark a fundamental change in the way the Govt sees this issue.

The public need to hold these people accountable in some fashion, criminally is probably out of the question. Whether it be by some investigation committee by congress, supreme court intervention, or simply voting the current incumbents out.

We need to stop the Govt from just abiding by the letter of the laws and not by going with the Spirit of the law. The Government shouldnt be finding loop holes in their laws or playing games about the meaning of words when the are questioned by officials.

The algorithm for a perfectly balanced photo gallery crispymtn.com
488 points by jtreitz  1 day ago   95 comments top 35
Mgccl 1 day ago 2 replies      
Since I'm a CS theory person, I can offer some theoretical improvements on the running time and make the problem even more general...

Instead of minimize the linear difference of partition, we might want to minimize the standard deviation, or basically any convex function, and still do it in the same time bound.

One can reduce this problem to find a k-edge path of minimum weight on a complete DAG. The naive algorithm will run in O(kn^2), but we can improve the running time to O(kn) by realize the weight on this DAG has the Monge property. This is very practical to implement.

I posed it as a problem on daily haskell exercise http://dailyhaskellexercise.tumblr.com/post/58060450750/the-....

In this application, k is very large. n is just a constant multiple of k. We can use a theoretically better algorithm that takes n2^O(sqrt(log n loglog n)) time. (this is almost O(n^(3/2))). I doubt it will ever be implemented with speed comparible to the O(kn) solution. See http://www.cs.ust.hk/mjg_lib/bibs/DPSu/DPSu.Files/sdarticle_...

I shall post a solution tomorrow since I'm currently touring NYC with my gf...

bane 1 day ago 4 replies      
Side-topic. Shooting Holi [1] without putting your camera in an airtight sealed enclosure is a good way to ruin your equipment.



8ig8 1 day ago 1 reply      
WordPress recently added 'Tiled' galleries via their JetPack plugin. It seems like a similar approach. You can see an example gallery here:


Additional info:http://jetpack.me/support/tiled-galleries/


andrewingram 1 day ago 4 replies      
It like how it looks, but much like Flickr I dislike how it's biased towards landscape pictures. Some of my best photos are portrait, but they get overshadowed by the landscape ones.

I imagine the algorithm to cater to both is much harder, because you wouldn't be able to treat each row in isolation, can it actually be solved to a good standard?

quarterto 1 day ago 5 replies      
I just implemented pretty much the same thing from scratch for my wedding gallery.

For each row, it tries 3-10 images, sums their aspect ratios, divides the total row width by the sum to get a candidate height, then picks the height that's closest to the average of the existing rows.

To make things look a bit nicer, it rejects candidate rows with the same number of images as the last row.

I might release the code on Github if I can make it modular enough. Currently it depends on jQuery but that's really only for element creation.

http://mattandsophiegetmarried.com, I'm the guy with the waistcoat, purple cravat and massive grin.

martin-adams 1 day ago 3 replies      
What's just as impressive is the full size view of the image. The background brings the ambient colour of the photo to make it more immersive. Very nice!
mcgwiz 1 day ago 0 replies      
It looks nice (much like Google Image results) but IMO it's not "equally distributed". For example, an image that has dimensions 800x531 gets ~2.3x the space as one with dimensions 531x800. That arbitrarily incentivizes/rewards landscape photos w.r.t. portraits. "Equally-distributed" would probably require an algorithm that works mosaically (without row constraints) and couldn't achieve "taking up all the space available [in a rectangular region]".

Still, looks nice.

fsckin 1 day ago 0 replies      
The demo [0] is pretty impressive. Photo sites like Instagram and 500px give a fixed ratio, while flikr does nothing quite appealing as this. Nice work.

[0] http://www.chromatic.io/FQrLQsb

moron4hire 1 day ago 1 reply      
he writes an excellent example of why "all that computer sciency stuff" is usefull in day to day programming, yet still wants to take pride in his ignorance, like this is some strange sort of fluke.
dgreensp 1 day ago 1 reply      
This looks like a pretty slick, mobile-compatible photo gallery, but without the code it isn't very useful. They talk about Chromatic like a real product, but "free web service" basically means "demo".
joebo 1 day ago 2 replies      
This works well when the photos are not time sequential. I find it harder to follow the story when the photos are ordered by the partition fit instead of the time taken. It would be neat to optionally incorporate time into the algorithm.
emilw 1 day ago 1 reply      
Maybe I'm missing the point but why is this an achievement? I've seen Google images do this for years (from the backend, sends the users viewport dimensions and then automatically calculates the optimum filling). For years (Warning NSFW!) vusker.com has been doing this client-side in their thumbnail and gallery view. Plus look at the vertically stacked posts from Pinterest.

It seems more a marketing ploy to get attention to the great service chromatic.io is providing?

kenster07 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Remember the days in college when you learned all about the big Oh!'s and re-implemented all these sort-algorithms for the hundredth time? If you are a web developer like me, chances are you never had to touch a single one of these algorithms ever again." +1

It's a good start, but when the window is shrunk, the result isn't as impressive.

sergiotapia 1 day ago 1 reply      
EGreg 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is why I always preferred vertical masonry. Sites such as VKontakte, Google Image Search, and the recent Flickr app tile things horizontally, but this sometimes means you have to crop the images to fit into your masonry. Not so with vertical masonry, which you can just resize to have constant width.
blt 1 day ago 0 replies      
Given that clear textbook explanation and he decided to port a Python implementation instead of writing it from scratch? What a waste of an opportunity for a fun day at work...
jwarren 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great post with gorgeous results. The service is really very nice too! Fantastic work.

Question: will you ever implement profiles or permanent galleries?

gbog 1 day ago 1 reply      
Since when it is ok to suppose visitors know to click the escape key to go back. And where is the link to go up to the gallery. I had to mess with the url or I was gone for a long back button session. Morevoer it is very slow.

Just to add some negativeness to the generaly positive comments here.

nkuttler 1 day ago 2 replies      
Can sombody tell me why this uses the photos as background images for divs? It seems to me like this gallery could also use img tags (which is semantic, crawlable, yadda..)
kmfrk 1 day ago 0 replies      
Counting down to when Marissa Meyer pulls the acquisition trigger ... :)
myfonj 1 day ago 0 replies      
It is hard not to mention series of articles [0] on the same topic by Christopher 'vjeux' Chedeau [1] in this context.

[1] http://blog.vjeux.com/?s=%22Image+Layout+Algorithm%22[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=vjeux

glogla 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is there some kind of static gallery generation software that can do something like this?
chanux 1 day ago 0 replies      
For some reason I was expecting (perfectly) balanced files of a photo gallery on disk. What I actually got was equally interesting though.
fangel 1 day ago 0 replies      
I too made something similar recently. I decided to use dynamic programming. This way it's easy to ensure that you don't end up with a half row at the end. It also doesn't require changes to the ordering of the images. http://fangel.github.io/packing-images-in-a-grid/
baerbradford 1 day ago 0 replies      
I made something similar a while back to generate backgrounds on a music website. I took a different approach, and it's not as clean. If anyone is interested to see a different attempt, take a look at the JS.


alariccole 1 day ago 2 replies      
I've studied this a great deal, and developed a custom masonry type layout to mitigate the row/column bias. I believe it is a much more balanced layout than the article shows. Using it in Imagist, a paid app. Open to a few beta testers for iOS 7 as well, if you want to judge for yourself.
anonymoushn 1 day ago 1 reply      
Is it supposed to reload previously viewed images when the user scrolls up or down?
brianbreslin 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would love to see chromatic as a service I can pay for, maybe sell me a wordpress plugin?
44Aman 1 day ago 0 replies      
I really like this, made a quick one with snaps from Angkor Wat in Cambodia: http://www.chromatic.io/lTOfsdP
adventured 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Interestingly when I load up their demo gallery at: http://www.chromatic.io/FQrLQsb and click on one of the images to enlarge it, then click again to drop back into the gallery view, the gallery breaks horribly (about 1/3 of the images vanish).

FF 22 on Windows 8

normalocity 1 day ago 0 replies      
Anyone else in this thread think that this blog post covers a painfully trivial calculation problem? What's next - someone's going to write a full blog post to explain to me how to perfectly toast my toast using these visual sensor things that seem to be built into my head (eyes)?
tech-no-logical 1 day ago 1 reply      
that looks very good, but navigating with the 'back' button breaks the app. tested on FF24 / opera 15.
salberts 1 day ago 0 replies      
The gallery layout can be seen in G+ for a while now. But the ambient effect in full-screen mode is awesome!
grumps 1 day ago 0 replies      
Only the title loads on Chrome in Android 4.2.2
colinm 1 day ago 2 replies      
btw this breaks zoom.
How to Convince Investors paulgraham.com
473 points by johns  6 days ago   113 comments top 38
michael_nielsen 6 days ago 5 replies      
"Inexperienced founders... try to convince with their pitch. Most would be better off if they let their startup do the workif they started by understanding why their startup is worth investing in, then simply explained this well to investors."

This advice applies to many things in life -- getting a job, proposing marriage, networking in general.

For instance, I've occasionally met people who obsess about crafting the perfect CV. For many of those people (not all) if they'd brought the same level of intensity to doing good work in the past, they'd be fighting off would-be employers, without any need to sprinkle pixie dust on their CV. Ditto people who try to find some magical method for networking. Do awesome work, and networking becomes mostly a matter of showing up and saying plainly and understandably what you've done.

ericabiz 6 days ago 2 replies      
I wrote something similar today, only I called it "When the Sh-t Hits the Fan with Your Startup": http://www.erica.biz/2013/startup/

In the post, I wrote: I firmly believe no outside problem (running out of money; struggling to pay bills) cant be fixed by looking inside yourself and becoming a better, stronger person.

That may sound sort of cheesy and "self-help-y", but for me it was transformative. I had to have internal confidence before I could project confidence externally. In order to have that internal confidence, for me, it involved rethinking absolutely everything about our startup, from our name to our customer demographic to our value proposition. (I go into detail on what happened and how we re-thought our startup in my blog post.)

Once I rethought everything, I found a deep well of internal confidence, and we went from "teetering on the brink" to raising another $175,000 from outside seed investors quickly (some of whom had been sitting on the fence for months), and then applying to and getting into Techstars' first Austin class as well.

External problems like lack of money or investors saying "no" are often reflections of your own internal doubts or lack of confidence. As PG said, it's not fixed by bravado, but by going deep inside yourself and rethinking your assumptions. Why are you doing this? Of all the things you could be doing, is this the #1 thing that drives you every single day of your life?

Once you fix your internal issues, the external issues resolve themselves. However, this lesson may be something you have to experience to believe (as I did.)

salimmadjd 6 days ago 2 replies      
That's the secret. Convince yourself that your startup is worth investing in, and then when you explain this to investors they'll believe you.

This is one of the best advice for both fund-raising or anything else in life and it's basically the same strategy Arnold Schwarzenegger used to become the "number one star" in hollywood [1] as explained by Steve Chandler:

* ...Then I asked just how he planned to become Hollywood's top star. Mind you, this was not the slim, aerobic Arnold we know today. This man was pumped up and huge. And so for my own physical sense of well-being, I tried to appear to find his goal reasonable.

"Easy, It's the same process I used in bodybuilding," he explained. "What you do is create a vision of who you want to be, and then live into that picture as if it were already true." *

edit: attribution added - 1: http://biznik.com/articles/being-like-arnold-schwarzenegger

jasonkolb 6 days ago 2 replies      
"Founders think of startups as ideas, but investors think of them as markets. If there are x number of customers who'd pay an average of $y per year for what you're making, then the total addressable market, or TAM, of your company is $xy. Investors don't expect you to collect all that money, but it's an upper bound on how big you can get."

I would really love some more color on this. What about a product that addresses a genuinely new market? For example our market is a subset of the analytics market targeted at a new set of data, similar to Mixpanel or KissMetrics. I honestly have no idea how to talk about the market because there is no analogue at this point. How can I apply this advice?

"But every company that gets really big is "lucky" in the sense that their growth is due mostly to some external wave they're riding, so to make a convincing case for becoming huge, you have to identify some specific trend you'll benefit from."

Is this the answer to my question? It doesn't give me an $xy, but it does give me the "wave" I'm riding. Is that a solid foundation for talking to investors?

"It's slightly dickish of investors to care more about who else is investing than any other aspect of your startup"

You have a silver tongue, PG :)

michael_nielsen 6 days ago 1 reply      
"But while Microsoft did really well and there is thus a temptation to think they would have seemed a great bet a few months in, they probably didn't. Good, but not great. No company, however successful, ever looks more than a pretty good bet a few months in."

As an example, Bessemer Venture Partners passed on investing in Apple, Google, Intel, eBay, FedEx, and many other big companies. Their "anti-portfolio" makes amazing reading, and vividly demonstrates how hard it is to pick winners:


billclerico 6 days ago 0 replies      
One of the biggest changes in my style as an entrepreneur from when I started WePay (4 years ago) to now is that I used to focus so much on "the sell" - but now I focus on the substance. It makes the selling far easier, and it makes it easier for your team to sell it as well.
vog 5 days ago 0 replies      
As a side note, I think the website "paulgraham.com" demonstrates an anti-pattern: It is available with and without "www." prefix, thus splitting the HN comments into two parts:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6175417 paulgraham.com, i.e. this one)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6178042 (www.paulgraham.com)

The solution is simple: Establish an HTTP redirect from "www.paulgraham.com" to "paulgraham.com" or vice versa.

wellboy 6 days ago 5 replies      
The only thing you need is traction. Anything else doesn't matter.

It seems insane, but investors are blinded by traction.

If you are a startup that has low scalability, but you have traction, you will get funding

If you are insanely scalable, a great idea, but you don't have traction, you just won't get funding. It doesn't matter how awesome your team is. Investors just can't see good ideas through the traction curtains anymore.

Why is this? Because investors have no clue, but you can't blame them, they are mostly 40-50 year olds whose minds are just not built anymore to foresee the future and most of them haven't even build a startup from ground to IPO. How are they supposed to even remotely know what will be the next startup that turns the whole silicon valley upside down.

This applies to 99% of investors, but there is a tiny folk of 1% who are so in the mindset, almost all of them previous founders. They can foresee the future and they are only waiting for the startups to have built the product they have been thinking of for years, but haven't built it due to simply not having the time.

Source: Pitched my no-traction/very scalable startup to hundreds of investors over 4 months until I stopped 2 months ago to get traction, never got a second meeting except for one time. Always thought, do the investors not see how super scalable this all is? Said no-traction startup now has strong traction.

lpolovets 6 days ago 0 replies      
As someone who is starting a seed fund with a few friends, I want to address one of the footnotes:

"The best investors rarely care who else is investing, but mediocre investors almost all do. So you can use this question as a test of investor quality."

I think the part about mediocre investors is true, but I'm not sure if I agree with the part about the best investors. There is actual value in knowing who else is investing. First, knowing the caliber of other investors is a signal. It's not the only signal, and it's not the best signal, but it is a signal. Second, my partners and I have a network of trusted coinvestors. If we hear that one of them is investing in a company, we can share due diligence, which is great for founders because it avoids duplicated meetings, and great for us because it saves us some time/helps us focus on questions that haven't already been asked and answered. We have never made a decision to invest in something "because X is investing", but we've certainly used our relationships with various X's to inform our due diligence process.

mhartl 6 days ago 1 reply      
PG's advice reminds me of a story from Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!. Feynman relates how his first (!) scientific talk (as a graduate student at Princeton) was attended by such luminaries as Eugene Wigner, Wolfgang Pauli, Albert Einstein, and John von Neumann. We was terrifically nervous, but discovered that as soon as he started giving the talk his nervousness melted awayhe was too focused on the physics to worry about who was in the audience.
kerryfalk 6 days ago 0 replies      
I found this to be especially refreshing. I may just be placing my own spin on it but it seems to me like Paul was saying: have integrity and know what you're talking about. I'll have to give it another read to ensure I'm not just placing my own biases on the words.

I have about a decade worth of sales experience. Sometimes not very successful, some very successful. I've also succeeded with convincing investors. The two were very similar for me. I've also worked with many other people in sales roles; of the ones that were successful only a small handful sold in the way Paul writes about.

Moving forward I won't be working with, or hiring anyone who doesn't. It's better for everyone.

Thanks for the essay, Paul.

soneca 6 days ago 0 replies      
A pitch is required to present your startup's idea to some people. Like friends - if they understand, they will engage and support you, give advices; if not, they will change the subject, think you're a little lost and tell you to "get a job". Or to your parents - if they understand, they will be happy and optimistic about your future; if not, they will worry and tell you to, guess, "get a job". To other entrepreneurs and developers - if they understand, they will try to give advices, make contacts, keep you in their mental list of people they would like to work; if not, they will you consider one wantrepreneur.This pitch is very important, it needs to come out without any thinking, on automatic. You need only one answer on this pitch, two or three sentences and a complement if the interlocutor is interested and give you space to talk about your startup. More than that is a conversation, and for conversations you do not need pitches.

Do you know for whom you do not need a pitch? Investors. I am not talking about potential investors, who may one day remember you and consider the investment as the entrepreneurs I said earlier. I am speaking of that meeting with the investor, face to face, where you're to present your startup and they will decide whether to invest in you or not. A meeting is a conversation, not a pitch. It is the time that you will present what you know, not what you memorized. We must listen to the investor, to understand his doubts, it takes a lot of empathy. When going to a meeting for such a conversation you should prepare your knowledge, not your speech. You must have a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your startup, you have to create a presentation only to show some specific numbers that you have no reason to decorate. Those data that are calculated in a serious, rigorous method and not "estimated" or "expected".

In summary, I think two things are essential: i) to have a carefully prepared pitch, ready to go out without thinking, the standard answer about your startup - something that is clear and visionary at the same time, to show the idea and attract person's interest and ii) not to have anything memorized if this short answer turn into a conversation, but you have to be completely updated to all relevante knowledge about your business - and this will tell not only the investors, but yourself, if you are prepared to run this business.

jusben1369 6 days ago 3 replies      
"The people who are really good at acting formidable often solve this problem by giving investors the impression that while no investors have committed yet, several are about to. This is arguably a permissible tactic. It's slightly dickish of investors to care more about who else is investing than any other aspect of your startup, and misleading them about how far along you are with other investors seems the complementary countermove. It's arguably an instance of scamming a scammer. But I don't recommend this approach to most founders, because most founders wouldn't be able to carry it off."

- Trying to reconcile this with the earlier citation that truth telling is critical. This flies in the face of it and rationalizes this behavior by claiming it's dickish to ask? I don't think that's true and when did two dicks make a right? By the way the much better tactic to solve this problem is pick one or two investors and work with them to get them to commit and then have an honest answer for the others who'll fill out your round.

I enjoy these essays overall but don't enjoy this common thread I see that confuses hustle and sleight of hand as being interchangeable.

gruseom 6 days ago 0 replies      
Make the truth good, then just tell it.

That closing line is the equivalent of a gymnast sticking a landing.

wissler 6 days ago 2 replies      
This is a really fantastic essay, but I was disappointed by this:

The people who are really good at acting formidable often solve this problem by giving investors the impression that while no investors have committed yet, several are about to. This is arguably a permissible tactic.

By engaging in this tactic, you are working to make foolish behavior on the part of the investor successful, which then leads to the very climate that makes the dishonesty so tempting in the first place. It's a vicious cycle.

Why not stick to the "always be 100% honest" approach? This will reform the investor climate over the long-term if the best startups consistently use it, and after all, these best startups are the target of your essay.

I recognize you didn't recommend this approach. But I think you should go one step further and not claim it is arguably acceptable.

davemel37 6 days ago 1 reply      
The underlying concept I took from this post was a fundamental rule of marketing and sales...

Every decision made starts with an emotional trigger, and ends with a defensible position.

acgourley 6 days ago 0 replies      
PG led the charge on the idea you should start a company instead of going to grad school or taking a safe job. It's very important that he's now also saying, "your startup, despite needing money, might not be ready to raise money yet" because it adds an important constraint on your decision to take the plunge - either be sure you can reach the goal in a few months or have more personal runway.
lifeisstillgood 6 days ago 0 replies      
I loved the wings metaphor but i found it still frustrating - pg is clearly an intelligent, observant person, at the heart of some of the best and brightest entrpreneurs globally. And yet we still cannot tell what makes a child grow into a twenty something whose wings can unfurl and a twenty something with raggedy stumps.

I hope that no one comes out of the "tube" of school and college without wings - but if that's true why do so few seem to fly?

What is it about those who fly that they learnt that others did not? Formidable-ness seems to simply be a tell for a good investor - not an explanation.

Please keep pushing them off cliffs - maybe we can work it out soon.

nostromo 6 days ago 3 replies      
I <3 this essay. "Fake it 'til you make it" seems to be the m.o. in a lot of entrepreneurial circles. I've honestly never known if this is actually a good strategy or not. It seems the answer is no.
larrys 6 days ago 0 replies      
What's also interesting about all of this (when looking at qualitative factors) is that while we have plenty of data on certain people's success after the "nth" investor took a gamble (and it is a gamble since many had passed on the same person/opportunity [1]) on their idea and we have statistics on people that they gambled on and failed, what we don't have is any statistics on someone that everyone passed on and what would have happened if one person took a chance on them and gave them an opportunity.

[1] (as with Drew Houston and the east coast))

flipside 6 days ago 0 replies      
"The time to raise money is not when you need it, or when you reach some artificial deadline like a Demo Day. It's when you can convince investors, and not before."

Been waiting for someone to articulate this for a while now. Pitch people an idea a few thousand times and you get pretty good at reading if people buy it. Getting close to the "convince" threshold for investors and when we do reach it, watch out!

jacques_chester 5 days ago 1 reply      
> When people hurt themselves lifting heavy things, it's usually because they try to lift with their back.

It's got more to do with a weak back, actually. Folk with strong backs can lift very heavy weights safely.

In terms of the analogy, I dunno what I'm saying. Just fulfilling my HN nitpick quota.

arnoldwh 6 days ago 0 replies      
It's a bit like a game. It's the investors job to eliminate false positives and vs. a first time founder, investors will typically have an advantage in that they've been through this many times before.

Trying to "beat the system" is like trying to beat investors at what they would on average be the best at doing and potentially sending inadvertent false positive signals caused by the nervousness of being new to fundraising.

If you focus on what PG recommends, you eliminate a lot of that friction since you eliminate the nervousness.

My tl;dr: In the fundraising lottery, it's easier to sell investors a ticket than trying to convince them you have the winning combination.

EGreg 5 days ago 0 replies      
I have found the binary thing to be true with west coast investors (especially in San Fran). Here in NYC, many angel investors think in terms of "when will I start getting returns on my money", and not "will this be the next big hit"? Catering to both types is often impossible, you have to pick one to go after.
6thSigma 6 days ago 1 reply      
> There are a handful of angels who'd be interested in a company with a high probability of being moderately successful.

Is YC in this camp or do you guys and gals try to stay in the huge success side of speculation?

beat 6 days ago 1 reply      
So a question... how do you balance confidence from a well-understood solution to a well-understood problem in a well-understood market, with the kind of blue-sky dreaming that seems to excite investors? Crossing into that blue-sky world starts smelling like BS to me, but when I say "We could realistically get a $100M chunk of an existing multi-billion market", it doesn't seem ambitious enough?
gesman 6 days ago 1 reply      
"You need three things: formidable founders, a promising market, and (usually) some evidence of success so far."

Evidence of success often makes the first two way less relevant. Up to the point where tables are turned and investors will be trying to convince founders to take their money.

nakedrobot2 6 days ago 0 replies      
Hi pg,

I admire the clarity of your thoughts.

This is a really fine and insightful article. Thank you for sharing this.

McKittrick 6 days ago 0 replies      
No one likes risk. Even early stage investors. A good investor deck should convince the investor that whatever risks are associated with particular investment opportunity are seemingly mitigated.

Team - not your first rodeo, know how to win, subject matter experts.Focus - clearly stated value proposition.Dream - big market, big value.Plan of Attack - clear path to capture market share.Validation/ Traction - customers! Tech - solid, non-obvious, not easily replicable. (i.e. if your successful, someone else can't just hop into the market and eat your lunch).Use of proceeds - not just pay my salary, but grow this business.Next big milestone: profitability? another fund raise?

If you hit on these, then investors will want to put money in their favorite types of companies: the one's that don't look like they need it. ;)

Sealy 6 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for the advice Paul. It's very well timed as I have an investor meeting later today!

My biggest takeaway from your essay: the truth prevails. As cliche as it sounds, its apt advice for those aspiring to be the biggest startups of our generation. Its easy to get carried away with our dreams and visions.

gpsarakis 5 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe a little out of context, but how easy is it to start talking about an idea without a working prototype? Of course it would make things easier, but maybe not always possible without a minimum funding.
dhruvtv 6 days ago 1 reply      
"Why do founders persist in trying to convince investors of things they're not convinced of themselves?"

This line hit home with me. Applies perfectly to job interviews.

hclose 5 days ago 1 reply      
Neophyte question: Why do investors have to ask founders who else is investing? Is it not possible for them to check this themselves, via public records? [There are some sites that even pre-package the SEC filings for consumption by journalists, etc.]

It makes perfect sense to me why investors would want to know who else is investing, for a number of reasons. For one, standing on the sidelines knowing that most startups will fail is not a reasonable strategy. This is because some startups, no matter how unlikely, will succeed, and some VC will, despite our better judgment, have invested in them. If other VC deliver higher value for their clients than we do for ours because we cautiously and prudently stand on the sidelines, then we stand to lose the confidence of our clients.

But I do not understand why anyone would rely on the statements of founders to determine who else may or may not be on board as investors.

sinzone 5 days ago 0 replies      
Sometimes is the other way too. They have to convince you, that they are the best fit for the company.
rmason 6 days ago 1 reply      
There's one error: Microsoft did raise venture capital. They did it a matter of months before they went public.


ecuzzillo 6 days ago 0 replies      
s/both your time/both your time and theirs/
theoh 6 days ago 0 replies      
Whatever. When you consider the whole concept of the "pivot" it's clear that this is a business of betting on people rather than business plans, which makes this essay a bit redundant.
kategleason 6 days ago 0 replies      
Shakespeare. amazing clarity of thought put to words.
The president is wrong: The NSA debate wouldnt have happened without Snowden washingtonpost.com
412 points by Libertatea  3 days ago   235 comments top 27
bambax 3 days ago 6 replies      
For me, Obama has become inaudible; I don't care anymore about what he says.

I'm more interested in his actions; among these we find (by decreasing order of importance):

- use of drones to indiscriminately kill civilians, "suspected terrorists" or their children (cf. the murder of 16 years old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki)

- the detention, and ruthless and aggressive prosecution of Bradley Manning

- force-feeding Guantanamo detainees on hunger strike, depriving them of even the right to end their own life

I'm not a US citizen, so what I think about Obama really doesn't matter; but he must have set some kind of record in the amount of goodwill he was able to destroy during his time in office.

jacquesm 3 days ago 5 replies      
Obama has his own reality distortion field.

In time Snowden will enter the history books for what he did, Obama not so much. Maybe only to serve as a reminder that the Nobel peace prize lost its prestige.

Part of this is that Snowden did a service to everybody on the planet (including Obama) and Obama serves a limited set of interests.

Terretta 3 days ago 2 replies      
The president is both wrong and not wrong. He's saying things that are both true and not true, or true and beside the point.

For example, "No domestic spying program" may be 100% true. It's a foreign spying program that's devouring domestic data because of where the data is tapped and how data flows, then having the data shared domestically outside the program.

Any time government officials are commenting here, the adjectives and adverbs -- okay, even verbs and nouns -- are being used as qualifiers to eke out a "technically true but in a practical sense false" statement.

In another example, when he says "nobody's reading your emails" that's true for all but a handful of his listeners. For the rest of us, an algorithm may be parsing, but "nobody" as in no human, is "reading" as in with her eyeballs, until the emails are flagged live for review or "collected" (read with eyeballs, according to Clapper) later.

It's a shame dialectic isn't a popular school subject any more. The TL;DR crowd doesn't stand a chance against this kind of nuance.

These pronouncements and these nebulously defined NSA behaviors are like Schrdinger's cats. We need Snowdens to help us observe and collapse their states.

alan_cx 3 days ago 7 replies      
Obama said that? Shame on him. He doesn't even need re-election.

I was so happy for the US and world in general when Obama was elected. This man has become the world biggest disappointment. Americans appear love world records and things that go down as "historic". Well chaps, you have another one.

This man is worse than George W Bush. Bush was clearly what he was. We all knew what we were getting, and could rely on it. Obama is a lie in a suit. He makes the US look like a national and international lie. Maybe it is.

nwh 3 days ago 1 reply      
Especially as a foreigner, it's pretty clear that there's no end to any of this. Even if it is claimed that spying has stopped, there's almost no chance that anything will actually change. You're talking about an organisation that has it's own interpretation of the rules, has nobody to pull them up on what they do wrong, and for all intents is invisible to the public. If a public court "shuts them down", it's just a facade to keep the media at bay.

If their president is lying to them on simple facts that get refuted by a whistle browser at the next available moment, there's no telling what else goes on behind closed and private doors.

zeteo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Well, arguably everything he said in yesterday's news conference was at best questionable (and at worst deceitful). But I'm still glad he said it. The fact that he had to address these issues publicly, and in a manner that's effectively "oh yeah, I would have revised those programs anyway" (rather than some senators' "the programs are essential! don't listen to the traitors") is greatly encouraging; the system may not yet be beyond redemption. Are his measures palliatives rather than cures? Very likely. And he's still hiding behind concocted phrases designed to "reassure the people". But the moment can nonetheless be savored as a promising victory for the digital civil rights movement.
akbar501 3 days ago 3 replies      
(Copy and Pasted from) Obama's Ethics Agenda (2008)...in his own words.

Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

lifeisstillgood 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is beginning to have the feel of a watergate - the press can sense blood in the water - senior administration figures have outright lied, in public, and been found out.

That usually leads to a resignation - but now there are bigger fish to hunt.

Shutting down the program will no longer be enough - there is an impeachment in the offing. What will be enough to call off the dogs?

Edit: I often let my cynical side overrule me - and happily claim "they" will always continue doing shady and disreputable things. But the reason "they" can is that "we" do not stand up and shout loudly enough and so build the laws to prevent them.

It seems an ownership change has not hurt WaPo, for which I am glad.

graycat 3 days ago 0 replies      
Obama is just saying some things, littlethings to defuse the situation untilit is out of the headlines. The articleexplains that what Obama said the effect Snowden had isn't true,but since Obama is only trying to defusethe situation before the vast majorityof voters who are not paying much attention,that what he said is not true seems notto matter much. And for reminding votersin the future that what Obama said hereis not true also seems will not matter much tothe vast majority of voters.

I'm concluding that the political process,i.e., involving Obama and Congress, willconsist of a lot of pushing to save theFourth Amendment, etc. from the small minority of voters who care a lot, a little movement by the politicians, the issue out of the headlines, and thenno more movement by the politicians.

So, for saving the Constitution,I'm counting on legal cases going tothe SCOTUS and the SCOTUS defending theFourth Amendment, etc.

mercurial 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's funny to think of how Clinton was hounded for lying under oath about a blowjob, and how the US Congress seems to be asleep at the wheel (or complicit) in this case. At least, that's the impression from abroad.
merraksh 3 days ago 0 replies      
When Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked for a ballpark figure of the number of Americans whose information was being collected by the NSA last year, the agency refused to give the senator any information, arguing that doing so would violate the privacy of those whose information was collected.

Well, doesn't that answer automatically imply that a very large percentage of the population was watched? Otherwise, if the number were, say, 1%, the mere number would not have violated anyone's privacy.

dfgdbdfbfdg 3 days ago 2 replies      
The headline should be "The president is lying" but that would upset the readers and the sponsors. So lets just say he is "wrong", just like the NSA is just "wrong" about not collecting data on everybody.
eyeareque 3 days ago 2 replies      
I was very happy Obama was re-elected.. So much for that. But at least now I've realized I need to start voting independent. Our two party system is a failure. We lose when your voting choices are "bad" or "worse".
general_failure 3 days ago 0 replies      
Agree. Snowden's the only reason why people, politicians and the president are talking about this.
dllthomas 3 days ago 0 replies      
Even accepting on its face the notion that Obama was preparing to look at reforms, how does that make what Snowden did less patriotic? I don't think anybody but Obama knew that he was preparing to look at reforms, and after 6 years of an Obama presidency where things were just getting more spy-happy how was Snowden supposed to assume anything but more of the same? According to Obama, Snowden and Obama agreed that the programs needed change, and they both chose to do something about it.
mtgx 3 days ago 1 reply      
Obama is not wrong. He's just lying. Who actually believes he would've started any kind of reforms without this, when he commanded over this program for five years? Not to mention that none of these "reforms" seem too serious anyway. The only reform that is needed is to repeal the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. Then we can start the debate from scratch, rather than trying to win inches in this debate from the privacy point of view.
Sauer_Kraut 3 days ago 1 reply      
It would happen at the same time as the closing of Guantanamo Bay, I imagine.
eagsalazar2 3 days ago 0 replies      
The president is not wrong. The president is lying. Big difference.
chrisvineup 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah at some point in history, maybe. Its easy to say that after being caught with your dick in my inbox.
bengrunfeld 3 days ago 0 replies      
According to Snowden's slides, PRISM began to receive information from Microsoft in 2007. So now in... wait for it.. 2013, Obama was juuust about to start looking into what those crafty NSA people were doing?? The amount of stupid here is Unbearable!!
dotcoma 3 days ago 0 replies      
Of course he's wrong. He's looking more and more like Nixon...
andyl 3 days ago 0 replies      
Since Bezos took over, this is the first WaPost article I've taken notice of. Great article - I'm encouraged.
tbatterii 3 days ago 0 replies      
> I dont think Mr. Snowden was a patriot, the president said


ajuc 3 days ago 1 reply      
Does USA have a way to change president mid-term if enough people sign for that?
6d0debc071 3 days ago 0 replies      
> "My preference, and I think the American peoples preferences would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws."

Yes, and you had the time to bring that to the fore. I recall one of the rationales Snowden offered for not acting sooner was that he was holding off to see whether you did anything about them via that more orderly process.

I wonder how much faith in the political process, especially among young people, Obama's managed to burn.

justplay 3 days ago 0 replies      
walshemj 3 days ago 0 replies      
newspaper blows own trumpet - film at 11.
This coupon code is a slap in the face justinjackson.ca
402 points by mijustin  12 hours ago   234 comments top 55
javert 10 hours ago 3 replies      
Lenovo does this, but they quote all the prices assuming you are going to put in the coupon code, which they display on the entry page into the product you are buying.

If you don't realize you have to jump through this dumb hoop and think you are actually getting the discount automatically, which is quite easy to do (I did, and I'm no dummy), they do not reimburse you the difference if you call on the phone to explain. The guy on the phone specifically explained to me that that is their official policy in this situation.

I mean, I trusted Lenovo (good past experiences), so I wasn't being super duper careful to look for any kind of trick. Imagine that... not looking out for being tricked! What a fool I was.

If you eally want the discount, you have to cancel your order and re-order, which means getting the product later. Lenovo knows very well that many customers won't do this.

tl;dr Lenovo suits have calculated a new way to trick customers, and treat customers in a shitty way. They should be ashamed. Gipped me off for a few hundred bucks.

raldi 11 hours ago 3 replies      
Alternate suggestion: Have a textbox that says, "If you don't mind us asking, where did you hear of us?"

Then the radio ad or whatever can say, "Enter DAN SAVAGE as your referrer to receive a free gift!"

ruswick 9 hours ago 6 replies      
First, I'd like to point out that his suggestion is fucking absurd. Without codes, there would be no way to discern between methods of customer acquisition (eg. is this ad more effective than that ad), especially on non-web content. Moreover, the efficacy of customer acquisition would decrease tremendously (most people respond to ads because of the promise of a discount). I don't understand how the OP believes that this is financially tenable for most sites. Codes are a fundamental aspect of advertising strategy for many companies.

Second, the notion that this is hostile to the user just bemuses me. I don't understand why this has any detrimental effects on the customer. If they are fine paying full price (as they were when they began checking out), they are free to pay full price. If someone with expendable free time would rather dig through these coupon sites, that is their prerogative. The existence of a coupon code field merely gives the option to seek out a discount. This is similar to most other forms of commerce. If I have free time and want to save money, I can dig through circulars and clip ads, or I can just go to the store and pay full price. Is it offensive to the user that the self checkout also has a slot for placing coupons? No one is forcing anyone to do anything. How is it bad customer service when a user literally isn't forced to do anything other than ignore the field if they so choose? Giving people the option to save money if they are willing to exert some effort is an unequivocal positive aspect of most sites.

This piece is just incoherent to me. I honestly don't understand why this is bad in any way.

joshuahedlund 12 hours ago 4 replies      
Has anybody actually done any A/B testing on this sort of thing, or are we just making competing assertions about how slapped in the face we personally feel or not?

Edit: Thanks, some pretty good results out there.

sp332 11 hours ago 6 replies      
I dropped my car off for state inspection by my usual mechanic. Then I found a coupon in the local paper for $10 off an inspection at that place. When I went to pay, I showed the coupon but the mechanic told me, "oh I already did that. You're a regular, we take care of you!" I don't think I've ever seen a website that could do that.
brianbreslin 12 hours ago 3 replies      
Did no-one learn anything from JCPenney debacle? People LOVE coupons. I've never seen a coupon code field, where I didn't find a coupon and felt like I was getting hoodwinked as this author seems to suggest.

Coupon codes are useful for promos and such. Not every customer pays the same amount, thats how the world works.

Fuzzwah 7 hours ago 1 reply      
The real slap in the face is that the coupon code field is how the affiliate marketing scam business works:



ebbv 11 hours ago 17 replies      
This is a pretty ridiculous complaint.

First of all, giving everyone a referral URL works great in a web only world but what if you're advertising on a Podcast (or gasp print or radio), is it easier to tell people to type in www.mysite.com/coupon to their browser or is it easier to tell people to enter COUPON at checkout?

Secondly, the amount of people who are going to have this adverse reaction to the mere existence of the coupon code field is vanishingly small. Most customers who don't have a code will just ignore it and move on (and actually many who have been told about a code will not even use it) only a small minority will bother searching for a code to enter when they don't have one.

Whatever web site had a coupon code field that made you this angry probably had at least 20 much worse UI violations they should prioritize above trying to eliminate the coupon field.

fjk 11 hours ago 1 reply      
"You get pages of results: mostly garbage, some scams, and a few legitimate coupon sites. Unfortunately, the codes listed on those sites are a year old: you missed your chance."

It frustrates me when I see a coupon code box and cannot find any working codes. Oftentimes the most recent codes for a retailer on RetaiMeNot haven't been active in months or years. On the flip side, when I find a code that saves me anything, even free shipping, I am ecstatic. I feel like I am responsible, thrifty and savvy and I have a proclivity to purchase more items from that retailer later on.

I think these emotions are worth evoking in customers and banning the coupon code box destroys this ability. A referral link doesn't capture as much of the emotional satisfaction as seeing your cart totals drop after typing in a string of characters and clicking "Apply to Cart." Retailers could just hide the coupon code box when there aren't any active coupons. When a coupon is active, the box reappears.

ig1 11 hours ago 1 reply      
I've seen cases where having a coupon code actually increased conversions more than just discounting the product for everyone. The people who searched for the (easily found) coupon were far more likely to completely the purchase process because they felt like they were getting a deal.

If you're using voucher codes you shouldn't just use one approach based upon an article like this, rather you should be A/B testing different variants and see what performs for your startup. Your customers aren't the same as everyone else and you shouldn't expect them to behave the same.

RobGR 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I think these coupon codes produce this reaction because they remind us how non-transparent online commerce can be.

Walmart has a hard time at their brick and mortar store charging more for diapers to the poor person who lives down the street and has no car to get to competitors, and less to the better off person who arrived by car. But a huge amount of "big data" work is spent differentially pricing online commerce -- the travel industry is most famous for it of course.

The general trend of technology tends to be that tools once only available to the big institutions become democratized and more revolutionary as they are. Similarly I think the "big data" and tracking and etc will swing around into a more equitable balance.

That can be hard to believe, but try to imagine this -- you go to buy something online, but you pay with bitcoin, and a browser plugin you have pops up a screen when you are on the final checkout page -- this plugin uses the bitcoin chains and non-anonymity to show you all recent transactions with that bitcoin address. You can then get an instant sense of whether you are overpaying or getting a deal.

Such a system could be gamed and evaded of course.

At one time I discussed making a reverse-Priceline system, where consumers would use a browser plugin that shared what offers were being accepted and rejected on Priceline style reverse auctions.

The sum total such efforts is a lot of infrastructure invested in replecating what a simple open-outcry market would be, if the market were run by disinterested, trusted authority.

martingordon 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Some sites present the coupon field slightly differently as a Gift Card/Gift Certificate/Coupon Code field which might help that "slapped in the face" feeling.

I noticed this on Zappos and the first Google result for "zappos coupon" is this: http://www.zappos.com/truth-about-zappos-coupons

enko 10 hours ago 4 replies      
> Its the optics that matter.

Oh really? Refraction and reflection of light, the study of same - that's what matters is it?

Of course not. You mean appearances matter. Name-dropping some physics-sounding word does not make you sound smart, it makes you sound confused and wrong. Optics means optics. It doesn't mean whatever you choose it to mean.

Deliberately misusing words doesn't make you sound cool, it makes you sound like a "Sandwich Artist".

ohwp 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Happened to me: I had the code, but forgot to enter it. So afterward I contacted customer service and they just said: sorry there is nothing we can do for you.

Do you think I will be a returning customer? -no

hownottowrite 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Why do web apps and retailers do this to their paying customers?

Because it was a pain to manage millions of coupon codes on legacy catalog fulfillment systems. In fact, it's still not particularly easy.

Way back in the day, mail order retailers would send out millions of catalogs to current and prospective customers. To get these people to order, they would include coupons as an incentive. The coupons generally involved a short code indicating the mailing and a number indicating a segment. So, you'd get something like SU95615, which would translate to Spring 1995 segment 615. Segment 615 could be part of your own list or it might be part of a list you were renting. When the orders came in the codes would be used to tie back the promotional mailing spend to the revenue, thus allowing the retailer to score a list or segment.

So why not use individual codes and then roll up? More sophisticated companies did that. In fact, some would even have SKUs that had prefixes tied to the mailing allowing for some very deep analysis. However, most did not and it was primarily due to the fact that their systems were not designed to handle such customization. In fact, some would basically choke on that much data.

When these companies moved online, they took the practice of using coupon codes right along with them. As new companies without the legacy issues came along, they adopted the old ways and the cycle continued.

This is why these companies do this to their customers. Is it right? Of course not, but that's the way it is.

That said, there are better ways to handle this need to promote and track marketing dollars. Lots and lots of ways.

Here are a few I've tried. Each one works pretty well:

1. Using specific links in email promotions with codes already embedded: This is probably the best way to go. Customer get the code applied. No need to show the field at all. This is great for targeted promotions.

2. Using business logic to apply a discount automatically: In this scenario, there is no codebox either. The system figures out the right discount based on the promotion. This is good if you're giving account-based promotions or doing something site wide.

3. Single-use, unique codes: This is a special code that can only be used once (ideally by a specific person). This method has the added benefit of being a marketing tool in and of itself (i.e. you can tell the customer they are special because the code is made special just for them). Great for email and print catalogs.

In each case, there was a measured conversion improvement. In some cases, it was quite significant. However, I would strongly recommend testing. You're at the bottom of the conversion funnel here; caution is advised.

You may discover, as JC Penney did, that your customer base has certain expectations and that changing those learned behaviors is more difficult than you might expect. You may find that removing the coupon field generates more customer service requests (i.e. "Where do I put in my coupon?") You may also discover that your marketing department has no clue about how to tie your ingenious solution back into their demand generation. You may also discover that your systems are not well-suited to carrying so much additional data.

It's complicated but from my experience I'd have to say it's worth the effort to solve. Not only will your customers have a better experience, but you'll have better data about those customers and the sources you're tapping to bring new ones in the door.

Of course, be prepared for lots of complaints from the coupon stackers. Those guys really don't like it when you remove the field.

yanowitz 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I've taken to using http://couponfollow.com/checkout (the chrome extension). It helpfully colors the coupon code box red if it has a suggested coupon code. Eventually, I suppose, everyone will move to one-time coupon codes. But that will probably take years, so in the meantime, I save money.
tjansen 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Simple solution: don't call it coupon, call it gift card.
rthomas6 12 hours ago 3 replies      
Everybody here knows about retailmenot.com, right? For the majority of places, you'll find a good repository of coupon codes without having to sift through Google results.
praptak 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Coupons are a form of market segmentation, which generally aims to extract surplus money from those customers who will pay more (for whatever reason - don't care, don't know any better) while still extracting some money from those who are price-sensitive.

This comes at a cost though, see this classic by Joel Spolsky: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/CamelsandRubberDuckie...

The cost is the trust and goodwill of your customers. People will feel cheated if they find out and hopefully leave you for a competitor who doesn't impose on them the additional mental cost of searching for coupons, finding price engine links with lower prices(#) or whatever.

(#) Some shops actually do that - you get a better price from a price comparison engine than if you search from shop's own site. Talk about treating your trusted customers well.

mhb 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Previous discussion of someone else's rant about this:


jeremybencken 11 hours ago 1 reply      
This may not be rational, but there's some research showing this is a widespread phenomenon. Mostly, it has to do with a sense of fairness. Coupon codes can make consumers feel like the merchant is being unfair, which leads to dissatisfaction.

The solution: don't show the coupon code field or make it extremely easy for consumers to get coupon codes. I've noticed more and more stores put their coupon codes right in the header while you're browsing. So it's impossible NOT to get a coupon.

http://www2.owen.vanderbilt.edu/mike.shor/research/promo/jpb... (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6205769)

mmatants 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Honestly, I never noticed myself feeling that way. Is this really losing that many sales when it comes down to metrics?

To me, coupons are always seen as temporary gifts from the company to butter up my loyalty. So paying full price still feels fair.

But again, it's all about metrics. It would be great to see how different audiences respond.

DanBlake 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I am really late into this thread, but the way I got around this exact issue is I just renamed the field from "coupon code" to "referral code". Users dont mind skipping over it and it does the same thing.
nwh 12 hours ago 1 reply      
I've had this a lot actually, to the point of absolutely ridiculous coupons that gave me 40%, even 75% off at one point. It's a pain in the ass to have to Google around for a code that lets me pay the same as everybody else.
adeaver 11 hours ago 0 replies      
From having built a few of these, my solution was to add a string to the end of the URL's in the promo material (ads, email, whatever) that, when clicked on, would trigger the coupon code box on the site for that user only.

Otherwise you didn't see it.

The company I worked at that used this did a lot of targeted and 1-off promotions so it seemed to work pretty well.

piratebroadcast 46 minutes ago 0 replies      
Some of the most emo shit I've read in quite some time.
ck2 9 hours ago 0 replies      
It's called retailmenot.com - spend all of 10 seconds to find a discount.

It might also offend you to know people in different countries pay more or less for a product.

ie. Hosting in the USA is far more expensive than Europe for some mysterious reason

dchest 11 hours ago 2 replies      
When launching new order pages a few years ago, I was bothered by the same thing and asked my e-commerce company to add a checkbox, which you have to click in order to show coupon field:


It's not an ideal solution, but I believe this additional step helps a bit.

throwit1979 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Initial customer acquisition costs money. A lot of money. Once you have a happy customer for repeat business, you reward and entice them with discounts, usually via email newsletter.

As a first time customer, you are not being "cheated". You are just a lot more expensive.

ctdonath 11 hours ago 0 replies      
How about moving the coupon code field up front? If I have a coupon code, that's probably why I'm on the site now, I want to apply it, and I only want to see what it applies to.

Let me enter the code right away. Show me what it applies to. Make it easy to use it. Don't make me go thru all the contortions of buying something, unsure of whether the code will apply or not - and pissing me off if it doesn't after all that.

thehme 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Sometimes when I'm buying online, it does bother me to find that "other" people have a coupon for something I want and that if I REALLY want it, I will need to pay full price. It specially bothers me when I'm a returning costumer and didn't receive any e-mails letting me know of a sale or coupon. This situation applies to other situation as well, for instance, think about the couple (or single person) that signed a contract to rent a place, has been a great tenant, and would like to renew the contract that is now ending soon. However, instead of the landlord saying: "hey! you have been a great tenant, so I will NOT raise your rent (or as much), so I can keep your business for longer", he/she says (thinks): "I know you like it here, so I'm going to stick it to you and raise the price of the rent, while new people who I don't even know, will get a cheaper rate and possibly not be as good a tenant as you are".

Sites should definitely keep track of loyal costumers and offer coupons in this manner and allow one to enter then once logged in, but not trouble visiting costumers with this. Letting people know they could have gotten something for cheaper is usually a discouragement from click the "place order" button. I know have definitely just x-ed out of my tab at that point in several occasions.

leknarf 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Outside of ad campaigns, there's another case where coupon codes are useful. If you have a moderately expensive product and an actual sales team, you can use the coupon field to let the sales team make one-off special deals for individual customers. That's useful for unusually large orders (buy 10 get 1 free) or simply if you need to apologize for some sort of error (we're sorry our site was down, here's $50 off your next order).

Coupon codes are an easily programmable solution to a wide variety of business problems. They're particularly useful for problems that are difficult to predict in advance.

free652 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Company logic: Because why make a discount for you if you're buying anyway.

Coupons codes are usually part of ad campaigns.

drewying 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm sure it's just me, but I've never felt bad or weird or bad or even cared much about the possibility of paying 20 bucks for something vs 19 bucks with a 5% off coupon code. That one dollar savings doesn't seem worth the hassle of spending 20 minutes on Google. I'd rather spend that 20 minutes billing 100 bucks/hour making a website for someone.

Reading these comments it seems there are a lot of people on Hacker News who seem quite passionate about the idea of getting the best deal they can and not "feeling like a sucker".

Which is fine, but it's definitely a feeling I don't experience. Maybe I'm just weird.

With the topic at hand, having maintained an online shop for a client for several years, I see that they use Coupon Codes as a customer service thing. Didn't like your product? Here's a onetime use 15% off code so you don't hate us. At least that's how they used it. So I always ignore those fields.

kellros 11 hours ago 0 replies      
An alternative approach would be to create a 'claim coupon' form and point your couponeers to that so that they may redeem the coupon. The trickier part would be then to keep track of the coupons in a similar fashion to the 'Items in Cart' (either via session based tracking or link it to their account).

This approach would also allow for implementing coupons in different ways (ex. time-based, limited), reduce mental stress by being able to retry codes till you found a valid coupon (some providers allow for coupon codes but no way to verify it's valid) and not distract from the check-out process (it would simply require showing which of the redeemed coupons are applicable to the purchase).

A plus side of this approach is that a coupon is enough to persuade potential buyers to create accounts to keep their coupon (while it's valid - for later use) and thus also reducing friction in the check-out process which should lead to more sales.

I do also now believe the existing 'coupon' implementation is at fault by leaving too much on the table.

6cxs2hd6 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Has anyone tried putting a generic coupon code on the checkout form, right next to the input box?

Or even pre-filling the input box with the generic code?

Seems like that way, everyone can feel good, and some can feel even better.

p.s. Oh wait. I should probably file a B.S. patent for this idea. Unless someone has already has.

chmike 11 hours ago 0 replies      
In France one of the biggest high tech ware reseller use this coupon promotiona codes. These coupon codes are ditributed through it's own promotional mailing list.

Il you subscribe to their special offer mailing lists you get their coupon codes. Of corse ou get a slap in your face when you see the coupn field box. But this is also where you should say how to get coupon codes.

Propose a subscription to your special coupon offering mailing list where you can also ommunicate about your product. This is opt in advertisement.

JSadowski 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd be curious to test something like this:http://jsfiddle.net/CLJYC/

"Do you have a gift card or promotional code?" Y/N, and then only show the field if yes is selected.

ChrisNorstrom 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Although I understand the anger stemming from coupon code forms, a lot of us use them for very different reasons:

- I run http://DayOnePP.com and sell my inventions there.

- When something goes wrong for a customer you can give the customer a coupon code "sorrykarenhurney" which will give them free shipping or 10% off. This is a great way to win back customers who have had trouble. (You can rename the "Coupon Code" field to be "Customer Service Code" if you use it exclusively for this purpose)

- When I advertise my Calendars or Pens on a design blog I tell the owner that I'll give them an exclusive discount to their readers if they mention my product on the front page. I name the coupon code after the website.

- You can email coupon codes to newsletter members as a reward for signing up for your newsletter.

Although the OP has a legitimate concern, he has never run an online store and doesn't see the behind-the-scenes logic in selectively giving customers discounts. It really is a necessity. Brick & Mortar stores use them even more, but no one gets pissed off at them.

illdave 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Last year, I gave a talk to a group of online marketers, ecom specialists and site owners. I asked them if they ever - when shopping on sites that weren't their own - opened a new tab and searched Google for "[brand name] voucher code" whenever they hit a checkout page and saw the promo box. Literally everyone put their hand up.

I'm not sure why this thread has so many people saying that it's a complaint that has no merit. Do you open a new tab and search, or do you just ignore it and carry on with the purchase?

oisino 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Host Gator gets around this by putting a fake coupon in its signup flow to make you think coupon has been applied https://www.evernote.com/shard/s151/sh/0189a90d-cf03-426e-88...
Raphmedia 11 hours ago 2 replies      
It's quite the opposite if you ask me. After you spent 15 minutes looking online for that coupon AND you find one that gives you that little 10%...

Well, it makes you happy and probably makes it so that you really will proceed with the purchase. "Hey, I spent a looonnng 5 minutes searching AND I got a 10% discount. Why wouldn't I proceed with the purchase?"

fnordfnordfnord 11 hours ago 0 replies      
It annoys me, and if the purchase is for something that I don't need immediately, it always makes me try to find either a coupon code, a cheaper price, or even a cheaper alternative.
olegp 6 hours ago 0 replies      
What are the sites where one can find SaaS coupon codes and offers? AppSumo, F6S, TNW Market - any others? We would like to aggregate them at https://starthq.com
shimon_e 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Obviously there is a segment of the population that coupon codes are going to help convert into customers and vice versa. Someone really smart would develop some AI for this.
chcleaves 12 hours ago 0 replies      
If you put forth a little bit of effort you can find any code on the Internet - it sets you apart from the shoppers who don't care and won't take the time to look for one (which is the majority of America) hence why retailers still consistently leak codes out there.
JimmaDaRustla 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Agree, but I love this too much:http://serverbear.com/coupons
username42 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Last time I encountered a coupon field, my wife told me that there was a coupon code on the main landing page. Result: I have reread the main landing page, entered the coupon and was happy to spare a couple of bucks.
mathattack 11 hours ago 1 reply      
It's not a slap in the face of the customer. It's the company shooting their own foot. Whenever I see the coupon code box, I search for coupons. Sometimes I fine one. If so, they've lost money.
croisillon 12 hours ago 1 reply      
This is not always the case, a coupon is not always to get a fraction discount but can be a way to redeem a voucher. Since it's a similar worklfow, websites display it a similar way, leading to this misinterpretation.
amirhirsch 10 hours ago 0 replies      
keikun17 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I never thought about it like this. I guess I'll try to do my best to get offended the next time i run into one
EGreg 10 hours ago 1 reply      
How about having a blue spot on the page where the promotion says to click, so it doesn't say "COUPON CODE"
huffman 10 hours ago 0 replies      
This is completely off-topic, but you don't have a bold weight of the body font you're using, so the browser is trying to fake it and it looks very fuzzy.
pshon 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Don't mess w/ coupons, just ask Ron Johnson.


Russian Man Changes Small Print in Credit Card Agreement, Then Sues minyanville.com
400 points by nickkyit  6 days ago   179 comments top 29
eksith 6 days ago 8 replies      
Technically, the man did nothing wrong. His bank agreed to the altered terms.

I've seen some credit card and bank card forms that include language which make the agreement void if its terms are altered in any way, but if it doesn't have that, there's nothing really stopping you from doing the same.

That said, legal teams for credit card companies and banks are notorious for finding ways to beat you with technicalities and/or drag their feet through the court system so your own bills rack up. They can claim bad faith, and/or fraud (which is a hot button) and add to the mix a DA willing to create a name for him/herself by putting away a scumbag white-collar "criminal" (I.E. Joe, the Photoshop user) and you've got a lot of risk behind it.

mrt0mat0 6 days ago 1 reply      
If you as a customer are held accountable for fine print that you never read, why isn't the reverse? This should be a no-brainer if you ask me. Hypocrites
smoyer 6 days ago 3 replies      
I did something similar with the non-compete and non-disclosure agreements my employer wanted me to sign when our company was purchased. It was a four page document and I simply altered the terms to suit what I thought was fair (I had no intention of stealing their IP, but I also didn't want them owning everything I created).

The HR representative signed both copies, gave me one and filed the other. The funniest part is that when I left a few years later, they couldn't find the one I'd signed and asked me to sign another during the exit interview ... I declined ;)

dschiptsov 5 days ago 3 replies      
There is something to be understood about modern Russian culture - being successful cheater and uncaught thief considered a virtue, praised in a folklore with an iconic characters as Ostap Bender or, on a lower level, untouchable criminals, so-called Thiefs-Above-Law.

The unprecedented level of corruption in Russia is in a large extent due to this cultural beliefs. Being a successful bureaucrat or corrupted official is a dream of millions, be it a student of Academy of Government Service, or just a novice applied for a job of a traffic cop.

Most of so-called businesses are based on a fraud, designed and set up with the fraud in mind, as an exit strategy, based on exploitation of minorities, cheating of naive and uneducated and banal brute force.

Of course, such thing happen all over the US or other countries, the difference is the percentage. In Russia cheating and fraud are dominant strategies due to lack of any real economy or production.

The dream of easy money makes us the world largest porn producer, malware manufacturer (nothing very clever, just primitive deception) and a world's leader in drugs usage. We are deliberately copying, adapting and sometimes creatively enhancing all the possible ponzi schemes, corporate frauds found in US, without trying to mimic anything decent.

So, nothing to see here, yet another punk inspired by the cult books about Ostap Bender.

btw, these cards of Tinkoff Credit Systems was a nice cheating in itself - in a small print there was whopping 35% interest rate, huge fees for cancellation and inability to pay back ahead of schedule.)) So, they worth each other.

oh_teh_meows 6 days ago 1 reply      
Deep down I really want this man to win his case, if only just to show the flaw in fine prints that have screwed over many legally-challenged (for lack of a better term) people. You can argue that it's one's responsibility to look out for, read, and understand fine prints in any contract one signs, but then why are they in fine print in the first place? So as to not detract one's attention from the borderline dishonest big prints like INTEREST FREE LOAN* or something like that? So that you can make money off that few unfortunate souls who overlooked the fine prints?
csense 6 days ago 1 reply      
How frequently is the little guy is screwed when they don't read the big institution's fine print before they sign?

Finally, a big institution is screwed when they don't read the little guy's fine print before they sign!

bradleyjg 6 days ago 2 replies      
This is why many professionally drafted contracts will have somewhere in the integration clause[1] language that says that the agreement can only be modified in writing, and only by a person with a specific title at the company.

[1] http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/contract-integ...

D9u 6 days ago 0 replies      
I LoL'd so much at this... I love it!That his bank failed to read the fine print, as so many of us do, yet signed the agreement anyway, is a hilarious case of poetic justice.

This reminds me of the story here awhile back regarding someone signing credit card receipts with increasingly absurd signatures, including a drawn picture in lieu of his legal signature.


ds9 5 days ago 0 replies      
I did something similar (USA here).

I asked for an automatic debit for a student loan, and got a form to fill out. Among other terms it specified that the lender could change the amount taken from my account, unilaterally!!!

So I crossed out this part, specified literally the current amount in dollars and cents, and said that any change would require separate written consent from me.

And sent it back with a signature. As others pointed out above, if they failed to notice the change, it is their own fault and their own problem, just as they would argue that it was my fault and my problem if I signed without reading all their self-serving, tiny-font, lawyer-crafted language.

And they started debiting the account - which has no legal justification other than that piece of paper, therefore they have agreed to the terms. It has not come to a court case, but if they ever withdraw more than the specified amount I'll sue.

Would I win? Maybe not, but if not it wouldn't be because of any flaw in my approach. Rather it would be because of the defacto two-tier legal system, where corporations have rights in proportion to their wealth and individuals can't afford to enforce any theoretical rights they supposedly have. I wish I could find the well-written rant on this topic (historical separate court systems for aristocrats and peasants) - Falkvinge maybe.

dctoedt 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is why I often include a "redlining representation" in contracts I draft or review/edit. [1] Of course, that only works if you check to be sure the redlining representation is still in the copy of the contract you're actually being asked to sign.

[1] Clause: http://www.oncontracts.com/general-provisions/#sec-35. Explanation: http://www.oncontracts.com/surreptitious-contract-changes/ and http://www.oncontracts.com/surreptitious-contract-changes-ii...

flog 6 days ago 0 replies      
I've been wondering about this for years. I hate sales people telling me they can't negotiate as the contracts are standard... of course they can.
Havoc 6 days ago 1 reply      
Regardless of David vs Goliath sentiment, realistically one can't allow such a thing in a modern society.

e.g. I sent 3 documents out today requesting signatures from directors - signatures which by local laws bind the company they represent +- irrevocably. If you allow the scenario presented then clause #138 could easily have read "pay Mr Havoc a million a day".

Pitarou 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've no idea about Russia, but this WOULD NOT WORK in the Anglo-Saxon legal system.

Legally, the signed contract is simply the physical manifestation of something deeper: the consensus ad idem or both sides agreeing to the same thing. Tricking a busy clerk into signing an altered document does not constitute acceptance of the contract.

The court generally chooses not to reward such dishonesty, and therefore allows the honest party to choose which version of the contract should hold.

mathattack 6 days ago 4 replies      
Somehow I just can't see this working out well for him, but if it does, it says something about the rule of law in Russia.
tghw 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is a good reminder, especially to contractors and freelancers, that when you receive a contract, it's just the beginning of a negotiation, not a sign-and-send situation.
peter303 6 days ago 2 replies      
It would a fraudelant contract in the US. When you alter the text of contract in the US you must clearly highligh the alteration in the riginal text or as an admendment.
Demiurge 6 days ago 2 replies      
Brilliant, I'm so itching to try this in US.
X4 6 days ago 0 replies      
I should feel embarrassed that somebody alters contracts on his behalf, but this time I really feel happy for this guy. He exploited a Bank by playing out his own rules on them.

Just today I was thinking about Google and other big companies founded by Russians and then I see this little man hacking himself into success. I feel deep respect for persons who start from nothing, but with big success! Despite the prejudices people may have with Russian, some of them are really damn smart and this man proves it..

Thats quite an achievement, hats off to you sir.

SurfScore 6 days ago 0 replies      
This man's got spunk! Get him to Silicon Valley with some venture capital and he'll make waves.
bengrunfeld 5 days ago 0 replies      
Firstly, he is a legend. Having the guts to pull off a move like that is admirable and unique.

I think it's a shame that regardless of if he wins or loses, many people believe that "fine print" is a tool that only big institutions like banks or insurance companies are allowed to use in their favor.

joe_the_user 6 days ago 0 replies      
I only know a small amount about the current Russian regime but I would assume that this man isn't just anyone but someone with connections to the state and the mafya.
Fuxy 5 days ago 0 replies      
Haha now that's funny. The man did nothing wrong that's how negotiations are done between lawyers all the time. He presented new terms, the bank agreed so now they have to honor the contract they agreed to.
yashg 5 days ago 0 replies      
The court did hold the agreement valid when the bank sued him, so the bank will have to pay up as per the terms of the contract.
nickkyit 5 days ago 0 replies      
nickkyit 5 days ago 0 replies      
Updated the story with the pic of the guy: http://www.minyanville.com/business-news/editors-pick/articl...
Sarien 5 days ago 0 replies      
This story shows exactly what is wrong with EULAs.
zenith2037 5 days ago 0 replies      
In my eyes, that man won and outplayed the system.
primelens 6 days ago 1 reply      
> In Soviet Russia ...


RDeckard 6 days ago 0 replies      
The girl in the picture looks like a leaner Kate Upton.
Lavabit's founder: 'If You Knew What I Know About Email, You Might Not Use It' forbes.com
372 points by DanielRibeiro  3 days ago   184 comments top 15
beedogs 3 days ago 2 replies      
My guess (and he intimates this in his comment about backdoors in Chinese products) is that the US government asked him to basically break his entire system so they could do MitM attacks and ship unencrypted communications directly to the NSA.

The conversation probably went something like this:

    USG: Install this machine in your datacenter.  Route all traffic through it.      Accept installation of this new fiber demarc and allow us access to     configure this new router.  You do not need to know where this     traffic is going.  If you refuse, we'll slap you with a contempt order     and throw you in federal prison.  If you tell anyone about this, we will     slap you with a contempt order and throw you in federal prison.        LL: Get fucked.  I'll shut everything down instead.
The truly terrifying thing about this scenario is that they're likely already doing this elsewhere on a huge scale.

bengrunfeld 3 days ago 4 replies      
In America, were not supposed to have to worry about watching our words like this when were talking to the press, Binnall said. (from article)

I am a new immigrant to America. I came with my wife from Australia 8 months ago. All my life I heard about how the US supported the freedom and rights of its people, and now that I'm here, I find that that was a sick joke. This place is a KGB state on the brink of happening.

ibejoeb 3 days ago 3 replies      
Zimmermann on the shut-down and elimination of Silent Circle email: "Its not obstruction of justice if you do it before justice comes calling."

I'm sure he and his lawyers aware, but we've got this cool new thing called Anticipatory Obstruction. It'd probably be a pretty far reach, but stranger things have happened. See http://www.perkinscoie.com/files/upload/LIT_11_06FunkFeature....

malandrew 3 days ago 3 replies      
Once you've been contacted the first time under an NSL letter, what stops you from choosing to broadcast the entire duration of the ordeal.

government: "Here's an NSL."recipient: "Cool deal. I will respect it and not mention it to anyone, but be aware that from this point forward I will always have a device that will broadcast every interaction verbal or electronic that anyone has to me publicly live in real-time to the Internet. You have the right to remain silent. Do you understand? Anything you say may be used against you in the court of public opinion. Do you understand? If you wish to continue to communicate with me, be aware that any statement that you or anyone from your office makes to me will instantly and irreversibly become part of the public record."

On top of that you can hand them a special email address for their use only and you can delete your own personal email. You can also wear a shirt with friends and family that informs them in big bold letters that everything is a matter of the public record.

This would essentially serve to shield you entirely from secret communication by placing a "force field" of publicity around you. There might be some law somewhere that prohibits this tactic, I cannot imagine how they would counteract this tactic legally so long as you always greet them with disclosure that your are recording everything. I imagine that they could try to force you somehow to interact with them in a location that prohibits recording devices.

gst 3 days ago 0 replies      
There are already some existing Bitmessage gateways such as http://bitmsg.cc/. Looks like using something like this would be a better solution for a Lavabit-successor: Use a secure messaging protocol and then only use gateways to send messages between the traditional email world and your own secure protocol.

Of course, the gateway could still log your messages, but the same security issue applied to Lavabit. The main advantage is that once the gateway has forwarded your message, no one can force the operator to retroactively decrypt the message.

Bitmessage sounds like one potential solution for this, but it has some scalability issues. Using RetroShare would be another approach.

Keyframe 3 days ago 2 replies      
Maybe it's time for a new type of email service. Something along the lines of two way auth, private key on cell phone, public on server. Cell phones have cameras now, so you could generate a QR code or something which your auth app could look at and generate a response in order to generate a unique token to gain access to your message(s). On the server side guys could have a deadman switch which would purge all data if not heard from administrators for 12 hours. That way they could delete data and not be in jeopardy of obstructing any government or whomever is seeking to gain access. Bonus points could be had for not hosting in US too.
ezl 3 days ago 1 reply      
email is a tool. you can use it for what it works for.

it doesn't have to be used for all communication.

assume a world where all your emails are archived in publicly accessible databases. you've lost privacy, but could it still be a useful tool?

send birthday emails. send your friends funny cat videos.

you don't have to use email for everything you used it for before -- you can just use it in different ways. i would still like to be able to near-instantly communicate with relatives across the world.

i know bacon clogs my arteries and making bacon has a terrible environmental footprint relative to eating only grains, but i love it.

chmike 3 days ago 3 replies      
What is problematic with mail ? It's because it's in clear text most of the time and easy to tap with MITM attack?

What about an alternate messaging system addressIng these issues ?

mvkel 3 days ago 4 replies      
So why doesn't he share with everyone? If he's willing to shut down his service in the spirit of security, why not expose details in the spirit of transparency?I can't imagine all of it would be subject to a lawsuit.
mtgx 3 days ago 1 reply      
He should contest the NSL gag orders. They've already been declared unconstitutional at least 3 times, but they managed to trick the justice system by changing a few random words in the law (with the help of Congress), in effect creating a "new" law that was wiped clean of any "unconstitutionality" ruling.

The NSL is still unconstitutional in principle, it's just that it needs to be contested every time they change the law to escape the ruling. Hopefully this time Congress will stop playing along and creating new laws for them.

Watch this and you'll get it:


dombili 3 days ago 3 replies      
I'm not a programmer so this might be a stupid question and I apologize in advance but, why not open source the service?
vishal0123 3 days ago 2 replies      
> He doesnt have the technological capability to decrypt his customers data but if someone could intercept the communication between the Lavabits Dallas-based servers and a user, they could get the users password and then use that to decrypt their data.

Is it really what I understand from this or LL is trying to say something else.

enupten 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why don't all these tech companies form a coalition and release the details together ? The government would never dare going after a dozen companies at once, that would in essence spell doom for Silicon valley (and Obama's liberal rhetoric, such as it is). Surely there are times when breaking the law is the right thing ?
kintamanimatt 3 days ago 5 replies      
For those without showdead on, there's an insightful comment from beedogs:

My guess (and he intimates this in his comment about backdoors in Chinese products) is that the US government asked him to basically break his entire system so they could do MitM attacks.

The conversation probably went something like this:

    USG: Install this machine in your datacenter.  Route all traffic through it.      Accept installation of this new fiber demarc and allow us access to     configure this new router.  You do not need to know where this     traffic is going.  If you refuse, we'll slap you with a contempt order     and throw you in federal prison.  If you tell anyone about this, we will     slap you with a contempt order and throw you in federal prison.        LL: Get fucked.  I'll shut everything down instead.

Why beedogs is shadowbanned is beyond me. A quick glance through his comment history doesn't indicate he's done anything to deserve it.


Hey beedogs: I can't reply to you directly because you're hellbanned. Send an email to PG. I'm not usually a fan of posting people's contact information, but in this case it's everywhere anyway - pg [at] ycombinator.com

digipaper 3 days ago 4 replies      
One the companies closed and deleted all their paying customers emails? That's bad imo.
EFF: "Parallel construction" is really intelligence laundering eff.org
372 points by r0h1n  6 days ago   77 comments top 11
DamnYuppie 6 days ago 1 reply      
I believe that a society needs the ability to forget the transgressions of people. This gives us the ability as individuals to grow, otherwise we will be narrowly cast into a role that will determined by actions years ago or in our youth.

I know many will overreact and bring out extreme examples of murder or serious violent crimes. Yet that is not what those who are utilizing these tools are going after and prosecuting. They are generally minor or petty crimes, at least that I have read about so far. It seems like an overzealous us of a tool for perfunctory government twerps to feel empowered and make a case for their continued existence...not at all beneficial in the short or long term

joseflavio 6 days ago 3 replies      
There are at least 3 scary factors in this.1 - What will be next crime that is big enough that justify using this? File sharing? Drinking in public? Jaywalking? Driving above the speed limit?2 - The data is collected forever! Our current law system is not just in a situation which the prosecutors can dig your past to find problems! Imagine you do some graffiti (ok, I know it is vandalism) to express your indignation, now, if you are ideologically an enemy of the state, they can dig for crimes your whole life...!3 - The collected data can be used to prosecute you but it can not be used to innocent you.

edit: spelling

eegilbert 6 days ago 1 reply      
Especially relevant today: Slave records from the 19th century were used to enforce racial purity laws 100 years later.


ihsw 6 days ago 1 reply      
The legality of it is very difficult to challenge (must be done on case-by-case), so a loud smear campaign is our only recourse. Whether the "reliable tip" came from legal or questionable sources is immaterial when there is clear and obvious evidence implicating someone.

We can't forget that the NSA is one of many[1] intelligence agencies in the USG, so this parallel construction phenomenon isn't directly attributed to the NSA's spying efforts being focused domestically.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_intelligence_community#Membe...

derefr 6 days ago 5 replies      
Really, "parallel construction" sounds like what any forensic analyst would do in the case of definitive-yet-inadmissible evidence: find other evidence to prove what you already "know" (which can also turn out to go against what you "know.") In other words, just do your job anyway, just taking the inadmissible evidence as a hint of what to look for.
snissn 6 days ago 2 replies      
It's like cheating at cards or battleship and getting the right answer. Then later making up a plausible reason how you knew where their battleship would be.
pivnicek 6 days ago 0 replies      
We got this warrant to search your house because we've already searched your house.
gbin 6 days ago 0 replies      
IMHO This recycling of information can lead to even more abuse.The NSA can do anything illegal and mask it so it can be used domestically then.ie. They can drag somebody outside the US, torture him for "tips" and give the info to another agency that will protect the source of it by bullshitting the prosecutor.Gitmo v2 but nobody would know.
keithg 6 days ago 2 replies      
So what can we do about it? This is a serious question, not a rhetorical one. Given our recent enlightenment of government agency behavior, what can we as citizens do to get things moving in a different direction?
dllthomas 6 days ago 0 replies      
"Parallel construction" is really perjury.
jrjarrett 5 days ago 0 replies      
So what do we DO about things like this? What IS there to do? I fear our freedom as Americans is eroding away and our elected officials are not going to stop it.
ElementaryOs Luna released elementaryos.org
356 points by agumonkey  3 days ago   292 comments top 63
aroman 2 days ago 20 replies      
I have been a developer for elementary for 3 years, and I am part of the elementary core team. I am also personally close friends with much of the design and development team, including the project's founder and lead designer, Daniel For.

There seems to be a lot of feedback here which basically says "this trying to rip off OS X". I would like to offer you some insight into our internal assessment of these claims.

Is elementary OS reminiscent of OS X? I can't disagree. Did we actively intend for it to be reminiscent of OS X? Absolutely not.

We build upon good ideas from all sources. We don't have a dock and silver window chrome because OS X does. We made those design choices because they work (Windows has slowly made its task bar more and more like the OS X dock) and because they look good.

Could we have changed the window chrome to be, say, green, just to try to make ourselves stand out from OS X? Sure, but frankly, we don't feel we have to. I think there is a strong sense in our design team that we shouldn't change things simply for the sake of being "different" -- we should change things to actually improve them.

Disclaimer: I wrote this post myself and it reflects my own personal opinions, though I'd be happy to ask other core team members to back me up here -- I think they'd agree.

nosefrog 3 days ago 6 replies      
Mark my words: elementary OS is going to be big.

I was on a beta version of elementary OS a couple months ago, and it was like a breath of fresh air.

elementary OS sets out to settle the number one complaint casual users have of other Linux distributions: design. Other Linux distributions look like a mish-mash of a bunch of different designs by many different people. elementary OS has a beautiful, striking, and (most importantly) consistent vision driving the look and feel of all its applications.

The only thing that previously kept me suggesting elementary OS to people who don't normally use Linux was its instability as a beta release. If this release is as stable as I hope it is, then elementary OS is without a doubt the best distribution to introduce new people to Linux.

I think the following quote pulled from an update on elementary's website defending some unconventional decisions they've made[0] illustrates best what they're trying to do:

We know there are many traditional Linux users out there exclaiming that Linux is all about choices and we should make everything configurable because thats freedom. But that isnt why most of you are here in the first place. Youre here because weve been making choices for you. Lots of them. We always have and always will. Were the open source OS with opinionated design. Thats what makes elementary so good. We trim the fat. We optimize. We organize. We rethink.

That's an attitude that's sorely missing in the Linux community. elementary is tackling hard problems and succeeding.

I look forward to the the success of elementary OS.

[0] http://elementaryos.org/journal/we-moved-cheese

u2328 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is cool. Finally, a Linux distro that I could set my less-than-technical friends and family with.

(Why not Ubuntu, you might ask? Simple: Ubuntu ships off their users' desktop search results to Amazon by default. I know it can be disabled and all that, but that's besides the point. I can't recommend software from people who don't respect their users' privacy.)

wellementary 2 days ago 0 replies      
Background: have been using the early (read: 'unstable') betas of eOS for quite sometime now (almost 1 year in fact!)

I have gone so far as having installed it onto actual live / production (networked) environments (who were previosly running M$ junk).

Apart from a few minor quibbles (most of which were easily fixed) it has been absolutely flawless!!

The biggest testament to the design philosophy / directions that these guys have taken is, in my opinion, the simple fact that I was able to transition non-technical end users from using Windows to using eOS (and therefore Linux) in a live SME environment without any downtime and very, very minimal training! Try doing that with some other OS's or distros!! And this was with the beta/unfinished version!!

Given how well that went, I have also now managed to get it installed successfully on at least 4 Macs (iMacs, MacBook Pros and a recent MacBook Air). And I didn't even bother with rEFIT or any dual booting shenanigans.....I literally downloaded the ISO....burnt it to a CD ....booted the Mac from the CD ans clicked "Install Elementarty OS"..... and in about 10 mins flat I have brand new, screaming FAST, lightweight and beautifully thought-out Linux OS running perfectly!

Oh, and just for the record....as someone with a background in design and who has used every flavour of Apple hardware and software since the AppleII 'Euro Plus' (the one with Steve W's signature on the box!;) .....this is NOT a simple 'knock off' of OSX or anything else. The people who say this I would wager have either not used it so are basing it off a few screen grabs which tell you nothing..or, just have no idea about UI/UX whatsoever. As someone who has been using this day-in day-out now for quite some time.....this already is way ahead of Apple in a lot of respects (and wherever it isn't yet, I have total confidence that the eOS team will keep improving it!).

This is not a paid advert, I have absolutely no affiliation with this project, I just thought I should put my 2 cents in so hopefully some others can benefit from my experiences with this GREAT project!!!

Keep it up guys


nsmartt 3 days ago 3 replies      
I really like a lot of the stuff Elementary is doing, but I loathe the way they're mimicking OS X. It's a complete deal breaker for me. It feels like a knock-off.
miles 2 days ago 0 replies      
From the homepage:

Luna is built on the rock-solid foundation of Linux (the same software that powers the US Department of Defense, the Bank of China, and more). It has no known viruses, which means no pesky anti-virus software to slow down your system.

Linux has "no known viruses"?!





jgoodwin 1 day ago 0 replies      
I haven't used a Mac since a bit after the introduction of quadro or whatever it was, so I don't have a dog in most of the discussion above. I also don't own a mobile device. Those facts probably date me as a Linux user.

Here's a suggestion for designers: the age of the Linux user base is aging at a rate of one year per year. That doesn't mean there are no young ones, only that we are going where no Linux user has gone before (I joined various Linux projects back in 1992.)

Every human on earth, after there mid 40s, experiences changes in the geometric optics of their vision system. As my eye doctor says, the denial rate is 100% and the participation rate is 100% -- if you are lucky enough to reach that age.

Please design an accessible operating system we can still use in our 80s. This is a very big opportunity. How old will you be in 2038 is maybe a good design target. ;)

Accessible on a mobile device, a desktop, and able to function smoothly with presbyteropia is the basic design spec.

Get your team an old geek geezer or two to tell what works and what doesn't. When I forget my reading glasses at work, I have to use the Magnify app on Win7. Go ahead and try this, and see what the experience is like and if it's so perfect it can't be improved on you are done. Otherwise, work on that aspect of your design.

Even if you are young and not 'there' yet, try out the Magnify app, and try whatever Linux has to offer on your distro of choice for the same thing. It completely changes how you size windows and operated effectively. It will give you insight into important principles of design such as navigating windows, scrolling, keyboard usage, etc.

There is no need to make the very best of what exists today -- make the very best that will be needed tomorrow.

You will appreciate this advice one day.

adamnemecek 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's interesting that it seems like parts of the os are written in Vala. I've never seen that used out in the wild.
reidrac 2 days ago 0 replies      
I miss some easy access info in the website about the "building blocks" of this Linux distro.

Wikipedia to the rescue: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_(operating_system)

Also, worth reading: http://elementaryos.org/docs/user-guide/technical-specificat...

It's based in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Linux kernel 3.2.0).

jordanmoore_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
A couple of things:

* The side-swipe at Apple in the video for doing "one thing well" is a misleading statement. Apple build computers that do a lot of things, not just to enjoy music.

* The sly dig at Apple product videos at the beginning gets more and more ironic as the video slowly transforms into the Apple product video style towards the end.

* And the side-swipe is just poor form considering the OS does look OSX-inspired. I know this is an old argument about eOS but it's worth mentioning when the sly digs in the video bring it up.

I only intend this criticism as constructive because I know you guys are on to a great thing here, I just don't think you need the hints towards other OS's to put yourselves ahead of the game, you are better than that!

Further points:

* I commend you guys for the hard work you have put into this OS. Elementary was my distro of choice when I was a Linux user, it's fast, beautiful and task orientated, so keep up the good work

* It's fantastic to see the base install apps conforming to a visual style whereas on other distros the theming can look quite disjointed.

shirro 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here I am stuck on "pretty" OS X because of the support for sexy hardware and all I really want is awesome window manager, chrome and some terminals. If only there was a haswell ultrabook with a huge trackpad, nice backlit keyboard, hd screen and out of box linux support with drivers that gave windows graphics performance and os x battery life. Anyone who wants a dumbed down UI has got an iPad already.
eddieroger 2 days ago 0 replies      
Was there a reason to start with Ubuntu and not go upstream a bit and use Debian? I associate Unity and the UI of Ubuntu as the biggest differentiator between Debian and Ubuntu, and if they pulled that out, why not go upstream a bit and knock out more of the cruft?
mumbi 2 days ago 0 replies      
I would like to just say that I like OS X's design, why wouldn't you want to copy it?

Edit: I noticed a lot of people saying Linux is, in fact, sexy, due to compiz and what not. Linux looks like shit and always has, there is no elegance. I, for one, have never been happy with the appearance of any Linux distro, even if for some small thing that just bugs me. Compiz might let you do some wigglying and having a box, but what Linux needs is polishing and that's what it looks like Elementary is doing, so props to that.

adrianlmm 2 days ago 1 reply      
Congratulations to the ElementaryOs team, I recognize the effort you have put developing your own tools in a great language like Vala.

I don't believe that you try to mimic OSX because I have used it and they are not as similar, I think the people say it because they see the elegance you have put on it.

miloshadzic 2 days ago 0 replies      
This thread is incredible. How can people be such assholes to a bunch of guys who created a nice UI?
josteink 2 days ago 0 replies      
As a mixed Windows/Ubuntu user (sticking to I3 tiled windows manager for reference) just trying this out, I have to say this is quite impressive.

I might actually change my Ubuntu setup for this, but I still haven't decided.

Edit: To make it clear, I've considered elementaryos before. I've even booted a live-installation once or twice. But now I'm considering putting this on one of my main systems. This is snappy. This is an improvement.

ChuckMcM 2 days ago 2 replies      
I look forward to an ARM version of this, one for Pandaboard and one for Raspberry Pi.
afita 2 days ago 0 replies      
I showed ElementaryOS to my art-student sister and she loved it! She wants me to install it alongside her Windows OS so she can dual-boot.

She loves the simplicity and says that what she does on the net and her PC is completely covered by Elementary. Document writing, web browsing, text chat, email, video viewing, audio listening - all can be done easily and user-friendly.

Elementary is not enough for my advanced needs (I don't like docks, I prefer taskbars), but looks like Elementary might have some traction in the regular-user market.

Keep up the good work guys!

djhworld 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is cool but I'm not really sure if I like the "opinionated" design aspect of it all. The terminal application is drawn with a slight level of transparency that you can't seem to (easily) turn off. I like my terminals like my coffee in the morning.

Also my first port of call was to remove Midori and install firefox.

I must admit though, the interface is a lot lighterweight than unity and much better in my opinon. Whenever I install Ubuntu on anything I immediately remove unity and install gnome-classic.

codebeard 2 days ago 1 reply      
Can anyone provide some specific examples of how this is a "copy" of OSX? I am someone who sparsely used Os X and is admittedly anti-Apple.

I'm trying hard not to assume the people in the thread saying it's a copy are more than just Apple zealots but it's difficult when no one provides any evidence.

StavrosK 3 days ago 3 replies      
What is this? The landing page looks interesting but light on explanations. Has anyone used it? How is it?
da_n 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Good artists copy, great artists steal. Pablo Picasso

To the devs, congratulations on a truly stunning OS, I think I will be swapping out my Linux Mint install very soon.

jorgecastillo 2 days ago 2 replies      
I think design is not the number one issue of desktop Linux. Windows is very ugly and it still dominates desktop computing, by the way KDE looks and feels amazing. The first problem desktop Linux has to overcome is the lack of support from computer manufacturers. Most people are not gonna go out of their way to find a computer with Linux. Another very important issue is that Windows compatibility is unavoidable. Even OS X which has an even bigger share of the desktop market than Linux can't fully replace Windows. Most people are gonna need Windows software sooner or later. Linux has to sell itself as a better alternative to Windows, not as an affordable alternative to Windows, people might end up having to spend more money by using Linux.

P.S. I still think self contained applications like in OS X & Windows are way better than the Linux model. Other than that and hardware support, UNIX-like systems are superior to Windows in all aspects. I can't live without a decent shell & decent support for dynamic languages.

e12e 2 days ago 1 reply      
It looks like this might be an interesting competitor/test ground wrt Gnome 3 (and beyond). They're using Vala heavily, and they don't have any strong committed user base yet -- and therefore no need for backwards comparability.

Also nice to see a project that goes beyond simply building on top of Linux -- rethinking how apps are open/closed/minimized is a great example of this.

I doubt I'll ever use it for anything other than fun, though. I need my legacy apps, I can't work with a mouse (due to RSI and efficiency -- I've become addicted to xmonad like tiling wms, and vim/vimperator keybindings).

But if they can provide a solid alternative desktop experience, that's great!

kefs 3 days ago 0 replies      
anandpdoshi 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been using Elementary OS since beta 1 and I have found it to be the most usable Linux distribution. Don't get hanged up about them copying mac os. Even a novice user would find it easy to use. Let's not forget the soothing feel of the UI. It feels light.

Even android has some parts copied from ios, and yet you don't want to complain about it because it lets you get similar experience within your budget. It gives you a likeable option, copy or not.

Just give it a try. Don't judge from the video alone.

Gormo 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm really, really impressed with the responsiveness of the UI. The only OS I recall using that was that responsive was BeOS.

Unfortunately, Elementary OS seems to have fallen victim to the aesthetics-over-functionality trend that's currently plaguing the software world. The user interface is just too simplistic for this to be a productive OS for day-to-day work. None of the applications specific to this distro seem to have menus or configuration options. I can't put files or directories on the desktop. I tried to use what it came with, but it ended up being to frustrating; I had to install Firefox, Thunar, and Thunderbird instead of using the out-of-box browser, file manager, and email client.

I really like some of the basic work that's gone into this OS, but it just doesn't seem like it can be a viable substitute for more full-featured distros.

jared314 2 days ago 1 reply      
From their blog post about window controls [0], it sounds like they are taking the iOS approach to application close / minimize, but I can't find any technical description of how they plan to accomplish that without forcing applications to implement additional event handlers, or something fancy with preserving memory and file handles.

[0] http://elementaryos.org/journal/whats-still-window-controls

awsm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Mac OS X is my primary OS. I also have to run quite a lot of VM's. I have been running eOS since beta 1. It's by far & away my favourite Linux distro.

Whilst some of the designs are similar and may offer some familiarity to OS X users initally. The user experience is very different and has clearly been well thought out and crafted. My only gripe is the time between updates/releases otherwise I'm a happy user of OS X and eOS.

dvirsky 2 days ago 0 replies      
I would love to use it on my already existing Ubuntu installation. I see that it's based on Precise, and I have Raring. Is there an apt repo I can put on top of my Ubuntu box to enable this?
cuttooth 2 days ago 0 replies      
I just quickly installed this in a VM and it's literally just a poorly done OS X skin laying on top of Ubuntu, all the way down to dock icons bouncing when clicked. The installer is the standard Ubuntu-derivative fare without much modification whatsoever.

It's not really much of an upgrade from just running Xubuntu or one of the more minimalist window managers out there.

Ziomislaw 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've never heard about elementaryOS, and frankly the webpage sucks at providing info.There is no info about what is this, what does it do, no screenshots (picture to small to comfortably show a window bar and 2 icons is not a screenshot).

Will my apps work on it? What architecture is this thing supposed to work with? Is it for smartphones or PC's? etc.

Pictures are pretty, btw (so I don't sound all negative ;p )

autotravis 2 days ago 1 reply      
Just installed this on an acer aspire one. Really nice out of the box. Seems very refined.
hmart 2 days ago 1 reply      
One strong point for Linux in the desktop is hardware compatibility. Issues like wifi and graphic cards support, battery duration, hotness, hibernation and suspension support are vital for users and power users (designers, developers). This is most important today than application availability. Unfortunately I don't see any hardware compatibility list for ElementaryOS yet.
norswap 3 days ago 0 replies      
Nice! Now if someone could take a similar approach to the linux ugly underbelly.
leke 2 days ago 1 reply      
So is Elementary based on a particular Linux? That is, are the apps coming from debian or ubuntu repositories?
workbench 1 day ago 0 replies      
1998-2003 Linux invests a ton of time imitating Windows Explorer and Outlook

2013-???? Linux invests a ton of time replicating OS X and iTunes

Why can they never just innovate themselves?

buster 1 day ago 1 reply      
Unfortunately, as nice as it looks, the screens make me feel like "not going to install that, looks like Mac".. :(
minor_nitwit 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder how good their legal team is. Apple is very big on infringing trade dress.
wickedchap 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've been using Elementary Luna (beta 2) for quite some time now an I've been waiting for it ever since Jupiter, so you can say I'm pretty damn excited right now.

P.S. To the Apple lovers out there; dock was used before Mac and please go learn design and/or get contact lenses or something before you come saying it's a knock off.

busterarm 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think this looks pretty cool. I'm going to give it a shot in a VM. Depending on how this goes this may get installed on my non-Mac laptop.
mkramlich 2 days ago 0 replies      
The OS is Linux. That's not new. Appears they're offering yet another consumer desktop GUI experience to choose from, however. But OS is not new.
sharjeel 2 days ago 0 replies      
All the support related links indexed by Google seem to be broken. e.g. searching for "debian" in the search box and clicking any link leads to a 404 page.
daGrevis 2 days ago 1 reply      
If someone is as lost as me and can't found on which distro this one is based, it's Ubuntu with Linux 3.2.

After having a quick look using virtual box, it's really handcrafted nicely and could be a good alternative to Xubuntu. Great job! :)

knodi 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool, can't wait to use it. What good is its MacBook Air/Pro hardware support?
neona 2 days ago 0 replies      
Honestly, this just looks like yet another linux distro with yet another DE. The site doesn't really talk about what all it does, and it's pretty vague.

Am I missing something here? Sure, the design looks nice, but I don't see what compelling reason I have to use this, nor do I know how compatible it'll be with anything.

Downloading it to try in a VM, if only out of bewilderment and lack of detail.

tuananh 3 days ago 3 replies      
Those saying they like Elementary OS should just switch to OS X.

I like Ubuntu better. Why? Because Ubuntu offers some real innovations not just copycat/mimicking OS X like Elementary OS.

pdknsk 3 days ago 3 replies      
I have a question to the developers. If they like Mac OS X so much, why not just use it, rather than clone? I don't understand it.

To make it slightly less obvious, they could've at least picked a different desktop picture.

PS. I'm happy they chose Super Hexagon to show gaming.

Keyframe 2 days ago 0 replies      
Judging by video on their front page, this looks like an attempt to copy OSX look and feel.
eddflrs 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm very impressed with the responsiveness of Elementary's Pantheon when compared to Unity on Ubuntu 12.04. I've been using Ubuntu for over 5 years and I have to say, I haven't felt such a polished user experience.
Radle 2 days ago 1 reply      
The video seriously says gaming? I don't believe there is a real game you can play there, beside Minecraft.(For pretty obvious reasons)

Any one here who thinks or knows different?

clockwork_189 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like the fact that you can download for free...or you can choose your price to download. It really helps us support you without you guys being too intrusive on donations.
jalcine 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm downloading this now and going to throw it up in a live VM. To be honest, aside from the work-space management and what not in the video; that desktop looks close to my KDE 4.11 desktop here.
oakaz 2 days ago 0 replies      
Payment screen is HORRIBLE. I spent 20 minutes on it. I use my debit card anywhere else except this website saying me "you typed wrong address".
flamemyst 2 days ago 0 replies      
Elementary bring xubuntu alternative that beautiful but stay fast. Kudos for elementary dev team!
bndr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Does your window manager support Dual-monitor setup? Like one workspace on one monitor and another on the second monitor?
oakaz 3 days ago 3 replies      
Does it play mp3 and movies without requiring anything to do?
n0on3 3 days ago 1 reply      
yes, right, the world definitely need another linux distro that fails at pretending being even close to the reasons why people actually buy and use Macs and PCs. Bah.
mtgx 2 days ago 1 reply      
If you're used to the Windows interface more, I'd recommend Zorin OS:


oakaz 2 days ago 1 reply      
And, why isn't it on Github?
abimaelmartell 1 day ago 0 replies      
ElementaryOSX Luna
elktea 2 days ago 0 replies      
Gnome 3 is much nicer.
blogtechjav 2 days ago 0 replies      
OMG finally!!! waiting for years!!
Bugger bbc.co.uk
344 points by Ygg2  4 days ago   101 comments top 24
swombat 4 days ago 2 replies      
The danger with this very good article is that it underplays the danger inherent in this system of surveillance. The spooks who put the thing together are the hard-working idiots described here:

> I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.

(often misattributed to Rommel, but actually by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_von_Hammerstein-Equord )

What we have here is a band of diligent idiots who, with their persistent, hard-working little hands, are building an apparatus of oppression that will be the wet dream of whatever future tyrant emerges (as inevitably one must, if history is any guide). They form a powerful, hidden, well-funded department of our government, and they are, from the looks of it, largely incompetent, diligent idiots.

This article/documentary is very good, but don't think these guys are harmless fools. They are very, very dangerous fools - a danger well above their competence.

sradu 4 days ago 5 replies      
I've watched / read just about everything created by Adam Curtis. He is a brilliant documentarist.

If you have a couple of hours start by watching "Century of the Self" where he tells the history of PR and Edward Bernays. (it's public domain)

If you like it then watch "The Trap" and "Pandora's box". "The Power of Nightmares" is also great. Subscribe to Adam's blog.

He is able to create brilliant connections which give a whole new perspective on history. Some people I've talked about him told they believe he is a conspiracy theorist however maybe I'm naive but most of the things he says make perfect sense to me.

I remember watching "Century of the Self" at 21 and having a tiny 'aha' moment about how things work.

Joeboy 4 days ago 0 replies      
For those that don't make it that far through, one of the things that's mentioned that I hadn't heard about before is that in 1982 a GCHQ employee called Geoffrey Prime was caught selling British secrets to the Soviets, not because of the work of the security services but because he confessed after being caught sexually assaulting children whose movements he'd been monitoring via his job.
3pt14159 4 days ago 0 replies      
The truth is somewhat in the middle. I've worked with a couple ints and a couple of their bosses. Some are hyper competent, some are effectively the equivalent of people that "play business" by forwarding technical "advisories" to non-technical people.

So yeah, it's a range of skills and dispositions, at least from what I've seen.

nazgulnarsil 4 days ago 3 replies      
But this is what I worry about. A competent corrupt government is mostly concerned with crushing its genuine enemies. An incompetent one thrashes around crushing arbitrary people.
coldcode 4 days ago 0 replies      
It doesn't matter whether they are any good at catching bad people. What matters is how they impact the lives of good people.
cup 4 days ago 4 replies      
I would counter that the real state secret is that the threat of global conflict in this day and age has dimished but the cold war mentality has persisted.

Furthermore, people don't care about privacy and are willing to trade liberty for securiy. We like to talk the talk but when the we get to the crossroads the general public is indifferent.

fnordfnordfnord 4 days ago 1 reply      
>the historian EP Thompson said that really Chapman Pincher was: "A kind of official urinal in which ministers and intelligence and defence chiefs could stand patiently leaking."

Wow. I wonder what EP Thompson would say about the media today.

hedgew 4 days ago 1 reply      
To summarize:

"The terrible truth that began to dawn in the 1980s was that MI5 - whose job it was to catch spies that threatened Britain - had never by its own devices caught a spy in its entire history."

Buzaga 4 days ago 0 replies      
That explains why the guy who made the Facebook Event of 'spook spotting walk' in Brittain after the news that there was NSA personnel working there got inquired about his intentions! Idiots.
sbirchall 4 days ago 1 reply      
Haven't read this yet - it's a bit of a long one. But I just thought I'd leave a comment for anyone wondering if this is worth reading. I can categorically say YES, yes, a thousand times yes. Adam Curtis is a master artist of a documentary film maker and everything he has produced is worth combing over in fine detail when alone and feeling introspective or with friends who are curious and open to new and exciting ideas. He will quite simply intrigue the ever loving bejesus out of you and I think the HN crowd (if not already) should be much better acquainted with his work.

If you need further convincing (and a shorter read), just check out this interview: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/looking-beneath-the-waves-v10...

rmc 4 days ago 2 replies      
Another example of MI5 dropping the ball was in the Irish War of Independence in the early 1920s. The "old" IRA was able to infiltrate it, execute various secret agents, manage to convince them that the IRA had much more guns and men then it actually did, etc.
known 4 days ago 0 replies      
"If you wish to keep slaves, you must have all kinds of guards. The cheapest way to have guards is to have the slaves pay taxes to finance their own guards. To fool the slaves, you tell them that they are not slaves and that they have Freedom. You tell them they need Law and Order to protect them against bad slaves. Then you tell them to elect a Government. Give them Freedom to vote and they will vote for their own guards and pay their salary. They will then believe they are Free persons. Then give them money to earn, count and spend and they will be too busy to notice the slavery they are in." --Alexander Warbucks
confluence 4 days ago 0 replies      
You'd be surprised at how many things throughout the world can be easily explained through the lense of utter incompetence. Think of any type of failure out there, and more often than not plain human incompetence is at the centre of it.

When you start to understand how utterly incompetent most people are at their jobs, you quickly adopt an almost anti-conspiracy mindset that only changes it's mind based on positive evidence of actual competence.

Human error is the number one most common failure mode in complex systems. So before you think conspiracy, think idiocy.

> Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

- Robert J. Hanlon of Hanlon's razor fame (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_razor)

lucaspiller 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Thousands of Daily Mail readers couldn't be wrong."
marshray 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is this article returning a Server Error page for anyone else? Whereas the others by this same author are not.
_quasimodo 4 days ago 1 reply      
Since i'm not using Flash anymore i wasn't able to watch the videos, but from the descriptions in the article i believe they would have added a lot to the text.

Appearently BBCs 'iPlayer' does support https streaming (for their iOS App), but only if you have an Apple signed client certificate.


wslh 4 days ago 0 replies      
So, at the end if, now, intelligence agencies are spying retrieve information from Google et al and analyzing it with algorithms that are already in the public domain why they need a large budget or a budget at all?
nodata 4 days ago 1 reply      
Nice URL.
walshemj 4 days ago 0 replies      
yeh right in reality there was a concerted effort by N the German navel intelligence to recruit and run spies in the UK.

A number of them where caught bang to rights both pre and during ww1.

hes right that Quex caused more harm than good but hey its the daily mail see the recent hysteria about opt in to porn which is David Cameron jumping the the DM's tune

chiph 4 days ago 0 replies      
So ... they're like any other bureaucrat?
speeder 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think it is also very sad, that the things that KGB traitors did tell western people that KGB do, people don't believe, maybe because it worked as KGB intended (search around for Yuri Bezmenov interview... amazing
jwcrux 4 days ago 0 replies      
Off topic, but am I the only one who noticed "spies aren'y" in the image?
Ygg2 4 days ago 4 replies      
Ugh, op here. Why was title changed? It's less informative now :(
Using Voice to Code Faster than Keyboard ergoemacs.org
342 points by idleworx  23 hours ago   100 comments top 30
mechanical_fish 14 hours ago 2 replies      
A few months ago I had an RSI problem so bad - able to type only a minute at a time, even sitting with hands on keyboard hurt - that I started down this route. This video was, literally, a life-altering motivator for me, and I was quite obsessed with it.

Ironically, after seeing a physical therapist - which, let me tell you, you should do at the first sign of pain, because while they can't help some people I personally am batting 1.000 with PTs for RSI over my many-year career - my recovery is now so complete that I've totally fallen off the voice-computing path... for now. But I intend to keep going, not just because it is hilarious but because, well, RSI happens and it really pays to vary the routine sooner rather than later. There is nothing like trying to do a ton of emergency scripting on Python and emacs at the lowest possible point of your productivity.

The most important hint I have so far is: do not waste time with Mac OS. You need a PC running the Windows version of Dragon. The Mac version is pretty good for occasional email but lousy for emacs because it doesn't have the Python hook into the event loop that a saint hacked into the PC version years ago before leaving Dragon.

The speechcomputing.com forums are your friend.

Yeah, they say there is an open-source recognition engine that works okay, and time spent improving free recognition engines is time that really improves the world for all kinds of injured people, but here's the problem: when you need a speech system you really need it, and there are a lot of moving parts. Dragon, and Windows, and a super PC to run it on are super cheap compared to your time, especially when your time is in six-minute increments punctuated by pain.

lifeformed 21 hours ago 7 replies      
I guess it depends on the type of software you're working on, but input speed has never been close to being the bottleneck with coding for me...

Most of the time I'm trying to figure out what to do or how to implement an algorithm. Rarely do I get those mad-scientist frenzies where I'm typing away frantically trying to get all the words down as they come into my mind in a flash of inspiration.

henrik_w 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Tangentially related, but I'll throw it in here, since so many developers aren't taking ergonomics seriously. RSI can happen to you if you are not careful, and it can wreck your career (almost happened to me). Several years ago, I started having aches in my arms. Over half a year it got gradually worse, until it was so bad, I thought I had to give up coding altogether. Fortunately, I managed to get it under control, mostly with the aid of a break program, and an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. I'm now completely over it, but I still need to be careful not to get it back. A lot more details in this post: http://henrikwarne.com/2012/02/18/how-i-beat-rsi/
fsck--off 20 hours ago 3 replies      
"Emacs pinkie" is a non-issue if you use a keyboard with thumb clusters, e.g a Maltron or a Kinesis model. Investing in a good keyboard is just as crucial as investing in a good chair, especially if you make a living by coding. The time that you spend compensating for a bad input device by hacking your own workarounds can be more costly then spending money on a proper solution.

Once you are an adequate touch typist typing speed is only beneficial if you use a language that requires you to type a lot of boilerplate. Even then, you can use an IDE for auto-completion. I can type at very high speeds as fast as others can input text by using their voice but I can't remember the last time I needed to type for more than a minute at a time. If you use a language that requires you to spend more time thinking about code than it does to actually type it, typing speed really doesn't matter. Code is like speech in that it is judged by the eloquence, not the speed, of its delivery.

crazygringo 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Where is it backed up that it's faster than the keyboard?

For the couple of minutes I watched of him demoing it... I type waaaay faster than that. In fact, I can't possibly imagine how I could speak faster than I can code on the keyboard.

(Regular English sentences are another story, but code is full of important punctuation, exact cursor positioning, single characters, etc...)

I mean, this is awesome for people with trouble typing (which was my own case a few months back), but I don't think it needs to be over-sold by being "better"...

mdaniel 22 hours ago 3 replies      
My counter-argument to voice-driven coding has been primarily around the input bandwidth and the fact that you must work from home with that kind of setup.

I guess the presenter conducted the "faster than the keyboard" test under very controlled circumstances (e.g. only working on his own code, so one doesn't have to deal with non-english-word variables/functions).

I don't mean to be a hater, because that was an _amazing_ demo, but I don't believe it's the holy grail the title implies it is.

ics 21 hours ago 2 replies      
I was trying to work something like this out to try about a month ago but had to put it aside for later. Running my speech recognition inside a virtual machine was a dealbreaker, but not all that uncommon for people doing this sort of thing. I really, really wanted to get Julius[1] running in OS X but after a couple tries I couldn't get it to build (problem on my end this is a good reminder to get it sorted out). If you're looking for an alternative to CMU Sphinx that's still FOSS, you really should check Julius out. There are plenty of docs on getting it running with languages other than Japanese. If you're curious about how well it can work, check out this[2] demo (requires Chrome).

[1] http://julius.sourceforge.jp/en_index.php[2] http://www.workinprogress.ca/KIKU/dictation.php

charlieflowers 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Question (halfway on topic) --

Who makes the best speech recognition software in the world? Regardless of whether it is available to consumers ... who is the best at it?

In particular, how do Apple (Siri) and Google (Google Now) compare to Nuance's stuff? Is Nuance so far ahead of everyone else that they're the clear leader? Or is their codebase "legacy" and vulnerable to better, more accurate software which can be built now due to better algorithms and approaches?

sspiff 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Whenever I see posts about voice controlling your computer, I spontaneously think "thank the heavens I don't have to share an office with you." I realize some people work alone, at home or in a sound proof office, but every work environment I've worked in has had a shared acoustic space.

These voice control schemes almost always end up as a cool gimmick, and rarely as a productivity boosting solution.

MarcScott 17 hours ago 1 reply      
This reminded me of the guy who tried some Perl scripting using Windows Vista voice recognition.


rossjudson 12 hours ago 1 reply      
While I've never been able to adapt to using voice to code, what I have done successfully is use Dragon to document my code. I set up some macros that could move forwards and backwards between methods in Eclipse, added a "start doc" macro...Eclipse does a lot of very smart completion so basic features in Dragon handled it without difficulty.

Dictating your javadoc is pretty damn convenient.

ohwp 13 hours ago 1 reply      
What I think is interesting is that a lot can be done to make typing easier and more human when you can type like you speak (and think).

For example: we say/think

  for each item in list
but in a lot of languages you need to type something like

  foreach(item in list) {
A step further: we say/think

  let a be the substring of b from 1 to the end
we need to type

  a = b.substring(1)
Ofcourse the last example is much shorter and even more readable (to the machine for sure) but maybe code could be a little more human.

swayvil 22 hours ago 0 replies      
~99% of my time coding is spent working through the stuff in my head

Now if they could optimize that...

D9u 18 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a cool project, as I think a voice interface would be the ultimate in computing, something like in "2001, A Space Odyssey," or "Star Trek."

I remember first playing with voice recognition and voice command on a PPC Mac back in 1994.

That the technology hasn't progressed along the same lines as cell phones and processors is testament to how difficult voice recognition actually is when dealing with a wide variation of dialect within any given language.

I would love to be able to use my voice as my main input to my computers and other devices.

klancaster1957 9 hours ago 0 replies      
In the video he mentions that he wish he had known about the previous talk. Looked it up - http://pyvideo.org/video/1706/plover-thought-to-text-at-240-.... Pretty interesting. They are applying court reporter techniques to coding, cutting down on the keystrokes immensely.
balakk 21 hours ago 0 replies      
It's awesome that it works, but that looks totally tiring.
asgard1024 20 hours ago 1 reply      
I like it a lot. I wish there would be solution to tie this with say Google Glass, and be able to go on a walk or sit in the woods and code or make notes with it, hands free. Or while doing cooking or laundry, etc.

It's unfortunate he couldn't get the OSS speech recognition to work, though.

speeq 22 hours ago 2 replies      
That was a fun talk to watch. Someone should try something similar using some kind of brainwave detecting glass gear to make it possible to code by simply thinking. That'd be awesome.
frozenport 22 hours ago 3 replies      
I wonder if we should also be voice coding in a language drastically different then for example, C++? Maybe a language more syntactically friendly for voice?
mugenx86 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Anyone else find speaking commands out loud to distract from thought?

"slap... slap... jog... dot... word... chk... slap... snore"

unclesaamm 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Okay, here's the million dollar question that isn't on the FAQ and no one in the audience asked.

How the hell did he code it without using his hands? With help?

To his amanuensis: Slap. York. Tork. Jorb. Chomp.

Or maybe he felt his hands going, and he spent the last few months of his pre-RSI existence coding this up.

unono 15 hours ago 0 replies      
There's a lot of potential for multimodal gamified programming using tablets. A combination of gesturing, shaking the tablet, face expression, hand drawing, myo sensing, as well speech, in addition to machine learning in the compiler and for regular expression building. Within the next year a whole raft of apps along these lines will be coming online in the app stores. Big opportunity for Indie developers on the app store, you can easily charge $20+ if they're good and disrupt the emacs/vi/eclipse monopoly/monotony.
frakkingcylons 21 hours ago 3 replies      
Interesting talk. Naturally it made me think about steps I should take to prevent any kind of RSI. Should I be seriously concerned if I type for about 4-5 hours on average per day? How can I prevent it?
singularity2001 13 hours ago 0 replies      
We need a new programming language optimized for voice:https://github.com/pannous/natural-english-script
ChrisAntaki 20 hours ago 0 replies      
This would be amazing, especially if it one day supported Linux natively.
quantumpotato_ 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Any good machine intelligence integrated with IDE? I'd love some AI autocompleting things.
jerogarcia 11 hours ago 0 replies      
this is great , even that seems complicated and hard to get used to ... it's a fantastic option when nothing else works.
dylangs1030 21 hours ago 0 replies      
This is amazing!

If you could speak a bit softer with this, maybe throw in some noise-cancelling headphones, I could totally see this being useful even in an office situation.

I could see a potential pseudo-language developing out of this to abstract a lot of the individual characters, functions and common invocations used while coding.

krupan 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Amazing, but the cubical farm is noisy enough as it is.
Steps To $5,000 In Monthly Recurring Revenue statuspage.io
343 points by dannyolinsky  6 days ago   106 comments top 21
jhuckestein 6 days ago 7 replies      
The best part about their $5,000 is that most of it will be profit.

I'm pretty happy with my own SaaS application, but because I provide a telephone service I have pretty low margins. This is by far the most annoying thing about my business (it affects me more than taxes), especially considering that it would have been just as much work to make a SaaS with negligible marginal costs.

The lesson is, if you have the choice and don't want hypergrowth + venture funding, provide a service that costs you next to nothing to provide. Another disadvantage of providing a service that has high marginal costs is that your bigger competitors will usually be able to outprice you. If all you need is a few servers, you can differentiate based on product alone and charge accordingly.

rexreed 6 days ago 5 replies      
Going from zero to $5000/mo is definitely great as that means you've created some value somewhere. But $5k is not really sustainable as a business for three people. It's a great side-job for one person, or good total income for one person who lives in a low-rent / low-cost area.

But for a team of 3 people, you can do much better than $5k just selling your time in consulting.

It's not clear how you'll get from $5k/mo (nice side-job income) to $50k/mo (Good bootstrapping income for team of 3) to $500k/mo (ok, now you have a business that scales).

I'm not being critical here -- It's just that SaaS math has me scratching my head wondering if all that work for all those customers with such small amounts to show for it is worth it.

Would you rather service 200 people for a total of $5k a month with 3 bodies to support or one solid consulting customer @ $5k+/month with just yourself to support?

I'd imagine that you'd want more revenue so you can have a business and not just lifestyle income to support one person. Going from 0 to $5k is one thing -- the advice here is good for that. But getting from $5k to $50k, where you need to be to have sustainable business for 3 people, will require much more substantial effort that's not clear you can achieve with these methods. Indeed, it is not even clear what your margins are at the $5k/mo revenue point and whether that will even be sustainable given the amount you'll need to spend on Customer Acquisition, Customer Support, and slaying the Customer Churn demons to retain your necessary high monthly subscription rates. This is where most SaaS companies die -- trying to achieve this necessary transition.

pkamb 6 days ago 8 replies      
Suffers from the classic "clicking big `statuspage.io` logo takes you to `blog.statuspage.io`" problem.
mijustin 6 days ago 1 reply      
> From the initial connections and users we picked up from the post, we were able to convert 20 users into $50/month paying customers.

On first take, I was surprised you were able to pick up 20 paying users just from an HN post.

But then I went back and read the first part:

> First, being in the community, we had a bunch of friends that were great customer candidates.

It would be interesting to know the breakdown for those first 20 customers: how many came from personal connections?

secondmod 6 days ago 1 reply      
Thanks for sharing. I wrote similar post here on HN sometime back, would like to share here to add value :

After 30 days of launch, I managed to get 7000+ active users, about 100 paying users and $6129 in revenues.

My learnings : 1. Build your first main feature really well

2. Dont launch with 100s of features, keep the product simple

3. Make sure to have some influencers on your board as users from day one and make them super happy

4. Use tweet button very smartly - this is make or break up for your side project

5. Dont hurry up into making money, let your users ask you for more feature and then roll out paid features.

Shared here : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5600281

shimms 6 days ago 1 reply      
Wow the negativity here is astonishing. $5000 recurring revenue is an amazing accomplishment, and something that most startups never see.

Kudos on this achievement, for taking the time to share it, and for the hard work behind it.

Wishing you guys the best of success in getting to the next milestone.

brandnewlow 6 days ago 1 reply      
The StatusPage folks are executing incredibly well on adressing a tangible pain point. It's been a lot of fun to watch.
csomar 6 days ago 1 reply      
For Passive income dreamers, I think it's important to mention

1. This is revenue, not profit.

2. 3 guys. So $1600/person.

3. Seems like they don't have jobs (means taking this full time, probably with consulting).

Still a pretty good job, and I'll be interested to see their growth.

applecore 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm impressed that a soft launch[1] brought in twenty users on a $50/month plan ($1,000 MRR.) They really launched with a solid product.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5401470

JeremyMorgan 6 days ago 0 replies      
Somewhat broad, but good information. Congrats on your success.
nawitus 6 days ago 1 reply      
I hope those pseudo-personal emails don't get more frequent. I don't need more "spam", and it makes me feel a little rude not answering direct questions in an email.
dylangs1030 6 days ago 2 replies      
I'm glad this worked, so congrats on that. However, I don't agree that this is good, actionable advice.

1. Find a problem.

2. Get to hacking.

3. Soft launch.

4. Synthesize feedback, build more.

5. Expand the funnel (user acquisition).

6. Aha/Win/Rich/Yay

...That's the formula for any startup/technology service. It's literally those steps, a little individual secret sauce, and you win or you die (figuratively speaking). I know it worked for you, but things like

>"In our minds, there is no better way to build a product that people want than to be the customer you plan to sell to."

...aren't very helpful. It's a broad characterization of how to put yourself in that mindset.

But in any case, good explanation of what you did for your own project :)

pallandt 6 days ago 0 replies      
Good read, congrats on your success btw!
ddewaele 6 days ago 1 reply      
Nice write-up.

When did you guys actually started working on this and how did you transition from a day-to-day consultancy mode (no doubt bringing in a multitude of that $5000 revenue) into working on this full-time. Your blog posts don't seem to contain a creation date :)

Did you fund the initial development with your own savings or did you get angel investors on board early on ?

I can imagine that after taxes and deducting costs there is little or no profit left but it's a great psychological barrier to cross !

I wish you guys the best of luck ! Great idea and great to see people using it (and paying for it)

timharding 6 days ago 0 replies      
Fascinating. Thanks for the post. Not sure what your unfair advantage is here, perhaps being part of the community?

What barriers do you have to competition from a one or two person company w/ lower costs?

This is an excellent talk about what it takes to get out there and find the set of customers outside this bubble that will get you to $50k/mo.


t0 6 days ago 1 reply      
Can this strategy be duplicated? It seems like your main traffic source has been press coverage, but that isn't something that you can plan to have or rely on. Would you have gotten this far otherwise?
wusatiuk 5 days ago 0 replies      
I also think that this is another awesome example how it could work including the steps you should go. There are thousands of ideas out there but most of them never go productive because out of whatever reason so you guys, as all other startups with paying clients, have my biggest respect.
philhill 5 days ago 0 replies      
So you started charging for the service very early (almost day 1). that's not the traditional startup approach of build a biggish user base, work out the product beyond MVP and then monetize. I like hearing you got to rev early so props but is there a downside to future growth (even in the short term)?
stevewilhelm 6 days ago 1 reply      
Just marked my calendar to check back and see how statuspage.io is doing in a year's time.
Jamie452 5 days ago 0 replies      
So who fancies giving me a pain point which I can get on with?

That's my pain point.. trying to find a pain point to start developing!

originofspecie 6 days ago 1 reply      
Call me a jaded but 60k a year in revenue isn't won't pay the mortgage or put food on the table or clothes on your back. And if you wanted all three... forget about it.
Slashdot founder Rob Malda on why there wont be another Hacker News washingtonpost.com
322 points by Libertatea  6 days ago   245 comments top 32
mgkimsal 6 days ago 13 replies      
"I dont think its going to work that way any more. I think that the power has decentralized. Successful people on Twitter basically can fulfill a lot of that same role. You can follow Tim OReilly and Robert Scoble and Tim Lee and you can get a pretty good summary of whats happening around the universe."

But then, I have to know to follow those people. And I get a load of crap from them about their lives and networks that I don't want. Somehow having to 'click through' 30 links on HN is too much work, but constantly keeping up with the latest hot people on twitter isn't too much work? Makes no sense. Aggregators have served a purpose, and will continue to, for a long time.

muraiki 6 days ago 5 replies      
I read Slashdot for many years. Slashdot introduced me to the open source movement and shaped my conception of civil liberties greatly. I remember what the place was like on 9/11: when CNN's servers couldn't keep up, I kept going to Slashdot (and then IRC, something I didn't know much about). Slashdot was a great source of news about geek culture. I liked that it was that it was curated by editors, because as a teenager I had no idea where to find out about the sorts of things they talked about.

However, what led me to leave Slashdot wasn't any sort of Eternal September like effect. Yes, there were many troll comments there, but there's also lots of options to adjust moderation types to suit one's particular interests. Rather, what I found was that the editors themselves seemed to stop caring. Article summaries would be blatantly incorrect or have distorting editorializing in them. If the whole point of the Slashdot style of reporting was to present a small number of quality stories each day, how could I trust the site when what the editors presented was inaccurate?

When I came to HN I was surprised to discover that articles simply have a title and URL. Sometimes there's editorializing in the titles, but in general its pretty good. But I can understand what Malda is saying when he expresses his frustration in wading through the front pages of HN. I don't know if the solution is to implement topics of some sort or not, but the user volume on this site is picking up enough that I think some sort of organization beyond a single ranking algorithm is required. It might also lead some interesting stories that never make it onto the front page to reach an audience. This problem of course isn't unique to HN... whether its Slashdot or Twitter or Facebook, getting the signal to noise ratio to an appropriate level is a really hard problem.

That being said, in my short time here I have learned a tremendous amount -- albeit much of which lies in my bookmarks!

cperciva 6 days ago 3 replies      
Funny that he says he wants a Hacker News digest with the top 10 stories each day... my Hacker News Daily is precisely that.
sillysaurus 6 days ago 3 replies      
One idea for jumpstarting a new HN-type site is to spider HNSearch, gathering the first 100,000 stories ever submitted to HN, along with comments. Then set up your site so that your frontpage is a doppelganger of HN's frontpage circa 2007. I.e. today your frontpage should look how the HN frontpage looked on August 7th, 2007.

That way there's (a) the appearance of activity, (b) a constant stream of interesting content on the frontpage, and (c) interesting discussion in the comments. Before long, new real users would start to participate, e.g. by replying to doppleganger comments. At that point, it's inevitable that the new site would start to get traction as long as those new users keep coming back, which they should because the frontpage is interesting.

This could only work if someone had the balls to actually deploy the currently-released Arc 3.1 version of Hacker News, though, rather than rolling their own version in Rails. There's nothing inherently wrong with trying to clone HN's featureset, but it's interesting to note that not a single one of the HN knockoffs successfully cloned HN's entire featureset. Most of them were a halfway implementation.

Anyway. Just a fun idea.

EDIT: I just stumbled across a dump of HN from April 24, 2008: http://rapidshare.com/files/3129266675/ycombinator-news-2008...

It contains a snapshot of the first 172,575 items (submissions/comments) and a snapshot of the profiles of the first 6,519 users.

Have fun! Maybe someone can use the data to put together a cool visualization or something.

EDIT2: Just to be clear, this idea is firmly tongue-in-cheek.

EDIT3: Statistics time! According to that snapshot, when HN was 558 days old there were 38,693 submissions and 133,882 comments. The snapshot claims there were only 6,519 users. That would be an average of 20 comments per user and 5.9 submissions per user.

mikeurbanski 6 days ago 5 replies      
There are days when I wish that Hacker News was divorced from Y Combinator.

I don't care about karma, "hellbans" seem like a mean waste of a person's time, and the thought of HN as a rolling job interview for "the cool kids table" actively discourages me from participating.

Sure, the "interview" aspect helps them find people who are skillful self-promoters/developers, but honestly, as a user, wouldn't you prefer to keep the self-promotion to a minimum?

When I see my 18th front page "HN: Flavor of the Day - Me Too" or "Lorem Snowden" post, I start to long for the days of pre-Twitter F/OSS "Planets".

Planets where dev, ux, design, and business people came together to talk about what makes technology, projects, and people tick. I learned more about how to treat people and run a project from early to mid-2000 era http://planet.gnome.org/ than anywhere else.

There will be another HN, but it'll most likely have a very limited scope and come from a place of genuine enthusiasm.

incision 6 days ago 1 reply      
>"Twitter basically can fulfill a lot of that same role. You can follow Tim OReilly and Robert Scoble and Tim Lee and you can get a pretty good summary of whats happening around the universe."

I tried to start using Twitter that way maybe 5 years ago and found that there was just too much noise - jokes, tales of breakfast and banter that I just don't care to see.

I actually feel like it's the right kind of model though. Aggregating content streams from people of similar interests. It's the filtering that's lacking for me.

Every time I think about following someone on a social site I want for the ability to follow only a specific category of their content and possibly re-share it in the same focused fashion.

G+, Flipboard and likely a host of others have done things toward this direction, but I have yet to see anything gel for me.

Ideally, I see all of this categorization and recommendation happening automatically. If a service could recommend news or articles to me and categorize those I specify with the same accuracy I perceive from Netflix with movies, or even the new Gmail inbox I'd be pretty happy.

minimaxir 6 days ago 4 replies      
I dont think its going to work that way any more. I think that the power has decentralized. Successful people on Twitter basically can fulfill a lot of that same role. You can follow Tim OReilly and Robert Scoble and Tim Lee and you can get a pretty good summary of whats happening around the universe.

Odd argument, considering that the content on Hacker News is more about products than the people making the products. And I can say with confidence that I've never seen Scoble linked to anywhere on HN.

jgon 6 days ago 8 replies      
I enjoyed reading Cmdr Taco's thoughts on the future of "news" (interpret that broadly) and it made do some reflecting on what I think the future will be.

The biggest thing that jumped out at me was that signal vs. noise is the most important criteria for a service to be used, but what a lot of analyses miss is that you have to interpret something before you can decide if it is a signal or not, and that interpretation is by definition individual. I think this is what happens a lot of the time when people complain about a site becoming "too big", idealizing the past when the "riff-raff" hadn't gotten in. But I think this is mistaken for the same reason that generational rants about the fecklessness of the youth are mistaken, ie Occam's razor says that we are probably not all Nietzschean superman vs newcomer's being idiots, but instead we are probably more or less equal. What is happening instead is that as a larger group comes to a site, a larger number of interests and opinions come as well. And what I interpret as noise, what those people interpret as signal.

By this I mean that if a large number of art enthusiasts joined HN and started posting a bunch of articles on art history, I would probably not be interested as my interests lie mostly in the tech arena. Let's further posit that these art enthusiasts are pretty competent in their field and so 90% of what they post is "worthwhile" in some vague broad sense. This influx might actually increase the overall signal to noise content on HN, while for me it would appear as though HN is getting swamped with crap. This is why people talk about trying to keep things exclusive or invite-only, we are trying to keep the broader perspectives involved aligned with our own, so as to not get swamped by noise from perspectives with no overlap to our own.

And this I think is the root of a bunch of the complaints about politics being posted to HN. While I may shrug off art history posts, politics is another word for how we organize ourselves to live together and as such as is much more personal and much more important. And so people's personal reactions to politics they disagree with, and by extension political stories they disagree with, is much more aggressive. So even a small amount of political discourse that you disagree with can seem intolerable.

So what is the solution? Well if I had that, I would be rich, but I do have a few ideas. The first is that reddit is trying to solve the signal interpretation issue with subreddits, wherein people can manually opt in to streams of article that they believe will be signals to them, while blocking out all streams that they will personally interpret as noise. But this still relies on manual intervention as well as discovery, along with user moderation to maintain the signal. And why do we still do things manually when we have computers!? :)

So one area that I think is really overlooked is that right now every site interprets "down/up votes" and flagging as me speaking about what I think is useful for the community. But this is just my interpretation and so aren't I really expressing my own preferences here? Why aren't sites taking my history of voting/flagging and running some machine learning on the the contents of the stories associated with that history to try to tease out patterns in what I appear to approve and disapprove of?

For myself personally I wouldn't care if I ever read another article on coffescript or libertarian politics. But if I downvote those things here on HN I am making a judgement on what I think is best for the rest of the community, and who am I to make that choice? Why can't the HN front-page see that I'm logged, look at my voting history, and just remove those stories from my view of the front page? Ta da, automatic subreddits. I think a lot of work could be done in interpreting my actions in voting/downvoting on a much more personal level, rather that looking at them in a democratic fashion.

Of course, the big unanswered question with the above is how do we avoid the echo-chamber effect, and what about that rare story on coffeescript I might actually want to see? But for now, I think the above would be a good first step, with some sort of bail-out possible if I want to "broaden" my perspective. And anyway, aren't we all trying to create an echo-chamber anyway by coming to HN (aka hacker focused stories)? So what could it hurt to make things a bit more personalized for myself?

david_shaw 6 days ago 3 replies      
A lot of Malda's thesis seems subjective; a more interesting statement was just a brief mention at the top of the article:

> Then, after taking a year off, [Malda] joined WaPo Labs, a technology incubator owned by the Washington Post Company, the parent company of the Washington Post. (WaPo Labs is not among the companies being purchased by Jeff Bezos.)

I wonder why that is? I don't want to derail the discussion, but I had assumed (incorrectly) that Bezos was acquiring the full Washington Post collective. It strikes me as odd that he would neglect one of the elements that made WaPo, in my mind, somewhat unique.

I'll try to stay away from speculation, but I can't help but wonder if some of Bezos's other labs might be integrated into WaPo's technology portfolio? Is that possible, when the purchase was unaffiliated with Amazon?

pessimizer 6 days ago 0 replies      
I find it interesting that the "tech-related topics" that Malda is "most obsessed with right now" are Bitcoin, Manning, and Snowden/NSA - the ones that the proclaimers of a decline of quality of HN complain about the most.
Zimahl 6 days ago 1 reply      
I think his logic toward Twitter is very flawed. Sure, you can get the bulk of your interesting news there from specific feeds, but where's the discussion? People use Reddit, HN, Slashdot, Fark, etc., because they could have conversations about each item.

People want to discuss how a story makes them feel and how it affects them. People need access to random people, that's why this doesn't work as well on social sites like Facebook. Finally, it needs to be at least psuedo-anonymous so people can explore their thoughts without real-life repercussions.

diminoten 6 days ago 7 replies      
Has anyone tried a site like this except with additional exclusivity? Can't vote unless logged in, can't log in unless invited? Or can't vote unless 'approved', or something similar?

Would it work better? It seems like the problem is that you get too many political submissions and polemic comments which get the votes but aren't "hacker news" in the sense of what that used to mean.

I've been here apparently 4.2 years (no idea how), and the only thing I really notice that's different is the marked uptick in political discussions as well as the more confrontational nature of commenters. Is that bad? I dunno.

MattRogish 6 days ago 0 replies      
"If I could just find someone who made a Hacker News digest, with the 10 best items from Hacker News, that would be a really good Slashdot."

I think the Launch Ticker is probably the closest thing to that. They cover much of the same ground as HN. Of course, you don't get the comments, but that could be a positive to some people.


dmunoz 6 days ago 1 reply      
> If I could just find someone who made a Hacker News digest, with the 10 best items from Hacker News, that would be a really good Slashdot.

There is hckrnews [0]. You can filter by top 10, top 20, top 50%, homepage and all. I usually start by going through the top 10 and progress outwards if I'm looking for additional posts.

[0] http://hckrnews.com/

arh68 6 days ago 0 replies      
> The policy parts, I dont feel like I have a say in that. I dont have a voice there. I know what I want to see happen. But I dont feel like I have a say or a voice so I choose to be interested in the technology and think about where thats going to take us next.

It just burns to hear Rob Malda say this. I wince at the thought. I've heard the words before, in the back of my head: solutionism, powerlessness, voter apathy. I have no good ideas to solve this or even reverse it: no way forward, no 'edge'.

I'm starting to think these news sites live and die like phoenixes. Emotional baggage accumulates, pushing "issues" to the surface, clouding understanding. "Thought-provoking" is the kind of post I like to read, but only when it provokes curiosity, not frustration.

I wonder what would happen to the HN userbase if the entire site goes dark for a whole month. I'd come back. I hope the "issues" disappear and we can all start conversing with clear minds once again.

fotbr 6 days ago 0 replies      
Strangely enough, "new version of blahblahblah" is much more interesting to me than anything "tech culture" ever will be.
duaneb 6 days ago 0 replies      
People want too much from this site: startup news, code, politics, self help, tech gossip. This was fine with fewer users because all this could coexist on the front page, but now a lot of quality content just flies under the radar in lieu of linkbait stories. Unfortunately this is the way the internet works.
D9u 6 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I learned is dont spend your entire life playing predictive defense against attacks that will never happen. Real people are very clever. If they choose to attack you theyll attack you in ways you cant predict.

I wish our government would heed this advice...

I also liked how Rob said that his CMS was an evolved system and not designed.This has been my experience as well, because I can't think of everything and am better suited to incremental design.

jfb 6 days ago 4 replies      
I wonder about the idea that Twitter will fill the role of something like Slashdot/HN/&c. At my Peak Twitter, I followed a couple hundred people, but the stream is so full of noise that the work of picking out the signal began to drown out any possible benefit. Retweets, for instance, I see as 99.99% noise. The ads are annoying, but ads are annoying everywhere.
joshuak 6 days ago 0 replies      
Personally I like the fact that HN has a lot of verity. I can read it like a newspaper just like I used to do with /. and get exposed to a lot of things I wouldn't know to look for. I can search if I want to focus on something specific. So I don't agree with the premise that there should be another HN.

Two things that I hated about /. was the summery, which usually confusingly buried the link and was generally not helpful. And the fact that you can't vote and comment in the same article, which means that you trend away from having expert comments that are highly rated.

If you are an expert you can write an informative comment, but then you can't help vote up other expert comments, if you only vote your expert opinion goes unheard. HN doesn't have this problem.

I think the reason HN works is mostly simply the name, and not breaking it as above. It captures the idea of "Why" in the golden circle sense.[0] You could easily do this with news sites focused on other general (but engaging) categories, and I think that is already true, we are just more interested in the hacker type of news so may not notice.

[0]: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspi...

duck 5 days ago 0 replies      
If I could just find someone who made a Hacker News digest, with the 10 best items from Hacker News, that would be a really good Slashdot.

Someone needs to tell Rob, I created a digest just over three years ago - http://hackernewsletter.com

TheCraiggers 6 days ago 1 reply      
It kinda sounds like he's suggesting a massive, public, social media platform where the 'good stuff' naturally bubbles up to the top. 'Good stuff', in this case, being what you're interested in and nothing else.

And while that would indeed be awesome, it's also pretty obviously a pipe dream. Maybe some breakthrough with AI would help with that, but until then I don't think we have the technology to do that.

So, for now humans are in control, and as we all know, the public is filled with marketers, trolls, and other forms of bagbiters that tend to ruin such things when they get big enough. Hakuna matata, I guess.

VLM 6 days ago 1 reply      
In the same article he wonders how there can be eternal growth (the graph up and to the right quote) while limiting the discussion topics to a very small number, but doesn't see the inherent conflict in the demands.

This is a failure to identify audience. A desire for identical "fundamentalist clones". Maybe you just don't get those in a tech audience.

He made it very clear he's not interested in a coffeescript release. Obviously some subculture is... And thats not necessarily a problem.

SkyMarshal 6 days ago 0 replies      
>If I could just find someone who made a Hacker News digest, with the 10 best items from Hacker News, that would be a really good Slashdot.

Ahem: http://www.hackernewsletter.com/

Only problem is the lag in receiving it, if you care a great deal about participating in the comments.

InclinedPlane 6 days ago 1 reply      
I think Malda is circling in the wrong waters. He's following and rubbing shoulders with the folks with money and influence, but the interesting stuff is all being done by a bunch of other people who are spending their time actually doing stuff. Frankly, I don't think Robert Scoble has even the slightest fragment of a fucking clue as to what the tech landscape is going to look like in 2023 or who is going to be a big part of it. Just because they have money, a legacy, and a reputation doesn't mean they are relevant. I think that might apply to Malda as well as anyone else.
initself 6 days ago 0 replies      
For me, the glory days of Slashdot were when I consumed the daily text based email digest.
tareqak 6 days ago 0 replies      
The TL;DR answer seems to be: because there isn't a good way to get the wisdom of the crowds without the crowds (yet).
dylangs1030 6 days ago 0 replies      
Slightly misleading, only a paragraph or two were really about Hacker News in particular. More about why there won't be another "x", of which Hacker News is one iteration.

I'm glad Malda spoke to the issue of volume. A lot of users on Hacker News (with varying levels of prominence, seniority and notability) have noted the issues arising with volume.

The NSA scandal was the most recent example of this. Political discourse on Hacker News is almost cancerous it's so bad. there is widespread misinformation and a quick glance at the "New" page shows that the guidelines are frequently not even regarded for submissions.

I think Malda is on point with his view of Hacker News being at critical mass right now.

yapsody 5 days ago 0 replies      
Really great interview. Its good to know thoughts of Slashdot founder. I think hacker news is perfect the way it is.
D9u 6 days ago 0 replies      
Any successor will, by necessity, be named something else, so... Yeah, I agree, there can never be another "Hacker News."
phusion 6 days ago 1 reply      
I talked to Rob at a LinuxWorld several years ago. I got there kind of late and he was answering questions to a medium sized group of socially awkward computer nerds. No one wanted to get on the mic and ask a question for a Slashdot T-Shirt, so, being the extrovert that I am, stepped up to the plate.

I had recently read an interview with Rob online where someone asked him about Digg and Reddit and the popularity of user chosen content. His answers seemed like the question really got under his skin, so I figured I'd fuck with him in public.

I got on the mic and asked him what he thought about the trend of user submitted content. He immediately snapped at me that someone had already asked a similar question and called me a noob. He rambled on about quality vs quantity and all that, my eyes glazed over and I waited to get my free T-Shirt. I still have it! That experience more or less cemented my opinion of 'ol Robbie. Just thought I'd mention this story..

iblaine 6 days ago 3 replies      
He seems convinced that /. was the last great success in tech news and there will never be another to replace it.

IMHO it failed for 2 reasons, too many political articles & social news is better than news aggregators. In the end most articles were about Microsoft & SCO being evil. Plus the rise of social news (twitter, reddit) have killed the need for news aggregators like slashdot & digg...slashdot was awesome, it unfortunately didn't evolve.

[edit] Forgot to add the /. comment system. It has too many features. Even today it's hard/annoying to use.

Snowden's Asylum: 'It's the law, stupid' aljazeera.com
318 points by filipmaertens  5 days ago   187 comments top 12
flexie 5 days ago 4 replies      
Obama's cancellation of the summit with Putin over Russia's granting of asylum to one individual must be the most impotent foreign policy action for a quite a while.

To maintain a bit of American dignity, at least Obama could have pretended that catching a 30 year old hacker was less important than improving the relationship between the two largest military powers on the planet.

I can only see the move explained as internal American politics.

smackay 5 days ago 3 replies      
"In the age of digital wonders, more than ever we are dependent upon the vigilance of citizens of conscience to protect us against Orwellian scenarios of those many wannabe Darth Vadors lurking in the murky depths of the governmental bureaucracy..."

This is probably the most sober assessment of the current situation which is both optimistic and depressing simultaneously. The technology has reached a point to make a snooper's wildest dreams come true but at the same time there are more and more ways to get information about wrong-doing out into the open and to discuss it which hopefully results in action to correct it.

The awkward part of the Surveillance Age is that permanent vigilance is very difficult to sustain and any lapse or general complacency will be immediately taken advantage of. Keeping governments in check now appears to be a 24/7 task.

simonh 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not particularly pro- or anti-Snowden, and I'm no fan of the Russian government, but I think this article is correct.

Imagine the reverse case - a Russian government agent reveals massive and pervasive, questionably legal surveillance by the FSB approved by secret courts and without proper political oversight. Said Russian arrives in the US and applies for political assylum. It would be appalling not to grant it, while obviously allowing Russia to pursue normal legal channels to apply for extradition.

martinkallstrom 5 days ago 7 replies      
In essence, the US government (not it's people) could be regarded as the global bully. It's probably because bullying works and is economical. It makes sense for them and the world where the US would have to apologize for it's behaviour is not the world we live in, no matter how much we would want to.

But isn't it also a slight sign of weakness? Comparing to China, it's apparent that US more often resorts to bullying tactics. Especially if you count in military operations in that spectrum. If the US were an economical power the bullying would not be more economical than a more long-term, silent and behind the scenes overtaking of the global economy. Which is what China is engaged in and US has been in the past.

ck2 5 days ago 2 replies      
The idea of protesting the Olympics in Russia while we merrily went to China would be hilarious if it wasn't so pathetic.

Many bad things the Russians do, we do right here. If it's a contest for stupid, evil behaviors, we would only come out slightly ahead, certainly not win any race for humanity.

And by the way, Russia has nuclear weapons still pointed at us - thousands of them. Canceling ANY kind of talks is a bad idea, you never know the mentality of someone behind the button.

Shivetya 5 days ago 3 replies      
ot to a point, I will be real curious if Time gives serious consideration to Snowden as its man of the year.... let alone the boys in Sweden.

back ot

I said awhile back, Snowden fate is purely up to Putin, disclaim it all he wants but if Putin found advantage to shipping him home it would happen. Russia is far worse than the US when it comes to rights, but the US deserves the embarrassment it receives from this to include the obvious snub of the White House by Putin. The people who should be most embarrassed of their behavior are the press, but they are so in bed with politics now that reporting like that occurred with the Washington Post in the seventies cannot occur today.

scrrr 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wish that somebody (Michael Moore perhaps?) would make a great documentary on the topic of the surveillance state that everyone watches. (And on the seemingly broken American political system, as well.)
bengrunfeld 5 days ago 0 replies      
Snowden's future directly affects us all. If he was incarcerated against the will of other powerful countries, it would send a strong message that personal freedom is a thing of the past, and that if you do the right thing at the expense of the government, you will be hunted down and punished.

I would really like to see Snowden being more vocal and discussing his beliefs more. I think he could be a very powerful leader in the fight for privacy and policies that restrict the government's snooping activities.

alan_cx 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is one of the best articles I have read on this subject yet.
lyndonh 5 days ago 2 replies      
In 5 years time Snowden will get fed up of the constant games and finally gives himself up to the US government out of sheer boredom. Then he will get shoved into a small cell, Kevin Mitnick style for 15 years. After great expense will it have been worth it ? I mean for the American people ? All those tax dollars wasted.

Why isn't anyone holding the government to account for all the bad things that Snowden told the truth about ?

tehwalrus 5 days ago 0 replies      
This about sums it up, yes.
diminoten 5 days ago 0 replies      
> and a moral and political duty not to do so, especially in the circumstances surrounding the controversy over Snowden.

What? Moral duty not to do so? Howso?

Persona makes signing in easy for Gmail users mozilla.com
315 points by callahad  5 days ago   118 comments top 25
babs474 5 days ago 1 reply      
I've seen a few demos of this. The developer story is great.

Easy to integrate, no need to worry about screwing up storing passwords and you are not abdicating authentication to some evil or possibly evil in the future, company.

Amadou 5 days ago 3 replies      
The problem with persona is that it sends the same identifier to all websites (nominally your email address). That makes it super-easy for those websites to feed your activity to a central tracker like DoubleClick which will consolidate all usage information from all DoubleClick affiliated websites.

Persona would be a lot more privacy-preserving if it generated a unique identifier for each website. A "persona" for each website instead of one persona for the entire interwebz. Since the system is mostly automated it shouldn't be that hard to add one extra layer of indirection.

It might even be possible to shoe-horn it in to the current protocol with just a little bit extra on the browser and identity provider sides, but no change on the website code.

If anyone has actually done that, please post, I'd like to hear about it. Availability of that functionality would sway me to start using Persona and probably anyone else who is worried about spreading their email adddress far and wide across the internet.

gioele 5 days ago 1 reply      
I hope there will soon be a way to `apt-get install mozilla-persona` on a personal server. That would seriously help the deployment a really decentralized Persona.
NelsonMinar 5 days ago 2 replies      
Really excited for this. Password authentication is an absolute disaster on the Internet, and despite at least 8 years of development solutions like OpenID are not succeeding fast enough. Mozilla Persona looks really promising. Sure wish there were a Chrome extension for it!
clarkevans 5 days ago 2 replies      
I'm looking forward to when their LDAP adapter [1] is ready for prime-time so that we can use it internally for our own email addresses. I'm curious if the GMail adapter would work if you host your company email at google?

[1] https://github.com/mozilla/vinz-clortho/

soapdog 5 days ago 1 reply      
I wish Hacker News used Persona.
herge 5 days ago 2 replies      
It doesn't work with google apps, unfortunately.

Which is completely logical when I think about it since persona would not use the mx record to find the identity provider.

Skalman 5 days ago 2 replies      
The only bad thing with this new Gmail integration is that it gets more annoying if you have multiple Gmail accounts, or aren't logged in to the Gmail account you want to use.

And some things, like using myname+website@gmail.com doesn't work at all.

barmstrong 4 days ago 2 replies      
Can someone explain the security implications of Persona? In what ways is it more or less secure than other authentication mechanisms (username/password, two factor auth, etc)? Thanks!
eslaught 5 days ago 2 replies      
Does this mean that Google implemented a Persona endpoint for Gmail, or that Mozilla is now using OpenID (or whatever it is Google uses now) to piggyback on Google's existing login mechanisms?
zobzu 5 days ago 0 replies      
If you just wanna try it:


and put your gmail in the box :)

NDizzle 5 days ago 2 replies      
This seems like it just adds another click for gmail/yahoo users? I don't understand. Added another step to the login process and I think I'll have to change around some of my javascript to prevent returning users from "magically" authenticating after Persona gets around to authenticating them.

Weird. Oh well. Can't bitch much with a free service can I?

workhere-io 5 days ago 0 replies      
If you're interested in integrating Persona into your website, I've made a couple of examples of how to do it:


There's also a demo that shows how Persona works (doesn't save any of your info):


lifeisstillgood 5 days ago 0 replies      
Ok, that is a big deal.

Must add that to velruse.

pspeter3 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'm really glad they finally added this. Persona is a great way to login and better for developers and users.
mixedbit 5 days ago 0 replies      
Congratulations to the team!
Afforess 5 days ago 2 replies      
I like idea of Persona, but the idea of requiring emails prevents me from ever implementing it. There are plenty of places where I need an identity system, but don't want to force users to fork over their email address.
stephenheron 5 days ago 0 replies      
If anyone wants to hear more about Persona and lives around the Edinburgh (Scotland) area then please feel free to pop along to a talk that one of the Persona developers is giving. https://edpug2013aug.eventbrite.co.uk/?ref=ecal
coherentpony 5 days ago 1 reply      
This worries me a little. Perhaps because I don't fully understand what's going on under the bonnet. When I give a website my email address, some communication must happen between that website and persona. So there's some centralised persona server sending auth tokens back and forth between websites that use persona api? Am I misunderstanding?

If that's not the case, then what, exactly, information does website X have about me now that I have 'logged in using persona'?

williamsharkey 4 days ago 1 reply      
1. Why the popup window?

2. Are developers permitted to strip the Persona branding - to make the login process seem to flow with the current website - not a bolt on?

3. Would you consider including tiny profile icon links next to the button itself, to facilitate single-click profile sign-on/switch?

lnanek2 5 days ago 2 replies      
Still annoying I have to type in my email address even though I'm already logged in to Gmail. With OpenID I just click a Google icon, some auth clicks, and I'm done. With this I have to type in my email and do some auth clicks.
joyeuse6701 5 days ago 1 reply      
So...that means instead of someone knowing my password to get into xyz website, they can easily just use persona which in a few clicks will let them into my account?
erkose 5 days ago 2 replies      
Someone still needs to solve the "what verifier do I use problem" in a decentralized way, or we're going to see Persona follow OAuth and be dominated by Google, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
vxcvxc 4 days ago 1 reply      
I prefer Lastpass and dont see a need to centralize login solutions. In fact, every time you centralize something, it becomes vulnerable.
AsymetricCom 5 days ago 0 replies      
A company build upon a work-around. I think this is a new level of epic cruft.
Android AOSP maintainer quits plus.google.com
313 points by av500  6 days ago   226 comments top 22
aroch 6 days ago 5 replies      
For those curious:

As part of the Nexus device support, Google releases factory images. These images contain all the blobs and whatnot necessary to restore your device's OS even in the event of a soft-brick. In the case of the new Nexus 7, it appears Google won't be releasing factory images and the cause is almost certainly the fact that Qualcomm doesn't want to release it's proprietary blobs for the Adreno GPU.

JBQ is pissed about this, this isn't the first time a vendor hasn't allowed release of certain blobs or the first time a vendor has refused to release the code necessary to even boot the device.

GuiA 6 days ago 3 replies      
Not an Android user, but from what I understand the issue is that Google has released the new Nexus 7, but a) the GPU uses proprietary drivers (binary blobs) and b) the actual "factory image" (i.e. what runs on the device when you buy it) of the Nexus 7 is still unreleased and closed source.

This means that the Nexus 7 is, practically, no more open than the iPad/MS Surface/etc.. That would definitely be upsetting to me if the gig had been sold as a way to strongly impact an open source piece of software, and Jean-Baptiste's decision seems very reasonable.

Can android users/developers weigh in? I'm sure I'm getting some part of it wrong.

iyulaev 6 days ago 2 replies      
This kind of stuff is run-of-the-mill when working with the large chipset/SoC vendors. I've worked on projects that have crashed and burned because at the last minute the chip vendor decided they're not going to provide the SDK for the chips we've bought and designed in.

Vendors suck (some more than others) and it's not Google's fault that they can't convince the vendor to open source their device drivers. This sort of thing is extremely common in the embedded world and when you're making a device to a price point often times you have to put up with this sort of nonsense because only one vendor makes a chip with your feature set at a given price point.

binarycrusader 6 days ago 4 replies      
But, but, Android is the very definition of open! Andy Rubin said so:

  the definition of open: "mkdir android ; cd android ;  repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform  /manifest.git ; repo sync ; make"

Well, I suppose if you define "open" as being able to build the software, but don't promise you can actually use the result, that makes it acceptable.

The other important thing to note here is that Jean-Baptiste Quru is not just some random Android developer. He is the the point person for what everyone previously believed was "open" development on Android.

dm2 6 days ago 5 replies      
The fact is that Google tries to make their devices as open as possible. That philosophy is beneficial to the community, for the software, for their brand, and for the tech industry. If legal issues or unforeseen problems appear while they are launching a product that prevent stock images on a particular device, then oh well, shit happens.

There will be a dozen other Nexus devices within the next year and hopefully Google will learn from their mistakes, and will partner with suppliers who won't prevent source code from being published.

Does Google benefit monetarily from not releasing source code? Nope, it likely decreases their profit and tarnishes their reputation, so I would like to believe that they are doing everything in their power to keep Android and the Nexus brand as open as possible.


chetanahuja 6 days ago 0 replies      
JBQ's quitting is devastating to the AOSP ecosystem. In so many different ways that I'm having a hard time putting my thoughts together on this topic. Having had the benefit of following his posts and rants both from inside as well as outside google, I find it difficult to overstate the impact of this event on real and perceived openness of the platform.
jordanthoms 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm guessing Google got caught between a rock and a hard place here, with the qualcomm processor being the best choice (and the performance of the Nexus 7 is great), but being ridiculously locked down (you can easily extract binary blobs, so why restrict google from hosting them, they will be hosting them for the OTA updates anyway!).

Should they have put out a worse device in order to stand up to this stuff though? Difficult choice.

This is a pain - It's nice being able to download the factory images direct from Google for quickly restoring the device to stock or applying an update before the OTA is out, having to try to find them on XDA is annoying for a Nexus device. Kudos to JBQ for standing up to this, hopefully the fallout will cause something to change.

jwildeboer 6 days ago 1 reply      
So AOSP is a lot of things but not really open and the geniuses at Google deliberately let the shit hit the fan despite 6 months of warnings by JBQ. Stay classy, Google.
wonderyak 6 days ago 2 replies      
So we can now lump all Qualcomm devices along with Verizon (CDMA) devices into the 'may never be properly updated' pile.

You'd think that Google would have the foresight to listen to the maintainer of the project; perhaps they did and this is just the way it is now?

henderson101 6 days ago 0 replies      
JBQ is a great guy, and well loved from his days working for Be Inc. His wife cool too, if notoriously opinionated :-) Wish him all the best! Stand by your convictions.
artagnon 5 days ago 1 reply      
The situation is somewhat similar to what was happening on desktop Linux some years ago. On the desktop, the kernel _and_ most of the core userland is GPL (mostly v2), an extremely powerful license. nVidia got away with being able to distribute proprietary GPU kernel modules for some time, because distributions weren't moving fast enough. Why did they do it? Some vague illusion of their "Intellectual Property" being stolen, and competitors destroying them. All in all, they suffered (because they had to keep up with a fast-moving linux.git), and users suffered (because they had to get the precise version for their kernel). After many years of work, the cards were eventually reverse-engineered, and the noveau drivers are technically superior today. All in all, nVidia gained nothing and lost a huge amount of trust: if they'd upstreamed their driver, it would have been maintained for free (and improved upon); they could have concentrated on their core competency: making chips.

Today, AOSP (contrary to what its name suggests) is mostly just a code-dump project. They've forked Linux and have stripped out the GNU (GPL) userland. Broadly speaking, there are two ways to stay in power. 1. release minimal source code, and don't let other parties get in (aka. the Apple/Microsoft strategy). 2. simply assign all copyright to a neckbeard foundation with no money and nothing to lose (aka. FSF/GNU). Provided there's a big enough market (unlike nVidia being virtually the only manufacturer of decent GPUs back in the day), people will simply stop buying your hardware because their software doesn't run on it.

Google is pretty much on its own here, because there is no "open source project": various vendors fork the code and make their own modifications on top and distribute it happily. I run a CM nightly myself, because I get updates in the form of commit SHA-1s every night: _that_ is how you involve users and build a community. Can anyone threaten CM? Now, Qualcomm is attacking Google: Google can't give them the finger because they're powerless.

Fragmentation (aka. forks) are part and parcel of any uncontrolled development. GNOME is one very famous example: not everyone is happy with the same thing (GNOME Shell, Cinnamon, Unity etc.). For another example, look at mplayer: mplayer, mplayer2, and (now) mpv. The forks compete against each other, and the competent communities eventually achieve dominance. Contrast that with how many times Torvalds' tree has been forked: the forks don't survive because the community and leadership is strong and won't bend to anyone's demands (you're probably seen the media reporting how Linus gives nVidia the finger, or bashes patches that further Microsoft's UEFI agenda). Emacs has also had various forks in the past (remember XEmacs?), but all of them died off because of weak leadership.

AOSP should think about these issues seriously, and figure out how to keep the project running. I don't know what they should specifically change, because nobody has any idea about what problems they are facing.

samspenc 6 days ago 1 reply      
Is he still working at Google? Just quit AOSP?
zmmmmm 6 days ago 1 reply      
It's puzzling to me that Qualcomm has managed to get to the position now where it is virtually a monopoly provider for ARM chipsets that support LTE. A lot of discussion happens about standards essential patents wrt Motorola and Samsung - surely that equally applies to Qualcomm and the other chip makers (not least of all Samsung) should be able to readily license these patents and build competitive chipsets?
static_typed 6 days ago 3 replies      
We are all to blame!

All of us that buy, or let relatives buy Android devices that use restrictive and closed blobs.

Customers and only customers have the power to make the change.

Every time we encourage someone else to buy a non-Android device make sure to publicise the fact on open social media like Farcebook or Twatter on the corporate tags and pages to raise awareness in the less technology literate and make some voices heard.

It is one thing for companies to see bottom-lines get affected, but they also need to understand why. Don't just boycott, let the world know why too!

jlund 6 days ago 3 replies      
I hope that Mozilla and Ubuntu are more successful in keeping binary blobs under control on their hardware. It will probably mean avoiding Nvidia and Qualcomm hardware though. Whether or not this is even realistic or possible is an interesting question.
einarfd 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is a worrying development for Android as an open source project. That Google doesn't care enough about keeping ASOP relevant, to even make sure their new Nexus 7 is supported in it, is rather depressing. Some here are blaming Qualcomm and I'm sure they are part of the reason this happened. But the new Nexus 7 is probably going to bring in a sizeable chunk of money, and Google could have used this to force Qualcomm's hand.That Google didn't, sends a clear message about their priorities.
Splendor 5 days ago 0 replies      
This really shows poor planning on Google's part. If their goal with the Nexus line it to be able to release builds to ASOP, they need to source their parts accordingly.
JonSkeptic 5 days ago 0 replies      
This does not bode well for the Security Enhanced Android project; it was already in poor shape and I fear this could be it's demise.
zobzu 6 days ago 0 replies      
+karma for the balls to disclose the reason to quit, and it being a reason like that.
cpeterso 5 days ago 0 replies      
Google could acquire MIPS and forget ARM and Qualcomm. Imagination Tech bought MIPS for just $100M just 9 months ago.
voodoo123 6 days ago 2 replies      
Well, I see that people have figured out why I'm quitting AOSP.

There's no point being the maintainer of an Operating System that can't boot to the home screen on its flagship device for lack of GPU support, especially when I'm getting the blame for something that I don't have authority to fix myself and that I had anticipated and escalated more than 6 months ahead.

So much for all that noise from Google about 'openness'. The detractors were right.

mnbc98 6 days ago 2 replies      
Does anyone else find it highly suspicious how every Android device feels the need to ship a binary blob?

Given Google's close relationship with the NSA, the reason seems fairly obvious...

Ubuntu Edge price dropped to $695 indiegogo.com
303 points by davidjgraph  5 days ago   153 comments top 30
weisser 5 days ago 6 replies      
I backed the project at $600. Here are some thoughts:

1. It's getting wishy-washy. I don't know any campaigns that have changed around rewards this much (both pricing and what you get) and for many people that may be a turn off. Why would someone get the phone at $695 when it could go down more? Obviously the said the price won't go down but they had said that previously when they were above $700.

2. $695 immediately withdrawn from your PayPal account prior to tha campaign succeeding is a hard pill to swallow for many even if you are refunded 100% if (when?) the goal is not reached.

3. May 2014 is a pretty long time from now and I bet the wait will end up being longer (I waited almost 1.25 years for my Leap Motion and they had significant VC backing). Too many people may not be able to think this far ahead.

Why did I back the project? Well, I liked the idea of making a custom hardware device and thought crowdfunding the creation was interesting. I've never actually used Ubuntu (or Android for that matter) but the scale of the goal and the precedent it could set for people doing very capital-intensive projects with crowdfunding was what motivated me to back it.

jt2190 5 days ago 2 replies      
Hey commenters:

1. Backing this project is using your dollars to "vote" for this device to exist. It's not as unimaginative as "buying a phone", it's about helping to establish a new mobile device os as a real alternative.

2. This type of fundraising rarely follows a linear growth curve, so there's nothing to infer about the ultimate success of the project by projecting that way.

I have not backed the project, and I'm not sure if I will, but I really appreciate that others are trying to make this happen.

simias 5 days ago 6 replies      
Mmh, 14 days remaining and only 27% funded, it doesn't bode well. I wonder if they'll be able to build momentum this late in the campaign.

Maybe this kind of expensive, high volume devices shows the limits of crowdfunding? Have there been similar projects crowdfunded already (similar price/target)?

gregpilling 5 days ago 3 replies      
Can anyone explain why there is no open hardware phone at this point? During a recent trip to Shenzhen, it was clear that all the components are readily available.

I have had one person suggest that it was the cost of FCC approval that was the holdup and not the technology. Any company that could afford the approval process would not want to open their design. I am not technically versed enough to know if this is correct, however.

Does anyone else have a clear perspective on the issue?

tytso 5 days ago 1 reply      
The reason why I'm not jumping at the Ubuntu Edge is that it's vaporware. Things like "Fastest multi-core CPU" doesn't fill me with much (well, any) confidence. That says to me that they haven't done any of the thermal engineering, or the battery life calculations. And they don't know this information now, 9 months before launch?

If they reach their funding goal, but then miss their delivery date, or the device has a pathetic battery life, or the device overheats in your hand and shuts down the moment you try to use the "fastest CPU", what then? Or if the CPU /GPU ends up being so slow (to prevent thermal meltdown) that you can't run interesting desktop-class applications, as opposed to using an OS and applications optimized for embedded/mobile hardware, as opposed to laptop class hardware, what then?

Call me unconvinced.

pavs 5 days ago 2 replies      
Despite what they say about getting lower price deals on components, it looks very preplanned "strategy".

Either way the next couple of days will be make or break, if this last price change doesn't get any significant contribution in short time, I don't think they can reach the target anymore.

Zigurd 5 days ago 2 replies      
The whole thing was ill-advised. Even if they reached $32M it would be the equivalent of a pre-order for a few tens of thousands of phones. That's not enough to launch a viable handset business.

They should have gone to an ODM or lower-tier OEM and piggybacked on an the unit volume for some other customer. They could have launched with 20k units pre-sold.. They also could have had a far shorter lead time, so the risk in pledging would be much lower.

If they think they can change the world with hardware, they've got that wrong. The interesting thing about an Ubuntu phone is Ubuntu.

lnanek2 5 days ago 0 replies      
They sure are getting a lot of attention by having time sensitive prices and changing prices. To some degree eyeballs equals cash. What they need is a lot of orders, though, to make the funding goal and get any money at all. They really need to drop that price down to be competitive with Google's Nexus 4, Nexus 7, etc.. I know OEMs that dropped device projects at the Edge's price point when those came out and it was smart.
asgard1024 5 days ago 0 replies      
I like the idea, and the hardware seems good, and I could afford it, but the real turn-off for me is that it's just a one-time thing. If I am going to commit myself to another mobile platform (although I use Xubuntu on the PC), I want it to have some future. If the thing breaks after 3 years, what I am going to do? I will have to change the platform again when I buy a new device.

I actually question what the Canonical is doing when it comes to this. I bought Asus EEE with preinstalled Ubuntu 12.04 recently, and it's great. However, you cannot upgrade to 12.10 because the proprietary video driver for X is missing. So what they're thinking? If they want people to switch to Ubuntu (and I would love that, that's why I bought this netbook), then they have to commit to it as a long term goal.

It seems that everybody is so impatient nowadays that if success doesn't happen in one year, they kill the project.

null_ptr 5 days ago 3 replies      
I want to know one thing about this phone that the page did not mention.

Can I `gcc-arm -o MyApp main.c` on my PC and run MyApp on any Ubuntu Edge phone, without having to unlock them or enable them for dev or any other nonsense? Or is development restricted to QML and HTML5?

nonchalance 5 days ago 5 replies      
Given that they used indiegogo, do they keep the funds in case the target is not hit?
jlengrand 5 days ago 0 replies      
Am I the only one that sees this as some kind of lean startup applied to industry? I mean. With nothing but a few renders, they have reached more than 8 millions in backup. This is a HUGE point in terms of marketing, and more than a lot of free advertisment. All of that for free.
burke 5 days ago 1 reply      
The one thing that's bothering me about this is their choice to use sapphire crystal for the screen. Sapphire is definitely more scratch-resistant than the Gorilla Glass used by iPhones and high end Andriod phones, but my understanding is that sapphire is much easier to shatter by applying pressure. That seems to me a more important factor than scratch-resistance.

(Disclaimer: I'm no materials engineer and the above info was sourced from google searching, so take that for what it's worth)

sarreph 5 days ago 0 replies      
They need to make $20/sec from now on in order to reach their funding goal.
madmaze 5 days ago 2 replies      
I keep wondering whether they still have something up their sleeve, but judging by them dropping the price, its not the case. This is the pinnacle of Mark Shuttleworth's "convergence" dream, I wonder whether he will carry the rest of this campaign if it looks like it will not get funded in the end? Also if it does fail, it is going to look mighty bad for Canonical.
cleis 5 days ago 1 reply      
The Edge is going to be the most successful unsuccessful crowdfunding project ever
tehwalrus 5 days ago 0 replies      
If I had the money, I'd be ordering one now. A high-spec android phone that can also dock into a full desktop ubuntu machine? I'd love to be able to have a development setup in my pocket whereever I go.
sspiff 5 days ago 0 replies      
As much as I like this project (or pipe dream, depending on your point of view), I think $695 is a much more realistic price for this device. I sincerely hope they succeed.
ibudiallo 5 days ago 0 replies      
At this point I have convinced myself that the goal won't be reached. But I know for certain every phone company is back to the drawing board, because we are looking right at the future.
vishvananda 5 days ago 0 replies      
I predict that this will lead to a spike in backers from all of the people who wanted to back it but thought $800 was too expensive, but it will quickly level off. Why?

Dan Ariely did some studies[1] showing that people are much more likely to pick something when there is a strictly worse option available. $830 vs. $600 for the exact same thing is just easier for our irrational minds to compare than $695 for a phone next year vs. phones today. I think this was a major motivator for people to "buy" in the early stages of the project, especially since it was a time limited option.

I personally backed at the $600 level, and while I have a lot of reasons for why it was a good idea, I suspect that I was influenced my own irrational behavior and I am just good at justifying my decisions.

[1] http://realityswipe.wordpress.com/tag/dan-ariely/

P.S. If you haven't read any of Dan Ariely's stuff before, he does some fascinating studies showing how irrational humans are.

transfire 5 days ago 0 replies      
A 64GB model at $595 from the start probably would have gone a long way toward boosting the numbers. And a $32 million funding goal is really pushing the envelop regardless. I would love to have one but $700 upfront? For a phone? That's pushing the envelop too.
dscrd 4 days ago 1 reply      
Of course, if you want a cool phone in 2013 that's built mostly on open-source software, there's Jolla.

Wayland + systemd + pulseaudio + QT... they're working with the Linux community instead of against it.

zakarum009 4 days ago 0 replies      
I would only fund this on the last day if I knew it was going to make it.. $695 is a very steep price, especially for a college student. I would love to back the device, but to have that much booze money disappear would be a shame.
knocte 5 days ago 1 reply      
For the mere mortals that don't follow this every day: what was the previous price?
shurcooL 5 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone have any idea about whether we'll be able to write and execute Go (golang.org) code on the Ubuntu Edge?

I assume I'll be able to both write and execute Go code under Ubuntu desktop mode. What about Ubuntu mobile OS?

Will the device support WebGL? What about OpenGL|ES and regular OpenGL?

Does switching between Ubuntu desktop mode and Ubuntu mobile OS involve a reboot with separate systems, or it is one environment with 2 different interfaces? Thank you!

helloNSA_ 5 days ago 0 replies      
This meta-phone is still too expensive.

They marketed and priced it for high-end consumers...and then ask these same customers do something that none of them ever want to do...wait. Wait a long time for delivery.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. Drop the price or up the delivery date. Better if they did both.

I'd also have more faith if I could have seen a functional prototype not just a couple of Nexus4's running alpha software. I'm not paying 800 bucks for the free software...I'm paying for hardware which is still on the drawing board.

mariuolo 5 days ago 0 replies      
Still a bit steep for a phone that doesn't exist, yet.
adam12 5 days ago 1 reply      
Sadly, it is still too expensive for me.
mtgx 5 days ago 0 replies      
The only way I can see this succeeding now is by getting some carriers or OEM's or something to back the project, and put the rest of the money into the project.

I maintain that this could've succeeded if it was priced at $600 from the beginning, and work their way from that regarding the specs. That's exactly what Ford did, too. He started with a price in mind, and then forced the engineers to come up with a product that fits that price.

Canonical repeated Motorola's Xoom mistake, by starting with the specs, and then selling for whatever price it all added up to.

progx 5 days ago 0 replies      
And what happen if the goal is not reached? My money gone?
I'm creating a website to promote early stage sites and ideas kickoffboost.com
303 points by easymode  6 days ago   105 comments top 51
WestCoastJustin 6 days ago 1 reply      
Cool idea. I might suggest creating a static version of your site and hosting it on s3. This will make it much more stable if you have a high read rate. Then you can point the new submissions to a app server or something. You don't have to get fancy with this or anything, a simple 'wget -r http://www.kickoffboost.com/' and upload that to a s3 bucket, etc.
easymode 6 days ago 0 replies      
Hi Everyone,

The response to kickoff boost has been overwhelming and I'm in a bit of a struggle to keep up, but it's a great thing :)

I'm focusing the showcase algo right now so I can't comment or reply to everyone individually until later tonight, but I'll post some updates here.

I launched kickoffboost.com rather prematurely not having any idea that I would get this much traffic. I started coding for kickoff boost the day I read Paul Graham's post "Do things that do not scale" and basically just built a front page with DB hook to showcase products.

Right now, I am manually approving submissions. I'm working to implement a process where after approval, each product will have a "life" (say 300) and "age/clicks" (starting at 0).

When links are clicked, that product's age will be incremented, and the product will get front page space as long as age doesn't exceed life. The life/age bar will be publicly shown for each product. Once age exceeds life limit, the goes to "archived / older posts" and new products get front page view ( thinking about limiting front page to show 20 products at a time ). What do you guys think of this idea? I just want to optimize great new product's chance of discovery and I thought this would be a fair way to distribute the traffic love.

Like I said, I took Paul Graham's advice to heart and created something that really doesn't scale as of this moment. This has been extremely validating however, and now I am in overdrive to get things done. Please feel free to help me out by giving me ideas about how I can improve this.

I am really hopeful that I can turn this into something very helpful people like me who build things and often don't get the recognition they hope or deserve.

Thank's to everyone who pointed out bugs and optimization tips. I am getting to them one at a time. Thanks to everyone who submitted their products. Because of the premature launch, I cannot guarantee that I'll approve and showcase all the products just yet, but I feature all the submissions (as long as they are not troll submissions) in a just and fair way. Thank's to everyone who took the time to write to me and say that they see this as something useful. Thanks to everyone for checking it out. And thanks to PG for that essay "Do things that do not scale". I don;t know how, but the idea came to me within an hour of reading that essay.


abcd_f 6 days ago 1 reply      
How do you pick what goes on the front page and how long it stays there? Or is it just FIFO queue with most recent on top? If so, how do you throttle it and what's the backlog?

One thing that I don't like about BetaList (as a submitter) - there's no insight into whether your submission is going to be accepted and if it is, then when it's going to be featured. If you can make your site better for submitters, you will have an upper hand over BL, which is the competitor to measure up to at the moment.

seldo 6 days ago 0 replies      
It's like Freshmeat, for web apps!

(Edit: apparently Freshmeat is now called Freecode? I guess it's been a while since I visited...)

samweinberg 6 days ago 1 reply      
Even though I'm already subscribed to betali.st and erlibird, I just can't seem to get enough of sites like this. Bookmarked.
hdivider 6 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting - bookmarked. Will probably try it out next time I launch a product.

Stuff like this is why I prefer /newest to the front page. =)

(Edit: Okay, it's on the front page now. Still, /newest is always worth checking out.)

samelawrence 6 days ago 2 replies      
For anyone who likes this sort of thing, you should also check out http://betali.st/

I'm not involved in either btw.

mountaineer 6 days ago 2 replies      
Twitter auth is not functional


ghc 6 days ago 4 replies      
Okay, I'll go for it. I'm very curious to see how the traffic will compare to Hacker News. Yesterday I put a link to my company (http://algorithmic.ly) in a comment and the response was overwhelming. I've heard that traffic from different sources can behave drastically differently in terms of conversions, and HN is notoriously bad with conversions, so I wonder how it will compare.
jaxbot 6 days ago 0 replies      
Submitted my latest project, https://sparklr.me/Out of curiosity, is there a criteria for what gets showcased, and if so, what is it?

Also, noticed that all the new things are appended to the bottom of the page. Makes it look like the site hasn't changed, imo, but maybe that's intentional

cheeaun 6 days ago 2 replies      
Is there an RSS/Atom feed of newly released apps?
awaxman11 6 days ago 2 replies      
I'd add authorization. Right now you can access all the edit and show pages as long as you're signed in
shearnie 6 days ago 1 reply      
How many eyeballs do you think will come across your site?

I've recently been featured on beta list and thinking about applying on erlibird although erlibird requires payment.

chmike 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm surprized there are very few apps presented from a user centric point of view. "This app is a ..." bad, "Make better ..." good.

This makes it clear and easy to grab how the app will contribute to make my life better, anf why using and buying it might be worth for me.

Hey Kalzumeus, your marketing lessons are starting to work on me! I was just a dumb programmer before.

nickfrost 6 days ago 0 replies      
Yay! Another resource for early traffic.

StartupLi.st, which I created from my tent while on deployment in Afghanistan (crazy!), was an early mover in this space, and has some new features in the pipeline.

Kickoffboost looks pretty cool, and is in the same category as Erlibird, BetaList, KillerStartups, Wikindu, MoMB, StartupLift, etc. It's great to see so many sites looking to help boost the early traffic of very early startups.

Also, Mevvy and Ocitrus are newer resources to showcase your early startup.

All of these resources are recommended to use when looking for exposure and feedback on your early product/ prototype.

Eventually... TechCrunch will be an afterthought when looking for early traffic/ users. Cheers!:)

olalonde 6 days ago 1 reply      
Reminds me of http://www.killerstartups.com back in the days (not sure if they are still doing that though).
esschul 6 days ago 1 reply      
Here's an even cooler idea: instead of listing emerging ideas, ,and beta projects, what about creating a website service for finishing almost done apps (alpha projects if you like). That would be a more interesting list. People could upload their started, but not finished projects and outline what's left. There must be millions of good ideas that has been started, but never finished due to the fact that the developer didn't find the problem interesting anymore. Specialize in one thing, like iphone-apps.
speg 6 days ago 0 replies      
There was another site posted a month or two ago that was similar. Post an idea and get feedback. I even registered for a credit but now I can't remember the site, anyone remember?
chmike 6 days ago 1 reply      
I would love to be able to receive the new one by mail with some presentation text.
ronilan 6 days ago 0 replies      
Submitted: http://www.placeunit.comKick me :)
yodaiken 6 days ago 0 replies      
FYI, I submitted an app (http://memn.io/) to this an hour or so ago and while I don't see it in any publicly available section, I am getting more than a few hits with kickoffboost.com as the referral. Playing around with your URLs showed that you can just increment the number to view any submitted product. You might want to switch to UUIDs or at least add more security.
pla3rhat3r 6 days ago 0 replies      
Great idea! I love this and give you props for putting together a site that showcases new ideas. There's so much noise out there that it's nice to have a site that weeds through that noise. Awesome.
Andrex 6 days ago 0 replies      
An RSS feed would be fantastic, I think. Otherwise the site seems to do its job nicely.
elisee 6 days ago 0 replies      
Looks nice! Maybe site screenshots should be clickable to make it more likely people will open each submission?
kushti 6 days ago 0 replies      
I've got "We're sorry, but something went wrong." trying to sign in with Twitter. Please check
PhilipA 6 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe it could be an idea to be able to comment the sites. Thereby you would get some retention of the users.
sideproject 6 days ago 0 replies      
grafrein 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is really awesome! :) I submitted our iPhone App 7-Minutes Workout (http://www.tapelicious.com) I'm looking forward to see it on your site!
mrothe 6 days ago 0 replies      
Your links are broken; middle-clicking on a link does nothing. Also, please let me decide, if I want to open a link in the same tab (left-click) or in a new tab (middle-click). (Linux/Firefox)
edotthekid 6 days ago 0 replies      
This awesome man. How muuch traffic are you getting to the site. Pre-HN post?

And are people paying you to feature them? Or just companies you like

Great job again man. i love it. Def bookmarked

alfg 6 days ago 0 replies      
Suggestion: Maybe make the thumbnails link to their site as well.
nccong 6 days ago 1 reply      
Would be useful if you have newsletter for recently added/updates of the day. Consider feedpress.it to read your RSS, it already has the newsletter feature.
oceanician 6 days ago 0 replies      
Really good idea, but needs more consumer & business ideas on. Too many geek tools at the moment.
phdtree 6 days ago 0 replies      
Looks cool. Just submitted our litte side project phdtree: http://phdtree.org/
coindega 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome! I just submitted Coindega (https://www.coindega.com)
jitnut 6 days ago 0 replies      
Much needed! just submitted http://pepnest.com :-)
troels 6 days ago 0 replies      
How do you plan on getting traffic to your site?
BuddhaSource 6 days ago 0 replies      
Nice idea, I am also submitting our new launched app http://justprecious.net

Btw found a silly bug. When I signed up by mistake I used myname@Gmail.com and now I can't login with myname@gmail.com

kamakazizuru 6 days ago 0 replies      
is there something wrong? Im getting a "This site doesnt exist" error.
alexshye 6 days ago 0 replies      
Cool, just signed up and submitted Soulmix (http://www.soulmix.com). Would love to see how a listing on KickoffBoost turns out :)
keerthiko 6 days ago 1 reply      
Bookmarked! We may submit our product on here once I consult with the rest of my team.
lovskogen 6 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a RSS feed?
rex_gsd 6 days ago 0 replies      
I sent you an email to the one via your contact us link. I like the page!
gcforky 6 days ago 0 replies      
Well this is something great. (i just gave you an standing ovation)
varun1308 6 days ago 1 reply      
Could you also add the stats for hits on a particular item...
michaelxia 6 days ago 0 replies      
i listened to all the tracks on looti tooti.

how do i give this guy my money.

atburrow 6 days ago 0 replies      
Could you add SSL support?
cmb320 6 days ago 0 replies      
isn't that what hacker news is for?
JeroenRansijn 6 days ago 0 replies      
Cool project!
yapsody 6 days ago 0 replies      
Great website. Just Signed up and Submitted our new online event ticketing system Yapsody.com on your website. Hope you approve it. :)
tuananh 6 days ago 1 reply      
step 1: get traffic for your site (kickoffboost.com) first.

step 2: nah do step 1 first.

Judge to serve 28 years after making $2 million sending children to jail rollingout.com
303 points by rubikscube  7 days ago   168 comments top 32
protomyth 7 days ago 2 replies      
"Pennsylvania is one of just a handful of states that do not provide any money to counties to defend those who can't afford a lawyer."[1]

Perhaps the DA and Public Defenders office should have equal budgets.

I am hoping some very smart lawyer figures out how to sue the prison company for these children. I am sure their is a corporate veil, but it can be pierced in the cases of criminal activity. Public-private partnerships work in a lot of cases, but this one needs a serious hammer to show that pulling this crap is bad and will put some scheming folks in jail.

1) http://www.npr.org/2012/03/03/147876810/after-scandal-new-ru...

argumentum 7 days ago 1 reply      
I've been following this case for a while .. extremely disturbing situation and the sentences were far too light for many of the offending parties, such as the builder of the facility who bribed the judges. Just imagine how it must have felt to be one of the kids. It's sick, really.

It seems that if you hide behind corporate structures and contracts you can transform the nature of charges against your actions. In this case, the offenses committed involved enslaving children for personal financial gain. If there is any offense worse than that, please inform.

drcube 7 days ago 4 replies      
> ... received more than $2.6 million ...

> ... forced to pay $1 million ...

Moral: crime pays.

sp332 7 days ago 2 replies      
The big news: Once Ciavarella was convicted, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed out 4,000 convictions issued by the judge. Will the kids or their families get any restitution for wrongful imprisonment?
mmanfrin 7 days ago 1 reply      
It is an absolute travesty that PA Child Care, the people paying the bribes, have had hardly a punishment at all.
solistice 7 days ago 1 reply      
What really troubles me is what they'll do to help those 4000 children. I think they might lack the maturity to deal with their experience. Hell, if someone sent me to jail over something like that when I was in my teens, I would certainly have taken the wrong turn at that point.
noloqy 7 days ago 3 replies      
It's sad that in my country, where prisons are currently run by the government, there exist plans for privatization. With privatization there's almost no benefits, and a lot of opportunities for trouble; it the Dutch government feels the urge to repeat the mistakes of others.
forrestthewoods 7 days ago 1 reply      
Can we also send all prosecutors who only care about maintaing a 100% conviction rate to jail? Their actions are the exact same as far as I'm concerned.
mathattack 7 days ago 2 replies      
I feel like I fell for link bait - awful title.

That said, this is hardly a fair sentence. He should have to serve time equal to all those lives he destroyed. How about surrendering the money and life in prison?

beedogs 7 days ago 0 replies      
I hope this asshole dies in jail, and I fear he's not the last crooked judge they'll catch doing this shit.

Private prisons are a disgrace to the justice system.

jdmt 7 days ago 0 replies      

This whole problem stems from the movement to privatize prisons. It's a disgusting abuse of power. The lives of many at-risk children (and their families) have been turned upside-down due to greed.

ojbyrne 7 days ago 0 replies      
Usually when "restitution" it always seems to be significantly more than the amount actually taken. In this case, not, and I wonder why:

"...received more than $2.6 million from privately run youth centers owned by PA Child Care. In 2011, Ciavarella was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to 28 years in prison. He was also forced to pay $1 million in restitution..."

nokya 7 days ago 0 replies      
They forgot the best part: 1) Statistical analysis of the children's ethnicity and religion. Where is it?2) What about the personnel working in the prisons? Where they all completely unaware of that situation?3) Private prisons are State-financed. Translation: money was taken from the pockets of US citizens to make sure these children would not have any chance of a bright future.

Meanwhile, in the USA...

dlhavema 7 days ago 2 replies      
the title referenced "black children" specifically, but the article didn't mention it at all, is it supposed to be assumed all/majority of the kids sent to jail were black?
donohoe 7 days ago 0 replies      
The question is - where else is this happening now?
ajiang 7 days ago 1 reply      
You can wrongfully send kids/people to jail as long as you don't make money off of it.
Expeck 7 days ago 0 replies      
Wow! I remember these guys from Micheal Moore's movie "Capitalism a Love Story".There is part about private jails for teenagers. It says that 6500 kids were unjustly convicted. Some kids were locked up even when probation officers objected to detention.You can watch that part here: http://vimeo.com/39118828 00:30:30
guiseppecalzone 7 days ago 1 reply      
There's no mention if there were any repercussions for the private juvenile facilities.
cmsmith 7 days ago 0 replies      
(in 2011)

looks like one of his latest appeals was denied recently.

patmcguire 7 days ago 0 replies      
I've not seen on a single story related to this about the actual bribers: they just name the company, but don't press criminal charges against individuals, or even sue the company? How is that an appropriate response?
grecy 7 days ago 0 replies      
That's a special kind of evil.
orbitingpluto 7 days ago 0 replies      
Those who prey on children tend to have a real bad time in prison when the prison population finds out.

Considering the number of people sentenced, good luck keeping their identities a secret. Neither of the judges is going to enjoy their stay.

canadiancreed 6 days ago 0 replies      
When I first heard about this, I was thinking that it happened in a third world country. After reading that it occured in Pennsylvania....I'm just amazed, disgusted, and furious. Hopefully Harrisburg does a long cleanup of that section of the state's court system, that civil suit crushes those responsible for this, and the bastards that profited from such a bastardization of justice serve the entire sentence out in a Hell on earth.
mhartl 6 days ago 0 replies      
Contra the OP, the problem isn't for-profit prisons per se; the problem is for-profit prisons in a political system highly susceptible to rent-seeking by special interest groups.
chris_wot 7 days ago 0 replies      
4,000 kids? Each kid has at least 5 people who love and care for them.

20,000 folks who start an action group might start some change!

s_baby 7 days ago 0 replies      
As I've read about this story for the past couple years not once have the bribers been mentioned. How much time will they be serving? Are these really people that should be trusted with the incarceration of minors?
spoiledtechie 6 days ago 0 replies      
This might be news, but what the heck does this have to do with Hacker News?
negamax 7 days ago 0 replies      
Would the prison company be punished for this?
SloughFeg 6 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone else want to create a HN spinoff with me? We can call it "SOCIAL JUSTICE NEWS" or just "SOCIAL J" for short.
batiste 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is absolutely revolting and disgusting! Good think he got 28 years.
icn2 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is why I always object monetizing public services.
vegor5 7 days ago 3 replies      
Should have gotten the lethal injection.
Every important person in BitCoin just got subpoenaed by NY financial regulators forbes.com
299 points by martin_  1 day ago   182 comments top 17
pnathan 1 day ago 10 replies      
Unpopular opinion of the day: bitcoin is real money, and the government will regulate it and control it as such.

In my opinion, the end-game is this: bitcoin addresses are taxable, with occasional tax agents spot-checking large accumulations of bitcoin to determine if said addresses fall within their jurisdiction. Bitcoin has the unusual ability to have a very tight trace on where a given virtual coin goes: that just makes the ability to watch the money easier.

aspensmonster 1 day ago 4 replies      
Well, my own submission just got [dead]ed --no indication as to why-- but I'll paste my comment here as well:

I know very little about Bitcoin or money transmission laws. Unlike other currencies it does not seem to have fundamental dependence on any centralized arbiter, though the practicalities of large exchanges like Mt. Gox seem apparent to me. That lack of dependence on a Fed-like body appears to me like its biggest advantage, above any other potential for anonymous payment and laundering. I'd like to know what exactly is entailed in becoming compliant with money transmitting and laundering regulations and whether Bitcoin in its current form could become effectively compliant. Is that even a meaningful concept, or does the structure of Bitcoin fundamentally preclude coming into effective compliance?

[dead]ed submission: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6201643

stfu 1 day ago 0 replies      
Finally - New York is going after financial criminals! Oh wait a minute...

In related news last Friday the Justice Department had to admit that the success numbers Eric Holder trumpeted on mortgage fraud were massive overstated - by 80 percent. The government restated the statistics because it got caught red-handed by a couple of nosy reporters. Priorities...

[1] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-11/eric-holder-owes-th...

pmorici 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Looks like this might be the least of BitCoin's government problems. Check out this appropriations bill currently before congress; http://beta.congress.gov/congressional-report/113th-congress... Search for BitCoin in the text and you get the following gem...

"Money laundering.--The Committee understands that Bitcoins and other forms of peer-to-peer digital currency are a potential means for criminal, terrorist or other illegal organizations and individuals to illegally launder and transfer money. News reports indicate that Bitcoins may have been used to help finance the flight and activity of fugitives. The Committee directs the FBI, in consultation with the Department and other Federal partners, to provide a briefing no later 120 days after the enactment of this Act on the nature and scale of the risk posed by such ersatz currency, both in financing illegal enterprises and in undermining financial institutions. The briefing should describe the FBI efforts in the context of a coordinated Federal response to this challenge, and identify staffing and other resources devoted to this effort."

Talk about a prejudiced statement. Time to call your congress person.

ganeumann 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Of course the government cares about money, and of course it wants to control the money supply. And, as a consequence, the USA will never allow any major currency inside its borders other than the US dollar.

The history of the United States is littered with the fights over who gets to determine what is money and how much of it there is: Hamilton's fight with Jefferson and Madison over the need for a central bank, Jackson during his run for the Presidency denouncing the central bank--and this becoming the main issue in the campaign, the popularity of Williams Jenning Bryan (cf. the famous "Cross of Gold" speech), etc. etc. all the way up to the horrible stagflation of the 1970s ("Whip Inflation Now!") and the recession caused by the ultimately successful efforts by Fed Chairman Paul Volcker's to end it. It is reasonable to believe--and certainly most people in the US government believe--that control of The Money is control of the economy.

Why would any successful government ever voluntarily give up that control?

mintplant 1 day ago 0 replies      
This worries me more about other virtual currencies (eg. "game" money) than it does about Bitcoin. The last time something like this happened because of Bitcoin (FinCEN), Linden Lab forced the closure of all third-party Linden$ exchanges [1] to cover itself legally. Those were very scary times for everyone involved in Second Life.

As someone who does business in Linden$ et al, I (selfishly) wish the media hype around Bitcoin would simmer down, lest my own life become a lot more complicated. The way these government announcements always refer to cracking down on "virtual currencies" in general is very disconcerting, especially when the term is so hazily defined.

[1] http://blog.nalates.net/2013/05/08/end-of-linden-exchanges/

samstave 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Explain why not a single banker has gone to prison from both the fraudulent foreclosure crisis and the 2008 wider banking crisis yet these fools all of a sudden want to regulate BTC?

They can't even regulate the US dollar.

pmorici 1 day ago 2 replies      
"the department says it wants to make sure Bitcoin company customers funds are safe and sound, expressing concern about consumer complaints about how quickly virtual currency transactions are processed."

So, are they saying there are complaints that the transactions are processed too quickly? Because I've never had a BitCoin transaction take more than an hour or so to complete where as my regular bank routinely takes about 3 business days. Makes you wonder what their motivations are.

nullc 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Good to know that _none_ of the technical people or authors of the software are important as far as NY is concerned! :P
cperciva 1 day ago 1 reply      
Based on the title, I was hoping Satoshi Nakamoto had been subpoenaed.
runarb 1 day ago 3 replies      
Looks like the price of Bitcoins just made a good jump at https://www.mtgox.com/ . Are speculants thinking that if the us government are geting involved it validates Bitcoin further?

Edit: Screenshot of the jump: http://i.imgur.com/G5Dk7Nh.png

saltyknuckles 1 day ago 0 replies      
Other unpopular opinion of the day: Ron Paul was right about competing currencies being infringed on.
marshallford 1 day ago 0 replies      
The issue of bitcoins vs IRS combined with the recent news about the NSA actually scares me. Why does the Gov feel the need to control us?
bpd1069 1 day ago 1 reply      
Was interested to see how many posts were going to discuss the possibility of ban following Thailand. Not One.

Is this not a real and probably outcome?

ducklamp 21 hours ago 0 replies      
In the end the Federal reserve will protect their monopoly on money. The more legitimate Bitcoin becomes, the more likely a target of Fed action.
eddywebs 12 hours ago 0 replies      
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
e3pi 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Coincidentally today:

Crypto-currency for NSA leaker: Snowden fund accepts Bitcoin

Published time: August 12, 2013 14:51

US fugitive Edward Snowdens defense fund, launched recently by WikiLeaks to raise money for the legal protection of the NSA leaker, has announced it now accepts donations in virtual currency Bitcoin.


Show HN: TextBlob, Natural language processing made simple in Python readthedocs.org
294 points by sloria  3 days ago   45 comments top 19
eliben 3 days ago 2 replies      
Yay #1: a nice wrapper around NLTK. NLTK is great but its API is not very Pythonic or comfortable. Pleasant facades over it are a great help for Python NLP.

Yay #2: an actually interesting programming-related article on HN. These get rarer every day, losing their place to gossips about what Snowden remarked following some or another NSA official's remarks about Snowden's even earlier remarks.

mrkmcknz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just a quick word on Pattern[1].

TextBlob is probably just using the en module, I would suggest everyone take a look at the other modules in particular the web module should you be doing any light data scraping. It has nice wrappers around BeautifulSoup and Scrapy among others, jumping into BeautifulSoup and Scrapy can be daunting for beginners.

[1] http://www.clips.ua.ac.be/pages/pattern

eterm 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've had good fun playing around with this, it's certainly made NLP more approachable.

One issue though is that it seems to choke with certain characters.

For instance the character it seems to complain with this error message:

>>> TextBlob("")Traceback (most recent call last): File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module> File "/home/eterm/nlp/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/text/blob.py", line 340, in __repr__ return unicode("{cls}('{text}')".format(cls=class_name, text=self.raw))UnicodeDecodeError: 'ascii' codec can't decode byte 0xc2 in position 10: ordinal not in range(128)

feniv 3 days ago 1 reply      
The NodeBox linguistics module is another nice wrapper around NLTK (and other natural language processing libraries). I used it for extracting actions and details from sentences, but it's also great for spelling correction, pluralization, part-of-speech tagging and other common NLP tasks.


Ihmahr 2 days ago 1 reply      
Both for my study and side job I work on NLP with python.

Sorry, but I think this thing is very much overrated by the HN crowd. There are many such libraries and this one adds exactly nothing. I also don't see how this is easier to use than, lets say, Pattern.

Try and add new functionality. One new functionality could be to use an ontology to calculate the distance between two words. Then you can do other cool things with that and place it in your module.

eieio 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks great! NLTK is incredible but definitely can be a bit intimidating. Very cool to have a wrapper around it.

I'm curious to see exactly how it works and so I'll certainly check out the source when I have a bit more time. Thanks for posting this.

the_cat_kittles 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you could add a blob.target and a default vectorizer, you could use scikits learn to offer some nice classification and regression. It's pretty easy to do that with what you have now, but some of those concepts are a little foreign if you haven't done text classification before, like me before yesterday. Particularly the part of speech tagging- using those as features could be powerful alongside n-grams.
mattdeboard 2 days ago 0 replies      
So after poking around with this for a bit, I will say that it DEFINITELY is vulnerable to Python2's string handling warts. Constructing a `TextBlob` out of a string with non-ASCII characters doesn't seem to work. I created another virtualenv with Python 3 and it works quite well.
mark_l_watson 3 days ago 0 replies      
I played with this a few days ago. It is a nice wrapper for NLTK. You probably want to, at some point, read the free NLTK book online.

Edit: and it also uses pattern.

sixQuarks 3 days ago 2 replies      
Can someone explain what this does in layman's terms? I'm a biz guy, not a coder, but I'm interested in the use cases. thanks
shirkey 2 days ago 0 replies      
For the Google Translate functionality, does this pass the request through an intermediary service or direct to the API?
throwawayg99 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. I looked, but couldn't find out: is there a word sense disambiguation layer somewhere hidden in here?
tomrod 3 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome! Thanks for posting. Are you the hacker that put it together?
gpsarakis 2 days ago 0 replies      
Seems to have an incredibly easy interface. Will test it. Well done!
sumit_psp 3 days ago 1 reply      
Curious as to what training algorithms you used for Sentiment Analysis? Also can I add my domain specific training set?
dpmehta02 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks great, thanks for sharing.

Any thoughts or relevant benchmarks you would like to share about its speed?

aswanson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks, I plan on using this.
photorized 3 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome. I could use this.
misiti3780 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks great
Some killjoys have removed the blink tag from Firefox jwz.org
294 points by mfincham  5 days ago   146 comments top 40
tingley 4 days ago 1 reply      
I fixed blink in Mozilla twice (https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=89065) in the old days, back when I was running around looking for things to fix. The first time it broke was a result of Dave Hyatt's rewrite of the style system; I always suspected he had broken it on purpose. The second time seemed like it was just a mistake.

Anyways, a sad day.

Terretta 5 days ago 2 replies      
Thing is, back in the day, blink did have its uses...

    <blink><font color="red">"If you click continue,     your database will be irretrievably deleted, your     children shipped off to coal mines, and your tea     served lukewarm."</font></blink>
Even corporate intranets loved it: http://forums.asp.net/post/433145.aspx

It worked!

ivank 5 days ago 5 replies      
You can put jwz's blink in your browser profile's userContent.css to make it work on all websites:

  @keyframes         blink {    0% { opacity:1; } 75% { opacity:1; } 76% { opacity:0; } 100% { opacity:0; }}  blink {    text-decoration:   inherit;    animation:         blink 0.75s ease-in infinite alternate;  }
(Though it will work a little differently than the native <blink>, as the CSS makes non-text elements blink as well.)

nhebb 5 days ago 2 replies      
Blink is a visual annoyance, but it's nothing compared to the retina bleaching caused by jwz's site.
rangibaby 4 days ago 0 replies      
And the beast shall come forth surrounded by a roiling cloud of vengeance. The house of the unbelievers shall be razed and they shall be scorched to the earth. Their tags shall blink until the end of days.

from The Book of Mozilla, 12:10

hobbes78 5 days ago 3 replies      
Mandatory link:

"The Origins of the <Blink> Tag"http://www.montulli.org/theoriginofthe%3Cblink%3Etag

It's surprisingly interesting and written by the person with the original idea!

exDM69 4 days ago 0 replies      
Not sure if he's joking or not. In other circumstances I would immediately take it as a joking but this guy has been seriously complaining about removing crappy features that should have been killed decades ago:http://www.jwz.org/blog/2012/06/i-have-ported-xscreensaver-t...

In the above he was complaining about the removal of glBegin/glEnd from OpenGL ES (and depracating it in OpenGL 3.0+). It was a convenience feature that might have made sense back in 1992 when OpenGL was introduced but with the advent of consumer graphics hardware in the late 90's, glBegin/glEnd was essentially the reason for a 100x performance drop.

(if you're wondering whether I'm joking or not: yes I am, except for the 100x perf drop)

voltagex_ 5 days ago 0 replies      
The best use of this I've seen was someone wrapping the entire Wikipedia article on the blink tag, in the blink tag.
yareally 5 days ago 0 replies      
Now, the only "valid use of the blink tag"[1] will work again.

[1] http://blink.tylian.net/

brudgers 5 days ago 2 replies      
This isn't progress.

It's just change.

Blink never hurt anyone.

frozenport 5 days ago 1 reply      
Does anybody have the firefox devs discussion on this matter. Blink was my favorite indigo child of tags. When clients wanted more attention to a div i would blink it, and they would quickly realize the error of their ways.
thezilch 5 days ago 1 reply      

  <font face="comic sans ms">???</font>

planckscnst 5 days ago 0 replies      
Someone collapsed the waveform! http://www.schrodingerscatis.com/
shirro 5 days ago 0 replies      
Now we need a new semantic tag to indicate content will be annoying that we can style with css however we like. I propose we reuse the blink tag for that purpose.

<blink>The new iphone is rumoured to...</blink><blink>Version 0.1.2 of xyzscript has just been released...</blink>

mindcrime 5 days ago 2 replies      
Killjoys? Nay, bloody sodding wankers, the lot of them! Removing the <blink> tag is about as heart-warming an event as taking Old Yeller out back and putting a bullet through his brain. This is a travesty, pure and simple.
skeletonjelly 5 days ago 1 reply      
fnordfnordfnord 5 days ago 1 reply      
msvan 5 days ago 1 reply      
So now the blink tag will appear in some browsers but not in others? Fear not, the blink tag lives on. If not in Firefox, then in the irony.
joshuahedlund 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't care what you say, there is no rhyme or reason for browsers to keep dropping <blink> support while all of them continue to support <marquee> (though it's probably just a matter of time?)
antihero 4 days ago 0 replies      
So I for science I tried applying "shudder linear 0.1s 0s infinite" to the <body> tag. It may be because I'm hungover but I came very close to throwing up.
david927 4 days ago 0 replies      
If you have a problem and you think that the blink tag is the solution, now you have two problems.
andr 4 days ago 0 replies      
Put this in your CSS:

   blink {     animation: fade-in-out 1s steps(1,end) infinite alternate;    }

wymy 5 days ago 0 replies      
> <blink> support should be dropped for one release out of every four.

Thanks for the laugh.

kudu 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think that completely killing the blink tag is a bit extreme given that its core implementation could simply have been replaced by a CSS polyfill.
Natsu 4 days ago 0 replies      
Someone needs to hold a funeral for it. One of those funerals where people throw a party.
lnanek2 4 days ago 0 replies      
Makes sense there would be a MILSPEC for blinking but avoiding seizures. If you have an LCD that can only show blank or numbers, the only visual way it has to warn you about something, like a number being too high, is to blink.
dutchbrit 4 days ago 0 replies      

User agent check still needs to be removed and replaced with something better

taude 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'd honestly take blinking text over overt Flash ads any day...
derleth 4 days ago 1 reply      
Epileptics don't need to use the Web anyway. /s
chromaton 4 days ago 0 replies      
I always thought that <blink> should be implemented by alternating between a high and low intensity color. That way it's not invisible 30% of the time when you're reading it. I suspect if it had been done this way, it would have been seen as far less offensive.
aspinei 4 days ago 0 replies      
And the obligatory t-shirt to express my feelings about this http://www.cafepress.com/hackernewsswag/10307694
aj700 4 days ago 0 replies      
since "the killjoys" (actually quite accurate in this case) AT WIKIPEDIA won't let me put the words 'LUDICROUS SPEED' in blink tags or capitals on the Spaceballs article, what's the point in having it anyway?
wil421 4 days ago 0 replies      
What about the view counter on my Geocity site? I would look at it everyday to see if someone happened to stumble on my site.
dsschnau 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't get it - can't we just implement the same effect in JS if we need blink that badly?
workbench 4 days ago 0 replies      
One less reason to use Firefox
orestmayski 4 days ago 0 replies      
Don't see how the blink tag would be much use though..
RobK_ 4 days ago 0 replies      
My work around that operates more like the original (i.e. does not cause img's to flash), built with AngularJS - https://github.com/RobK/angular-blink
teeja 3 days ago 0 replies      
pfft. Javascript timers are more accurate anyway. Nyah nyah Mozilla.
sigzero 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank goodness!
pyrocat 5 days ago 1 reply      
Someone give them a fucking medal.
       cached 14 August 2013 02:11:01 GMT