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An Engineers guide to Stock Options alexmaccaw.com
637 points by olivercameron  1 day ago   146 comments top 35
grellas 1 day ago 7 replies      
Really nice write-up explaining stock options. A few added thoughts sparked by some of the comments already made in this thread and otherwise:

1. The value of options is inextricably linked to tax and you need to understand the tax basics in evaluating the economic risks and benefits of holding and exercising any kind of option. With NQOs, you are taxed on the spread as ordinary income on the date of exercise (meaning, on the difference between what the stock is worth and what you pay to exercise). With ISOs, the value of the spread becomes subject to AMT and you can wind up paying large taxes that way in spite of the supposed tax benefits of ISOs. The way to avoid having a large spread subjecting you to such tax risks is to exercise as early as possible before the company value goes up much but you then need to take the economic risk associated with having to pay hard cash for stock whose long-term value is highly uncertain. Moreover, early exercise is not possible if your options haven't vested unless you specifically get an early exercise privilege as part of your grant. With an early exercise privilege, and particularly if the grant is made for a bargain price, you can early-exercise, file an 83(b), and (as long as you hold the stock for at least 2 years) get the equivalent of a restricted stock grant by which you pay no further tax until you eventually sell the stock at a liquidation event. In that case, you are also taxed at the lower long-term capital gains rates. Of course, in the early-exercise scenario, you do not get to bypass vesting and your shares remain subject to their original vesting requirements and can thus be forfeited in whole or in part if those requirements are not met. But early exercise does provide an elegant solution to most of the tax risks associated with options provided you are willing to assume the economic risks of paying for the stock up front.

2. Other than the early-exercise scenario, 83(b) elections are not required for option grants. Under 83(a) of the Internal Revenue Code, any service provider who gets property in exchange for services is taxed at ordinary income rates on the value of the property received. For example, if you do work for a startup and are paid in stock when you complete the deliverable, you are taxed on the value of the stock received. You are taxed on the value of that stock as it exists as of the date you receive it in payment for such services. So, if you do development work tied to a milestone, and you meet that milestone, and you get 100,000 shares for the work, you would be taxed on, say, the $1.00/sh that the stock is worth on the day six months or a year (or whatever) out when the milestone is met, and not on the $.01/sh that it was worth when the contract terms began. In contrast to this performance-based form of incentive, let us say that you get a time-based incentive by which you buy the stock up front for a nominal price but you must earn it out over time. With such a time-based performance incentive, which is what is called "restricted stock", you own the stock up front and you pay no tax at the time of purchase in the normal case where the amount you pay for it equals its fair value on the date of the grant. Because the stock must be earned out as part of a continuing service relationship, and is hence subject to a "substantial risk of forfeiture", there is a very important technical question under section 83(a) on what the date is on which you are deemed to have received the stock in exchange for your services. Well, the default rule under 83(a) is that you receive it on the date it is no longer subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture and that then becomes the relevant date on which the value of the stock is measured for purpose of computing the taxable service income on which you must pay tax. So, if you get your 100,000 share grant at $.01/sh, and you pay $.01 share, you pay no tax at inception. But, as that grant vests at, say, a monthly ratable rate over four years, the IRS treats you as having received 48 separate grants (one each month) over the four-year period. Thus, at each vesting point, you are treated as having received property in exchange for services under 83(a) and you pay tax on the difference between the value of the property received and what you paid for it. If you paid $.01 per share, and if the stock is worth $1.00 at a given vesting point, you realize $.99 worth of taxable income per share. In a venture whose value is rising quickly, in the absence of any saving mechanism, you might have as many as 48 separate tax hits (basically, having to pay tax on the difference between what you paid for your grant and the 409A valuation price placed on the common) just for the privilege of holding a piece of paper that may or may not ever have an ultimate cash value of any type. It is in this type of scenario, and only here, that 83(b) comes into play by providing that, in lieu of having to suffer under the default rule of 83(a), you can elect to pay all taxes up front on the grant and not be subjected to the often onerous workings of the default rule. This means that, for an 83(b) election even to be relevant, you must first own your stock (or other property) and that stock or property must be subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture. If you hold only an unexercised option, you do not yet own the stock and it is not subject to forfeiture (hence, 83(b) is not relevant). If you do an early exercise, though, and get stock under terms where it must still vest out and can be forfeited, then 83(b) does apply. But that is the only case normally where it becomes relevant at all to options.

3. Options really shine when they wind up on a level playing field with the preferred stock and they tend to dim commensurately to the extent they do not. Optimum case is IPO when all stock is (typically) forced to convert to common prior to the public offering and, thus, all shares participate equally in the benefits. This can happen too in big-scale M&A exits but a drop-off occurs on lesser ones in at least two ways: (a) where the total acquisition price is largely gobbled up by the liquidation preferences and/or management incentive plans; (b) where an acqui-hire occurs in which a few founders get a disproportionate share of the total value through employment arrangements made on the other side of the deal.

4. Given all of the above, and given that IPOs remain at far below the old bubble levels in frequency, it can be risky to lay out any excessive cash to exercise at any time before a liquidity event. Too many things can happen by which a seeming "sure thing" winds up evaporating before your very eyes, leaving you with no more than a pretty lousy capital loss that you get the privilege of deducting at the rate of no more than $3,000 per year unless you can find other capital gains to offset it against.

5. The 90-day tail for exercise upon termination of a service relationship applies only to ISOs and not to NQOs but, of course, ISOs have other advantages and they are what is typically offered in VC-backed ventures. In other types of ventures, where the company value is already somewhat high at the time of grant, I have seen executives bargain for and get NQOs with long exercise periods following termination just to have the flexibility to leave the venture if needed without being forced to forfeit the options.

6. In light of all of the above, having to pay an angel backer 25 or 30% of your gains to provide you with a risk-free exercise in an otherwise high-risk situation may be worth it even though the cost seems high on its face. It is a matter of preserving some decent part of your potential upside while giving up the rest to make the upside potential even a possibility for you given the tax risks involved. If IPOs come back strong some day, then you may be giving up too much at such a cost because they are the great leveler when it comes to weighing the value of options against other forms of equity holdings. Until that day comes, however, options remain a valuable but relatively high-risk way of deriving value from a startup if you need to part with any significant cash (either for the purchase or for the associate tax) for the privilege of hoping to profit from a startup. Again, for those who need to weigh their choices, this piece provides great insights and stands head and shoulders above the typical discussion of such issues. Great work by the author in making an otherwise dry and even formidable subject pretty accessible.

JshWright 1 day ago 3 replies      

  I like thinking about shares as a virtual currency.  Shareholders are speculating on that currency, and  the company is trying to increase its value. Companies  can inflate or deflate this currency depending on  their performance, perceived potential or by issuing  new shares.
I consider myself a fairly smart person, who had a reasonable grasp on the basics of financial markets, currencies, etc. That simple paragraph just triggered a huge light bulb moment for me. It's suddenly a lot easier to reason about stocks, etc, than it was 5 minutes ago...

nwatson 1 day ago 2 replies      
I've "pre-exercised" before, with a meaning different from what's depicted here in the article.

In the "pre-exercise", I was able to exercise the stock before I'd vested in it, with the understanding, of course, that the company would buy back my unvested shares at the exercise price if I left the company before vesting all the options.

The disadvantage, of course, is that you pay for your stock up front, and will lose all or most of the money if the company doesn't pan out.

There are several advantages ...

Advantage: the price you exercise at is near the fair-market value of the Common Shares you purchase (and haven't yet vested in), so there's no immediate gain and so no immediate short-term gain tax consequences. You need to make sure to file an 83(b) form so you're telling the IRS you're paying your $0 tax up front, rather than monthly as your stock vests. (The disadvantage with the latter is that the difference between what you paid and what your stock is worth as it vests could be huge, and there's no way to liquidate your stock to pay that tax.) (There's also something about AMT in here, I'm kind of fuzzy, but I think consequences can be the same.)

Advantage: your long-term capital gains clock starts ticking the day you buy the stock, even though you bought before any of it vested. When, three years down the road, you can liquidate your stock in that acquisition or IPO or secondary-market sale, you already purchased your stock three years ago, and pay only long-term gains. Otherwise, you'd buy the stock and sell on the same day, with the gains considered as short-term-gains/income rather than long-term gains.

My personal outcome with pre-exercised stock: worked out OK twice, lost all my pre-exercise once, but overall I came out ahead on taxes even with the loss. YMMV.

What the article says is "pre-exercise" is just an "exercise" -- you vested the stock, you have every right to purchase it even though the company's stock isn't yet liquid. The problem, of course, is that you may have a huge gain and no way to pay for taxes on that gain.

(Edit: note about AMT, clarification.)

snorkel 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here's the short version. Sell. Sell it all. As soon as you are legally allowed to, sell. Sell all of it. Taxes and maxes blah blah blah just sell it, take the cash, and be thankful.
vikas5678 1 day ago 3 replies      
Is it odd that almost every startup I or my friends have interviewed with refuse to answer the "number of outstanding shares" question? Have others had similar experiences?
joosters 1 day ago 3 replies      
Quick question: Why should a company give share options to employees, and not plain old shares? Is this just because it's better tax-wise for the company?
mseebach 1 day ago 1 reply      
What is the exact mechanism for "golden handcuffs"? Can the company prevent a vested option holder from exercising and then selling the shares to a secondary market investor immediately (offering them to the company for first refusal, obviously)? In that case, can't I just line up a secondary market investor, borrow the cash to exercise, sell, repay the loan and thus get out of the handcuffs?
arielweisberg 1 day ago 5 replies      
I thought 83(b) only helps with RSU grants? For ISO grants I thought you can't do an 83(b) election?

Can anyone clarify?

xerophtye 18 hours ago 0 replies      
This was truly a great article and i have bookmarked it for later reading (i haven't read all of it yet). But perhaps i can expand on this explaining what "options" are in the first place.

Ok imagine a situation where stock X costs $100 today. Alice thinks that the price will go considerably up, bob thinks it'll go down. So they make a deal, one year from now, Alice will buy shares of stock X from Bob at $104 dollars[1]. Now if Alice's prediction is right, she'll make a profit by buying low ($104) and selling high (at the then market price). If bob's prediction is right, he'll profit by buying low (market price) and selling high($104). This is called a Forward Contract.

Problem with Forward Contracts are that they put you in an obligation to make that transaction, no matter how much loss. What if the price falls and Alice doesn't wanna buy from bob? So then instead of a Forward Contract, she'd get an option (a "Call" option to be specific). This will give her the option to either buy the shares at the agreed upon price (called "strike price") if it is favorable, else do nothing. Well what about Bob? He can get into a "put" option (with someone else) that gives him the option to sell stock X if it is favorable.

Pretty neat huh? but the difference here is, Forwards are free (except for tax etc) and options cost a "premium" to get into. But since options COST something, that means you can SELL them as well and make money off of that. And their prices vary just like the price of stock varies.

Hope this helps

bsirkia 1 day ago 2 replies      
Can you talk a bit more about the dilution an employee should expect if the company completes more funding? That could have a serious impact on your shares. Who usually gets diluted first? Founders? Previous investors? Employees?

If you're an employee that received options and the company is doing another round of funding, should you be worried or on the front foot about finding out what will happen to your options?

dlevine 1 day ago 0 replies      
You didn't mention the difference between nonqualified (NQSO) and incentive (ISO) stock options. The difference is key.
willvarfar 1 day ago 0 replies      
And here's a nice guide from way back in 2004: http://www.ftpress.com/articles/article.aspx?p=170920

What's interesting is that this chap Ivan Goddard is doing the Mill processor, and that has an interesting company structure; OotB has an agreement to incorporate, and they keep renegotiating it. He explains this in this talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bxga49vukQ8

gesman 1 day ago 1 reply      
Red flags (from personal experience):

- "We will give you a big share of our (of-course-soon-to-be-facebook-or-google) company (15%+ in stock options) if you'll agree to work for us for close-to-nothing".

- Senior officers starting leaving the company one by one.

- Senior officers giving small promises that have tendency not to materialize.

- Senior officers do not have any/good exit track record. Opposite would be a green flag.

mfkp 1 day ago 0 replies      
Very interesting - I was unaware of the financing options until I read this article. Seems like it could be a good idea if you're unsure if the company will be successful long-term, a way of hedging your bet. Though I would hate to give up 20-25% of the potential upside, I'd consider this if I was on the fence about exercising my options.
sarah2079 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is very helpful, thanks. I was very surprised when I first learned that AMT will cause you to owe tax on your gains when exercising options, even if they are only on paper. (If the company is public or there is a private market, fine, but it is incredibly inconvenient to be taxed on something for which there is currently no market). This is an area where it can really pay to plan ahead.
dmourati 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Read Venture Deals by Brad Feld. It will make you more knowledgeable then 99.9% of all the people in venture funded companies and put you on the level playing field with the VC's.
nraynaud 12 hours ago 1 reply      
I have a related question: I have some non-privileged stock in a private company, and I want to sell it (I want the money and I don't care about the future of a company I don't work for anymore).

Who could be an interested buyer?

throwawayy123 1 day ago 2 replies      
If I decide to leave a company in which I have partially vested stock options, would it be okay to ask my employer (or anyone else in my company) if they would be interested in buying the options off of me at the current valuation (EG, last amount of money raised)? Is something like this common, or would I get laughed out of the room?

Similarly, how liquid are markets like Second Market in terms of liquidating option value at a startup that's raised multiple rounds of funding but has yet to exit or IPO? Are there angels (or networks of angels) that buy small amounts of pre-exit equity?

kylelibra 1 day ago 4 replies      
Is there a good formula for figuring out taking a lower salary in exchange for options? For example:


Current Salary On Open Market = X

Startup Salary = Y

Option Value Today = Z


4(X) = 4(Y)+Z(2)

this is obviously the big IF, if people are saying think of it as windfall, maybe 1.5??

unreal37 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm waiting for the day in the near future when an article on stocks begins with "Stocks are a lot like Bitcoin..."
jisaacks 4 hours ago 1 reply      
So what happens when the company exits before you are vested?
brosco45 1 day ago 1 reply      
They are like lotto tickets, mostly worthless, some are worth a lot.
tejay 1 day ago 0 replies      
What about profit-sharing instead of options/warrants/shares?

We've found that it dampens the 'build-to-flip' mentality and lets us all enjoy the fruits of our labor while we're building the company, not afterwards =).

7Figures2Commas 1 day ago 1 reply      
There's some valuable information here, but a lot of detail is lacking. For instance, the post does not distinguish between incentive stock options (ISOs) and non-qualified stock options. The tax treatment is quite different.

More importantly, technical details aside, I think it's important for a prospective employee to make some strategic decisions about equity up front.

The author writes:

> If the company seems reluctant to answer these questions, keep pressing and dont take no for an answer. If youre going to factor in your options into any compensation considerations, you deserve to know what percentage of the company youre getting, and its value.

And in the next paragraph he writes:

> Id be wary of compromising on salary for shares, unless youre one of the first few employees or founders. Its often a red flag if the founders are willing to give up a large percentage of their company when they could otherwise afford to pay you. Sometimes you can negotiate a tiered offer, and decide what ratio of salary to equity is right for you.

You can't have it both ways. If you focus on equity (by demanding that the company divulge detailed information about its share structure), you are sending the signal that equity is just as important or more important than salary, and thus opening the door to a negotiation that contemplates a trade of equity for salary. Precisely the thing that you want to avoid!

Unless equity is expected to be liquid in the near future (i.e. you're at a company expected to go public in the near future), an equity-focused negotiation is more likely to benefit the prospective employer than employee.

egometry 1 day ago 0 replies      
Pretty god. I've been recommending David Weekly's short e-book on this matter for years... specifically as mandatory reading for engineers taking their first or second job.

Learn from our mistaaaaakes!


michaelochurch 1 day ago 4 replies      
Two corrections:

1. OP says: Once youve cliffed, you have the right to buy shares in the company.

"Cliffing", when used as a verb, refers to firing someone just before the cliff-- not an employee achieving it. It's something you'd rather avoid.

2. If the company isn't publicly traded, you should ask to see the cap table. If you're employee #30 and your share is 0.05%, that might be fair if it's a biotech that has already taken a $100M infusion from the venture capitalists (who'll typically take 90%, in that case). For a web startup, it's terrible. You need to know how much equity the investors, executives, and employees at various levels have, so you can evaluate your likelihood of getting an improvement if you perform well. Without the cap table, you don't know enough about the startup to decide whether to take a job there.

dsri 1 day ago 0 replies      
>> You can think of a stock option as a Future.

You probably shouldn't, as they are distinct terms. A futures contract obliges you to make the transaction on the specified transaction date, whereas an option gives you the option to do so.

yogin 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Thank you for this, I have to admit I've been quite confused about this for some time. Great explanation, it finally makes a lot more sense to me!
djm_ 1 day ago 2 replies      
Does anyone have any UK specific advice considering stock options? ..and how does it affect things if these are offered to a contractor and not a FT employee, is that even possible?
elwell 1 day ago 1 reply      
What if you're too lazy to exercise your share?
hafichuk 1 day ago 1 reply      
Any advice if the company is already public and they are offering stock options as part of the compensation package?
anon_nsotax 1 day ago 2 replies      
Can someone comment on determining fair market value of a private company?

I exercised NSO stock options of a private company after being vested for a year. Everything I read indicates I need to declare the spread of current FMV with the value of the option grant date. How do I determine the current FMV if their is no market though?

puppetmaster3 23 hours ago 0 replies      
lol, none of this matters. the terms are, what the terms are, you can just try to get more shares and more $.
lmartel 1 day ago 0 replies      
Super irrelevant--unless you're trying to say that employees should never strike their options, which is probably not good advice.
antimora 1 day ago 0 replies      
Taxes can be tricky depending what type of stock options you have. This recently found document tries to point out several strategies:



Reform Government Surveillance reformgovernmentsurveillance.com
628 points by raldi  2 days ago   211 comments top 58
pg 2 days ago 15 replies      
Among other things, this is the tipping point for how Snowden will be viewed.

If all these powerful companies agree, in an unprecedented show of unanimity, that this is an important problem, then Snowden is ipso facto a hero for bringing it to our attention.

The curious thing is, I feel the linkage works in the other direction too. If Snowden had been caught and was now having his brains scrambled by solitary confinement in some secret prison, these companies would have been at least slightly more reluctant to issue such a statement, because it would have seemed to be espousing the cause of someone people were hearing described on the news as a criminal.

Snowden made his disclosures much more effective by escaping.

kevinalexbrown 2 days ago 2 replies      
Regardless of your opinion on the leaks, this marks something really interesting in the course of history.

Communications is one of the few services that governments co-opt indirectly. Lockheed Martin knows it's building war jets. But here, the signatories didn't set out to build government surveillance engines, it was required of them after it became clear how useful they could be. Their response could set the tone for future actions in years to come.

It's interesting that other communications groups (e.g. cellphone co's) have not reacted in the same way, Qwest aside. You don't have to believe that each CEO is doing this on principle if you're cynically inclined, but it seems clear at least that many of their employees are in favor of it. I'm curious if it's a internet/tech/silicon valley thing, or something else.

pacala 2 days ago 8 replies      
This is getting ridiculous. The ad empires built on stalking every single breath of every single human want to take governments to task on the topic of stalking. What about cleaning up your own house first?

1. Limiting Corporations Authority to Collect Users Information

Corporations should codify sensible limitations on their ability to collect and disclose user data that balance their need for the data in limited circumstances, users reasonable privacy interests, and the impact on trust in the Internet. In addition, corporations should limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications.

2 Oversightand Accountability

Corporations seeking to collect or compel the production of information should do so under a clear legal framework in which corporations are subject to strong checks and balances. Reviewing courts should be independent and include an adversarial process, and corporations should allow important rulings of law to be made public in a timely manner so that the courts are accountable to an informed citizenry.

3 Transparency About Corporations collecting practices

Transparency is essential to a debate over corporations surveillance powers and the scope of programs that are administered under those powers. Corporations should publish the number and nature of collected user information.

4 Respecting the Free Flow of Information

The ability of data to flow or be accessed across borders is essential to a robust 21st century global economy. Corporations should not collect user information in other countries with the intent of circumventing the local laws that limit user data collection.

molecule 2 days ago 3 replies      
It seems peculiar that Apple is a signatory:

> Sincerely,

> AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo

and their logo appears in the listing @ the end of the page, but their logo isn't in the beginning of the page, and they don't provide a quote from their CEO nor legal counsel, per the other signing companies.

Last-minute change of heart, lukewarm support...?

sklivvz1971 2 days ago 2 replies      
Honestly this makes me a little upset. While I am happy that these corporations are taking a stand against surveillance, I am not convinced of their intentions:

* This summer's hailstorm was about NSA but also about them. This site obviously ignores this and shows these corps as innocent victims, which they are not.

* It's clearly too little! "Governments should reform themselves". How should they do that? There are absolutely no proposals on how to fix this on this site.

* It's clearly too late. This should have happened before Snoweden, not six months after.

This is just "let's go back to normal" propaganda, "damage control" PR. Nothing will change because of this.

dmix 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a good start. Hopefully some telecom and ISP companies sign-up. They've been exceptionally quiet regarding recent leaks despite being a greater threat to privacy than most of these consumer web services.
tkellogg 2 days ago 1 reply      
I find it interesting how the concept of countries and nationalities seems to becoming less important. Now (as opposed to a hundred years ago) we communicate with people in foreign countries on a daily basis - even countries whose governments have hostile relationships with.

This is definitely a CYA (cover your ass) maneuver designed to mitigate the political hit these companies are taking. At the same time, these companies are acting like countries. They've formed an alliance and they're attempting to make a treaty with the governments that they happen to fall into. It will be interesting to watch the societal change as the importance of countries and nationalities decreases over the next hundred years.

sinak 2 days ago 2 replies      
A bit surprised by some of the errors on the site.

- Tweet button doesn't have a link

- G+ share button isn't working

- Opengraph tags point to a missing image-url, so Facebook shares don't have an image associated.

I think maybe this hit HN before they were quite ready for launch - I'm guessing these'll be fixed pretty quickly.

Excellent move by the companies involved though. A lot of advocacy organizations have been pushing these companies to come out publicly meaningful surveillance law reform, and this is a great start.

znowi 2 days ago 1 reply      
I feel a bit uneasy that the undersigned are all PRISM companies. All 8 of them. They seem to stick together and not mix with outsiders.

Note that there's already a similar initiative launched by Mozilla called Stop Watching Us [1]. None of the PRISM companies signed it.

Instead, they filed a petition (of little value, but with a big pomp) to allow for full FISA order statistics be published. Which was denied, incidentally.

[1] https://stopwatching.us/

anoncowherd 2 days ago 1 reply      
Reform government surveillance, huh? So we just need better government surveillance then? With checks and balances and all, but how well have those worked in the past?

Did Bradley Manning get his "due process"? No? "-But.. but.. checks.. and balances!".. Who checks the checkers and balances the balancers?

If you put Stalin in power and tell him to make sure he himself behaves well, what can you expect to happen? What about politicians in a democracy? Will/can they watch their peers, or is it more likely they'll just collude in corruption?

pwang 2 days ago 1 reply      
> we are focused on keeping users data secure

ARGH! Close to a trillion dollars of net corporate value, and they can't afford a decent grammarian when they write an open letter to the President?!

(Hint: It should be "users'".)

phryk 2 days ago 0 replies      
So, the US' biggest data collectors are coming together to fight government surveillance?

I'm not the only one thinking this is a tad hypocritical, am I? It just makes me think that somewhere, some powerful dude went "They are trying to cut in on our action?!?" and decided not to accept projected financial losses by something as petty as a government.

But obviously, this might be the first voice governments actually listen to. Not because what they propose is the right thing to do, but because money.

Apparently this is the best the system currently allows. Capitalism depresses me.

Zigurd 2 days ago 1 reply      
How about instead of asking the government to make this problem go away, as if it could, you offer products that thwart surveillance?

I'll write you a check to cover the value of those "One weird trick to lose belly fat" ads.

aragot 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is an extremely talented commercial suggestion: On one side, as a European, I would NOT support it; and on the other, it looks like a very, very legitimate bill ("why would anyone oppose!?"). Good job for the PR people behind that move! Here's why:

* It says "Governments" (plural). That means because US security agencies have thoroughly breached the borders of acceptable privacy, now all governments should diminish their control. I'm aware Eu agencies do the same, but they don't build as big datacenters as the NSA does. By not having the same budgets, Eu agencies don't overreach as much as the NSA does.

* As a European, the best protection I see against all-spying programs is to have competitive European web services. For example I would support a Eu decision to require a European email address for communication with governments, or similar rules designed to make sure Europeans communicate through safe channels with their governments. It is also EU's role to make sure we have enough competitors so that citizens can use local providers (competitors to Fb, etc) to store their data in Europe, if those consumers trust European spying agencies. As a desired side effect, it is a way to grow our economy.

The Reform Government Surveillance would prevent us from passing reforms to locate European citizen data in Europe. Therefore, it's a very talented move from those 7 companies, and comes right at the right time.

tareqak 2 days ago 0 replies      
A website is a good start, but a live press conference attended by all the CEOs and members of mainstream media would be far, far better.

For most people, if it doesn't happen on TV, it doesn't happen at all.

ed_blackburn 2 days ago 0 replies      
Eventually the penny drops. If there's no trust in the internet, then these companies business model will be affected. Over time I can see this lobbying working to an extent in the US.

What I can't see happening is the other Five Eyes partners or their governments changing. The UK political classes in the main appear bullishly, unrepentant, aggressive towards descent and hawkishly pursuing dissidents including newspaper editors.

zenocon 2 days ago 0 replies      
Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information. The US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right.Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
apu 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hmm, only seeing a "default parallels" page: http://i.imgur.com/bUzBKn0.png

(midnight PST)

joshfraser 2 days ago 1 reply      
> whois reformgovernmentsurveillance.com

Really, they bought the domain 5 days ago from GoDaddy?!

jimmytucson 2 days ago 0 replies      
These companies want to limit the amount of data the government can collect on me. That's wonderful. While we're at it, can the government limit the amount of data these companies can collect on me?
ekianjo 2 days ago 1 reply      
Any idea why Mozilla is not in that list ? Is it because it's all from for-profit organizations this time ?
phaed 2 days ago 1 reply      
Good god, they can't even get their open graph tags right. Tried to share this on facebook: http://i.imgur.com/HDtqrcS.png
1337biz 2 days ago 0 replies      
They need to NRA that thing up!

Get people to sign up and pledge their support, organize local chapters, organize, organize, organize.

Am I the only one missing here the call to action?

ronaldx 2 days ago 0 replies      
In order to reform government surveillance, we also need to reform commercial surveillance.
BIackSwan 2 days ago 2 replies      
Is this officially supported by the companies listed on the page? I dont see references to/from the page to the official blogs/announcement.
mindslight 2 days ago 0 replies      
And what would the net effect of these reforms be for individual users, even if governments actually kept their word? A five year reprieve until emailing the wrong person causes your mandatory insurance premiums to double? Centralized data silos are the root cause of broken privacy, and the goal of this lobbying is to make you ignore this glaring truth and perpetuate the extremely profitable mining-your-data industry.
rebel 2 days ago 0 replies      
This has to be the first article I've seen where they actually excluded Apple from the title

edit: Not sure why Apple is included at the bottom but seems to be the only company there that isn't listed in the top set of logos. Not sure if that has any significance or is an oversight or..

A1kmm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Point 4 (in particular, the part about allowing data transfer overseas) could be construed to mean letting big companies work around the privacy laws of one country by copying private data to another country with weaker privacy laws.

I think that sneaking points like this in weakens the effect of the whole thing.

wrongc0ntinent 2 days ago 2 replies      
Anyone with definite proof it's real?
atmosx 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hm, I wonder why I see no Cisco and Amazon on logos, there. After all the money Cisco is loosing are they still reluctant to go against the USA gov, who knows what kind of contracts were made...
antocv 2 days ago 0 replies      
Its a good thing they define "government surveillence" because corporate surveillence is what they do best.
veidr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Mildly interesting (from a branding/style perspective) how Apple, and only Apple, chose not to feature their logo at the top, but to add it to the bottom where only people who read (or at least scrolled) the whole thing could see it.
Cakez0r 2 days ago 0 replies      
This seems a bit toothless to me. I can't help but feel this is more about PR. There aren't any calls to action! Just a page of opinions.
yc-kjh 2 days ago 0 replies      
Laws don't need to be reformed. The Constitution needs to be enforced.
downandout 2 days ago 0 replies      
Site is down.
codeulike 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like how they put AOL first on the list. Like, if there's flak coming, they'll take it first or something.
f3llowtraveler 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why doesn't this web page mention Snowden at all? For example, the fact that he was right, and is a hero, and deserves to have all charges dropped?

Weren't all these people collaborating with authorities at the expense of our liberties -- and aren't they still?

nfoz 2 days ago 0 replies      
I guess it's nice when companies are politically active on behalf of things that serve both my interests and theirs. But I wish the U.S. government was responsive to the demands of its actual citizens and not these private entities, whose views regarding privacy law are so often antagonistic to my own.
vjvj 1 day ago 0 replies      
What a feeble attempt at reform.

In particular, the sentence copied below makes it sound like just another summer new story that will soon fade into insignificance:

"But this summers revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide"

sergiotapia 2 days ago 0 replies      
I thought Facebook had CIA backing?
d0ugie 2 days ago 0 replies      
You'd think Google, or any of the companies, would host such a thing themselves, rather than sub it out to Godaddy, using a PTR of the domain name relevant to the site -- and, especially in the spirit of things, a properly-configured SSL certificate that doesn't set off warnings, pointing where it ought to (like the IP's PTR), with HSTS and PFS in place and so forth.

What indication is there that this is not a hoax?

wyclif 2 days ago 0 replies      
They really need to look again at how they implemented sharing to Twitter, G+ or LinkedIn; it's a mess.
laurencerowe 2 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone else seeing the "Default Parallels Plesk Panel Page" instead of the content? Google cache still works: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3Arefor...
bippi 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like the idea, but these were the principles they were supposed to be following in the first place but weren't. What makes anyone think that any amount of laws passed will be respected?
salient 2 days ago 0 replies      
I knew making corporations hurt over their cooperation with NSA willingly or unwillingly (by not having proper security) is going to play a major part in turning this around, although it's still early days, so I'm cautiously optimistic right now, but also very skeptical at the same time, because I'm not going to believe the first time the government says "That's it everyone - we reformed the NSA. You can all relax now". It's going to take serious reforms and transparency to make me believe it's truly "over".
shank8 2 days ago 0 replies      
The website was taken down!!??
billirvine 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's a trap! WhoIS shows a private domain registration through GoDaddy, and the site now shows a Plesk default page. This was probably not the site for an official Silicon Valley Alliance.
bonjourmr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Damage control
superpatosainz 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Dear Government. You've pissed off $1.4 trillion of the market. You might want to review your recent behavior."
skyshine 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is all well and good, but it only really matters if they start lobbying heavily for this change. Words are cheap, it is actions that matter.
jspc 2 days ago 0 replies      
I do wish they had sorted SSL properly for this. Its a bit bad when talking about security and surveillance they miss the fundamentals.
salient 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know if these things make a difference or not, but there are 1/3 votes needed for ECPA reform, with 3 days to go:


nroose 1 day ago 0 replies      
Why is Apple at the bottom but not at the top?
known 1 day ago 0 replies      
power corrupts people and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

powerful people should volunteer themselves to 24x7 surveillance.

robomartin 2 days ago 0 replies      
As the repercussions of what Snowden helped uncover become more public I hope people gain a better understanding of the man himself and his motivations. Try as I might, I can't find any word other than "hero" to describe him.

I imagine him at work and subject to a constant stream of information showing what our own government is doing to us. I imagine him repeatedly thinking this is wrong. And I imagine him looking deep inside his sole to decide whether his convictions and belief system required him to act or not. Of course, that decision had to come with the full understanding that he would be at the receiving end of the full wrath of the US intelligence, law enforcement and military machinery. At best he'd have to live on the run his entire life. At worst he'd end-up dead or in a dark cell, completely disconnected from humanity.

With that reality in front of him this man decided he needed to stand up for those of us who could not. He decided to, effectively, sacrifice his life in order to attempt to right a massive wrong being perpetrated on the people of the US and the world. That's right up there with a fireman running into a burning building or a soldier taking a bullet to protect your way of life.

This man is a hero. I hope this administration or the next comes to realize how much of a patriot a man has to be in order to risk it all to protect others. With that realization the only thing that remains is to bring the man home with open arms and have him be a big part of making things right for all of us.

That's what needs to happen next.

arca_vorago 2 days ago 0 replies      
Let's cut to the chase: surveillance is a symptom of a larger root issue. These major companies aren't attacking the government surveillance problem out of concern of their users, my guess is that they are getting ready to make a data power-play against the government.

So essentially, the privacy concerns of people are being used as a ball between players, but the people are still going to get kicked around.

Until we address the almost complete corruption of the institutional structures that we consider to be foundational of this country... well, I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm pretty sure it won't be pretty for the serfs ahem I mean citizens.

The checks and balances system is almost non-existent. The executive has power over the other two branches, and the supra-national corporations have power over all three. The justice system is a farce, the SCOTUS are likely compromised, and oversight of intelligence agencies is almost non-existent. Resource wars loom on the horizon, what I call the shadow players like Zbigniew Brzezinski are encouraging a return to the tripolar world, and all this as wealth disparity increases amazingly fast.

Surveillance is not about security, it's about control. The question no one is asking is, "Why?".

clubhi 2 days ago 1 reply      
Which company doesn't belong?
OK, Milt Olin, I'll start writing again sivers.org
551 points by revorad  2 days ago   62 comments top 12
sivers 2 days ago 4 replies      
Wow. Thanks for the unexpected post & votes here, HN buddies. This community is an ongoing inspiration.
hudibras 2 days ago 3 replies      
You try to do everything right (helmet, bike lane, daylight riding), and then a police car runs you over and kills you.

Sometimes I don't know why I bother doing anything except spending time with my family. I tell myself that I've got to pay the bills, be an adult, etc., but is it really worth it when everything can be over in an instant?

Now I'm depressing myself. Maybe reading another couple HN articles will cheer me up...

visakanv 2 days ago 3 replies      
I've always been bothered by what I call this 'life-perspective problem", and of course, I'm always bothered more when something horrible like this happens. (The preceding statement has its own problem buried in it- because something horrible is always happening, at every second.)

I've spoken about it in other forms- "procrastination should be solved by lighting fires, not filling buckets" and so on. There is powerful emotional energy to be harnessed, but a lot of us (maybe just me, but clearly others too) have no idea how to manipulate it effectively, so we typically go without it. When we do get a flash of inspiration, the energy needs to go into a system where it generates something lasting- otherwise we just get the one-off blogpost or product that doesn't go anywhere. We get tired and everyday life dehumanizes us again.

It's the same central idea: Can we modify our circumstances and environment such that they remind us of the things that matter, in a way that disrupts us from settling into sub-optimal comfort zones?

I used to think that maybe this was a self-indulgent problem that I had, simply romanticizing the moping around, but clearly it afflicts even highly productive and accomplished persons like Mr. Sivers. Clearly this is a broader human problem- our inability to contextualize things, to see the bigger broader picture except when it's too late, or when we're unexpectedly inspired.

Is meditation the solution? I think meditation is a practice that encourages the broadening of perspective, but I'm sure there are other ways to reach the same destination- I'm sure we could design for it into our media, into our daily lives.

There is some very meaningful work to be done in this "perspective/reminder" space, but I don't know what exactly, and I don't know how to do it. But I'd like to get involved in it somehow, someday, before it's too late.

I hope this is helpful to someone. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for reading.

sergiotapia 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sorry for your loss. I used to ride my bike everywhere when I was in my late teens; these days I can't imagine doing that. All it takes is one distracted driver to cause terrible loss.
leokun 2 days ago 9 replies      
Riding bikes is super dangerous. I always slow down and give bikes a lot of space. I also think bike riders should ride on slower, non-busy roads whenever possible, but I'm not at all blaming bike riders.
3pt14159 2 days ago 0 replies      
sivers your work is some of the truly best.

I'm so sorry for your loss, I've never lost a close friend so I have no idea what you are going through, but obviously if there is anything we can do to help just put out the word.

donretag 2 days ago 1 reply      
The other thread regarding Milt's death: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6875151
menosee 1 day ago 0 replies      
Derek -- This is a nice piece in a difficult time. I am childhood friends with one of Milt's sons and know his family appreciates all the love being sent their way. Thank you for sharing with everyone.
iamthepieman 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sivers, may you be at peace.

It took a death in my family to make me realize that I needed to "start writing again". That was several years ago and I see myself in some of the old ruts and in some that are newly worn. I wonder how many tragedies before I learn my lesson.

javindo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wow, just like that. This was amazingly sombre, sorry for your loss and thank you for your inspirational words.
sidcool 1 day ago 0 replies      
Sorry for your loss, Derek.
camkego 1 day ago 0 replies      
Setting up dual booting two OSes is not a good use of my time?
Show HN: I mapped US medical prices. Save thousands by driving a few miles bestmedicareprice.com
456 points by neilsharma  5 days ago   221 comments top 54
thrownaway2424 4 days ago 16 replies      
This is cute, but it is based on a flawed premise. There are not "prices" for medical procedures and even the providers don't know what they are going to charge. Anecdata: when my wife was pregnant I asked the hospital what are the basic charges for normal obstetric delivery, since we were paying out of pocket. I got a reply in writing that it was $20k, a suspiciously round number without itemization. The baby comes and there are no complications and no anesthetic and the attending physician never even showed up for some reason. So it was in every way the cheapest possible way to have a baby short of squatting over a blanket.

Needless to say that this American hospital would not even have admitted us without a certified check in advance, so we had spotted them the $20k. Over the next six weeks I get literally dozens of bills. I get a bill from the attending obstetrician who wasn't even present. I get bills for anesthesia that wasn't administered. I get bills in total of over $31k. I was uninsured but I'm not some chump, so my attorney sent these people sternly worded letters and we held the line at $20k which I think anyone would agree is already a ridiculous price in the first place.

Point is, nobody in this system has any idea what the price of anything is. There's no rate card. It's a collective emergent phenomenon that prints invoices. Nothing more.

jeanlucneptune 5 days ago 2 replies      
Assuming this data is from the Medicare (insurance program for those >65) dataset released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services earlier this year (http://go.cms.gov/1bowKJA) I have a couple of points to make:

1.) Not sure if you grabbed "charges" or "payments", but "charges" are what the providers (hospitals) billed to Medicare, and "payments" are what Medicare actually paid the providers. "Payments" would be the best indicator of "price".

2.) Regardless of whether you are using "charges" or "payments", it's pretty much irrelevant for the average person. Why? Because the patient never pays the full amount (except for the uninsured...see below).

3.) While you don't pay the full amount in most cases, you will have to pay something. However, what you actually pay varies WIDELY based on your health insurer (the "payor") and the design of the health insurance plan.

4.) Also note that every "payor" negotiates a different price, so the Medicare price does not equal the Commercial Insurance price which does not equal the Medicaid price which does not equal the price the uninsured person pays.

5.) Finally, the diagnostic/procedural terminology in this dataset is impenetrable to most people. For example, does anyone on HN know what "transient ischemia" is? And if you do, do you understand that you can have transient ischemia in many parts of your body (FTR, I'm an MD)?

Although I appreciate the effort and the clean visualization, I don't think this data is particularly useful to an individual trying to make health care decisions for reasons 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (and probably others that I'm missing).

The one place where this data may be useful on an individual level is in the case of the uninsured. When you have no insurance the hospital basically makes up a price (taken from something called the "chargemaster") that is way more than what commercial insurance would pay, and WAY WAY more than what Medicare would pay. Having access to this data might help an uninsured person negotiate a lower price when the hospital comes after you with a giant bill. Medicare is a pretty solid standard to compare to - i.e. "you're charging me 5X, whereas you would only charge Medicare X".

On a societal level I think this data is also extremely valuable because now you can start to analyze pricing disparities across procedure types and geographies, which is really helpful. You can also put pressure on providers who are gouging individuals paying sticker price (i.e. the uninsured), which is important given that medical bills drive the majority of personal bankruptcies.

We ran a competition on this topic recently at Health 2.0 and you can learn more about the issue and the datasets on our site. You can also view other visualizations of this very important data:


Transparency in health pricing is a very important topic and something you'll hear a lot more about in the future. Happy to discuss further with anyone who wants to learn more (@jeanlucneptune, jeanlucneptune@gmail.com).

dshankar 5 days ago 3 replies      
This has enormous impact by bringing transparency to medical procedure pricing. One could quite literally save $10-50K by opting to do a procedure just a few miles away.

Nice work. Where did you get the data for this? Is it publicly available?

dougmccune 5 days ago 1 reply      
What's the consumer use for this? Is it for people without insurance? From what I understand this is the rate that Medicare has negotiated from these providers. But I assume this isn't for people with Medicare, since those people are covered with Medicare. I assume the dollar values don't have much relation to the reality that an uninsured individual would be billed, since Medicare negotiates pretty aggressively for prices that "normal" people or even normal insurance plans can't get.

I'm just not understanding what you learn from this other than what Medicare gets reimbursed. And I'm not understanding how knowing that is actionable in any way for the average person.

jonmrodriguez 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't know if I'm just completely retarded or hitting a bug. How do I use the "Select a Procedure..." box? Typing into it does nothing. If I click on the box (or the down triangle), it brings up a menu with only one option, which says "Select a Procedure..." and does nothing. This is on Chrome on Windows. I'm in Los Angeles, if that matters.
benmathes 5 days ago 1 reply      
Incredibly useful if you're on medicare (what the price data is based on).

For the majority of us _not_ on medicare, castlighthealth.com is solving this. It's B2B for now, i.e. Tesla pays for castlight and then its employees can use castlight to find out how much things will cost.

shill 5 days ago 1 reply      
You really should warn users to find the NEAREST hospital when they are having chest pain--which is one of the procedure selections.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or a doctor.

MJR 5 days ago 1 reply      
These are called cost and quality or transparency tools in the industry.

Many insurance companies have tools that can do this exact thing for their members AND apply it to your specific plan at the time of the inquiry. So you can choose based on the procedure cost and your actual cost based on your deductible and co-insurance. Not only that, the tools will also tell you about quality so you can compare based on the quality of service, cost of service and your actual cost at the same time.

Unless you can do all of these things at the same time with your tool, it leaves out critical factors for those actually searching for this type of information as it applies to them at any given time - most importantly when they are trying to make a decision.

Additionally, you only have access to negotiated rates for Medicare whereas an insurance company providing this information is going to provide as much information as they can for all of their members by displaying their negotiated rates specific to your plan.

As an HN reader, if you like this tool, go check with your insurance company and see what they already have and how specific it is for you.

caycep 5 days ago 0 replies      
However, I think hand in hand with this you need to map outcomes data, especially for invasive procedures. Often, the reason to go to a "Big Hospital" say UCSF instead of Podunk Community Hospital is that there is often a big disparity in skill between a UCSF faculty surgeon vs. others. Or, even between different hospitals.

I'm not sure how to do this - hospitals like to hide adverse outcomes from the public, but it's really information in the public interest. Ideally you'd want some sort of index that weighs complication rates (something unexpected happening), outcome/effect measures (procedure did what it was supposed to do), with price.

ye 4 days ago 1 reply      
You have a JS error that breaks the whole site.

Here it is:

    var query = new Parse.Query(Procedure);    query.limit(1000);    query.ascending)(               <---- error    query.find({

auctiontheory 5 days ago 1 reply      
Excellent POC - Obamacare needs to pick this up and run with it, to provide the next level of detail, for all insurers.

Can you tell us about the technology under the hood? Ruby or Node (or whatever)? What APIs did you use? Programming-wise, what was easy and what turned out to be tricky?

awjr 5 days ago 2 replies      
Would it be useful to have a 'show me the cheapest' button? The range in cost hints at the massive variance. The US is crazy. How does a procedure costing 4k in one place cost 120k in another?
rschmitty 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great start, however a key thing that is missing (at no fault of the authors) is patient outcomes.

Just because a service is cheaper does not mean you should shop by the lowest bidder.

BetterDoctor's Pricemaps also include US News Rank and score which gives you a place to start: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/best-hospitals/articles...

Please please please do not shop strictly by the lowest price when it comes to your family's health. Research both the hospital and the doctor who will be doing the procedure when it comes to complex procedures.

ocfx 5 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting data, but good to note that cheap does not equate with better in the medical field typically.
parbo 4 days ago 0 replies      
As a European, the need for this baffles me.
rexec 5 days ago 2 replies      
We did a similar thing at BetterDoctor a few weeks ago:


31reasons 4 days ago 2 replies      
Great idea, but why is this thing on front page if its not working ? I see nothing to select in "Select Procedure" menu.
nej 4 days ago 0 replies      
These procedures look a lot more frightening when they're written in all capital letters. If this is bothersome for you too, it's an easy fix in javascript. If it were any other element I would have said CSS, but text-transform:capitalize doesn't apply when applied to select tags. Here's how to do it in JS: http://pastebin.com/cnVJwds1
crazy1van 5 days ago 3 replies      
Who cares? My insurance co-pay is the same either way, which is exactly the problem. There is zero incentive to shop on price.

Btw, nice work :)

sehugg 5 days ago 1 reply      
Pretty cool. You could also fly to Costa Rica, if you have the time...
ianbicking 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's unclear how accurate this is. I searched my area for a random item (something respiratory) and there was one hospital that was $10k and another that was $30k. The $30k hospital probably has inflated prices, but not by 3x it's also the hospital that takes harder cases. It's the hospital other hospitals send patients to. When we looked at hospitals for the birth of our daughter we looked at C-section rates. Almost all hospitals were the same, there was one good hospital, and then there was this hospital which had twice the C-sections of any other. But it's the hospital that gets the hard cases, a friend later delivered there (I think by C-section) after barely avoiding premature labor from 20 weeks to 35 weeks. Because people go there when they have medical challenges they have a high C-section rate, and generally high rates for everything.
thyrsus 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm in the midst of a heart attack, and I'm supposed to optimize cost/benefit of the area hospitals according to available data on expenses and outcomes. I invite those in favour of market solutions to propose practical responses. If Siri gives me bad advice, is Apple liable? Was I not under duress when agreeing to the 50 page (or minute) disclaimer?
forgottenpaswrd 4 days ago 1 reply      
Medical prices are so outrageous in the US that, in theory, the medical business is a good field for startup disruption.

Real disruption, not showing prices on a page but having actual good doctors at a good price.

There is a monopoly today controlled by few.

joshdance 4 days ago 0 replies      
Really cool, but also not super helpful. Prices are not set. Book prices are not shared. Some prices are protected by crazy nearly anti-trust agreements (heart implants). And you have to know which procedure you want or should have for a particular condition.

But, that being said, I think it is awesome. Anything we can do to fix healthcare needs to be done.

bartcatz 5 days ago 0 replies      
I picked one (Heart Failure with Shock with MCC) at random


the link shows all the diagnoses that fall in that category of DRGs. (DRGs are the packages of procedures that Medicare pays a fixed price for, simply put. If you get that diagnosis, you submit that DRG. However in this case the map from diagnosis to DRG is one to many.) Some of the average costs are only from 20-30 discharges. Do you think that makes for good math or some sort of price guide?


It may highlight that the DRG is incorrectly applied by some hospitals (maybe?), but it has nothing to do with 'going down the street' for a better 'price'.

nice interface though.

johnrob 5 days ago 0 replies      
Eye opening... great work!

Bug: (FF 16.0.1 on OSX 10.8.5) When the "select a procedure" drop down box is expanded, wheel scrolling up/down seems to also zoom the map underneath it.

usablebytes 5 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent problem choice and great work with the solution. http://pricemaps.betterdoctor.com/, too, have done a wonderful job with their version.

May be this will also make a great phone app. If users can pre-configure a couple of medical procedures (faced in their medical history), the app can show price comparisons on the map by default at every launch. This might help addressing the concern https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6864945.

nickbauman 5 days ago 1 reply      
A couple of points: There are far fewer procedures / pathologies here than are out there. At least sort the procedures / pathologies lexicographically. It would be even better if I could NLS search by the procedure.
vpsingh 2 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent design, Here are a few bugs logged for bestmedicareprice.com by 99tests


joebeetee 4 days ago 0 replies      
Presume you're just updating, but I'm getting a JS error on line 21


727374 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is great. Please sort the items in the drop down list. (I'm on Chrome)
hotloo 5 days ago 1 reply      

Me and my friend Anders made a bit better version of this, at


Check it out!

dice 5 days ago 1 reply      
What do the numbers and colors of the hospital symbols mean? They do not seem to be correlated with price of procedure.
diasks2 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool idea. I think you should add something like select2[1] to your select input. That way when a user starts typing it could automatically start to autosuggest procedures.

[1] http://ivaynberg.github.io/select2/

enra 5 days ago 2 replies      
Saw this couple of weeks ago http://pricemaps.betterdoctor.com/
hydrologie 3 days ago 0 replies      
I made a similar app at http://healthcostnegotiator.com/

I took the approach of targeting under/un-insured patients with the goal of assisting them in negotiating their health care costs to levels more similar to the Medicare payments. It is pretty difficult to shop for medical care in the event of an emergency, so my tool gives nearby, regional, and national prices for selected procedures so that the patient go into price negotiations with their care provider and hopefully get charged a lower price.

Edit: I also made a visualization of the CMS Provider Charge Data here: http://labs.coseppi.com/cms/

doorty 5 days ago 1 reply      
Great first step. And pretty soon we'll have quality of care reviews--from patient questionnaires thanks to ACA/Obama Care.
johnpowell 5 days ago 0 replies      
Have you ever thought you were having a heart attack? Flu tends to be moved by car.
davycro 4 days ago 1 reply      
Have you looked at the Dartmouth Atlas? They've been mapping healthcare costs for the last decade. Might have some good data and inspiration for you.
mehuln 5 days ago 0 replies      
Example of very useful and transparent system that should be available for everyone. Keep going in this direction...
deathanatos 4 days ago 0 replies      
Uncaught SecurityError: An attempt was made to break through the security policy of the user agent. (parse-1.2.13.min.js:1) (Hint: I block cookies.)

Nothing but a sickly looking map, and no data.

ehosca 3 days ago 0 replies      
in this day and age of bigger monitors with larger and larger screen real estate, any and all "map overlay apps" need to be full-screenable...
eriktrautman 4 days ago 0 replies      
The dropdown is difficult to parse, alphabetizing would help. Or at least group similar procedures together under a heading.
rtfeldman 5 days ago 0 replies      
Brilliant! Great work.
carolineld 4 days ago 0 replies      
Can't wait to try but right now, it looks like there's something wrong with the dropdown menu: Cannot select a procedure.
Edmond 4 days ago 0 replies      
NYT article on this a few days ago...I thought exactly about an app like this...kudos.
hardwaresofton 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is fantastic, clear, concise, and helpful, with a simple UI.
anothernaysayer 5 days ago 0 replies      
Be careful comparing costs alone. Like everything else, sometimes more expensive things are better in quality. This might manifest in a different diagnosis, a longer recovery time, complications, or no difference at all. Kind of like a bandit problem because you only get one opportunity to choose.
27182818284 5 days ago 0 replies      
Great work! Keep it up!
slr555 4 days ago 0 replies      
App doesn't work on safari or firefox mac
it200219 4 days ago 0 replies      
Super cool. Good work.
ebaum 5 days ago 0 replies      
interesting idea. cant wait to see what happens next
johngrefe 5 days ago 0 replies      
So freaking cool.
msane 5 days ago 0 replies      
Heroic sir.
The Criminalization of Everyday Life tomdispatch.com
454 points by mankypro  1 day ago   327 comments top 41
dmix 1 day ago 11 replies      
I wish people would move beyond 1984 and quote more Foucault's Discipline & Punishment [1]. There is a much deeper-rooted problem in society than mass surveillance or militarization of police. It's the question of why we all let this happen without any resistance. We accept and welcome our controllers. Foucault wrote about the effects of prisoner mindset in society in the 1960-70s. Our subjugation and tolerance to authoritarianism is very widespread and not limited to just police.

We're not just afraid to be anti-authoritative, we're institutionalized since our birth in schools and the concept of control is in embedded in every aspect of life (such as in language found in politics, school work, or newspapers).

Mass-surveillance is just a more direct implementation of "panopticon" [2] applied to everyday life, existing at all times. Having committed a crime is no longer the requirement to be imprisoned, whether physically or mentally.



crazygringo 1 day ago 5 replies      
I can't say I'm exactly surprised. If you ran a police department, you're not about to turn down a free tank -- I mean, how cool is that, toys for the boys?!?!

What's bothersome is that a police department is allowed to do this. That DoD rules don't prohibit selling/giving military equipment to police departments. That state legislatures don't prohibit it. A police department, like any organization, is always going to amass all the power/capability it can. Where are the people who are supposed to be limiting and regulating it?

MrZongle2 1 day ago 6 replies      
When I read something like this, I always think back to when I would see some tinfoil-hat type ranting on Usenet 20 years ago about the growing surveillance/police state in America. It was generally eye-rolling or unintentionally hilarious stuff.

What's depressing is that it's starting to look like they were right.

iambateman 1 day ago 9 replies      
If every police station in the country is equipped with military-grade weapons and vehicles, what happens in the event of despotic leadership?

Suppose someone rises to power with little regard for legislative oversight and activates the sleeping military at home. It might start with a real (or faked) terror event coordinated across several major cities. It wouldn't take much at all, 5-10 cities, and suddenly:1. Internet & cell communications are shut down2. a national state of emergency is declared3. A curfew is issued4. Dissidents are squashed via a military police force with little recourse themselves.5. Everyone is required to have location-aware implants "for safety."

With a little fear, a government could take full, permanent control of their citizens via aggressive laws and more aggressive enforcers. Would it even take two weeks?

aestra 1 day ago 2 replies      
WOW! The most shocking linked article is the kids who got arrested for waiting for the bus. They were excepted to plea bargain. That's right, the charges weren't dropped!!!!!!

edit the DA dismissed the charges but the police chief thinks the arrest was justified.


Interview with the coach (he seems like a really nice guy):


JonnieCache 1 day ago 3 replies      
The fact that this is being instigated by the federal government makes me suspect that this is deliberate planning for the long-term consequences of american societal breakdown, for when the war on drugs isn't enough to control the ever-growing underclass anymore.

Does this kind of thinking still place me firmly with the tinfoil contingent?

tedks 1 day ago 0 replies      
This article is not about police tanks. (Even though it's horrifying that if the tanks were about to roll into America's equivalent of Tianeman Square, our American Tank Man would just be tasered, at best.)

This article is about the prison/police system becoming the fundamental axis of civil society. Schools are run like prisons, and increasingly with police presence. Minority groups are, as always, increasingly targeted for harassment and neutralization. If you get on the radar of the police state, you and your family will be hounded forever. If you are imprisoned, it's more likely than not that you'll be held in solitary confinement.

The article doesn't seem to answer the question I wish I knew the answer to -- how did we get here? What happened that made the United States this way? Was it always like this, behind the curtains, just a nest of HUAACs and J Edgar Hoovers?

Well, now the J Edgar Hoover of 2013 knows everything about everyone, he can arrest anyone for any reason at any time, and he can't be opposed by any means I'm aware of. That iconic picture of a hippy putting a flower in the barrel of a riot cop's gun could never happen today -- as soon as the hippy reached for the gun I'm sure his head would be blown off.

ctdonath 1 day ago 1 reply      
Used to be military surplus stores would acquire military surplus and sell them to an amused and subsequently harmless citizenry. All that old equipment has to go somewhere; now such civilian possession is prohibited (even used Humvees (basically just off-road cars) cannot, by law, be sold to the public), it ends up routed to the only group legally allowed to have it and wants it: police. In the meantime, stores that sold military surplus have adapted by selling military-like knockoff gear, and would-be buyers are pumping money into the fast-growing "tactical gear" market.

Fact is, if all this military equipment were sold on open market, no harm would come of it. Used to be available and wasn't a problem then, and the rather large paramilitary equipment market isn't a problem now. Question is: why is the government so afraid of its own citizens possessing such gear?

coldcode 1 day ago 4 replies      
What a depressing article(s). Our reality is only going to get worse since there is little we can (or have the will to) do. At least in the Ukraine people are really contemplating change. Here we watch our football and our shows and fawn over celebrities and nothing changes.
marincounty 1 day ago 2 replies      
I have felt we have too many laws and over zealous cops for some time now. I guess I'm old--I was born in 1972, but I can assure you; things were not like it has beenin the last twenty years. I started noticing a change in the late 80's and it's(a over regulated society, cops whoabuse the system) just gotten worse. If Jesus Christ reappeared he would most likely be arrested for indecency.Ticketed for fishing without license. Arrested for loitering. Arrested for holding an event without a permit.Ticketed for sleeping in someone manger, without written consent. It's really not funny when you get an expensive ticket for no reason. I have thought about this and a solution; tie all fines to income, and require all Cruisers to be wired with 24/7 cams. This is a good website, but I sometimes wonder if I just blowing smoke, and racking up clicks for a already Rich Dude? Some of these topics are so important they deserve their own webpage?
mortyseinfeld 1 day ago 0 replies      
This story reminded me of the Boston bombing and it's "lockdown" (read martial law). Didn't Boston have one of these APCs roaming the streets during its martial law. In that case it's really a show of force against the "civilian" population than to catch terrorists.

Why the hell does Ohio State need an MRAP. Are they going to actually tell us that the terrorists might roll in with tanks or APCs. Or maybe the terrorists will be running around with APCs in full combat? No.

Geez, is anybody even questioning these clowns about these acquisitions.

VonGuard 1 day ago 1 reply      
Appropriate, seeing as how Kent State is in Ohio, too. Clearly, they learned their lessons in Ohio: shoot students first, ask questions later.
CurtMonash 1 day ago 1 reply      
"If you didn't do anything wrong, you have nothing to fear (at least from the cops)" is looking stupider every day.
ericthor 1 day ago 0 replies      
>in an era of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and mass killings in schools, police agencies need to be ready for whatever comes their way..."

There has always been terrorism in the United States.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism_in_the_United_States

As well as mass shootings.http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-m...

This current "era" isn't defined by the number or scale of these tragedies but by institutions' and the public's reaction to them. If we want to protect the lives and welfare of the average U.S. citizen our money and efforts would be better spent tackling some of the less newsworthy health issues.


Also the time frame of the Sandy Hook Shooting was extremely brief. The shooter was believed to enter the school around 9:30 the first 911 call was made at 9:35 and the last shot heard was at 9:40 and the police enter at 9:44. The MRAP and other military artillery obviously wouldn't have made a difference due to time frame of the tragedy.

mortyseinfeld 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is probably more of "If we scare people by throwing around the terrorist word then we get to spend money, have cool new toys, and look badass".

It's pathetic, but it seems to work.

DanielBMarkham 1 day ago 4 replies      
One of the underpinnings of the U.S. Constitution is the Bill Of Rights, one of which states "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

People go bouncing off the wall around this issue as if it were one having solely to do with owning guns, but the real purpose is arranging the real power in the government. The people reserve and are ultimately responsible for the use of lethal force in the United States. They can delegate that power to the government for certain things, like a defense department or law enforcement, but at the end of the day, it's everybody carrying guns that are responsible for social order. At least that's the way it was set up.

As we've drifted away from that principle, by assigning more and more powers to the defense department and police agencies, (gun control is part of this but not the only part), those folks have quite naturally started viewing themselves as the privileged few to hold the power to make things go boom. Then we got rid of the volunteer military, further separating the mass of the population from the things carrying lethal force.

So nowadays, if you want to become a specialist in the application of power tools to destroy people and things, you pick one of a few different career paths and become one of the chosen few. This is a VERY recent development. Not 50 years ago it was commonplace to know people who could operate machine guns, explosives, and drive tanks around. To those folks, cops were just another working Joe like them except they wore a badge. On the other side, cops viewed the population as a trained asset to have and use in time of crisis. It was not unusual to consider gathering up as many armed men as necessary from an area to conduct police operations.

But the professionals got involved, and having that kind of power was viewed as a terribly complicated responsibility that the average guy couldn't handle. This created a wall in society. On both sides now, it's us against them. We need MRAPS because, hell, anything can happen, and there's just a few of us cops in this county. We are no longer all in it together. It's not like if AQ comes knocking we can knock on doors and ask for help.

This is a self-fulfilling feedback loop: as the police arm themselves more and more with special gear, the average person really can't operate it. So even more specialized training is required. Same goes for military gear, where this divide originated.

I would suggest that what we need is some sort of ready reserve system where everybody is trained at reaching 18 on how to safely use most all common forms of police and military gear. I'd further suggest that local police departments be required to have a certain percentage of their patrols as civilian ride-alongs.

There are a lot of things that can be done here, and we don't have to argue gun control to make progress. But I think we do need an understanding of how we got here in the first place. This is a trend that has been a long time coming. The War On Terror just exacerbated it.

CalRobert 1 day ago 3 replies      
Surprised this didn't get any comments. It's a good reason to leave (or not move to) the US, or increasingly, the UK.
api 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is a common way that a totalitarian state can be implemented on top of an apparent democratic republic: pass so many laws (and contradictory / complex laws) that anyone can be found guilty of something, then enforce the law selectively.
whiddershins 1 day ago 0 replies      
What's striking is the correlation between excessive police tactics and enforcement of victimless crimes.

From a right libertarian point of view, it is the government's responsibility to protect your rights, not to protect you.

From a left libertarian point of view, it is the government's responsibility to demonstrate that the good of enforcing a law outweighs the loss of individual freedom and other harm of enforcing it.

Drugs, immigration, fail those tests. Many sex crimes fail those tests. Seatbelt laws probably fail.

The police have to be so aggressive about these things because they never lent themselves to enforcement in the first place.

snake_plissken 1 day ago 0 replies      
I just find it so incredible that a hospital can bill you for a rectal cavity search ordered by police/judge. Honestly I think my mind is experiencing some sort of race condition as I try to pick a word that accurately describes my incredulity about this. Ughhhhhh
memracom 1 day ago 1 reply      
Americans really should learn more about the Soviet KGB and its predecessor, the NKVD, and how they ran a campaign of terror against citizens who did little more than have a different opinion of how the country should be run. Because now that America no longer compares itself to the Soviet Union, this is the kind of police state that is being constructed in the USA.

Meanwhile, in Russia, the place where the Soviet system used to be, they have moved in the opposite direction and dismantled most of the police state. In Russia people have more personal freedoms with respect to the state than they do in the USA. Of course one unfortunate side effect of so much freedom is that there was a great increase in corruption and the growth of the oligarchs after the fall of the Soviet Union. But Russia is dealing with this step by step, reducing corruption and reigning in the oligarchs. Their ideal seems to be the USA of the 1960s or 70s, but not the USA of today.

acuozzo 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is AMAZING! We're getting closer and closer to a cyberpunk society (unfortunately, authoritarianism is necessary, but not sufficient for this). Soon it'll be like Escape From L.A. or Snow Crash or Neuromancer!

I can't wait to stroll down the streets of Chiba like Case.

I can't wait to hack around in the Metaverse like Hiro.

I can't wait to explore the underbelly of prison-islands like Snake.

We just need a bit more authoritarianism, some advanced cybernetic implants, and just enough unrest for a Modern Wild West to be born.

Does anyone else plan on coming along for the ride?


andy_ppp 12 hours ago 0 replies      
We are living in an extreme, high tech, highly theatrical version of The Wire; one in which you can't trust your government, the law, the police and you can guarantee they are watching you.

Turns out that any laws that have loop holes will be abused and everyone is guilty. This is the definition of tyranny.

Digit-Al 10 hours ago 0 replies      
To me, as an English person looking at America through the prism of the news, and articles such as this, it looks more and more like the American state is a rogue element beset by paranoia, increasingly lacking trust not only in the world at large, but also in its own citizens.

Do any of you American citizens out there have the same opinion of your government?

rglover 1 day ago 2 replies      
Here's what I don't understand: what is the ultimate goal of this newfound desire to police everything? The obvious answer is control over people en mass, but say that happens...then what?

Articles like this (which I'm glad are being written) point out the flaws and injustice in the system, but don't discuss the presumed results "those in control" are looking to achieve by manipulating it.

From what I understand, the desired result is to minimize the autonomy of the general public and funnel the bulk of money, control, and power into the hands of a national elite. What happens next (an honest question, as I have some semi-paranoid theories but am curious to hear from someone who is a bit more educated on the topic)?

hobb0001 1 day ago 0 replies      
The largest problem that I see with the militarization of the local police is that they will increasingly start to view themselves as soldiers. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment)
mcantelon 1 day ago 0 replies      
The post-911 federal gov has been directing resources towards building a domestic counter-insurgency apparatus and promoting a culture in law enforcement conducive to their inclusion in it. You don't spend over a decade building something without a reason. So what's the reason? Needless to say, if the founding fathers were around today they'd be pondering a strategy to resist it.
300bps 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is a continuation of the military industrial complex. There aren't enough wars, but companies that supply the military still need to make money. So they make so much equipment that the DoD needs to give their completely usable equipment away for free.

This page should make any U.S. taxpayer sick and any non-U.S. citizen worried:


afterburner 1 day ago 1 reply      
I generally agree with the article, but I object to this section:

"And the mood is spreading. Take the asset bubble collapse of 2008 and the rising cries of progressives for the criminal prosecution of Wall Street perpetrators, as if a fundamentally sound financial system had been abused by a small number of criminals who were running free after the debacle. Instead of pushing a debate about how to restructure our predatory financial system, liberals in their focus on individual prosecution are aping the punitive zeal of the authoritarians. A few high-profile prosecutions for insider trading (which had nothing to do with the last crash) have, of course, not changed Wall Street one bit."

I think that the self-serving, damaging actions of those with a lot of power that affected the entire world's economy is worth looking into at least some prosecution, it's hardly in the same league as what happened to three innocent teenagers waiting for a bus. And if insider trading isn't related to the last crash, then of course prosecuting it isn't going to change anything.

ilaksh 1 day ago 0 replies      
Please see historical and global context related to 'police-state' and despotism in order to understand the significance of these issues. You will need to set aside your American exceptionalism.

I do have an issue with the article though. My middle school did have quite a few young criminals in it, and a zero-tolerance policy would have been beneficial for everyone. Instead, quite a lot of physical violence and theft was dismissed as 'bullying' which resulted in escalation. I know for a fact that many of the students who misbehaved in less extreme criminal ways (and were allowed to get away with it) did enter into a life of crime before they were halfway through high school.

So there is a difference between militarization and despotic control and disciplining students enough to prevent them from becoming criminals.

I think that rather than worrying about harsh penalties for vandalism etc., take issue with the propaganda being fed to students and the lack of focus on problem solving outside of narrow domains.

applecore 9 hours ago 0 replies      
The re-criminalization of everyday lifeprivacy may be an anomaly.
analog31 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'd love to study how long it takes the tanks to fall into disuse, to the point of being inoperable, simply because police departments will lose interest in them, neglect maintenance, forget where all of the pieces are, fail to find suppliers for spares, etc.
0xdeadbeefbabe 1 day ago 1 reply      
At least the 113th congress didn't create many new laws. No SOPA, PIPA, or COICA yet either.
timbro 1 day ago 1 reply      
> Sheriff Bud York suggested, according to the Post-Star, the local newspaper, that in an era of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and mass killings in schools, police agencies need to be ready for whatever comes their way...

And in reality, they're just preparing for social unrest that seem more likely by the day.

foxhop 1 day ago 1 reply      
csours 1 day ago 0 replies      
This can only stop when the epithet "Weak on Crime" no longer has power in politics.
brooklynjam 21 hours ago 0 replies      
My family came on boat number 2 after the Mayflower. For the first time in my life, it may be time to checkout of the USA for awhile. Maybe it is time? Can always visit, but maybe this is it. This is just insane at this point.
squozzer 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would say this is a symptom that could be explained by Turchin's structural-demographic theory -- that is, increasing competition for resources (including political power) produces measures that even in earlier, more violent periods might have been considered too drastic.
vfclists 1 day ago 0 replies      
The usual internet twaddle. How many commenters on this thread have bothered to look up incidents of this nature in their districts, neighbourhoods or whatever, and called their councilman or congressman?

I guarantee none. Spend less time online and more complaining to your representatives. You will achieve a lot more in turning things around, ie if you really want to, cowards.

jsiarto 1 day ago 0 replies      
JoeAltmaier 1 day ago 3 replies      
The 'good old days' had drug dealers and violence, don't kid yourself. It got covered up and ignored.

What is a police dept to do, when the crimes are escalating? Its simple to chide Warren County (or whoever); but who are you to say the next bombing or public rage will not occur there? The others were in similar places; no place is safe.

Uruguay legalises production and sale of cannabis theguardian.com
451 points by wslh  1 day ago   307 comments top 29
pstuart 1 day ago 10 replies      
It feels like we're just about at the tipping point with cannabis. Once enough states in the US legalize it, the Feds will have to back down.

The next step will be for people to wake up to the fact that harder drugs need to be legal too. Not so that more people can take them, but so we can have less crime and eliminate a key justification for the growing police state.

chimeracoder 1 day ago 4 replies      
Until today, the only places in the world where marijuana was legal are two states in the US (Colorado and Washington)[0], and the entire country of North Korea[1].

Other jurisdictions have decriminalized marijuana, but most of us haven't seen the legal sale of recreational marijuana in our lifetimes (in the US, it was all-but-illegal since 1937, and truly illegal since 1970 - there were only 6 months in 1969 during which there were technically no laws prohibiting its sale).

These are exciting times we live in.

[0] Technically these haven't gone into effect yet, but I'm still counting them.

[1] Surprising, but (as far as we can tell) true. Less surprising when you consider that exports of drugs that need to be engineered (like methamphetamine) are one of North Korea's biggest sources of foreign currency.

vezzy-fnord 21 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised there's still people who are so concerned with punishing people for putting things in their body. Many of these things actually being present in over-the-counter medicines.

Also I despise it when people treat alcohol and tobacco as distinct from "drugs". Illicit drugs, yes.

bitsoda 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Al Jazeera English posted a really good interview with Uruguay's president, Jose Mujica. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it.


stplsd 18 hours ago 1 reply      
It is a shame that all legalization efforts goes to cannabis - the drug that causes the least problems by being illegal.

What we really need is to legalize "hard drugs"[1] - heroin, methamphetamine. These drugs cause the most harm by being illegal and it is a shame, because, for example, pure heroin is gentle and harmless drug.

Too bad I am not see this happening in the next 100 years. But I am sure that it will happen eventually. Future generations will see the "war on drugs" the same we see slavery today.

[1] "hard drugs" is meaningless term

cfontes 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Uruguai's president, Jos Mujica is a truly unique old man.

He is a very interesting Character. I advise everybody to learn a bit about him and his way of leading the country.

Put that aside I think that way of working one works on small Countries or Cities with small populations.

stplsd 18 hours ago 0 replies      
"Why is the drug czar of this country - Well, lets go back. Why do we have a drug czar in this country, a)? b) Why is he a cop? Why isnt he a guy in recovery, whos had alcohol and/or drug addiction and overcome it? And why doesnt he help people with the same problem with compassion rather than condemnation? Why do we put people who are on drugs in jail? Theyre sick. Theyre not criminals. Sick people dont get healed in jail. See, it makes no sense."

-- Bill Hicks

alexeisadeski3 1 day ago 2 replies      
Uraguay is actually the second current nation to legalize this. North Korea being the first. Cannabis is not regulated as a drug at all in North Korea.
andyl 23 hours ago 9 replies      
I've got addicts and alcoholics in my family. My cousin died from overdose. I've got close friends who killed themselves with drink. Lots of you do too.

Exciting times? IMHO, the last thing we should celebrate is new ways to get a buzz on.

There should be more discussion about how to minimize the incredible damage caused by drugs and alcohol.

jusben1369 23 hours ago 3 replies      
What's so interesting here is that here's a government implementing this against the will of the majority of its people. That's pretty rare period/full stop. Fascinating here. True visionary bold leadership or blatant disregard for democracy.
smtddr 1 day ago 2 replies      
I can't wait for the results of this to come out so I can use it in debates with people who are against legalization. I'm almost certain Uruguay will be better off for this. The resources involved in trying to suppress cannabis is ridiculous; especially for a substance that doesn't even do as much harm to society as some other things that are perfectly legal.
blah32497 1 day ago 5 replies      
I'm all for legalization, but my concern would be that now gangs will grow pot in Uruguay to export to neighboring countries. This may spark turf wars and the like...

Given the limits on how much you can buy at have, hopefully they can still tackle large operations

EDIT: Let me expand, because I think people are missing the point. There are drug gangs in the region that grow pot. After this law comes in to effect it suddenly becomes easier to do business in Uruguay. Wouldn't that be an incentive to move shop to Uruguay? It seems like if all the local countries don't sign up, then you're signing yourself up for trouble.

beloch 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Up in B.C., I'd appreciate legalization with a "gondola" provision. i.e. Cannabis would be legal, but if somebody insists on lighting up on a ski gondola I'm going to be stuck in for the next ten minutes, I'm allowed to toss him out if there's a nice soft snow-bank to aim for.
bigsassy 13 hours ago 0 replies      
This is somewhat relevant. One of the candidates for Governor is Maryland, Heather Mizeur, is running on legalizing cannabis. You can see her discuss it here:


waingake 23 hours ago 2 replies      
I suspect that nearly everyone here will be of the opinion that this is a good idea. If you are up for an alternative ( and yes I know, oh so unfashionable ) point of view, then I recommend watching this.


Its a fascinating and well put argument by Peter Hitchens that legalisation isn't beneficial to society. Yes imagine that.

fiorix 1 day ago 1 reply      
I like the quote from Uruguai's president, Jos Mujica: We just regulated an existing market.
ck2 11 hours ago 0 replies      
BTW you can also marry whomever you want in Uraguay too, so they are way ahead of the USA in many other more important ways.

Would be really strange if national legalization of recreational drugs is legalized first before being able to marry whomever you love.

almosnow 20 hours ago 2 replies      
Legal drugs != less crime...

On one hand, yeah sure, some people won't end up in jail for buying/selling/consuming drugs but those are just like little drops in the sea.

The sea is actually the major criminal organizations that are perpetually conflicting with each other in order to maximize their particular profits. A situation where the demand becomes bigger (because it's not illegal anymore) will only put more fuel onto their war.

And yeah, you would say 'it was the same way with alcohol'; NO it wasn't. That was a problem of a very different society at a very different time; to put that on perspective: when have you heard of ENTIRE countries employing practically everyone (even children) to grow, launder and even murder for the business?

ioddly 17 hours ago 0 replies      
It's a little depressing how relatively radical the attitude of the legislators in the article is. It's not that they think this is 100% absolutely going to work. It's just that they realize what they're doing now isn't working and they need to change it and see if they can get better results.
aaaahhhhh 19 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm always surprised to see people arguing against legalization of any recreational substance.

If this is your stance, I'm curious, how old are you? (serious question)

gclaramunt 1 day ago 2 replies      
My bet is just a lab test for Monsanto's GM cannabis. We're already a big exporter of GM soy
nwatson 23 hours ago 0 replies      
A side effect: the sale of the tasty "chivito al plato" will soar (look it up).
jollyjoe88 9 hours ago 0 replies      
This changes everything. But we're yet to find out whether the US govt will follow this precedent.
redxblood 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Ha, i'm from uruguay and i'm reading about it here.Go local news.
anoncow 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Stop downvoting posts you don't agree with.
alexhutcheson 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of this interesting 2009 essay from Steve Yegge about the complexity of legalizing marijuana: http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2009/04/have-you-ever-legali...
squozzer 21 hours ago 0 replies      
US invasion imminent.
thesimpsons1022 23 hours ago 0 replies      
see weed is bad. it turns you into north korea.
oakaz 21 hours ago 3 replies      

See the heroin addicted family photo first, then make your freedom speeches.

Governments admit to faking terrorism: a list ritholtz.com
418 points by marojejian  2 days ago   132 comments top 44
rdtsc 2 days ago 3 replies      
This is a tried and true tactic. It would take extensive use of brainwashing and belief in fairy tales about an enlightened government, a city on hill exceptional-ism or what-have-you to think these don't happen. However, this level of brainwashing is achieved in US quite often. It is a lot worse vis-a-vis the rhetoric of independence, free thinking, individualism. But that in an of itself (this belief that we are no brainwashed) is also a result of brainwashing.

The issue is quite subtle and there are a few factors at play. One is the basic need to believe their "team" is a good team. This works with the brainwashing. "Teams", "us vs them" is ingrained in our tribal brains. We want to think our team is the winning team. We are better, special, not like "those others".

It is really working against the flow when attempting to show our citizens that "yes, our country has done these horrible things to others". They is an irrational immune response against it, they have been believing their family/their team they've rooted for now has a dark secret, its past marred in shameful things. They have been telling others, their kids, and themselves how great our country is, and now look! -- a total reversal, "what, have I been living in a fantasy world all this time?" kind of bewilderment. So instead of exposing and handling the hard truth, it is easy to bury it, stick fingers in the ears and say "la-la-la, I am not hearing you, ..."

This also is interesting because it kind of explains what happens in the brains of many who work for CIA, NSA and other such agencies. They are supposedly hired for their exceptional patriotism. Now sometimes it backfires, because they realize what they have to do in their jobs contradicts the high idealized patriotic beliefs of what this country is about. So there is Snowden, he is one of them. What about others?

There was an article just yesterday about how "Morale at NSA is low after the leaks". Hmm, it is low. Why is it low?. Good to explore. Did many realize they have been playing for the bad guys all this time? Or do they just feel angry about one of their team members "betraying" the team and they don't see anything wrong at all with what they do. To keep their nice govt job are they forced to believe one thing in their heads ("this fucking contradicts what our Constitution is all about!"), and profess another thing at work publicly. Much like North Koreans perhaps. Cry with happiness when "Dear Leader" drives, but curse his guts in their head? Who knows.

Another way to look at it is from a psychopathic, practical aspect. Do people just acknowledge the situation for what it is and say "yes we are bad and we love it". "We conducted these attacks? Great! Let us do more. If it means a blowing up a few civilians so be it." I can image many at the top operate on this principle.

akjj 2 days ago 2 replies      
This list is quite confused and several of the examples are not false flag operations. As Wikipedia's definition says, it has to be carried out with the purpose of pinning blame on another group and tarnishing their reputation.

> Although the FBI now admits that the 2001 anthrax attacks were carried out by one or more U.S. government scientists, a senior FBI official says that the FBI was actually told to blame the Anthrax attacks on Al Qaeda by White House officials.

Is the author suggesting that the US government in fact organized the anthrax letters? That's a long stretch from the evidence that the letters were sent by a government employee. It's unfortunate that the government would try to blame al Qaeda, but it's just opportunistic dishonesty since they didn't plan the attack.

> Former Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo suggested in 2005 that the US should go on the offensive against al-Qaeda, having our intelligence agencies create a false terrorist organization."

This seems to be taken from an op-ed, which is a pretty terrible place to plan a false flag operation if you think about it. Yoo seems to be suggesting disrupting al Qaeda through disinformation, but I guess the name leads people to assume that something more evil must be going on.

> U.S. intelligence officers are reporting that some of the insurgents in Iraq are using recent-model Beretta 92 pistols, but the pistols seem to have had their serial numbers erased. ... Analysts speculate that agent provocateurs may be using the untraceable weapons even as U.S. authorities use insurgent attacks against civilians as evidence of the illegitimacy of the resistance.

Pretty speculative and doesn't fall under the category of "government admissions." In any case, even if true, it's questionable whether it's qualifies as a false flag operation.

> A Colombian army colonel has admitted that his unit murdered 57 civilians, then dressed them in uniforms and claimed they were rebels killed in combat

War crime, followed by cover-up. Not false flag.

> U.S. soldiers have admitted that if they kill innocent Iraqis and Afghanis, they then drop automatic weapons near their body so they can pretend they were militants.

Same as previous.

> The highly-respected writer for the Telegraph Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says that the head of Saudi intelligence Prince Bandar admitted last the Saudi government controls Chechen terrorists.

I don't even understand how this could be confused with a false flag. Just a threat of using a proxy force, and who knows if it's true.

Then to further confuse things the author defines "false flag terrorism" as "a government attacking its own people, then blaming others in order to justify going to war against the people it blames." I don't know why the author includes "its own people" and that the purpose must be to start a war, because neither of those appears in the Wikipedia definition and each is violated by several of his examples. But it just goes to show the sloppy thinking that went into putting together this list.

Look, many of these incidents were despicable and those responsible deserve to be called out, but the list is such a mixed bag of actual violence, planned violence, or speculation of planned violence, sometimes by the military, sometimes by police forces, sometimes by radicals. I don't see what the message is supposed to be by listing all of these together.

rtpg 2 days ago 1 reply      
A lot of people's jobs in the military is to come up with plans like these. The point is that we're not actually doing them most of the time.

The fact that a US senator once proposed a false flag does not make this official US policy. If we had to take everything every member of congress said as scripture, we'd have bombed every country in the world by now.

There are a lot of disturbing stuff in this list, but the false equivalency between putting a weapon down next to an afghan civilian after being (most likely) accidentally killed (despicable, but not always likely they went in with a plan to kill civilians) and actively killing your own people just so you can say it was some militants (an actual campaign involving planning and whatnot) is preposterous

Creating a fake terrorist organisation to mess with the heads of the real ones doesn't seem like an issue in itself, and there's a pretty big line to cross between fake training camps and real bombs.

Also, the notion that a country is funding terrorism in another country is not exactly a novel one.

It's unfortunate because there are a lot of real issues, but some people who cover these issues try so hard to find all these issues with US policy (of which there are many), that they try to equate some offhand remark of a senator with years-long operations involving framing and murdering innocents with express political goals.

>As reported by BBC, the New York Times, and Associated Press, Macedonian officials admit that the government murdered 7 innocent immigrants in cold blood and pretended that they were Al Qaeda soldiers attempting to assassinate Macedonian police, in order to join the war on terror.

This one is beyond bizarre.

revelation 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's really just the tip of the iceberg. How many "terrorists" has the FBI arrested where the FBI delivered the plan, the motivation, contacts and most importantly, the explosives?

They are actively fabricating terrorist plots.

recuter 2 days ago 5 replies      
It is actually incredibly easy to see how smart people tasked with solving complicated societal problems arrive at false flag operations as a viable solution:

Imagine you have a credible imminent threat to your society posted by a danger to which the society is not familiar enough with to fully grasp and take seriously.

Do you wait for the threat to play out and take your chances with the society sufficiently changing its attitude towards it in time? Or do you galvanize things with a false flag operation that will cause less damage than the real threat but induce the much needed urgent action against it? Almost like a vaccine. Innocent people will die either way.

It is incredibly paternalistic in a way, and a morally gray area. Ultimately it is a lack of faith in the people the operation is trying to protect, a lot of times it is flat out wrong or backfires in unpredictable and uncontrollable ways - for example Iran.

And yet. And yet, not always. And when it works you'll never hear about it.

Thought exercise: You are a marine biologist who has become convinced that over fishing is about to cause a sudden, sharp, and potentially irreversible collapse in the sea food supply. Millions will starve. But meanwhile tuna cans remain cheap and abundant in supermarkets across the world.

This is a long standing serious issue but now it is coming to a head, do you wait for the crisis to unfold and hope international politics find a way to avoid it in time or..?

smtddr 2 days ago 0 replies      
From the article:

>>"As admitted by the U.S. government, recently declassified documents show that in the 1960s, the American Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on a plan to blow up AMERICAN airplanes (using an elaborate plan involving the switching of airplanes), and also to commit terrorist acts on American soil, and then to blame it on the Cubans in order to justify an invasion of Cuba. See the following ABC news report; the official documents; and watch this interview with the former Washington Investigative Producer for ABCs World News Tonight with Peter Jennings."

I know I'll be 65+ years old; retired in a Nigerian village eating some Obe Ata Dindin. Suddenly someone is going to show me a breaking-news article about the real truth of 9/11. Based on this, I see it takes about 55 years before the truth comes out. Anytime you read something about seemingly insane 9/11 truthers talk, keep this bit of info in the back of your mind and consider that they just might be right...

wahsd 2 days ago 1 reply      
Isn't the whole Iraq war a false flag act of terrorism? Accepting that the 9/11 attack was executed by those purported to have done so, and even if you accept that all the knowledge of the preparation and planning for the act was overlooked and filled with institutional incompetence and failure; using one act as a justification for action of a totally different nature and rationale is just that.

Was it really just opportune that 9/11 happened to justify the Iraq war? I mean, there is an audio recording of Wolfowitz proclaiming how 9/11 should be used and is an opportunity to rationalize an attack on Iraq?

angersock 2 days ago 2 replies      
And yet, one might wonder: who is it that benefits most from these stories on .gov and .mil doing these distasteful things?

As much as I'd love to believe that we've all spontaneously awoken to our governments being underhanded, I cannot help but wonder if it's as organic as we'd believe.

jgh 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is something that is really starting to bother me:More and more websites are doing this thing (on tabets such as the nexus 7 I'm on now) where they load most of the way in a second or two, and then some loading screen pops up and I have to wait 15-20 more seconds for some god-awful "mobile" paginated monstrosity that is slower and harder to read than the desktop site.

Can we stop that please? Just...stop.

mercurial 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's a bit of a mixed bag. The Columbian think wasn't a politically motivated false flag operation, for instance, it was murder for financial gain.
transfire 2 days ago 0 replies      
* Bombing of the golden mosque

* Assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists

* Stuxnet

* Smuggling rocket launchers into Gaza

* Gulf of Tonkin

* Assassination of JFK

* Oil Embargo on Japan

* Selling arms to Iraq

* Iran-contra

* 9/11

Tip of the iceberg.

marojejian 2 days ago 2 replies      
I generally find this blogger too alarmist, but much of the list here appears accurate, and shocking to me. Faked terrorism seems much more common than I would guess. Of course, the more liberal/democratic the country, and the more recent, the more weak/stetched the case is.

but still, the lesson to me is that this sort of "conspiracy" is not at all implausible, even in a country like Canada....

baby 2 days ago 3 replies      
I don't see the recent "secret weapons" in Iraq thing.
hop 2 days ago 0 replies      
That Onswipe plugin is so annoying on iOS.
oelmekki 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm shocked by the amount of comments here saying things like "they didn't planned to kill, they just took advantage of it" or "they planned it but didn't do it", so it's ok. It's not ok, it's miscreant attitude that demonstrates poor human skills.

I want to be represented by people with high human skills. Call me an idealistic if you want, it's ok for me in a world where vice is common place. Any way, we can't do anything great if we don't expect much of ourselves.

coldcode 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think most of us have come to believe that governments themselves are better terrorists than the real ones.
joelrunyon 1 day ago 0 replies      
> People are slowly waking up to this whole con job by governments who want to justify war.

More people are talking about the phrase false flag than ever before.

Here's an interesting google trends graph of the phrase over time - http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=false%20flag

atlantic 2 days ago 2 replies      
Considering things in this perspective, is it so far-fetched to at least consider the possibility that 9/11 was a false-flag attack?
jotm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah, we've known about these tactics for decades. I wouldn't be surprised if 50 years from now, 9/11 is also revealed to have been a false flag operation.
vxNsr 21 hours ago 0 replies      
My only problem is with this one:

>Undercover Israeli soldiers admitted in 2005 to throwing stones at other Israeli soldiers so they could blame it on Palestinians, as an excuse to crack down on peaceful protests by the Palestinians

2005 was the height of the 2nd intifada, there were nearly daily suicide bombings in Israel there was no need for excuses and undercover agents. Also the source basically says that the soldiers were originally supposed to work undercover and locate the organizers to be arrested (quality arrests, say what you want about that...) but as things appeared to get out of control the undercover agents (who were first timers) took matters into their own hands.

avaku 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would like to say that the Russian apartment bombings, although not officially proven to originate from the government, upon thorough investigation appear to have a very significant probability of being an actual brutal false flag. In addition to the available facts and possible motives, one can also consider that all serious journalists investigating this in Russia, and several KGB whistleblowers, have been assassinated.
hosh 2 days ago 0 replies      
FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.

False flags are symptoms of a deeper problem. The root problem is that we want war to be justified, because we want to be the good guys. War is unjustified, period, even when you think you are doing the right thing -- it is this that a lot of people have moral problems with Ender's Game.

kelvin0 2 days ago 0 replies      
This article is very 'unpatriotic' ... I don't think normal god fearing individuals with so much power would even think to do these horrible things.

Time for my 'delusion' pills ... ;)

hadronzoo 2 days ago 0 replies      
A series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/01/13/false_flag
cafard 2 days ago 1 reply      
One could add the Marco Polo Bridge incident. Under inadvertent stuff one could add the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
esw 2 days ago 0 replies      
gremlinsinc 2 days ago 4 replies      
Not really surprising, but how do we stop it? Can it be stopped, or is corruption in government, just something we're forced to live with forever?
phaer 1 day ago 0 replies      
I personally think that the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_1980_Bologna_bombing should be part of that list.
lazyjones 2 days ago 0 replies      
That's an impressive list, but far from complete. Here's a famous false flag operation in post-Nazi Germany for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celle_Hole
amerika_blog 1 day ago 0 replies      
Government is the enemy.

That means no wealth redistribution.

Can the internet balance these two?

jstrate 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wonder what this list would look like in comparison with a list of legitimate acts of terrorism. Hint: it would look pretty insignificant.
koushikn 2 days ago 0 replies      
I thought the basic idea was documented clearly in 1984
JoeAltmaier 2 days ago 1 reply      
Not to diminish the issue, but many items were not 'governments' but rather members of govt covering up errors.
tiagobraw 1 day ago 0 replies      
In the recent Brazilian protests, infiltrated undercover policemen made several violent actions as an excuse to lower the credibility of peaceful protests.
microcolonel 2 days ago 0 replies      
Blowing up consulates... sounds really familiar...
squozzer 2 days ago 0 replies      
The problem with distinguishing agents provocateur from real terrorists lies in the proof. Enough real terrorists / revolutionaries / gangsters exist that one cannot assume governments acting as the sole generator. And reasonable people do not - or at least should not - act solely on suspicion.

Leakers might provide a solution, but a lot of conspiracies are very small and tightly-bound. And one cannot discount the possibility of the leak - or the leaker, e.g. Snowden - being discredited.

I would also add that the decentralized command-and-control model of terrorist organizations (i.e. cells) allows outside organizations to hijack cells for their own ends, at least temporarily. With no higher-ups actually giving orders, who can really determine the source of a particular objective?

dustingetz 1 day ago 0 replies      
looks like a nash equilibrium to me!
tslathrow 2 days ago 1 reply      
Just FYI ritholtz is a complete fake... tried to build a brand out of working as a strategist at a bombed out bank.

Not saying that his articles are invalid, just that he is a serial marketer with little in terms of relevant credentials.

known 1 day ago 0 replies      
A terrorist is a freedom fighter who isn't on your side.
evolve2k 2 days ago 2 replies      
So frustrating this site is unreadable on the iPhone.
rthomas6 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is this on-topic for HN?
robobro 2 days ago 1 reply      
loving the fake Hitler quote
rooshdi 2 days ago 0 replies      
Old news.
Edward Snowden voted Guardian person of the year 2013 theguardian.com
392 points by r0h1n  2 days ago   89 comments top 11
F_J_H 2 days ago 5 replies      
I've been offline for a bit. Has anyone made the point that Edward Snowden is today's Nelson Mandela?

I'm recalling a conversation I had with someone born and raised in South Africa, who said Mandela was in jail for a reason as he was a terrorist who broke the law, (which of course has been much discussed recently). Someone else chimed in something like "it's different when you break laws to right an injustice..."

It's a complex issue, and I'd be surprised if someone hasn't already made the connection.

Edit: clarity

thearn4 2 days ago 4 replies      
The difference in public perception between Snowden and Bradley Manning is interesting. Is it because of the nature of the information leaked? Is it because Snowden got away, and some folks like to root for an underdog?
smackfu 2 days ago 0 replies      
The voting method was "leave a comment on a story listing the nominees." Only 2000 votes for something like this, on the internet, seems a bit silly.
aet 2 days ago 5 replies      
How much money has The Guardian made off Edward Snowden?
dav-id 2 days ago 2 replies      
Is it surprising really? This guy has given them a dump of documents that they are milking for every penny its worth.
ChuckMcM 2 days ago 0 replies      
It will be interesting if a US based publication does the same. To do so would be to show a strong disregard for the officially supported narrative. People forget the complexities of emotions during the time of crisis when they look back through the lens of hindsight favorably.

If we can sustain the anger long enough to get durable change, Edward will be able to rightfully take some credit for that.

gremlinsinc 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think I'll run for President in 2016 on my platform will be to honor Edward Snowden as a hero, not enemy of state - give a full pardon, and bring him on as a security reform advisor. That + guaranteed basic income - and flat sales tax that fluctuates to pay for everything - and get rid of a lot of the red-tape in congress. -- Our laws need a big red marker, and some duct-tape to make sense in a 2.0 world.
level09 2 days ago 5 replies      
I'm really surprised Elon Musk only got 11 votes.
jheriko 2 days ago 2 replies      
i'm sure they are very grateful for all the attention and paper sales he has provided them...

maybe they could dump out all the revelations in one go instead of drip feeding us? or just make the information public?

although to be fair - he has certainly shaped the year's news stories for a good reason. he has enlightened many who were previously naive.

cfontes 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks to us? maybe?
Theodores 2 days ago 3 replies      
This is silly. What about Lewis Hamilton and his successful move to the Mercedes Formula One team? He risked life and limb to win points. He is a true hero. This Snowden bloke simply sent some stolen documents to a Guardian journalist before hiding like a coward.

I don't feel awards are right unless they are full of evil wrong doers spiced up with a few populist entries. Hopefully Time magazine will have Feinstein win their Person of the Year award. Then order in the universe will be restored.

Peter Higgs: I wouldn't be productive enough for today's academic system theguardian.com
377 points by sampo  5 days ago   194 comments top 19
ChristianMarks 4 days ago 9 replies      
Higgs isn't alone in remarking that he would not have had the time today to conduct the kind of work he did in the 1960s. Brian Greene has remarked that todays grant-driven academia would not have allowed Einstein the luxury of a decade in which to develop his General Theory of Relativity.

Eric Weinstein wrote that, "We have spent the last decades inhibiting such socially marginal individuals or chasing them to drop out of our research enterprise and into startups and hedge funds. As a result our universities are increasingly populated by the over-vetted specialist to become the dreaded centers of excellence that infantilize and uniformize the promising minds of greatest agency." [1]

Weinstein's "deviants and delinquents" include "von Neumann [skirt chasing], Gamow [hard drinking], Shockley [bigoted], Watson [misogynistic], Einstein [childish], Curie [slutty], Smale [lazy], Oppenheimer [politically treacherous], Crick [incompetent], Ehrenfest [murderous], Lang [meddlesome], Teller [monstrous] and Grothendieck [mentally unstable]."

Higgs's observation suggests that the systematic stamping out of non-conscientious non-conformists is a byproduct of over-scheduling them. (Scheduling has to be considered independently of effort, ability and experience. [2]) Weinstein's deviants benefited from a historical period during which they had sufficient time and freedom to pursue their greatest work (von Neumann, who didn't need any time, is an exception).

But I imagine that time is a luxury even for the deviants and delinquents who find themselves displaced from academia into startups. So what is really needed is a startup culture that provides for years of uninterrupted development and focus. (Not to mention a hiring process that actively selects for displaced deviants, but that's another post.)

[1] http://www.edge.org/responses/q2013 Edge 2013 : WHAT SHOULD WE BE WORRIED ABOUT?

[2] http://www.nber.org/papers/w16502 Don't Spread Yourself Too Thin: The Impact of Task Juggling on Workers' Speed of Job Completion. Decio Coviello, Andrea Ichino, Nicola Persico. NBER Working Paper No. 16502

paul 5 days ago 3 replies      
I feel like the inability to focus for long periods of time is holding back progress in many areas. If we can't even stay away from email for a few days, how can we clear our minds of conventional thinking?
Systemic33 5 days ago 6 replies      
I loved the ending:"He has never been tempted to buy a television, but was persuaded to watch The Big Bang Theory last year, and said he wasn't impressed."

The show is despite what some think, not a celebration of science, but a ridicule of science, and takes the stereotypes to new levels.

Edit: I also watch the show, but as the article that GuiA links to mentions, the show wnats you to laugh at the nerds, and not the actual jokes they make.You could argue its a Star Trek vs. Star Wars kinda thing, but i personally liked Community far more, because it really captured the fun in being nerdy, and didn't put nerds in one big collective box.

PS. I don't dress up, play fantazy card games, go to cosplays, read comics, etc. I'm an engineering student, i get drunk in the weekends, I code in .NET and Python, I love coffee, wine, cars, motorcycles, etc. Not anywhere near the steretypical hollywood nerd.

dekhn 4 days ago 1 reply      
I attended grad school at one of the most prestigious institutions that exists. After I finished my PhD, I mentioned to somebody I had attended there and it had taught me to do science well.

THe person I was speaking to looked at me funny and said, "Oh no. You went there to learn how to write grants that get funded, so that you can manage a lab that carries out the next set of experiments, so you can write grants that get funded.". They were right: the value of my training program was in how to get funded, so I could do research.

Some of us saw the writing on the wall (grant funding for biomedical sciences doubled in a short period of time in the early to mid 90s, which greatly increased the rate of minted PhDs, which dramatically increased competition for slowly growing faculty positions).

I looked around, evaluated my options, and left for industry. I never regretted it. i still collaborate with academia, and write papers and do research, but my compensation structure and the options I have vastly outweigh those has I stayed in academia and become a soft-funded researcher.

Ultimately if your goal is to do blue-sky theoretical research you're going to have to work very hard to succeed. Maybe it's possible to do good theory and also be good at grantsmanship. I honestly don't know. But I decided not to play that game: there are LOTS of options out there.

Don't be stubborn and insist on your blue-sky theory job. Instead, be realistic and figure out what you want to do, and how to obtain the time to do it.

Create 4 days ago 0 replies      
"How should we make it attractive for them [young people] to spend 5,6,7 years in our field, be satisfied, learn about excitement, but finally be qualified to find other possibilities?" -- H. Schopper

The numbers make the problem clear. In 2007, the year before CERN first powered up the LHC, the lab produced 142 master's and Ph.D. theses, according to the lab's document server. Last year it produced 327. (Fermilab chipped in 54.) That abundance seems unlikely to vanish anytime soon, as last year ATLAS had 1000 grad students and CMS had 900.

In contrast, the INSPIRE Web site, a database for particle physics, currently lists 124 postdocs worldwide in experimental high-energy physics, the sort of work LHC grads have trained for.

The situation is equally difficult for postdocs trying to make the jump to a junior faculty position or a permanent job at a national lab. The Snowmass Young Physicists survey received responses from 956 early-career researchers, including 343 postdocs. But INSPIRE currently lists just 152 "junior" positions, including 61 in North America. And the supply of jobs isn't likely to increase, says John Finley, an astrophysicist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who is leading a search to replace two senior particle physicists. "For the most part, I don't think departments are looking to grow their particle physics programs," he says.


A warning to non-western members about values at CERN:

"The cost [...] has been evaluated, taking into account realistic labor prices in different countries. The total cost is X (with a western equivalent value of Y)" [where Y>X]

source: LHCb calorimeters : Technical Design Report

ISBN: 9290831693 http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/494264

mattmanser 5 days ago 5 replies      
I'm a little disappointed that the article didn't address the obvious question.

If he didn't publish any papers after that, what did he actually do?

The entire article actually seems to undermine his point.

tokenadult 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for submitting this. This was a good introduction to Higgs. It was reading the comments here after reading the article that reminded me of a paper by Leif D. Nelson, Joseph P. Simmons, and Uri Simonsohn, "Let's Publish Fewer Papers,"


suggesting that psychology, and maybe other disciplines, could be improved if scholars published less often than they now do. "We agree that it is impractical, but it is just a thought experiment. Still, we stand behind the notion that the ideal is much closer to 'a paper a year' than to 'publish as many papers as you can.'"

alan_cx 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think this sort of problem starts at the top, with our time limited democracies. Democratic governments find it hard to implement long term thinking because its unlikely the current government will ever get credit for it. This results in policies which are short term enough to promote re-election. This bleeds down to the rest of society. Where it does happen, it tends to be compromised because one side has to make sure the other side carries the project on. This leads to committee style compromises.

So, in general, from what I can see, long term thinking in western democracies is rare, and where it exists, compromised.

Implication being that Chinese long term strength lies in its ability to plan in the very long term, which they do. I think the west needs to find a way in which we can also effectively and flexibly plan long term.

spikels 4 days ago 1 reply      
The issue is Volume versus Quality. The conservatives (not political but professional) administering our research infrastructure find it much easier to greenlight an incremental (or inconsequential) project versus anything truly revolutionary. We need more Higgs and less incremental academic researchers - industry can do that better.
indigent 4 days ago 0 replies      
I feel slightly validated for leaving academia after reading this article. When I was in grad school I was working with an adviser who was in the final phase of applying for tenure. She was under immense pressure to publish, and she totally passed all that pressure on to me and her other grad student at the time. It was the worst two years of my life. Ultimately we both left her charge, and she was denied tenure.

The "publish or perish" atmosphere at most institutions is toxic. I remember running some in-vivo experiments using our system and looking for data that validated our hypothesis, but when I found none I was ordered to "find anything" and rewrite the hypothesis to match it. This was so that we had something positive to submit to journals, regardless of what it was. The papers were utter trash, and I was ashamed to put my name on them. The absolute focus on publishing ends up creating what is essentially "journal spam."

I don't want to say that research is dead, but it's definitely in the doldrums at this point.

anaphor 5 days ago 0 replies      
On the other hand, with total freedom to think, most of us might not get much done, see: http://www.pitt.edu/~druzdzel/feynman.html
amerika_blog 4 days ago 3 replies      
School is an obedience/memorization test, the exact opposite of the real-world applied thinking skills that are needed.

Private schooling is bad; public schooling is even worse. That's where ideology substitutes for academics as well.

Memorizing 20 ways to do something, and then finding a way to cram in each one on a test in an "applied" situation, leads to indiscriminate use of technique and poor debugging skills.

hacknat 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the reality is that more and more bright people avoid the Academy these days. I'm not saying I'm particularly bright, but I started out thinking I was going to be an Academic, but when I saw that I would have to deal with the same BS, politics, and hoop jumping that people in business deal with, I went with the option that was the same, but offered more money.

I think that's what the majority of the Academy has become for people now. If two jobs are pretty much equal, except in pay, which one will you take?

scotth 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds like he was taking advantage of the system. I think I would've felt the same as the university: sack him if he doesn't win the Nobel.
a3voices 4 days ago 0 replies      
We're not genetically different from early Man, who got nothing done except for basic survival and raising a family. Being unproductive is the default.
3327 4 days ago 0 replies      
Stagnation is not only a manifestation of economy but every other field such as science. We have seen rapid growth in the past century and some forces be it policy, or expectation and pressure for faster growth will ultimately contribute to a stagnant period in terms of growth vs growth to the prior.
_of 4 days ago 0 replies      
He seems to be such a humble person.
AKifer 4 days ago 0 replies      
Something I noticed 'An atheist since the age of 10, he fears the nickname "reinforces confused thinking in the heads of people who are already thinking in a confused way. If they believe that story about creation in seven days, are they being intelligent?"'How someone [intelligent enough to get the Nobel prize] who knows relativist equations better than the average could argue that creating the universe in 7 days is stupid ? Didn't we know since Einstein discovered it that time can expand and compress depending of the environment ? And who can say that Earth local time is the norm ? Better back to pre-Gallileo time then, when everyone though Earth is the center of the Universe.
fargolime 5 days ago 3 replies      
> He doubts a similar breakthrough could be achieved in today's academic culture, because of the expectations on academics to collaborate and keep churning out papers.

The opposite of an Einstein or Higgs. Academia no longer tolerates deep, unconventional thinking. Physics used to be a hobby, now its an industry to be protected from major change. For example, if you have basic knowledge of relativity you can go to http://finbot.wordpress.com/2008/03/05/dark-energy-obviated/ and use the steps there in conjunction with generally accepted equations (from the Usenet Physics FAQ) to see that free objects launched upward from Earth at close to the speed of light must accelerate away from us, solving the big mystery of dark energy. But even assuming this idea is valid it couldn't make it into a respected peer-reviewed journal today. Ideas for hunting dark energy particles, however, would be welcomed, since those could lead to lucrative grants.

A Programmer's Guide to Data Mining guidetodatamining.com
373 points by carlosgg  4 days ago   32 comments top 18
TrainedMonkey 4 days ago 0 replies      
While scanning table of contents, I was like this is simple stuff. But then I dived in a chapter and I was converted. This is good because it shows you how to use all those techniques in a real world, with examples mining data from twitter and Facebook streams. Probably best hands on guide I saw for data mining/sentiment analysis.
ville 3 days ago 1 reply      
This looks nice. I've also heard many recommendations for the book Programming Collective Intelligence[1], which touches the same subjects and also has examples in Python. Now I'm tempted to read both :)

[1]: http://shop.oreilly.com/product/9780596529321.do

terramars 3 days ago 0 replies      
before i say anything directly about the book, i'd like to point out that for simple systems (like these), the most challenging parts are overwhelmingly data collection, normalization / featurization, and model testing, rather than actually creating or using models. while there are rare cases where a simple solution (hey, let's throw naive bayes at it) will give you a good answer, these are almost always because someone did a very good job collecting and sanitizing the input. furthermore, stuff like the twitter movie sentiment analysis - while great in theory - rarely ends up doing what you expect in practice. product recommendation and collaborative filtering are proven to work very well in practice, but sentiment systems are a totally different monster.

onto the book - it looks promising for an intro to recommendation systems. no opinion about classification yet. doesn't appear to have anything on graphs or network effects which is somewhat disappointing. that being said i need to review bayesian stuff / teach myself some of the harder stuff and it will be nice to have a practical walkthrough.

that being said no one should be implementing these themselves (except the dumb stuff like distance metrics).. it's useful to learn but scikit-learn is amazing when it comes to fancy algorithms.

pigscantfly 3 days ago 1 reply      
As an alternative for anyone who wants to delve a little further into data mining, I'm currently taking the Stanford data mining class, STATS202. The book we're using has been really great (published this year) and covers a great deal more than this site seems to. It's called "An Introduction to Statistical Learning with Applications in R." It's free online through the Stanford libraries, but I'm not sure about accessing it for free elsewhere. The lectures are also probably recorded online somewhere, if anyone is really interested.
SeppoErviala 3 days ago 2 replies      
Check out gensim if you want to do topic modeling or similarity comparisons in Python.


It has good implementations of various algorithms, some of which support streaming or dirstribution, and it allows loading and dumping data in various formats.

I've used it for building content based recommender using tf-idf, lsi and similarity index. After the index is built, queries to it are really fast. It can handle quite large corpuses with little memory.

natebod 3 days ago 1 reply      
Looking through chapter 6 on Bayesian Classifiers. I do not think it is correct from page 52. He appears to be using the p.d.f of the standard normal distribution for point estimators. I have training in classical/frequentist stats, so correct me if I'm wrong, but probability estimates from a pdf are given by the area under the curve, the value at a point is meaningless. In fact the probability at a given point is always zero.
sown 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is neat! Fantastic, even! The math is less theoretical and more systems oriented. The choice of python, modern psuedocode that runs, is great, too. The naive Bayes chapter is useful, too. One might want to look at Udacity's AI course for more info about this topic or as a supplement. Bayes seems to be one of those things where the math is short and difficult; I've been reading about it recently, myself. Just practice, I guess. To engineer stuff with it you may not need to understand it perfectly (until you get bugs ;). Anyways, it's still good. It's a hard topic and Bayes law/tricks appear in AI often so it's worth knowing more about.

Thank you, Ron Zacharski!

(disclaimer: you do not want my opinion regarding any topic).

crandles 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is from one of my college professors, nice to see it make it on HN, and it looks like there's a bit more material since I used it in class. I found it helpful in explaining basic concepts (more-so than the bland textbook that I had to pay for).
frik 3 days ago 3 replies      
Is the code also available in C like syntax? (C, C++, PHP, JS, etc)

Porting Python code can be painful. (I checked the chapter 7 py file and it isn't filled with functional style code, though various kinds of arrays with index starting with 1 or so may still be an issue)

nashequilibrium 3 days ago 0 replies      
I actually went through this book almost two years ago, i remember the author did not finish it, but i enjoyed it! Thanks!
garraeth 3 days ago 0 replies      
I just scanned it but it looks awesome! Thanks for putting this together! I didn't look terribly hard but did you mention the work of Ziegler and Golbeck: "Investigating interactions of trust and interest similarity"? It's a bit old (2006) but I think it's a great reference for real-world engines and helped me a ton back in the day.
karangoeluw 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. How about a PDF with all chapters combined?
LambdaAlmighty 3 days ago 2 replies      
Not bad as an introductory text, but the code could use some love. Disappointing when it says "programmer's" in the title.

Ever heard of PEP8 for Python coding style? List comprehensions?

I'm afraid this falls in no man's land, with code too weak for practitioners and theory too weak for theoreticians.

gautamnarula 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks great! Is there an email list or any other way I can get notifications as new material is added/revised?
sushirain 3 days ago 0 replies      
After reading chapter two, my conclusion is that this book is also suitable for high-school level. Not many books simplify things so much as this book. The Python implementation even avoids Numpy, which makes it very easy to understand (even though using Numpy is more practical).
cmao3 4 days ago 0 replies      
My feeling is that it's very interesting book even for high school kids.
lovegratisbooks 2 days ago 0 replies      
As of January 5, 2014, the pdf for this book will be available for free, with the consent of the publisher, on the book website.
ewharton 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is great - I love that it's in Python
Googles $179 Moto G puts every single cheap Android phone to shame arstechnica.com
338 points by jseliger  4 days ago   259 comments top 27
justin66 4 days ago 6 replies      
If Google's plan is to leave the high-end of smartphones to its Android "partners" and stake out the low end with Motorola, that seems pretty smart. Its partners get to keep the high-margin hardware business that Google doesn't need anyway, Google puts a floor on how bad the low-end phones can be and still make it to market. And yeah, Google isn't in the position of competing with companies that it needs.
fidotron 3 days ago 2 replies      
I think questions need to begin to be asked about Google getting close to giving the hardware away in return for user information. It gets dangerously close to the kind of practices that got MS in trouble, especially the way it ends up poisoning the market for anyone else.

The problem is competition is good, and if users want their privacy they probably should be going to pay for it, but I'm profoundly uncomfortable with essentially condemning those that can't afford it to having to surrender their rights to privacy.

TrainedMonkey 4 days ago 2 replies      
Google is making a big play on smartphone for everyone model. Now if they could get carriers to agree to cheaper data model, their hand would be really strong. To some extent this favors T-Mobile and other no-discount/cheaper plans carriers.
vidarh 4 days ago 1 reply      
That price point is now full of phones with 1920x1080 5" screens; 1280x720 is very much "last year". The camera specs are beaten roundly by my year old $200 phone. The physical design is almost identical to said year old phone (which is to say it looks pretty much like the Galaxy SIII).

And said phone also has removable battery, dual SIMs, and support for a 32GB SD card.

This might put ever single "cheap" Android phone of a brand well known in Europe and the US to shame, but from the specs given it's middle of the pack fo cheap Android phones overall (it's likely to be a bit faster and with better graphics performance than most low end Android phones, but lower resolution and lacking camera and storage e.g.)

nicholassmith 4 days ago 4 replies      
It looks great, but as I've mentioned here before, I have some concerns about the cost. It's a great short term boon to consumers getting a device of this high quality at this price point, but the margins have to be razor thing on it, so how do they make money for R&D? What about Company X? What do they do, slice prices to match to keep market share or hope they retain a profit share? If they slash where do they get the R&D budget from?

The smartphone market is starting to get truly interesting, I just hope it doesn't get dominated by the companies with the deepest pockets, it's a short term gain for consumers (we all like things cheaper), but could long term stagnate the market.

Zigurd 4 days ago 1 reply      
Moto G is a great balance of price and performance. It is also much more sensible for a Google-owned OEM to pursue a distinctive niche in the market than to compete with Google's partners across their whole product line.

BUT that's just one handset. Nobody knows what Motorola will do next. Is Google shining it up to sell? That would be sensible.

Motorola is a huge addition to Google's headcount that produces far less than the typical Google product group. Motorola competes with Google's partners. Google would be better off with Motorola as an OEM partner than as a subsidiary.

pedrocr 4 days ago 2 replies      
>It's tempting to think of the Moto G as some kind of "Nexus Jr.," a cheaper way to buy into the clean UI and quick software updates that Google's reference phones have always received. However, Google is making no promises about versions of Android beyond version 4.4, and speculating about whether Android 4.5 or 5.0 or whatever will roll out to the Moto phones as quickly as KitKat is a pointless exercise.

Again shooting themselves in the foot.

martinald 4 days ago 4 replies      
This is getting really interesting. Between this, the Nexus 5 and the various Lumia's a $649 iPhone is starting to look very, very expensive.

Smartphones at the moment seem to have got 'good enough'.

kombine 4 days ago 4 replies      
My Lenovo P780 was only $80 more expensive, but its battery has the highest capacity on the market, 4000 mAh. The phone holds the charge for >2 days of quite intensive use. I had Samsung Galaxy Note before this one, but now don't understand why anyone would choose top end phones from the brands like Samsung or Apple, if half of the cost of a phone goes to profit their shareholders.
msoad 4 days ago 0 replies      
I love watching race for enabling next billion people with cheap smartphone. We will see double of people on Internet today just in five years.
nnnnni 4 days ago 2 replies      
$179 is way too much for a phone that sends all of your login information for different pages and services to Motorola's servers in plaintext...
alan_cx 4 days ago 1 reply      
Well, all I can say is that until last week I was still using my Nokia 6500c. This Moto G is the fist smart phone that for me does enough to warrant the price; UK 120, unlocked. So, I bought one.
001sky 4 days ago 2 replies      
Is Moto-G now good enough to replace an iPod touch? for a no-contract 'smartphone' that doesn't need to be up on 4g all of the time (say w/good wi-fi acesss)? Because it sure seems like a better deal in terms of functionality. The main limitation/constraint IMHO is the memory [8 or 16 GB NAND flash], which seems arbitrarily low. (ie, >5 years out of date).
pandeiro 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've used this phone and the lack of dual-band wifi causes some issues with wifi-connectivity. Its range is less than my Nexus 4 and it will sporadically lose connectivity over wifi, more often than other Android devices I've used.
lnanek2 3 days ago 0 replies      
As someone in the US, I'm not really willing to buy a phone with no LTE in this day and age, and carriers will loathe to put them in stores. I think even HTC's Facebook phone from last year is a better attempt than this, goes for free on contract, and could probably be obtained as cheaply off ebay. I doubt this is really meant to sell in the US anyway, though.
auctiontheory 3 days ago 3 replies      
I don't get it. If you're using a smart phone for all the things that smart phones do (audio, photo albums, video), 16GB just isn't enough. Even my 32GB iPhone requires active file management to avoid hitting the limit.
linux_devil 4 days ago 4 replies      
Right move to target market in India and China , its way affordable than Iphone 5C and comes with the brand name too.
kunai 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'd extend this statement and say that the Moto G puts every single cheap phone to shame. Not just Android. It becomes very hard to justify a Lumia at $400 or an iPhone 4S at a ludicrous $450 when we have a flagship Nexus at $350 and now the Moto G at $179.

Combine that with the defiant cries against consumerism and wastefulness with Project Ara, and Google has really raised the bar by quite a bit for what a mobile phone OEM is capable of. It will be interesting to see what happens 3, 4 years down the line when the market fully resaturates with more price-friendly and DIY-friendly phones.

sushidev 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've got good recommendations on Lenovo A820 (http://www.gsmarena.com/lenovo_a820-5462.php) which has about the same price but a little lower.What would you buy? A Moto G or a Lenovo A820?
quaffapint 4 days ago 1 reply      
I can't wait for a Verizon version (apparently 1Q 2014) to pare up with PagePlus, so I can dump my VZ contract and only pay half of what I do now.
dools 4 days ago 0 replies      
I hope someone at Motorola loves the Pro+ as much as I do and they bring out a low end candy bar qwerty.

Every time a company releases a new touch screen keyboard, God kills a kitten.

yachtintransit 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised they didn't mention more about the Bluetooth 4.0 (low energy) support. I would take ble support over NFC . good writeup otherwise.
yc-kjh 3 days ago 1 reply      
Battery NOT User-Removable.Phone NOT User-Buyable.
therandomguy 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is what I though iPhone 5c would be.
dschiptsov 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why, it is Nexus 4 with half of RAM and cheap plastic case.
contingencies 3 days ago 1 reply      
Half price Firefox OS phones like the ZTE Open are more impressive and better for your freedom.

Google want your communications, thinking, location, habits... this is worse than Mastercard or Xperian issuing you a phone. It's fundamentally evil, regardless of how they dress it up.

Support Mozilla FirefoxOS and internet freedom.

suchusername 4 days ago 0 replies      
I like my Nexus 4. They barely mention it.
President Obama calls on every American to learn code youtube.com
331 points by bbayer  2 days ago   426 comments top 91
grellas 2 days ago 27 replies      
Speaking as a non-coder, but as one who did minimal things with programming-like higher-level stuff ranging from the old DOS batch files to VBA and some dabbling with SQL, I am curious whether real engineers believe the idea of broad literacy in coding truly would be valuable and, if so, how exactly.

I am not speaking as a skeptic, just as one who does not readily see the point and wants to know.

Of course, we are in a digital age and there is incredible value in knowing how to code for the person who really masters this skill. And, among those who do master it, you will of course have various gradations in skill level ranging from profound to excellent to good to competent to serviceable, and these in turn will give the bearer of such skills a range of opportunities commensurate with the acquired skill level (and, when I say skill, I don't mean mere technique but also inspiration, insight, imagination, and whatever else it takes not only to pound something out but to do it in ways that stand out).

That said, however, if I were to look, say, at 100 random friends and acquaintances, I would question what good it would do for them to learn a few basics about the syntax of some programming language, to learn a few things about programming objects, and to learn a few things about control structures if the sum total of all those few things is simply to understanding minimal things about how coding works without being able to apply that knowledge effectively to anything in their real-world lives. In my own case in having hacked through some minimal interpretative stuff, I at least had some professional uses for this sort of thing (e.g., using VBA to systematize a few MS Word functions needed in our office). But, even at this level, most of the people around me - being non-programmers - would run in horror from the idea of even getting into that level of trying to interact with a computing environment. For the most part, they were content to know as little as possible about any of the inner workings of a computer and were totally uninterested in delving any deeper. And these are the people who are out there by the millions who have always been drawn to the simplest ways of interacting with their computers (e.g., mouse and not keyboard). In my experience, unless people naturally have a mathematical or engineering "bent," they simply would rather not deal with understanding how something like a computer works beneath the surface but want only to grasp its benefits at the highest level with the least effort possible.

If most people are indeed like that (and I believe they are), how would it benefit them in a practical sense, say, for future educational curricula to mandate taking a prescribed course in learning to code. Even if this sort of thing were required, wouldn't this be just like a prescribed foreign language course in middle school that one has but a fleeting acquaintance with, only to have little or nothing stick beyond getting past the requirement for the purposes of passing a class. What residual value would stick from such fleeing interactions with the rudiments of coding?

It seems to me that, if one is to derive true value from learning to code, one needs to devote a significant level of dedicated hard work toward that effort and, if one fails to get beyond a minimal threshold, the only value gained is that of a very generalized form of knowledge that has little practical use in the real world. And I would suspect that most people really do not want to devote such an effort to this task. A good many do, of course, and, as noted, this does have huge value in our digital age for those that do. But why expect it of most people?

There is nothing wrong, of course, with our political leaders encouraging young people to learn to code and this may inspire some to do so. But coding is not really like, say, writing, where gaining a minimal proficiency leaves one in a much better position than not knowing how to do it at all. It seems that, if most people can't get beyond some minimum threshold to make the endeavor worthwhile, learning to code would not help the great majority of people who are not interested in making the sort of dedicated effort that only a relatively minority will in fact make to justify the effort in practical terms.

That is my layman's view. Do those who really know this stuff agree or is this just some disconnected elitist view of people that doesn't fit with modern understanding? I would genuinely like to know because, to me, it does not seem like a close question. Am I just being prejudiced here?

jmduke 2 days ago 15 replies      
A lot of people are getting attached to the "every American" aspect of things, and I think its important to note the distance between "knowing how to code" and "becoming a programmer." Amateur programming (for lack of a better term) like basic Python for data analysis or HTML/CSS to work on Wordpress sites (Hell, one of my friends who's a Social Media Manager learned Python to create some QoL scripts for her day-to-day routine.) is growing increasingly popular amongst recent grads.

"Whether you're a young man or a young woman -- whether you live in a city or a rural area -- computers are going to be a big part of future. And, if you're willing to work hard, that future is yours to shape."

It's hard to argue with the central message there, but we must be careful not to conflate that with the necessity of getting a CS degree. Every American should probably be able to change a tire. That doesn't mean every American should be a car mechanic.

Steko 2 days ago 6 replies      
Kevin Drum (spoilers: knows how to code) had the best take on this:


But wait. The link leads me to a fairly routine presidential video in honor of Computer Science Education Week, in which President Obama encourages kids to take computer science classes. "It's important for our country's future," he says. But I imagine he's cut dozen of videos for every other conceivable skill that could be taught in our nation's schools. "Nursing is important for our country's future." "Agriculture is important for our country's future." Etc.

So did this really lead to a conversation about whether everyone should know how to write code? How tiresome.1 I can probably list on one hand the number of significant skills that everyone should know. The rest are optional. Some of us know how to fix cars and some just hire mechanics to do it for us. Some of us know the law and some just hire lawyers to help us out. Some of us know how to drive trucks and some choose other careers.

In any case, I don't think computer programming would even make my top 20 of broadly useful skills.2 It's a great thing to learn if you plan a STEM career or if you just feel like learning it. But useful? For the vast, vast majority of us it's of no use whatsoever. Reading and writing are useful in nearly all careers, and are useful personally even if your job doesn't require them. But coding? Unless it's part of your job, the odds are vanishingly small that it will ever be of much use to you. Nor is it something that's useful in its own right because it promotes clear thinking. Nor is it a steppingstone to other, more broadly useful skills.

Coding is a specific skill needed for certain specific jobs. That's it. There's no need to put it on a higher pedestal.

1Tiresome because this comes up so often. Why do so many people insist that whatever skill they happen to know is one that everyone should know? There are lots of skills in the world. All of us know only a tiny fraction of them, and that's the way it should be.

2As a time-wasting skill, however, computer programming is hard to beat. I can no longer count the number of hours I've spent coding (or scripting) little utilities that did me no real good at all. But it was fun!

JonFish85 2 days ago 3 replies      
While I agree that it's a great mental exercise to learn how to code (and to learn the mindset that goes along with it), isn't it much more important for every American to learn how to budget? To learn how to save money? To me, those are things that are far more important to the country as a whole than understanding even basic scripting.

As a quick example, the meaning of "afford" has changed in the last 2 generations or so. To my grandparents, "affording" a car meant being able to spend the money to buy the car outright. To many of my peers, "affording" a new car means being able to make the minimum payment on the car, or even just the lease payment.

Many of my peers (meaning my specific circle of friends) don't even budget, nevermind put aside money for the future. Hell, even friends in the finance industry don't contribute to their 401k because they'll "do it later". To me, this is a problem that is very serious for our country as a whole, moreso than people learning to understand some basic code.

Don't get me wrong, I think it would be great for everyone to be able to understand how computers work at a deeper level than "magic". It's just that I think no one really bothers to teach kids how to save money, to invest, to budget their lifestyle, etc. Just an opinion, though.

pvnick 2 days ago 2 replies      
I frequently disagree with the president, but he really hit the nail on the head with this one. I've been saying for a while now, if we were to replace high school and college foreign language requirements with a computer programming language class, you would propel America way ahead of everyone else (more-so than now) in terms of industry and innovation, and do wonders for the economy, all within a decade.

Think about it. Teachers, scientists, psychologists, poly sci majors, doctors, all with basic computer programming abilities. With the ability to build efficiency into their work. That would be so immensely powerful, the investment would be untold dividends. Way more than memorizing spanish vocab for a grade and then forgetting it.

gfodor 2 days ago 3 replies      
Obama says a few nice things about Computer Science and encourages people to learn more about the world, and HN still manages to find every possible negative angle to trash it. Impressive!
avenger123 2 days ago 5 replies      
This "learn to code" meme is getting tiresome.

Why not focus on the more critical skills in life that are more applicable to most people. Here's a big one:

1. Learn to communicate. Improve your writing and speaking skills.

Aloisius 2 days ago 0 replies      
When I was growing up in Silicon Valley, everyone learned to code using Logo in (iirc) third grade. Everyone also learned to type. It was a required part of the curriculum.

Teaching us to code didn't mean we didn't learn to communicate. We still were taught math. At no point did the small period in programming and typing done once a week somehow deprive us of critical life skills.

It did however have a dramatic effect on myself and a good amount of my class. By the time I was in 6th grade, I knew three people running their own BBSes out of their houses (this was about 1989).

Not everyone who went through Bullis Elementary went into programming, but thinking procedurally (though technically Logo is a functional language), is a valuable skill to be learned regardless. In my opinion, being able to break a large task down into simple steps is a critical life skill.

vezzy-fnord 2 days ago 1 reply      
Personally I find the contemporary "learn to code movement" to be asinine for several reasons:

1) It supports affirmative action and seeks to set sex quotas. (http://slashdot.org/story/13/11/24/187255/codeorg-more-money...)

2) It offers a very sugar-coated and frankly nauseating view of "coding". It adulates this mysterious and powerful essence dubbed only as "code" and is highly biased towards the imperative paradigm. Notice how they rarely use the word "programming", but rather it's always "code". This signifies that they value parroting instructions more over actual understanding.

3) The testimonials by all sorts of celebrities are simply ridiculous and laughable. So many actors, musicians, sports players, politicians and business moguls, but barely any actual computer scientists.

4) The way they present their entire campaign, and considering who backs it, leads me to believe that their motive is not to foster computer science education, so much as to teach people just enough skills to be a 9-to-5 code monkey that can write instructions in Java or some $EnterpriseLanguage. Cheap, disposable labor.

5) Absolutely no focus on software freedom and ethics, of course.

6) Another possible outcome is that by making computer science (rather merely coding in this case) a mandatory subject, they'll end up alienating many kids from it. This depends on the aptitude of the educators, but it's safe to assume it won't be too good.

7) This is arguable, but merely learning to code basic programs doesn't really offer too much insight into the complex process that is software development. The educational value in writing Ruby (used here as an example), while not void, is not that great by itself. Programming languages and natural languages have this thing in common: they're different. Ruby isn't Haskell.

jliechti1 2 days ago 0 replies      
Judging from the responses so far, it seems the thread is going to evolve into a similar fashion to these previous threads discussing the same topic (not to say it isn't worth discussing again - but it has come up quite often recently).

Most on HN seem to support the idea that not everyone should become a computer programmer (as a profession), but being exposed to the ideas in used in CS are very helpful for learning how to think about certain types of problems.

Personally, from a practical standpoint, I think a lot of people could benefit by learning basic scripting to automate computing tasks - I've seen way too many people doing extremely tedious tasks by hand, when a simple script could have saved them hours.

---Similar discussions---

Everybody does not need to learn to code: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6237007 74 comments)

Why everyone should not learn to code:https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5302157 (62 comments)

Please learn to code: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3975992 (147 comments)

Please don't learn to code: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3975744 (268 comments)

Taylorious 2 days ago 1 reply      
I for one welcome anything that exposes people to programming. I don't think it will necessarily transform the US economy or anything, but I think it will be genuinely good for people to have the exposure. K-12 and college students are taught all kind of things that may not click with them or be relevant in their daily life when they get out of school (plenty of people never use math or writing skills in their actual job/life). What I'm getting at is even though many people won't "get" programming or will simply have no desire to pursue it, exposing them to it wont kill them. There are also people who never thought of programming but try it and it does click with them.

At my university the intro CS course counts as a language. Since many degrees require a language course, lots of non CS students take it so they don't have to take French etc. A surprising number of strong CS students in my senior class started out in another major, took the intro CS class for their language,and then ended up switching majors! One person was going for nursing before he switched to CS and is now doing graduate level research as a CS undergrad and will be going to get a phd in CS and math. You'd think the guy has been programming since he was in diapers.

Unfortunately CS is one of those subjects that a lot of people are never exposed to and will never know if they love it or have a knack for it. It seems like most of the CS majors I have encountered are people who are either computer/math nerds or people were big into gaming and got into programming for that (most of them end up giving up on game programming for well known reasons). I think your average person sees CS as something only math/computer nerds can do and as something that is really hard and math intensive. If they actually had a gentle introduction they may love it and may even be good at it. Lets not kid ourselves, most programming isn't something only super geniuses can do.

pearjuice 2 days ago 5 replies      
>Starring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, will.i.am, Chris Bosh, Jack Dorsey, Tony Hsieh, Drew Houston, Gabe Newell, Ruchi Sanghvi, Elena Silenok, Vanessa Hurst, and Hadi Partovi. Directed by Lesley Chilcott, executive producers Hadi and Ali Partovi.

>Code.org owes special thanks to all the cast and the film crew, and also Microsoft, Google/YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter for helping us spread the word

What the fuck is this shit? They really pumped billions in marketing!? Is America really that desperate to destroy the only real market it has left? You guys might applaud this but the only thing which this will lead to is unqualified people thinking they know how to program.

The job market will get saturated with mediocre programmers and those who really know their stuff will be too expensive to hire or get lost in the noise. We will see an increase of shit code in production. People think they can have a shot at the field which was dominated by us, the outcasts, for years.

This worries me, brothers, this worries me. If you think this is anything good, look at what happened with finances. It completely fell under the massive appeal of the mainstream crowd who thought they could become a manger and earn a quick buck. Programming is a serious art, skill and dedication you have to live up to.

It shouldn't be - and isn't - for everyone.

wes-exp 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's easy to point to the feel-good topic of education and cry foul when anyone is against it.

But here is the reality.

America already overproduces scientists and engineers. The whole notion of talent shortages is generally hot air from special interests (in this case, tech companies) who want a cheaper supply of labor and cannot bear the idea that skilled engineers actually cost a lot.

A lot of effort is put into trying to turn ordinary folk into high-caliber professionals, with things like "everyone should go to college" or in this case "everyone should learn to code". It's not surprising educators are happy about this as it provides a steady customer base (students). Politicians are happy to support it too, after all what could be bad about more education?

The problem is that Joe laborer simply isn't a good fit for STEM fields and no amount of education will change that. He wastes his time and effort trying to become something he's not. In that time he could have been doing something productive and meaningful instead.

I've heard good things about the German model of apprenticeship, which accepts the reality that not everyone is cut out for rocket science. I'd like to see something more like that in America and less bullshit like "coding for everyone". People are different... let's encourage them to do whatever they are actually suited for.

rhizome 2 days ago 3 replies      
The message is clear: top political donors want cheaper labor.
bichiliad 2 days ago 1 reply      
"When you guys are good, you should totally take a crack at healthcare.gov. That'd be awesome."
natural219 2 days ago 0 replies      
In the back of my mind, I secretly resent this code.org initiative. It is clearly a good effort that needs to happen, but man, I really enjoy my cozy position as a web developer in 2013 making an insane amount of money doing relatively little work.
matthewmcg 2 days ago 0 replies      
Steve Jobs in one of the Bob Cringley interviews:

"I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer--should learn a computer language--because it teaches you how to think. It's like going to law school. I don't think anybody should be a lawyer, but I do think going to law school would actually be useful because it teaches you how to think in a certain way, in the same way that computer programming teaches you, in a certain way, how to think. I view computer science as a liberal art. It should be something that everybody takes."

siliconc0w 1 day ago 0 replies      
The most important aspect is more to think like an engineer (software/system/data whatever). This lets you at least recognize common information problems:

Why does this document go to each person serially when it could go to them in parallel).

Why do we store all our important data in a word doc on a windows share where it's difficult to collaborate on it.

Why are the other business group repeating 50% of what my business group already does.

Why are we keeping so many versions/copies of this data - any changes to one copy is exponentially expensive as we have to update the other copies.

Why is it so difficult to keep track of projects/issues/tasks/action items/etc?

Why am I manually running this report instead of getting it automatically emailed to my team ever week.

Why is it difficult to communicate and collaborate to colleagues in different parts of the company.


So much modern "work" are really just repetitive information problems that are so common that they're easily solvable by existing tools. Likely free ones. You just have to be able to recognize them and apply the correct solution.

LandoCalrissian 2 days ago 2 replies      
He looks so very tired in that video.
johngalt 2 days ago 1 reply      
In other fields we recognize that there is a bifurcation between the knowledge required by practitioners of that field and the base level of understanding from non-practitioners. A 'good driver' isn't expected to know about ignition timing or the stoichiometric ratios of various fuels. For first aid we ask people to learn CPR, not to do '1 hour of surgery'. We expect people to know countries and capitals but not GIS maps. I feel like we haven't drawn the line between user vs creator as clearly in technology.

It is accurate to say that more computing knowledge is needed in the general populace. The power of computers/technology is limited by the human operators in most scenarios. But how do we focus on building better operators? Where is our line drawn?

patja 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't get the controversy. I don't see this as being about making everyone into a professional programmer, no more than having every student take music class will make them a professional musician. I believe it is more about the ancillary benefits in opening up new ways of problem solving, and having some rudimentary awareness of the inner workings of a world that one might otherwise never have the chance to explore.

Some students will catch the bug and tear off on their own journey of independent learning and discovery and create great things. But for most it will just be a new dimension of a full and well-rounded primary education. The problem is that the current generation of educators and schools are largely wholly unequipped to do this, so we have to step up and help out.

I ran an after school "Tech Club" for a couple of years at my kids K-8 school. This year the administration asked me to bring it into the classroom and I am teaching 100% of the students in grades 6 - 8 basic programming with Scratch. It is just one 45 minute class per week, with each grade getting the class for one trimester (12 - 13 weeks). You can't do a whole lot in this time, but you can definitely do something, a whole lot more than the school was doing with technology before.

mikeleeorg 2 days ago 0 replies      
As a parent, here is how I interpret this:

Obama isn't saying my child MUST learn how to program. He is just highly encouraging it. And as a parent looking toward the future, I will highly encourage it as well.

However, that's just one useful skill. I believe a lot of skills are very useful. Knowing how to cook, how to change a tire, how to balance a personal budget, etc, are all extremely useful. They aren't mandatory; it's possible to get through life without knowing them, but life will be that much easier with them.

So I'll be exposing my child to computer programming, as well as a litany of other things. My aim isn't to turn her into a computer scientist, it's to give her another valuable skill as she figures out what she wants to do with her life. If it's to become a programmer, awesome. If it's to become a doctor, or dancer, or whatever, equally awesome. But at least she'll have exposure (but not necessarily mastery) of a range of useful skills.

quaffapint 2 days ago 0 replies      
There is not a shortage of programmers.

There is a shortage of companies wanting to pay a programmer over 30 a living wage.

saosebastiao 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Learn Programming...but don't learn Cryptography pretty please..."
thearn4 2 days ago 2 replies      
Wow. Looks like Youtube comments haven't improved much after all.

Seriously, it seems like half of the comments seen on Youtube (or at the bottom of any article on a news site) read as if they could have come right from a post on StormFront.

jmspring 1 day ago 1 reply      
How about rather than asking everyone learn to code, we encourage everyone (skilled or not) to maybe pick up a trade or other skill with marketable options.

Not everyone has the skill set to code, just like some don't have the dexterity to metal work. Maybe we should be encouraging continual education and learning something new.

There is way more to civilization than "coding".

intellegacy 1 day ago 0 replies      
I learned to code. Listened to all the advice of hackers who said it was the most important thing ever, and they'd never work with you on startups unless you coded as well.

Well I learned. I worked as a software dev for 1 year as well. And you know what I've learned? I have no passion for coding and it makes no sense to force myself to do something I'm not interested in doing.

If anyone is interested in working with me on a startup let me know. I'm a founder who knows how to code but doesn't like to.

edtechdev 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here are actual activities people can do online to get exposed to coding: http://csedweek.org/learn

including an activity for people with no programming experience: http://learn.code.org/hoc/1

patmcc 2 days ago 2 replies      
So much work could be saved if most people learned a tiny bit of scripting, or really even what code is capable of doing. My girlfriend was telling me how one of the people in her office spent a few days renaming a huge number of files, so they'd be consistently named. I cringed when I heard that - it was repetitive, followed a pattern, and could have been done in minutes with a python or perl or bash script written in an hour or two by someone with a basic knowledge of code. That's the kind of coding everyone should know - the same way everyone should be able to add columns of numbers without using their fingers.
LionRoar 2 days ago 0 replies      
I went to the code.org site, looked around and tried the objective-C version. I was (positively) surprised that it did work because I am not in the USA at the moment, meaning it's not blocked for non-USA access.

The simulator didn't work unfortunately but they did warn about this on the site when I started. After I had done the tutorial I landed on the Summer Academy page where you can do a 8-9 week course in programming. Very nice!

Then I discovered that this was certainly not for free: $5000 it will cost you. I must admit I was a little shocked. That is not a price every one can pay for this learning to code adventure. That was a part Obama did not mention. It feels like a standard marketing trap, luring in people to do your course, buy your software, etc. Only difference is the frontman of the show ;)

It's proved again: there is no such thing as a free lunch. Now walk on please, nothing to see here.

analog31 2 days ago 0 replies      
In my view, the impact of the President's message will not be on those of us who are already teaching our kids programming, but on the kids who live on the other side of the digital divide, and have nobody around them -- parents and even teachers -- who are fully aware of what programming consists of. Many parents think that programming is dangerous.

I agree with the folks who have suggested that something like a semester of C randomly inserted into the existing curriculum will be a waste. Instead, the "every American should learn code" message should stimulate debate about what "code" would actually consist of if applied intelligently to the K-12 curriculum.

How about music class? So much of contemporary music is programmed. Create music in Scratch.

Replace some obsolete math exercises with explorations using spreadsheets or computer algebra software.

Let kids use Scratch to write their own data acquisition programs for science labs, via S4A.

briandear 2 days ago 0 replies      
I would be happy if just the Obamacare website developers would learn to code.
xname 2 days ago 1 reply      
If he really meant it, if he really cares about education of young Americans, he should try to fight with the sh*t teacher unions. Oh no, that's politics, don't go there. So just let politicians say nice things. Don't let them talk about their dirty politics! Yes, just say nice things! No politics!

Nice things like what? When so many US students cannot even do basic math, when third graders are still struggling with addition and subtraction, encourage all of them to learn code. Yes. encouraging is nice! all (meaning equality and justice) is nice! Always!

Fight teacher union is dirty politics (how about take donation from teacher union? shut up!).

Lets just talk about nice things, bro! Forget dirty politics!

larrybolt 2 days ago 0 replies      
I do think it would be a good thing if more people, preferably in management positions or office-positions would get the chance to learn to code, or at least an introduction to it.

It would allow them to appreciate the hard work that get's done on the background, make them think twice before defining deadlines and most importantly realise some of the work they do on a daily basis could be automated! In result to that they might at least consider getting in touch with a programmer and trying to find a way to make theirs own job more efficient.

But that everyone should go get a degree in CS or everybody should be able to program is to me, the same thing as saying everybody should be able to cook 3 star restaurant dishes.

sciguy77 2 days ago 4 replies      
I have to say, coding is definitely not for everyone. A rather specific kind of person (such as myself) is drawn to program computers. While I enjoy it most people I know would not.Certainly having the option to take Intro and AP CS courses (both of these are available at most public high schools) is great, but "calling on all Americans," to code seems a little excessive.
zwegner 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ugh, we have enough awful, unmaintainable code to deal with as it is. We really need less code now, not more.

I'd prefer it if he would call on Americans to learn to think first, or at least to meditate or something.

Uchikoma 1 day ago 0 replies      
Giving some workshops I did with non IT (marketing, middle management, ...) here at the company, I think a lot can be gained by some 3 hour workshops with e.g. Scratch/Blockly.

Understanding the breaking down of problems into commands, loops, conditionals using variables, data structures, functions, about abstracting solutions into more general solutions, about refactoring, legacy code etc. helps a lot, even if one is not "a programmer" afterwards.

I can only recommend to everyone doing this at your company.

kbudinoski 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can Obama call every doctor or scientist or pharmacist to find cancer cure? Technology has gone too far, medicine and pharmacy are not moving forward. I really appreciate Obama's speech.. but why there aren't any initiatives in other fields...
russell 2 days ago 0 replies      
If we define programming as the stuff that we on HN do for a living with C, Java, JavaScript, and the like, then teaching every American how to code is a futile goal. Something on the order of half of all CS majors fail the introductory CS course. There is a really eyeopening paper by Saeed Dehnadi and Richard Bornat[1] that has a test that can be given BEFORE the course that demonstrates fairly well who will pass and who will fail. There are 5 fundamental concepts that it tests for

- assignment

- statement sequence

- iteration

- recursion

- concurrency although that is not needed for basic literacy

Read it. It's an eye opener.

[1] http://www.eis.mdx.ac.uk/research/PhDArea/saeed/paper1.pdf [Jeff Atwood's link in Coding Horror 7/14/06 is broken]

Edited: formatting

hga 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hmmm, I wonder what this says about the iOS ecosystem, where programming on your device is strictly verboten Even former Apple Fellow Alan Kay, chosen by Steve Jobs way back when, couldn't get a suitable for children version of Smalltalk approved. The Gambit-C Scheme crew got their's approved, and then banned.
bhewes 2 days ago 0 replies      
I call on every American to learn English and possible a second language first. Then maybe we will have more ideas to code.
dadagaaa 2 days ago 1 reply      
Nice. But I would prefer if he first stopped torturing people and putting his own citizens on kill lists.
gwu78 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Don't just play on your phone. Program it."

Easier said than done. Not because it's difficult to learn to code. But because the owner of the phone cannot have uid 0 without "jailbreaking". Nor can she write an iPhone app without getting "permission" from Apple.

The closed nature of today's "phones" (which are really crippled handheld computers running UNIX) is the biggest impediment to learning to code and, for those who already know how, to getting their own code to run.

Give me a phone that lets me use my own bootloader, my own kernel and my own utilities.

In turn, I'll add value to what the phones provide out of the box and help the American economy.

api 2 days ago 2 replies      
While I think more people should learn code, I think the president getting up and telling everyone to do anything that isn't applicable to... well... every-freaking-one... is stupid.

Washington is clueless in two ways. (1) It normally doesn't get new things and lags behind. (2) When it does get things, it proceeds to fail at execution or not really get them and do ham-fisted things like this. So that means that Washington is always clueless about everything.

Sometimes I think the only thing that keeps us from being invaded or otherwise run over by the rest of the world is that nearly all other governments are at least as incompetent as ours.

ConceptJunkie 2 days ago 0 replies      
"President Obama calls on every American to learn code"

We tried that already. It was called Visual Basic. It's arguable how much value was created.

marincounty 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think it should be taught in school, but it shouldn't be forced on students; sorry, but some of your programming books are 600 pages of absolute boredom. I've wondered for years why computer programming books are so terribly written. It's not a crime to include diagrams, and highlightthe really important concepts. I would like to see a Hacakathon for writers of programming books. The shortest book that got across the material would Win!
bonemachine 2 days ago 0 replies      
Woah Cowboy How ken they lernz 2 kode when their aints enuf $$$ to pay teachers 2 lern themz 2 read n rite????
pvdm 2 days ago 0 replies      
No. Shut down NSA, then we'll talk.
ommunist 2 days ago 1 reply      
We've seen that before when in 90-ies everybody tried to learn some Visual Basic and later some Java.Maybe I am wrong, but programming require quite a systematic effort in knowledge acquisition, lots of practice and a good mentor. I also think community is not a substitute for mentorship, well it is a superset of it one may say, nevertheless.

When a politician asks everyne to learn how to code, I assume it is already too late for everyone to do it. There are more smart kids in India with IQ more than 100 than there are kids in the US in total.

peterarmstrong 2 days ago 0 replies      
For kids (not just American kids) between 9 and 12 I'm working on a book that hopefully can help with that:


If anyone here wants a review copy, either reply here or I'm @peterarmstrong on Twitter...

vincie 2 days ago 0 replies      
Lets start with Cryptography 101
dman 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wish algorithms were emphasized rather than code. Programming languages and frameworks are too much in flux right now. Education curriculum dont evolve very quickly so they would be baking in programming as it exists currently and recreate scenarios like Pascal being taught long after it was relevant in the mainstream.
mmaunder 2 days ago 1 reply      
Talk about a passionless plea. He should be more passionate and the message should be education in general i.e. inclusive of math, literacy, etc.

Anyone notice how tired he looks? His eyes are swollen and red. Rough job.

kunai 2 days ago 2 replies      
Call me a cynic, but I'm really indifferent to this entire "everyone should learn to code" nonsense. There are so many mistruths that Code.org is spreading that it's shameful.Let's get down to the biggest one: that with a "little bit of math and science" you can build the latest video game or write an app.

Buzzer #1. It doesn't take just "a little bit" of math. It takes a TON of math. Reading CLRS took me a month to master, and that was already with a background in elementary calculus using the infinitesimal approach. I'm reading Knuth's seminal "Art of," and I can immediately say that it would be absolute hell for anyone without an advanced mathematics background.

That brings us to mistruth #2: that somehow, learning to "code" will help younger people build tomorrow. That's utter bull. Learning to code will only lead to worse code: uglier, crappier, and less elegant and efficient code. Github will become a junk pile. Instead of coding, we need to teach students the programming part of computer science. Get a copy of Algorithms into every CS course and get rid of all of the silicon in the classroom. Trust me, people will learn much more meaningful things about problem-solving that way. Isn't that what writing code really sets out to do? You know, SOLVE PROBLEMS? Just code is NOT going to help that at ALL.

Then there's problem number 3, and probably the largest one: it assumes that programming is something we need EVERYONE to learn. EVERYONE. Yes, that is Code.org's goal. EVERYONE SHOULD CODE.

You know what, fuck it and let's teach EVERYONE TO BE A MECHANIC. Right? Why the hell not? It's like programming. Only that nobody in their right minds would tell people to make mechanical engineering a part of the curriculum. But people insist on doing the same for CS, as if it's any different.

I could go on about this for days. But forget it, Atwood's explained it far better than I ever could.

originally posted in the original discussion located here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6873136

swayvil 2 days ago 0 replies      
While we're at it we can have our brains extracted and placed in jars. Then we can write web pages, surf and play videogames forever. Solipsistic Nation!
bdcravens 2 days ago 0 replies      
Should be pointed out that Newt Gingrich did a similar spot:


amerika_blog 1 day ago 0 replies      
This sounds like politics to me more than anything else.

Having everyone learn to code is like having everyone be a paralegal.

Most will be bad at it. Neither is particularly difficult, but specialization is a matter of personality more than anything else.

prezjordan 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've created a collection on Medium if anyone's interested in sharing their personal stories on learn how to code :)


heezo 2 days ago 1 reply      
As a black American, I wish that I were suprised at some of the comments in the video.
cehlen 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is an amusing idea; however the truth is most people are not meant to be programmers. For those of you in the industry think back to your first couple of programming classes and the people who could not grasp the idea of a FOR LOOP. There was a small group of people who could do it and larger group that just couldnt. Its not personal, I was never meant to play basketball it is what it is.
seanhandley 2 days ago 0 replies      
The main problem I foresee with this is that the American school system is based on a religious school template whereby the students become very good at unquestioningly following instructions... and the whole point of coding is to describe to machines how to do exactly that so we can think about more interesting things.

I'm keen to see details of how the US government expects the programme to work. Given their track-record, particularly with the Obamacare site debacle, my hopes are not high.

Throwing in a compulsory coding course to the curriculum isn't the answer. Until a decent plan emerges, it's just phony rhetoric.

everettForth 2 days ago 1 reply      
Does President Obama know how to code?
MichaelMoser123 1 day ago 0 replies      
i think he is saying the right things! I think there is a problem that many kids like to play games, but that they are not quite interested to look at what is going on behind the scenes (does that sentence make me a grumpy old fart?)

Part of the problem is that modern systems and also modern programming language are very powerful, have lots of features, but therefore are hard to learn. One of my pet projects is a programming language for learning how to program http://mosermichael.github.io/cstuff/all/pooh-lan/2012/12/11... ; Actually I had the same problem, I am adding and adding features to the language, now that makes its less suitable for the original task. I guess finding the right balance is not an easy task.

Interesting, does Obama know how to code?

pedrogrande 2 days ago 0 replies      
I recently spoke at Ignite Sydney and spoke about teaching the world to code :)


naunga 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here's my two cents:

We should not be encouraging people to learn to program so much as we should be encouraging people to learn how to construct an algorithm.

That's the first thing you need to learn. Kind of like learning how to properly construct a sentence. You need to understand how to express a problem in a step-wise fashion.

There's a lot of talk in the technology industry about diversity. Adding more women, etc, but on a whole we need career diversity. Coders, writers, artists, actors, mathematicians, welders, plumbers, cooks, chemists, managers, politicians, and so on. Society takes more than just coders. So let's just encourage kids to get involved in finding a way to contribute that they might enjoy or at least find interesting.

Eyes2design 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is why when the government wants a website done, those Shove ready jobs are just waiting for us all.

I find this an insult, sure american programmers are far and between but this is not going to help. I Program but I have work for hours using everything I can find online. I have gained a DevOps job without a Degree in CS.

krrishd 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wrote an article on this subject (http://krrishd.github.io/blog/post/to-code-or-not-to-code), but I think it isn't necessary to learn all of computer science, but only relevant scripting and design skills.
gaplus 2 days ago 1 reply      
Learning anything new is all well and good, but the thing that's actually valuable to society and "america's future" isn't really more coders, it's people who are really fantastic at what they do; whatever it may be. I'd rather someone dedicate their life to becoming the best preserve-maker in the world than fixing bugs in groupon. The preserve-maker may not reach billions of people with his/her work, but based on my own observations, I've found that the relative quality of one's achievements in a field has more leverage than the scale.
agumonkey 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just focus on recursive functions all along primary and secondary school, with a more regular syntax (see G. Sussman on mathematics), and you'll get free programmers.
TomGullen 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Don't just buy a new video game. Make one!"

This is awesome news for our startup! Should bring in more traffic :)

dsego 1 day ago 0 replies      
Everyone should learn how to solder before learning how to code. Because experience. Hurr durr.
codeulike 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is this so they can help fix his website?
andrewcooke 2 days ago 0 replies      
can obama code?
gum_ina_package 2 days ago 3 replies      
Maybe if everyone knew how to code, we could fix healthcare.gov.
arxpoetica 2 days ago 0 replies      
So the obligatory joke would be, he's asking you to learn to code so you can fix his healthcare website. (duh, dum, dum
NAFV_P 2 days ago 2 replies      
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pjbrunet 1 day ago 0 replies      
Why can't Whitehouse.gov host its own videos using HTML5? That would be more fair to Google's competition.
ender89 2 days ago 0 replies      
Excuse me mister president, but I was born a computer scientist. I have the pictures to prove it.
foxhop 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this message is not targeted at all Americans, I think this message is calling on the younger generations to get back into the hacker spirit.
robomartin 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'd rather have every American learn how to vote. Far more damage is being done to this country by ignorant voters. Far more benefit could be derived by having an intelligent, well informed voting population. The best way to protect your future and that of your children is to elect representatives that will truly do what's best. The economic implosion of 2008 had nothing to do with not knowing how to code, write, cook or weld. It had everything to do with horrendously misplaced public policy and legislation. Learning how to critically analize issues without the influence of emotion, religion or political indoctrination to then intelligently cast votes is what we need people trained on.

Then again, no politician would want this reality.

idoescompooters 2 days ago 0 replies      
That's one of the very few messages Obama has made that I agree with.
simlevesque 2 days ago 2 replies      
Do you really need to know some science to code ? From my perspective it is not required.
bayesianhorse 2 days ago 0 replies      
No code left behind...
EGreg 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this video was aimed at kids.
tlongren 2 days ago 1 reply      
This should end well.
fleitz 2 days ago 1 reply      
This could be America's great leap forward into the 21st century.
mnml_ 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure the world will be a better place when 313m Americans will be PHP EXPERTS
kevando 2 days ago 1 reply      
Am I crazy or does he look terrible. His eyes are all red like he was just crying.
thenerdfiles 2 days ago 0 replies      
He just divided America... How will all the Americans respond who thought guns were the answer around and after WWII?

He doesn't say "every American" what the hell ? He specifically says "young Americans like you".

And that CERTAINLY does NOT warrant the question "should everyone know how to code"?

If the youth learns to code, the next generation will benefit from this, likely not needing to touch code at all. There's no such thing as "every American". That is totally, utterly, absolutely, invariably not the point. He's talking about the youth he's calling a DRAFT.

clonearmy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well, then, don't just pass a healthcare law, make a website for it :)
UbuntuJon 2 days ago 0 replies      
I freakin' love Obama.
We cannot trust Intel and Vias chip-based crypto, FreeBSD developers say arstechnica.com
325 points by robin_reala  1 day ago   170 comments top 17
ctz 1 day ago 3 replies      
It was always the right answer to feed all available entropy sources (irrespective of previous laundering -- eg. Intel RDRAND gets laundered through the SP800-90 AES-CTR_DRBG internally) into a decent CSPRNG. Feeding multiple entropy sources of different qualities, speeds or backdooredness cannot (by construction) decrease the entropy of the output (it can, obviously, fail to increase it -- say if your ring oscillator got stuck in a fixed bit pattern like the Taiwanese smartcards).

Yarrow and Fortuna are examples of decent CSPRNGs, so I'd say this is a pretty good move by FreeBSD.

dangero 1 day ago 4 replies      
Hmm I've been having similar concerns about the Windows rand_s function. Every Windows application including every modern browser relies on rand_s for secure random number generation but obviously the function is completely closed source. Seems like a perfect target for the NSA.
kkielhofner 1 day ago 1 reply      
I've been working with this project for some time:


Quite a bit of entropy using radio noise and a $15 RTL-SDR USB dongle. Still could use some work and review but seems like the start to an almost ideal solution.

polarix 1 day ago 5 replies      
Have people talked about using sensor device input as prng seeds? onboard microphone, fan speed jitter, etc?
lifeisstillgood 1 day ago 1 reply      
I used to work for an online gaming company (legal in the UK) - and they basically used the on server chips (as opposed to quantum RNG) - and was not unusual in the industry. which may lead to weaker randomness and so an exploit for scamming. It's just that the validation tests were to simulate a few million rolls of the dice and see if the graph came out right.
codex 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Even if you could trust these RNGs, it is possible that they will malfunction at any time through a manufacturing defect or thermal issue. Blindly trusting hardware is naive. Linux never did, and decisions like this make me less likely to ever use BSD again. The critical mass of talent is just not there.
ris 1 day ago 2 replies      
This coming from a BSD distribution that ships binary blob device drivers.
ape4 1 day ago 3 replies      
Where are the Intel and Via random instructions supposed to be getting their entropy?

Edit: thanks for the interesting replies!

pja 1 day ago 1 reply      
mhoye points to the notes from the FreeBSD summit on his Twitter feed. The notes from the security sessions are here: https://wiki.freebsd.org/201309DevSummit/Security

Key quote: "rdrand in ivbridge not implemented by Intel."

salient 1 day ago 3 replies      
Sounds like a good move to me. Intel has been awfully quiet about this.
UNIXgod 1 day ago 1 reply      
This on AMD chips as well? Since it's BSD we can just have an option to turn it off.
timbro 1 day ago 0 replies      
> the NSA and its British counterpart defeat encryption technologies by working with chipmakers to insert backdoors, or cryptographic weaknesses, in their products.

I had already started to forget about that...

From that other report (september):

> They reveal a highly classified program codenamed Bullrun, which according to the reports relied on a combination of "supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders, and behind-the-scenes persuasion" to undermine basic staples of Internet privacy, including virtual private networks (VPNs) and the widely used secure sockets layer (SSL) and transport layer security (TLS) protocols.

acqq 1 day ago 0 replies      
You wouldn't prove anything by analyzing the results, for anybody who knows a bit of cryptography it's trivial to produce the stream that "doesn't have the patterns" but that can contain "master" key.
gnu8 1 day ago 6 replies      
If I recall correctly, Linus refused to make this change in Linux, denouncing it as paranoia.

My fear is that the extra complexity adds additional opportunity for a back door to be inserted. However, software can be audited, the hardware cannot be.

noir_lord 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think which Linux distro you use should be like religion and politics should be a personal matter ;).

That said I am a Mint XFCE user and have been back to 13 (before that Gnome 2) every release has been brilliant I run it on everything from an ancient ThinkPad to a thoroughly modern development machine and it has worked well.

It's also the only WM/DE that handles multiple screens (3 on both desktops and 2 on Dell/External) without any show stopping/tremendously irritating bugs couple that with the huge amount of software available via Debian/Ubuntu and PPA's and it's a cracking developer OS.

Killing cancer like the common cold cnn.com
319 points by interconnector  4 days ago   96 comments top 14
JunkDNA 4 days ago 2 replies      
I've commented on this around here before. You read lots of junk about cancer "cures" in the popular press. They are almost always in mice or something and I or someone else with a similar background always feels compelled to weigh in and remind folks that it's a long way from curing lab rats to curing people.

This however, is the real deal. It's quite remarkable and there's likely more stories like this for other diseases on the way.

I went to a gene therapy session this fall at the American Society of Human Genetics conference in Boston and was blown away by some of the success people are having. I quipped to colleagues that I felt like I was in a science fiction movie. The most remarkable one was where they used an approach similar to the one here to cure a fatal metabolic disorder (relaying this from memory, so some of my recollection may be off). Kids with the disorder have a busted enzyme that causes slow degeneration of neurons. They don't live past 6 or 7 if I recall. The team showed how modifying a certain kind of stem cell found in the body normally to have the correct copy of the enzyme cured several patients. The corrected cells naturally move to the brain where they differentiate into glial cells and produce the correct copy of the enzyme. It turns out that because the neurons in the brain are starved for this enzyme, they express receptors that allow them to take it up from the environment. So the repaired glial cells supply enzyme to the entire brain (i.e. it's not necessary to modify every neuron in the brain to have a correct copy of the enzyme). They can completely cure kids with this approach. All of their muscular and neurological tests are 100% normal.

They had videos of these kids running around and playing just as if nothing was wrong. In one case, a younger brother lived but his older sister (who was too old when the therapy came out) had died. It was hard not to get choked up looking at their smiling, happy faces as they ran around, thinking that if this therapy hadn't existed, they would be in a nearly vegetative state.

Gene therapy had a rough start with the early setbacks, but I'm getting the sense that the tide is rapidly turing.

antirez 4 days ago 4 replies      
Great news but bad title as there are no treatments for the common cold.
girvo 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've read about this before. I'm excited and cautiously optimistic about it moving forward. One hopes that it can save other people in the future. Even some is better than 0. Personalised immunotherapy is cool :)
troymc 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's the Penn webpage about their T-Cell Immunotherapy for Leukemia:


guelo 4 days ago 2 replies      
The sad part of this story is how this publicly funded research is being licensed to Novartis.
jroseattle 4 days ago 0 replies      
My mom had cancer surgery at Sloane Kettering in NYC. After surgery, which removed most of the cancer, she was put on a treatment regimen that involves a certain type of medicine (which she'll be on for the rest of her life.)

Because she matched a gene, she's able to take a medicine called Tarceva. In essence, this medicine makes her lung cancer a chronic illness -- it's present, but doesn't spread or metastasize. It's a similar strategy to the one now employed with people who are HIV positive.

Mom is still kicking, so this stuff is working.

nroose 4 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know if this can be applied to other cancers too? I think they only mentioned leukemia, but they seemed to imply that it would be applicable to other cancers. But would the therapy have to be for each cancer or broadly for all cancers? And I am guessing they would have to choose between this and chemo, since I think chemo hurts your immune system. And that would be a difficult choice, no?
fraXis 4 days ago 7 replies      
There will never be a cure for cancer.

My wife was diagnosed in September with stage 1 breast cancer. She has triple negative breast cancer which is the most aggressive kind to get. She is on week 6 of a 16 week Chemotherapy regimen. Then she has 8 weeks of radiation.

Insurance has already spent over 100k on her lumpectomy and chemo drugs and doctor appointments since September.

Every week when we go to her oncologist office, the waiting room is always full with patients we have never seen before. More than half of them are new patients filling out their new patient paperwork. And they are getting younger and younger in age. We have seen teenagers in his office with breast cancer.

There is just too much money (doctors, surgery, drugs) to be made from treating this disease. What are all of these trained oncologist surgeons/doctors going to do if cancer gets cured? What are the drug companies that make these expensive chemo drugs going to do if cancer gets cured?

There is no way they are going to cure this horrible disease. There is no money to be made in the cure.

j2d3 3 days ago 1 reply      
This approach seems roughly similar to what Sangamo Genetics has been trying for HIV - with some recent success - http://www.aidsmeds.com/articles/Sangamo_genetics_1667_24579...
caycep 3 days ago 0 replies      
I vaguely recall this being posted before a few months back, but in a long-form journalism writeup in a local Philly paper...I can't recall exactly where but I remember it was well written.
msie 4 days ago 0 replies      
I hope that all these promising therapies somehow make it out of their trials and more people can benefit from them.
boyaka 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's how you deal with cancer:


gerhardi 4 days ago 2 replies      
If/when the cure makes it through the final tests to the market, the sad thing is that they are probably going to rip off everyone who needs it, no matter what are the real costs.

But anyway, a life is worth everything(?)

NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking washingtonpost.com
309 points by mikecane  1 day ago   164 comments top 23
Smerity 23 hours ago 13 replies      
There are two primary issues here: the prevalence of Google Analytics and the unencrypted nature of the majority of websites.

Google Analytics is on a substantial proportion of the Internet. 65% of the top 10k sites, 63.9% of the top 100k, and 50.5% of the top million[1]. My own partial results from a research project I'm doing using Common Crawl estimates approximately 39.7% of the 535 million pages processed so far have GA on them[2].

That means that you're basically either on a site that has Google Analytics or you've likely just left one that did.

If the page you're on has Google Analytics and isn't encrypted, the Javascript request and response is in the clear. That JS request to GA also has your referrer in it, in the clear.

The aim of my research project is to end with understanding what proportion of links either start or end in a page with Google Analytics. If it starts with Google Analytics, your present "location" is known. If the link ends with Google Analytics, but doesn't start with it, then when you reach that end page, the referrer sent to GA in the clear will state where you came from.All of this is then tied to your identity.

If people are interested when I get the results of my research, ping me. I'll also write it up and submit it to HN as it would seem to be of interest.

[1]: http://trends.builtwith.com/analytics/Google-Analytics

[2]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkoIUmP5ma8 GA specific results at 1:20)

suprgeek 23 hours ago 4 replies      
A perfect reason to NOT let Google own all layers of the stack between you and the internet (or indeed the real world).

Search - Check (goog.com)

Mail - Check (Gmail)

Browser - Check (chrome)

Devices - Check (Android/Chrome books)

Websites - Check (Double click/AdMob, Unknown number of other companies)

Google Analytics - Check

Your DNA - Check (23&Me)

Cars - Check (self-driving cars)

I am probably missing large chunks of tracking even with this list.

Where do you draw the line so that organizations like Google do not handover (willingly or inadvertently) our life to NSA, GCHQ, ASIO, CSIS & whatever New Zealand's Intelligence spooks go by, on a platter?

Heterogeneity - Make the buggers at least have to work a little bit to invade your privacy.

cromwellian 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Don't even need cookies if you have JS enabled (https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/05/every-browser-unique-r...) Without JS and with HTTP headers alone, you might be able to reduce entropy by using Geo-IP.
gress 23 hours ago 3 replies      
So all that paranoia about being tracked by Google... wasn't paranoid at all.

Yes, I know Google likely didn't cooperate in this, but they built a giant tracking engine, so it's not surprising to see it repurposed.

rl3 18 hours ago 0 replies      
To speculate: For connections that utilize NAT devices, NSA probably has analysis tools designed to attempt segregation of network traffic on a per-user basis.

Browser string, viewed content, frequency and magnitude of access, user authentication cookies, and ad-tracking cookies all would be tremendously helpful for this purpose.

Also, I'm betting they can easily tell when specific computers on a network are powered on or not based on fixed-interval network traffic from anything that polls regularly, such as anti-virus, news readers, mail clients and background updater services.

All of the above could aid in painting a more complete per-user picture behind the NAT, without actually having to compromise the local network or individual computers in question.

gorhill 23 hours ago 2 replies      
What a coincidence... I was just a few seconds ago, before taking a break to read HackerNews, investigating an issue with a Chromium blocker (https://github.com/gorhill/httpswitchboard/issues/79#), and was puzzled finding that the `pref` cookie of `.google.ca` changed every single time the tab of the page lost focus. Even went to Google privacy page to understand what this cookie did, with nothing in their statement that could explain this. Now this?
jimworm 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Let's be charitable to the NSA for a minute, and imagine that they are following the plot of the God Emperor of Dune[1], where in seeing the danger posed to the Internet by the formation of cloud service giants, they became the fearsome yet benevolent tyrant, strategically planning an engineered leak, so that on their death the Internet would react by distributing its services among many providers in The Scattering, thus ensuring the safety and continued survival of the Internet.

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

drawkbox 19 hours ago 0 replies      
So not only are businesses like cloud services, video games and messaging/devices affected by anti-business NSA trust breaches. But now we have the advertising industry that is going to be affected by the anti-privacy and anti-business practices of over the top spying on individuals. If any private company was doing this there would be legal issues.
kissickas 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I see a lot of you are using Ghostery, which I've never even downloaded because they get paid to whitelist and are run by ad executives. Is there a reason why I would want Ghostery in addition to Noscript, or is all of the (privacy-protecting) functionality redundant?

This news makes me happy to see there's a point to me having Google Analytics blocked the last two years. I've noticed a new thing, Google tag manager, lately. Any point in whitelisting this? Anyone know what it does?

judk 21 hours ago 2 replies      
Is there a way for mobile browsers to block analytics cookies JS , a la ghostery and adblock?
chanux 12 hours ago 1 reply      
For anyone who would find this useful: Self destructing cookies add-on for Firefox https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/self-destruct...
chroem 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Hah, the joke is on them: I browse with cookies disabled.

Of course, I'm sure they have some other way to pwn me, but it's nice to know that I was doing something right.

bottled_poe 23 hours ago 6 replies      
In my opinion, browsers should block all third party website content by default. Yeah, I know, the interwebs will break if they actually did this. Well perhaps someone should come up with some kind of website quality rating which indicates that a site can be viewed withing worrying about the prying eyes of FaceBook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
gress 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Also, it's worth pointing out that the tracking isn't for search. It's for more profitable advertising.
elwell 5 hours ago 0 replies      
The problem with this is that most of the general public will read it as "Google helped NSA intentionally ..."
bosch 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Can someone answer this question:

From a business perspective why is Google and Facebook getting involved in this and calling for the government to not track users. Won't that just bring more attention to their two business models of... wait for it... tracking users and selling their information?

dangayle 7 hours ago 0 replies      
As someone who works closely with several web marketing folks, this hits close to home. Each time they open a Snowden file, things get weirder and weirder.
goldvine 9 hours ago 0 replies      
This is beyond ridiculous at this point. Wondering what else is still to come...
salient 18 hours ago 0 replies      


As long as these companies build the best tracking engines the world has ever seen, that can identify anyone and everything they're doing, it's just a matter of time before governments get their hands on that data, legally or illegally. It's just too tempting to pass.

If I were Google I'd start thinking long and hard about how to solve this problem, and try to make money by actually being on the user's side when it comes to privacy, not against them. Google will ultimately fail if their goals aren't aligned with those of the users anymore.

timbro 19 hours ago 0 replies      
No website has to have Google track their users. If you do it, you choose to do it (you're disrespecting your users).

You can get your open-source and locally running web analytics here: https://prism-break.org/

usrnam 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Last weak i create extension for Firefox:

Disable Google tracking, log off user FROM Google search engine:* keep login into Gmail* also remove ads* remove Cookie,Sess~/localstorage__First run, need refresh Google page to log off~~

--Also remove Google anal-itics Cookie :)


timbro 19 hours ago 0 replies      
> it lets NSA home in on someone already under suspicion

Like OWS protesters, for example.

David Simon: 'There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show' theguardian.com
307 points by patrickk  3 days ago   366 comments top 31
abalone 3 days ago 8 replies      
Very good speech and an important national dialog to spark. I'd like to call attention to one thing though:

"I don't believe that a state-run economy can be as viable as market capitalism in producing mass wealth."

This demonstrates a basic confusion that we Americans have about ourselves, even most "lefties" and "libertarians": The false belief that we live in a free market economy.

The truth is, the state plays a massive role in our economy.

This is especially true for us Silicon Valley entrepreneurial Americans. Because the government's hand is especially strong in high tech.

The Internet. Microcomputers. Lasers. Jets. Robots. Siri. You name a major high-tech innovation, and it's probably got DARPA or NASA behind it in the earliest, highest-risk, most capital-intensive stages. Look again and you'll probably find lots more government support in bringing the technology to market through procurement.

This is all the more damning for our system's poverty. The rich and powerful are fully in favor of a strong, powerful state-run economy that serves their needs. That's why it's done under the rubric of military spending -- "we have to spend trillions of taxpayer dollars on this because we have to defend ourselves" sounds better than "because we need it to produce the Silicon Valley economic miracle."

Because the latter would suggest it's fair to direct major taxpayer support for other economic investments like education, health care and housing.

Instead, the state-supported rich and powerful can claim we live in a "free market economy" that just happens to have trillions of state-sponsored investment, for them.

majika 3 days ago 27 replies      
This is a remarkably sensible speech.

The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It's a juvenile notion and it's still being argued in my country passionately and we're going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I'm astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?

I see a lot of libertarian and anti-government sentiments expressed on HN. People like to construct arguments like "more government vs. less", "higher taxes vs. lower", "less regulation vs. more", but those debates are missing the forest for the trees. The question - and only question - should be what David Simon asks: are we all in this together or are we not?

To me, the answer is blindingly obvious. It's demonstrated by what societies are flourishing - with high economic and social equality, healthy democratic government, protected personal liberties, well-cared-for populaces, and resilient economies - and what societies aren't.


gum_ina_package 3 days ago 1 reply      
When I see arguments like this one, I always remember the little known fact that Adam Smith was a moral philosopher before he wrote about economics. A fundamental principle for capitalism is that people will behave morally and be compassionate. Without a moral society, no matter what system you're talking about, that society will always collapse.

I think David Simon, and many other modern critics of capitalism, have forgotten this and/or are too afraid of sounding "preachy" if they were to advocate for a more moral society.

I'd also like to point out that Simon seems to be making an emotional argument when he says there's a whole portion of people in our society who are useless when it comes to making the economy work. Perhaps it's because their skills don't match the needs of the workforce today. It's simply supply and demand.

sz4kerto 3 days ago 2 replies      
The tragedy of the successful capitalistic societies like the USA is the lack of first hand experience with socialism (and communism) will eventually result in the masses wanting to try it out.

Believe me, it's the worst thing what can happen with your country. It happened around here, and it takes generations to recover. Don't try it, even if it looks morally right.

badman_ting 3 days ago 1 reply      
> I think Marx was a much better diagnostician than he was a clinician.

That is a hell of a way to put it, and I totally agree. His basic framework of social relations (I am probably butchering terms here, please forgive me) seems basically right to me the older I get, though like Simon, I don't necessarily agree with his proposed solutions.

apsec112 3 days ago 1 reply      
The US as it exists today simply is not capitalist. The Great Depression and 19th-century industrial slums can reasonably be blamed on capitalism. American problems today cannot.

This isn't the fallacy of "no true Scotsman". It's just simple arithmetic. Look at a pie chart of GDP. About 40% of it is outright owned by the government (public spending). Another 40% of it is nominally private, but is extremely heavily regulated License-Raj-style, like real estate and medicine.

For example, if you want to build a new apartment tower, this is almost everywhere illegal because of zoning codes. The government has to give you permission to build anything, and then once you get permission, they dictate what you can build, how high you can build, what the building can be used for, how much parking there will be, how much of the land has to be building vs. landscaping, how far your building is away from the street, etc. etc. etc. It's literal central planning - a government committee takes out a map and draws lines, and then dictates at each spot exactly what kind of buildings there will be. None of this existed prior to the mid 20th century.

jl6 3 days ago 1 reply      
> Are we all in this together or are we all not?

Who is "we all"? I'm sure he's thinking of "all Americans", but if the idea is to help people you don't know who are less fortunate than you, what is the moral basis on which we restrict that generosity to just Americans? Nations and citizenship are arbitrary divisions.

If someone is in need, help them, regardless of what their passport says. That's not socialism, it's charity. And charity is capitalism's solution to suffering: aid, given freely.

Edit: though when it comes to the environment, capitalism has no answer, as the environment is fundamentally socialised.

VLM 3 days ago 0 replies      
The speech appears flawless at first read.

It comes from the FODI about a month ago which summarizes to (sorry if this offends) a more interesting TED than TED.


If only I could subscribe to a RSS feed of FODI speeches...

mcphilip 3 days ago 0 replies      
For those interested, there's a great Bill Moyers Journal segment with David Simon as the guest. It uses themes brought up in The Wire as a launching point for discussion of topics related to this speech. In particular, Simon explaining how the War on Drugs has transformed into a War on Inner City Poverty was particularly interesting. David Simon is incredibly articulate off the cuff, and that really shows through in this interview:


BTW, this interview does contain The Wire spoilers since it aired after the conclusion of the series.

sologoub 3 days ago 1 reply      
The arguments about the divide in America often misses an important point - personal choice or rather the sum of many personal choices that lead one to be on either side of the divide. The fact that we have so many people in prison is driven by the fact that people break laws in the first place. Some laws might be unjust, but the vast majority are just. If you commit what society has deemed unwanted, you must be punished. This is the basic concept of social organization.

Recently, I went to see a movie "20 blocks" down the street (as the author puts it) not thinking one bit that it might be a bad idea. I won't bore you with details, but in the end, I was assaulted just for asking someone not to speak loudly during the movie... How is this normal? Am I to blame for this anyway, just because I am white and of upper-middle income?!

This is the reason I cannot buy in to the fact that capital is to blame for all evils. Personal choice and degradation of moral values is what is the tragedy of the West and the world. In all facets of our society, we have chosen to ignore the basics that we understand to be good. These moral principles have nothing to do with wealth. If we remember these and act on them, the balance will be restored.

bsirkia 3 days ago 3 replies      
The hardest thing for me is that I'm super aware of how fucked up things are, but not totally sure what can done so just say "this sucks" and go back to work and whining about healthcare and listening to Slate podcasts. If I learned anything from the Wire, it's that these problems Simon brings up are so institutionalized that there's almost no way to fix them without some massive change, but I'm too small and irrelevant to make that change and our society is set up to resist change anyway.

So I'll probably just share this on Facebook, get some likes, and be proud of myself for "building awareness".

moss 3 days ago 0 replies      
There are so many things to love about this speech, but I think my favorite part is this: "the only thing that actually works is not ideological, it is impure, has elements of both arguments and never actually achieves any kind of partisan or philosophical perfection."

That's an extremely cogent observation about capitalism, but it would be just as relevant in a discussion about FP and OO, or about team social dynamics. Across the board, I see people doing better work when they spend less time seeking philosophical consistency and purity, and more time responding to real observed situations.

kenster07 3 days ago 0 replies      
In computer science or math terms, the market economy is incredibly simple to understand:

1) People are encouraged to locally optimize -- i.e. optimize their own happiness. But as any psychologist would point out, lots of people have no idea how to do that. Kind of a problem.

2) Local optimization rarely achieves the global optimum.

andyl 3 days ago 2 replies      
Capitalism as we know it is unsustainable.
pfraze 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's the video of his speech and following Q&A: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNttT7hDKsk
mooreds 3 days ago 1 reply      
"...because you know when people get to the end there's always the brick."


johnohara 3 days ago 0 replies      
And that's what The Wire was about basically, it was about people who were worth less and who were no longer necessary, as maybe 10 or 15% of my country is no longernecessary to the operation of the economy.

I wish more people would write about the so-called employment to population ratio as opposed to the new claims for unemployment model. Not as a metric of who's freeloadingbut as a metric of who's able to have skin in the game.

His 10 to 15% number may well be conservative.

siliconc0w 3 days ago 0 replies      
The article mentions Marx as useful for diagnosis but not for prescription and then seems to make the same mistake. The problem with political science is that it isn't a science. It has certain language to express complex social systems but it sucks at prescription. We can look at the ravaged path produced by a complex dynamic system and attribute some apparent motivations and maybe we're kinda right but it's still very difficult to then start making causative statements. And still more difficult to endeavor to engineer such a system to a certain end.

It isn't just answering, "what are we really trying to solve"? Or "how are we going to solve it"? The problem is that there isn't just one question or one answer. There are hundreds of possible questions, and then you have to agree on a answer in theory, and then you have to agree on a implementation, and then you have to have a system that is capable of the implementation. It's madness and there is no evidence we have a political system that is capable of such feats.

danso 3 days ago 3 replies      
It's hard to talk about David Simon without immediately thinking of The Wire, and I'm glad he mentioned it (he's infamously annoyed that people see it as compelling drama more than its attack against institutions, including the capitalist system):

> So I'm astonished that at this late date I'm standing here and saying we might want to go back for this guy Marx that we were laughing at, if not for his prescriptions, then at least for his depiction of what is possible if you don't mitigate the authority of capitalism, if you don't embrace some other values for human endeavour.

And that's what The Wire was about basically, it was about people who were worth less and who were no longer necessary, as maybe 10 or 15% of my country is no longer necessary to the operation of the economy. It was about them trying to solve, for lack of a better term, an existential crisis. In their irrelevance, their economic irrelevance, they were nonetheless still on the ground occupying this place called Baltimore and they were going to have to endure somehow.

That's the great horror show. What are we going to do with all these people that we've managed to marginalise? It was kind of interesting when it was only race, when you could do this on the basis of people's racial fears and it was just the black and brown people in American cities who had the higher rates of unemployment and the higher rates of addiction and were marginalised and had the shitty school systems and the lack of opportunity.

I still think The Wire is the best TV drama yet made, and that includes Breaking Bad, though I haven't watched Sopranos yet. One of the most amazing things about its achievements is how so un-cop-show-like it is...besides cops being of mixed character, they almost never draw their guns on the show...and yet it's still an addictively entertaining show. Simon and his co-writers were so good at creating characters (and drawing from his deep reporting experience) that even as his show has a strong anti-capitalistic tone, the Wire keeps your attention no matter what your political beliefs. Perhaps Simon could eke out one more grand show...beliefs and opinions can be affected by popular culture as they are by political discourse.

dmfdmf 3 days ago 0 replies      
Like a lot of people, Simon seems sincere in his concerns about America and our future. Unfortunately, most people's sincerity isn't deep enough for them to question their fundamental moral premises. I won't argue the case for Capitalism here but to say that there are answers but most people do not want to hear them.

People are realizing that we as a society are faced with a horrible moral and political dilemma. The moral ideal is Socialism and yet where ever it is tried consistently it fails. Our moral evil is Capitalism and yet where ever it is tried it leads to material success but moral decay. So the dilemma of our age is a moral-practical dichotomy that no one seems to be able to resolve. It is understandable that people like Simon issue a call to double down on the moral ideal of Socialism, that's what morality is for, to tell us what we should do. But his "solution" is that maybe we can make it work this time if we don't impose Marx's dictum too consistently. Maybe this time "need" won't expand beyond all bound and "ability" won't vanish. This time.

This approach will fail too. To escape our dilemma we need to question our morality instead of imposing another Socialist failure in America. I hope we can avoid this fate but I am not optimistic. If you are sincerely interested in these issues then I urge you to read two books by Ayn Rand; Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and The Virtue of Selfishness.

steveklabnik 3 days ago 2 replies      
It's really a shame that more people don't actually read 'Capital,' or at least the first three chapters of Capital I. While I ultimately disagree with Marx, I think he does a much, much better job of analyzing the problems we have than most people. Hence Simon's distinction between 'diagnostician' and 'clinician.' It was Lenin and Mao that really tried to be the clinicians, anyway.

It's a Sunday, if you've got some time today, check out "Value, Price, and Profit," which is sort of the beginning of Capital I but in a little bit easier language, and much shorter. It's only about 40 pages. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/value-price-...

DickingAround 3 days ago 1 reply      
Already, there's deeply untrue parts of this: We don't really know why the US emerged on top after WWII. There wasn't an A/B test that proves it. An argument can easily be made that the US came out ahead because it was the largest country which hadn't been substantially bombed and/or invaded. It's not well founded to say it was because the US was a mix of capitalism and socialism. There's not enough evidence for that.
return0 3 days ago 0 replies      
> Right now capital has effectively purchased the government

Which is the reason people no longer trust any government, which is why libertarianism seems the way forward, and any thoughts like these sound like 'reactionary' voices from the past. It seems to me that the linear progression towards absolute personal freedom which started with the Enlightenment is only going to go forward, which will realize many of the fears expressed in the article. The newer generations seem to be very comfortable with the idea of the oncoming law of the jungle, and seem very comfortable with their nationally neutral, atomic, unassociated social network identities. I doubt there will be a shift towards socialist ideals any time soon. The empowerment of the poor is already considered a technical problem to be solved by the startup ecosystem.

penguindev 3 days ago 0 replies      
His comments about health insurance were quite interesting.

"And ... you know when you say, OK, we're going to do what we're doing for your law firm but we're going to do it for 300 million Americans and we're going to make it affordable for everybody that way. And yes, it means that you're going to be paying for the other guys in the society, the same way you pay for the other guys in the law firm Their eyes glaze. You know they don't want to hear it. It's too much. Too much to contemplate the idea that the whole country might be actually connected."

I never thought about it that way. That said, I still think obamacare has some serious problems, and is basically corporate welfare and sick care. If you want to make people healthy, stop subsidizing unhealthy carbohydrates and GMO toxic shit, and perhaps gasp think about stabilizing population.

Thiz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Capitalism isn't bad. Statism is.

There is no single argument against capitalism that doesn't involve government intervention fucking up everything and everybody.

7Figures2Commas 3 days ago 2 replies      
It's astonishing that, in a nearly 3,000 word speech calling the United States a "horror show", the word debt is used not once.
auggierose 3 days ago 0 replies      
This has right now 239 points and is 4 hours old, with 237 comments. How can this article not be Nr. 1 on HN right now?

It is time to assess your algorithms, Mr. Graham.

fkssaa 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is in maryland... I'm pretty sure the wealth in that area isn't due to "capitalism". Try beltway bandits. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beltway_bandits
platz 3 days ago 1 reply      
There is no such thing as society - Thatcher
PythonicAlpha 3 days ago 0 replies      
Capitalism: Lemmings running towards the verge of the abyss and the priests of capitalism are yelling: Faster, Faster!
michaelochurch 3 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent speech.

I think we should view market capitalism as like an AI algorithm in a very convoluted space.

Start everyone off with the same amount of resources, and then let market capitalism go. For the first few iterations, inequality is forming but everyone is better off; even the poor are making absolute gains. You'll conclude that the algorithm (market capitalism) works. Untended, though, it starts to diverge after some time. The parameters go to infinity, the model gets ridiculous and ceases to represent real information (which institutions are worthy and add value, which do not) and goes into the self-perpetuation of early, parochial advantage (like overtraining, in ML, where noise in the data is misinterpreted as genuine signal).

What we want is to have the growth of that initial training arc, not the degeneracy as the algorithm diverges, and you want to keep having that growth and increasing general prosperity indefinitely. So we need continuous regularization. The welfare state is supposed to do that, but the increasing ability for those with wealth to convert it into power has rendered our government severely dysfunctional, so the normalization has stopped.

The problem with poverty in capitalism is that there's no real solution. Divergence and perpetuation of poverty is exactly what you'd expect. Markets are all about trade, but a person with nothing-- no social capital, no cultural capital, no wealth-- has nothing to trade, except for when terms for labor are extremely favorable-- like, skilled labor is in such shortage that even the out-of-touch rich see value in training the poor, for free-- and that's something we haven't seen since the 1960s.

H5N1 samaltman.com
298 points by olivercameron  9 hours ago   159 comments top 35
JunkDNA 7 hours ago 12 replies      
>We now have the tools to create viruses in labs. What happens when someone creates a virus that spreads extremely easily, has greater than 50% mortality, and has an incubation period of several weeks? Something like this, released by a bad guy and without the world having time to prepare, could wipe out more than half the population in a matter of months. Misguided biotech could effectively end the world as we know it

Sam is a smart guy, so I really don't want to come off as sounding like a jerk here, but this grossly underestimates the technical feasibility of creating such a virus. Computer folks routinely overestimate how much biologists actually know about the systems we study. We know jack about how the vast majority of biology works. We have the most fleeting glimpses of understanding that are regularly crushed by the complexity of dynamic systems with nested feedback loops and multiple semi-overlapping redundancies. I won't say it's impossible, but we don't even know enough to know whether the three things: high mortality, long incubation, and ease of transmission are even possible. While we can imagine it, there might be biological and epidemiological factors that prevent such a thing from existing.

This also commits the logical fallacy of ascribing superpowers to the bad guys cooking up viruses while assuming the good guys are sitting on their duffs letting bad things happen. H5N1 was a pretty good example of international collaboration. There were academic competitors and industrial labs working around the clock collaboratively on it in the early days before much was known. Whole vaccine divisions at pharmas were all over it. If we're instead talking about a mythical time in the future when we do understand enough biology to engineer something like this, one would have to assume the good guys possess the knowledge to develop countermeasures.

I'm not arguing that pandemics aren't something we should worry about. Europeans were almost wiped out by the plague and in modern times Africa has been decimated by HIV. These are real problems that the human race has faced and will likely face again, irrespective of lab-created stuff. Biotechnology is the primary mechanism by which we're going to be able to survive when the next one comes, wherever it comes from.

EDIT: Fixed wrong word usage in 2nd sentence.

chimeracoder 9 hours ago 20 replies      
> But another possibility is that we engineer the perfect happiness drug, with no bad side effects, and no one wants to do anything but lay in bed and take this drug all day, sapping all ambition from the human race.

Preface: What we're talking about is probably biochemically impossible (truly no bad side effects, no tolerance, etc.). So, everything that follows is a fun thought experiment, and should be taken as nothing more.

Let's say someone produces a true wonder drug that is relatively easy to produce and produces extreme happiness 100% of the time, with no side-effects, and no diminishing returns due to drug tolerance. This drug produces more happiness than any other activity that we could be pursuing with our time. As a result, all anybody wants to do is take this drug all day.

The author presumes that this is a bad thing, but let's question that assumption.

If everyone is completely happy 100% of the time, and - more importantly - happier than they would be if they were doing whatever it is they would be doing with that extra ambition, why should we assume that this is a bad thing?

Of course, somebody would need to maintain production of the drug. This means that people either would take it only part of the time, to maintain enough ambition, etc. to produce the drug on their own, or (more likely) we would have some lucky people who take it all the time and are always happy, and a few people who are tasked with producing all the joy for the rest of the world.

This exact premise (the second version) has already been explored, in short story form. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ones_Who_Walk_Away_from_Ome...

(I agree that this situation sounds bad - most people would have a negative emotional reaction to it, but it's fun to explore why we have an aversion to the thought of pure, unmoderated happiness.)

gizmo 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Tail risk decisions are never easy. Because we lack sufficient data by definition.

Should we focus on preventing terrorism? Well, if 9/11 was the worst case scenario then no. If on the other hand a terror attack could bring down the entire country it's certainly worth being paranoid about. Suppose terrorists poison our food and water supplies to the extent that we get country-wide food riots. A civilization is only 9 meals away from anarchy after all.

So the essential question is this:

- Is our civilization essentially fragile or fundamentally robust?

If our civilization is fundamentally robust we can simply focus on growth and deal with setbacks (global warming, terrorism, imperialism, wars) as they come. In the long term prosperity will go up and up. Not always as fast as we'd like and not always in ways we deem fair but if we keep making progress we'll get there eventually. This is the whiggish view.

The opposite view is that civilization is fragile. Kingdoms come and go and foolish decisions can and have lead to centuries of regression. The upward trend we've seen in the past couple of centuries does not mean our species has grown up in the slightest. Every new weapon of doom we discover we play with and we're no better than our imperialist and bloodthirsty forefathers. Our civilization is determined to self-destruct by either nuclear war, environmental disaster, political insanity or runaway capitalism. A civilization that is not capable of planning ahead will eventually walk like a lemming of a cliff. The best thing we can do is put tons of safeguards and regulations in place to improve our odds of surviving at all.

Those are the two main views. And the kicker is we don't have enough data to know for certain which view is correct.

timsally 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Terrorists attacks cost more than lives. The direct costs of 9/11 were between $40 to $100 billion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_effects_arising_from_t...). The direct costs of another terrorist attack targeting something like nuclear power could cost $700 billion or more (http://money.cnn.com/2011/03/25/news/economy/nuclear_acciden...). None of these estimates take into account indirect costs, which are potentially even larger. Preventing terrorist attacks is about saving lives, but it's also about stopping events that could wipe out a quarter of our revenue for the year. Massive economic damage can cause a lot of pain and suffering.

When analyzing risk, it's important to estimate costs as accurately as you can. Unfortunately Sam missed the boat on this one.

oskarth 7 hours ago 1 reply      
This is exactly why people like Nassim Taleb [1] (Fooled by Randomness, Black Swan, Antifragile) are against things like GMO. We can't predict which tail risks will hit us and how much - the only thing we can do it to make ourselves robust against the negative ones.

This is also why, in the face of globalism, we should work to make life multi planetary [2].

And for people who think this is just silly, it might be a good idea to have a look at some recent history [3] and consider how close we were to being in a very, very different place. This is not science fiction.

Good piece.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassim_Nicholas_Taleb

2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elon_Musk

3: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_Missile_Crisis

slg 8 hours ago 11 replies      
The question I always think of when people raise fears like this about bio-weapons is what what motivations are there for "bad guys" to release indeterminate killers like a bio-engineered virus? It seems like the principles of MAD still apply here. Why launch an initial attack that has the potential to "destroy the world" that either you or you leaders would still hope to inhabit? It would require someone illogical and/or desperate, but yet still had the technological prowess to create the weapon in the first place. It would basically need to be a Bond villain.
GigabyteCoin 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I came across an interesting tidbit of information the other day.

It turns out that "mud daubers" (wasps that make houses from mud) are responsible for at least 2 major airline crashes in the last 33 years killing at least 223 people. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mud_dauber#Involvement_in_Flori...

One in 1980, and one in 1996... that we know of.

Apparently these mud daubers love living in long cylinders. If they find one, say on a plane's uncovered instruments, they'll set up shop.

If you look at it under the right light, mud daubers are approximately 1/20th as powerful and threatening as the world's terrorists of the last 33 years.

This URL has some numbers of terrorist caused deaths over a similar timeframe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patterns_of_Global_Terrorism

drzaiusapelord 7 hours ago 0 replies      
>Unlike an atomic bomb, which has grave local consequences

This is a little dismissive. Nuclear war under any plausible scenario wouldn't be an isolated 1945-type event. It would be a global event that drew in other players and more than likely would conclude in a mass launch by one of the world powers. We're not nuking Paris, Moscow, or DC and walking away. There will be retaliation.

Unlike biotech, these things are here, ready, and primed to hit targets. If there's a tail risk to worry about its human extinction via nuclear arms.

timr 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Others have already (rightly) made the point that we're not yet able to synthesize new viruses from scratch. And the "amateur bio-hacking" thing is completely overblown -- the most advanced amateur work I've seen is stuff like putting GFP into bacteria, which is just trivial. It requires little more than some commercially available kits and a warm water bath. Synthesizing new organisms is many orders of magnitude harder.

That's not to say that things won't change, but if I had to pick a serious biological threat that exists right now, it would be antibiotic resistance. Thanks to air travel and long incubation times, we're not that far away from a global pandemic of multi-drug-resistant TB, yet almost nobody is talking about it.

gboudrias 8 hours ago 1 reply      
That's a pretty terrible title. What about H5N1? Why should I click? Are you just trying to be scary?
abalone 5 hours ago 0 replies      
He doesn't offer much support for his prescriptions.

Why is it bad to "try to keep things secret" but good to "spend a lot on proactive defense"?

How would that apply to hydrogen bombs? Should we open source the specific details on how to engineer a maximally efficient hydrogen bomb from the most accessible materials, and just spend a lot on hydrogen bomb defense? (Which is what exactly?)

When you omit support for conclusions, it implies you think the reasons are obvious. But it is not obvious that we should do away with efforts at secrecy around hydrogen bomb tech. Nor is it obvious we could defend ourselves from widely available thermonuclear bombs by being "proactive". It's a hand-wavey answer that appeals to the "information wants to be free" sentiment, but not actually well supported.

antirez 5 hours ago 0 replies      
The real effort to create such a virus is not clear, but I always wonder why governments never tried to make an effort in order to make humanity more resilient to attacks of this kind (natural or artificial) with education. The incredible thing about viruses is that if you have a disciplined population that stays home as much as possible, avoid contacts during interactions, and so forth, during an epidemic issue, you can do wonders at containing the event. But for some reason we are not prepared at all to act rationally to such an event.
Fomite 4 hours ago 0 replies      
On the virus he's actually writing about and the "gain of function studies" that caused so much controversy, part of the risk is not terrorists, or bad guys, or any ill intent whatsoever.

This kind of research is conducted in BSL-3 labs, and there's a not insignificant number of laboratory accidents, accidental exposures, etc. in those labs, by well-intentioned, well trained people.

I saw a presentation recently that estimated, using fairly conservative numbers, that 10 labs working on those viruses for 10 years had ~1600 deaths in expectation. Now that distribution isn't normal - lots of zeros and then some rare but catastrophic outcomes, but like many things, it doesn't require anyone to do anything actively malign. Just screw up.

jpatokal 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Technical impossibility aside, I take issue with the whole assumption that there exists a Hollywood-movie "bad guy" who would take it upon himself to create a killer virus.

Yes, there are terrorists who do not shirk from mass murder to achieve their goals, eg. flying planes into the heart of the enemy's military and financial centers. But creating a virus that that respects no religion or national boundary and will kill everybody it touches serves no rational goal.

The only reason for somebody to do this would be if the extermination of the human race was the actual goal, and that's just so far-out that even certified nutcases like Japanese subway sarin attackers Aum Shinrikyo would blanch. The ideology of these groups is invariably that, while the rest of the human race may be doomed, they are the Chosen Ones that will survive, but viruses don't play dat. It would thus only make a smidgen of sense to do this if you had an absolutely solid antidote/vaccine that would ensure that your group can survive the onslaught... and if that exists, the rest of humanity can develop one as well.

argumentum 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Very stimulating article.

Minor quibble: I've never thought (most) people actually "fear" terrorism, rather they have (justified) anger and perhaps an excess feeling of "something should be done" since terrorists are actual human beings who can be brought to account.

Perhaps a better comparison would be fearing airplanes over cars, but there I think much of the fear is in the novelty of the flying experience.

The comparison with nuclear weapons is really interesting, particularly as the response to fear of nuclear annihilation on the part of most people was overblown (digging bomb shelters under houses etc). On the other hand, the actions of the relevant governments (US/USSR) were mostly rational in a game-theoretic sense (acknowledging the prisoner's dilemma at hand).

Biotech may be different, as Sam mentioned, since only nation-states have the means to build nukes. On the other hand, computers/the internet still work despite Y2K and rtm's worm :)

revelation 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Is this satire? Why would you start a post with a description why the remainder of said post is pointless fearmongering?

Theres plenty of dangerous technology out there, right now. We need not conjure superviruses. The only thing saving us is as usual the incompetence and scarcity of those that actually want to cause harm on a big scale. Don't think for a second it's the security theatre that keeps the numbers down or the lack of weapons of mass destruction.

aero142 7 hours ago 0 replies      
This area is just one that Bill Joy covers in http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr.html Why the Future Doesn't Need Us, which is my favorite essay on lots of these ideas.
molsongolden 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Are there reasonable precautions that can be taken at an individual level to prepare for a pandemic type event?
Dirlewanger 8 hours ago 1 reply      
This is preaching to the choir, especially on this site of self-proclaimed technologists. Yeah, we know more oversight/regulation needs to happen in certain nascent industries. We also know how awful things could get; you just told us. Blog posts like these is just wasting breath. Getting out and doing something and getting involved in the political process now is what will be helpful...so when the last baby boomer in a position of political power finally shuffles off the mortal realm (and we can have a weeklong celebration) we will have well-educated people on the issues that matter ready to ascend to power.

Then again, who am I kidding. We're talking about politics.

ivanhoe 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Speaking of irrationality of fears, people are so obsessively frightened with the idea of "mad scientists" doing weird genetical experiment that goes wrong, and in the same time completely ignore the far more realistic horror stories that are almost imminent, like bacterias becoming widely immune to all known antibiotics...
jcfrei 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I absolutely agree. And I believe governments nowadays are doing too little to prepare us for a potential epidemic of a lethal virus. In my opinion a reasonable measure would be an emergency plan which (in a matter of a few days) can provide all households with enough food for a month long curfew.
peteretep 8 hours ago 0 replies      

    > But another possibility is that we engineer the perfect    > happiness drug, with no bad side effects, and no one wants    > to do anything but lay in bed and take this drug all day,    > sapping all ambition from the human race.
How does this compare to properly administered medical-grade morphine?

streptomycin 6 hours ago 0 replies      
If you're interested in more, start with the first time people got concerned about this problem, nearly 40 years ago: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asilomar_Conference_on_Recombin...
lucb1e 7 hours ago 1 reply      
> Based on current data, you are about 35,000 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack.

With that kind of logic we can get anywhere. For example it is way more likely to die after breathing air than after 'breathing' water. It just takes, say, 75 years on average.

Comparing this with other non-natural death causes, such as murder, would be much more fair.

FollowSteph3 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Unlik say the Homebrew club, some similar hackers exploring viruses could accidentally release something unintentionally. All it takes is one oops. And looking at the early computer days security was never a primay or secondary issue, if at all. But yet amazing things were created. The difference is one is local while the other can spread with no control...
wensing 8 hours ago 0 replies      
If you're interested in building risk-based applications, come talk to me about Pulse OS and Riskpulse - http://riskpulse.com/offerings/
mrcactu5 6 hours ago 0 replies      

  hacking our bodies will likely be more powerful than hacking bits
on some level we've been doing this for thousands of years. it is a matter of time before we take it to next level. and there is lots of interest there.

source99 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm confused.

We shouldn't worry about terrorism because the likelyhood of dying from it is very low, but we should worry about genetically engineered virus because the likelyhood of dying from it is very high?

Last time I checked NO ONE ever died from a genetically engineered virus.

ve55 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Although biotechnology is definitely a significant risk, there are some other things such as nanotechnology, flawed super-intelligences, and transhumanism-related issues that should rank very highly as well.

See http://www.nickbostrom.com/existential/risks.html for a nice summary of potential existential risks to humanity.

fleitz 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Given the history of weaponization it would be illogical to worry about 'bad guys' instead we should be worried about the US Government.
rayiner 6 hours ago 0 replies      
> So everyone smart says that we worry about terrorism way too much, and so far, theyve been right.

And the people who are even smarter realize that people will worry about what they will worry about, and respond to threats proportionally to how much people worry about them rather than chiding them about how much they should worry about things.

Human beings aren't rational when it comes to fear, but the products of that fear are very real. We live in a world where people freak out if an adult talks to a child, but happily drive their kids around in the death traps that are motor vehicles. Not only that, but we've gone to great lengths to structure our society to treat the former as abnormal and the latter as totaly normal. Telling people to be rational isn't going to make them that way.

api 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm personally kind of amazed it hasn't already happened, either through intentional (mis-)tinkering or natural mutation. The reason I'm surprised is air travel. People fly everywhere, and anything that appears that is easily transmissible ought to spread like wildfire.

It means one of several things:

(1) Humans are more resilient against plagues than we think.

(2) It's harder to produce a super-disease than we think, so it's a very rare event.

(3) We've just been lucky as hell.

larrys 8 hours ago 0 replies      
"Trying to keep things secret is not the answer. "

Disagree. Of course it's certainly part of the answer.

If not then why not publish all the details of when you are home and how your house is protected for anyone to see? And exploit if the appropriate "nut" decides to? Some walls are helpful as a barrier.

Security (by obscurity?) does provide some protection. Locks do keep some people out. Going in the other direction (and making it easy for someone and very available) is not a solution to making things safer.

acidburnNSA 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Nathan Myhrvold makes nearly the same point with lots more detail in his Strategic Terrorism paper. http://www.lawfareblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Strate...
badjujubees 6 hours ago 0 replies      
"Based on current data, you are about 35,000 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack."

Could we please get a link / source to this current data?

Firefox 26 is released mozilla.org
290 points by lambda_cube  1 day ago   197 comments top 28
kibwen 1 day ago 2 replies      
According to the #ux channel on irc.mozilla.org, Australis will be relegated to Nightly builds (Firefox 29) for a while yet, and might be as late as Firefox 30 depending on the speed at which bugfixes roll in. Sorry, Aurora users. :(
riquito 1 day ago 3 replies      
> Improved page load times due to no longer decoding images that aren't visible (847223) ( https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=847223 )

This is pretty cool

pwnna 1 day ago 4 replies      
> Support for H.264 on Linux if the appropriate gstreamer plug-ins are installed


prteja11 1 day ago 3 replies      
Love this - All Java plug-ins are defaulted to 'click to play'

I tried convincing my coworkers to disable java and failed (we are not developers).

jevinskie 1 day ago 0 replies      
EXIF rotation was long overdue but I'm happy it finally landed!
Ygg2 1 day ago 2 replies      
I have a silly request, can timings on Network tab be displayed on mouse hover? I hate having to click to measure which part took much time? This is @Mozilla Web inspector
shmerl 1 day ago 6 replies      
Is there any way to update Firefox on Linux without resorting to ugly methods like running it as root and using update UI, or downloading the mar file manually and running the updater CLI tool with that file (as sudo / root)?

The issue is that I use stock Mozilla build (I prefer it to Iceweasel on Debian), so I just placed it in /opt, but I don't want to give write permissions to the firefox directory to my primary user (it's kind of bad security wise). Because of no write permissions, updating UI can't update the browser naturally, unless I run it as root. And manual mar + updater method isn't nice either.

Potentially there can be some better ways for updating:

1. Firefox can work with policykit and request authorization for updating (if user has it - it can ask for password). That's much better than running as root.

2. updater CLI tool can detect all the settings, channels sources and etc. from Firefox local DBs, and instead of forcing the user to manually grab some mar file, it can go and perform all that automatically. updater can be run with sudo still, but avoid all the manual steps.

Both these methods would be much neater than what I usually do now.

super_mario 1 day ago 5 replies      
These frequent updates are going to kill Firefox and it's partially Google's fault. Basically, Google has managed somehow to coax Firefox developers to rapid release cycle with frequent Chrome updates. But this goes against Firefox users.

Why do people use Firefox? Most users claim extensions. What breaks extensions? Frequent updates. Effectively annulling the most compelling reason to use Firefox.

This is certainly my experience. Pentadactyl, the most compelling reason for me personally to keep using Firefox is more broken than not. Every single update in the last year has broken it and sometimes in non-trivial ways, and stretching my patience to the limit. If I have to abandon Pentadactyl, I really don't have a reason to use Firefox anymore.

UI changes proposed in Australis are not something to look forward to either esp. if you like hiding Firefox UI elements and basically just keeping undecorated minimal window with Pentadactyl.

erichurkman 1 day ago 0 replies      
See also the Firefox 26 for Developers: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/Firefox/Releases/26

And Site Compatibility for Firefox 26, https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/Firefox/Releases/26/Site...

Of note, images with EXIF rotation data are now rotated correctly! And you can inspect :before and :after elements in the built-in inspector finally.

caissy 1 day ago 3 replies      
> There is no longer a prompt when websites use appcache.

Quite happy with this one. I had to develop an offline web-based application a few weeks ago and it really bugged me that I had to allow the application to use the offline cache.

notjustanymike 1 day ago 2 replies      
As a developer, it would just peachy if they'd start supporting HTML5 input elements.
raverbashing 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just clicked on "About Firefox", the upgrade was downloaded and installed.

And a smaller download than downloading the new version.

drill_sarge 13 hours ago 0 replies      
If you are on beta channel and the integrated updater is too slow for you, you can grab 27b1 here: https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/27....
benjamincburns 1 day ago 4 replies      
Maybe I'm biased, but jor1k is my FF benchmark of choice these days. Sadly I'm not seeing any major performance increase over FF 25 (posting this from jor1k via links [1]).

1: http://s-macke.github.io/jor1k (had to edit in the link as the ':' and '-' keys don't appear to be working)

mar1 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm using Archlinux and I have the H.264 GStreamer plugin installed (as well as base+bad+good+ugly codecs), but with Firefox 26 I still can't play a lot of YouTube videos when Flash is disabled, for example when I try to play Gangnam Style it tells me "The Adobe Flash Player is required for video playback".

Is that related to advertisements? Would it be possible to develop a plugin or a GreaseMonkey script that would allow to play every YouTube video in HTML5 with Firefox? If yes, does it exist?

shmerl 1 day ago 1 reply      
About gstreamer video playback: I didn't find a way to prioritize formats. Let's say some video is available in VPx (WebM) and H.264 (mp4). Firefox will pick first whatever is listed first on the page. So for me it always picks H.264 on Youtube. I prefer to use open codecs though when there is a choice, but there is no apparent way to set the priority.
anymane 1 day ago 1 reply      
I am curious about this change in the changelog."Password manager now supports script-generated password fields"I couldn't easily find any details about. Would someone be kind enough to elaborate on what it does and where it is useful?
footpath 1 day ago 1 reply      
The Android version has received a facelift as well, and it looks nice. However, I suppose there still isn't a way to manually pin sites to the about:home page if they do not show up there already?
dear 1 day ago 4 replies      
Anyone with memory problem with Firefox? My FF is currently using 2G memory while I only have 13 tabs opened and most of them are just plain simple pages. I am sure it will keep sucking up memory until I do restart. This problem is not new. Is there a memory leak problem with FF?
dijit 1 day ago 0 replies      
>Support for H.264 on Linux if the appropriate gstreamer plug-ins are installed

I was trying to do this for ages using plug-ins, nothing works- was told to run nightly- but I need this browser.

can't wait until it makes it's way into repo's :D

_sabe_ 1 day ago 4 replies      
How can this tiny minor changes be worthy of a whole version number? Firefox is the software equivalent of the Zimbabwe dollar.
known 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Great Browser. Thank you Mozilla.
3rd3 1 day ago 2 replies      
I wished they would improve the PDF viewer.
crb002 1 day ago 1 reply      
Lol. I like the unresolved finger given to Flash.
xfalcox 1 day ago 0 replies      
Can we see the gzipped size side by side with real size on network panel?
achairapart 1 day ago 4 replies      
Firefox 25 hanged most of the time, it seems was because of Firebug. I disabled Firebug.

Firefox 26 hangs at start up. CPU stuck at 100%. Almost 1 GB of ram used with 1 tab open (I can't even open a new one).

What happened, Mozilla?

I'm giving up with this browser.

nodata 1 day ago 1 reply      
"has been released" or "is out".
lucb1e 1 day ago 3 replies      
Firefox 3: Yay!

Firefox 3.6: Let's see what's new!

Firefox 4: oooh pretty UI (at least that's what most thought)

Firefox 26: sigh another one?

I think only every 10 versions should be news. Since they moved to this useless release cycle (basically replacing bugfix releases with major releases), we should shift our news upvoting from major releases to major-major releases (i.e. treat the decimal sign as if it were 2.6x instead of 26.x).

Turn any application that uses stdin/stdout into a WebSocket server github.com
289 points by adito  1 day ago   88 comments top 12
tlrobinson 1 day ago 4 replies      
Basically the same thing in Node.coffee, just because:

    { Server } = require 'ws'    { spawn } = require 'child_process'    command = process.argv[2]    args = process.argv[3..]    wss = new Server port: 8080    wss.on 'connection', (ws) ->      ps = spawn command, args      ps.stdout.on 'data', (data) -> ws.send data.toString()      ws.on 'message', (data) -> ps.stdin.write data.toString()      ws.on 'close', -> ps.kill()      ps.on 'close', -> ws.close()
(Needs a bit more error handling)

xxchan 1 day ago 6 replies      
Amazing how the old is new again. Welcome back, CGI!I hope everyone's aware that this is just a toy and should never be used to do any real work, because most command line tools were never written to be exposed to the internet at large.
joewalnes 1 day ago 2 replies      
Author here.

If you use this on top of programs like bash, well ermm, you get what you deserve ;).

Here's an example of how I used websocketd to create a little dashboard for monitoring Linux CPU/memory/IO stats. It basically uses websocketd to stream the output of vmstat to a web-page that plots the numbers: https://github.com/joewalnes/web-vmstats

Other useful examples: tailing log files, executing long running job and monitoring output, or interactive querying of datasets that require a long running 'cursor'.

This is not for everyone or everything. Remember that like CGI, a process is forked for each connection so it's not the kind of thing if you want to handle a million concurrent connections on a single server.

However for dashboards, admin tools, quick mashups, visualizations, etc - it's a pretty handy tool.

babby 1 day ago 1 reply      
For some stupid reason I hadn't considered that logging stdin/out/err to a web interface for my node.js web apps via websockets. To think, I made a browser-side web IRC interface, and didn't consider this. It would be so useful for my clients, who don't know how, or find it too archaic to ssh in.

To just open up the admin area and see what's going on, provided they're indeed full-permission admins. Then, to actually send input from said interface, that could make ssh'ing into the server something one need not do often beyond initially setting up the app.

Thanks for the idea. Assuming we're not running as root, and the admin side of things is secure, am I not considering any critical pitfalls of this approach? Also, any frameworky cmsy thingers that already do this? Is this new, am I a unique snowflake?

gren 1 day ago 4 replies      

    websocketd --port=8080 bash
Then in the browser console:

I just ported bash to the web :)

phaed 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is beautiful. I can think of a dozen use cases for this right now for one of my pet projects.
guard-of-terra 1 day ago 1 reply      
Is this just xinetd for the ignorant?
minikomi 1 day ago 1 reply      
Awesome.. I use the same kind of thing to monitor adb output sometimes:


also in go.

Edit: Doesn't do any receiving, only pipes to a socket what it gets.

hepek 1 day ago 2 replies      
isn't this reimplementing netcat -e command?


schrodinger 1 day ago 4 replies      
anyone getting an HTTPS warning? It's telling me that github.com cert was signed by an untrusted issuer...
eddywebs 1 day ago 2 replies      
If the shells script takes input parameters can we pass that and eventually turn it into some kind of web service ?
German Patent Ruling Threatens Microsoft's Windows Phone Earnings From Android forbes.com
278 points by salient  4 days ago   67 comments top 14
naner 4 days ago 0 replies      
Back in 2009 Microsoft sued TomTom[1] over what appear to be US versions of this patent[2][3] (EU version here[4]) and won. There were subsequently efforts to work around this patent in the Linux implementation of FAT[5].

1: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2009/02/micros...

2: http://www.google.com/patents?id=bUohAAAAEBAJ

3: http://www.google.com/patents?id=cLAkAAAAEBAJ

4: http://www.google.com/patents/EP0618540A3

5: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2009/07/vfat-l...

ghshephard 4 days ago 2 replies      
US5758352 was filed on Sep 5, 1996, so it's still got another three years of life before we can bury the silly thing.

US5960411 A (One Click Shopping) Dies a year later (filed Sep 12, 1997)

A whole host of idiotic patents should be ending their life in the next several years.

Morgawr 4 days ago 1 reply      
For those interested, this seems to be the email/thread that was cited.


goggles99 4 days ago 5 replies      
>we dont really have a German or UK or whatever patent system any more, we have a European Union one. So this German case doesnt apply just to Germany, it applies right across the EU

This has got to be false information. It was mentioned that this was a ruling of the Federal Patent Court of Germany, BPatG. Since when does a German patent court dictate EU patent laws and rulings? does this mean that if a patent court in another EU country ruled the other way that that is now the new EU stance? This makes no logical sense.

aw3c2 4 days ago 1 reply      
WildUtah 4 days ago 1 reply      
Microsoft's earnings from Android trolling are not a matter of public record. Each agreement M'soft has made is secret.

In fact, there is no strong, solid evidence that M'soft is making any money at all off Android. When Barnes and Noble's Nook refused to pay the danegeld, M'soft sued and then settled to avoid discovery. Nook actually got paid by M'soft in the settlement, though M'soft ended up with considerable control of the unprofitable Nook in exchange.

Speculation is that HTC agreed to make and market Windows Phone phones instead of paying royalties. If that kind of agreement was common, it's no wonder that all the non-Nokia Windows Phone phones were garbage: They were produced under duress.

Also, my Android 4 devices no longer support any kind of FAT filesystems the way my Android 2 phones did. I think Google already started making FAT optional just so as to avoid paying for patents like this one.

jbuzbee 4 days ago 1 reply      
The cynic in me says that even if the patent is thrown out, it will have little effect on the extortion that Microsoft is practicing against Android. They'll just find another vague patent to threaten manufacturers with.
PythonicAlpha 4 days ago 2 replies      
Another ridiculous software patent that should die!

I people had patented B-trees, there would be no MySQL or other free database and royalities had to be paid on any database of the world.

Or guess, somebody would have patented Quicksearch ... a thousand times more plausible thing to patent.

mtgx 4 days ago 3 replies      
So in other words, Microsoft stole Linus' ideas, and then asked everyone to pay them for it. At least going by Microsoft's own logic in general.

Frankly, I've always thought it's ridiculous that FAT isn't at the very least a FRAND patent, considering how much monopolistic power Microsoft had in the desktop OS space, and I'm surprised that in the anti-trust lawsuits against them, this wasn't raised as an issue. I guess back then they didn't really enforce FAT patents the way they started doing after Android took off, and saw it as an excellent opportunity for rent-seeking.

davesims 4 days ago 0 replies      
TIL Microsoft makes (a lot) more money on Android than Google does.
belgianguy 4 days ago 0 replies      
While I do speculate that Microsoft has more vague patents that it's using to sap Android OEMs, I do think this was one of the more prominent patents, as Microsoft itself went on the offense with it (IIRC it tried to get Motorola phones banned for violating it).

It made my day to see that a comment by Linus Torvalds himself made this patent end up in the garbage bin of IP harassments.

krsunny 4 days ago 0 replies      
This title is confusing.. "From Android" ?
throwawaykf 4 days ago 0 replies      
Same thing happened at the ITC last year (except I'm not sure if an ITC ruling can actually invalidate patents):


However TFA is being silly in claiming it threatens any significnt portion of MSFT's licensing revenue. Companies that size don't typically license individual patents, they license portfolios of patents.

Now the following is all speculation, since these licensing deals are very closely guarded, but from the few I've heard of: I'm guessing Microsoft's "smartphone" (or maybe the "linux") portfolio has dozens of patents, each of varying value, of which this was just one. So the portfolio's value will decrease a bit, but I'm guessing not by much.

Archive.org donations matched 3:1 until 2014 archive.org
276 points by blhack  3 days ago   27 comments top 12
bane 2 days ago 2 replies      
I used to think Project Gutenberg was one of the most important projects on the internet, then Wikipedia. But the amount of value I'm getting out of Archive.org increases every day. Some examples:

1) I'm a fan of old-time radio because it can be more entertaining than books on tape or the radio for long car or bus rides. Archive.org has an unbelievable collection, literally months of well produced radio plays, including some great classic sci-fi like "X minus 1". https://archive.org/details/XMinus1_A


2) On top of hosting a copy of all of Project Gutenberg (almost 40k books), they have numerous other libraries including an awesome collection of scanned Magazines. I'm into old computers and sci-fi, so their OMNI archive (https://archive.org/details/omni-magazine) and an unbelievable collection of old computer magazines (https://archive.org/details/computermagazines) fit the bill. (There's also a pretty big library of classic computer books).

3) It's backed up with an extensive collection of old computer software. https://archive.org/details/software

4) An awesome video archive with everything from archived old computer shows like the computer chronicles https://archive.org/details/computerchronicles to a few thousand old movies, many of which are still worth watching https://archive.org/details/feature_films including "Plan 9 from outer space" https://archive.org/details/Plan9FromOuterSpace_811 and even the impressive (if incomplete) Chrontendo https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22chrontendo...

Though I wish it was a bit better organized, browsing around archive.org, and hitting upon pockets full of awesome like the 5 above remind me of being a kid and going to the central library for the day and browsing the periodical and reference sections and coming across all sorts of great stuff. I haven't been this excited to use the internet in a long time and in many ways it seems like Archive.org fulfills much of the promise of the internet as a repository of all human knowledge.

Sorry if this sounds like a commercial, but it really is that great of a resource.

profquail 3 days ago 1 reply      
The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which means that if you're in the US and your employer offers matching for charitable gifts, you can leverage your donation even further.

For example, if your employer matches your gift 1:1, donating $100 turns into $800: (1+1) * (1+3) * $100 = $800.

lelandbatey 3 days ago 1 reply      
Done and done.

I may only be a poor college student, but the fact that my $10 just became $40 towards Archive.org compels me to donate.

aaronbrethorst 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've received far more than $50 in value from archive.org. Total no-brainer, especially with the 3:1 match.
JohnTHaller 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's the backstory on what was lost in the November fire: http://blog.archive.org/2013/11/06/scanning-center-fire-plea...
luckydude 2 days ago 0 replies      
Donated and got my company to do a 2:1 match.

Anyone know how often they update the total? I didn't see it go up.

hobs 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am going to check in with my employer, and then make it happen. I have given them some money in the past, but I know they are in it for the long haul and are always a quick search away to help me find something long gone.

As far as I am concerned, they are great examples of what the ethos of the internet should be about.

rschmitty 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you whoever is providing the match, no brainier donation for me.

Anyone know why the library of congress doesn't combine forces?

Maybe the NSA could help restore/collect :)

nextstep 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hopefully they had fire insurance.
markcampbell 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is this a charitable donation in Canada?
gandalfu 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just donated!
A CNN Viewer Has Questions for Mike Rowe profoundlydisconnected.com
277 points by josephpmay  4 days ago   216 comments top 29
pnathan 4 days ago 3 replies      
I hadn't heard about Mike Rowe until he started his program to popularize the trades. It's an interesting perspective, and I don't really have a beef about it.

But let me make a few factual points, borne out of my experience and the experience I have in growing up around tradespeople and being related to tradespeople.

* The trades are physically hard labor

edit: It might not be clear what this entails, as perhaps not everyone reading has performed it. It entails working 40-50 hours per week, in nearly all possible weather (for outside jobs), where you must maintain (in addition to the work itself) a personal fitness regimen not to be injured through strain. In the pursuit of this work, you will probably find yourself moving objects up to perhaps several hundred pounds, with possibly zero help. You will almost certainly be on your feet (or knees) all day except for breaks.

* The trades expose you to non-negligable levels of risk of injury on a daily basis.

edit: A few examples, taken from real life experiences. Falling off the roof of a house and breaking vertebrae - lifelong medication after that. Wearing out knee mechanisms due to going up and stairs with 50+ pounds in your hands daily for many years - lifelong care required. Heavy object falling onto shop floor within inches feet - would have chopped feet off or required cutting off the boots if the steel toes had held. Other examples readily available from medical professionals and friends in the trades. These risks are systemic in the trades by and large.

* The trades do not pay well until/unless you specialize into certain areas.

Let me clarify a bit on what I mean by paying well. I mean, bluntly, that trades frequently pay in (current US dollars) between 12 and 25 dollars per hour; frequently without benefits and (due to seasonal demand and project-based nature of the work) frequent lack of steady employment. Mike Rowe cited a welder's experience as a counterexample of my thesis. The fact that supply & demand makes certain skilled trades very valuable does not obviate the reality of the poor pay endemic to the field, paticularly for the semi-skilled and unskilled areas.

All that being said, it's been documented in both popular culture and research that self-centeredness is on the rise; it's getting to be well understood that many modern Americans simply don't want to work hard in unpleasant conditions (Mike Rowe cited an example of people who quit training programs en masse in the SE US because of the heat). This has been borne out anecdotally by the number of immigrants doing these same hard work in unpleasant conditions while native-born "modern Americans" moan about being unable to find work.

That doesn't meant that it's a particularly pleasant experience to find out that "pursue your passion" means very little in the broader job market, after you've pursued your financially negative ROI degree (with the utmost support of your parents, friends, and other authority figures). And that's something that I think should be brought out of this debate: don't ruin your life in the pursuit of a dream - be responsible with your dreaming; fulfil your duties and calculate your risks.


I don't have a real conclusion here. But I think it's reasonable to evaluate the risk/reward payoff for the trades and seek higher education as an alternative.

I suppose a more knowledgable observer could draw some interesting connections between what unionization provides and what higher education degree jobs provide and infer some interesting conclusions. I can't guess as to what those conclusions are. I'd like to read some discussion on that topic sometime.

quaunaut 4 days ago 5 replies      
> Think about it. Universities get to decide how much money to charge their students. Likewise, parents and students decide if they can afford to pay it. Its a pretty simple proposition. But when the government suddenly makes hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans readily available under the popular (and voter-friendly) theory that everyone should go to college we see an unintended consequence.

Well that's also ignoring the point that colleges used to get the majority of their funding from States, and almost every major University now has the majority(and sometimes a >90% majority) of its funding coming from other sources. College used to be subsidized by society, and now it just isn't subsidized, and in his argument that entire position is ignored.

Like most subjects this is a much more complex problem than either side lets on, but just because Mike Rowe is eloquent in his response doesn't mean that it isn't ignoring rather large portions of the facts.

Aloha 4 days ago 5 replies      
He's spot on.

We Americans focus so very very often on how we disagree rather than how we agree. If you look at both parties, they broadly agree on so many things. Instead we focus on unimportant social issues, shaving a couple percent off government spending, and so on.

The educational system we have now is largely a scam, it promises that if you spend tens of thousands (or more) dollars on a 4 year degree, you'd have a good job waiting on the other side, and its largely BS. We need vocational training, we need training for non white collar career options, and no one is really working on it. I make a salary of that of a skilled professional - with no formal education beyond high school - it's been a long fight to get here though, perhaps it could have been easier otherwise. The other problem with the current college education program is a lack of correlation between cost and outcome, it's something that needs to be looked into.

He also hits on a point - the government doesnt create jobs, so it doesnt matter what congress does, or what the president does, its the job of the government to create a stable environment (regulatory and otherwise) so the economy can go and create jobs. I believe our government is largely failing at this.

On to the skills gap - I disagree with him on one point, companies are largely unwilling to train - there are jobs for which I'm broadly qualified for, but can't get because I'm missing one specialized skill or another for. If companies were willing to train, they would be able to fill most of those unfilled jobs.

al2o3cr 4 days ago 2 replies      
"In the next few years, this company anticipates 15,000 new openings for welders and pipe-fitters in the southeast. And the head of recruitment has absolutely no idea where the workers will come from. That should scare us all."

Oh FFS. If the company can't find 15k workers perhaps they should consider raising wages. Mr. Rowe's show has clearly demonstrated that no matter how unpleasant 99% of the world might find a particular job there's somebody willing to hold their nose (or put on a gas mask, etc) and do it for the right price.

Of course that's not really what most companies mean when they say, "we can't find workers": it's usually more "we can't find people who've already been trained who'll work for below-market rates while enduring blazing heat AND total shitbags for bosses - won't somebody make these uppity workers stay here?"

trekky1700 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Only two countries have done this well: Germany and Switzerland. Theyve both maintained strong manufacturing sectors and they share a key thing: Kids go into apprentice programs at age 14 or 15. You spend a few years, depending on the skill, and you can make BMWs. And because you started young and learned from the older people, your products cant be matched in quality. This is where it all starts."


tlrobinson 4 days ago 1 reply      
MR: [long eloquent response]


Repeat 5x

justin66 4 days ago 2 replies      
Couldn't read the whole thing. I might actually agree with her but the questioner is strawman-level superficial and trite.
mortyseinfeld 4 days ago 1 reply      
For a leftist like Piers Morgan, it was a complete embarrassment to have a low-information voter asking ignorant questions when Mike Rowe just completely schooled her.

I think your typical university is in panic mode right now. In 10-15 years, online will be the norm and these exorbitant tuitions will be a thing of the past.

pivnicek 4 days ago 2 replies      
That font is garbage, hard to read, it's like they'd been downvoted on HN.

Please end the light text trend, let us read.

kazagistar 3 days ago 0 replies      
The current situation is somewhat problematic, absolutely. But I am pretty sure privatization of universities is exactly the wrong way to go. As far as a society goes, that would be putting the last nail in the coffin for social mobility... if anyone still believes in that. Prices won't drop. At some universities, they will just rise to make up for the lower number of students who are able to afford to pay tuition, and those who are able to afford it (the upper classes) will be able to attend. At other universities, the prices will indeed drop, and they will be unable to retain any truly talented professors, and become a second wave of community colleges and trade schools. And with that, the ability for children of the lower classes will be even more entirely cut out of the ability to rise anywhere beyond our shrinking middle class.

The reason blue-collar work is avoided is that it is a dead end. And as factories close down, the remaining work is more and more just packing boxes and stocking shelves at minimum wage.

lee 4 days ago 0 replies      
One factor of the metric that there're "unfilled skilled positions" is that the pay for those positions is still incredibly low. Many of those positions offer compensation near minimum wage, or are laborious enough that it's not worth working for.

So although there are unfilled skilled labor positions, many of those don't fit the supply/demand curve.

gfodor 4 days ago 1 reply      
Skate where the puck is going to be. How much confidence can you have nowadays that your job isn't one clever-roboticist away from being automated, if your main value contribution is skilled labor? The same economics that drive high pay for skilled welders who work in the heat also will drive dollars towards automating these jobs. If I have to pay a welder 100k a year now, if I can automate their job away for anything less than that then it's worth it.

The truth is college is a form of leverage. If you get a solid degree you have basically added a skills multiplier to many things you will encounter in your career. The same cannot really be said if you become a master tradesman, since the deeper you go the less transferrable your skills become.

quepasa 4 days ago 1 reply      
It's very telling how Rowe comments on how workers wanting more for less is the human condition, but then never considers the same about employers.

One example he gives is of one employer who doesn't want employees with a union mind set. He also cites a "success" where a guy got good pay for working 60 hours per week. What could this mean? He doesn't want workers who want good benefits and overtime pay? I bet the $50k/year job he brings up expects 60 hours per week under physically demanding conditions without time and a half and pretty and weak benefits. If you make $15/hour and work 60 hours per week you start getting really close to $50k/year.

alayne 4 days ago 2 replies      
I don't buy the arguments that trade jobs are a good option. It's especially hard to swallow from a college graduate who belongs to an anti-union political party.

Unless you are unwilling or unable to go to college, the numbers indicate that, on average, you will have much lower unemployment and a substantially higher lifetime income.

yetanotherphd 4 days ago 0 replies      
On education, Mike Rowe is correct, it's not in the government's hands what the price of education is. Now the government could choose to subsidize higher education fees more, but that would cost a lot of money so its a difficult choice to make.

The problem with all discussion on jobs is that they are treated as a special kind of market where free market principles don't apply. Rowe doesn't even go as far as suggesting letting the market determine who works where.

Cracking down on illegal immigration would help deal with the lack of jobs at the low end of the market, unfortunately hypocritical politicians find enforcing the law to be an untenable platform.

In general though, jobs should come from having skills that are useful, not protectionism. We do need to be training people to fill the new class of technical positions and this includes programmers, even though it will lower the salaries of existing programmers.

rajacombinator 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is incredible. Mike Rowe has a blog and he apparently understands economics (based on first answer.) once again HN has made my day.
wavesounds 4 days ago 2 replies      
Why doesn't he have these jobs listed on his website? I have 2 friends who are unemployed one with a newborn who would be more then interested in those welding jobs he mentions. Does anyone have more information? Do you have to own your own gear? How much is school? Is there a lot of travel?
Cowicide 4 days ago 1 reply      
Mike Rowe continuously spouts on a "skills gap" but doesn't seem to know anything about "job lock".


He keep avoiding the topic of health care in the USA several times in the Q&A. Frankly, I think Rowe is out of his league here and doesn't understand that we need a true single payer system for health care:


Fomite 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've always found it puzzling that many businesses believe that if they can't fill a job, it can't be because they're offering too low a wage - they invariably say the pay is fair.

If went around trying to buy bread at what I thought was a fair price, and found no takers, my immediate reaction would not be "Well, bakers just don't want to work hard."

fotoblur 3 days ago 0 replies      
Notice how the questioner seems to have someone else's actions to blame for the problems. This is often a narrow way of thinking and can be a deception in ones own view of the world. What I like most about Mike's responses are that he doesn't blame anyone, per se, but understands that these problems are best described by analyzing the current environment in which they become evident.

Who could blame colleges for raising tuition when the current funding environment begged them too? Who could blame people for not wanting to work shit jobs in the heat but instead go to college and work at jobs that require instead a skilled intellect, pay more, and are more comfortable? And why shouldn't Mike talk about people who work hard, dirty jobs when a show about them made him famous?

bluedino 4 days ago 4 replies      
Here's maybe a simple solution: Why can't it be made illegal to list 'college degree' as a requirement for a job? Everyone knows of jobs that any moron can do, but a college degree is required. Especially for white collar jobs in large corporations, you can't make it past the first layer of HR without a degree.
transfire 3 days ago 0 replies      
Mike Rowe, advocate for the human machine.

"60hrs? Lazy bums! A good hard working man only need 4hrs of sleep a night, and can put in 16hr days, six days a week. Just like the Good Book says." --Future Middle Class Worker

Cowicide 4 days ago 1 reply      
>most of the Republicans I know want the same basic things as most of the Democrats I know ... They all want a healthy planet

That's a crock of shit right there. Most Republicans put the almighty dollar ahead of the environment and many still think global warming or climate change effects are a hoax.

Mike Rowe must live in quite the small bubble.

infruset 4 days ago 1 reply      
Can someone American explain what the core of the issue is for people like me?
ablanton 4 days ago 0 replies      
just to be clear, tuition is inversely proportional to the amount of funding the government gives to higher education:


Yuioup 4 days ago 2 replies      
Is this Mike Rowe of Mike Rowe Soft fame? Who got sued by Microsoft?
wwarner 3 days ago 0 replies      
In my state of Washington, tuition increased due to a voter approved cap on taxes, exactly the opposite Rowe's claim.
revelation 4 days ago 6 replies      
Neocon nonsense. But this just takes the cake:


New US spy satellite logo features world-devouring octopus arstechnica.com
275 points by Eye_of_Mordor  1 day ago   124 comments top 29
spodek 1 day ago 9 replies      
Link-baity title, but warranted, I'd say.

The story is that the government is launching a spy satellite with a logo on it featuring a "mascot" -- a giant Kraken-like octopus taking over the planet. Whoever created it could only have been thinking of their bureau's unchecked ability to do what it wanted and not the public's perception of it because the creature, especially its eye, looks menacing, ominous, foreboding, malicious, malevolent, and borderline evil. It implies the agency is insular, unaccountable, and has an aggressive, secret agenda it cares about more than anything else, certainly more than your privacy or the consequences of its actions.

The kicker is a comment that juxtaposes the logo with a warning illustration saying "Know your communist enemy" with a nearly-identical logo, presumably implying an evil enemy from the Cold War, which we have become.

The government octopus looks like the Kraken on the top of the wikipedia page -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kraken -- except the government one is planet-sized and its eyes seem to have more evil intent, to me, at least.

columbo 1 day ago 1 reply      
Doesn't seem all that surprising, these kinds of things have been around for years:



Patches seem more like a game of one-upmanship.

I do like this patch's story, sounds just like something a bunch of engineers would come up with:


> This patch for NROL-49 depicts a phoenix rising from the flames with the flag of the United States in the background. The Latin words Melior Diabolus Quem Scies roughly translates to mean The Devil You Know, as in the phrase Better the devil you know than the devil you dont know. Cryptic. According to NASA, this saying refers to the return of the use of an old system after attempting to use a new one, which had resulted in failure.

mdisraeli 1 day ago 6 replies      
That Octopus is probably one of their tamer patches. The National Reconnaissance Office missions have the best patches - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NRO_Launches and http://www.thelivingmoon.com/45jack_files/03files/Mission_Pa... detail them rather well.
mapt 1 day ago 3 replies      
Yes, it's a ballsy logo, but on the other hand...

Wikipedia tells us that NROL-39's payload is actually a Topaz synthetic aperture radar (SAR) node, flying in constellation with two others already in operation, and two more to come.

This is essentially not-at-all-threatening to civil liberties, being a ground-elevation mapping platform (and to a second order, some degree of surface roughness), of not particularly good resolution, at a semi-polar low earth orbit. There are commercial counterparts to this that are presently in operation, like TanDEM-X, and an order of magnitude improvement on that constellation's capabilities would remain insufficient to track anything particularly interesting beyond the construction over time of large static structures, with a relatively long revisit time.

ry0ohki 1 day ago 2 replies      
The military/spy agencies are not concerned about being politically correct. This is sort of a tradition, if you look at missile projects they all have logos like these and are called things like "reapers" etc... If we start seeing this on the White House seal I'll be concerned.
zwdr 1 day ago 1 reply      
I like it. It's so super-villainy that I can't help but think it's meant tongue-in-cheek. And the logo does look awesome.
rdtsc 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is like the Rapiscan. Really, you are going to name an invasive x-ray-taking-pictures-of-your-junk device Rapi-scan?

It is slapping you in the face and laughing at it just because they can. Someone said "Hey I bet I can do this and get away with it. Here hold mah beer, watch me draw a giant octupus devouring the earth!"

eumenides1 1 day ago 0 replies      
the logo reminds me of an image in an old Canadian history text book. it was an american octopus grabbing all of America (north and south) and part of the section that talked about manifest destiny ( http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_destiny).

So yes, it is frightening, but only since colonial America.

bowlofpetunias 1 day ago 1 reply      
None of the revelations of US spying of the past year have particularly shocked or surprised me, and probably not very many here.

The level of sheer insanity displayed in the latest revelations however, with yesterday's "horde of Orcs" and this sickening slogan "nothing is beyond our reach" is worse than I could have imagined.

US intelligence has not just gone beyond what is acceptable, they've completely gone off the reservation and have lost all perspective. Historically, this doesn't end well.

ck2 1 day ago 1 reply      
How did that Google engineer put it?

F- these guys.


spiritplumber 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's the Space Kraken! We must fire SRB's at it!


scotty79 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's like the jokes about hitting a women. Once you actually had done it they are no longer even remotely funny.
ambler0 1 day ago 0 replies      
The comparison to old anti-communist propaganda in the promoted comment after the article is priceless.
trekky1700 1 day ago 0 replies      
Anyone else just think this is meant to be a bad ass logo and not something to be psychoanalyzed as some metaphor for the intelligence community?
znowi 1 day ago 0 replies      
They should have used Octocat - charming, friendly creature, who keeps your stuff in order :)

This one will do.


aluhut 1 day ago 0 replies      
The current flow of things while I read all of the works of Bruce Sterling realy freak me out a little bit.

This guy looked in the future somehow. I'm pretty sure about it.

Just finishing "The Zenith Angle"

simbolit 1 day ago 0 replies      
this is one of those cases where a parody would inevitably fail. the reality is its own parody, and perfectly so.
bananacurve 1 day ago 1 reply      
HN has been seriously trolled. You would think smart people have a sense of humor. You would be wrong.
timbro 1 day ago 3 replies      
"NOTHING IS BEYOND OUR REACH" says their tag line.

Let that sink in for a minute.

It's the mindset of crazies.

leokun 1 day ago 0 replies      
Well at least they're being honest. Getting rid of the logo is just like changing the marketing without changing the bigger problem.
walshemj 1 day ago 0 replies      
Tip for the new NSA/CIA/FBI Director

One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.

BTW NCIS wont need this as they have Jethro Gibbs just run every thing past him and if he doesn't hit you on the back of the head your golden.

eli 1 day ago 1 reply      
Sure, and AT&T features a deathstar
ninjac0der 1 day ago 0 replies      
I read the comments in this thread and realize for the most part, the US government can do no wrong. Then I realize you mofos are the real problem.
Sputum 1 day ago 0 replies      
There is an Airforce unit in NH tasked with tracking and maintaining government satellites which has this incredibly evil looking logohttp://i.imgur.com/jAzLyvS.jpg
celticninja 1 day ago 0 replies      
in the same way that abu ghraib/gunatanamo torture and mistreatment of detainees served as a recruiting tool for al-qaeda and similar organisations i can see this sort of thing being the equivalent for digital activists.
charlysisto 1 day ago 0 replies      
Funny nobody spotted it's also commonly used to represent the mafia. Small side note : mafia's power mainly relies on people's fear of being heard if they say anything against it... Just sayin...
cproctor 1 day ago 0 replies      
It seems to have inadvertently collected North America.
squozzer 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Nothing is beyond our reach" - except subtlety, obviously.
acheron 1 day ago 0 replies      
Trolling achievement unlocked.

U mad bro?

No Mans Sky Is A Huge Procedurally Generated Sci-Fi Exploration Sim indiestatik.com
271 points by radley  3 days ago   116 comments top 30
Derbasti 3 days ago 3 replies      
There is an incredible amount of negativity in this thread.

They said all the landscapes are procedurally generated. They did not say that there won't be any missions or tech trees or some other kind of hand-crafted progression system.

Many games like Minecraft or Terraria do very well with procedurally generated terrain and some kind of progression system.

I think that this might have huge potential. This could be an awesome game indeed, and so far I have not seen anything that hints to it being boring or repetitive--just unfinished.

networked 3 days ago 0 replies      
I like the concept of a procedural space exploration game and No Mans Sky looks like a promising entry in the genre. There has been a number of attempts so far that approached this concept from different angles (from using space as a setting for fast roguelike gameplay [1] to pure exploration [2]), many of them resulting in good games.

That said, if No Mans Sky really is totally procedural I wonder how the developers will handle the overall structure of the game and avoid the "quicksand box" [3] trap. This is especially pertinent if the game doesn't feature a Minecraft-style combination of building and survival to make the players not mind the "quicksand".

I know the game in which I enjoyed exploring space the most is The Ur-Quan Masters (formerly known as "Star Control II") [4]. The star systems and planets there are not procedurally generated and I don't think randomizing them would make much of the difference for the reason I'll explain in a moment. My best guess as to why I liked UQM/SC2 so much beyond its audiovisual style is that a) it has no formal mission structure that limits the player's actions; and b) there's a lot you can do; but c) your exploration still ties into an engaging larger story, which and in turn contributes unique one-time encounters to the exploration. A consequence of c) is that mixing up the layout of the galaxies without changing the overall plot, which at its core is fairly linear and features a time limit (think the original Fallout), wouldn't really change what the game is like. My guess is that the company that figures out how to generate distinct game plots that provide c) along with a) and b) will take over the procedural games business, if not the game industry as a whole. The question is whether c) can be done well enough in some way that doesn't involve an artificial general intelligence or per-player MTurk writers.

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

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noctis

[3] http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/QuicksandBox

[4] It's now FOSS and available from http://sc2.sourceforge.net/. Highly recommended if you have an interest in SF space games.

RyanZAG 3 days ago 9 replies      
We've heard this same claim so many times before. Procedurally generating each atom? Come on, this is just a marketing gimmick. These never turn out to be decent games, usually it's just running around a world with randomly appearing enemies who all act the same and you're bored within 10 minutes. I'd be more optimistic if this exact thing hadn't been claimed before every year for the last 20 with no results.
kayoone 3 days ago 1 reply      
Today we are still writing code like 20 years ago and one could think there has been little evolution regarding that. But this imo shows where the evolution has gone. Today a team of 4 is able to build a procedurally generated game of high visual quality with a gigantic scope like that because our tools, libraries, techniques and also hardware have evolved to a point where this is possible. I think thats pretty amazing!
alkonaut 3 days ago 0 replies      
Edit: I agree this thread contains a lot of negativity and I agree it's too early to make any calls on this particular game, which does look fantastic.

Since so little can be said of this game the discussion is more "why have so many tried to do this, and failed"?

So I'll try:

Why is "procedural" used as a sales pitch? The only thing cool about procedural is that you can make something extremely vast. But then "vast" should be the sales pitch!

I'd much rather buy a game that promised "ten thousand planets carefully modeled by artists", than a game that contains millions of random ones. I fact, I'd probably prefer a sim with a designed world much smaller than that.

The thing with procedural environments is that they leave everything to game mechanics. A well designed world can support a basic or boring mechanic (such as a linear shooter). Procedural worlds need a game mechanic so deep and brilliant that only very few games have managed it (minecraft and a few of its inspirations, for example).

There isn't much that can be said about mechanics from the trailer, so we'll see.

I think (sadly) it will be the prettiest in a long line of "let's make an elite style universe sim where the game mechanic will probably/hopefully emerge from the sheer awesomeness that is an enormous space sim".

josteink 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks massively impressive. Wonder if they can deliver as much as the trailer promises?

This is the sort teaser which makes me want to try the game just because of the "subtle" Dune-reference. Is there an Arakis anywhere there for us to discover?

jaryd 3 days ago 2 replies      
The embedded gameplay clip has been removed from YouTube so here's an alternative post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2FXIf9N-yA
MrBra 3 days ago 3 replies      
1) http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joshparnell/limit-theory... (pledged $187,865 of $50,000 goal)

2) https://www.inovaestudios.com/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6a69dMLb_k (has been in development for years, about to start a campaign on kickstarter)

3) http://pioneerspacesim.net/ (free, open source, alreaady playable, alpha stage and actively developed)

rralian 3 days ago 2 replies      
When I was a kid, my parents got me a couple sci-fi encyclopedias, which were big books of beautiful sci fi illustrations with some made-up history explaining each painting encyclopedia-style. I loved them. This video reminds me of those illustrations very much, which I mean to be high praise.

I just looked through my books and called my mom to see if she had them, but no dice. They were large hardcover books with a blue cover. Anyone else remember them? I'd love to track them down for my own kids.

daredevildave 3 days ago 0 replies      
There's an video interview with one of the developers here:


bencoder 3 days ago 1 reply      
Reminds me of an old "game" I used to play called Noctis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noctis
usernew1817 3 days ago 0 replies      
This game came out of nowhere, the VGX show was basically being hyped of AAA titles, but no one was expecting an indie title to get as much hype as it's getting right now. I think the next gen consoles are making it much easier for devs to develop on, though frustratingly its still far more difficult to publish on console then mobile, mainly because you need to first be approved into the developer program before they even consider letting you publish games. Regardless, it seems to be moving in the right direction, although somewhat slow.
xioxox 3 days ago 0 replies      
It reminds me a lot of Starglider 2. That was a great game from the 80s, which let you fly between several different planets to complete a set of missions. The graphics and gameplay were pretty amazing at the time on the Atari ST and the Amiga. One minute you'd be navigating around a set of tunnels deep inside a planet, and the next you'd be chasing whales in the outer envelope of a gas giant. It was some stunning game design and coding. I've not seen anything quite like it since.
Lavinski 3 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of infinity (from https://inovaestudios.com/), which I've been watching for the past few years.
raingrove 3 days ago 0 replies      
Cool Video! By the way, in the video, by "Hydrogen Dioxide", I am pretty sure they actually meant actually meant H2O - "Dihydrogen Monoxide" or simply "Water".
swayvil 3 days ago 0 replies      
The music

artist : 65 days of static

album : we were exploding anyway

song : debutante

yconst 3 days ago 0 replies      
Looks quite cool and such. But what do you actually do in this game? I mean, in what ways do you interact with your environment?
TulliusCicero 3 days ago 1 reply      
Neat tech, but the problem with procedurally generated games with large worlds is that the core game mechanics are often bland or shallow, and the content can come across as very samey.
Johnwbh 3 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me a bit of Spore, but hopefully not so disappointing.
jroes 3 days ago 2 replies      
Anyone know what engine they are using? The visuals look excellent.

EDIT: Think I found it: http://www.crytek.com/cryengine

yarou 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hopefully this game will be good. I've been looking for a decent spacey game like Freelancer, but so far nothing seems remotely close to it. The Discovery mod in particular added a dimension that most modern games lack.
jheriko 3 days ago 0 replies      
good stuff. i've been waiting for a small team to do something like this for a while... and have been planning something similar myself for when i can break free from the shackles of full-time work.

knowing some of these guys personally - i'm quite pleased its them who are doing it. :)

notastartup 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't get why there's so many negative comments here.

This game looks absolutely amazing.

If anything, efforts where previous attempts have been unsuccessful, should be lauded, and there's a lot of academic talk for a 2 minute video.

Let's wait and see but I have a good feeling about this one.

Yuioup 3 days ago 0 replies      
This game has an incredible potential for broken promises. I predict bad review scores, howls of request for refunds, and the lead developer putting out blogs in the vein of "sorry, we should do better. Expect free updates that will fix everything soon!"
japaget 3 days ago 0 replies      
Does anybody know what platform this game will run on? Xbox One, PS4, Wii, PC, Mac, iOS, Android? None of the promos gave us a clue as far as I could tell.
javajosh 3 days ago 1 reply      
I dislike this kind of news coverage very much. It is designed to tease rather than inform. Although, I have to admit I was intrigued less by the claim that the game procedurally generates every atom, and more by the question it begs of how you'd actually generate every atom.

Usually, of course, atoms don't matter. The ideal gas law, for example, is essentially a "rule of thumb" which gives you useful ways to predict the behavior of large ensembles of atoms; e.g. to average over the movements of statistically significant (avagadro's number or so) individual particles - indeed, one of the most amazing things in physics is the connection between Newtonian physics and thermodynamics via statistical mechanics.

In any event, my naive answer to the question of what should we simulate would be "don't simulate anything you don't have to" which means that unless you have scanning electron microscopes in the game you don't simulate atoms at all. You mostly use approximations. In games, collisions are important so surfaces (and their properties) tend to be important. And so those simple geometries defines the data structure you use to define the world. In essence mass is defined in a computer program to be a volume that behaves a certain way in the presence of acceleration. But there is no need to describe materials as a lattice of much smaller particles. It's almost never relevant to the simulation.

So, yeah, I don't think it's reasonable to expect a game to simulate a world such that ad hoc chemical reactions can take place, etc. But it's not unreasonable to expect in-game scanning electron microscopes to be able to realistically resolve the details of any material.

axilmar 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you see the stars, those are real stars. They have their own planets around them, and you can go there

There goes my dream.

otikik 3 days ago 1 reply      
I see landscapes, animals and ships, but no people.
MrBra 3 days ago 1 reply      
Ouch.. that "it has to be funny" stylized graphics everywhere..
wavesounds 3 days ago 1 reply      
Procedural generation is a widely used term in the production of media; it refers to content generated algorithmically rather than manually. Often, this means creating content on the fly rather than prior to distribution. This is often related to computer graphics applications and video game level design.
Show HN: Minecraft clone in 2500 lines of C - even supports multiplayer online github.com
266 points by fogleman  2 days ago   141 comments top 21
Taylorious 1 day ago 5 replies      
This looks awesome. The code is very clean and well laid out. I am disappointed that there are literally no comments in the source code though. Hopefully he will add comments, because a lot of what he is doing is not super obvious, at least not to me.
angersock 1 day ago 4 replies      
CMake Error at CMakeLists.txt:20 (find_package): By not providing "FindGLEW.cmake" in CMAKE_MODULE_PATH this project has asked CMake to find a package configuration file provided by "GLEW", but CMake did not find one.

  Could not find a package configuration file provided by "GLEW" with any of  the following names:    GLEWConfig.cmake    glew-config.cmake  Add the installation prefix of "GLEW" to CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH or set  "GLEW_DIR" to a directory containing one of the above files.  If "GLEW"  provides a separate development package or SDK, be sure it has been  installed.
-- Configuring incomplete, errors occurred!



(Linux 3.2.0-4-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 3.2.51-1 x86_64 GNU/Linux)

ryandrake 1 day ago 3 replies      
Not to be a party pooper, but there doesn't seem to be much in the way of error checking, null pointer checking, etc. e.g. Apparently library calls like calloc() and fopen() never fail. I guess if your goal is "few lines of code" it's understandable to leave that stuff out.

If your brain has the tendency to automatically go into "code review" mode, I recommend against browsing the source :)

DanielRibeiro 1 day ago 1 reply      
Cool. From the same author of Minecraft clone with Python: https://github.com/fogleman/Minecraft

The python version uses only 894 lines of code: https://github.com/fogleman/Minecraft/blob/master/main.py

ohwp 1 day ago 6 replies      
Some days ago there were comments about Notch being a bad programmer. And when I see posts like this I think that's unfair.

2500 lines of C doesn't mean a thing. I could do it in 1 line when I removed all line breaks.

Did the programmer created the concept, interaction design, graphic design? No, Notch did.

So maybe Notch does write bad code but I think being a programmer is more than just writing code. In the end Notch got the job done and people are enjoying the result.

But yeah! great to see another Minecraft clone. It's always nice when people share there knowledge!

aktau 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think an easy visual upgrade to get rid of the jaggies would be to (optionally) turn on MSAA (multi sample anti-aliasing). It doesn't drop the lo-fi look IMHO but still looks ways better. MSAA is real easy to enable, create your window with a MS buffer:

/* I'm not entirely sure if this is the right call for GLFW * I normally use SDL, you can usually go up to 16 with the * samples */glfwOpenWindowHint(GLFW_FSAA_SAMPLES, 4);

Enable multisamplimg before drawing anything:


Thanks for the source, I'll have a read through!

m3mnoch 1 day ago 1 reply      
not to be a parade-rainer (because this is really cool!), but it's not really a 'clone'. it's really just a cube rendering engine with a handful of textures and a barebones python socket server.

in my very humble opinion, a minecraft clone would have (at least stubbed out):

- ui. if you've never made a game, you'd be amazed at the amount of code ui takes up. even ugly ui. good lord.

- mobs. while you can data-drive a lots of your mobs, something like minecraft still has vast swaths of business logic to drive interactions with everything from creepers to mating wolves to the ender dragon.

- crafting. again, you can get a long way with data-driving your crafting system, but you've still got to build in all the mechanics that control your crafted items behavior among all the other various items in the game.

and none of that counts any of the polish that publishing a game requires. as a guy who's shipped games, it's really (even more so than traditional enterprise software) a case of the last 20% of the work takes 80% of the time allotted to the entire project.

in my experience, that's where "indie devs" fall down. they solve the hard, interesting problems (look! i've got an environment rendering! boom! the combat code works!), but then lose interest and chase other shiny things when it comes to the rote, painful tasks (wait... i've got to data-bind the hud? and handle socket disconnects without crashing? and the camera behavior? the animation has to blend? what about handling a network timeout on the dynamically loaded textures? you want to deliver "news and updates" to the client? from what server? and you want a cms with that? oh, and write the checkbox code for options screen? and qa insists we can apply and skip the first 30 levels so they can test 31 without playing the entire game? but, but, but... look! the environment loads on my machine! what kind of video card do you have?)


sorry about the rant.

this really is super-cool. just more of render-plumbing and not really a clone.

bitwize 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is badass.

Recently I'm discovering how little C it takes to create a decent game with OpenGL. Well-written, straightforward C is a phenomenally powerful language.

qznc 1 day ago 2 replies      
The minetest project could use a contributor with shader experience. ;)


simcop2387 1 day ago 0 replies      
It would appear that placing block 15 (the clouds) can cause some problems. If you disconnect while in a player created cloud it causes you to fall through the ground permanently.
davexunit 1 day ago 0 replies      
Time to plug Minetest. The core is written in C++ and a Lua API is exposed for extensions.https://github.com/minetest/minetest
tuananh 1 day ago 4 replies      
has anyone test this? how's the performance?
outworlder 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just because it has blocks and you can break them, does not make it a 'minecraft clone'. Like we do not think a rich text editor to be a replacement for Microsoft Word.

Let's see a redstone implementation in survival mode :)

tmikaeld 1 day ago 6 replies      
One starts to think - what if minecraft was made in C from the start? Would it perform better?
10098 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is amazing. Good job!
Yuioup 1 day ago 3 replies      
Kinda getting sick of Minecraft. All those clones and remakes.

Plus I don't understand my Notch is so highly praised. On the one hand he claims to be an indie dev champion but turns around and makes lucrative exclusive deals with Microsoft. If he really cared he wouldn't choose his wallet over his principles. Sorry but that is how I feel.

Todd 1 day ago 0 replies      
Looks like it's under the MIT License.
jburgueno 1 day ago 1 reply      
client.c: 145

struct sockaddr_in address;...memset(&address, 0, sizeof(address));

Can someone explain me why you need to set memory of sockaddr_in to 0 ? (Even if &address haven't been touched).

gravedave 1 day ago 1 reply      
My make also fails due to Glew. Can anyone provide some premade binaries?
xmrsilentx 1 day ago 0 replies      
Compiles and works amazingly well on Porteus.
Your location history maps.google.com
266 points by znowi  2 days ago   157 comments top 62
jasonkester 2 days ago 2 replies      
Perchance do they make iPhones in Dongguan, Guangdong, China?

Evidently I was there on November 15, which (thankfully) seems to coincide with the order date for my new phone. At least I'd prefer that somebody on the testing line turned it on for long enough for it to store the location, rather the alternative of somebody having logged into my Google account from there.

Regardless, I'm going to disagree with pretty much everybody here and say that this is really cool. Except for the part where the little dot stays inside my house for entire 5-day stretches. Please tell me I just left my phone on the charger, and not that I didn't actually open my front door for an entire week!

mtrimpe 2 days ago 1 reply      
I used to work for TomTom and they run a live-traffic analysis service to help them with taking current traffic into account with route planning.

They buy anonymized live location data from telcos for that, called probes, which go for about $1 per year.

Then a few years after Android started Google suddenly came out with a live traffic service with similar resolution for free.

I already had a pretty strong suspicion of what their cheap source of probes was :)

codelust 2 days ago 1 reply      
I turned mine off recently, not because I am convinced there is a method that guarantees 0% data leakage, but because it is a good idea to reduce the surface area of data that you provide voluntarily to anyone.

Anyhow, what is more amusing for me is when others, like me, turn all this off and tweet away with location turned on or check into various locations on FB/FSQ or comment on what they are doing or where there are at or who they are with at regular intervals.

johnward 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's somewhat scary but I also find it pretty interesting. I wish there was a simple way to plot all of my data for the entire year or even all of the data Google has. Between Google and various social networks I'm sure you could put together a pretty interesting map of someone's travels.

Logging in and going to: https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0/kml?startTime=13...

Gave me all my location history for this year.

fragsworth 2 days ago 2 replies      
The data Google holds, across all of users, is an incredible wealth of knowledge.

This location data, connected to your other account information, provides the ability to see trends in where people are going - with accurate income estimates. I can only imagine how valuable this information would be to real estate investors.

And that's only a tiny piece of the pie. Google has so much knowledge now, that a lot of it probably goes to waste because they don't even have the capacity to take advantage of it all.

throwaway_yy2Di 2 days ago 0 replies      
"If you have a portable surveillance and tracking device, please turn it off. They have already tracked you in here, they already know you are listening to me; so, there is no need for you to keep it on."

-Richard Stallman

awjr 2 days ago 1 reply      
The more interesting thing about this was showing this to somebody who was not bothered about government spying Snowden has revealed. "I do not like this."
lambda 2 days ago 3 replies      
Looks like I turned off permission for recording my location history on June 9th. They've got plenty of data before then, but none after that. That was the day that Snowden's identity was made public. I guess I must have had a sudden onset of extra paranoia around then. In hindsight, I was right.
kreeben 2 days ago 3 replies      
I love that I can sit in my car and with just a few swipes and types I can quickly bring up a navigation route from my current location to a new destination. That is why I let Google know about my whereabouts. It seems foolish of me to give all my location history to Google and subsequently to the NSA for this reason. I should probably find a service that lets me do this without giving up all that information.

I have enabled Google Now, just for fun, because I'm impressed by the technology behind that service. That seems even more foolish. I'm handing over my location history to NSA just to test out new, cool Google tech.

I am completely aware of the fact that any information I give up to the NSA or my country's equivalent, the FRA, can and will be used against me, perhaps not now or in ten yrs from now, but at some point in time, if this mass surveillance is not stopped (which seems very unlikely). I am currently not engaged in any political activities and I'm not at all terrified by what someone would be able to find out about me. I have a feeling though that I'm doing a great disservice to my future self.

sailfast 2 days ago 2 replies      
I don't sign in to Google Maps or other location-based services very often, and the accuracy of this report reflects that which is good to see.

I appreciate Google working to make this data public to the consumer so they know what they are providing and can turn on / off services as they see fit. If I had an Android device I would most likely be using Google Now a lot more and this data might be really useful.

Next, I'd like a listing of everyone that is being sold my data packaged anonymously, just so I can be aware.

Kequc 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is amazing! I didn't know I or they had access to this data. I scrolled back to a vacation in Amsterdam a few months ago, on that trip I did not have data on my phone. I remember this because it was a huge pain in the ass. Sure enough all of my movements are there.

That means the phone is storing this information (based on wifi signals) then uploading it after it connects to the internet.

aviraldg 2 days ago 0 replies      
I know I have this enabled, and I want this enabled. Desperately needs a proper API, though.
kh_hk 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's incredible the amount of data Google collected just on the period of 24h I activated Google Now for testing. Cool technology, scary preconditions.
stokedmartin 2 days ago 1 reply      
I have stopped using google maps for a while now, switched to OsmAnd[0].


thethimble 2 days ago 1 reply      
I personally find this incredibly creepy. Granted, I accepted the TOS to grant this data but I've never seen it visualized in such raw form.
DjangoReinhardt 2 days ago 4 replies      
https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0/settings - Enable/Disable your Location history.

I had no location history when I visited this page, since I usually do not grant location access to most apps, unless absolutely necessary. However, when I visited the settings page, the location history was shown as enabled.

My only guess is that viewing your Location history automatically sets it to enabled if it was previously disabled. Or, the default radio button selected on the page is the "Enabled" radio button. Either way, it is friggin' suspicious...

tedks 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've kept this on for a while, because since I already have a phone that runs non-free Google-written silently-updatable software, I already leak all this data anyway.

I figure if I'm leaking this data, I might as well leak it in a way that lets me see it too.

I don't want to live in a surveillance state, and I think humanity is capable of growing beyond that. But I also don't think that making the futile gesture of turning off my ability to see my location data is going to do anything.

davidw 2 days ago 0 replies      
I use this to keep track of how much time I spend at $consulting_job. It's quite handy. I don't share it with anyone, though.
cribwi 2 days ago 0 replies      
Used it on a regular basis, but since I owned multiple Android devices this tool became pretty useless. You can't filter on devices, so when I'm out with my phone leaving my tablet at home, the location history only displays a bunch of spikes of me traveling with tremendous speeds.
wavesounds 2 days ago 3 replies      
I wouldn't mind Google storing this info if they could provide me with value in doing so. But I just don't think they can, telling me what trips I've taken is kinda cool, but I'd rather use the photos and their geolocations for that. I just don't see the value in this so I'm opting out.
jpswade 2 days ago 2 replies      
Google says I was at: Yiwu, Jinhua, Zhejiang, China, 322001

I wasn't.

I'm guessing that data is pared against a MAC address of a router that once was in China, that is now in the UK.

I assume that my android phone saw the beacon and paired that data.

joshfraser 2 days ago 2 replies      
I want this data, but I want it to live on my server, not Google's
awjr 2 days ago 0 replies      
I had a look at my location history. Interesting to see that in the past (on an HTC Desire) the only place it seems to have picked up on this was when connecting to my WiFi at home and even then, very rarely.

The day I bought a Nexus 4, the location history exploded. Must have been something I accepted during the setup process of the phone that included turning on location history although I have a feeling it may be lumped in the general 'turning on location services'.

I've now turned off location history, but have left location sharing turned on (needed for Maps).

ds9 2 days ago 1 reply      
Apparently the article or service or whatever is visible only for those who have signed up for Google accounts. Is this so routinely expected now that no one considers it worth mentioning? Maybe it's just something about my browser settings that gets the login-wall.

I suppose Google is tracking me regardless, and lack of a Google account only prevents me from seeing the part of the data they choose to show. I'll still continue opting out tho, in case it makes surveillance a little harder.

Edit: found a short explanation, http://downloadsquad.switched.com/2010/05/27/google-latitude...

pgrote 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is the main reason I switched from iOS to Android. Google began deprecating features in their iOS apps and location service was one of the first to go.

I find this tracking fascinating, useful and fun. There are a number of apps that attempt to use similar data to pull together statistics and metrics about time periods.

It is opt in now and on a Galaxy S4 with the latest Android update doesn't use the battery excessively.

kiallmacinnes 2 days ago 1 reply      
Have to admit, I'm a little surprised at just how accurate the data is!

will I turn it off? probably not, I know disabling locaction history likely just disables my ability to view this data.. I'd be surprised if the TOS didn't explicitly mention something like "we won't track your movement for our location history product, and only our location history product"

krupan 2 days ago 2 replies      
I have a data block on my phone and it's interesting to see what data points they do and don't have. I'm not surprised they know when I'm at work or at home (I connect to wifi in both places), but random places along the highway? Did my phone connect to an open wifi network there?
benzofuran 2 days ago 4 replies      
Wow, fairly nifty. Appears somebody in china hijacked my gmail account as I have some location pings there. Time for a password cycle.
bowlofpetunias 2 days ago 0 replies      
Methinks the reactions in this thread alone, even from the people that like this, make it quite clear that there has been no explicit, informed consent prior to Google collecting this data.

It's not so much the technology that worries me. It's how Google thinks it's powerful enough to be above the law that is troubling. Especially because unlike in the Microsoft era of monopolistic arrogance, we're not talking about market regulations, but civil rights.

JasonFruit 2 days ago 0 replies      
I just got to relive the unexpected drive to another state to the NICU the day my son was born. That's worth the loss of privacy.
mojuba 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think it's only a question of time when the data mining industry becomes so big and mature that it will be able to subsidize gadgets, or at least cheap ones.

You want to know my location history, my searches, website visits, purchases? Give that (future) cheap iPhone or Android away for free!

(Personally I prefer to minimize my surveillance information, but surely there will be those who'd gladly agree.)

raquo 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm happy that it doesn't work for me. Not that I doubt that google knows my whereabouts anyway...
lifeisstillgood 2 days ago 0 replies      
How do I activate this? If it's android only it might just be worth switching (that and contact mgmt)

Aha - Thank you DjangoTheOriginal https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0/settings

andyhmltn 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. I wasn't even aware I was sharing my location but up until April 2013 (I had a temporary android phone) I've apparently logged everywhere I've been.
k3n 2 days ago 0 replies      
> We are sorry, but you do not have access to this service. Please log in to your Control Panel to enable this service.

> Do read these articles to learn more about

> Controlling user access to Google Apps services

> Turning services on/off for certain users

Well, I guess I got that going for me.

Cthulhu_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
On the one side it's creepy.

On the other hand, I volunteered to have Google store this information and such so they can provide me with better services. And the dashboard / facts are pretty nifty; wish I could set the time scale to a year. There's a few pretty big jumps in my history, trip to the US, another to Turkey, and if my data was working, there'd be another to the UK.

Also good to know I still have 330.000 kilometers to get to the moon.

dimitar 2 days ago 2 replies      
You have no location history for December 9, 2013You have no location history for December 9, 2013

Feels good. What can I do to stay that way?

cheapsteak 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome in every sense of the word.

Really wish there was a service like this that only stored the data on your computer/server and not at a place that has an open door policy with the USG. In the mean time, where do I go to turn this off?

edit: found it. On Android, Settings -> Location (under "Personal") ->Google Location Reporting

adventured 2 days ago 1 reply      
"You have no location history" (cycled various points in time)

I assume this is because I've never given Google permission (eg on my Android phone or otherwise)?

I see occasional attempts to compare what the NSA does and what Google does, as though they're similar. Well this is precisely why Google is nothing like the NSA. Google doesn't have my permission, and they don't have my location history accordingly.

LancerSykera 2 days ago 0 replies      
My most frequently visited places are stop lights. Thanks, Google.
regecks 2 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, felt a little sick when I saw how detailed and accurate it was. Effect of having an Android phone with all the Google location bells and whistles turned on?

Would be nice if I could get the location services features without a comprehensive history of my movements being saved (possibly forever?). It it possible?

pathikrit 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is pretty cool. I wish it showed a heatmap of my location (filterable by day of week and/or time of day)!
iamthepieman 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is this supposed to show just information from a phone/device that publishes location data or does it use information from ISPs to estimate location based on IP as well?

Either way, it's completely blank for me.

nisdec 2 days ago 0 replies      
https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0/dashboard is even "scarier". A combination of your locations history and nearby places.
micro_cam 2 days ago 0 replies      
I live in a low population density area and they seem to think i enjoy bouncing around 40-60 miles from cell tower to cell tower.
lucb1e 2 days ago 1 reply      
0 results for me.
atmosx 2 days ago 0 replies      
Say you are parents.

Would you people use this tool with your children? Is it justified for that kind of usage? Can't this data be abused by some third party (that will directly affect you)?

digital_ice 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've turned location history off three times now, I want to know why Google think they have the right to silently turn it back on again without asking me.
Mchl 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like how it gets all confused by the fact that I have several devices in different locations all signed in to the same account.
dlsym 2 days ago 0 replies      
You are being watched.
sb23 2 days ago 0 replies      
Mine is very inaccurate. It shows me Saturday on Thursday last week, but misses a few places. There are also a bunch of spikes into the middle of the river I live near, and I haven't even been in sight of it
pavel_lishin 2 days ago 0 replies      
This makes me want to mail my phone to myself.
wnevets 2 days ago 0 replies      
For some reason it thinks I took a airline trip to atlanta
smudgy 2 days ago 0 replies      
So damn cool it's scary and so damn scary it's cool.

I laughed as it made me reflect a little on how boring my life is lately.

trentmb 2 days ago 0 replies      
I... need to leave my apartment more.
Kiro 2 days ago 0 replies      
What's your work/home/other ratio on the dashboard?

Mine is 26/63/10.

trendoid 2 days ago 0 replies      
Someone really need to speed up with their Maps app for places outside US. I am in Indian subcontinent and other alternatives are nowhere near as good as Google.

Google, what have you become? Reading lot of Ayn Rand lately?

matponta 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah, let's help people track me wherever I go... ;(
timbro 2 days ago 2 replies      
When I read about the NSA tracking mobile phones worldwide, I decided to put my mobile "phone" in flight mode - permanently.

It's a PDA now. All you need to do is tell your people to call you on your landline. Like we did a few years back. (Reminder: it was actually possible to live like that - plus, you're not on an electronic leash anymore, it feels really good.)

joelthelion 2 days ago 0 replies      
szatkus 2 days ago 1 reply      
I see empty map...
digitalpacman 2 days ago 0 replies      
So cool.
Meet Jack. Or, What The Government Could Do With All That Location Data aclu.org
260 points by G5ANDY  1 day ago   99 comments top 27
cjoh 1 day ago 7 replies      
It's easy to imagine the kind of data government has, imagine its ability to process that data, and easy to interpret that they will do it. But it's also important to recognize that this is conjecture.

From my experience in government: they nailed the user experience (check out http://dsbs.sba.gov for some awesome gov UI), but really overestimated government's capacity to build intelligent technology like this.

I know this will make me unpopular amongst this crowd, but The truth is, I'm far more afraid of data like this getting into the wrong hands because it's being stored improperly or insecurely, than I am of government being malicious with it. Heck, I'm more afraid of my insurance adjuster than I am a malicious cop.

rtpg 1 day ago 10 replies      
Meet Jack. Or what the government could do with all these planes

>Article showing how half of San Francisco gets bombed

This argument can only hold on water by having a complete lack of faith in the rule of law.

The biggest issue I have with this is that this describes a massive , coordinated system to use all this location data in ways that are way outside the legal framework in place by the initial court order from the FISA court.

Stuff that has come out of these leaks have ranged from banal (oh, we listen to the German Chancelor's cell phone? What else is new) to absolutely damning (forcing companies to hand over SSL keys). But even in the most damning cases, all of these happened within the legal frameworks given to them (such as the National Security Letters) and maybe some overzealous law enforcement agents. The illegal incidents can be explained more by incidents outside of how things are "supposed" to work (LOVEINT is probably not sanctioned by the NSA), and a lack of strong implementation of the framework given by the courts.

The narrative has always seemed to be "check out how the NSA is going crazy over here!". But the reality is "check out how all these politicians are voting in these new laws allowing this to take place!"

From the leaks you can even see how the courts are constantly reeling things in, the system is actually working. We hear about old NSA programs that got shut down because of the FISA court's rulings. This is how rule of law works! We vote laws, and people follow them.

To actually come to this, given all we've seen from how courts rule on this issue in general, and the FISA court's rulings, this sort of data sharing would absolutely definitely not be allowed to exist. No judge would agree to this being allowed to be set in place, as it so obviously goes against 4th ammendement in such a program's intent.

Just because the data is at the NSA doesn't mean they can use it however they want, just like how Google would run into some problems if it tried to sell the contents of your e-mails to somebody.

This anger at the NSA should also be directed at the congressmen voting for these laws of large scope in the first place. Hopefully we can get rid of NSLs too. But the NSA is just doing the most it can with the tools we give it (which is what we expect). And rule of law is actually working, we just have some shitty laws.

nswanberg 1 day ago 2 replies      
This article attempts to show what a local government could do, but does anyone have access to the sort of location dataset that could give one an intuition about how likely it would be that individuals would be singled out using the data shown?

The article uses maps of Peoria, IL, so let's assume we're dealing with Peoria. There appear to be roughly 115K people between 18-64 in its metro area (http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=population+of+peoria+il...), and 11 traffic cops. (http://www.peoriagov.org/peoria-police-department/police-div...)

These cops appear to arrest 23 people per month for driving under the influence, and hand out about 1750 other traffic citations (not linking directly to the PDF to save their server but you can find it under crime stats).

The article implies that there would be more traffic stops due to increased DUI suspicion, and it certainly seems that it could happen, but given these population, police, and police activity numbers, and given that the article itself gives a false-positive example, how likely would that be? Is it reasonable to think that these cops currently have a lighter load and have time to be dispatched to investigate a potential DUI?

I am not suggesting that it is of no concern for the government to have unfettered access to data, and I can imagine a vast number of possible scenarios in which the data could be misused, but possibly we can better quantify that concern.

wissler 1 day ago 3 replies      
Yet another example of how the government can use this information to "discredit radicalizers":


rurounijones 1 day ago 0 replies      
For those thinking this is so far down the slippery slope as to be ridiculous: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/12/10...
blah32497 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is fear mongering. You could have some person out in the field tailing you and get the same info (maybe even more). You can also put up a camera and tag people as potential DUIs based on how close to the middle of the lane they are driving. So what?

What's important to ask is what can the government do with the data. And NSA or not, what they are can do is limited by the law. No database changes that.

aabalkan 20 hours ago 1 reply      
I don't know why everyone is paranoid about unseen location data being collected. They often blame proprietary software like iOS/Android collect location data and send Apple/Google servers. That sort of transfer would be evident by tracing traffic and there are tons of reverse engineers out there intentionally keeping an eye on transferred packages that might contain sensitive private data. That would be a huge breakthrough if it would exist and be revealed.
at-fates-hands 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is why its important for people to get their respective states to start writing laws which protect people's privacy and usurp the Federal Preemption of states rights in regards to people's private information.

This is a great paper which addresses this in regards to environmental laws. This kind of argument can also be made in protection of people's private information. It's about restraining and balancing the federal laws with state laws and not allowing the feds to overstep state laws.


inspectahdeck 1 day ago 0 replies      
Hey, that's not what the Palantir UI looks like!
puppetmaster3 11 hours ago 0 replies      
That is not how this task is done by programmers, here's a newsflash: We use Bayes! A lot of it.

(ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayesian_network#Inference_and_...)

Translated for 'non programmers: computers don't think the way we do, they look at (big) data, there is no causality.

(ref: for example, if human brain can't diagnose disease, since we are limited in thinking to causality, we use computers: http://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/opre.46.4.491?...)

Please don't talk about how computers detect something in big data, if you don't know some math, ex(' causal calculus')

Item to discuss: Getting pulled over and being told, we don't know why we pulled you over, but there's a 85% chance you are non-compliant.

Aaronneyer 1 day ago 0 replies      
Maybe I'm just a huge data nerd, but this article made me really excited.
lanaius 1 day ago 0 replies      
Setting aside all of the other existing information, the crux of many of the arguments in the article depend on the government knowing the use of particular addresses. That's data most city/county/state governments already have laws that they should know (for tax assessments, occupancy limits, health inspections, census, etc.) and yet they frequently have incorrect or incomplete information on this.

While pervasive tracking is indeed a problematic state, I still find it humorous at how competent we truly believe the government to be in retaining accuracy in all this data given how often our interactions with government and private businesses revolve around them FIXING their data about us.

lstamour 21 hours ago 3 replies      
Suddenly I'm not as sure I want a self-driving car.

Then again, if there are no tracking cookies, maybe they can't tell if I'm in it? (Wishful thinking, I'm sure...)

Of course a self-driving car would defeat the need to catch someone after a party perhaps, so bad example? :)

bane 1 day ago 0 replies      
Now imagine similar data in the hands of a private company,

"I see you like to go to a bar regularly, would you like to see this beer advertisement?"

shurcooL 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Is Jack a celebrity? Why does anyone (other than a data mining algorithm) care about him.
nl 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nice of the ACLU to spec how the NSA's software work and what it should look like.
neil_s 1 day ago 1 reply      
Am I the only one for whom the article had the opposite than intended effect? I was expecting some real life horror story of a false positive or deliberate framing, but instead I was given examples of how this data could be used constructively to try and evaluate where there might be a high likelihood of crime occurring, and trying to prevent it. In my eyes, using tax dollars to prevent crime rather than punishing it a HUGE win!
rayiner 1 day ago 2 replies      
I understand the importance of focusing on the government, but I think use of this sort of data should be restricted for everyone, not just the government. What happens when employers realize that you can filter out less desirable employees by correlating the movements of their social groups and cross-referencing it against credit history databases? We fear what the government can do with the data, but as a practical matter its corporate America that's more likely to actually screw over large numbers of people with this sort of data.
bazzargh 1 day ago 1 reply      
It feels like there's a game in here. The Sims meets Uplink.
dredwerker 1 day ago 0 replies      
The police go to Jack's house and educate him on not drinking and driving and give him a free taxi token.
etanazir 1 day ago 0 replies      
Could? The government may know you better than you know yourself; and perhaps the only reaction to be had upstairs is when you change a habit; i.e. quite unexpectedly break the prediction model for your life.
beardfu 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of the Big Brother pizza shop http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zh9fibMaEk
diminoten 1 day ago 2 replies      
Setting aside morality for a moment, that's a pretty cool little system there.

What havoc would be wrought if such a system were public? Heh, the mind reels.

api 1 day ago 0 replies      
This indirectly makes a great point. While everyone's been talking about the danger of a turn-key totalitarian state -- the danger of intentional totalitarianism -- much less has been made of the danger of an unintentional totalitarian state arising from overzealous use of these systems by law enforcement. I think that's a much greater immediate risk.

Replace "DUI pattern detected" with "likely child predator." Just the insinuation that a person is a pedophile can destroy a person's life.

sharemywin 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Couldn't google or apple build this?
tedunangst 1 day ago 1 reply      
So was Jack arrested or not?
Reddits empire is founded on a flawed algorithm iangreenleaf.com
258 points by est  2 days ago   130 comments top 28
aston 2 days ago 4 replies      
There's a Reddit thread between various users and keltranis, (one of the more senior coders Reddit ever had) explaining the code here:


And a quotation for those not wanting to click:

  *ProfDrMorph* 2 points 1 year ago  So that means all posts in all subreddits (when browsing  'hot') are sorted this way:  1. all posts with more upvotes than downvotes with the  order determined by age (newer posts are preferred) and  popularity  2. all posts with the same number of up- and downvotes in  whatever order the database returns them  3. all posts with less upvotes than downvotes with the  order determined by age (older posts are preferred) and  popularity (posts with a lot more downvotes are preferred)  Because that's what the _hot() function implies if the  sorting algorithm uses it as a 'key'.  *ketralnis* 2 points 1 year ago  Yes that's accurate

randomwalker 2 days ago 3 replies      
tl;dr: Posts whose net score ever becomes negative essentially vanish permanently due to a quirk in the algorithm. So an attacker can disappear posts he doesn't like by constantly watching the "New" page and downvoting them as soon as they appear.
shadowmint 1 day ago 2 replies      
So, a massively, massively popular site that makes it business by ranking the user generated content on it by importance... is wrong.

> Maybe there is no moral. Reddit screwed up.

...or maybe, they know what they're doing.

Maybe not. ...but when you supply a bugfix, the onus is on the submitter to demonstrate that 1) the fix fixes the problem and 2) that it doesn't break anything else.

It would appear that no effort has been made at (2), to demonstrate that the proposed change would not have an adverse affect on other high-vote rankings.

To be fair, it would have been nice to see the pull request response (https://github.com/reddit/reddit/pull/583) mention that an alternative algorithm choice would have to be demonstrably better in a large scale analysis before they would even dream of changing their core ranking algorithm, but it's not unfair for them to take that stance.

It's like asking Google to change their page rank algorithm because you don't like it.

recuter 2 days ago 2 replies      
So the gist of this is:

"I found a recent post in a fairly inactive subreddit and downvoted it, bringing its total vote score negative. Sure enough, that post not only dropped off the first page (a first page which contained month-old submissions), but it was effectively banished from the Hot ranking entirely. I felt bad and removed my downvote, but that post never really recovered...

While testing, I noticed a number of odd phenomena surounding Reddits vote scores. Scores would often fluctuate each time I refreshed the page, even on old posts in low-activity subreddits. I suspect they have something more going on, perhaps at the infrastructure level a load balancer, perhaps, or caching issues."

This is partially due to vote fuzzing. More to the point, votes go into a queue and the removal of the downvote might not cancel out the previous action for some time.

As a result, this suggested flaw will supposedly let somebody successfully snipe puffins from the new page of a small sized birdwatching subreddit before they ever get a fair shake. I think if somebody would attempt this sort of manipulation further they would find it an ineffective strategy, there have been (probably constantly are) attempts to game Reddit before and this seems like an excellent honeypot.

Beyond the narrow set of circumstances during a very small time window the flaw disappears, yet if you try to abuse this you'll stick out like a sore thumb.

The true horror expressed in the OP is that the ordering of posts in the purgatory is not strictly logical - the post ranked 10042 should really be ranked 10041. Gasp. Twitch.

This is a very lovable brand of OCD to my eyes. :)

raldi 2 days ago 4 replies      
The real flawed reddit algorithm is "controversy". It's basically:

  SORT ABS(ups - downs) ASCENDING
...which means something with 1000 upvotes and 999 downvotes will be considered less controversial than something with 2 upvotes and 2 downvotes.

A much better algorithm for controversy would be:


AndrewKemendo 2 days ago 1 reply      
I really really really wish there was a website that broke down code like this into explained text. I can grok a lot of code regardless of language somewhat intuitively because there is so much crossover - but I still have issues often when it comes to breaking down complex and unique segments.

This would really help the learning process but I appreciate how time intensive it is.

youngian 1 day ago 0 replies      
Author here. I posted a quick follow-up with some corrections and other items of interest that came out of the discussion: http://technotes.iangreenleaf.com/posts/2013-12-10-the-reddi....

And of course, if you would like more articles written by me and an extremely high signal-to-noise ratio (because I post so rarely...), consider subscribing: http://technotes.iangreenleaf.com. RSS is not dead, dammit.

amerika_blog 2 days ago 0 replies      
Reddit is designed for SEO gaming.

The point is to have your bots/friends downvote everything but your submission.

It works every time.

ilaksh 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a good example of where something that is fundamentally flawed becomes accepted and popular and then a huge amount of effort goes into rationalizing it.

Which goes to show you that things are the way they are not because that's the way things should be, but just because that's the way things are. Which is a very stupid way to run things, but that is the way our 'society' works.

benihana 2 days ago 2 replies      
>Maybe its that a good technical implementation is a distant second to a good product

This is what computer scientists should take away from this.

jbigelow76 2 days ago 1 reply      
Reddit's algorithm is its community, the rest is just math.
dionidium 1 day ago 2 replies      
An argument for the proposition that this behavior was intended is that if the purpose of sign was to get the sign for order, then it was actually entirely unnecessary and they could have just done something like this:

  order = log(max(abs(s), 1)) * ((s) / max(abs(s), 1))
I'd prefer the benefit of the doubt, especially given their previous responses.

maskoliunas 1 day ago 0 replies      
If I was a salesman, I would explain that easily:

1. If the material is newer and already has attracted the same amount of negative votes in shorter period than another one in longer period -- the first is worse. Push it down.

2. If people suddenly started hating something very much, that might mean the content is hot and attracts a lot of attention. So pull it up.

"thinking out of the... emm, where is my box???"-------------Imagine two submissions, submitted 5 seconds apart. Each receives two downvotes. seconds is larger for the newer submission, but because of a negative sign, the newer submission is actually rated lower than the older submission.

Imagine two more submissions, submitted at exactly the same time. One receives 10 downvotes, the other 5 downvotes. seconds is the same for both, sign is -1 for both, but order is higher for the -10 submission. So it actually ranks higher than the -5 submission, even though people hate it twice as much.

lnanek2 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just goes to prove you only need to get the parts users care about right. Treatment of some negative score posts just isn't too important and may even help remove spam ASAP at the cost of some good posts. If they had sacrificed some other aspect of the site to get this right, they probably would have been worse off.
interstitial 1 day ago 1 reply      
joseph_cooney 2 days ago 1 reply      
Seems about right vis a vis the need for algorithms to be correct. Good enough is, by definition, good enough.
pippy 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've been very interested in this problem. I ran a community for a few months that wound up being quite popular (40k uniques a day before I closed it down). My attempt to address with problem was to have a min + max time, but most interestingly count the number of posts as well. Even if an opinion was popular if it got a response out of people it would stay around longer before dropping of quicker.

I prioritised community engagement over the communities quality of content. This turned out to be slightly more effective way of ranking content.

rhizome 2 days ago 2 replies      
Wait, so the point is that negative vote-score articles don't show up in "Hot?" Seems reasonable.
quokka 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't understand. The definition of order is

  s = score(ups, downs)  order = log10(max(abs(s), 1))
and the poster says that "order will always be positive". But that isn't true. It is the logarithm of a number in (0,1], and so is negative or zero. Since we cut the value off at 1 I assume that the score function does something to the votes beyond (ups - downs), scaling the value in a way that makes the logarithm of the score interesting.

kylelibra 1 day ago 0 replies      
If the same post is at the top of reddit and hackernews at the same time I'm pretty sure the internet implodes and life as we know it comes to an end.
sesqu 1 day ago 0 replies      
> And notably, they are sorted oldest first, just as I predicted.

This bit is actually misstated. Those posts all have a comparison value of 0 (assuming score is simplistic), and are not affected by the oldest-first ranking of negative submissions. The ordering here is likely insertion order, which just happens to be the same as oldest-first.

woah 2 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe this flaw is, through some strange and circuitous social mechanism, the precise thing that has made Reddit so popular in the first place.
davidgerard 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the key point is: Reddit works well enough that they don't, and quite possibly shouldn't, care.
Semaphor 1 day ago 0 replies      
For those of you who never are on Reddit, both keltranis and raldi posting here are former Reddit admins.
fleitz 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's theoretically broken, in practice it works quite well.
petepete 1 day ago 0 replies      
If it's stupid, but it works, it ain't stupid.
frozenport 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a feature that promotes controversial posts.
arca_vorago 1 day ago 0 replies      
The real flaw with reddit is moderator abuse.
NSA morale down after Edward Snowden revelations, former U.S. officials say washingtonpost.com
257 points by mxfh  3 days ago   167 comments top 34
spodek 3 days ago 4 replies      
More like "USA morale down after Edward Snowden revelations, much of U.S. population says," I'd say.

That happens when you do something most people would feel shame for.

A major difference between NSA employees and the rest of us is that they can easily stop what they're doing. Let's hope their pitiful loss of morale leads them to develop a conscience, respect for the law, or whatever it takes to stop doing things that lead to feeling so bad.

> They feel theyve been hung out to dry, and theyre right.

Bullshit. They're adults who chose to do what they did and work where they work.

We have emotions to guide our behavior. If they feel bad for the environment they chose to work in and the work they chose to do, maybe they should look in the mirror and ask if they ought to reconsider their choices and do something that doesn't draw shame and contempt from the rest of the world while undermining their county's interests.

revscat 3 days ago 1 reply      
> The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though its been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions, said Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006.

Publicly approved? Publicly approved? The amount of rage-induced facepalming this causes is immense. No one in the public has known what they're up to, and Congressional attempts to get insight have been stymied and shut down. No one knew, that is, until Edward Snowden did HIS duty to country.

> They feel theyve been hung out to dry, and theyre right.

Well, that's good, then. What the NSA does is despicable, unconstitutional, ineffective and a waste of treasure. No threat is worth the cost of what they do. I hope everyone from the rank and file up to Alexander feel like complete shit.

pvnick 3 days ago 3 replies      
I feel a lot of sympathy for these people. At the very least, they honestly believe they're protecting this country and their friends/loved ones. It's not their fault the higher-ups have botched the national security apparatus and turned it into something disgusting and unamerican. Most of them were/are likely unaware of the vast majority of what the agency does, and they had trust in their government that they worked at a trustworthy institution.

However, this is one major element that will lead to change. Internal rot will force an organization to adapt faster than any external pressure ever will. NSA workers, current and future, as well as decision-makers need to be forced into a position of deciding whether this surveillance is right for this country. No more sticking their head of their ass and ignoring what the NSA doeas. The revelations are out in the open and more are still coming out. This is not the time for ambivalance. It's a time for making tough choices.

nl 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think people are missing what this is.

This article isn't a puff piece about NSA morale. It's a demand from the security apparatus for political support - especially for legislation to make recording of phone records legal.

Read the article - there is very little mention of morale at all, whereas there are many anonymous quotes asking for the President to get behind them:

former officials who say they are dismayed that President Obama has not visited the agency to show his support.

employees are privately voicing frustration at what they perceive as White House ambivalence amid the pounding the agency has taken from critics.

A senior administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record said that the White House would normally not endorse legislation so early in the process but that its been clear ... that we prefer legislation that preserves the phone records program while making some changes ... to potentially strengthen oversight and transparency.

The president has multiple constituencies I get it. But he must agree that the signals intelligence NSA is providing is one of the most important sources of intelligence today.

Former officials note how President George W. Bush paid a visit to the NSA in January 2006, in the wake of revelations by the New York Times that the agency engaged in a counterterrorism program of warrantless surveillance on U.S. soil beginning after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks

I think the NSA is seeing this as an opportunity to actually increase their powers by getting legal cover for what they already do.

(Also note that it is the Washington Post this is in - ie, it is for a Washington - political - audience who will read what the leaked statements, not the headline)

PeterisP 3 days ago 2 replies      
The article reads as if they're waiting for confirmation that they were right all along.

However, USA citizens are still waiting for an admission that they were overboard and will change their ways.

These viewpoints aren't reconcilable, and trying to please both is not only hypocritical but simply impossible - the president must make a decision, and set clear the expected direction for NSA; otherwise there can't be good morale if they're unclear if what they're doing is considered by the top leaders as good or evil.

thaumasiotes 3 days ago 2 replies      
According to the article, they're not feeling down because they're widely hated by the populace (well, technically, it's mentioned in the last paragraph).

They're sad because the president hasn't personally visited their building to give them a pep talk.

x0054 3 days ago 0 replies      
This yet again points out how spineless Obama is. He stated on the record that he supports everything that NSA does, and that their work is invaluable to United States. And yet, he is not standing behind them, he is doing what's more politically prudent for him self. Basically saying one thing, while doing another. How typical!

To be clear, I think what NSA does is despicable, if I had the power, I would close down the organization and prosecute some of the people in it. But, I think a man should stand by what he believes in. If you believe NSA does good, stand by it, if you don't, do something about it. Stop sitting on the fucking fence!

flatline 3 days ago 0 replies      
Plummeting morale has been the norm for federal employees for the last 5+ years. I'm sure the Snowden leaks have not helped things for the NSA but everyone has been on a pay/hiring freeze for ages with the public and administration seemingly very anti-federal-employee.
jaryd 3 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder if this is just a case of "bad press" for them, or if the broader implications of widespread domestic spying has actually sunk in.

Interesting to read this in light of the recent flurry of engineer code-of-ethics style submissions that we've seen lately.

natch 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's about time. With scummy, law-breaking, deceitful, cynical, practices that hold the most cherished rights and freedoms of people everywhere in contempt, and bald-faced lying to congress, no less, on the part of top management, what's to feel good about?
alexeisadeski3 3 days ago 0 replies      
Wonder how much of the morale depletion can be traced to the fact that many of the surveillance systems put in place by the NSA will now be much less useful, given that the targets now know how to evade the NSA's wide net.

The targets are aware that they must have as minimal a virtual footprint as possible, must eschew almost all telephone use, etc. They will also push for their associates, friends, family to all have as little virtual presence and phone use as possible (not easy to do, but important for them!).

Once these measures are taken, the NSA's entire world, everything they've been working on for the past decade plus, will have been exploded.

xacaxulu 3 days ago 0 replies      
My morale would be low too if I had just deprived billions of people of their rights to privacy. It could be said that suicide would be a good option for anyone suffering from especially low morale regarding their complicity in the largest breach of trust in US history. They aren't sorry, they're sorry they got caught.
nspiegelberg 3 days ago 0 replies      
"I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man." - Al Capone

I think NSA leaders would do well to read Dale Carnegie again and remember that even violent monsters think they are victims.

walid 3 days ago 2 replies      
Full disclosure: I am not an American citizen.

Having said that, isn't it out of place for PR people from the NSA be asking that the president show a form of political endorsement for NSA actions while the NSA is just an agency that does what it is told to do. I mean they are not policy makers and all the noise about NSA surveillance expects Congress and the White House to instigate policy change rather than to "show the love" or hate. The NSA in effect is just an employee, not a policy maker. Am I missing something?

azernik 3 days ago 0 replies      

  The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and  file, feels that it is had no support from the White House  even though its been carrying out publicly approved  intelligence missions, said Joel Brenner, NSA inspector  general from 2002 to 2006.
Despite this being totally incorrect from the broader perspective ("publicly approved" but no one knew about it??), this actually makes me feel a little sympathetic - the political echelons (Congress, the Bush and Obama administrations) handed down the orders to do this, and now the elected politicians are all acting like it's something that "just happened" outside of their control.

salient 3 days ago 1 reply      
It should've happened before Snowden's revelations, and have their morale down after everything they've been asked to do. They just seem upset about "getting caught" now. Well, cry me a river.
Aloha 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm likely to get downvoted for this.

But not all of what the NSA is doing is bad.

I think the phone records program is good. These records are not secret by any means (the phone company owns them, not you) and its a minimally intrusive way using amounts to pattern matching to find some people who might want to hurt me and my countrymen not for who we as individuals are, but simply because we're Americans based on their Call Detail Records history.

Having spent the majority of my career working in the Telecom industry, these records are accessed with surprising ease - anyone with any sort of access to the billing system usually has full access to them (Both at a Major ITSP and one of the major wireless carriers in North America) I had actually presumed the government did too - perhaps not in real time, but anytime they wanted on demand.

I don't consider it a private thing whom I talked to - I consider the contents of those calls protected, but not the fact I made them. For what its worth, because of the structure of our telephone network, it virtually impossibly to monitor the contents of every call - You'd have to have a recording device or special service trunks to every end point everywhere in the nation. Billing records on the other hand, are generally forwarded to a central collection point for processing into your telephone bill (as well as storage and analysis for traffic planning purposes).

For what its worth - I don't think the government has a right to access mobile telephone geolocation data without a warrant - that to me is so clearly protected as it - ought to be - to be a breach of privacy if collected without a warrant.

These are simply my opinions, others clearly feel differently - IMO there really is no wrong answer here, it's all about what feels right and just to you, and where your line of privacy is.

chris_wot 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Literally, neighbors are asking people, Why are you spying on Grandma? And we arent. People are feeling bad, beaten down."

But you may well be doing so! We have no idea who you are spying on. You don't get to be trusted when you are so secretive.

knodi 3 days ago 0 replies      
WTF about the American people's morale, fuck your morale NSA.
wesleyd 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm sure the Watergate burglars had low morale too after they got caught.
DannoHung 3 days ago 0 replies      
Good! I hope their morale continues to fall as they realize that they are committing continuing acts of treason and violations of the US Constitution. Let their morale sink so low that they have clear consciences.
dmfdmf 2 days ago 0 replies      
I agree with Nick Lothian in this comment buried far down the list. The drop in morale is not because of shame about spying on fellow citizens but Obama's lack of explicit political support for what they are doing. The implications of this position does not bode well for our freedoms in this country. The title of this post should be "NSA to Obama; your move".


gaius 3 days ago 0 replies      
zmmmmm 3 days ago 1 reply      
I feel for the people on the "front line", so to speak, but if it does anything to add to the chance that internally the NSA will recognise that no, what they are doing is NOT ok, then I am glad for it nonetheless. They need to feel it from every angle, including internally.
heromat 3 days ago 0 replies      
I know that the American People are heartly and cordial.But killing and spying in the name of freedom isn't acceptable.

American people don't deserve agencies like the NSA or the CIA.

I hope that there are many freedom fighters like Snowden to come.

Get rid of this type of total surveillance!(Btw: dear entrepreneurs, please respect our privacy.)

-- A european fellow who once respected and admired the US.

shmerl 3 days ago 0 replies      
What did they expect? That abusing power will be cheered?
squozzer 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's easy to view this event in isolation but the years since 2001 have brought forth several unsettling revelations.

1) Abu Ghraib2) Gitmo3) Torture and certain shell games (renditions, black sites) to keep culpability at arm's length4) Drones turning Earth into a free-fire zone5) The joys of flying post-911 (TSA, no-fly lists)6) NSA hoovering the Internet for fun and profit

Shall I go on? Do you need links for evidence?

We are in a state of nature, sir.

macspoofing 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'd like to think a lot of NSA workers are regular Americans who are also concerned with the revelations. I mean, most aren't decision makers, and wouldn't have a full picture of the entire system.
wprl 3 days ago 0 replies      
sakura_k 2 days ago 0 replies      
They say that like it's a bad thing
alexeisadeski3 3 days ago 0 replies      
joering2 3 days ago 0 replies      
It is somehow relevant and was interesting to learn about state "nullification".


kevrone 3 days ago 0 replies      
Oh, ya think?
eternalban 3 days ago 0 replies      

   me: This whole affair stinks. Hmph.         Official state organs, chime in.    outlet: "blah blah official boo hoo blah blah"    me: Quick, where is my tin foil?

BayesDB - a Bayesian database table mit.edu
250 points by sebg  5 days ago   29 comments top 11
taliesinb 4 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting project!

I have some questions that I couldn't immediately answer from skimming either the BayesDB documentation or the paper linked from http://probcomp.csail.mit.edu/crosscat/

* The CrossCut paper seems to focus on binary features and categorical learning. How does BayesDB generalize that? Does it quantize continuous features first to make it all categorical, or does it generalize CrossCut somehow?

* How are we to think about what BayesDB doing? Is the underlying model most similar to a graphical model? A Bayesian network? A Markov field?

* On an informal level, how is the factorization structure learned?

* What's the time and memory complexity in terms of number of features and examples for different operations? Is insertion constant time? Is it storing sparse contingency tables of some kind?

tristanz 5 days ago 1 reply      
This looks like the technology behind Prior Knowledge (http://priorknowledge.com/), which is not surprising given that a lot of the same people are involved. Awesome that it's going open source.

It will be interesting to see how far the database analogy can be pushed. The key thing to realize is that BayesDB is based on a particular model, CrossCat (http://probcomp.csail.mit.edu/crosscat/). If your database table is an adjacency list that represents a graph, for instance, it's not going to perform very well compared to a more tailored model. On the other hand, a generic approach to high-dimensional imputation is very useful.

bravura 5 days ago 0 replies      
This looks great. It has similarities to PreQL, the query language from Prior Knowledge (acq. Saleforce).

I would love to see a full set of QL primitives for common data science operations.

tlarkworthy 5 days ago 1 reply      
Scaling? Can I get images in it? Can I reslice my data? Is it all in memory?
murbard2 4 days ago 1 reply      
The crosscat paper (http://web.mit.edu/vkm/www/crosscat.pdf) is super-terse. Is there a more gentle description somewhere?

I'm quite familiar with generative models and MCMC sampling and reasonably familiar with the Dirichlet process though I've never implemented it.

sbashyal 5 days ago 0 replies      
This looks awesome! If it works the way suggested, it is going to save me a lot of time modeling the Bayesian Analysis in coming projects.
drewda 4 days ago 1 reply      
A question for the developers: Does this support time series data?
benjaminsky 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm having trouble getting the examples to work on the VirtualBox VM. run_dha_example gives me "None" every time. I've ran the client.execute with --timing=True and --pretty=False with the same results. Am I doing something stupid? :
janetboreta 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hi Jay,I was talking with Anne just now and we need explanation on another level, I am afraid. I would like to understand BayesDB, and I wonder if there is a layman's summary available?It was great seeing you at Thanksgiving at Beachcliff!Mimi
seamusabshere 5 days ago 1 reply      
can we get that in postgresql 9.3.3 ok tks bye
danso 5 days ago 0 replies      
This must be a joke, a cruel, cruel attempt to troll poor data programmers who have waited forever for something like this to be made.
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